Family, we must be the most blessed servants of the Lord on this earth. He allows us to experience the most beautiful and uplifting miracles.
We returned to Louisiana last week, where we experienced Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.
I use the term “Experience” because we have never had the gift of seeing the power of the following this Blessed has been given by Our Lord Jesus.
His story is fascinating, but even more fascinating is being eyewitnesses to a following of thousands of faithful believers, taking part in a three-times-a-year Mass and Healing Ceremony. You have had to be there to believe how loved this priest is. For the Healing Service, which took place after the Mass ended, there were anywhere from 1500 to 2000 people, waiting on line to be blessed. There were eight priests in four aisles, blessing the people who waited up to an hour to receive this special gift. And this for a priest whose life was snuffed out by Yellow Fever after being on assignment in New Orleans for only 11 months. He has a following the likes of which you have never seen. And hundreds of people give testimony of healings and conversions coming about through the intercession of Blessed Seelos.
But who is this Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, and why is there such a great devotion to him?
There are those who had called him a living saint during his lifetime. Very few people could have anything but great admiration and love for him. He was born in Fussen, Germany in 1819. It was obvious to all around him, parents and clergy alike, that this was a special child, destined to do great things for God and for the Church. He always wanted the religious life. He was not always sure how he wanted to serve. As a teenager, he walked for 50 hours from his home town to Einseidlen, Switzerland to ask to join the Benedictines there. He was refused admission, only because he was too young. But the truth is that God had big plans for him in the New World. He had either a vision or a locution from Our Lady, after which he pledged to give his life to evangelizing as a missionary in the New World. He became a member of the Redemptorist Order, and came to the United States. Being a country boy from Bavaria, he was not very happy when he arrived in the United States in 1843, but he wrote to his family that he had made this decision and would live up to it. He spent the next 24 years ministering to the people of the United States.
At first, his ministry was to Catholics in western Pennsylvania. There were only 21 priests for 45,000 Catholics. Eventually, through the direction of St. John Neumann, who was his first pastor in Pittsburgh, he and other German speaking priests ministered to German-speaking immigrants. He went from associate pastor to pastor to the rector of the seminary to the head of the Redemptorists, back to his first love, Missionary work. During the Civil War, years 1862-1865, he and a few other priests went up and down the middle part of our country giving missions and retreats, dodging bullets and the rough behavior of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. He appealed to President Lincoln to release the priests and seminarians from the draft. He and another priest met with the President, who was very cordial, but could not guarantee that this could be done. However, none of the students were drafted.
For three years prior to his transfer to his last parish in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was in charge of the Redemptorist Mission Band. Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos and a group of other priests would travel all over the middle states, including Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio;, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He not only considered mission work to be important, he wrote to his sister in 1863, “It is properly the work in the vineyard of the Lord; it is entirely apostolic work.”
One of his greatest strengths was in the Confessional. Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos reminds us of Padre Pio and St. Jean Vianney. He would spend hours in the Confessional. He was gentle but firm. He begged the sinners from the pulpit to come to the confessional. He said “O you sinners who have not courage to confess your sins because they are so numerous or so grievous or so shameful. O, come without fear or trembling! I promise to receive you with all mildness; if I do not keep my word, I here publicly give you permission to cast it up to me in the confessional and to charge me with a falsehood.” He chided his fellow priests who did not have compassion for penitents; “The priest who is rough with the people does injury to himself….he sins, at least in ignorance…he scandalizes all who see and hear him…Thousands reject the Church and the Sacraments because they have been badly treated by a priest.”
On September 27, 1866, he began his last journey for the Lord, to New Orleans, Louisiana. As he was traveling on the train to New Orleans, a nun asked him how long he would be stationed in New Orleans. His reply was “I will be there for one year, and then I will die of the Yellow Fever”, which is exactly what happened. He spent just short of 11 months in Louisiana, and on September 17, 1867, he caught the lethal Yellow Fever. He tried to continue with his work, but in short order, he was incapacitated, and on October 4, 1867, he died. But his time in New Orleans and the work he did there was enough for the priests and parishioners of St. Mary’s Church to realize they had a saint among them. The works he did, the kindness towards the people, reaching out to the sick and dying, made them aware they had been given a special gift in Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.
Work was immediately begun on this Canonization, because they knew he was a Saint. And while it was completed and sent to Rome in 1903, for whatever reason, it was not taken up seriously until the end of the 20th century. His burial place was even lost in the Church. When it was definite that he would be beatified, the officials of the Church wanted to make a shrine for him. And in the construction process, his original tomb in the Church was uncovered. A miracle attributed to his intercession took place in 1967, when a woman, Angela Boudreaux, who was diagnosed with a massive malignancy in her liver, was healed. Her doctor testified that there was no hope for her. However, within a few weeks of praying to Fr. Seelos, she was completely healed. Pope John Paul II beatified Francis Xavier Seelos on April 9, 2000. His is a powerful story, one that you should take seriously. As we said at the opening of this article, we are the most blessed, in that we were able to spend days at his shrine, interviewing Fr. Byron Miller, Joyce Boudreaux, and many other involved in the cause for his Canonization. We are making a program as we speak. We pray it will be ready for our Super Saints series in time for his Feast Day, October 5. Give yourselves a treat. Go to the Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans. You will be blessed. We love you.
From Bob and Penny Lord archives