Francis was born at the family castle of Xavier in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on April 7, 1506. He studied at the University of Paris, received his licentiate in 1528 and while at the university, met Ignatius Loyola. He initially opposed Loyola’s ideas, but was soon won over and became one of the first seven Jesuits to take his vows at Montmartre in 1534. He was ordained at Venice in 1537 with Ignatius and four other Jesuits.
In 1540 he was sent as the first Jesuit missionary to the East Indies. He spent his time there preaching, ministering to the sick and imprisoned, and teaching the children. He also spent much time trying to correct the immorality of the Portuguese, especially in denouncing the common practice of concubinage. He then spent three years at Cape Comorin at the southern tip of India, ministering to the Paravas, baptizing them by the thousands. He visited Malacca in 1545; the Moluccas, near New Guinea, and Morotai, near the Philippines, from 1546-47; and Japan from 1549-51. Francis became the first provincial of India and the East in 1551, when Ignatius established the area as a separate province.
In 1552, Francis set out for China, which he had always dreamed of evangelizing. However, soon after arriving, he died, leaving his dream unfulfilled. With the exception of St. Paul, Francis was the greatest of all Christian missionaries. He traveled thousands of miles to the most inaccessible places under the most horrible conditions. His converts are estimated to have been in the hundreds of thousands. His missionary impact on the East endured for centuries.
With inadequate funds, little cooperation or assistance from others, and often under persecution, St. Francis persevered and won thousands of souls for Jesus. He was called “the Apostle of the Indies” and also “the Apostle of Japan.” He was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV and was named patron of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X.
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us your brothers and sisters here on earth, that we may have at least a fraction of your holy zeal for winning souls to Christ. Help us to persevere when things become difficult, and to remember all that you endured for the salvation of others. Amen.