St. Francis Xavier, Pray for Us

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Francis Xavier.

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 “contemplatives in action”.  Francis knew that 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.

In 1539, the King of Portugal requested that Ignatius send two missionaries to the Portuguese colony of Goa.  One of the two named fell ill and there was no one to take his place except Francis.  At the time, Francis himself was recuperating from having overworked himself in Venice; he is described as having been at the time “so pale and wasted that he seemed no longer to be a living man but a walking corpse.”

Yet when Ignatius broke the news to him that he must go to India, Francis didn’t say, “Aw c’mon, why me.”  He didn’t say “it wasn’t exactly my plan to be a missionary in India.”  He didn’t say, “Look, I’m beat and I just can’t handle a tough posting right now.  Can’t I get one of those cushy spots in the wine country of France or Spain?”

Rather, he responded, reportedly with these words: “Good enough! I am ready!”  The next day he left Rome, never again to return.  He left knowing he would have no possibility of contact or comfort from those he knew and loved save for letters that could take weeks or, more likely, months to arrive.

Francis had unlimited confidence in God, a confidence that allowed him to face obstacles and reversals.  He had a level of trust that allowed him to travel wherever he was sent with a sense of joy and enthusiasm.  One of his companions said that he never met anyone more filled with faith and hope than Francis Xavier.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!



Advent: A Season of Hope

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  As we move into the Advent season, let me share  this Advent Credo.  I’ve shared it before but it is worth another look, especially in the troubled times in which we live.

Read it.  Pray It.  Sing It.  But most of all: Believe It, and live it.

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

Believe It.  Live It.

Note: The Advent Credo is generally attributed to Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Testimony: The Word Made Fresh.  But I am told that it is actually adapted from a prayer by Allan Boesak was originally published in “Gathered for Life:  Official Report, VI Assembly, World Council of Churches.”