Devotion to St Francis Xavier (2) — The link to India

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro


The Castro family went to India in 1550, initially to Daman, and later to Goa where they erected palaces and served the king, and remained there until 1850. “This date marks the definitive return to Lisbon of the representative of the family, and my great-grandfather, D. Luis Caetano de Castro,” he explains. The title Count Nova Goa would be awarded for “the valuable services rendered to the nation in lands of the East.”

To give an idea of “what has become the splendor” of the Castros, our interlocutor, sitting on the sofa of his house, not far from the silver of the family and an ivory statue of the Child Jesus of Indo-Portuguese art, reads excerpts from a letter from his aunt, written in 1950, in which she reveals the astonishment shown by a certain Indian character, “regular house visit,” who said that when he saw the family members leave the car and drive, they “carried beaters ahead like kings, that all might depart.”

Times have changed. Yesterday’s domain of Nova Goa is now a school run by Dominicans. But if the Castros lost palaces to the East, they won others in the Portugal itself, thanks to strategic marriages. One of them, he linked them to the family of the Abreus – who thought themselves so powerful that they said of themselves, “after God only the Abreus” – more properly to António de Abreu, than a court decision, “following of a quarrel with the friars of the convent of Christ,” commanded a ship to Malacca, and he was also one of the “discoverers” of the Maluku Islands.

Like the count, it is in Spain that one must look for the origin of the Saint Francis Xavier. In a golden cradle, at the castle of Solor dos Aguares y Javier, Francisco is born, “rich family of material goods and honorific titles,” without this factor preventing the future young person from maintaining a close connection with the population in general. This experience will facilitate in the course of his travels the contact with the peoples and places that he visited, having always demonstrated, the said “Apostle of the East,” an extraordinary capacity for adaptation.

Graduated from the University of Paris, Xavier was talented in languages and in the engineering arts. Friend of Ignatius of Loyola, with whom he visited the Holy Places, he entered the seminary and with Ignatius laid the foundations of what would become the Society of Jesus. His physical weakness does not prevent him from responding to the appeal of King John III, who longed to see evangelizers depart for the East. The appeal, he felt it in such a way that from then on he assume himself as “Portuguese at heart.” Even today, throughout Asia – from Goa to Malacca, from Macassar to Madagascar, or from Japan to China, where he died, even at the gates of the empire which he vainly sought to evangelise – Xavier, venerated like no other, is mainly a memory of the Portuguese.

In Goa we find again the bond that binds the saint to the earl. Also for the Castro family, Goa was the primordial passion of Basque Xavier. And to Goa went to lay down his body, now a most pretended relic for all Asian and African Christianity. Patron saint of Goa and thes Goans, whether Catholics or Hindus, all invoke him or place themselves under his protection.



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