Born: Montfort, (Gascogny), Dec. 23, 1848.
Priestly ordination: April 4, 1874.
Took the habit: Sept. 7, 1890
Vows: Sept. 8, 1891 (N. 1533).
Died: Pontmain, March 12, 1933.
Five children were born to Francis Lemius, a policeman originally from the Lorraine, and Jeanne Marie Begarry (or Begery). The oldest, and only girl, Marie, entered the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux at age 16. She served as archivist, secretary (she left the Oblates a collection of the sermons of the second superior general, Joseph Fabre, taken in shorthand), and Director General, dying in South Africa at the age of 58 while on an official visit. She is known as Mother St. Peter. All four of her brothers met the Oblates during the family's frequent stays at the Oblate house in Bordeaux while visiting their sister.
At about age 8, Francis, the oldest of the four brothers, was seized by a passion for visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and for long prayer. During a parish mission, the chief preacher asked the pastor about the young boy who served Mass so well and listened so attentively.
At age 12, in the autumn of 1862, Francis went to the minor seminary at Aire-sur-l'Adour. His two younger brothers arrived soon and, according to the obituary written by his brother John Baptist, had Francis as "model and mentor." However, the seminary was very Jansenistic, probably leading to the extreme scrupulosity which plagued Francis all his life.
After completing the eight-year program, he applied to the major seminary in 1869. But his bishop asked him to go to the College of Dax, assisting the newly named rector, and reform it. For 20 years (1869-90), Francis remained at the college, studying first philosophy, then theology, while serving as a full-time teacher. (He was ordained in 1874).
In 1870, his younger brother John Baptist told Francis that he wanted to enter the Oblates. Francis burst into tears, stating he was the elder and had the right to go first. John Baptist persuaded him to support their parents and especially the youngest brother, Joseph. With great reluctance, he did so. Shortly after the death of their mother, Francis entered the novitiate at St. Gerlach, Holland, at age 43. He made his first vows on Sept. 8, 1891, in the presence of his brother Lieutenant Louis Lemius, joining his two brothers John Baptist and Joseph as an Oblate.
The superior general called him immediately to Paris as his private secretary, which lasted for two years, until Fabre died. Then the next superior general, Louis Soullier, O.M.I. appointed him chaplain to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. He spent time at their houses not only in Bordeaux, but in the many houses in Paris (St. Honore, Clichy, Milan and Montmartre). He kept that assignment until his death, except for a period when he was secretary to Cassien Augier, fourth superior general.
Several times in his writings, John Baptist states: There are three Lemius Oblates: one the mission preacher, one the teacher, one the saint. It is clear that for him, Francis was the saint, with his great capacity to guide people, especially those afflicted with scrupulosity.
Francis died at Pontmain, on March 12, 1933, age 85. He had been a diocesan priest for 17 years and an Oblate for 42.
Harry Winter, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
G.A.: Two folders.
Boucher, Romuald, OMI, "Lemius, John Baptiste,
OMI, 'Francois Lemius, OMI, Notice Necrologiques 8:396-404,' 1997,"
Lemius, John Baptiste, OMI, "Francois
Lemius, OMI, Notice Necrologiques 8:396-404," 1933, 18 pp.
Winter, Harry, OMI, "Searching for the Lemius Familly," Vie Oblate Life 57 (Dec. 1998,3): 514-18.