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St. Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier was born on April 7, 1506 at Javier, in the Spanish kingdom of Navarre. As a young boy he was fond of sport and outdoor activities. At the age of 19, Francis made his way to the University of Paris. He had set his future on degrees, and a comfortable academic life.

During his stay in Paris, he became quite close to his roommates, Peter Faber and later Ignatius who exerted a great influence on his life. Ignatius slowly won him over from his worldly ambitions with those unforgettable words: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?"

Ignatius quickly sized up Xavier and realized the potential within. A month's long retreat under Ignatius, lit the fire within Xavier. His only desire now was to serve Christ. The group around Ignatius slowly grew, which resulted in the formation of the Society of Jesus. The pope quickly asked for a "Jesuit" to be sent to the Indies. The choice fell on Francis, who readily accepted. He set sail in 1541, burning with zeal to preach Christ's message to the men and women of the East.

Fired by his love for Christ and the spirit of the ‘Magis,’ he preached without ceasing and toiled for the next ten years of his life. He was constantly on the move, traveling across Goa, Cochin, Malabar coast, Tamil Nadu, and then across the seas to Malacca. He was one of the first missionaries to reach and preach the faith in Japan. He was plain lucky to have survived all these dangerous journeys.

The life and works of Francis touched the lives of thousands. People quickly recognized that here was somebody different, an extraordinary man, who hardly ate and slept, who bore extreme heat and cold, and laboured tirelessly to spread God's kingdom. He was often found praying for hours at night.

His greatest dream was to preach Christ to the highly advanced Chinese culture. China, at that time was closed to foreigners, and no one wanted to accompany Francis to China. He pleaded, and used all the means at his disposal to try to reach the shores of China. Stranded and betrayed on the deserted island of Sancian off the coast of China, he awaited that ship that was never to come. Francis fell ill and finally died on that lonely island.

The remains of Francis Xavier rest at the Basilica of Bom Jesus, in Old Goa. This founding Jesuit was among the first to be canonized and is today revered as the "patron of missions."

Richard D'Souza SJ