Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Thursday, October 10:
Feast of Saint Francis Borgia, Priest and Jesuit General
Saint Francis Borgia, named for Francis of Assisi at his birth in 1510, was placed under the tutelage of his uncle, Archbishop of Saragossa, after the death of his mother when he was ten years old. Soon he had to go to the court of Spain, as destined to be one of the great lords of that nation. There he remained Christian, modest and virtuous. His noble and beautiful appearance soon brought upon him snares which he succeeded in escaping, setting for himself regimes of prayer and study to escape from the dangers. He wore a hair shirt, and never would enter into any of those games of chance which cause the loss not only of money but of time, the spirit of devotion, and peace of soul. The Empress arranged for him to marry Eleanor de Castro of Portugal, who like himself was very pious. They were blessed with eight children, five sons and three daughters, who continued to practice the virtue of their parents.
The Duke of Gandia was one of the richest and most honored nobles in Spain when, in 1539, there was laid upon him the sad duty of escorting the mortal remains of his once beautiful sovereign, the Empress Isabella, who had died still young, to the royal burial ground at Granada. The coffin had to be opened for him, that he might verify the body before it was placed in the tomb; and so unrecognizable, so astonishing a sight met his eyes that he vowed never again to serve any earthly sovereign, subject to so drastic and terrible a change.
It was many years before he could follow the call of his Lord; the emperor named him Captain-General of Catalonia, and sent him to bring to justice a group of bandits who had ravaged the countryside. The poor found in him strong protection against oppression. Vices were banished by his ordinances; he endowed poor girls and assisted families ruined by misery and reversals; he delivered debtors from prisons by paying what they owed. He was in effect the very Christian Viceroy of the Emperor. Saint Francis was relieved of this duty when he asked the Emperor, after the death of his father, to return and govern his subjects at Gandia. In Gandia he again did much public good; he built monasteries, founded hospitals, helped the poor in every possible way. But suddenly, his wife was taken from him. He was told by God that this loss was for both his and her own advantage, and amid his tears he offered his own life and that of his children, if that would please the Eternal Master.
After making a retreat according to the Exercises of Saint Ignatius, under Blessed Peter Favre, he made the vows of a Jesuit privately until he could see to the establishment of his children. When he went to Rome with one of them, it was rumored he would be made a cardinal like two of his brothers. But he wished to avoid all dignities, and succeeded in doing so by leaving Rome as soon as possible. Saint Ignatius made him his Vicar General for Spain, Portugal, and the East Indies, and there was scarcely a city of Spain and Portugal where he did not establish colleges or houses of the Company of Jesus. At the death of Saint Ignatius two years later, the Order chose him to be its General. Then his journeys became countless; to narrate them all would be an impossibility.
The Turks were threatening Christendom, and Pope Saint Pius V commissioned two cardinal-legates to go and assemble the European Christian princes into a league for its defense. The holy Pope chose Francis to accompany one of the Cardinals and, worn out as he was, the Saint obeyed at once. The fatigues of the embassy exhausted what little life was left to him. Saint Francis died in the same year as Saint Pius V, happy to do so in the service of God and the Church, when he returned to Rome in October, 1572.
REFLECTION: Francis Borgia learned the value of earthly grandeurs at the funeral of Queen Isabella. Do the deaths of friends teach us anything about what awaits us also?
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
Friday, October 11:
Traditional Feast of THE DIVINE MATERNITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Double of the Second Class Feast. White Vestments
When Mary of Nazareth conceived in Her womb the Word of God, that conception was the effect of the fullness of Her grace, and of an action of the Holy Spirit which occurred in Her soul first of all, thereby making of Her flesh a tabernacle and a sanctuary. The dignity of the Mother of God is Her great sanctity, it is the incomparable grace which raises Her above all the Angels, the grace in which She was predestined and created for this glorious purpose. By the acts of Her blessed Maternity, She bordered on divinity while remaining entirely human. In this way She seems to exhaust, as it were, the power of God — the fullness of the grace accorded Her cannot be surpassed. It is easier for us to conceive of the greatness of Mary, however, when we consider Her maternity of the Mystical Body, the Church, which like Herself is entirely human, and composed of persons who are very far indeed from being what our Savior Jesus Christ was, a Divine Person incarnate.
We understand better what Mary is for the Church by listening to Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, Apostle of the Cross and of the Rosary of Our Lady. As Mary was necessary for God in the Incarnation of the Word, so She is necessary for Him to sanctify souls and bring about their likeness to Christ, and She is much needed by us, in our great infirmity:
“The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which He does not have pass through Her virginal hands...; such is the sentiment of the Church and its holy Fathers. Mary, being altogether transformed into God by grace and by the glory which transforms all the Saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing contrary to the eternal and immutable Will of God. When we read then in the writings of Saints Bernard, Bernardine, Bonaventure and others, that in heaven and on earth everything, even God Himself, is subject to the Blessed Virgin, they mean that the authority which God has been well pleased to give Her is so great that it seems as if She had the same power as God; and that Her prayers and petitions are so powerful with God that they always pass for commandments with His Majesty, who never resists the prayer of His dear Mother, because She is always humble and conformed to His Will. If Moses, by the force of his prayer, stayed the anger of God against the Israelites in a manner so powerful that the most high and infinitely merciful Lord, being unable to resist him, told him to let Him alone that He might be angry with and punish that rebellious people, what must we not, with much greater reason, think of the prayer of the humble Mary, the worthy Mother of God, which is more powerful with His Majesty than the prayers and intercessions of all the Angels and Saints both in heaven and on earth?”
“The sin of our first father has spoiled us all, soured us, puffed us up and corrupted us... The actual sins which we have committed, whether mortal or venial, pardoned though they may be, have nevertheless increased our concupiscence, our weakness, our inconstancy and our corruption, and have left evil remains in our souls... We have nothing for our portion but pride and blindness of spirit, hardness of heart, weakness and inconstancy of soul, revolted passions, and sicknesses in the body... Let us say boldly with Saint Bernard that we have need of a mediator with the Mediator Himself, and that it is the divine Mary who is most capable of filling that charitable office. It was through Her that Jesus Christ came to us, and it is through Her that we must go to Him. If we fear to go directly to Jesus Christ, our God, whether because of His infinite greatness or because of our vileness, or because of our sins, let us boldly implore the aid and intercession of Mary, our Mother. She is good, She is tender, She has nothing in Her that is austere and forbidding, nothing too sublime and too brilliant... She is so charitable that She repels none of those who ask Her intercession, no matter how great sinners they have been; for, as the Saints say, never has it been heard, since the world was the world, that anyone has confidently and perseveringly had recourse to our Blessed Lady and yet been repelled.” (True Devotion to Mary).
Sources: True Devotion to Mary, by Saint Louis Mary de Montfort(Montfort Publications: Bay Shore, 1960); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12.