We traveled from Loyola to Javier to visit the birthplace of Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Ignatius’ college roommate. The Castle of Javier was built in the 10th century and in the beginning, its tower was used to defend the valley of the river Aragon. During the 14th century it became a castle and it belonged to Maria de Azpilicueta, mother of Saint Francis Xavier.
Parts of the castle have been converted into a museum where we saw documents, coins, paintings and other objects illustrating the cultural, artistic and religious legacy of Saint Francis Xavier. In the castle, the small family chapel is decorated with frescos from the 15th century representing the dance of death by several skeletons. These shapes remind me of the celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Centering the chapel is an unusual crucifix depicting the “smiling” Christ, reflecting a death which reflects his great love for us.
After touring the castle, Trustee Ron Amiot, S.J., celebrated Mass in the Parish Church nearby and Trustee Brian Linnane, S.J. gave the homily. We had lunch in a restaurant near the castle before departing for the 5 hour ride to Monserrat.
Ron Amiot: It was a high privilege for me to preside at the Eucharist of St. Barnabus, companion to St. Paul, in the beautiful parish church across from the birthplace and childhood home of St. Francis Xavier, companion to St. Ignatius. From my days as a Jesuit novice I’ve alway been moved by the stories of the depth of Francis’s friendship with Ignatius and the other first Jesuits and the endurance of his devotion to those friendships over time and distance. Accounts of these friendships during this pilgrimage to places both external and internal, recall the fact that our personal histories are peopled by men and women who have shared companionship with us on the pilgrimage — journeys of our lives of faith and to God. This is a dynamic deeply rooted in our common Christian heritage, of course, grounded as it is in the revelation that the face of God is a human face, and human friendship is the mode and model of the relationship God desires to share with us. (“You call me, ‘master’ and ‘lord,’ and rightly so, for so I am, but I call you ‘friends.’ “) So in the pilgrimage moments of quiet reflection, memories of friends’ lives, their welcome, compassion, forgiveness and enduring affection become revelatory of God’s own welcome, compassion, forgiveness and affection. In our gratitude for riches so freely received, we too are enriched to be signs and sacraments of God’s presence for the life of the world.
Views from the top of the castle of St. Xavier
St Francis Xavier’s castle