St Francis Xavier – Feast Day – December 3 2023

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St Francis Xavier was also known as Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta.

He was a Spanish Catholic missionary who co-founded the Society of Jesus.

He was born on April 7 1506 in Xavier, Navarre, Spain, and died on December 3 1552 at the age of 46 in Shangchuan Island, China.

We celebrate his feast day on December 3 every year in the Catholic Church.

St Francis Xavier Biography
St Francis Xavier - Feast Day - December 3
St Francis Xavier – Feast Day – December 3 2023
Date of Birth April 7 1506
Place of Birth Xavier, Navarre, Spain
Profession Catholic missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus
Place of Work Belgium
Date of Death December 3 1552
Place of Death Shangchuan Island, China
Feast Day December 3
Beatification By Pope Paul V on October 25 1619 in Rome, Papal States
Canonization By Pope Gregory XV on March 12 1622 in Rome, Papal States
Patron Saint of
  • Catholic missions
  • African missions
  • Goa, India
  • China
  • Missionaries

St Francis Xavier’s Life History

St. Francis Xavier was born on April 7, 1506, at the Xavier (Javier) family castle near Sangüesa, Navarre, Spain, where the native language spoken was Basque.

He is renowned as one of the most significant Roman Catholic missionaries of modern times, playing a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity in India, the Malay Archipelago, and Japan.

He was the third son of the president of the council of the king of Navarre, and Francis spent his formative years in Xavier, receiving his early education there.

As was commonly the practice for younger sons of the nobility, he was destined for a career in the church.

In 1525, at the age of 19, he embarked on a journey to the University of Paris, specifically to the Collège de Sainte-Barbe, which was the theological hub of Europe, to initiate his studies.

In 1529, Ignatius of Loyola, also a Basque student, was assigned to share a room with Francis. Ignatius, a former soldier who was 15 years older than Francis, had experienced a profound religious conversion and was in the process of gathering a group of like-minded men who shared his ideals.

Gradually, Ignatius managed to win over Francis, who initially hesitated, and Francis became one of the seven individuals (others included Peter Faber, James Lainez, Alfonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, and Simón Rodrigues) who, in a chapel on Montmartre in Paris on August 15, 1534, made solemn vows to live lives of poverty and celibacy in emulation of Christ.

They also promised to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and devote themselves to the salvation of believers and non-believers alike.

Subsequently, Francis underwent the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditations lasting about 30 days, which had been devised by Ignatius based on his own conversion experience.

These exercises instilled in Francis the motivation that guided him for the rest of his life and paved the way for his recurring mystical experiences.

Once all the members of this group had completed their studies, they reassembled in Venice. There, on June 24, 1537, Francis was ordained as a priest.

Despite their year-long efforts to secure passage to the Holy Land, they were unsuccessful. In the spring of 1539, the group, now including new recruits, traveled to Rome to prepare for the formal establishment of the Society of Jesus in 1540.

In the meantime, due to their preaching and care for the sick in central Italy, they gained immense popularity, and several Catholic princes sought their services.

King John III of Portugal was among these, as he sought dedicated priests to minister to Christians and spread the faith in his newly acquired Asian territories.

When one of the originally chosen individuals for this task fell ill and could not go, Ignatius appointed Francis as his replacement. On the following day, March 15, 1540, Francis left Rome for the Indies, starting with a journey to Lisbon.

In the autumn of the same year, Pope Paul III officially recognized the followers of Ignatius as a religious order, naming them the Society of Jesus.

On May 6, 1542, Francis arrived in Goa, which was the hub of Portuguese activities in the East. His companion had stayed back in Lisbon to carry out work there.

Over the following three years, a significant portion of his time was spent along the southeastern coast of India, where he lived among the humble and impoverished pearl fishers known as the Paravas.

Approximately seven years earlier, around 20,000 of them had converted to Christianity, primarily to gain Portuguese assistance against their adversaries. However, since their conversion, they had been somewhat neglected.

Francis, armed with a small catechism he had translated into the local Tamil language with the help of interpreters, embarked on a tireless journey from village to village, providing instruction and reaffirming their faith.

His evident kindness and the strength of his conviction transcended the challenges of language barriers.

Shortly thereafter, the Macuans residing on the southwestern coast expressed their desire for baptism. After providing brief instructions, Francis baptized 10,000 of them in the final months of 1544.

He had the foresight that the schools he intended to establish, along with the influence of Portuguese authorities, would help ensure the steadfastness of their faith.

During the autumn of 1545, he became aware of promising opportunities for spreading Christianity in the Malay Archipelago.

After dedicating several months to evangelizing within the diverse population of the Portuguese trading hub in Malacca (now Melaka, Malaysia), he ventured further to establish missions among both the Malays and the indigenous headhunters in the Spice Islands, also known as the Moluccas.

In 1548, he returned to India, where additional Jesuits had arrived to join him. In Goa, the College of Holy Faith, established several years earlier, was entrusted to the Jesuits, and Francis initiated its transformation into a center for the education of indigenous priests and catechists serving the vast diocese of Goa. This diocese spanned from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to China.

Francis’s attention had now shifted towards Japan, a land that had been reached by Europeans only five years prior.

Conversations in Malacca with Anjirō, a Japanese man deeply interested in Christianity, had revealed the cultured and sophisticated nature of these people.

On August 15, 1549, a Portuguese ship carrying Francis, the newly baptized Anjirō, and several companions arrived at the Japanese port of Kagoshima.

His initial letter from Japan, which would be printed more than 30 times before the century’s end, reflected his enthusiasm for the Japanese, whom he described as “the best people yet encountered.”

Francis recognized the need to adapt his methods, as his poverty, which had endeared him to the Paravas and Malays, often discouraged the Japanese.

So, he was willing to abandon his simple lifestyle for a more deliberate display when the situation demanded it.

In late 1551, with no correspondence received since his arrival in Japan, Francis decided to temporarily return to India, leaving about 2,000 Christians in five communities under the care of his companions.

Upon his return to India, administrative responsibilities awaited him as the head of the newly established Jesuit Province of the Indies.

Over time, he came to understand that the path to converting Japan passed through China, as the Japanese looked to the Chinese for wisdom. However, he never reached China.

On December 3, 1552, Francis died of fever on the island of Sancian (Shangchuan, off the Chinese coast) as he attempted to gain entry to a country that was then closed to foreigners.

St. Francis Xavier faced language barriers wherever he worked. He is rightfully acknowledged for his belief that missionaries should adapt to the customs and language of the people they seek to evangelize. He also advocated for the training of native clergy.

He provided ongoing pastoral care for the communities he established. Most of the regions in India where he carried out his mission have maintained a Catholic presence to this day.

The missions he founded in the Moluccas and Japan ultimately succumbed to prolonged persecution and martyrdom in the 17th century.

In artistic representations, St. Francis Xavier is often depicted as:

  • A preacher carrying a burning heart
  • A bell
  • A globe
  • A vessel
  • A youthful Jesuit with a beard, often seen in the company of Saint Ignatius Loyola
  • A young bearded Jesuit holding a torch, with symbols of flames, a cross, and a lily.

Saint Francis Xavier is the Patron Saint of

  • Agartala, India
  • Alexandria, Louisiana
  • African missions
  • Ahmedabad, India
  • Apostleship of Prayer
  • Australia
  • Bombay, India
  • Borneo
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • China
  • Dinajpur, Bangladesh
  • East Indies
  • Fathers of the Precious Blood
  • foreign missions
  • Freising, Germany
  • Goa, India
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • India
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan
  • University of Saint Francis Xavier
  • Sucre, Bolivia
  • Joliet, Illinois
  • Kabankalan, Philippines
  • Nasugbu, Batangas, Philippines
  • Alegria, Cebu, Philippines
  • Diocese of Malindi, Kenya
  • Missionaries
  • Missioners of the Precious Blood
  • Navarre, Spain
  • Navigators
  • New Zealand
  • Parish missions
  • plague epidemics
  • Propagation of the Faith
  • Zagreb, Croatia
  • Indonesia
  • Malacca
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Sri Lanka

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About Laban Thua Gachie 10762 Articles
The founder of Catholicreadings.org is Laban Thua Gachie. I am a Commissioned Lector, a commissioned Liturgy Minister, and a Commissioned member of the Catholic Men Association. We at Catholic Daily Readings, operate the catholicreadings.org, a Catholic Church-related website and we pride ourself in providing you, on a daily basis the following; 1. Catholic Daily Mass Readings 2. Reflections on those Daily Readings 3. Daily prayers 4. Bible Verse of the Day 5. Saint of the Day