The Cheerful Ascetic, Francis Xavier Seelos was born on January 11, 1819 in Fussen, Bavaria, Germany. He was baptized on the same day in the parish church of St. Mang. Having expressed a desire for the priesthood since childhood, he entered the diocesan seminary in 1842 after having completed his studies in philosophy. Soon after meeting the missionaries of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), founded for the evangelization of the most abandoned, he decided to enter the Congregation and to minister to the German speaking immigrants in the United States. He was accepted by the Congregation on November 22, 1842, and sailed the following year from Le Havre, France arriving in New York on April 20, 1843. On December 22, 1844, after having completed his novitiate and theological studies, Seelos was ordained a priest in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
After being ordained, he worked for nine years in the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, first as assistant pastor with St. John Neumann, the superior of the Religious Community, and later as Superior himself and for the last three years as pastor. During this time, he was also the Redemptorist Novice Master. With Neumann he also dedicated himself to preaching missions. Regarding their relationship, Seelos said: “He has introduced me to the active life” and, “he has guided me as a spiritual director and confessor.”
In 1854, he was transferred from Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, then Cumberland in 1857, and to Annapolis (1862), all the while engaged in parish ministry and serving in the formation of future Redemptorists as Prefect of Students.
In 1860 he was proposed as a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been excused from this responsibility by Pope Pius IX. He was greatly relieved to learn that he had escaped the bishopric of Pittsburgh for which his name had been proposed. He did not want to be a bishop, claiming in a letter he had written to his superior's that he was not worthy of the station and he had no experience. He was forever humble of mind, body, and spirit.
Father Seelos was always an active and highly successful missioner; he was particularly devoted to the confessional and was revered as an exceptional confessor and spiritual director.
From 1863 until 1866 he dedicated himself to the life of an itinerant missionary preaching in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.At the onset of the Civil War, President Lincoln drafted all males aged 20 to 35. Priests and clergy were not exempt at that time. Father Seelos was granted an appointment with the President, where he persuaded the President to exempt priests and clergy from serving as soldiers due to their holy vows. Read more on this story.
After a brief period of parish ministry in Detroit, Michigan, he was assigned in 1866 to the Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here also, as pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, he was known as a pastor who was joyously available to his faithful and singularly concerned for the poorest and the most abandoned. In God’s plan, however, his ministry in New Orleans was destined to be brief. In the month of September, exhausted from visiting and caring for the victims of yellow fever, he contracted the dreaded disease. After several weeks of patiently enduring his illness, he passed on to eternal life on October 4, 1867, at the age of 48 years and 9 months.
Francis Seelos was beatified in 2000. His cause for canonization is underway.
The beatification of Francis Xavier Seelos (1819-1867) by Pope John Paul II on April 9, 2000, a very humble Redemptorist missionary priest.
The holiness of Blessed Francis X. Seelos consisted of his joyful performance of his daily duties, and bearing his daily cross. He teaches us, that true holiness is possible to all, and that the Lord calls us all to be holy in every walk of life, serving God and neighbor from a full and devoted heart.
Blessed Francis died before 6 pm on Friday October 4, 1867. His body was prepared for burial and laid out in his casket in the parish church. Many noticed that the color of his body changed to a healthier color and did not become rigid. Miracles were reported by those who touched his body or touched rosaries and other objects to his body and were later used to heal people. His funeral was attended by a large crowd. His body was buried in the church’s crypt. Many have come to his tomb over the years and miracles continued to occur.
Official Blessed Seelos Web Site
Composed by Byron Miller, C.Ss.R.:
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer,
let the words of my mouth and the meditation
of my heart be pleasing in Your sight. I offer
praise to You for the grace You have bestowed
on Your humble missionary,
Father Francis Xavier Seelos
May I have the same joyful vigor that Father Seelos
possessed during his earthly life to love You deeply
and live faithfully Your gospel. Amen.
You infused Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos
with the gift of Your healing.
By the help of his prayers,
sustain in me the grace to know Your will
and the strength to overcome my afflictions.
For love of You, make me whole.
May I learn from the example of Father Seelos
and gain comfort from his patient endurance. Amen.
in Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos,
You have given Your people
a model for those who labor joyfully
in Your earthly kingdom.
May his smile dwell on those
who find life burdensome.
In him, our eyes continually behold
the gentleness of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.
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