Ordinary Time: January 14th
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Other Commemorations: St. Felix of Nola, Priest (RM)
Today the Roman Martyrology commemorates St. Felix of Nola (d. 255), priest. After his father‘s death, Felix sold off most of his property and possessions, gave the proceeds to the poor, and pursued his vocation as a priest. He was ordained by, and worked with Saint Maximus of Nola. During the persecution of the Emperor Decius, Felix was arrested and beaten for his faith, but was freed by an angel, and managed to hide with St. Maximus until the end of the persecution in 251. Although chosen as bishop of Nola, he declined the position and worked as a farmer the rest of his days, sharing his profits with those poorer than himself. The letters and poetry of Saint Paulinus of Nola is where we have most of the information regarding St. Felix.
St. Felix of Nola
St. Felix was a priest at Nola, near Naples in Italy. His father, a Romano-Syrian soldier, was a landowner in Nola. Felix suffered persecution under the Emperor Decius, but himself escaped from prison and rescued his bishop, St. Maximus of Nola, in miraculous circumstances. Legend says he was freed by an angel so he could help his sick bishop. Felix hid Maximus from soldiers in a vacant building. When the two were safely inside, a spider quickly spun a web over the door, fooling the imperial forces into thinking it was long abandoned, and they left without finding the Christians. The two managed to hide from authorities until the persecution ended with the death of Decius in 251.
Felix was known far and wide for his generosity to the poor, and refused to go to law to recover an impounded estate. After Bishop St. Maximus‘ death, Felix was chosen as bishop of Nola, but he declined, favoring Quintus, a “senior” priest who had seven days more experience than Felix. Felix worked to farm his remaining land, and gave most of the proceeds to people even poorer than himself.
He died around 255-260 A.D. Although Felix died of natural causes, he is normally listed as a martyr because of the torture, imprisonment, and privations he experienced in the persecutions.
Most of the little information we have on St. Felix came from the letters and poetry of St. Paulinus of Nola. Over a century later St. Paulinus wrote of the crowds that came from all over Italy to the shrine of St. Felix, of the miracles that took place there, and of the assistance he had himself received from Felix's intercession.
—Adapted from A Dictionary of Saints by Donald Attwater and CatholicSaints.info
Patronage: spiders; keeping of spiders; against spider bites; against eye disease; against eye trouble; against false witness; against lies; against perjury; domestic animals; eyes; Nola, Italy
Symbols and Representation: cobweb; deacon in prison; spiderweb; young priest carrying an old man (Maximus) on his shoulders; young priest chained in prison with a pitcher and potsherds near him; young priest with a bunch of grapes (symbolizes his care of the aged Maximus); young priest with a spider; young priest with an angel removing his chains
Highlights and Things to Do:
- Read more about St. Felix:
- St. Felix's relics are kept in the Cathedral of Nola, dedicated to Holy Mary Assumed into Heaven. The crypt is dedicated to St. Felix. Certain portions of his relics are at Rome, Benevento, and other locations. See these sites for more information:
- The tomb in the crypt is supposed to have a "Miracle of Manna" occurring as a substance oozes out of the tomb of the saint. See History of the Crypt.
- See the South Transept Spire statue of St. Felix on the Duomo of Milan.
- There is a delightful children's book, entitled Saint Felix and the Spider by Dessi Jackson and illustrated by Lydia Grace Kadar-Kallen.
- See the recipe and ideas at Catholic Cuisine for St. Felix.
- Here are some other fun food ideas with spider webs: