Monday, December 3, 2012

St Francis Xavier

Francis was born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish  Navarre on April 7, 1506. He was sent to the University of Paris in 1525, secured his licentiate in 1528.  There he met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre, founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. In 1536 he left Paris to join Ignatius in Venice, from where they all intended to go as missionaries to Palestine (a trip which never materialized.)

He was ordained a priest there in 1537, went to Rome in 1538, and in 1540, when the pope formally recognized the Society, was ordered, with Fr. Simon Rodriguez, to the Far East as the first Jesuit missionaries. King John III kept Fr. Simon in Lisbon, but Francis, after a year's voyage, six months of which were spent at Mozambique where he preached and gave aid to the sick, eventually arrived in Goa, India in 1542 with Fr. Paul of Camerino an Italian, and Francis Mansihas, a Portuguese. There he began preaching to the natives and attempted to reform his fellow Europeans, living among the natives and adopting their customs on his travels. During the next decade he converted tens of thousands to Christianity.

He visited a large part of India, New Guinea and the Philippines as well as Japan. In 1551, India and the East were set up as a separate province and Ignatius made Francis its first provincial. In 1552 he set out for China, landed on the island of Sancian within sight of his goal, but died before he reached the mainland. Working against great difficulties, language problems, inadequate funds, and lack of cooperation, often actual resistance from European officials, he left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which clung to Christianity for centuries. He was canonized in 1622 and proclaimed patron of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X.
St Francis Xavier church at 46 West 16th Street, NYC
Many churches are dedicated to St Francis Xavier, and probably the most beautiful one is in Manhattan, 46 West 16th Street , NYC, a church built in 1878 by architect Patrick C. Keely. and restored in 2009.

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