Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Francis Xavier (1506–1552)

Saint Francis Xavier (1506–1552)

Patron saint of missionaries

Feast day: December 3

Saint Francis Xavier was born to a noble family in the kingdom of Navarre, in what is modern-day Spain. Giving up a promising career as a professor of philosophy, he joined Saint Ignatius of Loyola to become one of the original members of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.

Leaving Europe in 1541, Francis spent the rest of his life as a missionary, working in Mozambique, India, southeastern Asia, and Japan. He baptized and taught the basics of the faith to thousands of people and planned to evangelize China, but died on an island just off the mainland.

Francis preferred to live and work among the poor, often ministering to the sick in addition to his preaching. Like Saint Paul, he changed his methods of presenting the faith to suit his audience. He taught people at their level of understanding by teaching catechism, for example, to children using rhyming verses set to popular tunes. He also engaged in theological and philosophical discussions with the more educated.

His ministry was accompanied at times by miraculous signs, including the gift of healing. (From The Church: Christ in the World Today [Saint Mary’s Press]) 

(Image Kobe City Museum, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)