Didacus was born about 1400 at San Nicolas in Andalusia,
of poor and God-fearing parents. He entered the Third Order of St. Francis
when he had scarcely reached young manhood, and under the direction of a
devout Tertiary priest, he served God for a long time as a hermit. Consumed
with the desire for still greater perfection, he later entered the Franciscan
convent at Arizafa in Castile and was there admitted to solemn vows as a lay
His rapid progress in virtue made him a model to
all his companions. His soul was continually occupied with God in prayer and
meditation. From this source he gathered such supernatural insight concerning
God and the mysteries of Faith that learned theologians listened with
astonishment to the inspiring conversations of this uneducated lay
Since Brother Didacus manifested great zeal for
souls and willingness for sacrifice, his superiors sent him with other
brethren to the Canary Islands, which at that time were still inhabited by
wild infidels. Didacus was eager for martyrdom, and in the spirit bore with
dauntless patience the many hardships that came his way. Both by word and
example he helped in converting many infidels. In 1445 he was appointed
guardian of the chief friary on the islands at Fortaventura.
Recalled to Spain, he went to Rome in 1450 at the
command of the Observant Vicar general, St. John Capistran, to attend the
great jubilee and the canonization ceremonies of St. Bernardin of Siena. On
this occasion an epidemic broke out among the many friars assembled in the
large convent of Apace. Didacus attended the sick with great charity and trust
in God. And God did not fail him. Despite the lack of supplies in the city at
the time, Didacus always had ample provisions for his patients. He
miraculously restored many of them to health by merely making the Sign of the
Cross over them. Leaving Rome, he returned to Spain, where, as in the former
days, he was a source of great edification to the friars in every convent in
which he lived.
When he felt that the end of his life was drawing
near, he asked for an old and worn out habit, so that he might die in it as a
true son of the poor St. Francis. With his eyes fixed on the crucifix, he
breathed forth his soul on November 12, 1463, saying the words, "O faithful
wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you
have been deemed worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven."
Months passed before it was possible to bury
Didacus, so great was the concourse of people who came to venerate his
remains. Not only did his body remain incorrupt, but it diffused a pleasant
odor. After it was laid to rest in the Franciscan church of Alcala de Henares
astounding miracles continued to occur at his tomb. Pope Sixtus V, himself a
Franciscan, canonized Brother Didacus in 1588.
Didacus is the special patron of those friars who
are brothers. The Spanish for Didacus is Diego, and Mission San Diego in
California was named for the Franciscan St. Didacus.
GOD CHOOSES THE LOWLY
1. In the office for the
feast of St. Didacus, we find the following words: "See your vocation,
brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many
mighty, not many noble, but the foolish things of the world has God chosen
that He may confound the side" (1 Cor 1:26). The life of St. Didacus proves
the truth of these words. Born of poor parents in a lowly station, and having
no schooling of any kind, he was able to discuss the loftiest matters to the
great astonishment of learned men. How ashamed of themselves will learned men
be in the presence of this plain brother at the judgement-seat of God, unless
they serve God, like him, in genuine humility. What the world accounts as
foolishness is wisdom in the sight of God; but the wisdom of the world will be
put to shame at the final reckoning. -- To which principle do you hold?
Consider why God chooses the lowly to lavish His grace on them and make them
really great. The Apostle tells us, "that no flesh shall glory in His sight"
(1 Cor 1:29). Almighty God bestows His grace on human beings so that they can
do great things, but they should not ascribe what is accomplished to
themselves; they should rather give the glory to God. Because the wise ones of
this world and the wealthy and the prominent so readily give to themselves the
credit for what they do, they receive less grace to accomplish that which is
supernatural, and so they devote themselves to what is material and
perishable. But when the learned, the wealthy, and the prominent of this earth
are at the same time humble, God chooses them also, as He once choose St.
Paul, St. Augustine, and the saintly King Louis. The latter thought more of
the crown of thorns which had been placed on the head of our Lord than he
thought of his own royal crown. -- Have you made yourself undeserving of God's
graces because you sought your own honor?
3. Consider that God admits only
those souls to eternal bliss and heavenly glory who remain humble in their own
eyes though they have accomplished great things. Endowed with the most
brilliant gifts of nature and of grace, Lucifer contemplated himself and
became puffed up - and immediately he was deprived of his throne among the
angels and was thrust into hell. Didacus, who was greatly esteemed by the
world and by his brethren because of the marvelous things God accomplished
through him, nevertheless thought little of himself and wished to leave this
world clothed in a poor and worn-out habit. In heaven he received a place once
occupied by the proud angels. "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled;
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Almighty and eternal God,
who in Thy wonderful condescension hast chosen the weak of this world top
confound the strong, mercifully grant to our lowliness, that through the pious
intercession of Thy holy confessor St. Didacus, we may deserve to be raised to
eternal glory in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Franciscan Book
of Saints, ed. by
Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald