St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of our parish, was hailed as one of the greatest missionary saints in Church history, second only to St. Paul. He was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV and was proclaimed the patron saint of all foreign missions by Pope Pius XI in 1927.
St. Francis Xavier was born in 1506, at the Castle of Xavier, in Navarre, Spain. He was the youngest of six children. At eighteen years of age, he entered the University of Paris. Francis was a promising young athlete and scholar who sought a prestigious career. In 1528 he studied at the College of St. Barbara where he earned a degree as a licentiate. While there, he roomed with Ignatius of Loyola, a former Basque military official who had gone through a profound conversion after sustaining a bad leg injury. At first, the relationship between the two men was strained because Francis, with his worldly ambitions, had a difficult time accepting the God-centered aspirations of Ignatius. With patient endurance, however, Ignatius began to have a profound influence over Francis' life. Often he would ask Francis, "What profit is it to a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?" Eventually, the impact of this question and the tireless persuasion of Ignatius led Francis to devote his entire life to Christ. He then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius and, together with Ignatius and 5 other pious young men, went to Montmarte, France and founded the Jesuits. As directed by the Pope, they took the vows of poverty, chastity and apostolic service.
In 1537, just 3 years after the inception of the Jesuit order, Francis went to Italy and was ordained a priest. For a short time he ministered to sick and uncatechized people living on the streets. Then, he and one other Jesuit priest were sent to Portugal to prepare for missionary work in India. Before he was to set sail for his arduous 13 month voyage to India, Francis was appointed papal nuncio in the East. In the Spring of 1542, he arrived in the city of Goa, India. With a fervent desire to bring the faith to the people of Goa, Francis immediately began to learn their native language. He then "introduced the young and the idle to Christ and the Church, by using the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments." By preaching on the Catechism of the Church or setting the truths of the faith to music, he won not only the souls of many children, but of adults – slaves, simple-minded, lepers, hospitalized and imprisoned – to Christ, as well.
Francis ministered to the people as a poor man sleeping on the ground in a hut, subsisting on only rice and water. This manner of living, along with his loving concern for them, enabled Francis to relate well to the Indian citizens, “who began to refer to him as the ‘heavenly Pilgrim or “el Santo’.” (p 74, A Great Cloud of Witnesses) Although he often faced opposition, Francis persevered in his efforts to teach Christianity in this pagan land and baptized some 50 thousand people and established flourishing churches during his time in India. While Francis ministered to the people of India, he also journeyed to Ceylon, Cape Comorin, the Moluccas and Malaysia, teaching the faith in these regions, as well.
Francis next traveled to Japan in April of 1549, in an effort to spread Christianity to the people of this country, where, as yet, no European had entered. He landed in Kagoshima and, as was his custom, immediately set about learning Japanese and, with permission from the local ruler, recited a simplified account of Christian teaching to all who would listen. Only one hundred converts were made in Kagoshima. He then traveled to Kyoto, the then capitol city of Japan, and found, to his chagrin, that he could not afford to procure an audience with the Mikado. Francis next went to Yamaguchi, where, after adapting to the local customs, he was permitted to teach the faith. By the time he left Japan, the Japanese converts numbered some 2000.
Francis Xavier next hoped to spread the faith in China. Unfortunately, this plan never came to fruition because he came down with a life-threatening fever and was welcomed home to God before reaching the mainland. He was 46 years old. The incorrupt remains of St. Francis Xavier are enshrined in the church of the Good Jesus in Goa.