The Novena of Grace, to the great Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier starts on March 4 and runs until March 12. This novena has a long history. It originated in Naples, Italy in 1643, when a Jesuit, Matteo Mastrilli, was cured through the intercession of St Francis Xavier, who promised that those who made the nine days of prayer in preparation for the anniversary of his canonisation would receive many graces and favours.
St Francis is the patron of the missions, and greatly loved Asia. He especially loved China and longed to reach that land to bring the light of the Gospel, though he died before got there.
St Francis was also a miracle worker, both during his life and after his death. One area where there are reported miracles relates to the plague. In his early life St Francis worked with plague victims in Venice, working intimately with them and yet never becoming infected; his contemporaries viewed his ongoing heath as a sign of Divine protection. After his death off the coast of China, his body was brought Malacca (Malaysia). At that time the city was in the grip of a deadly plague, with many people dying on a daily basis. Apparently the plague – and the deaths – stopped instantly when his body arrived.
The Novena of Grace is very timely this year as our 21st century plague – the corona virus – is spreading rapidly around the world. Of particular note is that China and so many Asian countries are afflicted, as is Venice and surrounding areas where Francis worked with plague victims in 1537. His concern for the sick of these areas, and indeed worldwide, is surely even greater now that he is in Heaven.
Let us all pray to St Francis Xavier for the cessation of this pestilence, for healing of the sick, for comfort for the bereaved and for protection for those of us who are as yet unaffected.
O most kind and loving saint, in union with you I adore the Divine Majesty. The remembrance of the favours with which God blessed you during life, and of your glory after death, fills me with joy;
and I unite with you in offering to Him
my humble tribute of thanksgiving and of praise,
I implore of you to secure for me through your powerful intercession
the all-important blessing of living and dying in the state of grace.
I also beseech you to obtain the favour I ask in this Novena
(here ask for the favour you wish to obtain),
but if what I ask is not for the glory of God or for the good of my soul, obtain for me what is most conducive to both. Amen.
Let us pray,
O God, who was pleased to gather into your Church the peoples of the East by the preaching and miracles of blessed Francis,
mercifully grant that we, who honour his glorious merits,
may also imitate the example of his virtues,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father)