Xavier's Life (1506-1552) at a Glance

Newman Fernandez

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Statue of Xavier at Bom Jesus
Statue of Xavier in the Bom Jesus
1506 : The Sixth and last child is born to Dr. João de Jasso and Maria d'Aspilcueta at the Xavier castle (Navarra- Spain) on April 7. The boy is named Francis.

1512 : Navarra is attacked by Spain and declared its province. The father of young Francis is not able to survive such a disgrace and dies four months later.

1514 : After continuous wars, peace is declared and people accept the sovereignity of Spain.

1525 : Eighteen year old Francis leaves his ancestral home and is on the way to France for studies in the world renowned University of Paris.
1529 : In the College of Barbara, Francis shares his room with Pedro Fabro and Inigo de Loiola who would be later instrumental in changing the attitude of Francis by dinning into his ear the famous words of Jesus: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he looses his own soul?

1534 : The Converted Francis joins Inigo, with some other friends; they all promise to serve Jesus in poverty and chastity.

1537 : After leaving Paris the previous year, they go to Rome to be blessed by the Pope before their pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Jerusalem). On June 24, Francis is ordained priest together with Inácio (Inigo), Lainez, Rodrigues, Bobadilha and Coduri. They preach and nurse the sick in the city. They form a society under the banner of their Lord and Captain, Jesus.

1538 : Unable to go to the Holy Land due to the war, they present themselves to the Pope ready to go anywhere, to be always at his disposal. The foundation of a permanent society is proposed and the Rule is presented to the Pope for approval.

1539 : At the request of the King of Portugal, one member is chosen to go to distant India, but he falls terribly sick and Francis is asked to take his place.

1540 : After a long journey Francis reaches Lisbon, accompanied by the Portuguese Ambassador Dom Pedro Mascarenhas.

1541 : The zealous Francis embarks for India on April 7, in the company of the new Governer Dom Martim Afonso. The Pope had appointed Francis his Nuncio, for the remote East.

1542 : Francis lands in Goa after a long and strenous voyage of eight months. He visits first the Bishop who is highly pleased with Francis' humility in spite of his being the Pontifical Nuncio. Leaving aside the special invitations of both the Governor and the Bishop, he chooses the Royal Hospital for his residence and spends his days nursing the sick and teaching christian doctrine.

1542 : A new institute named College of St. Paul had been established in Goa for the priestly formation of local candidates. Francis was requested to hold the rectorship of this College, but his heart was longing for the souls who had never a chance to listen to the message of Jesus. Soon after monsoon he leaves for Cochin, the most important Portuguese province next to Goa.
St. Francis Xavier baptises locals

1543 : Francis preaches the Gospel to the Paravas of the Fischery Coast who lived by pearl fishing. In October, Francis returns to Goa to meet his confreres and to obtain funds from the Vice-Roy for the establishment of cathechists in the villages. Due to insistent requests he stays at the College of St. Paul. In December he goes again to Cochin.

1544 : He organizes the missionary work in these regions with great zeal; he is respected by the people as a saintly priest.

1545 : Francis pays homage to St. Thomas the Apostle, visiting his tomb. He spends the day preaching and caring for the sick and praying at the Apostle's tomb during night. Francis leaves for Malacca in August. He translates the important articles of faith for the benefit of local people. At the same time he collects all possible information about Japan and China.

1547 : After many visits to the surrounding areas where he had preached Jesus Christ with great success, he returns to Malacca where more missionaries had come at his request.

1548 : Francis returns to Goa. His attention had been drawn towards Japan since he had met the Japanese Angero who described the situation with minute details. There were already three Japanese students in the College of St. Paul. Francis stays only nine days in Goa; thereafter he proceeds to Bassein and meets the Governor Dom João de Castro in order to discuss some missionary problems. In April, he returns to Goa and sends more priests to Malacca. He is busy planning his visit to Japan; at the same time he takes keen interest in the formation of the students of College of St. Paul.

1548 : The monsoon prevents him from going to Cape Comorin but he goes there in October and is welcomed with great joy by the Paravas. He advises Fr. Henriques to compose a Tamil grammar for the study of the local language. By the end of November, Francis is back in Goa.

St. Francis Xavier baptises locals

1549 : The time is come to go to Japan. Francis takes leave of all his brothers at St. Paul. Many tears are shed and many express their wish to join Francis. Our "travelling priest" Francis goes to Japan but his attention turns now and then to the College of St. Paul which was the scene of many troubles caused by Fr. António Gomes. On August 15, Francis treads for the first time on the Japanese soil.

1550 : Francis studies the Japanese people and their religion. While the people are all ears to him, many difficulties are created by the bonzes. He learns the Japanese language and summarizes the Christain doctrine, in that language.
1551 : Francis visits the King of Bungo, a Japanese island. The King appreciates very much the Christian doctrine, so much so that he abandons his nonzes and favours Francis, as well as his friends. Francis plans a trip to China; it is a must for him. At the same time he looks after the needs of different missions, sending missionaries from Goa. He maintains regular epistolar contact with all the missionaries and specially with his Superior Inácio de Loiola.

1552 : Francis reaches Goa in February, with two Japanese companions. He is accorded a royal welcome at the College of St. Paul. He spends only two months in this College but his words and actions leave indelible marks in the hearts of all.

April : Francis leaves for China accompanied by Fr. Gago, Bro. Álvaro Ferreira, the Chinese António de Santa Fé and the Indian servant Cristóvão. During this voyage he visits the missions of Cochin and Malacca. From Singapore they go to the island of Sancian on the way to China.

November : His friends persuade him to cancel his trip to China but Francis would not change his mind; he is ready to face any danger for the sake of Christ. He is left alone in the island of Sancian with António and Cristóvão. A Chinese merchant had promised to take him to China but he never came.

December : Francis is seized with fever; his health deteriorates rapidly. António sees that the moment has come and puts the crucifix into the hands of dying Francis. Early in the morning of December 3, Francis sleeps for ever in the peace of Christ, worn out and white haired from his strenuous life, at the young age of 46.

Xavier BW

"Throughout his stay in the East, he kept in touch with local wants and developments and proferred necessary advice and guidance. His heart was burning with love of God and men; but his head was ever busy with the work of building the Church on stable foundations, Throughout the East... his insistence on Colleges, where, both secular and clerical learning would be imparted, and where native priests would receive the necessary training, is an example of his foresight. Humble and meek as he was in his life and conduct, he knew when to be firm and stern, especially to men in power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, who thwarted his designs."

This is an excerpt from Mr. I.P. Newman Fernandes' book "St. Francis Xavier and Old Goa". Mr. Fernandes is the Principal of Rosary College, Navelim, and his 50-page booklet St Francis Xavier and Old Goa (A Historical Guide) (Avedem (Goa): Koinia Publications, 1974) is currently out of print. Published here with his explicit permission.

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First Release April 17, 1999.