Francis Xavier was born in Navarre, Spain in 1506. As a highly intellectual and vibrant young man, he went to the University of Paris to study in 1525. There he shared a room with Ignatius of Loyola and Peter Faber. Ignatius of Loyola constantly persuaded Francis Xavier to commit his life to God alone in selfless service of others. After much resistance, Francis Xavier decided to abandon a possibly prosperous career and became a close friend of St. Ignatius. Under the guidance of St. Ignatius, Francis Xavier became a Catholic priest (Father) and worked in hospitals in Rome for two years taking care of the sick and dying.
Fr. Francis Xavier was one among the nine friends of St. Ignatius to found the Society of Jesus (SJ) in 1540. Those who joined this Society were called as Jesuits. Soon after that, St. Ignatius, who was their leader then, asked Fr. Francis Xavier to go to India to serve the people there. He left Rome on March 15, 1540 and after a long and life-threatening voyage in the seas for two years, landed in Goa, India on May 6, 1542.
Immediately after his arrival in India, Fr. Francis Xavier initiated the first college of modern education in the subcontinent, St. Paul’s College, Goa. He also went out into the villages and sea shores, loved the poor and lived and worked with them side by side. From India, he travelled to many other places like Ceylon, the Molucca Islands, the Banda Islands and the Malay Peninsula.
On August 15, 1549, Xavier landed at Kagoshima, Japan and began the process towards setting up the Jesuit system of education. From there, he traveled to Sancian (Shangchuan) Island, near Canton. His ultimate aim was to reach China; but he was not able to access the mainland because borders had been closed to foreigners. Before he could find a way inside the country, he became very sick. He died on the island on December 3, 1552, at the age of 46. His body remained uncorrupted and was later taken to Goa where it is preserved till date. He was declared a Saint by the Catholic Church in 1622. (Saints are holy people who abandon everything that they have for love of God and live a life of selfless service.)
Though he passed away at a relatively young age, St. Xavier is famous for bringing the Jesuit way of education in Asia. This is the reason many of the schools, colleges and universities run by the Jesuits are named as St. Xavier’s School/College/University.
St. Xavier is an inspiration to many even today. He was filled with tremendous desire and enthusiasm to set the world on fire with love. He is the best example of a person who even in the busyness of his work could lead a deeply spiritual life. He shows us that the greatest happiness in life is not necessarily in owning riches but in spending one’s life in loving service. Most of all, he epitomizes the wisdom that what matters is not how many years you live but how you live the years.