FSLE 3 (60918)
Course: Images of India
Response Note on St. Xavier’s letter
A summary of the themes covered in St. Xavier’s letter to the Society of Jesus at Rome.
This letter begins with a description of St. Xavier informing the authorities that it had already been three years of him and Francis Mancias at Comorin in India. They had been sent by the missionaries in Rome to restore Christianity in the Portugal colonies in India and during the course of three years, St. Xavier had already done a great job converting Hindus to Christianity. He informs them about his experience in India and in this essay I would summarize his letter according to the different themes he covers in it.
a) Population: St. Xavier mentions that just at Comorin the population is large and it keeps increasing rapidly. They speak the local languages and are dark in color.
The first job that St. Xavier did after coming to India was to interact with the most intelligent of the men at the coast who were well versed in the Malabar as well as Castilian. St. Xavier did not understand Malabar much but he picked up a little bit of it from the locals. With the help of these diligent men, he translated the Catechism into the local language and then began assembling men, women, and children in the villages to teach them the doctrines in the Bible. He began with teaching them the Ten Commandments and read to them the articles in the Creed. According to St. Xavier, Indians were eager to learn from him and adopted the religion readily. They spread his teachings to their neighbours and friends.
b) Idolatry Worship: St. Xavier baptized countless Hindus, sometimes the whole villages in a day. He took pride in the youth that he had baptized at infancy as they listened to him passionately and would do anything at his command. According to St. Xavier, the idol worship was a fluke and could not help anyone in any possible way; all it did was leave the people at mercy of the Brahmins. He asked people to believe in one God who was the creator of heaven and earth and called the ‘black’ idols images of the devil. He also hated the way idols looked like as they were black in color and ‘smelt detestably’ because of the oil rubbed on them. He had ingrained in the children he had baptized, the same hatred for idol worship and they began hating anyone, even their parents, if they involved themselves in worshipping the Hindu idols. They broke the idols and spit at them wherever they found them. These children were also assigned responsibility to teach as many people as they could in the nearby villages. St. Xavier left a copy of Christian doctrine when he had taught a village and then moved ahead. Those who could read and write were asked either asked to make copies of the Christian Doctrine or learn and recite them to the fellowmen. All the village men met on a feast day when they celebrated and had meetings. St. Xavier had appointed thirty men of knowledge to preside over these meetings and he paid them with the 4000 gold farlams Martin Alfonso had provided to his Society for this purpose.