Life of St Francis Xavier

Life of St Francis Xavier

Works of St. Francis Xavier | Teachings of St Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier was born in the royal castle of Xavier, in the Kingdom of Navarre, on 7 April 1506 according to a family register. He was the youngest son of Juan de Jasso y Atondo, seneschal of Xavier castle, who belonged to a prosperous farming family and had acquired a doctorate in law at the University of Bologna. Basque was his mother tongue. Juan later became a privy counsellor and finance minister to King John III of Navarre (Jean d'Albret). Francis's mother was Doña María de Azpilcueta y Aznárez, sole heiress of two noble Navarrese families. He was related through her to the great theologian and philosopher Martín de Azpilcueta.

In 1512, Ferdinand, King of Aragon and regent of Castile, invaded Navarre, initiating a war that lasted over 18 years. Three years later, Francis's father died when Francis was only nine years old. In 1516, Francis's brothers participated in a failed Navarrese-French attempt to expel the Spanish invaders from the kingdom. The Spanish Governor, Cardinal Cisneros, confiscated the family lands, demolished the outer wall, the gates, and two towers of the family castle, and filled in the moat. In addition, the height of the keep was reduced by half. Only the family residence inside the castle was left. In 1522, one of Francis's brothers participated with 200 Navarrese nobles in dogged but failed resistance against the Castilian Count of Miranda in Amaiur, Baztan, the last Navarrese territorial position south of the Pyrenees.

In 1525, Francis went to study in Paris at the Collège Sainte-Barbe, University of Paris, where he spent the next eleven years. In the early days he acquired some reputation as an athlete and a high-jumper.

In 1529, Francis shared lodgings with his friend Pierre Favre. A new student, Ignatius of Loyola, came to the room with them. At 38, Ignatius was much older than Pierre and Francis, who were both 23 at the time. Ignatius convinced Pierre to become a priest, but was unable to convince Francis, who had aspirations of worldly advancement. At first Francis regarded the new lodger as a joke and was sarcastic about his efforts to convert students. When Pierre left their lodgings to visit his family and Ignatius was alone with Francis, he was able to slowly break down Francis's resistance. According to most biographies Ignatius is said to have posed the question: "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

In 1530, Francis received the degree of Master of Arts, and afterwards taught Aristotelian philosophy at Beauvais College, University of Paris. In June 1539, Xavier whose health was then not so good, helped Ignatius in Rome with his correspondence. In 1539, Ignatius was asked by the Pope to send two men to the Portuguese colonies in the East. When Bobadilla fell ill, Ignatius asked Francis to substitute him. He left Lisbon on 7 April 1541 and reached Goa on 6 May 1542.