A SAINT FOR ALL:

*Dr.Ivo da Conceicao Souza Introduction: Since my childhood have I heard about the devotion of the Goans for St.Francis Xavier. When I was seven-years old, I remember having kissed the feet of St.Francis in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa with great devotion. Every year people flock for the novena and for the Feast of St.Francis. Both literate and illiterate people do admire him. People from Goa and from neighbouring states, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, or Christians come to pay him homage. Young and old people have devotion for him. Although he was a son of his times and of his milieu, St.Francis continues still to inspire our people today. He is a ‘model of holiness’ in so far as he followed his Master, Jesus of Nazareth and worked for the society of that time according to his vocation and convictions. We are happy to have the Exposition of his Relics and the Feast. He continues to be known as “GOYNCHO SAIB”. St.Francis Xavier is the Patron of the East. He was an apostle of the Gospel, a founder of Christian communities. His Life: Francisco de Jassu Xavier was born on April 7, 1506, in the Castle of Javier (Xavier), in the kingdom of Navarre (now a province of Spain), of a noble family. His parents were Don Juan de Jassu y Alondo and Dona Maria de Azpilcueta y Aznarez de Sada. At the age of 19, Francis studied classical languages (Latin and Greek), Rhetoric and Poetry, and Philosophy in the University of Paris, and was staying at the College of Santa Barbara, in Spain. He obtained Licenciate in Letters and Philosophy on March 15, 1530, and in the same year he lectured on Aristotle in the nearby College of Dormans-Beauvais, and took the Master’s Degree. As a student, he was well known as a high-jumper. But he was like a ship without a rudder. As he himself revealed to his host in Mylapore, Fr.Gaspar Coelho, in May-August 1545, he was in a bad company of classmates given to “debauchery”, but he abstained himself from contact with women due to fear of “loathsome ulcers”, which he saw in the master and pupils. He was also careful in matters of faith, threatened by Lutheranism. On August 15, 1534, in the chapel of Saint-Dinis, on the slopes of Montmartre, in Paris, Francis together with Ignatius of Loyola, Peter Favre, Simon Rodrigues de Azevedo, James Laynez, Alphonsus Salmeron and Nicholas Bobadilla dedicated their life to the service of Christ, with the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They went to Venice and wished to visit the Holy Land, but could not make it. Francis was ordained priest in Rome on June 24, 1537, and celebrated his First Mass in Vicenza, together with his companions, barring Ignatius of Loyola who offered his Mass on Christmas Day of 1538. They placed themselves at the disposal of the Holy Father. When the King of Portugal, Dom Joao III, asked Paul III to send priests to India, Francis was called to Rome. He was sent to Lisbon and from there with the Brief of Paul III he was appointed the “Apostolic Nuncio” of Indies. On Abril 7, 1541, Francis Xavier embarked in Lisbon on his trip to Goa, where he arrived on May 6, 1542 by ship. During the journey, he was very compassionate and ready to help. After getting down on the banks of the river Mandovi, he went to the Convent of St.Francis in Old Goa to greet the Bishop of Goa, D.Frey Juan de Albuquerque. He explained that he had been sent by the Pope and the King of Portugal to work for the “salvation of the unbelievers”. He was a victim of the belief that the unevangelized (“gentios”) would perish unconditionally. He showed him the papal letters accrediting him as an Apostolic Nuncio. His Apostolic Method: After his arrival to Goa, Francis wrote so enthusiatically to Rome: “After four months and more (of voyage from Mozambique) we reached India, Goa (I mean), a city entirely of Christians, cosa para ver, (Epistulae Xavierii, I, 124, n.5), a most remarkable thing–a thing to be seen”. “It has a monastery with many friars of St.Francis, a very fine Cathedral with many canons, and many other churches. There is reason for giving many thanks to God our Lord on seeing how the name of Christ is flourishing so well in such distant lands and among so many infidels” (EX, I, 121). The Governor Martim Afonso de Sousa requested him to reside in his Palace, but Francis preferred to stay in the Royal Hospital (“Hospital Real”), where he dedicated himself to the sick and lepers of the Hospital of St.Lazarus. He was preaching and catechizing in the church of the Rosary. Penitents crowded to Francis for confession in the chapel of the hospital. In the old Cathedral of the Bishop, Francis baptized his neophytes. On weekdays, in the afternoon, Francis visited prisoners of the Prison (“Cadeia”, situated in a place in front of the Cathedral and the Palace of the Vice-Roys), taught them how to confess, and ordinarily heard them afterwards in general confession. The town was cosmopolitan, with about two lakhs of inhabitants. There were people from many lands: Europe, Africa, Ceylon, Malaya and China. Many of them were Christians, mostly ill instructed in their faith and shallow in its practice. Unfortunately several Portuguese in Goa had concubines and slaves at their disposal. There was a lot of injustice in the courts, corruption, and usury. Francis mixed up mainly with the Portuguese adults, indigenous children and slaves. Francis devised a new method to attract and instruct the people. He went up and down the streets and squares with a bell in his hand, calling children and adults for instruction. He began by singing the lessons, which he had rhymed (in his Catechism, prepared by a seminarian of St.Paul’s College), and then made the children sing them, so that they might be better memorized. Afterwards he explained each point in the simplest way, using simple, easy words. Francis worked for a short time in Goa, but to his glory we must mention the College of St. Paul, where the clergy was trained. There were already in 1556 one hundred and ten boys in fourteen different national groups from all over Asia and Africa, including a few Portuguese boys. There were boys from Malabar, Kanara, the Deccan, Gujarat, Bengal and Pegu. There were Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Malaccans (a veritable pentecostal multitude). He was concerned in preparing the indigenous clergy of good quality. After five months and ten days of apostolate in Goa, Francis was told by the Governor Martim Afonso de Sousa (1542-1545) to proceed to Fishery Coast (Cape Comorin/Kanya Kumari). Towards the end of September of 1542, he took with him Francisco Mancias and two Indian students of the College of St.Paul and landed at Manappad in October 1542, and then went to Tuticorin. After spending one year and three months in the Fishery Coast and coming back to Goa on January 14, 1544, he went at the request of Pe.Mestre Diego de Borba to reside at the College of St.Paul (‘Seminary of Holy Faith’). In April 1545, he left Goa for Mylapore, where he wrote the Catechism in Tamil. In 1548 he was appointed Administrator of the College of St.Paul. On April 14, 1549, he left for Japan. He came back to Goa to deal with urgent matters in February of 1552. He went to Malacca on April 15, 1552. He would come back about seven times to Goa, but always on business and hurriedly. He remained in all a little more than 18 months in Goan soil. In the time of Francis there were two chapels, one of St.Antao and the other of St.Jerome. The Saint used to walk between them in meditation and ecstasy. On one of these occasions, according to a legend, he was heard saying while contemplating the Lord consoling him: “Satis, Domine, satis” (‘Enough, Lord, enough”). He died in the island of Sangchwan (Sanchian), at the gate of China, after he became sick since November 21, 1552, with high fever. He reportedly desired his bones to be taken to Goa, which was the springboard of his missionary activity. Although four sacks of lime were used in order to hasten decomposition, it was found after two and half months, on February 17, 1553, that blood was coming out. On March 14, 1554, his coffin was brought, through the river Mandovi, to the Church of Our Lady of Ajuda, and on the following day the body of Francis was taken to the Church of the College of St.Paul. After the canonization of Padre-Mestre Francis in 1622, his body was taken to the Church (raised to the category of Basilica in 1946) of Bom Jesus. Gregory XV canonized him on March 12, 1622. His Mission: Francis Xavier is venerated as a Saint all over the East. Why is he so revered and honoured? Surely because of his generosity in sacrificing himself for the people during the short span of his life of forty-six years, seven months and twenty-six days, of which he had spent ten years, and seven months minus four days in Asia. He worked for the education and uplift of the poor and downtrodden of the East, from India to Japan. It was at Malaca that Francis came to know about Japan, as he himself states: “When I was in the city of Malacca, some Portuguese merchants of high standing brought me great news of certain very large islands recently discovered to the East, called the islands of Japan. In the opinion of these men, there would be better opportunities for the increase of our holy Faith there than anywhere in India, because the people have an eager desire for knowledge and instruction, which is not the case with the Indians” (Epistulae Xavierii, I.391-392, quoted in P.Rayanna, The Life of St.Francis Xavier, p.116). He could see the difference between the Indians and the Japanese. He found the Indians, particularly the “Brahmans”, cunning, exploiting the poor people, whereas the Japanese were simple and more responsive (cf. The Letters and Instruction of Francis Xavier, trans.by M.Joseph Costelloe, Sj, p.69, in a letter written to companions living in Rome from Cochin, on January 15, 1544; G. Schurhammer, Francis Xavier. His Life, His Times, II, 406-410; Monumenta Missionum Societatis Jesu, Epistulae St.Francisci Xavierii, Aliaque Eius Scripta, I, 160-167). Pius XI declared him in 1927 the Patron of the missionaries of the world. His ‘sacred relics’ are kept in a silver casket on an artistically carved marble mausoleum in the Basilica of Bom Jesus. St. Francis Xavier is the symbol of unity among peoples. There are some misunderstandings regarding the Saint: Francis Xavier contributed immensely to the evangelization of Goa by ushering in the Jesuit Society and bringing to us his missionary zeal. But it cannot be said that he was the first one to bring faith to our land, as the hymn Dev Amkam Zai goes: “Bhavart amcho nhoi aicho kalcho, / ponn Sam Fransisk Xavieracho”. There have been here known and unknown harbingers of faith. Francis had no special gift of languages, but he worked hard to learn Konkani and Tamil. Conclusion: Francis Xavier was totally dedicated to his work, determined and firm in his convictions. He availed himself of his sharp mind, his ambition and his organizational skills for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God. People of different creeds, races, cultures, rich and poor, young and old, come together on the occasion of his novena and feast and live as a family. May we grow in the Spirit through his example as a community of love!

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