12/03/2014, 00.00
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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."

Mumbai (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 principles.
  • 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.

Happy Feast.

*archbishop of Mumbai

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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