Wednesday, 3 December 2008

This 16th century Jesuit saint died at the age of 42. His love for Christ and the Church led him to do what even today would be very difficult to achieve in a fuller lifetime.
This Spaniard moved to Venice where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius Loyola. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months he took part in the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus.
Xavier was appointed to evangelize the people of the East Indies. On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a church and would explain the catechism. Around October 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christianity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon.
In 1549, with a small band of disciples, he landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese the principal articles of faith. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but he was banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.
After working about two years and a half in Japan and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. With the help of friends he obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador to China. He arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a hut had been built to shelter him. Here he breathed his last.
The body of the saint is venerated at Goa.
The love for Jesus enabled Francis Xavier to be an Apostle, may his prayers and dedication inspire us in our work of re-evangelising our culture.

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