Dec 3 – Feast of St. Francis Xavier, presbyter, religious, missionary (Principal Patron of Foreign Missions)
St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was a nobleman from the Basque region. He studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. He was a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He was one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary.
In Goa, India, while waiting to take the ship, he preached in the street, worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism. He would walk through the streets, ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He was said to have converted the entire city.
He scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death, you may be ordered out of paradise.”
He was a tremendously successful missionary for the ten years he was in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, teaching catechism to Indian children, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold. Wherever he went, he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He travelled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, and was a miracle worker. He raised people from the dead, calmed storms. He was a prophet and a healer.
- Patron Saint Index
Mt 7:21, 24-27
“Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall; it was founded on rock.”
If this year 2020 has taught us all something, it is that Power is an illusion. Wealth is an illusion. Stability is an illusion. All the things we pride ourselves on, our achievements, the things we thought could protect us, they are nothing but figments of our pride. I sit writing this on Thanksgiving Day in America, a day when families are supposed to be together, to watch football, eat turkey, argue about why a jello salad deserves a place at the table, and if pecan beats pumpkin pie. Instead, many of us will be spending it in isolation or with just our immediate families. Some of us might have an empty seat at the table because we’ve lost a loved one to the pandemic.
To say it’s been a difficult year for all of us would be an understatement. The rain did fall, the floods did come and the winds blew hard. And because we placed our faith in the shifting sands of our achievement, intellect and pride, we stumbled and fell. We are lost, so lost. We’ve lost our empathy, lost our faith, we’ve lost our confidence, we’ve lost our way. So many have died and are dying from this disease, and more will fall as winter approaches. Is there an end in sight? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I am exhausted and if not for my faith, my mental state would be hanging from the thinnest of threads.
The psalmist says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” And that’s our problem. We took refuge in the false security of things that don’t last, in our institutions and our princes. “Like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” Is that going to be us?
My son asked me this October, in the thick of the US election fervour, during a heated moment at our dining table, “Why do you want to be American?” Why indeed? Because I believe that we as a nation can still, with God’s grace and mercy, return to Him. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near.” — Isa 55:6. I believe that we are not doomed like Sodom or Gomorrah. There are enough of us who love God, who love our neighbours, who seek the good of the other, who seek to be better versions of ourselves, who seek Him. There are enough of us out there, enough so ALL of us can be spared. We can rebuild this house with His grace.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the providence of the Lord. I am thankful for his mercy. I am thankful to still be alive. More so than any other year, I have seen my fragility, the impermanance of things, the delicate web that holds life as I know it in a fine balance. Time can be taken from you, so I am thankful for every moment I’ve been able to spend with my children and my husband. I am thankful for social media, a force for good when it is used to connect with family and friends I can’t be with physically. I am thankful to God for keeping them safe, and hopeful for the day when we will be reunited. Most of all, I am thankful for the awareness that our house, this country we live in, is not built on rock like I had always thought. May God guide us in our endeavours to heal as a people, to repent our ways and to seek refuge in Him again. May God help us to rebuild this house on solid rock.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for deliverance from this pandemic. We pray that we live to see the day when we will be reunited with our friends and families again. Amen.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the healthcare workers, the doctors, the nurses, the aides in hospitals. We give thanks for the volunteers at the voting stations, the stay-at-home parents and the teachers on Zoom, the essential workers, the pharmaceutical companies racing to bring a vaccine to all of us, the people who daily go to work so that some of us can work from home.