October 9, 2017

St. Francis Borgia, 'Second Founder' of the Jesuits

Saint Francis Borgia

Optional Memorial - October 10th

When reading about the life of Saint Francis Borgia, the 16th century Jesuit who embraced radical humility, one is reminded of the Gospel account of the wealthy young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. "Sell all that you have and give it to the poor," the Lord replied, "and then come follow me." Unlike the young man, Francis heeded the call spending his life in service to God.

His was an inauspicious beginning to sainthood. Born into an influential family in Spain in 1510, Francis was the viscount of Catalonia and would become in time, the third superior general of the Jesuits. On his father's side he was a great-grandchild of the infamous Pope Alexander VI. On his mother's side he was the great-grandchild of a son of Ferdinand the Catholic. His heroic virtue, personal holiness and courageous witness atoned for the transgressions of his ancestors.

By the age of 33, he was a happily married man with eight children. As viscount and duke at the palace of Emperor Charles V, Francis stood in highest esteem. Unlike many nobles of his day, he was renowned as a truly Christian man. With the death of the beautiful Empress Isabella in 1539, Charles V asked him to take her body to Granada. Seeing the disfigured corpse, Francis forswore all temporal glory, and solemnly resolved to serve the King of Kings alone. In 1546, when his beloved wife Eleanor died, he startled everyone by becoming a Jesuit priest.

His previous position did nothing to alter his basic humility. He only became angry if he received special notice or treatment because of it. At the age of 55, Francis was elected head of the Society of Jesus and was instrumental in the growth of the Jesuit order. His example of humility exercised an influence upon Charles V when he considered renouncing the throne. Devoted to prayer and severe acts of mortification, Francis referred to himself as a "poor sinner."

Often regarded as the second founder of the Society of Jesus, he died in Rome on October 1, 1572, and was canonized a century later. The patron saint invoked against earthquakes, St. Francis Borgia’s feast day is Oct. 10th. Almighty ever-loving God, you inspired Saint Francis Borgia to renounce earthly honors and prestige and embrace radical humility in imitation of Christ. May we follow his example, and submit ourselves to your holy will to have eternal Beatitude with you. Through Christ Our Lord, who reigns with you, one God, for ever. Amen.

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