December 3 is
the Feast of Saint Francis Xavier, who was a
great missionary in Asia but before that was a companion of Ignatius of Loyola
since the founding of the Society of Jesus.
In fact, if this year we remember the 500th
anniversary of the conversion of Ignatius of Loyola, we must not forget that in
March 2022 we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the canonisation of both
St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier.
During the Ignatian Year, the Feast of Xavier can
remind us that this saintly man, who was passionate and totally dedicated to
his mission in the service of evangelisation, also followed a path of
conversion. As a student in Paris, he dreamed of glory and sought to carve out
a place for himself among the elite of his time. Contact with his schoolmate,
Ignatius of Loyola, who used the method of the Spiritual Exercises with
Francis, directed him towards a different kind of greatness.
Even after he experienced this initial conversion, he
would have to continually open himself to the action of the Spirit in his life.
For example, he changed his view of the peoples of Asia that he met throughout
the opportunity on St Francis Xavier’s Feast Day to listen again to the
interview given by Fr Renzo de Luca SJ, Provincial of Japan, on the occasion of
Father General’s visit to Tokyo in the summer of 2019. His reflection on the
phenomenon of secularisation is illuminating. It is good to remember that
Francis Xavier left Europe sure of himself and his aims, that today would be
described as proselytism. But he gradually recognised the value of other religious
traditions. Well before the 20th century, Francis Xavier had sown
the seeds of inter-religious dialogue.