It has become a tradition for my family, that when we gather for Christmas, we each blindly reach into a bag containing the names of many saints and pick one. The chosen saint becomes that person’s patron for the year. We learn about our saint and ask for their prayers and intercession throughout the year. Saints are our friends in heaven and we all hope to join them in heavenly adoration of our Lord one day.
My patron saint of 2023 is Saint Francis Xavier and I have to admit, I knew little of him. After doing some internet searching, I found that Saint Francis Xavier was born in 1506 in the Castle of Xavier in Navarre, Spain. He was one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, which is known as the Jesuits today. He is the patron saint of Catholic Missions, as he successfully converted many to the faith. Before he died in 1552, he made a great effort to convert the Japanese, but found it to be very difficult. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
I also learned that St. Francis Xavier was the patron saint of Alexandria, Louisiana, where a Cathedral bears his name. I was delighted to learn about this Cathedral, which is less than two hours away from my home, and I vowed to make a pilgrimage to visit.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I planned on visiting Alexandria on a weekend, but I fell ill with a head cold that had me knocked down for a couple of weeks. Finally feeling better and having a free weekend, my husband and I planned to make the drive today, Saturday, March 4th.
Yesterday, I pulled up the Cathedral website and noticed that on the first Saturday of the month, a First Saturday Mass was celebrated at 9am. Perfect! We left our neighborhood at 7am sharp on a beautiful sunny morning. We arrived at the Cathedral early and had time to walk around gazing at its majesty. St. Francis Xavier Cathedral was dedicated on November 30, 1899.
We arrived in time for adoration and the rosary. When it was quiet, I pulled out my prayer book from my purse. I had picked up a St. Francis Xavier prayer card and stuck it in the book. I began to read the novena on the prayer card. When I concluded the prayer, I was astonished to read the novena should be started on March 4th! God’s providence never ceases to amaze me! My husband and I had not originally planned the trip on March 4th and were unaware of the novena dates – and here we were in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral praying the novena on March 4th!
When I arrived back home today, I once again pulled up information on the internet about this novena, which originated in the 1600’s following the canonization of St. Francis Xavier. During that time, an elaborate structure was built for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the College of Naples. Father Mastrilli was supervising the removal of the massive structure, when a worker from above, dropped a hammer that fell directly on Father Mastrilli’s head causing a deadly wound. At that time, St. Francis Xavier, appeared to Father Mastrilli, asking him to renew the vow to return to Japan for mission work adding that “All who implore my help daily for 9 consecutive days, from the fourth of March to the twelfth of March, inclusive and worthily receive the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion on one of those nine days will experience my protection and may hope with entire assurance to obtain from God any Grace they ask that is for the good of their souls and the Glory of God.” Father Mastrilli was fully healed and spread this message and novena prayer, which came to be known as the Novena of Grace.
Most amiable and most loving Saint Francis Xavier, in union with thee I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon thee. I thank God for the special graces He gave thee during thy life on earth and for the great glory that came to thee after thy death. I implore thee to obtain for me, through thy powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings — that of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beg of thee to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena…..
In asking this favor, I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul.
V. Pray for us, Saint Francis Xavier.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, Who didst vouchsafe, by the preaching and miracles of Saint Francis Xavier, to join unto Thy Church the nations of the Indies, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who reverence his glorious merits may also imitate his example, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen
3 Our Father’s and 3 Hail Mary’s in memory of Saint Francis Xavier’s devotion to the Most Holy Trinity;
Glory be 10 times in thanksgiving for the graces received during his 10 years of apostleship.