New Catholic Dictionary – Saint Francis Xavier

detail from the painting 'Saint Gregory the Great with Saints Ignatius and Francix Xavier', by Guercino, c.1626, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, EnglandArticle

Confessor, apostle of the Indies and of Japan, born Castle of Xavier, near Sanguesa, Navarre, Spain, 1506; died Island of Sancian, near the coast of China, 1552. After a preliminary education in Spain, Francis Xavier went to the College de Sainte-Barbe in Paris, 1525. Here he met the Savoyard, Peter Faber and Saint Ignatius Loyola who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus. Xavier offered himself as a companion to Ignatius. After completing his studies and a short term as teacher in Paris, he went to Venice, where in 1537 he received Holy Orders with Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing Apostolic work there for some time, was sent to evangelize India, 1540. On his way Saint Francis stopped at Lisbon for nine months, reaching Goa, 1542. The first five months he spent preaching, tending the sick, and instructing children. He devoted about three years to the evangelization of western India and the Island of Ceylon. In 1545 he went to Malacca where he labored for three months and reaped an abundant spiritual harvest. From there he visited the Molucca Islands, Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands. During this expedition Saint Francis is said to have landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason he has been called the first apostle of the Philippines. Returning to Malacca, 1547, he established a novitiate and house of studies, and sent priests to the various missions he had organized. In 1549 he, with three companions, set out for Japan, landing at Kagoshima. Despite severe privations and conflicts with the bonzes he succeeded in converting thousands of natives. Banished from Kagoshima, 1550, he preached throughout southern and central Japan, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities. On his return to Goa, 1552, he encountered certain domestic troubles, chiefly disagreements among the representatives he had left at home. In 1552 he started on a voyage to China but died on Sancian Island. Patron of the Propagation of the Faith, all Eastern missions in India, Japan, China, and Australasia, the Fathers of the Precious Blood, and of Navarre. A popular public devotion to Saint Francis is the novena of consecutive days ending 12 March. Emblems: bell, crucifix, Negro, vessel, globe. Canonized, 1622. Relics: body at former Jesuit church in Goa, right arm at church of Gesu, Rome. Feast, Roman Calendar, 3 December.

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Francis Xavier”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 August 2018. Web. 21 January 2019. <>