Într-un splendid castel de la poalele munţilor Pirinei, la Navara, în nordul Spaniei, în anul 1506, s-a născut un copil. Cine ar fi putut bănui atunci ce va deveni acel copil? Europa iubea muzica şi senzaţionalul. America fusese descoperită şi Spania spera să devină tot mai bogată. Dorinţa de cât mai mare lux stăpânea inimile aristocraţilor, în timp ce săracii nu aveau coaja de pâine. Biserica creştină avea aur şi era organizată în sens firesc, dar corupţia era la culme. Ea pierduse puterea, viaţa, îi mergea numele că trăieşte, dar era moartă. Reforma bătea la uşă.
Într-o aşa perioadă s-a născut Francis Xavier. El a fost legănat în poala luxului şi era natural să iubească viaţa lumească, banchetele şi dansul. Universitatea a făcut-o la Paris şi s-a distins în studierea filozofiei. La 36 ani, ca profesor, preda filozofia la aceeaşi universitate. Printre studenţii lui era unul de vreo 50 de ani, urât şi cocoşat. Acesta, după fiecare lectură îl aprecia, îl felicita pe distinsul profesor pentru cunoştinţele sale, apoi adăuga: „Dar ce va folosi unui om să câştige toată lumea, dacă îşi pierde sufletul? De o parte lumea, de alta sufletul! Să câştigi lumea! Să-ţi pierzi sufletul! Ce folos?" Deşi era urât la chip, cocoşatul avea darul de a se împrieteni. Studentul a câştigat simpatia profesorului, se plimba cu el pe malul Senei sau în pădurile de la marginea Parisului. Întrebarea repetată a studentului a pătruns în mintea profesorului şi a început să-l frământe. Nu se mai putea scăpa de ea. Şi într-o zi a capitulat. Profesorul a îngenuncheat alăturea de student, cu ochii scăldaţi în lacrimi şi-a recunoscut păcatele sale, s-a pocăit de ele, de viaţa uşuratică ce a trăit-o până atunci şi s-a hotărât pentru o altă viaţă, o viaţă trăită pentru Dumnezeu.
După pocăinţa sa, în anul 1534, s-a făcut membru în „Societatea lui Isus". El a început să spună altora despre schimbarea vieţii sale. Acum, mintea sa a devenit preocupată de starea celor ce nu cunosc pe Dumnezeu. Aceasta l-a făcut să se hotărască să devină misionar.
Întrucât regele Ioan al III-lea al Portugaliei avea o colonie înfloritoare în India, Xavier a plecat la Lisabona, a primit scrisori de acreditare şi era gata să facă totul ce era în puterea sa, spre a fi un misionar cu succes în acel loc. A plecat în anul 1540 cu o corabie pe care era şi noul vicerege al acelei colonii, care îi era prieten. Deci, avea în spate atât puterea seculară, cât şi cea ecleziastică a papei. Ce contrast izbitor este în această privinţă între Xavier şi Carey, care cu 250 de ani mai târziu a mers tot acolo, dar a trebuit să înfrunte puternica împotrivire a Companiei Indiei de Est!
La 6 mai 1542, Xavier a debarcat de pe corabie în insula Goa. El însă nu ştia limba acelora. Avea traduse cele 10 porunci, rugăciunea Tatăl nostru, credeul şi Ave Maria. Pe acestea le-a învăţat pe dinafară şi le repeta, iar restul conversaţiei în tot timpul celor 7 ani cât a stat în Goa şi India a fost prin translator. El umbla ziua prin sate cu un clopoţel din care suna ca să adune copiii, pe care îi învăţa prin repetare după el poruncile, credeul, Tatăl nostru şi Ave Maria. Duminica, aduna pe părinţi şi pe copii şi făcea cu toţi acelaşi lucru. El le cerea să-şi pună mâinile pe piept în formă de cruce şi să spună că ei cred, apoi îi boteza stropindu-i cu apă. În unele zile boteza un sat întreg.
Fiind trimisul regelui, el nu a întâmpinat nici o greutate, nici o persecuţie. Ba din contră, păgânii treceau formal la creştinism, ca să poată primi unele favoruri. Toată lucrarea lui a fost o lucrare de prozelitism la religia catolică, nu de convertire. Fără pocăinţă, fără o convingere temeinică despre Cristos Domnul ca Mântuitor, în traiul lor, ei au rămas tot păgâni, doar numele acum era schimbat. Nu e nici o mirare că într-o scrisoare el se lăuda: „Am făcut zece mii de creştini într-o singură lună". Dar, Dumnezeu nu a avut nimic de a face cu toată lucrarea aceasta. Cei şapte ani, Xavier i-a sfârşit în eşec. El a constatat că viaţa celor creştinaţi de el nu era cu nimic schimbată. Ei erau tot atât de păgâni ca şi înainte de botezul lor prin stropirea cu apă. Biserica catolică învaţă că botezul curăţă păcatele şi dă naşterea din nou. Realitatea vieţii însă dezminţea aceasta.
Nemulţumit de rezultatele misiunii sale, în 1549, Xavier a mers în Japonia. Nu cunoştea limba japoneză şi nici nu s-a străduit s-o înveţe. Experienţa creştinării formale a indienilor l-a făcut mult mai prudent în Japonia. Acolo şi-a schimbat metoda de lucru. Într-o scrisoare, el spunea: „Am rămas în acest oraş mult timp vorbind oamenilor pe străzi şi în pieţe. Mulţi ascultători au fost foarte atenţi şi nu-şi puteau reţine lacrimile, când le descriam moartea amară a lui Cristos. Totuşi, foarte puţini au fost gata să primească botezul" (W. P. Walsh în „Eroi moderni ai câmpului de misiune", pagina 124).
Lucrarea în Japonia a durat doi ani şi jumătate. În timpul acesta el a convertit la catolicism pe unii bărbaţi cu educaţie din clasele înalte şi pe unii din poporul de rând.
În timp ce lucra în Japonia, gândul lui s-a îndreptat spre China. Dorea să misioneze acolo, dar se gândea să intre în China pe cale politică. A scris regelui să-l numească ambasador sau consul, dar o aşa funcţie i-a fost refuzată. De fapt, intrarea în China era interzisă străinilor. În cele din urmă, el s-a hotărât să meargă pe insula San Chan, iar de acolo se gândea că va găsi pe cineva să-l ducă la Canton. Ajuns pe insulă a constatat că nimeni nu are îndrăzneala să calce legea. Oricine ar fi îndrăznit să strecoare un străin în China, era pedepsit cu moartea. În acea vreme, Xavier s-a îmbolnăvit de friguri. După două săptămâni de suferinţă pe acea insulă, pe data de 2 decembrie 1552, Xavier a trecut la cele veşnice. Era în vârstă de 45 ani.
Elgin S. Moyer, în cartea sa: „Who was Who in Christian History", la pagina 448, spune că lucrarea lui Francis Xavier a fost o lucrare de suprafaţă, superficială, de aceea, rezultatele n-au durat. El credea că botezul mântuieşte şi naşte din nou. Aceasta l-a făcut să stropească cu apă pe mii de persoane. Dar Duhul Sfânt nu a făcut naşterea din nou, şi fără ea, oamenii au rămas tot păgâni.
Zelul său misionar, dezbrăcarea de sine, curajul său, îndurarea suferinţelor, ba chiar şi greşelile sale pot sluji de învăţătură multora.
Raised from the dead -Saints who brought people back to life
Saints Who Raised The Dead
The book "Saints Who Raised The Dead" by Father Albert J. Hebert documents true stories of 400 resurrection miracles in the lives of the Saints. Jesus says to His apostles in the Gospel of John: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-13) And again He commanded His apostles: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."
And following Jesus command, we have in the Acts of the Apostles Peter raising Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:40), and later Paul raising Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:12). And after the Apostles we have the Saints continuing the mission and the mandate of Jesus to "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons" and to "evangelise unto the ends of the earth." In the book, "Saints who raised the dead" there are dozens of Saints listed along with an explanation of the resurrection miracles that they performed. Some of the many listed are St Ignatius of Loyola, ST Paul of the Cross, St Catherine of Siena, St Hyacinth, St Martin of Tours, St Ambrose and many others. But probaly one of the greatest evangeliser and missionary Saints was St Francis Xavier. The focus of this article will be the many persons that St Francis brought back to life through the grace of God.
St Francis Xavier -The Missionary Miracle Worker
In light of his extensive evangelizing, missionary travels and hardships, the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) is considered to be one of the greatest missionaries since St. Paul. He is known as the "Apostle of the Indies," and the "Apostle of Japan” for in about ten short years (1541-1552) Francis did the work of many individual missionaries, spreading the Catholic Faith from Goa (Portuguese territory in western India), over South India, Ceylon, Bengal, Cape Comorin, the Moluccas, Spice Islands, Malacca, and through the China Sea to Japan where he died-alone except for one companion, a Chinese youth named Antiry, on the Japanese island of Sancian, waiting for a ship to China. On his journeys St. Francis Xavier converted hundreds of thousands, and the impact of his work lasted for centuries.
Those exotic lands were vastly different from the Basque country of his native northern Spain and the Xavier Castle on the fertile mountain slope overlooking the Aragon River. There in the Kingdom of Navarre, Francis Xavier had been born in 1506, the youngest of the six children of the Chancellor of Navarre, Don Juan de Jassu (a doctor of law), and the very beautiful Donna Maria Azpilcueta y Xavier.
Francis Xavier was a brilliant and attractive personality. As a student and lecturer at the great University of Paris, he came under the influence of St. Ignatius Loyola. Francis was among the first seven to take their vows in the fledgling Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius; he was later the last to make the famed Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. If Francis had remained in Europe and the universities he might have become famous as a great teacher or doctor of the Church, judging by the promise of his already brilliant accomplishments.
At that time it came about that King John III of Portugal asked the Pope to send six members of the new society to do mission work in Asia. He wanted them to leave in the royal galleon of the Governor of Portuguese India in April, 1541. Ignatius could spare only two Jesuits, and one of them, Bobadilla, became seriously ill with a severe fever at the last minute. It was apparently with dismay on the part of both Ignatius and Francis that the latter became the substitute.
Then and there the history of the Church and its missions was changed by the workings of Divine Providence. So often it seems that there is a "sacrifice of brilliant talents"; the ability to teach metaphysics in university classes and the meticulously acquired knowledge of Greek and Latin give way to the simplest form of catechism, as a missionary instructs the children, pagans, and cast-offs of many distant places, returning again to language study as he struggles with the idioms of foreign dialects. But God knows what He is about.
Due to inclement weather it took the packed galleon of 900 passengers 13 months to complete its voyage. It arrived at Goa in May, the month of Mary, 1542. There St. Francis Xavier spent five months before traveling on to Cape Com-orin. In Goa he preached, cared for the sick and for prisoners, taught children, and endeavored to bring Chris¬tian morality to the Portuguese there, particularly denouncing the concubinage which was so prevalent among them.
Besides his numerous cures, there were many other wonders in St. Francis' life: gifts of tongues, predictions, bilocation, calming a storm at sea, and more. Francis had been "all things to all men"; he was known and loved (and sometimes hated) by great and small in all walks of life. Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is the fact that he baptized 100,000 with his own hand. That remarkable right arm is still preserved and venerated.
Along with the miracles of raising the dead, Butler speaks of four such events which occurred in one period alone, according to the canonization process. Those four resurrections were those of a catechist bitten by a venomous snake, a child drowned in a pit, and a young man and a young girl dead of pestilential fever.
On the Fishery Coast, St. Francis Xavier worked enough miracles to fill a large volume. Once when he was about to begin Mass in a small church at Combutur, a crowd entered with the corpse of a boy who had been drowned in a well. His mother threw herself at the feet of St. Francis-who was also the one who had baptized this child. She implored him to restore the boy to life. Francis said a short prayer, took the dead child by the hand, and bade him arise. The child rose and immediately ran to his mother.
There was a pair of youths who accompanied Francis as catechists. During the night one of them was bitten in the foot by a "cobra da capello." In the morning the youth was found dead. Francis took some saliva from his own mouth, touched the foot of the poisoned catechist, made the Sign of the Cross over him, took him by the hand and bade him arise in the Name of Jesus Christ. The youth responded immediately and was able to continue the missionary journey at once. It was as simple as if he had just gotten up from sleep, instead of having been restored to life itself.
Several chroniclers attribute to St. Francis other resurrections of the dead in that part of the country. Only the Lord knows how many Francis actually recalled from the dead in all his missionary life, laboring night and day. Large numbers could be expected when one recalls that he was the greatest missionary since St. Paul, and if one considers how many of the dead have been raised by other great missionaries.
Further, it is stated in the processes concerning Francis that one of the children he often sent among the sick in his name raised two dead persons to life. The Christian "children" of St. Francis worked many prodigies. One is re¬minded of the helpers St. Vincent Ferrer commissioned to continue working miracles for the multitudes during the times when the saint himself was exhausted.
The following miracle of St. Francis Xavier is recorded in the Relatio documented in the time of Pope Paul V. In the streets of Mutan, Francis met a funeral procession bearing the body of a youth who had died of a malignant fever. Ac-cording to the custom of that area, the body had been kept for 24 hours wrapped in a shroud. Like Jesus with the widow of Naim, Francis pitied the bereaved parents; they pleaded with him.
The saint knelt down, raised his eyes to Heaven, and prayed to God for the lad's life. Then he sprinkled the covered corpse with holy water and ordered the funeral shroud cut open. When the body was visible, Francis made the Sign of the Cross over it, took the youth by the hand, and bade him in the Name of Jesus to live.
The youth rose up alive, and Francis gave him to his parents in good health. The crowd marveled and praised the holiness of Francis. The youth's parents and friends, in grat¬itude and memory of the deed, erected a great cross on the spot and held a festival there.
At another time, St. Francis was preaching at Coulon, near Cape Comorin in Travancore at the southern tip of India opposite Ceylon (Sri Lanka). This was a seaport, a rough town where many Christians dishonored their name. Francis, while preaching in the Portuguese church there, felt baffled and stymied by the wall of obstinacy he met in his hardhearted listeners.
Now it happened that a man had been buried in the church the day before. St. Francis stopped preaching; he prayed to God to honor the Blood and the Name of His Son and to soften the hearts of the congregation. Then he directed a few men to open the nearby grave of the man who had been buried the day before. He had prayed in tears, and now he accompanied his directions with the burning words of holy eloquence. He told the congregation how God was pleased even to raise the dead in order to convert them.
When they opened the tomb and brought out the body, it was already giving off a stench. On Francis' orders they tore apart the shroud-to find the body already beginning to putrefy. Francis expressed his desire that they should all take note of these facts. (They could hardly escape them!) Then the saint fell on his knees, made a short prayer, and commanded the dead man, in the Name of the Living God, to arise.
The man arose-alive, vigorous and in perfect health! The onlookers were filled with awe. Those who needed it fell at the saint's feet to be baptized, and a large number of people were converted because of this miracle.
The two miracles above were accepted by the auditors of the Rota as resting on incontrovertible evidence from two witnesses, Emanuel Gaga and Joam Audicondam, as well as from one "dead" person himself. These great miracles led almost the entire kingdom--except for the king and a few of his courtiers-to become Christians within a few months. And as Father Coleridge points out in his two-volume life of St. Francis Xavier, "We must take these miracles as but specimens."
Why would God grant anyone the power to perform such great miracles? This becomes easier to understand when one appreciates the immense number of souls converted by St. Francis Xavier. Within about a year he had established up to 45 Christian communities in the area. It is hard to conceive of such mass conversions, whether by Francis Xavier or by any missionary apostle, without great and numerous wonders to testify to the truth of the apostle's words. Our Lord used His own miracles as signs that testified to His Messiahship and Kingdom. His wonders proved that He was, indeed, the Son of God sent by the Father. He ordered His disciples to work similar miracles with generosity, and promised that they would work even greater wonders than He had.
Man is inclined to measure miracles by his own limited standards and abilities. But for God, of course, the "great" and the "small" miracle are equally easy. Yet it somehow seems more wonderful when (as with Lazarus) someone who has been dead for days is raised, rather than one who has very recently died. But death is death-whether it has lasted a minute or a week-and the wonder of restoration is equally marvelous in either case.
At Malacca St. Francis Xavier worked a miracle for someone who had been buried for several days. When Fran¬cis was away from the town, the daughter of a recently baptized woman died. The mother had sought Francis everywhere while the girl was still ill. When this earnest parent learned that Francis had returned, she was full of the simple faith that Francis, whom she was convinced could have healed her daughter-as he had cured people en masse¬could just as easily raise the girl from the dead. As Martha said to Jesus, "But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." (John 11 :22).
When the mother found St. Francis she threw herself at his feet, and like Martha and Mary, exclaimed that if he had been there her daughter would not have died; nonetheless, nothing was difficult for God, and she knew that Francis, with his prayers, could return her to life. As Jesus had mar¬veled at the faith of the Roman centurion and the Syropheonician woman, St. Francis Xavier marveled at the faith and confidence of this recent convert.
Since the mother seemed so worthy of such a favor, Fran¬cis prayed for God to grant her this consolation. Then he turned to the mother and told her to go to the grave; her daughter was alive. Hopeful, fearful, not disbelieving, but because Francis had not offered to come himself to the tomb, she answered simply that the girl had been three days buried. But St. Francis had measured her testing tolerance.
She questioned St. Francis no further; with shining faith she ran rejoicing to the church where her daughter had been buried. At the burial place the mother, together with many other witnesses who had hurried there with her, had the stone raised from the grave. The dead daughter, buried three days, came out alive! As with the raising of Lazarus, no one could doubt the verity of such a miracle.
One must admire the tenacious faith of this newly converted woman. Such strong faith is seldom found. The great faith and wisdom of the apostle met and matched the faith of the mother, when he asked her to go to the tomb alone.
This power of raising the dead from a distance seems to have been a special charism of St. Francis Xavier. In Japan, at or near Cagoxima, a pagan nobleman lost his only daughter. He was greatly grieved. Some recent Christian converts, sympathizing with him, recommended that he seek help from the God of the Christians and the prayers of the "great teacher of the Portuguese." The father went to St. Francis and cast himself at his feet. He was so choked with emotion he could not speak. But the saint understood.
St. Francis went into the little oratory where he offered Mass. His helper, Joam Fernandez, went along with him. After Francis prayed for a few moments he came out and told the anxious father to go, that his prayers were heard. That was all Francis said, so the nobleman turned homeward, hurt and grieved.
But on his way a servant met him and joyfully told him that his daughter was alive. Next, the girl herself came run¬ning and threw herself upon her father's neck. She informed her father that when she had breathed her last breath, im-mediately two horrible demons had seized her. They were about to hurl her into Hell when two venerable men came to her rescue. The next moment she found herself alive and well.
When the girl's father brought her to St. Francis Xavier's house she identified Francis and Fernandez as her two deliverers. Father and daughter were subsequently in¬structed and baptized.
Another miracle occurred when Francis was on a ship, the Santa Croce, going to San Chan. A Musselman's five-year¬old son fell overboard at a time when the ship was running fast before the wind. It was impossible even to attempt to save him. The father had been in despair for three days when he chanced upon Francis on the deck. Francis somehow -for the glory of God? -had not heard of the tragedy. He asked the father if he would believe in Jesus Christ if his child were restored. (A small child, overboard in the sea for three days, miles behind the ship, and Francis confidently asks such a question!) The man said he would believe.
A few hours passed, probably while Francis was praying. Suddenly the Musselman met his child, bright and joyous, running to him on the deck. The father and his entire family were baptized.
"For, Amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be im¬possible to you." (Matt. 17:19). The "mountain" may represent the great obstacle of unbelief to be overcome. A mustard seed is very, very small. Suppose one's faith were the size of a watermelon seed ... or a coconut ...?
In Japan at Cagoxima, Francis blessed the swollen body of a deformed child, making it straight and beautiful. And that expresses well the objective of the saints: to make all men straight and beautiful in the eyes of God.
Among his later miracles, Francis raised to life a young pagan woman "of some quality" who had been dead a whole day. At Malacca he restored to life a young man, Francis Ciavos, who later became a Jesuit.
St. Francis Xavier died on December 3, 1552, at the age of 46. Before his burial, the coffin was filled with lime-two sacksfull beneath the body and two over it-in order to hasten decomposition so that at some future time the bones could be easily transported to India. Ten weeks later, when the saint's body was exhumed to be taken to Malacca, it was found to be perfectly incorrupt.
Only 12 years after he had first embarked on his missionary journeys, the body of St. Francis Xavier was brought back to Goa in veritable triumph. Around the saint's body miracles were recorded every day of that autumn and winter. When his remains were temporarily placed in the chapel of the College of St. Paul on March 15, 1554, several blind were cured, as also were paralytics, those with palsy, etc. Francis had been the special envoy of both the Holy See and of King John III of Portugal; on the order of the King a verbal process was made with the utmost accuracy, in Goa and in other parts of India; in it, accounts were taken of many miracles wrought through St. Francis Xavier.
Today the body of St. Francis Xavier is dry and shrunken, but there is still no corruption. Many parts of the body, notably the right arm mentioned above, have been removed and sent to various places as most precious relics. In 1974-75 the body of the saint (in a glass case) was exhibited for viewing and veneration for a six -week period. Today it rests in a silver reliquary in the Basilica of Born Jesu in Goa, India.
-St Francis Xavier, pray for us!
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