Feast: December 3
A charge to go and preach to all nations was given by Christ to His apostles. This commission the pastors of the Church have faithfully executed down to this present time and in every age men have been raised by God and filled with His Holy Spirit for the discharge of this important function who, being sent by the authority of Christ and His name by those who have succeeded the apostles in the government of His Church, have brought new nations to the fold of Christ for the advancement of the divine honor and filling up the number of the saints. This conversion of nations according to the divine commission is the prerogative of the Catholic Church, in which it has never had any rival.
Of all the valiant messengers of the divine Word who have, during the last few hundred years, proclaimed the good tidings among infidel nations, there is not one whose glory is greater, who has worked greater wonders or who has shown himself a closer imitator of the first apostles than the modern apostle of the Indies, St. Francis Xavier. He labored only ten years in the missions before he was taken to heaven. And what years they were! In so brief a time, this one man, animated by God in a most extraordinary way, won for Christ some three million souls.
The life and apostolate of this wonderful man were a great triumph for our Mother the holy Catholic Church, for St. Francis came just at a period when heresy, encouraged by false learning, by political intrigues, by covetousness and by all the wicked passions of the human heart, seemed on the eve of victory. Emboldened by all these, this enemy of God spoke with the deepest contempt of that ancient Church which rested on the promises of Jesus Christ; it declared that she was unworthy of the confidence of men, and dared even to call her the harlot of Babylon, as though the vices of her children could taint the purity of the mother. God's time came at last, and He showed Himself in His power: the garden of the Church suddenly appeared rich in the most admirable fruits of sanctity. Heroes and heroines issued from that apparent barrenness and, while the pretended reformers showed themselves to be the most wicked of men, two countries, Italy and Spain, gave to the world the most magnificent saints.
The sixteenth century is worthy of comparison with any other age of the Church. The so-called reformers of those times gave little proof of their desire to convert infidel countries, when their only zeal was to bury Christianity beneath the ruin of her churches. But at that very time, a society of apostles was offering itself to the Roman Pontiff, that he might send them to plant the true faith among people who were sitting in the thickest shades of death. But, we repeat, not one of these holy men so closely imitated the first apostles as did Francis, the disciple of Ignatius. He had all the marks and labors of an apostle: an immense world of people evangelized by his zeal, hundreds of thousands of infidels baptized by his indefatigable ministration, and miracles of every kind, which proved him, to the infidel, to be marked with the sign which they received who, living in the flesh, planted the Church, as the Church speaks in her liturgy. So that, in the sixteenth century, the East received from the ever holy city of Rome an apostle, who, by his character and his works, resembled those earlier ones sent her by Jesus Himself. May our Lord Jesus be forever praised for having vindicated the honor of the Church, His Bride, by raising up Francis Xavier, and giving to men, in this His servant, a representation of what the first apostles were, whom He went to preach the Gospel when the whole world was pagan.
In the brief space of this article, we will go through the cities and villages of India and its numerous islands, across the tempestuous Sea of Bengal as he preaches the Faith to the Malaysians, on to the Sumatrans and hundreds of tribes in Indonesia and its Moluccan Islands, and finally to Japan. He blazed the trail fearlessly, treading where no missionary dared before to tread, winning millions of souls to Christ, and performing routinely such stupendous miracles as to verify, as no other did verify, the prophecy of the Savior: "And greater works than these shall ye do."
This great saint was born in Navarre, at the castle of Xavier, eight leagues from Pampelona, in 1506. His mother was heiress of the two illustrious houses of Azpilcueta and Xavier and his father, Don John de Jasso, was one of the chief counselors of state to John III d'Albert, king of Navarre. Among their numerous family of children, of which Francis was the youngest, those that were elder bore the surname of Azpilcueta, the younger that of Xavier. Francis was instructed in the Latin tongue under domestic masters and grounded in religious principles by his pious parents. From his infancy he was of a complying, winning humor and discovered a good genius and a great aptitude for learning to which, of his own motion, he turned himself, while all his brothers embraced the profession of arms. His inclinations determined his parents to send him to Paris at the age of eighteen, where he entered the college of St. Barbara and, commencing a course of scholastic philosophy with incessant pains and incredible ardor, surmounted the first difficulties of the crabbed and subtle questions with which the entrance to logic was paved. His faculties were hereby opened and his penetration and judgment exceedingly improved; and the applause which he received agreeably flattered his vanity, which passion he was not aware of, persuading himself that to raise his fortune in the world was a commendable pursuit. Having studied philosophy for two years he became master of arts, then taught philosophy at Beauvais college, though he lived in that of St. Barbara.
St. Ignatius came to Paris in l528 with a view to finish his studies, and after some time entered himself in the college of St. Barbara. This holy man had conceived a desire of forming a society wholly devoted to the salvation of souls; and, being taken with the qualifications of Peter Faber, called in French LeFevre, a Savoyard, and Francis Xavier, who had been fellow students and still lived in the same college, endeavored to gain their concurrence in this holy project. Faber, who was not taken up with the world, resigned himself without opposition. But Francis, whose head was full of ambitious thoughts, made a long and vigorous resistance, and bantered and rallied Ignatius on all occasions, ridiculing the meanness and poverty in which he lived as a degenerate lowness of soul. Ignatius repaid his contempt with meekness and kindness, and continued to repeat sometimes to him, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This made no impression on one who was dazzled with vainglory and, under pretenses, joined false principles of worldly decency in his idea of Christian virtue. Ignatius, assaulting him on the weaker side, often congratulated him for his talents and learning, applauded his lectures and made it his business to procure him scholars; also on a certain occasion when he was in necessity, he furnished him with money. Francis, having a generous soul, was moved with gratitude and considered that Ignatius was of great birth and that only the fear of God had inspired him with the choice of the life which he led. He began, therefore, to look on Ignatius differently and to listen to his discourses. At that time certain representatives of the Lutherans secretly scattered their errors among the students at Paris in so dexterous a manner as to make them appear plausible, and Xavier, who was naturally curious, took pleasure in hearing these novelties, till Ignatius put him upon his guard. Sometime after this, having one day found Xavier more than ordinarily attentive, he repeated to him these words more forcibly than ever, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" and reasoned that so noble a soul ought not to confine itself to the vain honors of this world, that celestial glory was the only object for his ambition, and that it was against reason not to prefer that which has eternal value before what vanishes like a dream. Xavier then began to see into the emptiness of earthly greatness and to find himself powerfully touched with the love of heavenly things. Yet it was not without many serious thoughts and grievous struggles that his soul was overcome by the power of those eternal truths, and he took a resolution of squaring his life entirely by the most perfect maxims of the gospel. For this purpose he gave himself up to the conduct of Ignatius and the direction of so enlightened a guide made the paths of perfection easy to him. From his new master he learned that the first step in his conversion was to subdue his predominant passion, and that vainglory was his most dangerous enemy. His main endeavor from that time was concentrated on humbling himself and confounding his pride. And, well knowing that the interior victory over our own heart and its passions is not to be gained without mortifying the flesh and bringing the senses into subjection, he undertook this conquest by wearing a hair shirt, fasting, and other austerities.
When the time of the vacancy was come, in 1535, he performed St. Ignatius's spiritual exercises with such fervor that he passed four days without taking any nourishment, and his mind was taken up day and night in the contemplation of heavenly things. By these meditations, which sunk deep into his soul, he was wholly changed into another man, in his desires, affections, and views, so that afterwards he did not know himself and the humility of the cross appeared to him more desirable than all the glories of this world. In the most profound sentiments of compunction he made a general confession and formed a design of glorifying God by all possible means and of employing his whole life for the salvation of souls. Having completed the course of philosophy which he read, which lasted three years and a half, he entered on the study of divinity. In 1534, on the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, St. Ignatius and his six companions, of whom Francis was one, made a vow at Montmarte to visit the Holy Land and unite their labors for the conversion of the infidels or, if this should be found not practicable, to cast themselves at the feet of the pope and offer their services wherever he thought fit to employ them. Three others afterwards joined these six, and having ended their studies the year following, these nine companions departed from Paris upon the 15th of November, in 1536, to go to Venice, where St. Ignatius had agreed to meet them from Spain. They traveled all through Germany on foot, loaded with their writings, in the midst of winter, which that year was very sharp and cold. Xavier, to overcome his passions and punish himself for the vanity of which he had formerly been guilty, tied his arms and thighs with little cords which, by his traveling, swelled his thighs and sunk so deep into the flesh as to be hardly visible. The saint bore the pain with incredible patience till he fainted on the road; and, not being able to go any further, was obliged to discover the reason. His companions carried him to the next town, where the surgeon declared that no incision could be safely made deep enough and that the malady was incurable. In this melancholy situation, Faber Laynex, and the rest spent that night in prayer; and the next morning Xavier found the cords broken of the flesh. The holy company joined in actions of thanksgiving to the Almighty, and cheerfully pursued their journey in which Xavier served the rest on all occasions, being always foremost in the duties of charity. They arrived at Venice on the 8th of January, 1537, and were much comforted to meet there St. Ignatius, by whose direction they divided themselves to serve the poor in two hospitals in that city, whilst they waited for an opportunity to embark for Palestine.
Xavier, who was placed in the hospital of the incurables, employed the day in dressing the sores of the sick, in making their beds, and serving them in basic needs. He passed whole nights in watching by them. It was his delight to attend chiefly those who were sick of contagious diseases or infected with loathsome ulcers. Two months had passed away in these exercises of charity, when St. Ignatius, who stayed behind alone at Venice, sent his companions to Rome to ask the blessing of his holiness Paul III for their intended voyage. The pope granted those among them who were not in holy orders, a license to receive them at the hands of any Catholic bishop. Upon their return to Venice, Xavier was ordained priest upon St. John Baptist 's day, in 1537, and they all made vows of chastity and poverty before the pope's nuncio. Xavier retired to a village about four miles from Padua where, to prepare himself for saying his first mass, he spent forty days in a poor, ruined, abandoned cottage, exposed to all the injuries of the weather, lay on the ground, fasted rigorously, and subsisted on what scraps of bread he begged from door to door. St. Ignatius had his priests meet at Vicenza, Italy, and after his retreat, Xavier said his first mass there with tears flowing in such abundance that his audience could not refrain from mixing their own with his. By order of St. Ignatius he applied himself to the exercises of charity and devotion at Bologna, to the great edification of that city. The house in which he there dwelt as a poor man was afterwards given to the society and converted into an oratory of great devotion.
In Lent, in 1538, our saint was called by St. Ignatius to Rome, where the fathers assembled together to deliberate about the foundation of their Order, and their consultations were accompanied by fervent prayers, tears, watchings and penitential austerities, which they practiced with a most ardent desire of pleasing our Lord alone and of seeking in all things his greater glory and the goods of souls. After waiting a whole year to find an opportunity of passing into Palestine and, finding execution of that design impracticable on account of the war between the Venetians and the Turks, St. Ignatius and his company offered themselves to his holiness to be employed as he should judge most expedient in the service of their neighbor. The pope accepted their offer, and ordered them to preach and instruct in Rome till he should otherwise employ them. St. Francis exercised his functions in the Church of St. Laurence, in Damaso, in which he appeared so active that no one distinguished himself by a more ardent charity or a more edifying zeal. Govea, a Portuguese, formerly president of the college of St. Barbara, at Paris, happened to be then at Rome where John III, King of Portugal, had sent him on some important business. He had formerly known Ignatius, Xavier, and Faber at Paris, and had been a great admirer of their virtue; and he became more so at Rome, insomuch that he wrote to his master that men so learned, humble, charitable, inflamed with zeal, untiring in labor, lovers of the cross, and who aimed at nothing but the honor of God, were fit to be sent to plant the faith in the East Indies. The king wrote thereupon to Don Pedro Mascaregnas, his ambassador at Rome, and ordered him to obtain six of these apostolic men for this mission. St. Ignatius could grant him only two, and selected Simon Rodriguez, a Portuguese, and Nicholas Bobadilla, a Spaniard. The former went immediately by sea to Lisbon; Bobadilla, who waited to accompany the ambassador, fell sick, and by an overruling supernatural direction, Francis Xavier was substituted in his room on the day before the ambassador began his journey. Our saint received this order with joy, and, when he went to ask the benediction of Paul III, there shone, through a profound humility, such a magnanimity of soul that his Holiness had good reason to expect the wonderful events which would follow in his missionary activity. The saint left Rome with the ambassador on the 15th of March, 1540, and on the road found perpetual occasion for the most heroic actions of humility, mortification, charity, zeal, and piety, and was always ready to serve his fellow travelers in their most basic needs, as if he had been everybody's servant. The entire journey was performed by land over the Alps and Pyrenees, and took more than three months. At Pampelona, the ambassador pressed the saint to go to the castle of Xavier, which was but a little distant from the road, to take leave of his mother, who was yet living, and of his other friends, whom he would probably never more see in this world. But the saint would by no means turn out of the road, saying that he deferred the sight of his relations till he should visit them in heaven; that this transient view would be accompanied with melancholy and sadness, the products of last farewells, whereas their meeting in heaven would be for eternity and without any sorrow. This wonderful disengagement from the world exceedingly affected Mascaregans who, by the saintly example and instructions of the holy man, was converted to a new course of life.
They arrived at Lisbon about the end of June, and Francis went immediately to Fr. Rodriguez, who was lodged in a hospital, in order to attend and instruct the sick. They made this place their ordinary abode, but catechized and instructed in most parts of the town, and occupied all Sundays and holidays in hearing confessions at court, for the king and a great number of the courtiers were engaged by their discourses to confess and communicate every week, which they chose to do at their hands. Fr. Rodriguez was retained by the king at Lisbon, and St. Francis was obliged to stay there eight months, while the fleet was getting ready to sail in spring. Dr. Martin d' Azpilcueta, commonly called the Doctor of Navarre, who was uncle to Xavier by his mother's side, was then chief professor of divinity at Coimbra, and wrote several letters to our saint, but could not engage him to go to Coimbra. St. Francis, when he left Rome, put a memorial in the hands of Fr. Laynez, in which he declared that he approved the rules that should be drawn up by Ignatius, and consecrated himself to God by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in the Society of Jesus, when it should be confirmed as a religious Order by the apostolic see. At Lisbon, before he went on board, the king delivered to him four briefs from the pope, in two of which his holiness constituted Xavier apostolic nuncio, with ample power and authority; in the third he recommended him to David, Emperor of Ethiopia and in the fourth to other princes in the East. No importunities of the king or his officers could prevail on the saint to accept of any provisions or necessaries, except a few books for the use of converts. Nor would he consent to have a servant, saying that as long as he had the use of his two hands he would never take one. When he was told that it would be unbecoming to see an apostolic legate preparing his own food and washing his own linen on the deck, he said he could give no scandal so long as he did no ill. The saint had two companions to the Indies, Fr. Paul de Camarino, an Italian Jesuit, and Francis Mansilla, a Portuguese, who had not yet been ordained.
The saint set sail on the 7th of April in the year 1541, the thirty-sixth year of his life, on board the admiral's vessel, which carried Don Martin Alfonso de Sousa, General-Governor of the Indies, who went with five ships to take possession of his government. The admiral's vessel contained at least a thousand persons, whom Francis considered as committed to his care. He catechized the sailors, preached every Sunday before the main-mast, took care of the sick, converted his cabin into an infirmary, lay on the deck, and lived on charity during the whole voyage, though the governor was very urgent with him to eat at his table or accept of a regular supply of food from his kitchen; but he always answered that he was a poor religious man, and that, having made a vow of poverty, he was resolved to keep it. He, indeed, received the dishes which the governor sent him from his table, but divided the meat among those who had most need. He resolved differences, quieted murmuring, checked swearing and gambling, and took the utmost care to remove all disorders. He reproved bad actions with so much authority that nobody resisted him, and with so much sweetness and tender love that no one was offended at him. The insufferable colds of Cape Verd, the heats of Guinea, the stench of the fresh waters, and the spoiling of their flesh provisions under the line, produced pestilential fevers and violent scurvies. After five months of perpetual navigation and doubling the Cape of Good Hope, they arrived at Mozambique, on the coast of Africa, about the end of August, and there they wintered. They inhabitants were mostly Mohammedans and traded with the Arabs and Ethiopians; but the Portuguese had settlements among them. The air was very unwholesome, and Xavier himself fell sick there, but had almost recovered when the admiral again put to sea in a fresh vessel which made better sail, on the 15th of March in 1542. In three days they arrived at Melinda, a town of the Saracens, in Africa. Leaving this place, after a few days' sail they touched at the isle of Socotora, over against the strait of Mecca. Then crossing the sea of Arabia and India, they landed at Goa on the 6th of May, in 1542, in the thirteenth month from their setting out from Lisbon.
After St. Francis was landed he went immediately to the hospital, and there took his lodging, but he would not enter upon his missionary functions till he had paid his respects to the Bishop of Goa, whose name was John d' Albuquerque and who was a most virtuous prelate. The saint presented to him the briefs of Paul III, declared that he pretended not to use them without his approbation, and casting himself at his feet, begged his blessing. The bishop was struck with the venerable air of sanctity that appeared in his countenance and deportment, raised him up, kissed the briefs, and promised to support him by his episcopal authority, which he failed not to do. To call down the blessing of heaven on his labors, St. Francis consecrated most of the night to prayer. The situation in which religion then was in those parts was such as called forth his zeal and his tears. Among the Portuguese, revenge, ambition, avarice, usury, and debauchery seemed to have extinguished in many the sentiments of their holy religion; the sacraments were neglected; there were not four preachers in all the Indies nor any priests outside the walls of Goa. The infidels resembled rather beasts than men, and the few who had been converted to the faith not being supported by competent instructions, nor edified by example, relapsed into their ancient manners and superstition. Such was the deplorable situation of those countries when St. Francis Xavier appeared among them as a new star to enlighten so many infidel nations. So powerful was the word of God in his mouth, and such the fruit of his zeal, that in the space of ten years he established the empire of Jesus Christ in an new world. Nothing more sensibly afflicted him on his arrival at Goa than the scandalous deportment of the Christians, who lived in direct opposition to the Gospel which they professed and, by their manners, alienated the infidels from the faith; he therefore thought it would be best to open his mission with them. In order to bring about a general reformation, he began by instructing them in the principles of religion and forming the youth to the practice of sincere piety. Having spent the morning in assisting and comforting the distressed in the hospitals and prisons, he walked through all the streets of Goa, with a bell in his hand, summoning all masters, for the love of God, to send their children and slaves to catechism. The little children gathered together in crowds about him, and he led them to the church and taught them the creed and practices of devotion, and impressed on their tender minds strong sentiments of piety and religion. By the modesty and devotion of the youth, the whole town began to change its face and the most abandoned sinners began to blush at vice. After some time, the saint preached in public and made his visits to private houses and the sweetness of his behavior and words and his charitable concern for the souls of his neighbors were irresistible. Sinners were struck with the horror of their crimes; usurious bonds were canceled; restitution was made of unjust gains; slaves who had been unjustly acquired were set at liberty; concubines were dismissed or lawfully married; and families were well regulated.
The reformation of the whole city of Goa was accomplished in half a year, when the saint was informed that, on the coast of La Pescaria, or the Pearl Fishery, which is extended from Cape Comorin to the isle of Manar, on the eastern side of the peninsula, there were certain people called Paravas, that is, fishers, who, some time ago, in order to please the Portuguese who had helped them against the Moors, had caused themselves to be baptized, but, for want of instructions, retained their superstitions and vices. Xavier had by this time got a little acquaintance with the Malabar language, which is spoken on that coast, and, taking with him two young ecclesiastics who understood it competently well, embarked in October, in 1542, and sailed to Cape Comorin, which faces the isle of Ceylon and is about six hundred miles from Goa. Here St. Francis went into a village full of idolaters and preached Jesus Christ to them, but the inhabitants told him they could not change their religion without the leave of their lord. Their obstinacy, however, yielded to the force of miracles, by which God was pleased to manifest His truth to them.
From this time on, the moment this black-robed, bare-footed papal emissary touched the soil of his calling, a veritable supernatural explosion took place. Miracles, the likes of which the world had never before witnessed, began to follow the servant of God wherever he ventured. A woman who had been three days in the pains of childbirth, without being eased by any remedies or prayers of the Brahmins, was immediately delivered and recovered upon being instructed in the faith and baptized by St. Francis, as he himself relates in a letter to St. Ignatius. Upon this miracle not only that family, but most of the chief persons of the country listened to his doctrine, and heartily embraced the faith, having obtained the permission of their prince. The servant of God proceeded to the Pearl Coast, set himself first to instruct and confirm those who had been formerly baptized; and, to succeed in this undertaking, he was at some pains to make himself more perfectly master of the Malabar tongue. Then he preached to those Paravas to whom the name of Christ was till that time unknown; and so great were the multitudes which he baptized, that sometimes by the bare fatigue of administering that sacrament, he was scarcely able to move his arm, according to the account which he gave to his brethren in Europe. To make the children comprehend and retain the catechism, he taught them to recite with him some little prayer upon each question or article. Every lesson or instruction he began with the "Our Father", and ended with the "Hail Mary." Diseases seem to have been never so frequent on that coast as at that time; the people had almost all recourse to St. Francis for their cure, or that of some friend; and great numbers recovered their health, either by being baptized or by invoking the name of Jesus. Not only were people cured by the power associated with the sacred waters, but stupendous cures were occurring as a result of any contact whatsoever with the saint. Even non-believers who, out of curiosity, touched his worn cassock, found themselves delivered from maladies of every kind. Soon the entire nation was talking about the "man from heaven." The saint frequently sent some young neophyte with his crucifix, beads, or reliquary to touch the sick, after having recited with them the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Commandments; and the sick, by declaring unfeignedly that they believed in Christ and desired to be baptized, recovered their health. On one occasion the saint gave a group of children his crucifix and sent them to expel the devil from a madman, notorious for his rages of violence, who was at that very moment throwing himself about like a lunatic. The entire episode was so supernatural, especially considering the fact that the youngster s displayed no fear at all of the wild man, but rather, to the amazement of all the people who had followed them, boldly formed a circle about the man, while singing hymns and prayers. Then the child carrying the cross calmly approached him and bade him kiss the crucifix. Astonished, the crowd watched in awe as the poor man did as the boy commanded. And no sooner had he venerated the symbol of Redemption than the wicked demons that had so tormented him took flight, never to assail him again. Likewise, at the same instant, several other possessed persons who lived in the vicinity were suddenly delivered from their cruel subjection. What a glorious day this was for India! What a humiliation to these proud devils! The fallen angels who had for so long a time dominated these infidels were now being cast out – not only by a holy man – but by his innocent little emissaries.
The process of the saint's canonization makes mention of four dead persons to whom God restored life at this time by the ministry of His servant. The first was a boy named Anthony who, while sleeping, had been bitten by a poisonous snake and died. When his companion who was beside him awoke, he shook his friend violently to arouse him, not realizing that he was dead. Then, seeing the viper at the foot of the bed, he screamed in terror and ran to tell Father Xavier what had happened. The priest displayed no alarm; he merely smiled at the breathless messenger and said, "Let us go and see him, perhaps he is not really dead." When the man of God came to the boy, who was totally purple and lifeless, he fell on his knees and prayed. Then, rising, he took the child by the hand and called out, "Anthony, in the Name of Jesus Christ, arise!" The boy immediately jumped to his feet, full of life. The second was a child was drowned in a pit. The third and fourth a young man and maid whom a pestilential fever had carried off. And not only did Saint Francis raise the dead to life by the sound of his own voice, but in his canonization process, witnesses testified that the dead were raised at the command of the voices of his catechists as well. These pious instructors were several times commanded by the saint to perform amazing miracles through the application of his cross or even a piece of his garment upon the body of the deceased.
Incredible were the labors of the saint. His food was the same as that of the poorest people, rice and water. His sleep was but three hours a night at most and that in a fisher's cabin on the ground. The remainder of the night he passed with God or with his neighbor. In the midst of the hurry of his external employments, he ceased not to converse interiorly with God, who bestowed on him such an excess of interior spiritual delights that he was often obliged to desire the Divine Goodness to moderate them.
His day began on his knees praying for guidance for the day lying ahead. Prayer was followed by offering of the Mass. The intensity of his preoccupation with the mysteries of the altar filled with awe the little group of the faithful who came for the Holy Sacrifice at dawn. "Frequently," one said, "the Father seemed transfigured at his Mass, especially at the elevation when he was seen raised in the air and a radiant light streamed about his head."
Reference is made in all his biographies to this matter of levitation. It happened during his Mass and occasionally when he was distributing Holy Communion upon his knees, his usual posture for giving the Bread of Life to his people.
We have the testimony of a pious merchant, Diogo Pereira, and his brother on how St. Xavier spent his moments in private prayer. Out of curiosity these brothers spied on our saint one night. According to their joint witness they watched the saint fall into an ecstasy after which his motionless body was lifted off the ground, while the light emanating from his countenance illuminated the entire room.
He had labored about fifteen months in the conversion of the Paravas when, toward the close of the year l543, he was obliged to return to Goa to procure assistants. The seminary of faith, which had been founded there for the education of young Indians, was committed to his care and put into the hands of the Society. A cause of exuberance was 20 newly converted Paravians who desired to study for the priesthood at the Mission Seminary in Goa. The following year he returned to the Paravas with a supply of evangelical laborers, Indians as well as Europeans, whom he stationed in different towns; and some he carried with him into the kingdom of Travancore where, as he testified in one of his letters, he baptized ten thousand Indians with his own hand in one month, and sometimes a whole village received the sacrament of regeneration in one day. When the holy man first penetrated into the inland provinces of the Indians, being wholly ignorant of the language of the people, he could on ly baptize children and serve the sick, who, by signs, could signify what they wanted, as he wrote to Fr. Mansilla. Whilst he exercised his zeal in Travancore, God for the first time bestowed upon His servant the gift of tongues. It happened suddenly, before an immense crowd of people who had gathered in some remote area to hear the man whose name had been echoed up and down the coast as far north as Calcutta. As the holy priest opened his mouth to give word to the interpreter, he began to speak in the very Tamilese dialect proper to the audience before him. Moreover, at other times, as the crowds grew even larger, many different tribes, composed of as many varying dialects, all simultaneously heard the foreigner speak as if he had been raised among them. But hear even more! If the glory of God were not manifest enough in these prodigies, an even greater one occurred. For as the crowds continued to swell, often reaching as many as ten thousand, the missionary inevitably would be bombarded with a deluge of questions, too many for him to have satisfied even one percent of the inquiries. The generosity of our heavenly Father, however, was not to be outdone. As the wonder worker opened his mouth to answer a question (in a tongue he had never spoken) the very waves of his voice were transformed in mid-air so as to bring home to the ears of his listeners as many answers to as many different questions as had been hurled at him. Indeed "the Lord is good to them that seek him!" (Lam. 3:25) This phenomenon, as well as so many others, drew forth converts by the droves. Whole villages, en masse, together with their rajah, vied one another to be the first to receive the saving water of Baptism. Xavier's teaching and works left such a deep stamp upon the sons and daughters of Travancore that, when certain misguided Protestant evangelists arrived in their villages a century and a half later, the first response they received from the Catholic people was the question: "Can you perform the miracles Father Francis used to do?" The saint narrowly escaped the snares which were sometimes laid by Brahmins and others to take away his life.
It was on Cape Comorin that the "man from Heaven," as the people began to call him, first encountered the Hindu Brahmins. These were the elite in this superstitiously constructed caste society. Today this vast country is still in the same darkness. It has, on the whole, fallen even deeper into the same idolatrous wretchedness that permeated it before the "man from Heaven" arrived in 1542 to liberate them. The esoteric Brahmins (the Maharishis of today) were then, and still are, the illuminati of that oversized peninsula. Their influence is so great that, to this very day, it is against the law for a Catholic priest to convert and baptize a non-Christian. Laws like this existed in Xavier's day too. The only difference was that in Xavier's day there was Xavier. One can imagine the hate the arcane circle of Hindu gurus harbored in their bosom for this intrepid miracle worker who exposed their lies and hypocrisies. In his many attempts to convert them the saint met with nothing but obstinate resistance. Only one or two are recorded to have embraced the Truth. Actually it was only after his every effort to gain their hearts had been rejected and scorned that Xavier decided on the hard approach of exposing the gurus' duplicity. What the saint had run up against were wills fixed in evil. The strategy the saint now adopted was simply to expose the Brahmins before the people. He bombarded them with every rebuke that his tongue and intellect could volley forth. Ceaselessly he ridiculed them before the people, accusing them of utter hypocrisy and deceit. What else could he do? And as the people waited to see the gods strike the foreigner down, nothing happened. Gradually they began to wonder. Wonder turned to interest and interest to conviction. Xavier would not let up. The more people listened to him, the more relentless he became to shout the truth throughout all of India. No amount of pleading for mercy on the part of these sanctimonious liars could deter him from his path. When the Brahmins begged him to cease and desist, the holy man merely excoriated them the more for their obstinacy. The saint had no human respect. To him these wicked men were leading millions of souls over a precipice that led straight to hell. Saint Francis Xavier believed and preached the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. He must stop this hellish avalanche at all costs. Even the Mohammedans by this time had come to fear his name. They had witnessed the miraculous power of the priest when they had attempted a recent invasion of the Paravan villages. Before they even reached the Christian army that had assembled to do them battle, Father Francis went out alone to confront them. However, it was not a frail monk that they saw approaching them as he surfaced over a mountain – it was a black-robed giant with the Cross of Jesus Christ extended before him. The apparition sent the very horses of the invaders reeling in terror and the soldiers fled away in panic. Like wildfire the news of the hundred-foot tall white man spread throughout the Islamic communities.
When the Badages, a tribe of savages and public robbers, having plundered many other places, made inroads into Travancore, he marched up to the enemy with a crucifix in his hand, at the head of a small troop of fervent Christians and, with a commanding air, bade them, in the name of the living God, not to pass further, but to return the way they came. His words cast such terror into the minds of the leaders who were at the head of the barbarians, that they stood some time confounded and without motion, then retired in disorder and quitted the country. This action procured St. Francis the protection of the King of Travancore and the surname of the Great Father. As the saint was preaching one day at Coulon, a village in Travancore near Cape Comorin, perceiving that few were converted by his discourse, he made a short prayer that God would honor the blood and name of His beloved Son by softening the hearts of the most obdurate. Then he bade some of the people open the grave of a man who was buried the day before, near the place where he preached; and the body was beginning to putrefy with a noisome scent, which he desired the bystanders to observe. Then falling on his knees, after a short prayer, he commanded the dead man in the name of the living God to arise. At these words the dead man arose and appeared not only living but vigorous and in perfect health. All who were present were so struck with this evidence that, throwing themselves at the saint's feet, they demanded baptism. The holy man also raised to life, on the same coast, a young man who was a Christian, whose corpse he met as it was being carried to the grave. To preserve the memory of this wonderful action, the parents of the deceased, who were present, erected a great cross on the place where the miracle was wrought. The miracles made so great impressions on the people, that the whole kingdom of Travancore was subjected to Christ in a few months, except the king and some of his courtiers.
We cannot pass lightly over the wonders of grace Father Xavier performed through the conversion of hundreds of wayward seamen. Exposed as frequently as they were to the killer storms that raged mercilessly in the uncharted waters, these revitalized adventurers refused to venture the waves without first obtaining an assurance from their "holy Father." For along with the gift of reading hearts, Father Francis habitually saw into the future. One man, who was of this category, before embarking on a certain voyage, approached our saint for a blessing. Touched by such fidelity (for the main had traveled far to obtain it), the missioner removed his own rosary and gave it to his friend with the assurance that, if he kept it on his person, no harm would befall him. However, no sooner did his vessel lose sight of the shore when it was seized by a furious gale, and finally, after being tossed about for days, it was crushed by a gigantic breaker. The pious penitent, clasping his holy beads in one hand, grabbed hold of a floating timber with the other. Suddenly he became more and more light-headed with an unnatural serenity and, at last, falling into an ecstasy of sorts, he passed several more days riding the waves, while his mind imagined him to be back with the saint conversing on eternal matters. Then, not knowing how, he awakened on a beach not far from where he had first set sail. Hear another story! This one took place on the voyage to Malacca. It seems that the common pastime for sailors of every age is gambling. It was no different in the sixteenth century – only then dice-rolling was the popular. One unfortunate mariner, who must have been a novice at the art, wagered recklessly at the table and, unwilling to exit a loser, la id out all the coins he had in one last bid at regaining his losses. Alas, the unlucky fellow lost again. In this sad state, Satan put it into his mind to cast himself into the sea, for life was no longer worth living. Father Xavier, whose disarming personality made him popular with the rough gamblers, perceived the despairing state of the busted sailor. Collecting from some others a sufficient sum, he gave it to the tormented fellow, and bade him try his luck again, for surely this time his fortune would turn. Sure enough, it did. And the more he played, the more he won. After a time Father Francis pulled the happy man aside and, hearing his confession, ordered him to cease the habit altogether. The would-be suicidal did this and thereafter he lead a most exemplary life.
The reputation of the miracles of St. Francis reached the isle of Manar, which sent deputies to St. Francis entreating him to visit their country. The saint could not at that time leave Travancore, but sent a zealous missionary by whom many were instructed and baptized. A despicable tyrant from Jafnapatam in Ceylon, a king under whose crown the Manarese had been subjected, hearing that these people had embraced the religion which he personally detested, flew into a diabolical rage and descended upon the defenseless neophytes with his murderous troops. (This wicked king had a demonic hatred for the very person of Our Savior because the native adherents of the Christian religion openly accused him of the fratricide through which he had usurped his brother's crown). One by one the newly baptized were commanded to renounce Christ or be slain. And, one by one, without a single apostasy, they were slaughtered for the Holy Name. Mothers about to die even presented their baptized infants saying, "Kill these too, for they are also Christians." And thus they all died. This tyrant was afterwards slain by the Portuguese when they invaded Ceylon. Hearing the news, the saint wept like a child. It was clear to him now that the conversion of the country would require the blood of martyrs. He begged God to count him among them. "O Ceylon," he cried, "how much blood of martyrs wilt thou cost!"
But the blood of the martyrs, which is the seed of Christians, was already producing fruit and that fruit was in the immediate family of the sacrilegious potentate. The courage and supernatural joy displayed by the martyrs had become rooted in the memories of the chief executioner and, to God's glory, of the King's own son, and they could not forget it. These two and several other members of the royal household, after secretly receiving instructions in the Christian faith from a brave Portuguese merchant who, for commercial purposes, often frequented the court, were moved to seek Baptism, which rite was duly, though clandestinely, performed.
The obvious transformation in the young Prince's manner irritated his cruel father and aroused his suspicions. Ascertaining that what he feared was true (i.e., he had become a Christian), the unnatural monarch had his own son put to death, casting his corpse out into a field for the beasts of prey to devour, thus adding to his loathsome crime of fratricide a more heinous one of filicide. But the good merchant, hearing of the murder, found the boy's body and gave it a decent burial. And lo, a Cross, engraved by angels, appeared embroidered, as it were, into the earth above the martyr's temporary resting place. And, if this wonder were not enough to convert the whole island, for several nights another resplendent Cross lit up the sky, directing its magnificent rays down to rest upon the holy grave. So, in spite of himself, the persecuting King of Jafnapatam contributed more to the dissemination of the gospel of Christ in his domains than any missionary could have hoped to accomplish. The Saint, after he had made a journey to Cochin upon business, visited Manar and established there many churches.
In a journey of devotion, which he took to Meliapor to implore the intercession of the Apostle St. Thomas, he converted many dissolute people in that place. Afterwards, intending to pass to the island of Macassar, he sailed to Malacca, a famous market in the peninsula beyond the Ganges, to which all the Indies and also the Arabs, Persians, Chinese, and Japanese, resorted for trade. The saint arrived here on the 25th of September, 1545, and, by the irresistible force of his zeal and miracles, reformed the debauched manners of the Christians and converted many pagans and Mohammedans. St. Francis set sail for Amboyna on the 1st of January, 1546. Although the ship was under the mastership of the Portuguese, there were many pagans on board who came from among the variety of different nations scattered about the Indonesian archipelago. This occasion providentially arranged lent itself to a miracle that astounded all the crew and brought about the conversion of every passenger. For, as the holy Jesuit, Father Francis Xavier, preached on deck to the Portuguese Christians, each of the curious natives understood him perfectly in his unique dialect. Landing on the island of Amboyna, he baptized a great part of the inhabitants. Having preached on other islands, he made a considerable stay in the Moluccas, and, though the inhabitants were an untractable people, he brought great numbers to the truth. Thence he passed to the Isle of Moro. No new methods of evangelization were used in our hero's routine. What was working would continue to work. The parades down the "avenues" between rows of mud-thatched domiciles, clanging, as always, his trusty bell; the calling upon the children to come and listen "to wonderful things"; and the teaching of basic prayers, had produced instant fruit. In the hamlet of Tolo, the most populated among these island villages, he converted the entire population, consisting of twenty-five thousand souls. Our saint was convinced that, upon his arrival in these lands, Saint Michael the Archangel had bound the demons who afflicted the area and cast them ahead of schedule into the abyss. What confirmed him in this premonition was a violent earthquake that shook the island so joltingly while he was offering Mass on Michaelmas day, that he feared the Precious Blood would be tossed from the chalice. Miraculously, as the rumbling mounted during the most sacred part of the Divine Sacrifice, the sacred chalice kept sturdy in its place, sustained, as the saint related, by an angelic power. In this mission he suffered much, but from it wrote to St. Ignatius, "The dangers to which I am exposed and pains I take for the interest of God alone, are the inexhaustible springs of spiritual joys; insomuch that these islands, bare of all worldly necessaries, are the places in the world for a man to lose his sight with the excess of weeping, but they are tears of joy. I remember not ever to have tasted such interior delights and these consolations of the soul are so pure, so exquisite and so constant, that they take from me all sense of my corporal sufferings."
While awaiting a vessel seaworthy enough to transport him further north to Ternate, the main Portuguese colony on the largest island in the Moluccan chain, our restless ambassador of Truth procured passage on a flimsy Malayan prohas so that might, in the meantime, visit other islands to too distant from Amboyna. One of these, the largest, Ceram, had an even worse reputation for cannibalism than the deepest recess of Amboyna. "I cannot but be curious about the reports", the missionary casually remarked. "That they are not above eating prisoners of war, not even their aging relatives... Meantime I must laugh at the good wishes of certain of my friends here. They try to give me Oriental antidote to the poisons they feel sure I will be fed by native tribesmen..." It was while crossing over to one of the islands near Ceram that the celebrated story of the crab and the crucifix took place. It is a story not only charming, but also tangibly revealing of the singular paternal love that the Creator had for this most exquisite priest. Lest we be accused of exaggeration, we will let an eye witness to the miracle, Faustus Rodriguez, a lay assistant to the missionary, relate the event. "Father Francis, John Paposa, and I were sailing in a caracca when suddenly a terrible tempest arose and the sailors... gave themselves up for lost. Father Francis drew from his breast a crucifix... He leant over the side to touch the waves with it. But somehow the crucifix slipped from his hand and fell. He was much distressed and did not hide it... The next day... landing on the coast, Father Francis and I were walking together along the shore in the direction of Tamano. We had gone about five hundred yards when both of us saw a crab come out of the sea holding the crucifix, which it carried between its claws. I saw it go straight to Father Francis and stop by him. The Father kissed the cross, clasped it to his breast and so remained for half an hour in prayer." (This testimony was given under oath at the investigative Process of 1616. Seven other eye witnesses to the miracle gave similar testimony.)
The saint, returning towards Goa, visited the islands on the road, where he had preached, and arrived at Malacca in 1547. In Malacca, as in India, he was always kindly received and, as often, he would leave in his wake souls touched by grace. Occasionally the saint was called upon to rescue some unfortunate native who had fallen into circumstances leading to the dreadful condition of demonic possession. In every instance, the cause of the mischief was patronage of a magician or sorceress. In the case of one fourteen year old boy, whose mother, a lapsed Christian from Sumatra, had hired a witch to cure him from an illness, it was a cursed amulet placed around the child's neck that led to the infestation. Only by offering a Mass in honor of the Mother of God for his relief did the holy exorcist free him permanently. The most striking of all his miracles at this "clearing station" settlement was the raising to life of a young girl who had been three days in the grave. As he was returning on day from a mission to the interior of the peninsula, the damsel's mother, a fervent neophyte, fell like another Martha at the saint's feet beseeching him with pathetic emotion, "If thou hadst been here my daughter had not died: nevertheless, if thou wilt thou canst restore her to life, for nothing is impossible to God, and He grants all things to thy prayers." Moved by such profound faith, the man of God looked to heaven, sighing as he silently prayed for this grace. Then, after some moments, he turned to the woman and assured her that her child lived. That was all this trusting heart needed to hear. With a vast concourse of spectators behind her, she approached the tomb and, opening it, she found her daughter awakening as from a deep sleep in perfect health.
In the beginning of the year 1548, he landed in Ceylon, where he converted great number, with two kings. At Malacca, a Japanese named Angerro addressed himself to the saint. Kaempfer tells us that he had killed a man in his own country and, to save his life, made his escape in a Portuguese ship. All agreed that he was rich and of a noble extraction and about thirty-five years of age, and that being disturbed in mind with remorse and terrors of conscience, he was advised by certain Christians to have recourse to the holy St. Francis for comfort. The saint poured the mildest balm into his wounded heart and gave him assurances that he should repose of mind, but must first seek God in his true religion. The Japanese was charmed with his discourses and as he had by that time acquired some knowledge of the Portuguese language, was instructed in the faith and engaged by St. Francis to embark with his attendants and go to Goa, whither he himself was directing his course in a roundabout way. In the straits of Ceylon, the ship which carried the saint was overtaken with a most dreadful tempest, insomuch that the sailors threw all their merchandise overboard, and the pilot, not being able to hold the rudder, abandoned the vessel to the fury of the waves. For three days and three nights the mariners had nothing but death before their eyes. St. Francis, after hearing the confessions of all on board, fell on his knees before his crucifix and continued there, wholly taken up and lost to all things but to God. The ship at last struck against the sands of Ceylon and the mariners gave themselves up for lost , when Xavier, coming out of his cabin, took the line an plummet, as if it had been to fathom the sea and, letting them down to the bottom of the water, pronounced these words, "Great God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, have mercy on us." At the same moment the vessel stopped and the wind ceased, after which they pursued their voyage and happily arrived at Cochin on the 21st of January, 1548.
The saint, leaving Cochin, visited the villages of the coast of the Pearl Fishery and was much edified with the fervor of the converts; he made some stay at Manapar, near Cape Comorin, passed over to the isle of Ceylon, where he converted the King of Cande, and arrived at Goa on the 20th of March 1548. There he instructed Angeroo and many others, and took a resolution to go to Japan. St. Francis, in his responsibility as Superior of the Eastern Missions, had much to do before he could take his leave for Japan. Discords had to be resolved, missioners and future missioners had to be instructed and reappointed more profitably, and more support had to be extracted from King John so that the incessant interferences of obstructive officials might be curbed. If Father Francis' missives to his royal benefactor had been bold before, their incriminating bluntness increased now (for himself) to a dangerous crescendo. There simply was no such thing as compromise for this purifying fireball who refused to heed advice from pragmaticians or neutralizers. To him, anyone, even a king, who did not put the interests of salvation above every earthly consideration, was flirting with eternal damnation. "It is common talk in India," he admonished the sovereign, "that your Highness does not use the royal power for the enlargement of the Kingdom of Christ, but only for scraping together riches for yourself...this is not the least of the reasons why I intend to fly to Japan...to labor with more usefulness than has been possible here." He did not even hesitate to add this piquant note, "The hour of your death is nearer than you think, and, God avert it! you may be sentenced for ever outside paradise." The arrow certainly hit an impressionable target. The future improvement in the Goan mission proves it. For this well meaning, but not overly zealous monarch, the best thing that ever happened to him was Father Francis Xavier.
An example of the many setbacks our saint had to contend with was the merciless abandonment of the mission to Sacotra. The natives on this east African island retained some minuscule fragments of an ancient evangelization. When Xavier visited them on his way to Goa, he promised to sent them a missionary. Now, as he was about the fulfill his word, the new governor, Garcia de Sa (de Castro's successor), vetoed the project because he did not want to risk offending the ruling Mohammedan chief and spoil the lucrative trade relations currently fattening the merchants' purses. Such sins against charity were the heaviest crosses the man of God had to carry. In the meantime, he applied himself more than ever to the exercises of an interior life, as it were to recover new strength, for it is the custom of all apostolic men, by the communications which they have with God, to refresh themselves and repair their interior spirit amidst the pains which they take with their neighbor. During this retirement in the garden of St. Paul's college, sometimes walking, at other times in a little hermitage which was set up there, he cried out, "It is enough, my Lord; it is enough." And he sometimes opened his cassock before his breast, declaring he was not able to support the abundance of heavenly consolations. At the same time he signified that he rather prayed that God would reserve those pleasures for another time, and here would not spare to inflict on him any pains or sufferings in this present world. Fr. Gaspar Barzia and four other Jesuits arrived at that time at Goa from Europe, whom the saint stationed and then set out for Malacca. He went on board a Chinese vessel and arrived at Cangoxima, in the kingdom of Saxuma, in Japan, on the 15th of August, 1549, having with him Angeroo, who had been baptized with two of his domestics at Goa, and was called Paul of the holy Faith.
The language of the Japanese seems, in the judgment of Kaempfer, to be a primitive or original tongue. St. Francis learned certain elements of it from his convert during his voyage and stayed forty days at Cangomixa, lodging at Paul' s house, whose wife, daughter and other relations he converted and baptized. The same language is used all over the empire, but the words are differently accented when addressed to courtiers or persons of rank, and when to merchants and soldiers, and again differently to the vulgar. During these forty days, St. Francis, by unwearied application, made such progress in it as to translate into Japanese the Apostle's Creed and an exposition of it, which he had composed and which he learned by heart in this language, and then began to preach, but was first introduced by Paul to the King of Saxuma, whose residence was six leagues from Cangoxima.
After a year spent at Cangozima with his usual success, the saint in 1550 went to Firando, the capital of another kingdom; for the King of Saxuma, incensed at the Portuguese because they had abandoned his port to carry on their trade chiefly at Firando, had withdrawn the license he had granted the saint, and began to persecute the Christians. The converts, however, persevered steady and declared they were ready to suffer banishment or death rather than deny Christ; and St. Francis recommended them to Paul, and left in their hands an ample exposition of the creed and the life of our Savior translated entire from the Gospels, which he had caused to be printed in Japanese characters. He took with him his two companions, who were Jesuits, and carried on his back, according to his custom, all the necessary utensils for the sacrifice of the Mass. The saint, on his way to Firando, preached in the fortress of Ekandono, the prince of which was a vassal to the King of Saxuma. The prince's steward embraced the faith with several others, and to his care Xavier recommended the rest at his departure; and he assembled them daily in his apartments to recite with them the litany and prayers and, on Sundays, read to them the Christian doctrine; and so edifying was the behavior of these Christians, that many others desired to join them after the departure of their apostle; and the King of Saxuma, moved by their edifying conduct, became again the protector of our holy religion. At Firando, Xavier baptized more infidels in twenty days than he had done at Cangoxima in a whole year. These converts he left under the care of one of the Jesuits that accompanied him, and set out for Meaco with one Jesuit and two Japanese Christians. They went by sea to Facata, and from thence embarked for Amanguchi, the capital of the kingdom of Naugato, famous for the richest silver mines in Japan. Our saint preached here in public, and before the king and his court; but the Gospel at that time took no root in this debauched city, the number which the saint gained there being inconsiderable, though a single soul is, indeed, a great acquisition.
Xavier, having made above a month's abode at Amanguchi and gathered small fruit of his labors except affronts, continued his journey towards Meaco with his three companions. It was towards the end of December, and the four servants of God suffered much on the road from heavy rains, great drifts of snow, pinching cold, torrents, and hideous mountains and forests; and they traveled barefoot. In passing through towns and villages, Xavier was accustomed to read some part of his catechism to the people and to preach. Not finding a proper word in the Japanese language to express the sovereign Deity, and fearing lest the idolaters should confound God with some of their idols, he told them that never having had any knowledge of the true infinite God, they were not able to express His name, but that the Portuguese called Him Deos; and this word he repeated with so much action and such a tone of voice, that he made even the pagans sensible what veneration is due to that sacred name. In two different towns he narrowly escaped being stoned for speaking against the gods of the country. He arrived at Meaco, with his companions, in February 1551. The Dairi, Cubosama, and Saso (or high priest) then kept their court there, but the saint could not procure an audience even of the Saso without paying for that honor a hundred thousand caixes, which amount to six hundred French crowns, a sum which he had not to give. A civil war, kindled against the Cubosama, filled the city with such tumults and alarms that Xavier saw it to be impossible to do any good there at that time, and after a two week stay returned to Amanguchi. Perceiving that he was rejected at court upon the account of his mean appearance, he bought a rich suit and hired two or three servants; and in this equipage waited on the king, to whom he made a present of a little striking-clock and some other things. Thus he obtained his protection, and preached with such fruit that he baptized three thousand persons in that city, with whom he left two Jesuits who were his companions, to give the finishing to their instruction. At Amanguchi God restored to St. Francis the gift of tongues; for he preached often to the Chinese merchants who traded there in their mother-tongue, which he had never learned.
St. Francis, recommending the new Christians here to two fathers whom he left behind, left Amanguchi toward the middle of September, in 1551, and, with two Japanese Christians who had suffered with joy the confiscation of their goods for changing their religion, traveled on foot to Fuceo, the residence of the King of Bungo, who was very desirous to see him, and gave him a most gracious reception. Here the saint publicly confuted the Bonzas who, upon motives of interest, everywhere strenuously opposed his preaching, though even among the people, and vast multitudes desired to be instructed and baptized. Among others the king himself was convinced of the truth, and renounced those impurities which are abhorred by nature, but remained still wedded to some sensual pleasures, on which account he could not be admitted to the sacrament of regeneration till, after some succeeding years, having made more serious reflections on the admonitions of the saint, he reformed his life altogether and was baptized. Our saint took leave of this king and embarked to return to India on the 20th of November 1551, having continued in Japan two years and four months. To cultivate this growing mission he sent thither three Jesuits, who were shortly followed by others. It had been often objected to him that the learned and wise men in China had not embraced the faith of Christ. This circumstance first inspired him with an earnest desire that the name of Christ might be glorified in that flourishing empire; and, full of a zealous project of undertaking that great enterprise, he left Japan. In this voyage the ship in which he sailed was rescued from imminent danger of shipwreck in a storm by his prayers; and a shallop, in which were fifteen persons belonging to the ship from which it had been separated by the same tempest, was saved by the same means, according to his confident and repeated prediction, the passengers and mariners in it seeming all the way to have seen Xavier sitting at the helm and steering it. Many other clear predictions of the saint are recorded. At Malacca he was received with the greatest joy that can be imagined, and he immediately set himself to plan how he might make his intended journey to China. The greatest difficulty was that, besides the ill-understanding which was between China and Portugal, it was forbidden to strangers on pain of death, or of perpetual imprisonment, to set foot in that kingdom. To remove this obstacle St. Francis discoursed with the old governor of Malacca, Don Pedro de Sylva, and with the new one, Don Alvarez d'Atayda, and it was agreed that an embassy might be sent in the name of the King of Portugal to China to settle a trading agreement, with which the saint might with safety land in that kingdom. In the meantime the saint set out for Goa.
Xavier reached Goa in the beginning of February, and having paid a visit to the hospitals, went to the College of St. Paul where he cured a dying man. The missionaries whom he had dispersed before his departure, had spread the gospel on every side. Fr. Gaspar Barzia had converted almost the whole city and island of Ormuz. Christianity flourished exceedingly on the coast of the pearl fishery, and had made great progress at Cochin, Coulan, Bazain, Meliapor, in the Moluccas, the isles of Moro, etc. The King of Tanor, whose dominions lay on the coast of Malabar, had been baptized at Goa. The King of Trichenamalo, one of the sovereigns of Ceylon, also embraced the faith. The progress of the faith in many other places was such as gave the greatest subject of joy to the holy man. But Fr. Antonio Gomez, a great preacher and scholar, whom the saint had appointed rector at Goa, had made such changes and innovations, even in the domestic discipline of the Society, that the saint was obliged to dismiss him from the Order. Xavier appointed Fr. Barzia, a person of eminent piety, rector of Goa and vice-provincial, sent new preachers into all the missions on this side of the Ganges, and obtained of the viceroy, Don Alphonso de Norogna, a commission for his good friend, James Pereya, to go on an embassy to China. Having settled all affairs at Goa, he made the most tender and ardent exhortations to his religious brethren, then leaving Fr. Barzia, vice-provincial, set sail on the 14th of April in 1552, and, landing at Malacca, found the town afflicted with a most contagious pestilential fever. This he had foretold before he arrived; and no sooner was he come on shore, but, running from street to street, he carried the poor that lay languishing up and down to the hospitals, and attended them with his companions. At that time he restored to life a young man named Francis Ciavos, who afterwards took the habit of the Society. When the mortality had almost ceased, the saint discussed about the embassy to China with the Governor of Malacca, on whom Dono Alphonso de Norogna (the fifth Viceroy and seventeenth Governor of the Indies) had reposed the trust of that affair. Don Alvarez d' Atayda Gama had lately succeeded his good brother, Don Pedro de Sylva Gama, in the government of Malacca. This officer, out of anger towards Pereyra, crossed the project of the embassy and, when St. Francis urged the authority of the king and the command of the viceroy, Alvarez flew into a rage and treated him with the most injurious language. The saint ceased not for a whole month to solicit the governor, and at length threatened him with excommunication in case he persisted thus to oppose the propagation of the gospel. Upon this occasion the saint produced the briefs of Paul III, by which he was appointed apostolic nuncio, which, out of humility, he kept a profound secret during ten years that were expired since his coming to the Indies. The governor continued to laugh at the threats, so that the bishop's grand vicar at length fulminated an excommunication against him in the name of Xavier who, seeing this design utterly destroyed, determined to go on board of a Portuguese ship that was setting sail for the isle of Sancian, a small barren island near Macao on the coast of China. This governor was afterwards deposed for extortions and other crimes, by an order of the king, and sent in chains to Goa. St. Francis during this voyage wrought several miracles and converted certain Mohammedan passengers, and, on the twenty-third day after the ship's departure from Malacca, arrived at Sancian, where the Chinese permitted the Portuguese to come and buy their commodities. When the project of the embassy had failed, St. Francis had sent the three Jesuits he had taken for his companions into Japan, and retained with him only a brother of the Society (who was a Chinese and had taken the habit at Goa) and a young Indian. He hoped to find means with only two companions to land secretly in China. The merchants at Sancian endeavored to persuade him that his design was impracticable, all setting before his eyes the rigorous laws of the government of China, that all the ports were narrowly guarded by vigilant officers, who were neither to be circumvented nor bribed, and that the least he could expect was scourging and perpetual imprisonment. The saint was not to be deterred; and answered all these and many other reasons, saying that to be terrified by such difficulties from undertaking the work of God would be incomparably worse than all the evils with which they threatened him. He therefore took his provisions for the voyage to China, and first of all provided himself with a good interpreter; for the Chinese he had brought with him from Goa was wholly ignorant of the language which is spoken at the court, and had almost forgotten idiom of the common language. Then the saint hired a Chinese merchant called Capoceca, to land him by night on some part of the coast where no houses were in view; for which service Xavier engaged to pay him two hundred pardos, and bound himself by oath that no torments should ever bring him to confess either the name or house of him who had set him on shore.
The Portuguese at Sancian, fearing this attempt might be revenged by the Chinese on them, endeavored to disrupt his plans. Whilst the voyage was deferred Xavier became ill, and, when the Portuguese vessels were all gone except one, was reduced to extreme want of all necessaries. Also, the Chinese interpreter whom he had hired recalled his word. Yet the servant of God, who soon recovered of his illness, did not lose courage; and hearing that the King of Siam was preparing a magnificent embassy to the Emperor of China, he resolved to use his best endeavors to obtain leave to accompany the ambassador of Siam. But God was pleased to accept his will in this good work and took him to himself. A fever seized the saint a second time on the 20th of November, and at the same time he had a clear knowledge of the day and hour of his death, which he openly declared to a friend, who afterwards made an authentic deposition of it by a solemn oath. From that moment he perceived in himself a strange disgust of all earthly things and thought on nothing but that celestial country from which God was calling him. Being much weakened by his fever, he retired into the vessel which was the common hospital of the sick, that he might die in poverty. But the tossing of the ship giving him an extraordinary headache, and hindering him from applying himself to God as he desired, the day following he requested that he might be set on shore again, which was done. He was exposed on the sands to a piercing north wind, till George Alvarez, out of compassion, caused him to be carried into his cabin, which afforded a very poor shelter, being open on every side. The saint's distemper, accompanied with an acute pain in his side and a great oppression, increased daily; he was twice bled, but the unskillful surgeon both times pricked the tendon, by which accident the patient fell into swooning convulsions. His disease was attended with a horrible nauseousness, insomuch that he could take no nourishment. But his countenance was always serene and his soul enjoyed a perpetual calm. Sometimes he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and at other times fixed them on his crucifix, entertaining divine conversations with his God in which he shed an abundance of tears. At last, on the 2nd of December, which fell on Friday, having his eyes all bathed in tears and fixed with great tenderness of soul upon his crucifix, he pronounced these words, "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded for ever"; and, at the same instant, transported with celestial joy which appeared upon his countenance, he sweetly gave up the ghost in 1552. Though he was only forty-six years old, of which he had passed ten and a half in the Indies, his continual labors had made him gray, and in the last year of his life he was grizzled almost to whiteness.
In what remains of the story of Francis Xavier the world catches a glimpse of what God has thought of the saint. The glimpse is enough to have wrung from each succeeding generation the spontaneous cry: Digitus Dei hic est! Truly the finger of God is here. It begins tracing its sacred outline immediately following the saint's death.
Burial of Francis' body took place upon the day he died. The crew of the Santa Cruz learned of his death and came ashore. "The holy Father's face," Antonio records, "stayed beautiful, with such new red coloring that he seemed yet alive, as forsooth I trust he is alive now in heaven." The sailors kissed the thin hands of the dead, praying to one whom they, too, believed to be with God.
Only Antonio, the Portuguese captain, and a pair of Negro slaves carried the corpse, in its Chinese coffin, to the hastily dug grave on the summit of the low hill. The day was bitterly cold and there was little or no ceremony beyond a quickly muttered prayer. Two bags of quicklime had been poured about the body, clothed in vestments, within the coffin. It was with the purpose of bringing the bones of the saint back to India, later and when convenient, that Antonio and the ship's captain decided to use the quicklime. The substance – so it was believed – would eat away all clothing and the flesh remaining upon the wasted body.
So was buried in the wind-swept hill of insignificant Sancian a man recognized by secular and religious historians as one of the giants of the sixteenth century. A rough wooden cross was placed at the foot of the grave and a small mound of stones at either end.
In mid-February, the time for the Santa Cruz to return to Malacca, Antonio and Aguiar prepared to disinter the body. The coffin was exhumed and opened and the covering lime removed. Now the finger of God begins to write the record of divine approval of Francis Xavier. His body is found unaffected by the lime. It is fresh and with the red glow of health which gives the appearance, not of death, but of sleep. The flesh is soft and blood still stands in the veins. An incision made near the left knee bleeds freely. Even the clothes are utterly unharmed by the quicklime. The coffin with the body, exuding a preternatural fragrance, was carefully placed aboard the Santa Cruz. Immediately the ship set sail for Malacca. Everyone aboard sensed that a great treasure was in their charge. When the quick journey was delayed temporarily in the Singapore Strait by the ship's running aground on a sandbank, the crew begged Francis' assistance. Immediately the ship glided off into deep water. Late in the evening of March 22, the vessel reached Malacca, where it was received with great honor. The pestilence which for some weeks had laid waste the town suddenly ceased. The body was interred in a damp churchyard; yet in August was found entire, fresh, and still exhaling a sweet odor, and, being honorably put into a ship, was translated to Goa, where it was received and placed in the church in the college of St. Paul on the 15th of March in 1554, upon which occasion several blind persons recovered their sight and others, sick of palsies and other diseases, their health and the use of their limbs. By order of King John III, a verbal process of the life and miracles of the man of God was made with the utmost accuracy at Goa and in other parts of the Indies. Many miracles were wrought through his intercession in several parts of the Indies and Europe, confessed by several Protestants; and Tavernier calls him the St. Paul and the true apostle of the Indies. St. Francis was beatified by Paul V in 1554 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1662. By an order of John V, King of Portugal, the Archbishop of Goa, attended by the viceroy, the Marquis of Castle Nuovo, in 1744, performed a visitation of the relics of St. Francis Xavier, at which time the body was found without the least bad smell and seemed surrounded with a kind of shining brightness; and the face, hands, breast, and feet and not suffered the least alteration or symptom of corruption. In 1747 the same king obtained a brief of Benedict XIV, by which St. Francis Xavier is honored with the title of patron and protector of all the countries in the East Indies.
Holy zeal may properly be said to have formed the character of St. Francis Xavier. Consumed with an insatiable thirst for the salvation of souls and of the augmentation of the honor and kingdom of Christ on earth, he ceased not with tears and prayers to conjure the Father of all men not to suffer those to perish whom he had created in his own divine image, made capable of knowing and loving him, and redeemed with the adorable blood of His Son, as is set forth in the excellent prayer of this saint, printed in many books of devotion. For this end the saint, like another St. Paul, made himself all to all and looked upon all fatigues, sufferings, and dangers as his pleasure and gain. In transports of zeal, he invited and pressed others to labor for the conversion of infidels and sinners. There were many moving appeals which our saint fired at Europe for missionaries of strong constitution to come and assist him. In one such supplication addressed from some hut in the Spice Islands, he opined, "If only a dozen of them (missioners) would come every year, there would soon be an end of this sect of Mohammed and everybody in the islands would soon become Christians." How is it, the apostle argued, that so many men of the world face such unspeakable dangers, risking their lives on land and sea so as to attain some worthless treasure that will perish, while devout men cannot face the same challenges, armed with the power of God's Name, so that they might spend themselves for Christ and the salvation of untold numbers who cry out to them for help, thereby securing for themselves and so many others an everlasting crown with the angels of heaven. What a tragedy is this! Who can comprehend it? The saint was truly exasperated by the apathy of religious men in Europe whose priorities, he felt, were all out of kilter and nothing short of selfish. Here is part of a letter sent from Cochin: "How often I long to go through the universities of Europe, shouting at the top of my voice, like one who has taken leave of his senses! Especially in the Paris University, calling in the Sorbonne, to those who have more learning than desire to put it to good use: How many souls turn away from the road to glory and go to Hell because of their carelessness!"
Handwritten copies of the prolific missives penned by the indefatigable missionary for pious consumption were distributed all over Christendom. Their extant collection compiles what the Church now calls the Monumenta Xaverana. Kings, queens, princes, priests, seminarians, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope meditated upon his uplifting exhortations. They drew a host of vocations into the Jesuit ranks, including the widower Duke of Gandia, Francesco de Borja, a future saint. But all of these recruits took time to train. Much of the tangible success of these writings was seen only after the saint passed away.
St. Francis was a model for missionaries, formed upon the spirit of the apostles. So absolute a master was he of his passions that he knew not what it was to have the least notion of anger or impatience and in all events was perfectly resigned to the Divine Will, from whence proceeded an admirable tranquility of soul, a perpetual cheerfulness, and equality of countenance. He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ, will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross. By humility, the saint was always ready to follow the advice of others and attributed all blessings to their prayers which he most earnestly implored.