Monday, December 3, 2012

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier

Over the past eight years, my parish of St. Hugh’s Greenbelt has changed dramatically. People of Asian, African, Caribbean, and Hispanic descent have begun to fill the pews; different cultures are coming together to form one parish, which is a beautiful thing to behold.

            Sometimes, however, when different cultures meet in the same parish, there is friction, fear, racism, and resentment. Instead of one community being formed, what results is an “us and them” type situation. One hears comments like: “They’re taking over our parish!” Thankfully, a better way for Catholics of different cultures to meet is suggested by the witness of the saint whose memorial we celebrate today: St. Francis Xavier.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the first Jesuits nearly 500 years ago, and a missionary in Asia. Before journeying to Japan, he met a samurai who spoke with him about Japanese culture and customs. He explained that the Japanese wouldn’t embrace Christianity overnight. Instead, they would wait to see if Francis practiced what he preached. He would need to be patient and respect the culture. St. Francis took this advice to heart. He attempted to learn Japanese, he studied Japanese philosophy, and he observed local customs, such as wearing a silken robe. This approach, Francis came to learn, was successful.

Whenever we encounter Catholics from different cultures, we would do well to follow the example of St. Francis Xavier. We can try to learn their languages; we can respect their cultural norms; we can encourage their religious traditions and devotions; we can welcome them instead of ignoring them; we can be patient with them and with ourselves; we can love them as the brothers and sisters that they are.

More than anyone since St. Paul, St. Francis Xavier brought the gospel to those of different cultures; may we live that gospel when Catholics of different cultures come to us.

(My book of daily meditations for Lent is now available from Ave Maria Press: It is available also at Amazon: )


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