Significance of St.Francis Xavier - The Great Helper

The veneration of relics is primarily about making a connection between the believer and the core realities of her religion. In this case, a Roman Catholic Christian can see that a great hero of her tradition, St Francis Xavier, actually lived: there are the bones of his hand! It would be as thrilling, and as confirming, as someone viewing what he truly believed were the bones of Moses or the Buddha or Confucius.

Christianity is not just about beliefs, not just about rituals, but is also about a community of believers who help each other along the way. St Francis Xavier was a great helper, and viewing part of his body could reinforce the believer’s sense of truly belonging to a worldwide church of deep history.

“He really existed! It isn’t just a fairy tale!”

At the same time, of course, not everyone will accept the Catholic Church’s promise of a full pardon from purgatory (the “plenary indulgence”), nor believe in what they will take to be more magical parts of this ritual (e.g., that saints’ bodies are supernaturally preserved from decay). And only some Christians will believe that saints can, and should be, prayed to for help.

But all Christians can join in respect for the missionary career of Francis Xavier and rejoice in this opportunity to find out more about his inspiring career of faithful and effective service.



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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).