CALLED TO CARE FOR CHRIST’S FLOCK – Feast of St. Francis Xavier 2014

This homily was delivered by Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ during the institutional mass for the Feast of St. Francis Xavier on 3 December 2014.

I

Before the Mass, we had a small procession that recalls the Javierada, a big procession of young people in Spain as they make their way to the Castle of Javier, where St. Francis was born and spent his formative years. Our own little procession before the Mass was meant to link us more and more to the life, the times, and the spirituality of our patron saint, Francis Xavier.

As you know, Xavier School was founded in 1956 and we are now in the first year of our preparation for the milestone of our 60th anniversary in 2016. Our theme this year is “gratefully celebrating the legacy of Jesuit mission to the frontiers.” Indeed, we belong to a very long tradition of mission at the frontiers of Church and society. From Spain and Portugal, St. Francis traveled all the way to our part of the world during a time when there were no planes, only big boats that took months to reach their destinations, especially if the destination is the other side of the world.

St. Francis did that to share the story of Jesus, our Savior, with us. He died before he could reach China, but the same year that he died, Matteo Ricci was born in Italy, and years later he led the first group of Jesuits to successfully penetrate China. Ricci worked with our Chinese patron, Paul Xu Guangqi, to proclaim Jesus in China. That tradition of finding Christ in Chinese culture has been carried on until our own time. The founders of our beloved school were all missionaries in China who decided to share Catholic education with the Chinese in the Philippines.

All these men—from St. Francis Xavier, to Matteo Ricci and Xu Guangqi, to Fr. Jean Desautels and the other pioneers of Xavier School who are featured this year in posters around the school—were serving at the frontiers. Frontiers are new, unexplored territories. Our spiritual ancestors were very brave to embark on new missions in the Church, and we are very grateful to them.

To be faithful to the same spirit of mission, our school also has to be at the frontiers of education today. The innovations in Xavier education—from the 7-day cycle to the Xavier China Experience and the IB Diploma Programme– are meant precisely to be at the frontiers of global education today.

But that is not all. Those of you who have participated in Gawad Kalinga projects, or in XPlore experiences in Naga or Cebu, or in various activities to help our adopted school, ERDA Tech, are also at the frontiers of nation building. In the spirit of St Francis Xavier, our school will keep reaching out to these communities where we want to make a systematic and focused contribution to building our nation.

II

For this year’s feast day, we have chosen a more specific theme from the spiritual legacy of St. Francis Xavier. Like him, we are called to care for Christ’s flock.

We know St. Francis as patron of the missions. We easily call to mind images of him holding a cross and teaching children. We even know about the miraculous crab that recovered his cross for him when it was lost at sea, but St. Francis did more than just teach. He spent plenty of time taking care of people, visiting the sick in hospitals and comforting those in prison. When he began his mission in Asia, he stayed with the pearl fishers of South India for about two years, sharing their life and telling them about Jesus. He was genuinely concerned about people, and this is something that we need to emulate in our society today.

We live in challenging times. Wars, natural calamities, and accidents are always unfolding around us. We know also that there are people around us in school who may have great personal problems. That is why this year, we want to highlight a particular characteristic of St. Francis, his cura personalis for people.

We have a lot of activities in school. We want to do well in the classroom, but we also have many other programs in sports, arts, service immersions, and various student activities. In the midst of all these, we want to have a community where everyone feels cared for. And if we want such a community, then we all have to do our part.

We often talk in the grade school about being kind. We do not tolerate bullying in any form. We try our best to look after people around us who need help. I am still inspired whenever I think about Jericho Panganiban, your Grade 6 schoolmate who saved his companions in the school van from harm by holding them and protecting them during an early morning accident. He had no time to think. He was still sleepy. But he jumped into action and did what he could so that others would not be hurt. That is the kind of caring for Christ’s flock that we are called to practice.

In today’s festivities to mark our feastday, therefore, let us have fun, but let us also remember that St. Francis was not only about preaching Jesus through his words. He also preached Jesus through his actions by making the people around him feel cared for. Whether these were fishermen, the sick, the prisoners, or the children, he loved them with a personal love. Let us try to be like him.

image by Mr. Mark Esquibel, NExT Team

image by Mr. Mark Esquibel, NExT Team

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