Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of foreign missions and one of the group who, with St. Ignatius of Loyola, founded the Society of Jesus.
In 1541, Francis Xavier was one of the first Jesuit missionaries to be sent to the Far East. It is there that he spent the rest of his life preaching, baptizing and establishing Christian communities. He converted tens of thousands to Christianity in Japan, India and the Philippines. Although there was much working against him – language barriers, inadequate money, resistance, to name a few – he had an extraordinary zeal for his work. In the words of one biographer,
Holy zeal may properly be said to have formed the character of St. Francis Xavier. Consumed with an insatiable thirst of the salvation of souls and of the dilatation of the honor and kingdom of Christ on earth, he ceased not with tears and prayers to conjure the Father of all men not to suffer those to perish whom he had created in his own divine image, made capable of knowing and loving him, and redeemed with the adorable blood of his Son… He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings, and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ, will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross. By humility the saint was always ready to follow the advice of others, and attributed all blessings to their prayers which he most earnestly implored.
Zeal is also one of the primary characteristics associated with another of the saints who is near to my heart – Vincent de Paul, who, like Francis, is described as having a zeal for the conversion of souls.
On this day on which we celebrate St. Francis Xavier, may we pray for his zeal in our labors with Christ.