St. Francis Xavier in India

Nation: India

Religious Event

Dates: May 6, 1542 - 1545
India St. Francis Xavier in India Religious Event Cover
I. Arrival at Goa
I. Arrival at Goa
Quitting the shores of Africa, the vessel bearing Di Soza and Xavier traversed the Sea of Arabia and finally arrived at Goa, where they disembarked on the 6th of May, 1542, a date ever memorable in the Christian annals of the East, after a voyage of thirteen months, including their sojourn at Mozambique.

On his arrival at Goa, Xavier took up his abode at the hospital, where he made himself not only poor among beggars, but like a slave did he devote himself to the corporeal as well as spiritual necessities of its unfortunate inmates.

Before entering on his functions on behalf of souls, he went and cast himself at the feet of the archbishop, presented the briefs of the Sovereign Pontiff, explained the reasons which had induced his Holiness and the King of Portugal to send him to those regions, and resigned himself entirely to his lordship's hands, promising only to use his authority of Apostolic Nuncio according to his good pleasure. It was his inviolable practice always to subject himself in this manner to the prelates of the Church, whatever might be their rank. This was the effect of his humility, and from his conviction that the interests of God, so far from being prejudiced, are, on the contrary, often promoted by our condescension to those who are beneath us.

Don John Albuquerque, a religious of the Franciscan order, was at this time Archbishop of Goa, a prelate of great virtue. It is not therefore surprising that souls like his and Xavier's, both so zealous in the service of God, should at once intertwine in the bonds of holy friendship and conceive mutual respect for each other. The archbishop immediately raised the man of God, looked at the briefs, and returned them, expressing himself fully satisfied that he should use all the authority conceded to him by the holy see, offering to second him to the utmost of his power.

Thereupon Xavier at once began his labors, much upon the following plan. Three - or, under extraordinary need, four - hours of the night were given to repose, though not without interruption; for he often rose to attend to the sudden call of some poor patient. Here, as at Mozambique, he generally extended himself on the ground at the foot of the bed of some dangerously-affected invalid, in order that he might be on the spot, ready to give prompt assistance if called for. The rest of the night was given to prayer, though in effect the holy actions of the previous day formed little less than one continued prayer: his employments for the good of souls, which were seldom or never interrupted, did not in any way withdraw his mind and heart from God. Early in the morning he quitted his own hospital, and repaired to that of the lepers, in the suburbs, where he visited the patients one by one, consoling them with his expressions of tender charity, serving them, relieving their necessities by means of alms which he procured from the Portuguese, who were most liberal to him in this regard, hearing their confessions; and then, collecting them all together, he made them an appropriate discourse, to their extreme consolation. On festival days he said Mass in this hospital, and gave communion to the lepers with his own hand.

Later in the day, on festivals, he explained the symbol of the faith, when such crowds of persons, of every rank, pressed to hear him, that the largest church could not contain them. On these occasions he used the coarse rough dialect of Portugal, that he might be the better understood by his hearers, many of whom, being native Indians, spoke the language of their masters but very imperfectly. In the afternoons of ferial days he visited the prisons, instructing the prisoners how to examine and purify their conscience, after which he heard their confessions. On quitting the prison, he next perambulated the city with a bell in his hand, and, halting at the top of the more frequented streets and public places, he sounded his bell, calling aloud on the people, for the love of God and for the safety of their consciences, to send their children and slaves to hear him expound the Christian doctrine. But his audience was not always exclusively confined to the two above named classes: fathers and masters, accompanied by their whole families, assembled round him.

After these public instructions, he would repair to some church, followed by two or three hundred children, to whom he there explained the principles of our faith, mingling these instructions with rules how to live well; and nothing seemed more profitable to the public good than these familiar conferences; for where childhood and youth are passed in such profound ignorance of religion as was the case in Goa, vain must be the expectation that manhood would be virtuous, unless indeed it were accomplished by a miracle. Vices imbibed with the milk of infancy generally strengthen as age advances.

Now, under the indefatigable zeal and charity of Xavier, the children of Goa made such progress in the knowledge and practice of religion and religious duties, that vicious parents could meet with no sterner reproof than the very virtues of their own offspring. In fact, they were often reprehended by them with a freedom and zeal far superior to childhood; when, often, on such occasions, confounded and affected, the parents would allow the children to conduct them to the holy man, to be by him turned to a better course of life, declaring that they were ashamed of being taught by the example of their children. At the recommendation of our saint, the archbishop promulgated an order for the public instruction of children in all the churches of Goa, which had never been done there before; and the practice proved of great public and private utility.

To these salutary labors of fervent zeal, Xavier added familiar intercourse and private conversation with sinners. There was nothing rigid or austere about him. On the contrary, he was extremely affable, more especially to those sinners whose consciences were most deeply stained. To men who were publicly and notoriously immoral, he addressed himself with cordiality, even inviting himself to dine at their table, feigning ignorance of their excesses and the fruits of them. It was no small advantage to him to have gained their friendship, and to be looked upon by them as a man who could deal leniently with sinners; because, when any one of this stamp became converted, he trustingly placed his soul in the hands of Xavier, sure of meeting with compassion as well as with a remedy for his maladies; and then, again, it enabled him, with the freedom of a friend, to express an interest in the welfare of their souls.

The religious position of Goa being thus improved in the first six months from the date of St. Francis Xavier's arrival there, God was pleased to think it time to summon him beyond the narrow boundaries of a city, to place his zeal in a more ample sphere and where it might employ itself in the conversion of the pagans.

Bartoli, D., & Maffei, J. P. (1859). Arrives at Goa. In The life of St. Francis Xavier: Apostle of the Indies and Japan (F. W. Faber, Trans.) (pp. 92-103). Baltimore: Published by John Murphy & Co.
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