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Christian Conversion - Part 14 European Exptorarions and...

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Unformatted text preview: Part 14; European Exptorarions and Expansion 14.9 The Prospects of Christian Conversion: Saint Francis Xavier The following selection is an excerpt from the journals of Gaspar Correa, who sailed with Vasco da Gama in 1502. This incident occurred after a group of Portuguese had been killed in the trading station of Calcutta. Vasco da Gama sought to control the situation by exacting a bloody vengeance. Source: "The Prospects of Christian Conversion" is from Henry James Coleridge, ed., The Life and Let- ters MS: Francis Xavier, 2nd edition (London: Burns and Dates, 1890), p. 86. SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER My own and only Father in the Heart of Christ, I think that the many letters from this place which have lately been sent to Rome will inform you how prosperously the affairs of religion go on in these parts, through your prayers and the good bounty of God. But there seem to be certain things which I ought myself to speak about to you; so I will just touch on a few points relating to these parts of the world which are so distant from Rome. In the first place, the whole race of the Indi- ans, as far as I have been able to see, is very barbarous; and it does not like to listen to anything that is not agreeable to its own manners and customs, which, as I say, are barbarous. It troubles itself very little to learn anything about divine things and things which concern salvation. Most of the Indians are of vicious disposition, and are adverse to virtue. Their instability, levity, and inconstancy of mind are incredible; they have hardly any honesty, so inveterate are their habits of sin and cheating. We have hard work here, both in keeping the Christians up the mark and in this account you should take great care of us and help us continually by your prayers to God. You know very well what a hard business it is to teach people who neither have any knowledge of God nor follow reason, but think it a strange and intolerable thing to be told to give up their habits of sin, which have now gained all the force of nature by long possession. . . . The experience which I have of these countries makes me think that I can affirm with truth, that there is no prospect of perpetuating our Society out here by means of the natives themselves, and that the Christian religion will hardly survive us who are now in the country; so that it is quite necessary that continual supplies of ours should be sent out from Europe. . . . The Portuguese in these countries are masters only of the sea and of the coast. On the mainland they have only the towns in which they live. The natives themselves are so enormously addicted to vice as to be little adapted to receive the Christian religion. They so dislike it that it is most difficult to get them to hear us if we begin to preach about it, and they think it like death to be asked to become Christians. So for the present, we devote ourselves to keeping the Christians whom we have. Certainly, if the Portuguese were more remarkable for their kindness to the new converts, a great number would become Christians; as it is, the heathen see that the converts, are despised and looked down upon by the Portuguese, and so, as is natural, they are unwilling to become converts themselves. For all these reasons there is no need for me to labor in these countries, and as I have learned from good authorities that there is a country near China called Japan, the inhabitants of which are all heathen, quite untouched by Muslims or Jews, and very eager to learn what they do not know both in things divine and things natural, [have determined to go thither as soon as I can. . . . Questions: 1. How does Xavier describe the Indians? By what criteria does he judge them? 2. According to Xavier, how are the Portuguese hindering the missionaries? 350 ...
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