The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
Click for past issues online

October 6, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

This duke left the court, family, to court God's family

St. Francis Borgia became a second founder for Jesuits

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

It's said that everything happens for a purpose. An incident early in the life of St. Francis Borgia provides an example.

As a young man, Francis saw St. Ignatius Loyola, who later founded the Jesuits, being taken to the Inquisition prison. Years later, Francis himself joined the Jesuits and is often called their second founder.

But many things happened to Francis before that. Hardly surprising, given that he was a member of the famous Borgia family that in the late 15th and early 16th centuries controlled the church and central Italy.

Francis was born in 1510 at Gandia, near Valencia, Spain. He was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) and King Ferdinand of Spain, and the cousin of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.

Francis was educated by his uncle, the archbishop of Saragossa and in 1528 became a member of Charles V's court and the marquis of Lombay. The next year, he married Eleanor de Castro. He served until 1539 as an adviser to Charles, who then named him viceroy of Catalonia. In 1543, after the death of his father, Francis became the Duke of Gandia.

After the death of his wife in 1546, Francis decided to become a Jesuit. He contacted St. Ignatius, who said Francis must first make arrangements for his eight children, the youngest of whom was eight. In the meantime, he advised him to study theology at the university at Gandia, which Ignatius had founded.

In 1550, after making arrangements for his children and completing his studies, Francis went to Rome to join the Jesuits. Four months later, he returned to Spain and transferred his title and estates to his son, Charles.

When the duke turned Jesuit celebrated his first public Mass in 1551, the crowd was so large that it was celebrated outdoors and the pope granted a plenary indulgence for those who attended.

He was assigned to Guipùzcoa, where he went through the village ringing a bell to call the children to catechism. Soon, he traveled around Spain preaching. He was among the first to recognize the genius of the Carmelite nun who was to become St. Teresa of Avila.

After Ignatius named him commissary general of the Jesuits in Spain in 1554, he started numerous communities and 12 colleges. He also spoke out against the Inquisition and worked for the Jesuits in Portugal.

In 1561, he was called to Rome to continue his ministry and in 1565 was elected father general of the Jesuits, a position he held for seven years. During that time, he started what is now known as the Gregorian University in Rome, began the Jesuit novitiate and the Gesù (the main Jesuit church and the burial place of St. Ignatius) and improved the German college.

He expanded the Jesuits' role in France and began their missions in Poland and the Americas. He wrote rules for Jesuit ministries and collected alms when a pestilence struck Rome in 1566.

When he was sent by the pope on a special mission to Spain, France and Portugal in 1571, large crowds gathered to hear him.

He died in 1572 after praying for his children and grandchildren. On Oct. 10, his feast day, be aware of how some past encounter has changed your life.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, 365 Saints, Voices of the Saints and World Book Encyclopedia.

This issue's contents | Most recent issue's contents | Past issues index

Top of Page | More Menu Items | Home

© Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Phone: 920-437-7531 | Fax: 920-437-0694 | E-Mail: [email protected]