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On December 3 we remember Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest who left Europe in 1542, and brought the gospel of Christ to the outcasts of India, the cities of southeast Asia, and the warrior society of Japan.

Francis was one of the first seven members of the Society of Jesus, which was founded to advance the Catholic Counter-Reformation. But the Jesuits looked beyond Europe and hoped to win the whole world for the Church. That is why Francis boarded a ship and sailed around the Horn of Africa to the Portuguese colony of Goa on the coast of India. With a small group of followers and even smaller resources, he began his apostolate in southern India, extended it to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and then moved on to Malacca, Vietnam, and Malaysia, until he reached Japan. He died in 1552, alone on an island off the coast of China, while trying to smuggle himself into the Chinese empire.

Francis had trouble learning new languages and usually had to rely on an interpreter whenever he preached. But words are not the only way of communicating the truth, and his personal holiness made a great impression on the various peoples he encountered. More importantly, Francis understood that the gospel is meant first of all for the poor of the earth. So, he chose to do most of his apostolic work among the outcasts and untouchables of every culture he visited. Such a quality made him like the first apostles — and, like them, he loved not his own life unto death, but gave himself wholly to the task of proclaiming the riches of the knowledge and worship of Christ.