Saint Paschal Baylon (1540 – 1592) was born in Torre-Hermosa, a small town in the kingdom of Aragon, to devout, poor parents who were day labourers. Like his parents, he was also pious and devout. From an early age, he was employed as a shepherd and was often found praying on his knees while the animals grazed nearby. He practiced penance by walking barefoot on the rocky paths and gave alms by sharing his food with the needy. St Paschal was graced with a deep sense of justice and once offered to pay a farmer for the damages the animals he herded had caused to his crop. His family could not afford to send him to school, but he desired to know more about the saints and the spiritual life. He would, therefore, take a religious book with him to the pastures and ask passers-by to teach him the letters and words found in it. In this way he learned to read.
St Paschal was such an upright person and competent worker that despite his poverty, one of his employers offered him his daughter’s hand in marriage. The saint, however, desired to enter a monastery and declined the offer. At the age of 24, he joined the reformed branch of the Franciscans. The superiors, seeing his potential, offered him the option of becoming a priest, but he declined and chose instead the humble life of a lay brother. As a religious, he increased his penances and prayers, and deepened his love for the Eucharist, often spending a good part of the night on his knees or prostrate before the tabernacle. He worked at different times as a cook, gardener, porter and official beggar. Later in life, he was sent to Paris by his superior. Part of the road he had to travel was under control of the Huguenots. Aware that he might be killed if he was known to be a Catholic brother, he nonetheless travelled in his habit (and went barefoot as an additional penance). During this journey, he was twice imprisoned and was once attacked and wounded on the shoulder. Even though he lost the full use of his arm as a result of this attack, he never uttered a word of complaint and would speak of it only if asked.
St Paschal died at Villarreal, near Valencia, at the age of fifty-two. Multitudes flocked to the church where his body was exposed, and several miracles occurred by which God attested to the sanctity of His servant.