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Catholic Heroes… Blessed Frederic Janssoone

August 2, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

In 1342 The Franciscans were charged with the care of the sites in the Holy Land promoting the Way of the Cross. More than 500 years later, Fr. Frederick Janssoone received the same responsibility — to guard the holy sites in Jerusalem.
In Ghyvelde, the Nord Department of northern France, Pierre Janssoone and Marie-Isabella Bollengier became the proud parents of Frederick on November 19, 1838. He was the youngest of 13 children. His mother called him her gift from St. Elizabeth of Hungary since it was her feast day.
In 1847, Pierre died, leaving the children in the care of their mother who had a deep devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. The year after his father’s death, Frederick received his First Holy Communion and then was sent to school in Hazebrouck. He performed well and advanced quickly to enter the College of Our Lady of the Dunes in Dunkirk, where he excelled.
However, difficult times impoverished the family and Frederick returned home in 1855. He worked in the textile trade earning the respect of his employer, Albert Ladieu, who soon made him a salesman. Frederic proved most successful as he improved his social and organizational skills.
When Frederic’s mother died on May 5, 1961, he met with Fr. Borzi, a priest at his parish who advised the young man to try the life of a Trappist monk. Frederic recalled the joy of playing hermit as a child, but the abbot was not impressed with the dapper salesman and refused his request to enter.
He took time to complete his studies and in June 1864, he enjoyed a farewell meal and then walked to Dunkirk and Amiens to train in the Franciscan novitiate. When he entered, he took the name St. Ives.
The novice suffered more spiritually than from the ice-cold cells in the winter and the hot cells in the summer. The severe fasts, long silences, and endless spiritual instruction did not bother him. What challenged him the most were personal weaknesses and doubts about his vocation. Fr. Leon, the novice master, encouraged him, urging serene perseverance, “God will bring His work to a happy end.”
Nearly one year after his entrance, on July 18, 1865, Frederic of St. Ives made his first vows. Then he went to Limoges to study philosophy and theology at Bourges.
He worked hard to learn all he could for his future and to develop a library of references. Nevertheless, his deep sense of unworthiness continued to disturb him, despite the confidence expressed by his superiors.
The war with Prussia in 1870 led the Franciscans to advance the date of Frederic’s Ordination. After briefly serving at the hospital in Bourges, Fr. Frederic was sent to the battle front where he served heroically. In January, 1871, when the war was over he went to Bordeaux to train the novices.
Next, with Fr. Bernard of Orleans, he founded the Friary of Bordeaux. Although he became superior, he felt unable to handle the details and the decision making and stepped down.
Then Frederic assisted Fr. Marcellino de Civezza in documenting the order’s mission history. He was moved to tears as he recorded the lives of Fathers Le Clerq, Sagard, and Hennepin. He was also greatly moved by the stories of Fr. Bernard who recalled his life in the Holy Land.
Thus Fr. Frederic took a course in preaching and prepared to go to the Holy Land, making his first request on April 26, 1876. He left with Fr. Martin Andrieu, visiting many cities in Italy and Egypt. Suffering from the tropical heat, he preached ten successive retreats, which ended only when he became ill.
Once in Jerusalem he served in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for four months where five groups vied for the maintenance of the church and other Holy Land sites. To end the friction, he wrote a code of regulations to promote peaceful coexistence both there and at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Soon he was appointed assistant guardian of the Holy Land — a position he held for ten years. With his integrity and courtesy he became a shrewd diplomat, earning the respect of the authorities on all sides.
He then spent seven months in 1887 working to set rules for the three main groups claiming the basilicas: the Greeks, the Roman Catholics, and the Armenians. While doing this, he continued preaching and also began to write.
Fr. Frederic also re-established the practice of making the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. The pilgrims from Europe struggled, so he did all he could for their comfort, both spiritually and physically, including founding a pilgrim hostel.
As new churches were being built in the Holy Land, funds were needed. The court of Spain sent funds readily, but the anti-clerical government of France did not. Fr. Frederic was sent to Canada to raise funds for the Holy Land, arriving in Quebec on August 24, 1881.
Although Archbishop Taschereau would not allow him to collect for the Holy Land until he received authorization from Rome, Fr. Frederic was permitted to minister to the people. His fame as a great preacher spread quickly and when he displayed the relics from the Holy Land over 30,000 persons came to venerate them.
He traveled throughout the province inspiring many to live holier lives. His fasting and penances, his calm and serene manner spoke of the graces that flowed through him from God. Fr. Desilets wrote to the minister general in Rome, “You have sent us a holy man, a saintly religious of extraordinary influence.”
In addition to his preaching and raising money, Fr. Frederic began writing a new Manual of the Third Order, based on the work of Fr. Leon de Clary. Those seeking his help interrupted his work so much that he was unable to get it to the printer before he fell ill.
When war broke out in Egypt he was recalled to the Middle East, arriving in Jerusalem on July 18, 1882. In 1884 he was re-elected assistant guardian. His health was not good and he spent much time in the infirmary in Jerusalem. He continued to agitate for priests to be sent to Canada since he was unable to return there until 1888, when Pope Leo XIII asked for a worldwide collection for the Holy Land.
From 1888 to 1902 he lived in Trois Rivières, where one of the oldest churches in Canada still stands, Our Lady of Cap-de-la-Madeleine. With great labor and example he rekindled the dwindling faith of the people. A new church was built after a “miracle” ice bridge formed to carry the stones across the river. In 1909 it was declared a national shrine.
He then went to Montreal for three years to help the Italian Catholics and founded Annales du Très-Saint Rosaire, a publication on Mary.
He continued to raise funds for the Holy Land, to preach, and to develop the Third Order Franciscans until 1916 when he took to his bed in June. He suffered ten more months before stomach cancer claimed his life on August 4, 1917, the day of his annual memorial.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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