SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER (1506-1552), missionary priest and co-founder – Patron saint of parish missions and missionaries, India, Japan, East Indies and China
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Francis Xavier, one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus and also one of the Church’s most illustrious missionaries, who spent the latter part of his life evangelizing vast portions of Asia.
Francis was born in the castle of Xavier in Navarre, Spain on April 7, 1506. He was, by birth, a Basque nobleman, and, at the age of nineteen, left his home to study liberal arts at the University of Paris, from which he received his Master’s Degree and taught philosophy. He lived a rather worldly lifestyle until he met Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The battle-scarred Ignatius convinced the worldly young man to dedicate himself to the service of Christ.
And on August 15, 1534, with Ignatius and five others, Francis took a vow to consecrate his life to the service of Christ. With this act, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was born. After being ordained to the priesthood in Venice in 1537, Father Francis Xavier accompanied Ignatius and his companions to Rome in 1538. In 1541, he embarked on a long and dangerous voyage to Goa, India. The voyage took 13 months.
His missionary work in Goa and on the southern and western coasts of India bore an abundance of fruit, as tens of thousands were baptized into the Church. Father Francis continued further east and made it all the way to Japan where he established several Christian communities.
His entire missionary life, which lasted a little more than ten years until his death, was abundant in miracles and magnificent, apostolic feats. However, he also experienced considerable opposition from European officials, most of whom had been exploiting the native populations.
In 1552, he set out for China and landed on the island of Sancian. Though he was within sight of the mainland China coast, he died on December 2, 1552, before he was able set sail for the mainland.
Father Francis Xavier was canonized a saint on March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. Saint Francis’ remains are interred in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India.
We commemorate his feastday on December 3.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.org, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Francis Xavier)
“God our Father, by the preaching of Francis Xavier, You brought many nations to Yourself. Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in You, that Your Church may rejoice in continued growth throughout the world.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”