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St. Felix of Valois – November 20

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

St. Felix of Valois (1126-1212) was a member of the royal family of France, the grandson of King Henry I. While carrying the future saint, his mother had a vision where she saw the Child Jesus holding a cross and another child holding a garland of flowers. The two boys traded their objects. The mother understood that the boy with the flowers was her son.

A painting of St. Felix of Valois

St. Felix of Valois
Because of troubles in the family, the young man left his home and went to the court, where he became a crusader to follow the King in the Crusade. During the preparatory training, the King fell from his horse and died. Felix approached the fallen monarch and ordered: “In the name of the Holy Trinity, arise.” Instantly the young King obeyed, alive and well.

During the Crusade Felix gave proof of his great courage and virtue. In the military quarters he maintained the austere life of a Cistercian religious. He was notable in all the battles he took part in.

When he returned to Paris he determined to give himself to God. Even though he was a close heir to the throne, he exchanged the fleur-de-lys of France for the cross of Our Lord and became a hermit. The vision of his mother was confirmed.

The fame of his sainthood spread and St. John of Matha sought him out for advice about founding the Order of the Trinitarians. St. Felix decided to join him in founding that order for the redemption of Catholic captives.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

Let me give a summary of the situation of Europe at the time, mainly Spain and France, where the Trinitarian Order was founded.

One who visits southern Spain today and admires the beautiful architecture of buildings in Toledo and Granada has no idea of what the substance of the Muslim State was at that time. It was not a State organized like the Western nations. They did not have kings or a regular dynastic succession as in China or old Egypt. It was a State made up of bandits who lived like barbarians from their pillaging and looting on land and sea, fighting not only with the Catholics but also among themselves. They did not have harmonically distributed social classes; there were the powerful persons who made those extraordinary buildings and then the rest of the population living in slums. The powerful were surrounded by sycophants who easily rose and fell from the positions of power.

Christ and freed captives, the emblem of the Triniarians

The symbol of the Trinitarian Order
The piracy at sea and pillaging on the land were the habitual sources of income. Making captured Catholics slaves was, therefore, both a way to spread fear among Catholics and a source of funds.

How did taking captives spread fear? In the Catholic society of that time, there was virtually no slavery, which existed only as a very rare exception to the rule. Prisoners of war were treated with respect by the Catholics. Hence, in the fighting between Catholics and Muslims, the Mohammedans had much less to fear should they lose a battle than the Catholics, because the former had the security that they would be treated decently if they were captured.

On the contrary, if Catholic warriors fell prisoners, they knew that they would be reduced to slavery and treated atrociously. It was not rare, for example, for the Muslims to cut out the eyes of Catholic prisoners to prevent them from escaping. Those blind slaves would work more efficiently in jobs calling only for brute animal labor, such as pulling ships out of the water to be repaired, for example, without the danger that they would run away. Other times, the Moors would morally and physically abuse nobles and important men. Finally and worst of all, they would corrupt the faith of those Catholics and use every means possible to make them apostatize and become Mohammedans. So, the condition of a captive was miserable from several points of view.

This situation generated a great compassion in all Christendom for the captives and the idea of doing whatever they could to liberate their Christian brothers from that abominable condition. Another decisive reason to liberate them was to redress Catholic honor and prevent their Catholic leaders and relatives from being reduced to slaves without any vigorous action to save them.

These concerns often inspired military expeditions to save the captives. Other times alms were collected to buy the liberty of the prisoners. The idea of their captive brothers was constantly present and generated an enormous sympathy.

A chapter of the Trinitarian Order

A Chapter of the Order of the Holy Trinity
Now then, when the Church or Christendom has a pressing need, Divine Providence always calls for a new order to resolve it. The Trinitarian Order was founded for this reason. St. Felix of Valois, who had been a valorous crusader, and St. John of Matha founded the Order of Holy Trinity for the redemption of the Christian captives. That vocation, it could be said, focused the concern of Christendom regarding the captives. The order became famous and carried out prodigious works.

This is what St. Felix of Valois was called to do. He carried out this vocation so well that he became a saint canonized by the Church.

I would like to propose that we contrast the attitude of the Spanish and French Catholics of that time toward the Muslim threat and the attitude of today’s Catholics regarding Communism. There are millions of Catholics living in Russia, China, or other countries who are in true captivity. However, the Catholics of the West pay no attention to them. Almost no one has the desire to save them or fight for them. Many of these Western Catholics are self-righteously proud only because they do not allow Communism to conquer their own countries. They think that this makes them admirable and that they are doing a great thing. But almost nothing is done to liberate our captive brothers in the Catholic Faith who suffer under Communist persecution. Worse, there is a tendency to say that everything is fine under Communist domination, and that we must compromise more and more with Communists in order to placate them.

One can imagine the frustration of those Catholics under Communist dominion when they realize that not only do their Western brothers have no interest in saving them, but that even the Pope is being complacent with those same Communists who persecute them. Indeed, the Vatican established Ostpolitik as a policy to make concessions to Communism.

When I was in Rome for the first session of Vatican II, I became aware of this fact. There was a whole Catholic Russian network in the Catacomb Church that ran all kinds of risks in order to keep Rome well-informed about their latest activities. When John XXIII invited the Schismatics of Moscow to be observers at the Council, the Vatican told this network to close down. What a great trial for those Catholics!

When a son is being persecuted and his suffering reaches its apex, he relies on the love and support of his father. Should he learn that his father is supporting not him but his persecutors, what kind of discouragement would this cause? I use this example to help you understand the kind of trial to which our brothers in the faith were and are subject.

Let us ask St. Felix of Valois, who offered his life to save his brothers in the Faith, to help us not let this mentality conquer us. Let us ask him to help those Catholics to continue to be faithful even when their father – our father, the Pope – orders them to stop fighting for their faith.


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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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