Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Today of course was the feast of St. Francis Xavier early Jesuit, scholar and missionary. I love that piece from the Office of Readings where he says he would like to go around the Universities of Europe (especially Paris) and bash them with the words "What an immense number of souls are excluded from heaven through your fault and thrust down to hell!" His zeal and enthusiasm, along with his admiration and love for the deeply spiritual Indian peoples shine through his words. May the Lord give me that zeal too!

A man who operated under entirely different circumstances has his feast tomorrow. St. John of Damascus (or Damascene if you prefer) was an abbot, theologian and defender of icons during the first period of Iconoclasm (much of the eighth century) and who died in 749. Called Chrysorrhoas or Golden Speaker, He defended the use of icons and famously declared "I worship Him through matter who saved me through matter." The Muslim Caliph at one point had John's right hand cut off but after beseeching the Blessed Mother of God his hand was miraculously restored from which time the icons of the Theotokos Tricheiroussa or three-handed occur. Not only is this a day to remember and celebrate his efforts on behalf of the faith but also to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Islamic countries, and elsewhere, who suffer for their faith. One wonders if the decision of the Bishops of England and Wales to recommend the establishment of prayer rooms for Muslims in all Catholic schools (if that's what they said) is not a case of tolerance gone too far - to the point that it endangers the Catholic character of those schools. The more I read on Islam the less I believe it has anything in common with Judaeo-Christianity (see Islam: What the West needs to know.) Perhaps we have not had the zeal of St. Francis Xavier or of St. Francis of Assisi, who went into the camp of the Sultan and preached to him of Christ, and need to ask the Lord for it. With the gift of such zeal we could reach out to our Islamic brothers and sisters with the truth Jesus Christ is the only Saviour!

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