SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS (JANUARY 31, 1597-DECEMBER 30, 1640)
Roman Catholic Priest
Known also as Jean-Francois Regis
Alternative Feast Day = September 10
St. John Francis Regis, who came from a wealthy French family, devoted his adult life to serving the poor and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. His lifespan–43 years–was short by modern Western standards, but he accomplished much in that time.
Regis became a Jesuit novice at age 19 (in 1616), a full member of the order two years later, and a priest in 1631. He was a tireless preacher who earned a reputation as “the saint” during his lifetime, for he braved the elements to keep his appointments. Snowdrifts and other obstacles did not deter him from preaching missions and administering sacraments.
The saint also worked with vulnerable members of society. He ministered to Bubonic Plague patients at Toulouse. Working in hospitals, he cleaned wounds and performed other physical and unpleasant tasks. The saint also collected donations for food and money for the wealthy and used these to help the poor. Young women whom circumstances had forced into prostitution benefited from the saint’s efforts, too. He established hostels for them and arranged for them to find work as lace makers.
The saint longed to travel to New France, for the purposes of preaching there and working on behalf of First Nations human rights. But he died of an illness before he could do any of this. His last words, which he uttered while looking at a crucifix, were, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
The Church recognized the saint’s holiness quickly. Lobbying for his cause began shortly after his death. Pope Clement XI beatified him in 1716, and Clement XII canonized the saint in 1737. St. John Francis Regis is the patron of lace makers.
The life of St. John Francis Regis reminds us of the link between our relationships with God and each other. The Biblical prophets understood this well, for they made the connection between righteousness and fair treatment of the vulnerable members of society, especially the poor. May we, as individuals, groups, societies, cultures, and nation-states, never forget this.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Loving God, who became Incarnate and shared human identity with us, we thank you for the holy example of St. John Francis Regis, who loved you and his neighbors as he loved himself. Like him, may we hear the cry of the poor and act affirmatively and effectively; and may we seek you also in the sacraments. Amen.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
MARCH 4, 2011 COMMON ERA
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