Francis Xavier – the relic of whose forearm recently made a tour around Canada last year – was one of those remarkable men of history, who give all for a given cause, whose intensity echoes through the ages, symbolized by that arm that baptized blessed, shrived, healed thousands, even tens of thousands in the ‘Indies’. His desire to save souls, brought into full force after his own deep and irrevocable conversion was spurred on by the equally intense Ignatius of Loyola at the University of Paris, drove him quite literally to the ends of the earth, to Indian, Japan – struggling and persevering against what to lesser men would seemed insuperable odds – before dying of a fever of a fever on the small island of Shangchuan, 8 or so miles off the coast of China, on this day in 1552.
Francis was a true missionary, in the fullness of that term; as Ad Gentes declares, the document on the missions from the Second Vatican Council:
Yet man must respond to God Who calls, and that in such a way, that without taking counsel with flesh and blood (Gal. 1:16), he devotes himself wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response, however can only be given when the Holy Spirit gives His inspiration and His power. For he who is sent enters upon the life and mission of Him Who “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave” (Phil. 2:7). Therefore, he must be ready to stay at his vocation for an entire lifetime, and to renounce himself and all those whom he thus far considered as his own, and instead to “make himself all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Once he left Europe, Xavier never saw his native land again, and died in exile, as we all must in some sense. But blessed are those who leave all for the sake of the Gospel. We could use more of his intensity in our Church, that there really is much at stake in this pilgrimage of life, and we will all be asked what we have done with the time and talents we have been given, in the cause of Christ, the beginning and the end of all history, for only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, as Gaudium et Spes declares, does the mystery of man make sense.