Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A coupla things here

1) Today is the feast of St. Francis Xavier, SJ.

Born in 1506 and baptized Francisco; he was a Spanish nobleman (sound familiar?) from the Navarre region, the town of Javier (why the Js turn to Xs is a mystery). He studied and then taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and he had planned to be a professor. However, his friend Saint Ignatius of Loyola convinced him to use his energy and talents to preach the Gospel. Thus he became one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.

He was in Goa, India, waiting for passage on a ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children the Catechism.

But, being a Jesuit, he wasn't content with spiritual works alone. In a study of true justice (social or otherwise) he admonished his patron, King Juan of Portugal, over slavery*: “It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of Paradise.”

As a tireless missionary, he spent a decade in India, the East Indies, and in Japan, baptizing over 40,000 converts. He went wherever the Spirit told him to go, meeting with tribes of head hunters, caring for lepers, catechizing in India or baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He went on long sea voyages -- in those days that meant being cheek-by-jowl with a zillion others with no, er, plumbing -- enduring harsh extremes of heat and cold. Everywhere he went he would seek out and help the needy and the marginalized.

His zeal for the Gospel can be encapsulated by this prayer he composed:
Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that You alone has created the souls of unbelievers, which You have made according to Your Image and Likeness. Behold, O Lord, how to Your dishonor many of them are falling into Hell. Remember, O Lord, Your Son Jesus Christ, Who so generously shed His Blood and suffered for them. Do not permit that Your Son, Our Lord, remain unknown by unbelievers, but, with the help of Your Saints and the Church, the Bride of Your Son, remember Your mercy, forget their idolatry and infidelity, and make them know Him, Who You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection, through Whom we have been saved and redeemed, and to Whom is due glory forever. Amen.
He traveled thousands upon thousands of miles, mostly barefoot, preaching the Good News with his gift of tongues. He died in 1552 at Sanxian, China of "the fever" which he contracted on a mission journey.

One of the cool things about Jesuits is that when they are "away" they send letters with great frequency to report on their doings. St. Francis Xavier was no different [emphasis mine]:

We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. The country is so utterly barren and poor. The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law.

I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians.

Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.

I wish they university students would work as hard at converting these people as
they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and His choice. They would cry out with all their heart: “Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do?” Send me anywhere you like - even to India!

- from letters to St Ignatius Loyola from St Francis Xavier

Beatified 25 October 1619 by Pope Paul V
Canonized 12 March 1622 by Pope Gregory XV

He is the Patron of:

African missions
Agartala, India
Ahmedabad, India
Alexandria, Louisiana
Apostleship of Prayer
black missions
Cape Town, South Africa
Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith
Dinajpur, Bangladesh
East Indies
Fathers of the Precious Blood
foreign missions
Freising, Germany
Goa, India
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Indianapolis, Indiana
Joiliet, Illinois
Kabankalan, Philippines
Malindi, Kenya
Missioners of the Precious Blood
Mumbai, India, archdiocese of
Navarre, Spain
New Zealand
parish missions
plague epidemics

2) The other thing is today's Mass readings. The lovely and gracious Karen reports the miracle of the loaves and fishes is her youngest's favorite in all of Scripture. The lad has a point, because it is the only miracle (Resurrection aside) that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I like the extra little flourish in St. John's, when you get the back story of how they got the loaves and fishes in the first place: a little boy had brought them. It was all this kid had and he trustingly gave it all to Jesus...and in return wound up with basketfuls of bread and fish in return.

"To such as these..."



* Take THAT, those of you who think the Church used to be in favor of slavery.


  • At 9:53 AM, December 13, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    among my treasures is a photo I took of my eldest grandson holding onto the statue of St. Francis Xavier on the bright afternoon midweek that we visited Javier in Navarre. The boy is name Frank (Francis).


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