Pope to young people: Look to the peoples who need Jesus like St Francis Xavier

At the general audience, the pontiff retraced "the restlessness to always go further" that marked the life of the Jesuit patron of the missions and great apostle of Asia. "Even today there are many courageous missionaries, I am thinking for example of those in Papua New Guinea". Francis Xavier's gaze on China and his death on Sancian Island, at the gates of this great country, "a symbol also for today's time".

May 18, 2023

VATICAN: "You young people who feel a restlessness, but do not know what to do: look at St Francis Xavier, look at the horizon of the world, look at the peoples and so many people who suffer and who need to know Jesus. Look and you too go: have courage," appealed Pope Francis to the youth around the world today at the end of the Wednesday general audience held in St Peter's Square.

In his cycle of catechesis dedicated to apostolic zeal today, the Pope dwelt on the figure of the Spanish Jesuit great evangeliser of Asia.

"Some say he is the greatest missionary of modern times," Francis commented, "but it is not possible to say who is the greatest, who is the least. There are so many hidden missionaries who, even today, do much more than Saint Francis Xavier. And Saint Francis Xavier is the patron of missions, like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. And a missionary is great when he or she goes. And there are many, many priests, lay people, women religious who go to the missions…even from Italy. Many of you, I see for example, when a story arrives about a priest who is a candidate to become a bishop, who spent ten years as a missionary in that place. This is incredible – to leave your own country to preach the Gospel. This is apostolic zeal. This is what we really need to cultivate. And looking at these men and women, we learn."  

The pontiff retraced the steps in the life of Francis Xavier, who was "a worldly young man" who "left everything to become a missionary". He reached Goa, India, then the capital of the Portuguese Orient. "But he does not stop there. " But he did not stop there: he went to evangelise the poor fishermen of the southern coast of India, teaching catechism and prayers to children, baptising and healing the sick. Then, during a night prayer at the tomb of the apostle St Bartholomew, he felt he had to go beyond India: he boldly set sail for the Moluccas, the most distant islands of the Indonesian archipelago".

"One day, in India," the Pope recalled, "he met someone from Japan who spoke to him about his distant country, where no European missionary had ever ventured. Francis Xavier felt a restlessness for the apostolate, to go elsewhere, beyond, and he decided to depart as soon as possible, and arrived there after an adventurous journey on a junk belonging to a Chinese man. His three years in Japan were quite difficult, due to the climate, opposition and his ignorance of the language. Here too, however, the seeds planted would bear great fruit."

Until the last dream that he could not fulfil, that of China: 'he realised that with its culture, its history, its greatness, it exercised de facto dominance over that part of the world. And even today, China is a cultural pole with a very great history'. He died on 3 December 1552 on the small island of Sancian, in front of the Chinese gates, waiting in vain to land on the mainland near Canton. Already aged 46 years from a life totally spent on the proclamation of the Gospel, he died in total abandon, with only a Chinese man beside him to watch over him. "It is all a symbol," the pope commented.  

Francis Xavier's intense activity ' was always joined with prayer, the union with God, mystical and contemplative. He never abandoned prayer because he knew that is where he drew his strength. Wherever he went, he took great care of the sick, the poor and children. He was not an “aristocratic” missionary. He always went with the most in need, the children who were most in need of instruction, of catechesis. The poor, the sick… He specifically went to the “frontiers” when it came to care. And there, he grew in greatness. And the love of Christ was the strength that drove him to the furthest frontiers, with constant toil and danger, overcoming setbacks, disappointments and discouragement; indeed, giving him consolation and joy in following and serving Him to the end.".

"Give us some of this zeal," the Pope concluded, "to live and proclaim the Gospel. Even today there are courageous young people. I think for example of so many missionaries in Papua New Guinea, of my friends who are in the diocese of Vanimo, of all those who have gone as young people to evangelise. May the Lord give us all the joy of evangelising, the joy of carrying forward this very beautiful message that makes us and everyone happy".

Finally, in his greetings to the groups present, Francis turned his thoughts, as usual, to the martyred Ukrainian people. "There is so much suffering," he recalled, "let us pray for the children, for the wounded, for those who have died. So that peace may return'.--Asia News

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