Saint, Priest, Missionary (1506- 1552)
The patron saint of missionaries and one of the founders of the Jesuits order – the Society of Jesus was officially recognized by Pope Paul III in 1540. He was beatified by Pope Paul V on 25th Oct 1619 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.
Francis Xavier was born on April 7, 1506 to an aristocratic family in Navarre, Spain. He had a happy childhood until the age of nine when his father passed away. He received his early education from his mother and a parish priest and later left home to pursue his studies at the University of Paris in 1525. He met Ignatius of Loyola in 1529, who was a roommate and 15 years elder to him. After several dialogues with Ignatius who had undergone a religious conversion, Xavier became one of the first seven Jesuits to undertake the vows of poverty and chastity, and also pledged his allegiance to the Pope. Francis Xavier was ordained a priest on June 24, 1537 in Venice. On the Popes order, he became the first foreign missionary to visit India. After landing in Goa, he started learning the local language. He began preaching, attending to the sick and teaching children. He was admired for his ability to live and work side by side with the poor. After India, he visited Indonesia, Ceylon, Malaysia and Japan. On Aug 15, 1549, Xavier landed at Kagoshima, Japan. He arranged for the translation of religious texts which helped him reach move converts in the time spent in Japan (2years). He then decided to visit and carry the Gospel to China, his last mission and legacy. He travelled to the Shangchuan Island but could not access the mainland because at that time foreigners were not allowed to enter. Before he could find a way inside the country, illness struck him. He died of a fever on Dec 3 1552. He was buried on the Island and his body was placed in quicklime to hasten its decomposition so that it could be brought to India. But on being exhumed, it was found to be in perfect condition.
St. Francis Xavier suffered extreme hardships, wore himself out with ceaseless activity but lived a deeply spiritual life. His friendliness and cheerfulness were trademark characteristics that would draw people to him throughout his missionary life. He built a total of 40 churches and converted 40 to 50 thousand people. St. Francis Xavier was the greatest Roman Catholic Missionary of modern times who was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India.
Millions of pilgrims from all walks of life and various parts of the world visit and pay homage to St. Francis Xavier. The body of St. Francis Xavier rests in a silver reliquary in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa, India.