Luxuries of a Third World Church

August 9, 2010

If you are one of our astute regular readers (and aren’t all of our regular readers by definition astute?), you might have noticed that my postings this summer were rather sparse.  You see, I was in the jungle.

The Jesuits, as most of you know, are a worldwide religious order, and, even though the order is divided into provinces, when a man becomes a Jesuit he enters the Society of Jesus, of which there is but one in the world.  Our current Father General has placed great emphasis on the international character of the Society, encouraging provinces to work together across national borders and reminding us that Jesuits in formation need to be comfortable working in any culture.

All of this, along with the inscrutable workings of Providence, is to explain how I found myself at the beginning of June in a remote mountain village in northeast India.  No phones, no internet, not even mail.

Read the rest of this entry »

Xavier and Tolerance

March 14, 2010


In the afterglow of the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier, I thought I would comment on a troubling aspect of Xavier’s missionary activity.  Stated baldly, Xavier was not particularly tolerant of other religions.  Deeply imbued with the theology of the later Augustine, he was fiercely jealous of God’s greater glory and deeply suspicious of the untutored efforts of man to scale the heights of the spirit.  In fact, as the late Jesuit Cardinal Henri de Lubac puts it, Xavier considered non-Christian lands to be under the “quasi-exclusive rule of the devil.”

This worldview led him to missionary tactics that today seem, at least at first glance, downright “mean.” Read the rest of this entry »

On the Novena of Grace

March 4, 2010


The Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier (March 4-12) is upon us once again (for the complete novena prayers click here).  Nine days of prayer and renewal commemorate the canonization of St. Francis, who was raised to the honors of the altar (along with Sts. Ignatius Loyola, Philip Neri, Teresa of Avila and Isidro of Madrid) on March 12, 1622.  The Novena itself seems to date back to 1634, when the intercession of St. Francis obtained the instantaneous cure of one Fr. Marcello Mastrilli from a “grave legion of his brain.”  Fr. Mastrilli went on to suffer martyrdom in Japan.

The Novena of Grace has been powerful for obtaining miracles and conversions ever since.  However, even as I write the sentence, I am aware that that I am not saying something obvious to all.  Everything about the Novena of Grace seems to stand in need of some justification nowadays.  Why nine days?  Why these dates and not others?  Why St. Francis Xavier? Read the rest of this entry »