Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Born in Navarre, Spain, he studied in Paris, joined St. Ignatius and was ordained to the priesthood in 1537. He spent himself on works of charity before going to the East where he worked for ten years, preaching the Gospel in Goa, which contained many Portuguese Catholics, notorious for cruelty to their slaves, open concubinage and neglect of the poor. He also worked in India, Ceylon, Malacca, the Molucca Islands and the Malay Peninsula. In 1549 he went to Japan where he translated an abridged statement of Christian belief and made 100 converts there. He pressed on to Hirado, Yamaguchi and Miyako before finally heading to China where he fell ill and almost died alone on the island of Chang-Chuen-Shan. Like most of his contemporaries, he believed that all those who were not baptised would be damned, and that gave greater urgency to his mission. He wrote, “I have very often had the notion to go round the universities of Europe , and especially Paris, and to shout aloud everywhere like a madman, and to bludgeon those people who have more learning than love, with these words, ‘Alas, what an immense number of souls are excluded from Heaven through your fault and thrust down to Hell.’” After his death, his body was placed in quicklime to preserve it and brought back to Goa where it was enshrined, remaining for a long time incorruptible although recently, some corruption has set in, and it is not likely to remain incorrupt much longer, His right arm was detached in 1616 and preserved in the Jesuit Church of the Gesu in Rome.
Picture: A Japanese depiction of Francis Xavier, dated to the 17th century. From the Kobe City Museum collection.