33 The ABCs Of Faith

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Xavier - Missionary Saint to the East

by L.A. "Tony" Kovach


During the centuries, the Church has canonized (formally added to the list of official saints) hundreds of men and women whose lives reflect devotion to Christ by their example of holiness. These are people from all walks of life, many of whom were great sinners before they became great saints. It is in the approachability of their human weaknesses, and the stories of how they overcame sin through grace that often gives us inspiration and hope. One such saint is Francis Xavier.

Saint Francis Xavier


Francis Xavier was born on April 7, at the family residence near Pamplona, in Spanish Basque country. Francis attended the University of Paris, and it was there that he met Ignatius of Loyola. At first, the pull of athletic glory, academic and temporal honors held Xavier's attention. He did like to party! But in time, the good examples and positive influence of Ignatius had its impact on Francis, who became one of the first seven Jesuits in 1534. Along with Ignatius, Francis was ordained a priest in 1537, during the tumultious years following the split in Christendom.

In 1540, Francis was sent by the pope with another priest to go as missionaries into the East Indies. Politics en-route in the form of the intervention of Portugual's king caused the second priest to be kept behind. Delayed for 8 months, Francis' perserverence in his mission finally allowed him to continue to travel to the east.

Though Xavier was born in a castle, his ministry in the Indies was to preach to the poor, caring for the sick and imprisoned, as well as teaching. In the southern tip of the Indian sub-continent, the missionary priest baptized thousands into the Christian faith. His love for the people, wit and good example were all a part of this man's winning gifts of the Spirit.

From India, he traveled to islands near modern New Guinea and the Phillipines. Unlike our days of relatively easy and safe passage, these were dangerous journeys by sea that required courage and faith! Pirates and brigands, as well as wind and weather in craft we would think of as fragile - these were just some of the risks Xavier took to share Christ with people he previously didn't know. In doing so, he was fulfilling the Lord's command to go into the whole world, and preach the Good News of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 28:19-20).

Francis opened a mission in Japan in 1549, and died trying to reach China in 1552. It would be difficult to find a missionary who traveled further, worked harder or risked more - he was truly the Apostle Paul of his day. It is said that over the years, he converted hundreds of thousands of people to the Faith. Canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, he is known as the "Apostle to the Indies" and the "Apostle of Japan," and is the patron saint of foreign missionaries.

Xavier could have lived a life of relative luxury. But he chose to serve the Lord first. Jesus told us: "No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve God and money." (Mt. 6:24). In the days of ancient Rome, the rulers would parade about to the cheers of the crowd in their fancy convertibles. Ok, so they were actually open-air chariots! But while they listened to their 'fans,' the custom was to have a servent wispering in their ear, "all glory is fleeting." God doesn't forbid us to be blessed materially, but He makes clear that our first love should be God, and then we are to love our neighbors. St. Francis Xavier's example was one of seeking the kingdom of heaven and its treasures to the last. His reward is never ending!

Click here to read the story of Ursula! No, she isn't a warrior princess - have you been watching too much TV?

Would you like more stories like the one above? Hey, we are volunteers - we need enouragement, so Contact us!


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