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San Francisco Coll Guitart

Dominican Priest, Founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (aka La Annunciata)
Born on 18 May 1812 in Gombrèn, Catalonia, Spain
Died on 2 April 1875 in Vic, Barcelona
In 1958 a miraculous healing of a Léonese woman (Justa Barrientos) was attributed to his intercession.
Beatifiied (with Fr Jacques Laval) on 29 April 1979 by St John Paul II (this was JPII's first beatification)
In 2008, a second miracle was proven.
Canonized (with Damien Joseph de Veuster, Marie de la Croix, Rafael & Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński) on 11 October 2009 by Benedict XVI
Feast day - 19th May (date of his baptism)

«..."¡Oh Rosario! Tu eres un libro, breve si, pero que enseña lo más santo y lo más sagrado de nuestra Religión, tu eres un arca que ocultas un tesoro riquísimo digno de que todos los hombres lo busquen con gran ansia, tú ere un regalo del Cielo que nos descubres los elementos de la Religión, los principios, los motivos, y la práctica de todas las virtudes, tú nos enciendes en caridad, y amor hacia aquel dios que tanto se dignó hacer y padecer por nosotros: Tu despiertas a los somnolientos, caldeas a los tibios, empujas a los perezosos, sostienes a los justos, conviertes a los pecadores, reduces o confundes a los herejes, espantas al demonio, haces temblar al infierno o, por decirlo mejor, eres una devoción que incluyes y contienes todas las demás devociones"...»

Vatican biography:
FRANCIS COLL GUITART, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation, was born in Gombrèn, in the diocese of Vic and the province of Gerona (Spain) on 18th May 1812. He was baptized on the 19th May 1812. From childhood he felt himself drawn to the priesthood and, in order to prepare himself for this, in 1823 he entered the seminary in the town where the episcopal see was, and undertook studies in the humanities and three years of philosophy. In 1830 he joined the Order of St Dominic in the priory of the Annunciation at Gerona. After the novitiate year and the subsequent religious profession until death, made in October 1831, he involved himself in the study of theology and received holy orders up to and including the diaconate.
In August 1835, with the brethren of his community, he was obliged to abandon the priory due to the laws persecuting religious in Spain. He lived heroically his religious consecration as an ex- claustrated friar, because during his lifetime it was not possible to recover any priory of the friars of the Order of Preachers in the territory of the Province of Aragon to which he belonged. He was ordained presbyter in Solsona on 28th May 1836 and, on establishing that there was no authorization to reopen religious houses, with the agreement of his Superiors, he offered his ministerial services to the Bishop of Vic. The Bishop at first sent him as curate to the parish of Artés, and shortly afterwards, in December 1839, to the parish of Moià.
From the start of his ministry he took on tasks which went far beyond those of a strictly parochial nature. The zeal which devoured him saved him from the inertia of exclaustration. He took part from its beginning in the Hermandad Apostólica (Apostolic Brotherhood) promoted by St Anthony Mary Claret, and he took-on preaching spiritual exercises and popular missions. In 1848 he received the title of Apostolic Missionary. Different Prelates called him to their dioceses so that he could carry out missionary preaching, which made for peace at a time of frequent civil wars. His name became widely known and venerated throughout the various parts of Catalonia.
There were persistent requests for his evangelical preaching designed to stimulate the faith among the People of God and to bring about the return to the practice of religion of those who had lapsed. He made great use especially of the rosary, which he spread among people in the villages and cities by means of the renewal of confraternities, establishing the ‘Perpetual Rosary' in which thou- sands of persons took part, and instructing the faithful to enable them to meditate on its mysteries fruitfully. With this same aim in mind, he published booklets, entitled “The Beautiful Rose” and “The Ladder of Heaven”, which went through various editions each with a great number printed, because he distributed them in great quantities during the missions he gave. He preached during Lent every year, as well as in the months of May and October in honour of Mary, in important centres of population: Barcelona, Lérida, Vic, Gerona, Solsona, Manresa, Igualada, Tremp, Agra- munt, Balaguer...
Discovering ignorance concerning religion and a failure to live up to the norms of Christian life among the baptized, on 15 August 1856 he founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation for the sanctification of its members and the Christian education of children and young people, much affected by the abandonment and ignorance of religion. The Congregation has spread not only in Europe but also in America, Africa and Asia.
His dedication to preaching, especially by means of directed spiritual exercises for priests and women religious, popular missions, Lenten addresses, novenas and other ways of evangelising, can well be said to have continued to the end of his life, even though in the last five years he suffered from progressive apoplexy and resulting blindness, which started the same day on which the Bishops of the Catholic world were gathering in Rome to begin the work of the First Vatican Council. He died a holy death in Vic on 2nd April 1875.

Benedict XVI's homily at the Canonization of Francisco Coll y Guitart
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday 11 October - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

”Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The brief conversation we heard in the Gospel passage, between a man identified elsewhere as the rich young man and Jesus, begins with this question (cf Mk 10: 17-30). We do not have many details about this anonymous figure; yet from a few characteristics we succeed in perceiving his sincere desire to attain eternal life by leading an honest and virtuous earthly existence. In fact he knows the commandments and has observed them faithfully from his youth. Yet, all this which is of course important is not enough. Jesus says he lacks one thing, but it is something essential. Then, seeing him well disposed, the divine Teacher looks at him lovingly and suggests to him a leap in quality; he calls the young man to heroism in holiness, he asks him to abandon everything to follow him: "go, sell what you have, and give to the poor... and come, follow me" (v 21).

"Come, follow me". This is the Christian vocation which is born from the Lord's proposal of love and can only be fulfilled in our loving response. Jesus invites his disciples to give their lives completely, without calculation or personal interest, with unreserved trust in God. Saints accept this demanding invitation and set out with humble docility in the following of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith sometimes humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer putting themselves at the centre but in choosing to go against the tide, living in line with the Gospel. This is what the five Saints did who are held up today with great joy for the veneration of the universal Church: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damien de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón and Mary of the Cross (Jeanne Jugan). In them we contemplate the Apostle Peter's words fulfilled: "Lo, we have left everything and followed you" (v 28), and Jesus' comforting reassurance: "There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time... with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life" (v 29-30).

St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that "the word of God is living and active" (Heb 4, 12). In it the Father who is in Heaven speaks lovingly to his children in all the epochs (cf Dei Verbum, 21), making them know his infinite love and, in this way, encouraging them, consoling them and offering them his plan of salvation for humanity and for every person. Aware of this, St Francisco Coll dedicated himself eagerly to disseminating it, thus faithfully fulfilling his vocation in the Order of Preachers, in which he had made his profession. His passion was for preaching, mainly as an itinerant preacher, following the form of the "popular missions". Thus he aimed to proclaim and to revive the word of God in the villages and towns of Catalonia, thereby guiding people to profound encounter with God. This encounter leads to conversion of heart, to receiving divine grace joyfully and to keeping up a constant conversation with Our Lord through prayer. For this reason his evangelizing activity included great dedication to the sacrament of Reconciliation, a special emphasis on the Eucharist and constant insistence on prayer. Francisco Coll moved the hearts of others because he conveyed to them what he himself lived passionately within, what set his own heart on fire: love for Christ and surrender to him. To ensure that the seed of the word of God fell on good ground, Francisco founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Anunciata to give an integral education to children and young women so that they might continue to discover the unfathomable treasure that is Christ, the faithful friend who never abandons us and never wearies of being beside us, enlivening our hope with his word of life. ...

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness which shines out in the Church today with unique beauty. While I greet with affection each one of you Cardinals, Bishops, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious and members of the lay faithful of various nationalities who are taking part in this solemn Eucharistic celebration I would like to address to all the invitation to let yourselves be attracted by the luminous examples of these Saints, to let yourselves be guided by their teaching so that our entire life may become a song of praise to God's love. May their heavenly intercession obtain for us this grace and, especially, the motherly protection of Mary, Queen and Mother of humanity. Amen.”

Papa San Juan Pablo II's homily at the Beatification of Fr Francis Coll OP
St Peter's Square, 29 April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Alleluia! Alleluia! On this third Sunday of Easter, our paschal joy is expressed as an echo of the overflowing joy of the Apostles who, from the first day, recognized the Risen Christ. On Easter evening, "Jesus himself stood among them". "See my hands and my feet". He invited them to touch him with their hands. And he ate before their eyes (cf Lk 24, 36, 39, 40). Amazed and slow to believe, the Apostles recognized him at last: "The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (Jn 20, 20; Lk 24, 41); and now no one could take their joy from them (cf Jn 16, 22), or silence their testimony (cf Acts 4, 20). A few moments earlier, the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus were also burning within them while Jesus spoke to them on the way and explained the Scriptures to them; and they too had recognized him at the breaking of bread (cf Lk 24, 32, 35).

The joy of these witnesses is ours, dear Brothers and Sisters, we who share their faith in the Risen Christ. Glorified at the Father's side, he never stops drawing men to him, communicating to them his life, the Spirit of holiness, while preparing a place for them in the Father's house. Today, as it happens, this joy finds a striking confirmation, since we are honouring two admirable Servants of God who, last century, shone forth on our earth with Christ's holiness and whom the Church is now able to declare blessed, to propose them to the special veneration and imitation of the faithful: Father Laval and Father Coll, whom we must now contemplate.  ...

3. A second reason for ecclesial joy is the beatification of another figure that the Church wishes to exalt today and propose to the imitation of the People of God: Father Francis Coll. A new glory of the great Dominican family and equally so, of the diocesan family of Vich. A religious and at the same time a model apostle — for a large part of his life — in the ranks of the clergy of Vich.

He is one of those ecclesial personalities who, in the second half of the nineteenth century enrich the Church with new religious foundations: a son of Spain, of Catalonia, which has produced so many generous souls that have bequeathed a fruitful heritage to the Church.

In our case, this heritage takes on concrete form in a magnificent and tireless work of evangelical preaching, which culminates in the foundation of the Institute known today as that of the Dominican Sisters of "La Anunciata", present here in large numbers to celebrate their Father Founder, together with so many members of the various organizations which the Congregation has created.

We cannot now present a complete portrait of the new Blessed, an admirable mirror — as you have been able to observe from a reading of his biography — of heroic human, Christian and religious virtues, which make him worthy of praise and of imitation in our earthly pilgrimage. Let us merely speak briefly about one of the most striking aspects of this ecclesial figure.

What impresses us most on approaching the life of the new Blessed, is his evangelizing zeal. At a very difficult moment of history, in which social upheavals and laws persecuting the Church make him leave his convent and live permanently outside it, Father Coll, abstracting from human, sociological or political considerations, dedicates himself completely to an astonishing task of preaching. Both during his parish ministry, especially in Artés y Moya, and in his later phase as an apostolic missionary, Father Coll shows himself to be a true catechist, an evangelizer, in the best line of the Order of Preachers.

In his innumerable apostolic journeys over the whole of Catalonia, through memorable popular missions and other forms of preaching, Father Coll — Mosén Coll, for many — is a transmitter of faith, a sower of hope, a preacher of love, peace and reconciliation among those whom passions, war and hatred keep divided. A real man of God, he lives fully his priestly and religious identity, made a source of inspiration in the whole of his task. To those who do not always understand the reasons for certain attitudes of his, he answers with a convinced "because I am a religious". This deep consciousness of himself is what directs his incessant labour.

An absorbing task, but which does not lack a solid foundation: frequent prayer, which is the driving power of his apostolic activity. On this point, the new Blessed speaks very eloquently. He himself is a man of prayer; he wishes to introduce the faithful along this way (it is enough to see what he says in two publications of his "La hermosa rosa" and "La escala del cielo"). It is the path he points out in the Rule to his daughters, with stirring words, which because of their relevance today I also make my own: "The life of Sisters must be a life of prayer... For this reason I urge you over and over again, beloved Sisters: do not abandon prayer".

The new Blessed recommends various forms of prayer to sustain apostolic activity. But there is one that he prefers and which I have particular pleasure in mentioning and emphasizing: prayer while contemplating the mysteries of the rosary; that ladder to go up to heaven", composed of mental and vocal prayer which "are the two wings that Mary's Rosary offers Christian souls". A form of prayer which the Pope too practises assiduously and in which he calls upon all of you to join, particularly in the coming month of May, dedicated to the Virgin.

I conclude these reflections in Spanish with a greeting to the Authorities who have come for these celebrations in honour of Father Coll. I invite everyone to imitate his example of life, but especially the sons of St Dominic, the clergy and particularly you, Dominican Sisters of the "Anunciata", who have come from Spain, Europe, America and Africa, where your religious activity is carried on generously.

4. The hope that I express this morning, in conclusion, is that today's double Beatification will serve to strengthen and promote commitment in the catechetical action of the whole Church. It is well known that the subject of the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held here in Rome in the autumn of 1977, was precisely that of catechesis. The Synod Fathers — of whom I too was one — tackled and studied this theme of prime importance for the life and action of the Church at all times. They stressed the urgency of giving catechesis definite priority over other initiatives, less essential even if, perhaps, more spectacular, because the absolutely original aspect of the Church's mission is carried out by means of it. A mission — they confirmed — which involves all members of the People of God, though in their different functions, and commits them to a continual search for adequate methods and means for a more and more effective transmission of the Message.

The thought of the Synod Fathers was addressed particularly to the young, of whose growing importance in the world of today they were well aware: for amid uncertainties and disorders, excesses and frustrations, the young represent the great force on which the fate of future humanity depends. The question that troubled the Synod Fathers is precisely this one: how to get this multitude of young people to have a living experience of Jesus Christ, and that not just in the dazzling encounter of a fleeting moment, but by means of a knowledge of his person and his message that becomes more complete and luminous every day? How to kindle in them the passion for the Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, and in which alone the human being can find full and satisfying self-fulfilment?

To answer this question is the most urgent task of the Church, today. It will depend on the generous commitment of all, if a testimony of the "message of this salvation" (Acts 13, 26) can be offered to the new generations, a testimony capable of winning over the minds and hearts of the young, and of involving their will in those concrete choices, often costly ones, which the logic of the love of God and of one's neighbour demands. It will depend above all on the sincerity and the intensity with which families and communities are able to live their adherence to Christ, if the young are effectively reached by the teachings imparted to them at home, in school, in church.

Let us pray, therefore, the new Blesseds to be close to us with their intercession and to guide us to personal and deep experience of the Risen Christ, who will make our hearts also "burn within us", as the hearts of the two disciples burned on the way to Emmaus, while Jesus "talked to them on the road and opened to them the Scriptures" (cf Lk 24, 32). In fact, only he who can say: "I know him" — and St John has warned us that anyone who does not live according to Christ's commandments cannot say this (cf Second Reading) — only he who has reached an "existential" knowledge of him and of his Gospel, can offer others a credible, incisive and enthralling catechesis.

The lives of the two new Blesseds are an eloquent confirmation of this. May their example not be proposed to us in vain!"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
3rd Sunday of Easter, 29th April 1979, St Peter's Square - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Sisters and Brothers!
1. Today is a day of great joy for all of us: the Church venerates two new Blesseds, Francis Coll and Jacques Laval. We have just concluded the solemn liturgical celebration, but I wish to return briefly to these two exceptional figures of witnesses to the Gospel and true catechists in the past century.

Francis Coll, a son of Spain, born at Gombreny, a village in the Catalan Pyrenees, followed the Dominican vocation. When convents were closed by law in that nation in 1835, Francis, always remaining faithful to his religious consecration, dedicated himself to preaching the Word of God, by means of "popular missions", and in August 1856 he founded at Vich the Dominican Sisters of "La Anunciata," devoted particularly to the education of girls. His death took place in April 1875.

Jacques Laval is a son of France. Born at Croth, in the diocese of Evreux, in 1803, he was first a doctor; and after inner struggles, he surrendered finally to the call of Jesus. Ordained priest in 1838, in 1841 he left for the island of Mauritius to dedicate himself to the evangelization of the Blacks, becoming a Mauritian with the Mauritians. He remained in that island — until his death, which took place in 1864 — for 23 years, dedicated entirely to proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of difficulties insuperable on the human plane.

The whole Church is exultant at the gift that God has made to her of two other intercessors in heaven and two examples to imitate on earth. It is joy also for me, because Francis Coll and Jacques Laval are the first Blesseds of my Pontificate and I hope they will be my protectors.

At this exalting moment I wish to express hearty congratulations to the two Religious Families, the Dominican Order — which is also celebrating today the liturgical feast of St Catherine of Siena, Patroness of Italy — and the Congregation of the Holy Spirit; they have enriched the Church and humanity and have the immense satisfaction and privilege of having given us these sons of theirs. Nor can we forget to address our thought of sincere applause to their respective countries. Spain and France, and for Blessed Laval also to his country of adoption, the island of Mauritius. The Church is particularly grateful to them for this further, magnificent gift of holiness.

The personalities of the two Blesseds, so rich, so open to the spiritual and social problems of the modern world, urge us to renew the hope that all peoples, all nations, all continents may be represented in the earthly Church, on her way to her fulfilment in eternal glory.

2. The two new Blesseds propose to us again concretely the ever existing urgency of Jesus' mandate to the apostles and to the Church: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16, 15). In October 1977 the fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dealt with the subject of "Catechesis in our time with particular reference to children and the young". At the end of the work, the Synod Fathers asked Pope Paul VI of venerated memory to address a document on catechesis to the universal Church. This document should be published within the next few months. Furthermore the Synod Fathers sent to the whole People of God a pressing “Message", in which — among other things — they addressed their grateful appreciation to catechists, in these terms: "There are a great many, men, women, young people and even children, who dedicate their time — generally without any material recompense — in such a serious work as that of constructing the Kingdom of God. Filled with true charity they form Christ Jesus in men's hearts".

3. Mindful of those words, today I address an affectionate greeting, due thanks and keen encouragement to all catechists in the world: priests, religious, Sisters, lay men and women. I turn especially to parents, who are and must be the first, irreplaceable and exemplary catechists of their children, bringing them up from childhood to knowledge and love of Jesus and his message of industrious faith, active charity, universal solidarity. I address a special memory also to all those who teach Religion in schools, in the various countries, and, in particular, in Italy.

My good wishes and my Apostolic Blessing to everyone present!

I would now like to turn my gaze to Africa, a land of so many consolations and hopes for the Church and the Gospel. I am thinking in particular of Uganda, in these days of sore trial for that nation. Let us pray together for the people of Uganda, that they may find tranquillity again, that there will be no more bloodshed, and that there may prevail the spirit of reconciliation, of which the Church would certainly like to be a sign and, if possible, also an instrument. It is a Church alive and fervent with faith, which has grown luxuriantly owing to the commitment of its bishops, priests and faithful, and to the contribution of so many missionaries, also priests, religious men and women and lay people, come to bring Christ's message. It was learned just yesterday that a Combonian missionary, Father Lorenzo Bono, has been killed. Let us pray for him. Let a special thought go to all workers of the Gospel, uniting ourselves to the feelings of their distant families, which are often in pain and anguish, in these days, because of uncertainty about the fate of their dear ones, and invoking from the Lord that they may get reassuring news of all, even from those territories in which communications are temporarily interrupted."