Bishop Bhai Articles

Saint Francis Xavier: The Impact of His Evangelization in the Building
Up of the Church in India and in the Far East -- A Critical Analysis
Leobard D’Souza
Archbishop Emeritus of Nagpur


Scholars and students of the world’s religions and wisdom traditions often suggest that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are like people who drive while looking through a rear view mirror!  They suggest that we are so caught up in our pasts that we seldom if ever take time to imagine our futures.  In some measure this is probably true of any and every religion and movement that is concerned with its history.

But perhaps there is another side to all of this.  Perhaps it is in the Semitic traditions in particular that we experience that people who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.  And so we insist that our younger members and people new to our traditions take time to learn our history, although we surely are dealing with the most ahistorical generation that the world may ever have seen.  More and more we are invited to live for the moment and ignore long term consequences.  Our television sitcoms both at home and those we import from abroad encourage this.  The age of instant gratification is upon us.

This is why it is especially interesting and gratifying to be asked to deal with this historic topic today of the role of Saint Francis Xavier in bringing the Good News to Asia.  We can learn much from his mission about what to do and, frankly, about what not to do in terms of contemporary mission and evangelization.  We can, I think, learn how to drive forward the wheels of contemporary mission, occasionally looking toward the past, but focusing on the present which makes the future.

I want to begin by suggesting to you what I believe we as church are for today.  That is what mission means.  I hope to emphasize this role in particular in terms of Asia although I have friends and colleagues who assure me that what I am suggesting is international in its scope.  Then I hope to look with you at the life of Francis and how his work can help us today or the things in his living that are not helpful.  Finally, I want to suggest to you some principles which I believe can be drawn from the life of Francis which can help us in our mission and ministry ad intra and ad extra. [1]     


It is interesting, if not downright frightening at times, to uncover the presumptions and assumptions about what we are for as a church, to say nothing of what individuals and congregations within our community are for.  After Vatican Council II, numbers of institutions began a search for their particular charism, thinking that somehow that would give them direction for the future.  In some cases that may have happened.  Forty years after the conclusion of that council there are still many congregations “renewing” themselves.

Will you think me too simplistic if I suggest to you that Jesus has told us what we are for in no uncertain terms?  In John’s gospel we have him saying, “I am come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  If we say that we are his followers, that our church exists to perpetuate in our time and place what he did in his, then are we not required to effect life, abundant life, for all of creation? 

We are told that Jesus himself “went about doing good.”  Is that not then also our mission, to go about doing good, to give witness to goodness, to work with and for all people of good will everywhere, to celebrate goodness wherever we find it?  Yes, this may be simple, even too simple in the thoughts of many, but the bulk who think that this is easy have, in my experience, rarely or never tried to do so.  It may be simple but it is not easy.

The scripture scholar, John Dominic Crossan, and other members of the Jesus Seminar in particular, have made clear to us that the bulk of Jesus’ teaching was to the truly destitute of his own people.  These people no longer had even a plot of land on which to grow the few things that provided them with some kind of subsistence.   They lived from hand to mouth as day labourers.  It was to them that Jesus preached their dignity and worth before God and each other.  The abundant life he called them to was immediate in Jesus’ understanding of a God who was Lover and Friend and not an Enforcer.  Jesus preached a God whose nature was loving-kindness and whose purpose was justice and charity for all of the created order. [2]  

Crossan tells us, for example, that the prayer for daily bread in what we call the Lord’s Prayer – Crossan says it ought to be called the Peasant’s Prayer for greater accuracy – is real.  These people were starving, literally and metaphorically.  Women and children were especially considered non-entities and perhaps that is why we have so many stories of their gravitating toward Jesus, someone who considered them anything but useless and expendable.

Made in the image and likeness of God, we, too, Jesus preached, are called to effect abundant life for all whom we encounter.  The “increase and multiply” of Genesis is not simply about human reproduction but a call to us to be co-creators with God of a fruitful universe.  Crossan and others remind us that Jesus was no country bumpkin and Nazareth was not the backwater we once thought it to be.  Joseph and Jesus probably worked in Sepphoris through which caravans came and which was a crossroads of the ancient world and its religions and wisdom traditions.  It is likely in this setting that Jesus came to see the incredible potential of Judaism and feel the violations of it on the part of the Jewish religious establishment in collusion with the Roman occupiers. 

Jesus could very likely have continued his preaching in the Galilee where many other malcontents in the eyes of the establishment held sway.  But at some point he chose to confront this establishment directly.  He died a death reserved for the scum of his society rather than back down on his convictions about what God wanted for and from the Jewish people, and indeed, for and from all men and women of good will. 

This, then, is what we are for,  to give our lives -- which today is often to give our time – to effect abundant life for all of creation, right here, right now.  That includes an abundant religious life, but that is only one portion of the health of body, mind, and spirit to which the Jesus way of life calls us.  While we do not live by bread alone, we surely do not live well without bread no matter our spiritual inclinations and insights.

If you are wondering now what this abundant life is today, you are following well my presentation.  It is to that topic which I want to turn briefly before looking more closely at the life of St. Francis and what we can draw from it. 

Abundant Life in the Third Millennium

During the Second Vatican Council, Doctor (Father) Francois Houtart, a Belgian, from the University of Louvain, who was a peritus at the Council, urged the bishops to take seriously the field of sociology.  Others, of course, were urging the bishops to work to understand psychology and anthropology as well, explaining that they were not enemies of things theological but part and parcel of a scientific world view which we needed to embrace.  That did not come easy to those who had been trained to think of theology as the “queen” of all intellectual enterprises.  I fear it still does not.  Father Houtart actually came to work in Kerala for a while but his findings on a variety of topics were not what the bishops there wanted to hear.  He continues his work throughout other parts of the world.

Many of you will recognize the name of Doctor (Father) Stephen Fuchs, S.V.D., who has lived and worked in India for many years, recording facts about the Tribals among others.  He is now professor emeritus of the Institute for Indian Culture associated with the University of Mumbai.  He, too, urged the Indian bishops and others to look systematically and scientifically at our peoples and their systems. 

Will I shock you if I tell you that sociological studies done in the United States twenty-five years ago reported on the difficulties the institutional church will need to face in terms of priests who were pedophiles and involved in sexual misconduct of other sorts?  The messengers were equivalently “shot”, ignored, sent out to pasture as it were.  Only now is their work being vindicated but at what a price.

Sociologists themselves often laugh at themselves and say they tell people what they already know.  In fact, sociologists confirm or deny prevalent ideas and among the most famous Catholic sociologists today is Doctor (Father) Andrew Greeley whom we know more for his novels than his sociology.  He has, in fact, just completed a massive study which proves definitely that priests in the United States do not leave to marry.  They leave because they dislike what they are doing, because their work is no longer appealing nor attractive nor rewarding in any way. 

I am not trying to belabour a point.  I am trying to make clear that the bulk of us guess at what would constitute abundant life, perhaps not for ourselves but certainly for those for whom we are responsible in some way or other.  We ignore the hard work of working with people on their own projects, helping them to get done with their lives what they want to do with them, rather than coming to them with our pre-packaged projects born out of our particular charisms, as if there were such a thing.  Fortunately, we do have a world organization that has taken sociology seriously and can tell us what it is that people want and need, what in their eyes constitutes abundant life for them.  I am referring to the United Nations Development Programme. [3]

Let me summarize for you what these reports say constitute abundant life for people today, right here, and right now.  People want and need food, clothing, shelter, education that will make them and keep them employable, some leisure for reflection, a part in the decision making which affects their lives, and the latest findings indicate that cultural liberty is beginning to be a prime need for sustainable, integral human development.

I want to quote to you from the first page of the 2004 report: 

Cultural liberty is a vital part of human development because being able to choose one’s identity—who one is—without losing the respect of others or being excluded from other choices is important in leading a full life.  People want the freedom to practice their religion openly, to speak their language, to celebrate their ethnic or religious heritage without fear of ridicule or punishment or diminished opportunity.  People want the freedom to participate in society without having to slip off their chosen cultural moorings.  It is a simple idea, but profoundly unsettling. 

The report goes on to explain that despite all appearances to the contrary this will not cause great chaos and confusion in our world but will, in fact, help resolve all kinds of current conflicts.  Diversity is not to be feared but to be encouraged and applauded.  This is why it is so unsettling to persons whose lives consist of “only way” or fundamentalist, literalist approaches to things political, social, and religious.

There is a regional report on India.  We rank 117 in terms of sustainable, integral human development in a world of 202 countries based on the United Nations development indicators.  With few variations on a theme, our Indian people want, with the rest of the world, food, clothing, shelter, education to make and keep them employable, some leisure time for reflection, a role in the decisions that are made that affect them, and cultural liberty.  That is what our own people say they want by way of abundant life and if we believe that our God wants our abundant life and that of all creation, then this is what we must commit ourselves to if we are to have any credibility before God and before men and women of good will.

I want to move now to look at what we thought we were for at the time of St. Francis Xavier.  In a word, we thought we were for “conversions”, or in the words of King John of Portugal, “Spices and Souls”.  I assure you the order is the king’s and not mine. 

“Spices and Souls” [4]

It was on May 4, 1493, that Pope Alexander VI, himself a Spaniard, divided the non-Christian parts of the world between Portugal and Spain.  This was done, of course, without consultation with other countries.  Supposedly, at the heart of this demarcation was the desire that the two Catholic countries involved would convert the “heathen” in these parts of the world to the true religion. The overall conviction was “Christians are right.  Pagans are wrong.” [5]

This was indeed what we are told continued to motivate rulers like  King John of Portugal almost half a century later to ask for Jesuits to work in India and other places in Asia.  John is reported to have called these efforts the quest for “spices and souls”.  European housewives had become enamored of pepper and India in particular offered it in abundance, and it was in India that the “Moors” and “Hindoos” needed conversion.  John was familiar with monks and friars and secular priests and indeed they were in the Indies when word of the Jesuits reached the King.  He applied to Rome for their assistance. 

Spanish rulers had become enamored of gold and the western hemisphere offered that in abundance along with indigenous peoples galore who were to be brought to know Christ.  But that is another story and outside the realm of this paper. 

In general, it is probably fair to say that in addition to wanting “conversions”, the institutional church in the Sixteenth Century was about countering anything and everything that the Protestant reformers were for!  The fact that a pope like Alexander VI had contributed enormously to this desire for reformation of the institution was going unnoticed by Catholics or if noticed spoken of only in whispers apart from the reformers who were shouting their concerns at every possible opportunity.

If we had lived at the time of Xavier would our concerns have been any different?  I doubt it.  Four hundred years after Xavier and the early Jesuits the battle cry of “outside the Church no salvation!” continued to be preached by the Boston Jesuit Leonard Feeney.  The nuanced theology that had taken place since the Counter-Reformation with re-definitions of the church itself, insights about culpable and inculpable ignorance, baptism by water, blood, or desire, were either unknown or ignored by Father Feeney and his followers.

Indeed it was only in 1961 that Father Karl Rahner, S.J., proposed his idea of “anonymous Christianity”, which we are told sent some missionaries weeping from the room when he made these suggestions and proposed this approach to mission.  Rahner was subsequently to admit the influence on his thinking along this line of the Swiss theologian Otto Karrer.  One has only to read the Vorgrimmler [6] commentaries on Vatican Council II to come to grips with the huge debates over the possibilities that the religions of the world other than Catholicism could be genuine pathways to God.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters began as early as 1910 to examine in their meetings what they called the “only way” mentality in terms of things religious.  Their efforts to identify the positive dimensions of traditions other than Christianity were thwarted by the rise of National Socialism in Germany when Christian scholars in that country insisted that anything but a united Christian front in terms of the uniqueness of its ethos would be the destruction of the religion in Germany if not universally.

We need to keep this “only way” conviction about Catholicism in mind as we look at Xavier in India and the other places in Asia to which he traveled.  Most of us in this room today who are Catholic would not be so if that mind set had not been in the missionaries who came to us whether that coming were east or west, north or south.  There are Catholics today, and some in very high places, who think that dialogue and inculturation are “sell outs” on the part of those of us who engage in them.

Let me offer a reflection on proponents of the “only way” or literalist mentality in terms of religions or any other dimensions of human living including the political.  When we are convinced of something, when some experience of ours has held us in good stead, when we are convinced that a stance we take is healthy, human, and humane, is it not a special gift to be joined by others who share our convictions?  Is it not incredibly frustrating to be thwarted by others in terms of these genuine concerns of ours?  Add to that the conviction that this is what God wants as revealed by God, and it is those who are not proponents of an “only way” especially religious whom the true believers call to an accounting.

Work done by Dr. James Fowler and his associates at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, demonstrates clearly that the bulk of persons who are active members of synagogues, mosques, and churches in the United States are proponents of the “only way”.  But at the same time working with other colleagues, of whom Dr. (Father) Thomas Kallam of Bangalore is among them, in the mid 1990s Fowler was able to demonstrate clearly that cross-culturally, one-third of all persons past middle age want cosmic generating principles for their lives, convinced that they have a truth but not the truth.  

Living with ambiguity is hard for the most mature and mentally healthy among us.  Working for win-win situations as they are now called, for conflict resolution, for conciliation is hard work especially in a world where change is rapid and where information sometimes overwhelms us.  Bringing wisdom to these situations is no job for the faint-hearted.

Perhaps this is a point at which to remind ourselves that it is not only conservatives or traditionalists who are proponents of the “only way”.  Many of those who think of themselves as liberal or progressive Catholics are surely narrow-minded about what we are for and are proponents of “my way or the highway”.  This is the situation in the United States that led Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of happy memory to offer his Common Ground approach which was intended to provide intra-religious dialogue among Catholics.  I am sorry to have to tell you that this effort did not receive the support of his brother bishops and is now a fledgling operation, far from what Cardinal Bernardin had hoped for.  The need for intra-Catholic dialogue is as real in India as it is elsewhere. 

To summarize where we have come so far – I have suggested to you that we Catholics are for the effecting of abundant life in our time and place even as Jesus was in his. I have suggested that we need to do this with all women and men of good will.   I have explained what that abundant life is likely to be for the third millennium, namely, integral, sustainable human development and the stewardship of all creation.  I have spelled out what I understand that to be in some detail.  I have then suggested to you what the Church in the Sixteenth Century thought it was for in terms of abundant life and how much Xavier was a product of that thinking.  It was that we existed to “save” souls or to “help” souls, but mostly the former. Life after this life was far more the preoccupation of Xavier and most missionaries of his era than anything this side of death. [7]   

 I now want to share with you what scholars say was Xavier’s method of saving or helping souls, and specifically how he did that.  Then I want to look for the principles behind those works of his, which cannot really be separated from the principles which guided Xavier’s close and dear friend, St. Ignatius of Loyola.   I then want to suggest what those methods and principles of Xavier do or do not offer us today in terms of the dialogue and proclamation in which we are to be involved if we are truly to be animators of abundant life

How Xavier got to Asia is surely a fluke although some would want to credit it to Divine Providence. Perhaps “flukes” and Divine Providence are not that far apart in reality? 

Xavier in Asia

I want for now to pass over Xavier’s general background,   coming to Paris, joining the group that would eventually become the Society of Jesus, and deal specifically with his coming to “the Indies”.  I also want to mention that there are some commentators, Schurhammer, Brodrick, and Costelloe among them,  who suggest that at the time of Xavier there were two kinds of Jesuits, viz., those who prayed, “Lord, send me to the Indies”, and those who prayed, “Lord, send me to anywhere but the Indies”.   Xavier seemed to be in neither camp, however, prepared to go wherever and whenever Ignatius needed him, once Ignatius succeeded in convincing Xavier that the Carthusians were not for him.  Xavier was serving as Ignatius’s private secretary and went to Portugal and then to Goa on a day’s notice. [8]  

For those who know his history with the Portuguese and with Goa, it is astounding that the people of Goa have taken him so much as their patron for the past hundreds of years.  To say that Francis despised all but a very few of the Portuguese administrators, not just in Goa but elsewhere, is perhaps the understatement of his history.  Neither the Moslems whom he also disliked enormously, nor the Brahmins for whom he eventually developed a bit of a grudging respect, treated him so badly in his estimation as did the Portuguese officials.  He once said of them that their motto and goal was, “I plunder; thou plunderest.”  He also said that the Portuguese in India “...are the disgrace of their nation, murky renegades, prepared to sell out to the devil for a fanam.” [9]   A fanam was the price of one plump chicken!

Portuguese Jesuits did not fare too much better in Xavier’s estimation, especially those in Goa, and especially around the destruction of Xavier’s plan for St. Paul’s College which was to be a training ground for indigenous clergy, “Asians for Asia”.  Indigenous students were soon jumping the walls of the college when it began to cater to and be filled with the sons of Portuguese officials and other Europeans in Goa, often rushed to ordination with disastrous results.  Goodier tells us that when he was in Goa Xavier used to hide himself in the gardens at St. Paul’s hoping for some respite for his weariness of body, mind, and spirit. [10]

Xavier’s mission method was simple.  He lived and worked in whatever hospital or poor house for incurables he could find as the earliest members of the company had done.  He also had a little bell which he rang and did a kind of Pied Piper thing by using the equivalent of today’s rap artistry to teach prayers and the creed.  He would ask the children to teach these to their parents as well.  When he found someone who would say they believed the articles of the creed, their catechumenate was over and he baptized them.  He usually then sent his converts out to destroy every Hindu image they could find and rejoiced when they did so.

Xavier was especially happy to be able to baptize dying babies, believing that he gave them a better life after death in doing so.  He agonized over those who did not know Christ and vacillated between asking for help of Jesuits from the least intellectually capable among them to the most learned who were “wasting their time” in Europe in university discourses with all these souls in Asia needing them!  Brodrick says he eventually changed his mind about wanting Jesuits who were strong of body but weak of mind.

Xavier wore a cassock that was almost falling off him.  That would not change until Japan.  But no matter where he went in Asia he laboriously translated prayers into the local language, and attempted to speak it no matter how badly in order to “go in their door that they may come out ours”.  No matter how legendary his skills as a linguist are purported to be, Schurhammer and Brodrick assure us he was anything but.  Yet again, no matter what he was about both Schurhammer and Brodrick are convinced that Francis saw himself as “blazing the trail...while others would build the highway for God.” [11]

A contemporary Jesuit scholar does, however, suggest that Xavier offers the first instance of “dialogue” when he did enter into discussion with a Brahmin who helped him to understand that they, too, worship one God but keep this secret and make it available only to their special initiates, “lest the revenues of idolatry dry up”.  Xavier was happy with their monogamy as well.  The Brahmin    wanted Xavier to baptize him but to keep it secret which the saint would not do. [12]   

The people at large seemed to love Xavier.  He returned that affection especially for the pearl fishers on India’s coast when he went there to be with them.  Even the Malay concubines of Portuguese officials with whom Xavier dined at leisure in Malacca are reported to have enjoyed his company and he theirs although he did urge the officials to close their harems and marry the last of the concubines who remained.  One can only ponder what happened to the others who did not marry their Portuguese lords. [13]

The legends about Xavier were rife even during his time including the special one about a crab which retrieved a crucifix dear to Francis when he threw it overboard to quell a storm at sea.  While we have no evidence of this from Xavier himself, an alleged eye-witness came forth in Quilon with the story, when Xavier’s life was under investigation.  However it was some sixty-seven years after the event itself, when the man involved was 90.   Xavier at times seems to have been clairvoyant but one wonders if it were anything more than the intimations for weal or for woe that many of us experience in terms of those with whom we are in some way intimate. [14]

Xavier produced a catechism in Konkani, and eventually did the same in Malay.  He actually did both of these rhythmically in catchy tunes and with episodes sometimes more connected with his memory of the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises than the gospels.  He seems to have known the Exercises by heart.  His biographers suggest that he sometimes played a bit with the actual materials to produce rhymes that would easily be remembered and they also lament that translations of these materials often appear in prose rather than poetry. [15]

On two occasions in Indian territories Xavier engaged in what we might today call power politics, asking the government to send armies to avenge slaughters by Moslems of people at Jaffna and among the Achinese.  The help was long in coming and it would actually be 1907 before the Dutch were finally able to deal with the latter group. [16]

It was in Malacca that Xavier encountered his first Japanese person, a man named Anjiro.  Xavier decided that all Japanese must be “civilized pagans”, unlike the Moslems or Hindus.  Xavier paid little attention to the motivations for conversion of his pearl fishers or others among his Indian converts.   However,   he was told by Anjiro that the Japanese would need to have reasons for the faith which Xavier had and would need to see him “walking his talk”, as we would say today.  Xavier was intrigued.  Anjiro said if that were to happen, the Japanese would become Christians within six months of the arrival of Jesuits among them.

Anjiro’s inquiring mind delighted Xavier, perhaps reminiscent of his own university days and his professorship.  Xavier answered Anjiro’s queries and the man was delighted by seeing Xavier in action with the poorest of the poor and living the gospel in other ways.  He asked for baptism but   Xavier determined to delay Anjiro’s request until it could take place publicly by the Bishop of Goa, a Franciscan for whom Xavier had great respect. [17]   Francis thought that Anjiro’s conversion had major implications for an all out mission to Japan.

Francis returned as often as he could to the locations in India where he had originally ministered.  Both Schurhammer and Brodrick are anxious to quash the idea that Xavier would set up a project but then leave it to others to carry it out.  He did return as often as he could.  But while he traveled extensively he did not approve of those whom he appointed to the mission stations which he had originally established doing so.  He wanted them to stay put.  He believed that the people needed their on-going presence among them if for no other reason than to keep the Portuguese political appointees in their place. 

His orders to these Jesuits were clear: educate the children, the boys in particular, by teaching them their prayers and catechism; provide whatever other education is possible especially with the hopes of producing an indigenous clergy; baptize all babies in danger of death so that they might have eternal life; feel free to baptize without any real ceremony; have the men pray in the morning and the women at night; care for these converts and do not allow the venality and greed of their Portuguese overlords to destroy them.

Both Fathers Schurhammer and Brodrick traveled to the actual places Francis visited during his time in India and elsewhere.  Brodrick concludes that the tragedy of Francis’ time in India is that he never came to know the real India, the country where “God is its entire adventure”.  He also reminds his readers that Tagore wrote “...the West did not send its heart to conquer the men [sic] of the East but only its machine.”  Francis surely brought his heart to the country but the machine was there before him! [18]

We look now at Francis in Japan where his mission method changed dramatically.  Although many would like to believe that Francis went to Ceylon, both Fathers Schurhammer and Wicki are convinced that he did not.

Francis spent an additional sixteen months in India preparing to go to Japan.  Goa gave him his greatest concern about leaving India.  He was distressed that the Portuguese despised the outcasts who were becoming Christians and confusing the issue by insisting that conversion meant adopting Portuguese dress and manners.  Francis did all that he could for these outcasts and encouraged all his Catholic people to support the Confraternity of Mercy which the Portuguese  established to care for the most destitute of indigenous persons wherever they had colonies.  Of that project Xavier approved wholeheartedly. [19]  

In addition to the advice quoted above Xavier told his Jesuit priests to “preach gently” and never reprimand in public persons in positions of authority.  He did suggest using the confessional to ask pointed questions like where did these notables get their money and did they possess anything which wasn’t really theirs to keep.  He said that the best penances would be those that did not involve any kind of public humiliation but which required service in hospitals or prison visitors especially in conjunction with the Confraternity of Mercy. 

Anjiro, now called Paul of the Faith, and two of his Japanese companions were to accompany Xavier to Japan.  Brodrick says that Xavier undertook this mission expecting to find a country as united as Spain under a strong philosopher king “ripe for the message of Christianity”.  It will not be until he arrived that Francis realizes he is dealing with islands.   And who is the Xavier who heads to Japan?  He is “...a man of few nuances, intransigent, authoritative, in a way even merciless, very Iberian...and at the same time one of the most loving of men.” [20]

I will skip the hazardous journey to reach Japan, except to mention that Xavier seemed always to be subjected to seasickness which makes his traveling even more admirable.  Xavier and his companions were amazed to find so civilized a people and yet so “unlike the Portuguese”.  Anjiro was in no way penalized at that point for his conversion to Catholicism since his relatives and the local officials seem to have understood the religion initially as a sect of Buddhism which sects were proliferating in Japan at the time having entered the country by way of China. 

Xavier was delighted at the great universities and began plans for exchanging professorships with the European universities with which he was familiar.  He was also intrigued with the “politeness toward possibilities” which marked his discourses concerning religion with the literati of Japan, and actually with the bulk of its people.  But, of course, language was a major difficulty. 

Brother Alexander who was Xavier’s companion did master basic Japanese after two years of study.  Anjiro tried to be what help he could but Catholic theology was difficult for him to understand much less to translate.  He mistakenly told Xavier that Dianichi was identical to Deus so Xavier adopted this name for God and it was only about two years later near the end of his stay that Xavier learned it means something like Aristotle’s prime matter!  But Brodrick assures us from other testimony that Xavier’s “presence, face, character, obvious sanctity, preached for him.” [21]

Francis and his companions were amazed at the Japanese fastidiousness in terms of cleanliness and table manners.  Their stay at Kagamuchi resulted in a few converts but Xavier was keen to meet the emperor thinking that his conversion would mean that of all of Japan. He could only get there by joining a retinue of a royal man carrying some of the man’s baggage on his back.   Working as bearers, Francis and his companions walked through snow up to their knees probably without shoes.  Much to his dismay when he arrived in what is now Kyoto he discovered that the emperor was a puppet busily writing poetry to try to keep body and soul together.

Denied access to a famous shrine near Kyoto because he was so poorly dressed, Xavier decided that “Japan was not ruled like Spain”.   He returned to Kagoshima and then to Yamaguchi determined that the daimyos [local rulers] were far more influential and indeed it was at this latter location that he donned the garb of a Spanish grandee without which he knew he would not be received by the truly important men of Japan.

In great pomp and circumstance with many gifts provided by his friend Pedro da Silva Francis was received and given permission to preach.  He and his companions continued to do so although the anticipated mass conversions did not happen.  Through interpreters, especially Brother Alexander,  Francis preached again sodomy, abortion, infanticide, and denounced the marriages of Buddhist priests allowed by the Amida Buddha sect.  Out of deference to the Buddhists, Francis would eat not even fish except on rare occasions. 

The “true” Buddhists, for whom the Amida sect was a horror, were happy with Francis’ denouncing of them.  But a  major stumbling block for all of the Japanese was that Francis would not consider any kind of reincarnation.  Condemning individuals to heaven or to hell on the basis of just one lifetime struck the Japanese as lacking in any kind of mercy on the part of divinity. 

Xavier did make converts and they were incredibly steadfast, many of them still practicing that with which they had been left by Xavier years afterwards when Jesuits and others finally arrived to take up more permanent residence.  One of these was Mary of Yamaguchi who died at the age of 84 and is celebrated today among Japanese Christians. [22]  

Xavier would travel miles when he heard of a Portuguese vessel in any proximity to him, always hoping for news from Ignatius or from the Jesuits in India.  Two years after arriving in Japan he had heard nothing from Rome, Goa, Cape Comorin, Malacca or the Moluccas and at this point Xavier   determined that he had to return to India to find out what was happening there.  He left Japan with much sadness.

It was on Sancian Island while returning to India that Xavier met up with Diogo Pereira.  Sancian is close to China and Diogo reported that several Portuguese were being held in horrendous captivity in Canton.  He begged Xavier to go there as a Portuguese ambassador to secure their release.  The Portuguese were in fact considered smugglers by the Chinese and had been incarcerated for that reason when caught.  The Chinese wanted absolutely no contact with the west and its barbarian ways. 

It was here on this island to which Xavier would return that he had a “eureka” moment, as it were.  He knew by then that the Japanese followed the Chinese in all that they could thinking them the civilization to be admired and imitated.  Convert China and Japan would be converted!  Back to India to check on things there and then Xavier determined he would head to China!

I have dealt perhaps too quickly with Xavier in Japan.  It was in many ways life-changing for him.  He did leave behind a laity determined to live the Christian values he had taught to them.  He had practiced some early forms of accommodation in terms of mission.  He did plan on returning to the country albeit by way of China.  His vision was really the conversion of countries not just individuals because his model was Catholic Spain, Catholic monarchs, Catholic people which had served both himself and his beloved Ignatius exceedingly well.  He was a man of his time.

Little is known of the eventual fate of Xavier’s beloved Anjiro, a married layman.  He may have been martyred.  It seems more likely that he became a pirate to keep body and soul together, an acceptable practice at this time, and was drowned in the course of this work.     

Francis arrived in Cochin without incident it would seem to discover that he had been appointed provincial of the Jesuits two years earlier by Ignatius thus making India the third Jesuit province.  He immediately wrote to Ignatius telling him of his blunder in appointing Antonia Gomes to be rector of St. Paul’s.  The man had also wreaked havoc in Cochin as well.  Their letters passed each other and it would be seven months after Xavier was in his grave that Ignatius’ letter telling Francis to come to Rome by way of Portugal and prepare to stay in India reached Goa.  Others were to go to Japan and China. [23]  Francis and Ignatius seemed also to be coming to the conclusion that Jesuit superiors in Portuguese lands ought not to be Portuguese given that country’s intense nationalism.  Xavier told Ignatius forcefully that Antonio Gomes is the “last person in the world to be a superior”.

Xavier actually arrived in Goa unexpectedly to the delight of some and apparently to the dismay of others like Gomes who was a favourite of the Goan ladies and who “preached like an angel” according to the local bishop.  Xavier transferred Gomes to Diu where he was to stay under threat of being expelled from India and the society.  Xavier insisted on the return of the indigenous students to St. Paul’s and said that India did not need another Coimbra and it did not need gigantic churches.  In fact, in his letters he proscribes church buildings of any sort but the simplest and only that if they are absolutely necessary.  He does want “spiritual temples” for the education of Indian boys. [24]

Xavier’s letters from this period are filled with practical advice about paying one’s own debts before sending money to other mission stations but he wants the needs of those stations kept in mind.  He asks for collaboration with the Dominicans, Franciscans, and secular clergy, and with the politicians so long as no scandal of any sort is given.  He does suggest that two slaves be purchased to assist the brother who is gardener at St. Paul’s because that will save money. [25]

Superiors in general, but especially the Dutch Father Breze who is to become rector of the College and Francis’ heir in India, are asked to deal with their Jesuit subjects with love and kindness unless they see these as weaknesses and try to take advantage of Breze.  Then he is to deal with them with all severity.  With all Indians the fathers and brothers are to act with “gentle persuasion but nothing by force”.  Xavier says that in India nothing long lasting can ever be accomplished by force.

In terms of difficulties in marriages, “both parties are always to blame but in different measure”.  The spiritual direction of women is to be avoided. [26]   Francis also wanted the jubilee year benefits of 1550 which was to last two years in India given the distances and lack of priests to be extended to the pearl fishers and all the peoples throughout the country.

Meanwhile the Portuguese captains were gathering the silks and other gorgeous items which Francis intended to take with him to China as the King of Portugal’s ambassador to the country.  Some of them would line his casket.  It was Francis hope to enter China in an ambassador’s train, which was not to happen.  Not knowing that Ignatius wanted him to stay in India after a visit to Europe, Xavier pleaded with both the King of Portugal and Ignatius to send him well trained, learned, and dedicated men for India and Japan and China.  It is clear in these letters, however, that his heart was in Japan and it is for that reason that he wished to make the trip to China. 

We know now that Francis got as close to China as Sancian Island where he had first heard of the Portuguese smugglers who were languishing in Chinese prisons.  Along the way he was “sold out” by Portuguese captains and a variety of others, some think because of the horror of being caught and imprisoned in China themselves.  Francis began to think that perhaps he would need to get to China by way of an annual trip there by the King of Siam and began to plan to make that happen.  In Sancian he was accompanied only by his student Antonio, a “Chinaman who had lost his Chinese”. [27]   It was with the retinue of the King of Siam or entering China by stealth that seemed the only options open to Francis and he finally opted for the latter, paying a Chinese captain to take him there.  It was a long and fruitless wait.

Xavier fell ill on November 21st.  The Portuguese ship’s captain who had refused to go to China, provided Xavier with some food, but a local merchant, Diogo Vaz took him into his home and cared for him as much as possible, including having him bled but all to no avail.  Xavier died at about 2:00 a.m. on December 3, 1552. [28]

Fearing what had happened, the captain of the Portuguese vessel who had refused to take Xavier to China, had Xavier’s body dressed in sacerdotal robes and the casket lined with some of the silks intended for China.  Lime was poured under and on top of the coffin and the body eventually was returned to Goa.  There are reputable reports that indicate the body was intact and flexible for almost one hundred fifty years.  His right arm was severed from the rest of the body and is now in Rome. Initially the arm was revered for the numbers of baptisms it is reported that Xavier made.  The remains of the remains are now in Bom Gesu Church in Goa. 

  When the body was finally returned to Goa there was much weeping including that of the Dominican invited to preach the sermon at the funeral mass.  Although the venality and greed of the Portuguese administrators, especially in Goa, was despised by Xavier, perhaps it was his work in the Casa Misericordiae   that merited him the love of the common folk of Goa and elsewhere in the country which can be seen today as persons from all over Indian journey to his tomb.  Xavier was canonized on March 12, 1622. [29]

Xavier was almost forty-seven years old at the time of his death.  It remains to be seen what inspired these heroic efforts of his and what if anything in them offers us today direction in “helping souls”, which is in our day probably best understood as the peace and happiness of ourselves and of all our brothers and sisters, or what I have suggested in the first pages of this work is sustainable, integral human development. [30]  

“Good enough.  I’m ready....”

Several of his biographers report this as the English equivalent of Xavier’s response to Ignatius when he was asked on the spur of the moment   to replace a sick comrade destined for Portugal and then India.  How many times in my own life I would have been overjoyed to have heard this response to my suggestions or hopes for a particular mission!  What made Xavier this kind of person?  What were the principles behind his assorted activities in India and in the rest of Asia?  Most modern commentators would say that his experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius made him the man he was. [31]

Based on his own experiences, Ignatius wanted others to do the same to unleash the individual’s unique potential in service of God and of all others.  He saw the director of this process as one who points the retreatant to possibilities but knows full well that only the individual involved can bring personal insights to bear to make essential changes.  Ignatius held out the Exercises as the way to achieve self-awareness, ingenuity, heroism, and indeed love, although self-awareness and ingenuity were probably not in his vocabulary.  To know oneself, Ignatius presents a real, formidable Satan to the retreatant.  While today, many of us would think of the devil as a metaphor, Ignatius wants us to rid ourselves of the “devil made me do it” mentality.  It is not addictions, nor an unloving childhood, nor anything in our lives that can be used as a crutch.  If we choose to be otherwise, with God’s help we can.  Xavier was asked to make an inventory of weaknesses so that they could be overcome and so that they would not hamper him from being what he wanted to be or doing what he wanted to do to “help souls”.

The Exercises are also a means to achieve indifference which Ignatius deemed essential if imagination and creativity were to be welcomed and lived.  He is aiming for what a later scholar of religion will call “attached detachment and detached attachment”, viz., if you cannot live well without someone or something, you cannot live well with them. [32]   Ignatius wanted the men of his company to be free from prejudices and inordinate attachments.  Nothing else would give them the freedom and flexibility to function he believed they needed.

Another major experience of the Exercises was what Jesuits did and do call magis.  It meant a constant search for “more”, for a “better way to accomplish a greater good”.  Ignatius’ goal was to “conquer the whole land of the infidels”, and this could only happen with a kind of divine discontent in the hearts of his company.  So after massive introspection at the beginning of the Exercises, the retreatant is catapulted back into the world with the Contemplation on Divine Love.  Real love “ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words”.  When we looked at his life, we saw how much this figured in the life and activities of Xavier. [33]

So, the retreatant comes to know himself, abandons prejudices, understands the need for indifference, determines not to be ever satisfied with his efforts and always seeks different ways to better purposes, with the over-riding purpose of helping souls.  Combine this with Jesuit obedience, to the Holy Father and to the Jesuit General, and this kind of man can be sent anywhere in the global organization which Ignatius envisioned as the structure of the society.

Ignatius required something else, a pilgrimage in which the Jesuit was   to do what Ignatius himself had done, travel to an unknown part of the world, beg for his food, and find his own shelter.  It was aimed to teach the man self-reliance in a way that not much else could and also to confirm that he had “nowhere to lay his head”. 

There was a follow-up to this thirty-day retreat experience and the pilgrimage which Lowney and others suggest is a brilliant way to keep the dynamic going, a spiritual “pit stop” three times each day for brief periods of time. On arising the Jesuit reminds himself of what he is for.  At mid-day he examines what he has done to make that goal a reality, and before retiring he does the same thing. It is called the “examen”. 

Along with this the Jesuit was to embrace the best of any “secular” learning that was possible to him and for him, and all of this because “nothing human is foreign to me”, and because the love of God courses through all that is. [34]  Although sent to India, Francis would believe himself called also to what are now Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and the Gulf Port of Hormuz. This is a classic example of the “greater”.  He opened schools and began operating a printing press long before his European counterparts.  He truly opened up Asia to Catholic influence.  By the time of his death there were 70 European and Indian Jesuits at work in Asia.

But what else did Ignatius do that Xavier built on?  Prayer in common in the monastic tradition was jettisoned.  Ignatius insisted on embracing the world rather than retreating from it as had been the case since the time of Anthony of Egypt.  Jesuits were to pray on the run as it were and Ignatius once chastised  one of his closest associates, Father Nadal, when he learned that Nadal had given Spanish Jesuits leave to spend an hour and a half in prayer each day.   If a man could not be recollected in a quarter of an hour the society was not for him, Father Nadal was advised.  Unlike the Benedictines who up until Ignatius’ time were really considered the models for religious life, Ignatius said that “stability” was not to be found in monastic enclosures but in oneself.  True enough, Franciscans and Dominicans were expected to go out to the people but they were still tethered to monasteries.  Ignatius thought that neither the Dominican nor Franciscan management modes provided persons fully engaged in field work to help souls.  He wanted his company free to do whatever helped souls but to avoid anything that limited their flexibility to do so. [35]  

Ignatius trained every member of the company to be a leader because he was convinced that they all would lead in some areas of their lives, e.g., the lay brother at St. Paul’s who would “lead” two slave helpers in the care of the college’s garden.  There was leadership potential, God was present in, every conversation the Jesuit had no matter with whom, every walk he took, everything and anything he saw, tasted, heard. 

What I have just mentioned above was the Jesuit vision on paper as it were.  Xavier became the lived reality of that vision.  His peripatetic life style became the norm for Jesuit mission everywhere, not just in Asia, and in that much he built up the entire church despite his early death.  Some like Lowney suggest that it is probably his early death that actually solidified this model of mission proposed by Ignatius and lived by Xavier. [36]

Xavier’s letters were the mission pot-boilers of his day.  They were eagerly awaited and poured over by all Jesuits including those who would follow his method in North and South America.  Some of his Roman and Spanish confreres thought to improve on Xavier’s style which Brodrick confirms he did not have.  In fact, Brodrick thinks all that was done before Fathers Schurhammer and Wicki in 1943-44 are the “dark ages” of translations of Francis’ letters.

It would be left to Matteo Ricci in China and Roberto de Nobili in India to build on Xavier’s work in Asia, since both of them used him as their model.  This would result in the infamous rites question when the Jesuit attempts at inculturation brought down the wrath of Rome on them. (Karl Rahner was heard to say in 1969 that “the rites question has only just begun”.) 

The successors of   Ignatius were often not the men of vision and valour that the founder was.  Their risk taking and flexibility began to diminish as Jesuit missions and especially their schools flourished financially.  They were suppressed in 1773 partly out of jealousy of their successes and partly out of some stupidity on their own part.  But no fewer than 46 of them became diocesan bishops as a result of that suppression, another fluke, or perhaps God’s providence?  John Carroll of Baltimore is outstanding among them, revered by progressive Catholics in the United States.  But again, this is outside the scope of our paper.  It remains to be seen what Francis might offer us in terms of contemporary mission in Asia. [37]

Self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism were at the heart of Francis’ efforts.  He did build up the church in India and Asia in terms of numbers and attempts at accommodation.  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius were the principles that guided his life.  He carved out a path and left it to others to build the “highway of God”, which in fact we are still building in Asia and indeed elsewhere.  I turn now to just how the principles that guided his life might guide ours in our contemporary mission ad intra and ad extra.  Obviously, the destruction of Hindu temples and imagery, and the conviction that “We are right, pagans are wrong”, will not be among my recommendations.  

Contemporary Mission

I have suggested to you that our mission mandate is from Jesus himself, the effecting of abundant life for every human being which includes the created order without which abundant human life is impossible.  I have also told you at some length what we know about sustainable, integral human development which abundant life is in today’s language.  I have suggested to you that whether or work is within the institution or to those who are not members of it, our goals are one and the same.  Those within the institution must make the larger world mission possible. 

Let me make very clear to you that early on the message about abundant life was given a spiritual dimension and connotation that was far from the intention of the Jewish Jesus.  The abundant life he wanted was right here, right now, and this side of death.  His was a “heaven” on earth, and heaven was a Jewish circumlocution for “God”, for the palpable life of God alive and well among the Jewish people.  Anything that oppressed human beings, anything that was inhumane was not of God nor was it wanted by God in Jesus’ scheme of things of his beloved Abba.  Life after life will take care of itself when we take care of life this side of death.

If we are going to make abundant life happen today that means we Catholics must position ourselves as one player in global efforts to bring to an end anything and everything that betrays human dignity.  This is where Ignatius and Xavier offer us role models, not precisely in what they did, but the spirit with which they did it.  Let me cite what I see in Xavier that will hold us in good stead.

The man was incredibly optimistic.  There is no indication that in the most dire circumstances the man despaired.  He almost seems to have done so in terms of the Portuguese rulers and some of his Portuguese Jesuit colleagues but he was constantly trying to find ways for them to “shape up”, to use their talents more effectively, and to abandon their weaknesses.  There was nothing of the fatalist about him. (For years I have thought that if conversions are needed in India it is surely away from any and every form of fatalism.)  He did this out of love.  Love-driven people seek out the worth and potential in themselves and others. 

Xavier’s heroism sought to make the future happen rather than passively endure what enfolds.  You have heard me say time and time again that in India we are taught to conform from our mothers’ wombs.  This was not was Xavier was about.  If China were the avenue to the Japanese, then go to China!  His ingenuity was committed to making things happen in new and different ways, to break the mold as it were.  St. Paul’s was to be a centre for indigenous clergy, of “Asians for Asia”, something that many before him had despaired of making happen, and some that his own Jesuit brother Antonio Gomes, tried to sabotage.

Eventually he took time to understand the world view of the Brahmins and of the Japanese Buddhists.  Father Francis Xavier Clooney whom I cited earlier claims that Xavier is actually the pioneer of dialogue and a model for all who would engage in it today especially in terms of things inter-religious and inter-ideological.  He also reminds us that as Xavier “let go” of his dirty cassock to make dialogue possible with his beloved Japanese, that we, too, must think of letting go, perhaps even of our “Catholic-speak”, where we talk in a language unintelligible to many of our co-religionists as well as to those who are not.  Remember Xavier’s preaching about Dianichi?  Misguided though it turned out to be, the effort was sound. [38]

Xavier embraced and adapted to a changing world and did not flee from it.  The discoveries of the Portuguese and Spanish were opening vistas that had not happened for the five hundred years preceding Xavier.  He sought to understand the potential in the change and use it, thus the printing press in Goa, probably the first in operation there.  The man was also full of joy, which we are told is an infallible sign of the presence of God.  Antonio talks of a silly hat which Xavier found just before their trek to Kyoto and how Xavier used to juggle with it and put it onto his head in all kinds of rakish ways to the delight of his companion bearers!  Are we secure enough ever to be downright silly? 

And Francis failed.  I have mentioned Archbishop Goodier’s report on these failures from our present hindsight, and the article is well worth reviewing.  But I see in Xavier a relentless quest for truth, a daring, single-minded loving approach to life, a person who learned to listen, and to act on what he learned from that listening.  Lowney tells us that Francis acted without a script.  Are we doing the same when we come to others, including our own people with our pre-packaged programmes, thinking that we know what they need no matter what it is that they themselves need and want? 

And what of those in our own country who come to do “mission” work with their script in hand, determining that it is their way that is right and true and good and if others do not embrace that “only way”, they are today’s infidels?  I think Francis himself learned to be more generous than that.

It is Francis’s self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism that ought to be our models for contemporary mission and ministry.  And above all, it is in the reminder that true love speaks best in deeds not words that we need to keep to the forefront of whatever we are about.  Our witness is in this.  Our goal is human inter-dependence, the animation and empowerment of all peoples.  Anything less betrays our God, his Christ, and Francis Xavier. 

[1] Colleagues from North America and Northern Europe tell me that their major cities are at least as diverse as is a country like India, in fact moreso, and with higher concentrations of many different kinds of people.  In my trips abroad I have encountered this diversity personally.  Dialogue with persons of many religions and wisdom traditions is at the heart of what many of those abroad increasingly feel the need to do. They follow closely the work of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, among other resources, especially the plenary session of FABC which took place in Korea, August 16-22, 2004. The results of this plenary session and all publications of FABC can be found in the archives of   In Paul Lakeland’s recent book, The Liberation of the Laity, he suggests that since many clerics are now engaged in mission to those outside the Catholic communion, and since many laity are now engaged in work traditionally reserved to priests and vowed religious, that it makes more sense to talk of ministry ad intra, and mission ad extra. The popular functions of clerics and laity no longer hold. 

[2] For a summary of these insights I have used Crossan’s, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, published in 1994, HarperSanFrancisco. This is a popular summary of his extensive works.  Contributions to the work of the Jesus Seminar by Crossan and other scholars, Christian and Jewish, are available at the site of the Westar Institute,   Of special interest to us in Asia perhaps are the writings about the parables by Bernard Brandon Scott, excerpts from which are also available at this site.   

[3] The general and regional development reports are easily accessed at 

[4] For many of these insights and those regarding the work of Xavier himself I returned to a book I read some 52 years ago when I was studying philosophy at St. Albert’s Seminary in Ranchi.  It is Saint Francis Xavier, by James Brodrick, S.J., London: Burns Oates, 1952.  I remarked then and am reminding myself now of the dry wit of Father Brodrick as he deals with the foibles not only of Xavier but of his Jesuit colleagues.  Brodrick is indebted in this work to the Latin and German translations of the letters and instructions of Xavier produced by Georg Schurhammer, S.J., and Josef Wicki, S.J.  In fact, Brodrick considers anything done before this translation to be the “dark ages” of translations of Xavier’s letters.   

English translations of the Schurhammer/Wicki materials were subsequently produced by M. Joseph Costelloe, S.J., who also produced his own summary of these materials entitled The Letters and Instructions of St. Francis Xavier.  A concise biography of Xavier begins this work.  The book is currently out of print but copies of it may be secured from the   Institute of Jesuit Resources operated at Creighton University in the United States. (Cf. I do not intend to bore readers of this paper with numerous references to specific pages of these books, especially the four volumes of Schurhammer nor the 500 plus pages of the Brodrick effort, but it is interesting to ponder what an inter-faith, inter-ideological dialogue seminar might take place with the Brodrick book as its official text.  

[5] Brodrick, p. 148.

[6] Commentaries on the Documents of Vatican Council II, Herbert Vorgrimmler, editor, London: Burns Oates, 1967. 

[7] Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., in “Whither Mission?” suggests that “dialogue, proclamation, and epiphany” are our present needs.  (Emphasis mine.) The article is available at   

[8] There are brilliant insights into the “failures” of St. Francis Xavier in the book Saints and Sinners, written by Alban Goodier, S.J., New York: Doubleday Image Books, 1959.  Goodier, who was Archbishop of Bombay, knew India well from that experience.   Also, as a Jesuit and an ecclesiastical administrator, Goodier is able to see Xavier in a light perhaps given to few others.  The excerpt is available at  

  [9] Brodrick, p. 188.  

[10] Perhaps it should be remarked that Ignatius’ famous “Letter on Obedience” was addressed to the members of the Portuguese Jesuit Province. 

[11] Brodrick, p. 228.  

[12] This is the position of Francis X. Clooney, S.J., especially in his A Charism for Dialog: Advice from the Early Jesuit Missionaries in Our World of Religious Pluralism. He quotes from a number of materials available in M. Joseph Costelloe, S.J., Letters and Instructions of St. Francis Xavier, Chicago: Loyola Press, 1992, to make this point.  Clooney goes on to suggest that it is this dialogue of Xavier’s that sets the precedent for Jesuits years later to pursue this approach to mission and cites in particular the influence of Xavier on the work of Roberto de Nobili, Matteo Ricci, and Joseph Beschi.  Father Clooney has worked and studied in India for many years and now heads the dialogue centre of the Jesuits in the United States.  His articles are also available at as are Father Costelloe’s.  

[13] Brodrick, p. 237.

[14] Brodrick, pp. 263-273. 

[15] Brodrick, pp. 276-77. 

[16] Brodrick, pp. 288-89.  

[17] Brodrick, p. 297ff. 

[18] Brodrick, pp. 326-27. 

[19] Brodrick, p. 333ff.  

[20] Brodrick, p. 370 

[21] Brodrick, p. 385.  Anjiro’s reports and attempts at translating Catholic concepts into Japanese are with the Jesuit archives at their Rome headquarters.  Anjiro reports that Xavier’s own position was always that “it is a grander thing to work than to talk”. Today’s researchers suggest that poor Anjiro translated at least some twenty theological concepts incorrectly. 

[22] Brodrick, p. 434.

[23] Brodrick, p. 460 ff.  Just before this Brodrick gives the lie to the “hoary and still persistent legend that” Xavier was polyglot.  He lays this at the feet of one Antonio Pereira whom he accuses of other exaggerations in terms of Xavier, on p. 457.   

[24] Brodrick, p. 475ff.  

[25] Brodrick suggests that his readers not make much of this since Xavier was a man of his times.  It was the treatment of these slaves as less than human which brought down Xavier’s wrath upon their owners.   

[26] Brodrick, p. 483ff.  

[27] Brodrick, p. 515.  

[28] Much of the information about Xavier’s death comes from Antonio who provided information to Manuel Teixeira, Xavier’s first biographer.  Brodrick notes that this work, however, was not published until 1912. 

[29] Brodrick is at pains to make clear that while incorruption itself is not a guarantee of sanctity, as the Bollandists were among the first to point out, it does often merit a special look at the life of the person involved.

[30] I feel deeply how inadequate is the summary of Xavier’s life which I report here.  I have a suspicion that at the end of their works, Fathers Schurhammer, Wicki, Brodrick, and Costelloe felt the same.  How do we do justice to a man who carried the signatures of letters from his beloved friends next to his heart during all his journeys?  Xavier is reported as delighted to have played games with children and also to have become so sick of his Japanese diet of wet rice that he pleaded with Indian Jesuits to now and then send those who would go to Japan some food for respite from this boredom.  He seems very comfortable with wearing his heart on his sleeve.  In the last pages of his book Brodrick suggests that Xavier could have been beatified and canonized on the basis of the heroic virtues found in his letters alone although the required miracles did come.  If Xavier were indeed “authoritative” and not authoritarian, he was truly once again ahead of his time.  He seems to have been an original man for all seasons and beyond.  

[31] One has only to put “Jesuit Spirituality” into an internet search engine and thousands of sites appear.  For the purpose of this paper, however, I am using in particular, Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney, Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003. Lowney depends for many insights about Xavier on the work of Francis X. Clooney, S.J., who has for many years lived and worked in India, studying Hinduism in the south of the country.  Lowney’s footnotes, bibliography, and index provide excellent references for anyone wishing to pursue the study of Jesuit formation and other aspects conducive to understanding their value for present leadership potential.  

[32] This was a recurrent theme of William Ernest Hocking, professor of religion at Harvard University, who when he met the Jesuits in Darjeeling during a 1930 trip to India was so very much impressed with them that he wanted to join them, Anglican though he was!  His wife, Agnes Boyle O’Reilly Hocking, who was with him, made clear that this would happen literally only over her dead body. 

[33] Lowney, p. 121. 

[34] Lowney, p. 122 ff.

[35] Lowney, p. 134ff.  

[36] Lowney, p. 132. Xavier’s was not the first overseas Jesuit mission.  A mission to Ireland went shortly before Xavier finally got to India, delayed for almost six months by bad weather.  The Irish project did not go well although one of the Jesuits bought a kilt in anticipation of his work there.

[37] Ignatius did not want a “third order” of any sort nor did he want any kind of women’s congregation associated with the society.  Interestingly, however, lay graduates of Jesuit schools eventually formed themselves into special kind of alumni associations referred to as the Sodality of Our Lady.  In the mid-1900s, mostly through the efforts of Fr. Daniel Lord, S.J., in North America, an “Army of Youth” appeared as Sodality members, and these included women, many of whom were associated with Jesuit colleges and universities which began admitting women to their schools, often in evening college programmes.  Some congregations of women religious today claim a close affinity to the society and some even claim Jesuits as co-founders. 

[38] Clooney, who knows India and Indians well, especially Hindu devotees from the South, is now professor of theology at Boston College in the United States.  He is also the director for Jesuit Inter-religious Dialogue.  He has written extensively on contemporary dialogue and proclamation.  His articles are available at 

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