St. Francis Xavier

The Secret of Saint Francis Xavier
Bom Jesus, Old Goa 2005

The storm-tossed ships that survived the long and dangerous journey from Lisbon to Goa in the 16th Century, brought soldiers, merchants and adventurers to the shores of India but they brought few saints.

But in 1542 there stepped ashore a man whom 463 years later we call Saint Francis Xavier.

After ten years, in 1552, he would die of fever on the island of Sancian off the coast of China, waiting for a boat to take him into that vast country. In those short years, he would burn himself out with an all-consuming ideal and vision that took him thirteen times from Goa to Cape Comorin and back, to Ceylon, to Malaya, to Indonesia, to Japan and back to the city of Goa which always remained his base. The college of St. Paul was his Headquarters and the pupil of his eyes. Now its ruins can be seen.

And all this was done, not in the jet-age, but in the days of sailing ships, of leaky little boats, of hawk-like pirates and a thousand other perils.

Who Was This Man?
The family of Xavier was noble, powerful and famous in the Kingdom of Navarra, now a part of Spain. But when Francis was a boy, a series of wars brought ruin to the proud family. Their castles were destroyed, their lands confiscated and heavy taxes imposed. The Xavier family always sided with the King of France against the Kings of Castille.

Yet the family fought to restore its fortune and name. Great hopes were pinned on the young Francis, who was sent to the famous Paris University to equip himself for the work of building up the family once again. Francis, the fifth child of the family, was born in the Castle of Xavier, Navarra (now Spain).

Francis' career in Paris was brilliant: an exceptional student, a champion athlete and a magnetic personality. Back in Navarra, the family would be delighted. Francis would make the name of Xavier famous once more. The name Xavier is of his mother and not of father who was Jasso. Both the names are Bask names. They worried over his extravagances in Paris, of course, but he was only nineteen. He would settle down.

Francis would indeed make the name of the Castle of Xavier famous - but not in the way he or his family then imagined.

For just before he was ready to step out of the University crowned with honours and fame, he met a short, solid fellow-Bask who walked with a limp, called Inigo.

This Inigo, born in the castle of Loyola, became a soldier and was fighting for Castille and Aragon, while the two brothers of Francis were fighting for France.

This Inigo, once lived of a dream of valour won in war and of a fair lady won through fame. But the dream was shattered together with his leg, in the battle of Pampeluna. As he laid in bed in his own ancestral house of Loyola for nearly 13 months, God moved into the centre of Ignatius' life and from then on he burned with the desire to share his newly found treasure with others.'

This keen Inigo - in Paris he changed the form of his name: Inigo became Ignatius (Latin form) - at once recognised the enormous power for good or evil that lay in Xavier. Xavier and Ignatius began to live in the same room when students in Paris. Xavier, for his part, senses the force in Loyola, but he also senses the threat that this man of God posed to his ambitions. And so another battle raged, but this time of a different kind.

In a way, both men won - or rather God won. For Xavier caught the vision of Ignatius. He found in the love of Christ for all men a burning ideal that would carry him across the world, finally to die, far from the lecture halls of Paris and the castles of Navarra in a lonely hut on the wind-swept island of Sancian (China), on 2nd December.

Francis had been confronted with the basic questions that Christ asks: "What does it profit a man if he wins the whole world, but loses his own soul?" He had recognised wealth, power and honour as false gods; and he had seen how they can make a man blind to his deepest value.

To Goa
The bond of affection between the two men did not stop Ignatius from sending Xavier to distant Asia when there was need.

So Xavier set off on the long journey to India, refusing the servant and special privileges offered to him by the authorities of Lisbon (Portugal). He set sail from the port of Lisbon on 7th April 1541. He cooked his own food, washed his own clothes, and helped his fellow passengers who suffered much on the journey.
Finally on 6th of May, 1542- a journey of 13 months he reached Goa which, for the remaining ten years of his life, was to be his base of operations and the final resting place for the body that he drove so hard. Now the body is reduced to mere relics, after nearly 463 years.

The Key To Xavier
The life of St. Francis Xavier reads like a novel; and it would take a lengthy book to cover it all. But there is a key that unlocks the secret of Xavier, and explains everything that he did. It explains why he devoted himself to the poor and needy on the ship. It explains why he spent so much time visiting the hospitals and prisons wherever he went, why he worked so untiringly for the hard-pressed fishermen on the fishery coast of South India (Tamil Nadu).

The key explains why, at a time when he was thrice shipwrecked, worn out from travelling, starving and attacked by pirates, he could write, "never have I been happier elsewhere, nor more continuously."

It explains why Goa, or India or Malaya or Japan were not enough for him, why he must always go further.
It explains why he spent his nights in prayer, after exhausting days, in the closest union with God - and perhaps, why today after 463 years the relics of his body attracts so many pilgrims; the relics are preserved in a glass-case kept in a Silver-Casket, resting on a Marble-Mausoleum, made in Italy.

The key to all this, the key to Xavier, is the Love that he had for God and for every living man, a love he had found through Christ, who died for us sinners and rose from the dead (Rom. 4:25)
The key is Jesus who said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11: 25)
The Merciful Saviour, who said: "I am the Light of the World" (John, 8:12)
"I am the way, I am the Truth, I am the Life". "None goes to the Father, except by me" (John, 14: 6-7)

Dignity Of All Men
In those last months at the University of Paris, Francis Xavier saw that the purpose and aim he had set himself in his life were inadequate. "What does it profit a man if he wins the whole world, but loses his own soul?"

In Paris, Xavier found Jesus Christ. He saw that Christ had given His own life in a cruel death to win a wonderful New Life for all men. Christ had given His own blood to open up new possibilities for every man, woman and child, with no exception.

If Christ, who was God, valued men so highly, then their value must be high indeed, their destiny and purpose in life must be great.

Xavier had found his treasures. He turned his back on the ambitions that he and his family had dreamt of. He would share his newly-found treasure with any man in any land who would listen to him.

The mark of the saint is not a self-centered, introverted concern with his own self. It is rather a burning love for God and for one's fellowmen and women - whatever their race, caste or creed - and this is because God their Maker has given them such a value and Christ has purchased them back to the friendship of their Father with His blood.

A Note On the Relics of Saint Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier died in Sancian, near China, in 1552.
*When, after 76 days, the body was exhumed, it was found fresh - incorrupt. No embalming was done.
The doctors in Goa examined the body and it was found fresh.
*The authorities of the Church declared it as "miraculously" preserved. The body was fresh and incorrupt
for at least 125 years after the Saint's death.
*First, the Body was kept in the College of St. Paul (now in ruins) from March 1554.
*In 1613- i.e. after 59 years-the Body was transferred to Born Jesus Jesuit Residence, and from there,
after the Saint's canonisation in 1622; the Body was placed in the Church in 1624.
*Now we have only the "Relics" of the Saint.

A Prayer You May Like To Say
May God, moved by the example of Saint Francis Xavier, I beg You to give me his love, for you and for all my fellow men.
Help me to pass through this life, so as to obtain the joy and peace that You have prepared for Your Saints.