St. Thomas of Villanova
(1486 – 1555), also known as Thomas the Almsgiver; Father of the Poor;
Model of Bishops, was born in Fuentellana and grew up in Villanova, Spain.
Son of Aloazo Thomas Garcia, a miller, and his wife Lucia Martinez, Thomas
came from a wealthy family and attended the University of Alcala. There
he became a professor of arts, theology and philosophy, until he later
became an Austin friar at Salamanca in 1516, and ordained priest a year
In 1544 he was nominated as Archbishop of Valencia, a charge which he accepted very reluctantly, after which he put back in order a diocese that had for over a century remained without a direct pastoral government. He formed a college devoted to convert Moors, whose commitment was not always sincere due to unjust pressure or fear.
Although he came from a wealthy background, Thomas is said to have often gone around naked as a young boy, and later on always wore the habit he had received as a novitiate, mending it himself, having given away all his clothes to the poor. Legends say that Thomas attended to hundreds of homeless who came to his door every morning to receive food, wine and money. He paid his servants extra for every deserted child they found and brought back to him. He encouraged other wealthy folk to follow his example. When on his deathbed, Thomas commanded that all his money be distributed among the poor.
He died September 8, 1555, and was canonized November 1, 1658 by Pope Alexander VII. His feast day is September 22.
See: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo St. Thomas Villanueva Giving Alms.