ST. FRANCIS XAVIER – December 3

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Confessor and Apostle of the Indies (1506-1552)

(taken from the Third Lesson of the Roman Breviary)
"Francis was born of a noble family at Xavier in the diocese of Pamplona. In Paris, he joined the companions and disciples of St. Ignatius, and in a short time became a shining example of austerity of life and uniting contemplation of divine things. Paul III made him apostolic nuncio to India, and he traveled about through countless provinces, always on foot and often barefoot. He brought the faith to Japan and six other regions. In India, he converted many hundreds of thousands to Christianity, cleansing many princes and kings in the hly waters of baptism. His humility was so great that, when he wrote to St. Ignatius, his general, he always did so on his knees. By many and wonderful miracles, the Lord confirmed his zealous work in spreading the Gospel. Finally, on the Chinese island of Sancian, he died on the 2nd of December, rich in merits and worn out with his labors. Gregory XV enrolled him among the Saints and Pius X appointed him the heavenly patron of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and of its work."

A brief narrative concerning his early life and conversion (source, Butlers Lives of the Saints)
Francis Xavier came from a noble family of Navarre and was born at the family castle Xavier. He had numerous siblings, all of whom were raised in the holy Catholic religions. His father was one of the chief councilors to King John III d'Albret, King of Navarre. While many of his brothers embraced the profession of arms, Francis showed such excellence in intelligence and virtue that, at the age of 18, his parents sent him to study in Paris at the college of St. Barbara.

Outshining his peers, he (unknowingly) grew quite vain on account of the accolades he received. When St. Ignatius tried to enlist his aid in founding the Jesuits, Francis Xavier made a rigorous resistance on account of his many ambitions. He debated and rallied against Ignatius, ridiculing his external simplicity and poverty. Ignatius repaid his contempt with meekness and kindness, continuing to frequently repeat "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Ignatius, for his part, showered Francis with kindness, applauded his learning, procured for him important duties, and even furnished him with money when necessary. How ironic that in time of need it was the poor Ignatius was able to financially provide for his friend from a noble and wealthy family. It is God who provides. Francis was perplexed. His admiration for Ignatius grew as did a certain intrigue. Most importantly, he felt a great debt of gratitude and began to listen to Ignatius and consider his words with greater attention.

At one point, certain crypto-Lutherans entered the university as students. They had the specific intent of passing themselves off as Catholics and corrupting the populace with the errors of Protestantism. They were subtle and effective in their malicious ploy. Soon Francis was ensnared in their trap, for he was eager to listen to their novelties and 'learn' from them and their 'noble' ideals. Fortunately, Ignatius put him on his guard. This finally helped Francis begin to see the emptiness of earthly greatness and human wisdom. At last he agreed to place himself under the tutelage of Ignatius. Yet this was not easy for him.

Francis Xavier learned from Ignatius that he had to subdue his predominant passion: vainglory was his most dangerous enemy. Therefore he never ceased to humble himself and confound his pride. He also knew that the interior victory could not be gained without mortifying his flesh and subjecting his senses. Thus he committed himself to wearing hair cloth, fasting, and many other penances and austerities. In 1535, he performed St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises. He was so filled with fervor, that he passed four days without taking any nourishment and his mind contemplated heavenly things day and night. The Ignatian meditations wholly changed him into another man, so much so that he no longer knew his former self. Now the humility of the Cross appeared to him more desirable than all the glories, riches and accolades the world could offer. Francis made a general confession and made the vow of glorifying God by all possible means and spending his entire life in tirelessly working towards the salvation of souls. He was now well on the path towards heroic sanctity.