The challenge of St. Francis Xavier

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
  Matthew 9: 38-39 

December 3 is the feast of the Jesuit missionary to Asia, St. Francis Xavier, S.J, who lived from 1506 to 1552.

In a letter he wrote on higher education of his time, he challenged the people of his own time – and ours.

“Often I am overcome with the desire to cry out against the universities, especially against the University of Paris . . . and to rage with all my powers like a fool who has lost his senses.

“I would cry out against those who are more preoccupied with becoming scientists than with letting people in need profit from their science . . . I am afraid that many who learn their disciplines at the university are more interested in using them to acquire honors, bishoprics, privileges, and high position than in using them for what is just and necessary. . . The common word is: ‘I will study “letters” in order to get some good privileged position in the Church, and after that  I will live for God.’ These people are brutes, following the guidance of their sensuality and disordered impulses. . . They do not trust in God, nor do they give themselves completely to him . . . they are afraid that God does not want what they desire and that when they obtain him they are forced to abandon their unjustly acquired privileges. . .

“How many would be enlightened by the faith of the Gospel if there were some who would put all their effort into finding good people who are willing to make sacrifices to search for and find not what belongs to them, but what belongs to Jesus Christ. In these lands so many people come to faith in Jesus Christ that many times my arms fail me because of the painful work of baptizing them.”

(The quotation can be found in Henri Nouwen’s Road to Daybreak.)

 

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