Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Mankato, Minnesota
In the year 1633, in Naples, the Jesuit priest Marcelo Mastrilli was adorning an altar for a feast in honor of the Immaculate Conception, when a heavy hammer fell from the scaffolding and severely wounded him, destroying his right temple. The situation was irreversible, and they decided to give him extreme unction, since it was impossible to administer viaticum, since he could not take even a drop of water. Suddenly the priest got up healthy and restored. The wound was gone; the scar was not noticeable. People came to the church to see what had happened and Father celebrated the Mass as usual and distributed communion, after which he went up to the pulpit and explained what had happened. While he was wounded and without remedy, he had made a vow in honor of St. Francis Xavier to go to the Missions in the Indies, if he was healed. Then the Saint appeared to him, healing him and encouraging him to fulfill his vow and receive martyrdom, which is what really happened. In fact Fr Mastrilli is one of the many missionary martyrs of Japan.
As a sign of gratitude and devotion, Father Mastrilli not only offered himself to go to Japan but decided to preach about the special favors granted by the saint to all who invoke him, and also recommended the Novena. The devotion of the Novena in honor of St. Francis Xavier quickly spread, not only in Italy but also in many other countries where the Jesuits preached about the life of the holy missionary of the East and the universal patron of missions. The Novena began to be called the Novena of Grace, as Saint Pio X explained, “for its great and proven efficacy”. It is prayed every year from the 4th to the 12th of March, the date of the Saint’s canonization. Although it can also be prayed as a preparation for December 3rd, the proper feast of the saint.
Our Parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, in Mankato, Minnesota, was attended by the Jesuit Fathers for 135 years before our Institute arrived. Evidently, the traditions and devotions of the Society of Jesus have been and continue to be an essential part of the patrimony of the Parish, and a source of many blessings.
In our parish, the novena is celebrated in the afternoon, when people have already returned from work. Since our minor seminary is located next to the parish, the minor seminarians gather with the parishioners to pray the novena. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed, and we pray in silence, then the prayers proper to the Novena are said. The first is attributed to Fr Mastrilli: Most amiable and most loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with thee I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favors with which God blessed thee during life, and of thy glory after death, fills me with joy. I implore thee to obtain for me, through thy powerful intercession, the inestimable blessing of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beseech thee to obtain the special favor I ask of this Novena, (Make your request here…) But, if what I ask is not for the glory of God, and the good of my soul, I pray and desire that which is most conducive to both.
Following this, the Prayer of St. Francis Xavier for the Conversion of Unbelievers is said: Eternal God, Creator of all things, remember that You alone have created the souls of unbelievers, which You have made according to Your Image and Likeness. Behold, O Lord, how to Your dishonor many of them are falling into Hell. Remember, O Lord, Your Son Jesus Christ, Who so generously shed His Blood and suffered for them. Do not permit that Your Son, Our Lord, remain unknown by unbelievers, but, with the help of Your Saints and the Church, the Bride of Your Son, remember Your mercy, forget their idolatry and infidelity, and make them know Him, Who You have sent, Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection, through Whom we have been saved and redeemed, and to Whom is due glory forever. Amen.
After these prayers, the blessing is given with the Blessed Sacrament and a doctrinal point is preached on the theme chosen for meditation. This year we meditated on the mystery of the Eucharist, explaining the basic catechesis of the mystery, but emphasizing above all the general dispositions, both interior and exterior, for participating in the Mass and receiving communion.
Everything ends with a prayer, the blessing with the relic of Saint Francis Xavier and a traditional hymn in honor of the saint.
We thank God for this devotion that is the source of so many blessings, not only for the parishioners, but also for the minor seminarians who, from their early formation, find in the patron saint of the missions an excellent model of fervor and zeal for the salvation of souls.
In the Incarnate Word
Fr Javier Ibarra IVE