At first, personal ambition kept Francis from heeding God’s call. Ignatius’ humble and austere lifestyle did not appeal to him. But the older student, who had undergone a dramatic conversion, often posed Christ’s question to Francis: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Gradually, Ignatius convinced the young man to give up his own plans and open his mind to God’s will. In 1534, Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, and four other men joined Ignatius in making a vow of poverty, chastity, and dedication to the spread of the Gospel through personal obedience to the pope.
In 1537, three years after Xavier became a priest, the king of Portugal asked the pope to send missionaries to his newly acquired territories in India.
On his 35th birthday, Xavier set sail for Goa, on India’s west coast. There, however, he found the Portuguese colonists causing disgrace to the Church through their bad behavior.
This spurred the Jesuit to action. He spent his days visiting prisoners and the sick, gathering groups of children together to teach them about God, and preaching to both Portuguese and Indians. Adopting the lifestyle of the common people, he lived on rice and water in a hut with a dirt floor.
Xavier’s missionary efforts often succeeded, though he had more difficulty converting the upper classes and encountered opposition from both Hindus and Muslims. In 1545, he extended his efforts to Malaysia, before moving on to Japan in 1549.
Becoming fluent in Japanese, Francis instructed the first generation of Japanese Catholic converts. Many said that they were willing to suffer martyrdom rather than renounce the faith brought by the far-flung Jesuit.
St. Francis Xavier became ill and died on Dec. 3, 1552, while seeking a way to enter the closely guarded kingdom of China.
Speaking ahead of the screening, Andreas Thonhauser, EWTN Vatican Bureau Chief, said: “Our time needs role models who inspire us to live a life fully dedicated to Jesus. Saints like Francis Xavier or Ignatius are keeping the Church alive over the centuries.”