The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page
The Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association Home Page

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives



Return to:  Home > Archives Index > Miracles Index

The Miracles of St. Francis Xavier

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

December third of this year will mark the fourth centenary of the death of St. Francis Xavier. Among the glories of the saint which need to be vindicated at the present time are the miracles which four centuries of tradition have identified with his name. Rationalist criticism has consciously singled out the supernatural phenomena reported in the story of his life. The argument is that if you can eliminate divine intervention from the life of “one of the most noble and devoted men” in the history of the Church, you logically eliminate the same from the Church as a whole. Even Catholics have been influenced by this criticism. Thus, according to a recent writer, “It is a myth he (Xavier) possessed the gift of tongues. Indeed about the only language he ever learned to speak and write with reasonable facility was Portuguese. It is a myth also that he was a great worker of miracles. His miracles were his patience, his generosity, his consuming love of Christ his Divine Master, his limitless trust in God.” [1]

History of the Controversy Over Xavier's Miracles

While the miracles of St. Francis Xavier "have always been a grievous eyesore to Protestant polemics," the first significant attack on their genuinity was made in England just two hundred years ago by a Dr. Douglas, later Anglican Bishop of Salisbury. In 1752 he published the "Criterion: or Rules by which the true miracles of the New Testament are distinguished from the spurious miracles of Pagans and Papists." His avowed purpose was to disprove the phenomena wrought in the Catholic Church and of demonstrating that “the miracles ascribed to Popish saints are forgeries of an age posterior to that they lay claim to.” [2] To illustrate his thesis, he gives the example of Francis Xavier who among Papist believers is regarded as a wonder-worker, but in reality was nothing of the kind. In proof of this, he offers what he calls "conclusive evidence that, during thirty-five years from the death of Xavier, his miracles had not been heard of. The evidence I shall allege," he says, “is that of Acosta, who himself had been a missionary among the Indians. His work, De Procuranda Indarum Salute, was printed in 1589-that is, above thirty-seven years after the death of Xavier; and in it we find an express acknowledgment that no miracles had ever been performed by missionaries among the Indians. Acosta was himself a Jesuit, and therefore from his silence we may infer unexceptionably that between thirty and forty years had elapsed before Xavier's miracles were thought of.” [3]

During the next hundred years, Douglas was followed by a series of Protestant divines who repeated his charges against the miracles in St. Francis' life. Among others, Le Mesurier, Farmer, Roberts, Greer, Venn and Hoffman all appealed to the "generation of silence" after Xavier's death as clear proof that his reputation as a thaumaturgist was a pure fraud. Douglas and his imitators were refuted by John Milner in his Vindication of the End of Religious Controversy, published in l825. [4]

Before the end of the century, the opposition shifted to America where, in 1891, Andrew White, first president of Cornell University, published two articles against Xavier's miracles in the Popular Science Monthly. He was answered the same year by the Jesuit, Thomas Hughes, in two issues of the Catholic World. White came back five years later with his two volume History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, in which he renewed the claim that there are no genuine miracles in the history of Christianity-and rested his case on a close analysis of the reported miracles in the life of St. Francis Xavier. White's theory was that so-called Christian miracles are only "legends of miracles (which) have grown about the lives of all great benefactors of humanity." In post-Apostolic Christianity there are "very many examples which enable us to study the evolution of legendary miracles." So many, in fact, that a careful scrutiny of all of them is impossible. In lieu of this, White prefers to “select but one, which is chosen because it is the life of one of the most noble and devoted men in the history of humanity, one whose biography is before the world with its most minute details-St. Francis Xavier.” [5] The conclusion is obvious: if the miracles recorded in his life can be shown to be legendary, then no other record of miraculous phenomena in the life of any Christian saint can be accepted as true.

In the meantime, the Bollandists were busy assembling the available data in the controversy, and in 1897 they published a thorough refutation of Andrew White and his predecessors. The opposition never answered the rebuttal. But unfortunately, where the refutation remained hidden in the Analecta Bollandiana, the adversaries continued to publicize their "exposè" as incontestible truth. The present study, therefore, is intended to bring the issue back to where it stood fifty years ago, in the field of authentic history. The method will be to follow the Bollandists in answering the American critic who had gathered together all the arguments ever brought against the miracles of St. Francis Xavier.

Xavier's Silence About His Own Miracles

The first and basic argument of the critics is the absence of any reference to miracles in the writings of Francis Xavier. "During his career as a missionary," we are told, “he wrote great numbers of letters, which were preserved and have since been published; and these, with the letters of his contemporaries exhibit clearly all the features of his life…. No account of a miracle wrought by him appears either in his own letters or in any contemporary document.” [6]

Logically, this objection covers two arguments: first, how explain Xavier's silence about his own wonder-working powers, if he really possessed them; and secondly, the silence of contemporary historians, friends of the saint and his own religious brethren. These latter were not mute on the subject through any "evil heart of unbelief." On the contrary, they were “prompt to record the slightest occurrence which they thought evidence of Divine favor.” [7] Yet not a word did they say about Xavier's working miracles.

Relative to the missionary's silence about himself, the Bollandists call this observation at least naive, which “shows how little the American writer understood the character of Xavier. For as much as the former professor of Ste. Barbe had previously sought for human glory, so much did the disciple of St. Ignatius now seek to bury in profound oblivion the marvelous works that were wrought in and through him by God. The last person we should ask about Xavier's miracles is Xavier himself-as evidenced from the answer which he gave on one occasion when asked if he had raised someone from the dead.” [8] According to Orlandini, a contemporary, Francis blushed deeply and cried out against the idea, saying, “And so I am said to have raised the dead!” [9] It is significant that White deleted this episode from his treatment of the subject in 1896. Five years before, in the Popular Science articles, he quoted the story from Orlandini, but only to call it a "subsidiary legend" which the Jesuits invented to explain away Francis' silence about his thaumaturgic powers. Meantime his attention had been called to such arbitrary handling of facts to sustain a preconceived theory. Moreover, the same Orlandini is witness again to explain the discrepancy between Xavier's reticence about himself and the glowing accounts of those who knew him. “He writes about his own affairs sparingly and dryly, while at the same time very much is written about him, profusely and copiously, both by people in the world and by members of the order.” [10]

Alleged Silence of Contemporary History

More serious, however, is the second argument of Andrew White, namely, that "no account of a miracle wrought by him (Xavier) appears…in any contemporary document." The Bollandists' answer is devastating: contemporary accounts are filled with references to Xavier's miraculous powers. Among others, and by no means exhaustive, are the following, all from authentic documents written before December, 1551:

Gaspar Barze, in a letter dated December 13, 1548, wrote of Francis Xavier to his brethren in Portugal, describing what happened at Goa when on one occasion the missionary was delayed in returning from Cape Comorin: “Suddenly the rumor was spread that Master Francis had died…. His friends were deeply grieved at this news and said among themselves, 'Though it should cost us 30,000 cruzados, we will see that he is canonized.' Then they began recounting the miracles, the very great miracles, which he had worked while living in their country. I will not describe them to you because it is not fitting that we should talk about these things, except to God, to render Him thanks for granting such graces.” [11]

In a letter of Francis Perez to the Fathers at Coimbra is reported the double prophecy which Xavier had made at Malacca. The first was his certain foreknowledge of a victory of the Christian armada over the Pagan Moros, hundreds of miles away, contrary to all expectations, and at the very hour when the victory was won. The second was his correct prediction of the exact time when a certain man, named Arausio, would die. Perez' letter is not dated, but the context clearly shows it was written during Xavier's lifetime. [12]

In 1545, John Vaz, licentiate in theology and a companion of Francis Xavier in the Indies, on his return to Rome narrated a series of prodigies which the saint had performed. [13]

Another clear reference to the miracles of Francis Xavier occurs in a letter written in 1548 from Travancore. “In whatever town Francis stops, wherever he even passes by, he acquires such renown as can scarcely be believed. I do not wish to write about the things which he does; so sublime that I do not trust myself adequately to describe them on paper. The life of Master Francis has created such a stir that his name is celebrated through all India. . . . How I should like to narrate in detail all the wonders which are related of Master Francis; believe me, my failure to do so pains me more than it does you. But I assure you in confidence that God is working through his means such marvelous things as may not licitly be the subject of idle conversation.” [14]

There were not wanting sceptics in Portugal who refused to accept the glowing accounts of Xavier's miracles until confirmed, as they said, by impartial witnesses. A letter sent from Lisbon in 1548 tells how these critics were silenced on one occasion. "Dining recently with the ambassador of the emperor," writes the Jesuit correspondent, “I there met Francisco Guzman, Don Pedro de Meneses and two other knights who had just returned from India. They spoke with such admiration of our Blessed Father (Xavier) that it was clear the Lord had inspired them so to speak, in order to manifest in that distinguished company the truth about the marvelous deeds which His Divine Majesty works through His good servant, and in order to put to confusion the few incredulous listeners who were present.” [15]

Among other contemporary witnesses was the famous Don Fernando Mendez Pinto. Leaving Lisbon for the Indies in 1537, he arrived at Malacca in January, 1547. "There," he says, “we found the Reverend Father, Master Francis Xavier, superior of the Society of Jesus in India. Only a few days before he had arrived from the Moluccas with a great reputation for sanctity. People call him 'the saint,' on account of the many miracles which they have seen him work.” [16]

This seems sufficient, the Bollandists observe, to negative the assertion of an absolute silence of contemporary history. “Even the few extracts we gave, prove abundantly that, while still living, the Apostle of the Indies enjoyed among his brethren and fellow-workers a well merited reputation for miraculous power. Naturally we do not find in the letters of the missionaries from India and Japan more than a fraction of all the miracles which the juridical inquiry was later on to reveal. But are we on that account to conclude to the evolution of a legend ?” [17]

An extant letter penned at Goa by a Jesuit Superior shortly after Francis' death shows how unjust is the accusation of developing a Xavier legend imputed to his brethren and later biographers. It also helps to explain the relative reticence among Jesuits on the subject of St. Francis' miracles while he was yet alive. "As regards the death of our Father Francis," wrote Balthasar Diaz, “there are many people in this city who have lived with him in different places and have seen him do and say among the pagans such things as were evidently supernatural and equal to those which we read in the lives of the saints. Persons of great integrity have come to ask me why we do not begin a formal investigation and gathering of testimony of all these things, with a view to having him canonized. However, because I felt that this should be undertaken by someone duly authorized, and also for personal reasons, I did not wish to begin the inquiry on my own authority.” [18]

Evolutionary Theory of Xavier's Miracles

Against the assumption that Francis Xavier worked no miracles during his lifetime, the opposition was faced with the mass of contrary evidence in all the known biographies and panegyrics of the saint. To explain this away, the theory of legendary development was constructed. Said the critics: “It is hardly necessary to attribute to the orators and biographers generally a conscious attempt to deceive. The simple fact is, that as a rule they thought, spoke and wrote in obedience to the natural laws which govern the luxuriant growth of myth and legend in the warm atmosphere of love and devotion which constantly arises about great religious leaders in times when men have little or no knowledge of natural law, when there is little care for scientific evidence, and when he who believes most is thought most meritorious.” [19]

Fortunately, for the purpose of refutation, Andrew White illustrates what his school means by "the luxuriant growth of myth and legend" regarding Xavier's miracles. He takes three biographies of the saint, by as many Jesuits, and points to the accumulation of miracles from the first to the second to the third.

First, "in 1588, thirty-six years after Xavier's death, the Jesuit Father, Maffei, who had been especially conversant with Xavier's career in the East, published his History of India, though he gave a biography of Xavier which shows fervent admiration for his subject, he dwelt very lightly on the alleged miracles."

Secondly, "six years later, in 1594, Fr. Tursellinus published his Life of Xavier. . . . This work shows a vast increase in the number of miracles over those given by all sources up to that time." Where previously the saint was represented only as curing the sick, now he is credited with "casting out demons, stilling the tempest, raising the dead and performing miracles of every sort."

Finally, “in 1682, one hundred and thirty years after Xavier's death, appeared his biography by Fr. Bouhours; and this became a classic. In it the old miracles of all kinds were enormously multiplied, and many new ones given. Miracles few and small in Tursellinus became many and great in Bouhours. In Tursellinus, Xavier during his life saves one person from drowning, in Bouhours he saves during his life three; in Tursellinus, Xavier during his life raises four persons from the dead, in Bouhours fourteen; in Tursellinus there is one miraculous supply of water, in Bouhours three; in Tursellinus there is no miraculous draught of fishes, in Bouhours there is one . . . and so through a long series of miracles.” [20]

The Bollandists easily dispose of this objection. First regarding the apparent discrepancy between Maffei and Tursellinus, “it is idle to make a comparison on this point . . . because the two biographers had an entirely different purpose in view. 'Others,' says Maffei, ‘recounted his (Xavier's) infallible predictions and miracles-many more, indeed, than we have touched upon, hurrying on, as we have done, to fulfill another purpose.’” [21] His purpose was to give a History of the East, addressed to Philip II of Spain, and to review the progress of Portuguese colonization up to that time. As a matter of fact, Maffei stops at least three times in the course of his narrative to follow St. Francis Xavier alone, and devotes some forty-eight pages to his voyages and achievements. When he comes to the saint's funeral at Goa, he apologizes for not saying more on the subject. Moreover, since the canonical process investigating the virtues and miracles of St. Francis began at Goa in 1556, a mass of evidence had been collected by 1588, so that Maffei was more than justified in not describing "the infallible predictions and miracles" which others had already recounted.

About Tursellinus, it is interesting to note, say the Bollandists, “the change in attitude which Dr. White takes in 1891 and in 1896. In 1891, 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. White asserted that Tursellinus' life contained ‘scarcely any miracles.’” [22] Meantime Thomas Hughes had refuted this assertion by showing with documentary evidence that Tursellinus "at the genesis of the myth" actually gives an account of no less than fifty-one reported miracles worked by Francis during his life in the East. [23] Consequently, in 1896, the saint's critic replaces Tursellinus with Maffei, as heading the legend. And instead of "scarcely any miracles," Tursellinus now “shows a vast increase in the number of miracles over those given by all sources together up to that time.” [24]

Bouhours wrote his biography in 1682, 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.

The objection is made that “Xavier had been dead one hundred and thirty years, and, of course, all the natives upon whom he had wrought his miracles, and their children and grandchildren, were gone.” [25] Therefore, it is argued, Bouhours drew on his imagination to improve on Tursellinus. 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 1556, and was not completed until 1616, at Pamplona. Xavier was beatified in 1619, and canonized in 1623. 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 506 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 1616:

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 water was perfectly fresh. [26]

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. [27]

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. He was already then regarded as a saint, and “great miracles were universally (communiter) attributed to him.” [28]

The following four witnesses gave their ages as 120, 75, over 70, and over 100-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 1552. 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. [29]

St. Francis Xavier's Gift of Tongues

Among the miracles attributed to Francis Xavier, his reputed gift of tongues is especially called into question. "Throughout his letters," say the critics, "Xavier constantly dwells upon his difficulties with the various languages of the different tribes among whom he went. 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." So much for history. Now the legend. “But during the canonization proceedings at Rome, in the speeches then made, and finally in the papal bull, great stress was laid upon the fact that Xavier possessed the gift of tongues.” [30]

This criticism was a particularly unhappy one, since it had already been made and disposed of at the process of canonization three centuries before. The whole account is given by Benedict XIV in his treatise on Heroic Virtue:

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. [31]

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. Francis was understood by different people in their own language: once at Travancor and again at Amanguci. The Bull of Canonization seems to favor this position, when it says, “Sometimes (quandoque) it happened that when he was addressing a gathering of people from different nations, each listener understood him in the language in which he was born.” [32] On the other hand, the report of Auditors of the Rota favors the opposite opinion. "Xavier," it says, “was illustrious for the gift of tongues, for he spoke with elegance and fluency the languages, which he had never learnt, of different nations, to whom he went for the sake of preaching the Gospel, just as if he had been born and bred among them; and it happened not infrequently, that while he was preaching, men of diverse nations heard him speak each in his own language.” [33]

The Mind of the Church on Xavier's Miracles

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.

Thus in the Brief of Beatification, issued in 1619 by Pope Paul V, he declares that “Francis Xavier, during his life as a priest, was endowed by the Lord with many and outstanding (multis et eximiis) gifts of virtue, of grace and of miracles.” [34]

In the Allocution of 1622, when Gregory XV in a private Consistory proposed to the Cardinals that Francis Xavier should be canonized, he said: “In as much as holiness of life, a reputation for miracles (claritudo miraculorum) and the desires of the people concur in their judgment on this remarkable man, the true Apostle of the Indies, it is expedient that he should be raised to the honors of sainthood." [35] The Cardinals who assisted, individually, gave their judgment, in writing, on whether Xavier should be canonized. 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.

According to Cardinal a Monte, “He shone with the splendor of many miracles.” [36] And Bandini, “He drew the hardened hearts of men to the true faith by innumerable miracles.” [37] Cardinal Ginnasii, “By the power of God, he healed the sick, raised the dead, spoke with the gift of tongues.” [38] Cardinal Millini, “He was resplendent with so many and such great miracles that I believe he may without hesitation be entered by Your Holiness in the catalog of the saints.” [39]

In the Bull of Canonization issued by Urban VIII on August 6, 1623, the miracles of St. Francis make up the bulk of the nineteen pages, in folio, of the papal document. Regarding the phenomena which happened during the saint's life, the Pope says, in general, that “He was found worthy to be richly endowed with apostolic charismata; the evidence of his apostolate being manifested... in signs and prodigies and powers.” [40] Then follows a careful description of eighteen miracles in the life of St. 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. [41]

At other times during the Holy Sacrifice, he was seen raised from the ground a cubit and more so that “while seeing the greatness of the miracle, the people might acknowledge the sanctity of the servant of God.” [42]

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. [43]

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. [44]

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. [45]

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. [46]

In the city of Combutura, a boy had fallen into a deep well and drowned. His body was later brought up to the surface. Francis prayed over the dead child and then, “taking it by the hand, ordered it in the name of Jesus Christ to rise. Immediately the boy returned to life.” [47]

In Japan, a merchant, blind for years, was given back his sight when Francis recited the Gospels and made the sign of the cross over his head. [48]

On one occasion, a small crucifix which the missionary had lost in the ocean was restored to him by a sea crab when he reached the shore. [49]

Again out at sea during a storm, the landing boat of the ship on which he was sailing was torn from its mooring and lost in the waves. Three days later, in answer to Xavier's prayers, the boat floated back to the ship and rested alongside the hulk, ready for landing, as though nothing had happened. [50]

As examples of his prophetic powers, Francis predicted the fate of two ships sailing out of port-that one would be destroyed in a storm and the other, a smaller and older vessel, would reach its destination in safety. At another time, as he arrived at the altar for Mass, he suddenly turned to the people and asked them to pray for the soul of a wine merchant who had just died, at a distance of twelve days' journey away. He also promised a generous benefactor that God would reward him by telling him the time of his death. Years later, in apparent good health, the man was suddenly forewarned and died in the peace of God. [51]

Since his canonization in 1623, a series of new honors has been conferred on Francis Xavier by the Holy See, culminating in his declaration in 1922 as the heavenly patron of all Catholic Missions. And consistently the Roman Pontiffs, in their letters and decrees, have emphasized in a singular way his extraordinary gift of miracles and prophecies.

Thus Alexander VII, shortly after Xavier's canonization, authorized the following insertion to be made in the Roman Martyrology for the third of December: “. . . the Apostle of the Indies was conspicuous in the number of infidels he converted to Christ, and in the greatness of his miracles, especially in raising the dead to life and in the spirit of prophecy.” [52]

And more recently, Pope Pius XI, on the third centenary of St. Francis' canonization, described the “Heavenly Patron of the Propagation of the Faith” as one who, “in the interest of souls, many times traversed vast expanses of land and sea, was the first to bring the name of Christ to the nation of Japan, suffered many dangers and underwent incredible trials, administered the saving waters of Baptism to countless souls, and performed innumerable miracles of every kind (infinita omne genus portenta).” [53]

In the light of all the evidence, therefore, scientific as seen in the canonical processes, and authoritative as shown in the statements of the Church, it is impossible to deny to Francis Xavier the title which posterity has given to him, of "the wonder-worker of modern Christianity." The miracles which he worked, the Bollandists conclude, are disconcerting only to those who deny the supernatural. To anyone else, they are a fulfillment of Christ's promise to His disciples: “In My name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak in new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands upon the sick and they shall get well.” [54]

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
West Baden College
West Baden Springs, Indiana

[1] For personal reasons, it seems better not to identify the author of this statement.

[2] Quoted in Milner’s Vindication of the End of Religious Controversy, Letter XXII, Philadelphia, 1825.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Milner shows that Douglas falsified the testimony of Acosta. The latter is not only not silent on Xavier’s miracles, but expressly says that, “So many and such great signs are reported of him by many, and those proper witnesses, that hardly so many are reported by anyone except the Apostles.” Ibid.

[5] White, Andrew D., History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, New York, 1908, II, 5.

[6] Ibid., p. 6.

[7] Ibid., p. 8.

[8] Analecta Bollandiana, Bruxelles, 1897, XVI, 57 f.

[9] Orlandini, Historia Societatis Iesu, lib. VIII, n. 29.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Selectae Indiarum Epistolae, Florentiae, 1887, Epist. XI, p. 54.

[12] Ibid., Epist. XV, p. 73.

[13] Ibid., Epist. III, p. 6.

[14] Ibid., Epist. IX, p. 38.

[15] Monumenta, Historica S.I., Epistolae Mixtae, Vol. I, Epist. 172, p. 559.

[16] Figuier, Bernard, Les Voyages Adventureux de Fernand Mendez Pinto, Paris, 1628, p. 1037.

[17] Analecta Bollandiana, XVI, 60.

[18] Selectae Indiarum Epistolae, Epist. XXXVIII, p. 182.

[19] White, op. cit., p. 21.

[20] Ibid.,pp. 14 ff.

[21] Analecta Bollandiana, p. 61.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Catholic World, Sept., 1891, pp. 840 f.

[24] White, op. cit., p. 14.

[25] Ibid., p. 17.

[26] Monumenta Xaveriana, Processus Cocinensis, II, 449.

[27] Ibid., p. 451.

[28] Ibid., p. 453.

[29] Ibid., Bulla Canonizationis, pp. 716-22.

[30] White, op. cit., pp. 19 f.

[31] Pope Benedict XIV, Heroic Virtue, London, 1852, III, 225.

[32] Monumenta Xaveriana, p. 710.

[33] Pope Benedict XIV, loc. cit.

[34] Monumenta Xaveriana, Breve Beatificationis, p. 680.

[35] Ibid., cta in Consistorio Semipublico, p. 687.

[36] Ibid., p. 688.

[37] Ibid., p. 689.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid., p. 690.

[40] Ibid., Bulla Canonizationis, p. 705.

[41] Ibid., p. 708.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid., p. 710.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid., p. 711.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid., p. 713.

[50] Ibid., p. 712.

[51] Ibid., pp. 713 ff.

[52] Ibid. Elogium S. Xaverii Inserendum Martyrologio Romano, p. 727.

[53] Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. XIV, 1922, 632 f.

[54] Mark 16:17 f.

American Ecclesiastical Review
Vol. 127, October 1952, pp. 248-263

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

search tips advanced search

What's New    Site Index

Home | Directory | Eucharist | Divine Training | Testimonials | Visit Chapel | Hardon Archives

Adorers Society | PEA Manual | Essentials of Faith | Dictionary | Thesaurus | Catalog | Newsletters

Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association
718 Liberty Lane
Lombard, IL 60148
Phone: 815-254-4420
Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 by
All rights reserved worldwide.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
written permission of