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St. Francis Solano

St. Francis Solano by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artwork Narrative:

Although this Spanish Franciscan priest had asked to be sent as a missionary to Africa, he ended up in South America, working among the native peoples of Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. These people accepted him as a friend because he moved among them with courtesy and kindness, learning their languages and customs. His influence with them was so great that once he stopped a battle simply by walking unarmed into the Indian ranks. His peacekeeping also extended to animals, as when he calmed a maddened bull that was terrorizing a town. When clouds of locusts swarmed over Indian crops, he turned them aside to the mountains instead, by his prayer.

He played the violin as part of his ministry, accompanying hymns and also consoling the sick and the suffering. Often he simply went out among the trees and played music for the sheer pleasure of it and it is said that birds then flocked around him.

After 20 years of missionary work, he died in Peru. His miracles since his death are mostly cures of sick children.

His feast day is July 14.

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Francis was the son of Matthew Sanchez Solanus and Anna Ximenes, Andalusian nobles. He joined the Franciscan Observance at age 20 and was a preacher for many years in southern Spain. He was a novice master at Arifazza. Francis worked with plague victims in Granada in 1583; caught the plague, but recovered.

He was a missionary to South America with Father Balthazar Navarro in 1589. After some time in Panama they took ship to travel south. The ship carried slaves, and Francis worked to evanglize them. During a strong storm, the ship ran aground. The captain abandoned the ship and its slave cargo to the rocks, but Francis stayed, baptizing them just before the ship broke apart on the rocks. Francis kept his little flock together and safe for three days until help arrived.

He spent the rest of his life as a missionary, travelling throughout South America, but especially around Lima, working with the natives and Spanish colonists. Reputed to have converted 9,000 natives during a single sermon, Francis learned many native languages and dialects quickly, and it is said that he preached to tribes of different tongues in one language and was understood by all. He could play the lute, and was known to play and sing before the altar. He was a noted healer and Custos of the Franciscan convents in Tucuman and Paraguay. He was elected guardian of the Franciscan convent in Lima. He foretold both the destruction of Truxillo by an earthquake, and his own death.

Born: March 10, 1549 at Montilla, diocese of Cordova, Andalusia, Spain

Died: July 14, 1610 at Lima, Peru of natural causes

Beatified: 1675 by Pope Clement X

Canonized: 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII

Also known as: Francis Solanus; Thaumaturgus of the New World; Wonder Worker of the New World