16 Feb Saint John de Britto, Confessor, Martyr
Today is the feast day of Saint John de Britto. Ora pro nobis.
Don Pedro II of Portugal, when a child, had among his little pages a modest boy of rich and princely parents. The young John de Britto (also known as Arulanandar in India) — for that was his name — had much to bear from his careless-living companions, to whom his holy life was a reproach. A severe illness made him turn for aid to Saint Francis Xavier, a Saint well loved by the Portuguese; and when he recovered, in answer to his prayers, his mother clothed him for a year in the tunic worn in those days by the Jesuit Fathers. From that time John’s heart burned to follow the example of the Apostle of India.
Entering the Society of Jesus at fifteen, he obtained as his mission-field Madura in southern India. In September, 1673, he reached Goa. Before taking up his work he spent thirty days in the Exercises of St. Ignatius at Ambalacate near Cranganore. De Brito apparently entered the Kshatriyas, a noble caste. His dress was yellow cotton; he abstained from every kind of animal food and from wine. Setting out early in 1674, he traversed the Ghats on foot and reached Colei in the Cauvery Delta, where he perfected himself in the language. He journeyed northward at least as far as Madras and Vellore, but Cauvery Delta, Tanjore, Madura, and Marava, between Madura and the sea, were his chief field. In 1684 he was imprisoned in Marava, and, though freed by the king, he was expelled from the country.
In 1688 he was sent to Europe as deputy to the triennial Congregation of Procurators. Resisting urgent attempts to keep him in Portugal, and refusing the Archbishopric of Cranganore, he returned in 1691 to the borders of Madura and Marava. Having converted Teriadeven, a Maravese prince, he required him to dismiss all his wives but one. Among them was a niece of the king, who took up her quarrel and began a general persecution. De Brito and others were taken and carried to the capital, Ramnad, the Brahmins clammering for his death. Thence he was led to Oreiour, some thirty miles northward along the coast, where his head was struck off, 11 February, 1693. He had wrought many conversions during his life, established many stations, and was famous for his miracles before and after his death. He was beatified by Pius IX, 21, August, 1853. (2)
Image: Image of Saint De Britto in Oriyur Arulanandar Church, Ramanathapuram (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff