Francis Xavier, Saint

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Francis Xavier, Saint

Saint Francis Xavier, 1506–52, Basque Jesuit missionary, called the Apostle to the Indies, b. Spanish Navarre, of noble parents. He studied in Paris (1525–34), where he became an associate of St. Ignatius of Loyola, with whom he and five others took the vow in Montmartre that made them the nucleus of the Society of Jesus (see Jesus, Society of). In 1536–37 he went to Venice, where he worked in the hospitals; he was ordained (1537) there with Ignatius. He worked at Rome with Ignatius for the new order until 1540, when he left for Portugal to join a mission the king was sending to Goa. St. Francis left Lisbon in 1541 with a brief as papal nuncio. At Goa he immediately began to preach and was very successful. After five months he went to the pearl fisheries of W India and spent 15 months on the coast from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) northward. After a second stay in Goa he sailed to Malacca (1545), which he left in 1546 for the Moluccas; in 1547 he went back to Malacca. Meanwhile more Jesuits were coming to India, and St. Francis assigned them to missions he had started. In 1549 he set sail for Japan and landed at Kagoshima. He and his companions remained in Japan for more than two years and set up many Christian communities. He went back to Goa (1552) and set out for China with a Portuguese embassy. On his way he died on the island of Changchuen (St. John). He is buried at Goa. St. Francis was one of the greatest of Christian missionaries; his travels covered many thousands of miles in 11 years, and his successes in preaching and in personal conversion were tremendous. He possessed a singular combination of profound mysticism and common sense. Feast: Dec. 3.

See biography by J. M. Langlois-Berthelot (tr. 1963); study by G. Schurhammer (tr. 1973).

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