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Celebrate the Teachings of St. Francis Xavier This Advent

By Susan Ciancio

On Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis Xavier. It is also the first day of Advent—the most joyful season of the liturgical year. 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 explore the life of 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 visiting 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 strengthen our relationship with Christ and to teach us how to compassionately and respectfully interact with others. Below are three 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.

Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.”

Just as St. Francis Xavier led others to Christ, it is our job as parents to guide our children to Christ. If we faithfully attend Mass, perform works of mercy, talk about Mary and the saints, and pray and engage in activities together, such as reading CLSP’s Advent reflection booklet as a family, our children will be more likely to remain faithful as they grow. Building that foundation of faith is paramount to their faith lives.

“Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.”

What are our small ambitions in life? They are different for everyone. But as we examine our lives, and as we teach our children to examine theirs, we will find that throughout our day, we are putting many things before Christ. When we do so, we weaken our relationship with Him. So, this Advent, let us take time to contemplate the things that we place importance on, and let us remember that God should be the most important thing in our lives.

“It is impossible to find a saint who did not take the ‘two Ps’ seriously: prayer and penance.” 

Advent is the perfect time to increase our prayer life and to do penance. God sent His Son to us as a tiny baby. He did so out of love and because He wants us with Him for all eternity. Let us set aside time this Advent for reflection, for prayer, and to go to confession. Most churches have extra hours for confession this time of year. Make it a point to take the family and to explain the importance of seeking God’s forgiveness; then demonstrate His mercy by forgiving others.

Advent is a beautiful time of year. Let us remember the joyful example of St. Francis Xavier as we prepare for the coming of Christ.