Feast Day: October 5
Beatified: April 9, 2000
Venerated: January 27, 2000
Francis Xavier Seelos was born in Fussen, Bavaria, in Germany in 1819. He was named after St. Francis Xavier, the famous Jesuit missionary. When he was a little boy, Francis’ mother asked him what he was going to be when he grew up. He answered by pointing at a picture of his name saint and said, “I’m going to be another St. Francis.”
Francis took the first steps toward his goal by studying philosophy and theology in Germany. While at the university, he learned about the Redemptorists, an order of priests whose mission was to work with German-speaking immigrants in the United States. Francis immediately joined the order. It wasn’t long before he sailed for America. He began his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1844 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Father Francis was assigned to a parish in Pittsburgh. His first pastor was another famous missionary who would eventually be canonized, John Neumann. Neumann was a powerful influence on the young priest. He showed Father Francis the importance of working among his people, as Jesus did. Even after he left the parish, Neumann continued to be Father Francis’ spiritual advisor. Over the next several years, Francis took on responsibilities in the Redemptorist order, but he continued an active ministry with average people.
Father Francis was able to speak three languages: German, English, and French. He celebrated the sacraments in all three languages, reaching out to as many people as possible. People came from miles away to celebrate Reconciliation with him because of his kindness and understanding. Through him, people came to know that God would never abandon them. He helped people understand that God’s love was greater than the power of sin and evil.
After working in at least 10 different states, Father Francis was assigned to New Orleans. In addition to the usual work of a pastor, he worked tirelessly among poor and neglected people, especially when an epidemic of yellow fever spread through the city. Worn out from ministering to others, the priest could not fight off the disease. He was only 48 years old when God called him into everlasting life in 1867.
Pope John Paul II declared Francis Seelos “Blessed” in 2000. He showed the people he served that God is merciful and forgiving. We can honor Blessed Francis by asking for forgiveness from anyone we have harmed and by being merciful to anyone who has hurt us.