Monday, December 31, 2007

Martian Merriment Tonight & ASTEROID COMING 30th!

For several weeks our dusky red planet has been holding court, but tonight - New Year's Eve - will usher in another year with the war-god planet at the helm.  As always, all directions are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. 

After all the revelry and midnight ticks into 12:01 a.m., face southward to see a very brilliant Sirius, our "dog star" shining in his whitest garb.  Sirius is now our Winter Star, and at its highest peak.  But the fiery Mars, equal to Sirius in brightness, glares nearly overhead (if you live in the mid-northern latitudes).  Glancing down below Mars stands Orion, and off to your left shoulder you'll note Saturn dominating the eastern sky.  Remember Regulus, sometimes called the "sickle of Leo" and shines at the heart of that constellation?  This star will be easily seen to the upper right of the cabal.

Does this foretell anything I wonder, that the fierce, yet most promising planet will see in 2008?  For numerologists, this is the year #1 which I arrived at in this manner:  2+0+0+8=10=1+0=1.  Mars is the 4th planet from our own star, and January has landed in the House of 5.  ( and take that even further, 145=1+4+5=10=1+0=1)  The year adds up to a number which adds up to itself, literally.  We've concentrated so much science on these rocky slopes and craters, and as many already know, we all may be gaining an abundance of incredibly important cosmic knowledge on January 30th.  That is, IF the anticipated asteroid known as 2007 WD5 impacts the Martian scape.  If so, it would gouge out a crater roughly a mile across - easily visible by any of the 3 craft now orbiting the planet.  Still, most scientists predict a near-miss of only about 55,000 miles, but the odds of a direct hit are 1 in 75.  UPDATE: as of 1/3/08 the odds of impact are now 1 in 25 In November of 1979, this same asteroid slipped past the red planet at a startling distance of 400,000 miles.  Now it's back, and much closer

Most likely, it'll be another near-miss.  But no one can refine the asteroid's orbit and trajectory, as it is presently a blip in Taurus with the bright moon blocking true vision.  However, if a collision does occur it will raise quite a bit of ruddy dust.

More than anything, it can provide us with answers to cosmic mysteries about our own earth, and this solar system.  Faithful rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still doing their work on the red planet, and since Mars is now near its closest to earth, Hubble may get a shot of some of the splat.  Once again, there's a big "IF" in the middle of all this.  

Moving along into New Year's Day, comet Tuttle will be passing closest to earth since its 1858 discovery.  It will not return until 2048. 

On January 2nd earth will reach perihelion, its closest to our sun for the entire year, only 1/30 closer than at aperihelion (its farthest from the sun) in July. 

Finally, on the 3rd, there may be a brief but very spectacular meteor shower called the Quadrantids, or "Quads".  They make a truly fine display, especially if you're in North America.  Though brief, they're very intense with more than 100 meteors an hour being visible, under ideal conditions.  Start looking around 6:40 UT or 1:40 a.m. EST. 

A fiery red rusty planet is escorting this new year into history, and whatever underlying mysteries this holds I'm sure the truth of cosmic science will not fail to delight and amaze

A Very Happy and Safe New Year J-Land!


 Basics courtesy of Sky & Telescope, R&L, Gryphon, star charts   




Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dare To Confess?

By way of many a Journal, I found this "Confess to Four Things" thing.  At Hadon's place, then Roxy's, round a few others, and here J-Land Mini Convention & Confessional Continues at Lynne's (which she confesses is not her true first name lol).  I thought about this, and realized I could be arrested if I disclosed the really good stuff, so these are 4 I feel safe about confessing to:

l.  I have a fear of cotton sheets.  No doubt someone put a name to this phobia but that doesn't help me when I have to shop for rayon "faux" silk sheets, or man-made fiber mixes.  I also have to sleep with the bedclothes pulled over my head, perfectly straight on my back, arms at my side.  I know, I know .....

2.  Between 8 and 11 give or take, I loved to "move in" to all the houses in my area under construction.  After breakfast during summer vacation, I'd pack my most needed things (raw cake mix, a book on Beethoven's life, and a spoon) then seek out which "about to be a" house I wanted for that day.  Some were alot more finished than others, and I pretended it was MY house, found MY room, MY kitchen, etc.  This is called trespassing.  (I got SUCH a rush!)

3.  During those same ages, I somehow evolved into a "Peeping Tom"-boy.  Hiding in the woods, which were everywhere, I'd zero in on a particular house and make my stealthy approach (thinking no one saw me lol).  Crouching from tree to tree, I'm pretty sure I looked like a nutcase.  One lady came home with her groceries to find me standing in her garden and I swear when she dropped her bags and came running after me, all I wanted was my Mommy (who was happy to punish the life out of me later).  

4.  I lit a fire in dry grass then ran away and didn't look back.  I was about 10.  It most likely never caught, just died out, but the idea of it makes me wonder if I'm harboring a "secret sociopath" in my psyche.  I know, I know .....   

Hey!  I feel alot better now!  Of course, YOU may not, but try not to think differently of me - I left out the real scary things.            

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

He Actually Did This - A Christmas Chuckle

I want to relate a little story about something my brother, Ricky, did.  He was the first-born male after 3 girls, 8 of us total, and he always got preferential treatment no matter how many times we heard "We love you kids all the same."  I think it made him a bit lopsided in his view of the world, the way he thought about things, processed information.  Anyway, poor Prince Richard had poison ivy once, and asked another brother, Chris, what he should do.

"Oatmeal is really great for rashes, poison, ivy, try oatmeal."  says Chris. 

So a few days later, Chris gets this phone call from Ricky, who's iching and scratching and just plain miserable.  He says: 

"The oatmeal didn't do a thing, Chris - I ate 6 bowls and nothing happened."

This is a true story in the continuing saga of my incredible family.

Have a sweet day - merry Sol Invictus!  Happy Christmas! 

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Above, Beyond, And A Bright Star

Above our heads some simple happenings, nothing in the way of great meteors nor planetary magic, still I thought I'd tell you what we're entering the next few days - after this, the longest night of the year, has finally come to an end here in North America.  I had a most fitful evening and will post about it sometime.

Are you feeling a bit of malaise, melancholy perhaps, even sad?  Have a tendency to sleep more than usual?  There's an odd reasoning which originates in the closing of a year for humans, who need the seasons and don't want to see the "last" one end, for it means the unknown future, and that is nothing but ancestral fear, revisited.  You're in good company.  Now:  Onto the stars....

Saturday:  Now that winter has officially begun, Luna has met the Pleiades.  At dusk, North Americans with binocs will get a great view of her, nearly full, just finishing her crossing of this cluster.  Northern Europeans will get an even better view tonight the 22nd, and tomorrow, as the Moon occults the Pleiades high up and late in the evening.  Look far to her right for a look at two great stars, Aldabaran in an orange hue, and yellowish Capella, as in the map above.

There's a very slight chance of the weak Ursids passing through (they originate from Comet Tuttle) and if it happens, it'll be around 5 PM EST (22h UT).  The radiant is in Ursa Minor, so if they're coming, it'll be from that constellation.

Sunday:  This is when Mars and a full Luna shine very close together, should be a wonderful sight.  They're both very close to opposition of the sun, and Mars will appear dusky.  The full moon will occult (cover) Mars completely if you're looking from the northwest tip of the US, or north and eastern Europe much later tonight, into the 25th.  Once again, my European friends won't get this view.

Monday:  Around sunset, Mars will be at opposition and highest overhead around midnight.  He'll be the spot of orange light shining to the upper right of Luna.

Christmas star:  Odd they call it this, wonder why.  Anyway you know the "dog star" Sirius, it'll be brilliant, the brightest star in the visible sky, rising around 7 or 8 PM in the Northern hemisphere.  Watch for it in Orion's Belt.  One thing about Sirius, it twinkles (which is really space dust floating across its path) but it's quite a show as it changes in color as it blinks.  Binocs show this very nicely.  Mars will outshine Sirius just a bit this week, but Mars doesn't "twinkle" lol. 

Tuesday:  Merry Sol Invictus!  Sweet Saturnalia!  And a very happy Christmas to all!   This day, as explained in the previous post, is the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.  We celebrate the sun's survival past another dark solstice with the promise of light and warmth in the spring and summer.  Christianity has chosen to mark this date, after chosing many others over time, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  

There is nothing in the universe that isn't a fascination and a miracle to dwell upon.  Here in this one, tiny, tilted galaxy among bilions of others, we have even more billions of stars, and how many planets are orbiting those stars like our sun is just unfathomable.  May we always be as children on Christmas morn when looking into the heavens.      






Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis The Season, Whatever The Reason

Loodee here, still searching for my holiday spirit I misplaced sometime around Thanksgiving.  Well I can't keep pretending I don't notice the decorations on the traffic lights and the chubby Santas leering at me from every store window.  Is there something a bit unforgiving which refuses me entree into the joy others feel so naturally at this time?  Some absolutely adore Christmas!  I'm a humbug, but malleable lol.  And all that is just better left for me to sort out.  I'd like to discuss something about the season, and hopefully you'll remember I only have an opinion, sprinkled with a bit of fact.

A friend chastised me saying there'd be no Christmas without Christ.  I beg to remind her of the thousands of years b.c. man has celebrated the Winter Solstice, and in many a differing tradition.  By any other name, a time of celebration and worship.  So anyway:   

As families gather round the mummified tree with gifts asunder, merriment galore, sooner or later someone will whisper, "Let's not forget what this day is really about!"  And with duly bowed heads, we celebrate the birth of a King.  If you're of the Christian persuasion, this is the time of year to rejoice in the coming of Our Lord and Savior, who brought the good news that indeed, our Father God truly is a Living God, who loves and forgives us, and if we just love Him and play nice, things will go alot smoother for Jews, and everyone else if truth be told.  How did it happen that we celebrate two occasions on the same day?  I'd like to offer that man has celebrated the Winter Solstice for ages unrecorded.  Every country celebrates differently, and going back into history I'll just use one little example, the ancient Roman holiday of the Sun, "Saturnalia", also celebrated at this time.  We still celebrate the Winter Solstice on the 22nd, the longest night of the year - the shortest day.  With the sun at  lowest, it's the turning point of the year.  The Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis or "The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun."  For many a modern year we've called it "The Birthday of the Son of God."  The birth of Jesus. 

All the traditions of Roman midwinter's Saturnalia are still performed today, depending on your country:  it's a huge festival of hearth and home.   The Romans took to making merry, halls of their homes decked with the boughs of laurel and evergreen trees, oil lamps were kept burning (we light our candles, in some ages directly on the tree), all meant to ward off the spirits of darkness.  Schools were closed, the army rested, and no man was executed.  Friends visited each other, bringing gifts of good luck such as incense, fruits, candles, cakes.  In each Temple stood an evergreen, symbolizing the continuity of life, and all of this we continue to do.  Did you know your Christmas tree has that meaning?  Isn't this symbolism nice to know?  And there are myriad other traditions for as many countries, but where amongst all this is the place set aside for Jesus, and why now? 

In the 3rd century, many dates between December and April were celebrated by Christians as Mistlemas, now called Christmas (roughly translated as "blessed time") and meant to honor Christ's birth. The 6th of January was the most favored as it was thought to be the baptismal day of Our Lord.  It is still a widely held belief that indeed, it was not the Winter Solstice when Jesus came into the world but October, the basis of which I'm not privy to but it's intriguing, as Julius Caesar did add those two months during harvest to the 10-month calendar.  Either or.  I think anyday is a good day to remember the birth of Christ, anytime a good one to honor Him.  Back to the story:

It was c. 350 a.d. that December 25th was adopted in Rome and gradually almost the  entire Christian Church agreed to it.  The Greek Orthodox Church still celebrates Christmas on January 6th, however.  But the 25th coincided with the Winter Solstice, The Yule, and the Saturnalia.  All the merriment of Saturnalia was adopted into the observance of the birth of Christ.  The mixings are now becoming soup.  The tree and the manger are coalescing.  By 1100 a.d. Christmas was the peak celebration of the year for all of Europe.  Although it went through many changes, especially during Reformation, such as the banning of mistletoe for its pagan connotations (still held by today's Christian church) the mix held fast to this day - the combination of Saturnalia's merrymaking with the celebrations of the Winter Solstice, and the agreed-upon day of Christ's birth (with no historical basis and none really needed).   

So Christmas is truly not really one or another, but a combination of many.  Merriment, joy, and respectful honor.  A most important day of the year.     

In 1647 England, Parliament passed a law abolishing Christmas altogether, how bout that?!  Even though Charles 2 revived it, the feasting and merrymaking were more worldly than religious.  Bit of a dark time.   

It's clear our Christmas traditions arose from what some would call "pagan" ceremonies but which we all still perform and take great joy in following, such as decking the halls and setting up our tree, having family gather, friends visit, exchange gifts, all the favors this greatly evolved time brings.  It's the Winter Solstice.  A duly recognized time of year.  It's Saturnalia, the time to get a little nutty and just live to the fullest with those you love under the sun, which orb is honored.  It's also the time our Holy Mother Church, founded by Christ, has declared to be the recognition of the birth amongst us of a Savior and King, humble, loving, 100% human, 100% divine, the anointed One, whose destiny was the foundation of the Christian faith.  Why not celebrate anytime we want? you may ask.  Why can't we chose another date?  Those in more educated places who know the byways of historical fact have spoken and so was it writ.  Who knows what the 28th century will bring. 

When you celebrate with joyous merrymaking your Saturnalia feast, and meditate on the mysteries of the Winter Solstice, take a moment at the creche, the manger we all know so well, and pay your respects.  If you don't believe it means anything, it can't hurt you I promise.  (If I don't believe there's a monster under my bed, it can't hurt me.)  Christmas seems to be, indeed, a combination of ancient traditions, and the Church declared it would also be the best time to recognize the Savior's birth.  Whether the concept of such a Man is within your ethic or not, the way I see it and in my humblest of opinions, God requires no one's belief in Him to exist.  

So to every dear soul in this Land of J, I wish you:

                   WARM WINTER SOLSTICE

                        SWEET SATURNALIA

                    A CHERISHED CHRISTMAS

                                   and to Jesus,

                                HAPPY BIRTHDAY !








Monday, December 17, 2007

Quotes of the Quotable PART TWO

"Live like you were dying, die like you were living." Anon.

"BE the change you want to see in your life." cnr

"Belief, like any other body, follows the path of least resistance." R.W. Emerson

"We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities." Oscar Wilde

"Any court, country or person who must be told why robbing life is wrong, and always will be, lies dangerously close to forfeiting their own." csr

"Love is too young to know what conscience is." Shakespeare

"A majority is simply a collection of many minorites." JFK

"Never trust the advice of a man in trouble." Aesop

"Old people like to give good advice, to console themselves for not being able to set a bad example." Rochafoucauld

"Man's loneliness is but his fear of life." Eugene O'Neill

"I would die for my country but I would never let my country die for me." Neil Kinnock (UK Labor Party)

"No war is worth fighting except the last." J. Enoch Powell

"A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."Aristotle

"It's not how far you've come that matters, but how far you've come from where you were." German saying

"What's wrong with being a boring guy?" George W. Bush

"Shooting a flying bird is as bad a shooting all birds. The last is as good as the first." Ernest Hemingway

"An atheist is someone who probably believes in God but just doesn't like Him." csr

"Poverty is not a shame; being ashamed of it is." English Proverb

"In her first passion, a woman loves her lover. In all others, all she loves is love." Lord Byron

"Man needs to adore and obey, but if you do not command him, if you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own divinities and find a chieftain in his own passions." Benjamin Disraeli

"Love is the law; love under will." Alistair Crowley

"Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth." Archimedes

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quotes Of The Quotable

"Only one principle will give you courage - that no evil lasts forever, nor indeed for very long."     Epicurus

"Lord, on You I call for help against my blind and senseless torment.  You alone can renew inwardly and outwardly my mind, my will, my strength - which are weak."  Michelangelo

"Receive what cheer you may.  The night is long that never finds the day."                           Shakespeare

"Suffering is a misfortune, as seen from the one side, and a discipline, as seen from the other."        CSR

"Look for the truth - search for the good - hope for the best."  Anon.

"The triumph of evils occurs when good men do nothing."  Edmund (Abrgd)

"When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you."  Neitzsche

"Just as a burden shared is a burden lessened, a sunbeam reflected is a shared brightness, multiplying itself in the glory of God."   csr

"If your teeth bother you, don't worry.  Just ignore them and they'll go away."    csr

"Even our best and brightest would hang their heads in shame if their faults were written on their foreheads."       Old Irish Proverb

"Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground."  Jerry B.

"Man plans, God laughs."  Anon.

                             ( A bit more of my prose )

Your giving has allowed my living.  Praying is something that can change a life, can rearrange a soul in strife.

All the days I am lost and afraid,

always do I find the glory of Your heart's rays

sent to warm, received with praise.

Or the coolness of the shade, Your aid to me

when I burn in the sand - without a tree

on this so risky land.

You only, have reached to me with Your hand

without a moment's thought -

and through this act of pure love I see

my life You caught, before I could fall.

For this, I thank You -

I thank You for it all.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"The Gardener"

Have you one dear friend, who can soothe your every pain?     

A friend who goes beyond a lover standing in the rain;

In ways so unexpected, I found a friend like this,

and o'er the years she's been there like an angel's silent kiss.

She turns over the earth!  How she causes it to sing!

She understand the seasons and the changes that they bring;

Is there a gift as great as bringing one small seed to bloom?

be it in the grandest garden, or the window of a room.

To me she is The Gardener, traveling far and wide

reaching those who call for her, she rushes to their side;

N'er could I imagine my life without her in it -

if they gave awards for having heart, my Gardener, she would win it.


By Cathy S. Rapicano 8/9/06

Sunday, December 9, 2007

They're baaaaack!!!!

Ah yes, it's time for the incredible Geminid meteor showers and this year will prove to be the best sightings ever, so "they" say.  I love the Geminids.

Dress warm for this one.  Look on the 13th till the 17th, I'd say, and expect cold weather - prepare for it, but it's going to be worth the extra mittens since no moon so better viewing, start gazing around 8 PM EDT, 10 will be peak time.  Tonight Luna starts a new phase, by the way.

Look for the Gemini constellation, as you know, and the radiant or place where the meteors will eminate, will be Castor, one of the twins (Pollux and Castor, stars that make up the heads of the twins).  Geminids are mighty but graceful all at once, these are the "stellar" meteors to see, as you might remember from last year (it's Christmas again already????)  They'll be bright, slow, arcing graceful fireballs.  You MUST not miss them, and you don't need any equipment for Geminids.  Eyes will do.

Depending on your locale, look for Gemini in the east-northeast right around twilight's end, you can catch a few of the early ones before the peak hour of 10 PM.  It'll be dazzling, more so than last year when Luna obscured alot of the event. 

Also in Gemini this month is MARS which you'll see easily, in an orange light. You can't miss our "war god" planet if you're looking for "Gems".  Best of gazing to you! 


Basics courtesy of Sky & Telescope, Gryphon, star charts and finally, my own memory!   







In A Past Life I Was ...

Here's a neat little ONE QUESTION thing to find out who or what you were in a past life.  Blogthings - Who Were You In a Past Life?  Just answer the one question and HTML, see what happens.  Here's mine, holy geez:

In a Past Life...
You Were: A Genius Cannibal.

Where You Lived: Siberia.

How You Died: Natural causes.

                               Happiest of Holidays!                  

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Slip Of All Times

Do let me tell you the story of when I first saw "The Silence of the Lambs." No one in our lab where I worked had an idea of what it was about, except maybe series killers, so we were all excited. It was a perfect Indian summer in 1992 I believe, and I had no idea that in 2 years my life would be flipped like a pancake by health issues. As needs must, a neurological ailment takes the life out of you.

On with the tale. A handsome colleague surprised me with an offer of a movie after our Saturday shift. In a lab where you set up blood work slides, examine specimens and prepare tests, there are no "weekends", because specimens can corrupt and I worked many a Saturday or Sunday when called for. Alex and I were through that Saturday around noon after 4 hours of monotonous blood counts, and set off in his incredible 1969 blue Mustang - which increased his appeal 10-fold. "Ah Woman, how shallow, how fickle..." Actually I enjoyed Alex and his chess stories. He was exceptionally good.

We drove to Maplewood, where I lived, to the tony part of town where a small comfy theater sat in the middle of the square. I noticed a line, which was unusual, and after we parked and walked closer, we saw there were two movies playing, "Sleeping With the Enemy" and "The Silence of the Lambs". Alex looked at me quizzically and I instantly crinkled my nose in distaste, to answer his implied "Do you want to see Julia Roberts?" I just couldn't warm up to the lady. Besides, there was gory guts in store and who could resist that, I ask you? We grabbed a spot in line and waited, chatting about how great it was listening to jazz while playing chess.

When we arrived at the window, I was ahead of Alex and had been talking with him a great deal - my mind wasn't focused on what I was doing exactly, and I didn't take in many movies. So when the ticketeer asked which movie, I said "Two for Sleeping with the Lambs please." Said it nice and loud. Enunciated very well. Couldn't mistake a word. "Sleeping with the Lambs." That's what I said. That's what everyone around us heard.

That's what Alex heard.

If a hole opened in the ground I would've jumped in. People were laughing and I was beet-red with embarrassment as I realized my faux pas. Worse, it made me look the fool in front of Alex - he of the pretty face and great vintage car. Strange folks were smiling at me and though I smiled back it was one of those moments where all you want is a handful of magic disappearing dust you can sprinkle on yourself.

"Oh silly me, look what I said, hahaha," was about all I could manage. Sleeping with the enemy, The Silence of the lambs - and I managed to scramble them both into a melange of idiocy called "Sleeping with the lambs." So I'm standing there waiting for our tickets when I hear a voice from the window:

"Well which movie did you want?" Her grin was more a bored smirk, to my mind.

"Oh yes, well - I'm sorry, yes okay, I want Silence of the Lambs - lambs, yes - two of them - silence, lambs. That's what I want - two, please. Lambs. Silence. Yes. That's it." I was sounding like a loony bird.

When we found our seats in the dark, Alex leaned over and whispered something about sheep farmers in New Zealand but I didn't really hear him, I was busy feeling stupid. The movie was very well-done, I thought, except a few things which would never have happened, like the FBI using a recruit to track a series killer. But it was Hollywood, so suspending belief I was able to enjoy each gripping moment and in fact, on this computer, Dr. Lecter himself welcomes me and let's me know I have mail.

"Hey you've got mail, goody goody" he says in that superbly horrifying voice.

But it's Alex's voice I'll always remember of that day, which became a bit softer at work and his mannerisms a bit more relaxed, because he thought I'd mis-spoke on purpose. He thought I had a fine sense of humor, was very witty. It was more a fine sense of stupidity, but I'll never tell.

Monday, December 3, 2007

An Irony Of Goodness

This being December 3rd, it is the Feast Day in the Roman Catholic Church of a most unusual man, who devoted his 46 years to loving God, and by orders of his religion, set about trying to convert all he could to that same devotion. 

Francis Xavier was born in 1506 in the Spanish kingdom of Navarre, had a fierce outlook, very proud, passionate and quick to anger.  Yet this was offset by his tremendous heart full of generosity and feeling for others.  As he grew he sought out study, and in fact was a disciple of the heroic St. Ignatius Loyola.  They met at the University of Paris, where Francis went at 19.  Ignatius was much older and tried hard to win over the younger Francis to the ways of living totally for God.  Eventually, Francis was converted to what we know as the Exercises of Ignatius, and both men joined the Society of Jesus where they studied for three years.  They were ordained as priests in 1537.

Francis Xavier was not a tolerant man.  Though he loved God, he considered any who practiced a different form of worship to be pagan, even demonic, and sought to convert them.  He was not a learned man, could not speak well, but felt a great passion for God and made energetic attempts to convert all he could to see that the way of Rome was the only path to God.  Many were forming new ideas at the time of the renaissance, but Francis could not bring himself to expand his thoughts.  This made Francis a man of outdated ideas who refused to broaden his beliefs.  The great irony is that this generous man, so caring and concerned, seemed bent on abandoning those who would not see the way as he did.  Though he loved God passionately, his thoughts were considered medieval and because of his intolerance for the myriad of ways to love God, is said to have lost many a potential convert to Rome. 

Francis Xavier felt he was destined to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but power took him elsewhere.  He was ordered by King John of Portugal, who sent many priests to foreign lands to convert them, to India, where he was to set up missions to teach the natives, or "pagans" as Francis called them.  He obeyed.

Although possessed of a degree from the University, Francis had no great learning, and took with him only his breviary and a book of meditations.  It is interesting to note that he had no knowledge of the religion practiced by the people he was about to teach the gospels.  To him, these people were "enemies of God", to be saved at any cost.  His fierce attitude never changed, and the devout Muslim, learned Brahmin and holy Buddhist all made no impression on him whatever.  With a heart so large, he could not open it to any idea of God but that of Rome, the Papal deity.  His goodness held a fierce irony to it.

Another irony was that this good man accepted the slavery and Inquisition of his day without question.   He never doubted the right of the Portuguese power in India and was prepared to make use of it in the interests of the gospel.

Slowly, he began to detach himself from things of the world.  Francis chose to deliberately live in poverty, refusing to accept even the smallest of charity.  That he found enough food to survive is a miracle in itself.  When his missionary journeys took him to tropical, hot deserts, he would wear only boots to protect his feet, giving no concession to clothing.  What was amazing was his endurance, his tolerance for the most appalling of conditions of both heat and cold, yet no tolerance for the religious practices of other cultures.  This is a great complexity of spirit and drive.  By day he would seek out those in need, the sick and poor, ministering to them, and at night he would remain in a state of prayer.  He practiced all this in an elevated state of joy, very much like the other Saint Francis, of Assisi, Italy. 

His journey on the sea and then land was an epic adventure, yet he sought out the most miserable of conditions for himself.  In 1542 he arrived in the south of India where he ministered to the poor, the sick and homeless, and did this incessantly.  Working among the pearl-fishers and natives for about 7 years he then made his way east.

He died alone trying to enter China, on December 3, 1552, on a small island near Japan.  In 10 years, this most poorest of the poor traversed the greater part of the Far East, a remarkable achievement for even the most well-prepared traveler.  It is easy to imagine his comfort and solace: a love of God so deep and fierce nothing else held meaning.  Did he feel his continual hunger, the extremes of heat and cold?  Would it have mattered if he did? 

In 1619 Pope Paul V beatified him, and then in 1622 he was canonized a Saint by Pope Gregory XV.  On that same date, another holy man was canonized a saint:  Ignatius Loyola. 

St. Francis Xavier is the patron of all Catholic missions of the Church.  He held intensely strong to his beliefs which could've but did not kill him, and many miracles are attributed to him by the Church. 


Basics courtesy of Christian Hagiography, Kate O'Brien, CIN