St. Francis Xavier
Our Patron Saint
(7th April,1506 – 3rd December,1552)
Born in the royal castle of Javier, Kingdom of Navarre, Francis Xavier was the youngest son to his parents. A promising young man who acquired doctorate in Law and then went ahead to study at the University of Paris was also a commendable athlete.
He wasn’t expecting a complete change of thoughts or direction in his ambitious life in Paris. However, it was Francis’ room-mate, Ignatius of Loyola, much older to him, who introduced him to the words of Jesus, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). These words of enlightenment brought about a spiritual transformation in him. Ignatius continuously persuaded Francis and finally broke his resistance to a new way of life in imitation of Christ.
On 15 August, 1534, Francis was among the band of seven students who met in a chapel of Montmartre in Paris. They pledged themselves to the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Pope and also vowed to go to the Holy Land to convert the heathen. Francis then performed the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditation devised by Ignatius. They embedded in him the motivation to lead the rest of his life in service of God and human kind. It also prepared him for his recurrent mystical experiences. After his study in theology, on 24 June, 1537, he was ordained in the presence of all the members of the band in Venice.
While in Venice, Francis worked in a hospital helping those in need. His attempt to go to the Holy Land failed and that led him to Rome where he, along with the others in the Society of Jesus offered services to the Pope.
It was perchance that Francis had to leave Rome for India on March 15, 1540 when his fellow priest, who was assigned to go to render his services to the Portuguese became severely ill. He left for the Indies, traveled to Lisbon and then he disembarked in Goa, also the center of Portuguese activity in East on 6 May, 1542.
For the next ten years, he toiled to bring faith to a widely scattered people. He diligently worked among the simple folk, poor fishermen, taught catechism to young children, traveled villages confirming them in faith.
He devoted almost three years preaching to the people of Southern India and Ceylon, converting many. He helped those who were baptized but uninstructed in faith.
In 1545, Francis Xavier was intrigued to possibilities for Christianity in Malacca (Malaysia). After spending some time there, he returned to India. He then served as the provincial of Jesuits’ Centre for education of native priests and catechists for the diocese of Goa.
An acquaintance with a Japanese named Anjiro who traveled to Malacca to meet Francis introduced him to the customs and culture of Japan. As he landed in Japan, he was welcomed as a representative of the Portuguese king. He managed to preach to the folk even with his limitations to communicate in Japanese. Though he didn’t succeed in his mission in Japan completely, he spent two years there and saw his successor Jesuits established.
Francis then wished to go to China. He traveled to Sancian Island but wasn’t able to access mainland China. He died on 3rd December, 1552 on the desolate island of Sancian at the age of 46. His body was then taken to Goa. On 12th March, 1662, he was canonized by Pope Gregory XIII together with St. Ignatius of Loyola. The body of St. Francis Xavier still rests at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. He and St. Therese Lisieux were declared co-patrons of the missions in 1925.
A person with a cheerful and ardent temperament, Francis won esteem and affection of all those he dealt with. Under the guidance of St. Ignatius, he left his ambitions and worldly desires for the service of poor, the neglected and the forgotten, for the greater glory of God. He cared for men day and night, heard confessions and visited the sick. He never wished anything for himself but gave others all he could. He showed us the way to care for nature and people, love one another and live in probity and conciliation.