Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Other St. Francis, a Missionary's Missionary

Today the Church celebrates the life of St. Francis Xavier, one of the co-founders with St. Ignatius Loyola, of the Jesuits.

Many know of the Jesuits great contribution to the academic world, but not all are familiar with their great missionary work, and yet, St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest Christian missionary since St. Paul.

He was born in Spain into an aristocratic family in 1506. While studying at the University of Paris he met Ignatius of Loyola. Francis seemed destined for a life of academic success, but Ignatius convinced him of the importance of missionary work. Francis was quickly consumed by a fiery passion for spreading the Gospel in the East Indies, India, China and Japan.

Just as St. Paul's missionary journeys are so impressive, especially when one considers the more primitive forms of transportation, so are St. Francis'. You can just imagine these voyages on 16th Century vessels! Here is a map of his journeys.

St. Francis had to deal with all the adjustments and challenges missionaries face. Learning Japanese was a struggle for him, but that didn't stop him. He used icons and other artwork for his evangelization efforts.

While these missionary efforts are to be greatly admired, it is good to know that we don't have to step on a plane or an ocean voyager or even a car to be a missionary. Only some are called to that, but we are all called to be missionaries in the providence of our everyday lives. Our Founder, Fr. Thomas Augustine Judge, used those words. He said, "you meet certain people, you have contact with certain persons or places, your life has a certain circumscription, God overshadowing and intervening in all. This is called your daily providence. It is yours indeed; it does not belong to anybody else. Like the skin on your face it is yours personally, nobody else ever had it, nobody else ever will have it. Everyone of us is a center of a particular bit of Divine Providence. " This is precisely the place where all baptized persons are called to spread a knowledge and love of God, to remind those around us that God loves each one of us very deeply and is yearning for our response to this love.

Let us pray today for missionaries: that's all of us!

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