ST. FRANCIS XAVIER, PRIEST
"The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since,
according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the
mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. .. Now what was
once preached by the Lord ... must be proclaimed and
spread to the ends ofthe earth. .. Although the obligation
of spreading the faith falls individually on every disciple of
Christ, still the Lord has called from the number of his
disciples those whom he has chosen that they might be with
him so that he might send them to preach to the nations."
(Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity, Ad gentes,
nos. 2, 3, & 23).
One of these privilged chosen disciples is St. Francis Xavier.
He is the first of the great Jesuit missionaries to the Far East, and
the greatest post-apostolic missionary of the Church. He
preached the gospel in India, Malaysia and Japan.
Francis met St. Ignatius at the University of Paris in 1528, was
won over by Ignatius and was among the first seven who took
vows in the Society of Jesus founded by Ignatius. This was in
1534. Three years later he was ordained a priest in Venice to'
gether with Ignatius and four others. From there they went to
Rome to offer their services to the pope.
In 1541 Francis set out for the East Indies, arriving in Goa in
April of that year. He preached first to the Portugese there and
then moved on to South India, later to Malaysia and Japan.
Always, as his letters to Ignatius indicate, he went about with
enthusiasm and joy. The success of Francis Xavier is legendary.
"We have visited the villages of the new converts who
accepted the Christian religion a few years ago ... the
country is so barren and poor. The native Christians have
no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There
is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the
Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Command,
ments of God's Law. .:
"I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscien-
tiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the
sacred waters all the children who had not yet been
baptized. This means that I have purified a very large
number of children so young. . .
"Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming
Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make
them Christians," (Letter to St Ignatius: Cf. 2nd Reading,
Liturgy of the Hours).
St Francis Xavier died on the Island of Sancian off the China
coast in 1552.
The II Vatican Council reminds us:
"As members of the living Christ .. all the faithful have an
obligation to collaborate in the expansion and spread of his
Body, so that they might bring it to fullness as soon as
possible." (Cf. Eph. 4:13). Ad gentes, 36.
The Council then tells us that once we are aware of our
responsibility for the world we can contribute to the spread of -
the faith by leading a profound Christian life. "This fervor will be J
like a new spiritual breeze throughout the Church. .. From this
renewed spirit prayers and works of penance will be spontane-
ously offered to God that by his grace he might make fruitful the
work of missionaries, that there might be missionary vocations,
and the support of which the missions stand in need might be
We cannot all be actual missionaries to the distant lands and
peoples who are still in darkness; but through "those whom God
has chosen for this very special work the whole community
prays, collaborates and works among the nations." (Ad gentes,
May we learn from the zeal of St Francis Xavier so that
through us the Church may grow throughout the world. (Cf.