Posts Tagged ‘Ignatius of Loyola’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 25 2017 — My companions saw the light — The scales fell from my eyes — These signs will accompany those who believe — This man is a chosen instrument of mine

January 24, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Lectionary: 519

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Reading 1  ACTS 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'”

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Conversion of Saint Paul, By Caravaggio

Acts 9:1-22

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

First Thought From Peace and Freedom
St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God centered and less self-centered existence.
Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by Ignatius to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
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St. Ignatius Loyola
“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

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Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo

Who else in our “modern world” said “scales fell from my eyes”?

In November 1934, a man named Ebby Thacher visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson’s Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober.  Bill W.’s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as “the scales fell from his eyes” and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?  See also:

John Paul II Said no faith, no miracles….

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“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.


Fr. Edward Dowling, SJ,  a friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercises influenced the 12 Steps of AA (which guide many other 12-step programs).  Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or the Exercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. To this Fr. Dowling said, “If it were twenty weeks, you could suspect improvisation. Twenty minutes sounds reasonable under the theory of divine help.”

I recently ran across an article Fr. Dowling wrote showing the parallels between the Exercises and the 12 Steps.  A sample:

St. Ignatius starts with a presumption that our power of faculties are bound by sinful tendencies and addictions to the wrong things. The Spiritual Exercises, therefore, work on the soul in both a negative and positive way. The first section, the consideration of my sins and of their effects in hell, is the negative part. It aims by self-denial to release our wills from our binding addictions, to enable the will to desire and to choose rationally.

The second part of the Spiritual Exercises, start in with a consideration of the Incarnation and going through the Passion and Resurrection, is an effort to see how Christ would handle various situations.

A priest alcoholic, who has written with discernment on the Spiritual Exercises, first pointed out to me the similarity between them and the twelve steps of A.A. Bill, the founder of A.A. recognized that those twelve steps are pretty much the releasing of myself from the things that prevent my will’s choosing God as I understand Him.

Like the Spiritual Exercises, like Christian asceticism in general, the twelve steps are not speculative ideas. They are practical steps. May I suggest some of the parallels between the Spiritual Exercises and the twelve steps.

If you are interested, read more at:

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Jim Harbaugh’s book is the best among several on this topic….


Ideas of Matt Talbot and Self Punishment


“The Problem of Pain and Suffering,” focusing on:

 ”(1) Emmet Fox and New Thought: pain and suffering are caused by wrong thoughts. If we change the way we think, the pain and suffering will disappear. As can be seen, Fox preached many radical New Thought ideas, but he had been born in Ireland, was brought up as a Catholic, and had been trained by the Jesuits. God as Creative Intelligence and the power of Being Itself.

(2) Matt Talbot and self-punishment, the very different path taken by another Irish Catholic, a laboring man in Dublin. Wearing chains around his body, sleeping on a bare wooden plank, and so on. We must atone for our sin and guilt by deliberately inflicting pain and hardship on ourselves before God will forgive us. The self-torture game.

(3) In Ignatian spirituality: pain and suffering exist because life in this fallen world is a war. As a good soldier, you must continue to do your duty and fight for the good down to your last breath, even when surrounded on every side by death and horror. The central Ignatian teaching of the Two Standards (Las Dos Banderas), choosing which of these two battle flags you will follow in the war between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Choosing between the way of Pride and the way of Humility. St. Augustine and the two cities: the City of God vs. the Earthly City, surrender of my ego to God vs. trying to play God myself.”

The overall outline of this 247 page manuscript can be viewed at and worth reading first.

The section that addresses Matt Talbot is found on pages 63-69 at  PDF file or as MS Word DOC file.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
25 JANUARY, 2017, Wednesday, The Conversion of St Paul the Apostle

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Ps 116:1-2; Mark 16:15-18]

How do we bring someone to conversion?  How does conversion take place?  Most of us think that conversion is through understanding.  In other words, we must understand in order to believe.  Such an approach to life and God of course is not wrong.  We must be able to provide good reasons for our belief, otherwise we could be accused of superstition or fundamentalism.

But faith and relationship, and even in other areas of life, cannot be based solely on reason alone.  Indeed, many of our decisions and convictions in life are determined not so much by reason, even if it is not excluded entirely.  What we are, what we believe and what we stand for are very much colored by our experiences in life.  Experiences change our horizon, in the way we look at the world and life, God included.  Pope Emeritus Benedict highlights this succinctly in his first pontifical encyclical when he wrote, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”  (Deus Caritas est, 1)

Those who reduce faith to mere understanding and cognitive knowledge remain weak in their faith.  A cerebral understanding of our faith is built on sand.  When the “rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Mt 7:27)  Indeed, when tragedy strikes, a terminal sickness, a business failure, a betrayal, God is thrown out of the picture.  When times are good, we do not mind believing in God, but when we are down and out, and God seems so far away, we will give up faith in Him.  Why should we believe in the existence of God when we cannot feel His love for us?

Clearly, a weak encounter with the personal love and healing grace of God in Christ puts our faith in question and at risk.  When we think of our young people in the way they are brought up in their faith, it is all information and knowledge about the teachings of the Church, with very little God-experience in class.  No wonder the young people always complain that catechism classes are boring.  For many of them, it is just another academic lesson, only that it takes place in the compound of the church and not in school.  We have failed to impart a God-experience to them because we do not expose them sufficiently to prayers and worship, sharing of the Word of God, and by our lives of loving concern.  We labour under the false notion that if they know more about their faith, they will be good Catholics.

The conversion story of St Paul is a good example to remind us that conversion is not the result of doctrinal input but a personal encounter with the Lord.  We read that Paul was a devout Jew.  He studied under the most famous Rabbi, Gamaliel “and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains.”  How could such a person, so deeply convinced of Judaism and one who lived so faithfully the Laws, suddenly change his mind towards Christianity and proclaim Jesus as the Christ?  Even the Jews were surprised.  “All who heard him were astounded and said, ‘Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?’”

The answer that is beyond intellectual debate is of course his personal encounter with the Lord on his way to Damascus.  Whether we agree or disagree with him in intellectual discourse about Christ, we cannot dispute his personal experience of the Risen Lord, symbolized by the bright light.  The encounter was so deep, for when he fell to the ground, he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered: Who are you, Lord? And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.’”  As far as St Paul was concerned, he heard the Lord clearly and distinctly and he even had a vision.  When people speak from an experience, the response can only be one of belief or disbelief.  Even those who claim to be visionaries are doubted.  Of course, we could investigate using the rational approach, but in the final analysis, it is a question of probability, not prove.  Authorities can rule out the experience, but at the end, it is a question of faith.

Indeed, our experiences shape the way we form opinions and decisions.  We are all coloured by our daily life experiences.  Nominal Catholics are always at risk of changing their faith.  They could be going for Sunday masses regularly as a matter of routine or obligation.  But if one day they are awaken through a strong religious encounter in another church or even in other religions, you can be sure that he would leave the church for the religious institution that gave him the God-experience.  No amount of doctrinal argument or intellectual discourse can convince one who has had a radical experience of God.  So we should not be surprised if a member of our family has left the Catholic Church.  The fault lies in us because we never afforded or mediated a Christ-experience to them.  They are analogous to St Paul before his conversion.  They know about the faith and follow the laws but they lack a personal encounter with God.

How do we know that we have had a deep encounter with the living God?  How sure are we that we have had a deep religious experience?  One way is the need for confirmation from religious authorities.  Ananias confirmed the vision for Saul, when he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  But confirmation from authorities is not sufficient to prove that what we have came from God.  Even authorities would look for some proof of the effects of our religious experience in our daily life before confirming our vision.

Indeed, in the final analysis, we can be sure that the religious encounter is real only when we have a change of horizon; in the way we look at life.  A person who has had an encounter with God is filled with faith and love for God.  Not only does he change his values but he also becomes a witness to what he has seen and heard.  That was what St Paul did after his conversion.  When God heals us or gives us a God-experience, it is not for us to hide it but to share Him with others.  Ananias in healing Paul said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”

And that was what St Paul did.  He fulfilled the plan that God had for him.  “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”  St Paul gave his entire life for the gospel.  If we want to the messengers of the Good News, we too need to demonstrate in the power of the Spirit, our own personal conviction of God in our lives of service and love.  Equally important, as the gospel suggests to us, is that we must not just use words but signs to “prove” that Jesus is the Christ, the love of God through our works of healing and mercy.  “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore


Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 — “If the Lord is to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.”

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”


From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.
The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.





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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.



“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]



What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
21 DECEMBER, 2016, Wednesday, Weekday of Advent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a; Ps 32:2-3,11-12,20-21; Luke 1:39-45   ]

Christmas is often associated with joy.  One of the carols that we like to sing is “Joy to the world!”   What is the basis of this joy?  Namely, that the savior has come and that Christ has come to reign with His love and truth.  With Christ’s coming, there will be peace in our land and there will be love among men.  The thought of Christ’s coming therefore fills those without love and without peace with expectant joy.  This joy is born out of this promise.  This is the message of today’s scripture readings as we enter the 5th day of the “O” Antiphons that prepare us for the coming of Christ.

Indeed in the first reading from the Book of Songs, the mystical love and union between God and His bride, the Church is portrayed in terms of human love between two lovers.  The Book of the Song of Songs is really a compendium of love songs for a wedding.  Love is full of joy and admiration at the beauty of our loved ones.  “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  She says, “My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  Love is attentive, always paying attention and observing the details of our beloved.   “See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”   Where there is love, there is newness of life and we see things in a new perspective.  “For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”

Indeed, anyone who is in love with God is filled with joy.  When the love of God fills the person’s hearts, the things of this world pale in comparison with His love.  “If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Songs 8:7b) Love gives us meaning and purpose in life.  To fall in love with God is the greatest thing on this earth.  When God’s love is in our hearts, we find deeper inner peace, joy and security.  St Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (1 Cor 13:19b-20)

Secondly, the joy of Christmas comes from liberation.  In the optional reading from Zephaniah, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.”   Indeed, the Lord has come to take away our shame.  He has come to take away all that harm and destroy us.  He will help us to overcome our inner enemies, that is our sins and selfishness; and He will liberate us from our external enemies, pain, suffering and injustices.  The prophet assures us that God is our warrior.  He will fight the battle for us.  We only need to rely on His strength and might.  “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”   Both in today’s acclamation before the gospel and at the Magnificat at vespers, we pray, “O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.”

Truly, when the Lord is in us, we feel liberated from all fears, worries and anxieties.  All our sins come from fear and the desire to protect our self-interests.  We fear death, hunger and pain.  But the Lord shows us that love is stronger than death and selfishness.  So like the lover, we say to the Lord, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Songs 8:6-7a)

The Good News is that the Lord is coming and He has come.  “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  The Lord is saying to us, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  In a real way, the Lord comes to us in the Incarnation.  In the gospel reading, we read of how the Lord came to visit Elizabeth in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   The coming of the Lord filled Elizabeth with joy and John the Baptist also leapt for joy.

The Lord comes to us again and again.  He comes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist, just as our Blessed Mother carried the Lord in the tabernacle of her womb.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist with a pure heart, a clear conscience and a devout spirit, the Lord enters into our lives and renews the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism.   If our disposition is right, the Lord comes, but most of the time we do not recognize His real presence in the Eucharist.  This explains why although many Catholics receive communion every Sunday, nothing is happening in their lives. They receive without reverence, without a conscious recognition of Christ’s presence in the bread and most of all, in the seriousness of their sins.

Still, the Lord can come to us anew if we receive Him in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Lord wants to set us free from our prison of sin and misery.  Our pride, self-righteousness, egotism and anger often blind us to the reality of the truth.   If we want to be set free to find love and peace, then we need to seek His forgiveness; and then extend this forgiveness to our fellowmen and all those who have hurt us.  So if we have not yet frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be losing a great opportunity of grace.  How can there be peace and joy at Christmas when one is not reconciled with God and with our loved ones and our fellowmen?  If we want peace, let us make peace with ourselves, with God and others.

The Lord comes especially also in the compassion and mercy that others show to us, or vice versa.  Mary, hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age immediately responded to her help.  She travelled a great distance to help her cousin.  We too like Mary are called to be channels of grace and love.  She not only literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist but she herself became the presence of Jesus to them.  Through her kindness and graciousness, Elizabeth immediately sensed the divine presence in her heart and womb.  We too must do the same.  As we reach out to the lonely, the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the poor, we come to encounter Christ in them and they encounter Christ in us.

If the Lord were to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.  “Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.”  This last week of Advent is an intense period of expectancy which is aroused and strengthened by prayer, meditation and contemplation.  We must seek and desire that our Lord comes into our lives.  Like the love who said, “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” (Songs 3:1-2)  Let us wait for the Lord in prayer and good works.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”  Let us not delay any longer but have faith.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh






Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

Karl Rahner also believed in the gift of the Holy Spirit in every human being. Rahner says, “To get more, give more.”


Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 31, 2015 — “You shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves and offer an oblation to the Lord.”

July 30, 2015

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lectionary: 405

Reading 1 LV 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34B-37

The LORD said to Moses,
“These are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate
at their proper time with a sacred assembly.
The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month,
at the evening twilight.
The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’s feast of Unleavened Bread.
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.
On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD.
Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.”The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and tell them:
When you come into the land which I am giving you,
and reap your harvest,
you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest
to the priest, who shall wave the sheaf before the LORD
that it may be acceptable for you.
On the day after the sabbath the priest shall do this.“Beginning with the day after the sabbath,
the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf,
you shall count seven full weeks,
and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day,
you shall present the new cereal offering to the LORD.“The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement,
when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves
and offer an oblation to the LORD.“The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths,
which shall continue for seven days.
On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly,
and you shall do no sort of work.
For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD,
and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and offer an oblation to the LORD.
On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work.

“These, therefore, are the festivals of the LORD
on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly,
and offer as an oblation to the LORD burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11AB

R. (2a) Sing with joy to God our help.
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

Alleluia 1 PT 1:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of the Lord remains forever;
this is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:54-58

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
Art: Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth, by Greg K. Olsen

Commentary on Matthew 13:54-58 From Living Space

Immediately following the discourse on the parables of the Kingdom, we see Jesus going to his home town of Nazareth. TheNew American Bible marks this as the beginning of a new section in Matthew’s gospel which it calls ‘Jesus, the Kingdom and the Church’. It ends with chapter 18, which contains the fourth of the five discourses which are distinctive to Matthew.

As was his right, Jesus spent some time teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. The townspeople were quite amazed to hear the local carpenter’s son speaking as he did. “Where did he get his wisdom and his miraculous powers?” (The New International Version says that the word usually translated ‘carpenter’ could also mean ‘stonemason’.) All his family were well known to the people and they knew he could not have got it from them but they failed to make the next step as to the real origin of what he was saying and doing.

And, in the contrariness of human nature, they were so impressed that they rejected him! He was just too much. A perfect example of familiarity breeding contempt and blinding the eyes to the obvious. And Jesus sadly comments that a prophet can get a hearing everywhere except among his own. Probably all of us have had some experience, directly or indirectly, of this! We Irish, in particular, are well known for our ‘begrudgery’!

It might be helpful for us to see how often and where we ourselves have been guilty of this. How often have we written off what people we know very well, or think we know very well, suggest to us? It is important for us to realise that God can communicate with us through anyone at all and we must never decide in advance who his spokespersons will be.

Finally, we are told that Jesus could not do in Nazareth any of the wonderful things he had done elsewhere “because of their lack of faith”. His hands were tied. Jesus can only help those who are ready to be helped, those who are open to him. How open am I?



Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.• The Gospel today tells us the visit of Jesus to Nazareth, his native community. Passing through Nazareth was painful for Jesus. What was his community at the beginning, now it is no longer so. Something has changed. Where there is no faith, Jesus can work no miracles.
• Matthew 13, 53-57ª: The reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. It is always good for people to go back to their land. After a long absence, Jesus also returns, as usual, on a Saturday, and he goes to the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the head of the group, but just the same he speaks. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion. People were astonished. They did not understand Jesus’ attitude: “Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” Jesus, son of that place, whom they knew since he was a child, how is that now he is so different? The people of Nazareth were scandalized and do not accept him: “This is the carpenter’s son, surely?
The people do not accept the mystery of God present in a common man as they are, as they had known Jesus. In order to speak about God he should be different. As one can see, not everything was positive. The persons, who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News, are the first ones to refuse to accept it. The conflict is not only with foreigners, but also with his relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They do not accept because they cannot understand the mystery envelops Jesus: “Is not his mother, the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?” They are not able to believe.
• Matthew 13, 57b-58: Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “no one is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: A prophet is despised only in his own country and in his own house”. In fact, where there is neither acceptance nor faith, people can do nothing. The prejudice prevents it. Jesus himself, even wanting, can do nothing. He was astonished before their lack of faith.
• The brothers and sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics between Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves in this and in other texts, the Protestants say that Jesus had many brothers and sisters and that Mary had more children! Catholics say that Mary did not have any other children. What can we think about this? In the first place, both positions, that of Catholics as well as that of Protestants, contain arguments taken from the Bible and from the Tradition of their respective Churches.
For this reason, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments which are only intellectual, because it is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with faith and with the sentiments of both and of each one. The argument which is only intellectual cannot change a conviction of the heart! It only irritates and draws away! Even if I do not agree with the opinion of others, I have to respect it. In the second place, instead of discussing around texts, all of us, Catholics and Protestants, should unite ourselves much more to fight for the defence of life, created by God, a life so disfigured by poverty, injustice, lack of faith.
We should recall some other phrases of Jesus. “I have come so that they may have life and life to the full” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Do not prevent them! Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40)
Personal questions
• In Jesus something changed in his relationship with the Community of Nazareth. Since you began to participate in the community, has something changed in your relationship with the family? Why?
• Has participation in the community helped you to accept and to trust persons, especially the more simple and the poorest?
Concluding Prayer
For myself, wounded wretch that I am,
by your saving power raise me up!
I will praise God’s name in song,
I will extol him by thanksgiving. (Ps 69, 29-30)


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: LEV 23:1-37; MT 13: 54-58

In our lives, we must have come across many great, famous and charismatic people.  And we have been impressed by them.  Yet, who are those people that are really great? Are they those who are highly gifted; making themselves so awesome to approach; making us feel small when we speak to them? Or are they those who are highly gifted and yet appear and relate to us as if they are normal and ordinary people?  Indeed, the truly, truly great are those who are great per se but make themselves so ordinary; are so humble in their ways, making us feel that we are somebody before them.  I was told by the helpers of MC that when Mother Teresa came, she lived among the sisters and lived as one of them without any special treatment accorded to her.  That is indeed someone really great.

Yes, this is the theme of today’s gospel.  God comes to us in ordinary ways, in very human ways. Unfortunately, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, many of us cannot accept that God can manifest Himself to us that way.  The people could not accept Jesus because they knew Him too well.  He was so ordinary, He was one of them.  They knew His family and relatives too.  How could one with such a village background be the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament? And so they rejected Him, as they would again at the crucifixion.  They wanted God to appear in more fantastic and spectacular ways.  Yes, Jesus was a scandal to them.

But that is not the way of God.  In fact, God has always revealed and related to us in ordinary and human ways.  The first reading from the book of Leviticus prescribes the three great festivals of Israel, viz, the Passover, Weeks or Pentecost; and Tabernacles.  The lives of the Jews were structured around these three great feasts.  The origin of the Passover was a pastoral festival which celebrates the spring yeaning.  The Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, is simply the harvest festival, the feast of the first-fruits of the grain harvest.  The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated at autumn is actually a harvest festival for the fruits of the threshing floor and wine press.  Like Passover and Pentecost, Tabernacles combines an agricultural motif and a historical motif which developed later on.

What, then, are the implications for us with regard to our own lives and in our relationship with others?

Firstly, with regard to ourselves, how should we live our lives?  We should live ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  That is to say, we should just be.  There is no need to make a show of what we do or who we are.  When we are natural with ourselves, we will radiate the love of God and the presence of God.  But when we attempt to exaggerate the uniqueness in us, we become artificial and phony.  Being ordinary does not mean to be mediocre.  Mediocre people are those who pretend to be what they are not and, worse of all, fall short of what they pretend to be.  Precisely, Jesus was so ordinary that people who lacked the faith-vision or God-vision could not see His divine presence.

Secondly, with regard to others, we should not be too impressed by what they do and who they are.  Quite often, we are easily impressed by how the person speaks and dresses, and the credentials and offices he holds.  And we tend to treat those who are more impressive with greater respect and honour.  But let us not be deceived.  Not all of them are truly great people.  They might be impressive, but behind the mask of their externals, they could be hiding deep insecurities and inferiority.  Rather, the great man is one who is truly great but thinks that he is ordinary.  He does not want to be treated differently and prefers to be just ordinary.  They are the people who are wise and great and who live happy lives.  These are people whom we should really look up to so that we too can live full lives.

But to think and live that way takes faith. Jesus told us in the gospel to see how God is working in our ordinary lives.  Without faith, we cannot see the prophetic signs of God working through the lives of others and in our ordinary events.  And like the people of Jesus’ time, we will deprive ourselves of experiencing the miracles of God in our lives.  So the question is:  do we see the world with the vision of God and Jesus, or through the eyes of the world?




St. Ignatius

Founder of the Society of Jesus
Ignatius was born in 1491 at Loyola in Guipuzcoa. After spending some time as a courtier, he turned to a military career. In 1521, while convalescing after a wound received at the siege of Pamplona, he suddenly conceived a burning desire to follow the footsteps of Christ. His spiritual experiences during his retreat at Manresa were to provide the core of his book `Spiritual Exercises’. In 1537, he was ordained in Venice, and in the same year moved to Rome. There, in 1540, he founded the Society of Jesus, and in the following year was elected its first General. In every kind of apostolic work, he contributed greatly to the Catholic revival of the sixteenth century and to the renewal of the Church’s missionary activity. He died in Rome in 1556, and was canonized by Gregory XV in 1622.


First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
In my own spiritual journey, we’ve seen over and over again the paramount importance of keeping focused on what is most important in life. To this end we start each day with this simple prayer:
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
As illness comes to us  — illness that is life threatening in me now — we are reminded that the greatest saints like St. Ignatius of Loyola spoke of “Holy Indifference.”
To me this means: I am here to know, love and serve God and to make my way to heaven. Ignatius explains much better than this poor soul ever could.
From “Father Broom’s Blog”

What is your philosophy of life?  We all have one even though we may not be aware of it! These key words express the “Philosophy” of life of many:  Materialism, Hedonism, Agnosticism,  Atheism, and Moral Relativism.

In his consideration at that start of the Spiritual Exercises ( # 23)  known as “Principle and Foundation”, St. Ignatius expresses clearly a philosophy of life in the first sentence:  “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that to save his soul…”  Put concisely, man’s existence must praise and glorify His Creator and culminate in the salvation of his immortal soul for all eternity.

The last part of Principle and Foundation has been termed classically as “Ignatian Holy Indifference”.   By “Indifference” Ignatius does not mean apathy, a “who cares”, “I don’t give a darn”, “whatever…” attitude or interior disposition. On the contrary, “Holy Indifference” really means a total openness to the will of God in one’s life.  In other words, whatever God wills for me, I will strive with all of the energy of my will and the proposition in my intellect to conform my will to His Almighty will.   As the poet Dante expressed it: “In God’s will is our peace.”

With respect to Ignatian Holy Indifference, St Ignatius divides it into four separate categories.  “Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed by free choice and are not under any prohibition.  Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.” (Spiritual Exercises # 23)

To arrive at this lofty spiritual disposition requires extraordinary grace, limitless patience, as well as firm purpose and determination of the will. However, if understood, willed and assumed as an interior disposition of mind and will, the fruits of striving for “Holy Indifference” in one’s life are innumerable! Among the most important blessings is that of peace of mind, heart, soul, and an unreserved trust in God’s loving and constant guiding Divine Providence. As St. Paul reminds us, “If God is with us who can be against us.” Jesus Himself calls us to trust with the comforting words: “My Father has you in the palm of His hand and nobody can snatch you from His hand.” Let us offer a few examples of Holy Indifference taken from those who strived to live it out best— the saints!

St. Alberto Hurtado joyfully works with the youth

First category: “Not to prefer health over sickness.”  A modern saint, a Jesuit Chilean priest, SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO. Involved in a whirlwind of activity—Catholic action, retreats to young, vocational presentations, radio-ministry and an apostolate designed to help the poor of Chile, in his early 50s he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When the news was brought to him by his Vice-Provincial as he lay suffering in a hospital bed, his response was, “Contento Señor Contento!!!”  (Content Lord, content!!!!) “Now I will have time to prepare myself to meet my Maker!”   Saint Alberto did not despise life; rather he loved life and lived it to the fullest!  Through Holy Indifference he recognized God’s will clearly. If indeed his life was given to him by God as a gift, then God had a right to take his life when He best deemed fit. Now he is SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO living forever with God in heaven!

Blessed Jacinta Marto, Lucia de los Santos and Blessed Francisco Marto

Second category: “Not to prefer long life over short.”  BLESSED FRANCISCO MARTO.   He was one of the three shepherd children that Our Lady of Fatima appeared to from May 13, 1917 until October 13, 1917. Once Our Lady of Fatima made the announcement that both he and his sister Jacinta would soon die, little Francisco rejoiced!  The reason for his rejoicing was this interior attitude of Holy Indifference.  The abundant joy that overflowed from his little heart was motivated by his faith in God and ardent yearning to be with Our Lady of Fatima and Jesus in heaven forever. Indeed not long after Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions both Francisco and his sister Jacinta died and were taken to heaven. They were both Beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, among the youngest saints in the Church Calendar! This attitude of Holy Indifference teaches us that what is important is not a long life, but a holy life. (Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis).

St. Francis of Assisi embracing the leper

Third category: “Not to prefer riches over poverty.” One of the common hallmarks of the saints is a detachment from wealth as well as material possessions in general.  Religious, both men and women, make a vow of Poverty. Among the many saints that lived out intensely and authentically the attitude of holy indifference with respect to poverty was SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI.  Being bred, brought up and raised by a father who was a wealthy clothes-merchant, as a youth Francis felt drawn to vanity and luxurious dress, the party-life and worldliness. Once converted, Francis gave up all he had and even had to cut ties with his father and with a total confidence in God said, “From now on I will say only Our Father who art in heaven..”  The final proof of this detachment and total embracing of holy indifference was the famous encounter he had with the leper in rags and Francis still in his elegant clothes. Overcoming himself, Francis returned to the leper and exchanged his elegant and expensive clothes for the rags of the leper. From that moment on Francis lived out to the fullest extent Ignatian Holy Indifference renouncing all attachments to riches to embrace what he termed, “Lady Poverty”—the wife that he would be espoused to the rest of his life!

Fourth category:  “Not to prefer honors over dishonors.”   Humility indeed is a very difficult virtue to acquire in life. Once we think we have it, circumstances in life quickly prove the contrary! Nonetheless, the royal path to arrive at humility is through the narrow and difficult path of humiliations. Indeed humiliations humble us. Once again we find ourselves in the schema of Holy Indifference.

The Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross +

SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS.  With Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross was called to the exceedingly difficult task to reform a decadent, declining and worldly state of affairs in the Religious life—specifically the Carmelite Order. Neither the men nor the women took a liking to someone rocking their comfortable boat of complacency!  God chose these two saints to disrupt their comfortable status quo!

The anger which led to fury leveled against Saint John of the Cross was so intense that violent persecutions descended upon the saint like an unending tempest!   John was kidnapped, locked in a small cell in a Carmelite convent. He was scourged, deprived of saying Holy Mass, barely given enough food to eat so as to survive, nor even a bath to take for hygiene purposes. Through Our Lady’s intercession St John escaped.

After all of this unjust abuse both verbal, physical, mental and spiritual, the great mystical doctor of the Church Saint John of the Cross, never uttered an unkind word against any of those who plotted and carried out against his person such unjust and uncharitable actions!

At the end of his life he was asked where he would like to end his days— in a convent where he would be loved and appreciated to end his days or in the convent of a Superior that detested him. St John of the Cross preferred the latter so as to conform his life more and more to the passion, suffering and humiliations of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

In conclusion Principle and Foundation teaches us who God is, where we come from, where we are heading and how to get there. An essential component of Principle and Foundation is “Ignatian Holy Indifference”.   A key means to attaining Holy Indifference is a constant and dynamic prayer life, which leads to a total confidence in God, which is translated and manifested in a total willingness to give one’s whole self to God as a sacrifice, offering and oblation.

Jesus in the Garden conforming His will to “Abba” Father

Of course Jesus is our Way, Truth and Life and best example. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus battled with this Holy Indifference in His human nature and conquered with these words of total and absolute Holy Indifference— conformity to the will of the Heavenly Father.  “Father if it is possible, remove this chalice from me; however, not my will but yours be done.” (Mt. 26:39)

Mary’s “yes” to God’s will brought us the Savior.

May Our Lady’s “Fiat” (total and willing consent to God) motivate all of us to strive to understand, pray over and embrace “Holy Indifference” in our lives.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your will.” (Lk. 1: 38) In God’s will is our peace. (Dante)

Pope Francis (left) and St. Francis of Assisi


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, May 25, 2013: “People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them”

May 25, 2013

Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 346

Reading 1 Sir 17:1-15


God from the earth created man, and in his own image he made him. He makes man return to earth again, and endows him with a strength of his own. Limited days of life he gives him, with power over all things else on earth. He puts the fear of him in all flesh, and gives him rule over beasts and birds. He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears, and an inventive heart, and filled them with the discipline of understanding. He created in them knowledge of the spirit; With wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them. He put the fear of himself upon their hearts, and showed them his mighty works, That they might glory in the wonder of his deeds and praise his holy name. He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their inheritance; An everlasting covenant he has made with them, his justice and his judgments he has revealed to them. His majestic glory their eyes beheld, his glorious voice their ears heard. He says to them, “Avoid all evil”; each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men. Their ways are ever known to him, they cannot be hidden from his eyes. Over every nation he places a ruler, but God’s own portion is Israel. All their actions are clear as the sun to him, his eyes are ever upon their ways.

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:13-14, 15-16, 17-18


R. (see 17) The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him, For he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust. R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him. Man’s days are like those of grass; like a flower of the field he blooms; The wind sweeps over him and he is gone, and his place knows him no more. R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him. But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear him, And his justice toward children’s children among those who keep his covenant. R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Gospel Mk 10:13-16


People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
Homily For Mark 10: 13-16
“People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them.” Touch is essential to grow and to sustain life, but it is, so to say, a touchy subject. A touch can communicate so many messages, and we in the church are afraid to do it in the wake of the professional boundaries established since before the sex abuse crisis. We read this passage and we see the enviable freedom possessed by Jesus to greet these young children and embrace them. We yearn for those days when we can just be naturally good to one another and find blessings in our innocence.We come on retreat because we want Christ to touch our hearts meaningfully. We want to go to him in a familiar way and with ease so he can lay his hands upon us and heal us, or affirm us, or as a display of affection and intimacy. We want to run unimpeded to him because he is attractive. He is our God and brother. But so many obstacles can get in our way and though we reach for him, and he reaches back, we can’t always make that point of contact with him that satisfies our desires. We continue to try because he is the one who makes sense of everything.The Gospel tells us the disciples rebuked the children who sought Jesus, who rightly became indignant. It is ironic that such a simple act of goodness can be rebuffed so quickly by those who are on the same side as us. We might expect it from our opponents, but it stings all the more when it happens from our friends, family, and colleagues. You would think they would want the best for us. I’m sure you have had many times when you offered a suggestion based on kind generosity and it was slapped down by a technicality from a colleague or friend. You wonder if they really heard the good intent and the real meaning of your message. It can be discouraging if others are closed to its potential of creating good.We too can close down parts of the relationship without realizing we are doing it. We defeat ourselves unknowingly and it baffles us. Addictions, family formation, and learned behaviors stop us from reaching our potential. It is best if we begin by paying attention to our language because it is fundamental to all relationships. To speak judiciously and prudentially is a gift from God. When God speaks, God creates. Therefore, we can learn the same patterns of speaking. If we are not creating some good when we speak, we might want to consider what we need to do first in order to speak well.I often hear people say that they cannot hear God speak and that they don’t really ask for what they want and need. We essentially don’t change the way we speak to God from the way we speak to others. If we don’t speak up in front of others, we are not likely to speak up in front of God. We feel terrible if a person speaks over us, cuts us off, is dismissive, or has an angry tone. We sometimes do it to others, and it has negative consequences on the relationship, especially that it inhibits growth in one’s comprehension and enrichment. If we know we do this to others, chances are we do it to God as well.

When we speak, it is better if we allow for greater amounts of silence. In this way, we refrain from assuming we know what the other person is thinking or feeling. Let them tell you. If we don’t give the person freedom to fully speak, we shut the person down. Many retreatants will say, “I know what God will say so I don’t bother to ask.” We shortchange and limit God. Let’s give God a chance to speak.

Get into the habit of saying “yes” in prayer. We tell God “no” all the time in our prayer. We communicate it through words like ‘can’t’ or ‘not yet’, tone of voice, body language, avoidance, and our daily choices. We choose not to trust. We are unprepared to truly comprehend what God asks of us. We hold onto our attachments and feelings longer than God wants and we negate God’s true intentions for us. Many of us have the experience of keeping God at bay because we are not ready to accept what God has to say. We serve ourselves best when we wonder, “Am I closing myself to God’s graces? How can I encourage my openness? Do I give God permission to speak openly?” “Am I acting in freedom?”

We often don’t honor our feelings. If we don’t pay attention to our feelings, they are going to come out sideways. We might find we are grouchy, sarcastic, passive-aggressive, or somehow destructive to another person if we do not own what is happening to us emotionally. We win when we acknowledge our feelings and desires. Narcissists and sociopaths cannot respond to true human feelings. Everyone else will acknowledge the very human emotions that are swirling around inside of you. Bringing them out in a healthily helps us build confidence in our identity. It builds esteem and creates goodwill. We move onwards and upwards when we speak of our emotions. and we sanctify another person when we respect one’s emotions. Our intent is to build up, to create anew, and to enhance.

We have too many complex ways that we keep ourselves cut off from Christ and cannot feel his touch, and it is what we crave most. We want an experience of God that is so real that it is engraved upon on hearts and it becomes a touchstone for us. Many doubt that we can feel his physical presence. I suggest we simply ask for what we want and know that it can happen. Ignatius of Loyola in The Spiritual Exercises asks the retreatants to beg, to actually beg, for a particular grace for ourselves. Too often we pray only for others and neglect our own needs. God wants to be generous to us. We have to give way to let God absolutely spoil us. Ask for what you want. Beg for it. And though we strongly beg, God enters our world in gentle surprising ways.

And if you don’t know what you want yet, and that’s O.K. It takes time to sort it out, just pray that you can run to Jesus like the little children so that he might touch you, wipe away a tear, hold your hand, or touch your heart. Pray that he remove any obstacles that prohibit you from reaching him. It is not within your power to remove those obstacles. It is better off in his hands. Ask him what needs to be taken away so you may reach him to feel the full extent of his embrace. When you approach him, let him hold you and gaze in wonder upon your face. Let him just marvel at your beauty, both inside and out. Let him greet you, his good friend, again in a blessing with arms outstretched that says, “I’ve missed you. Welcome back. Let me just hold you for a while. That’s all I want.”


Saint Francis Xavier (Celebrated December 3)

December 3, 2012

Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre (now part of Spain) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montmartre in 1534.[1] He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicismmost notably in India, but also ventured into JapanBorneo, the Moluccas, and other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India. It was a goal of Xavier to one day reach China.


Francis Xavier was born in the family castle of Xavier (Xabier, toponymic name whose origin comes from “etxaberri” meaning “new house” in the Basque language) in the Kingdom of Navarre on 7 April 1506 according to a family register. He was born to an aristocratic family of the Kingdom of Navarre, the youngest son of Juan de Jaso, privy counselor to King John III of Navarre (Jean d’Albret), and Doña Maria de Azpilcueta y Aznárez, sole heiress of two noble Navarrese families. He was thus related to the great theologian and philosopher Martín de Azpilcueta. Notwithstanding different interpretations on his first language,[2] no evidence suggests that Xavier’s mother tongue was other than Basque, as stated by himself and confirmed by the sociolinguistic environment of the time.

In 1512 under Ferdinand the Catholic as King of the first political unit referred to as Spain, joint Spanish troops from both the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon commanded by Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, second Duke of Alba, first invaded partially the Kingdom of Navarre. Three years later, Francis’ father died when Francis was only nine years old. In 1516, after a failed Navarrese-French attempt to expel the Spanish invaders from the kingdom, an attempt in which Francis’ brothers had taken part, the Spanish Castilian kingdom’s Governor, Cardinal Cisneros, ordered family lands to be confiscated, the demolition of the outer wall, the gates and two towers of the family castle, the moat was filled, and the height of the keep was reduced in half.[3] Only the family residence inside the castle was left.

For the following years with his family, till he left for studies in Paris in 1525, Francis’ life in the Kingdom of Navarre, then partially occupied by Spain, was surrounded by a war that lasted over 18 years, ending with the Kingdom of Navarre being partitioned into two territories, and the King of Navarre and some loyalists abandoning the south and moving to the northern part of the Kingdom of Navarre (currently France).

In 1525, Francis went to study at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. There he met Ignatius of Loyola, who became his faithful companion, and Pierre Favre. While at the time he seemed destined for academic success in the line of his noble family, Xavier turned to a life of Catholic missionary service. Together with Loyola and five others,[4] he founded the Society of Jesus: on 15 August 1534, in a small chapel in Montmartre, they made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and also vowed to convert the Muslims in the Middle East (or, failing this, carry out the wishes of the Pope). Francis went, with the rest of the members of the newly papal-approved Jesuit order, to Venice to be ordained to the priesthood, which took place on 24 June 1537. Towards the end of October, the seven companions reached Bologna, where they worked in the local hospital. After that, he served for a brief period in Rome as Ignatius’ secretary.

Missionary work

Francis devoted much of his life to missions in Asia, after being appointed by King John III of Portugal to take charge as Apostolic Nuncio in Portuguese India, where the king believed that Christian values were eroding among the Portuguese. After successive appeals to the Pope asking for missionaries for the East Indies under the Padroado agreement, John III was enthusiastically advised by Diogo de Gouveia, rector of the Collège Sainte-Barbe, to draw the newly graduated youngsters that would establish the Society of Jesus.[5]

Leaving Rome in 1540, Francis took with him a breviary, a catechism and a Latin book (De Instituione bene vivendi) written by the Croatian humanist Marko Marulić that had become popular in the counter-reformation. The breviary and the book by Marulić accompanied Xavier on all of his voyages, and was used as source material for much of his preaching. According to a 1549 letters of F. Balthasar Gago in Goa, it was the only book that Francis read or studied.[6]

Goa and India

He left Lisbon on 7 April 1541 along with two other Jesuits and the new Viceroy Martim Afonso de Sousa, on board the Santiago. From August until March 1542 he remained in Portuguese Mozambique, having reachedGoa, then capital of Portuguese India‘s on 6 May 1542, and also visiting Vasai. There he was invited to head Saint Paul’s College, a pioneer seminary for the education of secular priests that became the first jesuit headquarters in Asia, but soon departed,[7] having spent the following three years in India.

In 1542, he left for his first missionary activity among the Paravars, katesar/kadaiyar Pattamkattiyars (head of fishery coast) and mukkuvars, pearl fishers along the east coast of southern India, North of Cape Comorin(or Sup Santaz). He built nearly 40 churches along the coast with the fund of local headmen and king, out of this St. Stephen’s Church, Kombuthurai find mention in his letters dated 1544. He lived in a sea cave inManapad, intensively catechizing paravars and other children for three months in 1544. He then focused on converting the king of Travancore to Christianity and also visited Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). Dissatisfied with the results of his activity, he set his sights eastward in 1545 and planned a missionary journey to Makassar on the island of Celebes (today’s Indonesia).

As the first Jesuit in India, Francis had difficulty procuring success for his missionary trips. Instead of trying to approach Christianity through the traditions of the local religion and creating a nativised church as latter fellow Jesuit Matteo Ricci did in China, he was eager for change.[citation needed] His successors, such as de Nobili, Ricci, and Beschi, attempted to convert the noblemen first as a means to influence more people, while Francis had initially interacted most with the lower classes (later though, in Japan, Francis changed tack by paying tribute to the Emperor and seeking an audience with him).[8] However, Francis’ mission was primarily, as ordered by King John III, to restore Christianity among the Portuguese settlers. Many of the Portuguese sailors had had illegitimate relationships with Indian women (miscegenation); Francis struggled to restore moral relations, and catechized many illegitimate children.[citation needed]


After arriving in Portuguese Malacca in October of that year and waiting three months in vain for a ship to Makassar, he gave up the goal of his voyage and left Malacca on 1 January 1546, for Ambon Island where he stayed until mid-June. He then visited other Maluku Islands including Ternate and Morotai. Shortly after Easter, 1546, he returned to Ambon Island and later Malacca.

Voyages of St. Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier’s work initiated permanent change in eastern Indonesia, and he was known as the ‘Apostle of the Indies’ where in 1546-1547 he worked in the Maluku Islands among the people of Ambon, Ternate, and Morotai (or Moro), and laid the foundations for a permanent mission. After he left the Maluku Islands, others carried on his work and by the 1560s there were 10,000 Catholics in the area, mostly on Ambon. By the 1590s there were 50,000 to 60,000.[9]


Main article: History of Roman Catholicism in Japan

Francisco Xavier asking John III of Portugal for an expedition.

In Malacca in December, 1547, Francis Xavier met a Japanese man named Anjirō. Anjirō had heard of Francis in 1545 and had traveled from Kagoshima to Malacca with the purpose of meeting with him. Having been charged with murder, Anjirō had fled Japan. He told Francis extensively about his former life and the customs and culture of his beloved homeland. Anjiro helped Xavier as a mediator and translator for the mission to Japan that now seemed much more possible. “I asked [Anjirō] whether the Japanese would become Christians if I went with him to this country, and he replied that they would not do so immediately, but would first ask me many questions and see what I knew. Above all, they would want to see whether my life corresponded with my teaching.”[citation needed]

Anjirō became the first Japanese Christian and adopted the name of ‘Paulo de Santa Fe’.

Europeans had already come to Japan: the Portuguese had already landed in 1543 on the island of Tanegashima, where they introduced the first firearms to Japan.[10]

He returned to India in January 1548. The next 15 months were occupied with various journeys and administrative measures in India. Then, due to displeasure at what he considered un-Christian life and manners on the part of the Portuguese which impeded missionary work, he traveled from the South into East Asia. He left Goa on 15 April 1549, stopped at Malacca and visited Canton. He was accompanied by Anjiro, two other Japanese men, the father Cosme de Torrès and Brother João Fernandes. He had taken with him presents for the “King of Japan” since he was intending to introduce himself as the Apostolic Nuncio.

Shortly before leaving he had issued a famous instruction to F. Gaspar Barazeuz who was leaving to go to Ormuz (a kingdom on an island in the Persian Gulf, now part of Iran), that he should mix with sinners:

And if you wish to bring forth much fruit, both for yourselves and for your neighbors, and to live consoled, converse with sinners, making them unburden themselves to you. These are the living books by which you are to study, both for your preaching and for your own consolation. I do not say that you should not on occasion read written books . . . to support what you say against vices with authorities from the Holy Scriptures and examples from the lives of the saints.[6]

A statue of Francis Xavier (middle) with his Japanese disciples Anjirō (left) andBernardo (right), in Xavier Park (Kagoshima, Japan).

Francis Xavier reached Japan on 27 July 1549, with Anjiro and three other Jesuits, but he was not permitted to enter any port his ship arrived at[10] until 15 August, when he went ashore at Kagoshima, the principal port of the province of Satsuma on the island of Kyūshū. As a representative of the Portuguese king, he was received in a friendly manner. Shimazu Takahisa (1514–1571), daimyo of Satsuma, gave a friendly reception to Francis on 29 September 1549, but in the following year he forbade the conversion of his subjects to Christianity under penalty of death; Christians in Kagoshima could not be given any catechism in the following years. The Portuguese missionary Pedro de Alcáçova would later write in 1554:

In Cangoxima, the first place Father Master Francisco stopped at, there were a good number of Christians, although there was no one there to teach them; the shortage of laborers prevented the whole kingdom from becoming Christian.[10]

Hosted by Anjiro’s family until October 1550. From October to December, 1550, he resided in Yamaguchi. Shortly before Christmas, he left for Kyoto but failed to meet with the Emperor. He returned to Yamaguchi in March, 1551, where he was permitted to preach by the daimyo of the province. However, lacking fluency in the Japanese language, he had to limit himself to reading aloud the translation of a catechism.

Francis was the first Jesuit to go to Japan as a missionary.[11] He brought with him paintings of the Madonna and the Madonna and Child. These paintings were used to help teach the Japanese about Christianity. There was a huge language barrier as Japanese was unlike other languages the missionaries had previously encountered. For a long time Francis struggled to learn the language. Artwork continued to play a role in Francis’ teachings in Asia.[citation needed]

For forty-five years the Jesuits were the only missionaries in Asia, but the Franciscans also began proselytizing in Asia as well. Christian missionaries were later forced into exile, along with their assistants. Some were able to stay behind, however Christianity was then kept underground as to not be persecuted.[12]

The Japanese people were not easily converted; many of the people were already Buddhist or Shinto. Francis tried to combat the disposition of some of the Japanese that a God who had created everything, including evil, could not be good. The concept of Hell was also a struggle; the Japanese were bothered by the idea of their ancestors living in Hell. Despite Francis’ different religion, he felt that they were good people, much like Europeans, and could be converted.[13][14][15]

Xavier was welcomed by the Shingon monks since he used the word Dainichi for the Christian God; attempting to adapt the concept to local traditions. As Xavier learned more about the religious nuances of the word, he changed to Deusu from the Latin and Portuguese Deus. The monks later realized that Xavier was preaching a rival religion and grew more aggressive towards his attempts at conversion.

The Altar of St. Francis Xavier Parish inNasugbu, Batangas, Philippines. St. Francis is the principal patron of the town, together with Our Lady of Escalera.

With the passage of time, his sojourn in Japan could be considered somewhat fruitful as attested by congregations established in Hirado, Yamaguchi and Bungo. Xavier worked for more than two years in Japan and saw his successor-Jesuits established. He then decided to return to India. Historians debate the exact path he returned back by, but due to evidence attributed to the captain of his ship, he may have traveled through Tanegeshima and Minato, and avoided Kagoshima due to the hostility of the Daimyo.[10] During his trip, a tempest forced him to stop on an island near Guangzhou, China where he saw the rich merchant Diogo Pereira, an old friend from Cochin, who showed him a letter from Portuguese being held prisoners in Guangzhou asking for a Portuguese ambassador to talk to the Chinese Emperor in their favor. Later during the voyage, he stopped at Malacca on 27 December 1551, and was back in Goa by January, 1552.

On 17 April he set sail with Diogo Pereira, leaving Goa on board the Santa Cruz for China. He introduced himself as Apostolic Nuncio and Pereira as ambassador of the King of Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he realized that he had forgotten his testimonial letters as an Apostolic Nuncio. Back in Malacca, he was confronted by the capitão Álvaro de Ataíde da Gama who now had total control over the harbor. The capitão refused to recognize his title of Nuncio, asked Pereira to resign from his title of ambassador, named a new crew for the ship and demanded the gifts for the Chinese Emperor be left in Malacca.

Casket of Saint Francis Xavier in the Basilica of Bom Jesus inGoa

In late August, 1552, the Santa Cruz reached the Chinese island of Shangchuan, 14 km away from the southern coast of mainland China, near TaishanGuangdong, 200 km south-west of what later became Hong Kong. At this time, he was only accompanied by a Jesuit student, Álvaro Ferreira, a Chinese man called António and a Malabar servant called Christopher. Around mid-November he sent a letter saying that a man had agreed to take him to the mainland in exchange for a large sum of money. Having sent back Álvaro Ferreira, he remained alone with António. He died at Shangchuan from a fever on 3 December 1552, while he was waiting for a boat that would agree to take him to mainland China.

[edit]Burials and relics

He was first buried on a beach at Shangchuan Island. His incorrupt body was taken from the island in February 1553 and was temporarily buried in St. Paul’s church in Portuguese Malacca on 22 March 1553. An open grave in the church now marks the place of Xavier’s burial. Pereira came back from Goa, removed the corpse shortly after 15 April 1553, and moved it to his house. On 11 December 1553, Xavier’s body was shipped to Goa. The body is now in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on 2 December 1637.

St. Francis Xavier’s humerus. St. Joseph’s Church, Macao
Sign accompanying St. Francis Xavier’s humerus

The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts, was detached by Pr. Gen. Claudio Acquaviva in 1614. It has been displayed since in a silver reliquary at the main Jesuit church in Rome, Il Gesù.[16]

Another of Xavier’s arm bones was brought to Macau where it was kept in a silver reliquary. The relic was destined for Japan but religious persecution there persuaded the church to keep it in Macau’s Cathedral of St. Paul. It was subsequently moved to St. Joseph’s and in 1978 to the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier on Coloane Island. More recently the relic was moved to St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum.[17]

In 2006, on the 500th anniversary of his birth, the Xavier Tomb Monument and Chapel on the Shangchuan Island, in ruins after years of neglect under communist rule in China was restored with the support from the alumni of Wah Yan College, a Jesuit high school in Hong Kong.


“The Vision of St. Francis Xavier”, byGiovanni Battista Gaulli.

St. Francis Xavier is noteworthy for his missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer. He is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul. By his compromises in India with the Christians of St. Thomas, he developed the Jesuit missionary methods along lines that subsequently became a successful blueprint for his order to follow. His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India and, as one of the first Jesuit missionaries to the East Indies, his work is of fundamental significance to Christians in the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan. India still has numerous Jesuit missions, and many more schools. There has been less of an impact in Japan. Following the persecutions of Daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the subsequent closing of Japan to foreigners, the Christians of Japan were forced to go underground and developed an independent Christian culture.

Pope Benedict XVI said of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier: “not only their history which was interwoven for many years from Paris and Rome, but a unique desire — a unique passion, it could be said — moved and sustained them through different human events: the passion to give to God-Trinity a glory always greater and to work for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who had been ignored.”[18] As the foremost saint from Navarre and one of the main Jesuit saints, he is much venerated in Spain and the Hispanic countries where Francisco Javier or Javier are common male given names.[19]The alternative spelling Xavier is also popular in Portugal, Brazil, France, Belgium, and southern Italy. In India, the spelling Xavier is almost always used, and the name is quite common among Christians, especially in the southern states of Tamil NaduKeralaKarnataka and more common in Goa. In GoaXavier besides being a surname, is also seen as the suffix in the names Francisco XavierAntónio Xavier,João XavierCaetano XavierDomingos Xavier et cetera, which were very common till quiet recently. In Austria and Bavaria the name is spelled as Xaver (pronounced Ksaber) and often used in addition to Francis as Franz-Xaver. In English speaking countries, “Xavier” is one of the few names starting with X, and until recently was likely to follow “Francis”; in the last decade, however, “Xavier” by itself has become more popular than “Francis”, and is now one of the hundred most common male baby names in the US.[20]

Many churches all over the world have been named in honor of Xavier, often founded by Jesuits. One notable church is the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa. The other is Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona founded in 1692 and internationally recognized as the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. The Javierada is an annual pilgrimage from Pamplona to Xavier instituted in the 1940s.

The Novena of Grace is a popular devotion to Francis Xavier, typically prayed on the nine days before 3 December.

One of his relatives is John Sevier. The Sevier family name originated from the name Xavier.

He has been depicted in various artworks, including Rubens‘ painting “St Francis Xavier raising the dead”, which the Flemish master painted for a Jesuit church in Antwerp, and in which he depicted one of St Francis’ many alleged miracles (in this case a resurrection).[21]

[edit]Beatification and canonization

Francis Xavier is a Catholic saint. He was beatified by Paul V on 25 October 1619, and was canonized by Gregory XV on 12 March (12 April[22]) 1622, at the same time as Ignatius Loyola.[23] He is considered to be a patron saint of Roman Catholic missionaries in foreign lands. His feast day is 3 December.[24]

[edit]Feast and pilgrimage centres

Stained glass church window inBéthanie, Hong Kong of St Francis Xavier baptizing a Chinese man.



The feast of Saint Francis Xavier is celebrated on 3 December. It is a large celebration in Velha GoaGoa and beyond. In [INDIA] St. Francis Xavier is called Gõi-cho Saib (Master of Goa) and the place Velha Goa, is also called Saibachem Goem(St. Francis Xavier’s Goa). In the year 2009, the theme of the feast was Sam Fransikachea Visvaxiponnachea Dekhin, Jezu-Noketra Bhaxen Porzollum-ia, which translates from Konkani into English as ‘Inspired by the faithfulness of Saint Francis, let us shine like Jesus, the Star’, probably based on the year’s pastoral theme of the Archdiocese of Goa e Damão Noketram Bhaxen, Sonvsarant Porzollum-ia which translates into English as ‘Shine like Stars, in the World’. The theme of the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, draws light from the Universal Church’s declaration of 2009-10 as the Year for Priests. Similarly, the celebrations also reflected on the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman’s focus on the youth that year.[25] A huge pandal was erected in the front of the Bom Jesus Basilica, with almost eight to ten novena Masses daily mainly in Konkani, besides English, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Portuguese. The Archbishop, concelebrates the Solemn High Mass, with other bishops and numerous priests. In 2009, Bishop of Belgaum, Rt Rev Peter Machado will be the main celebrant.[25]


In Velha Goa (Old Goa), Goa, India the novenas in the year 2011 began on 24 November. The theme of this year’s feast was Mon’xa Xrixtticho Korar Jieum-ia, Sam Fransisk Xavierak Man Dium -Ya, based on the Archdiocese of Goa and Damão’s archbishops pastoral letterMon’xa Xrixtticho Korar, Deva Mogacho Rupkar which in English roughly means “Covenant between Man and Nature Divine Love’s Manifestation”. Masses are being held, as in the last few decades, at the adr (front) of theBom Jesus Basilica, due to lack of space within the Basilica. A large makeshift pandal has been put. It has a stage, where the altar is placed, and a background, on which the year’s theme and St. Francis Xavier’s picture has been prominently displayed. This year, on every Novena day, an element of nature is taken, like, water, land, fire, ether, etc. and a sermon is given on our day to day activities interaction with these elements and sometimes a relationship with the life of St. Francis Xavier is given.

This year besides the Masses, a programme called deepen your faith was conducted daily from 24 November to 1 December, after the 6 PM Novena Mass of St. Francis Xavier. It dealt with various Catholic teachings on the Bible testament-wise, Holy EucharistConfessions and finally will conclude with the life of St. Francis Xavier. Daily masses are being held at 6, 7.15, 8.15, 9.30, 10.30 in the mornings and at 1545 hours (3.45 PM), 5.15 and 6.15 in the afternoon and evening. The feast day masses on the third of December will be held at 4 AM, 5 AM, 6 AM, 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10.30 AM, 12 noon, 3 PM (Spanish), 4 PM, 5 PM and 6 PM. The large number of masses are due to the large number of devotees who come from far and wide, cutting across religions. The 10.30 AM mass is the solemn feast high Mass, which will most likely be celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Salvatore Penacchio. This year masses are being held mainly in Konkanni, besides English, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Portuguese and Spanish languages, but most, if not all the Masses, conclude with the recessional hymn Sam Fransisku Xaviera, Vhodda Kunvra (In English it roughly translates Our Saint Francis Xavier, Great Prince). A novena prayer to St. Francis Xavier is also held before the Mass generally. The mass at 6 PM on the feast day is celebrated by the Jesuits over the last few years.

[edit]Pilgrimage Centres


Saint Francis Xavier’s relics are kept in a silver casket, elevated inside the Bom Jesus Basilica and are exposed (brought at ground level) generally every ten years, but is not a compulsion. The last exposition was held in 2004 for about one month during December. The next exposition is said to be held in the year 2014. Bones of Saint Francis Xavier are also found in the Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit) Church, Margão and in Sanv Fransiku Xavierachi Igorz (Church of St. Francis Xavier), BatpalCanaconaGoa.

Numerous people from Goa, India (mainly from the southern Indian states), south Asia and beyond visit Goa to attend the feast. Most of the Goans believe Goa is safe all because they have St. Xavier with them.

[edit]Other places

Other pilgrimage centres include Saint Francis Xavier’s birthplace in Navarra, Church of Il GesuRome, Malacca (where he was buried for 2 years, before being brought to Goa), Sancian (Place of death) etc.

The Javierada is an annual pilgrimage from Pamplona to Xavier instituted in the 1940s.

In Magdalena de Kino in SonoraMexico in the Temple of Santa María Magdalena, there is an statue of San Francisco Xavier, an important historical figure for both Sonora and the neighboring U.S. state of Arizona. The statue is said to be miraculous and is the object of pilgrimage for many of the region.

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