Wednesday, April 7, 2010

St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta was a pioneering Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre (Spain) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (better known as "the Jesuits").

He was a student of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits who dedicated themselves to the service of God at Montmartre in 1534.

Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to missions in foreign countries. He is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since St. Paul.

He was a tremendously successful missionary, courageously dined with head hunters, washed scores of lepers in Venice and baptised 10.000 children in a single month.

He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan, Borneo, the Moluccas, and other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India.

His efforts left a significant impression upon the missionary history of India and, as one of the first Jesuit missionaries to the East Indies, his work is of fundamental significance to Christians in the propagation of Christianity in China and Japan. India still has numerous Jesuit missions, and many more schools.

According to legend and his biographers, St. Francis Xavier was reportedly able to levitate during the celebration of the Holy Mass occasionally when he was distributing Holy Communion upon his knees, his usual posture for giving the Bread of Life to his people or during his private prayer times. According to the testimony of a pious merchant, Diogo Pereira, and his brother who spied on the 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.

The incorrupt body of the saint is still enshrined at Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome, where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu.

The Novena of Grace is a popular devotion to Francis Xavier, typically prayed on the nine days before 3 December.

Beatification and canonization Francis Xavier is a Catholic saint. He was beatified by Paul V on 25 October 1619, and was canonized by Gregory XV on 12 March 1622, at the same time as Ignatius Loyola. He is considered to be a patron saint of Roman Catholic missionaries in foreign lands. His feast day is 3 December.

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