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Blessed Sebastián de Aparicio – February 25
| February 14, 2013 • by Fr. Greg Markey pastor of Saint Mary Parish in Norwalk


Puebla is one of the greatest Catholic cities in all of Mexico. There are so many churches in the city of Puebla that it is said one could visit a new church 365 days a year. Many of them are centuries old architectural masterpieces and tell the story of a people whose faith enveloped their entire culture. On the outskirts of the city is the Church of San Francisco, which possesses the most unique relic in the entire city: the incorrupt body of Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio.

Sebastian was born in 1502 in Gudiña, Spain, to poor parents. He grew up on farms, tending sheep and acting as a servant to those with influence. The habits he learned from his parents, love of God and how to farm successfully, proved to be gifts that would help him for the rest of his long and varied life.

During his childhood the bubonic plague infested his region, and at age 12 Sebastian came down with the dreaded disease. The government authorities took drastic measures against those who contracted the plague, so his parents hid him in the woods under a canopy of branches.

Years later, as a Franciscan, Sebastian told the amazing story of how he was saved. “Hungry wolves tour through the region and a female wolf penetrated where I was hiding. She sniffed me, and licked me, and then abandoned my hiding place. I then began to get better.” God was showing that he still had plans for this boy.

As a young man Sebastian was assailed by temptations, so he decided that the safest way to defeat the enemy was to flee and go to America. In 1533, he arrived in Vera Cruz and settled in the newly established city of Puebla de Los Angeles. Here his knowledge began to bear fruit. Sebastian taught the native people how to use a plow for their farms; he showed them how to domesticate horses and oxen to do hard labor; he showed them how to build wagons for transporting their goods.

His greatest influence, however, came with the building of roads. Sebastian is famous for having built the first roads from Vera Cruz to Puebla, and from Puebla to Mexico City. He came to be known as the “El Gallego” (the Spanish region of his origin) and he grew in wealth and influence. Sebastian, however, never lost his faith. In fact, he continued to live very simply, sleeping on the ground and eating the poorest foods. His charity extended to all, giving much of his wealth to those in need, and lending money without asking anything in return.

In 1552, Sebastian retired his road building business, bought a small plot of land, and for twenty years farmed and tended cattle. Now settled down, there was much pressure on him to marry. He was 60 years old when he married a young lady and they mutually agreed to never consummate the union. She died at a young age and Sebastian then married a second time with the same arrangement. His second wife also died, leaving him a widower at the age of 70.

After the death of his second wife, Sebastian became so ill that he nearly died. It made a deep impression on him about what is most important in life. As an old man, and in this broken condition, he felt the mysterious call to follow St. Francis of Assisi as a Franciscan. He entered the novitiate far older than his fellow friars, but his youthful fervor grew so much that he excelled in humility and obedience.

Sebastian spent the last 26 years of his life as a Franciscan brother whose primary responsibility was to beg. He was a model friar and people declared that wherever Brother Sebastian went, the angels accompanied him. Even the animals followed his orders. Just by the slightest command of his lips, horses, oxen and mules would obey his words. The integrity of his life spoke of simplicity and the cross, which won many souls to Christ.

Unable to swallow at the end of his life, his final suffering was compounded by the fact that he could no longer receive Holy Communion. When the friars decided to bring the Blessed Sacrament to his cell, he was so overcome with joy that he had his body placed on the bare ground where he adored the Lord in his final breath.

Blessed Sebastian died on February 25, 1600, at the age of 98 in the Church of San Francisco in Puebla. When they exhumed his body six months later, they found that his body had not decomposed. Two years later when they exhumed his body, again, it still remained incorrupt. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1789 and today his incorrupt body can be seen at the Church of San Francisco.

The Archdiocese of Puebla in Mexico is today actively praying to Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio for the needed miracle for his canonization. May the Lord continue to hear the prayers of this noble son of St. Francis for the healing and salvation of souls.