Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
O Christ, Good Shepherd, I thank you for leading me to glory;
I pray that the flock you have entrusted to my care
will share with me in your glory forever.
Spain in the sixteenth century was a fertile seedbed of Christian sanctity. Many of the Church’s most popular modern saints hail from that time and place. Saints Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Louis Bertrand, and today’s saint, Francis Xavier, were all contemporaries and compatriots. There must have been something in the water! As a Dominican, I guess I should say it was the preaching. Not to boast, but the Spanish Dominicans were particularly strong in the 1500′s.
Since his death off the coast of China in 1552, Saint Francis Xavier has become the premier model for those eager to preach the Gospel and spread the Kingdom of God in foreign lands. Daily hardships, compounded by thousands of miles of incessant travel, seemed only to increase Francis’s zeal for souls and his courage in the face of danger. His secret? The Jesuit’s singular love of Christ was rivaled only by his love for the new life of Christ born in the souls he evangelized and baptized.
Each year the Church celebrates St. Francis’s feast by reading one of the many letters he wrote to his friend and superior, St. Ignatius of Loyola. In this one, the apostolic zeal of the Jesuit missionary is palpable.
Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Eurpoe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!!”
I wish they would work as hard at this 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!
Over four centuries later, we can imagine that St. Francis would grasp the irony of today’s missionary situation. India has become the new Spain. Due to the abundance of vocations there, the Church in India sends priests and religious all over the globe, including to Spain, France, and the United States.
The witness of St. Francis Xavier and the Church in Asia confirm for us the simplest of Christian truths: even in the worst of conditions, faithful preaching can bear abundant and enduring fruit for Christ.
God our Father,
by the preaching of Francis Xavier
you brought many nations to yourself.
Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in you,
that your Church may rejoice in continued growth
throughout the world.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.