“Just like the people of Goa who share an unbreakable bond with St Francis Xavier, the Catholic community in Australia will forever be blessed to have had St Francis enter into their lives during the Year of Grace” writes Juanita Shepherd journalist of the Australian newspaper The Record in an special article for the site of LSG – The Lusophone Society of Goa. The famous relic of the right arm of St Francis Xavier is currently touring Australia.
Father Francis Kolenchery administrator of St Christopher’s Cathedral (Canberra, Australia) says a prayer with the relic of St Francis Xavier. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Relic of the right arm of St Francis Xavier is currently touring Australia
A special article written for LSG – Lusophone Society of Goa
by Juanita Shepherd*
He braved stormy seas, faced rampant illness and suffering and experienced horrific dangers and cramped conditions. Yet, he remained gentle, kind and caring, saviour of the sick and dying, he looked after the down trodden and brought justice to the poor. On March 12, 1692, he became known as Saint Francis Xavier. The humble Jesuit priest who smiled gently in the face of opposition, and brought Christ to the East, he is known as the Lord of Goa; the people pour their hearts out to him, Catholic, Hindu or Muslim all find comfort in the presence of St Francis. However, the blessed feeling of St Francis isn’t simply reserved for the pews at Bom Jesus in Goa, the saint’s revered relic, his hand from Rome, embarked on a Pilgrimage of Grace – his 16th century life touched millions and in 21st century Australia the relic of St Francis continues to draw people to experience God’s love.
Thousands of people flocked to churches across the Archdiocese of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, as the right arm of St Francis Xavier visited parishes are part of the celebration of the Year of Grace, an incentive started by Australian Bishop’s to bring Christ into our lives.
St Francis Xavier’s mission was to bring Christ into everyone’s hearts and minds; it was miraculous to have Christ touching the lives of the devoted through the saint’s relics. People of all ages, from the very young to the very old stood in line patiently waiting their turn to pray in front of the relic.
Their camera’s, wether the large professionally ones, smaller ones or simply using thire phones, were all out and clicking away to capture the moment of true grace. One little boy, just learning to walk was led by his mother where he pressed his chubby hands to the glass case, and his mother prayed beside him, another girl perhaps 10 or 12 years old was slightly fearful, but her mother gently held her hand and together they prayed to St Francis.
The elderly did not let anything deter them from seeking pray and veneration with the relic of St Francis, one gentleman shakily got out of his wheelchair and with a steely determination that only faith and the Holy Spirit can provide knelt in front of the relic.
Words fail to describe the blessed and tranquil feeling that the relic of St Francis Xavier brought to Perth and to Australia. It was a wonderful occasion and an overwhelming feeling of holiness transpired over us as we prayed to St Francis, even though we are all sinners it was comforting to know that there is a kind just and merciful God who works through the relic of St Francis, reaching out to lend us a guiding hand as we navigate our way through the sometimes unknown waters of life.
Traveling with the relic was Father Richard Shortall, a Jesuit priest from New Zealand who was asked by the Provincial if he would like to accompany St Francis on his Australian tour. Fr Richard became the Guardian of the Relic as he went from city to city.
“I was on a Qantas flight from Adelaide to Perth and I had the relic sitting right next to me.” Father Richard said. “Some people wondered what it was but the cabin crew and the flight crew knew and they were thrilled.”
It may be easy to dismiss the relic as merely a hand or even as something slightly strange, but after listening to Father Richard during his speech about the relic there is no doubt in anyone’s mind just how miraculous it was to have the relic of Saint Francis visit churches in Australia.
“In some very special way, in the moment of death the Hand of God came down and touched St Francis preserving his body.” Father Richard said. “When we touch the relic there is a special connection between God and us.”
Just like the people of Goa who share an unbreakable bond with St Francis Xavier, the Catholic community in Australia will forever be blessed to have had St Francis enter into their lives during the Year of Grace.
*Graduating from Fremantle’s University of Notre Dame in Politics and Journalism, Juanita Shepherd has been writing for The Record for almost a year, first as an intern and now as a permanent journalist. The Record is Australia’s oldest weekly newspaper, established in 1874.
St Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was co-founder, with St Ignatius Loyola, of the Society of Jesus or “Jesuits” and the greatest Christian missionary since St Paul.
One of the first seven Jesuits St. Francis traveled extensively, mainly in the Portuguese Empire, making many converts in India, Japan and the islands of South East Asia such as Borneo. It had always been the ambition of St. Francis to reach China. He died, however, in 1552 on an island less than 10 miles from the Chinese mainland. He was 46-years-old.
Pope Gregory XV canonized him on March 12, 1662 and his feast day is celebrated on December 3.
His body is now in Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa where he is still revered, but his right arm was taken to Rome in the early 17th century. Since 1641, the Il Gesù Church consecrated in 1584, which is the mother church of the Society of Jesus, has housed the right arm of St Francis Xavier.
Now the famous relic of the right arm has temporarily left Rome, and from 16 September until 3 December 2012 the arm of the missionary saint will take part in a pilgrimage throughout Australia. St Francis Xavier is a Patron of Missions in Australia.
For the people of Goa, St Francis is called the Lord of Goa.