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St. Francis of Paola’s humble faith led him to do many marvels that astonished his followers.
During the early 15th century, there lived a holy Franciscan hermit named St. Francis of Paola who sought to live in prayer and solitude for the course of his life. He was inspired by the life of St. Francis and established a new branch of the Franciscan order called the Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi. They were later renamed to the Minim Friars, representing their desire to be the smallest and least of the Franciscan family.
Francis developed a deep contemplative life as a hermit and sought humility above all things. Yet, even though he did not want the attention of others, his holiness attracted a following, including Pope Sixtus IV, King Louis XI, and King Charles VIII. He was quickly known as a miracle-worker and was even credited with raising people (and animals) from the dead.
One of the most popular stories from his life involves a time when he wanted to cross the Straits of Messina. The ferryman refused to take him when St. Francis declared that he had no money to pay him for his services. Francis then knelt down and prayed a blessing over the sea. After rising from prayer he began to walk over the sea as if he were on dry land.
An alternative story claims Francis laid down his cloak on the water, tied his staff to one end of it, and then sailed across the water on his cloak. For this reason St. Francis of Paola is regarded as the patron saint of boatmen, mariners, and sailors.
While it may sound like a fantastic legend, the story highlights the childlike trust Francis had in God. He possessed the faith that Jesus urged his disciples to have in the Gospel of Matthew, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).