3 Dec – Memorial of St Francis Xavier
The OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
St Francis Xavier
Born to the nobility of the Basque reqion. Studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. Friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. One of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary. Priest.
In Goa, India, while waiting to take 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. 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.”
Tremendously successful missionary for ten years 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 traveled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet, and he saw the greater part of the Far East. Had the gift of tongues. Miracle worker. Raised people from the dead. Calmed storms. Prophet. Healer.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23
I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands. Do you know what my reward is? It is this in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.
So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.
He who believes and is baptized will be saved
About 10 years ago, I was journeying to join the priesthood. At that time, there was an aggressive recruitment campaign organized by the various religious orders and the diocese of Singapore. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a banner “join the priesthood” or having an elderly woman come up to you and say, “Such a fine young man, have you considered the priesthood?” So naturally I considered the priesthood. Among the various spiritual directors I worked with, one wise priest said to me, “I’m not concerned whether or not you join the priesthood; what I want for you is to help you find your true vocation in life.”
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Francis Xavier. It’s an especially big thing here in Singapore because we’re a mission country and it was this saint that brought Christianity to Singapore via Malaya. As we know St Francis Xavier was a Jesuit who journeyed across Asia, preaching the Good News to people who never heard of Christ before. Today in Singapore the Catholic Church, like many dioceses in developed countries, is closed in on itself. It’s grown large and its leaders in recent years have focused all their attention on building the faith of local Catholics.
There are a few organizations dedicated to evangelization, but even so, most of it focuses on the re-evangelization of existing Catholics. It’s as though the community thinks we’re not Catholic enough, so we need to be taught how to be more Catholic. One bugbear of Catholic leaders is the realization that many Catholics are leaving the Catholic Church for other churches. There’s a saying among those involved in catechism: The Sacrament of Confirmation is the indication that it’s time to stop going to church. Our Catholics are at a loss as to how to stop its members from leaving. It’s a problem for them, but why should it be?
Many Catholics don’t stop being Christian. We’re still baptized, but developing our relationship with God in another Christian church. True-blue Catholics make it sound like, “Oh, you’re not going to church, you bad person, come on back, God is waiting for you.” They don’t seem to understand that God is also present in other Christian churches. These ex-Catholics still believe in Jesus and they are still baptized – they are saved as Jesus promised in the gospel reading. But for Catholics here, it’s usually not enough.
The Catholics I’ve met believe in one catholic church, and they believe that it is the Catholic Church. My belief may not be “Catholic”, but I believe that the one catholic church comprises all Christians who believe in Christ. To draw an analogy, when a man decides to join the priesthood, he can become a priest in any religious order. The charisms and spirituality vary, but he is still a priest. Likewise, when a person decides to become a Christian, he can become a Christian in any Christian church. The spirituality, doctrines and rites vary, but he is still a Christian. That’s the universal church. One baptism, one faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We pray for the unity of Christians in the world.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for those persons who drew us to Him.