Relic of St. Francis Xavier

Homily by the Most Reverend Brendan M. O’Brien

Archbishop of Kingston

Mass with the Relic of St. Francis Xavier

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston


Last Sunday, the opening prayer of the Mass expressed the significance of the Feast of the Epiphany when it said: “O God…on this day (you) revealed your only Begotten Son to the nations”, and, in the second reading from Ephesians, Paul spoke of how Gentiles now share the same inheritance (with the Jews); they are parts of the same body, and the same promise (of salvation) has been made to them in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.

It is very fitting that today, while the feast of the Epiphany is still in our minds and hearts, we receive the relic of St. Francis Xavier, a man who took this message to heart, and, with great zeal, brought the Christian faith to the nations, and, in particular, to India.

I have always been amazed and edified by how seriously missionary orders of both men and women have left their homeland to serve the cause of the gospel.  The North American martyrs immediately come to mind, as well as the Canadian Scarboro Foreign Missions and, among others, many congregations of religious women who have served in Central and Latin America.

In our first reading today, St. Paul says that he had a right to be supported by the faithful for whom he laboured in preaching the Gospel.  However, for fear that the pagans and the new converts might think he preached only for this temporal purpose, and not for their eternal interests, he freely chose to earn his living by his own hands so that the Corinthians could see and learn what it meant to deny oneself for spiritual ends and for the sake of others.

It is this same single-hearted purpose that we see in St. Francis Xavier.  In the Office for Readings for his feast day, we find a letter that he sent to St. Ignatius where he speaks of his ministry.  He says:

“Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only:  there is no one to make them Christians.”  And then he went on to say that, if those studying in Europe really understood how many are missing out, “they would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice.  They would cry out with all their hearts, ‘I am here!  What do you want me to do?  Send me anywhere you like – even to India!’”

In this short quotation, we have a glimpse of the person of St. Francis Xavier, whose relic we venerate today, and through whose intercession we ask for a greater and more fervent desire to be of service to the gospel.

Today, we still send missionaries abroad.  In the past year, 23 local and foreign priests, religious, and lay missionaries were killed.  It is important for us to support missionary work in foreign lands, and we do so in a special way when we celebrate World Mission Sunday in October, but recent years have brought forward a new need and a new awareness.

The ‘new need’ can be described as the need for a “new” evangelization, which refers to the necessity to proclaim anew the gospel in our own land, where secularism and pluralism have brought about many changes.

With this new task has come a new awareness that all of us, not just missionaries from religious congregations, are called to be ‘missionary disciples’, to use the words of Pope Francis.  There is a renewed sense of mission, a call to be a Church which goes forth.  To be a missionary disciple means to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who, despite our imperfections, offers us his closeness, his word, and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. (EvGaud #121)

The Holy Father, in speaking of the ‘new evangelization’, does not refer to an evangelization by professionals, which would leave the rest of the faithful as simply passive recipients.  Of course, we need professionals, and we need to have training, a deepening love, and a clearer witness to the gospel.  But evangelization calls for the personal involvement of all the baptized.

For this reason, we need examples; we need witnesses to encourage us and to show us the way.  St. Francis Xavier is a wonderful example of one who had this missionary zeal.  It is no wonder that he is the patron saint of Catholic Christian Outreach, for it was during his time at university that he had his conversion and heard a call to mission.

Let us pray that this Pilgrimage of the Relic of St. Francis Xavier throughout Canada will stir up the same grace and sense of responsibility for the work of evangelization.

May we see today as a grace-filled moment to strengthen our faith and our commitment to the gospel.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.