On the way from Loyola to the town of Javier - where Francis Xavier was born, baptized, and grew up - we prayed in silence. Being bussed along, securely and in silence, helps a group of pilgrims reach quiet of spirit. We surely did, in that green, steep-hilled countryside.
Our prayer pivoted on the story about Inigo persuading Xavier to repent, reform his life, and join the companions. The story is that Inigo kept asking him: 'What does it profit a man..." The story may not be true history but the lesson is.
So we asked ourselves, "Can I imagine living in such a way that I would truly expect to go into eternity and NOT live with God - a way I will not take?" We didn't have time to share reflections on it. But our quiet on the bus showed that this issue is real, for all of us pilgrims.
We do all make choices that involve not only our time on the earth, but our eternity. We don't think about that much and the Church's liturgical cycle no longer has the set of practices -- fast days, meatless days, holy days of obligation -- that brought us to face our mortality. We faced it on the road to Javier. (I faced it rather urgently once when from my front seat I saw us miss a post by centimeters. "Angel of God, my guardian dear...").
Turning from mortality as we turned from the expressway to a two-lane challenge -- we remembered Francis Xavier's generosity. The history is this: Ignatius was asked by the king of Portugal to send some of the Companions to India. They were ten at the time. Ignatius tried to send two of them, but the king kept one at his court in Lisbon and a plague fever kept the other in bed. When Ignatius mentioned this to him, Xavier said, "Great! Then it's me!" And he went.
Our final thoughts, as we pulled into the complex of interchanges that brought us to Javier, was about gifts. Francis Xavier was surely a gifted man. He was the great hope of a noble family. He had everything required for position in the Church and in life; he was to be master of a castle. He lectured on philosophy when he was studying in Paris. He was gifted - and he threw it all away and went to baptize the Indies.
"Of those to whom much is given, much will be expected." We figured we number among those to whom much is given. We are grateful for America's freeom and our plenty, our education and our sort of frontier spirit. Grateful to be on pilgrimage. So we asked ourselves to think about how the Kingdom of Christ is getting established in each of our life worlds. If we're not doing it, it isn't getting done.