His father wanted a man of business, not of God, and renamed his son Francesco. The boy grew up in wealth, learning archery, wrestling, and horsemanship, but fell in with a group of young people prone to wild parties. Francis reportedly said later, "I lived in sin" during that time.
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He was expected to follow his father into the textile business, but the thought of that life bored him. He dreamed of a future as a knight—in effect, a medieval action hero. So by he had joined a militia to fight for Assisi in its war with Perugia, an Italian province, The Assisi forces lost, and Francis was captured.
By his dress and equipment, his captors knew Francis was from a wealthy family and was worth a ransom, so they let him live. A year later his ransom was paid; in the interim, as he later reported, he began receiving visions from God. After returning home, he came across a leper in the country. Instead of ignoring him, Francis, changed by his experience as a captive, embraced and kissed the man and was filled with sensations of sweetness and joy.
Francis became convinced that God wanted him to help poor people, so he abandoned his possessions. Despite his vow of poverty, Francis needed money to rebuild the church, so he sold some of his father's cloth and a horse. His father took him before the local bishop, who told Francis to return his father's money.
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Francis stripped off his clothes and gave them and the money to his father, saying God was now his father. This event is credited as Francis' final conversion. The bishop gave Francis a rough tunic, and dressed in these humble clothes, he began his work. The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honor before him.
Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in , joined his little community, the infant Society of Jesus. Together at Montmartre they vowed poverty, chastity, obedience, and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope.
From Venice, where he was ordained a priest in , Xavier went on to Lisbon and from there sailed to the East Indies, landing at Goa, on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans, and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India. In , when the first articles on St. Francis Xavier appeared in the Popular Science Monthly , Tursellinus was taken as the point of departure for the evolution of the legend; and Dr.
Bouhours wrote his biography in , in which he is supposed to have "enormously amplified and multiplied" the miracles attributed to Xavier by earlier biographers. The implication is unwarranted, and that on two scores: because it assumes that "Bouhours, writing ninety years after Tursellinus, could not have had access to any new sources," and because it confuses the miracles worked by St.
Francis during his own lifetime with those worked after his death, but through his intercession. In reality, Bouhours had a wealth of information, juridically accredited, to which Tursellinus had no access because it was not yet accumulated. As noted before, the canonical investigation into Xavier's life and miracles began at Goa in , and was not completed until , at Pamplona. Xavier was beatified in , and canonized in In the interval, literally hundreds of persons gave their sworn testimony to having personally experienced, or seen, or received from trustworthy witnesses, an account of certain extraordinary phenomena worked by Francis Xavier.
The bare summary of this testimony covers pages in the Monumenta Xaveriana. Indicative of the first hand character of the information are the following attestations, taken in sequence, from the Episcopal Process held at Cochin in A merchant who testified that he was ninety-eight years old, had known Francis Xavier since his eleventh year, and had been his servant companion on various journeys, among other phenomena related how on one occasion the missionary saved the crew of a ship on which he was sailing. They had been without fresh water for three weeks and were near death of thirst.
Francis ordered a quantity of sea water to be brought up, blessed it, and gave them to drink.
The Life and Miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi - World Digital Library
The water was perfectly fresh. A widow, over eighty years old, testified to the sudden cessation of the plague, the day that Xavier's body was brought to Malacca. She was fifteen years old at the time. For weeks before, many people had been dying of the plague every day. But from the day the body touched port, not one person died of the disease, which simply disappeared. The next was also a widow over eighty, who, among other things, testified that when she was only eleven years old she saw and heard the missionary.
The following four witnesses gave their ages as , 75, over 70, and over and so on, down the process, which in this one city numbered sixty-three sworn testimonies, mostly from persons who had lived and worked with Francis Xavier. However, it was not only that Bouhours had more evidence at hand than was available to earlier biographers, but many of the phenomena which he relates occurred not during Xavier's life but after his death.
So there could be no question of previous biographies narrating events that had not yet taken place.
In the Bull of Canonization alone, there are listed and detailed eight miraculous events, attested as having been worked through the intercession of St. Francis after They are, in order: restoration of limbs withered since birth; resuscitation to life of a child about to be buried; sight to a blind man; a leper healed; bleeding internal tumor cured; cancer of the breast healed; ulcerous legs restored to normal; and a blind paralytic instantly recovering sight and the use of his limbs. Among the miracles attributed to Francis Xavier, his reputed gift of tongues is especially called into question.
He tells us how he surmounted these difficulties: sometimes by learning just enough of a language to translate into it some of the main Church formulas; sometimes by getting the help of others to patch together some pious teachings to be learned by rote; sometimes by employing interpreters; and sometimes by a mixture of various dialects, and even by signs. Now the legend. This criticism was a particularly unhappy one, since it had already been made and disposed of at the process of canonization three centuries before. At the Roman investigation into the life of Francis Xavier, a certain theologian, Jacob Picenino, argued against Xavier's supposed gift of tongues by quoting those passages in his letters where he tells how much effort he expended in learning the language of his prospective converts.
Picenino was answered by Cardinal Gotti, who defended Xavier's gift of tongues by making two distinctions:. It is not only consistent with the operations of grace, but required that a person use all the human means at his disposal to achieve a given end. In the instance, it is a positive argument in favor of the charisma that Xavier should have studied and otherwise made an effort to acquire a new language, since not to have done so would have been imprudence, not to say presumption. Authentic sources do not say that St. Francis possessed the gift of tongues early in the apostolate.
This would be consistent, said the Cardinal, with what happened in the case of the Apostles, upon whom the gift of tongues was divinely bestowed, not immediately when they were called by Christ, but only after the descent of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, as appears in the Acta of the Canonization, there was no claim that the charisma in question was either a permanent or constant possession.
Ultra-conservatives, quoted by the Bollandists, would reduce to perhaps two occasions when St.
The Life and Miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi
Francis was understood by different people in their own language: once at Travancor and again at Amanguci. To answer non-Catholic criticism of Xavier's miracles, it is enough to appeal to the evidence of contemporary history. But Catholics have also another norm by which to pass judgment in the matter-the declarations of ecclesiastical authority. Here the evidence is most conclusive.
For every official statement of the Church on the subject credits the Apostle of the Indies with thaumaturgic powers that are not only considered real, but so extraordinary that, with the possible exception of Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, they are unique in the history of Christian hagiography. Their votes are only a paragraph each, some less than fifty words, yet all of them, and mostly in explicit terms, refer to his claritudo miraculorum as a sure sign that the Holy Spirit desires His servant to be honored as a saint.
Francis make up the bulk of the nineteen pages, in folio, of the papal document. Francis which the Church accepted as authentic:. Omitting those already mentioned, the first phenomenon noted in the document was the gift of rapture. While celebrating Mass, Xavier was often so rapt in ecstasy that those in attendance could with difficulty rouse him back to normal consciousness.
After his arrival in the Indies, one of the "more outstanding prodigies which he wrought for the edification of the faithful," occurred when a mob of pagan Badages made a surprise attack on a Christian village, intending to kill the inhabitants. But the mob was put to flight when Francis went out to meet them, accompanied by a mysterious figure whose majesty and splendor terrified the assailants. At Comorin, when the pagans were not moved by his words, Xavier asked that a tomb which had been sealed the day before should be opened.
Then indicating that this would be a sign of God's approval of Christianity, he called to the body to rise. The dead man came to life, with hundreds of natives embracing the faith as a consequence. In the same city on another occasion, Francis healed a beggar with ulcerous legs when in a burst of heroism he drank the putrid water in which the running sores had been washed.
Also in east India, Xavier brought back to life a young man who had died of a pestilential fever, and was being carried to the cemetery. In the city of Combutura, a boy had fallen into a deep well and drowned. His body was later brought up to the surface. Immediately the boy returned to life.
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