St Francis Xavier

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1506-1552 司鐸

In Old Goa in a splendid nave to the right of the altar in the Basilica Of Bom Jesus, lie the mumified remains of the man who called down the Inquisition upon the poor people of Goa. After his death he was sainted, but this does not wash away his sins. It is appropriate that his body, after his death on a small island off the coast of southern China, was carried here. For here is the site of his greatest crime. May he rot in Hell with his cries of agony harmonizing with the resusitated cries of the victims of the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa! No saint was Francis Xavier! 司鐸

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies, Francis Xavier went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them. It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534.

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome where he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus. Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June.

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and landed at Goa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christanity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last months of that year. About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anjiro, from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christanity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at Goa, where he went, taking Anjiro with him. He started with Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest Brother Juan Fernandez and Anjiro for Japan towards the end of June, 1549.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the Buddhist priests, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernandez, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here Xavier turned his thoughts to China. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire and its size. With the help of friends he arranged a commission to the Sovereign of China, and obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the party encountered difficulties because some influential Portuguese disapproved of the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Shangchuan, 14 km away from the southern coast of mainland China, near Taishan, Guangdong, 200 km south-west of what later became Hong Kong. While planning ways to reach the mainland he was taken ill and was taken ashore where a simple hut was built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last.

The list of his principal miracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered by many as the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622.

The body of the St Francis is enshrined at Goa in the Basilica of Bom Jesus. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, Xavier's right forearm, that he used to bless and baptize his converts, was severed and taken to Rome, where an altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu. Several other body parts were spirited away, so today the remains of his remains are safely ensconced in a glass casket.

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