Thought for the Day – 5 November – The Memorial of St Guido Maria Conforti (1865-1931)
The Crucifix Encounter – St Francis Xavier SJ (1506-1552)
and St Guido Maria Conforti, Founder of the Xaverian Missionaries
The Source of My Vocation alongside St Francis Xavier
Conforti had similar experience of the crucifix as Saint Francis Xavier had. It is divided into two part, firstly, is the similar experience of the cross since their childhood and secondly, is the experience during their ministry. Both Conforti and Xavier, contemplated the crucifix since they were children.
“I looked at Him and He looked at me
and it seemed as though
He was telling me many things.”
God revealed the fullness of His love in His Crucified Son. One day this love touched the heart of young Guido Conforti in an almost natural way. He was but a child . Every morning, He stopped at the “Church of Peace” to gaze at the the large Crucifix there.
“The huge crucifix which embellished the altar fascinated him. He looked at the figure of Jesus and he really believed that Jesus looked at him. Whatever the nature of the experience, it moved him deeply. Indeed, so entranced did he become with this crucifix that he became increasingly reluctant to leave the church. ‘It looked at me and told me so many things’, he was to remark one day, speaking of ‘his crucifix’, ‘for me it is a miraculous crucifix. I owe my vocation to it’ he was heard to tell one of his friends.”
This was the beginning of an uninterrupted dialogue with Christ crucified. Later when he was sixty years old and bishop, his sister often found him rapt in ecstasy before that crucifix, which had been brought to his residence, at his request. Was it that dialogue with the Crucified Lord that sparked the idea to found a missionary congregation?
In the same way, Saint Francis Xavier had an experience with the crucifix in the chapel of the castle in Navarra. The story says, that while he was cared by his mother in academic and religious education, he passed some time alone contemplating the crucifix which has a special smile.
“During these early years, Francis was often quite late coming home from classes. When that happened, his mother would begin to worry. Soon she would be searching for him in the squares and alleys of the castle town. Usually, she would find her son alone in Church, kneeling before the main altar, apparently absorbed in prayer.”
This experience of both, Xavier and Conforti, is important because it influenced their entire lives. Both have shown the influence of the crucifix in their writings and especially in their ministry.
Conforti expressed the contemplation of the cross in his writings as bishop and as a founder. As bishop he promoted his motto “Christ is all things” because his spirituality was centred on the person of Christ: “ Christ was always present in his thoughts and in the heart. Christ was his constant companion in all the actions of his life.” He always encouraged the Christians of his dioceses to contemplate the crucifix and to be formed by Him.
As founder of the Xaverian Missionaries, Conforti gave to them the contemplation of the crucifix as the centre of their spirituality. “In the mind of Blessed Guido Conforti, consecration is born of the contemplation of the crucified Christ and of the love made manifest therein .”Consecration is not only to make vows but it is more, an experience of the love of Christ on the cross, which invites the consecrated to imitate this love.”