In 1506, a child was born into a noble family of Basque origin. His name was Francisco de Jasso y Xavier, and he would become one of the greatest missionaries in history. We know him by the name of FranÃ§ois Xavier, the apostle of the East Indies.
Hoping to become a renowned professor, he entered the University of Paris in 1525. It was there that he met Saint Ignatius of Loyola who himself had undergone a deep spiritual conversion, and they became roommates. Ignatius confronted the young man with a question: “What good is a man if he wins the whole world and gets lost?”
The question provoked a deep introspection in FranÃ§ois who changed his life. Instead of seeking his own fame, Francis now turned to greater generosity in the service of God and of humanity. Along with ten others, Francis also joined Ignatius in Rome in 1540 to found the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, with Ignatius as leader.
Ignatius of Loyola sends Francis to India. He landed in Goa in 1542, after an arduous 13-month journey that took him around the extremely turbulent Cape of Good Hope. During the long journey, although himself ill, he cared for the sick and the dying.
He preached God’s love for us and serving him through service to mankind. After traveling through western India until 1545, he crossed the islands of present-day Malaysia and Indonesia until 1548, finally settling in Japan in 1549. At only 46 years old, he died of high fever and extreme exhaustion on Sancian Island on December 3, 1552. The date is now celebrated as his feast day.
During his many travels in strange and unknown lands full of risks and dangers, both natural and human, Francis was inspired and preserved by only one thing: his great faith in God. In his years of travel he must have spent about two years on the water and walked thousands of miles. This is how motivated and inspired this fearless man of God was. Always and everywhere, the only thought which animated him was to know how to preach the love of God and to care for the sick and the destitute, the excluded, the poor and the needy.
Before embarking on his travels to the Far East, Francis founded Saint Paul’s College in Goa around 1548 for the education of students. You can still see the remains of this college and the nearby church where he preached.
A man of exceptional personal sacrifice, his pillow was a piece of stone, his possessions a crucifix and a prayer book. He spent hours praying without resting. Doing a lot of penance, he prayed, “My God do not take away this suffering unless you send me greater ones.”
Even before his death, Francis was considered a saint. After his death, his sacred body was found intact and many miracles took place. His body was brought to Goa and is kept in the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Saint Francis Xavier continues to inspire us today. He is the patron of Jesuit education, the patron of Saint Xavier’s College and many other institutions in India and around the world. He continues to live in us, and we carry on his legacy by faithfully following his ideals and values ââof forming young people as men and women for others.
Trained at the University of Paris, Francis Xavier could well have become a famous professor. Yet he sacrificed everything to preach the love of God and serve the poor, the suffering, the imprisoned and the underprivileged. Students should imbibe his spirit of commitment to learning, education, wisdom, and most importantly, service to the poor and the helpless. Becoming men and women for others cannot be a greater confirmation of the inspiration of Saint Francis.
Like him, students, while aiming high in their studies and in life, must remember the question Ignatius asked Francis. Each student can ask themselves: what is my goal in life? what is my idea of ââsuccess and happiness? what dream do i have in my heart? As you dream big, remember to be grounded in reality like Francis, to make a difference in the lives of others.
Francis Xavier can serve as a character and ideal mentor. Students can learn from his humility, selflessness and generosity. Like him, they can learn to spread the message of peace, harmony, good will and love.
And then they must try to answer in all honesty the 3 other questions that Ignatius asked Francis when he was a student: What have I done for God and his people, What am I doing for God and his people, What should I do for God and his people?
Our institutions help our students to answer these questions in the truth and reality of their life by offering them the possibility to grow in the spirit of Saint Francis and to imbibe his values ââso that they can become the best citizens. of tomorrow.
In these times of fear, suffering and death, Saint Francis’ message is that suffering is not caused by the love of God but by us, because of what we do and our way of life. He tells us that we must face all situations with courage and find answers and solutions. He wants us to trust in God’s love for us. The gifts and talents that God has given us are to be used to solve our difficulties and the challenges that we face. Really, a year and a half after the start of the pandemic, things seem to be improving because of our efforts, and with God’s blessing, we have vaccines and cures for this virus. God is further guiding us in our efforts to fight and overcome this deadly virus.
We pray to Saint Francis Xavier to intercede for us with God, and that like him we respond to God’s call of love to love him in our brothers and sisters, especially in those who are poor, helpless and suffering. We pray that all of our students will imbibe his spirit and values ââto become ideal students and men and women for and with others. May God bless us all, our students and our institutions bearing the name of Saint Francis Xavier, making us worthy of him.
- Fr. Dominic Savio SJ is the principal of St Xavier’s Church College (Autonomous), Calcutta