Today in the Middle Ages: April 7, 1506

Today is the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier. The Spanish-born missionary studied at the University of Paris and was one of the seven priests who joined Ignatius Loyola to found the Jesuit order.

Less celebrated for his learning than for his zeal, Francis was ordered on a mission to Asia by the Pope himself. After time in Lisbon and Mozambique, the saint traveled to Goa, where legend credits him with having "coverted the whole city." From India, he went on to Japan, but died before he could get permission to enter China.

Not only did he accomplish amazing feats of travel for the period, St. Francis Xavier converted tens of thousands of Asians and founded Catholic communities that are still active today. He was canonized in 1622 and later named the patron saint of all foreign missions.