Francis Xavier

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Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta ,Javier, Navarre
Roman Catholic missionary of Navarrese
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
7 April 1506
Place of Birth: 
Xabier, Kingdom of Navarre
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
3 December 1552


Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta (Javier, Navarre, 7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552 on Shangchuan Island, China) was a Spanish pioneering Roman Catholic missionary of Navarrese origin and co-founder of the Society of Jesus.

Early life
The castle of the Xavier family was later acquired by the Company of Jesus and reconstructed.

Francis Xavier was born in the family castle of Xavier in the Kingdom of Navarre, on 7 April 1506, according to a family register. He was born to an aristocratic family of Navarre, the youngest son of Juan de Jasso, privy counselor to King John III of Navarre (Jean d'Albret), and Maria de Azpilicueta y Xavier, sole heiress of two noble Navarrese families. Following the Basque surname custom of the time, he was named after his mother[citation needed]; his name is accurately written Francisco de Xavier (Latin Xaverius) rather than Francisco Xavier, as Xavier is originally a place name.

Joint Castilian and Aragonese troops commanded by Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, 2nd Duke of Alba conquered the Kingdom of Navarre in 1512. After a failed French-Navarrese attempt to reconquer the kingdom in (1516), in which Saint Francis's brothers had taken part, the outer wall, the gates and two towers of the family castle were demolished, the moat was filled, the height of the keep was reduced in half[, and land was confiscated. Only the family residence inside the castle was left.

Francis's father died when he was only 9 in 1515. Francis Xavier went to Venice, Italy and there he was ordained to the priesthood on June 24, 1537. After ordination, he served for a brief period in Rome.

Missionary work

Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to missions in foreign countries. As King John III of Portugal desired Jesuit missionaries for the Portuguese East Indies, he was ordered there in 1540. He left Lisbon on April 7, 1541, together with two other Jesuits and the new viceroy Martim de Sousa, on board the Santiago. From August of that year until March 1542, he remained in Mozambique then reached Goa, the capital of the then Portuguese Indian colonies on May 6 1542. His official role there was Apostolic Nuncio and he spent the following three years operating out of Goa.

On September 20, 1543, he left for his first missionary activity among the Paravas, pearl-fishers along the east coast of southern India, North of Cape Comorin (or Sup Santaz). He lived in a sea cave in Manapad, intensively catechizing Paravar children for three months in 1544. He then focused on converting the king of Travancore to Christianity and also visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Dissatisfied with the results of his activity, he set his sights eastward in 1545 and planned a missionary journey to Macassar on the island of Celebes (today's Indonesia).

Although Francis was the first Jesuit in India he made some critical mistakes that did not lead to the most successful missionary trips. Francis had a lack of respect for the Hindu religion. Instead of incorporating Christianity into the Hindu religion and creating a gradual sense of conversion, he wanted the change quickly. Also, he did not use the upper class noblemen as means of conversion. He worked amongst the poor. His successors such as de Nobili, Ricci, and Beschi learned from Francis’s mistakes, and attempted to convert the noblemen first as a means to influence more people.

After arriving to Portuguese Malacca in October of that year and waiting three months in vain for a ship to Macassar, he gave up the goal of his voyage and left Malacca on January 1, 1546 for Ambon Island where he stayed until mid-June. He then visited other Maluku Islands including Ternate and More. Shortly after Easter 1546, he returned to Ambon Island and later Malacca. During this time, frustrated by the elites in Goa, St. Francis wrote to King John III of Portugal for an Inquisition to be installed in Goa. This Inquisition resulted in the torture, prohibition and forced conversion of Indian Jews, Early Indian Christians, Muslims and Hindus to Catholicism. However, this Inquisition did not begin until eight years after his death.

Voyages of St. Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier's work initiated permanent change in eastern Indonesia, and he was known as the Apostle of the Indies where in 1546-1547 he worked in the Maluku Islands among the people of Ambon, Ternate, and Morotai (or Moro), and laid the foundations for a permanent mission. After he left the Maluku Islands, others carried on his work and by the 1560s there were 10,000 Catholics in the area, mostly on Ambon. By the 1590s there were 50,000 to 60,000.

In December 1547, in Malacca, Francis Xavier met a Japanese nobleman from Kagoshima named Anjiro. Anjiro had heard from Francis in 1545 and had travelled from Kagoshima to Malacca with the purpose of meeting him. Having been charged with murder, Anjiro fled Japan. He poured his heart out to Francis Xavier, telling him about his former life and the customs and culture of his beloved homeland. Anjiro was a samurai and as such provided Xavier with a skilled mediator and translator for the mission to Japan that now seemed much closer to reality. “I asked [Anjiro] whether the Japanese would become Christians if I went with him to this country, and he replied that they would not do so immediately, but would first ask me many questions and see what I knew. Above all, they would want to see whether my life corresponded with my teaching."

He returned to India in January 1548. The next 15 months were occupied with various journeys and administrative measures in India. Then due to displeasure at what he considered un-Christian life and manners on the part of the Portuguese which impeded missionary work, he travelled from the South into East Asia. He left Goa on April 15, 1549, stopped at Malacca and visited Canton. He was accompanied by Anjiro, two other Japanese men, the father Cosme de Torrès and Brother João Fernandes. He had taken with him presents for the "King of Japan" since he was intending to introduce himself as the Apostolic Nuncio.

Francis Xavier reached Japan on July 27, 1549, but it was not until August 15 that he went ashore at Kagoshima, the principal port of the province of Satsuma on the island of Kyūshū. He was received in a friendly manner and was hosted by Anjiro's family until October 1550. From October to December 1550, he resided in Yamaguchi. Shortly before Christmas, he left for Kyoto but failed to meet with the Emperor. He returned to Yamaguchi in March 1551 where he was permitted to preach by the daimyo of the province. However, lacking fluency in the Japanese language, he had to limit himself to reading aloud the translation of a catechism.

Francis had a large impact in Japan.[citation needed] He was the first Jesuit to go to Japan as a missionary.[citation needed] He brought with him paintings of the Madonna and the Madonna and Child. These paintings were used to help teach the Japanese about Christianity. There was a huge language barrier as Japanese was unlike other languages the missionaries had previously encountered. Artwork continued to play a role in Francis’s teachings in Asia

For forty five years the Jesuits were the only missionaries in Asia, but the Franciscans also began proselytizing in Asia as well. Christian missionaries were later forced into exile, along with their assistants. Some were able to stay behind, however Christianity was then kept underground as to not be persecuted.

The Japanese people were not easily converted; many of the people were already Buddhist. Francis had difficulty convincing them that God had created everything. In their eyes then, God was responsible for evil and sin; they had a difficult time grasping how a kind God would act in such a way. The concept of Hell was also a struggle; the Japanese could not bear to think that their ancestors might be in eternal Hell and there is no way to free them. Despite Francis’s differences in opinion regarding the religions of the Japanese, he felt that they were good people, much like the Europeans and could be converted.

Xavier was welcomed by the Shingon monks since he used the word Dainichi for the Christian God. As Xavier learned more about the religious nuances of the word, he changed to Deusu from the Latin and Portuguese Deus. The monks also realized that Xavier was preaching a rival religion.
The Altar of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Nasugbu, Batangas, Philippines. St. Francis is the principal patron of the town, together with Our Lady of Escalera.

With the passage of time, his sojourn in Japan can be considered fruitful as attested by congregations established in Hirado, Yamaguchi and Bungo. Xavier worked for more than two years in Japan and saw his successor-Jesuits established. He then decided to return to India. During his trip, a tempest forced him to stop on an island near Guangzhou, China where he saw the rich merchant Diego Pereira, an old friend from Cochin, who showed him a letter from Portuguese being held prisoners in Guangzhou asking for a Portuguese ambassador to talk to the Chinese Emperor in their favor. Later during the voyage, he stopped at Malacca on December 27, 1551 and was back in Goa by January, 1552.

On April 17 he set sail with Diego Pereira, leaving Goa on board the Santa Cruz for China. He introduced himself as Apostolic Nuncio and Pereira as ambassador of the King of Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he realized that he had forgotten his testimonial letters as an Apostolic Nuncio. Back in Malacca, he was confronted by the capitão Álvaro de Ataíde de Gama who now had total control over the harbor. The capitão refused to recognize his title of Nuncio, asked Pereira to resign from his title of ambassador, named a new crew for the ship and demanded the gifts for the Chinese Emperor be left in Malacca.
Casket of Saint Francis Xavier in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa

In early September 1552, the Santa Cruz reached the Chinese island of Shangchuan, 14 km away from the southern coast of mainland China, near Taishan, Guangdong, 200 km south-west of what later became Hong Kong. At this time, he was only accompanied by a Jesuit student, Álvaro Ferreira, a Chinese man called António and a Malabar servant called Christopher. Around mid-November, he sent a letter saying that a man had agreed to take him to the mainland in exchange for a large sum of money. Having sent back Álvaro Ferreira, he remained alone with António.

He died at Sancian in the year 1552 on the 3rd of December while he was waiting for a boat that would agree to take him to mainland China.

He was first buried on a beach of Shangchuan Island. In 2006, on the 500th anniversary of his birth, the Xavier Tomb Monument and Chapel on the island, in ruins after years of neglect under communist rule in China was restored with the support from the alumni of Wah Yan College, a Jesuit high school in Hong Kong. His incorrupt body was taken from the island in February 1553 and was temporarily buried in St. Paul's church in Malacca on 22 March, 1553. An open grave in the church now marks the place of Xavier's burial. Pereira came back from Goa, removed the corpse shortly after April 15, 1553, and moved it to his house.

On 11 December, 1553, Xavier's body was shipped to Goa. The body is now in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, where it was placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket on December 2, 1637.
St. Francis Xavier's humerus. St. Joseph's church, Macao

The right forearm, which Xavier used to bless and baptize his converts, was detached by Pr. Gen. Claudio Acquaviva in 1614. It has been displayed since in a silver reliquary at the main Jesuit church in Rome, Il Gesù.

Another of Xavier's arm bones was brought to Macau where it was kept in a silver reliquary. The relic was destined for Japan but religious persecution there persuaded the church to keep it in Macau's Cathedral of St. Paul. It was subsequently moved to St. Joseph′s and in 1978 to the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier on Coloane Island. More recently the relic was moved to St. Joseph's Seminary and the Sacred Art Museum.


St. Francis Xavier is noteworthy for his missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer. By his compromises in India with the Christians of St. Thomas, he developed the Jesuit missionary methods along lines that subsequently became a successful blueprint for his order to follow. His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India and, as one of the first Jesuit missionaries to the East Indies, his work is of fundamental significance to Christians in the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan.

Pope Benedict XVI said of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier: "not only their history which was interwoven for many years from Paris and Rome, but a unique desire — a unique passion, it could be said — moved and sustained them through different human events: the passion to give to God-Trinity a glory always greater and to work for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who had been ignored." As the foremost saint from Navarre and one of the main Jesuit saints, he is much venerated in Spain and the Hispanic countries where Francisco Javier or Javier are common male given names. The alternate spelling Xavier is also popular in Portugal, Brazil, France, Belgium, and southern Italy. In Austria and Bavaria the name is spelled as Xaver (pronounced Ksaber and often used in addition to Francis as Franz-Xaver. In English speaking countries, "Xavier" is one of the few names starting with X, and until recently was likely to follow "Francis"; in the last decade, however, "Xavier" by itself has become more popular than "Francis," and is now one of the 100 most common male baby names in the US.

Many churches all over the world have been named in honor of Xavier, often founded by Jesuits. One notable church is the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa.

The Javierada is an annual pilgrimage from Pamplona to Xavier instituted in the 1940s.

The Novena of Grace is a popular devotion to Francis Xavier, typically prayed on the 9 days before December 3.


Francis Xavier is a Catholic saint. He was beatified by Paul V on October 25, 1619, and was canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622, at the same time as Ignatius Loyola. He is the patron saint of missionaries. His feast day is December 3.

Educational Institutions

Numerous schools named Xavier, St. Xavier or St. Francis Xavier, most founded by the Jesuits, can be found in many parts of the world. Several are located in places where the saint proselytized. St. Xavier's College, founded in 1963, is located in Mapusa, in the Northern district of the Indian state of Goa where the eponymous saint's relic lies. The Jesuit Xavier University, commonly known as Ateneo de Cagayan, is located in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines; it is the largest school in Northern Mindanao and it also ranked 12th in the Philippines' Top 20 Schools list. In Manila, Xavier School is a preparatory school for males. The name Xavier University is shared by several colleges in the United States. Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio is Jesuit and has the largest enrollment of 6,500. Xavier University of Louisiana, in New Orleans, has an enrollment of 3,200 in 2009, rising back towards its peak enrollment pre-Hurricane Katrina of 4,121 (2005). It is the only college in the United States that is both Catholic and historically Black; it is also the only college in the United States founded by a saint (St. Katherine Drexel). Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois is one of the oldest higher educational centers in that leading Midwestern metropolis. There is also [Xavier College Preparatory] in Palm Desert, California. Among high schools, Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati and Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa have prominent statues of St. Francis Xavier on their campuses.Xavier High School is a male only Jesuit university-preparatory high school located at 30 West 16th Street, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Elsewhere, St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada is consistently ranked by Maclean's Magazine as the third-best undergraduate school in the nation. Xavier College, formerly known as St Francis Xavier College, is a Jesuit school in Melbourne, Australia also named after Francis Xavier, also in Melbourne, Australia there is St. Francis Xavier College, in Beaconsfield. Xavier College Llandilo, founded in 1999, is situated in western Sydney. Manchester, England is the home of Xaverian College which is one of the most renowned and successful colleges in the country. Also in Woolton, Liverpool is Saint Francis Xavier's college a specialist ICT school.



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"Saint" !!! Francis Xavier

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Dr. Alfredo DeMello (born in Goa in 1924) is a famous historian who today lives in Uruguay in Latin America.