Friday, December 3, 1999
Friday December 3:
Feast of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest and Religious Missionary
First Reading: Isaiah 29: 17-24
Psalms: Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9: 27-31
Saint Francis Xavier, Priest, Religious and Missionary
One of the charter members of the Jesuit Order, Saint Francis Xavier was hand-picked by Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Born in the family castle of Xavier near Pamplona in the Basque country of the Spanish Navarre on April 7, 1506, Francis was sent to the prestigious University of Paris to receive his licentiate in 1528. While there he met Fr. Loyola. Though he rejected Ignatius' original plans, he was one over by his piety and became one of the original seven who took their vows as Jesuits, dedicated to the Pope, at Montmartre, France in 1534 on the feast of the Assumption. He became a Jesuit priest in 1537 in Venice, Italy and subsequently was sent to Rome along with four other Jesuits in 1538. After two years of "pestering the Pope" and keeping Pope Paul III abreast of the activities and ideals of the Society of Jesus, the Holy Father formally approved the Society. Once approval was official, Fr. Xavier and fellow Jesuit Fr. Simon Rodriquez were sent to the East Indies as the first missionaries. On their way they stopped off in Lisbon where King John II detained them. It was the king who had requested missionaries. When they were ready to head to the Orient again on April 7, 1541 the King felt Fr. Rodriquez was not healthy enough to go and other priests were assigned to join Francis, though not Jesuits. Thirteen months later Fr. Xavier arrived in Goa where he preached for five months to the children, ministered to the sick, and sought to correct the immorality factor - in particular the use of concubines so prevalent among the Portuguese community there, but frowned upon in Europe and by the Church. From there he traveled to the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka ministering to the natives. In 1544 he moved on to care for the Malaccans and a year later the Moluccas near New Guinea. In 1546 he landed on Morotai which was near the Philippines. In 1549 he reached his farthest destination - Japan where he preached until 1551. Whenever other missionaries joined him in these countries, Francis would turn over the duties to them and move on to new frontiers with a heart flaming with love for God and souls. Thus, he set out for China. On December 3, 1552 in sight of his life-long goal to evangelize to the Chinese, God took Francis home. Alone excepted for a Chinese youth named Antony, Francis, though only 46, died of exhaustion and fever on the island of Shangchwan just a short distance from the China mainland. No other missionary, with the exception of possibly Saint Paul, traveled more miles than Francis and in such a short span of time. He traveled to some of the most remote and inaccessible places then known to man under tremendous harrowing situations that a lesser man would have run from. But he persevered, despite the lack of cooperation from locals and the absence of funds, in converting over 30,000 people during his lifetime. In a time when thousands were fleeing from the faith in Europe as a result of the Protestant revolution, thousands were embracing the True Faith in the Far East thanks to the valiant, heroic deeds of St. Francis Xavier, the "Apostle of the Indies and Japan." It is all the more remarkable when one realizes he worked solely through interpreters and translators, not having the gift of tongues. He was credited with countless miracles and healings and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. Pope Saint Pius X proclaimed him patron of all foreign missions in 1927 along with the Little Flower of Lisieux- Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus.