I was first introduced to today’s Saint, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, in 2005. That winter, I was hospitalized for chronic lung failure, a result of Duchenne muscular dystrophy for which I required a tracheostomy and ventilator. It was a rough time for me for sure. Thankfully, my family and good friends came to visit me when I was in the hospital for two weeks and in a nursing home for recuperation for three weeks. The nursing home experience was unforgettable, for negative and positive reasons alike, but mostly negative. Many nursing homes in the USA are deplorable places where patients tend to be overlooked and neglected due to lack of care staff. Anyway, family and friends came through for me – – and I made it through because of them. One of the friends who visited me was a Redemptorist priest, Father D. His visit gave me much consolation. When he came, he brought a friend with him. He came with a first-class relic of Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos. Father D shared a little about him but I learned more after coming back home. To my great surprise and happy astonishment, Father D gave his one and only relic of the Saint to me. It was almost always on my person until I came home.
So who was, and is, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos? Born in Bavaria, Germany, the homeland of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Seelos began studies for the priesthood just before meeting the missionaries of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, (Redemptorists), the order founded by St. Alphonsus. He realized he was being called to be missionary priest with the order. After his ordination, he first served as assistant pastor to St. John Neumann who guided him to to be an ideal confessor and spiritual director. Bl. Francis Xavier S won people over by his kindness and understanding. Subsequently, he was sent to minister in Maryland and afterwards traveled to several different states as a itinerant missionary preacher. Eventually he became a pastor in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he ministered to the poor and abandoned, most especially. He died there, after visiting and caring for victims of yellow fever.
Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos had a great devotion to mother Mary, especially under her title Our Lady of Perpetual Help most dear to Redemptorists. He was well loved by the people he ministered to because of his happy disposition. It seems to me that because of this, his happy demeanor, he was a gifted communicator of the mercy and love of God. I would like to end on that note as today is also the feast day of St. Faustina, who is very much a missionary of Divine Mercy. She encourages us to trust in the mercy of God – – he wants to bestow his mercy upon us more than we seek it. We just need to consistently ask for mercy and trust that he wants to give it to us. Bl. Francis S. says that when we feel sad or depressed we should have recourse to prayer, asking God for his mercy to heal our wounds. Trust is the key. As he says in a quote I just read today, “None of the damned was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.”
Soon to be St. Francis Xavier S.*, thanks for wanting to be my friend. Please pray for us!
*he was beatified by St. John Paul in 2000 and his canonization process is underway…