July 21st: Servant of God - John Baptist Reus, SJ
Born : July 10, 1868
Died : July 21, 1947
John Baptist was born in Pottenstein, Bravaria in Germany. He was the eighth of eleven children. He went to the elementary school in his hometown and went to Bamberg for his secondary studies. Though his desire was to be a priest, he had to fulfill his military service in October 1889. After he fulfilled his 1-year military service on October 1 1890, John Baptist immediately entered Bamberg’s diocesan seminary. John Baptist had an uncle who was a Jesuit and over the years he too thought of becoming one. He visited the Jesuit provincial of the Southern German province in September 1892 but since he was less than a year from ordination, the provincial suggested that he first be ordained and then enter. After his ordination in Bamberg and he had celebrated his first Mass in his hometown, Fr Reus was appointed by his bishop to serve a year in the parish of Neuhaus an der Pegnitz.
Fr Reus entered the Jesuit novitiate in Bligenbeek in the Netherlands since German Jesuits were forbidden to have houses of study in their own country because of Bismarck’s Kulturkampf. After his noviceship, Fr Reus moved to the scholasticate in Valkenburg also in the Netherlands to review his philosophy and theology. In early 1900, Fr Reus expressed his interest to go the missions in India, but based on the needs of the different missions, he was sent to the mission in Brazil in May, 1900 together with four other Jesuits missionaries.
Fr Reus was first stationed in Rio Grande City where for five years he taught and was prefect of discipline before he became the superior of the community. Later he went to Anchieta College in Porto Alegre and in 1913, he became pastor of the Jesuit parish in Sao Leopoldo. Later when the Jesuits took over the diocesan seminary in Sao Leopoldo, Fr Reus became spiritual father to the seminarians and taught liturgy from 1914 until 1944.
Fr Reus began to receive mystical graces shortly after his ordination and these became more frequent as he grew older. These spiritual experiences are known only because he faithfully kept a dairy, which his superior had commanded him to write in 1934. From these sources we learn that twelve years after his arrival in Brazil, Fr Reus received the stigmata which, though it never became visible, remained with him for the rest of his life and caused him pain and prolonged suffering. We also learnt that as early as Sep 4, 1912, Fr Reus had in prayer told our lord that he wanted to love Him with a seraphic love and asked that that love’s flame so cleanse his heart that it could become his tabernacle. His prayer was soon answered for in Sep 6, our Lady and St Joseph visited him during prayer, and soon he experienced our Lord’s presence in the room. The next day he sensed Our Lord gazing at him and soon an enormous flame descended and pierced his heart, followed by five rays of light aimed at exactly the very places where our Lord had carried His wounds.
Fr Reus continued to experience mystical graces and ecstasies at Sao Leopoldo but these were unknown to both his students and his Jesuit brethren in the seminary. He left the seminary in 1924 to become spiritual father for the young Jesuit philosophers and theologians studying at Colegio Cristo Rei. In 1947, when Fr Reus was seventy-nine, he began to slow down. He celebrated his last Mass on June 10 which was also the date which marked the last entry in his spiritual dairy. He noted that during that morning’s Mass he experienced the usual three ecstasies, i.e. at the Consecration, then before and after Communion. The love of Fr Reus for the Mass was such that he called it “the most beautiful hour of the day.”
For the remaing few weeks of his life, Fr Reus his asthma subsided but on July 11, he became so critically ill that everyone thought it was the end. Fr Reus requested absolution and shortly thereafter sat up in bed and with ecstatic joy announced that our lady had just come into the room. The rector who was at his side, told him that our Lady had surely come to take him to his eternal home and was interrupted when Fr Reus said: “The Holy Family is now here.” To everyone’s surprise Fr Reus recovered but he knew he was soon to go. He received Holy Communion daily but refused to take any medicine, took only water and little nourishment. On July 21, when the infirmarian brought him milk at 4.00 p.m. he noticed that Fr Reus had lost his speech so he immediately went to notify the rector. However before the rector could arrive, Fr Reus peacefully and lovingly returned his priestly soul to his Master.
Fr Reus’ cause is now under consideration in Rome.