Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Priest
Fr. Scott Haynes
Throughout the 19th century, ship after ship brought European immigrants to America’s open prairies and virgin forests to carve out farms, to charter towns, and to establish schools where none had ever existed before.
These daring people came to build a life, and that life included their faith. So priests and nuns came with them, to serve the spiritual needs of the people. Today’s Blessed was one of those immigrants. Francis Xavier Seelos (1819 – 1867) was born into a large family in Bavaria, a land thick with medieval castles and crusader tombs.
Francis Seelos left that rich culture for a new life on the American frontier. He exhausted himself riding horseback, walking, and traveling by ferries and trains up and down and across the wide flowing rivers and narrow dirt roads of the young United States, serving German Catholics who had immigrated.
Blessed Seelos felt the call to the Priesthood from a young age. He had the support of his family and parish priest. Entering the Redemptorist Order, Blessed Seelos was intrigued with their work among the immigrants who had gone to America. So Francis joined the Redemptorists with the specific intention of serving German Catholics here in the USA.
This was a sacrifice. He would never again see his family. Only his father knew his secret plan to become a missionary priest. When Francis embraced his mother and siblings and said goodbye to go to the seminary, they did not know that they would never again lay eyes upon him. Saying goodbye to his father, he simply pointed his finger toward the sky with tears in his eyes. Son and father knew. They would meet again in heaven. Francis never saw his family again.
Francis arrived in New York in 1843 and was ordained a priest in 1844 in Baltimore, Maryland. He served parishes in Pittsburg alongside Saint John Neumann, a fellow Redemptorist. Father Francis quickly gained a reputation as holy, always available, amiable, and wise. Like Neumann, he became well known as a wise confessor hearing confessions in multiple languages.
Because of his intelligence, wisdom and holiness, he was asked to be the Bishop of Pittsburgh. Blessed Seelos only narrowly avoided this exalted burden by personally writing to Pope Pius IX arguing for his own inadequacy.
Blessed Seelos went on to serve as a missionary priest in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri until, at last, in 1866 Father Francis Seelos was assigned to New Orleans. Only after a year in New Orleans, he contracted yellow fever while visiting some of its victims. He died at 48 years old, but not before at least one miracle of healing was attributed to his intercession while he lay dying. A woman crippled in pain at the hip and in her abdomen knelt by his coffin and touched the hand of Father Seelos and was instantly and permanently cured.
During his life Blessed Seelos had worked numerous miracles of healings and conversions, and just last November a baby in New Orleans was miraculously cured a baby born on Mardi Gras of 2019 in a vacuum-assisted delivery. Baby Carson was born nearly lifeless. His extremities were purple and blue. The doctor predicted that, if the baby should survive, he might have mental problems or even cerebral palsy.
A family friend, Judge Dennis Waldron, arrived with a crucifix that had belonged to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. He placed it on baby Carson and prayed. Nothing miraculous happened, until the following day. On Ash Wednesday, Carson started breathing on his own and his color returned to normal. The MRI now showed no brain damage. This miracle is being studied now by the cong. Of saints in Rome for the canonization of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.
This day as we look at the great spiritual needs of our nation, as we look at the need for the conquering of the corona virus and of so many other diseases, let us beg God’s favor through the intercession of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.