Feast of St. Francis Xavier 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

The Feast of St. Francis Xavier is annually celebrated on 3rd December. This day commemorates and honors the commitment and service that St. Francis Xavier showed through his Christian missionary activity in Europe and Asia. 

Today this day is celebrated by Catholics all over the world but it is specifically important among the northern Spanish community of Navarra where it is celebrated as regional public holiday and it also holds a great significance in the Indian state of Goa. 

St. Francis Xavier was one of the first Jesuits, who is also considered by some to be the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles. Hence this day is very important for Christianity especially among Catholics. 

Event Feast of St. Francis Xavier
Date December 3, 2022
Day Saturday
Significance The day day commemorates and honors the commitment and service that St. Francis Xavier showed.
Observed by World wide


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Feast of St. Francis Xavier History: 

Francis was born in Xavier, in the Kingdom of Navarre on April 7th 1506. He was born into a rich farming family, whose fortunes were severely damaged during the war with Aragon. Francis went to study in Paris, where he met Ignatius of Loyola, who would convince Francis to follow a religious life and become a priest. Francis was reluctant at first, leading Ignatius to ask the now-famous question: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Along with Ignatius, Francis became one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. They made private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the Pope. They also vowed to go to the Holy Land to convert “infidels.”

After completing his studies in Paris and teaching there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions in 1536, traveling to Venice, where he attended to the sick in hospitals. On June 24, 1537, he was ordained with Ignatius. The following year Xavier went to Rome, where he met with Ignatius and his companions during the spring of 1539 to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus in 1540. Xavier was next appointed by John III, the King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. Francis left Rome for the Indies in March 1540. 

In future he went on becoming arguably the greatest Christian missionary since St. Paul which all happened to begin by almost an accident. He wasn’t originally chosen to be a missionary, but one of the two originally selected by Ignatius fell ill, so Ignatius asked Francis to go as a replacement. Over the next 12 years, Francis led a series of overseas missions, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time – Mozambique, Malacca and notably Goa. He was the first Christian missionary to travel Japan and on to Borneo and the Moluccan Islands. For his evangelist work, he became known as the “Apostle of the Indies”. 

During his stay in Japan, Xavier had heard much about the Chinese and saw it as a great opportunity to spread the Gospel. He left Goa in April 1552, arriving in autumn at the small island of Shangchuan, off the coast of China. Before reaching the mainland, however, he became ill and died on the island on Dec. 3, 1552. He completed a staggering amount of missionary work in just 10 years from May 1542 to December 1552. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV and named the patron saint of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X. His body is still enshrined at Goa in the Basilica of Bom Jesus. 


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Feast of St. Francis Xavier Significance: 

This is the day when we commemorate his missionary efforts. Francis Xavier was a prominent missionary in Roman Catholic history. He was a crucial figure in the spread of Christianity in India, the Malay Archipelago, and Japan. Hence this day is being celebrated to honour his legacy as he is one of the greatest Christian missionary of all time and he is believed to have converted more people to Christianity than any other missionary except Paul the Apostle. Hence his legacy must be remembered and celebrated. 

Many churches all over the world, often founded by Jesuits, have been named in honour of Xavier. The many in the United States include the historic St. Francis Xavier Shrine at Warwick, Maryland (founded 1720), and the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa. Note also the American educational teaching order, the Xaverian Brothers, and the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona (founded in 1692, and known for its Spanish Colonial architecture).

As the foremost saint from Navarre and one of the main Jesuit saints, Francis Xavier is much venerated in Spain and the Hispanic countries where Francisco Javier or Javier are common male given names. The alternative spelling Xavier is also popular in the Basque Country, Portugal, Catalonia, Brazil, France, Belgium, and southern Italy. In India, the spelling Xavier is almost always used, and the name is quite common among Christians, especially in Goa and in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. 

Modern scholars assess the number of people converted to Christianity by Francis Xavier at around 30,000. While some of Xavier’s methods have subsequently come under criticism that he forced people to adopt westernization for the change of faith but he has also earned praise. He insisted that missionaries adapt to many of the customs, and most certainly to the language, of the culture they wish to evangelise. And unlike later missionaries, Xavier supported an educated native clergy. Overall we can say that whatever you might assume it is undeniable that St. Francis of Xavier had a massive impact. 


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Feast of St. Francis Xavier Celebrations: 

Francis Xavier is the patron saint of his native Navarre, which celebrates his feast day on 3 December as a government holiday. In addition to Roman Catholic Masses remembering Xavier on that day (now known as the Day of Navarra), celebrations in the surrounding weeks honour the region’s cultural heritage. In the past devoted Catholics also used to go for a day-long pilgrimage for the occasion. 

The annual feast held on the 3rd of December marks the day he was buried. After nine days of prayer, called the Novena the festival hosts a variety of ceremonies to honor the Saint’s death. A Pontifical Mass is executed by a congregation of superior clergy. This a nice moment for gathering of the people and attending church services. 

Each year Goa gets in the festive mood almost an overnight before the yearly novenas and continues for a month after the festival. On the Feast day the Basilica of Bom Jesus becomes the centre of millions of devotees. St. Francis Xavier is often conjured up by his followers for his curative powers and the feast is the perfect occasion to get blessed. 

Most Searched FAQs on Feast of St. Francis Xavier: 

1. When is Feast of St. Francis Xavier celebrated? 

Feast of St. Francis Xavier is annually celebrated on 3rd December. 

2. What is St. Xavier the patron saint of? 

Saint Francis Xavier is the patron saint of missionaries and one of the founders of the Jesuit order, who sought religious converts across Asia. 

3. What is Saint Francis Xavier’s symbol? 

St Francis Xavier, being a missionary, who sailed from his homeland of Spain to take Christianity to the people of India, Japan and the neighbouring islands, is symbolised by a boat and the cross, the symbol of Christianity. 

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