A Roman Catholic Saint at Goa
Theosophist, June, 1884
St. Francis Xavier was a Roman Catholic priest. His sacred corpse is lodged at Gôa, and exposed every third or fourth year to the public view, when several miracles are wrought. He must, without doubt, have been a true believer in Roman Catholicism, which religion forbids us to join secret societies. This being so, how can the Theosophists put down Roman Catholicism in their monthly Journal? Will The Theosophist please to give the public its views about this Great Saint in India.
Civil Court, SALEM, April 13th, 1884.
Note:—We regret that we have had no opportunity of forming the acquaintance of St. Francis Xavier; neither were we given the chance to investigate any of the “miracles” performed by his corpse; but as our correspondent, according to the address given by him, is connected with the Civil Court, it is reasonable to suppose that he is a lawyer, and therefore that he would not accept anything as true, unless he were fully convinced by the evidence brought before him. He tells us that
1. The corpse of St. Francis Xavier is occasionally exposed at Gôa.
2. On such an occasion “miracles are wrought.”
As to the first assertion, we are quite willing to believe that the corpse exposed at Gôa is really that of St. Francis Xavier and no other. Besides it would make no difference; for even if the corpse exhibited in that costly shrine at the Church of Bon Jésus were that of the cruel bigot, Don Fre Alexo de Menzes, or of one of the many miserable victims of the loathsome Inquisition who died in the dungeons of the Casa Santa, or that of some unknown criminal, it would make no difference as far as the working of “miracles” is concerned, as long as the true believers can furnish sufficient faith to believe seriously in the efficacy of the fetish. We fully believe in the mysterious power of faith.
Besides the body of St. Francis Xavier, there are plenty of other “miracle-working” relics in the world. “A monk of St. Anthony,” says Stevens, “having been at Jerusalem, saw several relics, among which was a bit of the finger of the Holy Ghost; the snout of the seraph that appeared to St. Francis; one of the ribs of the verbum caro factum (the word made flesh); some rays of the star that appeared to the three Kings of the East; a phial of St. Michael’s sweat that exuded when he was fighting against the Devil” (see Isis Unveiled); and up to this day there is a church in Italy where a feather out of the wing of the Angel Gabriel is exhibited.
All these things work “miracles,” especially cures, provided the patient has sufficient faith. Neither is it at all necessary that such fetishes should be relics of Roman Catholic saints. A tooth of Buddha, a backbone of Confucius, a toenail of Gladstone, a boot of Col. Ingersoll, a tail of a monkey, or any other thing will and must have just the same effect, if believed in with sufficient strength. Jesus Christ gives the desired explanation after making a cure. He does not say “I cured thee,” but he says: “Thy faith has made thee whole, go and sin no more.” Many Yogis are buried in India and cures are wrought at their graves. Thousands of Mohammedans go annually to Mecca to visit the tomb of the Prophet for that purpose, and all the patent medicines and quack nostrums derive their efficacy principally from the faith of imaginary or real invalids. The powers of Imagination and Faith are almost omnipotent, and if our correspondent desires to know how they act, we advise him to study theosophical books, and especially to read the lectures of Éliphas Lévi published monthly in the Journal of the Theosophical Society. The Theosophical Society is no secret society, she invites everybody to investigate her doctrines.
As to the second point, it is useless in this enlightened age to say that a real miracle can occur. Originally a “miracle” meant something supernatural, or something that goes against the laws of nature. At one time thunder and lightning were supposed to be works of Jupiter or of the devil, and therefore miraculous; but we are inclined to believe that our correspondent is sufficiently intelligent to know all this, and that by “miracle” he probably meant “a wonderful thing.” There are plenty of wonderful things, but they are not supernatural, and can all be explained by a proper application of our intellectual faculties.
“But,” says our correspondent, “you try to put down Catholicism.” We say: “We do no such thing. We do not try to put down Catholicism, but to raise it up and purify it. We want to make the Catholic church still more Catholic; instead of wishing her to remain only Roman Catholic, we want her to become universal Catholic; but to become such she must have priests instead of bigots, knowledge instead of relics, love instead of hate, freedom instead of tyranny, truth instead of superstition, and a pope who is endowed with supreme wisdom. If she arrives at that point, we shall join her in her efforts to extend her dominion all over the earth.”
If we attempt to cleanse a noble statue from filth, do we destroy the statue, or destroy the filth? If we try to remove superstition and ignorance, which hide the truth, do we try to put down the truth? Forms change, principles are lasting. He who adores a form is an idolater; who admires the principle is the true worshipper. The Roman Catholic Church is getting old; the principle has left, the form remains. The priests have lost the key to their sanctuary; they cannot explain their own mysteries and do not want them explained. They worship forms, out of which the spirit has fled, and unless they awake from their slumber, a new and universal religion will arise and conquer the world, while the mummified body of the Roman Catholic Church will be laid away in its tomb and forgotten, like the dried up old body of St. Francis Xavier in its shrine at Gôa.