Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Ransom of Captives

St. Felix of Valois
Among other accomplishments, the Crusades created a large number of Christians held captive by non-Christians. These captives, held in far-off lands, could languish for years in horrible conditions. There was no Amnesty International to care about them. That changed, starting with an unassuming man named Felix of Valois (16 April 1127 - 4 November 1212).

Felix, born in the province of Valois, decided at an early age to renounce the worldly life and become a hermit in the woods of the Diocese of Meaux. His saintly reputation drew a priest, John of Matha, to come stay with him. John convinced Felix that they should found an order focused on redeeming captives held by non-Christians.

The two men traveled to Rome, where they met with Pope Innocent III. Innocent (who would later be responsible for approving the Franciscans) approved their order, The Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of the Captives. The members are called Trinitarians. They returned to France where King Philip Augustus offered them financial support. The first hermitage was built in Meaux, on the site where Felix had been a hermit for years. Within 40 years, 600 Trinitarian houses had been established.

Felix died at the age of 85. No record of canonization exists, but the Trinitarians claim he was canonized by Pope Urban IV on 1 May 1262. The order founded by him remains, as well as other signs of his legacy. A St. Felix Church exists in Clifton Springs, NY;* it is part of the Diocese of Rochester NY. His feast day is 4 November.

*It was originally dedicated to St. Agnes, but the name was changed in 1895.

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