St. Francis Xavier, Confessor, Apostle of the Indies

Author: Rev. Alban Butler


Feast: December 3

[His life was written in Latin by F. Turselin, in six books, first printed at Rome in 1594. The same author translated into Latin, and published in 1596, the saint's letters, in four books. The life of this saint was also composed by F. Orlandino in the history of the Society: in Italian, by F. Bartoli: also, by F. Maffei: in Portuguese, by Luzena, and in Spanish, by F. Garcia. See likewise F. Nieremberg's illustrious men: the modern histories of India especially that of Jarrio; Solia's history of Japan; Lewis de Guzman's Spanish history of the Missions to the East Indies, China, and Japan, and Ferdinand Mendez Pinto's Travels in Portuguese. From these and other sources is the life of St. Francis Xavier elegantly compiled in French by the judicious and eloquent F. Bonhours, published in English by Dryden, in 1688. See also Maffei, Histor. Indicar. lib. xv. F. Ribadeneira; F. Charlevoix, Hist. de Japan. Lafiteau, Decouvertes et Conquestes des Indes Orientales par les Portugais.]

A charge to go and preach to all nations was given by Christ to his apostles. This commission the pastors of the church have faithfully executed down to this present time; and in every age have men been raised by God and filled with his Holy Spirit for the discharge of this important function who, being sent by the authority of Christ and his name by those who have succeeded the apostles in the government of his church, have brought new nations to the fold of Christ for the advancement of the divine honour, and filling up the number of the saints. This conversion of nations according to the divine commission is the prerogative of the Catholic Church, in which it has never had any rival. Among those who in the sixteenth century laboured most successfully in this great work, the most illustrious was St. Francis Xavier, the Thaumaturgus of these later ages, whom Urban VIII justly styled the Apostle of the Indies. This great saint was born in Navarre, at the castle of Xavier, eight leagues from Pampelona, in 1506. His mother was heiress of the two illustrious houses of Azpilcueta and Xavier, and his father, Don John de Jasso, was one of the chief counsellors of state to John III d'Albret, King of Navarre. Among their numerous family of children, of which Francis was the youngest, those that were elder bore the surname of Azpilcueta, the younger that of Xavier. Francis was instructed in the Latin tongue under domestic masters, and grounded in religious principles in the bosom of his pious parents. From his infancy he was of a complying, winning humour, and discovered a good genius and a great propensity to learning, to which of his own motion he turned himself, whilst all his brothers embraced the profession of arms. His inclination determined his parents to send him to Paris in the eighteenth year of his age; where he entered the college of St. Barbara, and commencing a course of scholastic philosophy, with incessant pains and incredible ardour, surmounted the first difficulties of the crabbed and subtle questions with which the entrance to logic was paved. His faculties were hereby opened, and his penetration and judgment exceedingly improved; and the applause which he received agreeably flattered his vanity, which passion he was not aware of, persuading himself that to raise his fortune in the world was a commendable pursuit. Having studied philosophy for two years he proceeded master of arts; then taught philosophy at Beauvais college, though he still lived in that of St. Barbara.

St. Ignatius came to Paris in 1528 with a view to finish his studies, and after some time entered himself pensioner in the college of St. Barbara. This holy man had conceived a desire of forming a society wholly devoted to the salvation of souls; and being taken with the qualifications of Peter Faber, called in French Le Fevre, a Savoyard, and Francis Xavier, who had been school-fellows, and still lived in the same college, endeavoured to gain their concurrence in this holy project. Faber, who was not enamoured of the world, resigned himself without opposition. But Francis, whose head was full of ambitious thoughts, made a long and vigorous resistance, and bantered and rallied Ignatius on all occasions, ridiculing the meanness and poverty in which he lived as a degenerate lowness of soul. Ignatius repaid his contempt with meekness and kindness, and continued to repeat sometimes to him, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This made no impression on one who was dazzled with vainglory and, under presences, joined false maxims of worldly decency in his idea of Christian virtue. Ignatius assaulting him on the weaker side, often congratulated him for his talents and learning, applauded his lectures and made it his business to procure him scholars; also on a certain occasion when he was in necessity, he furnished him with money. Francis, having a generous soul, was moved with gratitude, and considered that Ignatius was of great birth, and that only the fear of God had inspired him with the choice of the life which he led. He began, therefore, to look on Ignatius with other eyes, and to hearken to his discourses. At that time certain emissaries of the Lutherans secretly scattered their errors among the students at Paris, in so dexterous a manner as to make them appear plausible, and Xavier, who was naturally curious, took pleasure in hearing these novelties, till Ignatius put him upon his guard. Sometime after this, having one day found Xavier more than ordinarily attentive, he repeated to him these words more forcibly than ever, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" and remonstrated that so noble a soul ought not to confine itself to the vain honours of this world, that celestial glory was the only object for his ambition, and that it was against reason not to prefer that which is eternally to last before what vanishes like a dream. Xavier then began to see into the emptiness of earthly greatness, and to find himself powerfully touched with the love of heavenly things. Yet it was not without many serious thoughts and grievous struggles that his soul was overcome by the power of those eternal truths, and he took a resolution of squaring his life entirely by the most perfect maxims of the gospel. For this purpose he gave himself up to the conduct of Ignatius; and the direction of so enlightened a guide made the paths of perfection easy to him. From his new master he learned that the first step in his conversion was to subdue his predominant passion, and that vainglory was his most dangerous enemy. His main endeavours, therefore, were bent from that time to humble himself and confound his pride. And, well knowing that the interior victory over our own heart and its passions is not to be gained without mortifying the flesh and bringing the senses into subjection, he undertook this conquest by hair cloth, fasting, and other austerities.

When the time of the vacancy was come, in 1535, he performed St. Ignatius's spiritual exercises; in which such was his fervour that he passed four days without taking any nourishment, and his mind was taken up day and night in the contemplation of heavenly things. By these meditations, which sunk deep into his soul, he was wholly changed into another man, in his desires, affections, and views; so that afterwards he did not know himself, and the humility of the cross appeared to him more amiable than all the glories of this world. In the most profound sentiments of compunction he made a general confession, and formed a design of glorifying God by all possible means, and of employing his whole life for the salvation of souls. The course of philosophy which he read, and which had lasted three years and a half, according to the custom of those times, being completed, by the counsel of Ignatius, he entered on the study of divinity. In 1534, on the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, St. Ignatius and his six companions, of whom Francis was one, made a vow at Montmarte to visit the Holy Land and unite their labours for the conversion of the infidels; or, if this should be found not practicable, to cast themselves at the feet of the pope and offer their services wherever he thought fit to employ them. Three others afterwards joined these six, and having ended their studies the year following, these nine companions departed from Paris upon the 15th of November, in 1536, to go to Venice, where St. Ignatius had agreed to meet them from Spain. They travelled all through Germany on foot, loaded with their writings, in the midst of winter, which that year was very sharp and cold. Xavier, to overcome his passions and punish himself for the vanity he had formerly taken in leaping (for he was very active and had been fond of such corporal exercises), in the fervency of his soul had tied his arms and thighs with little cords which, by his travelling, swelled his thighs and sunk so deep into the flesh as to be hardly visible. The saint bore the pain with incredible patience till he fainted on the road; and not being able to go any further was obliged to discover the reason. His companions carried him to the next town, where the surgeon declared that no incision could be safely made deep enough, and that the evil was incurable. In this melancholy situation, Faber, Laynex, and the rest spent that night in prayer; and the next morning Xavier found the cords broken out of the flesh. The holy company joined in actions of thanksgiving to the Almighty, and cheerfully pursued their journey in which Xavier served the rest on all occasions, being always beforehand with them in the duties of charity. They arrived at Venice on the 8th of January 1537, and were much comforted to meet there St. Ignatius, by whose direction they divided themselves to serve the poor in two hospitals in that city, whilst they waited for an opportunity to embark for Palestine.

Xavier, who was placed in the hospital of the incurables, employed the day in dressing the sores of the sick, in making their beds, and serving them in meaner offices, and passed whole nights in watching by them. It was his delight chiefly to attend those who were sick of contagious distempers or infected with loathsome ulcers. Two months had passed away in these exercises of charity, when St. Ignatius, who stayed behind alone at Venice, sent his companions to Rome to ask the blessing of his holiness Paul III for their intended voyage. The pope granted those among them who were not in holy orders, a licence to receive them at the hands of any Catholic bishop. Upon their return to Venice, Xavier was ordained priest upon St. John Baptist's day, in 1537, and they all made vows of chastity and poverty before the pope's nuncio. Xavier retired to a village about four miles from Padua where, to prepare himself for saying his first mass, he spent forty days in a poor, ruined, abandoned cottage, exposed to all the injuries of the weather, lay on the ground, fasted rigorously, and subsisted on what scraps of bread he begged from door to door. St. Ignatius having caused all his company to resort to Vicenza, Xavier, after this retreat, repaired thither and said there his first mass with tears flowing in such abundance that his audience could not refrain from mixing their own with his. By order of St. Ignatius he applied himself to the exercises of charity and devotion at Bologna, to the great edification of that city. The house in which he there dwelt as a poor man was afterwards given to the society and converted into an oratory of great devotion.

In Lent, in 1538, our saint was called by St. Ignatius to Rome, where the fathers assembled together to deliberate about the foundation of their Order, and their consultations were accompanied by fervent prayers, tears, watchings and penitential austerities, which they practiced with a most ardent desire of pleasing our Lord alone, and of seeking in all things his greater glory and the good of souls. After waiting a whole year to find an opportunity of passing into Palestine, and finding execution of that design impracticable on account of the war between the Venetians and the Turks, St. Ignatius and his company offered themselves to his holiness to be employed as he should judge most expedient in the service of their neighbour. The pope accepted their offer, and ordered them to preach and instruct in Rome till he should otherwise employ them. St. Francis exercised his functions in the Church of St. Laurence, in Damaso, in which he appeared so active that no one distinguished himself by a more ardent charity or a more edifying zeal. Govea, a Portuguese, formerly president of the college of St. Barbara, at Paris, happened to be then at Rome whither John III, King of Portugal, had sent him on some important business. He had formerly known Ignatius, Xavier, and Faber at Paris, and been a great admirer of their virtue; and he became more so at Rome, insomuch that he wrote to his master that men so learned, humble, charitable, inflamed with zeal, indefatigable in labour, lovers of the cross, and who aimed at nothing but the honour of God, were fit to be sent to plant the faith in the East Indies. The king wrote thereupon to Don Pedro Mascaregnas, his ambassador at Rome, and ordered him to obtain six of these apostolic men for this mission. St. Ignatius could grant him only two, and pitched upon Simon Rodriguez, a Portuguese, and Nicholas Bobadilla, a Spaniard. The former went immediately by sea to Lisbon; Bobadilla, who waited to accompany the ambassador, fell sick, and by an overruling supernatural direction, Francis Xavier was substituted in his room on the day before the ambassador began his journey. Our saint received this order with joy, and when he went to ask the benediction of Paul III, there shone, through a profound humility, such a magnanimity of soul that his holiness took from thence a certain presage of the wonderful events which followed. The saint left Rome with the ambassador on the 15th of March 1540, and on the road found perpetual occasion for the most heroic actions of humility, mortification, charity, zeal, and piety, and was always ready to serve his fellow-travellers in the meanest offices, as if he had been everybody's servant. The journey was performed all the way by land, over the Alps and Pyrenees, and took up more than three months. At Pampelona, the ambassador pressed the saint to go to the castle of Xavier, which was but a little distant from the road, to take leave of his mother, who was yet living, and of his other friends, whom he would probably never more see in this world. But the saint would by no means turn out of the road, saying that he deferred the sight of his relations till he should visit them in heaven; that this transient view would be accompanied with melancholy and sadness, the products of last farewells, whereas their meeting in heaven would be for eternity and without the least alloy of sorrow. This wonderful disengagement from the world exceedingly affected Mascaregnas who, by the saintly example and instructions of the holy man, was converted to a new course of life.

They arrived at Lisbon about the end of June, and Francis went immediately to F. Rodriguez, who was lodged in a hospital, in order to attend and instruct the sick. They made this place their ordinary abode, but catechized and instructed in most parts of the town, and were taken up all Sundays and holidays in hearing confessions at court; for the king and a great number of the courtiers were engaged by their discourses to confess and communicate every week, which they chose to do at their hands. F. Rodriguez was retained by the king at Lisbon, and St. Francis was obliged to stay there eight months, while the fleet was getting ready to sail in spring. Dr. Martin d'Azpilcueta, commonly called the Doctor of Navarre, who was uncle to Xavier by his mother's side, was then chief professor of divinity at Coimbra, and wrote several letters to our saint, but could not engage him to go to Coimbra. St. Francis, when he left Rome, put a memorial in the hands of F. Laynez, in which he declared that he approved the rules that should be drawn up by Ignatius, and consecrated himself to God by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in the Society of Jesus, when it should be confirmed as a religious Order by the apostolic see. At Lisbon, before he went on board, the king delivered to him four briefs from the pope; in two of which his holiness constituted Xavier apostolic nuncio, with ample power and authority; in the third he recommended him to David, Emperor of Ethiopia; and in the fourth to other princes in the East. No importunities of the king or his officers could prevail on the saint to accept of any provisions or necessaries, except a few books for the use of converts. Nor would he consent to have a servant, saying that as long as he had the use of his two hands he never would take one. When he was told that it would be unbecoming to see an apostolic legate dressing his own victuals and washing his own linen on the deck, he said he could give no scandal so long as he did no ill. The saint had two companions to the Indies, F. Paul de Camarino, an Italian Jesuit, and Francis Mansilla, a Portuguese, who was not yet in priest's orders.

The saint set sail on the 7th of April in the year 1541, the thirty-sixth year of his age, on board the admiral's vessel, which carried Don Martin Alfonso de Sousa, General-Governor of the Indies, who went with five ships to take possession of his government. The admiral's vessel contained at least a thousand persons, whom Francis considered as committed to his care. He catechized the sailors, preached every Sunday before the main-mast, took care of the sick, converted his cabin into an infirmary, lay on the deck, and lived on charity during the whole voyage, though the governor was very urgent with him to eat at his table, or accept of a regular supply of food from his kitchen; but he always answered that he was a poor religious man, and that having made a vow of poverty, he was resolved to keep it. He, indeed, received the dishes which the governor sent him from his table, but divided the meat among those who had most need. He composed differences, quelled murmuring, checked swearing and gaming, and took the utmost care to remove all disorders. Bad actions he reproved with so much authority that nobody resisted him, and with so much sweetness and tender love that no one was offended at him. The insufferable colds of Cape Verd, the heats of Guinea, the stench of the fresh waters, and the putrefaction of their flesh provisions under the line, produced pestilential fevers and violent scurviest After five months of perpetual navigation and doubling the Cape of Good Hope, they arrived at Mozambique, on the eastern coast of Africa, about the end of August, and there they wintered. The inhabitants are mostly Mohammedans and trade with the Arabs and Ethiopians; but the Portuguese have settlements among them. The air is very unwholesome, and Xavier himself fell sick there, but was almost recovered when the admiral again put to sea in a fresh vessel which made better sail, on the 15th of March in 1542. In three days they arrived at Melinda, a town of the Saracens, in Africa. Leaving this place, after a few days' sail they touched at the isle of Socotora, over against the strait of Mecca. Thence, crossing the sea of Arabia and India, they landed at Goa on the 6th of May, in 1542, in the thirteenth month from their setting out from Lisbon.

After St. Francis was landed he went immediately to the hospital, and there took his lodging; but would not enter upon his missionary functions till he had paid his respects to the Bishop of Goa, whose name was John d'Albuquerque, and who was a most virtuous prelate. The saint presented to him the briefs of Paul III, declared that he pretended not to use them without his approbation, and casting himself at his feet, begged his blessing. The bishop was struck with the venerable air of sanctity that appeared in his countenance and deportment, raised him up, kissed the briefs, and promised to support him by his episcopal authority, which he failed not to do. To call down the blessing of heaven on his labours, St. Francis consecrated most of the night to prayer. The situation in which religion then was in those parts was such as called forth his zeal and his tears. Among the Portuguese, revenge, ambition, avarice, usury, and debauchery seemed to have extinguished in many the sentiments of their holy religion; the sacraments were neglected; there were not four preachers in all the Indies; nor any priests without the walls of Goal The infidels resembled rather beasts than men, and the few who were come over to the faith not being supported by competent instructions, nor edified by example, relapsed into their ancient manners and superstitions. Such was the deplorable situation of those countries when St. Francis Xavier appeared among them as a new star to enlighten so many infidel nations. So powerful was the word of God in his mouth, and such the fruit of his zeal, that in the space of ten years he established the empire of Jesus Christ in a new world. Nothing more sensibly afflicted him on his arrival at Goa, than the scandalous deportment of the Christians, who lived in direct opposition to the Gospel which they professed and, by their manners alienated the infidels from the faith; he therefore thought it would be best to open his mission with them. In order to compass a general reformation, he began by instructing them in the principles of religion, and forming the youth to the practice of sincere piety. Having spent the morning in assisting and comforting the distressed in the hospitals and prisons, he walked through all the streets of Goa, with a bell in his hand, summoning all masters, for the love of God, to send their children and slaves to catechism. The little children gathered together in crowds about him, and he led them to the church and taught them the creed and practices of devotion, and impressed on their tender minds strong sentiments of piety and religion. By the modesty and devotion of the youth, the whole town began to change its face and the most abandoned sinners began to blush at vice. After some time, the saint preached in public and made his visits to private houses; and the sweetness of his behaviour and words, and his charitable concern for the souls of his neighbours were irresistible. Sinners were struck with the horror of their crimes; usurious bonds were cancelled, restitution was made of unjust gains, slaves who had been unjustly acquired were set at liberty, concubines dismissed or lawfully married, and families were well regulated.

The reformation of the whole city of Goa was accomplished in half a year, when the saint was informed that, on the coast of La Pescaria, or the Pearl Fishery, which is extended from Cape Comorin to the isle of Manar, on the eastern side of the peninsula, there were certain people called Paravas, that is, fishers, who some time ago, in order to please the Portuguese who had succoured them against the Moors, had caused themselves to be baptized, but for want of instructions retained their superstitions and vices. Xavier had by this time got a little acquaintance with the Malabar language, which is spoken on that coast, and taking with him two young ecclesiastics who understood it competently well, embarked in October, in 1542, and sailed to Cape Comorin, which faces the isle of Ceylon and is about six hundred miles from Goal Here St. Francis went into a village full of idolaters and preached Jesus Christ to them, but the inhabitants told him they could not change their religion without the leave of their lord. Their obstinacy, however, yielded to the force of miracles by which God was pleased to manifest his truth to them. A woman who had been three days in the pains of childbirth, without being eased by any remedies or prayers of the Brahmins, was immediately delivered and recovered upon being instructed in the faith and baptized by St. Francis, as he himself relates in a letter to St. Ignatius.[1] Upon this miracle not only that family, but most of the chief persons of the country listened to his doctrine, and heartily embraced the faith, having obtained the leave of their prince. The servant of God proceeded to the Pearl Coast, set himself first to instruct and confirm those who had been formerly baptized; and, to succeed in this undertaking, he was at some pains to make himself more perfectly master of the Malabar tongue. Then he preached to those Paravas to whom the name of Christ was till that time unknown; and so great were the multitudes which he baptized, that sometimes by the bare fatigue of administering that sacrament, he was scarce able to move his arm, according to the account which he gave to his brethren in Europe. To make the children comprehend and retain the catechism, he taught them to recite with him some little prayer upon each question or article. Every lesson or instruction he began with the "Our Father," and ended with the "Hail, Mary." Diseases seem to have been never so frequent on that coast as at that time; the people had almost all recourse to St. Francis for their cure, or that of some friend; and great numbers recovered their health, either by being baptized or by invoking the name of Jesus. The saint frequently sent some young neophyte with his crucifix, beads, or reliquary to touch the sick, after having recited with them the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Commandments; and the sick, by declaring unfeignedly that they believed in Christ and desired to be baptized, recovered their health. The process of the saint's canonization makes mention of four dead persons to whom God restored life at this time by the ministry of his servant. The first was a catechist who had been stung by a serpent of that kind whose stings are always mortal. The second was a child who was drowned in a pit. The third and fourth a young man and maid whom a pestilential fever had carried off. Incredible were the labours of the saint. His food was the same as that of the poorest people, rice and water. His sleep was but three hours a night at most, and that in a fisher's cabin on the ground. The remainder of the night he passed with God or with his neighbour. In the midst of the hurry of his external employments, he ceased not to converse interiorly with God, who bestowed on him such an excess of interior spiritual delights that he was often obliged to desire the divine goodness to moderate them; as he testified in a letter to St. Ignatius and his brethren at Rome, though written in general terms and in the third person. "I am accustomed," says he,[2] "often to hear one labouring in this vineyard cry out to God: O my Lord, give me not so much joy and comfort in this life; or, if by an excess of mercy, thou wilt heap it upon me, take me to thyself and make me partaker of thy glory. For he who has once in his interior feeling tasted thy sweetness, must necessarily find life too bitter so long as he is deprived of the sight of Thee."

He had laboured about fifteen months in the conversion of the Paravas when, toward the close of the year 1543, he was obliged to return to Goa to procure assistants. The seminary of the faith which had been founded there for the education of young Indians, was committed to his care and put into the hands of the Society. The following year he returned to the Paravas with a supply of evangelical labourers, Indians as well as Europeans, whom he stationed in different towns; and some he carried with him into the kingdom of Travancore where, as he testifies in one of his letters, he baptized ten thousand Indians with his own hand in one month, and sometimes a whole village received the sacrament of regeneration in one day. When the holy man first penetrated into the inland provinces of the Indians, being wholly ignorant of the language of the people, he could only baptize children and serve the sick, who, by signs, could signify what they wanted, as he wrote to F. Mansilla. Whilst he exercised his zeal in Travancore, God first communicated to him the gift of tongues, according to the relation of a young Portuguese of Coimbra, named Vaz, who attended him on many of his journeys. He spoke very well the language of those barbarians without having learned it, and had no need of an interpreter when he instructed them. He sometimes preached to five or six thousand persons together in some spacious plain. The saint narrowly escaped the snares which were sometimes laid by Brahmins and others to take away his life; and when the Badages, a tribe of savages and public robbers, having plundered many other places, made inroads into Travancore, he marched up to the enemy with a crucifix in his hand, at the head of a small troop of fervent Christians and, with a commanding air, bade them, in the name of the living God, not to pass further, but to return the way they came. His words cast such a terror into the minds of the leaders who were at the head of the barbarians, that they stood some time confounded and without motion; then retired in disorder and quitted the country. This action procured St. Francis the protection of the King of Travancore and the surname of the Great Father. As the saint was preaching one day at Coulon, a village in Travancore near Cape Comorin, perceiving that few were converted by his discourse, he made a short prayer that God would honour the blood and name of his beloved Son by softening the hearts of the most obdurate. Then he bade some of the people open the grave of a man who was buried the day before, near the place where he preached; and the body was beginning to putrefy with a noisome scent, which he desired the bystanders to observe. Then falling on his knees, after a short prayer, he commanded the dead man in the name of the living God to arise. At these words the dead man arose and appeared not only living but vigorous and in perfect health. All who were present were so struck with this evidence that, throwing themselves at the saint's feet, they demanded baptism. The holy man also raised to life, on the same coast, a young man who was a Christian, whose corpse he met as it was being carried to the grave. To preserve the memory of this wonderful action the parents of the deceased, who were present, erected a great cross on the place where the miracle was wrought. These miracles made so great impressions on the people, that the whole kingdom of Travancore was subjected to Christ in a few months, except the king and some of his courtiers.

The reputation of the miracles of St. Francis reached the isle of Manar, which sent deputies to St. Francis entreating him to visit their country. The saint could not at that time leave Travancore, but sent a zealous missionary by whom many were instructed and baptized. The King of Jafanatapan, in the northern par. of the neighbouring beautiful and pleasant isle of Ceylon, hearing of this progress of the faith, fell upon Manar with an army and slew six or seven hundred Christians who, when asked the question, boldly confessed Christ. This tyrant was afterwards slain by the Portuguese, when they invaded Ceylon. The saint, after he had made a journey to Cochin upon business, visited Manar, and settled there a numerous church; in a journey of devotion, which he took to Meliapor to implore the intercession of the Apostle St. Thomas, he converted many dissolute livers in that place. Afterwards, intending to pass to the island of Macassar, he sailed to Malacca, a famous mart in the peninsula beyond the Ganges, to which all the Indies and also the Arabs, Persians, Chinese, and Japonians, resorted for trade. The saint arrived here on the 2sth of September 1545 and, by the irresistible force of his zeal and miracles, reformed the debauched manners of the Christians, and converted many pagans and Mohammedans. St. Francis, finding no opportunity of sailing to Macassar, passed the isles of Bonda, which are some of the Spice Islands. Landing in the island of Amboina, he baptized a great part of the inhabitants. Having preached in other islands, he made a considerable stay in the Moluccas, and, though the inhabitants were an untractable people, he brought great numbers to the truth. Thence he passed to the Isle del Moro, the inhabitants of which he gained to Christ. In this mission he suffered much; but from it wrote to St. Ignatius, "The dangers to which I am exposed and pains I take for the interest of God alone, are the inexhaustible springs of spiritual joys; insomuch, that these islands, bare of all worldly necessaries, are the places in the world for a man to lose his sight with the excess of weeping; but they are tears of joy. I remember not ever to have tasted such interior delights; and these consolations of the soul are so pure, so exquisite, and so constant, that they take from me all sense of my corporal sufferings." The saint, returning towards Goa, visited the islands on the road where he had preached, and arrived at Malacca in 1547. In the beginning of the year 1548 he landed in Ceylon, where he converted great numbers, with two kings.

At Malacca, a Japanese named Angeroo, addressed himself to the saint. Kaempfer tells us that he had killed a man in his own country and, to save his life, made his escape in a Portuguese ship. All agree that he was rich and of a noble extraction, and about thirty-five years of age; and, that. being disturbed in mind, with remorse and terrors of conscience, he was advised by certain Christians to have recourse to the holy St. Francis for comfort. The saint poured the mildest balm into his wounded heart and gave him assurances that he should find repose of mind, but must first seek God in his true religion. The Japanese was charmed with his discourses, and as he had by that time acquired some knowledge of the Portuguese language, was instructed in the faith and engaged by St. Francis to embark with his attendants and go to Goa, whither he himself was directing his course, but taking a round. In the straits of Ceylon the ship which carried the saint was overtaken with a most dreadful tempest, insomuch that the sailors threw all their merchandise overboard, and the pilot, not being able to hold the rudder, abandoned the vessel to the fury of the waves. For three days and three nights the mariners had nothing but death before their eyes. St. Francis, after hearing the confessions of all on board, fell on his knees before his crucifix and continued there, wholly taken up and lost to all things but to God. The ship at last struck against the sands of Ceylon, and the mariners gave themselves up for lost, when Xavier, coming out of his cabin, took the line and plummet, as if it had been to fathom the sea and, letting them down to the bottom of the water, pronounced these words, "Great God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, have mercy on us." At the same moment the vessel stopped and the wind ceased. After which they pursued their voyage, and at Cochin on the 21st of January 1548.

The saint, leaving Cochin, visited the villages of the coast of the Pearl Fishery, and was much edified with the fervour of the converts; he made some stay at Manapar, near Cape Comorin, passed over to the isle of Ceylon, where he converted the King of Cande, and arrived at Goa on the 20th of March 1548. There he instructed Angeroo and many others, and took a resolution to go to Japan. In the meantime, he applied himself more than ever to the exercises of an interior life, as it were to recover new strength; for it is the custom of all apostolical men, by the communications which they have with God, to refresh themselves and repair their interior spirit amidst the pains which they take with their neighbour. During this retirement in the garden of St. Paul's college, sometimes walking, at other times in a little hermitage which was there set up, he cried out, "It is enough, my Lord; it is enough." And he sometimes opened his cassock before his breast, declaring he was not able to support the abundance of heavenly consolations. At the same time he signified that he rather prayed that God would reserve those pleasures for another time, and here would not spare to inflict on him any pains or sufferings in this present world. F. Gaspar Barzia and four other Jesuits, arrived at that time at Goa from Europe, whom the saint stationed, and then set out for Malacca, intending to proceed to Japan. After a short stay at Malacca, he went on board a Chinese vessel and arrived at Cangoxima, in the kingdom of Saxuma, in Japan, on the 15Th of August 1549, having with him Angeroo, who had been baptized with two of his domestics at Goa, and was called Paul of the holy faith.

The language of the Japanese seems, in the judgment of Kaempfer, to be a primitive or original tongue. St. Francis learned certain elements of it from his convert during his voyage, and stayed forty days at Cangoxima, lodging at Paul's house, whose wife, daughter, and other relations he in the meantime converted and baptized. The same language is used all over the empire, but the words are differently accented when addressed to courtiers or persons of rank, and when to merchants and soldiers, and again differently to the vulgar. During these forty days, St. Francis, by unwearied application made such progress in it as to translate into Japanese the apostle's creed and an exposition of it, which he had composed, and which he got by heart in this language, and then began to preach; but was first introduced by Paul to the King of Saxuma, whose residence was six leagues from Cangoxima.

After a year spent at Cangoxima with his usual success, the saint in 1550 went to Firando, the capital of another petty kingdom; for the King of Saxuma, incensed at the Portuguese because they had abandoned his port to carry on their trade chiefly at Firando, had withdrawn the licence he had granted the saint, and began to persecute the Christians. The converts, however, persevered steady, and declared they were ready to suffer banishment or death rather than deny Christ; and St. Francis recommended them to Paul, and left in their hands an ample exposition of the creed and the life of our Saviour translated entire from the Gospels, which he had caused to be printed in Japanese characters. He took with him his two companions, who were Jesuits, and carried on his back, according to his custom, all the necessary utensils for the sacrifice of the mass. The saint, on his way to Firando, preached in the fortress of Ekandono, the prince of which was a vassal to the King of Saxuma. The prince's steward embraced the faith with several others, and to his care Xavier recommended the rest at his departure; and he assembled them daily in his apartments to recite with them the litany and prayers and, on Sundays, read to them the Christian doctrine: and so edifying was the behaviour of these Christians, that many others desired to join them after the departure of their apostle; and the King of Saxuma, moved by their edifying conduct, became again the protector of our holy religion. At Firando, Xavier baptized more infidels in twenty days than he had done at Cangoxima in a whole year. These converts he left under the care of one of the Jesuits that accompanied him, and set out for Meaco with one Jesuit and two Japanese Christians. They went by sea to Facata, and from thence embarked for Amanguchi, the capital of the kingdom of Naugato, famous for the richest silver mines in Japan. Our saint preached here in public, and before the king and his court; but the Gospel at that time took no root in this debauched city, the number which the saint gained there being inconsiderable, though a single soul is, indeed, a great acquisition.

Xavier, having made above a month's abode at Amanguchi and gathered small fruit of his labours except affronts, continued his journey towards Meaco with his three companions. It was towards the end of December, and the four servants of God suffered much on the road from heavy rains, great drifts of snow, pinching cold, torrents, and hideous mountains and forests; and they travelled barefoot. In passing through towns and villages, Xavier was accustomed to read some part of his catechism to the people and to preach. Not finding a proper word in the Japanese language to express the sovereign Deity, and fearing lest the idolaters should confound God with some of their idols, he told them that never having had any knowledge of the true infinite God, they were not able to express his name, but that the Portuguese called him Deos; and this word he repeated with so much action and such a tone of voice, that he made even the pagans sensible what veneration is due to that sacred name. In two several towns he narrowly escaped being stoned for speaking against the gods of the country. He arrived at Meaco, with his companions, in February 1551. The Dairi, Cubosama, and Saso (or high priest) then kept their court there; but the saint could not procure an audience even of the Saso without paying for that honour a hundred thousand caixes, which amount to six hundred French crowns, a sum which he had not to give. A civil war, kindled against the Cubosama, filled the city with such tumults and alarms that Xavier saw it to be impossible to do any good there at that time, and after a fortnight's stay returned to Amanguchi. Perceiving that he was rejected at court upon the account of his mean appearance, he bought a rich suit and hired two or three servants; and in this equipage waited on the king, to whom he made a present of a little striking-clock and some other things. Thus he obtained his protection and preached with such fruit that he baptized three thousand persons in that city, with whom he left two Jesuits who were his companions, to give the finishing to their instruction. At Amanguchi God restored to St. Francis the gift of tongues, for he preached often to the Chinese merchants who traded there in their mother-tongue, which he had never learned.

St. Francis, recommending the new Christians here to two fathers whom he left behind, left Amanguchi toward the middle of September, in 1551, and, with two Japanese Christians who had suffered with joy the confiscation of their goods for changing their religion, travelled on foot to Fuceo, the residence of the King of Bungo, who was very desirous to see him, and gave him a most gracious reception. Here the saint publicly confuted the Bonzas who, upon motives of interest, everywhere strenuously opposed his preaching, though even among them some were converted. The saint's public sermons and private conversations had their due effect among the people, and vast multitudes desired to be instructed and baptized. Among others the king himself was convinced of the truth, and renounced those impurities which are abhorred by nature, but remained still wedded to some sensual pleasures, on which account he could not be admitted to the sacrament of regeneration till, after some succeeding years, having made more serious reflections on the admonitions of the saint, he reformed his life altogether and was baptized. Our saint took leave of this king and embarked to return to India on the 20th of November 1551, having continued in Japan two years and four months. To cultivate this growing mission he sent thither three Jesuits, who were shortly followed by others. It had been often objected to him that the learned and wise men in China had not embraced the faith of Christ. This circumstance first inspired him with an earnest desire that the name of Christ might be glorified in that flourishing empire; and, full of a zealous project of undertaking that great enterprise, he left Japan. In this voyage the ship in which he sailed was rescued from imminent danger of shipwreck in a storm by his prayers; and a shallop, in which were fifteen persons belonging to the ship from which it had been separated by the same tempest, was saved by the same means, according to his confident and repeated prediction, the passengers and mariners in it seeming all the way to have seen Xavier sitting at the helm and steering it. Many other clear predictions of the saint are recorded. At Malacca he was received with the greatest joy that can be imagined, and he immediately set himself to contrive how he might compass his intended journey to China. The greatest difficulty was, that besides the ill-understanding which was betwixt China and Portugal, it was forbidden to strangers on pain of death, or of perpetual imprisonment, to set foot in that kingdom. To remove this obstacle St. Francis discoursed with the old governor of Malacca, Don Pedro de Sylva, and with the new one, Don Alvarez d'Atayda, and it was agreed that an embassy might be sent in the name of the King of Portugal to China to settle a commerce, with which the saint might with safety land in that kingdom. In the meantime the saint set out for Goa.

Xavier reached Goa in the beginning of February, and having paid a visit to the hospitals, went to the College of St. Paul where he cured a dying man. The missionaries whom he had dispersed before his departure, had spread the gospel on every side. F. Gaspar Barzia had converted almost the whole city and island of Ormuz. Christianity flourished exceedingly on the coast of the pearl fishery, and had made great progress at Cochin, Coulan, Bazain, Meliapor, in the Moluccas, the isles of Moro, &c. The King of Tanor, whose dominions lay on the coast of Malabar, had been baptized at Goal The King of Trichenamalo, one of the sovereigns of Ceylon, also embraced the faith. The progress of the faith in many other places was such as gave the greatest subject of joy to the holy man. But F. Antonio Gomez, a great preacher and scholar, whom the saint had appointed rector at Goa, had made such changes and innovations, even in the domestic discipline of the Society, that the saint was obliged to dismiss him from the Order. Xavier appointed F. Barzia, a person of eminent piety, rector of Goa and vice-provincial, sent new preachers into all the missions on this side the Ganges, and obtained of the viceroy, Don Alphonso de Norogna, a commission for his good friend, James Pereya, to go on an embassy to China. Having settled all affairs at Goa, he made the most tender and ardent exhortations to his religious brethren, then leaving F. Barzia, vice-provincial, set sail on the 14th of April in I 552, and landing at Malacca, found the town afflicted with a most contagious pestilential fever. This he had foretold before he arrived; and no sooner was he come on shore, but running from street to street he carried the poor that lay languishing up and down to the hospitals, and attended them with his companions. At that time he restored to life a young man named Francis Ciavos, who afterwards took the habit of the Society. When the mortality had almost ceased, the saint treated about the embassy to China with the Governor of Malacca, on whom Don Alphonso de Norogna (the fifth Viceroy and seventeenth Governor of the Indies) had reposed the trust of that affair. Don Alvarez d'Atayda Gama had lately succeeded his good brother, Don Pedro de Sylva Gama, in the government of Malacca. This officer, out of a pique to Pereyra, crossed the project of the embassy and, when St. Francis urged the authority of the king and the command of the viceroy, Alvarez flew into a rage and treated him with the most injurious language. The saint ceased not for a whole month to solicit the governor, and at length threatened him with excommunication in case he persisted thus to oppose the propagation of the gospel. Upon this occasion the saint produced the briefs of Paul III, by which he was appointed apostolic nuncio, which, out of humility, he had kept a profound secret during ten years that were expired since his coming to the Indies. The governor continued to laugh at the threats, so that the bishop's grand vicar at length fulminated an excommunication against him in the name of Xavier who, seeing this design utterly destroyed, determined to go on board of a Portuguese ship that was setting sail for the isle of Sancian, a small barren island near Macao, on the coast of China. This governor was afterwards deposed for extortions and other crimes, by an order of the king, and sent in chains to Goal St. Francis during this voyage wrought several miracles and converted certain Mohammedan passengers, and on the twenty-third day after the ship's departure from Malacca, arrived at Sancian, where the Chinese permitted the Portuguese to come and buy their commodities. When the project of the embassy had failed, St. Francis had sent the three Jesuits he had taken for his companions into Japan, and retained with him only a brother of the Society (who was a Chinese and had taken the habit of Goa) and a young Indian. He hoped to find means with only two companions to land secretly in China. The merchants at Sancian endeavoured to persuade him that his design was impracticable, all setting before his eyes the rigorous laws of the government of China, that all the ports were narrowly guarded by vigilant officers, who were neither to be circumvented nor bribed, and that the least he could expect was scourging and perpetual imprisonment. The saint was not to be deterred; and answered all these and many other reasons saying, that to be terrified by such difficulties from undertaking the work of God would be incomparably worse than all the evils with which they threatened him. He therefore took his measures for the voyage of China, and first of all provided himself with a good interpreter; for the Chinese he had brought with him from Goa was wholly ignorant of the language which is spoken at the court, and had almost forgotten the common idiom of the vulgar. Then the saint hired a Chinese merchant called Capoceca, to land him by night on some part of the coast where no houses were in view; for which service Xavier engaged to pay him two hundred pardos, and bound himself by oath that no torments should ever bring him to confess either the name or house of him who had set him on shore.

The Portuguese at Sancian, fearing this attempt might be revenged by the Chinese on them, endeavoured to traverse the design. Whilst the voyage was deferred Xavier fell sick, and when the Portuguese vessels were all gone except one, was reduced to extreme want of all necessaries. Also, the Chinese interpreter whom he had hired recalled his word. Yet the servant of God, who soon recovered of his illness, did not lose courage; and hearing that the King of Siam was preparing a magnificent embassy to the Emperor of China, he resolved to use his best endeavours to obtain leave to accompany the ambassador of Siam. But God was pleased to accept his will in this good work and took him to himself. A fever seized the saint a second time on the 20th of November, and at the same time he had a clear knowledge of the day and hour of his death, which he openly declared to a friend, who afterwards made an authentic deposition of it by a solemn oath. From that moment he perceived in himself a strange disgust of all earthly things, and thought on nothing but that celestial country whither God was calling him. Being much weakened by his fever, he retired into the vessel which was the common hospital of the sick, that he might die in poverty. But the tossing of the ship giving him an extraordinary headache, and hindering him from applying himself to God as he desired, the day following he requested that he might be set on shore again, which was done. He was exposed on the sands to a piercing north wind; till George Alvarez, out of compassion, caused him to be carried into his cabin, which afforded a very poor shelter, being open on every side. The saint's distemper, accompanied with an acute pain in his side and a great oppression, increased daily; he was twice blooded, but the unskilful surgeon both times pricked the tendon, by which accident the patient fell into swooning convulsions. His disease was attended with a horrible nauseousness, insomuch that he could take no nourishment. But his countenance was always serene and his soul enjoyed a perpetual calm. Sometimes he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and at other times fixed them on his crucifix, entertaining divine conversations with his God in which he shed abundance of tears. At last, on the and of December which fell on Friday, having his eyes all bathed in tears and fixed with great tenderness of soul upon his crucifix, he pronounced these words, "In thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded for ever"; and, at the same instant, transported with celestial joy which appeared upon his countenance, he sweetly gave up the ghost in 1552. Though he was only forty-six years old, of which he had passed ten and a half in the Indies, his continual labours had made him grey betimes, and in the last year of his life he was grizzled almost to whiteness. His corpse was interred on Sunday, being laid after the Chinese fashion, in a large chest, which was filled up with unslacked lime, to the end that the flesh being consumed, the bones might be carried to Goal On the 7th of February, in 1553, the grave was opened to see if the flesh was consumed; but the lime being taken off the face, it was found ruddy and fresh coloured like that of a man who is in a sweet repose. The body was in like manner whole, and the natural moisture uncorrupted; and the flesh being a little cut in the thigh near the knee, the blood was seen to run from the wound. The sacerdotal habits in which the saint was buried were in no way endamaged by the lime; and the holy corpse exhaled an odour so fragrant and delightful that the most exquisite perfumes came nothing near it. The sacred remains were carried into the ship and brought to Malacca on the 22nd of March, where it was received with great honour. The pestilence which for some weeks had laid waste the town, on a sudden ceased. The body was interred in a damp churchyard; yet in August was found entire, fresh, and still exhaling a sweet odour, and being honourably put into a ship, was translated to Goa, where it was received and placed in the church in the college of St. Paul on the 15th of March, in 1554; upon which occasion several blind persons recovered their sight and others, sick of palsies and other diseases, their health, and the use of their limbs. By order of King John III a verbal process of the life and miracles of the man of God was made with the utmost accuracy at Goa and in other parts of the Indies. Many miracles were wrought, through his intercession, in several parts of the Indies and Europe, confessed by several Protestants; and Tavernier calls him the St. Paul and the true apostle of the Indies. St. Francis was beatified by Paul V in 1554, and canonized by Gregory XV in 1662. By an order of John V, King of Portugal, the Archbishop of Goa, attended by the viceroy, the Marquis of Castle Nuovo, in 1744, performed a visitation of the relics of St. Francis Xavier; at which time the body was found without the least bad smell and seemed environed with a kind of shining brightness; and the face, hands, breast, and feet had not suffered the least alteration or symptom of corruption.[3] In 1747 the same king obtained a brief of Benedict XIV, by which St. Francis Xavier is honoured with the title of patron and protector of all the countries in the East Indies.

Holy zeal may properly be said to have formed the character of St. Francis Xavier. Consumed with an insatiable thirst of the salvation of souls and of the dilatation of the honour and kingdom of Christ on earth, he ceased not with tears and prayers to conjure the Father of all men not to suffer those to perish whom he had created in his own divine image, made capable of knowing and loving him, and redeemed with the adorable blood of his Son; as is set forth in the excellent prayer of this saint, printed in many books of devotion. For this end the saint, like another St. Paul, made himself all to all, and looked upon all fatigues, sufferings, and dangers, as his pleasure and gain. In transports of zeal he invited and pressed others to labour in the conversion of infidels and sinners. In one of his letters to Europe, he wrote as follows:[4] " I have often thoughts to run over all the universities of Europe, and principally that of Paris, and to cry aloud to those who abound more in learning than in charity, 'Ah! how many souls are lost to heaven through your neglect!' Many, without doubt, would be moved, would make a spiritual retreat and give themselves the leisure for meditating on heavenly things. They would renounce their passions and, trampling under foot all worldly vanities, would put themselves in a condition of following the motions of the divine will. Then they would say, Behold me in readiness, O Lord. How much more happily would these learned men then liver With how much more assurance would they die! Millions of idolaters might be easily converted if there were more preachers who would sincerely mind the interests of Jesus Christ and not their own." But the saint required missionaries that are prudent, charitable, mild, perfectly disinterested, and of so great purity of manners, that no occasions of sin weaken their constancy.[5] This saint was himself a model of such preachers, formed upon the spirit of the apostles. So absolute a master he was of his passions that he knew not what it was to have the least motion of choler and impatience, and in all events was perfectly resigned to the divine will; from whence proceeded an admirable tranquillity of soul, a perpetual cheerfulness, and equality of countenance. He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings, and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ, will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross.[6] By humility the saint was always ready to follow the advice of others, and attributed all blessings to their prayers which he most earnestly implored.


1 St. Fr. Xavier. lib. i. Ep. 4. p. 51.

2 Ep. 5, p. 80, Societati Romam.

3 Lettres Edif. et Cur. des Mission. vol. xxvii. Pref. p. 24.

4 St. Fr. Xav. Ep. 5, from Cochin, anno 1544, p. 67.

5 St. Fr. Xav. lib. ii. Ep. 9. See Lett. Edif. et Curi. des Mission. Recues, lib. vii. p. 70.

6 Id. lib. i. Ip. I, p. 25.

(Taken from Vol. III of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler.)