The Apostle to the Far East
The Jesuit saint, Francis Xavier is known as the apostle to the Far East and was the first saint to travel to my motherland, Malaysia and to preach the Gospel there. From 1541 until his death in 1552, St Francis evangelized in Asia, opening up southern India, Ceylon, Malacca and Japan to Christianity. As such, when he was canonized in 1622, he was named the patron of foreign missions. His relics remain in Goa in India, miles from his homeland of Spain but close to the peoples he evangelized and who still venerate him for bringing the Faith to their lands. Of particular interest to me is St Francis' contact with the people of Malacca.
In the 16th century, Malacca was a large and prosperous trading town and the centre of a sultanate and small empire. The duke of Albuquerque captured it from the Malays in 1511 and it became a colony of the Portuguese. St Francis arrived here in the spring of 1545, having crossed the Indian ocean on a long and hazardous journey. He spent four months in Malacca and instructed many in the Faith and established reforms necessary in what was then a frontier town of the Portuguese empire. He returned there the next year for another four months before setting off for India again and planning his mission to Japan, the first ever. This was successful as he was welcomed by the ruler and baptised two thousand people. He then left for India again before returning to Malacca to stage his push into China. Due to illness, he settled on an island off the coast of China and died there on 3 December 1552, aged only 46.
His relics were taken first to Malacca before being transferred to its final resting place in India. There is a statue of St Francis Xavier (above) at Malacca, set on a hill next to the church where his body lay and within the ruins of the old Portuguese fort (which fell to the Protestant Dutch). The statue looks out to sea, pointing in the direction of Goa.
May this tireless missionary to the peoples of the Far East pray for the Church in Asia and all foreign missions, that the light of Christ coming from the East may burn ever more brightly.
The fifth centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier, world patron of the missions, was observed with a concelebrated Mass and the opening of the "Xavier Year."
In a homily Saturday at Xavier Castle, Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona
presented Francis Xavier as a model at a time "when in our country and in the
whole of the West we live under the temptation to organize our lives without
God, without Christ, without religion, as if that were a way of freedom,
progress and happiness."
The saint "comes to remind us that the future of humanity is only in Christ,"
affirmed the archbishop.
At the end of the celebration, a document of the Apostolic Penitentiary was
read, signed by Cardinal James Stafford, granting a plenary indulgence to all
those who go on pilgrimage during the year to the Cathedral of Pamplona, the
Xavier parish and the castle.