Who Was Saint Francis Xavier? What Is Saint Francis Xavier the Patron Saint Of?
Saint Francis Xavier was a Spanish missionary born on April 7, 1506, in a castle near Sangüesa in Navarre (part of present-day Spain). A famed missionary himself, he is now the patron saint of missionaries. He was one of the original members of the religious order known as the Jesuits, who produced many great missionaries, and he is known as ‘the Apostle to the Indies’.
Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to missions in Asia in areas such as India and Japan, after being appointed by King John III of Portugal to take charge as Apostolic Nuncio in Portuguese India, where the king believed that Christian values were eroding among the Portuguese.
After successive appeals to the Pope asking for missionaries for the East Indies under the Padroado agreement, John III was enthusiastically advised by Diogo de Gouveia, rector of the Collège Sainte-Barbe, to draw the newly graduated youngsters that would establish the Society of Jesus. After some years in India, he brought Christianity to Japan in 1549. Before he was forced to leave in 1550, he gained many converts, and he was traveling to China. He was 46 when he died on China’s Shangchuan Island on December 3, 1552.
Xavier was buried on the island until February 1553 when his body was removed and taken to Malacca where it was buried at a church for a month. Then one of Xavier’s companions moved his body to his own residence for the rest of the year. In December, his body was moved to Goa. Xavier remains buried in a silver casket enclosed in a glass case. Several of his bones have been removed. His right arm, used to bless converts, is on display in Rome. Another arm bone is kept on Coloane island, in Macau, which today is part of China.
Though he passed away at a relatively young age, Xavier had accomplished much in his life. In addition to being a founding member of the Jesuit order—the Society of Jesus was officially recognized by Pope Paul III in 1540—he baptized an estimated 30,000 people. Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V on Oct. 25, 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 at the same ceremony as Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron of Catholic missions and his feast day is on December 3.