A Discerning Heart

A Discerning Heart – Ink on paper – October 2013

Our community was named after Francis Xavier. An early publication about our community profiled a text written by Louis Mendigal, that gives an image of St Francis Xavier on his trip from Italy to India, and makes a connection between Francis Xavier’s missionary zeal and the foundation of the Xaviere sisters. We publish this text below, on the occasion of the Feast Day of St Francis Xavier, December 3.

It is 1541, and Francis Xavier is en route to India. 1541, a date that will have a great significance in the history of the Church and the world.

You would be mistaken if you thought that, during this seemingly interminable journey to the Far East, Francis Xavier stood at the helm of the ship, dreaming of new converts to Christianity and so focused on these mysterious, faraway lands, that he became oblivious to his immediate surroundings.

Xavier was not a dreamer, but a realist who had better things to do than to allow himself to be carried away by romantic notions. The narrow, rocking vessel that buffeted him and jostled him about during weeks and months at sea, was the home of sailors. These were men who, alternately, laboured like convicts or slept like logs, overcome by exhaustion; who toiled or ate voraciously; who fought and cursed for no reason — because suffering often brings out the worst in even the gentlest lamb — or bickered during their unending card games while the ship lay motionless in the still air, a time when card-playing and boredom were the only choices the men had.

Men — work-weary and crook-backed, brutalised by this harsh, servile life. Sailors — mercenary and joyless men for whom nothing mattered other than the anticipation of some sleep, or a bowlful of foul-smelling, rancid gruel. Occasionally, in their infrequent ports-of-call, they would engage in drunken debaucheries, bloody fights and illicit liaisons and forget their prolonged and constant misery, the invasive vermin and oft-deadly typhus.

They were children of God, redeemed men. Yet who would be able to see, beneath their rough exteriors, the wondrous likeness of God?

These were the men of whom Francis Xavier was thinking, these men so near to him. Rather than being caught up in grandiose schemes and living in a pipe dream, this descendant of a noble Spanish family, this Sorbonne professor, still in the rapture of youth, became a sailor to earn the right — having first won their hearts — to speak to his fellow sailors.

He lived their harsh life — climbing ladders, scraping his hands on the rough ropes, eating from the common porringer, heaving the capstan like a seasoned sailor and, during calm seas, playing cards. Therefore, between games or between high winds, he spoke of Christ to these men whose confidence and esteem he had earned, and who did not know — or had forgotten — that there is a God who loved them enough to die for them.

I truly believe that it was there, on the forecastle of that old ship, which, at times, the sea would shake like a straw, or leave drifting, that the Xavières were born.

 But no one knew anything about it — not even me, not even you — until 1925. No one, but God.

 Louis Mendigal

We are starting a novena to St Francis Xavier. December 3, 2013 is the feast day of St Francis Xavier. As a community we will pray the following prayer each day from November 25 to December 3, 2013. Please join and pray with us!

the cross of the xavieres

The cross of the xaviere sisters

  St. Francis Xavier,

Your missionary zeal inspires the whole Church to proclaim the Gospel in our day.

Intercede for us before the Father:

that God may grant all Christians a deeper awareness of their missionary vocation,

that God may call men and women to religious life and that they may respond to God’s call,

that God may grant us, the xaviere sisters living in Toronto, a better understanding of God’s call to mission here.

We pray in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The xaviere sisters in Toronto

Statue of St Ignatius Loyola, Loyola House

Statue of St Ignatius Loyola, Loyola House

Since September 2013 I am in sabbatical. I had the privilege to do the 40-Day Spiritual Exercises Institute in Loyola House, in Guelph, Ontario, here in Canada. I have just come back from this “Place of Peace”. During these days of silence in the countryside, I walked and praised God for his creation always in process and movement, and I experienced the gentle presence of God and also some times of darkness. It was so powerful to pray with other people coming from Australia, Ghana, Hungary, Hong Kong, the USA and Canada, with the same desire to follow Jesus Christ more closely. The directors were witnesses for us and shared their faith, helping us to turn toward Jesus Christ. I have two more sabbatical months coming up, and I will continue to treasure these moments of blessings.
One of the prayers that St Ignatius said and that he suggested to others keeps on nourishing me and comforting me. It is called “Soul of Christ “.

“Soul of Christ, sanctify me

Body of Christ, save me

Blood of Christ, inebriate me

Passion of Christ, strengthen me

O Good Jesus, hear me

Within thy wounds, hide me

Permit me not to be separated for thee

From the wicked foe defend me

At the hour of my death call me

And bid me come to thee

That with thy saints I may praise thee

For ever and ever. Amen”


The prayer we pray from our breviary at the conclusion of our Sunday Evening Prayer often touches me a lot, and the one we heard on Sunday Nov. 3 was no exception. I marvel at the choice of words, how they describe deep movements of the soul and longings of the human heart for life and for God in a very concise way. I feel it is quite realistic as well… Overall it provides me with a good “send off” for the week. I thought I would share the evening prayer of that Sunday:

Father in heaven, God of power and Lord of mercy,
from whose fullness we have received,
direct our steps in our everyday efforts.
May the changing mood of the human heart
and the limits which our failings impose on hope
never blind us to you, source of every good.
Faith gives us the promise of peace
and makes known the demands of love.
Remove the selfishness that blurs the vision of faith.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Christian Prayer, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Evening Prayer


The cross of the Xavieres

A few weeks ago our community was invited to “Mix and Mingle”, an event sponsored by Faith Connection in Toronto where young adults have the opportunity to meet with religious men and women. In preparation for the event, I was asked to provide the organizers with the “motto” of our community. This request led me to think that… well… we really do not have just one motto, do we? There are several expressions that we cherish, and that tell of one aspect of our charism or another. I began reviewing some of these expressions. “In Christo Jesu” (translates “rooted or founded in Christ Jesus”) are the first words of the Constitutions of our community. We sometime find these words as a signature in letters from our foundress or General Superiors. They tell of the core of our way of life: the life in Christ Jesus, which is the source of our apostolic activities. “Being available to the promptings of the Holy Spirit”, is another trademark statement, and it announces how we are called to be in our mission. “To find God in all things” is a well-known ignatian expression that describes the spirituality that we practice, and of our way of being contemplative persons in all that we do, even as we are immersed in the world. “Missionaries of the charity of Christ” is an expression that characterizes our community since its beginning (since its founding). Each of these expressions could very well be our motto. Which one should I choose to best respond to the request of the organizers of the “Mix and Mingle” event?

As I was pondering this, time passed, and before I actually replied to the organizers, they had picked from the french website of our community the title that can be found on the homepage: “Passionnées du Christ, passionnées du monde” to which a tentative translation would sound like: “Passion for Christ, passion for the world”.  I was delighted to re-discover that declaration, and it gave me inspiration for the upcoming sharing with young adults: indeed, this expression tells of our sole desire to meet Christ and to meet the world, to meet Christ in the world, and as such, this is quite a fine motto!