The great missionary St. Francis Xavier was from a Basque noble family, like his beloved mentor St. Ignatius Loyola. When Francis met Ignatius in Paris he was a proud, autocratic, ambitious man wanting to accomplish great deeds in the world. For three years Ignatius patiently encouraged Francis to look at his life differently. “What profits a man,” Ignatius asked Francis, “if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
Francis joined Peter Faber as the first of Ignatius’s companions. Francis Xavier was ordained in 1537.
In 1541 King John of Portugal asked Ignatius for priests to send to the missions in India. Despite knowing he would never see his beloved companion again, Ignatius chose Francis Xavier for the mission. Francis left for India, arriving at the city of Goa in 1542.
For the next ten years the missionary Francis Xavier traveled from Goa to Cape Comorin in south India, then to the East Indies, Malacca, and the Moluccas, and onward to Japan. It was Francis Xavier’s great ambition to get permission to enter China as a missionary. He died in 1552, exhausted from his labors and fasts, on a small island off the coast of China with a single companion at his side.
St. Francis Xavier’s great ambition was to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Armed only with his breviary and a book of meditations, Francis preached the Gospel to the poor and sick, spending most of his time ministering to their needs. His nights were taken up in prayer. His only attention to his personal needs was to have a pair of boots. He barely ate enough to stay alive. As the missionary Francis Xavier, SJ, moved on, he left behind flourishing churches that were the foundations for the Catholic faith in Asia.
Image by User 鹿両性証明 on ja.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Saint Francis Xavier, 1506-1552
Biography by Bert Ghezzi
From Loyola Productions’ video on the life of the saint, this extract brings you to the point in his life when Francis Xavier met Ignatius Loyola for the first time.
A pilgrim visits Rome and imagines how Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to his missions in the Far East. The clip is from the film In the Footsteps of Francis Xavier.
Prayer to St. Francis Xavier
By a student at St. Xavier High School
Produced by the Apostleship of Prayer, this brief video starts by acknowledging the organization’s founder and then introduces St. Francis Xavier.
Xavier: Missionary & Saint
This trailer for a documentary gives a biographical sketch of St. Francis Xavier.
By Francisco de Sales Baptista, SJ
Francis Xavier, SJ, took his responsibilities as papal nuncio to the missions seriously. The article shows how he challenged the King of Portugal to fulfill his responsibilities to the missions, established and saw to the continuation of missions, and established close personal relationships with Portuguese authorities so they would do what was needed. For specialists.
By Francis Mathy, SJ
Mathy evaluates the 21st century call to evangelization in the light of the accomplishments of St. Francis Xavier. Like Francis Xavier, young people today can rush to the places where the workers in Christ’s vineyard are scarce.