To read Fr. Raymond's homily from 13 January 2018 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Mississauga, on the occasion of the St. Francis Xavier relic pilgrimage, click here.
3 December 2017
FEAST OF SAINT Francis Xavier
Welcome to my new website, which makes available in a convenient place my columns which appear in various places. I am grateful to my readers, who are generous to give my work a portion of their time. I hope that this website makes it easier for them to follow what I write.
The site launches today, 3rd December 2017, which is suitable enough for a new venture, as this year it is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year. It is also the feast day of Saint Francis Xavier, who is the patron saint of Goa. My family comes from Goa, and we are proud of our patron, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church since St. Paul. The feast of a missionary saint is a blessed day to launch a website which is intended, in part, to carry the light of the Gospel to places unknown.
St. Francis Xavier died 465 years ago today, on 3rd December 1552. Fifteen years ago, on the 450th anniversary of his death, I had the privilege of offering the Holy Mass at the altar of St. Francis Xavier in the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Rome, where the relic of his right arm is venerated. It was a few months after I was ordained a priest, and I was there with my fellow new priests. You can find here the homily I preached on that occasion. In a few weeks, that relic of St. Francis Xavier will be traveling across Canada. Information about that pilgrimage can be found here https://cco.ca/relic/.
Blessings to you this Advent!
3 December 2002
Feast of Saint Francis Xavier
450th Anniversary of Death
The Most Powerful Thing on Earth
During their pilgrimage to Rome for our diaconate ordination, my sisters came to pray before this altar, this relic of the right arm of St. Francis Xavier, and later told me how they were moved by the thought that this arm may well have baptized our ancestors in Goa, to whom St. Francis brought the faith some 460 years ago. He was only a missionary for 10 years, and in that ten years he became to the second millennium what St. Paul was to the first – the greatest missionary of his age.
How many times I have come to this altar these past five years, asking the intercession of the patron saint of my people, and giving thanks to God for my baptism, the baptism of my parents, the baptism of my grandparents, and so on, all the way back in a long line to those 16th century Goans who were baptized by the brightest star of the Society of Jesus, save for the blessed founder, Saint Ignatius, whose tomb opposite has been saluted by this relic of St. Francis for almost four centuries now. We pray today in a special way for the Society of Jesus. In 1540 the Society was approved by Pope Paul III, and the next year St. Francis was already in India, teaching the children how to make the Sign of the Cross.
And so we come, my dear brother priests, 450 years to the day after this arm was finally stilled, 450 years after this arm made the Sign of the Cross for the final time, 450 years after the noble soul of a holy Catholic priest went to heaven, allowing this arm to rest after a decade of zealous missionary work in Goa, Malacca, China and Japan. We come to give thanks for our baptism, but we also come as priests to this priest, who says to us together with St. Paul: For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
My brothers, the hand before us was anointed even as our hands were anointed. His anointing was in 1537, ours in 2002, but 465 years does not change the mission. Ours is the same mission: To carry the Holy Name of Jesus – to which this church is dedicated – into all the world. The Lord gave St. Francis Xavier 15 years for his priestly work. We may have more, we may have less – yet the Lord had entrusted to us a specific mission which either we will do, or it will go undone.
… In my name they will cast out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up serpents,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them;
they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.
This is what Jesus sends out His first apostles, His first priests, to do. Listen to those verbs: cast out, pick up, lay their hands. This is work of their hands, the work of priestly hands.
This should not surprise us because the most powerful thing in the world is the right hand of a priest.
My brothers, there is nothing more powerful on earth than that anointed hand in the reliquary before us, than the anointed hands of a priest – than our anointed hands.
This is not a cause for arrogance, or presumption, for St. Paul reminds us that we have no ground for boasting.
It is Jesus Christ Himself who chose that these hands should be the instruments by which His redemptive work is carried to the ends of the earth for the salvation of souls. It is He who chose that baptism would come, and only come, to the pagan souls of India through that right arm before us.
We rightly marvel at the miracle of how new life is brought into being through the bodies of the parents, sanctified for that purpose in Holy Matrimony. Even greater is the mystery by which supernatural life – the very life of the Trinity – is brought to those babies through the hands of the priest.
If you think that it is a great thing for a man to pick up a serpent, remember that St. Francis’ right arm was raised in absolution countless times, and even now, as we raise our right arms in the confessional, the demons tremble before it.
Not only the demons tremble, my brothers, but the angels too, when we extend our hands and make Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father, present on the altar. Do we truly believe this? Should we doubt, let the faithful remind us the next time we hear their response at the end of the offertory. Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis. They are praying that the Lord may find acceptable that which is at our hands.
Is there anything more powerful that the right hand of a Catholic priest? It will be our turn to tremble when we, like St. Francis 450 years ago today, face our judgment, and we are asked what we did with this power. We shall be asked to account for those souls who needed this power, but found our hands idle rather than outstretched. And fearful will that judgment be if our hands should ever be the instruments, not of grace, but of corruption, especially of the purity of the innocent.
It is a singular grace of Providence that we should be here at this altar on this date; that a son of Goa should return here to offer the Holy Sacrifice which this Spanish saint went to India to offer. My brother priests, before the relics of this great saint we dedicate anew our hands to the service for which our bishops anointed them. May this saint, so dear to my ancestors and to our culture, obtain for us the graces we need to keep our hands pure and undefiled unto the day of our judgment. May they carry to the throne of mercy the souls of those entrusted to our care. And on the last day, when all that has been hidden shall be revealed, may we survey the work of our hands and say together with St. Paul:
I [did] it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
May the Holy Name of Jesus be praised.
St. Ignatius, pray for us.
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us.