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From wealthy nobleman
to servant of God

by Jan Rynearson

Saint Francis Borgia
Birthplace: Gandia, Spain
Feast Day: October 10
Patron of Portugal

Claim to Fame: Francis Borgia was born in 1510 to an imperial family. He was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI and King Ferdinand of Aragon, as well as the cousin of Emperor Charles V. When he was 18, Francis served at court and by 1530, he was marquis of Llombay. Upon his father’s death in 1543, Francis left the imperial court and became duke of Gandia, quickly earning a reputation as one of Spain’s most respected nobles. Meanwhile, he helped found a hospital and university for the Society of Jesus. After his beloved wife died, Francis gave up his public life and dedicated himself entirely to God’s service. Providing for his eight children, he entered the Jesuits. But Francis would still be torn between his desire to live a quiet, secluded life, his public duty and his administrative ability.

The Society of Jesus: Francis did not seek advancement, but within three years, the Order’s founder, Ignatious Loyola, asked Francis to become provincial head. In 1565, he became the superior general of the entire order. He moved to Rome and, under his leadership, the Jesuits attracted many recruits, established 20 colleges in Europe and began new missions in the Americas. Francis did so much to create the order’s internal structure and further expansion that he is often referred to as the “second founder of the Jesuits.” However, Francis worried that the many activities of the Jesuits might distract them from their religious purpose. To remind them of their dedication to Christ, he instituted a rule that each Jesuit must meditate for an hour each day.

Best quote: Although he was ill and exhausted, Francis obediently accompanied Pope Pius V’s nephew on a mission to Spain and Portugal. As he entered Barcelona and Valencia, crowds converged in the streets, crying, “Where is the saint?”

How he died: A leader until the end, he died upon his return from his mission for Pope Pius V.

Prayer: Lord our God, you called St. Francis Borgia from a royal palace to be your servant. Grant through his prayers that all who have served you and renounced the world for you alone. We also aim to serve you through our efforts at work and at home. Please grant us the strength and humility that St. Francis Borgia had in answering your call to serve you. Amen.

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