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
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
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.
The bond of affection between the two men did not stop
Ignatius from sending Xavier to distant Asia when there
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
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,
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
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
*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
*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
Help me to pass through this life, so as to obtain the
joy and peace that You have prepared for Your Saints.