My time with St. Francis Xavier

It took me a long time to gather my thoughts about this momentous, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I had the privilege to take part in. Maybe it's the magnitude of the event, or the shock that came afterwards, but all the same, its effects haven't entirely sunk in, even three weeks later.

Telling people all about the relic! Photo by Elijah Bautista.

I'm talking about the relic of St. Francis Xavier that came to Vancouver as part of a Canada-wide pilgrimage, made possible by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Jesuits of Canada, and Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). This relic wasn't any ordinary relic - it was the entire right forearm of the saint, who passed away in 1552. Even more extraordinary? 465 years later, his arm is believed to be incorrupt, meaning that it didn't decompose in the way that the body is expected to typically.

This relic, which usually is housed in the mother church of the Jesuits - in Rome - found itself in Canada for the first time ever from late December 2017 to early February 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country came to visit and venerate the relic, and many people shared their experiences of grace and peace after their experience with it. I had high expectations for myself that something great would come about in my own life after spending time in prayer with it.

I ended up spending almost two days with the relic, praying for myself, praying over others, and welcoming pilgrims into the space and preparing their hearts for what was to come.

As I lay in bed after the last night, I began to question how I felt. What graces did I feel? What miracles were performed in my life? What change did I see? In my mind, I was still the same person. Sure, I had spent time before a miracle that was present here on earth. But the more I thought, the more I wondered if I had been skipped over.

A clear sign of my impatience and lack of faith.

But this restlessness in my heart was exactly what God was trying to show me.

The incorrupt right arm of St. Francis Xavier. Photo by Catholic Christian Outreach.

You see, 2017 was a big year of growth.

It was a year that taught me, in many different ways, to have humility and be humble in all aspects of my life. It was a steep learning curve, and yet something I didn't even realize that I needed to learn.

Around November/December of 2017, my prayer was greeted with the constant repetition of the word "docility". The word "docile" can be defined as "easily trained or taught".  What this showed me was that not only was I supposed to be humble, but now I also had to allow myself to be trained and taught. To be submissive to God's will, and to be humble enough to be trained.

It sounds restricting. It sounds like God is a tyrant. It doesn't sound fun at all.

But as I prayed and reflected, I began to see why it is that I needed docility. January was entire moving picture of my past - all the mistakes I had made, all the times I had wronged others, the unhealthy relationships and the times where I was ready to end it all because it seemed like I couldn't catch a break. I began to feel inadequate, like I didn't belong, and that I didn't deserve any of the opportunities that I was currently in.

What it made me realize is that docility is necessary in our lives. It isn't to be brainwashed or chained up, but rather to free our minds from worries and free ourselves. Following God and trusting Him is an easy thing to say out loud, but when it comes to actually following through? Not so easy.

My "imposter syndrome", as I affectionately call it, came out of me trusting only myself. I fell back into that vicious cycle of relying only on my own ability and pushing God out of the picture. I would only welcome Him into the spaces where I was victorious, but where I failed, I forced Him out. With this self-reliance comes anxiety, and we all know where anxiety leads.

It was on a recent retreat where I was reminded of this need to be docile. In my prayer, all I could think about was the life of St. Francis Xavier. His life was pretty wild, but through it all, his trust in God brought him to evangelize in parts of the world where Catholicism is contested. His docility, his "yes" to the Lord, was incredibly powerful, because through him, hundreds of thousands of people were brought back to God.

God's plan for me is a million times better than anything I could ever come up with.

The restlessness that I felt was a sign that I needed to regroup and re-center myself back on Him.

The story of St. Francis Xavier, and being able to spend so much time with his relic, was further confirmation of something I desired. I have great hopes and anticipation that this year will be the year where I receive my vocation call and have a clearer indication as to where God wants me to be.

For that, I am so grateful.

St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of missions, please pray for us!


I also wrote about other people's experience with the relic for the BC Catholic Newspaper! Check it out here!