In a world in which there are “so many people who need Jesus,” St. Francis Xavier is an exemplary model of how to live and share the Gospel with zeal, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
The pope dedicated his entire general audience on May 17 to sharing the story of the daring 16th-century saint who risked his life to travel to what was then considered the “unknown ends of the world.”
Pope Francis said that St. Francis Xavier is considered “the greatest missionary of modern times.”
One of the first Jesuit priests, Xavier brought the message of Christ to India, the distant islands of the Indonesian archipelago, and Japan.
“The love of Christ was the strength that drove him to the furthest frontiers, with constant toil and danger, overcoming setbacks, disappointments and discouragement; indeed, giving him consolation and joy in following and serving Him to the end,” Pope Francis said.
“May St. Francis Xavier, who did great things in such poverty and with such courage, give us some of this zeal, this zeal to live the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel,” he added.
“To the many young people today who have some restlessness and do not know what to do with that restlessness, I say, look to Francis Xavier, look at the horizon of the world, look at so many people in need, look at so many people who are suffering, so many people who need Jesus.”
Pope Francis noted that Xavier’s dream was to evangelize China, but he died while on the way to realize his dream.
“In Japan, Xavier, the great dreamer, understood that the decisive country for the mission in Asia was another one: China. With its culture, its history, its size, it exercised de facto dominance over that part of the world,” he said.
“Even today, China is really a cultural hub with a great history, a beautiful history,” the pope added.
However, Xavier died “in total abandonment” on the small island of Shangchuan off the coast of mainland China near Macao on December 3, 1552 as “only a Chinese man stood beside him to watch over him.”
At the time of his death at only 46 years old, the missionary priest’s hair was already white and “his strength was consumed, given unsparingly to the service of the Gospel,” Francis said.
“His very intense activity was always joined with prayer, the union with God, mystical and contemplative. He never left prayer, because he knew there was strength there,” he said.
Pope Francis reflected on the great testimony of St. Francis Xavier as part of a series of catechesis on “the passion for evangelization,” which he began in January.