Today the Church celebrates the life of the great missionary St. Francis Xavier, who with St. Ignatius and five others, founded the Society of Jesus (the religious order of our beloved Pope Francis). I thought of him and the hidden role he and his colleagues played in founding the Jesuits when I had the good fortune this week of celebrating the pivotal contributions of the 27 men and women who have been at Ave Maria University from the very beginning. We may have only one founder – Tom Monaghan – but these 27 “mothers and fathers” of Ave Maria University formed a brave band of true believers who instinctively understood the importance and value of Ave Maria University and Tom’s vision, and persevered despite great adversity.
Yesterday the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Michael Timmis, and I had lunch with 17 of them (the photo below was taken they were presented with tokens of appreciation from the University) and today I had the privilege of thanking three more pioneers who visited with me in my office. By week’s end I will have been able to meet with them all and extend the University’s heartfelt gratitude.
The University is in the debt of these modern missionaries (many, like St. Francis Xavier, are scholars of distinction) who are placing their gifts in the service of the Church and her missions – and the 21st century will ask much of the Lord’s followers. For example, we are called to oppose the threat to religious liberty which the HHS mandate poses to our religious freedom.
I was heartened to read that on Monday the University of Notre Dame followed us in re-filing their lawsuit against the Obama administration. As their legal brief eloquently states, “This lawsuit is about one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference.”
That same threat was known well to St. Francis Xavier during his missionary travels in south Asia and the Far East, and sadly, it is well-known to us in the United States.
May we persevere in the face of persecution with the same faith and courage as he did!