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St. Francis Xavier baptizing a convertFrancis Xavier was born in the Castle of Xavier, in Navarre, Spain.

The youngest of a large noble family linked to Spanish royalty, he had ambitious dreams, and at eighteen set out to study law at the University of Paris. Good-looking, intelligent, charming and high born, young Xavier had the world at his feet.

Having earned his licentiate, he one day met a man, conspicuous for his age among such a young class; a man who had the look of a soldier, yet the air of a hermit. Like himself, he was a nobleman from Northern Spain. His name, Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius had recently made a profound conversion, had spent a long time in solitude and was now studying Latin in preparation for the priesthood. He was also feeling the call to found a new company of men, soldiers willing to fight for the kingdom of Christ on earth.

Detecting in Xavier the seeds of greatness, Ignatius endeavored to turn Xavier’s worldly ambition heavenward. Every time the two met, Ignatius commented, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if, in the end he loses his soul?”

In the end, Xavier was among the first seven men who vowed themselves to the service of God at Montmartre in 1534, the first members of the Company of Jesus, or Jesuits.

Appointed as a missionary to the East Indies in 1541, Francis Xavier finally arrived in Goa after a grueling sea voyage lasting thirteen months. He had also been constituted by the Pope as Apostolic Nuncio to the East.

At his missionary post, Francis Xavier was untiring in the pursuit of souls, ministering not only to the natives of India and the Malabar Coast, but to the Portuguese colonizers of the area, who, at times, had lapsed into scandalous conduct. His unquenchable zeal was also full of charitable tact and he made people feel he was one of them. With the learned he was learned, with those in authority he was a statesman, with the simple he was simple, and with the poor he was poor. His charity and charm were irresistible, and his power of miracles amazing. For people ignorant of the Faith, he fit the truths of religion to popular tunes that spread all over. He once baptized so many in a day, he could hardly lift his arms.

St. Francis Xavier sitting under a rough shelter, embracing a crucifixIn 1549, hearing of the island of Japan, which had never been introduced to Christ, he set out with a Jesuit priest, a lay brother, and three Japanese converts. Learning Japanese in a short time, and realizing that evangelical poverty did not have the same appeal in Japan as in India, he presented himself and his retinue to the authorities as representatives of Portugal. They wore fine clothes and offered costly gifts, provided by the authorities of India. St. Francis Xavier planted in Japan the first seeds of Christianity.

In 1553 Xavier fulfilled another great dream, that of reaching China. Prevented by a fever from reaching the mainland itself, he died within sight of it, on the island of Sancian.

He was only forth-six years old. His body, found incorrupt despite having been laid in lime, was brought back to Malacca where it was received with great honors. Later translated to Goa, it is incorrupt to this day.

Francis Xavier was canonized in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer.

In 1927, Pope Pius XI declared St. Francis Xavier and the then newly-canonized St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patron Saints of all Catholic foreign missions.

 


 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 19, 2019

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently...

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November 19

 

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently and devoutly
than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction.

St. Edmund the Martyr


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Nerses I of Armenia

King Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's Holy and Divine Bod...

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St. Nerses I of Armenia

Born of royal descent, Nerses was the son of At'anagenes and his mother was the sister of King Tigranes VII and a daughter of King Khosrov III. His paternal grandfather was St. Husik I whose paternal grandfather was St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian king to Christianity and became the first Patriarch of Armenia.

Nerses spent his youth in Caesarea and married a Mamikonian princess named Sanducht, who bore him a son, St. Isaac the Great. After his wife's death, he was appointed chamberlain to King Arshak of Armenia, but entered the ecclesiastical state a few years later. In 363, despite his protest of unworthiness, Nerses was consecrated Bishop of Armenia.

He was greatly influenced by St. Basil and, in effort to bring better discipline and efficiency to his diocese convened the first national synod in 365. He encouraged the growth of monasticism and established hospitals. His good deeds and promotion of religion angered the King, who was later condemned by Nerses for murdering his wife Olympia. It is said that Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's holy and divine Body, the Bread of Communion, and administered it to her, killing the queen in church.

Arshak died in battle against the Persians shortly thereafter. Nerses discovered that Pap, the king’s successor, was more ungodly than his predecessor. On account of his sinfulness, the holy man forbade Pap from entering the church until he repented of his ways. Angered, Pap feigned repentance and invited Nerses to dine at the royal table where he poisoned and killed him in 337.

Photo by: Adelchi

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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