Saint Felix was born in the early 3rd century and was the oldest son of a Syrian centurion by the name of Hermias. Hermias had retired to Nola Italy to raise a family and upon his death Saint Felix sold all of the estate, donating every penny to the poor and sick of his community. Soon afterwards he was ordained by Bishop Saint Maximus of Nola as a priest and became the Bishop's top and most important assistant. In 250 AD, the Decian persecutions began under Emperor Decius forcing Bishop Maximus to flee to the desert.
With the Bishop safe, Roman authorities arrested Saint Felix in his stead and imprisoned him for his faith in Christ. Legend holds that an angel appeared to Saint Felix in his prison cell and released him, directing him to go and aid the Bishop. Saint Felix did as instructed and found Bishop Maximus in ill health from the desert conditions. He helped bring his health back up and the two returned to Nola and the Christian community. Though Emperor Decius died in 251, the persecutions continued and both men were frequently hunted by authorities.
When Bishop Maximus died, the people of Nola unamiously elected Saint Felix as their Bishop. Saint Felix, however, turned them down, instead recommending a senior priest by the name of Quintus who had more experience. Though he continued serving as a priest, Saint Felix farmed a small plot of land, giving away the majority of any proceeds to the poor of his town. It was on this small plot of land that Saint Felix would die on the 14th of January 260 AD of old age. Many years later, Saint Paulinus of Nola named Saint Felix his patron saint and held him in extremely high regard. Every year he would write a poem to celebrate the feast day of his patron and through his writings provided us with one of the earliest definitions of a "confessor". In one letter he wrote:
This festive day celebrates Felix’s birthday, the day on which he died physically on earth and was born for Christ in heaven, winning his heavenly crown as a martyr who did not shed his blood. For he died as confessor, though he did not avoid execution by choice, since God accepted his inner faith in place of blood. God looks into the silence of hearts, and equates those ready to suffer with those who have already done so, for he considers this inward test as sufficient, and dispenses with physical execution in case of true devotion. Martyrdom without bloodshed is enough for him if mind and faith are ready to suffer and are fervent towards God. (From Loyola Press)
And in one of his prayers he wrote:
Father and lord, best of patrons to servants however unworthy, at last our prayer is answered to celebrate your birthday within your threshold. . . .You know what toils on land and sea have . . . kept me far from your abode in a distant world, because I have always and everywhere had you near me, and have called on you in the grim moments of travel, and in the uncertainties of life.. . . I never sailed without you, for I felt your protection in Christ the Lord when I overcame rough seas. On land and water my journeying is always made safe through you. Felix, I beg you, address a prayer on behalf of your own to that Embodiment of the calm of eternal love and peace, to him on whose great name you depend. (From Loyola Press)
Among other Patronages, Saint Felix is the patron Saint of Nola, spiders and keepers of spiders. He is often associated with spiders due to a legend from when he found Bishop Maximus - the two hid in an vacant building and the moment they got through the doorway a spider spun a web over the doorway to make soldiers believe the building was abandoned. This happened again when soldiers came to arrest Saint Felix - spiders again spun webs over a doorway to make the building appear abandoned.
A total of five different churches were built near the place where Saint Felix was first interred (around the city of Nola). Today his most precious remains are kept in the Cathedral but other relics can be found in Rome and Benevento.