A Hospitable High Point in The Big Easy
One year ago, the
The news was good.
“Our church is built on a high
elevation, similar to the French Quarter and
Ever optimistic, Father Miller added, with obvious delight in his voice: “Every cloud has a copper lining. We’re getting a new roof.”
The shrine is located adjacent to
St. Mary’s Assumption Parish, which served thousands of 19th-century immigrant
For his part, Francis Seelos was born in 1819 in the German Alps, the sixth child of 12. He inherited his father’s joyful spirit and quiet dignity. His father was originally a weaver, but, as the Industrial Revolution weakened the weavers’ markets, he became parish sacristan. This frugal but happy household was committed to its Catholic faith. The family’s day ended with family prayer and a spiritual reading. Francis’ desire to be a missionary came as a result of one such reading. On hearing the life of one particular saint, Francis cried out: “I want to be a Francis Xavier.”
Little could he have known that the Church would one day beatify him and give him his own feast day — Oct. 5.
In 1841, while studying theology,
young Francis Seelos had a vision of the Virgin Mary.
This would eventually lead to his becoming a Redemptorist
As he moved from one parish to another, Father Seelos’ reputation for preaching and exceptional skill in the confessional spread. He was known to say: “If you are afraid of making your confession, come to me; I promise to be gentle with you.” Penitents waited hours for their turn in his confessional.
In the 1860s, Father Seelos was appointed superior and director of the Redemptorist Seminary in
After being assigned to several parishes to give missions (for which the Redemptorists are noted) Father Seelos was sent to the New Orleans German-speaking parish of St. Mary’s Assumption in 1866. He predicted his own demise, stating to a friend: “Here I’ll rest my bones in the grave; for I think I have wandered enough.”
One year later, a virulent
outbreak of yellow fever ravaged
Immediately after Blessed Seelos’ death, several miracles were reported. And, as the word of his sanctity has spread, requests for his canonization are being heard.
‘Make Me a Saint’
The tasteful Blessed Seelos Center, adjoining St. Mary’s
Visitors to Blessed Seelos Shrine are in for a double treat. St. Mary’s
The stained-glass windows — especially the Great Window, which shows angels being dispatched to purgatory to fetch souls for heaven — and ornate hand-carved pulpit are worth prayer and contemplation in their own right.
Before I left, I asked Father Miller why he had such a devotion to Blessed Seelos. “I was familiar with Redemptorist Sts. John Neumann and Alphonsus de Ligouri, but found them somewhat remote,” he says. “But, as a 24-year-old priest, I read Father Michael Curley’s biography of Father Seelos, Cheerful Ascetic, and was so impressed by his cheerfulness and how childlike he was in his faith. I found him captivating and appealing, and I thought, ‘If Seelos can be a saint, maybe we can, too.’”
As I said my final prayer at the reliquary where his body lay, I whispered St. Alphonsus’ prayer: “O my God, make me a saint!”
Planning Your Visit
information on the Blessed Seelos Center and St.
Assumption Church is at
- October 1-7, 2006