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Saint Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier

This great missionary was born at Xavier Castle in Spain in 1506. He went to the University of Paris when he was eighteen. Here he met Saint Ignatius Loyola, who was about to start the Society of Jesus. Saint Ignatius tried to get Francis to join him. At first the happy-go-lucky young man would not think of it. Saint Ignatius repeated to him the words of Jesus in the Gospel: "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" At last, Francis saw clearly that his place in life was among the Jesuits.

When Francis was thirty-four, Saint Ignatius sent him as a missionary to the East Indies. The king of Portugal wanted to give him presents to take along and a servant. Francis refused his kind offer and explained: "The best way to acquire true dignity is to wash one's own clothes and boil one's own pot." During the course of his amazing career in Goa, India, Japan and other lands of the East, Saint Francis made thousands of converts. In fact, he baptized so many people that he became too weak to raise his arms. He gathered the little children around him and taught them the Catholic faith. Then he made little lay apostles of them. He invited them to spread the faith they had learned. There was nothing Saint Francis wouldn't do to help people. Once he faced a fierce band of raiders, alone, with no weapon but his crucifix. They backed up and did not attack his Christian tribes. The saint also brought many bad-living Christians to repentance. His only "tools" were his gentle, polite ways and his prayers.

In the midst of his painful journeys and great labors, the saint was full of a special joy coming from God. Saint Francis longed to get into China, into which no foreigner was permitted. At last, the arrangements were made, but the great missionary became ill. He died almost alone in 1552 on an island off the Chinese coast. He was just forty-six years old. Francis Xavier was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. He was in the best of company at the canonization ceremony in Rome. Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer were also proclaimed saints that day.

We can ask Saint Francis Xavier to give us understanding of and love for the missions. So many people still wait for the Gospel message. But they need generous missionaries to bring that message. We can pray to Saint Francis Xavier and ask him to send many more holy missionaries to those who still wait to hear about Jesus.

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