National Journey of the Relic of Saint Francis Xavier
As part of the Year of Grace, the Church in Australia has organised a pilgrimage of a relic of Saint Francis Xavier, a former patron saint of Australia during mission times. Saint Francis Xavier was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits. He is arguably the greatest missionary of the Church since Saint Paul. “It’s very rare for the relic of the arm of Saint Francis Xavier to ever leave the Gesu Church in Rome, but we thought it would be good as part of a special Year of Grace that Australia is having, that we might have the arm of Saint Francis Xavier make a pilgrimage around the country,” said Bishop Peter Comensoli. During the next two months, the treasured relic will make its way all around Australia. The relic will be in the Wollongong Diocese from 23 September to 25 September.
Some people may be puzzled by the idea of such a pilgrimage. A relic is in fact simply part of the mortal remains of the saint. Instead of visiting his grave, his remains are coming to us – a shrine on pilgrimage. Pope Benedict in his address to young people in 2005 reflects: “Relics direct us towards God himself: it is he who, by the power of his grace, grants to weak human beings the courage to bear witness to him before the world.” He continued to explain: “By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints, the Church does not forget that, in the end, these are indeed just human bones, but they are bones that belonged to individuals touched by the living power of God. The relics of the saints are traces of that invisible but real presence which sheds light upon the shadows of the world and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst. They cry out with us and for us: ‘Maranatha!’ – ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’."
This visit to Australia of a significant relic of St Francis Xavier invites us to remember the life of this early companion of Ignatius, and to remember how his life was transformed by grace. Like all genuine grace, that which Xavier received showed itself in action. In his case, this was manifest in his incredible energy and zeal for bringing others to Christ. His evangelising zeal invites us to reconnect once more with our baptismal mission, to be evangelisers in our time and place - to freely pass on what we have freely received, the Good News that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to be our Saviour (Jn 3:16). St Francis Xavier proclaimed the Gospel in a holy and heroic way, full of creativity, energy and courage, and according to the lights and understandings of his time. We also are called to mission with creativity, energy and courage, according to the lights and understandings of our time. The mission is the same - to be a fire kindling other fires, as Ignatius told Xavier, to set the world on fire. This visit gives us a unique opportunity to call on Xavier’s intercession as we carry out that mission in our day, and to imitate him, as he imitated Christ.
The schedule for the pilgrimage through Wollongong Diocese is as follows:
Sunday 23 September
4:00pm Arrival at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Wollongong
5:00-6:00pm Mass at the Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Peter Ingham
6:00-7:00pm Veneration after Mass at the Cathedral
8:30-9:30pm Mass at St Thomas More, Ruse
9:30pm-6am Overnight veneration after Mass at Ruse
Monday 24 September
8:00-9:00am Mass at St Francis Xavier Berrima
9:00-10:30am Veneration after Mass at Berrima
12:30-1:30pm Mass at St Patrick’s Port Kembla
1.30-3:00pm Veneration after Mass at Port Kembla
4:00-8:00pm Prayer and veneration at Mary Mother of the Church Macquarie Fields
Tuesday 25 September
9:00-10:00am Mass at St Paul’s Camden
10:00-12:00pm Veneration after Mass at Camden