Franciscan Saints



The Servant Of God John De Padilla


Martyr, First Order

 ·         Born 1492 in Andulasia, Southern Spain where he became a Friar Minor

·         Departed for New Spain ( Mexico) in 1526 to join pioneer Franciscan Missionaries

·         Ministered to the Jalisco and Hidalgo natives for ten years.

·         In 1540, he and six other Franciscans accompanied Coronado’s expedition to New Mexico,

·         In 1541 he went to the Quivira Indians in Kansas, after Coronado and he army returned to Mexico in the Spring of the following year, Fr. John with the Portuguese soldier Andres Docampo and two Franciscan Tertiary Brothers from Mexico returned to the Quiviras to preach the Gospel to them and within a few months converted large numbers of them.

·         In the Autumn of 1542 Fr. John insisted upon talking the gospel to the Kaws who were mortal enemies of the Quiviras. A band of Quiviras followed him and killed him along the way.


The historian Mota Padilla gives the following  account of his martyrdom:

‘ “The friar left Quivira with a small escort, against the will of the Indians of that village, who loved him as their father. But at one day’s journey he was met by Indians on the warpath; and knowing their evil intentions, he requested the Portuguese to flee, since the latter was on horseback, and to take with him the oblates (Brothers Luke and Sebastian) and the boys, who, being young, were able to run and save themselves. Being defenseless, they all fled as he desired, and the blessed Father, kneeling down, offered up his life, which he sacrificed for the good of the souls of others.

"He thus realized his most ardent desire—the felicity of martyrdom by the arrows of these barbarians, who afterwards threw his body into a pit and covered it with innumerable rocks. The Portuguese and the Indians, returning to Quivira, gave notice there of what had happened; and the natives felt it deeply on account of the love which they had for their Father. They would have regretted it still more, had they been able to appreciate the extent of their loss. "The day of his death is not known, although it is regarded as certain that it occurred in the year 1542. Don Pedro de Tobar, in some papers which he wrote and left at the town of Culiacan (Mexico), states that the Indians had gone out to kill this blessed Father in order to obtain his vestments, and that there was a tradition of miraculous signs connected with his death, such as inundations, comets, balls of fire, and the sun becoming darkened”

Docampo and the two lay brothers, after being held as prisoners for ten months, escaped, and amid indescribable hardships trudged some twenty Thee

sand miles through desert country back to northern Mexico. Some nine years later they reached Tampico and reported the glorious story of Father ]ohn de Padilla’s martyrdom. Brother Luke later won the martyr’s crown in Durango, about 1565.

Two other Franciscan brothers, John of the Cross and Louis Descalona, who had remained as missionaries in New Mexico when Coronado left, were likewise put to death by pagan Indians in the latter part of the year 1542. Thus they share with Father ]ohn de Padilla the honour of being the protomartyrs of what is now the United States. Bishop J. Henry Tihen of Denver (1917-1931) declared that people had reported to him the granting of favors through the intercession of Father John de Padilla.’1

(Cf. Heroes of the Cross, pp. 212-227; The Martyrs of the United States of America, pp. Habig 1959)

Prayer of the Church

O God, who by the graces of the Holy Spirit didst pour the gifts

of charity into the hearts of Thy faithful, grant to Thy servants

and handmaids, for whom we entreat Thy mercy, health of mind

and body; that they may love Thee with all their strength and

by perfect love do what is pleasing to Thee.

Through Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth
with Thee and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever, Amen



Thinking about people who are martyrs for the faith sometimes makes us uncomfortable. How could people do that? Are they mentally stable? Juan de Padilla was motivated more by a desire to spread the gospel than by fear for his own life. He reminds us that we do not have much choice about how we will die; however, we have a lot of choice about how we shall live.2

1. Habig, Marion, A., OFM., 1959, ed., The Franciscan book of Saints, Franciscan Herald press, Chicago, Illinois

2. Foley, Leonard, OFM, 2003, ed., revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M., Saint of the Day Lives Lessons and Feasts, 5th edition, Saint Anthony Messenger Press,,USA


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