lundi 3 décembre 2012

Saint FRANÇOIS XAVIER, jésuite, confesseur et apôtre


Saint François Xavier

Apôtre des Indes et du Japon

(1506-1552)

François Xavier naquit en Navarre. Après de brillantes études au collège Sainte-Barbe, à Paris, il enseigna la philosophie avec un succès qui, en lui attirant les applaudissements, développa l'orgueil dans son coeur. Ignace de Loyola, converti, était venu à Paris pour perfectionner ses études, et cherchant à recruter des compagnons d'élite pour jeter les bases de la Compagnie de Jésus, s'éprit d'amitié et d'admiration pour ce jeune homme, en lequel il n'eut pas de peine à reconnaître une âme capable de grandes choses: Que sert à l'homme de gagner l'univers, s'il perd son âme? disait-il souvent à Xavier, après avoir gagné sa confiance. Ce langage tout d'abord ne toucha pas le coeur du jeune ambitieux; mais un jour enfin, la grâce acheva son oeuvre, et Xavier fut terrassé comme Ignace. Le 15 août 1534, sept jeunes gens, parmi lesquels étaient Ignace et Xavier, prononçaient leurs voeux dans une chapelle souterraine de l'église de Montmartre. La Compagnie de Jésus était fondée.

Quelques années plus tard, Xavier, devenu prêtre, sanctifié par les jeûnes et l'oraison, était prêt pour sa mission providentielle. Il avait souvent été averti, par des songes mystérieux qu'il devait être l'apôtre d'innombrables idolâtres. Quelle fut sa joie quand Ignace le désigna pour la mission des Indes! En arrivant à Goa, capitale des Indes, il salua avec des larmes de joie cette terre promise après laquelle il soupirait depuis si longtemps. Xavier commença par la conversion de Goa, où les Portugais avaient déshonoré le christianisme par tous les vices. Une mission finie, une autre l'appelait; l'ambition du salut des âmes était insatiable dans son coeur.

Il rencontra des difficultés incroyables, l'ignorance des langues, l'absence de livres en langues indigènes, les persécutions, la défiance et la rivalité des ministres païens. Xavier, par son énergie et le secours de Dieu, triompha de tout; Dieu lui donna le don des langues, le pouvoir d'opérer des miracles sans nombre, parmi lesquels plusieurs résurrections de morts. Il évangélisa, en onze années, cinquante-deux royaumes et baptisa une multitude incalculable d'infidèles. Son plus beau et son plus difficile triomphe fut la conquête du Japon. Il aspirait à convertir la Chine, pour rentrer en Europe par les pays du Nord, quand Dieu appela au repos cet incomparable conquérant des âmes, qu'on a justement surnommé l'apôtre des Indes et du Japon.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950




Saint François Xavier

Prêtre, Jésuite, apôtre des Indes (1506-1552).

Saint François Xavier est né dans une famille noble de Navarre.

Le jeune François choisit de faire ses études en France. Il poursuivit ses études de théologie à la Sorbonne, conquiert brillamment ses grades et reçoit une chaire au Collège de Beauvais. A Paris, il partage sa chambre avec un étrange étudiant, âgé de 40 ans, Ignace de Loyola. Au début, François-Xavier supporte mal celui que la pauvreté oblige à résider avec lui. Longtemps il résiste à l'ardeur évangélique de ce nouveau converti, homme de feu, qui répète: «Que sert à l’homme de gagner l’univers, s’il vient à perdre son âme?»

Conquis, lui aussi, ils prononcent ensemble des voeux, le 15 août 1534 dans une chapelle souterraine de l'église de Montmartre. Sept jeunes gens, parmi lesquels étaient Ignace et Xavier, fondent ainsi la Compagnie de Jésus, les «Jésuites».

Il fut ordonné prêtre en 1537. En 1540 le roi Jean III de Portugal demanda au pape Paul III deux 'prêtres réformés' pour évangéliser Goa et les Indes orientales. Celui qu'avait choisit Saint Ignace, Nicolas Bobadilla, étant tombé malade, François Xavier le remplaça en dernière minute et quitta Rome pour Lisbonne.

En 1541, il part pour Goa, ville portugaise, qu’il ramène à la Foi. Pendant une dizaine d'années, il travaille à la conversion des Paravers, pêcheurs de perles, près de Ceylan. Son ardeur et les nombreux miracles ont un succès extraordinaire. Pour porter plus loin l'Evangile, il s’adresse plus difficilement aux Musulmans des îles Moluques, puis fonde les premières communautés chrétiennes au Japon.

Il rencontra des difficultés incroyables, l'ignorance des langues, l'absence de livres en langues indigènes, les persécutions, la défiance et la rivalité des ministres païens. Xavier, par son énergie et le secours de Dieu, triompha de tout ; Dieu lui donna le don des langues, le pouvoir d'opérer des miracles sans nombre. Il évangélisa, en onze années, cinquante-deux royaumes et baptisa une multitude incalculable.

Son désir de faire connaître Jésus-Christ est si grand qu'il projette d'aller en Chine, mais il meurt, le 2 décembre, après être tombé malade pendant un voyage en bateau de Malacca jusqu'à l’île Sancian, en vue de la côte chinoise.

Son corps repose dans la basilique du Bon Jésus de Goa.

Depuis 1614, son bras droit se trouve dans un reliquaire dans l'église du Gesù, à Rome, église-mère de la Compagnie de Jésus.

François Xavier est le saint patron de la Mongolie, de toutes les missions catholiques (par décision de Pie XI en 1927) et celui du tourisme (depuis le 14 juin 1952).



Mort le 2 décembre 1553, né en 1506. Canonisé en 1622. Fête en 1663.

Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Les Apôtres ayant été les hérauts de l’Avènement du Christ, il convenait que le temps de l’Avent ne fût pas privé de la commémoration de quelqu’un d’entre eux. La divine Providence y a pourvu ; car parler de saint André, dont la fête est souvent déjà passée quand s’ouvre la carrière de l’Avent, saint Thomas se rencontre infailliblement chaque année aux approches de Noël. Nous dirons plus loin pourquoi il a obtenu ce poste de préférence aux autres Apôtres ; ici nous voulons seulement insister sur la convenance qui semblait exiger que le Collège Apostolique fournit au moins un de ses membres pour annoncer, dans cette partie du Cycle catholique, la venue du Rédempteur. Mais Dieu n’a pas voulu que le premier apostolat fût le seul qui parût en tète du Calendrier liturgique ; grande est aussi, quoique inférieure, la gloire de ce second Apostolat par lequel l’Épouse de Jésus-Christ multiplie ci ses enfants, dans sa vieillesse féconde, comme parle le Psalmiste. (Psalm. 91, 15.) Il est encore présentement des Gentils à évangéliser ; la venue du Messie est loin d’avoir été annoncée à tous les peuples ; mais, entre les vaillants messagers du Verbe divin qui, dans ces derniers siècles, ont fait éclater leur voix au milieu des nations infidèles, il n’en est point qui ait brillé d’une plus vive splendeur, qui ait opéré plus de prodiges, qui se suit montré plus semblable aux premiers Apôtres, que le récent Apôtre des Indes, saint François Ier. Et certes, la vie et l’apostolat de cet homme merveilleux furent l’objet d’un grand triomphe pour notre Mère la sainte Église catholique au temps où ils éclatèrent. L’hérésie, soutenue en toutes manières par la fausse science, par la politique, par la cupidité et toutes les mauvaises passions du cœur de l’homme, semblait toucher au moment de la victoire. Dans son audacieux langage, elle ne parlait plus qu’avec un profond mépris de cette antique Église appuyée sur les promesses de Jésus-Christ ; elle la dénonçait aux nations, et osait l’appeler la prostituée de Babylone, comme si les vices des enfants pouvaient obscurcir la pureté de leur mère. Dieu se montra enfin, et soudain le sol de l’Église apparut couvert des plus admirables fruits de sainteté. Les héros et les héroïnes se multiplièrent du sein même de cette stérilité qui n’était qu’apparente, et tandis que les prétendus réformateurs se montraient les plus vicieux des hommes, l’Italie et l’Espagne à elles seules brillèrent d’un éclat incomparable par les chefs-d’œuvre de sainteté qui se produisirent dans leur sein.

Aujourd’hui c’est François Xavier ; mais plus d’une fois sur le Cycle nous verrons briller les nobles compagnons, les illustres compagnes, que la grâce divine lui suscita : en sorte que le XVI° siècle n’eut rien à envier aux siècles les plus favorisés des merveilles de la sainteté. Certes, ils ne l’inquiétaient pas beaucoup du salut des infidèles, ces soi-disant réformateurs qui ne songeaient qu’à anéantir le vrai Christianisme sous les ruines de ses temples ; et c’était à ce moment même qu’une société d’apôtres s’offrait au Pontife romain pour aller planter la foi chez les peuples les plus enfoncés dans les ombres de la mort. Mais, de tous ces apôtres, ainsi que nous venons de le dire, nul n’a réalisé le type primitif au même degré que le disciple d’Ignace. Rien ne lui a manqué, ni la vaste étendue des pays sillonnés par son zèle, ni les centaines de milliers d’infidèles qu’il baptisa de son bras infatigable, ni les prodiges de toute sorte qui le montrèrent aux infidèles comme marqué du sceau qu’avaient reçu ceux dont la sainte Liturgie nous dit : « Ce sont ceux-ci qui, vivant encore dans la chair, ont été les planteurs de l’Église. » L’Orient a donc vu, au XVIe siècle, un Apôtre venu de Rome toujours sainte, et dont le caractère et les œuvres rappelaient l’éclat dont brillèrent ceux que Jésus avait envoyés lui-même. Gloire soit donc au divin Époux qui a vengé l’honneur de son Épouse, en suscitant François Xavier, et en nous donnant en lui une idée de ce que furent, au sein du monde païen, les hommes qu’il avait chargés de la promulgation de son Évangile.

Glorieux apôtre de Jésus-Christ qui avez illuminé de sa lumière les nations assises dans les ombres de la mort, nous nous adressons à vous, nous Chrétiens indignes, afin que par cette charité qui vous porta à tout sacrifier pour évangéliser les nations, vous daigniez préparer nos cœurs à recevoir la visite du Sauveur que notre foi attend et que notre amour désire. Vous fûtes le père des nations infidèles ; soyez le protecteur du peuple des croyants, dans les jours où nous sommes. Avant d’avoir encore contemplé de vos yeux le Seigneur Jésus, vous le fîtes connaître à des peuples innombrables ; maintenant que vous le voyez face à face, obtenez que nous le puissions voir, quand il va paraître, avec la foi simple et ardente de ces Mages de l’Orient, prémices glorieuses des nations que vous êtes allé initier à l’admirable lumière. (I Petr. 2, 9.) Souvenez-vous aussi, grand apôtre, de ces mêmes nations que vous avez évangélisées, et chez lesquelles la parole de vie, par un terrible jugement de Dieu, a cessé d’être féconde. Priez pour le vaste empire de la Chine que votre regard saluait en mourant, et auquel il ne fut pas donné d’entendre votre parole. Priez pour le Japon, plantation chérie que le sanglier dont parle le Psalmiste a si horriblement dévastée. Obtenez que le sang des Martyrs, qui y fut répandu comme l’eau, fertilise enfin cette terre. Bénissez aussi, ô Xavier, toutes les Missions que notre Mère la sainte Église a entreprises, dans les contrées où la Croix ne triomphe pas encore. Que les cœurs des infidèles s’ouvrent à la lumineuse simplicité de la foi ; que la semence fructifie au centuple ; que le nombre des nouveaux apôtres, vos successeurs, aille toujours croissant ; que leur zèle et leur charité ne défaillent jamais : que leurs sueurs deviennent fécondes, que la couronne de leur martyre soit non seulement la récompense, mais le complément et la dernière victoire de leur apostolat. Souvenez-vous, devant le Seigneur, des innombrables membres de celle association par laquelle Jésus-Christ est annoncé dans toute la terre, et qui s’est placée sous voire patronage. Enfin priez d’un cœur filial pour la sainte Compagnie dont vous êtes la gloire et l’espérance. Qu’elle fleurisse de plus en plus sous le vent de la tribulation qui ne lui manqua jamais ; qu’elle se multiplie, afin que par elle soient multipliés les enfants de Dieu ; qu’elle ait toujours au service du peuple chrétien de nombreux Apôtres et de vigilants Docteurs ; qu’elle ne porte pas en vain le nom de Jésus.

Considérons l’état misérable du genre humain, au moment où le Christ va paraître. La décroissance des vérités sur la terre est terriblement exprimée par la décadence de la lumière matérielle en ces jours. Les traditions antiques vont de toutes pans s’éteignant ; le Dieu créateur de toutes es est méconnu dans l’œuvre même de ses mains ; tout est devenu Dieu, excepté le Dieu qui a tout fait. Ce hideux Panthéisme dévore la morale publique et privée. Tous les droits, hors celui du plus fort, sont oubliés ; la volupté, la cupidité, le larcin siègent sur les autels et reçoivent l’encens. La famille est anéantie par le divorce et l’infanticide ; l’espèce humaine est dégradée en masse par l’esclavage ; les nations même périssent par les guerres d’extermination. Le genre humain n’en peut plus ; et si la main qui l’a créé ne lui est de nouveau appliquée, il doit infailliblement succomber dans une dissolution honteuse et sanglante. Les justes qu’il contient encore, et qui luttent contre le torrent et la dégradation universelle, ne le sauveront pas ; car ils sont méconnus des hommes, et leurs mérites ne sauraient, aux yeux de Dieu, pallier l’horrible lèpre qui dévore la terre. Plus criminelle encore qu’aux jours du déluge, toute chair a corrompu sa voie ; néanmoins, une seconde extermination ne servirait qu’à manifester la justice de Dieu ; il est temps qu’un déluge miséricordieux s’épanche sur la terre, et que celui qui a fait le genre humain descende pour le guérir. Paraissez donc, ô Fils éternel de Dieu ! Venez ranimer ce cadavre, guérir tant de plaies, laver tant de souillures, rendre surabondante la Grâce, là où le péché abonde ; et quand vous aurez converti le monde à votre sainte loi, c’est alors que vous aurez montré à tous les futurs que c’est vous-même, ô Verbe du Père, qui êtes venu : car si un Dieu a pu seul créer le monde, il n’y avait non plus que la toute-puissance d’un Dieu qui pût, en l’arrachant à Satan et au péché, le rendre à la justice et à la sainteté.


Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

La solennité de ce grand apôtre des Indes tombe très bien à deux jours de distance de celle de saint André, puisqu’elle démontre la puissante vitalité de l’Église qui, en tous les temps, par les œuvres, les paroles et les miracles, est toujours égale à elle-même, toujours jeune, toujours belle, toujours divine.

La messe tire la plus .grande partie de ses éléments de celle du Commun des confesseurs, sauf l’introït, la collecte et les deux lectures qui sont propres. Il est toutefois à propos de remarquer que l’introït s’écarte entièrement des règles traditionnelles de la psalmodie antiphonique : au lieu de débuter par une antienne et de la faire suivre du commencement du psaume correspondant, puis de la doxologie, le rédacteur moderne, obsédé par ses préoccupations historiques qui voulaient résumer toute la vie de François Xavier dans l’introït, a emprunté l’antienne au psaume 118, puis il a groupé en un seul les deux versets du psaume 116, — sans d’ailleurs se préoccuper de la difficulté que créait pour le chant le long texte ainsi obtenu, — et enfin il y a ajouté le Gloria. Même en conservant le psaume 116 tout entier, il aurait pu faire une œuvre très belle et traditionnelle, s’il eût maintenu distincts les deux versets. Nous aurions eu ainsi dans le Missel un introït de plusieurs versets, conformément aux anciens textes de l’Antiphonaire Grégorien.

Le verset de l’introït est emprunté à la messe des Vierges martyres et représente en quelque sorte le confesseur de la foi qui, devant le roi, parle avec courage des vérités éternelles sans en rougir. Suit le psaume 116 qui prélude à l’universalité du Christianisme : Louez le Seigneur, vous toutes ô nations, louez-le vous tous, ô peuples. Car sa miséricorde est grande envers nous et la vérité du Seigneur est éternelle.

Dans la collecte on rappelle les travaux apostoliques de ce nouveau Paul de la onzième heure, et, par ses mérites immenses, l’on demande la grâce d’imiter ses œuvres.

L’épître est la même que le jour de saint André. Il y est dit que les pas de ceux qui annoncent aux peuples le règne du Seigneur sont bénis, parce que rien n’est aussi agréable à Dieu, rien n’est plus utile au monde, rien n’est plus glorieux pour l’homme que de coopérer avec Jésus au salut des âmes.

Le répons est tiré du psaume 91 ; c’est celui du Commun des confesseurs. « Le juste fleurira comme le palmier, et il étendra ses rameaux comme le cèdre sur le Liban. Il annoncera de grand matin votre miséricorde, et, la nuit, votre vérité. » La vie des saints est toujours féconde en bonnes œuvres, parce que, comme autant de sarments, ils tirent la sève vitale de la vraie vigne qui est le Christ. Ainsi seulement s’explique leur surprenante activité.

Le verset alléluiatique est tiré de saint Jacques (1, 12) là où il appelle bienheureuse l’âme qui est exposée à l’épreuve ; — voilà la condition normale de notre vertu en ce monde, et c’est pourquoi ce verset qu’on chante aujourd’hui s’applique en général à toutes les fêtes des confesseurs — oui, bienheureuse, car, après avoir soutenu fidèlement l’épreuve, elle obtiendra la couronne de vie.

Combien l’appréciation de Dieu diffère de la manière commune de juger les choses parmi les hommes ! Pour ceux-ci, la tentation et l’épreuve représentent un malheur et méritent la compassion, même aux yeux des bons chrétiens. Le Saint-Esprit au contraire proclame bienheureux celui qui est soumis à l’épreuve, et ce jugement doit suffire pour réformer toutes nos appréciations humaines. Bienheureux donc celui qui supporte la tentation, car rien n’est plus utile que l’épreuve pour nous rapprocher de Dieu et pour nous faire progresser dans la vertu. C’est pendant la tentation que Dieu est plus que jamais près de nous, selon la parole du psalmiste : iuxta est Dominus iis qui tribulato sunt corde ; en sorte que si l’épreuve n’avait d’autre avantage que celui-là, c’est-à-dire d’inviter Dieu à se tenir près de nous, elle devrait être désirée par toutes les âmes fidèles.

La lecture évangélique tirée de saint Marc (16, 15-18) s’adapte très bien à la fête du grand apôtre des Indes ; grand, non seulement par l’immense champ de son apostolat, mais aussi par les merveilleux prodiges opérés par lui et qui rappellent ceux qu’accomplirent les apôtres. A la gloire en effet de l’humble disciple de saint Ignace, rien ne manque des charismes accordés aux premiers propagateurs de l’Évangile, c’est-à-dire le pouvoir de guérir les malades, de ressusciter les morts, de se faire comprendre par des peuples de langages très différents, d’éloigner les épidémies et même, quand il ne pouvait agir en personne, de se faire remplacer par des enfants auxquels il remettait son crucifix pour guérir les malades. Le verset de l’offertoire est pris au psaume 88 et il est commun à toutes les fêtes des simples confesseurs. « Ma vérité et ma miséricorde seront avec lui, et en mon nom sera exaltée sa puissance. » Les solennités des saints célèbrent donc la- gloire de Dieu, comme en un chef-d’œuvre l’on admire non point le bois ou la pierre pour eux-mêmes, mais le génie de l’artiste qui a animé et comme spiritualisé la matière.

La secrète présente au Seigneur le sacrifice de louange en mémoire des saints, lesquels, à leur tour, ont accumulé de nombreux mérites, puisque eux-mêmes se sont immolés comme un holocauste vivant. Nous demandons donc, par les mérites surabondants des saints, que Dieu nous préserve des maux de la vie présente — ceux de l’âme surtout -— afin que nous puissions plus facilement éviter les châtiments, éternels.

Le verset chanté durant la communion est pris de l’Évangile selon saint Matthieu (24, 46-47) et appartient au Commun des confesseurs non pontifes. « Bienheureux ce serviteur qui se trouvera éveillé quand viendra le Seigneur ; je vous assure qu’il le mettra à la tête de ses trésors. » Les trésors de Dieu sont l’Église et les âmes. Le Seigneur met ses saints à la tête de ce précieux dépôt parce qu’ils sont les membres élus de la Rédemption, et par leur prière assidue dans le ciel, ils veillent sur les besoins de la société chrétienne.

La postcommunion de ce jour demande d’une façon générale l’efficacité des prières du saint en l’honneur duquel a été immolé le divin Sacrifice.

La sainteté de François Xavier est le plus splendide résultat des exercices spirituels et de la méditation assidue et diligente des vérités de la foi. Un saint, en effet, diffère du commun des chrétiens en ce que, avec une logique plus serrée, il exécute fidèlement ce qu’il a promis au baptême. Il n’y a pas deux vocations, l’une à la foi et l’autre à la perfection ; tous les chrétiens, au dire de saint Paul, sont : vocati sancti. Il est donc nécessaire de prendre un peu plus au sérieux nos relations avec Dieu, pour marcher dans le chemin de la vie avec une logique plus rigoureuse. C’est là le résultat de la méditation.


Jacques-Emile Lafon. Transposition de Saint François Xavier à Goa (Indes portugaises), des miracles se font sur son passage, 1859, Chapelle de Saint François Xavier, Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris 6e 

Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

Saint François Xavier fut un prédicateur de l’Avent pour un grand nombre de païens.

Pouvons-nous établir une liaison entre le saint du jour et l’Avent ? Saint François Xavier fut Précurseur et Baptiste pour l’avènement du Christ, dans l’Inde et le Japon. Le grand missionnaire fut dans l’Extrême-Orient un nouveau saint Jean qui prépara les voies du Seigneur.

Saint François Xavier. — Jour de mort : 2 décembre 1552. Tombeau : Son corps repose depuis 1554 à Goa (Inde), le bras droit fut transporté en 1614 dans l’église de Gesù à Rome. Image : On le représente avec l’habit de jésuite, comme un homme grand et fort, avec une petite barbe. Vie : Le grand missionnaire naquit en 1506 au château de Xavier en Navarre ; en 1525 il fit la connaissance de saint Ignace et fut son second compagnon ; en 1542, il fut envoyé aux Indes ; de 1549 à 1551 son champ d’action fut le Japon. Il parcourut un nombre incalculable de régions, toujours à pied et souvent pieds nus. Il porta la foi au japon et dans six autres royaumes. Il convertit des centaines de mille d’infidèles au Christ ; dans l’Inde seule, il régénéra dans les eaux du baptême des princes puissants, des rois mêmes. Et malgré toutes les grandes œuvres qu’il avait accomplies pour Dieu, il était si humble, qu’il n’écrivait jamais qu’à genoux à son Supérieur saint Ignace. Dieu confirma son ardeur à répandre l’Évangile par des miracles nombreux et magnifiques. Il ressuscita quelques morts, entre autres quelqu’un qui avait été enterré la veille et qu’il ordonna de retirer du tombeau. Son unique passion était de gagner des âmes pour le ciel. “Donnez-moi des âmes, ô mon Dieu”, telle était sa prière continuelle.

Pratique : Saint François Xavier est le patron de la Propagation de la foi. La grande charge des missions que Dieu a confiée à son Église demande aussi notre concours. Je veux aujourd’hui prier pour les missions et consacrer à leur soutien une aumône proportionnée à mes ressources.

La messe (Loquebar). — La liturgie de la messe est toute pleine de la pensée des missions. A l’Introït, tous les peuples sont invités à remercier le Seigneur pour sa miséricorde et sa fidélité, pour la grâce de la conversion ; nous apprenons en même temps comment François se tient devant les rois pour confesser le Christ (l’Introït s’écarte de l’ancienne tradition : l’antienne et le verset appartiennent à deux psaumes différents). L’Épître est un peu difficile : elle indique l’importance du missionnaire. Sans un prédicateur envoyé par Dieu, les hommes ne peuvent pas recevoir la foi. C’est pourquoi Isaïe vante de là les messagers de la foi : “Qu’ils sont beaux les pas de ceux qui annoncent la paix, qui apportent le joyeux message !” Chez François Xavier s’est accomplie la parole du psaume : “Dans tout l’univers a retenti leur cri et jusqu’aux extrémités de la terre s’est étendue leur prédication.” A l’Évangile nous entendons l’ordre de mission donné par le Christ et, en même temps, la promesse des miracles qui s’est réalisée dans la vie de notre saint. La Communion : “Bienheureux le serviteur que le maître, à son arrivée, trouvera vigilant ; en vérité, je vous le dis, il l’établira sur tous ses biens” exprime la récompense de saint François, elle doit être la nôtre aussi, au moment où nous approchons de la Sainte Table. Pendant l’Avent cette antienne a un sens tout particulier. Durant sa vie saint François a apporté à tant d’âmes un accroissement de vie divine, serait-il possible qu’au jour de sa mort il ne nous obtienne pas une grâce plus abondante ?


Nicolas Poussin. Le Miracle de saint François-Xavier 
ou Saint François-Xavier rappelant à la vie la fille d'un habitant de Cangoxima au Japon
1641-1642, Paris, Louvre

Leçons des Matines

AU DEUXIÈME NOCTURNE.

Quatrième leçon. François, né de parents nobles, à Xavier, dans le diocèse de Pampelune, devint, à Paris, le compagnon et le disciple de saint Ignace. Sous un tel maître, il fit tant de progrès que, lorsqu’il était occupé de la contemplation des choses divines, on le vit plus d’une fois élevé au-dessus de terre ; ce qui lui arriva à diverses reprises, en présence d’une multitude de peuple, pendant qu’il célébrait le divin sacrifice. Ces délices de l’âme, il les méritait par les grands tourments qu’il infligeait à son corps ; car, il s’interdisait non seulement l’usage de la viande et du vin, mais celui du pain de froment, se nourrissant des plus vils aliments, et passant quelquefois deux ou trois jours de suite sans rien prendre. Il se flagellait si rudement avec des disciplines de fer, que souvent le sang coulait avec abondance ; et ne prenait que sur la terre nue un court sommeil.

Cinquième leçon. L’austérité et la sainteté de sa vie l’eurent bientôt mûri pour l’office de l’apostolat. Jean III, roi de Portugal, ayant demandé à Paul III, pour les Indes, quelques membres de la Société naissante, le Pape, de l’avis de saint Ignace, choisit François pour cette grande entreprise et lui confia les pouvoirs de nonce apostolique. Dès son arrivée, il parut aussitôt miraculeusement instruit des dialectes variés et très difficiles de ces différentes nations. Il arriva même plusieurs fois que, parlant en une seule langue à diverses peuplades, chacune d’elles l’entendit parler son idiome. Le saint parcourut, toujours à pied, souvent sans chaussures, d’innombrables provinces. Il importa la foi au Japon et dans six autres contrées, convertit au Christ, dans les Indes, plusieurs centaines de milliers de personnes, et purifia dans la fontaine du baptême de grands princes et plusieurs rois. Tandis qu’il accomplissait pour Dieu de si grandes choses, telle était son humilité, qu’il n’écrivait qu’à genoux à saint Ignace, son supérieur.

Sixième leçon. Cette ardeur de François dans la propagation de l’Évangile, fut soutenue de Dieu par d’éclatants et nombreux miracles. Il rendit la vue à un aveugle. Il changea en eau douce, par un signe de croix, autant d’eau de mer, qu’il en fallut pour subvenir longtemps aux besoins d’un équipage de cinq cents hommes qui mouraient de soif. On porta aussi de cette eau en différents pays, et elle y guérit subitement un grand nombre de malades. Il rappela plusieurs morts à la vie, et parmi ceux-ci un homme enterré depuis la veille, qu’il ordonna de tirer du sépulcre et ressuscita ; et deux autres qu’il prit par la main, tandis qu’on les portait sur une civière au tombeau, furent rendus vivants à leurs parents. Inspiré diverses fois par l’esprit de prophétie, il révéla plusieurs événements qui devaient s’accomplir dans un temps ou dans un lieu éloignés. Enfin, plein de mérites et épuisé de travaux, il mourut dans l’île de Sancian, le second jour de décembre. Sa dépouille mortelle, ensevelie à deux reprises dans de la chaux vive, y demeura de longs mois sans aucune corruption, elle répandit même des parfums et du sang. Transportée à Malacca, son arrivée y mit aussitôt fin à une peste fort violente. De nouveaux et très grands miracles ayant été obtenus dans toutes les parties du monde par l’intercession de François Xavier, Grégoire XV l’inscrivit au nombre des Saints. Pie X l’a choisi et donné pour céleste Patron à la Société et aux œuvres de la Propagation de la Foi.

AU TROISIÈME NOCTURNE.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Marc.

En ce temps-là : Jésus dit à ses disciples : Allez dans tout l’univers, et prêchez l’Évangile à toute créature.. Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Grégoire, Pape..

Septième leçon. Par ces mots : « toute créature, » on peut entendre toutes les nations des Gentils. Car il avait été dit auparavant : « N’allez point vers les Gentils » ; et maintenant on dit : « Prêchez l’Évangile à toute créature », sans doute afin que la prédication, repoussée d’abord par les Juifs, tournât à notre avantage, comme elle devait tourner à la condamnation de ce peuple superbe, qui la rejetait. Quand la Vérité envoie ses disciples prêcher l’Évangile, n’est-ce pas répandre une semence dans le monde ? Elle jette en semence quelques grains, et c’est pour recevoir de notre foi d’abondantes récoltes.

Huitième leçon. Une si grande moisson de fidèles n’aurait pas levé dans le monde, si la main du Seigneur n’eût répandu parmi les hommes, comme sur une terre raisonnable, les grains choisis des prédicateurs. On lit ensuite : « Celui qui croira et sera baptisé sera sauvé ; mais celui qui ne croira pas sera condamné. » Chacun dira peut-être en soi-même : J’ai déjà cru, je serai sauvé. Il dit vrai, si ses œuvres sont conformes à sa foi. La foi véritable est celle dont les actions ne contredisent pas les paroles, c’est pourquoi saint Paul a dit de ces faux chrétiens : « Ils déclarent connaître Dieu, et ils le nient par leurs œuvres. »

Neuvième leçon.« Or voici les prodiges qui accompagneront ceux qui auront cru ; ils chasseront les démons en mon nom ; ils parleront des langues nouvelles ; ils prendront les serpents, et s’ils boivent quelque poison mortel, il ne leur nuira point ; ils imposeront les mains sur les malades, et ils seront guéris. » Quoi, mes frères, est-ce à dire que votre foi est moins réelle parce que vous ne faites pas ces miracles ? Assurément non, mais ils étaient nécessaires au début de l’Église. Pour croître dans la foi, la multitude des croyants avait besoin d’être nourrie par des miracles. Ainsi, quand nous plantons des arbustes, nous les arrosons jusqu’à ce que nous les voyions reprendre dans la terre, et dès qu’ils sont bien enracinés, on cesse de les arroser. C’est pourquoi saint Paul dit : « Les langues sont un signe, non pour les fidèles, mais pour les infidèles. »



Jacques-Emile Lafon, Plafond de la chapelle Saint-François-Xavier. 1859, Église Saint-Sulpice

Saint François Xavier sj (1506 – 3 déc. 1552)

Fête le 3 décembre

Patron des missions


François naquit d’une grande famille d’Espagne en 1506 ; étudiant à Paris, il s’attacha à saint Ignace.

Il fut ordonné prêtre en 1537 et s’adonna aux œuvres de charité en diverses villes d’Italie.
Envoyé en Orient en 1541, il évangélisa durant dix ans l’Inde et le Japon et y opéra de nombreuses conversions. Il allait pénétrer en Chine quand il mourut en 1552. Grégoire XV le canonisa en 1622.



Giovanni Battista Gaulli. La Vision de Saint Francis Xavier, 1675, 65 X 46, Pinacoteca Vaticana


Saint FRANÇOIS XAVIER,

prêtre jésuite  Fête  3 décembre

OFFICE DES LECTURES

DEUXIÈME LECTURE

Lettres de saint François-Xavier à saint Ignace de Loyola

Malheur à moi si je n’annonce pas l’Évangile !

Nous avons traversé des villages de chrétiens qui s’étaient convertis il y a quelques années. Aucun portugais n’habite en ces lieux, car la terre y est extrêmement stérile et pauvre. Faute de prêtres, les chrétiens qui y vivent ne savent rien d’autre que dire qu’ils sont chrétiens. Ils n’ont personne pour dire la Messe ; ils n’ont personne pour leur enseigner le Credo, le Pater Noster, l’Ave Maria et les Commandements de Dieu.

Lorsque je suis arrivé dans ces villages, je les ai tous parcourus activement et j’ai baptisé tous les enfants qui ne l’étaient pas encore. C’est pourquoi j’ai fait enfants de Dieu une grande multitude de petits enfants qui, comme on dit, ne savaient pas même distinguer leur droite de leur gauche. Les enfants m’assiégeaient tellement que je ne trouvais le temps ni de dire mon office, ni de manger, ni de prendre du repos ; il fallait absolument que je leur enseigne des prières ; je commençai alors à comprendre que c’est à eux qu’appartient le Royaume des Cieux.

Je ne pouvais refuser sans impiété une si sainte demande. Je commençais leur instruction par la confession du Père, du Fils et du Saint-Esprit, puis par le Credo, le Pater Noster, l’Ave Maria. J’ai reconnu en eux de grandes ressources ; s’ils avaient quelqu’un pour leur enseigner les préceptes du christianisme, je suis sûr qu’ils deviendraient de très bons chrétiens.

Des foules ici manquent de devenir chrétiennes, faute d’hommes qui se consacrent à la tâche de les instruire. Bien souvent, il me prend envie de descendre vers les universités d’Europe, spécialement celle de Paris, et de crier à pleine voix, comme un homme qui a perdu le jugement, à ceux qui ont plus de science que de désir de l’employer avec profit : « Combien d’âmes manquent la gloire du ciel et tombent en enfer à cause de votre négligence ! »

Quand ils étudient les belles-lettres, s’ils voulaient étudier aussi le compte que Dieu leur demandera pour le talent qu’il leur a donné ! Beaucoup sentiraient peut-être le besoin de s’engager alors à des exercices spirituels qui les mèneraient à découvrir la volonté divine, après avoir renoncé à leurs propres inclinations, et à crier à Dieu : « Seigneur, me voici. Que voulez-vous que je fasse ? Envoyez-moi où vous voudrez, oui, même chez les Indiens. »

(Lettres du 28 octobre 1542 et du 15 janvier 1544,
texte original espagnol dans : Epistolae S. Francisci Xavierii aliaque ejus scripta , éd. G. Schurhammer, s.j., et I. Wicki, s.j., t.I M.H.S.J., 67 Rome 1944, pp. 147-148 et 166-167).



Un chant pour St François Xavier :       Pèlerin des océans

1. Pèlerin des océans,
conquérant de l’univers,
sans savoir où vogueront
les caravelles de Dieu,
tu t’enfuis toujours plus loin,
enflammé de quel désir ?
L’âme bénie du Christ
te sanctifie de son feu ;
le corps très pur du Christ
te sauve de toute peur.

2. Docile et bel instrument
entre les mains de ton Dieu,
aimant d’intense amitié
tes amis dans le Seigneur,
tu vas de plus en plus seul
assoiffé de quel dessein ?
Le sang précieux du Christ
t’enivre à perdre le sens ;
l’eau du côté du Christ
t’abreuve et te purifie

3. Tu agis dans l’Esprit Saint
rapportant tout à Dieu seul,
tu agis de tout ton cœur,
en te livrant sans compter,
tu agis en vérité,
et pour aider quel prochain ?
La passion du Christ
te fortifie dans la foi ;
tu prends pour seul appui
le nom très doux de Jésus.

4. Combattant sans autre épée
que l’amour des plus perdus,
messager d’un Dieu pour tous
à partager comme un pain,
quêteur des trésors enfouis
qui manquent au corps de Dieu,
Ton cœur se tient caché
dans les blessures du Christ ;
greffé aux plaies du Christ,
rien ne peut t’en séparer.

5. Dépouillé de tout honneur,
anéanti dans l’amour,
tendu vers les horizons
où se lève le soleil,
où le Soleil des soleils
ne s’est pas encore levé,
La voix du crucifié
t’invite à vivre sa mort ;
la voix du Christ vainqueur
te dit de venir à lui.

6. Compagnon du Roi Jésus,
ouvrier de ses travaux,
saint parmi les saints du ciel,
tu prends part à son bonheur,
tu l’as suivi sous la croix,
il t’accueille près de lui,
Tu peux louer sans fin
le beau sourire du Christ ;
tu as gagné sa joie,
la joie du ressuscité.


La vie de François-Xavier

Les étapes successives de la vie du Patron des missions :

NAVARRE
PARIS LATIN –  MONTMARTRE –  VENISEROMEGOAMOLUQUESJAPONSANCIAN

NAVARRE

Xavier est pour nous aujourd’hui un prénom. Or, ce n’était à l’origine qu’un nom de lieu, dont la graphie hésita longtemps (Saviero, Xabier, Xavier, etc.) pour se fixer enfin sur nos cartes touristiques en Javier. Le château fut donné au XIIIe siècle par Thibault IV, comte de Champagne, aux ancêtres de François, les Azpilcueta, en reconnaissance de leurs loyaux services. Or les Azpilcueta devaient s’éteindre avec la mère de François. A l’occasion de son mariage avec Don Juan de Jassu, ministre des finances du roi de Navarre, ce dernier transféra au père de François le nom et les armes de Xavier. Ce don s’accompagnait d’une clause: le dernier fils de Don Juan et de Maria hériterait du titre… Ce dernier fils, ce serait François! Voilà pourquoi il signait: Francis de Xavier, Francesco de Xavier, ou Francesco tout court. La célébrité a ses servitudes: notre François de Xavier devint François Xavier, et même Xavier.

Lorsque naît François, le 7 avril 1506, la Navarre est encore un royaume indépendant sur lequel règne Jean III d’Albret. Se sachant menacée par la Castille qui unifie les Espagne à son profit, la Navarre s’appuie sur la France. Or lorsque Louis XII entre en guerre avec le Pape Jules II, la Castille en profite pour envahir la Navarre (1512). Toutes les forteresses, dont Javier, sont démantelées et les terres confisquées : le père de François meurt de chagrin en 1515 et François a 10 ans lorsqu’il voit des escadrons de soldats castillans raser murs et tours de la haute demeure seigneuriale.

En 1521, les  » communeros » de Castille se soulèvent contre leur suzerain, Charles Quint, un Germain. Henri d’Albret, successeur du roi Jean, croit le moment venu de libérer sa patrie ; une armée française l’appuie. Deux frères de Xavier rallient les troupes de libération. Le 24 mai, Français et Navarrais attaquent Pampelune; la ville tombe, mais la citadelle, dont un jeune gentilhomme basque, Inigo de Loyola résiste et soutient le courage. Inigo est blessé par un obus. La citadelle capitule. Inigo est reconduit au château de Loyola par des soldats français. Bientôt il se convertira, à la lecture d’une vie du Christ et de la biographie de saints. Commence alors pour lui un itinéraire mystique, dont François un jour bénéficiera. Le succès de Pampelune sera éphémère. Peu après, les Castillans infligeaient aux Français et aux Navarrais la défaite de Noain. L’expédition libératrice tourne à la déroute ; toute la Navarre au sud des Pyrénées est annexée au royaume de Castille.

De 15 ans à 18 ans, François mène une vie solitaire et monotone, et partage l’angoisse et la fierté de sa mère, dans l’attente du retour au château de ses deux frères aînés résistants jusqu’au-boutistes face à Charles Quint. Le plus gros de ses journées et surtout les longues soirées s’écoulent dans cette grande chambre, qui sert à la fois de salle à manger et de cuisine, de salle de séjour et de réception.

En sortant du château ou en y rentrant, il s’arrête dans le petit oratoire tout proche, à la chapelle San Miguel (le patron du château) où se dresse sur sa Croix le Christ au sourire douloureux et vainqueur, ce Christ que ses ancêtres ont enfoui dans la muraille au temps où les Sarrazins envahissaient la Navarre, ce Christ qui, pendant les derniers mois de sa vie missionnaire, se couvrira – dit-on – tous les vendredis, de grosses gouttes de sueur.

Que choisir à 19 ans ? L’éventail des voies possibles est étroit pour ce fils d’une famille quasiment ruinée, cadet de deux frères politiquement marqués et dont le père n’est plus là pour reconstituer la fortune. Alors quelle carrière ? Pas celle des armes évidemment. Partir pour les nouveaux mondes? Il faudrait s’aboucher avec les Espagnols honnis ou les Portugais. Restait le Droit – à la fois la célébrité de son parent, le  » Docteur de Navarre « , et l’exemple de son père l’y inclineraient – et les charges ecclésiastiques. Avant de choisir définitivement, il faut d’abord passer les examens de la Faculté des Arts. Va pour les Arts ! A ces hautes études, François est préparé: il a appris déjà le latin. Vers quelle Université s’orienter ? Alcalà est célèbre, mais elle est située en Castille. Par la terre des Jassu, François ressortit à la France, et l’Université de Paris jouit en ce temps-là d’une réputation européenne : la Navarre y possède même un  » collège « . Et puis pour un jeune hidalgo, ambitieux, rêveur, sensible, curieux, Paris a bien des attraits. Voici donc ce qui est décidé. C’est à Paris qu’il ferait les treize ou quinze ans d’études qui le conduiraient au fructueux diplôme de  » Docteur en Théologie ».

Par prudence, François, avant de partir, se fait tonsurer, comme clerc à la cathédrale de Pampelune ; d’autant que cela ne l’engage à rien et l’exempte du service militaire et de la juridiction des tribunaux civils. François dit adieu à sa mère, à ses frères, au château démantelé, symbole de ses drames et de ses chances. Mais il est sûr de conjurer le sort qui jusqu’ici lui a été hostile. Lorsqu’il reviendra un jour à Javier, il sera docteur en droit ou en théologie: un avenir brillant lui est encore ouvert. Ainsi rêve-t-il ! Jamais François ne franchira de nouveau le pont-levis de la demeure seigneuriale. Il ne sera jamais docteur. Et pourtant si le nom de Javier figure encore sur les cartes de la région, c’est à lui qu’on le doit. François part pour un rendez-vous qu’il n’avait pas prévu.

Pour aller plus loin :

Prier devant le Christ en croix du château de Xavier

Un site personnel d’une généalogie familiale remontant à François-Xavier

PARIS LATIN

Paris est en train de devenir une véritable capitale : sur la rive gauche de la Seine, le  » Pays latin « , l’Université avec ses soixante collèges, et l’abbaye célèbre de Sainte-Geneviève. Entre la ville et le Pays latin, plusieurs îles, et ce qui agrée beaucoup à François – grand amateur de tir à l’arc et de saut en hauteur – son  » terrain de sports « .

Paris respire à pleins poumons l’air de la Renaissance. Certes, il serait dangereux de se déclarer ouvertement favorable aux thèses de Luther, mais un parfum de fronde flotte dans l’air. Les écrits du jeune Calvin circulent sous le manteau.

François Ier, tout en faisant des processions réparatrices pour les sacrilèges commis par certains étudiants fanatiques, sait fermer les yeux. François n’est pas sans se laisser séduire. Comme pour les escapades nocturnes de ses camarades, il ne se refuse pas à ces hardiesses, mais se tient à l’écart des flammes trop ardentes.

François s’installe au collège  » Sainte-Barbe « . Il partage sa chambre, dès 1525, avec un régent assez déluré – et qui mourra un jour de ses fredaines -, et un jeune Savoyard, Pierre Favre, timide, indécis, studieux autant qu’il est possible de l’être à vingt ans : le contraire de François. En 1530, les deux amis sont reçus à la licence ès arts : les portes des Facultés supérieures s’ouvrent avec, en perspective, le droit, la médecine, ou la théologie, au choix.

François opte pour la carrière ecclésiastique. Une fois docteur, il sait que les honneurs et surtout les plantureux « bénéfices  » lui seront accessibles. Mais d’ici là il lui faut vivre.

Il va alors briguer une chaire de chanoine de la cathédrale de Pampelune, et, pour constituer son dossier, il est nécessaire qu’il prouve sa noblesse. Il attendra six ans.Mais alors, il nourrira d’autres ambitions…

Pour gagner un peu d’argent, il brigue, une fois sa maîtrise ès arts obtenue, une place de régent au Collège de Beauvais, mais garde, pour son logis, sa chambre de Sainte-Barbe, où Pierre Favre demeure lui aussi, ayant opté également pour la théologie.

François s’abandonne à la vie insouciante et facile de l’étudiant dont l’avenir semble assuré. Quand il rentre à Sainte-Barbe, il y retrouve son ami savoyard : avec lui, il sort parfois, et arpente le parc voisin des Chartreux (aujourd’hui le Jardin du Luxembourg et Denfert-Rochereau).

Tout irait bien entre les deux amis, s’il n’y avait entre eux cet étrange compagnon qui partage leur chambre et pour qui François n’éprouve aucune sympathie…

Il s’appelait Inigo de Loyola et à 38 ans, étudiait encore.

Tout était fait pour séparer les deux hommes. Inigo négligeait sa tenue, claudiquait, professait une orthodoxie stricte. De plus, il s’était battu à Pampelune en 1521 contre les Navarrais, peut-être même contre les frères de François, et, autre tare, il avait d’abord logé au collège de Montaigu, rival de sainte Barbe.

Enfin ne murmure-t-on pas qu’il a  » détraqué  » trois étudiants espagnols avec un petit livre de son cru, les Exercices Spirituels ?

1533: une année-tournant dans l’existence de ces trois compagnons : Inigo est reçu à sa licence ès arts et la sœur aînée de François meurt en odeur de sainteté.

Quant à Pierre Favre, conquis par Inigo, il part pour sa Savoie natale, afin de dire adieu à ses parents et vivre la pauvreté évangélique.

Voici donc en tête-à-tête Inigo et François. Que se passa-t-il entre eux? On l’ignore. Quoi qu’il en soit, lorsqu’en janvier 1534, Favre rentra à Paris, il trouva François aussi résolu que lui-même à suivre Inigo… Un jour, à Rome, Inigo lâchera cette confidence devant son secrétaire, Polanco: François avait été  » la plus rude pâte qu’il ait maniée « .

Pour aller plus loin :

Visiter aujourd’hui le Paris d’Ignace et de François-Xavier

MONTMARTRE

Bientôt ce sont six étudiants qui ont accepté l’appel que leur lance l’Esprit Saint à travers les
conversations et l’exemple d’Inigo:

Un Portugais, Simon Rodriguez, deux Castillans, Jacques Laynez et Alphonse Salmeron, un Tolédan, Nicolas Bodadilla ont rejoint François et Pierre Favre.

On se retrouve chez l’un ou chez l’autre; on parle de l’amour du Christ, de l’immense faim des âmes, de la crise de l’Église. Un feu les dévore : suivre le Christ pauvre, travailler avec Lui « chez les fidèles et les infidèles », se dévouer aux plus pécheurs, aux plus pauvres. Mais que faire exactement? Où aller? Longues conversations, longues délibérations. Ils cherchent.

Un premier pas leur semble s’imposer à leur générosité. Quand tous auront terminé les études requises pour être ordonnés prêtres, c’est-à-dire dans trois ans, ils partiront pour Jérusalem,  » à l’apostolique « , c’est-à-dire dans la plus stricte pauvreté, sur les pas du Seigneur dont ils sont épris, et affronteront le grand ennemi de la Chrétienté, le  » Turc « .

Et si quelque obstacle les empêchait de passer à Jérusalem, ils iraient, après un an d’attente, se mettre à la disposition absolue du  » Vicaire du Christ « , le Pape de Rome : la terre d’obéissance serait pour eux Terre Sainte.

Et ce projet, une fois mûri, ils décident de le sceller par un vœu.

Le 15 août 1534, les sept amis montent à Montmartre.

Montmartre, en ce temps-là, est encore une banlieue rustique de Paris, des vignobles au-dessus desquels des moulins battent des ailes; une grande abbaye bénédictine coiffe la colline; à flanc de coteau, un peu en contrebas, une modeste chapelle pointe au-dessus des vignes : c’est là que la tradition situe le martyre de saint Denys et de ses compagnons.

Dans la crypte, consacrée aux martyrs, Pierre Favre, qui a été ordonné le 30 mai dernier, célèbre la Messe; au moment de la Communion, chacun s’engage devant tous à vivre toujours selon la pauvreté évangélique et dans le célibat, puis prononce le vœu de pèlerinage à Jérusalem, si patiemment mis au point au cours de leurs délibérations, et le vœu de se mettre se mettre à la disposition du Pape si Jérusalem reste inaccessible au bout d’un an.

Ils passent le reste de la journée en « conversations spirituelles « , dans le plein vent de la colline déserte. De cette cérémonie toute simple, tous resteront marqués toute leur vie. Un jour, neuf ans après la mort d’Ignace, en 1565, Simon Rodriguez écrira à Bobadilla:

 » Nous qui avons eu la grâce d’aller à Montmartre… « 

Sur la fin du mois d’août, ses cours de régent terminés, François fait les Exercices Spirituels. A la fin de mars 1535, Inigo part pour l’Espagne car sa santé exige une  » cure d’air natal « . Le groupe de Montmartre, loin de se disloquer après le départ d’Inigo, se resserre autour de Favre, et même recrute. En 1535, Claude Jay, un prêtre savoyard; en 1536, Paschase Broët, un prêtre picard et Jean Codure, du diocèse d’Embrun. Chaque année le 15 août, on monte à Montmartre et on renouvelle le vœu de 1534.

Avant de quitter ses compagnons, Inigo leur avait donné rendez-vous à Venise, le port d’où partaient les navires de pèlerins vers la Terre Sainte. Pour éviter la guerre entre François Ier et Charles Quint, François et ses huit compagnons font route par la Lorraine, l’Allemagne, la Suisse, le Tyrol… à pied évidemment. C’est pour François la première expérience de la route  » à l’apostolique « , la route de pauvreté et de prière, du péril imprévu, mais aussi des rencontres providentielles.

Pour aller plus loin :

La crypte des vœux (martyrium) aujourd’hui à Montmartre

VENISE

Le 6 janvier 1537, les neuf compagnons arrivent à Venise, sains et saufs. Inigo est là qui les attend, avec une nouvelle recrue, le prêtre Diégo Hocez, qui mourra un an plus tard, exténué de charité et de pénitences.

Comme à Venise, aucun départ de navire n’est prévu pour la Terre Sainte avant juin 1537, François et ses compagnons décident de se mettre au service des pauvres et des malades des deux grands hôpitaux où ils ont pris logis.

En mars, tous, sauf Ignace, se rendent à Rome pour solliciter du Pape Paul III l’autorisation de faire le pèlerinage de Jérusalem et, pour les non-prêtres, celle de recevoir les Ordres sacrés. Paul III se montre très intéressé par ce groupe de jeunes hommes que Dieu lui envoie pour l’aider en sa réforme de l’Église. Le 24 juin, Ignace et François Xavier sont ordonnés côte à côte à Venise « au titre de la pauvreté volontaire et de la science suffisante ».

La guerre qui sévit entre Venise et les Turcs interdit tout passage en Terre Sainte.

Les compagnons se dispersent de nouveau dans les villes universitaires de l’Italie du Nord : François s’en va a Bologne – la ville où son père avait étudié le droit – en compagnie de Bobadilla. Le froid et les austérités lui valent une maladie dont il faillit mourir.

Avant de se séparer, les Compagnons tinrent  » une longue délibération » pour décider ce qu’ils répondraient à qui leur demanderait leur nom:

Voyant qu’il n’y avait pas de chef parmi eux, ni d’autre supérieur que Jésus Christ qu’ils voulaient servir à l’exclusion de tout autre,
il leur parut bon de s’appeler la Compagnie de Jésus.

C’est vraisemblablement à Venise que François eut ce  » rêve  » qu’un des compagnons, Laynez, racontera plus tard :

Une nuit, François s’éveilla en sursaut et cria à Laynez :

« Jésus, que je suis fatigué !
Savez-vous ce que je rêvais ?
J’essayais de porter un Indien sur mes épaules;
il était si lourd que je ne parvenais pas à le soulever ».

Pour aller plus loin :

– Des images de Venise du temps de François et d’Ignace (site en anglais)

Site des jésuites italiens (communauté à Venise)

ROME

Selon le vœu de Montmartre, il était convenu que si le passage en Terre Sainte s’avérait impossible, pendant l’année qui suivrait leur départ de Paris, les Compagnons iraient à Rome

se mettre à la disposition inconditionnelle du  » Vicaire du Christ  » pour toute mission. En cette fin de 1537, le délai est expiré. Ils se regroupent à Rome, vers Pâques 1538.

Quelqu’un qui revit François à son arrivée à Rome, nous livre son impression :

 » Il ressemblait moins à un homme vivant qu’à un cadavre ambulant… Ombre de ce qu’il avait été… J’estimai qu’il ne retrouverait jamais la santé et serait désormais incapable de fournir le travail d’une journée. »

En attendant l’audience pontificale, ils missionnent dans Rome. François, pour sa part, prêche et confesse à l’église Saint-Louis-des-Français, catéchise les enfants. Le groupe l’a choisi comme  » secrétaire « . Il le restera deux ans… Lorsque il reçoit enfin les Compagnons, le Pape accepte leur oblation avec joie.

Tout de suite, on demande ces prêtres de tous côtés. Charles Quint les voudrait aux Indes espagnoles, Jean III de Portugal aux Indes portugaises; les évêques et les princes de l’Italie du Nord qui les ont vus à l’œuvre, sollicitent leur retour ; le Pape songe à les utiliser comme Nonces, comme instruments de la réforme de l’Église. Et ils ne sont que dix…

Que va-t-il advenir de leur précieux compagnonnage, dispersés qu’ils seront en tous pays de la Chrétienté et hors de la Chrétienté ? En mars 1539, ils délibèrent longuement.

Première décision : comme leur groupe a été formé et voulu par Dieu, ils doivent garder entre eux des liens étroits d’amitié.

Deuxième décision cette amitié se scellera par le vœu d’obéissance  » à l’un d’entre eux « . L’étape qui vient d’être franchie est importante la Compagnie de Jésus, de groupe de libres compagnons, se transforme ainsi en Ordre Religieux.

Ce n’est que le 24 septembre 1540, que Paul III signera la Bulle Regimini militantis, qui établira dans l’Église la Compagnie de Jésus. A cette date, François aura déjà quitté Rome et sera parti vers son grand destin.

En ce début de l’année 1540, Jean III de Portugal avait obtenu du Pape que deux des Compagnons fussent affectés aux jeunes missions des Indes. Ce sont Rodriguez et Bobadilla qui sont choisis… Lui, François, restera secrétaire à Rome. Bobadilla est donc rappelé de Naples à Rome, mais il arrive dans un état de santé si délabré que son départ est impensable. François est donc désigné pour le remplacer.

Ignace racontera son départ, après la mort de François :

 » Le Père, écrit-il, s’empressa de me répondre:
Me voici ! Me voici !
Puis il se retira pour empaqueter deux vieux pantalons
et une soutane indescriptible. « 

En quittant Rome, François laisse trois lettres cachetées qu’il ne faudra ouvrir que si Paul III approuve enfin la Compagnie de Jésus : l’une contient sa délégation de pouvoirs aux autres Compagnons qui se réuniraient à Rome pour rédiger ou approuver les Constitutions ; la seconde, son vote (en faveur d’Ignace, ou si celui-ci venait à manquer, en faveur de Favre) pour l’élection du futur Préposé Général ; la troisième confie à Laynez le soin de faire sa profession religieuse entre les mains du futur Général.

En mars 1540, François part avec l’ambassadeur du Portugal. En attendant le départ de la flotte pour les Indes, Rodriguez et François se livrent  » aux ministères accoutumés « . Leur dévouement apostolique suscite dans Lisbonne une telle admiration étonnée que des pressions s’exercent sur le Roi pour qu’il les garde au Portugal. Le Pape sollicité remet la décision à Ignace, qui tranche à la manière de Salomon : Rodriguez, le Portugais, restera à Lisbonne, François partira pour les Indes.

Le 7 avril 1541, le jour anniversaire de la naissance de François, il embarque avec deux compagnons sur le Santiago qui emmène le nouveau vice-roi, Martin de Sousa, vers les Indes. Pour tout bagage, François emporte un vêtement chaud, son bréviaire et, curieusement, une petite anthologie de textes d’écrivains sacrés qui ne le quittera plus.

Pour aller plus loin :

– Des images de Rome du temps de la fondation de la Compagnie de Jésus (site en anglais)



GOA

A Goa, François débarque en qualité de Nonce Apostolique. Les lettres qu’il tient de Rome lui donnent pleins pouvoirs sur les fidèles et les infidèles de l’empire colonial du Portugal.

Comme les Apôtres, François enseignera, baptisera, réconciliera, proclamera à tous,  » à temps et à contre-temps  » la Parole du Salut.

Sa pauvreté personnelle, ses austérités, son dévouement, sa prière, sa joie aussi, parleront aux cœurs des hommes plus encore que sa parole. Sa prédication, ce sera sa propre personne, sa vie, son exemple. Il rayonne. Il implante l’Église, laissant le soin à d’autres, derrière lui, d’organiser, de structurer, de former ces communautés. François, comme les Apôtres, est un pionnier, mais un pionnier qui  » porte le poids de toutes les églises  » qu’il fonde.

On a dit que sa théologie était trop sévère, et qu’il mettait trop facilement en enfer ceux qui refusaient sa prédication. Ce n’est pas tout à fait exact : un examen précis des cas et des textes montre qu’un homme sincère dans son refus, s’il vivait selon sa conscience, était fort apprécié et respecté de François et que celui-ci réservait ses sévérités pour ceux des Portugais et des païens qui, par leurs mœurs, dérogeaient, ceux-ci à la loi naturelle, ceux-là à la loi chrétienne.

On lui reprochera aussi de n’avoir pas saisi les richesses de l’hindouisme, de l’Islam, du confucianisme. C’est exact. Mais Paul, Pierre, Thomas n’avaient-ils pas jadis choisi d’annoncer de façon abrupte un Dieu crucifié et ressuscité, « folie pour les païens » ?

Goa éblouit François. Mais il ne fut pas long à perdre ses illusions. En fait, Goa était un grand port où la minorité portugaise était fort riche. L’armée du Roi Jean y maintenait un ordre impitoyable. François prend logis à l’hôpital. Sans doute prêche-t-il et confesse-t-il dans la petite église de Notre-Dame du Rosaire proche de l’hôpital. Mais aussi il parcourt les rues, la clochette à la main, pour assembler les passants. Tous les dimanches, il va retrouver les lépreux, hors de la ville.

Un établissement retient l’intérêt de son cœur : le collège Saint-Paul, dit de la Sainte-Foy. Soixante jeunes gens. indiens, cingalais, malais, malgaches, éthiopiens, cafres du Mozambique, y vivent et sont instruits aux frais du Roi Jean III. François songe à former un clergé indigène ou du moins de solides chrétiens qui porteront le Message du Christ à leurs frères de race.

Il y a sept mois que François est arrivé à Goa lorsque le vice-roi l’envoie « dans un pays où, de l’avis de tous, les perspectives sont brillantes de gagner les hommes à la foi » : la côte des Paravers au sud de l’Inde. On y accède par Cochin. François part le 20 septembre 1542 accompagné de trois clercs paravers, formés au collège de la Sainte-Foy ; ils lui serviront d’interprètes car il ignore le premier mot du difficile tamoul.

Quelque trente mille Paravers – dits  » Pêcheurs de perles  » – répartis en une trentaine de villages vivaient sur une bande côtière qui s’étend au Nord du Cap Comorin. Misérables parmi les plus misérables ils occupaient l’avant-dernier échelon dans la hiérarchie des castes, juste avant les parias. Pendant deux ans, François va sillonner ce pays. C’est pour eux qu’il inventa une méthode d’enseignement religieux qui lui servira en d’autres régions dont il ignorait la langue : faire traduire par des indigènes bilingues les vérités essentielles de la foi, ainsi que les prières fondamentales – au risque que ce catéchisme contint des contre-sens graves ; s’entraîner lui-même à prononcer, tant bien que mal, ces traductions ; et les dire, ou si c’était possible, les chanter devant ses auditoires, jusqu’à ce qu’ils les sachent par cœur. Sa personne, son charme, son inépuisable charité faisaient le reste.

A la fin du mois d’octobre 1543, François fait un séjour à Goa pour y chercher du renfort. C’est alors qu’il apprit que Paul III avait approuvé la Compagnie et qu’Ignace avait été élu Général…. Il fit donc sa profession solennelle en utilisant la formule dont s’étaient servis ses frères de Rome à Saint-Paul hors les Murs. Désormais, il la portera dans une petite boîte suspendue à son cou, qui contient encore une relique de l’Apôtre saint Thomas et la signature d’Ignace.

La seconde année que passa François chez les Paravers ne ressembla en rien à la première : il dut soutenir, protéger et même nourrir une de ses chrétientés persécutée et emmenée en esclavage.

Deux rajahs razzient la côte des Pêcheurs. Bientôt le pays est livré à une tuerie générale. Au-dessus de cette mêlée, François se dresse avec pour seules armes sa foi, son espérance, sa charité. Il intervient auprès des chefs, propose des trêves, paie des rançons pour libérer des prisonniers. Et quand ses Paravers traqués se réfugient sur des îlots de la côte, il organise leur ravitaillement par mer, il navigue lui-même sur de frêles embarcations.

L’un des rajahs, fauteurs de la guerre, propose à François de lui ouvrir son pays, le Travancore, une bande côtière à l’ouest du Cap Comorin. Bien qu’il s’agisse d’une tribu plus primitive encore que les Paravers, François s’y précipite. En un mois, il parcourt tout le pays : le résultat de cette mission fut surprenant pour François lui-même. Il l’écrira à Ignace de Loyola :

Quant aux nouvelles de l’Inde,
je dois vous faire part que le Seigneur,

dans le royaume où je me trouve, a invité beaucoup d’hommes
à se faire chrétiens. En un mois, j’en ai baptisé plus de dix mille.

François n’oubliera jamais ses Paravers. De Goa, du Japon, il demande des nouvelles de sa première mission ; il règle toutes choses en faveur de ces pauvres entre les pauvres. A la veille de son départ pour la Chine, il écrit à un supérieur :

Souvenez-vous toujours de la grande indigence des hommes du Cap Comorin… et combien d’enfants y meurent sans baptême, parce qu’il n’y a personne pour les baptiser.

Voici une étrange anecdote que le Père Coelho nous rapporte
dans ses souvenirs sur François

C’était son habitude chaque soir de se glisser hors de la maison, sans me gêner, et de traverser mon jardin jusqu’à la hutte qui joignait le sanctuaire du bienheureux Apôtre (St-Thomas). Il ne disait rien de ces expéditions nocturnes, mais je devinais qu’il s’y rendait pour prier et se flageller. Un jour, je lui en parlai.  » Père Maître François, je vous en prie, ne marchez pas dans le jardin. Il y rôde des démons la nuit, et ils pourraient vous faire du mal.  » Il en rit, mais tout de même prit ensuite avec lui un Malabar de sa connaissance, une âme simple, qu’il laissait étendu à la porte de la hutte.

Une nuit, tandis qu’il priait à l’intérieur, il commença à crier à plusieurs reprises:  » Notre-Dame, vous ne m’aiderez donc pas?  » et à voix si haute qu’il réveilla son gardien endormi, qui entendit alors le bruit de coups provenant de la hutte. Le lendemain matin, le Malabar me raconta ce qui s’était passé pendant la nuit… Le Père François resta prostré pendant deux jours, mais je ne pus en obtenir un mot sur l’événement.

Pour aller plus loin :

– Des photos du sanctuaire de Goa avec les reliques de François-Xavier

– La fête de François-Xavier à Goa (site en anglais)

MOLUQUES

Malacca (Singapour) est un des centres de commerce les plus actifs de l’Extrême-Orient. Ville où s’entassent pêle-mêle les races et les religions ; mais la minorité portugaise domine les autochtones de toute la puissance de ses soldats. Pendant trois mois, François s’efforce de remettre un peu d’ordre dans la communauté chrétienne elle-même, dont l’exemple est trop souvent un contre-témoignage du christianisme. Pour cela, il use de la méthode qui lui a si bien réussi à Goa : le contact direct. Il entre dans les foyers où abondent les concubines ; il ne craint pas d’aller dans les tripots, les maisons de jeux et de plaisirs. Le dimanche, il prêche, confesse dans l’église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. Il n’oublie pas d’ailleurs les épaves misérables de la « cité des fleurs et des parfums » : juifs, musulmans, pauvres, malades, prisonniers.

Alors commence pour François le 1er janvier 1546, une croisière de 1740 miles à travers la mer des pirates. C’est à Amboine que débarque d’abord François. Il y trouve une « clientèle » à laquelle il ne s’attendait pas : une cargaison de marins espagnols, que les Portugais ont faits prisonniers et jetés dans les cales de huit grands navires. A ces captifs, François s’efforce d’apporter tous les secours matériels et spirituels qui sont en son pouvoir. Le 10 mai, il écrit aux Pères de Goa :

« La flotte m’a tenu en haleine du matin au soir,
écoutant un flot incessant de confessions,

visitant les malades, prêchant, confessant et réconfortant les mourants.
J’y ai passé tout mon temps pendant le carême, avant et après…
L’île d’Amboine fait environ 25 à 30 lieues de pourtour,
elle est populeuse, avec sept villages de chrétiens. »

Il reste à Amboine jusqu’à la mi-juin ; alors, une fois encore, il reprend la mer. François voudrait visiter toutes les îles de cette constellation marine. Il s’arrête ici ou là, au gré des capitaines des bateaux et selon l’humeur des vents. Ses amis l’avaient dissuadé de se lancer dans ce voyage, tant les gens de ces îles sont cruels. En vain ; il n’accepte même pas les antidotes dont on le conseille de se munir :

« Mes m’offrirent des antidotes avec des larmes, mais en les remerciant de tout mon cœur pour leur amour et leur bonté, je n’ai pas accepté leurs défensives, car je ne voulais pas me charger d’une crainte que je n’éprouvais pas, surtout rien perdre de la confiance que je fais entièrement à Dieu. »

Vers le milieu de juin 1546, il se dirige vers l’île de Ternate : la population est païenne, les Européens ont des mœurs très relâchées car Goa a pris la fâcheuse habitude d’y délester tous ses éléments indésirables.

François s’installe à l’hôpital et s’occupe des malades et des mourants. Le dimanche, il prêche aux quelques chrétiens. A Ternate, dit-on, son catéchisme eut un succès extraordinaire : les chants de François retentirent bientôt partout…

Comme aux mois d’été la population tout entière est mobilisée pour récolter les girofles, il en profite pour rédiger le seul livre qu’il ait jamais écrit : une sorte de « somme » de la doctrine chrétienne inspirée par les Exercices Spirituels d’Ignace.

Il reprend la mer pour l’île du More, et y passe trois mois. C’est là sans doute qu’il fait les rencontres les plus périlleuses de son aventureuse existence : car les autochtones sont passés maîtres dans l’art des poisons, ils collectionnent les têtes coupées et sont friands de chair humaine. Ignorant le premier mot de leur idiome, François, lorsqu’il croise l’un de ces barbares sur son chemin n’a qu’un langage : il lui sourit et il l’embrasse !

Ici comme ailleurs, François cherche à discerner parmi les quelques chrétiens de l’île, des hommes capables d’assumer la responsabilité de petites communautés.

En décembre 1546, François revient à Ternate, où il essaie de mieux organiser la communauté chrétienne. Peu après Pâques, il rejoint Amboine, puis Malacca. Une grande joie l’y attend : il y trouve trois de ses frères de la Compagnie de Jésus. Ils restent ensemble pendant un mois. François informe et forme ses trois recrues ; puis les Pères partent à leur tour vers les îles : deux d’entre eux y mourront martyrs.

« Ces îles abondent en consolations spirituelles, tous ces périls, tous ces labeurs,
si on les accepte volontiers pour le seul amour et le service de Dieu notre Seigneur, sont d’abondants trésors de grandes consolations spirituelles ;
si bien qu’en peu d’années, on perdrait la vue,
sous l’abondance des lagrimas consolativas (larmes de joie)… »

En décembre 1547, quelqu’un d’étrange surgit soudain dans l’existence de François, et va influer sur l’orientation de son apostolat : un Japonais du nom d’Anjiro. C’est un noble, appartenant peut-être à la classe des samouraïs. Il a une quarantaine d’années. Depuis cinq ans, il erre en quête d’un maître spirituel qui puisse rendre la paix à son âme, lourdement chargée de péchés de jeunesse et même d’un homicide. En 1545, Anjiro a entendu parler de François comme d’un homme de Dieu vraiment extraordinaire. En 1546, pour rencontrer François qui, lui disait-on, séjournerait à Malacca, Anjiro quitte Kagoshima, sa patrie et franchit les trois mille miles qui séparent Kagoshima de Malacca.

De ses conversations avec Anjiro, François retire une vision merveilleuse – où se mêlent l’utopie et la vérité – des « îles du Japon » :

« J’ai demandé à Anjiro si les Japonais se feraient chrétiens si je revenais avec lui dans son pays. Il me répondit que non… Mais si je satisfaisais à leurs questions et si je me conduisais de telle manière qu’ils ne trouvent rien à blâmer dans ma conduite, alors, après m’avoir connu pendant six mois, le roi, la noblesse et tous les gens de distinction se feraient chrétiens, car les Japonais, disait-il, sont entièrement guidés par la loi de la raison. »

François s’enthousiasme : il partira vers cette nouvelle terre promise. 

JAPON

Avant de partir pour le Japon inconnu, François, pendant quinze mois, naviguera entre Goa et les différents postes des Indes.

A Goa, bien des tristesses l’assaillent : des deuils ont décimé ses amis ; le vice-roi Sousa a changé ; l’évêque vieillit désabusé ; des zizanies se sont glissées dans le groupe des Pères et des Frères : François doit en renvoyer l’un ou l’autre de la Compagnie de Jésus.

Le 20 mai 1548, jour de la Pentecôte, Anjiro, son serviteur et un troisième Japonais sont baptisés par l’évêque d’Albuquerque, en la cathédrale de Goa. Anjiro sous le nom de Paul de la Sainte-Foy, son serviteur sous le nom de Jean, le troisième sous le nom d’Antoine.

François prépare son départ. Il n’a malheureusement pour informateur qu’Anjiro qui ne connait guère que le petit coin du Japon où il est né et la secte bouddhiste à laquelle il appartient. Ses renseignements créent chez François un Japon de rêve : les cœurs y seraient mûrs pour accueillir la Parole de Dieu !

Le 15 avril 1549, François quittait Goa pour Malacca. Courte escale. En la fête de Saint Jean Baptiste il embarque pour le Japon sur une jonque chinoise dont le capitaine porte le surnom trop vrai de Ladrâo (le voleur). L’accompagnent : Anjiro, Jean et Antoine, le P. Cosme de Torrès et le jeune Frère Juan Fernandez. Il emporte pour le  » Roi du Japon » une cargaison de cadeaux, car il songe à se présenter à lui en qualité de Nonce du Pape…

Le 15 août 1549, le Ladrâo abordait à Kagoshima.

Le projet de François est clair : se rendre le plus tôt possible  » là où réside le Roi du Japon « . Le Roi, il se l’imagine omnipotent, souverain absolu, efficace, à l’image de François Ier de France ou de Jean III de Portugal.

Comment en eût-il été autrement ?

François reste dix-sept mois au Japon.

Du 15 août 1549 au mois d’octobre 1550, à Kagoshima, François loge dans la famille d’Anjiro et s’initie aux coutumes japonaises : cérémonie du thé, baguettes pour les repas, salutations, longues stations assises sur les talons et autres nouveautés. Tout se passe bien, d’abord, quoique les conversions soient bien moins nombreuses que les conversations ! François est même reçu par le daïmyo (qu’il s’obstine à nommer  » le duc « ). Anjiro  » traduit  » le catéchisme apostolique de François. Le P. Cosme apprend (sans succès) la langue du pays, comme le Frère Fernandez (avec succès).

Mais voici que la faveur du daïmyo se refroidit sous la poussée de bonzes bouddhistes à qui François a osé reprocher leurs vices. François, qui rêve toujours d’aller trouver le Roi, laisse Kagoshima aux soins du P. Cosme et d’Anjiro. et part pour Yamaguchi avec le Frère Fernandez et Bernard le Japonais.

Octobre-décembre 1550, François réside à Yamaguchi, ville résidence du plus puissant des daïmyos du Japon. C’est une ville de quelque dix mille maisons, d’une centaine de temples et de monastères très riches. Ici François tente sa chance : sans solliciter la permission du daïmyo, voici qu’avec ses deux compagnons il se met à prêcher  » dans les rues, nous plaçant aux croisements où passent les gens « . L’échec est total.

Une semaine avant Noël, François, Fernandez et Bernard partent pour Miyako, aujourd’hui Kyoto. Miyako était déjà l’une des plus belles villes de l’Asie. Elle fut pour François le lieu de ses plus cruelles désillusions : le  » Roi du Japon  » a beau descendre de la déesse solaire, il n’est qu’un roi de théâtre, qui ne sort – qu’on ne sort, plus exactement – de son palais délabré que pour certaines cérémonies officielles, et lorsque l’on se présente, dans la tenue de François, aux portes de ce palais, on en est vigoureusement écarté. Autre déception : les fameuses  » universités  » sont en fait des monastères peuplés et riches : un gueux n’y est pas admis. François et Fernandez peuvent être les premiers Européens à pénétrer si avant dans le Japon, ils n’ont plus qu’à rebrousser chemin. En mars 155 1, les voici de retour à Yamaguchi.

François qui a compris à ses dépens qu’au Japon, un daïmyo est plus puissant en fait que  » le Roi « , se décide à frapper un grand coup. Il se présente au daïmyo de Yamaguchi, non plus en pauvre itinérant, mais en grand costume d’ambassadeur du Pape et les bras chargés de cadeaux : une horloge qui sonne les heures, deux paires de lunettes, un mousquet à trois canons et même un tonnelet de vin de porto… Le daïmyo, ébloui, donna aux missionnaires toute autorisation de prêcher leur doctrine ; il mit même à leur disposition, pour se loger et recevoir, un monastère bouddhiste.

Mais en dix semaines, il ne se fit aucune conversion. Jusqu’au jour où un Japonais cracha au visage de Fernandez qui prêchait sur une place publique. Le Frère prit calmement son mouchoir de papier, essuya son visage et continua de parler… Devant cette sérénité, un des plus acharnés adversaires de François se convertit et demanda le baptême.

Quand François partit en septembre, plus de cinq cents personnes s’étaient converties. Malheureusement une révolution éclata peu après et le daïmyo périt dans l’émeute.

La renommée de François est telle en ces parages que le daïmyo du Bongo (province du Kiou-Siou) l’invite à prêcher l’Evangile sur ses terres. François part pour ce nouveau pays en août 1551. Il y reste trois mois.

Depuis deux ans, François n’a reçu aucune nouvelle d’Europe, ni même des Indes. Il décide de retourner à Malacca. Le bateau qui le porte est pris dans une terrible tempête qui le jette sur une île proche de Canton. Là, François retrouve un riche marchand de ses amis de Cochin, Diégo Pereira. Pereira lui montre une lettre clandestine provenant de Portugais tombés aux mains des Chinois et qui souffrent dans les geôles de Canton. Ces prisonniers supplient Pereira de se faire nommer ambassadeur du Portugal à la cour de Pékin pour leur venir en aide. Pour François, cette lettre est une illumination. Du rivage de Chine il rentre à Malacca sur le navire de Pereira: les deux hommes échafaudent leur plan… Et l’on atteint Malacca le 27décembre 1551.

Malacca fit à François un accueil chaleureux. Le Père Perez qui missionnait là lui remet un paquet de lettres. L’une venait d’Ignace, elle était datée du 10 octobre 1549 : Ignace nommait François  » Provincial de l’Est « , c’est-à-dire de toutes les missions de la Compagnie de Jésus depuis le cap Comorin jusqu’au Japon. Depuis deux ans, François était Provincial sans le savoir !

François retourne ensuite à Goa où il trouve dans les Indes une situation fort troublée. Il en décèle aisément la source: le Père Antoine Gomez, le recteur du collège de la Sainte-Foy ; il a remplacé les élèves indigènes par des fils de familles portugaises, contre les intentions du Roi Jean.

En deux mois, François remet toutes choses en ordre : il rétablit la bonne entente des missionnaires de la Compagnie de Jésus avec le vice-roi, les autres Religieux, les Frères de la Miséricorde ; il restaure la vie religieuse des Jésuites, quitte à expulser de l’Ordre et même à renvoyer en Europe certains ferments d’indiscipline (Gomez est du nombre !); il règle au mieux les difficultés en personnel ou en ressources des différents postes ; il encourage, soutient, redonne élan et enthousiasme, même lorsqu’il doit réprimander ou punir. Sans négliger de payer de sa personne pour les prédications, les confessions, les catéchismes…

Il écrit des lettres, rédige des rapports, donne ses instructions à Barzée, le nouveau recteur de Goa, à Gonçalo Rodriguez qui peine durement à Ormuz, à Cypriano, « le satrape  » de San Tomé, à d’autres encore. Comme Ignace, François a l’art de percevoir les qualités de ces  » enfants terribles  » de la mission !

Je termine, en priant votre sainte charité,
Père très exemplaire de mon âme,
à genoux pendant que j’écris cette lettre,
comme si j’étais en votre présence,
de me confier instamment à Dieu notre Seigneur
dans vos pieux et saints sacrifices et prières :
qu’Il me donne d’apercevoir sa très sainte volonté
dans cette vie présente, avec la grâce pour l’accomplir parfaitement.
Finale d’une lettre de François à Ignace

Cependant, avec Diégo Pereira, il prépare son départ pour la Chine. Ils se présenteront à la Cour de Pékin, lui François, en Nonce du Pape, lui Pereira, en ambassadeur du Roi du Portugal (par la grâce du vice-roi !). Les  » très riches présents  » ne sont pas oubliés. Pereira y dépense une fortune.

Pour aller plus loin :

Les jésuites aujourd’hui au Japon (site en anglais… et japonais)

– Le premier jésuite japonais, un compagnon de François-Xavier

SANCIAN

17 avril 1552, berges du port de Goa

Le Santa Cruz, le navire de Diégo Pereira l’ambassadeur, appareille pour la Chine mystérieuse, avec François le Nonce à son bord. Une fois parti, François s’aperçoit qu’il a oublié à Goa ses lettres testimoniales de Nonce apostolique.

A Malacca, François a la mauvaise surprise de retrouver aux côtés du « capitan », Alvaro de Ataide de Gama, celui-là même que le vice-roi de Sousa avait fait jeter dans les cales du Coulam à Mozambique en 1542. Or Alvaro est à présent « Capitan des mers de Malacca », il dispose de l’accueil et de la sortie de tout navire.

Il s’oppose au départ du Santa Cruz, si Pereira ne démissionne pas de son titre d’ambassadeur ;

il refuse de reconnaître le titre de Nonce de François qui ne pouvait exhiber ses lettres testimoniales ;
impose au Santa Cruz un équipage de son choix ;

exige que les présents préparés pour le « Roi de Chine » soient déchargés à quai, et même la « chapelle pontificale » dont François s’était munie.

Il faut bien en passer par ces exigences du « capitan ». Cet épisode malencontreux a du moins un avantage. Il permet de surprendre François dévoré par une sainte colère d’apôtre : il écrit à Goa lettre sur lettre afin que l’évêque fulmine l’excommunication contre Alvaro de Gama « pour avoir empêché un voyage de si grand prix pour Dieu et notre sainte foi »; il demande qu’on informe de la situation le Roi Jean à Lisbonne, afin qu’il châtie sévèrement le capitan  » félon !

Le projet d’ambassade était ruiné. François écrira : « Je me rends sur ces rivages au large de Canton, privé de tout secours humain, mais dans l’espoir qu’un maure ou un païen me conduira sur la terre ferme de Chine. » François envisage le pire : faire affaire avec l’un de ces contrebandiers ou pirates qui, au péril de leur vie, trafiquaient clandestinement entre les navires étrangers et les côtes de Chine.
Au début de septembre 1552, le Santa Cruz atteignait l’île de Schangschwan, également appelée, selon l’usage français, Sancian, sise à dix kilomètres des rivages de Chine, à deux cents au S-O. de Hongkong. François n’avait plus avec lui qu’un jésuite étudiant, Alvaro Ferreira, un Chinois Antonio et un domestique malabar Christophe.

Les quelques Portugais qui faisaient escale alors à Sancian accueillirent François avec joie. Ils lui construisirent une hutte de bois coiffée de paille et une petite chapelle de branchages. François commença aussitôt à s’occuper des enfants et des malades, à prêcher, catéchiser, confesser. Il écrit à ses amis d’Europe et des Indes. Cependant qu’il cherche à prendre contact avec quelque « passeur » chinois qui le mènerait clandestinement à Canton. En voici un précisément qui accepte de courir le risque pour deux mille livres : l’argent touché, il disparaît… C’est que l’accès des rivages de Chine est sévèrement interdit; quiconque s’aventure à braver cette défense est voué, s’il est pris, non pas à une mort prompte, mais à d’interminables tortures.

Ferreira, étudiant jésuite, tremble à la pensée des geôles de Canton : François le renvoie de la Compagnie de Jésus ; Christophe le Malabar s’apprête à déserter au premier signe de danger… Seul reste auprès de François le jeune Antonio, ce fils de la Chine, fidèle comme un fils. Un à un, les navires des marchands quittent Sancian avant l’hiver. Vers la mi-novembre, l’un d’eux emporte à Malacca une lettre heureuse de François : il a trouvé enfin un Chinois qui lui a promis, pour 350 cruzados de poivre, de le transporter à Canton. 350 cruzados de poivre, c’est une fortune ! Mais rien n’est trop cher pour aller aider les prisonniers de Canton et surtout annoncer en Chine l’Evangile du Seigneur. Chaque jour, François guette le retour de son passeur: il ne reparaîtra pas.

C’est alors que François lance son prodigieux défi :

« Au cas où notre homme ne viendrait pas et aurait changé par crainte du risque, j’irai au Siam et de là à Canton avec la flotte que le Roi de Siam envoie à Canton. Et si avant un an je ne peux pas aller par le Siam, j’irai par l’Inde. J’ai grande espérance d’aller en Chine… Quelle grande gloire pour Dieu si par le moyen d’un être aussi vil que moi, cette vaste opposition du diable n’aboutissait à rien ! »

21 novembre 1552, François célèbre sa dernière Messe, une messe des morts pour un contrebandier de l’île. L’office terminé, il se sent défaillir. Antoine le conduit au Santa Cruz qui est toujours là, le capitaine n’osant repartir pour Malacca sans François. Mais le roulis du navire le fatigue, on le ramène à terre. Un marchand portugais qui s’apprête à partir lui fait une saignée. François s’évanouit.

Voici le récit de l’unique témoin de ces derniers jours de François par le fidèle Antoine :

Le 3 décembre 1552, François avait quarante-six ans.

 » La saignée fut suivie d’une si grande nausée, qu’il fut incapable d’avaler quelque chose… Il supportait le tout avec grande patience. Son esprit alors se mit à vagabonder, et, dans son délire, des mots, incohérents en apparence, prouvaient qu’il pensait à ses frères de la Compagnie de Jésus… Les yeux levés au ciel, et, avec une attitude très joyeuse, il tint à haute voix de longs colloques avec Notre Seigneur, dans les différentes langues qu’il connaissait. Ce jour-là, il perdit l’usage de la parole, et resta silencieux pendant trois jours, jusque vers le jeudi à midi. Pendant tout ce temps, il ne reconnaissait personne et ne mangeait plus rien. Jeudi vers midi, il reprit ses sens, mais ne parla que pour invoquer la Sainte Trinité, Père, Fils et Saint Esprit, l’une de ses plus tendres dévotions. Il reprit ces paroles Jésus, « Fils de David, ayez pitié de moi » ; il s’exclama à plusieurs reprises « O Vierge, Mère de Dieu, souvenez-vous de moi »… Il eut sur les lèvres ces invocations et d’autres du même genre toute la nuit du vendredi, jusqu’à l’aube du samedi, quand je compris qu’il se mourait ; je plaçai une petite chandelle dans sa main ; alors avec le nom de Jésus sur les lèvres, il rendit son âme à son Créateur et Seigneur, avec grand repos et paix. »

Antoine et deux mulâtres ensevelirent le corps dans un coffre où ils déversèrent de la chaux, puis ils le déposèrent dans la terre. Quand le Santa Cruz leva l’ancre, en février 1553, il emportait à son bord le corps – intact – de François.

Le 22 mars Malacca reçut avec de grands honneurs la précieuse relique. Pereira était à Goa quand il apprit la mort de son grand ami. Il vint à Malacca, un peu après le 15 avril 1553 et enleva clandestinement le corps. Il le déposa dans sa maison, et le 11 décembre enfin, la dépouille mortelle de François reprit la mer une dernière fois.

Le bateau eut à subir ouragans et tempêtes ; à plusieurs reprises il faillit échouer. On atteignit enfin Goa.

La ville entière – « fidèles et infidèles », selon la formule du vœu de Montmartre – était au port pour accueillir celui qui, dans le silence et la solitude, avait vécu et était mort pour révéler aux terres nouvelles l’amour du Christ. 

François-Xavier fut canonisé le 12 mars 1622,
en même temps qu’Ignace de Loyola.

Ni la vie, ni la mort n’avaient pu les séparer.
Pour aller plus loin :

– Télécharger une image de Sancian comme fond d’écran (1024×667 pixels, 72 ko)

Une carte des îles face à la Chine datant de 1749 (site en anglais)

Macao et les jésuites




St. Francis Xavier

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country,Francis Xavier went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, PierreFavre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them. It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534.


After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of theSociety of Jesus. The order was approved verbally 3 September, and before the written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King ofPortugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. Here he remained nine months, giving many admirable examples of apostolic zeal.

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed atGoa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christanity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, convertingmany, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon. Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time, sometimes on account of the cruel persecutions which some of the petty kings of the country carried on against the neophytes, and again because the Portuguese soldiers, far from seconding the work of the saint, retarded it by their bad example and vicious habits.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last months of that year, and although he reaped an abundant spiritual harvest, he was not able to root out certain abuses, and was conscious that many sinners had resisted his efforts to bring them back to God. About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached theGospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines. But although this statement is made by some writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623, it is said that he preached the Gospel in Mindanao, up to the present time it has not been proved absolutely that St. Francis Xavier ever landed in the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christanity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at Goa, whither he went, taking Angerwith him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the infidels, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in the country had been received into the Society. In 1548 Xavier sent these missionaries to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccas, he started with him and Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning theJapanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here because of the dissensions then rending the country. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres andBrother Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here domestic troubles awaited him. Certain disagreements between the superior who had been left in charge of the missions, and therector of the college, had to be adjusted. This, however, being arranged, Xavier turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and though he probably had not formed a proper estimate of his extent and greatness, he nevertheless understood how wide a field it afforded for the spread of the light of the Gospel. With the help of friends he arranged a commission or embassy the Sovereign of China, obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the party encountered difficulties because the influentialPortuguese disapproved of the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate hiscondition, he was removed to the land, where a rude hut had been built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last.

It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 - 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, andconverted so many infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the stupendous miracleswhich God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which has no equal elsewhere. The list of the principalmiracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderful miracles he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith, entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although on account of the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

The body of the saint is still enshrined at Goa in the church which formerly belonged to the Society. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome, where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu.


Astrain, Antonio. "St. Francis Xavier." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 5 Dec. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06233b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Mary and Joseph P. Thomas. In memory of Sebastian Poovathumkal.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06233b.htm


St. Francis Xavier

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, Francis Xavier went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them.

It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534.

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius.

The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus. The order was approved verbally 3 September, and before the written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. Here he remained nine months, giving many admirable examples of apostolic zeal.

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them.

About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christianity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon. Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time, sometimes on account of the cruel persecutions which some of the petty kings of the country carried on against the neophytes, and again because the Portuguese soldiers, far from seconding the work of the saint, retarded it by their bad example and vicious habits.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He labored there for the last months of that year, and although he reaped an abundant spiritual harvest, he was not able to root out certain abuses, and was conscious that many sinners had resisted his efforts to bring them back to God.

About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christanity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at Goa, whither he went, taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the infidels, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in the country had been received into the Society.

In 1548 Xavier sent these missionaries to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccas, he started with him and Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the bonzes, who had him banished from the city.

Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here because of the dissensions the rending the country. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here domestic troubles awaited him. Certain disagreements between the superior who had been left in charge of the missions, and the rector of the college, had to be adjusted. This, however, being arranged, Xavier turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and though he probably had not formed a proper estimate of his extent and greatness, he nevertheless understood how wide a field it afforded for the spread of the light of the Gospel.

With the help of friends he arranged a commission or embassy the Sovereign of China, obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the party encountered difficulties because the influential Portuguese disapproved of the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a rude hut had been built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last.

It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 – 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the stupendous miracles which God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which has no equal elsewhere.

The list of the principal miracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderful miracles he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith, entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although on account of the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

The body of the saint is still enshrined at Goa in the church which formerly belonged to the Society. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome, where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/saint-francis-xavier/



St. Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies, Confessor

His life was written in Latin by F. Turselin, in six books, first printed at Rome in 1594. The same author translated into Latin, and published in 1596 the saint’s letters in four books. The life of this saint was also composed by F. Orlandino in the history of the Society: in Italian by F. Bartoli; also by F. Maffei: in Portuguese by Luzena, and in Spanish by F. Garcia. See likewise F. Nieremberg’s illustrious men: the modern histories of India, especially that of Jarrio: Solia’s history of Japan, Lewis de Gusman’s Spanish history of the Missions to the East-Indies, China, and Japan; and Ferdinand Mendez Pinto’s Travels in Portuguese. From those and other sources is the life of St. Francis Xavier elegantly compiled in French by the judicious and eloquent F. Bouhours, published in English by Dryden in 1688. See also Maffei, Histor. Indicar. l. 15, F. Ribadeneira, F. Charlevoix, Hist. de Japan. Lafiteau, Découvertes et Conquestes des Indes Orientales par les Portuguais.

A.D. 1552.

A CHARGE to go and preach to all nations was given by Christ to his apostles. This commission the pastors of the church have faithfully executed down to this present time; and in every age have men been raised by God, and filled with his Holy Spirit for the discharge of this important function, who, being sent by the authority of Christ and in his name by those who have succeeded the apostles in the government of his church, have brought new nations to the fold of Christ for the advancement of the divine honour, and filling up the number of the saints. This conversion of nations, according to the divine commission is the prerogative of the Catholic Church, in which it has never had any rival. Among those who in the sixteenth century laboured most successfully in this great work, the most illustrious was St. Francis Xavier, the Thaumaturgus of these later ages, whom Urban VIII. justly styled the apostle of the Indies. This great saint was born in Navarre, at   the castle of Xavier, eight leagues from Pampelona, in 1506. His mother was heiress of the two illustrious houses of Azpilcueta and Xavier, and his father Don John de Jasso, was one of the chief counsellors of state to John III. d’Albret, king of Navarre. Among their numerous family of children, of which Francis was the youngest, those that were elder bore the surname of Azpilcueta, the younger that of Xavier. Francis was instructed in the Latin tongue, under domestic masters, and grounded in religious principles in the bosom of his pious parents. From his infancy he was of a complying winning humour, and discovered a good genius and great propensity to learning, to which of his own motion he turned himself, whilst all his brothers embraced the profession of arms. His inclination determined his parents to send him to Paris in the eighteenth year of his age; where he entered the college of St. Barbara, and commencing a course of scholastic philosophy, with incessant pains and incredible ardour, surmounted the first difficulties of the crabbed and subtle questions with which the entrance of logic was paved. His faculties were hereby opened, and his penetration and judgment exceedingly improved; and the applause which he received agreeably flattered his vanity, which passion he was not aware of, persuading himself, that to raise his fortune in the world was a commendable pursuit. Having studied philosophy two years he proceeded master of arts: then taught philosophy at Beauvais college, though he still lived in that of St. Barbara.

St. Ignatius came to Paris in 1528 with a view to finish his studies, and after sometime entered himself pensioner in the college of St. Barbara. This holy man had conceived a desire of forming a society wholly devoted to the salvation of souls; and being taken with the qualifications of Peter Faber, called in French Le Fevre, a Savoyard, and Francis Xavier, who had been school-fellows, and still lived in the same college, endeavoured to gain their concurrence in this holy project. Faber, who was not enamoured of the world, resigned himself without opposition. But Francis, whose head was full of ambitious thoughts, made a long and vigorous resistance, and bantered and rallied Ignatius on all occasions, ridiculing the meanness and poverty in which he lived as a degenerate lowness of soul. Ignatius repaid his contempt with meekness and kindness, and continued to repeat sometimes to him: What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul. This made no impression on one who was dazzled with vain glory, and, under pretences, joined false maxims of worldly decency in his idea of Christian virtue. Ignatius assaulting him on the weaker side often congratulated him on his talents and learning, applauded his lectures, and made it his business to procure him scholars; also on a certain occasion when he was in necessity, he furnished him with money. Francis, having a generous soul, was moved with gratitude, and considered that Ignatius was of great birth, and that only the fear of God had inspired him with the choice of the life which he led. He began therefore to look on Ignatius with other eyes, and to hearken to his discourses. At that time certain emissaries of the Lutherans secretly scattered their errors among the students at Paris, in so dexterous a manner as to make them appear plausible, and Xavier, who was naturally curious, took pleasure in hearing these novelties, till Ignatius put him upon his guard. Some time after this, having one day found Xavier more than ordinarily attentive, he repeated to him these words more forcibly than ever: What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? and remonstrated that so noble a soul ought not to confine itself to the vain honours of this world, that celestial glory was the only object for his ambition, and that it was against reason not to prefer that which is eternally to last before what vanishes like a dream. Xavier then began to see into the emptiness of earthly greatness, and to find himself powerfully touched with the love of heavenly things. Yet it was not without many serious thoughts and grievous struggles that his soul was overcome by the power of those eternal truths, and he took a resolution of squaring his life entirely by the most perfect maxims of the gospel. For this purpose, he gave himself up to the conduct of Ignatius; and the direction of so enlightened a guide made the paths of perfection easy to him. From his new master he learned that the first step in his conversion was to subdue his predominant passion, and that vain-glory was his most dangerous enemy. His main endeavours, therefore, were bent from that time to humble himself, and confound his pride. And, well knowing that the interior victory over our own heart and its passions, is not to be gained without mortifying the flesh, and bringing the senses into subjection, he undertook this conquest by hair cloth, fasting, and other austerities.

When the time of the vacancy was come, in 1535, he performed St. Ignatius’s spiritual exercises: in which, such was his fervour, that he passed four days without taking any nourishment, and his mind was taken up day and night in the contemplation of heavenly things. By these meditations, which sunk deep into his soul, he was wholly changed into another man, in his desires, affections, and views; so that afterwards he did not know himself, and the humility of the cross appeared to him more amiable than all the glories of this world. In the most profound sentiments of compunction, he made a general confession, and formed a design of glorifying God by all possible means, and of employing his whole life for the salvation of souls. The course of philosophy which he read, and which had lasted three years and a half, according to the custom of those times, being completed, by the council of Ignatius, he entered on the study of divinity. In 1534, on the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, St. Ignatius, and his six companions, of whom Francis was one, made a vow at Montmartre to visit the Holy Land, and unite their labours for the conversion of the infidels; or, if this should be found not practicable, to cast themselves at the feet of the pope, and offer their services wherever he thought fit to employ them. Three others afterwards joined these six, and, having ended their studies the year following, these nine companions departed from Paris upon the 15th of November, in 1536, to go to Venice, where St. Ignatius had agreed to meet them from Spain. They travelled all through Germany on foot, loaded with their writings, in the midst of winter, which that year was very sharp and cold. Xavier, to overcome his passions, and punish himself for the vanity he had formerly taken in leaping, (for he was very active, and had been fond of such corporal exercises,) in the fervency of his soul, had tied his arms and thighs with little cords, which, by his travelling, swelled his thighs, and sunk so deep into the flesh as to be hardly visible. The saint bore the pain with incredible patience, till he fainted on the road; and, not being able to go any farther, was obliged to discover the reason. His companions carried him to the next town, where the surgeon declared that no incision could be safely made deep enough, and that the evil was incurable. In this melancholy situation, Faber, Laynez, and the rest spent that night in prayer; and the next morning Xavier found the cords broken out of the flesh. The holy company joined in acts of thanksgiving to the Almighty, and cheerfully pursued their journey, in which Xavier served the rest on all occasions, being always beforehand with them in the duties of charity. They arrived at Venice on the 8th of January, 1537, and were much comforted to meet there St. Ignatius, by whose direction they divided themselves to serve the poor in two hospitals in that city, whilst they waited for an opportunity to embark for Palestine.

Xavier, who was placed in the hospital of the incurables, employed the day in dressing the sores of the sick, in making their beds, and serving them in meaner offices, and passed whole nights in watching by them. It was his delight chiefly to attend those who were sick of contagious distempers, or infected with loathsome ulcers. Amongst these, one had an ulcer which was horrible to the sight, and the noisomeness of the stench was yet more insupportable. Every one shunned him, and Xavier found a great repugnance in himself when he first approached him. But, reflecting that the occasion of making a great sacrifice was too precious to be lost, he embraced the sick person, applied his mouth to the ulcer, and sucked out the purulent matter. At the same moment his repugnance vanished; and, by this signal victory over himself, he obtained the grace that, from that time, no ulcers, how filthy and fetid soever, caused in him any loathing, but rather a sweet devotion: of so great importance it is to us once to have thoroughly overcome ourselves, and overthrown the proud giant of sensuality, or vanity; whilst remiss acts, performed with sloth, unwillingness, and a false delicacy, rather fortify than vanquish the enemy. And it is more the resolution of the will than the action itself that subdues him. Two months had passed away in these exercises of charity, when St. Ignatius, who stayed behind alone at Venice, sent his companions to Rome, to ask the blessing of his holiness Paul III. for their intended voyage. The pope granted those among them, who were not in holy orders, a license to receive them at the hands of any Catholic bishop. Upon their return to Venice, Xavier was ordained priest upon St. John Baptist’s day, in 1537, and they all made vows of chastity and poverty before the pope’s nuncio. Xavier retired to a village, about four miles from Padua, where, to prepare himself for saying his first mass, he spent forty days in a poor, ruined, abandoned cottage, exposed to all the injuries of the weather, lay on the ground, fasted rigorously, and subsisted on what scraps of bread he begged from door to door. St. Ignatius having caused all his company to resort to Vicenza, Xavier, after this retreat, repaired thither, and said there his first mass with tears flowing in such abundance that his audience could not refrain from mixing their own with his. By order of St. Ignatius, he applied himself to the exercise of charity and devotion at Bologna, to the great edification of that city. The house in which he there dwelt as a poor man, was afterwards given to the society, and converted into an oratory of great devotion.

In Lent, in 1538, our saint was called by St. Ignatius to Rome, where the fathers assembled together to deliberate about the foundation of their Order, and their consultations were accompanied with fervent prayers, tears, watchings, and penitential austerities, which they practised with a most ardent desire of pleasing our Lord alone, and of seeking in all things his greater glory and the good of souls. After waiting a whole year to find an opportunity of passing into Palestine, and finding the execution of that design impracticable, on account of the war between the Venetians and the Turks, St. Ignatius and his company offered themselves to his holiness, to be employed as he should judge most expedient in the service of their neighbour. The pope accepted their offer, and ordered them to preach and instruct in Rome till he should otherwise employ them. St. Francis exercised his functions in the church of St. Laurence, in Damaso, in which he appeared so active, that no one distinguished himself by a more ardent charity, or a more edifying zeal. Govea, a Portuguese, formerly president of the college of St. Barbara at Paris, happened to be then at Rome, whither John III. king of Portugal, had sent him on some important business. He had formerly known Ignatius, Xavier, and Faber at Paris, and been a great admirer of their virtue; and he became more so at Rome, insomuch, that he wrote to his master, that men so learned, humble, charitable, inflamed with zeal, indefatigable in labour, lovers of the cross, and who aimed at nothing but the honour of God, were fit to be sent to plant the faith in the East Indies. The king wrote thereupon to Don Pedro Mascaregnas, his ambassador at Rome, and ordered him to obtain six of these aposlic men for this mission. St. Ignatius could grant him only two, and pitched upon Simon Rodriguez, a Portuguese, and Nicholas Bobadilla, a Spaniard. The former went immediately by sea to Lisbon: Bobadilla, who waited to accompany the ambassador, fell sick, and, by an overruling supernatural direction, Francis Xavier was substituted in his room, on the day before the ambassador began his journey. Our saint received this order with joy, and when he went to ask the benediction of Paul III., there shone, through a profound humility, such a magnanimity of soul, that his holiness took from thence a certain presage of the wonderful events which followed. The saint left Rome with the ambassador on the 15th of March, 1540, and, on the road, found perpetual occasions for the most heroic actions of humility, mortification, charity, zeal, and piety, and was always ready to serve his fellow-travellers in the meanest offices, as if he had been every body’s servant. The journey was performed all the way by land, over the Alps and Pyreneans, and took up more than three months. At Pampelona, the ambassador pressed the saint to go to the castle of Xavier, which was but a little distant from the road, to take leave of his mother, who was yet living, and of his other friends, whom he would probably never more see in this world. But the saint would by no means turn out of the road, saying, that he deferred the sight of his relations till he should visit them in heaven; that this transient view would be accompanied with melancholy and sadness, the products of last farewells; whereas, their meeting in heaven would be for eternity, and without the least allay of sorrow. This wonderful disengagement from the world exceedingly affected Mascaregnas, who, by the saintly example and instructions of the holy man, was concerted to a new course of life.

They arrived at Lisbon about the end of June, and Francis went immediately to F. Rodriguez, who was lodged in an hospital, in order to attend and instruct the sick. They made this place their ordinary abode, but catechised and instructed in most parts of the town, and were taken up all Sundays and holidays in hearing confessions at court; for the king and a great number of the courtiers were engaged by their discourses to confess and communicate every week; which they chose to do at their hands. F. Rodriguez was retained by the king at Lisbon; and St. Francis was obliged to stay there eight months, while the fleet was getting ready to sail in spring. Dr. Martin d’Azpilcueta, commonly called the doctor of Navarre, who was uncle to Xavier by the mother’s side, was then chief professor of divinity at Coimbra, and wrote several letters to our saint, but could not engage him to go to Coimbra. St. Francis, when he left Rome, put a memorial in the hands of F. Laynez, in which he declared that he approved the rules which should be drawn up by Ignatius, and consecrated himself to God, by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in the society of Jesus, when it should be confirmed as a religious Order by the apostolic see. At Lisbon, before he went on board, the king delivered to him four briefs from the pope; in two of which his holiness constituted Xavier apostolic nuncio, with ample power and authority; in the third, he recommended him to David, emperor of Ethiopia; and, in the fourth, to other princes in the East. No importunities of the king or his officers could prevail on the saint to accept of any provisions or necessaries, except a few books for the use of converts. Nor would he consent to have a servant, saying, that as long as he had the use of his two hands, he never would take one. When he was told that it would be unbecoming to see an apostolic legate dressing his own victuals, and washing his own linen on the deck, he said he could give no scandal so long as he did no ill. The saint had two companions to the Indies, F. Paul de Camarino, an Italian Jesuit, and Francis Mansilla, a Portuguese, who was not yet in priest’s orders. F. Simon Rodriguez bore them company to the fleet: and then it was that St. Francis, embracing him, said, that at Rome, in the hospital, he once beheld, whether sleeping or waking he knew not, all that he was to suffer for the glory of Jesus Christ: and that he thence conceived so great a delight in sufferings, that he cried out aloud, “Yet more, O Lord, yet more.” Which words this F. Rodriguez, who was then in the same chamber, heard; and had often pressed him to explain the meaning of. This the saint did upon his taking leave, adding, “I hope the divine goodness will grant me in India what he has foreshown to me in Italy.”

The saint set sail on the 7th of April, in the year 1541, the thirty-sixth year of his age, on board the admiral’s vessel, which carried Don Martin Alfonso de Sousa, general governor of the Indies, who went with five ships to take possession of his government. The admiral’s vessel contained at least a thousand persons, whom Francis considered as committed to his care. He catechised the sailors, preached every Sunday before the main-mast, took care of the sick, converted his cabin into an infirmary, lay on the deck, and lived on charity during the whole voyage, though the governor was very urgent with him to eat at his table, or accept of a regular supply of food from his kitchen; but he always answered, that he was a poor religious man, and that, having made a vow of poverty, he was resolved to keep it. He, indeed, received the dishes which the governor sent him from his table; but divided the meat among those who had most need. He composed differences, quelled murmuring, checked swearing and gaming, and took the utmost care to remove all disorders. Bad actions he reproved with so much authority that nobody resisted him, and with so much sweetness and tender love that no one was offended at him. The insufferable colds of Cape Verd, the heats of Guinea, the stench of the fresh waters, and the putrefaction of their flesh provisions under the line, produced pestilential fevers, and violent scurvies. After five months of perpetual navigation, and doubling the Cape of Good Hope, they arrived at Mozambique, on the eastern coast of Africa, about the end of August, and there they wintered. The inhabitants are mostly Mahometans, and trade with the Arabs and Ethiopians; but the Portuguese have settlements among them. The air is very unwholesome, and Xavier himself fell sick there: but was almost recovered when the admiral again put to sea in a fresh vessel which made better sail, on the 15th of March, in 1542. In three days they arrived at Melinda, a town of the Saracens, in Africa, where one of the principal inhabitants complained to Xavier, that so little sense of religion was left among them, that, of seventeen mosques which they had, fourteen were quite forsaken, and the three that remained were little frequented. Leaving this place, after a few days’ sail they touched at the isle of Socotora, over against the strait of Mecca. Thence, crossing the sea of Arabia and India, they landed at Goa on the 6th of May, in 1542, in the thirteenth month since their setting out from Lisbon.

After St. Francis had landed, he went immediately to the hospital, and there took his lodging: but would not enter upon his missionary functions till he had paid his respects to the Bishop of Goa, 1 whose name was John d’Albuquerque, and who was a most virtuous   prelate. The saint presented to him the briefs of Paul III. declared that he pretended not to use them without his approbation, and, casting himself at his feet, begged his blessing. The bishop was struck with the venerable air of sanctity that appeared in his countenance and deportment, raised him up, kissed the briefs, and promised to support him by his episcopal authority: which he failed not to do. To call down the blessing of heaven on his labours, St. Francis consecrated most of the night to prayer. The situation in which religion then was in those parts, was such as called forth his zeal and his tears. Among the Portuguese, revenge, ambition, avarice, usury, and debauchery, seemed to have extinguished in many the sentiments of their holy religion; the sacraments were neglected: there were not four preachers in all the Indies: nor any priests without the walls of Goa. The bishop’s exhortations and threats were despised, and no dam was sufficient to stem such a deluge. The infidels resembled rather beasts than men, and the few who were come over to the faith, not being supported by competent instructions, nor edified by example, relapsed into their ancient manners and superstitions. Such was the deplorable situation of those countries when St. Francis Xavier appeared among them as a new star to enlighten so many infidel nations. So powerful was the word of God in his mouth, and such the fruit of his zeal, that in the space of ten years he established the empire of Jesus Christ in a new world. Nothing more sensibly afflicted him at his arrival at Goa, than the scandalous deportment of the Christians, who lived in direct opposition to the gospel which they professed, and, by their manners, alienated the infidels from the faith: he therefore thought it would be best to open his mission with them. In order to compass a general reformation, he began by instructing them in the principles of religion, and forming the youth to the practice of sincere piety. Having spent the morning in assisting and comforting the distressed in the hospitals and prisons, he walked through the streets of Goa, with a bell in his hand, summoning all masters, for the love of God, to send their children and slaves to catechism. The little children, gathered together in crowds about him, and he led them to the church, and taught them the creed and practices of devotion, and impressed on their tender minds, strong sentiments of piety and religion. By the modesty and devotion of the youth, the whole town began to change its face, and the most   abandoned sinners began to blush at vice. After some time, the saint preached in public, and made his visits to private houses: and the sweetness of his behaviour and words, and his charitable concern for the souls of his neighbours were irresistible. Sinners were struck with the horror of their crimes, and, throwing themselves at his feet, confessed them with bitter compunction of heart; and the fruits of penitence which accompanied their tears, were the certain proofs of the sincerity of their conversions. Usurious bonds were cancelled, restitution was made of unjust gains, slaves who had been unjustly acquired were set at liberty, concubines dismissed, or lawfully married, and families were well regulated.

The reformation of the whole city of Goa was accomplished in half a year, when the saint was informed, that, on the coast of La Pescaria, or the Pearl Fishery, which is extended from Cape Comorin to the isle Manar, on the eastern side of the peninsula, there were certain people called Paravas, that is, Fishers, who some time ago, in order to please the Portuguese who had succoured them against the Moors, had caused themselves to be baptized, but, for want of instructions, retained their superstitions and vices. Xavier had by this time got a little acquaintance with the Malabar language, which is spoken on that coast, and, taking with him two young ecclesiastics who understood it competently well, embarked in October, in 1542, and sailed to Cape Comorin, which faces the isle of Ceylon, and is about six hundred miles from Goa. Here, St. Francis went into a village full of idolaters, and preached Jesus Christ to them; but the inhabitants told him they could not change their religion without the leave of their lord. Their obstinacy, however, yielded to the force of miracles by which God was pleased to manifest his truth to them. A woman who had been three days in the pains of childbirth, without being eased by any remedies or prayers of the Brachmans, was immediately delivered, and recovered upon being instructed in the faith, and baptized by St. Francis, as he himself relates in a letter to St. Ignatius. 2 Upon this miracle, not only that family, but most of the chief persons of the country, listened to his doctrine, and heartily embraced the faith, having obtained the leave of their prince. The servant of God proceeded to the Pearl Coast, set himself first to instruct and confirm those who had been formerly baptized; and, to succeed in his undertaking, he was at some pains to make himself more perfectly master of the Malabar tongue. Then he preached to those Paravas to whom the name of Christ was till that time unknown; and so great were the multitudes which he baptized, that sometimes, by the bare fatigue of administering that sacrament, he was scarcely able to move his arm, according to the account which he gave to his brethren in Europe. To make the children comprehend and retain the catechism, he taught them to recite with him some little prayer upon each question or article. Every lesson or instruction he began with the Our Father, and ended with the Hail Mary. Diseases seem to have been never so frequent on that coast as at that time; which happened as if it had been to drive the most obstinate, in spite of their reluctance, into the folds of the church: for the people had almost all recourse to St. Francis for their cure, or that of some friend; and great numbers recovered their health, either by being baptized, or by invoking the name of Jesus. The saint frequently sent some young neophite with his crucifix, beads, or reliquary to touch the sick, after having recited with them the Lord’s Prayer, Creed, and Commandments; and the sick, by declaring unfeignedly that they believed in Christ, and desired to be baptized, recovered their health. The great number of miracles, and the admirable innocence, zeal, and sanctity of the preacher, recommended him to the veneration of the Bramins themselves, who were the philosophers, divines, and priests of the idolaters. These, nevertheless, upon motives of interest, opposed his doctrine: and neither his conferences nor his miracles could gain them. The process of the saint’s canonization makes mention of four dead persons, to whom God restored life at this time, by the ministry of his servant. The first was a catechist who had been stung by a serpent of that kind whose stings are always mortal. The second was a child who was drowned in a pit. The third and fourth a young man and maid whom a pestilential fever had carried off. Incredible were the labours of the saint. His food was the same with that of the poorest people, rice and water. His sleep was but three hours a-night at most, and that in a fisher’s cabin on the ground: for he soon made away with a mattress and coverlet which the governor had sent him from Goa. The remainder of the night he passed with God or with his neighbour. In the midst of the hurry of his external employments, he ceased not to converse interiorly with God, who bestowed on him such an excess of interior spiritual delights, that he was often obliged to desire the divine goodness to moderate them; as he testified in a letter to St. Ignatius, and his brethren at Rome, though written in general terms, and in the third person. “I am accustomed,” says he, 3 “often to hear one labouring in this vineyard, cry out to God: O my Lord, give me not so much joy and comfort in this life: or, if by an excess of mercy, thou wilt heap it upon me, take me to thyself, and make me partaker of thy glory. For he who has once in his interior feeling tasted thy sweetness, must necessarily find life too bitter so long as he is deprived of the sight of Thee.”

He had laboured about fifteen months in the conversion of the Paravas, when, towards the close of the year 1543, he was obliged to return to Goa to procure assistants. The seminary of the faith which had been founded there for the education of young Indians, was committed to his care, and put into the hands of the society. The saint enlarged it, and made prudent regulations for the government and direction of the youth; and, from this time, it was called the seminary of St. Paul. The following year he returned to the Paravas with a supply of evangelical labourers, as well Indians as Europeans, whom he stationed in different towns; and some he carried with him into the kingdom of Travancor, where, as he testifies in one of his letters, he baptized ten thousand Indians with his own hand in one month; and sometimes a whole village received the sacrament of regeneration in one day. When the holy man first penetrated into the inland provinces of the Indians, being wholly ignorant of the language of the people, he could only baptize children, and serve the sick, who, by signs, could signify what they wanted, as he wrote to F. Mansilla. Whilst he exercised his zeal in Travancor, God first communicated to him the gift of tongues, according to the relation of a young Portuguese of Coimbra, named Vaz, who attended him in many of his journies. He spoke very well the language of those barbarians without having learned it, and had no need of an interpreter when he instructed them. He sometimes preached to five or six thousand persons together, in some spacious plain. The saint narrowly escaped the snares which were sometimes laid by Bramins and others to take away his life; and, when the Badages, a tribe of savages and public robbers, having plundered many other places, made inroads into Travancor, he marched up to the enemy, with a crucifix in his hand, at the head of a small troop of fervent Christians, and, with a commanding air, bade them, in the name of the living God, not to pass further, but to return the way they came. His words cast such a terror into the minds of the leaders who were at the head of the barbarians, that they stood some time confounded, and without motion; then retired in disorder, and quitted the country. This action procured St. Francis the protection of the king of Travancor, and the surname of the Great Father. As the saint was preaching one day at Coulon, a village in Travancor, near Cape Comorin, perceiving that few were converted by his discourse, he made a short prayer that God would honour the blood and name of his beloved Son, by softening the hearts of the most obdurate. Then he bade some of the people open the grave of a man who was buried the day before, near the place where he preached; and the body was beginning to putrify with a noisome scent, which he desired the by-standers to observe. Then falling on his knees, after a short prayer, he commanded the dead man in the name of the living God to arise. At these words, the dead man arose, and appeared not only living, but vigorous, and in perfect health. All who were present were so struck with this evidence, that throwing themselves at the saint’s feet, they demanded baptism. The holy man also raised to life, on the same coast, a young man who was a Christian, whose corpse he met as it was carried to the grave. To preserve the memory of this wonderful action, the parents of the deceased, who were present, erected a great cross on the place where the miracle was wrought. These miracles made such great impressions on the people, that the whole kingdom of Travancor was subjected to Christ in a few months, except the king and some of his courtiers.

The reputation of the miracles of St. Francis, reached the isle of Manar, which sent deputies to St. Francis, entreating him to visit their country. The saint could not at that time leave Travancor, but sent a zealous missionary, by whom many were instructed and baptized. The king of Jafanatapan, in the northern part of the neighbouring beautiful and pleasant isle of Ceylon, hearing of this progress of the faith, fell upon Manar with an army, and slew six or seven hundred Christians, who, when asked the question, boldly confessed Christ. This tyrant was afterwards slain by the Portuguese, when they invaded Ceylon. The saint, after he had made a journey to Cochin, upon business, visited Mancar, and settled there a numerous church; in a journey of devotion, which he took to Meliapor, to implore the intercession of the apostle St. Thomas, he converted many dissolute livers in that place. Afterwards, intending to pass to the island of Macassar, he sailed to Malacca, a famous mart, in the peninsula beyond the Ganges, to which all the Indies, and also the Arabs, Persians, Chinese and Japonians, resorted for trade. The saint arrived here on the 25th of September, 1545, and by the irresistible force of his zeal and miracles, reformed the debauched manners of the Christians, and converted many Pagans and Mahometans. This town had been lately possessed by a tribe of the latter sect, who had wrested it from the king of Siam: but Albuquerque had conquered it in 1511. St. Francis, finding no opportunity of sailing to Macassar, passed the isles of Bonda, which are some of the spice islands. Landing in the island of Amboina, he baptized great part of the inhabitants. Having preached in other islands, he made a considerable stay in the Moluccas, and, though the inhabitants were an untractable people, he brought great numbers to the truth. Thence he passed to the isle del Moro, the inhabitants of which he gained to Christ. In this mission he suffered much: but from it wrote to St. Ignatius: “The dangers to which I am exposed, and pains I take for the interest of God alone, are the inexhaustible springs of spiritual joys: insomuch, that these islands, bare of all worldly necessaries, are the places in the world for a man to lose his sight with the excess of weeping: but they are tears of joy. I remember not ever to have tasted such interior delights; and these consolations of the soul are so pure, so exquisite, and so constant, that they take from me all sense of my corporal sufferings. The saint returning towards Goa, visited the islands on the road where he had preached, and arrived at Malacca in 1547. In the beginning of the year 1548 he landed at Ceylon, where he converted great numbers, with two kings.

At Malacca, a Japonese, named Angeroo, addressed himself to the saint. Kaempfer tells us, that he had killed a man in his own country, and, to save his life, made his escape in a Portuguese ship. All agree that he was rich, and of a noble extraction, and about thirty-five years of age; and, that being disturbed in mind, with remorse and terrors of conscience, he was advised by certain Christians to have recourse to the holy St. Francis for comfort. The saint poured the mildest balm into his wounded heart, and gave him assurances that he should find repose of mind, but must first seek God in his true religion. The Japonese was charmed with his discourses, and, as he had by that time acquired some knowledge of the Portuguese language, was instructed in the faith, and engaged by St. Francis to embark with his attendants and go to Goa, whither he himself was directing his course, but taking a round. In the straits of Ceylon, the ship which carried the saint was overtaken with a most dreadful tempest, insomuch that the sailors threw all their merchandise overboard, and the pilot, not being able to hold the rudder, abandoned the vessel to the fury of the waves. For three days and three nights, the mariners had nothing but death before their eyes. St. Francis, after hearing the confessions of all on board, fell on his knees before his crucifix, and continued there, wholly taken up and lost to all things but to God. The ship at last struck against the sands of Ceylon, and the mariners gave themselves up for lost, when Xavier, coming out of his cabin, took the line and plummet, as if it had been to fathom the sea, and letting them down to the bottom of the water, pronounced these words: “Great God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.” At the same moment the vessel stopped, and the wind ceased. After which they pursued their voyage, and happily arrived at Cochin, on the 21st of January, 1548. Writing from that place to the fathers at Rome, he tells them, that in the height of the tempest, he had taken them, and all devout persons on earth, for his intercessors with God, had invoked all the saints and angels, going through all their orders, and desired particularly for his protectress and patroness, the most holy Mother of God, and Queen of Heaven, he adds: “Having reposed all my hope in the infinite merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, being encompassed with this protection, I enjoyed a greater satisfaction in the midst of this raging tempest, than when I was wholly delivered from the danger. In very truth, being, as I am, the worst of all men, I am ashamed to have shed so many tears of joy, through an excess of heavenly pleasure, when I was just upon the point of perishing. Insomuch, that I humbly prayed our Lord, that he would not free me from the danger of my shipwreck, unless it were to reserve me for greater dangers, to his own glory, and for his service. God has often shown me by an inward discovery, from how many perils and sufferings he has delivered me by the prayers and sacrifices of those of the society.”

The saint, leaving Cochin, visited the villages of the coast of the pearl fishery, and was much edified with the fervour of the converts: he made some stay at Manapar, near Cape Comorin, passed over to the isle of Ceylon, (where he converted the king of Cande,) and arrived at Goa on the 20th of March, 1548. There he instructed Angeroo and many others, and took a resolution to go to Japan. In the mean time, he applied himself more than ever to the exercises of an interior life, as it were to recover new strength; for it is the custom of all apostolical men, by the communications which they have with God, to refresh themselves, and repair their interior spirit amidst the pains which they take with their neighbour. During this retirement, in the garden of St. Paul’s college, sometimes walking, at other times in a little hermitage which was there set up, he cried out: “It is enough, my Lord: it is enough.” And he sometimes opened his cassock before his breast, declaring he was not able to support the abundance of heavenly consolations. At the same time he signified that he rather prayed that God would reserve those pleasures for another time, and here would not spare to inflict on him any pains or sufferings in this present world. These interior employments did not hinder him from the labours of his ministerial vocation, nor from succouring the distressed in the hospitals and in the prisons. On the contrary, the more lively and ardent the love of God was in him, the more desirous he was to bring it forth, and kindle it in others. This charity caused him often to relinquish the delights of holy solitude. F. Gaspar Barzia and four other Jesuits arrived at that time at Goa from Europe, whom the saint stationed, and then set out for Malacca, intending to proceed to Japan. After a short stay at Malacca, he went on board a Chinese vessel, and arrived at Cangoxima, in the kingdom of Saxuma, in Japan, on the 15th of August, 1549, having with him Angeroo, who had been baptized, with two of his domestics, at Goa, and was called Paul of the holy faith. 4

The language of the Japonese seems, in the judgment of Kaempfer, to be a primitive or original tongue; for it has no affinity with other oriental languages, though certain Chinese terms are adopted in it. St. Francis learned certain elements of it from his convert during his voyage, and staid forty days at Cangoxima, lodging at Paul’s house, whose wife, daughter, and other relations he in the meantime converted and baptized. The same language is used all over the empire; but the words are differently accented when addressed to courtiers or persons of rank, and when to merchants and soldiers, and again differently to the vulgar. During these forty days, St. Francis, by unwearied application, made such progress in it as to translate into Japonian the apostles’ creed, and an exposition of it which he had composed, and which he got by heart in this language, and then began to preach; but was first introduced by Paul to the king of Saxuma, whose residence was six leagues from Cangoxima. Meeting with a most gracious and honourable reception, he obtained the king’s leave to preach the faith to his subjects; of which he made such good use that he converted a great number. Kaempfer pretends that he never spoke the language perfectly; but Charlevoix, from the original authors of his life, assures us that he spoke it even with elegance and propriety. The gift of tongues was a transient favour. He distributed copies of his exposition of the creed among his converts. 5 New miracles confirmed his doctrine. By his blessing, a child’s body, which was swelled and deformed, was made straight and beautiful: and, by his prayers, a leper was healed, and a pagan young maid of quality, who had been dead a whole day, was raised to life.

After a year spent at Cangoxima, with his usual success, the saint, in 1550, went to Firando, the capital of another petty kingdom; for the king of Saxuma, incensed at the Portuguese, because they had abandoned his port to carry on their trade chiefly at Firando, had withdrawn the license he had granted the saint, and began to persecute the Christians. The converts, however, persevered steadily, and declared they were ready to suffer banishment or death, rather than deny Christ: and St. Francis recommended them to Paul, and left in their hands an ample exposition of the creed, and the Life of our Saviour, translated entire from the gospels, which he had caused to be printed in Japonese characters. He took with him his two companions, who were Jesuits, and carried on his back, according to his custom, all the necessary utensils for the sacrifice of the mass. The saint, in his way to Firando, preached in the fortress of Ekandono, the prince of which was a vassal to the king of Saxuma. The prince’s steward embraced the faith with several others, and to his care Xavier recommended the rest at his departure; and he assembled them daily in his apartments to recite with them the litany and prayers, and, on Sundays, read to them the Christian Doctrine: and so edifying was the behaviour of these Christians, that many others desired to join them, after the departure of their apostle; and the king of Saxuma, moved by their edifying conduct, became again the protector of our holy religion. At Firando, Xavier baptized more infidels in twenty days than he had done at Cangoxima in a whole year. These converts he left under the care of one of the Jesuits that accompanied him, and set out for Meaco with one Jesuit, and two Japonian Christians. They went by sea to Facata, and from thence embarked for Amanguchi, the capital of the kingdom of Naugato, famous for the richest silver mines in Japan. Our saint preached here in public, and before the king and his court; but the gospel, at that time, took no root in this debauched city, the number which the saint gained there being inconsiderable, though a single soul is, indeed, a great acquisition.

Xavier, having made above a month’s abode at Amanguchi, and gathered small fruit of his labours, except affronts, continued his journey towards Meaco, with his three companions. It was towards the end of December, and the four servants of God suffered much on the road from heavy rains, great drifts of snow, pinching cold, torrents, and hideous mountains and forests; and they travelled barefoot. In passing through towns and villages, Xavier was accustomed to read some part of his catechism to the people, and to preach. Not finding a proper word in the Japonian language to express the sovereign deity, and, fearing lest the idolaters should confound God with some of their idols, he told them, that having never had any knowledge of the true infinite God, they were not able to express his name, but that the Portuguese called him Deos: and this word he repeated with so much action, and such a tone of voice, that he made even the pagans sensible what veneration is due to that sacred name. In two several towns he narrowly escaped being stoned for speaking against the gods of the country. He arrived at Meaco with his companions in February, 1551. The Dairi, Cubosama, and Saso (or high priest) then kept their court there; but the saint could not procure an audience even of the Saso without paying for that honour a hundred thousand caixes, which amount to six hundred French crowns, a sum which he had not to give. A civil war, kindled against the Cubosama, filled the city with such tumults and alarms, that Xavier saw it to be impossible to do any good there at that time, and, after a fortnight’s stay, returned to Amanguchi. Perceiving that he was rejected at court upon the account of his mean appearance, he bought a rich suit, and hired two or three servants; and, in this equipage, waited on the king, to whom he made a present of a little striking-clock, and some other things. Thus he obtained his protection, and preached with such fruit, that he baptized three thousand persons in that city, with whom he left two Jesuits, who were his companions, to give the finishing to their instruction. At Amanguchi, God restored to St. Francis the gift of tongues; for he preached often to the Chinese merchants, who traded there, in their mother-tongue, which he had never learned. Sanctity, meekness, and humility are often more powerful in a preacher than the evidence of miracles. By the heroic example of these virtues, the apostles converted the world: and, by the like, did our saint soften the hearts of many hardened infidels. F. Fernandez, one of his two companions, was a proof of this at Amanguchi. As he was preaching one day to a mob who made a sport of him, one of the rabble, coughing up a great quantity of nasty phlegm, spit it full upon his face. The father, without speaking a word, or making the least sign of emotion or concern, took his handkerchief, wiped his face, and continued his discourse. At such an heroic example of meekness, the scorn of the audience was turned into admiration, and the most learned doctor of the city, who happened to be present, said to himself, that a law which taught such virtue, inspired men with such unshaken courage, and gave them so perfect a victory over themselves, could not be but from God: and as soon as the sermon was ended, he confessed that the preacher’s virtue had convinced him, and desired baptism, which he received, some days after, with great solemnity. This illustrious conversion was followed by many others.

St. Francis, recommending the new Christians here to two fathers whom he left behind, left Amanguchi, towards the middle of September, in 1551, and with two Japonian Christians, who had suffered with joy the confiscation of their goods for changing their religion, travelled on foot to Fuceo, the residence of the king of Bungo, who was very desirous to see him, and gave him a most gracious reception. Here the saint publicly confuted the Bonzas, who, upon motives of interest, everywhere strenuously opposed his preaching, though, even among them, some were converted. The saint’s public sermons and private conversations had their due effect among the people, and vast multitudes desired to be instructed and baptized. Among others, the king himself was convinced of the truth, and renounced those impurities which are abhorred by nature; but remained still wedded to some sensual pleasures; on which account he could not be admitted to the sacrament of regeneration, till, after some succeeding years, having made more serious reflections on the admonitions of the saint, he reformed his life altogether, and was baptized. 6 Our saint took leave of this king, and embarked to return to India, on the 20th of November, 1551, having continued in Japan two years and four months. To cultivate this growing mission, he sent thither three Jesuits, who were shortly followed by others. It had been often objected to him that the learned and wise men in China had not embraced the faith of Christ. This circumstance first inspired him with an earnest desire that the name of Christ might be glorified in that flourishing empire; and full of a zealous project of undertaking that great enterprize, he left Japan. In this voyage, the ship in which he sailed was rescued from imminent danger of shipwreck in a storm, by his prayers; and a shallop, in which were fifteen persons belonging to the ship, from which it had been separated by the same tempest, was saved by the same means according to his confident and repeated prediction, the passengers and mariners in it seeming all the way to have seen Xavier sitting at the helm and steering it. Many other clear predictions of the saint are recorded. At Malacca he was received with the greatest joy that can be imagined, and he immediately set himself to contrive how he might compass his intended journey to China. The greatest difficulty was, that besides the ill understanding which was between China and Portugal, it was forbidden to strangers on pain of death, or of perpetual imprisonment, to set foot in that kingdom. Even some Portuguese merchants who had stolen thither for the benefit of trade, having been discovered, some of them had lost their heads, others had been put in irons, and cast into dungeons, there to rot for the remainder of their lives. To remove this obstacle, St. Francis discoursed with the old governor of Malacca, Don Pedro de Sylva, and with the new one, Don Alvarez d’Atayda, and it was agreed that an embassy might be sent in the name of the king of Portugal to China to settle a commerce, with which the saint might with safety land in that kingdom. In the mean time the saint set out for Goa. Arriving at Cochin on the 24th of January, in 1552, he there met the king of the Maldives, whom F. Heredia had instructed in the faith, fleeing from rebellious subjects, and St. Francis baptized him.

The exiled prince married a Portuguese lady, and lived a private life till the day of his death; happy in this, that the loss of his crown procured him the gift of faith and the grace of baptism. Xavier reached Goa in the beginning of February, and having paid a visit to the hospitals, went to the college of St. Paul, where he cured a dying man. The missionaries whom he had dispersed before his departure, had spread the gospel on every side. F. Gaspar Barzia had converted almost the whole city and island of Ormuz. Christianity flourished exceedingly on the coast of the pearl fishery, and had made great progress at Cochin, Coulan, Bazain, Meliapor, in the Moluccas, the isles of Moro, &c. 7 The king of Tanor, whose dominions lay on the coast of Malabar, had been baptized at Goa. The king of Trichenamalo, one of the sovereigns of Ceylon, also embraced the faith. The progress of the faith in many other places, was such as gave the greatest subject of joy to the holy man. But F. Antonio Gomez, a great preacher and scholar, whom the saint had appointed rector at Goa, had made such changes and innovations even in the domestic discipline of the society, that the saint was obliged to dismiss him from the Order. Xavier appointed F. Barzia, a person of eminent piety, rector of Goa and vice-provincial, sent new preachers into all the missions on this side the Ganges, and obtained of the viceroy, Don Alphonso de Norogna, a commission for his good friend, James Pereyra, to go on an embassy to China. Having settled all affairs at Goa, he made the most tender and ardent exhortations to his religious brethren, then leaving F. Barzia vice-provincial, set sail on the 14th of April, 1552, and landing at Malacca, found the town afflicted with a most contagious pestilential fever. This he had foretold before he arrived; and no sooner was he come on shore, but running from street to street, he carried the poor that lay languishing, up and down to the hospitals, and attended them with his companions. At that time he restored to life a young man named Francis Ciavos, who afterwards took the habit of the society. When the mortality had almost ceased, the saint treated about the embassy to China 8 with the governor of Malacca, on whom Don Alphonso de Norogna (the fifth viceroy and seventeenth governor of the Indies) had reposed the trust of that affair. Don Alvarez d’Atayda Gama had lately succeeded his good brother Don Pedro de Sylva Gama in the government of Malacca. This officer, out of a pique to Pereyra crossed the project of the embassy, and, when St. Francis urged the authority of the king, and the command of the viceroy, Alvarez flew into a rage, and treated him with the most injurious language. The saint ceased not for a whole month to solicit the governor, and at length threatened him with excommunication in case he persisted thus to oppose the propagation of the gospel. Upon this occasion the saint produced the briefs of Paul III. by which he was appointed apostolic nuncio: which, out of humility, he had kept a profound secret during ten years that were expired since his coming to the Indies. The governor continued to laugh at the threats, so that the bishop’s grand-vicar at length fulminated an excommunication against him in the name of Xavier, who seeing this design utterly destroyed, determined to go on board of a Portuguese ship that was setting sail for the isle of Sancian, a small barren island near Macao, on the coast of China. This governor was afterwards deposed for extortions and other crimes, by an order of the king, and sent in chains to Goa. St. Francis during this voyage wrought several miracles, and converted certain Mahometan passengers, and on the twenty-third day after the ship’s departure from Malacca, arrived at Sancian, where the Chinese permitted the Portuguese to come and buy their commodities. When the project of the embassy had failed, St. Francis had sent the three Jesuits he had taken for his companions into Japan, and retained with him only a brother of the Society (who was a Chinese, and had taken the habit of Goa) and a young Indian. He hoped to find means with only two companions to land secretly in China. The merchants at Sancian endeavoured to persuade him that his design was impracticable, all setting before his eyes the rigorous laws of the government of China, that all the ports were narrowly guarded by vigilant officers who were neither to be circumvented nor bribed; and that the least he could expect was scourging and perpetual imprisonment. The saint was not to be deterred; and answered all these and many other reasons, saying, that to be terrified by such difficulties from undertaking the work of God, would be incomparably worse than all the evils with which they threatened him. He therefore took his measures for the voyage of China, and first of all provided himself with a good interpreter; for the Chinese he had brought with him from Goa was wholly ignorant of the language which is spoken at the court, and had almost forgotten the common idiom of the vulgar. Then the saint hired a Chinese merchant called Capoceca, to land him by night on some part of the coast where no houses were in view: for which service Xavier engaged to pay him two hundred pardos, 9 and bound himself by oath that no torments should ever bring him to confess either the name or house of him who had set him on shore.

The Portuguese at Sancian fearing this attempt might be revenged by the Chinese on them, endeavoured to traverse the design. Whilst the voyage was deferred Xavier fell sick, and when the Portuguese vessels were all gone except one, was reduced to extreme want of all necessaries. Also the Chinese interpreter whom he had hired, recalled his word. Yet the servant of God, who soon recovered of his illness, did not lose courage; and hearing that the king of Siam was preparing a magnificent embassy to the emperor of China, he resolved to use his best endeavours to obtain leave to accompany the ambassador of Siam. But God was pleased to accept his will in this good work, and took him to himself. A fever seized the saint a second time on the 20th of November, and at the same time he had a clear knowledge of the day and hour of his death, which he openly declared to a friend, who afterwards made an authentic deposition of it by a solemn oath. From that moment he perceived in himself a strange disgust of all earthly things, and thought on nothing but that celestial country whither God was calling him. Being much weakened by his fever, he retired into the vessel which was the common hospital of the sick, that he might die in poverty. But the tossing of the ship giving him an extraordinary headache, and hindering him from applying himself to God as he desired, the day following he requested that he might be set on shore again; which was done. He was exposed on the sands to a piercing north wind; till George Alvarez, out of compassion, caused him to be carried into his cabin, which afforded a very poor shelter, being open on every side. The saint’s distemper, accompanied with an acute pain in his side, and a great oppression, increased daily: he was twice blooded, but the unskilful surgeon both times pricked the tendon, by which accident the patient fell into swooning convulsions. His disease was attended with a horrible nauseousness, insomuch that he could take no nourishment. But his countenance was always serene, and his soul enjoyed a perpetual calm. Sometimes he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and at other times fixed them on his crucifix, entertaining divine conversations with his God, in which he shed abundance of tears. At last, on the 2d of December, which fell on Friday, having his eyes all bathed in tears, and fixed with great tenderness of soul upon his crucifix, he pronounced these words: In thee, O Lord, I have hoped: I shall not be confounded for ever; and, at the same   instant, transported with celestial joy, which appeared upon his countenance, he sweetly gave up the ghost, in 1552. Though he was only forty-six years old, of which he had passed ten and a half in the Indies, his continual labours had made him grey betimes, and in the last year of his life he was grizzled almost to whiteness. His corpse was interred on Sunday, being laid, after the Chinese fashion, in a large chest, which was filled up with unslacked lime, to the end that the flesh being consumed, the bones might be carried to Goa. On the 17th of February in 1553, the grave was opened to see if the flesh was consumed; but the lime being taken off the face, it was found ruddy and fresh coloured: like that of a man who is in a sweet repose. The body was in like manner whole, and the natural moisture uncorrupted: and the flesh being a little cut in the thigh, near the knee, the blood was seen to run from the wound. The sacerdotal habits in which the saint was buried, were no way endamaged by the lime; and the holy corpse exhaled an odour so fragrant and delightful, that the most exquisite perfumes came nothing near it. The sacred remains were carried into the ship, and brought to Malacca on the 22d of March, where it was received with great honour. The pestilence which for some weeks had laid waste the town, on a sudden ceased. The body was interred in a damp church-yard; yet in August was found entire, fresh, and still exhaling a sweet odour, and being honourably put into a ship, was translated to Goa, where it was received, and placed in the church of the college of St. Paul, on the 15th of March in 1554, upon which occasion several blind persons recovered their sight, and others, sick of palsies and other diseases, their health, and the use of their limbs. By order of king John III. a verbal process of the life and miracles of the man of God was made with the utmost accuracy at Goa, and in other parts of the Indies. Many miracles were wrought through his intercession, in several parts of the Indies and Europe, confessed by several protestants: 10 and Tavernier calls him the St. Paul, and the true apostle of the Indies. St. Francis was beatified by Paul V. in 1554, and canonized by Gregory XV. in 1662. By an order of John V. king of Portugal, the archbishop of Goa, attended by the viceroy, the marquis of Castle Nuovo, in 1744, performed a visitation of the relics of St. Francis Xavier; at which time the body was found without the least bad smell, and seemed environed with a kind of shining brightness: and the face, hands, breast, and feet, had not suffered the least alteration, or symptom of corruption. 11 In 1747, the same king obtained a brief of Benedict XIV. by which St. Francis Xavier is honoured with the title of patron and protector of all the countries in the East Indies.

Holy zeal may properly be said to have formed the character of St. Francis Xavier. Consumed with an insatiable thirst of the salvation of souls, and of the dilatation of the honour and kingdom of Christ on earth, he ceased not with tears and prayers to conjure the Father of all men not to suffer those to perish whom he had created to his own divine image, made capable of knowing and loving him, and redeemed with the adorable blood of his Son; as is set forth in the excellent prayer of this saint, printed in many books of devotion. For this end the saint, like another St. Paul, made himself all to all, and looked upon all fatigues, sufferings, and dangers, as his pleasure and gain. In transports of zeal he invited and pressed others to labour in the conversion of infidels and sinners. In one of his letters to Europe, he wrote as follows: 12 “I have often thoughts to run over all the universities of Europe, and principally that of Paris, and to cry aloud to those who abound more in learning than in charity. Ah! how many souls are lost to heaven through your neglect!—Many, without doubt, would be moved, would make a spiritual retreat, and give themselves the leisure for meditating on heavenly things. They would renounce their passions, and, trampling under foot all worldly vanities, would put themselves in a condition of following the motions of the divine will. Then they would say: Behold me in readiness, O Lord. How much more happily would these learned men then live! With how much more assurance would they die.—Millions of idolaters might be easily converted, if there were more preachers who would sincerely mind the interests of Jesus Christ, and not their own. But the saint required missionaries who are prudent, charitable, mild, perfectly disinterested, and of so great a purity of manners, that no occasions of sin could weaken their constancy. 13 “In vain,” says he, “would you commit this important employ to any, howsoever learned and otherwise qualified, unless they are laborious, mortified, and patient: unless they are ready to suffer willingly, and with joy, hunger, and thirst, and the severest persecutions.” 14 This saint was a model of such preachers, formed upon the spirit of the apostles. So absolute a master he was of his passions, that he knew not what it was to have the least motion of choler and impatience, and in all events was perfectly resigned to the divine will; from whence proceeded an admirable tranquillity of soul, a perpetual cheerfulness, and equality of countenance. He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings, and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross. 15 By humility the saint was always ready to follow the advice of others, and attributed all blessings to their prayers, which he most earnestly implored. Of himself he always sincerely spoke as of the basest and most unworthy of men, with the most perfect sentiments of distrust in himself. The union of his soul with God by holy prayer raised him above the world. Ingulphed in deep meditations, he was sometimes found suspended in the air, with beams of glory round his countenance, as many ocular witnesses deposed. 16

Note 1. The Portuguese, in 1418, under the direction of Prince Henry, fifth son of John I. king of Portugal, began the discovery of Madeira, and several other islands which lie on the western coast of Africa, and made some small settlements in Guinea. Emmanuel the Great, who succeeded his father, John II. in the throne in 1495, and died in 1521, nominated Vasco de Gama his admiral, to find a passage to the East Indies by sea, with which no commerce was then open but through Egypt or Persia. By his encouragement Americus Vespucius discovered Brazil in America, in 1497, where Columbo had first fallen upon Guanahani, one of the Lucay islands, in 1492. Gama doubled the Cape of Good Hope in 1498, discovered the coast of Mozambique, and the city of Melinda, upon the coast of Zanquebar in Africa, and thence sailed to Calicut in the East Indies. He made an alliance with the king of Calicut, who afterwards became a Christian. Gama made farther discoveries, and great acquisitions and conquests. In 1507, Almeyda was appointed the first Portuguese viceroy in those parts. Alfonso d’Albuquerque, his most successful and prudent general, succeeded him in 1509, and governed the Indies till his death in 1515. Having taken Goa in 1510, he enlarged and fortified it, and made it the Portuguese capital in the Indies. John III. surnamed the Pious, succeeded his father Emmanuel in the throne of Portugal, in 1521, and inherited all his virtues, especially his piety and zeal for religion; but was a stranger to many injustices committed by several of his governors and generals in the Indies. The first missionaries or chaplains who attended the Portuguese in the Indies were Franciscans, with a bishop, who was an apostolic-vicar. The governor Alfonso d’Albuquerque, procured an episcopal see to be erected at Goa, and John d’Albuquerque, a Franciscan, was the first bishop. The see of Goa was afterwards raised to the metropolitical dignity, when other bishoprics were erected in those parts; viz. those of Cochin and Malacca, in 1592, that of Meliapor, in 1607, &c. A zealous officer in the army, named Antony Galvan, founded a seminary in the Molucca islands, which was a model of another soon after erected at Goa, in 1540.

  The old Christians of St. Thomas, or of Malabar, in those parts were chiefly Nestorians, obeyed the patriarch of Babylon, and used the Syriac language in their liturgy. They inhabited a hundred and forty villages, had a hundred and twenty-seven churches, and amounted to the number of about twenty-two thousand souls. Vincent Gouvea, a Franciscan, who went to the Indies with John d’Albuquerque, first bishop of Goa, had many conferences with the Christians of St. Thomas, and many of them came over to the Catholic communion; others continued obstinate, and, since the Dutch are masters of Cochin, live under their protection. See Gouvea, Jornada do arcobispo de Goa, &c. p. 6, Raulinus, Hist. Malabar. Jos. Assemani, Diss. de Syris Nestorianis. Lettres Edificant. Recu. l. 12, p. 383. Serri’s Relation to the Congr. de Propagandâ. The Malabar rites, which some have been desirous to connive at, out of condescension to certain Gentiles on the coast of Malabar, consisted in the omission of some of the ceremonies of baptism; the deferring baptism of infants; women keeping the tally, on which was an image of an idol called Pyllajar, and using a cord of a hundred and eight strings; the refusing to afford certain less essential spiritual succours to the Parei (a despicable servile rank of men) at their own houses; Christian musicians playing in the temples of idols, or at their feasts; forbidding women the use of the sacraments under certain infirmities, &c. Which connivance and toleration was condemned by Cardinal Tournon, under Clement XI., by Benedict XIII. in 1727, Clement XII. in 1739, and most severely by Benedict XIV. in 1741, who yet allow particular priests to be deputed to attend the Parei alone, and others to serve the nobility.

  The infidels on this coast were in our apostle’s time partly Mahometans, partly Indian sects, and partly a remnant of the Persian idolaters. The Pattan Arabs, who were Mahometans, conquered Indostan, but, many years after, were vanquished by Gingischan, a Tartar, about the year 1200. That prince professed the religion which is followed by the great ones and the learned men of China, worshipping Tien as the sovereign being; but his posterity embraced the established Mahometanism of the country. One of these made great conquests in Persia, took Bagdat, and slew Motazen, the last Saracen caliph or vicar of Mahomet, in whom that religious dignity was extinguished. Tamerlane, a Mahometan Tartar, extended his conquests towards India in 1402, and one of his sons, with an army of Mogul Tartars, conquered Indostan in 1420; whence the name of Mogul. These took up the Mahometan religion. One of these Moguls, descendants of Tamerlane, named Aureng-zeb, who died in 1707, conquered Decan, Visapour, Golcond, and almost all the peninsula on this side the Ganges. (See Bernier’s History of Aureng-zeb, and Catrou’s Histoire du Mogol.) Since Kouli Khan, the Persian, almost ruined the Mogul by his conquests, the original Indians, called Marattas, have shook off the yoke of the Great Mogul.

  The Marattas are so called from the title of Mar-Rajah, which is given to the king of the most powerful tribe among them. The kings of smaller tribes are called Rajahs. Among this people the Mahometan remains of the Pattan-Arabs, &c. live unmolested; but chiefly occupy the mountains and fastnesses into which they retired from the conquerors. The same is the condition of the Parsees in these parts, or those Persians who left their country upon the coming of the Arabs, and some of them still retain in India the Magian religion, though much adulterated.

  The Marattas are the original Indian inhabitants, and are all of the Gentoo religion; so called from Gentio, the Portuguese name for Gentiles or idolaters. Most of these Indian Gentiles believe a transmigration of souls; which doctrine Pythagoras is supposed to have   learned from them. Their idols are of various kinds. Their Bramins are thought to be the successors of the Brachmans; they are called Butts, from their idols, of which that is the name. They touch no animal food; are very healthy, but not strong bodied: their taste and other senses are much quicker than in men who eat much flesh. Several Indian tribes live almost altogether on rice and vegetables. The wisdom of the Bramins is famed: their skill admirable in secret remedies of many diseases. They have many fine moral precepts: but adopt many monstrous absurdities, as the thousand forms under which the god Wistnow is pretended to have appeared, (their pagods or idols being in as many fantastical shapes,) the wars of the god Ram, the virtues of the cow Camdoga, &c. It is a mistake that the Bramins are the gymnosophists of the ancients: these are the Gioghi, who still pray almost naked, torture themselves out of vanity and superstition, and wander in forests, pretending to assiduous contemplation. (See Grose’s Travels.) Some of the Gentoos in Hither India worship cows, and annex sanctity to whatever comes from that animal, purify themselves with its urine, burn its excrements into a powder, with which they sprinkle their foreheads and breasts, and besmear their houses with its dung. It is said they would sooner kill their parents or children than a cow. The Banians feed birds, insects, serpents, and other living creatures with the utmost care, tenderness, and superstition. In this variety of whimsical religions, we cannot but deplore the blindness of the human understanding, destitute of the light of divine faith, whilst we remark in them not the cure, but the bent and gratification of the most violent and subtle passions, and, at the same time, so strong an inborn sentiment of religion that the mind of men rather embraces the most absurd and false religion than none at all. See Lâfiteau’s Histoire des Conquestes des Portugais dans les Indes, &c., in two volumes, 4to. (a work which falls much short of the author’s reputation.) The truly Ciceronian Latin History of India by the Bishop Jerom Osorio: that of the Jesuit Maffei, almost equal to the former in elegance of style, in point of facts are little more than abstracts of the accurate Portuguese history of John de Barros on the same subject. See also the Portuguese Asia, in four tomes, by Manuel de Faria y Sousa. [back]

Note 2. S. Fr. Xavier, l. 1, ep. 4, p. 51. [back]

Note 3. Ep. 5, p. 80, Societali Romam. [back]

Note 4. The empire of Japan, the most eastern part of Asia, consists of a cluster of islands, the largest and principal of which is called the Japonese Niphon, which in their language signifies the East or Origin of the sun. From the Chinese name Gepuanque, that is, kingdom of the rising sun, Europeans have formed the word Japan. There are two other large islands, the one called Saikokf or Bungo, the other Takosy or Sikokf. The city of Meaco in Niphon is the ancient capital of the empire; the Dairi still resides there in a sumptuous palace, and in it flourish the best manufactures and artisans in cloths, staining linen, varnishing, printing, working in gold, copper, steel, &c. Kaempfer, in 1691, reckoned in Meaco three thousand eight hundred and ninety-three tira, or temples of new or strange divinities; two thousand one hundred and seventeen mia, or temples of the original ancient divinities of Japan; one hundred and thirty-seven palaces, eighty-seven bridges, thirteen thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine houses, fifty-two thousand one hundred and sixty-nine bonzas or religious persons, and four hundred and seventy-seven thousand, five hundred and fifty-seven lay persons, besides the officers of the Dairi, and a great number of strangers, these never being comprised in the Artama or yearly registry. Jeddo in the same isle Niphon, is now grown far the largest city in the empire, and is the residence of the Cubo or secular emperor; but very irregularly built. The cities of Ozacca in Niphon, and Nangasaki in Saikokf are the chief places of trade. The empire of Japan is not much inferior to that of China in riches, fruitfulness in some parts, stateliness of buildings, and the culture of arts and sciences. Yet the Japonese seem to acknowledge a superiority in the Chinese: though Charlevoix attributes to the Japonese more sincerity, liveliness of genius, delicacy of sentiment, and taste in magnificence. Japan was discovered by three Portuguese thrown on the coast of Saikokf by a storm, in 1542, and that nation soon set on foot a flourishing trade thither, and made a settlement at Nangasaki, in the principality of Omura; and during almost a century carried thence immense treasures before they were banished, in 1639. Since which the very ambassadors which the Portuguese sent to the Cubo in 1640 were beheaded by his order. The Dutch began to trade to Japan in 1609, and in 1611 established a factory at Firando, which, in 1641, was removed to Nangasaki: but was soon after confined to the little island of Desima. Once a-year the director of this factory is conducted to Jeddo, when he carries an annual present to the Cubo. The Japonese are extremely superstitious, haughty, and shamelessly abandoned to all kind of incontinence: although their wives are very faithful, and strictly guarded. Their spirit of revenge, jealousy, and pride, is insupportable; yet their veracity, fidelity, and constancy in suffering, are astonishing. Population would soon overstock their land, if wars, cruelty, and the most frequent practice of suicide, from a false principle of honour and a cool contempt of death, did not sweep off great numbers. Poor parents expose and murder their infant children, and see them expire without changing their countenance. Their principal food is rice, which in Japan is the best in the world, they add roots and pulse, but seldom eat any flesh, to which many have an abhorrence. Milk they detest, calling it a kind of white blood. They drink tea at meals, and use a strong liquor extracted from rice fermented. They are excessively ceremonious, and sit on the ground leaning backward on their heels, and cross-legged. The Japonese distinguish three dynasties of their monarchs: the two first fabulous, of the Chamis or gods of heavenly extraction, and of demigods. The third dynasty is allowed real, and begins in Syn-mu, whom Charlevoix places six hundred years before Christ. This emperor was styled Dairi. The family of Syn-mu, said to be the most ancient sovereign house in the world, after having enjoyed both the throne and the sovereign priesthood, was reduced to the latter; it still confirms and installs the Cubo at every succession. Konjei, the sixty-sixth Dairi, in 1142, seeing his empire disturbed with civil wars, created Joritomo general of all his armies, who usurped the sovereign civil authority, yet acknowledging a nominal dependence, which his successors also did for the space of four centuries. The Jacatas or governors of provinces, had before that time assumed the subordinate sovereignty in their districts, and their successors reigned as so many petty kings. This was the situation of Japan when St. Francis preached there. But in 1585, Fidejos, the twenty-ninth Seogon, or general, rebelled against Ookimatz, the hundred and seventh Dairi, shook off all dependence in civil affairs, took the title of Taikosama, or great lord, and compelled the Dairi to confer on him that of Quambuku, or Quambacundono, i. e. regent. But the ordinary title of Taikosama and his successors is, Cubo, or Cubosama, Cubo being the ancient title of the general of the militia. Taikosama abolished all the Jacatas or subordinate kings; from which time the Cubos are absolute monarchs of all Japan. The very title of Jacatas is extinct: hereditary governors of provinces are now styled Daimio or lords: those of smaller districts, Siomio; and these compose the two first ranks of the nobility: the Tonosama are governors of imperial cities. Since the revolution completed by Taikosama, the Dairi, or Mikaddo, who is the descendant of Ookimatz, is only the ecclesiastical emperor and high-priest of the religion of Sintos; enjoys the chief authority in all religious matters, and is treated with great honour even by the Cubo, served with a kind of adoration, and always carried about, not being suffered ever to touch the ground lest he should be defiled by it. For his expenses and pleasures he enjoys the revenues of Meaco and its territory, and has a very numerous court, all of ecclesiastics; but in it, says Kaempfer, there reigns a splendid indigence.

  There are in Japan twelve religious sects of idolaters. The two principal are those of the Sintoists or Chamis, and the Budsdoists. The first is the reigning religion: its professors worship seven gods called Chamis, and five demi-gods, both of whom they pretend to have reigned in Japan several millions of years, and to compose the first and second dynasties of their kings. Their temples are very rich, filled with ornaments of gold, silver, and brass, and lofty pillars of cedar. Tensio-Dai-Dsin is the chief Chamis, the father and founder of their nation: his temple of Ixo or Isjo, in the province of that name, is famous for pilgrimages, from which only the Dairi is exempt. The Jammabus are religious persons of austere lives, but addicted to unnatural lust, who are also soldiers for the protection of their gods. Kaempfer will have the apostle of this religion in Japan, who is called Koosi, to have been Confucius, which cannot be, and he confesses in another place that Confucius never left China. The Sintoists admit numberless other gods; allow a state of happiness after death, in a region above the heavens, but think little of another life: and as foxes are most pernicious in that country, they believe their souls to be the devils. The second religion is called of Budsdo, (from Buhda, one of the names which their Bramins give Zaca,) or of Fotogues, (from Fotoge, a generical name of any god.) This is professed by those who adore Zaca, an ancient Indian legislator. Amida is the chief god of this sect, as he is of the Indians, who imagine him to have been Wistnow in his ninth apparition in a human shape. This sect is of Indian extraction. The Budsdoists adore Zaca or Siako, who first established the worship of Amida, and many other gods: they believe the transmigration of souls from brutes into human bodies, and an everlasting heaven and hell for very good and bad human souls after death; never kill any living creature or eat flesh: have pilgrimages, idols, temples, and various kinds of religious persons and anchorets, very austere in their manner of living, though extremely addicted to debauchery. Charlevoix relates, that the Budsdoists often murder themselves in honour of their god Amida, hoping he will receive their souls: some drown themselves in the sea, others wall themselves up in caverns to perish with hunger, and others throw themselves headlong into burning volcanoes: after which they are often themselves honoured as gods. The religion of the Sintoists was also very numerous in Japan; in this no divinities are acknowledged but Tien, or the heaven, which they pretend to have been created with the earth by In and Io: they extol suicide as the most heroic act of virtue: practise certain religious ceremonies, but have neither temples nor idols. This religion is derived from that of the learned in China; it is sunk extremely since the persecution of the Christians in Japan, the Sintoists having placed an image of some god of the country in their houses that they might not be suspected to be Christians. Certain sects in Japan worship the sun, moon, apes, and other beasts; men deified, and fantastical idols. Some, as in China, follow the religion of the Lamas of Thibet in Great Tartary, who worship the Great Lama, a living man whom they imagine to be immortal; the Lamas substituting one who resembles the former, when he dies. The name of Bonza (the original of which is not known) was given by the Portuguese to the priest and religious of many different denominations of all idolatrous sects in China and Japan; and sometimes to the Talopians of Siam, &c. See F. Charlevoix, Hist. du Japan, in nine volumes; Kaempfer, physician to the Dutch factory there, in his History of Japan, in folio, and Histoire Moderne pour servir de suite à l’Histoire Ancienne de Rollin, Paris, in 1752, t. 2, Hist. de Japonnois. Abbé Roubaud, Hist. Gén. de l’Asie, de l’Afrique, et de l’Amérique, t. 1, p. 8, &c. [back]

Note 5. The Japonese write or print, like the Chinese, from the top to the bottom of the page, and from the right hand to the left. The ancient Japonian letters were so shapeless that this people have abolished them, and make use of the Chinese alphabet: but the letters are very differently accented and pronounced in Japan. It is pretended by many that the art of printing was practised in China, Japan, and the Eastern Tartary many ages ago, and they have books so old, printed by words cut in boards of entire pages. But this is not properly the art of printing. Engraving letters on boards is at least as old as Homer, and is proved by Fournier to have been in use through every succeeding age. In the thirteenth century, both cuts or images and letters were printed, by being cut in wood, on which, afterwards, a thick ink was laid. M. Schoepflin makes the mobility of the types to be an essential part of printing; consequently neither the Chinese nor John Coster of Haerlem were printers, since they only used boards in which words were cut: the Dutch, who ascribe the invention of the typographic art to this Coster, (whose true name was Laurence Jansson,) produce no other proofs than books without date, printed by whole pages engraved or cut in wood. The ingenious Fournier advances, that the mobility of the types is not sufficient, unless they are cast in metal: for St. Jerom speaks of movable types made of box and ivory. Upon this principle he calls, not John Guttemberg of Mentz, but Peter Schoëffer, the first inventor of the typographic art. Trithemius, in his chronicle, says, that John of Guttemberg, a gentleman who was a native of Mentz, but settled at Strasburg, laid out a great deal of money in this discovery, without making any progress, till he took John Fust or Faust into partnership. Faust, afterwards, made Peter Schoëffer his partner, about the year 1457, and gave him his daughter in marriage. The first book that was printed came out of their press by their joint labours, in 1459; this was Durandi Rationale Divinorum Officiorum. About the year 1462, this art was propagated in France, Italy, England, &c. The letters which the first printers used were very beautiful, and represented with great exactness the letters which were then used in writing. See Lambecius, (Bibl. Vindob. l. 2, p. 989,) Chevalier, (Orig. de l’Imprim.) La Caille, (Hist, de l’Imprim.) Ames, (Hist. of Printing,) and especially the excellent dissertations of M. Schoepflin, (Mem. de l’Acad. des Inscript. vol. 17,) and M. Fournier. (Diss. sur l’Origine de l’Art de Graver en Bois, Paris, 1758.) As the sources of the largest rivers often escape observation, because small and inconsiderable; so is the first original of arts, like that of empires and nations, obscure. The greatest discoveries are usually owing to hints given by others, whose names are forgotten. The system of universal gravitation was a key to that of attraction, and was itself struck out from former progressive discoveries made of the laws of motion or nature. From logarithms, the step was not large to fluxions; and former progressive rules of numbers opened the way to Lord Napier’s discovery of logarithmic tables. The art of printing (as well as most other arts) is still in a very imperfect state in China: the improvements of that nation have been falsely exaggerated by some moderns, and it is apparent that this people, though more cultivated than the neighbouring nations, fall, in general, far short of the more polished countries on this side of the globe. We, indeed, justly admire the liveliness and beauty of their azure, and other colours in painting; but this invention must have been the mere result of observation and experience, as our artists have never been able to give them any taste for proportions, and regularity in their drawings; instanced in that stupidity and slowness of genius which those Chinese, who, with their emperor’s leave, travelled into Europe, have betrayed on all occasions. The colours used by our own ancestors, even in ages wherein genius seems to have been least cultivated, were far superior to ours: as appears in their painted glass, and in the beautiful painted figures with which the magnificent ancient copy of Froissart, in the king’s library at Paris, and part in the British Museum at London, is embellished in every part of each volume, representing with admirable beauty the exploits, dresses, and manners of that age; also in Lydgate’s Life of St. Edmund, in the copy presented to Henry   VI., and several prayer-books, &c. on vellum. The finest gold, and the choicest sky-blue metallic particles of the hardest oriental lapis-lazuli, &c. were not then spared, which are now thought too expensive for such purposes. Yet every one will allow that this gives no advantage of genius to the monks, to whom we are indebted for those curious works. In like manner, the Chinese may raise our admiration with the beauty of their colours, but cannot therefore claim the merit of genius. [back]

Note 6. The divine seed sown by St. Francis Xavier in Japan increased so much that when the persecution was raised, there were reckoned in that empire four hundred thousand Christians. Paul, the first fruits, or rather the father of this church, died happily, and in great sentiments of piety and holy spiritual joy, in 1557. The Prince of Omura was baptized in 1562. That prince and the two kings of Bungo and Arima, who had received baptism, sent ambassadors of obedience, who were their own near relations, to Pope Gregory XIII. in 1582. They were conducted in their voyage by F. Valegnani, a Jesuit, and received with great honour in the principal cities of Portugal, Spain, and Italy, through which they passed, and especially at Rome. The faith flourished daily more and more in Japan; and, in 1596, there were in that empire two hundred and fifty churches, three seminaries, a novitiate of the Jesuits, and several Franciscans. The Cubo, or Emperor Nabunanga, at least out of hatred to the Bonzas, was very favourable to the missionaries, and his prime minister, Vatadono, viceroy of Meaco, was the declared protector of the Christian religion. When the conversion of all Japan was looked upon as at hand, this undertaking was entirely overturned. Nabunanga was cut off by a violent death, and Taikosama usurped first the regency for the son of Nabunanga, and afterwards the empire, by contriving to have that heir put to death. Partly by policy, and partly by force, he subdued all Japan, and extinguished the Jacates or petty kings. For some time he was favourable to the Christians, till, by various accidents, he was excited to jealousy at their numbers and progress. In 1586, he, by an edict, forbad any Japonese to embrace the faith, and shortly after caused many Christians to be crucified: in the year 1590, no fewer than twenty thousand were put to death for the faith. In 1597, the twenty-six martyrs suffered, whom Urban VIII. thirty years after, declared such. On their death and miracles, see Charlevoix, (l. 10, c. 4, p. 330, and this work on Febr. 5.) Taikosama died in 1598; and Ijedas, (to whom he left the regency and care of his young son, Fidejori, a prince fond of the Christians,) having murdered the heir, his pupil, and usurped the throne, continued the persecution; and, in 1615, banished all the missionaries, forbidding entrance for the time to come under pain of death. The year following Fide-Tadda, his son, succeeded him in the throne, and put great numbers of Christians to barbarous deaths. Xogun or Toxogunsama, to whom he resigned the crown, or at least the regency, in 1622, carried his cruelty against the Christians to the last excess, and put incredible numbers to the most barbarous deaths. In 1636 the Dutch accused to this Emperor Moro and other Japonese Christians of a conspiracy with the Portuguese against the state, which Kaempfer (b. 4, c. 5,) pretends to have been real; but Charlevoix endeavours to prove counterfeit, (t. 2, p. 406.) This charge exceedingly enraged the persecutors. The Christians in numberless crowds had suffered martyrdom with the most heroic patience and constancy; but many of those who remained in the kingdom of Arima, by an unjustifiable conduct, very opposite to that of the primitive Christians, broke into rebellion, and with an army of forty thousand men took some strong places; but being at length forced, all died fighting desperately in the field, in 1638. After this, Toxogunsama continued the persecution with such fury, that at his death, in 1650, very few had escaped; and his successor, Jietznako, who pursued the same course, seems to have discovered very few to put to death. The researches have been so rigorous, that in some provinces all the inhabitants have been sometimes compelled to trample on a crucifix. Only the Dutch are allowed to trade there under the most severe restrictions, but their factory is confined to the isle of Desima, i. e. isle of De, which is one long street, before the harbour, and joined by a bridge to the city of Nangasaki on the western coast of the island Ximo. This city was subject to Sumitanda, prince of Omura, one of the first sovereigns in Japan who embraced the faith, which he established alone throughout all his dominions, situate in the kingdom of Arima. That king was himself baptized with a considerable part of his subjects. After several Christian kings, King John, otherwise Protasius, suffered martyrdom: his son Michael apostatized to preserve the crown, and became a persecutor. The rebellion of 1638 totally extinguished the faith in this kingdom and in the rest of Japan. Nangasaki in the time of the Portuguese was all Christians, and counted sixty thousand inhabitants: now about eight thousand only, and these Japonese idolaters. It is the only town in Japan which any strangers are now allowed to approach; and are here watched as if prisoners. By an inviolable edict of the emperor, all other nations except the Dutch are forbid these dominions, and all their natives are commanded to remain in their own country. The missionaries who have attempted to find admittance, seem never to have succeeded. The last that is known, was M. Sidotti, a Sicilian priest, who, in 1709, found means to land in Japan; but what became of him after this was never known in Europe. See Charlevoix, Dr. Kaempfer, and Hist. Moderne, t. 2, des Japonois. Also Hist. Provincia Philippin. Dominicanor. et Jac. Lafonus, Annal. Dominican, et F. Sardino, Jesuit. Catalogus Regularium et Sæcularium qui in Japonia et sub quatuor tyrannis sublati sunt. Also the History of the Martyrs who, in Japan, suffered cruel and intolerable torments and death for the Roman Catholic religion, in Dutch, by Rier Guyesberts, (who was an eye-witness to several living at Nangasaki in 1622,) printed at the end of Caron’s description of Japan. See also relations of this persecution, published by several Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, &c. [back]

Note 7. The Dutch, in the reigns of Philip III. and IV. of Spain and Portugal, and John IV. of Portugal, (duke of Braganza,) wrested from the Portuguese Malacca, and most of their settlements in Java and the other isles of the Sonde, the Moluccas, Cochin, Meliapor, &c. Since which time Christianity has exceedingly declined in those parts, as Cerri, Salmon, &c. complain. The Society for the propagation of the Gospel, set on foot by the English, is not likely to gain over any nation, unless men can be found who count as nothing the drudgery of learning the languages of savages, and of conforming to many customs very contrary to our European manners; moreover, they must lead most austere lives, and be ready cheerfully to suffer every hardship and denial, fearless of dangers and of martyrdom, as Mr. Salmon frequently remarks in his Modern History, wherein he complains of the strange neglect of the English, Danes, and Hollanders in this particular, (t. 3, p. 58, on Daman. and p. 196, on Madras,) and as Gordon has done before him. Among the conditions Salmon required in missionaries sent to infidel countries, he ought to have mentioned, in the first place, that they must be persons who, by habits of self-denial and patience, are dead to themselves, disinterested, men of prayer, and altogether heavenly-minded. Such were the holy apostles of infidel nations, on whose labours the divine blessings were plentifully showered down. The Danish missionaries furnish us with pompous relations of their endeavours and success at Tranquebar and other places. (See their letters in the History of the Propagation of the Gospel in the East, part 2 and 3.) Yet the authors of the Bibliothèque Angloise observe, that preachers who travel in state, and are carried in litters take not the method of those who hitherto converted nations. As to a small number who in some of the European settlements, may be induced to become Christians, it is to be feared that motives of interest, or the influence of the legislative or civil authority often render the sincerity of such conversions suspected: and the want of instruction in many such converts, and their supine behaviour often give reason to fear the curse which Christ pronounced against some proselytes of the Pharisees. It is hoped, however, there is more exaggeration than truth in what the Protestant author of the late third Letter from North America, in 1758, tells us: “An Indian proselyte, who had been admitted to a participation of the Christian mysteries, being asked what he thought of the holy rite, had nothing to answer, but that he should have liked it better had they given him rum. And I must say (with sorrow) that I have never myself remarked an Indian to have a better inducement to Protestantism than his passion for spirituous liquors; the initiation into our first sacrament being made an affair of jollity, wherein the adult infant largely partakes.” This remark is meant not as a reproach to any, but as a caution to all. It must be acknowledged that great injustices have been sometimes committed by several Spanish and Portuguese governors or generals in the Indies, and that avarice and ambition were the inducements to many adventurers, who, by despising the Maldives, and other barren rocks or sands, showed they went in quest of gold and spices. A corruption of manners likewise crept into their settlements, and preachers themselves have been sometimes dupes of a worldly spirit. It were infinitely to be wished that none who have the happiness to profess the gospel, were rebellious to the light, and a scandal to their holy religion. Yet the degeneracy of those that fall, cannot weaken the grounds of the Christian faith, nor reflect dishonour on those who live by its maxims. And it is most certain that holy ministers of the gospel have never been wanting, who, inheriting the spirit of the apostles, have succeeded them in their labours. Many such were raised by God among those who planted the faith in so many new discovered nations. Many have propagated it not only in the neighbourhood of all the new settlements of the Spaniards, Portuguese, &c., but also in many very remote barbarous countries, as in Tonquin, Cochin-China, some parts of the dominions of the Mogul, even at Delli itself. (See F. Catrou, Hist. de l’Empire du Mogol, &c.) If some received the faith without imbibing its maxims and spirit, examples even of heroic sanctity are not wanting, whether among these converts or missionaries, as the lives of a considerable number, authentically written, sufficiently evince. [back]

Note 8. The religious sects in China are, first, that of Confucius, in the original language Cum-fu-cu, or Cong-fou-tse. This is professed by the emperor, princes, and all the men of learning. In every town is an oratory, in which the mandarins offer on several festivals, wine, fruit, flowers, and rice set on a table amidst lights, with many profound bows, in honour of Confucius, singing verses in his praise. They bury the blood and hair of a hog which was killed the day before, and they burn part of its liver. The emperor makes this offering in a great temple. They have two feasts a-year in honour of Tien, or the heaven, which they worship. A sect of these called Jukiau are accused of Atheism. Some missionaries have pretended that by Tien they mean the master of the heavens, not the material heaven, which is condemned by Benedict XIV. The third volume of Du Halde’s Description of China, in which is inserted an apologetic account of some of these rites, is condemned by an order of Clement XII.

  The sect of Lao-kiun is also very ancient. The author, a philosopher of that name, is said to have lived six hundred years before Christ. His famous book called Tautse is still in great veneration among his followers, who are extremely addicted to auguries and superstitious ceremonies; and their priests study to discover an art of making men immortal, of which many of them make wonderful boasts. Lao-kiun taught that the human soul perishes with the body; that God is material, and that there are many subaltern gods which they worship. His followers worship him, and many other men whom they have deified, and whose idols they keep in their temples. These princes and heroes deified they call Chang-ti, whence it is surprising that F. Du Halde should imagine that this word in the Chinese language signifies the Creator and absolute Master of the Universe, or conveys an idea which falls not much short of that of the true God.

  The sect of Foe was introduced into China about the year of Christ 64. Foe was a philosopher who lived in the Indies long before the age of Pythagoras, and taught the transmigration of souls. He left five precepts: 1. Never to kill any living creature. 2. Never to take the goods of another. 3. To refrain from impurity. 4. Never to lie. 5. Not to drink wine. The idol Foe is represented very large, and frequently in three frightful shapes placed in the same temple, the principal resembling a man with a monstrous belly, sitting cross-legged, according to the custom of the Orientals. This is called the Idol of Immortality. The second is the Idol of Pleasures, twenty feet high. And the third is thirty feet high, wears a crown, and is called the Great King Kang. Besides these they have numberless little idols in pagoda, in the highways, and all public places: and others called Jos, in every house. The name Pagod is given both to these little idols and their temples. The Bonzas of this sect are universally despised, and most mercenary; but practise painful ridiculous austerities for the sins of others as they pretend, some dragging heavy chains twenty or thirty feet long, others striking their head or breast with a stone, &c. They teach the deluded people that their sins and the punishment of the other life are redeemed by giving alms to their communities, and they sell to those that are dying passports for the other world. There are also in China adorers of the Great Lama who resides at Barantola in Thibet, and is called the Eternal Father. See Du Halde, p. 460.

  The Chinese call their sacred books King, i. e. sublime doctrine; the principal of these are five. 1. Y-king, the oldest and most respected, attributed to Fo-hi, consists of hieroglyphic figures in lines, circles, polygons, &c., the key being lost, this book is unintelligible, and rendered still more puzzling and obscure by interpreters. 2. Chou-king, written by Confucius, contains the history of the three first dynasties, true or false. 3. Che-king, which consists of poems without life or style, some moral, others impious and obscene; to excuse these, some think them suppositious, and the work of an interpolater. 4. Tchun-Tsicou, spring and autumn, is a history of twelve kings who reigned in Lou, now Quantong. 5. Li-ki, treats of ceremonies, rites, and customs.

  It is a popular opinion among the Chinese, that their nation has subsisted above forty thousand years, and was governed by emperors four thousand years, in twenty-two dynasties from Yo, or Yao, comprising the present reigning Tartar family, besides eight emperors from Fo-hi to Yo. Martini, in his Chinese History, places Fo-hi immediately after the deluge. Shuckford and others imagine Fo-hi to have been Noah, or Sem, who, according to those authors, travelled to the utmost boundaries of the eastern continent of Asia. Du Halde, Le Compte, and other Jesuits who first gave us annals of the Chinese empire, carry its pretended antiquity as high, though upon other principles. The enthusiasm which seized the first discoverers of this remote country at the sight of the magnificence and policy of so vast an empire in the midst of nations sunk in barbarism, magnified every object in their ideas, and inclined them to receive with implicit credulity whatever the most ignorant of the natives could publish either to flatter their own vanity, or to raise the wonder of strangers. But when time and reflection had cooled their imagination, travellers began to judge of things more impartially.
  The moral precepts of Confucius, like those of Zoroaster and many others, even in America itself, appear to have been derived from a patriarchal tradition, which was disfigured by a mixture of superstition, but not entirely effaced: by which the truth of divine revelation and the sacred history is confirmed. Of this, however, we have mere pregnant proofs among the Assyrians, Phenicians, and Egyptians; as appears from the fragments of their historians collected by Josephus against Appion, &c., from Sanconiatho, &c. (See Clerc’s notes on Grotius on the truth of the Christian religion.) In this, therefore, nothing appears very singular.

  It is affirmed by many that the Christian religion flourished anciently in China; some say it was planted there by St. Thomas the Apostle. It is certain that the Nestorians in Asia extended Christianity in Georgia and other places near the Caspian sea soon after the year 778. (See Jos. Assemani, Bibl. Orient, vol. 4, pp. 478, 481, 482.) That Christianity flourished many years ago in several parts of Great Tartary near China, is manifest, though in the middle ages tainted with Nestorianism. (See Abulpharagius, Assemani in Bibl. Orient. t. 3, part 2, c. 9; Mosheim. Hist. Tartar. Eccl. c. 3, § 4, p. 129; Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. passim; Renaudot. not. in Vet. Latin. Itiner. in Indiam. n. 319.) Some of those countries subject to the Muscovites, have again received the faith, overawed by their masters, says Salmon, who have lately erected bishoprics among them. (See Nuncios Liter. Florent. ad an. 1748.) From Tartary some tell us the faith was propagated in China; Kircher thinks from the Indies. (China illustr. part 2, c. 7, p. 92.) At least Arnobius (l. 2, adv. Gent. p. 50,) mentions that the faith was settled in India, and amongst the Seræ, Medes, and Persians. And Ebedjesu says the metropolitans of the Chinese were constituted by the patriarch of the Chaldæans, (ap. Jos. Assemani, Bibl. Orient. t. 3, part 2, c. 9, p. 521, and part 1, p. 346.) As for the Christian monument found at Singanfu, commonly called Canton, (on which Kircher and Muller have published dissertations,) it is regarded as genuine by Kircher, Muller, Assemani, and Renaudot, but rejected by Horn, La Croze, &c. The travels of two Mahometans into China, in the ninth age, (published by Renaudot in 1718,) in which it is related that, in 877, the Christians, Jews, and Mahometans, were put to the sword by barbarians in China, are rejected as fabulous by La Croze Jablonski, (Inst. Hist. p. 242, &c.) and that they are a forgery is well proved by F. de Premare, a Jesuit, (Lett. Edif. t. 19, p. 420,) and F. Parennine. (Ib. t. 21, p. 158.)

  Whatever had happened in former ages, it is certain that when the Portuguese entered China, in 1517, no footsteps of Christianity were found there. In 1556, certain Dominicans began to preach in China; but some were banished, others had little success. (See Ann. Dominic, p. 158.) Also Souza, (part 3, Hist. S. Domin. l. 3, c. 1,) Le Quien, (Oriens Christ, t. 3, p. 1453.) And the Dominicans made no settlement in China before the year 1630. (See Navarret, Advart, and Gonzales, Hist. Prov. Philipp. Dominicanorum.) The Jesuits, first F. Roger, a Neopolitan, then F. Ricci. entered China in 1580, and got leave to settle there in 1583. (See F. Schall, Narrat. de initio missionis Soc. Jesu, et de ortu Fidei in regno Chin.) The Christian religion made such progress, that in 1715, there were in China above three hundred churches, and three hundred thousand Christians. But the Emperor Kang-hi, after having been long favourable to them, began to conceive some jealousy, and in 1716, forbade the missionaries to build churches or make proselytes. This prince dying in 1722, his successor, Yong-tching, upon complaints made by the governor of Fokien, against the Christians, published most barbarous edicts, which, in a great measure, extirpated Christianity out of the empire. Amongst other scenes of inhumanity, he loaded with chains, and banished into Tartary, a prince of the blood, fourscore years old, and his whole numerous family, because they would not renounce the faith. They had been condemned to die; and their exile was but a more severe kind of death, seeing most of them died soon after in close dungeons, through hardships and want; and the rest were dispersed into other provinces, to end their days in prisons, fetters, and misery. In 1731, he banished all the missionaries to Macao, a small island in the province of Canton, in which the Portuguese were permitted to settle. Tong-tching died in 1736, and the missionaries hoped to be restored, but in vain; and, since the year 1733, the Christians are left in most parts of China without churches and without pastors, under severe persecutions. The preachers who remained behind were crowned with martyrdom. Only some Jesuits are still retained at court, but not suffered to act as missionaries, but merely as mandarins who preside over the mathematics, paintings, &c. in which offices they continue in hopes of finding circumstances at length more favourable to religion. Yet they often succour the Christians who still remain in the capital, and obtain a mitigation of persecutions in the several provinces. And, since the year 1753, the Jesuits in China are allowed some liberty to assist the Christians there. See Hist. Moderne, contin. de Rollin, t. 1, part 5, c. 2, p. 344; Modern Univ. Hist. in octavo, t. 8, l. 13, c. 1, sect. 6, p. 520; Lettres Edif. et Cur. de Missionaires, vol. 27 and 28; these Lives of Saints, Feb. V.; and chiefly Lettres Edifiantes, vol. 28, anno 1758. 
[back]

Note 9. Tavernier reckons the value of a pardo at twenty-seven sols, French money. [back]

Note 10. See his life by Bouhours, translated by Dryden, b. 6. Some have objected, that F. Acosta, who published, in 1589, his book, De Procurandâ Indorum Salute, acknowledges, (l. 2, c. 8,) that the power of working miracles did not subsist among the missionaries. But he speaks of missionaries in general compared with the apostles, who all wrought miracles, and in all places. For Acosta himself (c. 10, ib.) bears express testimony to the evidence and great number of stupendous miracles wrought by St. Francis Xavier: and mentions that some other preachers had performed miracles both in the East and West Indies. That the miracles of St. Francis were famous during his life, and immediately after his death, see Tursellin, l. 6, vit. S. Fr. c. 1, and the letter of King John III. to Bareto, viceroy of the Indies, in 1556, in Acosta’s Rerum in Oriente Gestarum 1, printed at Dilingen in 1571, and at Paris in 1472. See F. M——n, Review of the Important Controversy concerning Miracles, in the Appendix added by F. M——y, p. 448. [back]

Note 11. Lettres Edif. et Cur. des Mission, vol. 27, pref. p. 24. [back]

Note 12. S. Fr. Xav. ep. 5, from Cochin, anno 1544, p. 67. [back]

Note 13. Id. l. 2, ep. 9. Sec Lett. Edif. ct Curi. des Mission. Recues, l. 7, p. 70. [back]

Note 14. Id. l. 4. ep. 9. [back]

Note 15. S. Fr. Xav. l. 1. cp. 1. p. 25. [back]

Note 16. See his Life by F. Bouhours, b. 6, p. 679. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.





Jacques-Emile Lafon . Puissance miraculeuse de Saint François Xavier,
 1859, chapelle, Saint François Xavier, église Saint Sulpice, Paris 6e

San Francesco Saverio Sacerdote


Xavier, Spagna, 1506 - Isola di Sancian, Cina, 3 dicembre 1552

Studente a Parigi conobbe sant'Ignazio di Loyola e fece parte del nucleo di fondazione della Compagnia di Gesù. E' il più grande missionario dell'epoca moderna. Portò il Vangelo a contatto con le grandi culture orientali, adattandolo con sapiente senso apostolico all'indole delle varie popolazioni. Nei suoi viaggi missionari toccò l'India, il Giappone, e morì mentre si accingeva a diffondere il messaggio di Cristo nell'immenso continente cinese. (Mess. Rom.)

Patronato: Giappone, India, Pakistan, Missioni, Missionari, Marinai

Etimologia: Francesco = libero, dall'antico tedesco

Martirologio Romano: Memoria di san Francesco Saverio, sacerdote della Compagnia di Gesù, evangelizzatore delle Indie, che, nato in Navarra, fu tra i primi compagni di sant’Ignazio. Spinto dall’ardente desiderio di diffondere il Vangelo, annunciò con impegno Cristo a innumerevoli popolazioni in India, nelle isole Molucche e in altre ancora, in Giappone convertì poi molti alla fede e morì, infine, in Cina nell’isola di Sancian, stremato dalla malattia e dalle fatiche.

Questo pioniere delle missioni dei tempi moderni, patrono dell'Oriente dal 1748, dell'Opera della Propagazione della Fede dal 1904, di tutte le missioni con S. Teresa di Gesù Bambino dal 1927, nacque da nobili genitori il 7-4-1506 nel castello di Xavier, nella Navarra (Spagna). Francesco non sarebbe diventato un giurista e un amministratore come suo padre, né un guerriero come i suoi fratelli maggiori, ma un ecclesiastico come un qualunque cadetto del tempo. Per questo nel 1525 si recò ad addottorarsi all'università di Parigi sognando pingui benefici nella diocesi di Pamplona. Il suo incontro con Ignazio di Loyola fu provvidenziale perché lo trasformò da campione di salto e di corsa in araldo del Vangelo, da professore di filosofia in Santo. Assegnato nel collegio di Santa Barbara alla medesima stanza del Saverio, il fondatore della Compagnia di Gesù aveva visto a fondo nell'anima di lui, gli si era affezionato e più volte gli aveva detto: "Che giova all'uomo guadagnare anche tutto il mondo, se poi perde l 'anima? (Mc. 8,36). Più tardi Ignazio confiderà che Francesco fu "il più duro pezzo di pasta che avesse mai avuto da impastare" e il Saverio, nel fare quaranta giorni di ritiro sotto la direzione d'Ignazio prima d'iniziare lo studio della teologia, pregherà: "Ti ringrazio, o Signore, per la provvidenza di avermi dato un compagno come questo Ignazio, dapprima così poco simpatico".

Il 15 agosto 1534 anche lui, insieme al Loyola, nella chiesetta di Santa Maria di Montmartre fece voto di castità e di povertà e di pellegrinare in Palestina o, in caso d'impossibilità, di andare a Roma per mettersi a disposizione del papa. Anche lui, all'inizio del 1537, si trovò con gli altri primi sei compagni all'appuntamento fissato a Venezia, ma la guerra scoppiata tra la Turchia e la Repubblica Veneta impedi loro di mandare ad effetto il voto fatto. Ignazio e i suoi discepoli si dedicarono allora all'assistenza dei malati nell'ospedale degl'Incurabili fondato da S. Gaetano da Thiene e, dopo essere stati ordinati sacerdoti, alla predicazione per le piazze in uno strano miscuglio di lingue neo-latine. A Bologna specialmente il Saverio si acquistò fama di predicatore e di consolatore dei malati e dei carcerati, ma in sei mesi si rovinò la salute dandosi ad austerissime penitenze. S. Ignazio lo chiamò a Roma come suo segretario. Nella primavera del 1539 egli prese parte alla fondazione della Compagnia di Gesù e, l'anno dopo, fu mandato al posto di Nicolò Bobadilla, colpito da sciatica, alle Indie Orientali in qualità di legato papale per tutte le terre situate ad oriente del capo di Buona Speranza, in seguito alle insistenti preghiere rivolte da Giovanni III, re del Portogallo, a Ignazio per avere sei missionari. 

Durante il penoso viaggio a vela, protrattosi per tredici mesi, il Saverio si sovraspese per l'assistenza spirituale ai 300 passeggeri facenti parte non certo della "buona società", nonostante che per due mesi avesse sofferto il mal di mare. Una notte, all'ospedale di Mozambico, avendolo il medico trovato tremante di febbre, gli ordinò di andare a letto. Poiché un marinaio stava morendo impenitente, gli rispose: "Non posso andarci. Un fratello ha tanto bisogno di me". Stabilitosi nel collegio di San Paolo a Goa, cominciò il suo apostolato (1542) tra la colonia portoghese che con la sua vita immorale scandalizzava persino i pagani. Poi estese il suo ministero ai malati, ai prigionieri e agli schiavi con tanta premura da meritare il titolo di "Santo Padre" e "Grande Padre". Con un campanello raccoglieva per le strade i fanciulli e ad essi insegnava il catechismo e cantici spirituali. 

Dopo cinque mesi il governatore delle Indie lo mandò al sud del paese dove i portoghesi avevano costruito le loro fortezze, avviato i loro commerci e battezzato gl'indigeni e i prigionieri di guerra senza sufficiente preparazione. Molti di essi erano ricaduti nell'idolatria, come i pescatori di perle della costa del Paravi i quali, otto anni prima, avevano chiesto il battesimo per essere difesi dai maomettani. Francesco, che non possedeva il dono delle lingue, con l'aiuto d'interpreti tradusse subito nei loro idiomi le principali preghiere e verità della fede. Poi, per due anni, passò di villaggio in villaggio, a piedi o su disagevoli imbarcazioni di cabotaggio, esposto a mille pericoli, fondando chiese e scuole, facendosi a tutti maestro, medico, giudice nelle liti, difensore contro le esazioni dei portoghesi, salutato ovunque quale Santo e taumaturgo. "Talmente grande è la moltitudine dei convertiti - scriveva egli - che sovente le braccia mi dolgono tanto hanno battezzato e non ho più voce e forza di ripetere il Credo e i comandamenti nella loro lingua". In un mese arrivò a battezzare 10.000 pescatori della casta dei Macua, nel Travancore. Mentre era intento ad amministrare il sacramento, ricevette la triste notizia che 600 cristiani di Manaar avevano preferito lasciarsi uccidere anziché tornare al paganesimo. Ne provò un momento di sconforto: "Sono così stanco di vivere - scrisse - che la migliore cosa per me sarebbe morire per la nostra Santa fede". Lo rattristava il vedere commettere tanti peccati e non poterci fare nulla. 

Benché continuamente a disposizione del prossimo, il Santo fu sempre trattato male da ufficiali e mercanti portoghesi, decisi a non permettere che la sua caccia alle anime intralciasse loro la ricerca di piaceri e di ricchezze. Noncurante degli uomini, negli anni successivi (1545-1547) egli aprì nuovi campi all'apostolato. Predicò per quattro mesi nell'importante centro commerciale di Malacca; visitò l'arcipelago delle Molucche; nell'isola di Amboina, presso la Nuova Guinea, riuscì ad avvicinare la popolazione impaurita di un villaggio stando seduto e cantando tutti gl'inni che sapeva; si spinse fino all'isola di Ternate, estrema fortezza dei portoghesi, e più oltre ancora, fino alle isole del Moro, al nord delle Molucche, abitate da cacciatori di teste. Colà agli ospiti indesiderati si servivano pietanze avvelenate. Quando il Saverio decise di visitarle, gli suggerirono di portare con sé degli antidoti, ma egli preferì riporre in Dio tutta la sua fiducia. "Queste isole - scriverà il 20-1-1548 - sono fatte e disposte a meraviglia perché vi ci si perda la vista in pochi anni per l'abbondanza delle lacrime di consolazione... Io circolavo abitualmente nelle isole circondate da nemici e popolate da amici poco sicuri, attraverso terre sprovviste di qualsiasi rimedio per le malattie e prive di qualsiasi soccorso per conservare la vita". Ciononostante egli pregava: "Non allontanarmi, o Signore, da queste tribolazioni se non hai da mandarmi dove io possa soffrire ancora di più per amore tuo". 

Dopo tre mesi di fatiche, tornò a Ternate. Il sultano regnante fece buona accoglienza al missionario, ma alla fede cristiana preferì le sue cento mogli e le numerose concubine. Raggiunta Malacca nel dicembre 1547, la Provvidenza fece incontrare al Saverio un fuggiasco giapponese, Anjiro, desideroso di farsi cristiano per liberarsi dal rimorso cagionatogli da un delitto commesso in patria. Il Santo rimase talmente sedotto dalle notizie da lui avute sul Giappone e i suoi abitanti che concepì un estremo desiderio di andarli ad evangelizzare. Dopo aver provveduto per il governo del Collegio di San Paolo a Goa e l'invio di missionari nelle località visitate, parti per il Giappone in compagnia di Anjiro, suo collaboratore. Sbarcò a Kagoshima, nell'isola di Kiu-Sciu, il 15 agosto 1548. Il principe Shimazu Takahisa lo accolse gentilmente, e mentre egli studiava la lingua del paese, Anjíro convertiva al cattolicesimo oltre un centinaio di parenti e amici. "I Giapponesi - scrisse il Saverio in Europa - sono il migliore dei popoli". Quando il principe, sobillato dai bonzi, vietò ogni ulteriore battesimo, il coraggioso missionario decise di presentarsi addirittura all'imperatore e alle università della capitale, Miyako (Kyoto), ma a causa della guerra civile endemica le università non vollero aprirgli le porte e l'imperatore in fuga non volle riceverlo (1551), perché sprovvisto di doni e poveramente vestito. Si presentò allora in splendidi abiti e con preziosi doni al principe di Yamaguchí che gli concesse piena libertà di predicazione. In breve tempo egli riuscì a creare una fiorente cristianità che formò le delizie della sua anima" e ad estenderla nel vicino regno di Bungo. 

Quando nell'inverno del 1551, richiamato da urgenti affari, il Saverio ritornò in India, in Giappone c'erano oltre 1.000 cristiani. Le fatiche avevano imbiancato i suoi capelli. Quante volte, sempre immerso nella preghiera, aveva dovuto camminare a piedi nudi e sanguinanti o passare a guado fiumi gelati! Quante volte, affamato e intirizzito, era stato cacciato dalle locande a sassate! Sovente cadde esausto sul ciglio delle strade. Per poter proseguire il suo viaggio talora dovette occuparsi come stalliere presso viaggiatori più fortunati.

Per i Giapponesi, i Cinesi erano i maestri indiscussi di ogni scibile. Essendosi sempre sentito opporre dai bonzi che se la religione cristiana fosse stata vera, i cinesi l'avrebbero già conosciuta, decise di andarli a convertire. Poiché la prigione o la morte erano la sorte che toccava a tutti gli stranieri che cercavano di entrare in quel paese, il Saverio organizzò un'ambasciata alla corte dell'imperatore della Cina, di cui egli avrebbe fatto parte. A Malacca però l'ammiraglio portoghese in carica, irritato perché non era stato scelto lui come ambasciatore, mandò a monte il progettato viaggio denunciando pubblicamente il Santo come falsificatore di bolle papali e imperiali. Senza lasciarsi abbattere dal grave colpo, l'illuminato apostolo il 17-4-1552 approdò all'isola di Sanciano con un servo cinese convertito, Antonio di Santa Fe. Colà trovò antichi amici che gli offersero ospitalità e un contrabbandiere che per 200 ducati si dichiarò disposto a sbarcarli segretamente alle porte di Canton. Ad un amico il Santo scrisse: "Pregate molto per noi, perché corriamo grande pericolo di essere imprigionati. Tuttavia, già ci consoliamo anticipatamente al pensiero che è meglio essere prigionieri per puro amor di Dio, che essere liberi per avere voluto fuggire il tormento e la pena della croce". 

Il giorno stabilito il contrabbandiere mancò alla parola data. Nel rigido inverno, il Saverio si ammalò di polmonite, e privo com'era di ogni cura morì in una capanna il 3-12-1552 dopo avere più volte ripetuto: "Gesù, figlio di Davide, abbi pietà di me! 0 Vergine, Madre di Dio, ricordati di me!". Il suo corpo fu seppellito dal servo nella parte settentrionale dell'isola, in una cassa ripiena di calce. Due anni dopo fu trasportato, integro e intatto, prima a Malacca e poi a Goa, dove si venera nella chiesa del Buon Gesù.

Paolo V beatificò il Saverio il 21-10-1619 e Gregorio XV lo canonizzò il 12-3-1622. Si calcola che il Santo missionario abbia conferito il battesimo a circa 30.000 pagani. Il suo continuo peregrinare per lontanissime regioni diede ad alcuni l'impressione che fosse di temperamento volubile. Come legato del papa, pioniere, superiore e provinciale dei Gesuiti, era spiegabile che egli, ardentissimo della gloria di Dio e della salvezza delle anime, sospirasse di prendere visione del suo sterminato territorio per inviarvi gli operai occorrenti. S. Ignazio avrebbe preferito che, invece di pagare di persona, fosse rimasto ad amministrare le missioni dell'India, e avesse inviato a dissodare il terreno altri confratelli. La lettera che gli scrisse per richiamarlo, almeno provvisoriamente, in Europa, giunse quando egli era già morto.



Il 3 dicembre è la festa liturgica di san Francesco Saverio. Un Santo che ha dell’incredibile. Partì da solo per le Indie, con una sola ricchezza: portare Cristo a chi ancora non lo conosceva. Un esempio di cristianesimo militante.

San Francesco Saverio è considerato il più grande missionario dell’epoca moderna. Fu proclamato Patrono dell’Oriente, dell’Opera della Propagazione della Fede e, con Santa Teresina di Lisieux, delle Missioni.
Infatti, nella sua vita, tutta dedicata all’apostolato, giunse in India, Giappone e Cina, dove morì.

Francesco De Jassu venne alla luce in Spagna il 7 Aprile 1506 nel Castello di Xavier (dal quale poi Saverio) nella Navarra da una nobile famiglia di sani princìpi religiosi. Dopo la distruzione del Castello e la morte del padre, avvenuti durante la guerra fra Ferdinando di Castiglia e i reali di Navarra , che erano filo-francesi, ebbe inizio un triste periodo per la famiglia dei Saverio.

Francesco, sia per sfuggire alla sconfitta e alla miseria, sia per prepararsi a restaurare la gloria della sua famiglia, si trasferì a Parigi per studiare all’Università. Lì prese parte alla vita mondana della città, conobbe umanisti e fu attratto dalle teorie eretiche del tempo, ma fu “salvato” da due figure che lo avrebbero positivamente influenzato. Trovandosi a vivere in un pensionato universitario, ebbe modo di conoscere come compagni di stanza prima il beato Pietro Favre e poi Sant’Ignazio di Loyola.

L’agiografia vuole che sin da subito sant’Ignazio, notando l’interessante temperamento del ragazzo, tentò di distoglierlo dalla sua visione della vita troppo legata ai beni materiali ripetendogli spesso la frase:  «Che giova all’uomo guadagnare anche tutto il mondo, se poi perde l’anima?» (Mc. 8,36). Francesco, all’inizio, mosso dall’antipatia verso Ignazio, rimase indifferente ai suoi richiami ma infine dovette cedere.

L’antipatia si trasformò in profonda ammirazione e gratitudine e il 15 agosto del 1534 si consacrò a Cristo tra i primi sette componenti della Compagnia di Gesù. I suoi due fratelli maggiori tentarono di dissuaderlo da una tale decisione riuscendo a procurargli il canonicato a Pamplona, ma era troppo tardi: Francesco era già in viaggio verso l’Italia con i suoi compagni, deciso a partire per la Terra Santa. Giunti a Venezia, non riuscirono a partire per la Palestina a causa delle guerre in corso tra Veneziani e Turchi e così si recarono a Roma dove ricevettero l’approvazione del papa Paolo III e furono ordinati sacerdoti.

Di lì a poco sarebbero iniziate le lunghe peregrinazioni del Santo. Francesco ogni tanto sognava di portare sulle spalle un indiano molto pesante e quando l’ambasciatore di Lisbona chiese alla Compagnia di Gesù di inviare due sacerdoti nelle Indie per l’evangelizzazione di quelle terre, accadde che Francesco, anche se non era stato scelto, dovette partire per l’ammalarsi di uno dei due sacerdoti che erano stati prescelti.

Il 7 aprile 1541 Francesco partì da Lisbona e dopo un lungo viaggio durato tredici mesi giunse (era il 6 maggio 1542) a Goa, la capitale dell’Oriente portoghese conquistata trent’anni prima. Francesco come sua abitazione scelse l’ospedale cittadino dormendo in un letto posto accanto a quello del malato più grave. Di giorno si muoveva per la città chiamando a sé i bambini e gli schiavi per educarli al cristianesimo, visitava i malati e i prigionieri guadagnandosi il nome di “padre buono”. Si occupò anche dei Pàravi, i pescatori di perle, che, vessati dai musulmani, erano passati con i Portoghesi ed erano diventati cristiani, senza però un’adeguata educazione in quanto non si conosceva bene la loro lingua.

Francesco, insieme a due compagni di quell’etnia che gli facevano da interpreti, partì verso i luoghi dei Pàravi e con grande fatica tradusse le più importanti preghiere e le verità della fede. Per due anni girò nei villaggi battezzando, insegnando le preghiere e fondando chiese e scuole.

Dopo Goa, si mosse in Malacca e nell’arcipelago delle Molucche.
In questo periodo conobbe un giapponese che era scappato dalla sua patria per un delitto commesso. Questi, di nome Hanjiro, volle convertirsi e provocò nel santo un forte interesse nei confronti del popolo giapponese. Così, nel 1549 giunse in Giappone. All’inizio vi fu una buona accoglienza, poi, a causa dei bonzi venne introdotta la pena di morte per chi si battezzava. Il Giappone avrebbe comunque lasciato un ottima impressione a Francesco che se ne andò lasciando una comunità di già 1500 fedeli.

Ora gli si prospettava la Cina che in Giappone gli era stata presentata come una terra assai più colta e raffinata.
Per Francesco sarebbe stato l’ultimo viaggio, infatti giunto in Cina si ammalò di febbre e morì. Il suo corpo fu trasportato a Goa dove ancora oggi si trova.

Francesco, oltre ad aver percorso migliaia di chilometri per terra e per mare, si stima che abbia battezzato circa 30.000 persone.
Il suo apostolato si basava sull’alternare l’esposizione della dottrina alla preghiera, infatti si preoccupava molto della traduzione delle preghiere di base che trasmettevano le verità di fede, come il semplice segno della croce con il quale si trasmetteva l’idea della Trinità.

Un gigante dell’evangelizzazione. Un faro per i nostri tempi di secolarizzazione, apostasia e di evidente tradimento da parte di tanti cristiani che hanno paura di testimoniare Cristo, Via, Verità e Vita. San Francesco Saverio insegna che ogni sacrificio deve essere fatto per testimoniare la verità di Cristo, e che, senza questa Verità, la vita di ogni uomo rimane impietosamente povera.

Autore:
Corrado Gnerre