We, Sinners and Saints

Sinners yet called to serve. This is what we Jesuits are more commonly known. We are ordinary men who labor for Christ.

The Tale of the Amputated Incorruptible

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
Patron Saint of all Missions

Imagine this: you are nineteen years of age, studying in the most prestigious university in the whole world. A whole future of bright prospects is in front of you. You can become a lawyer or a bishop or someone dignified and important. Kings and dukes will seek your wise counsel and women will literally salivate as you pass by as they think you are a polite and gentleman version of Collin Farell.

Then: this thirty year old bum who comes from your province and speaks your Basque dialect and dresses up in rags and keeps on talking about the end of the world oppresses you no end. He tries to smooth talk you into surrendering your passion for extreme sports and fashionable clothes and accessories into doing menial tasks and preaching the Gospel. He keeps on telling you, every time you meet at the corridors of the university or when you return to your dormitory at night: "What does it profit a man to be handsome and famous and filthy rich but loses his soul in the end?" You would be annoyed. That's normal. Some people might even consider hiring an assassin to shoot him while he's crossing the Latin Quarter near the Universite de Paris.

But then, suddenly, your dad forgot to send you money thru your ATM and you are without cash to pay for your tuition fee. Then this raggedy man, whom you learn is named Ignatius, offers something you can't resist: loan to pay off your debts. Now will you accept the dirty old man's offer. No way! You will definitely say. But you, the Francisco Javier of this story, relents. You accept the dirty money, you don't even know where it came from, and you welcome the bum/preacher/retreat giver into your life, and you are never the same again. (Have you seen With Honors starring Brendan Fraser and Joe Pesci? They "stole" the plot from this story!)

Francis got converted and started hanging out with other college studes that Iggy recruited for the purpose of bonding together to do charitable works of mercy and penances. First, they raided hospitals all around Paris. In a leprosarium, Francis' resolve was tested. He believed that to experience aversion from the gangrenous wounds of the lepers was offending to God. He therefore, though foolishy, touched the wound of one leper with his fingers and put them inside his mouth! By golly! What would his mother say?

Anyway, when Iggy was able to round up nine equally foolish students from the university, they gathered together at Montmarte (yes the infamous place, remember Moulin Rouge ?, where brothels were located) they vowed for the rest of their lives to live in poverty and go to Jerusalem (like what Orlando Bloom did in Kingdom of Heaven) to conquer the infidels. But God had another plan for them. Church authorities banned pilgrimages to the Holy City and so they decided to go instead to Rome and place themselves at the beck and call of the Pontiff. The Pope was extremely pleased with them. But he had better things in mind than have these fresh grads roaming around like stray cats at La Citta Eternita and throwing coins at the Trevi Fountain ala Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

The King of Portugal requested a man of the cloth to evangelize the colony of Goa and the lot fell to Francis because Nicolas Bobadilla fell mysteriously ill (some malicious historians believed he was only acting up but there is no confirmation to this historical rumor). Francis accepted the mission after giving his dear friend Iggy a warm fatherly embrace that was their last for they were not to see each other again until after they both ascended to heaven and were canonized on the same day by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.

From Goa, Francis travelled to Cape Commorin then to the Fishery Coast, then to India and then to Mollucas and then to Japan and finally Sancian, an island off China, where he died alone facing the mainland dreaming of conquering it for God's greater glory. During his travels he baptized thousands and thousands of children, men and women and catechized them. He would write his travails and triumphs to Ignatius. Ignatius would receive his letters after six months and he would receive Ignatius's response six months after. The whole exhange took exactly a year! There were no text messaging or DHL at that time. But Francis would cut out Ignatius' name and greetings from the letter he received from him and place it in a pocket near his heart so they can be closer, if not in place, then in spirit.

There had never been a friendship quite like this.

Anyway, when Francis died his body was incorruptible, the people of Sancian went ecstatic over this. They didn't want to bury him. But Christian rituals would not allow veneration of dead bodies. Spanish authorities seized his remains but not after a struggle with the natives who managed to cut off one of his hands, as a parting souvenir or relic. If you go to the Church of Gesu, you will see Francis' other hand displayed in a glass case.

So you think I invented this story? Read this article http://www.cin.org/franxav.html written by a lay woman for more information.


  • At 8:01 PM, Blogger Jim Tucker said…

    When I was in the seminary, I used to love stopping by the shrine of Francis Xavier's arm for a few moments of prayer. Thanks for bringing back the good memories!

  • At 3:26 PM, Blogger sonoftheprodigal said…

    you're welcome. i saw st. francis' hand at the gesu when i went (on a side trip) to rome when i was not yet a jesuit. it made a great impression on me.


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