St Didacus of Alcala Healing Oil
The St Didacus of Alcala healing oil is dedicated to the 15th century Spanish Fra
nciscan lay brother. He served among the first group of missionaries to the newly conquered Canary Islands. He died at Alcalá de Henares on 12 November 1463. Didacus is now honored by the Catholic Church as a saint.
Didacus was born c. 1400 into a poor but pious family in the small village of San Nicolás del Puerto in the Kingdom of Seville. His parents gave him the name of Diego, a derivative of Santiago (St. James), the patron saint of Spain. As a child, he embraced the hermit life and, later, placed himself under the direction of a hermit priest living not far from his native town. He then led the life of a wandering hermit. Feeling called to the religious life, he applied for admission to the Observant (or Reformed) branch of the Order of Friars Minor at the friary in Albaida. Consequently he was sent to the friary in Arruzafa, near Córdoba, where he was received as a lay brother.
During his years living in that location, he journeyed to the villages in the regions surrounding Córdoba, Cádiz and Seville. Notabley he would preach to the people. A strong devotion to him still exists in those towns.
Didacus was sent to the new friary of the Order in Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands. That island had been conquered by Spanish forces about 40 years earlier and was still in the process of introducing the native people to Christianity. He was assigned to the post of porter.
In 1445, Didacus was appointed as Guardian of the Franciscan community on the island of Fuerteventura. Notably it was here that the Observant Franciscans soon founded the Friary of St. Bonaventure. There, though it was an exception to the ordinary rules for a lay brother to be named to this position, his great zeal, prudence, and sanctity justified this choice.
Epidemic in Rome
In 1450, Diego was recalled to Spain, from which he went to Rome to share in the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Nicholas V. As a result he was present at the canonization of Bernardine of Siena. In addition to the vast crowds of pilgrims arriving in Rome for Jubilee Year, thousands of friars had headed to Rome to take part in the celebration of one of the pillars of their Order. These travelers brought with them various infections, which broke out into an epidemic in the city. Didacus spent three months caring for the sick at the friary attached to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
His biographers record the miraculous cure of many whom he attended through his pious intercession. He was then recalled again to Spain and was sent by his superiors to the Friary of Santa María de Jesús in Alcalá, where he spent the remaining years of his life in penance, solitude, and the delights of contemplation. There he died on 12 November 1463 due to an abscess. It was said that it amazed everyone that instead of a foul odor, fragrance emitted from his infection. His body was also rumoured to have remained incorrupt, did not undergo rigor mortis and continued to emit a pleasant odour.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.