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Saint Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier was the 6th child of Don Juan and Dona Maria of Xavier castle in Navarre, Spain. After his schooling at home, he joined the University of Paris and obtained a Master's Degree. He was looking forward to a brilliant academic career at the University when, providentially, Ignatius of Loyola, a fellow-student, challenged him with the question, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?"

At first, Xavier did not pay serious attention to the question, but when it was asked repeatedly, Xavier was persuaded, and he joined the small, select band of companions of Ignatius, who later came to be known as the Jesuits. Ignatius inspired and guided Xavier to seek nobler ideals and more challenging goals, namely, to follow Christ and spread the Good News of the Kingdom and to win souls for Christ. Once these compelling ideals and goals were made clear to Xavier, there was no turning back.

When King John of Portugal and Pope Paul III desired to send missionaries to the East, Francis Xavier became the man of destiny. Given only a day's notice, he left for Lisbon, and setting sail for India, reached Goa on 6 May 1542.

Like a blazing meteor, Xavier travelled across the Malabar Coast stretching from Goa to Tuticorin and the Coromandel Coast, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Then, crossing the sea, he reached Malacca and proceeded to Molucca Islands. Then he visited the Spice Islands and finally reached Japan from the Macao base. In ten short years, despite the interminable delays of sea travel, Xavier made three trips to the East. The flourishing Christian communities that dot the coastline of India and the eastern lands even today, more than four and a half centuries later, is a striking testimony to the faith, the zeal and the untiring labors of this man on a mission, this saint in a hurry, Francis Xavier. Xavier's last journey to enter the impenetrable Chinese mainland did not succeed, as he died on 3 December 1552 at the age of 46 at the threshold of China, on the island of Sancian, his eyes fixed on the mainland, where his heart already was. His incorrupt body is still preserved and venerated in the Basilica of Bom Jesu in Goa.

During the period of eleven and a half years, Xavier had travelled about eighty thousand kilometers in over fifty kingdoms baptizing over thirty thousand people from various beliefs and cultures. He was appointed the first Indian Jesuit Provincial in 1551. He started the first institution of Christian higher education, namely, St. Paul's College, Goa. In 1662 Pope Gregory XV canonized Francis Xavier together with Ignatius of Loyola. St. Francis has been declared the patron of the Oriental Church.

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