Saint of the Day – 10 October – The Childhood and Youth of St Francis Borgia SJ (1510-1572) Confessor and a note on Monthly Patrons

Saint of the Day – 10 October – St Francis Borgia SJ (1510-1572) Confessor, Priest of the Society of Jesus, Advisor, Missionary, Evangelist, Administrator par excelleance. Francisco de Borja y Aragon was the 4th Duke of Gandía, was a Grandee of Spain, a Spanish Jesuit and third Superior General of the Society of Jesus

St Francis instituted at his Court, before he entered the religious life, the veneration of the Saints of the Month.
Every Catholic, besides worshipping the Almighty, ought to honour the Saints.
We should especially honour the Divine Mother, as the Queen of all the Saints, then, the foster-father of Christ, St Joseph and further,, our Guardian Angel and Patron Saint.
Besides this, we ought to select some special Patrons, for whom we feel particular esteem and love.
It is also very beneficial, to adopt the practice of the “Monthly Patrons.”
This consists in selecting, on the last day of every month, a Saint whose festival will be celebrated during the following month. Daily should he be invoked and honoured. If possible his life should be read and something from it, be selected for imitation. We may also approach the Sacraments on his festival, or on the Sunday after it and employ a little more time than usual, in good works.
It is known, that several great servants of God, at the end of their days, called upon the Saints whom they had honoured as their Monthly Patrons during life and it cannot be doubted, that they received benefit and comfort.
Everyone,” says St Bonaventure, “ought to venerate an especial Saint with great devotion. To him, he ought daily, to commend himself and practise some good work, in his honoru.By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888)

Because the life of St Francis Borgia is rather long for one post, I post below, a part of it on his childhood and youth. Hopefully, we do not have to wait a year before I add to it. It is excerpted from the Lives of the Saints by Fr Alban Butler (1711-1773.)

St Francis Borgia, Fourth Duke of Gandia and Third General of the Jesuits, was son to John Borgia, Duke of Gandia and Grandee of Spain and of Joanna of Arragon, daughter of Alphonso, natural son to Ferdinand V King of Arragon … who was the great-grandfather to our Saint. The family of Borgia or Borja, had long flourished in Spain but in 1455, received a new lustre, by the exaltation of Cardinal Alphonso Borgia to the Pontificate, under the name of Calixtus III.

St Francis was born in 1510, at Gandia, a town which was the chief seat of the family, in the Kingdom of Valencia. His pious mother had a great devotion to St Francis of Assisi and, in the pangs of a dangerous labour, made a vow that if she brought forth a son, he should be called Francis.

Cat. No. 14 / File Name: 2871-026.jpg Juan Martínez Montañés and Francisco Pacheco Saint Francis Borgia, about 1624 painted wood and cloth stiffened with glue size 174 x 68 x 51 cm (68 1/2 x 26 3/4 x 20 1/16 in.) Church of the Anunciación, Seville University © Copyright Photo Imagen M.A.S. Reproduction courtesy of Universidad de Sevilla

As soon as he began to speak, his parents taught him to pronounce the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, which he used often to repeat with wonderful seriousness. At five years of age he recited, everyday on his knees, the chief parts of the Catechism. All his diversion was to set up pious pictures, make little altars, imitate the ceremonies of the Church and teach them to the little boys, who were his pages. From the cradle he was mild, modest, patient and affable to all. The noble sentiments of gratitude and generosity, which he then began to discover, were certain presages of an innate greatness of soul – the former being inseparable from a goodness of heart and the latter, when regulated by prudence and charity, being the greatest virtue of a Prince, who is raised above others, only that he may govern and do good to mankind.

Francis, at seven years of age, could read his mother tongue and the Latin Office of the Blessed Virgin very distinctly. His father, therefore, thought it time for him to learn writing and grammar, for which purpose he appointed him a preceptor of known prudence, learning and piety, who was called Dr.Ferdinand. At the same time, he was furnished with a governor, whose business it was, at different hours, to fashion the young Prince to the exercises that were suitable to his birth, in proportion as his age was capable of them. It was the first care of the parents, in the choice of the masters whom they placed about their son, that they were persons of uncommon piety, whose example might be a continual lesson of virtue and whose instructions, should all ultimately tend to the grafting, in his mind, true sentiments of morality and religion, without which all other accomplishments, lose their value.

St Francis Borgia assists at the death of a impenitent by Goya

Before he was ten years old , Francis began to take wonderful delight in hearing sermons and spent much time in practising devotions, being tenderly affected to the Passion of our Divine Redeemer, which he honoured with certain daily exercises. In his tenth year, his pious mother fell dangerously ill; on which occasion, Francis, shutting himself up in his chamber, prayed for her with abundance of tears. This was the first time he used that practice of mortification, which he afterwards frequently made a part of his penance. It pleased God that the Duchess died of that distemper in 1520. This loss cost Francis many tears, though he moderated his grief by his entire resignation to the Divine will. Her pious counsels had always been to him a great spur to virtue and he took care never to forget them.

At that time, Spain was filled with tumults and insurrections of the common people, against the regency. The rebels, taking advantage of the absence of the young King, Charles V.(who was then in Germany, where he had been chosen Emperor,) plundered the houses of the nobility in the Kingdom of Valencia and made themselves masters of the town of Gandia. The Duke fled with his whole family. Going to Saragossa, he left his son Francis, then twelve years old, under the care of the Archbishop, John of Arragon, who was his uncle, being brother to his deceased mother. The Archbishop made up a household for his nephew and provided him with masters in grammar, music,and fencing, which he had begun to learn. The young nobleman laboured at the same time, to improve daily in grace and in every virtue.

At the age of fifteen, Francis was sent to Tordesillas, to be taken into the family and service of the Infanta Catharine, sister to Charles V. who was soon after to be married to John III. King of Portugal. The marriage was accomplished in 1525 but when the Infanta went into Portugal, the Duke of Gandia, who had greater plans for his son in Spain, recalled him, and engaged the Archbishop of Saragossa to re-assume the care of his education. When he had finished rhetoric, Francis studied philosophy for two years under an excellent master, with extraordinary diligence and applause. …

By the eighteenth year of his age, Francis had strong inclinations to entera religious state. … But in 1528, his father and uncle, to divert his thoughts from a religious life, removed him from Saragossa to the Court of Charles V. , where they hoped his thoughts would take a different turn. He considered his duty to his Prince, as his duty to God and although he willingly accepted, every mark of his Prince’s regard for him, he was very solicitous in all things to refer himself, his actions,and whatever he received from God, purely to the Divine honour. … (TO BE CONTINUED …)