Also known as
John-Francis Regis; John Francis Regis; Jean-Francois Regie
Son of a wealthy merchant. Educated at the Jesuit college at Beziers, and at Cahors, Le Puy, Auch, and Tournon. Joined the Jesuits at age 18. Preacher. Catechist who was so good that children he taught helped bring their parents back to the Church. Priest at age 34. Worked with plague victims in Toulouse. Taught at Pamiers.
His skill at preaching caused him to be sent as evangelist to provinces that had fallen to the Huguenots following the Edict of Nantes, places where many had abandoned the Church. Not known for a polished style or appearance, his simple method of preaching the Truth, and his willingness to work for the poor, converted crowds of farmers, workers, and country folk. When pressed about his image he replied, "The rich never lack confessors." He lived off apples, black bread, and whatever came to hand, preferring to spend his time preaching, teaching, and hearing confessions.
Established hostels for prostitutes, whom he called "Daughters of Refuge", who wished to leave the business. Often assaulted for his trouble. Helped a group of country girls stay away from the cities by establishing them in the lacemaking and embroidery trade, an area of which he a patron saint.
Established the Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament; to the society women he offered the "gift" of a few hungry mouths to feed, while to others he sent notes like,
"Sir, you will provide food for the poor people who names are listed below, and you will give them six sous for their lodging. If you are unable to provide them with food, you will give them a further six sous so that they may buy it themselves."
They did. Established a granary for the poor which sometimes miraculously refilled, demanded (and received) treatment for them by doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Known for miraculous healing, but said that "every time God converts a hardened sinner he is working a far greater miracle."
At one point there was a movement against him by some of his fellow Jesuits who felt his zealous "signs of simplicity and indiscretion" did not best showcase their order nor follow its teachings. Regis' bishop, however, recognized there was more jealousy than theology in the complaint, and ignored it. Regis asked for transfer to Canada where he could preach without worries about politics in his order, but he was ordered to continue his good works in the French countryside.
At age 43 Regis had a premonition of his death. He spent three days in retreat, made a general confession, and resumed his mission in mountain villages. Bad weather set in, he spent his days preaching, his nights in poor shelter, developed pleurisy and then pneumonia. His last words: "Jesus, my Savior, I recommend my soul to You."
31 January 1597 at Font-Couverte, Narbonne, Languedoc, France
30 December 1640 of pneumonia while preaching a mission at La Louvesc, Dauphine, France
God is gracious; gift of God
24 May 1716 by Pope Clement XI
16 June 1737 by Pope Clement XII
God is gracious (= John)
lace makers; lace workers; medical social workers; social workers
Jesuit wearing a leather cape and holding a staff topped with a crucifix