On this day in 1552 St. Francis Xavier at age forty-six died on the Portuguese island of Macau where he had been held up trying to get into China. Xavier, a Basque word for a new house, was the castle in which he was born. As a proud Basque student in Paris he was greatly annoyed with the Spanish students who attached themselves to the limping old ex soldier Ignatius of Loyola, but after sitting on the edge of the group listening to Ignatius, he gave himself completely to the old soldier’s holy approach to life.
It was a few years before Francis was born that Pope Alexander had assigned the converting of the Western hemisphere to Spain, and of the Eastern hemisphere to Portugal. In 1540 King John of Portugal chose Francis to be the Apostolic Nuncio to the Far East. After a year’s journey, Francis arrived at Goa, the Portuguese colony in southwestern India. There for a time he was busy baptizing and teaching the illegitimate children of the Portuguese colonists. But, since his position as Apostolic Nuncio demanded wide travel, over ten years he preached in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Celebes; eventually making his way to southern Japan. The language was too difficult for him, but his sincerity got through to people, and he prepared the way for four other Jesuits who labored there with success for many years.
As he was dying on Macau Francis followed a practice that had been his all along. In sending off his last official report he knelt down to write to Ignatius.
The lovely Burmese sisters caring for the old people at our St. Catherine Laboure Manor belong to the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier. So, this is their feast day, and we thank them for coming from the other side of the world to empty bedpans here.