I’m in the midst of preaching the Novena of Grace at the Church of St. Thomas More. The Novena of Grace to St. Francis Xavier has been a devotion since the 17th Century. It is said that a seriously ill priest in Italy was cured from a brain injury through the intercession of Francis Xavier. The Novena is celebrated in many churches in all parts of the world from March 4 to March 12, the anniversary of the canonization of St. Francis Xavier.
As I told the parishioners the first evening (Friday), whether or not one believes that Francis Xavier appeared to the seriously ill priest and healed him with the promise that whoever took time to complete nine days of prayer each year would experience his protection, does not really matter. What does matter is that as Christians we recognize the reality of the communion of saints and we believe that the prayers of those who have died continue for those of us still living. The Novena offers an opportunity to call upon the blessings of this Jesuit saint who, in so many ways, can be an inspiration for us.
For those not familiar with him, Francis Xavier was a friend and companion to Ignatius of Loyola and and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was one of the first Jesuits to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises had an enormous influence on Francis, and his life reflects an embrace of the recognition that loving God means being men and women for others, being (to use the familiar Ignatian phrase) “contemplatives in action. ” Loving God means uniting oneself with God by joining God’s active labor to heal and save the world.
Francis Xavier has been called the greatest missionary in history, second only to St. Paul. Putting God first for him meant going where he was called, without regard to what his plans had been. Francis once wrote to a fellow Jesuit, “In this life, we find out greatest comfort living in the midst of danger, that is, if we confront them solely for the love of God.”
If you are in the Twin Cities, join us for the remaining days of the Novena of Grace – 7:00p.m. in the Church of St. Thomas More Monday through Friday, and then 4:30 on Saturday for the final Novena session.