Saint Francis Xavier


Feastday: December 3

Also known as: Apostle to the Far East  

Saint Francis Xavier was one of the Church's most illustrious missionaries. He was born was born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilcueta on April 7, 1506, of aristocratic parents, in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre in the Spanish kingdom of Navarre; and his native language, like that of Ignatius Loyola, whose devoted disciple he was to become, was Basque.

At the age of nineteen Francis went to the of Paris, where and where he received a licence ès arts in 1530. At this University he met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre founded the Society of Jesus on August 15, 1534, taking a vow of poverty and chastity. The names of the seven were:

  • Ignatius of Loyola
  • Pierre Favre (Pierre Faber)
  • Francis Xavier
  • Diego Lainez
  • Alfonso Salmerón
  • Alphonsus Rodríguez
  • Nicolas Bobadilla

This members of the Society of Jesus, known as Jesuits, have been called "Soldiers of Christ", first, and "Footsoldiers of the Pope", second, in part because the Society's founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was a soldier before he became a priest. His missionary career began in 1540. In 1541 Francis sailed with two companions from Portugal to the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India, where he set about learning the language and writing a catechism for the instruction of converts. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans and the Japanese. He then determined to carry the Gospel to China, at that time closed to outsiders. He bribed a ship's captain to smuggle him into the country, but had barely arrived there when he was stricken with fever and died on 3 December 3, 1552 on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China.

On December 11, 1553, Xavier's body was shipped to Goa. Two layers of quicklime were added in order to accelerate the process of corruption, which would facilitate the transference of his bones. Two and a half months later, the coffin was unearthed. To the surprise of all present, after the lime had been removed, they found the body totally incorrupt, as if it were still alive. And a sweet fragrance is said to have issued from the coffin. After replacing the lime, the coffin was sailed to Malacca. On arrival it was opened and the body was still found to have the freshness of a living person. The body was then buried this time without a coffin.
The body, having resisted extensive decay, is now in the Basilica of Bom Jésus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on December 2, 1637. Francis Xavier was beatified 25 October 1619 by Pope Paul V and canonized 12 March 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Many miracles have been attributed to St Francis. He was said to have possessed the gift of tongues, to have healed the sick and even to have raised the dead; but for the last, at least, there is no real evidence.

Patron: of all the missions of the Catholic Church.

Prayer to Saint Francis Xavier

Dear Jesus, Saint Francis was sent to evangelize the unexplored Far East. This was made difficult by sciatica, but he offered up his pain for the mission and he received many supernatural gifts, including prophecy, healing, calming storms, and raising people from the dead. He baptized more than 40,000 converts. I ask him to pray that the sacrifices I make will help to accomplish Your work. O Lord, I offer up my sufferings to be used for the glory of Your name and the salvation of the lost. Turn my pain into healing for others in remembrance of what You did for me through Your holy Passion. Saint Francis, pray for me.