Joseph Anchieta

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Joseph Anchieta

A famous Jesuit missionary, commonly known as the Apostle of Brazil, born on the Island of Tenerife, in 1553, of noble family; died in Brazil, 1596. After studying in Coimbra, he entered the Society of Jesus, at the age of seventeen, and when a novice nearly ruined his health by his excessive austerity, causing an injury to the spine which made him almost a hunchback. He was sent to the New World, with no idea of making him a missionary, but in the hope of restoring his shattered health. He reached Brazil in 1553, and laboured there among the colonists and savage natives for about forty-four years. His first work was teaching Latin to some of the junior members of the Society and to a certain number of externs. Very likely it was the first classical school in America. He was a perfect master of Latin, Castilian, and Portuguese, and quickly acquired a knowledge of the native tongue, as well as two books of religious instruction, to assist the missionaries in the work of converting the natives. He was a poet, and wrote canticles which immediately became very popular among the natives and Portuguese. To effect a reformation of morals, he composed and directed a drama which was acted in the open air at Bahia. By means of interludes in Brazilian the Indians were able to grasp its meaning. This also was possibly the first attempt at dramatic art in the New World. Though not a priest, he accompanied the missionaries on their apostolic journeys, and on one occasion remained a willing hostage among the wild Tamuins who were waging a fierce war against the settlers; twice he was on the point of being killed and eaten. During his captivity he is said to have composed a poem of nearly five thousand verses, and, as there were no means of putting it on paper, he committed it to memory and wrote it out after he returned to the colony. It was during the last military operations to suppress the Tamuin uprising that he was recalled from the expedition, and ordained a priest by Peter Leitano, the first bishop who arrived in Brazil. Apart from his supernatural gifts, he was remarkable for his captivating eloquence and gracefulness of speech. He had a fair knowledge of medicine, which he made of in helping his Indians, and he displayed an unusual skill in the details of business when, latter in life, he was called to the office of rector and provincial. Continue reading

St. John of Sahagun

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St. John of Sahagun, Confessor

A.D. 1479.

[Hermit of the Order of St. Augustine.] ST. JOHN, son of John Gonzalez of Castrillo, was a native of Sahagun, or St. Fagondez, in the kingdom of Leon in Spain. He went through the course of his studies in the schools of the Benedictin monks of St. Fagondez, and no sooner had he received the ecclesiastical tonsure than his father procured him a small benefice. The bishop of Burgos took him shortly after into his family and preferred him to a canonry, though the abbot of St. Fagondez had already put him in possession of three small benefices. The pretence for this plurality was the incompetency of the livings for the maintenance of the incumbent. John had lived always blameless in his morals, and his life had an appearance of virtue above the general bulk of Christians. But the divine grace opening his eyes, he at length discovered many errors in his conduct, and set himself seriously to reform them. The first step he took was to extort, by repeated importunity, leave from the bishop of Burgos to resign his church livings, reserving only one chapel in which he every day said mass, often preached, and catechized the ignorant. He lived in the strictest evangelical poverty and mortification, retired from the world, and began by serious consideration to take a view of himself, and of the state of his soul. He learned by experience that pious reading, meditation and prayer afford a purer joy than all the train of worldly pleasures can give. Having at length procured his bishop’s consent, he repaired to Salamanca, where he applied himself during four years to the study of theology. After which term he attended the care of souls in the parish church of St. Sebastian, and frequently preached with wonderful zeal and fruit. In the meantime he lived with a virtuous canon, and inured himself to the practice of great austerities during nine years, till he was obliged to be cut for the stone. As soon as he had recovered his health after the operation, he took the religious habit among the hermits of St. Austin in Salamanca, in 1463. In his novitiate he appeared already a perfect master in a spiritual life, and made his solemn vows on the 28th of August, in 1464. He so perfectly attained the spirit of his rule, that no one was more mortified, more obedient, more humble, or more disengaged from creatures than he appeared to be in all his actions. Being commanded to employ his talents in preaching, he delivered from the pulpit the word of God with such energy and force, as discovered how much his understanding was enlightened, and his heart filled with the holy maxims of the gospel. By his pathetic sermons and private exhortations he introduced an entire reformation of manners throughout the whole city, and extinguished the most inveterate feuds and animosities, which, especially among the noblemen, produced daily bad effects; for, by the spirit of meekness with which he was endued, he had a particular talent in reconciling enemies, and in appeasing dissensions. Those whom he found full of bitterness against their neighbour he inspired with the love of peace and charity, and taught them to seek no other revenge than that of forgiving all injuries, and of overcoming enmity by benefits. 1 Continue reading