Ever since I first heard about St. Francis Xavier as a child, I’ve been totally in awe of him: his courage, his tenacity, his vision, his energy, his faith… To me he has always seemed to occupy a world far above the ordinary world which the rest of us inhabit, a world which I can admire from a distance, but can never hope to glimpse or comprehend.
And yet, paradoxically, Francis Xavier has never appeared to be remote or unreachable. To me, he comes across with a warmth and a humanity that make him wonderfully attractive and approachable. ‘Do not put on solemn airs when you speak with the people,’ he wrote to the Jesuits who followed him to the Far East, echoing his own practice. ‘Be very lowly and modest in all your dealings with others. Learn to pardon and support their weaknesses very patiently, reflecting that if they are not good now, they will be some day.’
It is through his modesty, gentleness and patience, rather than his heroic exploits, that Francis can best speak to us today. I can hear him encouraging young people to be fearless in dreaming their dreams of a better world. I can imagine him urging distraught parents not to lose faith in their teenage children, however wayward they may be. I can see him reviving hope in priests and religious who have become despondent at the scandals that have engulfed our Church. I can imagine him whispering words of comfort to the sick and bringing peace to the dying.
And I can hear him say to all of us, whether in Europe or Asia, in Africa or the Americas: Place all your trust in God for, despite your flaws and infidelities, he is ever present with you, tirelessly working for your good and for the good of the whole human race.