Saints Index

Nov 7 - St. Didacus of Alcala c. 1400-1463

 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 brother.

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 brother.

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.

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?
2. 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).

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.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press