Jean-Francois Regie was born at Font-Couverte, Languedoc in France and was the son of a wealthy merchant. He was educated at the Jesuit College and when he was eighteen, he joined the Jesuit order.
In the seminary (where men are trained to become priests), John's love for God and his vocation showed in the way he prayed. He was also eager to teach catechism in the parishes when he could. He was so good as a Catechist that children he taught helped bring their parents back to the Church.
After he was ordained a priest, St. John Francis began his work as a missionary preacher. He gave very simple talks that came right from his heart. He willingly spoke to the poor, ordinary folks and they came in great crowds to hear him. Many farmers, workers and country folk were converted.
He spent his mornings praying, performing the sacrament of Reconciliation and preaching. In the afternoon, he would visit prisons and hospitals. He lived on apples, black bread and whatever came his way not bothering with proper meals because he preferred to spend his time preaching, teaching and hearing confessions.
St. John Francis journeyed to wild mountain parishes even on the coldest days of winter to preach his missions. "I have seen him stand all day on a heap of snow at the top of a mountain preaching," one priest said, "and then spend the whole night hearing confessions." Sometimes he would start off for a far-away town at three o'clock in the morning with a few apples in his pocket for his day's food.
Once, on his way to a village, St. John Francis fell and broke his leg. But he kept on going, leaning on a stick and on his companion's shoulder. When he reached the village, he went at once to hear confessions. He did not have his leg taken care of. At the end of the day, when the doctor looked at it, his leg was already completely healed.
He started hostels for women who had fallen into sin but wanted to change and called them the “Daughters of Refuge”. Because of this, he was often attacked by bad men for saving them. He also helped many country girls stay away from the big, bad cities by setting up a center for lacemaking and embroidery where they could work to earn a living.
He sarted a granary (a barn or shed to store grains) for the poor which sometimes refilled by a miracle before it got empty. St. John Francis died on one of his preaching missions. He became very ill while lost at night in the woods. Just before he died, he exclaimed: "I see Our Lord and his mother opening heaven for me." He died on December 31, 1640.
In 1806, St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars joined the crowds as a pilgrim going to pray at the shrine of St. John Francis Regis. And he believed that his pilgrimage and the payers of this saint helped make him a priest too.