On October 28, 1510, Saint Francis Borgia was born into one of the most dysfunctional Catholic families in history. His great-grandfather was one of the men who, unfortunately, gave the papacy a bad name. Rodrigo Borgia (1431-1503), known later as Pope Alexander VI or the Borgia pope, put the Church horribly in debt commissioning works by Michelangelo and Raphael. He also had at least two mistresses and fathered several illegitimate children including the notorious Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519). Lucrezia was suspected of incest and of several murders. Francis’ grandfather, an illegitimate son of King Ferdinand II of Spain named Alfonso of Austria (1481-1500), was murdered shortly after his marriage to Lucrezia Borgia. Needless to say, it was only through the grace of God that Francis was able to become a saint.
Francis was very intelligent and much more spiritual than many of the members of his family. At the age of eighteen, he met Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) and became interested in religious life. His family, however, pushed him towards marriage and, in 1529, he married a Portuguese noblewoman named Eleanor de Castro. During the following seventeen years, Francis fathered eight children and built a successful career in the Portuguese court.
After the death of Eleanor, Francis made sure that his children would be taken care of and then renounced his all his titles and became a Jesuit. He was ordained a priest in 1551. In 1554, he became the superior of the Jesuits in Spain. While in Spain, he ministered to Joanna the Mad (1479-1555), Queen of Castile.
In 1561, Francis moved to Rome where lived out the rest of his life preaching and promoting the Jesuit order. In 1566, he worked hard to provide relief for the poor when a pestilence struck Rome.
In 1571, Pope Saint Pius V (1504-1572) sent Francis on a diplomatic mission to Spain. When he met the common people, they hailed him as a saint. Francis’ final journey was too much for him and he barely made it back to Rome alive. He died on October 1, 1572, a mere two days after his return from Spain.
Saint Francis Borgia was beatified by Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) on November 23, 1624 and was canonized by Pope Clement X (1590-1676) on June 20, 1670. He is the patron saint of Portugal and is also invoked to prevent earthquakes. His feast day is October 10.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints