Born at Taranto, Italy, in 1642, St. Francis entered the clerical state at the age of sixteen in his native town and then went to Naples to complete his education for the priesthood. After ordination, he taught in the Jesuit College of Nobles in Naples and was highly regarded. Entering the Society of Jesus four years later, he spent the last forty years of his life as a rural missionary on the outskirts of Naples.
St. Francis was a powerful, spellbinding preacher. He conducted at least 100 missions in the provinces. He was surrounded by people wherever he went; they hung on his every word and streamed to his confessional. He is said to have converted 400 hardened sinners every year.
St. Francis sought out sinners everywhere—in hamlets, along back roads, and on streets corners; he haunted the prisons, checked the brothels, and went down into the galleys in his ever-active quest. He even converted a number of Moorish and Turkish prisoners. His most spectacular conversion was that of Marie Alvira Cassier, a woman who had killed her father and fled to the Spanish army in the guise of a man.
St. Francis also established a workingman’s organization to help the Jesuit in their labors, founded a charitable pawnshop, and rescued countless children from conditions that spawn delinquency. He had an additional reputation as a wonderworker that led throngs of people to gather round coffin at his death in 1716. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.
PRAYER: Almighty, eternal God, You dedicated the joy of this day to the glorification of St. Francis. Mercifully grant that we may always strive to retain and complete by our works that Faith which he continually proclaimed with unwearying zeal. Amen.