SAINT FRANCIS BORGIA (1510-1572), missionary priest – Patron saint of Portugal and against earthquakes
Today, the Church honors Saint Francis Borgia, who once enjoyed the honors and accolades of earthly rewards by serving earthly kings, and who later gave up everything and embraced a life of faithful service by following the King of kings.
Francis was born in 1510 in Gandia in the province of Valencia, Spain into a noble family. He was the son of the Duke of Gandia, the great-grandson from his father’s side of Pope Alexander VI, and from his mother’s side the grandson of King Ferdinand of Aragon.
Francis’ grandmother joined her daughter in a convent of Poor Clares after the death of her husband and lent a pious influence in the court of the Borgia’s, to which Francis is indebted. It was from the influence of these two women that holiness began to penetrate into the scandalous lineage of the Borgia family.
Francis grew to be a pious young man, possessed of many natural gifts and a favorite at the court of King Charles V. In 1539, Francis was appointed Viceroy of Catalonia, and four years later, upon the death of his father, became the Duke of Gandia. He built a university in his home city, inviting the Jesuits to his duchy [dukedom], and received a doctorate in theology.
His wife, Eleanor de Castro, died in 1546, after which Francis entered the Society of Jesus in 1548 and pronounced his solemn vows, but was ordered by Pope Paul III to remain in the world until he had fulfilled his obligations to his ten children and his duchy (since he was still the Duke of Gandia).
Two years later, after fulfilling his obligations to family and his duchy, Francis left Gandia, never to return, and joined the Jesuits in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1551 and immediately set about initiating grand projects – he convinced Ignatius of Loyola to found the Roman College, and a year later he left for Spain where his preaching and example sparked a renewal of religious fervor in the country, drawing pilgrims from far and wide to hear him preach.
In 1554, Ignatius named Father Francis Borgia commissary-general of the Society of Jesus in Spain. And two years later, he was placed in charge of all the missions of the Society of Jesus. With his energetic zeal, he initiated the missions to Peru, Brazil and the area known as New Spain (which was comprised of North America south of Canada and west of the Mississippi River), Florida, Mexico and Central America, along with the countries of the Spanish East and West Indies.
Due to his great apostolic zeal and organizational abilities, he was elected general of the Jesuit Order in 1565. Due to failing health, Francis was still a man of contemplation and action. It was believed he drew strength from the silence of his prayer.
On September 30, 1572, Jesuit General, Father Francis Borgia died in Rome, Italy, two days after returning from an apostolic journey to Spain. He was canonized a saint on June 20, 1670 by Pope Clement X. His remains are interred in the Jesuit church in Madrid, Spain
We commemorate his feastday on October 10.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Jesuit Collect for Saint Francis Borgia)
“O Lord Jesus Christ, You who are both the example and the reward of true humility: we beseech You, that even as You made blessed Francis glorious by following You in despising earthly honors, guide us so that we, too, may become his companions in following Your will.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”