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3rd December: Saint Francis Xavier

St Francis Xavier. Saint Francis Xavier. Gibraltar Catholic Youth.


Feast Day: 3rd December

Patron of Missionaries

Born: 1506

Died: 1552

After being born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on April 7th, he was sent to the University of Paris in 1525, secured his licentiate in 1528, met St Ignatius of Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). In 1536, he left Paris to join Ignatius in Venice, from whence they all intended to go as missionaries to Palestine (a trip which never materialised). He was ordained there in 1537, went to Rome in 1538, and in 1540, when the pope formally recognised the Society, was ordered, with Fr Simon Rodriguez, to the Far East as the first Jesuit missionaries. King John III kept Fr Simon in Lisbon, but Francis, after a year's voyage, six months of which were spent at Mozambique where he preached and gave aid to the sick eventually arrived in Goa, India in 1542 with Fr Paul of Camerino, an Italian, and Francis Mansihas, a Portuguese. There he began preaching to the natives and attempted to reform his fellow Europeans, living among the natives and adopting their customs on his travels.

During the next decade he converted tens of thousands to Christianity. He visited the Paravas at the tip of India. near Cape Comorin, Tuticorin (1542), Malacca (1545), the Moluccas near New Guinea, Morotai near the Philippines (1546-47), and Japan (1549- 51). In 1551, India and the East were set up as a separate province and Ignatius made Francis its first provincial. In 1552 he set out for China, landed on the island of Sancian within sight of his goal, but died before he reached the mainland. Working against great difficulties, language problems (contrary to legend, he had no proficiency in foreign tongues), inadequate funds, and lack of cooperation (often actual resistance from European officials), he left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which clung to Christianity for centuries. He was canonised in 1622 and was proclaimed patron of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X.

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