The First Companion

Birth of Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier was born in 1506 near Pamplona in Navarre, Spain. In 1512, when Castile invaded Navarre, many fortified homes were destroyed, including the Xavier family castle, and their land was confiscated. At the age of 19, Francis Xavier went to study at the University of Paris where he was acquainted with Ignatius of Loyola. He became among the first companions who eventually founded the Society of Jesus.

Departure from Europe

Xavier was ordained to the priesthood together with Ignatius in Venice 1537. Soon after, Francis Xavier laboured in various parishes and hospitals in Monselice and Bologna in northern Italy. The Kingdom of Portugal requested the newly founded Jesuit order to send priests to serve the needs of their colony in the East Indies. Xavier departed Europe for the last time, and journeyed to Goa and beyond.

Arrival in Malacca

Before Francis had actually arrived in Malacca on his first visit in 1545, his fame among the poor in India had preceded him and a large crowd were at the waterfront to receive him when he stepped ashore. Francis Xavier was known among the Indians as Periya Padre or the Great Father, a title fitting for a man known for his holiness, missionary zeal and great love for the people.

Missions in Malaya

Though he was offered hospitality by Father Alfonso and the Governor,Francis declined both offers and took his quarters first in a small house and later in the hospital, so that could be of immediate service to the sick by day and night. Almost immediately after his arrival on the first visit, he felt the need to start a school. St. Pauls College, perhaps the first school ever to exist in Malaya, was started in Malacca by Francis Xavier.

Letter from Malacca

On 10 November 1545, Xavier wrote to the Jesuits in Portugal…Since I have been in Malacca I have had no lack of occupations…I also employ a considerable time in translating the Catechism from Latin into a language(Malay)which the people of Macassar understand… During his short first visit to Malacca, he wrought a number of miracles. Francis Xavier subsequently had brief stays in Malacca in 1547 and 1549.

Temporary Burial in Malacca

After meeting an exiled Japanese in Malacca in 1547, his missionary impulse took him to Japan in 1549 and later to China. Francis Xavier breathed his last breath in 1552. The saints body was taken to the chapel of Our Lady of the mount in Malacca, where St Paul’s Church stands today and was buried temporarily for a few months before being brought back to Goa, the final resting place.