Francis Parater: A Patron Saint for Boy Scouts?

A Patron Saint for Boy Scouts? Yes, there is a candidate whose cause has been introduced for canonization. He is Servant of God, Francis J. Parater, a seminarian who died at the age of twenty-two while studying in Rome at the North American College. Francis, “Frank,” as his friends (he had many) called him, was born in 1897 in Richmond,Virginia, October 10. Raised in a devout Catholic family (his mother was a convert) Frank attended Mass daily after his First Holy Communion, serving as an altar boy at the convent of the Visitation Sisters. A rugged lad, who loved the outdoors, Frank joined the Boy Scouts, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Discerning a call to religious life, he first thought about joining the order that educated him, the Benedictines. Later, he opted for the diocesan priesthood and was sent to the “Eternal City” for studies. He had drawn up for himself a Rule of Life in which he obliged upon himself: Be large minded. Don’t be a bluffer. Be frank, but be gentle. Love the poor. Make every minute count. Strive to be a man of your ideals. Let your charity be unbounded. Don’t be disheartened at failures. He was only in Rome for a few months before he became ill with rheumatic fever.

Our seminarian did not survive this illness. He died with the last sacraments and with great piety and joy just eleven days after being admitted to the hospital run by the Blue Nuns (Handmaids of the House of God). With today’s irreverence toward the Blessed Sacrament, it is richly inspiring to read about how this seminarian approached His Eucharistic Lord when the Viaticum was brought to his bedside in the hospital. The racked and debilitated young man had to be restrained from climbing out of bed to his knees. He actually did manage to kneel up, however, on the mattress, to receive his King and Savior for the last time in Holy Communion.

It was after his death that his fellow seminarians came to know just how holy Francis was. Going through the belongings left behind in his cubicle, a seminarian friend found a sealed envelope with the notation that it be opened in the event of his death. He gave it to the Rector. The Rector was stunned by what he read. It was an Act of Oblation to the Sacred Heart. Calling all the seminarians together he read the letter to them. It said in part:

I have nothing to leave or give but my life and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be used as He wills. I have offered my all for the conversion of the non-Catholics in Virginia. This is what I live for and in case of death what I die for . . . . Since my childhood, I have wanted to die for God and my neighbor. Shall I have this grace? I do not know, but if I go on living, I shall live for this same purpose; every action of my life here is offered to God for the spread and success of the Catholic Church in Virginia. . . . I shall be of more service to my diocese in Heaven than I can ever be on earth.

This letter was written a year before Francis Parater became sick.

There was another letter in his room that was addressed to the Boy Scouts back in Virginia.

Dear Old Scouts:

You may never see this letter, but if you do, it is to tell you that God has granted me the greatest desire of my life – to die for love of Him and of my fellow-man. Never fear death – it is the most beautiful thing in life, for it is the great portal to the real life. . . . Ever since I was a little fellow I have wanted to be like the martyrs of old, and give my life to God.

I have loved each of you. Boys, and, now, that God has called me to Himself, don’t think that I shall forget you; nor shall I leave you – but will be much nearer to you than I could ever be in this life.

And now, old scouts, I must say ‘so long for a time.’ But occasionally think of your old friend and camp director, and when the time comes for you to hit the trail for home, I’ll promise to be near and to welcome you to the camp-fire of eternal life. God’s blessing be with you all.


Your friend,

Francis Parater