Saints of the Society of Jesus: Saint John Francis Regis

16 June; Confessor

Saint John Francis Regis was born in the south of France in 1597. He began his missionary career at the age of thirty-four, and died when only forty-three. How much can be done both for one’s personal sanctification and for the salvation of souls in a short while by a fervent soul!

Saint John Francis Regis was eminently the apostle of the poor. This is the testimony of a priest: “He was indefatigable, and employed both night and day in his sacred functions. He was under the bitterest affliction whenever he was informed that God had been offended. Then he forgot his natural meekness, and, appearing transported with holy anger, he, with a voice of thunder, deterred the most resolute libertines. He would have sacrificed a thousand lives to prevent one sin. A word from him sufficed to inflame the coldest hearts, and to soften the hardest. After the mission, I knew not my own parishioners, so much did I find them reformed. No violence of cold, no snows blocking up all passages, no mountains, or torrents swelled by rain, could be an obstacle to his zeal. His ardor communicated an intrepidity to others; for when he went to any place, innumerable troops followed, and met him through all sorts of difficulties and dangers. I have seen him in the most rigorous season stop in the middle of a forest, to content the crowds desirous to hear him speak concerning salvation. I have seen him at the top of a mountain, raised on a heap of snow hardened by the frost, preach and instruct, the whole day, and after that spend the whole night in hearing confessions.” The zeal of St. John Francis brought upon him the enmity of the wicked; he had to suffer, moreover, that most painful trial for an humble soul, of being misunderstood by his own brethren and his ecclesiastical superiors. Indeed the excesses to which he was carried by the Spirit of God might well be considered extravagance in another man. The last years of this holy missionary’s career were spent in the bleak and mountainous country of Velay, evangelizing its sparse and wretchedly poor inhabitants. Here he lost his way in the woods, about Christmas time, and, having spent the night under an open shed, he died of fever, at a place called La Louvesc, on the 31st of December, 1640. Some twenty parish priests and their people were present at his funeral, without any one knowing how, in the midst of the great snows, they had learned of his death. Many miracles soon followed, and to-day the tomb of Saint John Francis Regis is a great object of pilgrimage. In the judgment of those who knew the secrets of his conscience, Saint John Francis in all his life never offended God by a grievous sin.