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Zeal of St. Francis Xavier needed in new pope, Bishop says

Posted By March 8, 2013 | 12:48 pm | Lead Story #2
Worshippers pray at Novena of Grace at St. John Church. Photo by Tanya Connor
Worshippers pray at Novena of Grace at St. John Church. Photo by Tanya Connor

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER –  Pray that God will raise up a new pope with zeal for evangelization – like St. Francis Xavier.
Bishop McManus asked novena participants to add this to their own petitions. He was preaching at Mass at 12:15 p.m. Monday, the opening day of the 90th annual Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier at St. John Parish, 44 Temple St.
Other preachers also called for – and did – evangelization, and looked to St. Francis Xavier.
Bishop McManus said it was providential that the 90th anniversary is being celebrated during the Year of Faith, which is the theme for this year’s novena. While still pope, Benedict XVI asked all Catholics to live in such a way that their witness to faith will attract others to them, the Church and communion with God, he said.
Bishop McManus spoke of the faith of thousands of people who attended the novena over the years.
“We live in a time when we dare not miss this opportunity to give public witness to our faith,” he said, adding that listeners likely have family members who have left the Church, like many others have.
“A collective spiritual amnesia has settled over us,” he said; people have forgotten they came from and are going to God and that they get there by keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus.
“We have been created for eternity,” and to lose sight of that is very sad, he noted.
Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II spoke of the new evangelization, the bishop said.
“Evangelization is introducing other people to the person and message of Jesus,” he said. Few did it as powerfully as St. Francis Xavier, to whom St. Ignatius of Loyola posed Christ’s question: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his soul?” (Mk 8:36)
“That’s a question all of us must meditate on,” Bishop McManus said.
Francis Xavier lived only 46 years, and was a priest for 15, but what a life he had, the bishop said. He was a missionary to India and Japan and wanted to be one in China. He baptized so many people his co-workers had to hold up his arm.
“What would the Church be like today if we had many Francises?” Bishop McManus asked. People who are on fire with the faith, not drab.
St. Ignatius told St. Francis Xavier to set the world on fire with the love of Christ, Bishop McManus said, adding, “May God grant us such a pope.”
Bishop Reilly, who preached at Monday’s 9:15 a.m. Mass, spoke of praying that people’s faith grow stronger during this year and beyond in his prepared text.
They seek the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, who made the Church better, visible and active for the people of his day, the bishop said. He reached across the world to open the doors of faith to those who had never heard of Jesus.
This missionary spirit is vital to Catholics today, who must be missionaries in their own way in these indifferent and often faithless days, the bishop said. He said they must keep their own faith strong and teach it to others; God counts on them to do so.
They are pilgrims, on their way to their eternal home, he said. But while in this world they must bear witness to, rejoice in, treasure, defend and hand on the truth. The truths of the faith form them and give them reason to live joyfully and hopefully.
Their faith informs their view of the world, shapes their personality and brings light and life to all they do and say. The faith makes Christ’s Bride, the Church, holy and beautiful, by God’s grace.
Xaverian Brother Thomas M. Fahey too spoke of life here and hereafter, of faith and of St. Francis Xavier.
As a state police chaplain, he talked with officers who’d seen the horrors of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, he said. Then the pope retired, and then he had the novena to speak at. He figured everyone could use “a shot in the arm, something uplifting.” So he offered the following:
“It was God’s holy will that you be given human life. … It was God’s gift to you to become a human being. … If you didn’t … you never would have had the opportunity to spend eternal life with God. … In order to make this happen – second gift – faith.
“If ever I have seen the need for faith, it was dealing with those state troopers,” he said, then continued.
“While God was busy giving, he really went out of his way – his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on that cross to save us from … sins. …
“God gave us some holy men and women to live their lives and ultimately to become saints. And we’re here because of one of the giants – St. Francis Xavier. I’m sure … we have a petition that we’re asking this giant … to present to God.
“What a wonderful institution was created when the Novena of Grace came into being. We’re celebrating 90 years. This church has been a bastion of honoring St. Francis Xavier.
“Our life, our faith, our Savior, Jesus Christ … and St. Francis Xavier.” Brother Fahey urged listeners to praise God for these gifts and St. Francis Xavier for presenting him with their petitions.
This year’s special novena guest is Jesuit Father Francis Britto, who is to preach Sunday and give a talk with a time for questions after the 12:15 p.m. Mass. After Mass he is also to show a short movie about St. Francis Xavier. He is a professor in the English Studies department and Graduate School of Linguistics at Sophia University in Tokyo.