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Saint Francis Xavier (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Saint Francis was born on April 7th, 1506, in the town of Javier which was then the Kingdom of Navarre (now it is portions of Spain and France). He was the youngest son of Juan de Jasson y Atondo, the seneschal (major-domo) of Xavier castle and grew up speaking Basque and Romance languages. His mother, Dona Maria de Azpilcueta y Aznarez, was the heiress of two Navarrese families and through her Saint Francis was related to the theologian Martin de Azpilcueta. Sadly, his father passed away when Saint Francis was only 9 and in 1516 his brothers participated in a Navarrese-French attempt to repel Spanish invaders. When this attempt failed, the Sponaish governor had all of the family lands seized, the moat of the castle filled, and the height of the keep reduced by half leaving only the immediate family's residence left inside the castle.

In 1525, Saint Francis left home and studied at the College Sainte-Barbe in Paris, sharing lodgings with a friend by the name of Pierre Favre. Just a few years later, Pierre brought home a student who wished to share the room with them, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Due to the age difference (Saint Ignatius was 38), Saint Francis initially thought it to be a practical joke but became friends with him. Saint Ignatius convinced Pierre to become a priest but initially was met with skepticism from Saint Francis who wished to pursue a successful academic career. During this time, Saint Ignatius asked him:

"What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

When Pierre left to visit his family, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis sat alone in the room talking for many hours and Saint Francis accepted the calling to the priesthood. On August 15th, 1534, seven students (Saint Francis , Saint Ignatius, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Lainez, Nicolas Bobadilla, Peter Faber, and Simao Rodrigues) met in a crypt beneath the Church of Saint Denis (now the Saint Pierre de Montmarte) overlooking Paris. They took private vows of chastity, poverty, obedience to the Pope, and to travel to the Holy Land to aid in the conversion of the Islamic peoples there. After Saint Francis was ordained on June 24th, 1537, Saint Ignatius wrote down the formula for his new order - the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits and approached the Papacy. Pope Paul III formally approved the new order in 1540.

King John of Portugal almost immediately asked for Jesuit Missionaries to help spread the faith to newly established land possessions in India for he believed that the Portuguese society no longer held strong to Christian values and morals. Saint Ignatius first appointed Nicholas Bobadilla and Simao Rodrigues to go, but at the very last minute before their trip Nicholas became very ill and so Saint Francis was sent instead. Taking with him a breviary, catechism and De Institutione bene vivendi, Saint Francis left Rome by train on March 15th, 1540 for Portugal. He met with the King and Queen in June of 1540.

Saint Francis was made apostolic nuncio to the East a few days before he left and arrived in Goa, the capital of Portuguese India, on May 6th 1542. His first task was to attend to the Portuguese settlers living there - many had begun to adopt Indian culture and had began living secular lives away from the Faith. He was welcomed by the Velliapura family of Velim, one of the Saint Thomas Christians sec and spent the first five months preaching and ministering to the sick in the local hospitals. The then began teaching children and servants to catechism and headed Saint Paul's college (which would eventually become the first Jesuit headquarters in all of Asia). He devoted three years of work to preaching to the people of Southern India with heavy conversions and building of nearly 40 churches. He was able to visit the tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle in Mylapore and began setting plans to travel to Indonesia in the year of 1545.

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