A few years ago, I had the privilege of being at Xavier Castle in Navane in Northern Spain where St. Francis Xavier grew up.
As a young man he met St. Ignatius Loyola at the university of Paris when he was a student there.
Ignatius, who had been through a conversion experience himself, asked Francis what he intended to do with his life. He said that he wanted to be a lawyer. What would you like to do after that was Ignatius’ reply. Ignatius kept challenging Francis Xavier, and eventually, together with some other idealistic young men, they formed the Jesuit Order.
At first Francis Xavier was rather reluctant to let go of his dreams, but then he embraced his mission wholeheartedly.
After he was ordained a priest, he set off for India on March 15, 1540.
He started his mission in Goa. He worked with a group of neglected new Christians known as the Paravas. He had big linguistic challenges; however, his evident goodness and the force of his conviction overcame difficulties of verbal communication. Soon the Macuans also indicated their desire for Baptism. He Baptised 10,000 of them. He then went to Malacca, then to the Malays and head-hunters in the Moluccas.
Francis proceeded to Japan. Here he adapted and changed his style, and soon had Baptised 2,000 new Christians.
He kept on reflecting and had realised that the way to the conversion of Japan was through China, since it was to the Chinese that the Japanese looked for wisdom. However, he died on the Island of Shangchuan, off the Chinese coast.
Francis struggled with different languages and needed interpreters. He was convinced that the missionary must adapt to the customs and language of the people he evangelises. He personally Baptised about 30,000 people. He was one of the greatest missionaries of all time.
We are all called to share in the mission of Christ.
Our Baptism calls us to evangelise. Each of us is called to do so in our own way, and in response to our personal calling.
In order to be missionaries, we need:
To be respectful of others.
To be ‘wounded healers’.
Meet people where they are.
To go out of our comfort zones in reaching out to others.
To remember that our faith is meant to be shared, it is not just a ‘private matter’.
To be able to distinguish between ‘cultural packages’ and the core of the Christian faith and message.
To not let our human weaknesses and failures deter us from being in for the ‘long haul’.