Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Sr. Francis Xavier, who has been called the greatest missionary in history. Near to the heart of all of us who claim an Ignatian spirituality, Francis was a friend and companion to Ignatius of Loyola and and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, and 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; he made the Exercises under the direction of Ignatius himself, and it was Francis’ experience of the Exercises that so filled him with his zeal and missionary spirit. His life reflects an embrace of the recognition that loving God means being men and women for others, being “contemplatives in action.”
Francis understood that loving God means uniting oneself with God by joining God’s active labor to heal and save the world. For him, a commitment to putting God first meant going where he was called, without regard to what his plans had been. He did that not out of compulsion, but out of love. One of his companions once said of him “Anything he is asked to do, Francis does willingly, simply because he loves everyone.”
On this feast day of Francis Xavier, a day on which many of us will be participating in Memorial Masses for Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who passed away a week ago, let us pray for Francis’ zeal and commitment to God’s plan.