BIOGRAPHY OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER
Francis Xavier, Apostle of India and Japan and perhaps the
greatest missionary of the Church since Saint Paul, was born on April 7, 1506
near Sanguesa in Spain. After
completing his preliminary studies in his own country, he went to Paris,
France in 1525 and entered the College of Sainte-Barbe. In 1526, he met Pierre Favre and a warm
friendship sprang between them.
Ignatius Loyola, the founder of
the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) resided at this same college. He won the confidence of the two young men
and they were the first to join with him in the formation of the religious
order. They made their vows on August
15, 1534, binding themselves to the service of God.
Francis Xavier went to Venice, Italy and there he was
ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 1537.
After ordination, he served for a brief period in Rome.
On April 7, 1541, Francis departed for India as the
Jesuits’ first foreign missionary. He
landed in Goa and immediately began to learn the language, preach, minister
to the sick and compose a catechism.
His success there was most notable.
Multitudes flocked to hear him, and he won many converts to the
faith. He also faced many
hardships. He had less success with
the Brahman sect and a years’ worth of work among them resulted in only one
convert. Francis Xavier’s converts in
India were persecuted mercilessly and were often abused by the Protégées officials
On April 17, 1549, he set sail for Japan filled with great
zeal at the prospect f introducing Christianity to this country. After an apostolate of two years and three
months, the Christian community in that nation numbered some two thousand and
continued to grow rapidly.
He then set his sights on China. He arranged passage there on a merchant ship in August of
1552. The ship reached the desolate
island of Sancian (Shang-chwan) near the Chinese coast not far from Canton.
While there, Francis was seized with a fever on November 21, 1552. He grew weaker and died on December 3,
1552. He was buried the following
day. After more than two months, the
grave and coffin were opened and his body found incorrupt. His body was taken back to Goa, India and
is enshrined in the Church of the Good Jesus.
Francis Xavier was beatified in 1619 and canonized a
saint of the Catholic Church in 1622.
In 1748 he was named the Patron Saint of the Orient. In 1904 he was declared the patron saint
for the Propagation of the Faith and in 1927 named the patron of
missions. Francis Xavier is also the
Patron Saint of all Navigators.