Monday, March 15, 2010

Things Spiritual Were More Real Than The Visible

In appearance Francis Xavier was neither Spanish nor Basque. He had blue or grey eyes, and fair hair and beard, which turned white through the hardships he endured in Japan. 
That he was of short stature is proved by the length of the coffin in which his body is still preserved, less than 5 ft. i in. (Fonseca, op. cit. p. 296). 
Many miracles have been ascribed to him; an official list of these, said to have been attested by eyewitnesses, was drawn up by the auditors of the Rota when the processes for his canonization were formed, and is preserved in manuscript in the Vatican library. The contention that Xavier should be regarded as the greatest of Christian missionaries since the first century A.d. rests upon more tangible evidence. 
His Jesuit biographers attribute to him the conversion of more than 700,000 persons in less than ten years; and though these figures are absurd, the work which Xavier accomplished was enormous. 
He inaugurated new missionary enterprises from Hormuz to Japan and the Malay Archipelago, leaving an organized Christian community wherever he preached; he directed by correspondence the ecclesiastical policy of John III. and his viceroy in India; he established and controlled the Society of Jesus in the East. 
Himself an ascetic and a mystic, to whom things spiritual were more real than the visible world, he had the strong common sense which distinguished the other Spanish mystics, St Theresa, Luis de Leon or Raimon Lull. 
This quality is nowhere better exemplified than in his letters to Caspar Baertz (Barzaeus), the Flemish Jesuit whom he sent to Hormuz, or in his suggestions for the establishment of a Portuguese staple in Japan. Supreme as an organizer, he seems also to have had a singularly attractive personality, which won  him the friendship even of the pirates and bravos with whom he was forced to consort on his voyages. Modern critics of his work note that he made no attempt to understand the oriental religions which he attacked, and censure him for invoking the aid of the Inquisition and sanctioning persecution of the Nestorians in Malabar. 
He strove, with a success disastrous to the Portuguese empire, to convert the government in Goa into a proselytizing agency. 
Throughout his life he remained in close touch with Ignatius of Loyola, who is said to have selected Xavier as his own successor at the head of the Society of Jesus. Within a few weeks of Xavier's death, indeed, Ignatius sent letters recalling him to Europe with that end in view.

Link (here) to the short but thoroughly secular biography in an old edition number 28 of the Encyclopedia Britanica of St. Francis Xavier, S.J.  

Painting is entitled The Vision of St. Francis Xavier, S.J. by Baciccio

1 comment:

Gerard de Souza said...

Useful links on the current state of the Old Goa World Heritage site! Might interest you!