This year, the right arm of St. Francis Xavier is travelling across Canada, giving thousands of Catholics the opportunity to venerate the first-class relic of a Saint who is said to have baptized over 100,000 people across the world. When I had the opportunity to venerate the relic, I didn’t realize the power of saintly intercession.
What Jesus Taught Me Through St. Francis Xavier
I thought the relic was more of a cool historical museum piece than a powerful way to interact with a holy Saint. But despite this, through venerating the relic, Jesus taught me three incredible things.
As a young man in college, St Francis Xavier experienced an incredible conversion with the help of the Holy Spirit and his friend, St. Ignatius Loyola (the founder of the Jesuit order). One of the gifts of his intercession is an equally powerful conversion in our own lives.
As practicing Catholics, sometimes we forget our need to be converted. We become comfortable, thinking, “I pray daily,” or “I go to Confession regularly,” and so our relationship with God becomes stagnant. We forget to grow. But Jesus is always asking to draw in closer; He is constantly inviting us to be in a deeper relationship with Him. As C. S. Lewis says, “Further up, further in!” On this earth, there’s no end to the spiritual life, no “final goal.” Heaven is the goal.
But, as I learned through the gift of conversion from St. Francis’ intercession, conversion is something that should happen to us every day as Catholics. Maybe this means adding five minutes onto our daily prayer time, or maybe it means taking up a new ministry in our parish. Maybe it means learning to love the people in our lives with more selfless generosity. Regardless, Jesus calls us deeper still, and He longs to encounter our hearts in a new way.
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It’s been said that St. Francis Xavier performed countless miracles of healing while he was on his mission. This healing became a powerful witness to the power of God, which helped in his mission of conversion and spreading the Gospel message.
Sometimes, modern Catholics think of healing as something that stays in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. After all, in Acts, people gathered around the apostles just hoping Peter’s shadow would fall over them so they might experience physical and spiritual healing!
But the truth is, the same Holy Spirit that descended on the apostles at Pentecost is the Holy Spirit who is alive in the Church today. The Holy Spirit has the same power to heal, if we are open to inviting Him into our hearts and lives and if we have faith that He is truly capable.
Sometimes, healing doesn’t always look like we want it to. Maybe we have a physical wound—a chronic illness or an injury—but what God really wants to heal is something in our hearts, like a grudge or a wound from an old situation.
When I encountered the relic, I thought I didn’t need any healing! I was perfectly healthy. But God thought otherwise, and He healed unforgiveness which I was clinging to in my heart. Today, the Holy Spirit longs to heal every broken part of us, whether that be in our bodies, our minds, our hearts, or our spirits.
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This just might be the most powerful gift of St. Francis Xavier. He had the gift of an incredible mission, baptizing over 100,000 people. But he almost didn’t end up travelling to China, India, or Japan, where he carried out much of his mission. He was asked to go at the very last minute after another priest was unable to. Despite the change of plans, St. Francis had a missionary abandonment to the will of God for his life. Through his intercession, the Holy Spirit can move us to have the same missionary abandonment.
Sometimes, we think of evangelization as being a vocation for only a few people: people like St. Francis Xavier, who travel across the world baptizing people, or people like Mother Teresa, or people who work in full-time mission. That’s what I thought before St. Francis Xavier’s intercession helped me to really understand evangelization. This idea couldn’t be more wrong. In the Gospels, the first reaction Jesus’ followers have to meeting Him is to run out and tell their friends. Andrew’s first response is to tell his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah.” Simon Peter would later become the first Pope.
The truth is that the natural response to Jesus Christ is mission. Obviously, we aren’t all being called to work as full-time missionaries or enter religious life. For some, our mission is carried out by being a listening ear to a friend who needs some selfless love. Or maybe it’s volunteering at a church program or youth group. Maybe it’s inviting that one friend who is searching for something more to learn about our Catholic Faith. St. Paul wrote that we should not only “revere Christ as Lord,” but that we should “never be afraid to give a reason for the hope that you have.” We need to share the light of Christ with the world. It’s not optional. It’s key to our identity as Catholics.
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St. Francis Xavier and Our Mission
We may not all have the chance to venerate a Saint’s relics, but their intercession is still a powerful and tangible way for us to experience the gifts that Jesus wants to pour into our lives. Maybe in your life, you’re in need of one of these three gifts—conversion, healing, or mission. Maybe you need all three! Regardless, developing a relationship with St. Francis Xavier, one of the most powerful missionaries in Church history, can help us to understand how radically Christ is longing to change our lives, if only we have the courage to let Him.
Have you ever had the chance to venerate a relic of a Saint? What was your experience?
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Katherine DeCoste is a student of English and History at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. When she isn’t writing papers or studying for exams, she spends her time playing music, writing poetry, and striving to serve the Lord in small things.