Xavier, Francis

Xavier, Francis one of the most celebrated members of the Order of the Jesuits, was born of noble parentage at the Castle of Xavier, in Navarre, April 7, 1506. He was the youngest child of a large family, and fondly loved by his doting parents. Early developing remarkable talents, and devoted to literary pursuits, he was sent, at the age of eighteen, to the College of St. Barbara in Paris. The straitened circumstances of his parents threatened to cut short his course of study; but the affection of his eldest sister, and her almost prophetic insight into his wonderful future career, prompted to the practice of the strictest economy in home expenditures that this gifted brother might have the means to complete his collegiate education. It was not long before, as a public teacher of philosophy, he was able. to procure the means for his own support and begin to make that impression in the world for which he afterwards became so renowned. It was at this time that he became acquainted with Ignatius Loyola, who threw around the brilliant young man the fascination which he was unable to resist, and in due time he was enrolled as a member of the Society of Jesuits. He followed his leader with an unquestioning obedience to Rome, and united with him in his effort to raise a band of devoted missionaries, who should go forth in all directions to extend the triumphs of the Church and bring the nations under the sway of the Christian faith.

After the discoveries of Vasco de Gaama, the Portuguese had sent out colonies to India. By them the city of Goa was founded. Acting in accordance with the spirit of the age, John III, king of Portugal, resolved to set up the Christian Church in his Eastern territories, and by the suggestion of Loyola and of his own envoy at Rome, Govea, he selected Xavier to commence the enterprise. "A happier selection could not have been made, nor was a summons to toil, to suffering, and to death ever so joyously received." He embarked in a ship, which bore a regiment of a thousand men, sent out to reinforce the garrison of Goa. A long, dismal, sickly, and in many instances deadly, voyage was the fearful experience through which they were destined to pass. Xavier, although himself weakened by constant sea-sickness, was an angel of mercy and kindness to his fellow-voyagers, and "lived among, the dying and the profligate the unwearied minister of!consolation and peace." Five months were passed in this dreary voyage when the ship reached. Mozambique. Here Xavier was brought to the borders of the grave by: a raging fever, and so slow was the return of his strength that it was months before he set foot in the city of Goa. A dismal moral scene met his eve, and a less heroic spirit would have been appalled in view of the mighty task he had undertaken to perform. But with apostolic zeal he commenced and prosecuted his work. Wearing the coarsest garments, and pale and haggard with his long sickness, he traversed the gay streets of Goa, swinging a large bell in his hand, and calling everywhere upon the parents whom he met to place their children under his spiritual care. Gathering these little ones under his tuition, he taught them the rudiments of religion, and sent them to their homes to carry to their parents the lessons which they: had been taught by the missionary of the Cross. The wretched and the diseased were not forgotten by him. He frequented the most loathsome- hospitals, and had words of sympathy and kindness for the suffering ones whom he found there. More than a year did he remain in Goa; and when his work there was done, the city was not what it was when first he took up his abode within its walls.

On the coast of Malabar there was, then, as there is now, a pearl fishery. Those engaged in this dangerous business formed a low and degraded caste, which seemed to be forsaken of God and man. Thither Xavier directed his steps. Once more were heard the tones of his ringing bell calling the rude, neglected children to his side and giving them such religious instruction as he had to impart. He prepared for them a catechism, from which they could learn the elements of Christian doctrine. He remained among these degraded pearl fishers for fifteen months, sharing in all the hardships of their abject lot, and living among them in the humblest and most self-sacrificing way, if by any means he might win them to the acceptance of the faith, which he taught. He found inexpressible joys in his missionary work. "I have nothing to add, thus he wrote to Loyola, "but that they who came forth to labor for the salvation of idolaters receive from on high such consolations that, if there be on earth such a thing as happiness, it is theirs." His mission on the coast of Malabar accomplished, Xavier moved on -to make other conquests for the Church. The kingdom of Travancore was next entered, and the most marvelous success followed his labors. He tells us that in one month he baptized ten thousand natives. With a zeal and energy not surpassed by any missionary of the Cross, he explored the islands of Mora, Manez, Ceylon, the Moluccas, and every part of the Indies which had been made known to the world by European travelers. "Weak and frail he may have been, but from the days of Paul of Tarsus to our own the annals of mankind exhibit no other example of a soul borne on so triumphantly through distress and danger in all their most appalling aspects." In 1549 he landed on the shores of Japan, and was soon able to preach to the natives of that great island the Gospel as he believed it. The story of the labors of Xavier and his associates among the Japanese is one of the most marvelous in the annals of missionary adventures. The details of this story are too long to be recited in a sketch like this, and the reader must look elsewhere to find them. With his ambition as a missionary still ungratified, and resolved to find a still larger field within which to operate, he turned his eye towards the great empire of China, and resolved to make that vast country the scene of his consecrated toil. Overcoming obstacles which would have terrified any other man, he embarked in the "Holy Cross," and at length reached Sancian, an island near the mouth of the Canton River, where the Portuguese had a commercial factory. Here he was prostrated by a disease which proved fatal. His iron frame was worn out by -his ten years and a half of incessant work, and he was compelled to bow before a Power whose mandate he could not withstand. He died Dec. 2, 1552. His last words were, "Inte, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum" ("In thee, 0 Lord, have I put my trust; let me never be confounded"). His body was removed to Goa, where it was deposited in the Church of St. Paul. In 1619 he was beatified, and in 1622 was canonized as a saint. The "festive day" of Xavier in the calendar of the Romish Church is Dec. 3. See Stephens, Miscellanies, s.v. "Ignatius Loyola and his Associates;" The Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier (Lond. 1872, 2 vols.); Christian Review, June, 1842. (J. C.S.)

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