Saint of the day 16th June 2022, we celebrate Saint John Francis Regis


(31st January 1597 – 31st December 1640)


◇Kansas City, MO;
◇Medical social workers;
◇Illegitimate children.
◇Social workers

“Saint John Francis Regis, was a French priest of the Society of Jesus. He was a tireless worker who spent most of his life serving the marginalized.”

Born into a family of some wealth, John Francis was so impressed by his Jesuit educators that he himself wished to enter the Society of Jesus. He did so, he entered the Society of Jesus in December of 1616.

His days in the novitiate were filled with hard work and rigorous study, and Saint John Francis excelled, becoming a model of obedience, faith, and steadfastness. Even so, he had a reputation for being hard on himself and easy on everyone else. Despite his rigorous academic schedule he spent many hours in chapel, often to the dismay of fellow seminarians who were concerned about his health. The novice, with whom he shared a room, commented, ‘he vilifies himself beyond measure and he canonizes everyone else.’ His roommate further spoke to the rector of the program, concerned that John Francis rarely slept. He said, “Regis seems never to go to bed, he’s always on his knees during the night praying.” Similarly, such was his love of the Lord, he refused to take the vacation times offered to him by his program of study. During these times set aside for relaxation, John Francis withdrew into private places to converse with God almost the whole day; and in the night, after a short sleep, he arose and stole secretly into the domestic chapel. Observed and reported by a member of the faculty, the rector instructed, “Interrupt not the sweet communications of that angel with God.”

John Francis successfully completed his program, inspiring both his fellow seminarians and the faculty, and was ordained in 1630. Following his ordination to the priesthood, he undertook missionary work in various French towns. While the formal sermons of the day tended toward the poetic, his discourses were plain. But they revealed the fervor within him and attracted people of all classes. Father Regis especially made himself available to the poor. Many mornings were spent in the confessional or at the altar celebrating Mass; afternoons were reserved for visits to prisons and hospitals.

The Bishop of Viviers, observing the success of Father Regis in communicating with people, sought to draw on his many gifts, especially needed during the prolonged civil and religious strife then rampant throughout France. With many prelates absent and priests negligent, the people had been deprived of the sacraments for 20 years or more. Various forms of Protestantism were thriving in some cases while a general indifference toward religion was evident in other instances. For three years Father Regis traveled throughout the diocese, conducting missions in advance of a visit by the bishop. He succeeded in converting many people and in bringing many others back to religious observances. He said, “Every time God converts a hardened sinner, He is working a far greater miracle.”

Though Father Regis longed to work as a missionary among the North American Indians in Canada, he was to live out his days working for the Lord in the wildest and most desolate part of his native France. There he encountered rigorous winters, snowdrifts and other deprivations. Meanwhile, he continued preaching missions and earned a reputation as a saint. One man, entering the town of Saint-Andé, came upon a large crowd in front of a church and was told that people were waiting for “the saint” who was coming to preach a mission.

The last four years of his life were spent preaching and in organizing social services, especially for prisoners, the sick and the poor. But his contemporaries were aghast at the manner in which he presented himself. Saint John Francis was never afraid to look ridiculous or beg on behalf of those in need. He was told, “Look, you’re demeaning yourself [by begging]. It’s humiliating.” His simple, and humble response, was, “Well, so much the better. The more humiliation, the more valuable… So that for thirty years I’ve been telling people, ‘you don’t practice real charity unless you are ready to be humiliated and often by the person towards whom you’re trying to practice charity.’” Often laughed at by those who did not know his intent or the courage and love of his heart, he proudly would proclaim, “With all my heart, we receive a double advantage when we purchase a brother’s relief with our own disgrace.”

In the autumn of 1640, Father Regis sensed that his days were coming to a conclusion. He settled some of his affairs and prepared for the end by continuing to do what he did so well: speaking to the people about the God who loved them. On December 31, he spent most of the day with his eyes on the crucifix. That evening, he died. His final words were: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

He was canonized in 1737.

When Saint John Francis was struck in the face by a sinner he was reproving, he replied, If you only knew me, you would give me much more than that. His gentleness converted the man. How much might we do if we would forget our own wants to remember those of others, and put our trust in God!

My Queen and my Mother! to thee I offer myself without any reserve: and to give thee a mark of my devotion, I consecrate to thee during this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, and my whole person: Since I belong to thee, O my good Mother! preserve and defend me as thy property and possession. Amen.