Relic of Saint Francis Xavier

Part of the forearm of Saint Francis Xavier has been making its way across Canada this past month and this past Wednesday it made an appearance at my home parish, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vancouver.  Normally it’s displayed in the Church of the Gesù in Rome.

Close up of the relic

Who was Saint Francis Xavier?

Francis Xavier was a Spanish missionary who traveled to numerous countries including India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, spreading the Gospel and converting hundreds of thousands to Christianity.  He was on his way to China in 1552 when he became ill with a fever and subsequently died.

Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1619 and canonized (full sainthood) by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.  He is known as the patron saint of Catholic missions.

Popes Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII

Crowd in St. Peter's Square estimated at 800,000 people
Crowd in St. Peter’s Square estimated at 800,000 people

Yesterday, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints in a canonization mass attended by over 800,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.  For the rest of us who weren’t able to make it in person to Rome, the event was live-streamed and now available to watch on YouTube!

Here in Vancouver, the archdiocese held a Mass to celebrate this event with about 10,000 attendees in Pacific Coliseum.

What makes a saint?

I couldn’t really find a better way to summarize it so here are some quotations from Mark Hart’s blog post on “What makes a saint”:

…the Church doesn’t “make someone” a saint. The Church recognizes the holiness of certain individuals and honors some with the title of “saint.” If you make it to heaven, you are a saint – whether or not the Church recognizes you as one publicly.

[God’s] given us … the saints to offer a model of life and example of prayer.

Your sainthood doesn’t begin when a council starts investigating your life. Your invitation to sainthood began at your Baptism. Your life – right now – is your RSVP.

In short, we should learn from the canonized saints, and strive to become a saint ourselves.