Over the past several years, people of Asian, African, Caribbean, and Hispanic descent have begun to fill the pews of the parish I serve; different cultures are forming one community, which is a beautiful thing to behold.
Sometimes, however, when different cultures meet, 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 saint 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 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, studied Japanese philosophy, and observed local customs, such as wearing a silken robe. His approach was richly blessed.
Whenever we encounter Catholics of different cultures, we would do well to follow the example of St. Francis Xavier. We can respect their languages and cultural norms; we can encourage their religious traditions and devotions; we can welcome them instead of dismissing them; we can be patient with them and with ourselves; and we can love them as the brothers and sisters that they are.