Monday, December 03, 2018

"You can not covet popular approbation without betraying your ministry." ~ Feast day of Saint Francis Xavier

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"Show no degree of irresolution as though you wavered betwixt the world and Christ. Remember that you can not covet popular approbation without betraying your ministry."
~Saint Francis Xavier
December 3 is the feast of the great missionary, Saint Francis Xavier, one of the earliest members of the Society of Jesus and a companion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He is best remembered for his mission to India in the 1540s and later visits to southeast Asia, China and Japan where he scattered fruitful missions in his wake. He died in AD 1552 and his partially incorrupt relics may be seen to this day in Goa, India.

Click here to read a short biography of Saint Francis Xavier from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The above quote from St. Francis Xavier may be found in a letter of advice to one of his fellow missionaries. Here is the quote with additional context:
Always treat those with whom you are concerned with mildness and respect. Let not the least roughness, or haughty carriage appear in you, unless your moderation and humility should be turned to contempt: for on such occasions, have nothing in your intentions but the good of your inferiors, and not making the contempt of your authority the object of your vengeance, you are to make the guilty somewhat sensible of your power. Nothing more encourages the untractable and haughty to rebellion, than the softness and fearful spirit of a governor. And it is not credible how assuming, proud and peremptory a certain sort of people will grow, when once they find the reins slackened, and that their pusillanimous superior is afraid of punishing their want of due respect. Impunity hardens the in their insolence; or rather makes them more and more audacious; which disturbs the peace of religious bodies. Let therefore no consideration, or regard of persons, or any other thing, hinder you from the performance of your duty.
The faithful in Goa, India, venerating the relics of St. Francis Xavier in 2014.
In the visits which are made you, endeavor to find out the bottom and end of their design who come to see you. For some there are the least part of whose business is to be instructed in spirituals—it is only temporal interest which brings them to you. There will even be some, who will come to make known the state of their soul, for no other motive than to acquaint you with the necessities of their families. The best counsel I can give you, is to stand upon your guard with such and to be rid of them. Let them know from the very first, that you can neither furnish them with money, nor procure them any favor from other men. Be warned to have as little discourse with this sort of people as you possibly can: for most commonly they are great talkers, and if you trouble yourself with giving them the hearing, you are almost certain to lose your time.
For what remains, disquiet not yourself with what they think or say of you. Let them murmur on: You are to show no degree of irresolution, as though you wavered betwixt the world and Christ. Remember that you cannot covet the popular approbation without betraying your ministry or becoming a deserter of your sacred colors, in going back from that evangelical perfection which you are obliged to follow with an unrelenting ardor.
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Taken from: The Life and Missionary Labors of that Holy Man, Francis Xavier, Commonly Called The Apostle of the Indies, 1814.

In the 1950s, Louis de Wohl wrote a fine novelization of the life of Saint Francis Xavier in his book, Set All Afire, published in a modern edition by Ignatius Press. I read this book some years ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. It reads like one of the great epics biblical movies of the same era, but with greater depth and more intimate, historically accurate portrayals of the principal characters.

If you're looking for a gift for a serious Catholic, I heartily recommend it. As with other of de Wohl's works, Set All Afire is particularly appropriate for young Catholics ages 14 and up.

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