On April 7, 1506, Francis Xavier was born in Xavier Castle, located near 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 disrupted by his father’s death, as well as by outside efforts to take control of Navarre.
He was the third son of the president of the council of the king of Navarre, most of whose kingdom was soon to fall to the crown of Castile (1512). Francis grew up at Xavier and received his early education there. As was often the case with younger sons of the nobility, he was destined for an ecclesiastical career, and in 1525 he journeyed to the University of Paris, the theological centre of Europe, to begin his studies.
In 1529 Ignatius of Loyola, another Basque student, was assigned to room with Francis. A former soldier 15 years Francis’s senior, he had undergone a profound religious conversion and was then gathering about himself a group of men who shared his ideals. Gradually, Ignatius won over the initially recalcitrant Francis, and Francis was among the band of seven who, in a chapel on Montmartre in Paris, on August 15, 1534, vowed lives of poverty and celibacy in imitation of Christ and solemnly promised to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and subsequently to devote themselves to the salvation of believers and unbelievers alike. Francis then performed the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditations lasting about 30 days and devised by Ignatius in light of his own experience of conversion to guide the individual toward greater generosity in the service of God and humankind. They implanted in Francis the motivation that carried him for the rest of his life and prepared the way for his recurrent mystical experiences.Read More »