This week we share stories of December saints, as we continue our Advent retreat.
December 3 is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, a priest and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits. Here’s his story.
Francis Xavier was from a Basque noble family, like his mentor, St. Ignatius Loyola. When Francis met Ignatius in Paris, he was a proud, autocratic, ambitious man wanting to accomplish great deeds in the world. For three years, Ignatius patiently encouraged Francis to look at his life differently. “What profits a man,” Ignatius said, quoting Jesus, “if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
Ultimately Francis was won over; he joined Ignatius and other companions to form the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1537. In 1541, King John of Portugal asked Ignatius for priests to send to the missions in India. Despite knowing he would never see his good friend again, Ignatius chose Francis Xavier for the mission. Francis left for India, arriving at the city of Goa in 1542.
For the next ten years, the missionary Francis Xavier traveled from Goa to Cape Comorin in south India, then to the East Indies, Malacca, and the Moluccas, and onward to Japan. It was Francis Xavier’s great ambition to get permission to enter China as a missionary. He died in 1552, exhausted from his labors and fasts, on a small island off the coast of China with a single companion at his side.
St. Francis Xavier’s great ambition was to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Armed only with his breviary and a book of meditations, Francis preached the Gospel to the poor and sick, spending most of his time ministering to their needs. His nights were taken up in prayer. His only attention to personal needs was to have a pair of boots. He left behind flourishing churches that were the foundations for the Catholic faith in Asia.
What part of Francis Xavier’s story strikes you the most, and why?