Saint Francis Xavier was a missionary during the 16th century who is credited for bringing Christianity to parts of Asia previously unaware of the religion. Even today several churches bearing his name or likeness can be found in Japan, China, Indonesia, India and more.
Although he was successful at establishing a foothold for later missionaries to operate in Japan, his task was not easy. The patience of this Saint was taken to the limit by potential followers complaining about gaps in logic with concepts such as hell and creation.
The main concern of Japanese people was with the idea of salvation through baptism and belief. Many of these questions would be difficult to field even in one of the languages Francis, but working with a translator proved especially daunting.
“If these are the God-given teachings, why are we just hearing about this now?”
“Our ancestors weren’t around to hear these teachings, are they all writhing in hell?”
“Isn’t it strange that the world God created has evil in it?”
“If God is all powerful why can’t he save our ancestors? Is this God you believe in heartless, or just incompetent?”
Japanese people were especially concerned with the well-being of their ancestors under the rules of Christianity. Traditionally it’s the duty of the deceased person’s descendants to protect their souls.
Saint Xavier had stayed in Japan from 1549 to 1551 and while achieving a modest level of success that didn’t compare with his influence in other countries. He wrote of his experience in correspondence with colleagues in Portugal.
“Japanese culture has high standards. Only an exceptionally talented missionary would not have a hard time in Japan.”
He also confessed that his time with the Japanese left him “completely drained” and that his “limits were tested.” He died one year later.
However, his name lives on in the minds of the Japanese people to this day, and statues were erected in Kagoshima by the people who once ticked him off so much.