St. Francis Xavier never dreamt of becoming a priest. It was the encouragement he received from St. Ignatius of Loyola that would set him on the journey what would be his true soul mission.

On 15 August 1534, Francis and several other of his friends took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Initially, the group planned to travel to the Holy Land to convert non-believers. As that mission fell through, a new plan was on the horizon. The mission, however, would stay the same.

Xavier was born to a noble family in Navarre, Spain. At nineteen, he left home and went to Paris to study philosophy where he led a typical student life. It was Ignatius who introduced Francis to the ideas and practices that Ignatius had spent years exploring. Francis was recalcitrant and took some convincing.

In time, St. Francis would go on to be one of the seven founding members of the Jesuits. His mission would take him to places he probably never thought he would go. He was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India, the Malay Archipelago as well as Japan.

While the myths regarding his time are many, research has shown that he continued to provide pastoral care for the communities under his parish and did not abandon them after baptism. St. Francis has even been described by some as the Catholic church’s greatest missionary since St. Paul.

King John III of Portugal wanted missionaries to travel with his exploratory traders to Goa in India. The Jesuits were selected. A long journey awaited Francis; both by sea and by land. It took Francis around three months to travel to Lisbon by land, and then over a year to make the voyage to India by sea.

Francis never returned to Europe and spent his life working in India, the Malay Archipelago and Japan. He passed away on Shangchuan Island off the coast of China.

The Mission

We all wonder, whether we have a religious vocation or not, “What is my calling? What am I meant to do or be doing with my life?”

We are leading a typical life when ‘something’ happens and before we know it, we’re on a path that we never expected to be on. Francis studied philosophy before he went on to learn theology. Theology was never on the cards for him, till it was.

Our life’s mission is not something we always ‘know’. It is something we are initiated into when the time right. Somehow, ‘something’ sets us on the path that we are destined to be on, create and actualise.

As to what that ‘something’ is, I call it Brahman. Some call it God. Others call it Christ and so on.

Francis Xavier left for India on his 35th birthday. The year was 1541. When Xavier arrived, he first ministered to the sick and the children. With time, he would learn about the people of the Pearl Fishery Coast, which had been baptised a decade earlier, but had never been taught their faith.

Xavier began ministering to them and ended up spending three years among them. Nevertheless, he was often embarrassed by the conduct of his fellow Portuguese countrymen who frequently misbehaved, despite being Catholic.

Close to five centuries later, St. Francis is venerated as the patron saint of Catholic missions. His feast day is on December 3.

Image Credit: Billertl

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