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Saint Francis Borgia

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Who could ever soften this heart of mine, but you alone O Lord!

Saint Francis Borgia was born in Valencia on October 28th 1510 to Juan Borgia (3rd Duke of Grandia, son of Giovanni Borgia who was the son of Pope Alexander VI) and Juana (daughter of the Archbishop of Zaragoza who was the illegitimate son of King Ferdinand II of Aragon). As a youth, he was sent to the court of Charles V to study and became a close friend of the Emperor after impressing him with his aptitude for learning.

In 1529, he married Leonor de Castro Mello y Menses, a noblewoman from Portugal. Together they had a total eight children and in 1539 he became the Viceroy of Catalonia at the early age of 29. His father died four years later and in 1541 Saint Francis became the 4th Duke of Grandia. He retired at the age of 33 to pursue religious scholarly work at home and was famous for his ecclesiastical compositions.

His wife died in 1546. That year, Saint Francis left this retirement, set his affairs in order, made provisions for his children and entered the newly formed Society of Jesus. To prevent being made a Cardinal (Saint Francis wished to not take upon a position leadership and instead had hoped to serve) by Pope Julius III he made an agreement with Saint Ignatius to secretly leave the city and spend time in seclusion in the Basque Country. For a while he did, spending his days in prayer and worship, but accepted a leadership role in 1554 when he became the Jesuit commissary-general in Spain. During the next two years he founded a dozen colleges.

Two years after taking on the role of Commissary-General, he assumed responsibility for all missions in the East and West Indies. He was then elected the third "Father General" (also known as Superior General of the Society of Jesus) in 1565. From 1565 to 1572, Saint Francis founded the Collegium Romanum (Gregorian University), advised Kings and Popes, and supervised the order that was very rapidly expanding. It is also during this time that he met Saint Teresa of Avila and recognized her greatness in reforming the Carmelite Order. Pope Pius V would regularly attend his sermons (at the time he was Cardinal Ghislieri).

Saint Francis Borgia died on September 30th, 1572 in Rome. Pope Urban VIII declared him beatified in Madrid on November 23rd, 2614 and he was officially canonized by Pope Clement X on June 20th, 1670.

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