Thought for the Day – 3 December – The Memorial of St Francis Xavier SJ (1506-1552)
“A near perfect imitation of Christ”
Francis Xavier believed no one was more ill-equipped than he to take the gospel overseas. But he was wrong. En route from Lisbon to Goa, Francis already displayed the cheerfulness and generosity that would become the trademarks of his work. Through his personal charm, he made friends with the toughest seamen on the ship. Then he engaged them in “apostolic conversations,” seeking to win them for Christ.
But Miracles, occurred frequently in his evangelisation to poor villages. Once, while travelling through a pagan territory, Francis learned of a woman who had been in labour for three days and was probably near death. Midwives and sorcerers were treating her with superstitious incantations. Xavier went to the woman’s home and called on the name of Christ to heal her. “I began with the Creed,” he wrote to Ignatius, “which my companion translated into Tamil. By the mercy of God, the woman came to believe in the articles of faith. I asked whether she desired to become a Christian and she replied that she would most willingly become one. Then I read excerpts from the Gospels in that house where, I think, they were never heard before. I then baptised the woman.” As soon as Francis baptised the woman, she was healed and gave birth to a healthy baby.
The woman’s family was so touched by this divine intervention that they invited Francis to instruct and baptise all of them, including the newborn. News then travelled quickly throughout the village. A representative of the Raja, the overlord, gave the village elders clearance to allow Francis to proclaim Christ there. “First, I baptised the chief men of the place and their families,” he wrote, “and afterwards the rest of the people, young and old.”
In another village, crowds besieged Francis, begging him to pray for ailing family members. Missionary and teaching duties overwhelmed him, so he enlisted some enthusiastic children to minister to the sick. He sent the children to the homes of the ill and had them gather the family and neighbours. He trained them to proclaim the creed and to assure the sick that if they believed, they would be cured. Thus, Xavier not only responded to requests for prayer but he managed to spread Christian doctrine throughout the village. Because the sick and their families had faith, he said, “God has shown great mercy to them, healing them in both body and soul.” The children of the village had become little miracle workers.
In his passion for spreading the gospel, in his simple obedience, in his humble disregard for himself, the saint was a near perfect imitation of Christ!