The Institute for Christian Formation
Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Feast Day (Memorial): December 3
The Death of Saint Francis Xavier
Chances are either you, a member of your family, or someone you know has, at some point in life, studied at a Jesuit educational institution. Francis Xavier was one of the founding members of the religious order called the Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus.
Saint Francis Xavier was a great missionary. He was born into a Basque noble family in a castle in Navarre, Spain in the year 1506. He eventually went to Paris to study, and it was there that the course of his life was changed. He met and became friends with Ignatius of Loyola, who also became a Saint and whose feast day we celebrate on July 31. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits.
Francis was ordained a priest in 1537. Missionaries were needed, so two others were being sent. But at the last minute, one became ill, and Francis went in his place.
Francis had great success as a missionary. He met the people where they were, living in the same conditions in which they lived and eating as they ate. He made up little songs to help teach the faith to children. He gained a reputation as being a healer, as well.
Francis’s missionary work took him to India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Japan. He had hoped to also
go to China, but died in 1552 on the island of Sancion off the coast of China before he ever made it to the mainland.
Saint Francis Xavier is the co-patron (along with St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus) of the Apostleship of Prayer and of the foreign missions.
The trailer below for a documentary by Janson Media, “Xavier: Missionary & Saint,” provides a short biography of Saint Francis Xavier.
To prepare for Saint Francis Xavier's feast day, pray a novena. “Praying with Saint Francis Xavier: The Novena of Grace” is traditionally prayed either from March 4 to 12, the day Francis was declared a saint in 1622, or beginning November 25 and ending on St. Francis Xavier’s feast day on December 3. You can access this novena here. To celebrate Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day today, make a traditional Basque dinner, such as “Marmitako” (fresh tuna and potato stew). Of course, you could also enjoy other exotic cuisines, such as Indian or Japanese!
Talk with children about what it means to be a missionary. Have each person in your household or class name one concrete action they can do this Advent Season to be a missionary right in your own neighborhood or school. Ask Saint Francis Xavier to help you accomplish this work in Jesus’ name.
For those who are interested in still more information, “Francis Xavier and the Jesuit Missions in the Far East” - An Anniversary Exhibition of Early Printed Works From the Jesuitana Collection of the John J. Burns Library, Boston College is a 105 page document that is very interesting filled with a lot of information and images. You can access this work here. Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with our news and newest resources!
If you want a more in-depth video about the life of Saint Francis Xavier, the 19 minute video below, is excellent! Father Dorian Llywelyn of the Theology Department at LMU in Los Angeles examines the life of Francis Xavier. He shows us why Francis Xavier remains relevant for us today as we continue to experience challenges in preaching the gospel authentically in Asia and elsewhere.