The following are quotes from the principal sources on the real Francis Xavier and the legend of his speaking in tongues. This is a quotes only document — a comparative analysis of all this information is in the final stages and will be posted as a separate article.
The debate and controversy that surrounded St. Francis Xavier’s alleged speaking in tongues was a source of internal friction within Catholicism, especially the among the Jesuits themselves, and a rallying point for Protestants. The real Francis Xavier did not speak in tongues, but the legend of Francis did.
How this legend began and grew is an interesting and complex story.
This leads into a journey about how Medieval Catholics viewed speaking in tongues; what it meant to them, how it was applied, and the politics that surrounded this practice.
The legend of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues ranks within the top five themes throughout the two-thousand-year history of the christian doctrine of tongues. There is no doubt that this legend is the most complex one out of any documents in the Gift of Tongues Project. There are numerous reasons why the mystery of Francis Xavier is difficult. The original documentation is multilingual; spanning Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, and French. The subject is wrapped in Medieval Catholicism, which has its own unique history, customs, personalities and procedures that outsiders such as myself have a difficult time to grasp. Xavier’s gift of tongues is deeply embedded with international and national politics. The topic is shrouded in religious symbols and shifts into the Protestant realm where Rationalists especially took critical aim. It spans across continents and new worlds that most Europeans hardly knew at the time. The maps, names and locations mentioned in the texts are far from the modern English mind.
This article is produced to meet a requirement of the Gift of Tongues Project which is the digital capturing of source texts. The following are actual quotes from testimonies, writers, and publications that highly influenced and perpetuated this myth. These are actual quotes with little or no commentary from myself relating to Xavier speaking in tongues. They are organized according to date; from the earliest publications shortly after Xavier’s death, all the way into the twentieth-century. The Italian, Spanish and Portuguese originals are not digitally captured because I have no knowledge of these languages or the ability to do data-entry in them. However, links to the original text along with an English translation is supplied where appropriate.
This file is designed for the researcher, not for the casual reader. This is the longest article found in the Gift of Tongues Project because of the amount of source material. It may take a few moments to load the full contents into the browser, please be patient.
- Pedro de Ribadeneira
- Giovanni Pietro Maffei
- Horatius Tursellinus
- João de Lucena
- The Book Monumenta Xaveriana:
- Emanuel Fernandez
- Thomas Vaz
- Antonio Peirera
- Pope Urban VIII
- Daniello Bartoli
- Dominique Bouhours
- Pope Benedict XIV
- John Douglas
- Hugh Farmer
- Charles Butler
- Henry James Coleridge
- Andrew Dickson White
- A Jesuit response to Andrew Dickson White
- Edith Anne Steward
- James Brodrick
- Georg Schurhammer
- Volume II
- Volume IV
Pedro de Ribadeneira
Pedro de Ribadeneira (1526–1611) was a Jesuit scholar, teacher, and writer. He was best known for his Spanish work, Vita Del P. Ignatio Loiola (The Life of Loyola) (1572). Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus and Xavier was one of his first recruits. According to two well-known scholars: the Jesuit historian and writer, James Brodrick (1891–1973), and presently Franco Mormando, a professor specializing in Italian and Romance literature at Boston College, de Ribadeneira is where the grand hyperbole of Xavier’s miracles grew.1
However, no reference to Xavier miraculously speaking in tongues in de Ribadeneira’s Latin or French translations can be found. The gift of tongues as part of Xavier’s story must have started later and from a different source. However, one must be mindful that de Ribadeneira made later changes to his histories. The later printed versions included more miracles. No comparative work was done to prove or disprove this claim within the Gift of Tongues Project.
Here are links to his works in the original Spanish: then Latin, French, and a link where you can find an English translation. It is not known whether these are earlier or later revised publications. An English translation has recently become available, which I had no access to, and is only available through purchase.
Giovanni Pietro Maffei
Giovanni Pietro Maffei (1533–1603) was a Jesuit author and historian with a keen interest in documenting the missionary work of the Society of Jesus – a Catholic based organization that had been founded by Ignatius of Loyola in that same century. He was tasked by the Cardinal of Portugal to write the history of the Portuguese mission. In 1588 he produced the Historium Indicarum Libri XVI.2
The Italian work is found at Google’s website, Historium Indicarum Libri XVI. A search for the Italian keyword for language, lingua, only brings up two responses within this book: both are unimportant as it relates to the gift of tongues. However, if one is able to read Italian, there may be more references found in different constructs.
Horatius Tursellinus (1545–1599), is the Latin for Orazio Tursellinus. He was the “head of the Jesuit colleges in Rome, Florence and Loreto.”3 His Latin work De Vita Francisci Xaverii: Qui primus e Societate IESV in Indiam & Japoniam Euangelium inuexit. Libre Sex set the standard in 1596 for all other biographers that followed. This book was translated into English by Thomas Fitzherbert in 1622. The same year that Francis Xavier was canonized. In English it is titled, The admirable life of S. Francis Xavier Deuided into VI bookes. Enclosed is my updated and modernized English version of Fitzherbert’s efforts.4
[Pg. 126] Besides this, he encountered with many great difficulties, which the want of things necessary, and the incommodity of those places could not but cause in him, being [Pg. 127] a stranger: yet above all other difficulties the want of language did most trouble him. For when he questioned the inhabitants of matters belonging to religion, they answered they were Christians, but being wholly ignorant of the Portuguese language, they had not learned the instructions and precepts of the Christian faith. Xavier had brought with him two scholars from the College of Goa, who were of ripe years, and skillful both in the Portuguese, and the Malauarian tongue5 which those country people used. But finding by experience that to instruct children and ignorant people by an interpreter, to be a thing both very tedious, and of small profit, he chose rather to learn himself their language, then to use interpreters; so great desire he had of their conversion.
Therefore, he caused his said interpreters to turn the principles of the Christian doctrine into the Malauarian tongue. Then he (although he were now grown into good years) becoming again, as it were, a child for Christ, getting the same by heart, went up and down the streets with a little bell in his hand calling the children and people together, in some convenient place, and there taught them those principles he had learned in their own language. His fervour in teaching made the people learn with more alacrity. And in the space of a month the children which before were rude and knew nothing, had gotten almost by heart all what he had taught them so that Francis neither repented himself of his labour in teaching them, nor they of their diligence in learning. Nay they were so set upon learning, that they never ceased to solicit him to [Pg. 128] give them set prayers one after another to learn by heart, and hearing they would so press him, that he could scarce have leisure to recite his divine office in quiet, they never making an end of begging of him, until he had performed their desire.
[Pg. 186] In the meantime Francis did not only omit anything of his former old exercises of Christian charity, but also invented new. For after the sun was set, he went up and down the City with a little Bell, by some grave sentence or speech admonished the people to call upon Gods divine clemency, for the souls which were tormented in Purgatory, and for them that were in deadly sin. Which new invention being no less profitable for the living then for the dead,[Pg. 187] did not a little set on fire the Malacensians hearts. These labours of his, whereby he restored the Christian discipline wholly decayed in the City of Malaca, were much increased, by no small employment, which he took in translating, with the help of an interpreter, the Christian doctrine into that language, which the Macazarians did also understand, to whom he greatly desired to go, moved thereto by the often good tidings which came from thence. For that about the same time news was brought, that the people of that country were greatly inclined to receive the seed of the Christian Faith, because there were no Temples of Idols amongst them, nor Idolatrous Priests to draw the to the worship of false Gods: They only adored the Sun when it rose, and besides that, they had no other God at all.
Nothing now seemed longer to Xavier then that day, when as having turned the Catechism into their language, and understood the state of the Island, he might go to instruct them: yet in the meantime he furnished himself with contemplation of divine things, but specially with heavenly provision, for the undertaking of so great a charge. For after he had spent whole days in offices of charity, he would in the night defraud himself of his sleep, and sit up watching in prayer and meditation, that so he might come unto the Macazarians wholly inflamed with heavenly fire, and burning love, both to God and men. He had now spent some months at Malaca, yet there came no news of the ship which he expected to return. Wherefore with the Governors good leave he [Pg. 188] resolved to go to Macazaria, hastening to instruct that nation in the Christian faith.
[Pg. 247] Anger6 being not ignorant of the Portuguese language, began to confer with Xavier about his business without an interpreter; whom he instructed with such diligence in the mysteries and precepts of the Christian faith, that he freed him from all scrupulous anxiety of mind, and planted in his soul the seed of a virtuous and happy life:
[Pg. 255] Now did the fruit of that Seminary begin to appear. For besides the Priests and Interpreters who had been sent thence with no little profit into the coast of Comorinum, many scholars who were well grown in learning and discipline were sent abroad in missions to the villages near about, from where they brought many Ethnics to Goa to be baptized. Whereas Xavier much rejoicing, esteemed it a thing of great importance, to be very exact, in the training up of scholars, from whom so much spiritual profit might arise. As he was thus busied, he was given to understand that John de Castro the viceroy of India was somewhat averted from [Pg. 258] the Society through the speeches of some malevolent persons. Whereupon he resolved to go unto him upon the first occasion, and to give him satisfaction. But there happened in the meantime an accident worthy to be recounted, which manifested his inflamed zeal in meditation.
[Pg. 263] First therefore he took order for the sufficient instructing of those three Japanese people who were with him, both in the Portuguese language, and other literature, that they might serve him for Interpreters.
[Pg. 290] But now he had much more to do, in acquainting his tongue with their language, then his palate with their diet. For although the Japanese language be not of its own nature very hard, yet have the Japanese by their endeavours brought it to be exceeding difficult to learn. There is not any language more copious than theirs. For to express diverse conceits of things in a different manner, it has wonderful store of words, all signifying the same thing; and in using thereof, it [Pg. 291] hath a certain kind of elegance, and as it were, a smack proper to that country. They do not without great consideration, use any word which first occurs, but, as some are more elegant, some of a lower strain, so do they keep a proportion with the matter, and persons to whom they are applied. Nay, which is very strange, they speak far otherwise, then they write. The men use one kind of language, and the women another: and the letters which they send one to another, are written with one kind of character, and their Books with another. By which copiousness, and variety both of speaking and writing, much labour and time is required to learn their language. And no man of civility must be ignorant in this kind. For if he do swerve anything from their manner of speech, they will laugh at him, as at an ignorant and rustic person; not otherwise than we are accustomed to do, when in speaking of Latin, and one should make an odious jarring, in choice ears, by harsh and barbarous words.
Francis therefore thinking that it now stood him upon, to learn their language howsoever; when he had caused Paul the Japanese to set down the chief heads of the Christian doctrine in writing, he met with many rubs. For Paul being a man without learning, was no whit a better interpreter then a Master. And although his endeavours were above his forces, yet he effected less than the matter required. For he interpreted those points so ill, that there was no connection in his speech. And he also wrote so badly, that the Japanese, who were even learned, could hardly [Pg. 292] read his writing without laughing. But Xavier, being of an undaunted courage, which always strived against difficulties, and making small account of men laughing at him when their salvation was in hand, went perseverantly still on in the business. Wherefore dealing in the best in manner he could with the people, he by the sanctity of his life, and divine fervour of spirit, wrought so efficaciously with them, that he did more good by himself, then either by Paul, or any other Interpreter. For at the novelty of the thing, and of the doctrine he taught, the inhabitants came flocking about him by whole troups, partly out of desire to see strangers wholly different from them, both in habit and behaviour; and partly also, to know what Religion they had brought out of the other world. But because for want of perfect language, they could not well explicate their own meaning, nor yet resolve those who asked them questions, some scoffed at them, others mocked at their strange habit and behaviour, and others pitied them being strangers, deeming that such men coming out of another world as far as Japan, to bring thither a new religion, ought neither to be fools, nor to bring with them matters of small moment: so as by this variety of judgement many were moved with a desire to know the new religion they had brought, and received much profit thereby.
[Pg. 295] Now the Bonzies being partly won by Xavier, and partly convinced by his erudition, the business seemed to be in a good forwardness. But because he could not deal with the people without an interpreter, his endeavours were indeed much hindered through want of language. Wherefore being solicitous how to procure the salvation of so many perishing souls, he with all speed learned the principles of the Japanese tongue, whereof he had before gotten a taste.
[Pg. 424] Francis therefore being not only deprived of all help, but also not knowing what to resolve upon, had many different cogitations in his mind. And that no mortification might be wanting unto him, both his companions lay very sick. Besides, Anthony of the holy Faith, a Chinese born, and scholar of the College of Goa, whom he had brought with him from India for his Interpreter, having through want of use almost forgotten the Chinese language, could now stand him in little steed, especially seeing he was wholly ignorant, and unskilful of that civil and gentle language, which the Governors there are wont to use. But Xavier having an invincible heart and courage, and thinking with himself that he was bound to leave nothing unattempted, persisted nevertheless to follow on the business very hard, hoping that yet at last he might, through Gods assistance, overcome the difficulty.
João de Lucena
This Portuguese Jesuit (1549–1600) is hardly quoted by any later biographer, though he is one of the earlier Xavier historians. He brought about História da Vida do padre Francisco Xavier do que Fizeram na Índia os Mais Religiosos da Companhia de Jesus in 1600. This Portuguese document remains untranslated in English. There may be important information that I cannot resource due to not knowing the Portuguese language, though the importance is doubtful. Later Jesuit writers do not quote him when it comes to miracles of any sort.
Monumenta Xaveriana, ex autographis vel ex antiquioribus exemplis collecta
This book contains copies of Francis Xavier’s letters and records of his canonization process. The work has portions in Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin. Below is the results of three testimonies and Pope Urban VIII’s reference of Francis Xavier speaking in tongues, and the most often quoted source from one of Xavier’s personal letters. The time period of this book covers is from 1540 and onwards. It includes the canonization process that culminates in 1622, and matters concerning Xavier after he died.
[Pg. 546] Emanuel Fernandez, indus, et parava, coniugatus, natus et incola in hoc oppido Virandepatanani, mercator, qui vivit suis expensis et commercio…..
Dixit se habere annos 80 et ultra…..
. . .Insuper vidit ipse testis quod P. Franciscus Xaverius praedicabat illis gentibüs eorum lingua, et omnes mirabantur quod tam bene loqueretur, cum tamen tune ad illos veniret, nec posset [Pg. 547] eorum linguam addiscere, quae est valde difficilis. Et cum essent in illo portu et oppido personae diversarum nationum et variarum linguarum, in quadam concione, quam habuerat dictus Pater in praesentia ipsius testis, affirmabant omnes se eum intelligere ac si uniuscuiusque própria et naturali lingua loqueretur. Et ipse testis illum tune intellexit in sua lingua. Et fama erat apud omnes illum, statim atque veniebat in unam regionem, loqui quamcumque linguam. Quare propter hoc multi convertebantur, quia hoc habebant pro magno miraculo…..
Here is my translation:
Emanuel Fernandez, Indian and a Parava, married, born and inhabitant in this town of Virandeptanani, merchant, who lives off his own monies and commodities. It is said he is to be 80 years or more.
Moreover, his own testimony saw that Francis Xavier was preaching to these peoples in their language and everyone was astonished that he was speaking so well. When he came to them at that time, he could not learn their language which is very difficult. And while persons of the diverse nations and various languages were in that port and town, in a certain meeting, which the Father had spoken in the presence of this very witness, everyone confirmed that they understood him as if he was speaking in the specific and characteristic language of each one. And his own testimony understood him at that time in his language. And the fame was that among everyone, and also he came to one region, he was immediately able to speak whatever language. Which, according to this, many were converted because they held this as a great miracle.”7
The second is a testimony by Thomas Vaz:
[Pg. 554] [Sept 7, 1616] Thomas Vaz, indus et parava, indigena, coniugatus et incola huius Tutucurini, vir optimus, christianus et timens Deum, qui vivit ex suis bonis…..
[Pg 555]. . .Audivit amplius ipse testis a personis quae viderunt miraculum, quod P. Franciscus Xaverius habuit extasim in consecratione missae, quam celebrabat in quadam ecclesia portus Tevanapatani Coromandelli, et quod ibi, in quadam concione habita populo, cum essent praesentes multi mercatores diversarum nationum et variarum linguarum, unusquisque intelligebat illum in sua propria lingua ac si in illa tantum loqueretur, quod habitum fuit pro magno miraculo; et haec eadem fama erat in tota ora Piscariae, quod ille praedicabat statim atque venit in dictam oram idiomate paravano, ita polito, ac si ibi natus esset. Et de his omnibus miraculis supra relatis fuit etiam et est publica vox et fama…..
Thomas Vaz, Indian and Parava, Indigenous, married and of such an inhabitant of Tutucurini, a good man, Christian and God fearer, who lived from his own bounty…..
His own distinguished witness heard from persons who saw the miracle that Father Francis Xavier had an ecstasy in the celebrated mass which he celebrated in a certain church in the port Tevanapatani Coromandelli, a particular speech was made to the people, while there many merchants of the diverse nations and various languages were present, each one heard him in their own distinct language as if he was only speaking in it which had made for a great miracle. And this very same report was in the entire coastland of Piscaria, because as soon as he preached, he too came having spoken in the coastal language of Paravano, so refined, as if he had been born in this place.8
Antonius Peirera, Testimony, November 24th, 1556.
[Pg. 434] Antonius Pereira, regiae quoque familiae patricius…..
[Pg. 436] Dixit insuper, quamcumque in regionem dictus Pater venisset, paucissimis eum diebus proprium gentis idioma et callere et loqui solitum, idque accidisse tum in ora malabarica et in Maluco, tum in Japonia, quoniam ipse testis omnium harum linguarum fuerat peritus, et iisdem saepe loquutus fuerat cum Patre, sicut etiam cum eodem sermones contulerat in lingua malayca.
Antonius Pereira, of royalty and of high rank…..
Moreover, it is said that whatever region the said father would have come to, he became experienced and accustomed to speak in a few short days the particular language of that people, that happened while at the shore of Malabarica et in Maluco, and in Japan, because he [Pereira] himself had been an expert witness of all these languages, and likewise he had often spoken with the Father, as in the case of these very things he even conveyed lectures in the Malaysian language.
Pope Urban VIII: Bull of Canonization, August 6, 1623
[Pg. 709] Signa vero et prodigia, quibus Dominus apostolorum suorum sermonem in nascentis Ecclesiae exordiis confirmavit ad illius novae sobolis incrementum, in manu etiam servi sui Francisci misericorditer renovaverat. Subito enim a Deo diversarum ac [Pg. 710] incognitarum gentium linguas, quas non noverat, edoctus, disertissime, quasi in iisdem terris educatus esset, loquebatur; et acciderat quandoque et eum, ad diversarum nationum populos concionem habentem, unusquisque eodem tempore lingua sua, in qua natus erat, magnalia Dei loquentem cum stupore et exstasi audiret; eoque miraculo multitudo magna commota reciperet verbum Dei.
Truly signs and wonders, to which the Lord confirmed the speech of his apostles in the beginnings of the Church’s rising for the growth of new offspring, He likewise mercifully restored by the hand of his servant Francis. Indeed, he was suddenly speaking by God languages of diverse and unknown nations which he did not know, he had been taught most eloquently, as if he been brought up in these same countries. And whenever it occurred about his giving an address to persons of the diverse of nations, each one heard his own language at the very same time in which he was born, that he was hearing this one speaking the great things of God with wonder and awe and the multitude having been greatly moved with this great miracle received the word of God.
The most quoted source from one of Xavier’s personal letters
As found in Epistle 90, November 5th, 1549.
The original Portuguese:
Prazerá a Deos noso Senhor dar-nos lingoa pera Ihes poder falar de cousas de Deos, porque então faremos muyto fructo com sua ajuda, graça e faour. Agora somos entre elles como humas estatuas, que falão e practicão de nós muytas cousas, e nós outros, por não entender a lingoa, nos calamos: e agora nos cumpre ser como meninos em aprender a lingoa, e prouusesse, a Deos que en verdadeira simplicidade e pureza de animo os imitassemos, forçando-nos ha tomar meos e dispõr-nos a ser como elles, assy acerqua de aprender a lingoa, com acerqua de mostrar simplicidade dos meninos, que careçem de malicia.9
The Latin Translation found in Tursellinus’ De Vita Francisci Xaverii:
Faxit Deus, ut ad divinarum explicationem rerum, Iaponicam linguam, condiscamus quam primum. tum demum aliquam Christianae rei navabimus operam. Nam nunc quidem inter eos tanquam mutae quaedam statuae, versamur. Multa enim illi de nobis et dicunt, et agitant, ad quae nos scilicet obmutescimus, patrii ipsorum sermonis ignari. In praesentia in linguae huius percipiendis elementis repuerascimus, atque utinam imitemur simplicitatem candoremque puerorum : nos certe infantium similitudinem sequimur, cum in vernacula lingua percipienda, tum vero in infantium simplicitate meditanda.10
Here is my English an English translation from the Latin. (A translation of the Portuguese ought to be the case here but I do not know Portuguese):
God grant that we may acquire such a thing first as the Japanese language in order to explain the divine doctrine. Then finally we will do with zeal the certain work of the matters of Christianity. We indeed move about now among them something like mute statues. For these people are all talking and occupied about us, in fact we are silent, unaccustomed to their native speech. In the present time, we have become a child again in the process of learning the elements of this language. If only we could imitate the simplicity and candor of children. We are certainly following the likeness of infants while in the process of acquiring the native tongue, but also for sure in the children’s rudimentary task of practising.
Daniello Bartoli (1608–1685) was an Italian Jesuit historiographer and writer. 11 His work, L’Asia published in 1653 is one of the most influential works on the life and times of Francis Xavier.
The following is from: D. Bartoli. St. Francis Xavier: Apostle of the Indies and Japan. Translated from the Italian by Frederick William Faber. Baltimore: John Murphy & Co. 1868.
[Pg. 340] To the earnest endeavors to secure the protection of Heaven were added to all other means calculated to qualify him for the successful preaching of the gospel in Japan. In the first place, he applied himself to the study of the language, reducing himself again to the condition and simplicity of childhood, learning the words and their signification [Pg. 341] one by one, the verbs, the pronunciation, comparing sounds, and acquiring the idioms of this barbarous dialect, — an undertaking which could not be otherwise than distasteful to a man his age. Moreover, such a delay must have been doubly trying to his excessive fervor and zeal; for, as he himself writes, he was become like one deaf and dumb, being unable to speak to others, or to understand those who spoke to him.
Although, as we have before remarked, he had been favored with the gift of tongues, the gift was not so perpetual as to enable him to converse in a foreign tongue the moment he landed in this foreign country. It was only when God was pleased to invest him with this peculiar trait of the apostolate; only on occasions that the Divine Master was pleased to infuse the habit of a language. But, whenever this was the case, he spoke it with as much grace, elegance, and case as if he were a native of the country in question.
Humility forbade him ever to expect this miraculous accessory, and he therefor made himself at once a scholar, availing himself of interpreters to transfer the mysteries of religion to the dialect of the country; and then, after committing them to memory, he went forth to announce them in public.
He began by doing this at the coast of Fishery, at Malacca, and at the Moluccas. He did the same in Japan, continuing his studies for a space of forty days; after which God became his master, when in a moment the construction of the language, its vocabulary and pronunciation, were as perfectly stamped on his intellect as if he had been [Pg. 342] born in Japan. In proof of which stupendous miracle, I shall here adduce the most incontrovertible testimony. Xavier himself admitted that, naturally, he had no talent for the acquisition of languages: nevertheless, we know from those who heard him — from those who were most intimate with him — that he could discourse fluently in more than thirty Indian dialects, all differing essentially from each other; and what is yet more remarkable, when he has been speaking in one single language, he was at the same time understood by people several different nations as clearly as if he had been addressing each individual in the language peculiar to his own country. On this very point, listen to the world of the sovereign pontiff himself, words copied from the Bull of the saint’s canonization:–
“The signs and prodigies by which God confirmed the words of his apostles in the early years of his rising Church, he mercifully renewed in favor of his servant Francis, for the increase of his new children, brought to the knowledge of the truth by his labors.
For he found himself on a sudden gifted by God with a knowledge of the languages of various nations till then wholly unknown to him, so as to speak them as fluently as if he had received his education in those countries.
And it sometimes happened that, when he was preaching to persons of several different nations, each individual heard him, with wonder and delight, proclaiming the wonders of God in the language of his country; whereupon vast [Pg. 343] numbers, struck with the greatness of such a miracle, received the word of God.”
As such a circumstance is so extremely rare, and has never been conceded, even in those countries, to any other missionary in the same degree as to St. Francis Xavier, we will add the evidence given by eye-witnesses, persons of unimpeachable veracity, fourteen in number, copying for this purpose the words of the auditors of the Rota, in their Epilogue of the Process for the saint’s canonization. “There are two peculiarities,” they say, “connected with this fact. First, the power of speaking in an unknown and foreign idiom with fluency and elegance, by one who had not learned the language; and, secondly, to have been understood by persons of divers countries, as if each one were addressed in his native dialect, Xavier at the same time confining himself to only one language.”
“Emanual Fernandez, aged eighty, declared that he had seen and heard the Father Francis Xavier (both at the Fishery and at the port of Tevenatapan) preaching to those people in the respective dialects with great elegance and fluency; at which Fernandez was much astonished, because those dialects ware very difficult to acquire, and because the saint, having but recently arrived, could not possibly have had time to study the language, even imperfectly. Moreover, at the said port of Tevenatapan there were a number of strangers collected from various nations: nevertheless, he was assured by these foreigners that, in his sermons to this mixed audience, each one understood him, and presumed the father to be addressing him in [Pg. 344] his mother-tongue. The before-named Emanuel, moreover, affirmed that when he was present on these occasions he too supposed the saint to be discoursing in his own language. The saint’s power in this particular was so notorious that, wherever he went, it was expected that he would be able to converse in the language of the country; and it is adds that this very miracle occasioned the conversion of vast multitudes.
This testimony is confirmed by that of many others, who add that the elegance of his pronunciation and style on these occasions was unsurpassed even by the natives of the country where he was preaching. Rodriguez Diaz Pereira, a nobleman belonging to the king’s court, affirmed that he travelled in the same ship with Xavier from Malacca to the isle of Banda, when he witnessed the conversion of the greater part of the passengers and crew, in consequence of the miracle of hearing him preach in one language and yet making himself intelligible to people of all nations at one and the same time. Gaspar Secheria Abreu declared that once, when Xavier was preaching in the Japanese dialect, he understood him as speaking in Portuguese; whilst at the same time other foreigners understood him as speaking in their respective tongues.
Four fathers of the Society, who had accompanied him through various parts of India, testify that, entering Japan with little or no knowledge of the language spoken there, he preached nevertheless without an interpreter,– his discourses being a compound of Portuguese, Latin, Spanish, Indian, or just what words happened to cross his mind; [Pg. 345] and yet he was as well understood by his audience as if he addressed each on in the language of his own country: that the same occurred in the isle of Mor, and the coast of Fishery; whilst at the Moluccas he spoke that barbarous idiom as fluently as he did Portuguese.
In the kingdom of Travancor, this miracle was so notorious, and produced such wonderful effects, that could he have remained there a short time longer (the reader will remember he was called away by the distress of the Paravans) there is no doubt the whole kingdom would have been brought over to the faith.
The auditors of the Rota sensibly remark that certainly these innumerable conversions would not have resulted had the circumstances itself been doubtful; whereas, the truth of it being so clear, and the miracle so stupendous, the people entertained not a doubt of it, and therefore were convinced that the doctrines he promulgated could not be otherwise than true. Much more to the same purpose was adduced by the said auditors, who, after referring to the gift of tongues imparted to the immediate disciples of our Lord, twelve days after his ascension into heaven, thus conclude:– “Since, then, the gift of tongues was conceded to the apostles and to the preachers of the gospel, in order to be used to the advantage of those destined to be converted by them, so does the second favor, namely, that of being understood in many languages, one only being spoken, seem equally necessary, in order to benefit many at one and the same time; for if only one individual understood the preacher, he [Pg. 346] being unintelligible to all the rest, they would thus be left in ignorance. Now, as Almighty God had sent this servant for the salvation of the East, as he endowed him with other virtues of the apostolate, so did he, no doubt, render him similar to the apostles in this respect as in all the rest.”
Dominique Bouhours, (1628 – 1702) was another Jesuit scholar, writer, and historian who held the life and times of Francis Xavier very dearly. He is also one of the most controversial figures on the subject. His French work, first published in 1682, Vie de Saint François Xavier, apotre des Indes et du Japon is credited as the one that started to exaggerate the claims of Xavier’s miracles and speaking in tongues. This argument is specially developed by Protestant scholars.
The following is a digitized text from an English edition translated by John Dryden, The Life of Francis Xavier. However, the link does not have any page numbers which all researchers require. The page numbers refer to an imaged version found at archive.org.
[Pg. 84ff] Afterwards, whether it were that some one amongst them understood the Portuguese, and served as interpreter to all the rest, or that counting from this very time he began to receive from above, the first fruits of the gift of tongues, which was so abundantly bestowed on him in the Indies on sundry occasions, he spoke to them concerning the necessity of baptism, and let them know, that there was no possibility of salvation without a sincere belief in Jesus Christ: but that the faith allowed of no mixture, and that to become Christians, they must of necessity cease to be Jews or Mahometans.
[Pg. 110] It is evident, by what we have already said concerning the instruction of the Paravas, that Xavier had not the gift of tongues when he began to teach them: But it appears also, that, after he had made the translation, which cost him so much labour, he both understood and spoke the Malabar tongue, whether he had acquired it by his own pains, or that God had imprinted the species of it in his mind after a supernatural manner. It is at least probable, that, being in the Indies when he studied any tongue, the Holy Spirit seconded his application, and was in some sort his master; for it is constantly believed, that in a very little time he learnt the most difficult languages, and, by the report of many persons, spoke them so naturally, that he could not have been taken for a foreigner.
[Pg. 143] It was at that time, properly speaking, when God first communicated to Xavier the gift of tongues in the Indies; according to the relation of a young Portuguese of Coimbra, whose name was Vaz, who attended him in many of his travels, and who being returned into Europe, related those passages, of which himself had been an eye witness. The holy man spoke very well the language of those barbarians, without having learnt it, and had no need of an interpreter when he instructed. There being no church which was capable of containing those who came to hear him, he led them into a spacious plain, to the number of five or six thousand persons, and there getting up into a tree, that he might the farther extend his voice, he preached to them the words of eternal truth. There it was also, that to the end the compass of the plain might serve in the nature of a church, he sometimes celebrated the divine mysteries under the sails of ships, which were spread above the altar, to be seen on every side.
[Pg. 205] He laboured in the knowledge of the Malaya tongue, which is spoken in all the isles beyond Malacca, and is as it were the universal language. His first care was to have a little catechism translated into it, being the same he had composed on the coast of Fishery; together with a more ample instruction, which treated of the principal duties of Christianity. He learnt all this without book; and, to make himself the better understood, he took a particular care of the pronunciation.
With these helps, and the assistance of interpreters, who were never wanting to him at his need, he converted many idolaters, as also Mahometans and Jews; amongst the rest, a famous rabbi, who made a public adjuration of Judaism. This rabbi, who before had taken for so many fables, or juggling tricks, all those wonders which are reported to have been done by Xavier, now acknowledged them for truths by the evidence of his own eyes: for the saint never wrought so many miracles as at Malacca.
[Pg. 216] He embarked for Amboyna the 1st of January, 1546, with John Deyro, in a ship which was bound for the Isle of Banda. The captain of the vessel was a Portuguese; the rest, as well mariners as soldiers, were Indians; all of them almost of several countries, and the greatest part Mahometans, or Gentiles. The saint converted them to Jesus Christ during the voyage; and what convinced the infidels of the truth of Christianity, was, that when Father Xavier expounded to them the mysteries of Christianity in one tongue, they understood him severally, each in his own language, as if he had spoken at once in many tongues.
[Pg. 416] The holy man had already some light notions of all these languages, by the communication he had with the three Japonian Christians; but he knew not enough to express him with ease and readiness, as himself acknowledges in his epistles, where he says, “that he and his companions, at their first arrival, stood like statues, mute and motionless.” He therefore applied himself, with all diligence, to the study of the tongue, which he relates in these following words: “We are returned to our infancy,” says he, “and all our business at present is to learn the first elements of the Japonian grammar. God give us the grace to imitate the simplicity and innocence of children, as well as to practise the exercises of children.”
We ought not to be astonished in this passage last quoted, that a man to whom God had many times communicated the gift of tongues, should not speak that of Japan, and that he should be put to the pains of studying it. Those favours were transient, and Xavier never expected them; insomuch, that being to make abode in a country, he studied the language of it as if he could not have arrived to the knowledge of it but by his own industry. But the Holy Spirit assisted him after an extraordinary manner, on those occasions, as we have formerly observed. And we may say, that the easiness wherewith he learnt so many tongues, was almost equivalent to the lasting gift of them.
[Pg. 444] Oxindono, the king of Amanguchi, hearing what had passed, was willing to be judge himself of the Christians’ new doctrine. He sent for them before him, and asked them, in the face of all his nobles, of what country they were, and what business brought them to Japan? Xavier answered briefly, “That they were Europeans, and that they came to publish the divine law. For,” added he, “no man can be saved who adores not God, and the Saviour of all nations, his Son Christ Jesus, with a pure heart and pious worship.” “Expound to me,” replied the prince, “this law, which you have called divine.” Then Xavier began, by reading a part of the book which he had composed in the Japonian tongue, and which treated of the creation of the world, of which none of the company had ever heard any thing, of the immortality of the soul, of the ultimate end of our being, of Adam’s fall, and of eternal rewards and punishments; in fine, of the coming of our Saviour, and the fruits of our redemption. The saint explained what was needful to be cleared, and spoke in all above an hour.
[Pg. 458ff ] When Xavier and his companion Fernandez were a little disengaged from these importunities, they set themselves on preaching twice a day, in the public places of the town, in despite of the Bonzas. There were seven or eight religions in Amanguchi quite opposite to each other, and every one of them had many prosélytes, who defended their own as best; insomuch, that these Bonzas, who were heads of parties, had many disputes amongst themselves: But when once the saint began to publish the Christian law, all the sects united against their common enemy; which, notwithstanding, they durst not openly declare, against a man who was favoured by the court, and who seemed, even to themselves, to have somewhat in him that was more than human
At this time God restored to Father Xavier the gift of tongues, which had been given him in the Indies on divers occasions; for, without having ever learned the Chinese language, he preached every day to the Chinese merchants, who traded at Amanguchi, in their mother-tongue, there being great numbers of them. He preached in the afternoon to the Japonians in their language; but so naturally and with so much ease, that he could not be taken for a foreigner.
[Pg. 764] Gregory XV., who immediately succeeded Pope Paul V., canonized him afterwards in all the forms, and with all the procedures, which the church observes on the like occasions. The ceremony was performed at Rome on the 12th of March, in the year 1622. But as death prevented him from making the bull of the canonization, it was his successor Urban VIII. who finally accomplished it.
This bull bearing date the 6th of August, in the year 1623, is an epitome and panegyric of the miraculous life of the saint. It is there said, “That the new apostle of the Indies has spiritually received the blessing which God vouchsafed to the patriarch Abraham, that he was the father of many nations; and that he saw his children in Jesus Christ multiplied beyond the stars of heaven, and the sands of the sea: That, for the rest, his apostleship has had the signs of a divine vocation, such as are the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy, the gift of miracles, with the evangelical virtues in all perfection.”
For the actual French text, see Vie de St. François Xavier par Dominic Bouhours. Nouvelle Édition. Paris: Chez Jacques Lecoffre. 1849.
Pope Benedict the XIV
Pope Benedict the XIV (1675–1758) was one of the foremost thinkers of his time. He was clearly Catholic in doctrine but not opposed to science or other forms of learning. His work, De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione was likely a reaction against internal and Protestant diatribes against the exaggerated claims of miracles. This Pope outlined a better process for defining the gift of tongues in the canonization and beatification processes. Within his reference to the gift of tongues, he brought up the problem of St. Francis Xavier. Did he or did he not speak in tongues? A translation along with a commentary has been devoted to this subject, see Pope Benedict on the Gift of Tongues for more information.
John Douglas, Anglican Bishop of Salisbury, wrote in 1752 a book entitled, The Criterion; or, Rules by which the True Miracles Recorded in the New Testament are Distinguished from the Spurious Miracles of the Pagans and Papists. He argues the use of miracles in Xavier’s biographies as an illustration against the policies of the Catholic Church. He does not touch on the gift of tongues directly, but this is inclusive of the realm of miracles in the Catholic Church.
[Pg. 42] Leaving, therefore, our military saint, our knight errant in devotion, to enjoy, as the reward of his fanaticism, equal honours with his brethren the founders of other orders, suffer me now to take under my examination the miracles ascribed to Francis Xavier, which, as they have made as much noise as, [Pg. 43] perhaps, any boasted of by papists, are very proper instances to illustrate my argument.
I have now before me two lives of this famous saint, written (as we may easily have supposed, though we had not known it) by two fathers of his own order; by Tursellinus in Latin, and by Bouhours in French. But as the latter is little more than a transcript of the former, dressed out in a more elegant manner, I shall, in the remarks which I make on these miracles, confine myself to the account given us of them by Tursellinus. And that Xavier’s miracles are inventions posterior to his time will appear from the following circumstances:
Tursellinus, in the preface prefixed to his first edition, laments that no one had ever thought of writing this saint’s life till he had been dead thirty-five years. Before any credit can be given, therefore, to the miracles reported of Xavier, we must be satisfied that they were publicly known during this time intervening from his death ; but so far is this from being the case, that we can produce, what I look upon as the most conclusive evidence, that during that time Xavier’s miracles had not been heard of. The evidence I shall allege is that of Acosta, who himself had been a missionary among the Indians. His work, De procuranda Indorum Salute, was printed the year 1589, that is, above thirty-seven years after the death of Xavier, and in it we find an express acknowledgement, that no miracles had ever been performed by missionaries among the Indians. For he assigns it as one reason why the gospel was not propagated by them with the same success as it was by the apostles ; “that the power of working miracles did not subsist among the missionaries, who, not being [Pg. 44] able to excite the admiration or the fear of the barbarians, by the majesty of any such works, were, consequently, despised by reason of their mean appearance.” Is it to be imagined that Acosta would have reasoned in this manner, if, at the time he wrote his book, the miracles related by Tursellinus had been ascribed to Xavier? Had such accounts been public, Acosta could not have heard of them, as he himself was a Jesuit ; and, therefore, from his silence, we may infer unexceptionably, that between thirty and forty years had elaped before Xavier’s miracles were thought of; or, which equally subversive of their credibility, if they were heard of within this period, that they met with no credit, from one who cannot be supposed deficient either in opportunities of information, or in readiness of believing them.
That the miracles ascribed by Tursellinus to Xavier are posterior to the age of Xavier, may be deduced still more clearly from the testimony of the saint himself. The mission of this apostle lasted ten years, during which time he regularly corresponded with his friends and the superiors of his order in Europe. These letters of his have been collected, and are now in the hands of the public. As they treat principally of his mission, of the progress he made, of the difficulties he had to struggle with, and the means he made use of to convert the Indians, it came unavoidably [Pg. 45] in his way to mention his power of working miracles, if ever he had been vested with such a power. But so far is he from giving us the least hint of this, that he mentions a circumstance which is absolutely inconsistent with the supposition ; for, in many of his letters, he expresses himself greatly unable to do any good amongst those poor people, from his being ignorant of their languages, telling us that he had masters to instruct him, and frankly owning, that if he could not arrive at an acquaintance with them, he could do no service to Christianity.
Hugh Farmer (1714–1787) was a dissenter – a movement that did not conform to the Church of England and opposed state intervention in religion. They founded their own churches and educational institutions. The dissenters were composed of a variety of alternative Protestant groups and it is not known exactly which one Farmer adhered to, though his theology was very progressive for his time. In 1771 he published, A Dissertation on Miracles Assigned to Show that they Arguments of a Divine Interposition and Absolute Proofs of the Mission and Doctrine of a Prophet. The following is from the 1798 edition.12
[Pg. 218] Nevertheless the apostle, instead of allowing that popery would have the advantage of true miracles, affirms that the coming of the man of sin was to be “with all power, and signs, and wonders of a lie;” that is, “with lying, or fictitious power, and signs, and wonders.” The apostle does not say, that the wonders are wrought with an intention to deceive; but that the wonders themselves are a lie, the sole effect of falsehood and imposture. The church in Rome lay claim to a miraculous power, glories in it as a mark of the true church; and from hence infers the validity of her pretensions. Many learned protestants have allowed in part the truth of this claim, and admitted that some real miracles have been performed in the Roman church. But the inspired apostle brands them all as deceitful tricks, and fabulous legends. Such, as many of the best attested are allowed to be, by the members of the Roman communion; and such with [Pg. 220] equal reason we may falsely pronounce them all. It is not therefore the power of miracles (as some maintain) but the making false pretences to it, that St. Paul here (and elsewhere) assigns as one of the characteristics of the man of sin…
[Pg. 220] Even miracles ascribed to missionaries of the Roman church in India, where they are most wanted, are denied by their gravest writers, Hospinian de Origin. Jesuitar. p. 330. Middleton’s prefat. Dif. to his Letter from Rome, p. 97. and Acosta de procuranda Indorum falute, cited by the Criterion, p. 77, I add, that whenever any one of the orders of the Roman church endeavours to support its peculiar tenets by supernatural works; the other orders seldom fail to detect the cheat, or to treat it with all imaginable contempt. Will any one undertake, to produce one popish miracle, which is either more credible in its nature, or more strongly attested; than those learned papists themselves have condemned as impudent falsehoods?
“Admitting (says a very learned writer) that any of the Romish miracles were undeniable matters of fact; — yet I know not what the Bishop of Rome would gain by it, but a better title to be thought antichrist.” Bishop Newton’s Dissertations on the Prophecies, V. 2. p. 279, and Vol. 3. p. 223
Charles Butler was a prominent English Catholic (1750 – 1832) whose book, Book on the Roman Catholic Church, published in 1825, sought to clarify why the realm of miracles was in dispute between the Protestants and Catholics.
Pg. 40 It necessarily follows, that if roman-catholics prove a constant succession of miracles in their church, they consequently establish the truth of their doctrine.
Aware of this inference, the protestant divines found it incumbent on them to contend, that at some period in the christian aera, there was a cessation of miracles in the christian church. Being required to specify this aera, they answered that it was when the corruption of christianity became general. They were then required to specify the period when this general corruption took place. Here a considerable disagreement was found among them. Some assigned it to the fourth, some to the fifth, some even to the sixth century ; but the generality assigned it to the conversion of the emperor Constantine. Then, according to their system, christianity became the religion of the state; and, being supported by the secular arm, the christians no longer put their trust in God, and a general corruption of christianity ensued. From this time, therefore, the Almighty ceased to recognize their church, and withdrew from her the supernatural powers, with which, till then, He had invested in her.
Such is the account which protestant writers give of the supposed aera of the corruption of christianity. It is evident, that whatever may be the period which they assign for it, there must be error in the [Pg. 41] assignment, if miracles were subsequently wrought in the catholic church, as it never can be supposed that the Almighty would work miracles in the support of a corrupted church. Now, the roman-catholics produce a regular chain of miracles, wrought in every subsequent age of christianity. Then, as the protestants admit the existence of miracles, in the ages which preceded the aera assigned by them for the corruption of christianity, it became incumbent upon them to disprove the miracles alleged by the roman-catholics to have been wrought in the subsequent ages ; and this they could only do, by showing that the evidence for them was not so strong as the evidence adduced in support of the miracles wrought in the preceding ages, and allowed and credited by themselves.
Henry James Coleridge
Mr. Coleridge (1822–1893) is another Jesuit writer, but this time an Anglican convert to Catholicism. He lived in an era where England was in great tension between Anglican, Evangelical, Catholic and Rationalist communities. In 1881 he produced the book, The Life and Letters of Saint Francis Xavier. He dedicated a portion to defend Xavier’s gift of tongues against both the Protestants and Rationalists.
[Pg. 170] There is, in fact, every fair reason for believing that the life of Francis Xavier began at this time to be adorned by that very frequent and splendid exercise of the gift of miracles which is from time to time imparted to the Saints, especially to those who the Apostolical mission. None of the great Saints of God are probably left altogether without gifts of this kind, but they seem to be especially frequent, as, so far as we can judge of such questions, they are also especially natural, (Pg. 171) in the case of great Apostolic preachers, and this not only among the heathen. Few lives contain more illustrious examples of this great gift than those of St. Bernard, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Vincent Ferrer, all of them great preachers among Christian nations, and St. Bernard’s most marvellous period was while he was on his mission through certain parts of Europe to organize a crusade. Like another great gift, of a more interior kind, of which we shall have to speak presently – that of immense consolation and spiritual joy amid external sufferings and dangers – the gift of miracles seems to find its natural place in the case of the Saints who have to do exactly what the Apostles were sent to do, at the time when the signs that were to ‘follow those who believe’ were promised to our Lord – to ‘go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.’ The Processes which were carefully formed in India after the death of Francis Xavier are abundant in their evidence as to the magnitude and multitude of his miracles, and they often speak particularly of those which took place on the Fishery Coast during this period of his preaching. We shall follow his former biographers in mentioning a few of these; but it must be remembered that when the gift of miracles has really existed, no account which is made up merely of selections from those particular instances as to which ocular and sworn witnesses happened to be at hand some years later, can possibly give any but a very inadequate idea. It is probable that as St. John protests at the end of his Gospel, that our Lord did many other signs ‘which are not written in this book,’ and that ‘if all that He had done were written, the world itself would not contain the books which should be written,’ so also the most copious collection of evidence that the most diligent inquiry can furnish will never give us a true picture of the daily marvels with which the active Apostolic life of the more miraculous Saints have been illustrated.
[Pg. 172] We may begin by that which, in the case of the Apostles themselves, was the ‘beginning of signs,’ that is, the gift of tongues. Many misconceptions may be current as to the nature of this gift as imparted to the Apostles and others who have had to tread in their footsteps. Nor is there any reason for supposing that it always the same form with them or with their contemporaries. The ‘gift of tongues,’ indeed, of which St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians and elsewhere, was not always precisely that gift which enabled the Apostles on the day of Pentecost to make themselves understood by men of so many different nations at once. The natural interpretation of the words of St. Luke (Acts ii. 4, 6) seems to be, that while the Apostles spoke with ‘divers tongues,’ ‘every man heard them speak in his own tongue,’ and that the miracle must have been twofold, — in the possession of new languages by the Apostles, and in the hearing of the multitude that came together, on whose ears the same sound fell in many different languages at once. We may add that no one, as far as we know, has ever supposed that the Apostles and their companions became necessarily possessed of all the different dialects enumerated by the sacred historian in such a manner as to have them at their command for the ordinary purposes of life, so as to have been able to read or write them, to compose books or catechisms in them, or to be in any way independent, where the particular occasions for the miraculous gift ceased, of the ordinary difficulties in intercourse with persons of different nations which are the results of the confusion of tongues. No one has ever supposed that, because St. Peter or St. Paul raised Tabitha or Eutychus to life, either of those Apostles has the power of raising every dead person they met with, or of preserving themselves from the natural doom of death. Both these remarks are necessary for the illustration of the evidence which has (Pg. 173) reached to us as to the possession of the gift of tongues by St. Francis Xavier. This evidence witnesses to his having had the power of speaking freely and clearly in the dialects of the numerous different tribes among whom he preached in the south of India, and those of Cape Comorin and the Coromandel coast are particularly named. The same statement is made as to the Moluccas, and as to Japan. Altogether it is supposed that he must have had to preach to as many as thirty different nations, a number which will not seem surprizing when we remember that the witnesses are here speaking of tribes, with dialects of their own, as separate nations. It is particularly stated in the evidence that his possession of this gift was notorious, and that it was considered by the natives themselves as a mark of his mission from God, and this illustrates the words of St. Paul, that ‘tongues are for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers.’ People were led to hear him and receive the truths which he preached by finding a man who could never have learnt their language addressing himself to them with ease, and by observing that bystanders whose dialect differed from their own were as well able to understand him as themselves. The occasions on which this took place were when he preached to a crowd, and we do not find it stated that he could dispense with an interpreter for more familiar conversation; nor is it said that there were never times at which he did not possess the gift even for public instructions, which he was often in the habit of giving by means of such interpreters.
The gift of tongues, moreover, was but one of a number of marvellous powers imparted to Francis in the way and in the degree in which such powers are often bestowed upon the Saints. The number of his miracles on the Fishery Coast and in the adjacent parts was so great, that we are assured that they would of themselves fill a large volume. Some few of the more signal of these miracles maybe rapidly mentioned. A beggar covered with sores and putrid wounds asked alms (Pg. 174) of him, and Francis washed him with his own hands, drank some of the water, and sent him away perfectly cured and sound. He was about to say mass in a little church at Combutur, when a crowd entered with the corpse of a boy who had been drowned in a well. The mother threw herself at the feet of Francis Xavier, who had baptized her child, and implored him to restore him to life. After a short prayer, he took the dead child by the hand and bade him to arise. The child rose up at once, and ran to his mother. One of the two youths who accompanied him as catechists was bitten at night in the foot by a cobra da capello, and was found in the morning to be dead. Francis touched the foot with the saliva from his mouth, made the sign of the Cross over him, took him by the hand and bade him rise in the name of Jesus Christ. He rose at once, and was able to continue on their journey immediately, as if had been simply asleep. There are other cases related of his raising the dead in this part of the country, and it is even stated in the Processes that one of the children whom he used to send about in his name to the sick raised two dead persons to life.
Andrew Dickson White
“(November 7, 1832 – November 4, 1918) was an American historian and educator, who was the cofounder of Cornell University and served as its first president for nearly two decades. He was known for expanding the scope of college curriculae. A politician, he had served as state senator in New York. He was later appointed as a US diplomat to Germany and Russia, among other responsibilities.”13 His 1896 publication, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom strongly positioned Xavier’s miracles, and especially speaking in tongues, with Catholic anti-intellectualism and against natural reason.
[Pg. 19] Throughout his letters, from first to last, 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 teaching to be learned by rote ; sometimes by employing interpreters ; and sometimes by a mixture of various dialects, and even by signs. On one occasion he tells us that his voyage to China was delayed because, among other things, the interpreter he had engaged had failed to meet him.
In various Lives which appeared between the time of his death and his canonization this difficulty is much dwelt upon ; but during the canonization proceedings at Rome, in [Pg. 20] the speeches then made, and finally the papal bull, the great stress was laid upon the fact that Xavier possessed the gift of tongues. It was declared that he spoke to the various tribes with ease in their own languages. This legend of Xavier’s miraculous gift of tongues was especially mentioned in the papal bull, and was solemnly given forth by the pontiff as an infallible statement to be believed by the universal Church. Gregory XV having been prevented by death from issuing the Bull of Canonization, it was finally issued by Urban VIII ; and there is so much food for reflection in the fact that the same Pope who punished Galileo, and was determined that the Inquisition should not allow the world to believe that the earth revolves about the sun, thus solemnly ordered the world, under pain of damnation, to believe in Xavier’s miracles, including his “gift of tongues,” and the return of the crucifix by the pious crab. But the legend was developed still further : Father Bouhours tells us, “the holy man spoke very well the language of those barbarians without having learned it, and had no need of an interpreter when he instructed.” And, finally, in our own time, the Rev. Father Coleridge, speaking of the saint among the natives, says, “He could speak the language excellently, though he never learned it.”
In the early biography, Tursellinus writes : “Nothing was a greater impediment to him than his ignorance of the Japanese tongues ; for, ever and anon, when some uncouth expression offended their fastidious and delicate ears, the awkward speech of Francis was a cause of laughter.” But Father Bouhours, a century later, writing of Xavier at the same period, says, “He preached in the afternoon to the Japanese in their language, but so naturally and with so much ease that he could not be taken for a foreigner.”
And finally, in 1872, Father Coleridge, of the Society of Jesus, speaking of Xavier at this time, says, “He spoke freely, flowingly, elegantly, as if he had lived in Japan all his life.”
Nor was even this sufficient : to make the legend complete, it was finally declared that, when Xavier addressed the natives of various tribes, each heard the sermon in his own language in which he was born.
[Pg. 21] All this, as we have seen, directly contradicts not only the plain statements of Xavier himself, and various incidental testimonies in the letters of his associates, but the explicit declaration of Father Joseph Acosta. The latter historian dwells especially on the labour which Xavier was obliged to bestow on the study of Japanese and other languages, and says, “Even if he had been endowed with the apostolic gift of tongues, he could not have spread more widely the glory of Christ.”
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 or no knowledge of natural law, when there is little care for scientific evidence, and when he who believes most is thought most meritorious.
A Jesuit response to Andrew Dickson White
Analecta Bollandiana is a periodic publication started in 1882 by the Society of Jesus for reviews of critical hagiography. It is still being produced today. Their reaction to Andrew Dickson White’s assertion was published in their Volume 16, 1897 edition. The complete French article has been devoted to its own page on this site. Go to The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier Debate for the full article.
Edith Anne Stewart
Not much is known about the Scottish writer Edith Anne Stewart (1883–1973) except that she was born in a religious family and her husband was Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Aberdeen.14 Her research itself is unoriginal as she simply reiterates the Protestant positions on Xavier, but she was able to grasp key concepts and communicate them in an easy to read manner.
The following is from: Edith Anne Stewart. The Life of St. Francis Xavier: Evangelist, Explorer, Mystic. Kingsway House: Headly Bros. Publishers, Ltd. 1917
The common affront is felt most keenly in the later biographies, from the seventeenth century onward; and of these Bouhours’ Life (1682) is the most notorious example. Here we have numerous instances of every conventional and fashionable type of miracle, told with every possible flourish and accompanied by every platitude of piety. None of these tales are succinct enough to excuse quotation, but the picture facing p. 342,15 of a crab bringing back a crucifix which the Saint had some time before thrown into the sea to quiet a tempest, is a typical example. It sometimes happens that as time goes on reliable material for a biography becomes increasingly available, and the later life therefore more authoritative than the earlier. In Bouhours’ time that point had not yet been reached with regard to Xavier. He had access to no information that was not at the disposal of earlier writers, so his work is simply an example of “how stories grow.” With nothing fresh to help him but his own and other people’s fanciful imaginings, he relates tale after tale, neither lovely nor true. Going back still farther, we come to Tursellinus (1594), who, though a much less muddy source than Bouhours, is nevertheless infected with the germs of inaccuracy, which, when transferred to Bouhours’ pages, multiplied so abundantly. Where Tersellinus makes the Saint raise four people from the dead, Bouhours adds ten. Tursellinus says Xavier was transfigured twice; Bouhours says four times. And Bouhours throws in a miraculous drought of fishes and two extra miraculous supplies of fresh water. Yes, here History and Poetry have withdrawn together, and Sanctimoniuosness and Credulity have met and kissed. And with regard to the gift of tongues, let us take one example from Bouhours, and then see what Tursellinus says on the same matter. “He preached in the afternoon to the Japanese in their language, but so naturally and with so much [Pg. 337] ease that he could not be taken for a foreigner.” Thus Bohours, but Tursellinus says: “Nothing was a greater impediment to him than his ignorance of the Japanese tongues; for ever and anon, when some uncouth expression offended their fastidious and delicate ears, the awkward speech of Francis was a cause of laughter.”
James Brodrick, S.J.
James Brodrick was an Irish Jesuit who primarily focused on the history of the Jesuit movement. His 1952 publication, Saint Francis, (1506-1552) is a comprehensive and unassuming portrait of both Francis Xavier and his legends.
The following are excerpts from: James Brodrick, S.J. Saint Francis (1506 –1552). London: Burns and Oates. Reprint. 1958.
[Pg. 15] Long afterwards, when he was among the pearl-fishers in the region of Cape Comorin, the apex of the immense Indian triangle, St. Francis wrote somewhat despondently to his Jesuit brethren in Rome that he could not hold converse with his humble neophytes and had to employ such interpreters as knew a little Portuguese, ‘because their mother tongue is Tamil and mine is Basque’. Basque is no longer spoken the part of Navarre where he was born, but he used it during home-keeping years and babbled in it when dying off the coast of China. Francis was never a great linguist, though he learned to speak and write, serviceably, if not elegantly, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian. Latin of the workaday order he acquired in abundance, but apparently no Greek at all. His family, like that of his King, who held court at Pamplona, originated on the French side of the Pyrenees, a fact which, at the time of his canonization, inspired the children of St. Louis to agitate mildly for his inclusion in the Roman Martyrology and Breviary as of their nation. But the wary authorities, with half an eye on the children of St. James, evaded the issue by enrolling him as ‘Francis, born of noble parentage at Xavier in the diocese of Pamplona’.
[Pg. 131] When St. Francis Xavier came among them, the Paravas numbered about thirty thousand, living close to the sea in some thirty wretched villages. Like several million other non-Aryan Indians their mother tongue was Tamil, a venerable and poetic language of which St. Francis neither understood nor spoke a single word.
[Pg. 132] Except possibly on a few very rare occasions, and these perhaps explicable by the now scientifically accredited hypothesis of telepathy, it is a mere legend that God endowed him with a miraculous ‘gift of tongues’.
[Pg. 344] St. Francis often wrote his long letter to Europe in triplicate, sending the original and copies by different ships as a precaution against all being lost. The drafts were substantially the same, but there might be some such pleasant addition as the following to one or other of them: ‘I am sending you [Ignatius] the alphabet of Japan. They write very differently from the way we do, beginning at the top of the page going down perpendicularly to the foot of it. I asked Paul why his people did not write in our fashion, to which he riposted, “Why do you not write in ours, seeing that men’s heads are above and their feet below and so it is natural for them to write up and down?”’ Francis mentioned also that, though Paul wrote the Japanese characters beautifully and had even transcribed the Gospel of St. Matthew in them, he could not read Japanese books because they were invariably composed in Chinese ideographs, which were not understood except by the learned world of Japan. Francis remarked very acutely that the language of the books was to everyday colloquial Japanese speech much as ancient Latin is to modern Italian or Spanish, which is precisely the illustration given by Captain Frank Brinkley, in his day the foremost English authority in Japan. The characters used by Anjiro and the language they stood for were abbreviations of Chinese ideographs evolved in Japan to represent not ideas or letters but syllables, a system of writing which came to be known as kana and had two forms, katakana (square, with forty-eight syllables) and hiragan (cursive), both equally diabolically difficult to memorize, to pronounce, to understand, or to use.
[Pg. 387] That, then, was the dragon of genuine Chinese stock standing in the path of St. Francis, and he spoke feelingly about it in his monster of a letter to Goa:
May God our Lord give us language to speak to the people of the things concerning Him, for then with His help and grace we might have great fruit of our labours. At present we are like statues among the people who speak and converse about us a great deal, while we stand by uncomprehending. It falls to us now to become as little children in order to learn the language, and God grant that we may imitate them also in simplicity and innocence of soul. . .
[Pg. 537] From Goa on December 8, 1584, Teixeria addressed a charmingly tactful and deferential letter to Ribandeneira in which the following passage occurs:
It is said in Book IV, chapter vii, that our Lord by means of Father Master Francis raised the dead to life. His virtue and sanctity were indeed such that our Lord, of His infinite goodness and power, could have wrought such miracles through him, but inquiry has revealed no certainty on the subject, only common report that our Lord had raised a dead pers by his instrumentality at Cape Comorin, but when the matter was investigated no one could be found who had seen the miracle. Father Henriques of our Society who wa for forty years and more on the Fishery Coast told me that he had been ordered to make inquiries, but could not find any certain evidence. It is not from any doubt of the Blessed Father’s sanctity and power with God that I write thus, but only because in a matter of such grave importance, certainty would appear necessary, or at least evident probability. As your Reverence well says in your prologue, if falsehood or exaggeration under any circumstances is unworthy of a Christian man it is far more so in dealing with lives of the Saint. God has no need of our lies. . .
Padre Valignano, a plain, blunt man, did not strive excessively to be tactful and pronounced statements in that same Franciscan chapter of Ribadeneira to be variously grande hiperbole, muy grande hiperbole, and mucho mahor hiperbole, which was about the truth of the matter.
There is no better historical biographer on the life of Francis Xavier than Georg Schurhammer (1882-1971). Father Schurhammer was a Jesuit himself who taught in India for four years. His four-volume, Francis Xavier: his life, his times, is a well-written and documented work and stands above any other writer on the subject. He is on the same level as Ephraim E. Urbach and Gedaliah Alon when it comes to integrating theology, religion, politics and language into a coherent narrative. He is one of the few gifted in such a wide range of competencies to achieve such a lofty status.
There are four volumes in his series dedicated to the life of St. Francis. Only two volumes contain references to Xavier speaking in tongues. The following are excerpts from these two volumes:
These excerpts are from: Georg Schurhammer. Francis Xavier: his life, his times. Translated by M. Joseph Costelloe, S.J. Vol. II. Rome: The Jesuit Historical Institute. 1977.
[Pg. 307] “The first task was, therefore, to instruct the Paravas in the Christian faith; and, since they knew no Portuguese, this had to be done in their own Malahar tongue, Tamil. The language was difficult, the sounds and grammar were (Pg. 308) completely different from the languages of Europe. Every means for learning it, grammars, dictionaries, and teachers, were lacking. Their books were long, narrow, brown strips of palm leaves held together by a cord; and they were written in a complicated script unknown to the Portuguese. Xavier’s predecessors had therefore despaired of learning the language. But not so Master Francis. He brought together the most learned individuals of the place and sought out individuals who, like his three seminarians, had some knowledge of Portuguese in addition to their own native speech. During the course of the numerous sessions and with the expenditure of untold efforts, he was able with their help to translate in the course of the following three month the most necessary sections of the Small Catechism: the Sign of the Cross, the Creed, the Commandments, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Salve Regina, and the Confiteor.”
“Master Francis wrote down in Latin characters the prayers and Commandments that had been translated, for he could not even think of learning the difficult Tamil alphabet with its numerous characters and combinations. He then memorized the foreign text. Latin characters could, it is true, only represent very imperfectly sounds that were frequently much different from European [Pg. 309] sounds. His pronunciation of the different l-, r-, n-, and d-sounds, for example, must have frequently appeared to his hearers as strange, unintelligible, and amusing, especially since every change of a long for a short vowel completely altered the meaning of a word. But none of this terrified the zealous priest. To be better understood, he had his words repeated and explained by one of his seminarians. As soon as he had everything memorized, he went through the whole village with his bell and gathered together all the mean and boys he could. Twice a day he taught them their prayers, the Creed, and the Commandments. For a whole month he continued this instruction, and his hearers had to repeat what they had learned at home to their parents and other members of the household and to their neighbors.”
[Pg. 448] “I am alone here among these people without an interpreter. Antonio is ill in Manapar, Rodrigo and Antonio are my interpreters. From this you can see the life I am leading and the exhortations I am able to give, since the people do not understand me and I understand them even less.16 From this you can see the sermons [Pg. 449] I am giving the people. I baptize the infants and the others to be baptized. For this I do not have an interpreter. The poor let me know their needs without an interpreter, and I understand them without an interpreter when I see them. For the more important things I do not have a need for an interpreter. The Badegaz who were in these regions are all now united in Calecaté. The land is finally safe from the Badegaz. The people of the land did what harm they could until it was calmed by the Inquitriberim. May our be with you always! Amen. From Punicale, the twenty-ninth of August, 1544.”
**From footnote 150 starting on Pg. 448.** “Paulo Vaz, who accompanied Xavier in 1544 in Travancore, declared in 1545 in Coimbra that he spoke the language of the Fishery Coast very well (Ep. Mixtae I 231). Captain Antonio Pereira, who sailed with Xavier from São Thomé to Malacca, declared in the process held at Malacca in 1556 that Francis learned in a few days the language of any country to which he went, for example, Malabar, Maluco, and Japan. He, the witness, knew these languages and he had spoken them with him, and also Malay (MX II 418). The licentate Alonso de Barbuda, who was in India from 1578 to 1586, testified in 1614 that everybody in Travancore told him that Xavier spoke their language as perfectly as if he had been born there (*Lisbon, RProcess I, n. 2, 64v). The Parava Thomé Vaz, the son of Xavier’s host in Punnaikãyal, said the same in 1616 (MX II 555). And the doctor of theology Miguel de Lacerda, from Coimbra, who arrived in India soon after Xavier’s death and remained there for a long time, heard the same from Quadros and the fellow workers of the saint, Durão and João Lopes, namely, that Xavier had the gift of tongues and had known the languages of all the people of India with whom he had converted and had spoken Malabar and preached in it without the use of an interpreter (*Lisbon, RProcess I, n, 11, 105) But this letter shows that these claims are exaggerated. Xavier could speak about the most necessary matters and knew a part of Christian teachings and a sermon by heart. The numerous errors (Pg. 449) which Henriques discovered in his translation of the catechism show that Xavier had only a very imperfect command of Tamil. When Bartoli printed the first part of his Asia in 1653, in which he speaks in a grossly exaggerated fashion at Xavier’s marvelous gift of languages (3,8), he knew only a fragment of this letter and not its place of origin (Tursellinus, Epistolae 1, 6). He therefore concluded that Xavier wrote this letter when he was in the interior of the country, where a language completely unknown to him was being spoken (1, 40). In his later Uomini e fatti, he added that since ten different languages were spoken in that town in the interior, he had made himself known through signs (1, 15). Sousa conjectured that Xavier visited the Thomas Christians in Quilon or Cranganore at this time. For this he cites only the Tursellinus fragment (Or. Conqu. 1, 2, 1, 17). Zaleski rightly maintained that Bartoli’s solution was untenable since Tamil was also spoken within the interior. He reached another, equally false conclusion: our passage was from a letter written by Xavier in 1542, when he still knew no Tamil, which was in some way or other included with those of 1544! (St. Francis Xavier [Einsiedeln, 1910] 73-75).”
These excerpts are taken from: Georg Schurhammer. Francis Xavier: his life, his times. Translated by M. Joseph Costelloe, S.J. Vol. IV. Rome: The Jesuit Historical Institute. 1977.
[Pg. 108] This Japanese translation of the catechism, written in Latin characters, comprised the manual of the Christian faith which Xavier and his companions read to their visitors who to become Christian in order to show them how they should worship God and Christ in order to save their souls. Xavier also went twice a day with this book to the Fukushô-ji monastery. There he sat down on the top step of the stone stairs in front of the first outer temple gate on the far side of the dragon-gate-bridge that passed over the lotus pool. There he lifted his eyes to heaven, made the sign of the cross, and then in a loud voice would slowly read from his book so that the people in the forecourt would see and listen to him.
[Pg. 109] The translation of the book was imperfect. Anjirõ had not received a higher education; and despite all his good will, the work was so defective that it badly represented the thoughts of the priest, and its style offended the educated. In addition to this, there was the poor pronunciation and unusual gestures of the foreign preacher and the new, curious, and unintelligible doctrine which he presented. Some of his hearers ridiculed him, others laughed, others said that he was crazy, others that he was telling old wives’ tales. Still others were of the opinion that he should not be heard: he was a magician and the devils spoke through him. Others replied to this by telling his adversaries that they should keep silent. Even if he were a magician, they wished to hear him; and if he said something that was reasonable, they would accept it, even though it came from the devil; but if he said nothing reasonable, they would abandon him. Francis did not let himself be deterred by his scoffers and calmly continued with patience, seriousness, and holy life, since he had come from so great a distance to announce his law to them. Still others declared that what the stranger read was the truth and that the teaching of their sects was false. If these did not become Christians, it was through fear of the lord of the land, and not because they failed to recognize the truth.
[Pg. 126] A number of miracles were eyewitnessed by a Domingos Caldeira, who gave them at over 98 years of age. He confused Xavier with another Jesuit of 1573. “This confusion obliges us to place the other miracles which he attributed to Xavier to a time after Xavier’s death, namely, the cure of the blind merchant in Japan and the fresh-water miracle in the sea between China and Japan. –Four testimonies from “hearsay” in the Cochin process of 1616 with respect to the miracle of the fish are probably to be attributed to Caldeira as well.”
[Pg. 126] In Goa process of 1615, the ex-Jesuit Pedro Homem spoke of a miraculous gift of tongues, about which he had heard from four priests of the Society who had been Xavier’s companions in India, and who said that Xavier, “ingrediens Iaponiam ignorans linguam, vel parum aut nihil illius, cum concionaretur sine interprete, quia nullam bene callebat, et partim Hispanice, partim Latine et partim Lusitane, et aliquibus verbis Iaponensibus, ab omnibus intellegebatur, ac si propria uniuscuiusque sermone loqueretur, quid idem et accidit in Mauricio et Piscaria” (Relatio Francisci Sacrati , f. 50). There is no mention of such a miracle in Kagoshima in any of the contemporary sources.
[Pg. 280] It is open to grave doubt whether any foreigner has ever attained the requisite proficiency. Leaving Anjiro in Kagoshima to care for the converts made there, Xavier pushed on to Hirado, where he baptized a hundred Japanese in a few days. Now we it on the authority of Xavier himself [where?] that in this Hirado campaign ‘none of us knew Japanese.’ How did they proceed? ‘By reciting a semi-Japanese volume’ (a translation made by Anjiro of a treatise from Xavier’s pen) ‘and by delivering sermons, we brought several over to the Christian cult.’ Sermons preached in Portuguese or Latin to a Japanese audience on the island of Hirado in the year 1550 can scarcely have attracted intelligent interest. On his first visit to Yamaguchi, Xavier’s means of access to the understanding of his hearers was confined to the rudimentary knowledge of Japanese which Fernández had been able to acquire in 14 months, a period of study which, in modern times, with all the aids procurable, would not suffice to carry a student beyond the margin of the colloquial. No converts were won.
[Pg. 297] Xavier would have been glad to take with him some educated Japanese for India and Portugal, especially some learned bonzes, so that they might give his confreres a notion of their keen intelligence. But the Christians of Yamaguchi feared the dangers of the sea, and the bonzes preferred their comfortable life to a long and dangerous voyage. He therefore had to content himself with Bernardo, Matheus, Joane, and Antonio. The first two of these wished to visit India and Europe in order to be able to report what they had seen on their return; the other two would serve him and his confreres as interpreters until their arrival in Japan the following year.
[Pg. 613] Mestre Gaspar! Antonio has gone to Japan and Padre Balthezar Gago and Pero de Alcaceva as a speaker and interpreter until they arrive in Manguche. The Japanese Joanne agreed to my request that he remain here so that he can go next year with a priest or brother of the Society to Japão so that he may serve as an interpreter until they come to Manguche.
Franco Mormando is the “Professor of Italian and chairperson of the Dept. of Romance Languages and Literatures at Boston College, where he has taught since 1994. . . . He holds as well a licentiate (Master’s degree) in church history from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley,”17 among many other degrees. His pamphlet, Francis Xavier and the Jesuit Missions in the Far East. An Anniversary Exhibition of Early Printed Works is a brief summary of the political and religious influences behind the legend of Francis Xavier and his canonization. The link above is well worth the time to read.
- James Brodrick, S.J. Saint Francis, (1506-1552). London: Burns and Oates. Reprint. 1958. Pg. 357 / Franco Mormando. Francis Xavier and the Jesuit Missions in the Far East. An Anniversary Exhibition of Early Printed Works. Franco Mormando and Jill G. Thomas ed. Massachusetts: The Jesuit Institute of Boston College /
- I did not check this against the Latin.
- The Tamil language
- a Japanese person Xavier met in India who was converted and trained in the Christian faith
- My translation from Monumenta Xaveriana, ex autographis vel ex antiquioribus exemplis collecta. Vol. 2. Matriti : typis Augustini Avrial. 1912. Pg. 546
- My translation from Monumenta Xaveriana, ex autographis vel ex antiquioribus exemplis collecta. Vol. 2. Matriti : typis Augustini Avrial. 1912. Pg. 554
- Monumenta Xaveriana, ex autographis vel ex antiquioribus exemplis collecta. Book I. Pg. 618.
- Horatio Tursellinus. De Vita Francisci Xaverii: Qui primus e Societate IESV in Indiam & Japoniam Euangelium inuexit. Libre Sex. Rome: NP. 1596. Pg. 105 See also this reference contained in Pope Benedict XIV’s dissertation Pope Benedict XIV on Tongues
- A Dissertation on Miracles Assigned to Show that they Arguments of a Divine Interposition and Absolute Proofs of the Mission and Doctrine of a Prophet. New Edition. Edinburgh: Printed for J. Dickson, J. Fairbairn, and J. Ogle. 1798.
- referring to an image in the previous page of her book
- footnote 150 importantly preserved below