Visit almost any Church or Christian house in Goa, and you're certain to find an image of the state's patron saint , Francis Xavier, known locally with considerable affection as Goencho Saib.
He was born on April 6, 1506. The sixth and the last child of Dr. Joao de Xavier and Maria d'Aspilcueta at the Xavier castle in Navarre, Spain.
Around this time, reports were reaching the Lisbon court of the dissolute lifestyle being led by Portuguese expatriates in Goa. The King, Dom João III ( 1521 - 1557), appealed to the Jesuits for help to reverse this moral decline, and when one of the original candidates fell ill, Francis Xavier was asked to lead the mission. He and his delegation arrived a year later, on May 6, 1542, and immediately set to work saving the souls of Goa's wayward colonials.
A new institute named college of St. Paul had been established in Goa for the priestly formation of local candidates. Francis was requested to hold the rectorship of this college; but his heart was longing for the souls who had never a chance to listen to the message of Jesus.
On December 3, 1552, he died of a fever while trying to sneak into China. In death Francis Xavier was as remarkable as he was in life. His body was buried on the deserted island of Sancian, near the mouth of the Canto River, coated with quicklime to hasten its decomposition. However, when the grave was reopened three months later, the corpse was in perfect condition. Reburied in Malacca, it was exhumed again after five months and found to be still incorrupt.
The arrival of Xavier's body in Goa, in March 1554, was greeted by a vast and euphoric crowd. But the church would not formally acknowledge the miracle until a medical examination had been carried out by the viceroy's physician to ensure the corpse had not been artificially preserved. The medic declared the skin firm and the intestines intact, then asked a Jesuit priest to stick his finger into a hole in the chest. When the finger was withdrawn, it was smeared with blood that was "smelt and found to be absolutely untainted".
Francis Xavier was eventually canonized in 1622 and his body installed
in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, but not before bits of it has been removed
by relic hunters - in 1614, his right arm was dispatched to the Pope in
Rome, a hand to Japan and parts of the intestines to southeast Asia. Other
relics found their way into private homes. Much the most macabre mutilation,
though, occurred in 1634 when a Portuguese noblewoman, Dona Isabel de
Caron, bit off the little toe of the corpse's right foot. So much blood
spurted into the woman's mouth that it left a trail all the way to her
house and she was found out.