Sebastian of Aparicio had humble beginnings but by middle age had become very wealthy. He was born in Spain into a peasant family in 1502. He was a good looking young man with a reserved personality that attracted the interest of quite a few women. He was deeply religious and changed employment several times before the age of 30 to avoid the temptations opened to him. He worked as a household servant and as a hired field hand.
At the age of 31, Sebastian left Spain for Mexico. He settled in the town of Puebla de los Angeles where he took employment as a field hand. However he noticed a business opportunity. Puebla was an important crossroad and he noted that the goods transported were carried on the backs of pack animals on the backs of the native people.
At first, Sebastian made and sold wheeled carts for the transport of goods. He then expanded into the improvement and building of roads and bridges to improve transport for goods and people. He was responsible for the building of a 460 mile road from Mexico City to Zacatecas which took 10 years to build and was of enormous benefit to the local economy.
By the age of 50, Sebastian was a wealthy man. He lived very simply and gave his earnings to others, he bought food for the poor, made loans that he never reclaimed to poor farmers too proud to accept charity, he paid the dowries for poor brides and gave free training to Indians in skills that would assist them in earning a living. In addition people brought him their problems and he had a reputation for his wisdom.
Sebastian became known as the 'Angel of Mexico'. He retired at the age of 50 to a hacienda to raise cattle. He married at age 60 at the request of his bride's parents. His bride was a poor girl and he agreed to the match on condition that the couple live as brother and sister, which they did. His wife died and he married again on the same condition. When he was 70, Sebastian's second wife died and he himself contracted a serious illness.
Upon recovering he decided to give everything he had to the poor and became a lay Franciscan brother. Sebastian's job was to go out and beg for food for his brothers in religion and for the poor in their care. This formerly rich man loved his job and was loved by his fellow Franciscans, the townspeople and the poor that the Brothers helped. He also loved and was loved by animals even the most stubborn mules and oxen would obey the Blessed, like Saint Francis.
The Blessed's remains were never buried but, at the request of the local people, exposed in a prominent place for veneration. His body, although darkened, has remained incorrupt.
Several hundred claims of miracles attributed to his intercession were made even before his death and such claims continue to this day.
Sebastian of Aparicio was beatified in 1787 and his feast is kept on February 25th each year. He is a Patron Saint of Travelers.
The Church of Saint Francis, housing his incorrupt body, is open to the public and his body is on display. Thousands come here to venerate this holy layman, as you can see here.
However, the Church is usually closed from 2-4 p.m. or at some other times as well, so allow enough time to be sure you can make the visit. We are not aware of any website for the church itself.
Puebla is one of our favorite cities in Mexico. There are several unique and historic hotels in Puebla. Try to stay at one of the hotels near the Zocolo (the town square) and you will be within walking distance of the Cathedral, the Rosary Chapel, the church with Blessed San Sebastian, and some great restaurants as well.
The city and the people are beautiful, the streets are safe, and the atmosphere relaxing.