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Bl Francisco Gárate, SJ

Born: February 3, 1857
Died: September 9, 1929
Beatified : October 6, 1985

Francis Garate was born in the outskirts of Azpeitia, Spain, near the ancestral home of St Ignatius of Loyola. He was the second of seven children, and his early life was spent in an atmosphere of faith and piety – daily Mass in the Loyola basilica. At fourteen, he left home to work as a domestic helper at the newly opened Jesuit College of Nuestra Senora de la Antigua in Orduna and three years later he entered the Society as a brother. Later, two of his brothers followed his example and also became Jesuit brothers.

Francis went to southern France where Spanish Jesuits maintained a novitiate in exile, after having been expelled from Spain during the 1868 revolution. After two years of noviceship, he pronounced his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on Feb 2, 1876.
In the following year, Br Francis was appointed infirmarian at the college in La Guardia a city in the extreme west of Spain, near the Atlantic Ocean and Portuguese border. He also served as infirmarian to two smaller institutions associated to the college. He had a total of about 200 young boys under his care. For ten years he cared for the sick students with great kindness and generosity, remaining all night at a sick student’s bedside and then doing a full day’s work the next day. These qualities were specially appreciated by the students under his care. After 10 years as infirmarian, the strain on his health began to show and his superiors transferred him to the University of Deusto of Bilbao, in northern Spain, to take up the doorkeeper’s position.

At Deusto, Bro Francis chose the poorest room since it was near the porter’s lodge. He was courteous to all visitors who called at the University. To the students, he gave them encouragement and advice and even helped them copy their class notes. He was their confidante and counselor and even fed the hungry and clothed the poor. His forty-one years in Deusto was marked by prayer, mortification, and holiness, living a simple and austere life. Like his patron, St Alphonsus Rodriquez, whose picture hung in his simple room, Bro Francis prayed while he worked and worked while he prayed and was practically never without a rosary in his hand.

Bro Francis’ health began to fail when he was seventy-two years old. On Sep 8 1920, the feast of our Lady’s nativity, he suffered his first sharp abdominal pains. He only agreed to go to bed after he had finished several chores. In the evening when he knew he was soon to die, he asked for Viaticum ( Sacrament for the sick) but because his discomfort was so severe, the infirmarian called for the doctor. After the doctor operated on his urethra which was blocked, Bro Francis found temporary relief but he was not to recover. Early at 7 am of Sep 9, on the feast of St Peter Claver, Bro Francis yielded his soul to God after receiving anointing.

At his death, countless students came to pay their respect to their beloved friend. They made sure that their rosaries and crucifixes touched his coffin. Fr Francis was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct 6, 1985.