Today I decided to do a little reading to find out more about the Saints related to Christmas. Of course I found most things to be written about the most well-known: St. Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Nicholas. As I read more and looked to less familiar sites online, I discovered some writings about the “Christmas Saints”. These are the main Saints with feast days during the advent season. There are saints for almost every day in the Catholic calendar, but only the “major” saints are considered Christmas Saints. AS best I can tell, their feasts are celebrated during advent in part because of the important work of these faithful servants. For today I picked one to find out a little more about, Saint Francis Xavier.
Saint Francis was born in 1506 in Navarre, part of modern-day Spain. He was the son of an aristocratic family, but much of their wealth and stature was lost when his father died and the Catholic Spanish forces invaded Navarre. Francis moved to Paris to study and was ready to become an academic as his family had planned. Instead, he joined with a new friend to devout his life to missionary work. He was good friends with Ignatius of Loyola and with 5 others they would form the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. In Paris on Montmartre they took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From France he would move first to Venice and then on to Lisbon. There he would begin his real life’s work as a missionary. He took out to bring the word to the Peoples of Asia and those Portuguese living in the empire. He based his work in India and preached to the poorest of the poor. He lived among them and shared their food and housing. Much of his work was with lepers and the very sick. His work moved him into Malaysia and then Japan. In Japan he would convert the first Japanese Christian. From Japan he planned to move into mainland China. Unfortunately he caught fever and died before making the journey. Saint Francis is said to have converted the most people to Christianity since Saint Paul. His work with the masses was heavily partnered with music. Francis put the verses of study to local music to help the indigenous people hear the message.
“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26) These words from Jesus are believed to be the ones that caused Saint Francis to devote his life to faithful mission work. He is included as one of the Christmas Saints because of his tireless efforts to show all people the joy we receive with the arrival of the baby Jesus. He led a life of pure sacrifice. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis gave his to others. Pray for his intercession during the advent season if you want your time spent in advent to bear fruit long beyond the season. He is the patron saint of Japan and of all missionaries.