Feast of Saint Francis Xavier And What Makes Him Goemcho Saib


Who Was Saint Francis Xavier? 

With encouragement from his friend Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier dedicated himself to religious service and grew to be one of the founders of the Jesuit order.  
Much of his life was spent tending to missions in areas such as India and Japan. He was 46 when he died on China’s Shangchuan Island on December 3, 1552. 

Early Life 

On April 7, 1506, Francis Xavier was born in Xavier Castle, situated close to Sangüesa, in the kingdom of Navarre (part of present-day Spain).  
He was a member of a noble family, and his childhood was one of privilege—however, it was once disrupted by his father’s death, as well as outside efforts to take control of Navarre. 

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Forming the Jesuit Order 

In 1525, Xavier went to study at the University of Paris. There, he encountered Ignatius of Loyola, who had skilled a spiritual conversion whilst improving from hostilities wound.  
Loyola did his utmost to persuade Xavier to be part of him on the equal course of devotion. 

Though at first hesitant, Xavier was eventually inspired by his friend’s example. On August 15, 1534, in the Montmartre section of Paris, Xavier, Loyola and 5 others pledged themselves to the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). In addition to vows of celibacy and poverty, they additionally promised to visit the Holy Land. 

While waiting in Venice, Italy, to leave for the Holy Land, Xavier worked in a hospital, helping those in need.  
He additionally grew to become a priest, on June 24, 1537. When fighting between Venice and the Ottoman Empire made a trip to Jerusalem impossible, Xavier as a substitute went to Rome, the place he and others in the society provided their service. to the pope. 

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 Missionary Work 

Impressed by the Jesuits, King John III of Portugal requested the order for missionaries to work in his empire.  
Though Loyola initially selected others for the task, Xavier stepped in when a fellow priest grew to be ill. He left Rome on March 15, 1540. 

Xavier arrived in Goa, India, on May 6, 1542. He came to be admired in that country for his ability to live and work side by side with the poor.  
Seeking more converts, Xavier continued to travel; his stops included Ceylon, the Molucca Islands, the Banda Islands and the Malay Peninsula. 

On August 15, 1549, Xavier landed at Kagoshima, Japan. As he had at his other missions, Xavier adapted to local mores and arranged for the translation of religious texts.  
These steps helped him reach more converts in the year and a half he spent in Japan. 

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Last Mission, Death and Legacy 

Xavier’s next focus for missionary work was China. He travelled to Sancian (Shangchuan) Island, near Canton, but was not able to access the mainland because borders had been closed to foreigners. Before he could find a way inside the country, illness incapacitated Xavier.  
He died on the island on December 3, 1552, at the age of 46. His body was then taken to Goa. 

Though he passed away at a relatively young age, Xavier had accomplished much in his life.  
In addition to being a founding member of the Jesuit order—the Society of Jesus was officially recognized by Pope Paul III in 1540—he baptized an estimated 30,000 people. Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1619, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.  

A famed missionary himself, he is now the patron saint of missionaries. 

Feast of St. Francis Xavier 

It is a noted fact that the majority of the population of Goa practice Christianity, courtesy the Portuguese invasion decades ago.  
Hence, most of the events and festivals celebrated and hosted here give you English feels. Goa’s Feast of St. Francis Xavier is also one such festival that is celebrated with much pomp and show every year in December.  

It is more of an honouring festival for the Lord of Goa, Saint Francis Xavier.  
The remains of St. Francis Xavier lie in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church in Goa, where the festival is conducted every year. Christians from all parts of the country arrive here to offer prayers and visit the holy church.  

 History of Feast of St. Francis Xavier  

St. Francis Xavier was born in 1507 in present-day Spain and came to India in 1543 along with the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa.  
He preached Christianity to the Goans and breathed his last on December 2, 1552. On December 3, his mortal remains were placed in a casket and were placed in the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church. 

According to popular legends, Portuguese merchants placed the mortal remains of Saint Xavier in the coffin along with unslaked limes. After some time, a member from the society of Jesus (a Jesuit) un-graved the body and found out that it was not at all decomposed. 

Locals also say that a cut was made on his finger by Jesuit and he was shocked to see blood coming out of it. It was after this only that Francis Xavier was conferred the title of a Saint. 

One of Saint Xavier’s hands was also cut out from his body after this incident and its pieces were sent to many churches all over the world on Pope’s order.    

Until 1994, on every tenth death anniversary of Saint Francis Xavier, his body was brought out and placed in a glass box with his feet exposed.  
People from around the world used to arrive in Goa during the festival to have a glimpse of the holy Saint.  
After 1994, the body was never brought out for public display due to its deteriorating condition. 

For the unversed, Francis Xavier is also known as ‘Goencho Saib’ which means, The Lord of Goa.  

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Major Attractions of Feast of St. Francis Xavier in Goa 

  1. Novena. It is a period of 9 days wherein prayers take place in the church in honour of Saint Francis Xavier. After 9 days of prayers, many ceremonies are hosted which is participated by the locals and devotees from across the globe. Many customs are followed by the pilgrims too, who get together on the Feast Day. All in all, this is a major occasion for Christians and is worth attending.  
  1. The Feast. On the day of the feast, Saint Francis is offered flowers, and candles by the devotees. The prayers are followed by a feast wherein people are served food and drinks. Food, clothing, and accessory stalls are also a part of the festival. People often spend their time shopping at these stalls, eating and engaging with fellow devotees and friends.    

After online participation last year, this year devotees were welcomed back to Old Goa for the novenas beginning November 24 and the feast of St Francis Xavier on December 3.  
The North Goa collector had approved delayed entry and exit and half the usual capacity along with masks, sanitisation and social distancing of the faithful. 

The novenas begin on November 24 and continue through to December 2, culminating in the feast on December 3. 

The theme this year was ‘Stay with us lord, to love communion, participation, mission like St Francis Xavier’. The high mass on the feast day was celebrated by archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao and emeritus bishop Alex Dias along with other priests at 10am. 

Pilgrims who occupied the corridors were permitted to come and stay by registering themselves. Those who overflow from the corridor were accommodated in the pilgrim tent to the south of the Basilica. 

For nearly two years devotees of Goemcho Saib were not allowed to freely visit the shrine or participated in the novena and feast, especially in the last year. But this year, special arrangements were made to encourage the faithful to safely come and pay their respects.