Born in Fontcouverte, France, on January 31, 1597,Jean-François Régis was the son of a rich merchant. He studied at the Jesuit college of Béziers, joined the order in 1615, and was ordained in 1631. He was assigned to missionary work in southeastern France and became renowned for his fervor, preaching ability, and as a confessor.
He brought thousands back to their faith, and everywhere he went he was followed by large crowds. He also ministered to the sick in hospitals and to prisoners, organized groups to help the needy, and founded a refuge for prostitutes called "Daughters of Refuge." He performed numerous miracles, but humbly commented, "Every time that God converts a hardened sinner He is working a far greater miracle."
In September 1640, John had a premonition of his death and spent the next three days in retreat, making a general confession. He continued on with his missionary work, however, and in December preached tirelessly in a remote mountain village throughout the Christmas season, despite the fact that he had developed pleurisy and pneumonia. He eventually collapsed after leaving the pulpit and died four days later, his last words being "Jesus, my Savior, I recommend my soul to You."
On the occasion of a juridical deposition regarding two miracles St. John had performed, a man who had lodged with him declared before two bishops: "His whole behavior breathed sanctity. Men could neither see nor hear him without being inflamed with the love of God. He celebrated the divine mysteries with such devotion that he seemed like an angel at the altar. I have observed him in familiar intercourse become silent and recollected, and all on fire: then speaking of God with a fervor and rapidity that proved his heart to be carried away with an impulse from heaven."
St. John's tomb at La Louvesc became the site of many miracles, and remains to this day a popular site of pilgrimage.
1. John's enthusiastic zeal to help the poor and to save souls earned him the enmity and jealously of priests who had become lax in their duties. Despite their attempts to discredit him, John kept on unflaggingly. If in the exercise of charitable works we too find ourselves derided or under attack, let us pray to St. John Regis for the strength and courage to carry on, keeping our eyes always on Christ.
2. John's delight was to help the poor, saying "the rich never lack confessors." May we too be generous with our time, talent, and money, knowing that when we serve the least of our brethren, we serve Christ Himself.