Venerable Francis Ximenez

Venerable Francis Ximenez

(Francisco Ximenez)

Bishop, First Order

Venerable Francis Ximenez first saw the light of day in 1436, at Torrelaguna near Toledo in Spain. His father was the nobleman Ximenez de Cisneros, his mothe was a della Torre, and at his baptism he received the name of Gonzalez. After a twelve-year course in philosophy, theology, and civil and ecclesiastical law at Alcala, Salamanca and Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood. Shortly afterwards he was appointed vicar general and chancellor of the diocese of Siguenza in Spain. Only a few years later, he resigned his official positions and entered the newly established Franciscan convent of San Juan de los Reyes, where the religious name of Francis was given to him.

Venerable Francis Ximenez proved to be a model to his brethren in his holy zeal and his strict observance of the rule. Early in his religious career he was apointed guardian, then minister provincial and visitor of the order. In 1495 Pope Alexander VI made him archbishop of Toledo, in 1504 King Ferdinand the Catholic made him prime minister, and Pope Julius II created him a cardinal in 1507. Despite these high positions he continued to wear the habit of the order, and when he was commanded by the pope to don the splendid garments of his high rank, he still wore the coarse Franciscan garb underneath them.

Venerable Francis Ximenez always slept on a board and ate only plain food at the princely table he was obliged to have served. he was sparing in words, zealous in prayer, vigils, study, and in reading spiritual books. He considered the honors heaped on him only as a means to do much good. His entire nicome, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, he used in building churches, hospitals, and schools. Among these edifices were the University of Alcala, the church of St Ildephonse, several convents for the Franciscan friars and for sisters of the Third Order. Notwithstanding the great cost, he had the Holy Scriptures printed anew in several languages placed side by side on the single pages.

In 1509 he accompanied the Spanish army on a crusade against the Moors in Africa. With the cry of "St James and Ximenez!" the victorious Spaniards set the standard of the Cross on the battlements of Oran, the conquered capital of the Moors. On the death of King Ferdinand in 1516, Ximenez had still another charge imposed on him, for he was appointed viceroy of Spain.

Worn out with hardship and labor, he died at Roa in the province of Burgos at the age of eighty-two years, Novermber 8, 1518. His remains rest in the university church of Alcala, which he had built. His memory is venerated by the Spanish people to this day as that of a saint. King Philip IV, on two occasions, in 1650 and in 1655, requested the canonization of Ximenez of the Apostolic See. His cause has been introduced, but is still pending.

*from The Franciscan Book of Saints, by Fr. Habig, OFM

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