HOME AT LAST! - Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

National Shrine of
Blessed Francis
Xavier Seelos
In the Redemptorist Church
of Saint Mary’s Assumption
Volume LIV
Number 2
919 Josephine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-2495
February 2015
Edgar Degas had a specific place
one’s first impression of New
in mind when his friend and
Orleans; for while it actually
fellow painter, Paul Gauguin, was
resembles no other city upon the
seeking an exotic location in the
face of the earth, yet it recalls
world, somewhere unencumbered
vague memories of a hundred
by the strictures of modern life.
cities. It owns suggestions of
It was the place where Degas himself had visited for towns in Italy, and in Spain, of cities in England and
less than a year in the 1870s: New Orleans. Although in Germany, of seaports in the Mediterranean, and of
Gauguin opted instead to pursue his artistic vision in the seaports in the tropics. . . . I fancy that the power of
South Sea Islands, the recommendation suggests that fascination which New Orleans exercises upon foreigners
New Orleans was the appropriate place for Degas when is due no less to this peculiar characteristic than to the
he had desired a change of scenery and direction. 1
tropical beauty of the city itself. Whencesoever the
Despite the turbulent postwar conditions in New traveler may have come, he may find in the Crescent
Orleans during Father Francis Xavier Seelos’ time here, City some memory of his home—some recollection of his
this most exotic of American cities was an appropriate Fatherland—some resemblance of something he loves. . . .”4
place for him in the final year of his life. Moreover, it
Seelos was twenty-four when he came to America; for
came in the nick of time when he was in need of a change the next twenty-four years, he never had the opportunity
of scenery, responsibility, and direction!
to see his beloved family again or return to his native
What factors contributed to Seelos’ “sense of place” homeland. In New Orleans, Seelos may have found the
in New Orleans? Why was he able to be so at home closest resemblance to what he had left behind in Europe.
here—and in so little time?
Perhaps he was able to enjoy pleasant feelings of nostalgia
and fond memories of home in the last year of his life!
George Washington Cable, a resident of New Orleans in He wrote to his sister when he was appointed superior
the 1850s, observed that in most American cities the of the mission band in 1863, “I love the missions more
foreign element were inspired to become Americanized— than anything else. . . . But I’m sorry about one thing:
with the exception of New Orleans, where “the American that in this I am again to function as superior.” 5 Seelos
thought was foreign,
made his feelings clear in
and not only foreign but
this matter when he wrote
unwelcome.” He added, “The
his brother-in-law a few
American found himself in
months later: “Oh, I’m so
the minority of a social
fed up with being superior
situation which was more
that there’s really no way I
in sympathy with European
can describe it.” 6 In August
ideas than those of the
1865, the new provincial
New World.”2 Similarly,
removed Seelos as superior
when Washington Irving
of the mission band a year
visited the city in the
before his arrival in New
1830s, he concluded that it
Orleans, possibly for health
was “one of the most motley
reasons. 7 Seelos welcomed
and amusing places in the
the change in status after
United States—a mixture
serving as superior in various
of America and Europe.” 3
communities since 1851.
In New Orleans he was
According to the author March 6, 1867: Mardi Gras procession of the Mistick Krewe of
Lafcadio Hearn: “It is not Comus featured epicurean floats in the year that Seelos lived in among familiar friends; his
an easy thing to describe New Orleans. ( Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper , 24, #601)
(cont’d on page 2)
harshest Redemptorist critics were now distant in miles and memory. “He
certainly was no stranger to the seven Fathers and six laybrothers in the
community,” wrote Michael Curley in Cheerful Ascetic. “The superior, Father
Duffy, had been his novice. Father Alexander had received him into the
Congregation, gaining Seelos’ lifelong esteem. Apart from several laybrothers,
Seelos had been superior to all the rest at one time or another. . . .” 8
“All of the fathers and brothers here who had known Father Seelos as
rector and prefect of students at the North often remarked that he seemed
much happier than he had ever been before,” wrote Benedict Neithart. 9
“He never looked careworn; no responsibilities bore him down; no anxieties
clouded his noble brow. His walk was light and elastic; his laughter hearty
and ringing; his features as calm as the cloudless sky; his heart a perpetual
feast.” Neithart added: “At times he could not repress his interior joy,
and he would then exclaim, with his hand on his heart: ‘Hier ist’s gut sein,
im lichten warmen Suden als gemeiner Soldat.’ (It’s good to be here, in the
sunny and warm south, as an ordinary soldier!) I have now made the round
of all the houses. Here is my home; here I’ll live with a book in the nook.
Here I’ll rest my bones in the grave, for I think I have wandered enough.” 10
Strictly speaking, Seelos was sent to New Orleans to replace a member
of the community needed at the seminary in Annapolis. According to the
provincial, though, Seelos was also selected “because the climate agreed
so much with him.” Moreover, the provincial “felt that in the confused
circumstances of that house he would uphold and promote the spirit of
our Institute.” 11 These so-called “confused circumstances” in New Orleans
were recurring issues created by distinct ethnic groups—not only in three
separate church entities, but within one Redemptorist community. For
example, in the summer of 1866, several weeks before Seelos arrived, a
major public dispute erupted between the Irish rector, Father Duffy,
and the German Saint Mary’s Assumption Mutual Beneficial Society. In
February 1867 Seelos conducted a mission at Saint Mary’s in an attempt
to restore unity. 12 The provincial had sent Seelos to New Orleans because
of his peacemaking abilities—and evidently, it was a wise decision! 13
In the final year of his life, Seelos wrote, “The work here is even more
pressing than elsewhere. . . . Since I am here, I am, as ever, in fine health
and am very content. From home, I received the death notice of my dear
mother, but have not yet even been able to answer.” 14 And to another,
he confessed: “[I]f you would know my continual labors at present, you
would easily forgive me for having delayed for so long. I think not to be
wrong in believing that I have more troubles now than ever before. But I
am at the same time very contented with my present situation, and regret
only that I cannot answer the letters even which ought to be answered.” 15
Seelos’ written words while in New Orleans were consistent with the
ones he spoke: “It’s good to be here” and “here is my home”—though it
appears there was little time for him to “live with a book in the nook.”
Despite busy occupations, unique parochial challenges, and news of his
mother’s death, Seelos seems to have ultimately attained a remarkable
degree of inner peace, acceptance of fate, and contentment with life. In
the end, when a yellow fever epidemic broke out in 1867, and he was too
busy to stop for death, death kindly stopped the train for him. As Francis
Xavier Seelos had predicted the year before, he was home . . . home at last!
Byron Miller, C.Ss.R.
Adapted reprint from the North American Historical Bulletin , #38, Fall 2014,
The Institute for Redemptorist Historical Studies — North America (IRHS-NA).
Christopher Benfey, Degas in New Orleans , p. 18.
Leon Soulé, The Know Nothing Party in New Orleans, p. 6.
Thomas Ruys Smith, Southern Queen , p. 78.
S. Frederick Starr, ed., Inventing New Orleans , p. 7.
Carl Hoegerl, CSSR, ed., Sincerely Seelos, p. 363.
Ibid., p. 372.
Michael Curley, CSSR, Cheerful Ascetic, p. 260.
Ibid., p. 287.
B. Miller, CSSR, ed., Death
Where Is Your Sting? , pp. 51-52.
Ibid., p. 52.
Curley, p. 262.
Ibid., p. 292.
Ibid., p. 262.
Hoegerl, p. 456.
Ibid., p. 463.
Seelos Center Services
Pilgrimages to Seelos Shrine &
Museum. Call Center: 504-525-2495,
Open Mon-Fri, 9 to 3; Sat, 10 to 3:30.
 Daily Prayer Message 504-586-1803
 Blessings of the Sick with a Seelos
Crucifix in designated area hospitals:
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Gerry Heigle:
Anne Batt: 504-458-0310
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Linda DiMaggio:
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Marie Giorlando
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Deacon Bill /Joan Travis: 318-664-7069
Patti Ibert: 337-578-1798
Baton Rouge
Gloria Bacque: 225-753-3800
Mary Haaga:
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Denham Springs
Kathy Newcomb: 225-665-1924
Dan Montz, L.P.C.:
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Lake Charles
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Shreveport/Bossier City
Tom & Marjorie Rivers: 318-797-3116
Mary Jo Stewart:
St. Bernard/Arabi
Patricia Noote: 504-756-4163
Seelos Center Devotionals
Cheerful Ascetic, 480-pg. hardbound biography by Fr. M.Curley that
captures Seelos’ piety & personality;
index/photos (Donation: $30, incl.p/h)
Christ Crucified
bust in SWC
Wholesome Advice by Father Seelos
Makes Good Lenten Resolutions:
3rd Class Relic Cross: 4” wooden
crucifix touched to Seelos’ original
cross & touched to a rare hair clipping
preserved at the time of his death in
1867. (Donation: $10, incl. p/h)
2. If you have some free time, use it
for prayer and spiritual reading.
3. When extraordinary and unexpected
sufferings, sadness, and despair come,
encourage yourself on the spot to the
greatest trust in Divine Providence.
O, if we would only believe it: these
are the days of salvation, here we can
become rich for heaven.
Seelos Novena: 32-page deluxe
booklet with sturdy cover; specify
English, Spanish, or Vietnamese
(Donation: $3.50, incl. p/h)
Seelos Wooden Bracelet with
Color Images is 3-1/4” wide x 3/4”
tall before expansion. Depicts various images of our Blessed Mother &
Bl. Seelos at the Shrine. (Donation:
$13, incl. p/h)
1. Above all, love your calling in life,
your daily duty, your daily work.
Everything with the purest intention,
and when difficulties arise say: “O
Jesus, I embrace my cross, I kiss
it, I want to carry it after you until
death. . . .”
4. Then preserve the spirit of self-denial, love for Jesus the
Crucified, and the desire to be crucified with him . . . to seek always
to be pleasing to God until Jesus has completed the beautiful work.
5. Whoever wants to serve God must be purified and made holy in
the school of suffering, as gold in the furnace. . . .
Seelos Holy Water Bottle: Empty
holy water bottle with Seelos imprint.
(Donation: $6, incl. p/h)
in January celebrated 196 th anniversary of his birth
The Way of the Cross with Bl.
Seelos: Deluxe 40-page pamphlet
with meditations alongside exquisite
color reproductions of the 14 Stations
(Donation: $5, incl. p/h)
Purgatory-The Forgotten Church:
New 85-min. HD-DVD documentary
questions, Is purgatory real? Can the
living help alleviate the anguish of the
dead? (Donation: $25, incl.p/h)
Praying the Seven Sorrows of
Mary with St. Alphonsus CD by Fr.
Pablo Straub, Redemptorist missionary & EWTN personality. (Donation:
$22, incl. p/h)
The Way of the Cross CD: Narrated
by Liam Neeson. Prayers & Music by
St. Alphonsus Liguori. (Donation: $22,
incl. p/h)
 A Seelos Vigil Candle will burn near his
sacred resting place in Seelos Shrine, New
Orleans, for an offering of $3.
 Seelos
2nd & 3rd-Class Relics/ Seelos
Pamphlets & Prayer Cards in English, Spanish, Vietnamese. Call Seelos Center,
504-525-2495 or 2499.
Please allow up to 2 weeks for delivery.
Photos: Bill Coskrey
hanover, ma
I am thankful for the blessings I have
received from Father Seelos. Fourteen
years ago, I had an aggressive type of
breast cancer, IBC. I was blessed with a
Seelos relic when I was in my native New
Orleans. This type of cancer has a 40%
survival rate five years after diagnosis. I am
healthy fifteen years later. Recently, my
husband had a heart attack at fifty years
old. I prayed using the same Seelos relic.
The doctor said he would not have known
my husband had a heart attack looking at
his echocardiogram. I am blessed by the
favors received!
cincinnati, oh
Our youngest son was told by his doctor
that he had a tumor on his esophagus.
They scoped him and had pieces tested.
I used my Seelos relic and prayed that it
would not be malignant. The tumor was
not malignant and the doctor said that
my son should have a scope next year.
Again, Father Seelos came through and
my prayers were answered.
metairie, la
In July 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage
2 breast cancer. I had a mastectomy in
August and took a medication for four
months, which left me almost paralyzed,
unable to breathe normally, and unable to
lift my arms or use my legs without much
help. My blood pressure also rose above
my normal range. I prayed to Bl. Seelos
and went to physical therapy sessions. I
asked Bl. Seelos to help me get back to
walking as normal as possible. Now I can
walk again, with confidence, for an 86-yearold, and my breathing and blood pressure
are back to normal. My arms are also
getting stronger. Thanks to my prayers to
Bl. Seelos for favors granted, among many.
portland, or
What a fabulous job on the newsletters;
every issue is top notch! (And this
compliment should have double weight
since I graduated with honors from the #3
journalism school in the country.) I especially
loved the wise and charming letter from Fr.
Neumann to Fr. Seelos [Nov. 2014 issue].
That gave me a whole new love for Saint
John, and I already loved him very much.
I have relics of two saints: Neumann &
Seelos, and they bring me comfort—and
more than once, healing. I pray for the
Seelos Cause daily. It seems he must
be a saint from all the graces conferred.
Kenner, la
In 2014, I was hospitalized for extreme
abdominal pain. The doctors performed
12 surgeries on me in 13 days. I remained
in a coma for 60 days. During that time
[L. DiMaggio, Seelos blesser] brought the
Seelos cross and touched my right arm. I
felt that touch and presence of Fr. Seelos.
During my coma state I continued to see Fr.
Seelos in silhouette form outlined in neon
green. (I believe that in my coma I was “on
the other side” and it took a lot to return to
this side.) I know that Fr. Seelos played a
strong role in my recovery. Although he did
not speak any words to me, his consoling
presence was strongly felt and that’s when
things began to change. I credit Fr. Seelos
for bringing me out of the coma.
“I so enjoyed your Message from the
Editor in the October [2014] newsletter. It brought back memories of my
mother telling me what things were like
in New Orleans in the early 1900s.” —
Fort Worth, TX
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Denver Provincial Superior:
Very Rev. Stephen Rehrauer, C.Ss.R.
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