Day 9: Death of Francis off the coast of China (December 3, 1552)

Francis died of fever at the age of 46 on the island of Sanchian, within sight of China. He did not achieve his ambition to reach the mainland. That was to be the privilege of a fellow Jesuit, Matteo Ricci. His hope was that if China accepted Christianity, all Asia would be open to the faith. His ambition was greater than one person could ever achieve.

St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of the missions. He has always been exceptionally popular not only with Catholics, but with many non-Catholics, too. He is probably the most famous of all Jesuits. He was canonised as a Saint in 1622, together with St. Ignatius Loyola.

Reflection

  • What can I, personally, learn from reflecting on the life of St. Francis?
  • As I consider the goals in my life, is love of God and His people central?
  • What worldly ambitions in my life do I need to let go of?
  • Am I ready to hand my life over to God and His service?
  • Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us.

Day 8: Francis, First Missionary to Japan (1549-1551)

During his years in South Asia, Francis visited Malacca in Malaysia on a number of occasions It was there he met and converted his first Japanese. Anjiro made a deep impression on him. Francis wrote to Ignatius, “If all the Japanese are as keen to learn as Anjiro…they must have the most enquiring minds of any people in the lands hitherto discovered.”

Francis arrived in Japan on August 15, 1549, the Feast of the Assumption. After some months working there and living with the family of Anjiro, he wrote to the Jesuits in Goa: “They are the best race yet discovered and I think that among non-Christians their match will not easily be found.”

In comparison with the effects of his mission in South Asia, progress in Japan was slow. Francis had great difficulty with the Japanese language. Much of the time he was alone, suffering the isolation of living in a country, without knowing the local language. The Abbot of a Zen monastery told a later missionary that Francis was unable to explain the Christian teaching, owing to his ignorance of Japanese, but his mere presence, face, character, obvious sanctity, preached better than any words the truth of his message.

After his death, however, until the edict forbidding Christianity in 1614, the Church in Japan flourished. The number of Catholics at the time the persecution began was about 300,000, slightly less than what it is today. Many, too, died as martyrs for the faith during the years of persecution.

Reflection

  • How do I cope with the challenges that I meet in the work assigned to me?
  • Do I find strength in my prayer and in my relationship with Jesus?

Day 7: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 3)

Francis Xavier spent seven years on the South India coast, constantly travelling up and down, preaching, teaching, consoling, comforting, begging for the poor, visiting the sick.

Francis believed that those who were not baptised were destined never to share the delights of heaven. But he also wanted to share the love of Christ with others. His journeys became part of his urgent task to baptise as many people as possible. He baptised thousands of people. Francis always saw a person as a whole, body, mind and spirit. He was concerned about material needs as well as spiritual ones.

As the extent of the continent of Asia, with the populous nations of India, Japan and China, became apparent to him, Francis appealed to Ignatius for others to share the work with him.

Reflection

  • What animates me? When do I start to get enthusiastic about things?
  • Am I as concerned about developing my mind and spirit as I am in taking care of the health of my body?
  • Lord, may I be ever busy about sharing the news of your love with others.

Day 6: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 2)

Francis found the behaviour of Europeans in India difficult to bear. Too many of the Portuguese officials and traders were determined not to let his pursuit of souls interfere with their pursuit of riches.

At one point Francis writes: “I am so sick of life that the best thing for me would be to die for the defence of our faith. It is difficult to see so many sins committed and to be able to do nothing.” Despite these negative feelings, Francis continued his missionary efforts with enthusiasm.

Reflection

  • When life seems pointless, or when people, who should know better, let me down, how do I react? To whom do I turn?
  • Lord, you are always there, ready to strengthen me for the struggle.

Day 5: The mission of Francis in South Asia – 1542-1549 (part 1)

Travelling from Rome to Lisbon and then on to Goa took Francis almost two years. (In 1540, the Pope established the “Companions of Jesus” as a religious order in the Catholic Church. They were later to be called the ‘Society of Jesus’, and to become more popularly known as the Jesuits.)

When Francis arrived in Goa in 1542, he had a reputation for helping the poor and the sick, and zealously seeking to encourage people to live a good life. It was recorded that Francis always looked happy, despite two months of continual seasickness, and other illnesses along the way.

In 1542 the Portuguese Governor of Goa asked Francis to teach the pearl fishers (Paravas) of Cape Comorin in South India. They were nominal Christians, but had received no formal instructions on their new faith, because no priest had ever learned their language. He set about learning Tamil, the local language, and managed to translate the Creed.

He experienced the loneliness of working in a foreign culture. He had been promised two Jesuit helpers, but they never arrived. After a year he decided to return to Goa to see what had happened to them. He was so well accepted by the people that a number of young Paravas went along with him to be trained for Christian ministry.

Reflection

  • When I feel alienated from my surroundings to whom do I turn?
  • When things get difficult for me, where do I draw my strength from?

Day 4: Francis and his companions in Rome (1536-1539)

After Paris, Ignatius and his companions decided to travel to Rome to be at the service of the Pope. In Rome, they worked in hospitals, looking after the sick. They begged for alms, and preached about the love of God.

On June 24, 1537, Francis, Ignatius, and four other companions were ordained priests. As the group grew, the work entailed correspondence with a vast number of people. Francis became secretary to Ignatius. This cannot have been an appealing work an outgoing person like Francis.

In 1539 King John of Portugal asked the Pope for two Jesuits to go to India. Two others were chosen, but at the last minute one of them fell ill, and Francis was asked by Ignatius to take his place. He accepted.

Reflection

  • Faced with challenges and difficult choices, how do I tend to react?
  • Do I seek advice from family and friends, and turn to God for help?
  • At these times, what kind of a response makes me feel most contented?

Day 3: Francis and Ignatius gather a “group of friends” (1534-1536)

Ignatius Loyola directed Francis and some others through his ‘Spiritual Exercises’ – 30 days of prayer and reflection on life and its purpose.

After a period of reflection on the call of Christ to His disciples, and time spent in consideration of his own response to the love of God, Francis decided to join Ignatius and some others to form a “group of friends” who would offer themselves to God for service in the Catholic Church.

Reflection

  • What steps have I taken to deepen my knowledge and love of God?
  • Who are the people who help me live more deeply my Christian life?
  • In what way do I manifest signs of my love for God and for others?

Day 2: Francis meets Ignatius Loyola in Paris (1529-1534)

In his early years in the University of Paris, Francis tended to put more effort into sports and the night life of the city than into his studies.

A turning point in his life was his encounter with a fellow Basque, Ignatius of Loyola. As a mature student of 38 years, Ignatius was beginning his studies at the University of Paris. He was assigned to the same student quarters as Francis and Peter Faber. At first Francis was not attracted to Ignatius. He saw him as a middle-aged religious enthusiast. He even made fun of him in public.

After five years of patiently encouraging and supporting Francis, Ignatius finally broke through Francis’ mask of self-sufficiency. He challenged him with the question Christ put to His disciples, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Reflection

  • Do I try to give the impression to others that I ‘have it all together’ – that I do not need the support of others?
  • Do I recognise the need for God in my life?
  • Am I open to the encouragement and support of friends?

Day 1: The Early Years (1506-1525)

XavierFrancis was born in 1506, in Javier, a small village in the province of Navarre to the north of Spain. He was a Basque, the fifth and last child of local land owners. His two brothers and two sisters were in their teens when Francis was born. Their family home was a castle. They had their own private chapel, where Mass would be said by a local priest. Sadly, his father died when he was very young, and the family lost their land and home in a war with Spain. His mother, a very devout Catholic, with the help of the local priests, made sure that he received a good education.

At the age of 19, Francis went off to study in Paris. His intention was to revive the fortunes of his family by becoming an eminent cleric. He was bright and vibrant, with a zest for life and a desire to gain profit from it. The one thing he lacked was a clear focus in his life.

Reflection

  • How have I been blessed from my early years – in my family and school?
  • What disappointments have I encountered along the way?
  • Do I now have a purpose in my life – a clear focus that gives it meaning?


The words of the first hymn are based on a prayer written by Francis Xavier.
The English translation is old, and somewhat dated; however it is still
sung energetically in many churches where the Novena is traditional.

 

1. My God, I love thee,
not because I hope for Heav’n thereby;
Nor yet since they who love thee not,
must burn eternally.

E’en so I love thee, and will love,
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God and my eternal King.
Solely because thou
art my God and my eternal King.
Thou art my God and my eternal King.

2. Thou, O my Jesus,
thou dist me upon the Cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails
and spear and manifold disgrace.
Refrain

3. And griefs and torments
numberless and sweat of agony;
E’en death itself –
and all for me who was thine enemy.
Refrain

4.
Then why, O Blessed Jesus Christ
should I not love thee well?
For thou thyself has loved me,
o ever-loving Lord!
Refrain

Hymn to St Francis Xavier

O thou who hearkened to the call
the words Ignatius once let fall:
"What doth it profit man’s desire?"
"Go thou! and set
the world on fire".

St Francis Xavier, hear my prayer,
Bestow thy blessings, everywhere;
Let but God’s holy will be done
and my own soul’s salvation won.
St Francis Xavier, hear my prayer,
St Francis Xavier hear my prayer.

O thou whose trust remained unshaken
in Jesus’ loving heart forsaken;
Now help me wash away with tears
the sinful record of past years.
Refrain

O thou whom love did capture take, a
nd of thy heart a furnace make,
Inflame my soul with burning zeal;
May far off lands hear Christ’s appeal.
Refrain

 


Hymn

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