NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Saint of the Month - February 2024: Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio

Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio
A humble son of St. Francis
Memorial: February 25th

This month's featured holy person - Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio - was born in GudiƱa, Spain, on January 20, 1502, but died in Puebla de los Angeles (aka Puebla), Mexico; he was reported to be a miracle worker during the golden years of his life and this is his story.

Raised in a family of devout Spanish peasant farmers, as a child he fell victim to the black plague and was secretly isolated in a shack in the woods by his parents.  There, the sick boy was visited by a mysterious wolf that nipped at his swollen sore - the "bubo" - which then bled and drained.  Sebastian began improving right away and eventually fully recovered so he was able to resume work on his family's farm.  The cure left the youngster with a growing love for God, as well as, a great appreciation for all His creatures.  

At the age of 20, Sebastian left home to look for work so as to better assist his impoverished family and to raise dowries for his unwed sisters.  He worked as a servant in the home of a wealthy widow but left when she made unwanted advances towards him.  The youth next took a job on a farm, but was again the object of affection, this time by his employer's daughter; he again quit.  Apparently, Sebastian was said to be so handsome and strong, he attracted attention from the ladies wherever he went, which tried his personal virtue.  At 31, he decisively boarded a ship bound for the Americas, never to return.

Bl. Sebastian sometimes saw angels
who assisted him in his ministry. 

In 1533, Sebastian arrived in the port city of Veracruz, Mexico, where he made his way to the newly established town of Puebla.  Being illiterate, he at first worked odd jobs doing manual labor, but seeing how primitive the method of transport was in Mexico (people still carried things on their backs), he started both a wagon manufacturing business and a goods transport operation; thus, Sebastian has the unique distinction of having introduced the wheel to Mexico ... and since he needed better surfaces on which to run his wagons, he was also instrumental in constructing the first paved roads along his trade routes between Puebla and Veracruz ... then to Mexico City, where he later moved his business.  Sebastian's dealings quickly made him a very wealthy man.

At the mature age of 50, Sebastian retired from the transport industry and went into farming and cattle ranching in Zacatecas, which was also lucrative for him.  Despite his wealth and prestige in Mexico, he retained his pious and humble  disposition, and practiced mortifications to keep his human weaknesses in check.  Sebastian treated his workers more like family than hired help, teaching them the European methods of farming and domesticating livestock; his less-fortunate neighbors were also beneficiaries of his exceeding kindness and charity.  It goes without saying that the Beato was highly respected, if not outright loved, by many for both his secular and charitable contributions to Mexican society.

Sebastian remained a bachelor until the age of 60.  A serious illness somehow made him more receptive to the idea of marriage so he entered into one with a much younger woman from Chapultepec, a poor friend's daughter who couldn't raise a dowry; the union was never consummated, and his wife died within a year of their wedding.

At 67, Sebastian married yet another young woman, but again, he and his new bride agreed to live in chastity - she, too, passed away after an accidental fall from a tree.  This tragedy caused further reflection about the purpose of his life and, upon the suggestion of his confessor, the widower sold his belongings and distributed the proceeds to his workers and the poor; his farm/ranch was donated to a struggling new Poor Clare convent where he volunteered for a time as a servant.  In June 1574, he entered the Franciscan Order in Mexico City, and was professed a Lay Brother a year later, but not before undergoing certain difficulties due to his illiteracy, and from retaliatory physical assaults from the devil that started in response to his religious vocation.

This author at the shrine of Bl. Sebastian
in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Puebla,
in April of 2023

The Beato, now 73-years-old, was first sent to the monastery of Santiago in Tecali where he served as porter, gardener, and cook, before being reassigned to Puebla, his former hometown.  There, Bro. Sebastian was primarily given the task of begging for food and necessities for the entire monastery so it became a common sight to see him out and about in Puebla.  Consequently, the townspeople and Sebastian's fellow Franciscans were witness to his many good deeds and the wonders that surrounded him during this latter period of his life - the Beato was graced with the following spiritual gifts ...

  • Animals of all sorts understood and obeyed his commands:  Examples include times when the oxen he employed to pull the monastery's alms wagon would be let loose in open wilderness only to obediently return to him when he called to them; an unruly horse known for bucking riders would become docile only when the Blessed rode it; and ants that once harvested wheat intended for the monastery returned what they collected upon Sebastian's command.

  • Private apparitions of Our Lady and Saints:  In the monastery of Cholula, it was once recorded that the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bro. Sebastian during his thanksgiving after Holy Communion; on another occasion, the holy friar was encouraged in his vocation and devotions by visits from St. Francis of Assisi and St. James the Apostle to whom he was greatly devoted.

  • Angelic assistance: Bl. Sebastian was often helped by his personal guardian angel during difficult tasks.  For example, he once got his wagon stuck in thick mud and was unable to pull it free, even with the aid of his oxen.  A youth dressed in white appeared out of nowhere and single-handedly pulled the wagon out of the mud before vanishing.

In addition to the above, Sebastian sometimes predicted future events with uncanny accuracy.

After living religious life for 25 years, the "Angel of Mexico" peacefully died on February 25, 1600, from the effects of a strangulated hernia; he was 98-years-old and his final word was, "Jesus".  People flocked to his funeral and, almost immediately, miracles were reported as mourners touched his remains and took away pieces of his habit for relics. Furthermore, two exhumations conducted after his death revealed his corpse to be miraculously preserved.

The incorrupt body of Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio

Beatified in 1789, the incorrupt body of Bl. Sebastian is now enshrined in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Puebla.  This author had the blessed joy of venerating this major relic during a Mexico pilgrimage back in April 2023.  May God bless his Cause with a speedy Canonization.

Bl. Sebastian de Aparicio,
pray for us!

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