XCE Guangzhou: Shangchuan Recollection—The Final Footsteps of St. Francis Xavier

by Steven Sy (8A), Stallion Correspondent

During his nearly thirty-year-long travel all over the world, St. Francis Xavier achieved many great things. He traveled through Asia, visiting India, Indonesia, and Japan. In these places, he worked hard, spreading the word of God, preaching His Good News. He persevered, despite numerous challenges and adversaries meeting him along the way.

However, during all these travels, he had one important goal: to go into China to preach the Word of God. He fought hard and sacrificed much to achieve this goal, and when it seemed he would succeed, when he finally reached the island of Shangchuan, a mere fourteen kilometers from mainland China, disaster struck. Francis Xavier fell ill, and on the 3rd of December, he finally died, a mere boat’s ride away from his ultimate goal.

One might interpret this as St. Francis Xavier dying a frustrated man. He was so close to his goal, and yet so far. However, even though Francis Xavier died, his legacy lived on. His dream of going to China to spread the Good News still smoldered in the hearts of the Jesuits, and his dream was finally fulfilled many years later by numerous different Jesuits, including Matteo Ricci, Michele Ruggieri, and many others.

His legacy lived on, and even today, it still persists. The society he and St. Ignatius formed so many centuries ago still exists today. St. Francis Xavier’s mission, his goals and legacy that he left behind lies within us, and is manifested through us. Through Xavier School, through the numerous other Jesuit schools, we can see that St. Francis Xavier’s legacy, the spark that guided him in his travels all over Asia, still lives on in us Xaverians.

This is what we learned when we visited Shangchuan Island, the place where Francis Xavier died, so close to fulfilling his dream.

In Shangchuan, we visited the St. Francis Xavier Graveyard, where within the beautiful scenery, we were able to see his original burial place.

We were able to visit a place where St. Francis Xavier lived, slept, and ultimately, died. We walked the same paths as he did, admired the same sceneries he did, and walked in the final footsteps he took before he met his untimely end.

In our recollection at Shangchuan, we had a chance to reflect on St. Francis Xavier’s life, his passion, his perseverance and iron-hard will, and how we, ourselves, as Xaverians, can uphold the great legacy Francis Xavier left behind. We were able to read and reflect on one of Francis Xavier’s letters to Ignatius of Loyola, fully revealing to us that he truly wanted to bring the Good News of God to all and to help every one of us see the goodness of God. We were able to view a statue of St. Francis Xavier, high up above the trees, revealing the beautiful scenery behind them. The statue that we saw was facing outward, toward the coastline of Guangdong, Francis Xavier’s ultimate goal, just a stone’s throw away, and yet he was never to reach it.

For me, on a personal level, this recollection had much significance for my own life as a Xaverian. When we had our recollection, visiting the very place where St. Francis Xavier spent the final months of his life, I was awed by all the great things he had done. In school, I had heard all about Francis Xavier’s works, but these were all made more real and more direct upon visiting Shangchuan Island, where we got a firsthand experience of what it must have been like for St. Francis, being so close to his goal, and yet unable to reach it. Also, as I visited Shangchuan, I became more aware of the legacy that St. Francis Xavier left behind. He didn’t just leave behind his work as something for us to admire and to praise; he left us a calling, a mission.

Every one of us is called, through St. Francis Xavier’s story, to live up to his legacy. He calls out to us to continue his mission of bringing the Good News of Christ to all. However, this doesn’t mean that we all have to give up our homes as he did to go all over the world to preach the Good News. We can live up to Francis Xavier’s legacy by doing small acts of faith. We can fulfill the mission St. Francis left behind for us by simply being good examples of faith, by living out God’s word, and by always choosing what is right over what is easy.

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