December 2, 2015

December 3, 2015 – Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier
Saint Francis Xavier [1506-1552] tirelessly evangelized the Far East. He converted more people during his life than anyone since the Apostle Paul — personally baptizing some 50,000 Catholics in ten years [including the entire city of Goa, India]. St. Francis spread the faith to India, China, Japan and the Philippines. He was instrumental in co-founding the Jesuit Order as a close friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

St. Francis is the patron saint of missionaries, and the dioceses of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Joiliet, Illinois and the archdiocese of Indianapolis, as well as, Borneo, China, the East Indies, Goa, India, Navarre, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. The effects of St. Francis's evangelization has lasted for centuries.

The Life of St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier, one of the Church's most illustrious missionaries, came from a noble Basque family in Spain. He studied at the University of Paris, where he taught philosophy after obtaining his degree of master of arts. Here he met Ignatius of Loyola and was enrolled as one of the first seven Jesuits. They decided to go to the Holy Land, but the war between the Turks and Venice prevented this, so for a time Francis labored at Padua, Bologna, and Rome.

In 1540 Ignatius chose him as the first missionary to the Portuguese East Indies. Francis sailed from Lisbon armed with four papal briefs making him nuncio with full powers and recommending him to the Eastern princes. He landed at Goa in India and began a vast apostolate lasting over ten years. Here Francis instructed the adults, gathered the children by ringing a bell in the streets, catechized them, and also visited the hospitals and prisons. He then turned to the native Indians, teaching the simple folk by versifying Catholic doctrine and fitting the verses to popular tunes. Francis went to Cape Comorin and began the conversion of the Paravas, baptizing thousands. At Travencore he founded forty-five churches in various villages. Then to Malacca in Malaya, and for eighteen months from island to island, preaching, instructing and baptizing.

On his return to Goa, Francis heard of the vast number of souls awaiting in Japan and he set out for this field with several companions, arriving at Kagoshima in 1549. He set himself to learn the language and started to preach and teach with such success that twelve years later his converts were found still retaining their first fervor. In 1551 Francis returned to Malacca to revisit his converts in India. Francis desired to bring the Gospel of Christ to China, but he died before achieving this goal.

Arriving on the island of Sancian at the mouth of the Canton river, Francis became ill of a fever and would have died had not a poor man named Alvarez taken him to his hut. Here Francis lingered for two weeks, praying between spells of delirium, and finally died, his eyes fixed with great tenderness on his crucifix. He was buried in a shallow grave and his body covered with quicklime. When exhumed three months later it was found incorrupt. Francis' earthly remains were taken to Goa where it is still enshrined. St. Francis Xavier was proclaimed patron of foreign missions and of all missionary works by Pope St. Pius X.

Adapted excerpt from A Saint A Day by Berchmans Bittle, O.F.M.Cap

Collect Prayer

O God, who through the preaching of Saint Francis Xavier won many peoples to yourself, grant that the hearts of the faithful may burn with the same zeal for the faith and that Holy Church may everywhere rejoice in an abundance of offspring. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer of St. Francis Xavier

My God, I love thee;
not because I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love thee not are lost eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus,
thou didst me upon the cross embrace;
for me didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace.
And griefs and torments numberless and sweat of agony;
even death itself,
and all for one Who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ
should I not love thee well?
not for the hope of winning heaven,
or of escaping hell.
not with the hope of gaining aught,
nor seeking a reward,
but as thyself has lovèd me,
O ever-loving Lord!
Even so I love thee, and will love
and in thy praise will sing,
solely because thou art my God,
and my eternal king. Amen.


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