On March 18, Franciscans commemorate Saint Salvador of Horta (1520–1567), a Catalan friar known in his lifetime for his humility, intense prayer life, and healing powers.
Salvador Pladevall was born in Santa Coloma de Farners in the province of Girona, Catalonia, where his parents worked as servants in the local hospital. Orphaned at the age of 14, he moved with his sister to Barcelona, where he worked as a shoemaker. After his sister had married, Salvador felt free to pursue a calling to religious life.
He originally entered the famous Benedictine monastery of Montserrat, but desiring a simpler life, joined the Observant Friars Minor in Barcelona in 1541. After his profession in 1542, he was assigned to the friary in Tortosa as cook and seeker of daily alms for the community. As he went out begging, he would pray for the sick people he encountered and soon became known in the town as a healer.
So many people came to the friary seeking a cure that his superiors began moving him around to various friaries to avoid publicity, eventually in 1547 to the remote friary of Horta de Sant Joan, where he was stationed as cook for twelve years. Still, crowds came there seeking him out, sometimes hundreds of people a week. He would gather the sick together, urge them to go to Confession and Communion and would then make the Sign of the Cross over them. Many were cured. In 1565, he was sent to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia (then ruled by Spain), where he continued to serve as cook, and where he died two years later.
The mountainside friary at Horta de Sant Joan, Catalonia
Despite all the notoriety surrounding him, Salvator continued to devote himself each day to profound personal prayer and humble service to his brothers. He replied once to a critic: “I just think of myself as a sack full of straw; the sack is the same whether it lies in a stable or a cellar or is brought into a magnificent room.” At the urgings of King Philip III of Spain, Salvator was allowed to be venerated as “blessed” in 1606 and was canonized in 1938.
May the prayers of Saint Salvator come to the help of the sick.
Saint Salvador’s remains are venerated at the church of St. Rosalie, Cagliari, Sardinia.
Main image: This Mexican painting (1720) depicts Saint Salvador healing the sick. Salvador always attributed any healings to the intervention of Mary under the title of the immaculate Conception.
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.