Hernández was born Oct. 26, 1864, in Trujillo state, Venezuela. Though he wanted to pursue the priesthood, he was unable to due to ill health. Nevertheless, his faith was at the center of his life; he was a daily communicant, had a rich prayer life, and was a Third Order Franciscan layman.
After completing his studies in Caracas, he went to Paris, where he took advanced coursework in bacteriology. Hernández was, the Holy Father said, “a doctor close to the weak.” He was someone who often gave medical assistance to the poor and needy, often without asking for any compensation. Instead of the “wealth of money he preferred that of the Gospel,” the pope remarked. This life of service was predicated upon charity and mercy and underscored by his willingness to listen to the will of God.
The Holy Father said this apostolic zeal derived from “a certainty and a strength. The certainty was the grace of God.” Hernández died in 1919 at the age of 54 after being struck by a car on his way to deliver medicine to a sick patient. He died “while carrying out a work of mercy,” Pope Francis noted. Following his death, Hernández went on to gain a massive following in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.
Hernández was the first Venezuelan layperson to be beatified. On the eve of his beatification in 2021, Pope Francis in a video released by the Vatican said: “He is a model of holiness committed to the defense of life, in the challenges of history and, in particular, as a paradigm of service to his neighbor, like a good Samaritan, without excluding anyone. He is a man of universal service.”
The Holy Father tied the life of Hernández to the larger theme of today’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy (1 Tim 2:1-4), which not only underscores the importance of prayer but also juxtaposes it with gossip. Christians are called “to pray,” the pope said, and “to engage not in chatter — chatter, it is a plague — but to promote good and to build peace and justice in truth.” The critique of chatter or gossip has been a recurring theme of the pope’s messages, one that is the antithesis of promoting “good” and building “peace and justice in truth,” he said.