Newsletter of the District of Asia

 Oct - Dec 2002

One of St. Francis Xavier's Last Letters

(To Francisco Perez in Malacca)

Through the mercy and kindness of God our Lord, the ship of Diogo Pereira, and all of us who sailed on it, arrived safely in this harbor of Sanchoâo (Sancian), where we met many other merchant ships. This harbor of Sanchoâo is thirty leagues from Cantâo (Canton). Many merchants of the city of Cantâo come to this Sanchoâo to trade with the Portuguese. The Portuguese diligently treated with them to see if any merchant from Cantâo would be willing to take me. All made excuses, saying that they would be placing their lives and their possessions at great risk if the governor of Cantâo learned that they had brought me with them; and because of this they were unwilling to take me at any price on their ships to Cantâo.

It pleased God our Lord that a distinguished man, a resident of Cantâo, offered to take me for two hundred cruzados in a small boat in which there would be no other sailors except his sons and servants, so that the governor of Cantâo would not, through the sailors, come to know who was the merchant who had brought me. He further offered to keep me hidden in his house for three or four days and to take me from there one morning before dawn to the gate of the city with my books and baggage so that I might go at once from there to the house of the governor and tell him how we had come to go to where the king of China is, showing him the letter which we received from the Lord Bishop for the king of China, and telling him how we have been sent by His Highness to proclaim the law of God.

According to what the people of the land tell us, the dangers which we shall incur are two: the first is that the man who takes us, after he has been paid the two hundred cruzados, will leave us on some deserted island, or throw us into the sea, so that it does not come to the knowledge of the governor of Cantâo; the second is that if he takes us to Cantâo, and we come before the governor, he will give orders that we be tortured or be put in prison, since it is such a strange thing and there are so many prohibitions in China that anybody should go there without a pass from the king, since the king so strongly forbids strangers entering his land without his permit. Besides these two dangers, there are' others much greater which do not affect the people of the land, and which would take too long to recount, although I will not omit to mention a few.

The first is to cease to hope and confide in the mercy of God, since it is for His love and service that we are going to manifest His law and Jesus Christ, His Son, our Redeemer and Lord, as He well knows. Since through His holy mercy, He gave us these desires, to distrust His mercy and power now, because of the dangers in which we could see ourselves for His service, is a much greater danger (for if He is served more, He will protect us from the dangers of this life) than the evils which can be inflicted upon us by all the enemies of God, since without God's licence and permission, the devils and their ministers cannot harm us in any way.

And we must also strengthen ourselves with the saying of the Lord that says: "He that loves his life in this world will lose it, and he who loses it for the sake of God will find it," which is in keeping with what Christ our Lord also says: "He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God."

We, considering these dangers to the soul, which are much greater than those of the body, find that it is safer and more secure to pass through bodily dangers than to be caught in spiritual dangers before God. We are consequently determined to go to China by any way whatever. I hope in God our Lord that the outcome of our voyage will be to the increase of our holy faith, no matter how much the enemies and their ministers persecute us, since "if God is for us, who will be victorious over us?"

When the ship leaves this port of Sanchoâo for Mallaca, I hope in God our Lord that it will bear news of how we were received in Cantâo, since boats are always coming from Cantâo to this port, through which I shall be able to write about what we have experienced from here to Cantâo, and what the governor of Cantâo did to us.

Alvaro Ferreira and Antonio China were always ill on their voyage; now, through the mercy of God, they are feeling better. I have discovered that Antonio is of no use as an interpreter, since he has forgotten how to speak Chinese. A certain Pero Lopez, who was a slave of Antonio de Lopez Bobadilha, who died in the siege of Mallaca, offered to go with me as an interpreter. He knows how to read and write Portuguese, and he also reads and writes Chinese to a certain extent. He offered himself to go with me with great courage and readiness; God will reward him in this life and in the next; commend him to God our Lord that He grant him the gift of perseverance.

When we arrived in Sanchoâo, we built a church; and I said Mass every day until I became ill with fevers. I was sick for fifteen days; now, through the mercy of God, I have recovered my health. There has been no lack of spiritual labors such as in hearing confessions and visiting the sick, and reconciling enemies. From here I do not know what else to tell you except that we are firmly resolved to go to China. All the Chinese whom we have seen, I mean distinguished merchants, show that they are happy and eager for us to go to China, since it seems to them that we are bringing a law written in books which will be better than what they have, or because they are pleased with what is new. They all show that they are much pleased, but no one is willing to take us because of the dangers which they might incur.

Written in Sanchoâo.

The church of Our Lady + and the college, if it should belong to us, and all that belongs to the Society of Jesus will remain with Padre Vicente Viegas. Give it to him with your own hand and leave him a copy of the donation which the Lord Bishop gave of the house of Our Lady to the Society of the name of Jesus, so that neither the vicar nor anyone else should have anything to do with the church of Our Lady except Padre Vicente Viegas. And so you will earnestly ask Padre Vicente Viegas on your part and mine that he be willing to accept this burden for the love of God until the rector of Sâo Paulo should provide for some person to come to stay in Mallaca. And if it seems good to you that Bernardo should remain with him, he should remain to instruct the children.

I am waiting each day for a Chinaman who is to come from Cantâo to take me. May it please God that he come as I desire it, for if by any chance God does not wish it, I do not know what I should do, whether I should go to India or to Siâo, so that from Siâo I might go in the embassy which the king of Siâo sends to the king of China. I am writing you this so that you may tell Diogo Pereira that if he has to go to China and has some way of writing to me in Siâo, that he write to me, so that we meet there or in some other port of China. Keep a close friendship with Diogo Pereira both in Mallaca and in India, recommending him first of all to God; and then assist him in every other way you can, since he is so great a friend of the Society.

May Christ our Lord give us His help and favor. Amen.

From Sanchoâo, today, the twenty-second of October, 1552.
Wholly yours in Christ,

(From Francis Xavier, His Life, his Times, by Georg Shurhammer, SJ, vol. IV, pp.627 – 629)

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