What Does Charles Dickens Have To Do With St. Francis Xavier?!

The novels of Charles Dickens have always been a favorite of mine, for contained within them are so many marvelous and accurate observations of human nature.

For example, in his novel The Christmas Carol, Dickens knew that each of us carries within our hearts and memories an accumulation of past Advent and Christmas seasons – seasons that dramatically influence the way we prepare and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

All of our past and present preparations for the Solemnity of Christmas either enriches or diminishes our love for our Lord and for those who will share in His birthday with us.

With this in mind, possibly we can admit that our past Advent preparations have not been as good as they should have been; maybe we were more concerned with the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the season rather than the state of our hearts and souls.

If this is so, then we should joyfully take the prophet Isaiah’s advice and “Climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in His ways and we may walk in His paths.” (Isaiah 2: 3).

The prophet’s instruction in this morning’s reading  demand that we remain alert and awake, to the promptings of His voice and the movement of His Spirit.

Perhaps, most importantly, he demands that we spend time in prayer – learning and reflecting on the fact that Advent is a time of penitentially preparing for Jesus to enter our lives right now by being born into our hearts.

If Christmas Day is to be especially meaningful for us this year, we need to embrace Jesus not just as the past babe in the manger or the future righteous king; but as the present healer, Savior, and teacher who alone is capable of touching our hearts and bringing joy into our lives.

It is in this spirit of healer and teacher that we also remember today, the witness of one of the founding members of the Jesuit Order, St. Francis Xavier, who preached throughout Asia and brought the love and hope of Christ to those who lived in darkness and ignorance of the Redemptive sacrifice of Christ.


The above photograph is of the incorrupt body of St. Francis Xavier S.J. He died on this day in 1552. Forensic pathologists have examined his body and have concluded that while it is decomposed in spots, the body is, for the most part, incorrupt. It presently resides in the Church of the Baby Jesus in Goa, India. Xavier possessed indefatigable zeal, extraordinary and heroic faith, and desire to spur others to see themselves as missionaries; because of this he is known as the patron saint of all missionaries.

Charles Dickens, the 19th century English writer has captivated many people with his extraordinary ability to paint word pictures of unforgettable characters and scenes. But, what is it that links St. Francis Xavier with Charles Dickens?

Charles Dickens

It could be said that they both, as very gifted men, had the ability to speak to the heart of their listeners. They desired to touch not just the emotions, but the will of their audience. By that I mean that they both desired to see that their listeners had an experience which took them beyond themselves into a realm that opened their minds, hearts, and wills to act on the message that was being given. Who can disagree with Xavier’s ability to sway the hearts and minds of the Indian people who desired to hear him and follow his call to turn their lives over to Christ?

And what of Dickens?  Because of their emotional and psychological impact he was known to have people faint at his public readings of his most loved stories. Who can forget the haunting and cutting words of the Ghost of Christmas Present when he says to Scrooge “Are there no poor houses? Are there no prisons?” after showing Ebenezer the scrawny bodies of Ignorance and Want.

As we begin this Advent Season, let us pray that we possess the faith, hope and love of St. Francis Xavier, and, yes, even the gift of a Charles Dickens’ story, to express that our Lord will quietly work in our own lives to prepare our hearts to be ready to hold and comfort Him on Christmas morning and throughout the year.

Copyright © 2012 Deacon Paul O. Iacono All Rights Reserved

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