Three Documents on Departure for India, Francis Xavier (1540)

In 1540, Francis Xavier joined Simão Rodrigues in accepting the offer of the Portuguese king to serve as a missionary in Asia. Xavier took the place of Nicolás Alonso de Bobadilla, the man originally selected to travel with the Portuguese ambassador to Portugal. On March 15, before leaving Rome, Xavier wrote and signed the following documents: giving his approval to the Jesuits’ Constitutions yet to be written, voting for the general yet to be elected, and pronouncing his vows in the Society of Jesus yet to be established. The English translation of these documents first appeared in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits and then in a collection of Xavier’s letters and instructions published by Jesuit Sources.



1.     I, Francis, say the following: If His Holiness will approve of our way of life, I shall agree to all that the Society will determine with respect to our constitutions, rules, and way of life, those members of the Society who could be conveniently convoked and summoned having been brought together in Rome; and, since His Holiness is sending many of us to different places outside Italy, and we cannot thus be all brought together, I hereby say and promise that I shall approve of everything that those who can come together shall have ordered, whether they be two or three, or whoever they may be. And I therefore, with this document signed by my own hand, declare and promise that I shall agree to all that will be decided by them.



2.     I, Francis, also say and affirm, being in no way persuaded by anyone, that in my judgment the one who is to be elected as the leader of our Society, whom we must all obey, should be, it seems to me, speaking in accordance with my own conscience, our old and true father, Don Ignatius, who with no little effort brought us all together, and who, not without effort, will be able to preserve, govern, and cause us to advance from good to better, since he has a greater knowledge of each one of us than anyone else. And after his death, I am speaking from what I feel within my soul as if I should have to die for it, I say that it should be Father Micer Pierre Favre; and God is my witness that I am not saying anything except what I think. And in witness to its truth, I sign this with my own hand.



3.     Also, after the Society will have come together and elected its leader, I, Francis, now promise for that time perpetual obedience, poverty, and chastity; and thus, my dearest father in Christ Laínez, I ask you, for the service of God our Lord, that you, in my absence, present in my stead this my resolve together with the three vows of religion to the leader whom you will have elected, since I promise to keep them from this day on for the time when this will happen. And, as a witness to its truth, I sign this with my own hand.



Original Sources (English translation):

The Letters and Instructions of Francis Xavier, trans. M. Joseph Costellone. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1992, “Declaration, Vote, Vows,” pg. 9–10; Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 23.1 (January 1991): 37, “Sources: Francis Xavier’s Documents on Departure for India.”