December 3: Francis Xavier, Missionary to the Far East, 1552

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

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About this Commemoration

Francis Xavier was one of the great missionaries of the church. Born in Spain in 1506, he studied locally before taking up university studies in Paris in 1526, receiving a master’s degree in 1530. While in Paris he met Ignatius Loyola and together with a small group of companions, they bound themselves together for the service of God on August 15, 1534, the beginning of what would later become the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.

After further theological study, Francis and Ignatius were ordained together in 1537. As the nuncio to the east for the King of Portugal, John III, Francis went to India, arriving at Goa on the western coast in 1542. He later moved south and traveled as well to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the Molucca Islands, now Indonesia. For seven years he labored among the people there, winning many converts to the faith, baptizing, teaching, and trying to ease the suffering of the people. His efforts were not always well received. New Christians were often abused and enslaved and sometimes killed.

In 1549 Francis moved on to the southern region of Japan and immediately set about learning the language and preparing a catechism to support his missionary efforts. In time he moved north to the imperial capital, Kyoto, and made an effort to see the Mikado, the Japanese emperor. Civil strife and localized resistance made Francis’ Japanese efforts difficult, but he came away from the experience with a deep sense of respect for the people and their culture. After returning to India 1551, Francis was appointed the Jesuit Provincial for India, but he was not satisfied only to maintain the work already begun. He immediately set out for China, at the time closed to foreigners, in hopes of launching new missionary efforts there. He set up camp near the mouth of the Canton River in August 1552, hoping to secure passage into the country. Later that year he took ill and died, at age forty-six, on December 3, 1552. His remains were later transferred back to Goa, India.

Collects

I Loving God, who didst call Francis Xavier to lead many in India and Japan to know Jesus Christ as their Redeemer: Bring us to the new life of glory promised to all who follow in the Way; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II Loving God, you called Francis Xavier to lead many in India and Japan to know Jesus Christ as their Redeemer: Bring us to the new life of glory promised to all who follow in the Way; through the same Jesus Christ, whowith you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Lessons

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:1–111

Corinthians 9:16–19,22–23

Mark 16:15–20

Psalm

126

Preface of Apostles

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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7 Responses to December 3: Francis Xavier, Missionary to the Far East, 1552

  1. Suzanne Sauter says:

    It is not clear to me why a famous Roman Catholic, Francis Xavier, is being proposed for inclusion in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. Though Francis Xavior is known for converting many to Roman Catholicisn, he is also remembered for requesting that the Inquisition come Goa, to enforce conversions to Roman Catholicism.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Readings. Psalm: Verses 3, 4 & 5 are unworthy enough to omit? Why is that?
    Hebrew reading: This is a good fit for this commemoration, IMHO.

  3. Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    I agree with Suzanne. These bios, although brief, should be ‘warts and all.’ Mnay historians would argue that the Inquisitiion was not just an enforcer of orthodoxy, but a tool of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. That fact may not belong to this bio, but I’m all for candor,

  4. John LaVoe says:

    I am not enthusiastic about including FX in the calendar, not only for reasons cited by Suzanne and Cynthia (as substantial as those considerations are) but from contentions and polemics still at issue between Rome and the rest of God’s church universal and its overall mission and calling in the world.

    • John LaVoe says:

      To supplement what I entered previously, I feel FX and the Jesuits were formed and deployed to combat the reformation, and much of the same rationale that emerged at that time is still preventing progress in the area of interchurch communion and cooperation. I have the same odd feeling about him being on our calendar as I did when Saddam Hussein was on Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” cover. At my mother’s (RC) funeral Mass this summer I was not invited to receive communion. Maybe it’s exaggerated or distorted, but to me, that says something perverse about FX’s kind of contribution as it continues to “bear fruit” in today’s church culture.

  5. Nigel Renton says:

    Our practice is always to show the ordained status of those to be honored; I suggest “Priest and Missionary in East Asia”. (Sri Lanka is not generally considered to be part of the “Far East”.)

    Line 2, first paragraph: correct “is” to “in”, and continue “the family castle at Xavier in the Province of Navarre, Spain, on April 7, 1506”.

    Line 3, second paragraph: in the parenthesis, add “formerly” before “Ceylon”.(The name “Sri Lanka” was originally given to the island by the Portuguese, but while it was a British colony, the name was anglicized to “Ceylon”. It retained that name after Independence until 1972, when it reverted to its present name.)

    Line 4, second paragraph: after “now”, add “part of”.

    Last line, fourth paragraph: substitute “for burial in” for “back to”. The clumsy way the sentence is written would only be applicable if the remains had previously been in Goa!

  6. as a current Episcopalian missionary in the far east I am glad to see the inclusion of Francis Xavier. I read about him and his work before coming here and it gave me an understanding of how Christianity came here and how it took root. Also, learning about the things he did that I would have done differently. I look to missionaries like Francis Xavier or Matteo Ricci for inspiration and what to do/what not to do. I do not think everything they did was right (I am not here proselytizing and converting people, I am serving migrant workers) but without them I might not be here today and Christianity in the East would look quite different (if it was here at all). They are a part of our history too, just as we are all part of the communion of saints, whether Roman Catholics see it that way or not.

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