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Centenaries of Ignatius of Loyola, of Francis Xavier and of Peter Faber

06/04/2006: Italy

This year, the Society of Jesus is celebrating the anniversary of three events that marked their origins: 450 years since the death of their founder Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Rome, 31st July 1556), 500 years since the birth of Saint Francis Xavier (7th April 1506) and of Blessed Peter Faber (13th April 1506).

After his conversion, Saint Ignatius undertook to work with great enthusiasm only for the Kingdom of God. Having come to Paris to deepen his theological studies, he found other young people at the Sorbonne who shared his aspirations and with whom he found the Society of Jesus (1540). Saint Francis and Peter Faber were among them.

Francis Xavier was perhaps the most ardent missionary of all times and the apostle who opened new pathways of evangelisation, becoming a model and an inspirer for the missionaries of modern time. He is one of the patron saints of the missions, along with Saint Therese of Lisieux.

A Spaniard from Navarre, he was a graduate from the prestigious University of Paris where he knew Saint Ignatius of Loyola and with whom he formed the first group of the Society of Jesus. After three years of priestly ministry in Italy, he was chosen and sent as a missionary to the Portuguese colonies of India. He left with nothing else except his breviary, his rosary beads and an ardent desire to work for the salvation of souls. His apostolate flourished at Goa, the Molucca Islands, Japan, Malacca and in Singapore. During one visit to China, he fell ill and died at the age of forty-six, exhausted by the fatigue caused by his apostolate. He had announced the Christian faith to an unbelievable number of people.

Saint Francis Xavier had a great devotion to Mary and counted on the help of Our Lady to bring souls to Christ. He spoke frequently of her and finished his catechism lessons with the singing of the Salve. The rosary was his constant and preferred prayer. He wore a set of rosary beads around his neck. Christians frequently asked him for it and he would lend them his rosary. When he could not visit the sick, he would entrust his rosary beads to children to take it to them.

The Marist Brothers held their 7th General Conference in Asia to which they are turning their attention. They celebrated this ecclesial event joyously at the same time as they entrusted their project of mission ad gentes to this patron of the missions who was a precursor for the evangelisation of Asiatic lands.

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