Francis J. Finn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Francis J. Finn
Born (1859-10-04)October 4, 1859
St. Louis, MO
Died November 2, 1928(1928-11-02) (aged 69)
Cincinnati, OH
Occupation Catholic priest, Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1800, 1990
Genre adventure, juvenile

Father Francis J. Finn, (born St. Louis, Missouri, 1859, died Cincinnati, OH, November 2, 1928).[1] was an American Jesuit priest who wrote a series of 27 popular novels for young people. The books contain fun stories, likeable characters and themes that remain current in today's world. Each story conveys an important moral precept.


The son of Irish immigrant parents, Francis J. Finn was born on October 4, 1859, in St. Louis, Missouri; there he grew up, attending parochial schools. As a boy, Francis was deeply impressed with Cardinal Wiseman’s famous novel of the early Christian martyrs, Fabiola. Eleven-year-old Francis was a voracious reader; he read the works of Charles Dickens, devouring Nicholas Nickleby and The Pickwick Papers. From his First Communion at age 12, Francis began to desire to become a Jesuit priest. Fr. Charles Coppens urged Francis to apply himself to his Latin, to improve it by using an all-Latin prayerbook, and to read good Catholic books. Fr. Finn credited his vocation to this advice and to his membership in the Sodality of Our Lady.[2]


He entered the Society of Jesus in 1879 after graduating from St. Louis University. Francis began his Jesuit novitiate and seminary studies on March 24. As a young Jesuit scholastic, he suffered from repeated bouts of sickness. He would be sent home to recover, would return in robust health, then would come down with another ailment. Normally this would have been seen as a sign that he did not have a vocation, yet his superiors kept him on. Fr. Finn commented, “God often uses instruments most unfit to do His work.”

In 1881 Finn was assigned as a prefect of St. Mary’s boarding school or “college” in St. Mary's College, Kansas[2] (which became the fictional “St. Maure’s”). Francis was ordained to the priesthood in 1891, and after some time at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he came to St. Xavier College (now Xavier University) in Cincinnati. Fr. Finn spent many years of his priestly life at St. Xavier’s. There he was well loved, and it is said that wherever he went—if he took a taxi, ate at a restaurant, attended a baseball game—people would not take his money for their services, but instead would press money into his hand for his many charities. During the 1920s Fr. Finn served as a trustee of Xavier University.

In 1904 he served as the first director of the St. Xavier Commercial School for girls, which offered a two-year course of study including stenography, book-keeping, and typesetting.[3]

Father Francis J. Finn died in Cincinnati, Ohio November 2, 1928.

Children's author[edit]

Before 1865, most American Catholic Literature was either translated from French, German, or Flemish books, or reprints from English and Irish works.[4]

At St. Mary's College Finn learned how to teach and discipline boys. If they promised to behave, he promised to tell them a story. He began with Oliver Twist. One afternoon while supervising a class busy writing a composition, Mr. Finn thought of how they represented to him the typical American Catholic boy. With nothing else to do, he took up pencil and paper. “Why not write about such boys as are before me?” he asked himself. In no time at all he had dashed off the first chapter of Tom Playfair. He went on to write 26 more.

According to the American Catholic Who’s Who, Fr. Finn is “universally acknowledged the foremost Catholic writer of fiction for young people.” [5] It was Fr. Finn’s lifelong conviction that “One of the greatest things in the world is to get the right book into the hands of the right boy or girl. No one can indulge in reading to any extent without being largely influenced for better or worse.”[2]


It was Father Finn who in 1925 came up with the nickname for the Xavier University athletic teams, "The Musketeers". The University bestows the Father Francis J. Finn, S.J. Award on the member of the graduating class who best exemplifies qualities of Father Finn's fictional heroes: strong spiritual values, leadership and breadth of interest.[6]

Finn's children's stories continue to be read, particularly in home school curriculums.


  • Tom Playfair; or, Making a Start (1891)
  • Percy Wynn; or, Making a Boy of Him (1891)
  • Candle Dreams
  • Sunshine and Freckles
  • On the Run
  • Bobby in Movieland
  • Facing Danger
  • His Luckiest Year" (a sequel to Lucky Bob)
  • Lucky Bob
  • "But Thy Love and Thy Grace"
  • Claude Lightfoot; or, How the Problem Was Solved
  • Harry Dee; or, Working It Out
  • Ethelred Preston; or, the Adventures of a Newcomer
  • The Best Foot Forward; and Other Stories
  • Cupid of Campion
  • That Football Game, and What Came of It
  • The Fairy of the Snows
  • That Office Boy
  • His First and Last Appearance
  • Mostly Boys: Short Stories
  • Father Finn, S.J.: The Story of His Life Told by Himself for His Friends Young and Old (edited and with an introduction by Daniel S. Lord, S.J.) (1929) [7]


  1. ^ "Rev. Francis J. Finn, Author, Dies at 70: Writer of Many Popular Books for Boys Succumbs in Cincinnati" (fee required). The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 1928-11-03. p. 14. 
  2. ^ a b c "Tom Playfair's School: The History of St. Mary's Academy & College" - webpage
  3. ^ Hauck, Karl; Mark D. Motz (Fall 2006). "The Legacy of St. Francis Xavier Is Alive and Well in Cincinnati: St. Xavier High School" (PDF). Partners Magazine (Chicago Province, Society of Jesus). pp. 23–24. Retrieved 2007-06-08. 
  4. ^ Molson, Francis J., "Francis J. Finn: Pioneer Author of Juveniles for Catholic Americans", The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol.XI, Issue 1, Summer 1977
  5. ^ Biographical sketch from various sources, including an article in Crusade magazine, which was based on Fr. Finn’s memoirs as edited and published by Fr. Daniel A. Lord, S.J., in a book entitled Fr. Finn, S.J. (Cincinnati, Benziger Brothers, 1929).
  6. ^ "Father Francis J. Finn, S.J. Award", Xavier University
  7. ^ A list of Finn's novels, with dates of publication, appears in Who's Who in America, v. XV (1928-1929), p. 766.

External links[edit]