Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier

St.Francis Xavier, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa, pic by mark Ulyseas

December 3, 2012 – The is an excerp from a  news report written by Fr.Shannon Pereira SJ and Fr.Gregory Naik SJ

St.Francis Xavier helped Ignatius of Loyola in the founding of the Society of Jesus – Jesuits – in 1540 – two years prior to Francis Xavier’s arrival in India.

The Jesuits have a special history in the State of Goa, India, where Francis Xavier first began his work. Apart from pastoral care, priority was given education and social work. The Jesuits brought the first printing press to Goa in 1556 and printed the first book in Konkani (the local language).

It is interesting to note that according to some estimates, the largest number of educational of institutions around the world is named after St. Francis Xavier. Wikipedia puts it conservatively at around 140. In Goa there are 10-12 (college, boarding and day schools). The total in the rest of India according to Wikipedia is 62 , and in the world there are apparently 66 institutions.

On St.Francis Xavier’s arrival in Goa in 1542 the Diocesan authorities had requested him  to take charge of the newly constructed St. Paul’s College, as he was a graduate (MA from the University of Sorbonne, Paris)

St.Paul’s College, of which now remains only an arch of the chapel façade in Old Goa, was given to the Jesuits (hence called Paulistas) in 1548. They not only enlarged the building but raised its academic standard to the level of a University with various departments like Theology, Medicine, etc. On the staff were prominent professors, both Jesuits and laymen who attracted students from all over Asia. The students of Medicine could practice in the Royal Hospital founded by Afonso de Albuquerque soon after the conquest of Goa in 1510. It was handed over to the Paulistas in 1591.

In 1610, following the death of many Jesuits due to an epidemic, the College was shifted to a new building. This venture came crashing down when the Jesuits were summarily expelled from the Portuguese colonies in 1759 by orders of Dom Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquis of Pombal and Prime Minister of Portugal.

The Society of Jesuits was later formally suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. Though it was restored by Pope Pius VII after 41 years in 1814, the internal politics in Portugal did not permit the return of the Jesuits to its colony. They had to await the constitutional reform of another Prime Minister, Dr. Oliveir Salazar in 1933. But when they finally returned to Goa in 1935 they could find only a part of the chapel façade of the original St.Paul’s and no traces of the other. They did find, however, the Royal Hospital now located in Panjim (Palacio dos Maquinezes, the Old Medical College).

St.Francis Xavier’s work lasted only 10 years from 1542 when he arrived in India to 1552 when he died on the island of Sancian, off the coast of China.

His relics, body, lies in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where every year on December 3rd his feast is celebrated by thousands of faithful from Goa, the rest of India and the world who flock for mass.

The Sacred Relics, body, of St.Francis Xavier, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa, pic by Mark Ulyseas