Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pray for us, St. Francis Xavier


O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you, I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. While joyfully giving thanks to God for the singular gifts of grace bestowed on you during your life and your gifts of glory after death, I beseech you with all my heart’s devotion to be pleased to obtain for me, through your efficacious intercession, the greatest of all blessings: the grace of living a holy life and dying a holy death. Moreover, I beg of you to obtain for me [mention here the spiritual or temporal favor you wish to obtain]. But if what I ask of you so earnestly does not tend to the glory of God and the great good of my soul, please obtain for me, I pray, what is more conducive for both. Amen.

[Recite here an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be].

Note: If the above prayer is unavailable, recite five Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory be’s for the same intentions.

Pray for us, St. Francis Xavier, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray. Almighty God, who was pleased to bring the nations of the Indies into the Church through the preaching and miracles of St. Francis Xavier, in Your mercy grant that we, who venerate his glorious merits, may also follow the example of his virtues. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Each year the Maryland Province invites us to participate in an online Novena of Grace.
Join us each day from March 4-12 for daily prayers and reflections.
Below is background information on the history of the Novena of Grace
prepared by the Maryland Province.

Information prepared by Frank McGauley, SJ

What is a Novena?
A Novena is a period of public or private prayer lasting nine days either consecutively or once weekly for nine weeks, to mark an important occasion, obtain a particular grace or pray for a special intention. The prayers are often directed to the intercession of a Saint or a particular virtue of Christ. The model for all Novenas is the celebration of the nine days traditionally observed between Ascension and Pentecost when Mary and the apostles waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

What is the Novena of Grace?
The Novena of Grace is a special time of prayer in which people all over the world call to God through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier. It usually begins on March 4th and closes on March 12th when we celebrate the canonization of St Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. The Novena of Grace was prompted by the cure of Fr. Marcellus Mastrilli, S.J., in 1634. At the point of death from a brain injury he was cured instantaneously through the intercession of St Francis Xavier and afterwards died a martyr in Japan. Fr. Mastrilli said the Saint had assured him that “all who ask his intercession with God for nine days, in honor of his canonization, would infallibly experience the effects of his great power in heaven and would receive whatever they asked that would contribute to their salvation.” Because of the innumerable graces and extraordinary favors received through his intercession, this devotion came to be known as the Novena of Grace.

Why make this Novena?
It is a practical expression of our Faith in the Communion of Saints.
We offer ourselves to the healing power of Christ through Xavier’s intercession.
The Novena serves as an opportunity for a faithful discipline during Lent.
We need the example of holy and heroic lives to encourage us in our lives.

Who was Francis Xavier?
Born April 7, 1506 in the family of Xavier at Navarre (in the north of present day Spain) he attended the University of Paris where he befriended Ignatius of Loyola. In 1540 while forming his companions into what would become the Society of Jesus, Ignatius responded to a request from the Pope and the King of Portugal and sent Francis to the Indies as a missionary. Considered the greatest of Christian missionaries, for 10 years Xavier crisscrossed the seas and lands of Asia (India, Malacca, the Molucca Islands, Japan, Sancian, off the coast of China) and traveled thousands of miles to the most inaccessible places under the most harrowing conditions. His converts are estimated to have been in the thousands and his missionary impact in the East has endured for centuries. He worked with inadequate funds, little cooperation and was often actively opposed. The example of his life and care and concern for the people won many ears to listen to “The Good News.” In our own day Fr. Kolvenbach, the present General of the Jesuits, described Xavier this way: “The ardent love, burning zeal, stupendous energy, immense enthusiasm and the daring exploits of this courageous herald of good news are a perennial source of inspiration, encouragement and challenge to all of us.” Let Xavier inspire, encourage and challenge each of us during the days of this Novena.

Provincial Fr. David Nugent, S.J. sent the first missionaries from Maryland Jesuit Province to India in 1947 – 60 years ago. We use the framework of Francis Xavier’s geographical missionary journey and the framework of Maryland Province’s Jamshedpur mission journey to inspire, encourage and challenge us as we reflect on our own spiritual journey through this Novena.

About 70 years ago I was walking home from school one day with classmate John C. Acton along Concord St. near Gleason’s Pond in Framingham, MA. As we were parting at the corner of Mansfield St. he offered me a book on the history of the Jesuits. John was a great reader. My limits were the “Baseball Joe” series. Therefore when I protested that I was not interested in reading about the Jesuits, he insisted, “Then just read this chapter on Francis Xavier.” I took the book home and I was zapped. I was fascinated. I couldn’t put my finger on what happened but thought “There is something to live for and something to die for.” I had seen the Maryknoll magazines and later shared with the student counselor at Georgetown, Fr. L.R.McHugh, SJ, that I wanted to be a missionary – maybe Maryknoll. He explained to me that the Maryknolls had a great mission but the Jesuits have the largest number of missionaries in the world. He signed me up. Acton applied to the Jesuits at Boston College but after discernment, decided to accept a commission in the Navy and join after the war. Then on the way back from the war and the Navy, John said, “I met the most beautiful girl in Massachusetts.” That was the beginning of a happy marriage with 7 wonderful children and the beginning of my friendship with Xavier, fulfilled on my1949 mission assignment.

Fr. General spoke of St. Francis Xavier on March 2002 in Thailand. He spoke of him as “our brother in whom Ignatian spirituality was well incarnated” and the one who is “undeniably at the origin of our mission in India.”. Then he went on to say, “We must recognize that the Asia of his time is not that of today with sacred traditions much different from ours. At his departure Xavier knew nothing of Asia. He was going into the unknown. Without reliable information, books, relations, statistics or documents Xavier had no way of preparing his missionary endeavors. Unlike ourselves he had neither radio nor television to instruct him. He also carried with him an outdated image of Europe itself for he left before the beginning of the weakening of Christianity under the pressure of humanism and reform. Whereas we can and must inform ourselves so as to be able to discern together the signs of the times in Asia at the risk of being overwhelmed and paralyzed in the exercise of our mission by this mass of information which reveals the extraordinary complexity of our environment, Xavier could only project on Asia his notion of Greco Latin paganism, attributing to the Hindus and the Buddhists the old term of ‘gentiles’. We are more knowledgeable, it is true, but can we say we truly know Asia ? Are we willing to learn and break out of our prejudices and formulas so as to enter into true dialogue in the continuation of Christ’s mission ?”

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