St. Francis Xavier: Man On Fire for the Faith
Today is the memorial of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), one of the greatest missionaries of all times. He was a marvelous evangelizer, who was on fire for the faith, filled with zeal.
The great missionary St. Francis Xavier was from a Basque noble family, like his beloved 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 asked Francis, “if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”
Francis joined Peter Faber as the first of Ignatius’s companions. Francis Xavier 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 beloved companion 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 his personal needs was to have a pair of boots. He barely ate enough to stay alive. As the missionary Francis Xavier, SJ, moved on, he left behind flourishing churches that were the foundations for the Catholic faith in Asia.
~ Excerpted from Ignatian Spirituality.com
Patron: African missions; diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana; Apostleship of Prayer; Australia; black missions; Borneo; China; East Indies; foreign missions; Goa, India; diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin; India; archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana; Japan; diocese of Joliet, Illinois; missionaries; Missioners of the Precious Blood; Navarre, Spain; navigators; New Zealand; parish missions; plague epidemics; Propagation of the Faith.
Father Dorian Llywelyn of the Theology Department at LMU in Los Angeles examines the life of Francis Xavier. He shows us why Francis Xavier remains relevant for us today as we continue to experience challenges in preaching the gospel authentically in Asia and elsewhere.
O Deus Ego Amo Te
O God, I love thee, I love thee?
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesu, so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake;
not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and I will love thee:
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.
-St. Francis Xavier
Translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.