St Francis Xavier, disability and examining our limits

St Francis Xavier and the logo for International Day of Persons with a Disability (Wikipedia/IDPWD)

Today has a couple of interesting resonances for this blind Jesuit – it is the feast day of St Francis Xavier and is also the International Day of Persons with a Disability, writes Fr Justin Glyn SJ. Source: Eureka Street.

It seems to me that the two anniversaries have more than a little in common — both in what they tell us about the limits and the promise of human life in the image of God.

Xavier, as I have suggested elsewhere, is a very complicated person. This Basque noble was able to see Christ present in anyone, regardless of race or class, and eminently available to push boundaries in the name of the God of Love.

However, he was also definitely very much a man of his time when it came to missing the richness of the cultures among which he moved. His understanding of the absolute need for conversion as an end in itself meant that baptisms were more important than community building and the Church he introduced to the locals often viewed them more as targets for discipline than collaborators in the vineyard of the Lord.

It might be easy to be cynical — to argue that one International Day of Persons with Disability a year allows us to be ignored with a clear conscience on the other 364 — just as a celebration of the virtues of Francis Xavier ignores his very real limitations.

I genuinely believe that to do so, however, would be to miss the point.

Fr Justin Glyn SJ has a licentiate in canon law from St Paul University in Ottawa. Before entering the Society he practised law in South Africa and New Zealand and has a PhD in administrative and international law.

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St Francis Xavier, disability, and examining our limits (Eureka Street)

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