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Saint Francis Xavier ‘Goencho Saib’ – In life and death

Patron saint of missionaries

Known as the patron saint of missionaries, Saint Francis Xavier was born in Navarre, Spain. After dedicating his life to missionary work, he joined the Jesuit Order under the influence of Ignatius of Loyola. India was one of his main areas of missionary work besides Japan.

Xavier arrived in Goa, India, on May 6, 1542, where he came to be admired for his ability to live and work side by side with the poor.

In addition to being a founding member of the Jesuit order, he baptized an estimated 30,000 people during his life. He died on the island of Shangchuan, China on December 3, 1552, at the early age of 46.

St Francis Xavier
Basilica of Bom Jesus wherein lie the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier. Pic.Credit: Jessyl Fernandez

After being exhumed in Malacca, his body was taken to Goa and laid in the Basilica of Bom Jesus.  In 1696, a silver casket was prepared by the last Medici ruler of Spain that now adorns the glass coffin where Xavier lies.

Saint Francis Xavier
The mausoleum of Saint Francis Xavier inside the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa. Pic Credit: Jessyl Fernandez

Despite severe weather conditions Francis Xavier’s body has not seen deterioration for almost four and a half centuries. The skin though shredded remains intact over his frail skeleton. Considered a miracle, some of his body parts including the entrails had been severed and sent as relics to different parts of the world for veneration.

Goa celebrates the Feast of St. Francis Xavier

Devotees Procession at St. Francis Xavier Church, Goa during the celebration of Feast on December 3. Pic. Credit: Google

Every year, outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where St. Francis’s mortal remains lie, a huge pendal is erected around the end of November in time for the 9-day Novenas. Thousands of Pilgrims and devotees from India and abroad, throng Old Goa for these Novenas which culminate in the Feast on 3rd December.  Masses begin early in the morning at 4 am on the 3rd, the Feast Mass usually being con-celebrated at 10.30 am by the Archbishop of Goa and Daman. The entire area comes alive during this time. Stalls are erected along the internal roads selling food, clothes, handicrafts, toys etc. It’s a must-visit for every Goan.  If the 3rd of December falls on a Sunday, then Goa celebrates the Feast on the following Monday like this year.

Saint Francis Xavier
Stalls set up alongside the streets leading to the Basilica Pic. Credit: Goa Tourism

Information credit: Google, ToI

 

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