St. Francis Xavier
Feast Day: December 3, 2007
Jesus asked, What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (Matthew 16:26a). The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honor before him.
Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in 1534 joined his little community (the infant Society of Jesus). Together at Montmartre they vowed poverty, chastity and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope.
From Venice, where he was ordained priest in 1537, Francis Xavier went on to Lisbon and from there sailed to the East Indies, landing at Goa, on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India.
Wherever he went, he lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy.
Francis went through the islands of Malaysia, then up to Japan. He learned enough Japanese to preach to simple folk, to instruct and to baptize, and to establish missions for those who were to follow him. From Japan he had dreams of going to China, but this plan was never realized. Before reaching the mainland he died. His remains are enshrined in the Church of Good Jesus in Goa.
All of us are called to go and preach to all nations (see Matthew 28:19). Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with words, but by our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the Good News to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis gave his to others.
Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Saint Francis Xavier
Andrea Pozzo - 1701 -- Oil on canvas
Kiscelli Museum, Budapest
Go and teach my gospel to all people, said the Lord. I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Matthew 28: 19, 20
Francis Xavier, one of the greatest missionaries of all time, was born in Navarre, Spain, April 6, 1506, studied in Paris where he met Ignatius of Loyola, and was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Soon after the Society of Jesus was officially recognized (1540), he began his work of evangelization. His amazing zeal for spreading the Gospel and his remarkably extensive missionary journeys, overcoming great obstacles, during a mere ten years (May 6, 1542 - December 2, 1552), led to the establishment of missions and Churches in India and southeast Asia, as well as in Japan. Countless conversions resulted from his tireless, difficult and very often dangerous work. He is justly considered to be the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles.
While he was preparing to begin work in China, Francis Xavier suddenly became ill and died on the island of Sancian, near the China coast, on December 2, 1552. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although because of the death of Pope Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year
God our Father, by the preaching of Francis Xavier You brought many nations to Yourself.
Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in You,
that Your Church may rejoice in continued growth throughout the world.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
First Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Gospel Reading: Mark 16:15-20
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.