St. Francis Xavier was an ambitious missionary, willing to sail to every nation on earth to convert everyone to the Christian faith.
He spent much of his missionary career in India and Japan, sowing the seeds of the Gospel in those areas.
His last wish was to reach China and to spread Christianity among the people there.
According to M. T. Kelly in A Life of St. Francis Xavier, “He…had been much attracted by the Chinese merchants whom he met in Japan. He thought them quite as intelligent as the Japanese and as eager to acquire knowledge, if indeed they were not superior in intellect. From his inquiries he found that China was a rich land full of religious sects…though he did not believe there were any Christians there. It was likely to prove a fruitful mission and if the Chinese embraced the true faith, the Japanese would soon forsake their paganism.”
St. Francis Xavier made many preparations for this voyage, including “a translation of his work on Christianity into the Chinese language.”
He spent much time figuring out the logistics of his voyage and planned out every part of his trip, ready to suffer martyrdom if it be God’s will.
The Portuguese did not want St. Francis to go to China, as they were afraid that their trading agreements would stop. They did everything in their power to try and stop him from going to China, but he persisted and would not be delayed any longer.
The ship he was on stopped at a few islands along the way and on one of them St. Francis became sick with a fever. After 15 days he recovered in health, but “he thought of nothing else and could think of nothing day and night but of converting China. He often walked along the shore turning his eyes to China and he said to friends that his only wish was to be set down at the gates of Canton and that he would not trouble himself with what might happen afterwards.”
The closest he ever got to China was the island of Shangchuan. He became ill again and died in a hut on the island, failing to ever reach the mainland.
While his mission failed, many other missionaries have taken-up the challenge of sowing the seeds of the Gospel among the Chinese people.