Feast Day: December 3
Canonized: March 12, 1622
Beatified: October 25, 1619
The Catholic Church calls Saint Francis Xavier “the Apostle to the Indies” and “the Apostle of Japan.” The word apostle means “one who is sent.” Jesus sent his 12 apostles out to announce the coming of God’s kingdom. Hundreds of years later, the Church sent Francis Xavier out to preach the same good news.
Francis was born in Spain in 1506. He studied in Paris and with Ignatius Loyola was one of the seven men who founded the Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus, in 1534. Then in 1541 he sailed to Goa, India. There he preached about Jesus—the poor carpenter of Nazareth.
Francis knew that actions speak louder than words. So he did not only tell the poor people of India the message of the Gospels. He acted out this message by living, sleeping, eating, playing, and working among the poor. Did they live in rickety huts? So did he! Did they eat only rice? So did he! Did they work long hours in the hot sun? So did he! Because of his words and actions, many thousands came to believe in the Christian God of mercy and love and tenderness.
In 1547, Francis sailed to Japan. In the two years he was there, he baptized thousands of people. But Francis had a dream. He wanted to take the good news to China. So in 1552 he set sail again. But he fell sick before reaching mainland China. On the island of Shangchuan, he died at the age of 46, far from home, but not far from God. He was canonized in 1622, at the same time as Ignatius of Loyola. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of Catholic missionaries.
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