By Susan Ciancio
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis Xavier. A couple days ago, we began the joyous season of Advent. Those who knew Francis said he was always filled with an immense joy. Though he died at a young age, he spent the last 15 years of his life spreading that joy to others, helping them see not only the love of Christ, but the love for their fellow man and the dignity inherent in us all. It was this joy and this strength that led to the conversion of thousands. So, it seems fitting that we should combine a reflection of Advent with some of the words of St. Francis to enhance our Advent experience.
But first, let’s get to know this great missionary. Francis Xavier was born to a wealthy family in 1506 in the Kingdom of Navarre, a region that is now divided between Spain and France. A brilliant young man, Francis studied philosophy in college and wanted to spend his life teaching it. But God had other plans. While teaching in Paris, Francis met Ignatius of Loyola, who convinced him to give up his academic life for a life that glorified God.
Francis and a few other men decided to follow Ignatius. Together they took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—and formed what would become the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Several years later, Francis was sent to India, where he became “a missionary apostle, perhaps second only to St. Paul.”
There, he spent his days vising the poor and the sick (especially the lepers), teaching children, baptizing, and spreading the word of God. From India, he traveled to Malaysia and Japan, preaching about Christ and teaching about the dignity of His children. Wherever he went, he would stay with the poor and live as they did, showing his solidarity with them and treating them as Christ would.
This Advent, let us use St. Francis Xavier as our model of how to treat others. Below are four of Francis’ most famous quotes. As we reflect on these, let us use his words to build a culture of life within our own families and communities.
“To fare well in this life, we must be pilgrims ready to go wherever we can serve God our Lord the more.”
Francis traveled extensively spreading the word of God and teaching people about Christ. His treatment of people—especially the poor and the sick—reflected that Christ-like love. If we are to do well in this life, we must spread the culture of life as Francis did and help others see the inherent dignity not only in themselves, but in others. We serve God by serving other people. So let us spend this Advent season making it a point to treat others better than we normally do. Perform small acts of kindness for others. Smile at someone in the store when you don’t really feel like smiling. Leave an anonymous small gift for someone at the office who may seem lonely or who may need some Christmas cheer. Tip your waiter a few extra dollars. Pay for the person behind you in the fast food drive-through line. Christ is coming, and we must prepare. What better way to prepare for His coming—and to remind others that He is coming—than to make Him front and center in people’s lives and treat others as He would treat them.
The season of Advent brings hope—hope for a Christ child who will soon be born and who will deliver us from sin. However, the holiday season also brings light to the fact that many people have lost hope. That is why it is so important for us all to reflect that hope we have in Christ to others and to offer them hope when they despair. Do something kind for those who are suffering to help them realize that they have value and that they matter. Maybe you know someone who suffers from chronic pain, has a serious illness, has lost a job, or who is just feeling lonely and dreading the holidays. Spend extra time with that person. Invite him/her to your house for a nice dinner. Adopt a family who is in need and buy them Christmas gifts. Buy presents for children in a hospital or make a meal for their families. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own lives this time of year. That’s why it’s important to make a conscious decision to remember those who may be forgotten and to give them hope.
Advent is a time of preparation, and we cannot welcome a child so pure and perfect if we have not prepared ourselves. Many churches have penance services. If yours does not, go to confession on your own. Reflect upon your past year and what you could do better. Add more prayer into your daily life. Say the rosary as family. Read the Bible together. Introduce novenas to your children. Remember that talking to God through our prayers—and not just prayers in which we ask for things, but prayers in which we thank Him and praise Him—brings us closer to Him.
Francis Xavier was said to be the greatest missionary ever after St. Paul. Imagine the souls he saved! This Advent, ask yourself what you can do to bring Christ to those around you. There are many ways to evangelize to others. It could be wearing a pro-life T-shirt to help strike up a conversation. It could be through a group at church that serves meals in a shelter. We expect and need mercy from God, but we must also show this mercy to others. Offer your forgiveness to a family member or friend who has wronged you. Create a sign that says “Every person matters” or “God loves you” and stand in front of an abortion facility. God’s mercy knows no bounds. This is His gift to us. Let us share this gift with others this Christmas season.
Our Lord comes in just 22 days. We have ample time to prepare, rejoice, reflect, and pray. Let us put the phones down and turn off the TVs so that we can turn to Christ, hear His words, and let His love flow outward to our families and those around us.