Saint Francis Xavier | Malacca (Melaka) Tour
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St Francis Xavier and Malacca (Melaka) 

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St. Francis Xavier Malacca

St Francis Xavier and Malacca
by the late Fr R. Lourdes

Article 1 : St Francis Xavier and Malacca

In 1528, Don Francisco de Yesu was a brilliant young man pursuing a scholastic career, rich with promise, at the famed University of Paris. In 1540, Francis Xavier was a member of the Company of Jesus setting out on a missionary quest from Lisbon. In 1542, Xavier was walking barefooted, his lips parched, his whole frame racked with pain, in an obsure village in India.

Thus within the short space of scarcely 15 years, St Francis Xavier or Santo Padre as he was known began the mission which brought Christianity to the East.

Before he had actually arrived in Malacca for the first time his "fame" among the poor in India had preceded him and a large crowd of people and local dignitaries were at the waterfront to receive him. He must have been naturally surpriesed at the nature of the welcome and it is reasonable to assume that later he discovered that it was the sailors trading in the region of the Spice Islands who had informed the people of Malacca about the holy father from Europe.

It was late September 1545 and though many notable people offered him hospitality, he chose a little house near the hospital and later moved to the hospital itself so that he could be of immediate service to the sick night and day.

There is a strange story related by Fr Paul Gomez who was a witness to the reception which Francis Xavier received. He says, "There were some mothers with their babies. He called the babies by their names, inquiring from them about their fathers. I and many others believed this a miracle. How could he know the names of children he had never seen?" He remained in Malacca during October, November and December 1545, serving the sick and teaching the children daily. On Sundays, he preached at the church on the hill and he was so overwhelmed by the great number of people seeking ministrations that he himself bore testimony to the fact saying, "It is impossible to satisfy all who come."

Although he was working round the clock, he still found time to translate all the simple prayers and instructions into Malay. He found that there was a confusion of languages in the islands of the East but discovered that all could understand a little Malay.

During his short first visit to Malacca, he wrought a number of miracles, the more conspicious being the cure of Antonio, son of John Fernandez de Igler, the calling to life from the grave of a girl buried three days and another calling to life of a boy, Francis de Chaves who later became a Franciscan and died a missionary in China.

With the end of the monsoon months, Francis left Malacca on New Year's day, 1546 and set sail for Amboina, Ternate and the Isles of the Moors. He was strongly advised against going to the latter place where inhabitants were said to be cannibals and where two priests had already been killed. However, Francis survived the danger and the "appalling conditions" and in July, 1547 was back in Malacca once more.

Two events marked his second stay in the town. The first, still recorded on the stain glass windows of the present Church of St Francis Xavier, refers to a nocturnal attack by the Achinese.

Let us hear the late Fr Jules Francois relate the story : "On his advice a snall fleet set off in pursuit of the enemy and found them on a Sunday morning in the Perlis river. They killed 4000 of the enemy, sank several of their ships and captured the remainder with 300 cannons and nearly 1000 muskets. The Portuguese losses were but five men. That morning as Francis was preaching in the cathedral, he was suddenly wrapped into a profound esctasy until his voice burst forth commanding the people 'to prostrate before the altars, to give thanks to God."

The other event was the coming of a Japanese, named Yagiro, who having heard of the Santo Padre from a Portuguese friend, wished to meet the great man and to be baptized by him. After having heard the request of Yagiro, the saint taught him the truths of religion. The Japanese catechumen was very attentive and Xavier was very impressed, resolving thereby to go eventually to Japan, to convert the people, the nobles and the king himself. In March 1549, Xavier left on a short visit to Goa to arrange certain matters in connection with his fellow missionaries in India. On that visit, John de Castro, reputed to be one of the best viceroys India ever had, died (after approving the Santo Padre's request for a journey to Japan) and Francis had the consolation of assisting him in his last moments.

The saint was back in Malacca by May 1549 and once again his reception was a "delirious triumph with the whole town turning out to greet him" at the jetty.

He was anxious to start on his journey to Japan and although he tried hard to get a Portuguese ship to take him there, none was available. The captain of Malacca at that time was Don Pedro da Silva de Gama, one of the six sons of the celebrated voyager Vasco. He was most generous to Francis and gave him the means of supporting himself during the first stages of the Japanese mission, as well as the means to build a chapel there and gifts to be presented to the king of Japan. In the end, out of desperation, Francis and his companions accepted passages in a Chinese junk to Japan.

He spent two and a half years, preaching in the land of Yagiro and at the end of his initial mission became convinced that he could bring about a conversion of Japan if the learned men of China were won over to the faith. So, leaving his companions to continue the work in Japan, Francis started back on the long journey to Goa to organise a missionary expedition to China.

He called again at Malacca on this journey but his visit lasted only three days, long enough to persuade the captain of a ship bound for India to delay sailing date so that Francis could be on it. When he eventually reached Goa he was faced with a host of problems but in the end he managed to conclude preparation for his trip to China and was on his way back to Malacca again.

This market his fifth visit to Malacca, one that was to be filled with troubled forebodings of disaster.

The new governor of Malacca, Don Alvaro de Alaide (another of Vasco de Gama's sons), wanted his son to be taken as the ambassador as opposed to Xavier's desire to take a reliable merchant named Pereira. Neither the letters signed by the viceroy nor even the threat of excommunication could bring the obstinate governor to reason. In the end, Francis used his powers as Apostolic Nuncio (given by the pope) to excommunicate him and refused to see him before his departure, saying that he would next meet him at the tribunal of God.

For Francis now it was a mad gamble. No longer would it be possible to hope for a legal entry into China (without the ambassador) since the governor had refused permission for Pereira to leave Malacca. Eventually, Francis reached the island of Sancian, south of the delta of the Canton river. He tried in vain to get someone to smuggle him into the Chinese city.

At last a merchant was found who promised him the needful ship but the wily fellow, after receiving the 200 cruzados of pepper agreed to, disappeared. Suddenly Xavier became ill with fever and with no proper care available on the desolate isle, was to die like Moses, in sight of the land of promise at the age of 46. Only his faithful servant Antonio was with him to the end. Antionio sought the assistance of the crew of the Santa Cruz, anchored just off Sancian at that time, and placing the body in a rough coffin filled with lime, buried the saint on Sancian.

After Xavier's death, the Santa Cruz remained in Sancian for two and a half months. Before it sailed for Malacca, Captain Jorje Alvaro despatched a Portuguese to open the grave and see the state of the body so that if it could be moved he would take it back with him. It was found that the body was still in a perfect condition and immediately arrangements were made to transport the body to Malacca.

It was late at night on March 22nd, 1553, that the Santa Cruz reached Malacca harbour and the corpse was taken to a house situated at the sopt where the clock tower stands today. The local clergy examined the body and they found, to their surprise, that it had been preserved incorrupt. The following day a great procession was organised and with candles in their hands, the people of Malacca accompanied the body to the chapel of Our Lady of the Mount, on top of the hill where St Paul's church stands today. The body was buried there in the middle of the choir, enveloped with a shroud, as it was the custom of those days. It is recorded that a plague that had been causing many deaths a day at that time, came to an abrupt end on that very day of the funeral.

An opportunity of sending the body of St Francis Xavier to Goa arose with the arrival from Japan of a Jesuit Brother, Peter de Alcacova, going to Goa to secure new missionaries for the already flourishing missions of Japan.

On December 11th, 1553, once more the body of St Francis Xavier was afloat on the sea. It was carried to the ship on a decorated sampan. All Malacca escorted the Santo Padre, bidding an eternal farewell to the apostle, to whom, during his life, most of them had scarcely listened. The coffin was placed in a cabin with silk hangings all round, in the midst of lighted candles and burning perfumes. The boat when passing between Penang island and the shore, went on a sandbank but was sent back to the deep waters by a strong wind that arose providentially. The boat called at Ceylon and Cochin and arrived at Goa on the evening on March 15th, 1554.

The next day the whole population accompanied the saint to the cathedral. The coffin was opened. After sixteen months the body was still fresh. During the next three days and three nights the people were allowed to see again the holy man whom God had sent them. Thousands of men and women kissed his feet and many miracles were wrought through the intercession of the great saint whom death itself seemed to have respected.

Article 2 : St Francis Xavier and Malacca

Francis Xavier was born in Navarre, Spain, in the year 1506, the year Vasco da Gama left the searoads of Lisbon, Portugal, in search of the east. Vasco da Gama, on reaching India, began a new tide, which changed the course of the history of mankind. By the birth of Xavier, God, in his divine providence, gave to Christianity a child who would be the pioneer of the impetus Christianity would give to the peoples of India, South East Asia and Asia :- St Francis Xavier, the Apostle of the Indies.

By the middle of June, 1540, Xavier arrived in Lisbon, after a three months long journey, through Italy, France and Spain. He was 33 years of age. He came as a fifteenth century traveller. In his right hand, he held a staff. From his shoulders fell a skin bag containing his breviary. From his neck hung a rosary. Everything about him showed austerity. Soon, the people of Lisbon, came to know who the pilgrim was :- Father Francis Xavier, the son of a noble family of Navarre, from the kingdom of Pamplona. In Lisbon, the main topic of conversation was "India" and the affairs of India. Lisbon had become the capital of the world. It had an intense life, for the goods, arriving from the east, were most valuable. The King of Portugal, D Manuel I, writing in 1499, to the Cardinal-Protector said, " Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, musk, camphor, pepper, bensain, sandlewood, raw silk, rubbard are in abundance in Lisbon."

In later years, gold and silver began to arrive in considerable quantities. Cervantes, at the end of the 16th century, wrote, "From the Portuguese India came the Naus, loaded with spices and with so much jewels and diamonds that a Nau alone was worthy of millions of gold." This was the Lisbon Xavier found on his arrival. Xavier, by the nobility of his birth, added to the austerity of his living, soon caught the attention of the Lisbon people. In Lisbon, two other missionaries, had already arrived; Fathers Simao Rodrigues and Paulo Camerte, who were awaiting for Xavier to depart with them as the first missionaries to the east. The King of Portugal, then Manuel I, 36 years of age and the Queen received the new missionaries with great joy. They were received in audience for more than one hour. They were invited to live in royal apartments but they felt that since they had devoted themselves to a life of sacrifice, they could not accept the royal offer. They petitioned instead to be allowed to stay and live in the hospital of the poor and to go out among the wealthy in Lisbon to beg for the poor.

These were the three men of God, who gave up a worthy living to form part of the nucleus of thousands and thousands of men, who from all races and lands, decided to devote their lives for the betterment of mankind in all parts of the world, in all fields of human activity, the Jesuits.

Francis Xavier was one of the first recruits of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. He lived a very holy life and his saintly influence still today fills time and space. The echoes of his virtuous life still resound today, from Goa to the whole continent of India, South East Asia and Asia. They are heard today in Malacca, which by God's providence, was chosen to be the headquarters of his journeys to some islands in Indonesia, to Japan, China and India.

St Francis' life, from the time he began his apostolic work in Lisbon until his body rested in Goa, where today it is still found incorrupt, is a chain of most extraordinary deeds, some of which, with the historical evidence today available, would be hard to explain without accepting God's intervention. We relate some of them, which took place in Malacca as they were handed down by Xavier's biographers, Fr Manuel Texeira and Fr Joao de Lucena both, contemporaries of the saint.

Francis Xavier was a linguist. His inumerable letters to Europe were written in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian but he seemed not to have known any of them very well, judging from his writings. Many of his errors in these languages can be attributed perhaps to the fact that he was a man always in a hurry.

Although a linguist, it is hard to understand, how a man who made roughly 38,000 miles by sea and land during 11 years of his apostolic work, could convey the gospel to thousands of men and women, in so many different languages and dialects in India, the Indonesia islands and China. He spared no time to learn those languages and to translate the essentials of Christian doctrines into them. We know, that with the help of linguas he translated the essentials of Christian doctrine into them. With the help of a lingua he translated the essentials of Christian doctrine into Malay. It would be a wonderful discovery if the manuscript or, at least a copy of it could be found. There is no doubt that the man of God had the gift of tongues.

On the 1st January, 1546 he left Malacca for Amboine. The crew, soldiers and passengers spoke different languages. The captain and officers and some of the soldiers and sailors were Portuguese but the rest were Indians, Malays and others. During the journey, which took more than a month to reach Amboine, he used to relate to them the message of Christ's teaching and all understood him in their own languages. A ship, like the one the saint sailed in, had 800 to 1200 tonage and from 100 to 180 men.

The case of Malacca was not the only one. Many were the cases in which it was reported the saint to have the gift of languages. On this point, the pope himself in the Bull of the saint's canonization wrote, "The signs and prodigies by which God confirmed the words of the apostles of the early years of his rising church, he mercifully renewed in favour of his servant Francis, for the increase of his new children...For he found himself on a sudden, gifted by God with the knowledge of the languages of various nations till then entirely unknown to him so as speak them as fluently as he had received education in those countries."

And it sometimes happened, when he was preaching to persons of different nations, each individual heard him, with wonder and delight, proclaiming the wonders of God in the language of his own country.

The most wonderful miracle the man of God, Francis worked in Malacca was the resuscitation of a young girl who not only was dead, but had been buried for three days. At the time of her death, Xavier was away from Malacca but was back three days later. The mother received the news with great relief and with hopes that the man of God would restore life to her daughter. In haste, she herself ran to Xavier and with full confidence in Xavier's power, she pleaded, "Father, had you heen here, my daughter would not have died, if you wish you can restore her life , for nothing is impossible to God, for he grants all things when you ask." The saint astonished to find such faith in the distressed mother who had just embraced the Christian faith. She appeared to him deserving of the favour she implored. As in the time of Christ, miracles were necessary for Chist to be accepted, so they were now in the beginning of Christianity in this part of the world. The saint turned to the grieved mother and assured her daughter was alive. He told her to go to the grave, remove the tombstone and unearth her body and she would fine her daughter alive. Between fear and a burning hope, the sorrowful mother, surprised that he did not offer himself to go with her said, "But my daughter is buried for the last three days." "Well, it does not matter," Xavier answered. "Go and open the tomb." She believed and asked no other questions, but amidst great faith and joy, the neophyte with the people who came with her to the graveyard, did as she was told and the young girl was found alive. The grave must have been near St Paul's church for there the burial ground was. St Paul's church is a temple of God, a sacred place. If the whole of St Paul's hill could speak, it would tell us of the wonderful things that its grounds and stones witnessed.

The Malacca case is not the only one. For, in the process of his canonization, several cases of his raising the dead to life during his sojourn in the coast of Fishery, Travancore, Japan and Sancian island are cited.

Antonio Fernandez, a boy 15 to 18 years of age, fell seriously ill. His mother was a Javanese and his father, a Portuguese. Both parents gave up all hope of a cure. The mother took the boy without the father's knowledge to a woman who tied a cord round the arm and promised a cure. But there was no result, on the contrary, the patient lost the sense of speech and was seized with deadly fainting fits. For three days, he did not speak nor eat. The mother, weeping bitterly was advised to call Fr Francis. The saint came immediately to the house. On his arrival, the youth, who before lay like a log, rose up in a fury and could hardly be restrained. The saint glanced at him. That was enough for him to think that the violence was not from natural causes but from evil spirits. He touched the raving boy with his crucifix. At this, the boy continued with even worse convulsions and made frightful grimaces and spat at the man of God. The saint knelt down read the passion of Christ from the Bible and prayed. As the saint finished praying, the boy's rage subsided and he became motionless. The saint stood up, told the parents to feed the boy at night. He also made parents promise to take him to the chapel of Our Lady of the Hill as soon as he was better and do it for nine consecutive days. In the course of that very night, the youth, waking up, seemed to be free. The rest of the night was passed most peacefully. With unspeakable joy, next morning, the parents took the boy to the chapel of Our Lady of the Hill. The saint was saying Mass then. The young lad never in his life suffered again from the same evil.

The gift of prophecy seemed to have been permanent in Xavier from the time he left Lisbon until he died in Sancian islan.

In Lisbon, as he was boarding the Sao Diogo, the flag ship of the fleet commanded by D. Alfonso Martins, the designated viceroy of Portuguese India, Xavier turned to his good friend, Fr Simao Rodrigues, "My dear brother, we will not see each other again. Let us accept this separation with patience." Simao went to bid farewell to Xavier. "You may remember," Xavier went on, "one night, in hospital, in Rome when you heard me crying, 'more Lord,' many a time you asked me to tell you the motive of that. I preferred not to tell you but as a brother dear to me, I trust it to your heart now."

"I saw then, I saw everything that I had to suffer and from that moment I had a great desire to suffer and this is the reason why I cried, 'more Lord, more, Lord!' "

It seemed that henceforth the gift of prophecy never left the saint. At Mozambique, D. Alfonso Martins, who commanded the Sao Diogo was preparing to sail but the saint told him not to do so. The Sao Diogo was the best ship in the fleet. With its crew and sailors, it carried on board about a thousand persons in all. D. Martins had a great respect for the saint's word and decided to sail in the galley Coulao, a small sailing and rowing boat of about 200 to 300 tons. The Sao Diogo later, on that very voyage, met with a disastrous end. It struck a rock off Salsette and was completely wrecked. Before this took place, the man of God is reported to have said, "Woe to me and to all of us, if we happen to be on her."

After preaching at Moro, an Indonesia island, Francis sailed to one of the neighbouring islands with a few friends. At one stage of the journey, all of a sudden Xavier uttered a piercing shriek and at the same time tearing his habit open at the breast exclaimed, "Oh my Jesus, Oh those unfortunate creatures massacred there! Oh! the poor, slaughtered creatures." While he was thus lamenting, he stood with his eyes fixed in a certain direction out to the sea. The sailors and passengers crowded around him and eagerly asked who were being massacred and where, for they saw nothing at all. He had been in ecstasy, all wrapped in God. Xavier blushed with confusion for he felt he had betrayed himself. Later on approaching the island they were sailing to, they found the mangled remains of eight Portuguese, lying stretched on the shore. They understood who the unfortunate men were.

In the life of the saint, there are at least 31 cases, in which because of the historical evidence, there is no doubt about Xavier's gift of prophecy. However, one of the most remarkable cases is connected with Malacca. He announced a victory for the Portuguese over the Achinese in a battle which was taking place hundreds of miles away, while he was preaching in the chapel of Our Lady of the Hill, on St Paul's hill.

In brief, the case is this :
Achean, the largest kingdom of Sumatra, decided to destroy the commerce of Malacca and to take the town from the Portuguese. It raised a powerful fleet, comprising seventy vessels of one kind or another, frigates, galleons, light galleys well equipped with arms, ammunition, combustibles and a few thousand fighting men. Malacca had no inkling of the Achinese intentions. On the 9th October1549, the fleet suddenly appeared in the searoads of Malacca and at 2.00am, Malacca was attacked. Some of the fighting men landed and, with scaling ladders, attempted to assault the fortress, but without success. They were driven back by the soldiers and citizens who rushed to defend the town. The Achinese were more successful on the sea, for they succeeded to burn some ships in the harbour, eight in all. Satisfied with the success of the night, the Achinese were seen in the morning near Pulau Upeh, an isle off Malacca town, with the fleet drawn up in a crescent formation. They caught a few fishermen and gave them a letter for the Captain of Malacca, challenging him to a naval battle. This challenge was a great humiliation to the Portuguese pride. Practically all of the naval force of the Portuguese in Malacca had been burnt by the Achinese. The situation was very embarrassing. The challenge could hardly be accepted. Xavier had just said Mass in the chapel of Our Lady of the Hill.(St Paul's hill) D. Francisco de Mello consulted him. Xavier, without any hesitation told the captain that the challenge had to be accepted. he offered to go himself with the soldiers and vessels available. The captain called for a meeting of the members of the council. Xavier attended as an adviser. The council was not in favour of accepting the challenge but Xavier spoke up and convinced them not to yield. To them, Xavier's word in cases like this, was sacred. All had had some personal experience of the saint's deeds.

Now all accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. They were galvanized into action by the saint's powers of persuasion and conviction that they would meet with success. Such was the incredible power of Xavier. All available workers set about repairing the ships. In a short time, a fleet was ready. Each ship had a complement of about one hundred and eighty soldiers.

Before they left, all knelt before Xavier and asked for his blessing. The fleet sailed but scarcely had it left the searoads of Malacca, then the flag ship, no one know how, was suddenly driven on to a rock and sank. Xavier had gone to the chapel of the hill to pray for victory. After this disaster, the fleet turned back to Malacca harbour and all the fighting men disheartened. D. Francisco de Mello sent a messenger to summon Xavier. He found him praying. God had revealed to him the disaster. He requested the messenger to inform D. Francisco not to be distressed and he remained in prayer before the picture of Mary, the Mother of God. After his prayers, he went personally to meet D. Francisco, argued with him that the challenge had to be met. Again D. Francisco called for a meeting of the council. All were opposed to Xavier's idea for some time. Xavier intervened and spoke with such conviction that all agreed with him. Xavier told them that for one galley lost, two much better ones would be added to the squadron. He told them that the enemy were already coming on the sea. On that very day, before sunset, information was received from Our Lady of the Hill, where the saint was praying, of the approach of two ships. D. Francisco de Mello immediately despatched a fast sailing boat to reconnoitre. The ships proved to be a couple of brigs, with seventy Portuguese soldiers on board commanded by Diogo de Baltazar Soares. The people were filled with joy and once more they turned to Xavier with thankful hearts and conviction that to him everything was possible. On Friday, 21st October, the fighting men left again, after the saint had blessed them and their flag. Nearly six weeks had passed and Malaca had no news. Most to the fighting men were regular soldiers with wives and children. Belief in the worst having happened began to grow in Malacca, chiefly among the members of the families of the soldiers. To create panic, the news was circulated that the Portuguese had been defeated and massacred. Wives, mothers, sisters and relatives began to mourn for the lost relatives. The whole blame was thrown on Fr Francis.

The Achinese fleet which had left the searoads of Malacca was now in the north, in Kedah. On the 3rd of December, the Portuguese fleet while approaching the estuary of the rive Perlis, Kedah, with the intention of finding provisions spotted the Achinese fleet. The Portuguese prepared themselves for an attack while the Achinese upon learning of the Portuguese presence, also got ready.

On Sunday, the 4th December, the two fleets met in a naval battle. At the very time of the battle, D. Francisco de Mello and a good crowd of people were attending service on St Paul's hill. Xavier was saying Mass and after the Gospel, went up to the pulpit to preach. In the course of his sermon, he suddenly became silent, like one carried out of himself and beholding events at a distance. His hands were tightly compressed, his eyes were immovably fixed on the crucifix suspended from the vault of the church., his countenance varying at times, expressing joy at times and grief at others. He was heard uttering incoherent sentences, half completed words, as is usual in cases of ecstasy but, soon it became evident to his audience that he was alluding to some feat of arm. Suddenly he became completely serene, as if things had happened as he had wished. His arms and head fell on the pulpit. He remained in that attitude, in complete silence for three minutes. Everyone present was silent, breathless with anxiety and surprise. The suspense was short lived. For Xavier, raising his head, his glowing like that of an angel, emphatically exclaimed, "Brethren, let us all together recite one Our Father, and one Hail Mary, in thanksgiving to God for the victory of our fleet. The Achinese have been defeated. On Friday, the news will reach us and soon afterwards the victorious fleet with its men will be with us."

Having said this he left the pulpit. Upon hearing this announcement, the people of Malacca who had been terribly depressed by listening to false reports, burst into joy. On Friday, some people flocked to the shore while others went to St Paul's hill to watch the approach of some distant sail. They were not disappointed for on that day, Manuel Godinho reached the Malacca harbour, commissioned to bring the news of victory to D. Francisco de Mello. Soon after the fleet arrived, and the captain with the whole city welcomed the fighting men with great joy. Francis, most radiant, thanked and embraced them. The soldiers then reported that at the most crucial moment of the battle, they saw the man of God encouraging them.

In reading the detailed life of this extraordinary man of God, there is no doubt that he had preknowledge of things or events. Thus he foresaw storms, dangers and deaths. When he left Goa, for the last time, he said to his friends, especially Cosmo Anes, who asked him how soon they might expect to see him again, "In this life never." Previously in Sancian island, to some of the Portuguese who were with him, he said, "My friends, let us prepare for death for within the space of a year, the majority of us will be dead." Before the twelve months had expired, six out of seven were dead.

Sancian island was an anchorage, well known to the Portuguese but on 20th November 1552, there were few if any, Portuguese ships there. All had left except the nau of a kind hearted Portuguese, George Alvares who seeing the man of God stranded on the beach took him to a hut. Xavier was sick with fever. On the following day his condition grew worse. On the 28th November with his crucifix in his hands, his eyes constantly fixed on heaven or on the crucifix, he grew delirious, but with the delirium of the saints. He spoke only of heaven and China. He lost his power of speech for the next three days but he recovered it just before his death and recited ejaculations in Latin, "Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me. Mary, my Mother, show thyself a Mother." He passed his last two days without eating or drinking anything. On Friday, 2nd December 1552 at about 2.00pm, he heard God's voice calling him. With his eyes fixed tenderly on the crucifix, those present heard him say in an exultant tone. "In te, domine, speravi, non confundar in aetenum." (In you alone, Lord I have hoped, may I not be disappointed.) Placidly he gave up his soul to his creator.

On the 17th of February 1553, two months and a half after the saint's death, George Alvares gave orders to unearth the coffin. To the surprise of all present, after the lime had been removed, they found the virginal body totally incorrupt, as if it were alive. A sweet fragrance issued from the coffin. After replacing the lime, the coffin was then taken to the ship, Santa Cruz which sailed to Malacca with its sacred treasure, arriving in theis town on the 22nd of March 1553.

Before the Santa Cruz arrived in Malacca, a boat was despatched to inform Malacca of the saint's death and of the treasure of his body. No Jesuit fathers were in Malacca but this made no difference. The whole town, the clergy and nobles prepared themselves to receive the saint's body with due honour. A funeral procession was organized and proceeded from the church on St Paul's hill through the streets to the beach. The whole town was there, for all remembered this most extraordinary man of God. Tears were in the eyes of everybody whether Christian or non Christian and in a most solemn funeral procession, the coffin was taken to the chapel of Our Lady on the top of St Paul's hill.

On arrival, the coffin was again opened and still the body was found to have the freshness of a living body. A sweet fragrance emanated from the coffin. The body was later buried, according to most of the bigraphers, on the way to the sacristy, as indicated by the open grave which can be found in the chancel of St Paul's church.

At the funeral procession and burial, Alvaro de Ataide, the then Malacca governor, was not seen. Out of envy, he had opposed the saint's plans and destroyed all arrangements of the mission to China. Most likely he felt guilty, chieftly when he heard that the saint's body was miraculously preserved incorrupt. His presence at the funeral ws too much for his pride. Before Xavier left for Sancian island he used all persuasive means to convince him not to object to his mission. Alvaro had confiscated the ship which was supposed to leave with the saint to China. The parish priest, Fr Soares even informed Alvaro of the excommunication he would incur if he did not change his mind. When Fr Soares asked Francis Xavier whether he would say goodbye to D. Alvaro de Ataide, he commented, "I will never see him again." The attitude of D. Alvaro was the greatest blow the man of God had suffered all his life, for he destroyed the greatest ambition of Xavier, to bring Christ to China. It is said that D. Alvaro died of leprosy in a prison in Portugal.

The presence of the saint's body continued to bring God's blessing upon the Malaca people. For several weeks Malacca was suffering from an epidemic. A good number of the people had died of it and people were still dying. On the arrival of the saint's body, the plague ceased immediately and those affected by it were cured without medicine. Malacca was also suffering from famine. This also disappeared, as the Santa Cruz and the other vessels well loaded with provisions, entered the port of Malacca.

Two months later, after the burial of the saint's body in Malacca. Fr Beira arrived in this town with orders to ship the body to Goa. In December 1553, it was taken to Goa, where till today it remains intact, after more than 400 years.

(Adapted from the Voice of the Ruins by Rev Fr M. J. Pintado)

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