Saint Francis Feancisco De Xavier (Xavier), a Spanish missionary, called the apostle of the Indies, born at the castle of Xavier, near Obafios, in Navarre, April 7, 1506, died in the island of Sau Chau, near Macao, China, Dec. 2, 1552. His father, Don Juan de Jasso, was councillor of state to Jean d'Albret, king of Navarre, and his mother, Maria de Xavier y Azpilqueta, was sole heiress of the two noble houses of those names. He graduated master in philosophy at the college of Ste. Barbe in Paris in 1530, and lectured on Aristotle in the college de Beauvais. In the former college he occupied the same room with Ignatius Loyola, and at first looked upon him with fear and aversion on account of his ascetic practices; but he was soon won over, and became one of his first associates in the company of Jesus. (See Jesuits.) He joined Ignatius in Venice in January, 1537, was ordained priest there, and instructed the poor of Bologna, where he fell ill of fever. He preached and taught poor children in Rome from March, 1538, till March, 1540. The king of Portugal having asked Ignatius to send him missionaries for the Portuguese settlements in the East Indies, Xavier was one of the two selected, and eventually went alone to India. He travelled on foot to Lisbon, where he labored with such zeal among all classes that the king and clergy wished to keep him in the country; but he could not be diverted from his purpose, and the king procured his appointment as apostolic nuncio in the Indies, with most ample powers.
He sailed from Lisbon, April 7, 1541. When the scurvy broke out, Xavier devoted his whole time to the diseased crew. He touched at Mozambique, Melinda, and Socotra, preaching with very remarkable effect wherever he landed, and on May 6, 1542, reached Goa, the capital of the Portuguese Indies. He took up his abode in the hospital, and every day went with a bell in his hand through the streets, calling upon the Christian inhabitants to send their children and slaves to be instructed in the faith. In a short time he is said to have effected almost a complete reformation of the city. From Goa he went to the coast of Comorin and the island of Ceylon, and afterward, making Malacca his headquarters, visited many other parts of the East, baptizing vast numbers of the natives, and leaving wherever he went flourishing congregations under the care of his disciples. Other missionaries arrived from Europe, and in 1549 he went to Japan, where he was permitted freely to preach the gospel; and when he set sail for Goa in December, 1551, he left three of the great princes of the empire Christians, besides having baptized immense numbers of the common people. His intention to penetrate into China was frustrated by his sudden death. His remains were taken to Goa and deposited in a chapel near the city.
During his 10 years' apostleship he is said to have planted the faith in 52 different kingdoms, preached the gospel through 9,000 miles of territory, and baptized more than 1,000,000 persons. Many miracles were ascribed to Xavier, and he was beatified by Pope Paul V. in 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV. March 12, 1622. His works comprise letters, a catechism, etc, all published by H. J. Coleridge (" The Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier," 2 vols, London, 1872). His life was written in Latin by Tursellini (Rome, 1594) and Bartoli (Lyons, 1666), and in French by Bouhours (Paris, 1682; translated into English by Dryden, London, 1688).