Feast of St. Francis Xavier
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
The fire burns inwardly before it burns outwardly.
I wish all our Brothers, Associates, and Collaborators a very warm Proficiat! I want to express in the name of the Congregation our deep gratitude to all who carry out the Church’s mission of evangelization with today’s young people in our sponsored schools. Francis Xavier has always intrigued me. Quite honestly, however, for many years I did not know much about Francis other than he is the patron of our Congregation and the missions. Ironically the second name given to me at baptism is in his honor. Over the past twenty-five years, however, I have come to know more about his life and have been especially touched by his spirit.
Francis Xavier was born during an age of great transformation in the way people think, view the world, and embrace life. The forces of creative imagination, excitement, and daring optimism filled the spirit of the day and influenced Francis. The energy generated by these forces transformed religious life, called the Church to deep spiritual renewal and impelled both individuals and nations to reach out to the larger world. Francis Xavier reflected his times. Francis’ enthusiasm and joy for life as well as his drive to help others are well documented.
Francis Xavier came from a very religious, noble family. Francis was a devout youth. As an adolescent he dedicated himself to God with no intention of becoming a religious or priest. As a student at the University of Paris, Francis showed himself to be very capable. Simply put, Francis had what it would take to make it in the world of his day. His father knew this fact and wrote to Francis to ask him to come home to Spain and stop wasting his time in Paris.
While at the University of Paris, Francis met Ignatius Loyola. Ignatius had a profound influence on him. At Ignatius’ suggestion, Francis made the four week retreat called the Spiritual Exercises. Francis referred to the experience as “life-changing.” The Exercises taught him four things: how to accept in his heart God’s boundless love for him and the world, how to follow Christ the poor man in the concrete, how to embrace suffering with Christ in the Eucharist and how to live the joy of the resurrection. Francis simply lived out this very intimate relationship he deepened with God during the Exercises. Francis would decide to join Ignatius as a member of the Society of Jesus.
Francis’ enthusiasm and joy for life, his prayer life and his drive to help others were expressions of a deeper spiritual grounding nurtured in his family and brought to maturity as a Jesuit. Francis had a single-minded desire—to be holy (Bartoli and Maffei, 2012). His desire to love God and others, and to do all for the greater glory of God (Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam) gradually became his intense inward fire. So true, “the fire burns inwardly before it burns outwardly.” Ignatius recognized Francis’ inward fire when he gave him the order to go to India. Despite his human regret of leaving his closest friend, Ignatius, Francis accepted the obedience joyfully.
Francis proved to be a true son of Ignatius. He found God in everything including his sufferings. A prayer attributed to Francis at times of suffering is, “Yet more, O Lord, yet more.” Francis learned to live for God and for God alone. His outward fire to help others and bring them to Christ was fueled by his intense and intimate love of God.
In his missionary voyages of ten years, Francis Xavier encountered very harsh difficulties. He embraced these difficulties with joy for he knew he was not alone. He also knew this mission was not his, but God’s work. That is a lesson I learned from Francis. Francis also knew the mission could not be done without contemplating Christ, praying, being humble and intentionally seeking mortification (Saint Francis Xavier, John C. Reville, 2015).
What can we learn from Francis’ life that may inspire us today in our efforts of following Christ as missionaries? I simply offer you some questions I will bring to my prayer and reflection during these days:
- Do I take enough time to contemplate the love that God is offering me and our world each day?
- How am I trying to live “for God and God alone,” and how am I doing so?
- When I recognize God’s love in my life, do I pray with gratitude for all I receive? Do I pray with faith and humility in times of need?
- Do I give the gift I have received enthusiastically with others?
- How often do I stop to contemplate that the ministry I am doing is God’s work and not mine?
The fire burns inwardly before it burns outwardly. I pray that as Brothers, Associates, and Collaborators we grow in our desire to follow Francis Xavier’s spiritual way. May the inner fire of God’s love give light and energy to all we do.
Happy Feast Day. Proficiat!
In Christ’s love,