Canada’s 150th Anniversary
The relic pilgrimage of St. Francis Xavier is a gift for the Church in Canada as we close our 150th anniversary year. This Pilgrimage will bring the first class relic of St. Francis Xavier to North America for the first time in generations. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness and venerate the incorruptible first class relic of probably the greatest missionary and evangelist the world has ever seen since St. Paul the Apostle.
The veneration of relics has a track record of providing extraordinary graces, and we expect this tour will be no exception. We are anticipating the particular extraordinary graces of healing, the conversion of souls and the raising up of missionary disciples who are abandoned to God’s will. We cannot predict what will happen, but we do know that through this relic you have the unique opportunity to personally encounter the tender heart of Jesus.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa in coordination with the Society of Jesus and Catholic Christian Outreach are working together to deliver this lifetime opportunity to Canadians so that we may encounter Jesus, and be inspired to work together for the renewal of the world. The pilgrimage will be passing through every CCO city in the month of January as well as Quebec City, Regina, and Antigonish. The schedule and more information will be available soon on cco.ca/relic. Listen to a podcast episode on the relic pilgrimage HERE.
CCO’s 30th Anniversary
CCO considers St. Francis Xavier (along with St. Therese of Lisieux) as our patron Saint because of his zeal for souls and his heart to reach the whole world with the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. CCO members also identify with St. Francis Xavier’s time at university where he had his conversion and call to mission. A “heart for the world” is one of CCO’s five founding tenets and also our special theme for this year. The following quote illustrates his burning heart for those who do not know Christ:
“Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!…I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like—even to India.”
St. Francis Xavier’s Zeal for Souls
St. Francis Xavier is considered by many to be the greatest evangelizer since St. Paul. His missionary travels to Asia brought him to nations such as India, Malaysia and Japan.
St. Francis Xavier was born in 1506 into Spanish nobility. In 1525, he went to study at the University of Paris where he excelled as an athlete and was very popular amongst his peers.
His roommate was the older St. Ignatius Loyola, whom he initially despised but eventually became his mentor in faith. St. Ignatius facilitated St. Francis Xavier’s deeper conversion and his call to the priesthood. They and a handful of friends were inspired to begin a new religious order, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
In 1540, at a moment’s notice, St. Francis Xavier was asked to replace another Jesuit on mission to Asia. He did not hesitate to follow God’s will. He had a charism of languages and could miraculously converse in the native language of those to whom he went. It was important to him that local disciples were raised up and equipped to continue ministering and evangelizing others in the region.
On December 3, 1552, St. Francis Xavier died in Shangchuan Island off the Chinese coast. He was within sight of his next missionary project, mainland China, when he fell ill with fever and subsequently passed away. He was only 46 years old.
Only his arm will be coming?
It is believed that, with this arm, he baptized over 100,000 people.
The relic is normally kept in Rome at the Jesuits’ mother Church, the Church of the Gesù, and only on rare occasion does it leave this revered spot across from the tomb of St. Ignatius for pilgrimage. The rest of his remains are in his tomb in Goa, West India. His entire body, including this relic of his arm, are incorrupt. Saints are referred to as incorrupt when their bodies miraculously do not experience natural decay. In the relic’s pilgrimage across Canada, you will be able to see St. Francis Xavier’s arm and it will only be partially decayed, even though he passed away 465 years ago.
Why Venerate Relics?
The Catholic Church is very incarnational in the way we approach God and understand his relating to us. We believe that God comes to us through physical matter. For example, baptism involves water, and the Eucharist involves eating bread. The Sacraments and sacramentals are tangible ways to encounter God’s grace and help. As Catholics, we also venerate people, places and things of spiritual significance. This is much like in our human experience. When we have lost a loved one, going to “their places” and touching “their things” evoke reverence, affection and connection to them. Similarly, we make a pilgrimage to the tomb of a saint, or affectionately touch the items they used in their day-to-day lives.
There are various levels of relics: body/bones of a Saint (1st class), objects/clothing that belonged to a Saint (2nd class), and objects that touched a first class relic (3rd class). In this pilgrimage, you will encounter a 1st class relic.
The relics of Saints provide for an incarnational experience of God’s graces. As Catholics, we believe that, in the Communion of Saints, we can turn to the Saints to pray on our behalf before God. Relics, in a tangible way, provide an opportunity for a special connection with that Saint because their body matters to God and someday will be reunited with their soul.
We do not adore the relics, but we “venerate” them. This is physically done by kissing your fingers and touching the reliquary, or simply by standing before the relic with a prayerful attitude. Veneration is an encounter with God’s healing power. We see it with the healing of a man who touched the prophet Elisha’s bones. We also see the healing from clothing that touched Jesus (the hemorrhaging woman who touched his cloak), and when the faithful touched fabrics that had touched St. Paul.
“We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.”
— St. Jerome
So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet.
2 Kings 13:20-21
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.
Great Resources for More Information
Matt Fradd’s Pints with Aquinas Podcast: What Are Relics? Why Should We Venerate them?
Video by Bishop Barron from the GESU church in Rome, July 27, 2017. This is a short video but shows his affection for praying at the tombs and relics of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, talking to them like friends.
Friends, while in Rome I was grateful to spend some time at the Church of the Gesù praying for you at the tomb of St. Ignatius and the relic of St. Francis Xavier. Here's an update from the steps of that great church. For more videos like this go to: https://PivotalPlayersFilming.com
Posted by Bishop Robert Barron on Thursday, July 27, 2017
Musing on the Teeth of St. Ambrose by Bishop Robert Barron August 01, 2017