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Saint Francis Borgia

Confessor and a Patron of Portugal. 

Francis, fourth Duke of Gandia, was born in 1510, and educated for a distinguished secular career. However, he passed his boyhood at home with good signs of a preference for godliness, and later was still more remarkable for his courage in all Christian practice; although he entered whole-heartedly into everything that was proper to his life as a secular prince, since to that he was born, and owed a duty. He married Eleanor de Castro, a Portuguese lady who was a favourite of the Empress, and thereafter he attained still higher worldly rank and riches than before. For seventeen years they lived together in happy and holy marriage, and to them eight children were born, all of them giving a good account of themselves when grown. In 1546, at the death of his wife, Francis was much afflicted, and turned more and more to God in prayer. Because he had bound himself by vow, namely, to serve the King of kings without stint, he began to consider a vocation to religion, and finally offered himself to holy Ignatius of the Society of Jesus. Now there were many difficulties which needed to be solved before Francis could resign all his worldly dignities. Forseeing this delay, Ignatius commanded Francis to begin his studies for the priesthood, and to continue them whilst he settled his estates and established his children in life. But he was allowed to take his first vows in private, before he came to live in community. But as soon as he could, namely in 1550, when he was nearly forty, he went to Rome, and took up his residence in the Society of Jesus.

Now when it became known that the famous Duke of Gandia had become a Jesuit, it created no small stir. For which reason his novice master saw to it that he was kept in lowly places, at lowly work, and often given an opportunity to exercise humility. But Francis was already a disciplined man, and he accepted these things cheerfully. So that in due time he was appointed by holy Ignatius himself as the Commissary-General of the Society in Spain. In 1565, notwithstanding all the precautions he could take to prevent it, he was chosen General of the Society to succeed Father Laynez. In this position his wisdom and holiness of life greatly endeared him to high and low. Besides founding or enlarging many houses in divers places, he sent his brethren into Poland, into various islands of the ocean, and into the provinces of Mexico, and Peru, and into other lands, that they might preach the Faith in their sweat and their blood.

Francis also did much to carry on the work of Ignatius in the perfecting of the Society of Jesus, and it hath been said that Ignatius laid the foundation: Laynez built the walls, and Francis roofed it over and fitted it up inside. Various great tasks for the upbuilding of the church were given him, and he was often-times offered the dignity of Cardinal of the Roman Church, but the lowly firmness with which he refused it could never be overcome. In his cheap esteem of the world and of himself his chief pleasures were to clean the house, to beg for food from door to door, and to wait upon the sick in hospitals. He spent many hours every day, oftentimes eight and sometimes ten, in prayer and meditation, and the fire from God which burnt within him sometimes shone forth in his countenance when he was lifting up the Sacred Host or preaching. Worn out by his prodigious labors, he brought his life to a blessed end, at Rome, about midnight of September 30th, in 1572, and was canonized in 1670, and is venerated as one of the heavenly Patrons of Portugal.


O LORD JESU CHRIST, who by thine example teachest us true lowliness of heart, and art likewise the reward of them that follow the same: we pray thee; that, like as thou didst give to thy blessed Saint Francis grace gloriously to imitate thee in despising earthly honours, so thou wouldest render us partakers of his imitation of thee, and of the glory that he attained thereby. Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1489-1490

Additional Information:

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