Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
A fascinating missionary of all time, perhaps next to St. Paul, to have traversed far and wide across the globe for the sake of the love of Christ (cf. 2Cor 5:14) is certainly St. Francis Xavier, the patron of our Diocese and Cathedral. Coming to know about his life and mission, one will be undoubtedly filled with awe and wonder at his mesmerizing personality. It may not be an exaggeration to state that St. Francis Xavier is the most popular saint for Indian Catholics as clearly Catholicism in India is forever linked with him, and all the more for us, he can be termed as the ‘spiritual father’ forever as he has birthed our forebears in Christ (cf. Gal 4:19). Hence, we celebrate the solemnity of St. Francis Xavier with exuberant joy and filial devotion in our Cathedral where devotees of all religions from different walks of life and places throng in countless number with great reverence for him.
One of the sublime experiences and my lifelong desires came true is my visit in 2018 to the castle of Xavier, the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier located on a hill in the town of Xavier in the Basque region of Spain. Ever fresh in my heart is the little time I spent meditatively in his personal room inside the castle. I was literally overwhelmed with emotions as I entered into the room and a few drops of tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I delicately touched the table and bed which the saint used. Gentle breeze swept my face as I smoothly opened the windows of the room. A picturesque horizon of mountain peaks were just out there extending endlessly. “What impelled the young and robust Francis Xavier to go beyond these high range of mountains and to sail the seas unto the Indies?” was the question popped into my mind.
The answer is simple. As we know, the question of St. Ignatius to young Francis “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” made tremendously a lifelong impact on the latter. St. Francis Xavier unreservedly responded to this question by living his life for the sake of Christ bearing in his mind what his master taught him in his Spiritual Exercises: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?” Love of Christ and love for Christ was the driving force of the missionary spirit of St. Francis Xavier. As St. Paul puts it succinctly: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2Cor 5:14-15). The love of Christ indeed impelled him to go to any extent even at the cost of his life enduring unforeseen sufferings but for winning multitudinous souls for Christ. His intense and passionate love for Christ was well expressed in his love for the people about whom he mentions in his letter to Saint Ignatius as “they could not tell their right hand from their left.”
It was St. Francis Xavier’s great ambition to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Armed only with his breviary and a book of meditations, he preached the Gospel to the poor and sick, spending most of his time ministering to their needs. His nights were spent in prayer. He did not worry about his personal needs. He barely ate enough to stay alive. As he moved on from one place to another, he left behind flourishing Christian communities under the care of Kanakkapillai who would instruct catechism to the Christians. It is fitting to say that St. Francis Xavier was a missionary beyond the borders. His missionary journeys include Mozambique and Melindi (Kenya), Socotra (an island off the coast of Somalia), India, Sri Lanka, the East Indies, Malacca, Moluccas, Japan and off the coast of China, Shangchuan. St. Francis Xavier is indeed an amazing personality and ever inspiring missionary!
Ever since he assumed the office of Papacy, Pope Francis has been consistently insisting upon the call of all the Christians, in virtue of their baptism, to become ‘missionary disciples’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 120) and the Church, ‘a community of missionary disciples’ (EG, 24). For him, to be missionary disciple, one does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim the love of Jesus. Rather it begins with our encounter and friendship with the person of Jesus Christ. The encounter of Jesus and his love that St. Francis Xavier had, impelled him to be a missionary disciple proclaiming Jesus to the far off nations. May our beloved Saint inspire us to become missionary disciples of our time!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Wish you all a happy feast of St. Francis Xavier and a blessed Christmas!