A Legend of the Missions: St. Francis Xavier
“it is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is taken.”
St. Francis Xavier
3 December • The Feast of St. Francis Xavier • Rome, Italy
“Go!” St. Ignatius of Loyola told him, “and set all on fire!” These were the final words of the Jesuit founder to St. Francis Xavier, the Society’s co-founder, who embarked upon one of the most thrilling missionary adventures through Asia.
Born to a noble Spanish family in 1506, he first set sail to Goa, India, on his 35th birthday. The King made his first mission clear: restore Christianity amongst the unruly Portuguese settlers, and evangelize the natives. Enflamed with his “two P’s: prayer and penance,” he set out fearlessly living his favorite prayer: “Give me souls!”
It is this very passion and absolute trust in the Almighty that St. Francis baptized thousands upon thousands on the Asian continent, to which it is said that at the end of the day he could no longer hold up his hand anymore. For what seems impossible is not with God, because as St. Vincent Pallotti says, “when one acts with pure zeal and fervent love there is no temptation, no difficulty, no obstacle which cannot be overcome.”
After converting around 30,000 people in India, and building 30 Churches along the country’s beautiful coast, his eyes were set on Japan. He arrived in 1549 after an inspiration from God: ‘He put it into my heart, to go to the islands of Japan to spread our holy faith.’ While he said the people were courteous and kind, they proved to be difficult to convert, at times showing great hostility. His means of becoming a poor fisherman to convert the poor fisherman in Southern India did not translate well this Asian island, who preferred the studious appeal.
Hence, he believed it was to be through China that would crack the code to Japanese evangelization. How much they esteemed the Chinese! After converting about 2,000 people, he returned to India; his eyes now set on the same missionary land Religious Societies still seek.
It was there, on the island of Sancian- now Shang-ch’uan Tao- resting off of China’s coast, that St. Francis Xavier died as one of the Church’s greatest missionaries. But it was by this death that he lived: he was declared co-patron saint of the missions, along with St. Therese of Lisieux.
To his intercession missionaries seek, in which he still travels the shores from above.