Today’s saint was born to poor parents in the town of Taranto, in southern Italy. His given name was Francesco.
Growing up he learned the ropemaking, which served him and his family well when his father died in 1747, leaving Francesco, at age 18, as the sole support of his mother and siblings.
At age 25, he was able to secure his family’s financial future. Listening to the call of a religious vocation, he was finally able to apply to the Discalced Friars Minor in Naples. He wanted to become a priest but lacked sufficient education and was received as a lay brother instead. For the next nearly six decades, Francesco, now St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph, acted as the porter and gatekeeper at his monastery’s seminary.
As the brother who opened the door to everyone who rang the bell, Giles came into contact with some of the poorest and most wretched citizens of Naples – people who he had a special gift to help. He seemed to have a particular ministry to the sick, even going outside the city gates to tend to those suffering from leprosy, in addition to serving at St. Pascal’s Hospice in the city. He often carried with him an icon of the Blessed Virgin, called “Our Lady of the Well,” as he made his rounds.
Giles faithfully carried on his duties even though he was in poor health much of the time. He suffered from sciatica, a condition that caused him severe leg pain and often forced him to walk with a cane. He also struggled with asthma and, in his later years, dropsy.
Other tasks assigned to Giles included distributing alms and food to the poor as well as begging for his fellow friar’s sustenance. Almost miraculously, no matter how much Giles distributed, there was always enough to meet everyone’s needs. He gave credit for this to St. Joseph, who, he said, always took such good care of Mary and Jesus. His devotion to Joseph remained strong throughout his religious life.
As he made his way through the streets of Naples, he would urge the people repeatedly to “Love God, love God.” The people whom he encountered even gave him a nickname – “Consoler of Naples.”
Finally, in 1812, at the age of 81 and after decades of humble service to all he came into contact with, Giles died, a “model of authentic evangelization.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: Winchester, K. (2019, October 23). St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph. Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. https://www.vermontcatholic.org/saints/st-giles-mary-of-st-joseph/