Saint Francis Xavier
and the desalination of salt water.
St. Francis Xavier) (1506 - 1552), a Portuguese missionary originally from
Basel, one of the founders of the Jesuits, spent his life traveling and converting thousands of 'non-believers' into
Catholics. The terrain of his actions was predominantly the Far-East. In 1541 he traveled to Goa, which at the time was a Portuguese colony predominantly trading with Europe, he became the Pope's
nuncio of the East, and had his main residence there with a large number of followers.
He traveled quite a lot in his life, visiting India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka),
Moluccas and Malay Peninsula. After a particularly fruitful visit to Japan, he decided to convert
China to Christianity. He reached China in 1552, but became ill and died on the small island of Chang-Chuen-Shand off the coast of
China without fulfilling this main task.
Due to the nature of things, St. Franis spent a lot of time at sea. The trip from Lisbon to
Goa during those times would take about thirteen months. The terrain of his missions was very spread out, and his followers
inhabited various islands that could only be reached after months of travel. On top of this, St.
Francis suffered from sea sickness. His determination must be highly commended.
Many deadly dangers awaited marines and sea travelers. One of these was death of
thirst due to a lack of fresh water - a lost ship, after
using up its reserves of water was likely to perish. This very situation arose during the travel from Japan to Goa, and it was here that the unusual qualities of St.
Francis feet became noticed. The crew tied the missionary with straps made from a bed sheet
(it can be seen in the painting that this was done quite professionally) and lowered him overboard. As soon as his feet touched the water, it immediately became drinkable. Unfortunately, we do not know the method by which this was achieved. If we could solve this puzzle, life in
many Arabian countries would become quite different that to what it is today..
St. Francis Xavier is the patron of overseas missions, Goa, India, Japan, outer Mongolia and tourism. Could
it mean that engineers engaged in desalination of sea water and specialist
in ion-exchangers finally have a saint parton? o the chemistry of the sea? It
is my humble suggestion...