Patron Saints of Missions
CO-PATRON SAINTS OF MISSIONARIES AND THE MISSIONS
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Born Marie Francoise Thérèse Martin in Alencon, France, on January 2, 1873, she was the youngest of nine children. At the age of 15, Thérèse entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux, becoming a religious Sister two years later.
St. Thérèse, often called the Little Flower, taught us her “little way.” St. Thérèse tried hard to be humble. Whenever she felt humiliated or misunderstood, she would offer her pain to her beloved Jesus. She would hide her hurts under a smile. She went out of her way to spend time with people who were hard to get along with. She told Jesus to do with her whatever was His will.
St. Thérèse wanted very much to leave her convent in France and be sent on mission, specifically to Vietnam. Her poor health prevented her from making that journey, but not from being a missionary. Determined not only to love God herself, but also to lead others to know and love Him, St. Thérèse offered her prayers and her own sufferings for missionaries around the world. She was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997. Her feast day is October 1. Her canonization emphasizes the important role we all share as missionaries through prayer and sacrifice.
Francis Xavier was born on April 7, 1506 in Spain. At the age of 19, he went to study at the University of Paris – and made a friend who would change his life, Ignatius Loyola. Both would become priests; Francis Xavier in 1537. Together, they would establish a religious community of men, the Society of Jesus – also known as the Jesuits.
With little experience and just a heart on fire to tell the world about Jesus, Father Francis Xavier sailed, in 1541, from Portugal to that country’s colony of Goa on the west coast of India. He next went to Cape Comorin on the southern tip of India, where he introduced many people to the Catholic faith. A trip to the East Indies where he received thousands of converts came before a journey to Japan, in 1549, making him the first missionary to preach the Gospel there.
Father Francis’ greatest desire was to proclaim the Gospel in China, at that time closed to outsiders. At last, arrangements were made, but the great missionary became ill. He died almost alone on an island off the coast of China at just forty six years of age. His body was brought back to Goa and buried in the first stop of his missionary journeys.
The only thing Father Francis took with him on all his journeys was his book of daily prayers, called a breviary, and a book of meditations. His feast day is December 3.