Solemnity – St Francis Xavier – Luke 10:1-16 – 3rd December

St. Francis Xavier was one of St. Ignatius Loyola’s closest friends and an original founding companion of the Society of Jesus. He is known among other things for his missionary accomplishments particularly in India, Southeast Asia and Japan. He was born in 1506 in the family castle in the Basque region of northern Spain, the fifth and youngest child of noble, wealthy, and pious parents.

At the age of nineteen years, and after completing preliminary course of studies, he left home permanently, bound for the University of Paris. By age thirty, he had earned a Master of Arts degree in philosophy, taught the subject for four years and then studied theology for two years.

While studying at the University, Ignatius Loyola, who was a fellow student, became an increasingly important influence on Xavier. So much so that, despite early reluctance, Xavier eventually made the Spiritual Exercises under his direction. In August of 1534, he joined Ignatius and five other companions in pronouncing vows. Together, Xavier and Ignatius were ordained priests in 1537. In the following year, Xavier went to Rome to share in the discussions that led to the formal founding of the Society of Jesus. Upon approval, Xavier served as the secretary of the Society until leaving for India in 1541.

His missionary travels took him to many places around the world. In fact, Xavier was the only original companion to leave Europe. He travelled from Rome to Lisbon, Portugal and then to India. Along the way, he assisted in many previously established missions; including those in Mozambique and Melindi in Kenya, Socotra (an island off the coast of Somalia),  Goa and other communities in the southern coastal areas of India.

In 1549, Xavier began the first Christian mission in Japan where he served in the country for over two years. In 1552, he set sail to begin the first Christian mission in China. When he arrived, however, he was not allowed to disembark on the Mainland. For three months, he waited on an island off of Canton while trying to gain entry into the country. He died on the island of an acute illness at the age of forty-six. Xavier was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622, at the same time as Ignatius Loyola.

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