On this day, exactly on his 35th birthday, St. Francis Xavier sailed to the epoch-making missionary trip that would make him the greatest missionary in the history of the Catholic Church after St. Paul. It is interesting that St. Francis Xavier was a Basque by nationality, from the Kingdom of Navarre in northern Spain. When St. Ignatius of Loyola (also Basque) founded the Jesuit order, St. Francis Xavier became one of the first seven Jesuits.
St. Francis devoted himself to missionary work. He sat sail on this day from Lisbon towards India. Along with a breviary and a catechism, the only book that Francis Xavier took with him was written by Marko Marulić of Split, and was titled “De institutione bene vivendi per exempla sanctorum” (“Instruction on the Life of Purity Modelled on the Lives of Saints”). In fact, that work of Marulić was apparently the only book, apart from church books, which St. Francis Xavier read and studied.
On his travels, St. Francis visited Indonesia and came all the way to Japan. The first Japanese man who became a Christian was Anjiro, who then became Francis’ translator in Japan. The Japanese language presented a great difficulty for the spreading of Christianity, so that St. Francis greatly relied on religious images. As many as 100,000 Japanese people accepted Christianity, including some members of the high aristocracy. However, Christians in Japan were later persecuted and killed, and the survivors went underground.
Sv. Francis Xavier also tried to preach on the Chinese mainland, but the Chinese proved to be hostile towards missionaries. Sv. Francis Xavier died on the Chinese island Shangchuan in 1552, after more than 11 years of hard missionary work.