Card Gracias calls for the rediscovery the new evangelisation in the footsteps of Saint Francis Xavier
by card. Oswald Gracias*
On the feast day of the Apostle of the Indies, patron saint of missions and the East, the archbishop of Mumbai assess the state of the Indian Church. Catholics needs to understand, study and live more deeply their faith. Christianity "is like a jewel in our life which must be polished to make it shine more brightly."
(AsiaNews) - Today India celebrates the
feast day of Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies and patron saint of missions
and the East. Goa, where the Jesuit priest began his work of evangelisation, is
also home to the saint's remains.
Revered by local Catholics as "Goencho Saibh", the "Saviour
of Goans," he was remembered today by a big Mass celebrated in his honour. Card
Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, attended the service.
In what follows, Card Gracias talks about the legacy of St Francis Xavier,
and the path the Church in India must follow for the new evangelisation.
Today on the feast of St Francis Xavier, we give thanks to God for the
gift of St Francis Xavier. So many of us owe our faith to him. I personally
thank God because of my own ancestors received the faith due to his preaching.
And so thousands and thousands of us have come from all parts of Goa, all parts
of India and all parts of the world to pray before the relics of St Francis
Xavier. This solemn Mass is the best thanksgiving we can give for this glorious
son of Spain to us.
As we thank God we also ask ourselves, what use have we made of this
gift? We received the Gospel; we were evangelized 500 years ago. Has the
Gospel, the life of Jesus, become vibrant, brighter or dimmed in our lives? Is
the Gospel still the driving force of all that we do? We come here to thank
Francis Xavier for what he brought to us, but will he be proud of us? Can we
say we have made good use of what he gave us? Do we feel that we have genuinely
used his gifts? Pope Saint John Paul II, who came here to Goa, often spoke of a
new evangelization. And what does this
new evangelization mean for us? For you and for me? Christianity is like a
jewel in our life which must be polished to make it shine more brightly.
I present to you a few possibilities for new evangelization.
- To understand our faith
more. Survey after survey in India has shown that we Christians do not know
sufficiently about our faith. We must learn more about our faith, read more
about our faith, understand more deeply what Francis Xavier has taught us. In Goa,
we have the privilege of having the SCCs. This is an excellent instrument of
deepening our faith knowledge.
- Living our faith more.
The Gospel values of love, service, becoming peacemakers, bringing
reconciliation, honesty, truth, should become even more our way of life. We
should deepen more what St Francis Xavier taught us and live by these
- Proclaim our faith more.
By being active in our parish associations, in our communities, by building up
what St Francis Xavier first gave us, by being active in service in our
villages, for our people, not only Christians but also non-Christians who are
brothers and sisters of one family. Goa has a very good history of harmony
among religions. This is what we must build on through the values that St
Francis Xavier taught us.
- We work out our
spirituality, our happiness, our joy in the family. The whole Church the world
over is thinking of family life through the Synod, through meetings, discussions,
plans and programmes. Family life in Goa was always strong, united and
continues to be so because of the prayer in the home. Keep the prayer in your
homes, keep God in your homes through prayer, Bible reading, sharing. Prayer
brings God's blessings, prayer brings unity, prayer strengthens love. Francis
Xavier gathered together families in the evening to pray together. Let us
continue this holy tradition today.
- Pope Francis has always
been reminding us that we must reach out to the poor and the marginalized, those in need. This we must do
as an expression of the faith that St Francis Xavier has brought us.
At a recent meeting in Barcelona, on the Pastoral Care in Mega cities our
Holy Father Pope Francis outlined the challenges of mega cities. The four challenges that the Pope outlined,
is very applicable to the situation in India.
And the Church in India,
continues the Mission of St Francis Xavier, with the
New Evangelisation with "concrete
mercy and tenderness", through our
Apostolates of Education, Health Care
and Welfare services, even though the
Christians are a miniscule 2.3% of the population.
- The Church in India is
continuously engaged in a multicultural dialogue through our various
Apostolates, without discrimination, the Church serves the people of all
cultures and faiths. St Francis
Xavier's missionary work also speaks to
us, in engaging in multicultural dialogue, knowing the ways
of thinking of our culture, discerning what is good and what is inauthentic,
seeking to engage with it but always bringing Christ;
- Going to the peripheries
- the Pope spoke of "evangelical horizon", and in India, this is an immense
challenge, bringing God back to the centre of our lives from the apathy towards
the spiritual life and practice of the faith, the challenges of injustice, and
the culture of death
- Embracing hardships as
St Francis did, going into the geographical peripheries and caring for the care
of the poor and migrants.
- Another challenge the
Holy Father outlined was care for the great city mission with passionate zeal
and following in the footsteps of St Francis Xavier, we are all called to have
a passionate zeal - preaching by our lives and our genuine compassion for all,
especially the most needy, as Pope Francis continuously reminds us, the Church
of the Poor, for the poor.
- seeking always the
Kingdom of God, and not our own gain - solidarity - The Catholic Church in
India following in the footsteps of the Patron of the Mission, has always
selflessly worked in the remote rural and unreached areas, serving without
discrimination the poorest, the vulnerable and most oppressed sections of
society, showing solidarity and working for the Kingdom of Justice Peace and
Development and Truth..
Such lessons from the life of a great missionary about how to be an
evangelist in our time and place will help us bear fruit as Xavier did. My
dearest people of Goa, my dearest pilgrims from all over the world - A very
Happy Feast to you, remembering the day when St Francis Xavier entered heaven
462 years ago. May the gift that St Francis Xavier brought to each one of us
shine brightly in our lives. May the prayers of St Francis Xavier bring many
blessings to each one of us. May the fire that burned in the heart of St
Francis Xavier touch our hearts, and make us live our Christian faith with
great fervour, enthusiasm and commitment.
*archbishop of Mumbai
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to