December 3, 2013 ⎪ Feast of Saint Francis Xavier
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
Stand ready to answer God
when He asks you
if you are available for Him
to become more present in your life
and through you to the world.
may you willingly respond:
Let what You have said be done to me.
Proficiat to everyone as we celebrate the feast of Saint Francis Xavier throughout our Congregation. Curiosity led me to a Latin dictionary to find a good translation of the verb proficio, proficere, profeci, profectus. Our traditional greeting of proficiat can be translated as, “May it be accomplished.” ” Let it be done.” “May it progress.” So let our prayer today be, Proficiat. May our Founder’s vision for the Congregation be accomplished in us. Proficiat. May our effort to be faithful to Ryken’s charism progress. Proficiat. May our desire, as Brothers, Associates and Collaborators, to follow in Christ’s footsteps and minister God’s healing touch of love to those we meet each day be done with joy.
The opening quote from our Fundamental Principles speaks of a theme that underlies salvation history–God’s deep desire to break into our lives with His unconditional love. As we know, this passage is a reference to the Annunciation, God’s definitively breaking into human history. The story provides us with insights to what happens when God asks us if we are available.
Reflecting on the story of the Annunciation, we discover that there is an element of surprise. Mary was shocked by the appearance of Gabriel. She was even more disturbed by what God was asking of her. There is also an element of fear. Obviously Gabriel saw Mary’s fear even as he told her about her having favor with God and God’s wanting her to bear His Son. There is also the element of mystery uttered in Mary’s question, “How can this happen?” As Gabriel answered Mary, the mystery became more profound. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The element of vulnerability is also clear. In opening herself to God’s request, Mary was susceptible to being rejected and even hurt by those closest to her. In face of the unknown, Mary let the Holy Spirit fill her heart and consented in humility impelled by trust. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word.” ( Luke 1:38) Mary’s “yes” to God allowed her bring Christ to others and others to Christ. Her humility, purity of heart and love for others resulted from her allowing God to enter her life in an intimate way.
Mary’s “yes” has inspired others to do likewise in their lives. I want to reflect briefly about three people who shape who we are and our desire to live for God and God alone.
In 1534 God broke into this person’s life in a special way. Francis Xavier, inspired by the Holy Spirit and his friendship with Ignatius Loyola, committed his life to God through his profession of vows as one of the founders of the Society of Jesus. As noted by Dr. Debra Mooney ( Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio), Xavier was truly ” a man for others.” However God would continue to break into Xavier’s life. In 1541 Xavier’s world was disturbed. He was asked to leave his friends and his familiar routine as secretary of the Society for missionary travels that would take him to Mozambique, Melindi (Kenya), India and Japan. Xavier experienced bouts of loneliness and depression. He had lost all his family members to death and often felt inferior to others. However, like Mary, Xavier said yes and let the Spirit continue to work in his life. Mooney notes three qualities of Xavier’s Spirit-filled life: his enthusiasm or zeal flowing from wanting to help others find God; his passion to make an impact and to do all for the Greater Glory of God; and his openness to people who were different from himself and from his culture. Xavier’s love of God, his single-mindedness and his zeal are sure signs of God acting through him.
In the events leading to June 15, 1839, God was gradually breaking into the life of a simple man we know well–Theodore James Ryken. Something stirred in Ryken’s heart. Something captured his imagination. Ryken describes God’s breaking into his life as “being put in his place”– his conversion. Ryken was disturbed by the Spirit. His humility allowed him to turn to the God of love. We are not sure what evoked the conversion. What is clear, however, is that Ryken experienced God’s unconditional love. Like Mary and Xavier, Ryken also said yes. Zeal and compassion for others led him as a lay missioner to work with Native Americans in Indiana, to serve as a nurse to those suffering an epidemic in Groningen, to working as a catechist and teacher. Willingness to be vulnerable in his search for God’s will, his trust in a God and his great persistence in the face of many defeats have resulted in who we are today as a Congregation.
Today is a day of grace for our Xaverian family. I invite everyone to use the coming days of Advent to reflect on how God has been breaking into our lives as individuals and as a community? Is God calling us to something new? Are we willing, like Mary, Xavier and our Founder, to have our worlds disturbed? Are we willing to open not only our eyes, but also our hearts to “the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of our world, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted.” (Gaudium et Spes, 1965). Are we humble enough to discern together how to bring Christ into our world? Are we willing to be vulnerable and to stand ready and say,” Here we are Lord, your servant. May it be done unto us according to your Word.
Let us pray to Mary, Francis Xavier and Theodore James Ryken as we prepare to let God break into our lives once again during this Advent season.
I wish everyone a prayerful Advent and a very Blessed Christmas and pray that you experience the peace and love of God as Mary and Joseph did that first Christmas as they received Christ into their lives.