Saint Francis Xavier SJ (1506–1552)
Feast Day 3rd December
Francis Xavier was one of the first companions of St Ignatius Loyola who together took their vows and formed The Society of Jesus. Unlike many of our House Saints, along with Ignatius and Alberto Hurtado, Xavier was not a martyr (i.e. he was not killed because of his faith).
Francis Xavier first met Ignatius when they found themselves as roommates in Paris when St Ignatius went to study. Like Ignatius he was a Spanish nobleman. He was at first not particularly enamoured with Ignatius, being rather jealous of the newcomer’s popularity. Their other roommate Pierre Favre was immediately won over by Ignatius, undertook his spiritual exercises and became an immediate companion. Xavier was not so easily won over and refused to try the exercises, but eventually Ignatius wore him down, he made the exercises and was a dedicated companion from that point onward.
In 1534 these three along with four others became the first seven Jesuits. In 1540 the Jesuits were formally authorised by the Pope, and they placed themselves at the service of the Church. In 1542 Ignatius needed to send someone on an important but dangerous mission to India, a mission they would never return from. Xavier was chosen, and after a year of sailing, much of which he spent being sick, Xavier arrived in India and immediately went about the fishing villages preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, and baptising people in their thousands. Xavier was innovative, brave and pioneering, he continually developed his mission, finding new ways to preach about Christ, and continually wrote letters back to Europe about the missionary work which enthused huge numbers of people to follow in his footsteps. Never happy settling for an easy life Xavier saw the India mission established and thriving and wanted to move on to break new ground, to bring this Gospel message to new ears who had not heard it. He made his way to Japan, a wholly different culture and one which demanded he adapt and find new ways to engage the people. With missionary enthusiasm still firing his heart he then turned his sights to China, he set sail, but died offshore in 1552, after 10 years of the most prolific missionary work the Church had seen since St Paul and probably never since. Xavier is particularly revered in India to this day and seen as a patron of missionary work the world over.