You must try to be guided by God
In material things, you must rely on your own wisdom and that of
others. In spiritual things, you cannot rely so much on your own
wisdom as on God's guidance. In dealing with personalities, it is a
mistake to step out too much on your own. You must try to be guided by
God in all human relationships. You cannot accomplish much of value in
dealing with people until God knows you are ready. You alone do not
have the power or wisdom to put things right between people. You must
rely on God to help you in these vital matters.
October 10th - St. Francis Borgia
For the Church the 16th century was a dolorous epoch. The rebirth of
Paganism, the spread of Protestantism and then Jansenism devastated
Catholic Europe, while Islamism became an arrogant and menacing
danger. In Golkun, Holland, 40 Catholics were martyred; in England St.
John Fisher and St. Thomas More were beheaded, and Blessed Ignatius of
Azevedo along with his 39 blessed companions were massacred by the
Calvinists on their way to Brazil.
To remedy so many evils, Divine Providence raised up saints all over
Europe. In Spain, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. John
of the Cross, St. Therese of Ávila, St. Peter of Alcantara, St.
Paschal Baylon, and St. Thomas of Villanova carried out spiritual
reforms that encompassed all Christendom. Others, such as St. Charles
Borromeo, St. Felipe Neri, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis of Paula,
St. Jerome Emilianus and the great St. Pius V spread light over
Christendom in their fight against the darkness of heresy.
During that stormy century, St. Francis Borgia shone for his nobility,
virtue, and combativeness in Catholic Spain. He was born in Valencia
into a family of royal blood that was related to the principal
reigning houses of Europe, including that of Emperor Charles V. When
Francis Borgia entered his service and came to court at age 17, the
Emperor was so impressed by his noble and modest behavior that he
determined to keep Francis always at his side. Charles V maintained
this admiring friendship all his life.
After he became a widower, however, Francis Borgia made the decision
to enter the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius advised him to ask the
Emperor’s permission. Since Charles V was in the Netherlands, Francis
addressed a letter to him there. The Emperor replied with these words:
“I am very sorry to lose the company of a man of your merit, a
shining light of counsel, a model in the exercise of the highest
offices of State, and, because of your virtue and piety, a factor of
edification for all my court. But I recognize that it would be
unreasonable to dispute over you with the Master you have chosen to
serve. It is, therefore, with sorrow that I grant you the permission
you are requesting. I authorize you to renounce your fiefs and titles
in favor of your firstborn son.
“The number of those who will envy you will be greater than those
who will imitate you, since it is easy to admire beautiful examples,
but difficult to follow them. I recommend myself to your prayers and I
count upon you to attract divine blessings over me, my States, and all
After holding the office of Superior of the Society of Jesus in Spain,
Portugal and the West Indies, St Francis Borgia was elected the third
General of the Order when Fr. Laynes died in 1560.
One of the first tasks he faced was that of refuting and fighting the
calumnies that the Lutherans and other enemies of the Church were
spreading about the Society of Jesus in attempts to bring it to ruin.
They were trying to stimulate dissension between the Dominican Order
and the Society of Jesus. When Cardinal Alessandrini, a Dominican, was
elected Pope, a member of the College of Cardinals tried to influence
him to suppress the Jesuits. St. Pius V answered:
“God preserve me from so great a sin. The Lord wants to use these
priests for His glory. Their Society is called to produce great fruits
for the Church.”
The next day St. Pius V was to be crowned Supreme Pontiff at the
solemn ceremony in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. He was carried in
the gestatory chair followed by all the dignitaries of the Roman
Court. An enormous multitude filled the streets. When the cortege
arrived in front of the House of the Society of Jesus, the Pope
ordered it to stop. St. Pius V called for St. Francis Borgia, who
respectfully approached. The Pope embraced him and offered his
friendship and support for whatever he would need. He also thanked him
for the service the Order had already given to the Church and
expressed his warmest wishes to see their members work for the glory
of God and the salvation of souls. The cortege then continued on its
Comments of the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: (died 1995)
This selection has two distinct parts. The first is a brief
description of the life of St. Francis Borgia when he was a layman,
and the second presents an episode from his government as General of
the Society of Jesus.
To evaluate the biographical data in this selection, one needs to
consider the general panorama of the times. His Sovereign was Charles
V, Emperor of the Holy Roman and German Empire. He was Emperor, and
also King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Lord of numerous Italian
territories, and King of Spain, and, therefore, of the Spanish
colonies spread all over the world. It was at this time that it became
common to say that the sun never set on his Empire. That is, when the
sun was rising in one part of his Empire, night had not yet fallen in
another. There was always daylight within the domains of his Empire.
He was one of the most powerful Monarchs in History. The 16th century
was certainly already a decadent century in comparison with the Middle
Ages, but it was not that distant from those blessed centuries, and
many of its values were still alive at that time. One of these values
was that people still appreciated justice more than power. It was
generally recognized that Charles V, as Emperor, deserved the most
honor and reverence. The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was
considered the natural head of all Christendom, superior to all Kings.
Above him was only the Pope.
St. Francis Borgia was a man of high lineage who descended from a
royal family that had reigned over Valencia. The different kingdoms of
Spain had united to face the Moorish invasion, and even though many of
those royal families no longer had thrones, they were still very
highly considered. St. Francis Borgia was a descendent of one of those
families, which still had fiefs. His situation was similar to that of
As a youth he was sent to Charles V’s court. Since it was the highest
court in the world, it attracted countless men of value: nobles,
personages, famous artists, financial magnates, reputed diplomats, and
brilliant military officers. It was a gathering point for the best of
Europe. Over all them was the Emperor, who successfully ruled over his
numerous Kingdoms. Into this extraordinary scenario an adolescent of
17-years entered. He was so remarkable that he attracted the attention
of the Emperor. That is to say, he stood out among those countless
princes and outstanding men who were there vying for the Emperor’s
The selection tells us that he was very noble and modest, which means
he possessed a great superiority and dignity in manners. We should not
think of modest in the modern sense of the term, as describing a man
who is trying to flee social life. Rather, the word would retain its
old-fashioned meaning, coming from modus – that is, someone who had
distinguished and reserved manners in his way of being.
The sanctity of St. Francis Borgia attracted the Emperor so much that
he wanted him always near to give him counsel. St. Francis was Duke of
Gandia, which he governed. He married and founded a large family with
many descendents. That is, he had many temporal matters to deal with
on a daily basis.
In 1539 the wife of Charles V, Empress Isabel, was struck with fever
and died. As the Marquis of Lombay, Francis Borgia was required to
head the funeral cortege to Granada, where a Requiem Mass was sung and
official identification of the body made before burial. When Francis
opened the coffin and lifted the cloth from the face of the dead
Empress, the cadaver had already beginning to deteriorate. This sight
made a strong impression on St. Francis Borgia, who realized the
futility of all the glories of the world. He resolved to abandon them
and ask St. Ignatius to enter the Society of Jesus.
One condition that St. Ignatius made was that he must obtain the
Emperor’s permission. Then Charles V wrote him the beautiful letter we
just read. It is a high eulogy of St. Francis Borgia, which ended with
the line that expresses well the spirit of the time: Many people will
admire you, but only a few will follow you.
This explains the difference between that time and the Middle Ages. In
the Middle Ages, many admired the good examples, and many followed
them. In the time of Charles V, many admired the good examples, and
just a few followed them. Today the good examples are neither admired
nor followed. You have here the different steps of the Revolution.
St. Francis Borgia entered the Society of Jesus and became its
General. There was a rivalry between the two Orders: the Dominicans
and the Jesuits. The enemies of the Church were interested in
destroying the Society of Jesus because of its more zealous
combativeness against the Protestants. So they stimulated rumors and
calumnies that were spread against the Jesuits. When St. Pius V, a
Dominican, was elected Pope, those same enemies found ways to
influence Vatican ecclesiastics, who immediately tried to maneuver the
new Pope to close the Jesuits. Instead, St. Pius V planned a way to do
the opposite, to confer added prestige to their Order.
You know that until Paul VI, the Popes used the gestatory chair, which
was a portable throne for the Pope carried on the shoulders of a dozen
men so that the Pontiff could be seen by all the public. That custom,
which began in the early days of the Church, was enriched as time
passed with a ceremonial cortege and trumpets.
St. Pius V resolved to break the long established protocol of the
cortege of coronation. He did so, stopping its progression in front of
the House of the Jesuits and calling for St. Francis Borgia, who most
probably was standing outside with the other directors of the Society
of Jesus waiting for the Pope to pass.
You can imagine the scene: St. Pius V a man who had been Inquisitor,
tall, thin, with a great sharp nose like an eagle, already advanced in
years, sublime, approaching the highest phase of his life where he
would shine brilliantly as the militant Pope who broke the Muslim
power at the Battle of Lepanto. St. Francis Borgia, General of the
Society of Jesus, with the air of a grand-seigneur beneath his Jesuit
cassock. St. Francis Borgia approached the Pontiff with respect and
admiration, venerating the Saint whom God had sent the world to be the
Pope of the Church. He knelt before him, and St. Pius V bent to
embrace him. Then they exchanged some words.
St. Pius V said that he loved the Society of Jesus with all his heart,
that he wished every good for its priests, and that he considered
himself its protector. His only desire was that the Society of Jesus
fight for the glory of God. St. Francis Borgia thanked the Pope and
promised the complete fidelity of the Order to St. Pius V and the
Then the cortege continued on. St. Francis Borgia and his Jesuits
entered the Church of Gesù, next to the Jesuit house in Rome, to make
an act of thanksgiving before the Blessed Sacrament. What splendor,
what an exquisite perfume emanates from the encounter of those two
I think it is legitimate for us to turn our eyes from the contemporary
epoch – filled with corruption and treason – to end the day admiring
the encounter of those two saints. That encounter, the words they
exchanged, and their mutual admiration for one another express
something of the supreme happiness we will have in Heaven.
Let us ask St. Francis Borgia to give us his Catholic spirit, which
impressed everyone in his life, including Emperor Charles V, and his
dedication to the Papacy, which was the main characteristic of the
Society of Jesus in its first times.
We must perform all our works in God and refer them to his glory so
that they will be permanent and stable. Everyone--whether kings,
nobles, tradesmen or peasants--must do all things for the glory of God
and under the inspiration of Christ’s example.
-- Saint Francis Borgia from a letter
He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our
iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with
His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Adoramus Te (We Adore Thee)
We adore Thee, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all Thy churches
that are in the whole world, and we bless Thee; because by Thy Holy Cross
Thou hast redeemed the World. Amen.