The Slow Boat of St. Francis Xavier

Image result for francis xavier

When Francis Xavier was born in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506, the head nurse walked up and said, “Leave this one alone” because, she could tell right away that he was Basque to the bone. He was the youngest in a family that was never able to understand that the Spanish weren’t going to put up with their nonsense. Ultimately, his family’s castle had its walls torn down, its moat filled in and its mail forwarded to Winnipeg. So, for Francis, when the going gets tough, the tough go to college.

Francis graduated from the University of Paris at the age of twenty-four and with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, which was a far less hilarious degree back then. He stayed to teach because, as today, with a philosophy degree, one is only qualified to teach philosophy or be ballast for a hot air balloon…

After four years of teaching, Xavier joined up with six others, including the man who would become Saint Ignatius and later become wrestling’s “The Rock”, to create the Jesuits. They took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, all of which were applied retroactively. Xavier decided that, since he was creating a major sect of Catholicism, he should probably learn who the Pope and Jesus were, so he studied for and obtained a divinity degree in 1537.

Image result for holy landTheir original plan was to preach the gospel in the Holy Land, but, since sunblock wouldn’t be invented for many years, the seven decided to set their sights on the far East and the subcontinent of India. Portugal had been settling India for a number of years, but Christianity had not taken hold, probably due to the blandness of communion wafers. This, coupled with the fact that the Jesuits were getting a little too “preachy”, inspired King John of Portugal to send the Jesuits to spread the good word and maybe get martyred just a bit.

Just before Xavier left, he was informed that the Pope had made him Papal Nuncio, meaning that he represented the church permanently and that he was immune to any local laws involving unclean food preparation. So, off he went to Goa…

And, the settlers at Goa were thrilled to see him. Up until then, they’d managed to avoid church; in fact, there was a Sunday softball league organized by the settlement’s bishop who also pitched. The people who lived in Goa were mostly criminals and low-lives, who’d settled in India to escape society’s persecution. Xavier decided to minister to the sick and the very young because neither could easily tell him “no” or hit him with a chair when he wasn’t looking.

Image result for goaBut, outside the walls were the REAL converts. Native peoples, ripe for the converting. Sure, many of them had already converted once; but, once they hit the expiration date on their Bibles, they pretty much went back to doing what they’d always done… which was the custom at the time. Xavier preached for three years in India and was often embarrassed by the conduct of his fellow Portuguese… which was the custom at the time…

He moved on, to what is now Indonesia. Francis had become dispirited over his task in India; moreover, he realized that, if he had to continue eating Indian food, his stomach-lining would probably rupture. While preaching in Indonesia, Xavier learned that Japan didn’t have enough Portuguese imposing their religious beliefs on the native population. After a quick visit to Goa, off he went to the land of the rising sun.

The Diamyo was thrilled that Francis could stop by and was happy to hear the “good news” of Christ and forbade every one of his subjects from converting. Xavier never did get the hang of the language and Japanese really hated the concept of an eternal Hell; also, they wondered why Francis Xavier was so poor if God liked him so much.

Well, THAT was frustrating. Plus, when he DID manage to convert a group of people, soldiers would come by and arrest or kill them. Saint Xavier could NOT WORK LIKE THIS.

So, he decided to go to China… well, he had to. He was to argue for the release of Portuguese prisoners as a representative of the Pope. Before he could see anyone who might have a corner office, he caught a fever and died… which was the custom at the time.

Image result for francis xavier tombAs with many saints, Francis was buried roughly where he died, then dug up just as roughly. He was buried somewhere else for a month or so; then, they moved the body to his Indonesian home until it could be taken to Goa. And, there he lay, absent his right arm and part of his left arm, which are now relics… a nicer term than “victim of grave-robbers”.

He was canonized in 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola. Today, he is the patron saint of missionaries, Wisconsin and plague epidemics…

2 thoughts on “The Slow Boat of St. Francis Xavier

  1. I had always wondered what this old rascallion; St Francis Xavier, or frankie-boat- miles Xavier to his mates, was really up to in history.
    A wonderfully enlightening Monday afternoon read. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

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