Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
532 Market Street
Parkersburg, WV 26101
(304) 422-6786

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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 and merchants.

 

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.

 

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