Francis Solanus

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Saint Francis Solanus, O.F.M.
San Francisco Solano (1549 -1610).jpg
St. Francis Solanus with a native of Tucuman (Anonymous, ca. 1588) (Notice his trademark violin on the ground by his right foot)
Wonder Worker of the New World
Born 10 March 1549
Montilla, Córdoba, Spain
Died 14 July 1610
Lima, Peru
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 20 June 1675 by Pope Clement X
Canonized 27 December 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII
Feast 14 July
Patronage Argentina; Bolivia; Chile; Paraguay; Peru

Saint Francis Solanus, O.F.M., (Spanish: Francisco Sánchez-Solano Jiménez) (10 March 1549 – 14 July 1610) was a Spanish friar and missionary in South America, belonging to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), and is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Solanus was born 10 March 1549 in Montilla, near Córdoba, Spain, the third child of Mateo Sánchez Solano and Ana Jiménez. He was educated by the Jesuits, but felt drawn to the poverty and penitential life of the Franciscan friars. At the age of twenty, he joined the Order of Friars Minor at Montilla, entering the novitiate at St. Lawrence Friary, which was located in place of great natural beauty. The community there belonged to the Reformed observance within the Order, following a very strict routine of prayer, silence and fasting. Francis followed this regimen rigorously, always going barefoot, abstaining from meat, and wearing a hairshirt throughout that entire year. As a result, however, his health was permanently affected, leaving him sick and fatigued.

He was solemly professed at the end of his novitiate year, on 25 April 1570. He was then sent to the friary of Our Lady of Loreto in Seville for his seminary studies. There he learned not only philosophy and theology but developed his musical talents. He was ordained in 1576, a ceremony his mother was unable to attend due to her poor health. He was then named Master of Ceremonies for the community. Still a lover of simplicity, Francis made a small cell for himself by the chapel of the friary, made of clay and reeds, with a waterspout for ventilation.

After completing his final theological studies, Solanus was assigned as an itinerant preacher to the surrounding villages of the region. He was eventually given a license as a confessor. During this period, he requested that he might be allowed to go to North Africa, with the hope of achieving martyrdom for preaching the Catholic faith. He was denied this request. At that point, Solano shifted his vision to the American missions.

After the death of his father, Solano returned to his hometown of Montilla to care for his mother. During that time, he gained the reputation of a wonderworker, as a number of people were cured of their afflictions through his intervention. In 1581 he was sent by his superiors to the friary in Arruzafa as Master of novices, where he served for two years, giving the young novices inspiration through his constant visits to the sick. About that time, there occurred a large outbreak of the plague in Andalusia, centered in the city of Montoro. With another friar as a companion, Solano spent over a month caring for and consoling the victims, who had been sent out of the city to a small chapel in the outlying countryside. Both friars contracted the plague, but Solano was the only one to survive the infection. There is still a street in that city to honor him for his labors during that plague.

The New World[edit]

Shortly afterward, the Spanish Emperor Philip II requested the Franciscans to send missionaries to preach the Gospel in the Americas. Solano still desired greatly to serve there. He was granted his request and sailed from Spain to the Americas in 1589, landing in Colombia, then boarded a boat to Peru on the Pacific side, after crossing the Panamanian isthmus.

For twenty years Francis worked at evangelizing the vast regions of Tucuman (present day northwestern Argentina) and Paraguay. He had a skill for languages and succeeded at learning many of the regions' native tongues in a fairly short period. It is claimed he could also address tribes of different tongues in one language yet be understood by them all. Being a musician as well, Francis also played the violin frequently for the natives, which helped them relate better to him. He is often depicted playing this instrument.

After that came Francis' appointment as guardian of the Franciscan friary in Lima, Peru. Further, he filled the same office for the friaries of his Order in Tucuman and Paraguay.

Saint Francis Solanus and the Bull, by Murillo

In 1610, it is said he predicted the devastating 1618 earthquake of Trujillo, Peru. He is also said to have foretold his own death, which occurred in 1610 at Lima. Solanus was beatified by Pope Clement X in 1675, and canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. His feast is kept throughout the Franciscan Order on July 24 (except currently the United States, where it is celebrated on July 14)

Legacy[edit]

Mission San Francisco Solano, the northern-most mission along California's El Camino Real, was named in 1823 for Francis Solanus.[1]

In Humahuaca, every day at precisely 12 noon, on the city hall belltower, heavy copper doors slowly open and a life-sized animated wooden, dramatic-looking statue of San Francisco Solano appears for about two minutes and gives his benediction to the silent crowd amassed on the village plaza.[2]

References[edit]

Attribution

External links[edit]