The Relic of St. Francis Xavier

Fr. Cristino Bouvette, Director of Vocations

A culminating moment in the ritual of ordination for a new priest is when, after having received the laying on of hands and investiture in the priestly garments, the new priest kneels before the Bishop who anoints his hands with Sacred Chrism. The Bishop says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifices to God.” The anointed hands of the priest, therefore, are to become a public sign of Christ’s ongoing ministry to His people in order that they may be made holy. There is no more important and powerful way that this occurs than through the sacrament of Baptism.

Hence, it is very fitting that, to this day, is preserved the incorrupt hand of St. Francis Xavier – the 16th century Jesuit missionary who is reported to have baptized more than 30,000 souls in multiple countries stretching from India to Japan during his voyages. He will continue his missionary endeavours on a cross-country tour throughout Canada in January 2018, as this physical reminder of his undying priestly ministry is received into our midst.

Upon having chosen the name of Francis, it was presumed by many that our Holy Father — the first Jesuit Pope in history — was pointing to his own Jesuit predecessor. It didn’t take long for Pope Francis to clarify that it was under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi that he had chosen his name – but certainly not because he didn’t honour and revere the memory of his saintly confrere! In fact, in the programatic document of his whole pontificate, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds all of us who are part of the Body of Christ that we are meant to live out our baptismal call through the identity of being “Missionary Disciples,” as he put it. “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’ If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” [Jn 1:41] (E.G. 120).

An organization in our nation who has been taking up and living this call to missionary discipleship for almost 30 years now is the university campus movement, Catholic Christian Outreach. CCO has facilitated the conversion or reversion of innumerable souls across our country through their tenets of proclaiming the gospel, clearly and simply, to one person at a time. This year, in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, CCO has partnered with Archbishop Terence Predergast, SJ and the Jesuit curators of the relic of St. Francis at the Church of the Gesù in Rome to bring this sacred artifact to tour the cities where CCO is doing their work on our university campuses.

We will be blessed to host the visit of St. Francis Xavier’s relic to Calgary and honour his presence with liturgical prayer and personal veneration from January 21 - 22, 2018. More details are soon to come, but one thing is for sure: we should already now be praying for a fresh outpouring of the same missionary zeal that inspired St. Francis to renew the evangelical efforts of our diocese. St. Francis Xavier, pray for us! 

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