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Fi News: Alcala the Home of St. Didacus

By November 13, 2015February 14th, 2016News


Born: c. 1400 San Nicolás del Puerto, Seville, Andalusia, Kingdom of Castile

Died: November 12, 1463 Alcalá de Henares, Kingdom of Castile

Canonized: 1588 by Pope Sixtus V

Attributes: Cross, Lily

Patronage: Franciscan brothers

St. Didacus is known for his great humility, even now he is forgotten by most Franciscan Orders.  On the occasion of profession of vows, Franciscans will sing the Litany of the Saints, but I can’t remember once St. Didacus being on that list, even though he’s the patron of Franciscan brothers. They’ll have St. Joe of nothing to do with Franciscans, but they won’t have St. Didacus.

Didacus is living proof that God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

As a young man in Spain, Didacus joined the Secular Franciscan Order and lived for some time as a hermit. After Didacus became a Franciscan brother, he developed a reputation for great insight into God’s ways. His penances were heroic. He was so generous with the poor that the friars sometimes grew uneasy about his charity.

Didacus volunteered for the missions in the Canary Islands and labored there energetically and profitably. He was also the superior of a friary there.

In 1450 he was sent to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena. When many friars gathered for that celebration fell sick, Didacus stayed in Rome for three months to nurse them. After he returned to Spain, he pursued a life of contemplation full-time. He showed the friars the wisdom of God’s ways.

As he was dying, Didacus looked at a crucifix and said: “O faithful wood, O precious nails! You have borne an exceedingly sweet burden, for you have been judged worthy to bear the Lord and King of heaven” (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 834).

San Diego, California, is named for this Franciscan, who was canonized in 1588.

“He was born in Spain with no outstanding reputation for learning, but like our first teachers and leaders unlettered as men count wisdom, an unschooled person, a humble lay brother in religious life. [God chose Didacus] to show in him the abundant riches of his grace to lead many on the way of salvation by the holiness of his life and by his example and to prove over and over to a weary old world almost decrepit with age that God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness is more powerful than men” (Bull of Canonization).

” Our Lord is wonderfully pleased by the humble of heart. Just look at our great Saint, brother Didacus of Alcala, and other saintly lay-brothers, and think of the path they held to…”

-St. Charles of Sezze

Saint Didacus had a fond devotion for the poor and was considered to have imprudent generosity in sharing with them the food that was meant for the friars. While on his way to the poor with food wrapped in his habit he was stopped by his superior who asked to see what was in the folds. When he opened the folds to show the food there where assorted flowers instead.


San Diego de Alcalá by Pietro Dandini

St. Didacus appearing to St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

Pietro Dandini (Florence 1646-1712) $10,200 Price includes buyer’s premium (Just in case someone is interested in the above painting) Sorry SOLD: In New York, Thursday, April 06, 2006

“Happy and blessed are you, O my advocate Didacus, as you are constantly in the company of the Word and looking at Him. Now I see you going about making merry, and following the Immaculate Lamb with the holy Virgins, in the midst of the four beautiful queens, and having under your feet a flying eagle. To three of those queens you have made yourself a servant while on earth, and one you have taken for a spouse; but now all four of them wait on you in heaven. Obedience and poverty are at your right hand, purity and charity on your left, and humility is your diadem and glory. In this world you did choose your queens, obedience, poverty, and purity; and to them did become a servant.


O my glorious advocate, how happily do you stay in the midst of these queens! At times they are on his right and left, at times they surround him, making a circle.


What shall I say of humility, which was so deep in my advocate? Though he was humble by nature, he nevertheless changed nature into virtue. And, now in heaven, all is credited to him as virtue; and this makes a shade for him, that he may endure the great heat of the knowledge and power of the Incarnate Word; for the more one shall have been humble on earth, so much the more knowledge and acquaintance he will have with the Word in heaven.


But you, my advocate, were father, mother, brother, sister, and spouse of humility. Father, because you were not possessed by humility, but did possess it; which is a much greater thing. Mother, because you did beget it in yourself; and, by deeds and words, did incline souls to wish for it and secure it. Brother and sister, because as the brother alleviates the needs of a sister who, when abandoned by all, by him is cared for and assisted, likewise you did take this virtue from your father, holy Francis, who left it to you by such luminous examples, and obtained by exhortations, that your fathers and brothers should exult and honor her in themselves. Perhaps I may not be able to explain how you have been a spouse to it. But as the spouse does nothing but what is according to the pleasure and wish of the bride, so you did not say a word or perform an action-wherein humility did not shine…Now I would like to understand the meaning of that eagle which is under your feet. It denotes contemplation, prayer, or love, I may say, which did not make you walk, nor run, but fly. All other virtues helped you to arrive at contemplation, because purity made you fit for it, poverty raised you, obedience gave you peace in everything, and charity united you to God, for “Deus charitas est” (God is charity) In this world you did need prayer and contemplation, but now in heaven you do constantly see and enjoy God. And how you did partake of this great work of charity! The beginning and the end of every action of yours, both interior and exterior, was by charity and for charity.”

St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

(Chapel and Altar of Saint Diego of Alcala – Incorrupt Body  Died 1463)

The parish priest at this shrine said the heart of St. Didacus is what’s incorrupt.

San Diego de Alcalá by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

San Diego de Alcalá by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

San Diego de Alcalá by Francisco de Zurbarán

Below: The Cathedral of Alcala where the body of St. Didacus rest.

Below: The old part of Alcala.

Above: The home of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – Author of “Don Quixote”

“Wazzup!” statue of Don Quixote

These Poor Clare Nuns you see in brown are the only Franciscans left in Alcala. One of their sisters was taken out and shot during the Spanish Civil War (July 17, 1936 to April 1, 1939)

Alonso Cano Saint Diego de Alcalá 02

Title: San Diego of Alcalá.
Artist: Alonso Cano.
Technique: Carved and polychromed wood.
Dimensions: 60’5 x 23’7 x 23’5 cm.
Chronology: 1652-1657.

Pedro de Mena, “San Diego of Alcalá,” 1665, polychromed wood. Museum purchase with funds provided by the estate of Donald W. Shira.

Artist: Pedro de Mena, “San Diego of Alcalá,” 1665, polychromed wood. Museum purchase with funds provided by the estate of Donald W. Shira.

Pedro de Mena Saint Diego de Alcalá 05

Alonso Cano

Saint Diego de Alcalá, 1653-57

Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada, Spain




I hope to continue with this post over time. I could not find all the information on St. Didacus that I’ve come across in the past, plus I don’t have time at the moment.

St. Didacus de Alcala – Pray for us.











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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Marie says:

    Happy Feast Day to you, Friar Didacus! 🙂

  • Alex Antunes says:

    Oh, My God! How many salutary lessons of humility!

    Dear Friars, this post and Fr. George’s homilies have made me thinking of the absolute necessity of humility more and more.

    Praised be Jesus and Mary for that!

  • Peter Christopher Edward Scozzare says:

    Friar Didacus,

    I don’t know if you remember me but I met you in New Bedford and at other locations during our journey on earth during the past ten years. I never knew this much about about your patron and I am glad to be learning more. You were always such a peaceful model and presence in my company and I will continue to pray for you and the other friars and sisters especially to your patron, San Diego. I actually got to visit San Diego a long time ago and had no idea the origins of the name. Ironic how God plants those little memories into us during our path to Him! I always loved my stay there. Unfortunately I wasn’t practicing my Faith at the time and only saw the secular sites but I hope to go back there some day and visit the Shrines. Pax in Maria. Ave Maria!

  • Brenda says:

    Wishing you a Happy Feastday Friar Didacus!

    Thank you for sharing St. Didacus with the rest of us. You did an outstanding job of putting it all together.

    Hope you and Fra. Roderic are doing well!

    Ave Maria!