Writing earlier about St. Francis Xavier, I was reminded about a Franciscan missioner, John of Montecorvino, whose feast was November 29. Mention John of Montecorvino and most people – even most Franciscans – will say “who?” John was the first Catholic missionary to China, centuries before the efforts of other Catholic religious orders. It is a compelling story. If you would like to read an interesting and accessible account of the travel within the context of an art historian comparing 13th century Italian and Chinese art, read Lauren Arnold’s: Princely Gifts & Papal Treasures: The Franciscan Mission to China & Its Influence on the Art of the West, 1250-1350 – fascinating book.
Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier SJ. I remember in March of 2013 while returning from a meeting of the priests of the deanery, the radio announced that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, had been elected and taken the name Pope Francis. My first thought was, “that’s a great choice to take the name of one of the amazing saints of the Jesuit order, Francis Xavier, one of the church’s most widely traveled missionaries. I remember thinking that it was a sign that the universal (katholica) church would increasingly focus its attention on the world of the southern hemisphere.