Francis Xavier

In 1506, Francis Xavier was born in the family castle in Spain. In his youth, he was described as an outstanding athlete and scholar, a "dashing" person of "boundless ambition." When he was nineteen years old, he went to Paris to study at the College of Sainte Barbe where his roommates were Ignatius Loyola and Peter Favre. Xavier's personality at this time is described as "dashing," "worldly" and "ambitious."

After several months spent resisting Ignatius' overtures to a deeper spiritual life, Francis was touched by the Gospel passage: "What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). His conversion was furthered when he made the Spiritual Exercises under Ignatius' guidance.

Francis became one of the nine companions who gathered around Ignatius in Paris between 1528 and 1536. In 1540, following a request from King John of Portugal to Ignatius, Xavier went to India, the first of the original companions of Ignatius to leave Europe, thereby fulfilling the desire of the companions "to work for the conversion of unbelievers." He arrived in Goa in May 1542, and for the next four years traveled throughout the area, training and organizing a growing number of Jesuits in the region. In August 1549, he went with two other Jesuits to Kagoshima in southern Japan where he spent over two years, during which he received more than one thousand converts to Christianity.

Francis' great desire was to minister in China, but he did not reach the Chinese mainland. He died on December 3, 1552, on Sancian Island, a few miles from the coast of China.

Xavier had some of the same characteristics as Ignatius, in particular a combination of infused contemplation and active ministries. Francis was a man of action, who lived with humility and obedience to his superior, Ignatius. His writings include instructions to his missionary companions that emphasize the interior humility needed for such a vocation: "...humble yourself interiorly... keep right with God and your conscience..." His final letter to Ignatius expresses his two-fold desire: "to find and accomplish God's will," and "to serve one's brothers here and in heaven."

Francis Xavier was beatified in 1619 by Pope Paul V, and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.