September 30th 1572 - Borja Francis
† in Rome
Francis de Borja came from Gandía in the Spanish Province Valencia. There he was Duke and belonged to the Spanish high aristocracy. He was born as the oldest of three sons on October 28th 1510. Pope Alexander VI was his great-grandfather. The mother of Borja, Juana of Aragon, was the illegitimate daughter of the archbishop of Toledo. That archbishop was an illegitimate son of King Ferdinand. Borja's father was the legitimate child of a father who again was illegitimate.
In the year 1527 Francis began as a young nobleman his service at the court of Emperor Charles V, and his wife Isabel. Soon he was experienced in all arts of his rank: a passionate sportsman, hunter, and talented musician - and an elegant gentleman of integrity. Emperor Charles gave him true friendship and heaped proofs of his grace upon him. Isabel died on May 1st 1539. Francisco de Borja led the transfer of the corpse to Granada.
By that death experience Francis turned to the religious life more intensively now. But first he was in 1538 appointed Viceroy of Catalania, and was therefore concerned with much worldly business. In those years he became also acquainted with several Jesuits, like Araoz, Peter Faber, and Andrés Ovieto. Thus also an exchange of letters with Ignatius came off.
After the death of his wife, the Duchess Eleonore (1546) Francis decided to enter the Society of Jesus. In the depth of his heart Ignatius was pleased, and granted on October 9th 1546 gladly the admission. But the entrance into the Order should remain a secret yet, until Borja had secured the future of his eight children, had arranged the things of his family and of the government, and had got Emperor Charles' agreement. He renounced his ducal rights and honours in favour of his son Carlo. The Pope was let into the secret. Borja remained for more than four years secretly Jesuit.
In the year 1550 he undertook a journey to Rome and was everywhere solemnly welcomed. On that journey the secret came off, and caused in whole Europe great surprise, but also admiration. Ignatius took Borja often under his wings and was always well-disposed towards his suggestions. Thus Borja was already in 1551 ordained priest, and was directly subordinated to Ignatius. In 1554 Ignatius made him General Commissioner for Spain and Portugal. He remained it for six years. Under Laínez he became Vicar General, then Assistant for Spain. In the year 1565 he became the third General of the Society of Jesus. He remained it up to his death in Rome on September 30th 1572.
The celebrations to his 400 anniversary have emphasized particularly three merits, i.e. his concern for the Spiritual Exercises, for the Missions, and for the youth work.
- Still as Duke of Gandía he made the 30-days retreat, whereby his vocation emerged. Borja was so enthusiastic that he obtained Pope Paul's III approbation for Ignatius' book about the Spiritual Exercises.
- His universal mind became apparent by the missionary impulses which he gave to the Order. His special preference was for Latin America. But he sent missionaries also to Africa, China, Brazil, Angola, Abessinien and India.
- On Borja's requests Ignatius opened the first centre for the education of young people. That was in the year 1546. Already one year later the College in Gandía got the rank of the first Jesuit University in the world, with the same academic rights as the renowned universities of that time. The successes in Gandía got Borja to dedicate great attention to the colleges. Borja created forty two colleges in Spain, five in Portugal, twenty seven in other European countries, and some in America. From those colleges came many recruits for the Order. Borja gave high value to a good educational system. To him also the first study order goes back, which was valid up to the reorganization under Father General Aquaviva.
Borja was also a mystic. There was a meeting with Theresa of Avila. Topic of discussion was the Eucharist. Borja died in Rome on September 30th 1572 at the age of sixty two. In the year 1617 his body was transferred to Madrid into the church near the Professed House. In the revolution 1931 the church was to a large extent destroyed by fire. In the year 1624 the beatification, and in 1671 the canonization of Francisco de Borja took place.
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