St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier

“In Thee, O Lord, have I put my hope. Let me never be confounded”- St Francis Xavier

On April 7, 1506, in the Kingdom of Navarre, a Navarrese-Basque Roman Catholic missionary named St. Francis Xavier was born. His father was a privy counselor and finance minister to King John III of Navarre. He lived in a castle and was the youngest member of the family. As a child, Francis was surrounded by war. King Ferdinand of Aragon and Castile launched an expedition against Navarre, and the kingdom was ultimately overthrown.

When the war ended and Francis reached the age of adulthood, he was sent to the University of Paris to study. He shared a room with his friend Peter Favre during that time. Ignatius of Loyola, whom the two met and greatly influenced, urged Francis to choose a career as a priest. After receiving his master's degree in 1530, Francis Xavier began teaching philosophy at the University of Paris.

Francis Xavier took a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience on August 15, 1534, along with Peter Favre and a few other friends. The men intended to go to the Holy Land to win over unbelievers. That same year, Francis Xavier began his theological studies, and on June 24, 1537, he was ordained.

The Society of Jesus was established in 1540 with the approval of Pope Paul III. The order became more generally known as the Jesuits.

As Francis Xavier was training to become a priest, Portugal was encroaching on India. The Portuguese were losing their Christian values and faith when they settled in India and other countries. The King of Portugal requested that the Pope dispatch missionaries to the area to restore these principles.

In particular, they were unable to carry out their desired mission to the Holy Land because of fighting there, thus Pope Paul III urged the new order to accept the mission. In the end, Ignatius chose to send Francis.

On his 35th birthday in 1541, Francis Xavier departed for India. He was told as he was leaving that the pope had named him the Papal Nuncio in the East. On May 6, 1542, he landed in the area and the Indian colony of Goa. Even though Goa was a Portuguese colony with churches and a bishop, there weren't many Portuguese ministers or preachers, especially outside the city limits.

Francis saw right away that there was a serious issue with the people's motivations. A large number of settlers and sailors were ex-offenders who were either escaping their crimes or had been recruited from Portuguese prisons. Not one of them came to propagate or lead a moral life. Rather, they arrived in search of excitement, wealth, or a way out of Portugal.

Xavier began his ministry by tending to the sick and the young. Subsequently, he discovered that the indigenous population of Pearl Fishery Coast had been baptized ten years prior, but had never been instructed in their faith. Xavier started serving them. He lived with them for three years but was constantly ashamed of the way his fellow Portuguese citizens, who were already Catholic yet frequently misbehaved, acted. Forty churches were constructed by Xavier for the Pearl Fishery Coast community.

Eventually, Xavier decided to go preach to the locals in Malacca and the Maluku Islands. He was in the area for around two years when he was caught up by a Japanese man named Anjiro in Malacca. Despite being charged with murder in Japan, Anjiro was able to escape. He decided to locate Xavier and inform him about Japan after learning about him. Anjiro became the first Japanese convert to Christianity after Xavier led him to faith.

For over a year, Xavier went back to Goa to take care of his official obligations, but he was eager to see Japan. He finally left for the land in 1549, arriving in July of that same year. Although the daimyo of the area welcomed Xavier with open arms, he prohibited his peasants from becoming Christians. Xavier discovered that language was a barrier in addition to the legal one.

Xavier was astonished to discover that his poverty constituted a barrier to communication. He was forced to alter his approach because poverty was not valued in feudal Japan. Xavier had made plans to be well-groomed and to have his fellow missionaries wait on him when he met with a local royal. Gifts from India were brought to him. The ruse enhanced his reputation and produced the intended result.

The Japanese however were not readily won over. The majority still clung to their old Shinto or Buddhist faiths. Priests from the indigenous religions were among the traditionalists who became antagonistic towards Xavier and Christianity. Xavier founded a few congregations, but the nobility prevented the church from proliferating. Christianity eventually came under intense persecution, which pushed many of its believers to hide their faith.

After concluding his work in Japan, Xavier decided to head back to India, stopping in Goa en route. As a representative of their government, he petitioned to meet with the Chinese emperor on his voyage to plead for the release of numerous Portuguese prisoners. Xavier decided to travel to China, but not before feeling compelled to go back to his Goa headquarters.

In April of 1552, he made his final departure from India, making a stop in Malacca to pick up official credentials verifying his position as the Portuguese king's legate. Alvaro da Gama, the son of Vasco da Gama and the captain of Malacca, now held authority over the harbour.

Because Xavier would not acknowledge Da Gama's official position as Papal Nuncio, Da Gama was not cordial with him. He took the presents that Xavier was about to give the Chinese emperor and replaced the crew on his ship with self-serving individuals.

In August, Xavier's ship arrived in China and made a halt at an island near the country's shore. Xavier was on his own after that. He found a man who would transport him to China for a hefty sum of money, but he got sick with a fever while he was waiting for his boat to arrive. Xavier passed away on 3 December 1552.

Xavier was interred on the island until February 1553, at which point his remains were removed and sent to Malacca, where they were interred for a month in a church. For the remainder of the year, one of Xavier's friends transferred his body to his own home. His remains were transferred to Goa in December. Xavier's body is interred in a glass-enclosed silver coffin.

His bones had been removed in several places. In Rome, his right arm is on display, where it is used to bless converts. On Coloane Island in Macau, which is now a part of China, another arm bone is preserved.

On October 25, 1619, Pope Paul V beatified Xavier; on March 12, 1622, Gregory XV canonized him in a ceremony along with Ignatius of Loyola. His feast day is December 3, and he is the patron of Catholic missions, Goa, China, Japan, jewelers, and seafarers.

Other Saints of the Day
Saint Birinus
Saint Eloque
Saint Abbo
Saint Mirocles
Saint Cassian of Tangier

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