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October 3, 2018 — Today the Society of Jesus celebrates the
feast of St. Francis Borgia, SJ (1510-1572), the third Superior General of the
Society of Jesus. Borgia gave up wealth, power and privilege as a Spanish
nobleman to enter the Society.

The oldest son of the third duke of Gandia, Borgia was born
in Valencia, Spain. His great grandfather on his father’s side was Pope
Alexander VI, and his mother’s grandfather was King Ferdinand of Aragon. 

Borgia joined Spain’s imperial court at age 18, and the next
year he married Eleanor de Castro. Together they had eight children. In 1539,
after experiencing a religious conversion, he began to devote himself to prayer
and penance. He left the court but continued in public life as viceroy of

In 1543, Borgia succeeded his father as duke of Gandia, but
when his wife died three years later, he decided to dedicate the rest of his
life to serving God. He was familiar with the Jesuits, being a friend of Father
Peter Faber, SJ, and he joined the Society of Jesus in 1550 after making
provisions for his children. 

Reflection on Francis Borgia, SJ, by Fr. James
Kubicki, SJ

He served for a few years as a parish priest until the
Jesuits promoted him so that he could use his administrative talents for the
church. In 1554, St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society, appointed
Borgia commissary general in Spain, overseeing the provincials in Spain and
Portugal. In this role, he founded Spain’s first novitiate and set up over 20

The Jesuits elected Borgia as their third Superior General
in 1565, succeeding Diego Laynez, SJ. Borgia served as the Jesuits’ leader for
seven years and devoted himself to revising the Society’s rules, expanding its
missions in India and the Americas and shepherding the growth of the young

In 1571, the pope sent Borgia to Spain and Portugal to help
build an alliance against the Turks. He grew ill on the trip and died after
returning to Rome on September 30, 1572, at age 61. He was canonized in 1670
by Pope Clement X. [Sources: Jesuit Curia,]

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