We celebrate the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier as a feast today, because he is the patron saint of the Diocese of Joliet. Francis Xavier was a sixteenth century man who had a promising career in academics. He was encouraged in the faith by his good friend, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and went to join the new community founded by Ignatius, the Society of Jesus, better known today as the Jesuits.
Francis had a passion for preaching the Gospel and living a life of Gospel simplicity. He would live with and among the poorest of the poor, sharing their living conditions, ministering to the sick, and preaching and teaching the faith. Saint Francis Xavier lived in the East Indies for a time, before going on to minister to the Hindus, Malaysians, and Japanese. He even learned a bit of Japanese in order to communicate well with his people and to preach to them. He dreamed of going on to minister in China, but he died before he could get there. Even so, he was the model and patron for all of us, called to be missionary disciples.
We might not have the opportunity to live as Francis Xavier did and to actually go out to distant shores to preach the Gospel. But we certainly are still called to preach it with our lives. We are called to witness to Christ to everyone we meet: family, friends, coworkers, neighbors: anyone the Lord puts in our path. Our diocese chose Saint Francis Xavier for our patron because our founders took seriously the call to proclaim the Gospel to every person in this diocese. We are called upon to do the same, according to our own life’s vocation and state of life. May all who hear our words and see our actions come to believe and be saved.