November 5: Feast Day of St. Guido Conforti, Founder of the Xaverian Missionaries

Fr. Carl Chudy, SX

On October 23, 2011, on a chilly morning overlooking the Piazza at St. Peter’s in Rome, thousands of pilgrims gathered in a sea of yellow hats and scarfs marking us all as the larger family of the Xaverian Missionaries in 21 countries worldwide. The canonization of St. Conforti was a liminal moment in the history of the Church where the charism of this one man, which continues to touch so many to this day, helps us all open the boundaries of our hearts. The Catholic “embrace” is as wide as all of humanity, and even all of the cosmos.

Moved by God’s Love

We can perceive in Conforti’s words the “mysticism ” of a man who had an intense experience of God’s love made manifest in Jesus Christ.He did not rest in his endeavors to ensure that this love was shared by all those who hadn’t received the opportunity to experience it in their own life. He cared deeply about communicating this love because he sensed that this was how humanity should be led to full knowledge and the true source of this love, in other words, to God himself. The experience of God’s love generates a certain malaise and a certain dissatisfaction in the human heart. In order to bring this experience to its fullness, we must share it, abandon our own comforts, break with our egoism and communicate a new possibility of life for all. He witnessed that all we receive from God must be shared with others.

Spirituality of Communion

The Founder’s writings contain some important expressions that show us how he lived the spirituality of communion: “I recommend that you have one heart and one soul among you, that you remain always united by the bond of perfect fraternal love which ‘does not think ill, does not claim its own rights and does not get irritated. It believes all, hopes all and endures all”.

St. Conforti was aware that each person must realize that he is part of a greater reality and transcend the limits of a purely personal well being to widen his horizons within the context of communal living, which makes it possible to “restore meaning” to one’s own personal history and live more profoundly the proposal of love that flows from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Passion for Christ, Passion for Humanity

In this sense, his passion for Christ moved him to see the wide embrace of God that transcends cultural and faith boundaries. He of course was a man of his time, who understood the missionary commitment of the Church in the theology of the beginning of the 20th century. He did not have the mind and heart of Vatican II which helped the Church completely change how we see the global mission of the Church today, and our relationship with those of other faiths and cultures. But his desire to go beyond the borders of his diocese to the lands of China spoke of his all embracing vision of God’s Kingdom, and to see this as a priority for any diocese. The Xaverian commitment is to meaningfully connect the Church to the larger world that is neither Catholic, nor Christian. Inter-religious and intercultural dialogue is at the heart of our work.
Opening up new vistas for Christian communities speaks of our encounter of God, the God of Jesus Christ, in the soul of every people, carrying only the cross of Christ – his love/giving – to do as He did and reveal to our sisters and brothers our own experience of this love.We discover that the Spirit of God has gone before us and that Jesus Christ is the only essential thing in the mission.The missionary is only the faithful servant of Jesus who bears witness to Him and draws others to Him through his evangelical witness.

First Proclamation: A New Beginning of Mission

For us Xaverian Missionaries, the day of the canonization was an opportunity to confirm and strengthen our commitment beyond faith and cultural boundaries: we did so in St. Peter’s Square, but also in the innumerable places where this same commitment has sent us. In that moment, the faces of the confreres who have gone before us to the Father’s House passed before our eyes. Present with us, and even more intensely than us, were our elderly and sick confreres who, in their weakness and from the cross, continue the proclamation. We also experienced that “to make of the world a single Family” is not utopia: the variety of faces, ages, languages, cultures and origins was the icon of a family gathered by the common ideal of holiness that was lived by our Founder.
Dialogue with cultures and religions is the common search for God and the signs of His presence in human history. Dialogue “is part of the Church’s evangelizing mission”, “it does not originate from tactical concerns or self-interest” and is considered today as an essential element of the mission. We promote the development and coordination of the Centers for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, so that they contribute to the theological and missiological reflection and offer new proposals of missionary methodology.
Our commitment to justice and peace should give special attention to these activities where they are already being carried out, and promote them wherever they are still not present, by collaborating with local organizations. We are reminded that sensitivity to these sectors, and a positive involvement in them, can contribute to a greater justice between the North and the South of the world and to reconciliation in countries where there is conflict.

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