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Article: June 16 + Saint John Francis Regis

June 16 + Saint John Francis Regis - VENXARA®

June 16 + Saint John Francis Regis

In a 1997 letter to the Bishop of Viviers, St. Pope John Paul II commemorated the fourth centenary of St. John Francis Regis' birth, honoring him as a “lofty figure of holiness” and an example for the Church in the modern world. “In less than 10 years of ministry, this saintly Frenchman succeeded, with God’s help, in leading back to Christ an immense crowd of men, women and children of all ages and walks of life,” the Pope recalled. He urged the faithful to imitate the saint and “put themselves in God’s hands with total trust.”

Born in 1597, John Francis Regis was the son of a wealthy merchant father and a mother from nobility. As a boy he was sensitive, devout, and eager to please his parents and teachers. Educated by Jesuits from the age of 14, he entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 18.

As he followed the traditional Jesuit path of teaching and extensive studies, John also became known as a skilled catechist. He was eager to enter the priesthood, and offered his first Mass in 1631. John spent much of the rest of that year caring for victims of a plague outbreak in the city of Toulouse.

John's missionary work spanned both a large geographical distance and a broad social spectrum. In over 50 districts of France, he preached the Gospel to children, the poor, prisoners, and others forgotten or neglected by society. His best-known work involved helping women escape prostitution.

John's labors reaped a harvest of conversions. However, his boldness – perceived as arrogance in some cases – led to a conflict with certain other priests, a period of tension with the local bishop, and even threats of violence from those whose vices he condemned.

Against these obstacles, John persevered, sustained by fervent prayer and severe asceticism. His missionary work involved difficult winter journeys, and a witness at his beatification testified to John’s habit of preaching outdoors all day, then hearing confessions throughout the night.

John died at age 43, in late December of 1640. Though suffering from a lung ailment, he insisted on preaching and hearing confessions. A penitent found him unconscious in the confessional, though he revived long enough to receive the last rites before dying. His final words were: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

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