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St. Felix of Valois



Born in 1127; d. at Cerfroi, 4 November, 1212. He is commemorated 20 November. He was surnamed Valois because, according to some, he was a member of the royal branch of Valois in France, according to others, because he was a native of the province of Valois. At an early age he renounced his possessions and retired to a dense forest in the Diocese of Meaux, where he gave himself to prayer and contemplation. He was joined in his retreat by St. John of Matha, who proposed to him the project of founding an order for the redemption of captives. After fervent prayer, Felix in company with John set out for Rome and arrived there in the beginning of the pontificate of Innocent III. They had letters of recommendation from the Bishop of Paris, and the new pope received them with the utmost kindness and lodged them in his palace. The project of founding the order was considered in several solemn conclaves of cardinals and prelates, and the pope after fervent prayer decided that these holy men were inspired by God, and raised up for the good of the Church. He solemnly confirmed their order, which he named the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives. The pope commissioned the Bishop of Paris and the Abbot of St. Victor to draw up for the institute a rule, which was confirmed by the pope, 17 December, 1198. Felix returned to France to establish the order. He was received with great enthusiasm, and King Philip Augustus authorized the institute France and fostered it by signal benefactions. Margaret of Blois granted the order twenty acres of the wood where Felix had built his first hermitage, and on almost the same spot he erected the famous monastery of Cerfroi, the mother-house of the institute. Within forty years the order possessed six hundred monasteries in almost every part of the world. St. Felix and St. John of Matha were forced to part, the latter went to Rome to found a house of the order, the church of which, Santa Maria in Navicella, still stands on the Caeclian Hill. St. Felix remained in France to look after the interests of the congregation. He founded a house in Paris attached to the church of St. Maturinus, which afterwards became famous under Robert Guguin, master general of the order. Though the Bull of his canonization is no longer extant, it is the constant tradition of his institute that he was canonized by Urban IV in 1262. Du Plessis tells us that his feast was kept in the Diocese of Meaux in 1215. In 1666 Alexander VII declared him a saint because of immemorial cult. His feast was transferred to 20 November by Innocent XI in 1679.

Michael M. O'Kane.








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