Novena of Grace in Honor of Saint Francis Xavier

(The following is an adaptation of a 2017 Sacred Space version)

During this time of uncertainty, we invite you to pray the Novena of Grace in honor of Saint Francis Xavier.

Traditionally, a person or a community prays the Novena and asks for a particular intention at the commencement of each of the nine days; as St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it in The Spiritual Exercises, “to ask for what you desire from God.” Friends, let us take this time beginning today, March 28th and leading up to Palm Sunday, April 5th (the commencement of Holy Week) to pray for our own needs, those of our loved ones, and the needs of our world.

This nine day Catholic spiritual tradition usually takes place in a church, from March 4 - March12, where a preacher gives a sermon, usually on the life of Saint Francis Xavier with the intentions of drawing lessons for listeners. There is a set prayer and a hymn that the congregation sings. Usually the novena is set within the Eucharist. What we will present here is an adapted modern version of the prayers.

The first Novena of Grace of Francis Xavier, is said to have taken place in Goa, India, in 1615, when a boy, crippled from birth, was cured. After Francis Xavier was named a Saint on 12th of March, 1622, the Novena of Grace grew in popularity around the world.

Grace can be seen as the power of God within us that gives us the strength to reach out to others in generosity, care and love. 'Grace' is a traditional term used in the Catholic Church for a favor or free gift from God. Christians often ask God for favors, or graces. In doing this we acknowledge that God is the giver of all gifts.

We suggest that each day you follow this pattern:

  1. Read part of the story from the life of Saint Francis Xavier
  2. Ponder on the reflection for a few minutes
  3. Pray the novena prayer

Day 1: The Early Years (1506-1525)

Francis was born in 1506, in Javier, a small village in the province of Navarre in the north of Spain. He was a Basque, the fifth and last child of local land owners. His two brothers and two sisters were in their teens when Francis was born. Their family home was a castle. They had their own private chapel, where Mass would be said by a local priest. Sadly, Francis’ father died when he was very young, and the family lost their land and home in a war with Spain. His mother, a very devout Catholic, with the help of the local priests, made sure that Francis received a good education.

At the age of 19, Francis went off to study in Paris. His intention was to revive the fortunes of his family by becoming an eminent cleric. He was bright and vibrant, with a zest for life and a desire to gain profit from it. The one thing he lacked was a clear focus in his life.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the blessings of my early years of life – in family and school?
  2. What disappointments have I encountered along the way?
  3. Do I now have a purpose in my life - a clear focus that gives meaning?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all-important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 2: Francis meets Ignatius Loyola in Paris (1529-1534)

In his early years in the University of Paris, Francis tended to put more effort into sports and the night life of the city than into his studies.

A turning point in his life was his encounter with a fellow Basque, Ignatius of Loyola. As a mature student of 38 years, Ignatius was beginning his studies at the University of Paris. He was assigned to the same student quarters as Francis Xavier and Peter Faber. At first Francis was not impressed by Ignatius. He saw him as a middle-aged religious enthusiast. He even made fun of Ignatius in public.

After five years of patiently encouraging and supporting Francis, Ignatius finally broke through Francis' mask of self-sufficiency. He challenged him with the question Christ put to His disciples, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Reflection: Ask yourself, the following questions

  1. Do I try to give the impression to others that I ‘have it all together' - that I do not need the support of others?
  2. Do I recognize the need for God in my life?
  3. Am I open to the encouragement and support of friends?  

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 3: Francis and Ignatius gather a “group of friends” (1534-1536)

Ignatius Loyola directed Francis and some others through his 'Spiritual Exercises' - 30 days of prayer and reflection on life and its purpose.

After a period of reflection on the call of Christ to His disciples, and time spent in consideration of his own response to the love of God, Francis decided to join Ignatius and some others to form a “group of friends” who would offer themselves to God for service in the Catholic Church.

Reflection: Ask yourself, the following questions:

  1. What steps have I taken to deepen my knowledge and love of God?
  2. Who are the people who help me live more deeply my Christian life?
  3. In what way do I manifest signs of my love for God and for others?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 4: Francis and his companions in Rome (1536-1539)

After Paris, Ignatius and his companions decided to travel to Rome to be at the service of the Pope. In Rome, they worked in hospitals, looking after the sick. They begged for alms, and preached about the love of God.

On June 24, 1537, Francis, Ignatius, and four other companions were ordained priests. As the group grew, the work entailed correspondence with a vast number of people. Francis became secretary to Ignatius. This cannot have been an appealing work for an outgoing person like Francis.

In 1539 King John of Portugal asked the Pope for two Jesuits to go to India. Two others were chosen, but at the last minute one of them fell ill, and Francis was asked by Ignatius to take his place. He accepted.

Reflection: Ask yourself, the following questions:

  1. Faced with challenges and difficult choices, how do I tend to react?
  2. Do I seek advice from family and friends, and turn to God for help?
  3. During these times, what kind of a response makes me feel most content?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 5: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 1)

Travelling from Rome to Lisbon and then on to Goa took Francis almost two years. (In 1540, the Pope established the “Companions of Jesus” as a religious order in the Catholic Church. They were later to be called the 'Society of Jesus', and to become more popularly known as the Jesuits.)

When Francis arrived in Goa in 1542, he had a reputation for helping the poor and the sick, and zealously seeking to encourage people to live a good life. It was recorded that Francis always looked happy, despite two months of continual seasickness, and other illnesses along the way.

In 1542 the Portuguese Governor of Goa asked Francis to teach the pearl fishers (Paravas) of Cape Comorin in South India. They were nominal Christians, but had received no formal instructions on their new faith, because no priest had ever learned their language. He set about learning Tamil, the local language, and managed to translate the Creed.

He experienced the loneliness of working in a foreign culture. He had been promised two Jesuit helpers, but they never arrived. After a year he decided to return to Goa to see what had happened to them. He was so well accepted by the people that a number of young Paravas went along with him to be trained for Christian ministry.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When I feel alienated from my surroundings to whom do I turn?
  2. When things get difficult for me, where do I draw my strength from?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 6: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 2)

Francis found the behavior of Europeans in India difficult to bear. Too many of the Portuguese officials and traders were determined not to let his pursuit of souls interfere with their pursuit of riches.

At one point Francis writes: "I am so sick of life that the best thing for me would be to die for the defence of our faith. It is difficult to see so many sins committed and to be able to do nothing." Despite these negative feelings, Francis continued his missionary efforts with enthusiasm.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When life seems pointless, or when people, who should know better, let me down, how do I react?
  2. To whom do I turn? Lord, you are always there, ready to strengthen me for the struggle.

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 7: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 3)

Francis Xavier spent seven years on the South India coast, constantly travelling up and down, preaching, teaching, consoling, comforting, begging for the poor, visiting the sick.

Francis believed that those who were not baptized were destined never to share the delights of heaven. But he also wanted to share the love of Christ with others. His journeys became part of his urgent task to baptize as many people as possible. He baptized thousands of people. Francis always saw a person as a whole, body, mind and spirit. He was concerned about material needs as well as spiritual ones.

As the extent of the continent of Asia, with the populous nations of India, Japan and China, became apparent to him, Francis appealed to Ignatius for others to share the work with him.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What animates me?
  2. When do I start to get enthusiastic about things?
  3. Am I as concerned about developing my mind and spirit as I am in taking care of the health of my body?
  4. Lord, how can I be ever busy about sharing the news of your love with others?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 8: Francis, First Missionary to Japan (1549-1551)

During his years in South Asia, Francis visited Malacca in Malaysia on a number of occasions. It was there that he met and converted his first Japanese. Anjiro made a deep impression on him. Francis wrote to Ignatius, “If all the Japanese are as keen to learn as Anjiro...they must have the most enquiring minds of any people in the lands hitherto discovered.”

Francis arrived in Japan on August 15, 1549, the Feast of the Assumption. After some months working there and living with the family of Anjiro, he wrote to the Jesuits in Goa: “They are the best race yet discovered and I think that among non-Christians their match will not easily be found.”

In comparison with the effects of his mission in South Asia, progress in Japan was slow. Francis had great difficulty with the Japanese language. Much of the time he was alone, suffering the isolation of living in a country, without knowing the local language. The Abbot of a Zen monastery told a later missionary that Francis was unable to explain the Christian teaching, owing to his ignorance of Japanese, but his mere presence, face, character, obvious sanctity, preached better than any words the truth of his message.

After his death, however, until the edict forbidding Christianity in 1614, the Church in Japan flourished. The number of Catholics at the time the persecution began was about 300,000, slightly less than what it is today. Many, too, died as martyrs for the faith during the years of persecution.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How do I cope with the challenges that I meet in the work assigned to me?
  2. Do I find strength in my prayer and in my relationship with Jesus?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Day 9: Death of Francis off the coast of China (December 3, 1552)

Francis died of fever at the age of 46 on the island of Sanchian, within sight of China. He did not achieve his ambition to reach the mainland. That was to be the privilege of a fellow Jesuit, Matteo Ricci. His hope was that if China accepted Christianity, all Asia would be open to the faith. His ambition was greater than one person could ever achieve.

St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of the missions. He has always been exceptionally popular not only with Catholics, but with many non-Catholics, too. He is probably the most famous of all Jesuits. He was canonized as a Saint in 1622, together with St. Ignatius Loyola.

Reflection: Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What can I, personally, learn from reflecting on the life of St. Francis?
  2. As I consider the goals in my life, is love of God and His people central?
  3. What worldly ambitions in my life do I need to let go of?
  4. Am I ready to hand my life over to God and His service?

Let us pray:

O most lovable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy; and I unite with you in offering to God my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise.

I implore of you to secure for me, through your powerful intercession and the all important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech you to obtain the favor for which I ask in this Novena:

(Name your petition of God)

but if what I ask is not for the greater glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both.

Amen.

Concluding Prayer

O God, you used Francis Xavier
to take the Christian message to the East.
You inspired his teaching,
supported him in his work
for the poor, sick and oppressed,
and strengthened him
in times of loneliness and trial.
May we who are inspired
by the life of Saint Francis Xavier
imitate his virtues,
and come to our eternal joy with you,
through Christ our Lord.

Amen

 Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us.

St. Joseph's Preparatory School
1733 West Girard Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130
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fax: 215.765.1710
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