How many times does it seem that we play second-fiddle to someone else? So often we know of saints but know so little about them. So often many stand in the shadow of their better-know brothers and sisters. But what would the Church be like if they had given up because they were not famous and not lived out their callings!
King John of Portugal asked Ignatius for priests to send to the Portuguese missions in India. Knowing he would never see his beloved friend again, Ignatius chose Francis Xavier. Francis dutifully left for India and arrived in the city of Goa.
I wonder what it must have been like for the two men - Ignatius sending Francis out knowing that he would never see him again and Francis leaving all behind knowing that he would never see home again. It must of been like a death.
But like a death, there must have been hope. The fact that we die does not stop the good we do for Christ as part of the Communion of Saints. The fact that they would never see one another again in life does not mean that Francis did not continue on the work of salvation, unseen by Ignatius until they met again in everlasting life.
Though we more often think of Ignatius, especially as the founder of the Jesuits, without Francis joining him immediately in his vision, where would Ignatius have been? If Francis had not left for the East, then the Christians in India - children of the Apostle James, as well as their European colonists would have been poorer and we as a Church would be poorer. Sometimes the second violins get the theme but they always give it back with grace.
As a final note, Francis died of exhaustion in China - oh that I could work myself to death for Christ!
We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. No Portuguese live here, the country is so utterly barren and poor. The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law.
I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians.
Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”
I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.
This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India.
-- Letter to St. Ignatius
Things to Think About