Blessed Frederick Jassoone

Blessed Frederick Jassoone
(Frédéric Jassoone)

Feast Day – June 26

Blessed Fredrick Janssoone was born of Flemish parents at Ghyvelde, in the diocese of Cambrai, France, the ninth and youngest child of the family. As a boy he loved to frequent the parish church and was often discovered in quiet corners of the farm without book or beads, but with his hands and eyes raised to heaven.

At ten years he lost his father by death. He entered college later, but further misfortunes struck the family, and it fell to his lot to be the breadwinner. His pious mother, however, perceived the call to the priesthood in her son, and offered herself a victim to obtain the religious vocation of her four surviving children. Her oblation was accepted.

On June 26, 1864, Frederick received the Franciscan habit at Amiens. He was especially favored in having as his novice master Father Leo de Clary, whose ambition was to make saints of his novices. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1870.

The Franco-Prussian war was on, and immediately after ordination Father Frederick was made military chaplain at a local hospital. Following the war he was made submaster of novices, then superior of the Bordeaux convent and editor of the Franciscan Review.

Like so many other sons of St Francis, Father Frederick inherited special affection for the Holy Land. He had frequently expressed his desire for the foreign missions, especially in the Holy Land, but it was not until 1876 that his superiors permitted him to go. Without revisiting his family, he set out for Marseilles after a fervent visit to Notre Dame de la Garde, a sanctuary overlooking the magnificent harbor where ten years previously his eldest brother had set sail for India in quest of souls.

In the Holy Land, Frederick was assigned to the church of the Holy sepulcher which has been entrusted to the Friars Minor ever since 1342. In the midst of a series of retreats in Egypt, Blessed Frederick Jassoone was brought to death’s door by a fever, but God, who had still other work for His faithful servant to do, restored his health.

In less than two years Father Frederick was unanimously elected vicar custodian of the holy places, which office he filled during two terms of six years each. During this period he was constantly busy with such activities as giving retreats and missions and conducting pilgrimages. Blessed Frederick Jassoone was ever the same ardent preacher, the man of intense interior life, the guide whose special interest was the individual soul of the pilgrim.

Difficulties arose. Revolutions were sweeping across the world during the second half of the nineteenth century. Alms to the Holy Land were so meager that it became impossible to meet the most necessary expenses. Palestine itself suffered a disastrous drought followed by a winter of unexplained cold. So Father Frederick offered himself for the thankless task of alms collector abroad.

Efforts to obtain help in Paris proved futile, and the French government was at that time expelling the religious. But a providential meeting with a priest from Quebec resulted in an order from his superiors to leave for Canada to establish a Holy Land commissariat and to act as special visitor of the Third Order fraternities there.

Father Frederick was graciously received in Canada. He set out at once to make the canonical visitation of the fraternities. Busy as he was, he compiled a manual for the Third Order and contributed articles to magazines. But again he was struck down by severe illness, and again God intervened. During his convalescence he was recalled to Jerusalem, where Blessed Frederick Jassoone filled out his second term as vicar custodian in the same heroic spirit with which he had labored in Canada.

While the purpose of his first visit in 1881 had been to establish a commissariat of the Holy Land in Canada, it was not until his return there in 1888 that the project could be carried out. To the bishop of Trois Rivieres goes the credit of establishing the commissariat and thereby automatically effecting the return of the Franciscans to the land they had been the first to evangelize, in 1615. Father Frederick remained commissary until his death, winning the title of Apostle of the Holy Land.

For many years Father Frederick had been suffering from cancer of the stomach. Although ignorant of the true nature of his pain, he at times suffered veritable martyrdom. Once the attack had passed off, Blessed Frederick Jassoone would set to work again as if in perfect health. Pure love of God and of neighbor alone could inspire such constant abnegation. It was on his return from a three days’ pilgrimage, during which he had given himself heart and soul to his people, that his worn-out body finally broke down in June, 1916.

There followed fifty days of acute suffering and gentle patience. Further anguish was reserved for this humble soul in the form of fear of judgment. He who had so chastened his will and body out of love of God, now fought the last combat with the evil one. But several days before the end, the blessed peace of Jesus Christ flooded his soul.

In the afternoon of the feast of St Dominic, August 4, 1916, with a number of his brother Franciscans praying at his bedside, the dying Father Frederick rallied all his remaining strength to say:

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

After a few moments of rapt contemplation, his eyes fixed on his crucifix, his dearly loved rosary in his stiffening fingers, this noble apostle gave up his soul.

Blessed Frederick Jassoone lies entombed in the convent chapel at Trois Rivieres. Any day people may be seen kneeling there to beg the prayers of the compassionate Father who, while on earth, never turned a deaf ear to suffering or request. Miracles ascribed to his prayers soon led to the introduction of his cause in Rome.

From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM

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