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Francis Xavier

St Francis Xavier (April 7, 1506 - December 2, 1552) was a pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order).

Xavier was born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, Spain, on April 7, 1506. Xavier and Pierre Favre[?] were the first two men to join Ignatius Loyola in forming the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits.

In 1540, he was appointed a missionary to the Portuguese East Indies[?]. He spent 3 years operating out of Goa, India, then pushed on to Malacca. In Malacca he met a Japanese man who convinced him to go to Japan. Having made another trip to Goa for Jesuit administrative purposes, he left for Japan in 1549. Xavier worked for 3 years in Japan, saw his successor-Jesuits established, and then set his sights on China. On December 2, 1552, he died at age 46 on the Island of Sancian, without having reached mainland China. He is buried in Goa. He was beatified by Paul V[?] on October 25, 1619, and was canonized by Gregory XV[?] on March 12, 1622.


Text from Schaff-Herzog Encyc of Religion:

FRANCIS XAVIER, SAINT: The founder and pioneer of modern Roman Catholic missions.

Born at the castle of Xavier, near Pamplona (195 m. n.n.e. of Madrid), in Navarre, Apr. 7, 1506; died on the island of San-chan (Chang-Chuang, St. John's Island, on the south coast of China, 125 m. s. of Canton) Dec. 2, 1552.

He sprang from an aristocratic family of Navarre. While preparing himself for the higher spiritual career at the University of Paris, he became acquainted with Ignatius Loyola, soon stood completely under his influence, and was one of those who on Aug. 15, 1534, bound themselves by a vow at Montmartre and formed the Society of Jesus.

The field of labor falling to Francis Xavier was that of missions to remote countries. As King John III of Portugal desired Jesuit missionaries for the East Indies, he was ordered there, leaving Lisbon on Apr. 7, 1541; from August of that year till Mar. 1542, he remained in Mozambique, and reached Goa, the capital of the Portuguese colonies, on May 6.

His first missionary activity was among the Paravas, pearl-fishers along the southerly portion of the east coast of Hindustan. He then exerted himself to win the king of Travancore to Christianity, on the west coast, and also visited Ceylon. Dissatisfied with the results of his activity, he turned eastward in 1545, and planned a missionary journey to Macassar, on the island of Celebes. Having arrived in Malacca in October of that year and waited there three months in vain for a ship to Macassar, he gave up the goal of his voyage, and went to Amboyna and other of the Molucca Islands, returning to India in Jan., 1548. The next fifteen months were occupied with various journeys and administrative measures in India.

Then his displeasure by reason of the unchristian life and manners of the Portuguese, whereby his proselyting work was seriously impeded, drove him forth once again into the unknown Far East. He left Goa on Apr. 15, 1549, stopped at Malacca, visited Canton, and on Aug. 15 reached Japan, where he landed at Kagoshima, the principal port of the province of Satsuma, on the island of Kiushiu. He was received in friendly manner and was permitted to preach, but, not knowing the native language, had to limit himself to reading aloud the translation of a catechism. For all this, his sojourn was not without fruits, as is attested by congregations established in Hiudo, Samaguchi, and Bungo.

After more than two years in Japan, he returned to India, and was back in Goa by Jan., 1552. In April he was again under way, aiming for China, but died on the journey.

Francis Xavier accomplished a great missionary work both as organizer and as pioneer. By his compromises in India with the Christians of St. Thomas he developed the Jesuit missionary methods along lines that subsequently became fateful for his order; the instruction he dispensed in connection with baptism was superficial; and he combined missions with politics, and approved of the extension of Christianity by force (cf. his letter to King John III. of Portugal, Cochin, Jan. 20, 1548).

Yet he had high qualifications as missionary; he was animated with glowing zeal; the consciousness of acting in God's service never forsook him, he was endowed with great linguistic gifts, and his activity was marked by restless pushing forward. His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India; and by pointing out the way to East India to the Jesuits, his work is of fundamental significance with regard to the history of the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan.

The results of his labor that he himself witnessed were not slight (mere figures may be disregarded, as they are difficult to verify); but still greater were the tasks he proposed. And since the Roman Catholic Church responded to his call, the effects of his efforts reach far beyond the Jesuit order; the entire systematic and aggressive incorporation of great masses of people on broad lines of policy by the Roman Catholic Church in modern times, dates back to Francis Xavier.



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