Saturday, December 3, 2011

Feast of St. Francis XAVIER - Death of Msgr Joe Quinn - Archbishop Durocher's Ministry Begins

Spiritual Friendship
among University Students:
A Reflection for the Feast of St. Francis Xavier

Missionary societies, St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Jesuits the world over and other admirers of the zeal and dynamism of Francis Xavier celebrate his feast today, December 3.

Born a Basque in Navarre, northern Spain on the Tuesday of Holy Week—April 7—in 1506, Xavier died off the coast of China on December 3, 1552, exhausted by his many journeys to share the Gospel message with every soul he could and dreaming of the possibility of proclaiming Christ to the Chinese people.

Xavier was not originally slated for the two-man delegation Ignatius Loyola had selected to accompany a Portuguese expedition to the Indies.  But one of the Jesuits selected fell ill and Ignatius chose Francis to take his place; he had a day to say his farewells and to prepare to set sail.

Thus did Providence designate the one who would transform missiology in his time and become universal patron of the missions (later joined as co-patron by St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, who in her convent lived with a missionary’s heart).

How God prepared Xavier for his vocation is a remarkable story, one that speaks especially to youth even today.  It began—in the way similar movements take place today—at a great centre of learning, the University of Paris, among friends.

Mark Lewis, S.J. describes Xavier on his arrival in Paris seeking an education so as to live comfortably.  His terms readily describe a young man arriving to study, say at an institution such as the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Cite Collegiale or Algonquin College:

“A young student from a ‘good Catholic family’ of means arrives at a Catholic university to ‘qualify’ himself for a comfortable position back home, arranged for by his family.  He is certainly bright enough, personable, good looking, and a capable athlete.  While he follows the requirements of the Church, he isn’t a ‘fanatic’ and tends to avoid those students too interested in excessive prayer or community service outreach.  Studies, of course, are not a huge strain for him, though he generally spends more time with friends at games and the ubiquitous parties than with the books.  Even his communications home are not surprising, “thanks for the allowance, and send more money when you can; no I’m not living as irresponsibly as you may have heard from recent visitors” (America, December 5, 2005).

Xavier had been assigned lodgings at the College Sainte-Barbe with a Savoyard, Pierre Favre, who became the first priest of the “Companions of Jesus”; he was a week younger than Francis, born on April 13, 1506.  They lived together for three years, experiencing the highs and lows of college life.  Blessed Pierre Favre speaks of his indecision in those days, “I used to be constantly agitated and blown about by varying winds, proposing to myself one day to get married, and on other days to qualify as a physician, or lawyer, or school teacher, or doctor of theology, or just a plain priest.”  Xavier, for his part was a gadabout and roisterer, with the fear of a new disease named syphilis helping him adhere to good moral behaviour.    

Into their lives in February 1528 there came Inigo de Loyola (only later did he go by the name of Ignatius), fifteen years their senior.  Loyola was looking for “friends in the Lord” who would join him in “helping souls” to reform their lives and so renew the Church. To answer objections from the Spanish Inquisition that he could not help souls spiritually without having studied theology, he had gone back to school, even learning Latin with schoolboys.

Francis was not at first taken with his fellow Basque; there is evidence he took the new lodger as a joke and was sarcastic about his efforts to bring souls closer to God.  But he saw the change that Inigo worked in Favre, helping him find freedom from scruples and becoming more self-confident.  Loyola set to work on Francis, even finding him students to tutor and helping him through his financial crises with money that he had begged for his own studies.

Tradition has it that Loyola helped Xavier surrender to Christ’s will for him by repeating to him Our Lord’s words, “What does it profit anyone to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mark 8.36)

Whatever the truth of that, Xavier wrote to his brother about the influence of Loyola on his life, “it never will be possible for me to repay my full debt to him, both for his having often helped me with money and friends, and for his having been the cause of my separation from bad company, which in my inexperience I did not recognize as such.”

These decisive friendships in the Lord made while studying at university remind the Church of the importance of chaplaincy activities, which offer our young people the chance to integrate faith and reason and to develop their spirituality as they shape the future directions of their lives.  They also point to the important role of bodies such as Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry and Catholic Christian Outreach in building networks of Catholics who wish to live boldly their attachment to Christ and His Church while in studies.

Xavier, Loyola and Favre—and seven others who joined them in Paris as “companions of Jesus”—became the nucleus of a new religious order in the Church, now known as the Society of Jesus.  In this year in which Jesuits in Canada celebrate the 400th year of their arrival in New France, they are also happy to remember their founding fathers, particularly today St. Francis Xavier.

* * *


O God, who through the preaching of Saint Francis Xavier won many peoples to yourself, grant that the hearts of the faithful may burn with the same zeal for the faith and the Holy Church may everywhere rejoice in an abundance of offspring. Through our Lord.

* * * * * *


I was saddened to learn of the death on Thursday of Msgr Joe Quinn who had hosted Father James Conn and me when we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in the Tuam Archdiocese in June and December 2010, and in March 2011, as we conducted the visitation.  He will be missed by his confrere priests and by the many pilgrims to whom he gave a warm welcome.

His wake will be held this evening and the funeral tomorrow afternoon at the Basilica Church; he will be buried on the grounds of the Shrine.


* * * * * *


Here are some photographs of events attendant on Wednesday evening's installation of Archbishop Durocher as bishop of the Archdiocese of Gatineau.

Papal Nuncio , Archbishop Pedro Lopez-Quintana presided the inauguration of the new apostolic ministry, which took place at the beginning of Mass.

As it was the feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, the bishops of the Gatineau ecclesiastical province (Amos, Mont-Laurier, Rouyn-Noranda) were vested in red; the rest of the bishops wore white, which can substitute for other colours.


No comments:

Post a Comment