Today is the feast day of Saint Turibius. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Turibius (Saint Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo) was well educated and achieved a number of successful secular honors and positions within Spanish society. While devout as a youth, Turibius had no intention of becoming a priest. Instead, having done well as a student, and gained the notice of his professors, he was appointed professor of law at the University of Salamanca. There, too, Turibius attracted the attention of his superiors through his patience, virtue, and intellect, and in February 1571, although he was a layman, King Philip II appointed him the chief judge of the ecclesiastical court of the Inquisition at Granada.
In 1580 when the Episcopal See of Lima, Peru, became vacant, the King selected him to fill this position. Toribio protested he was not worthy of the honor and used his knowledge of Church law to contest the appointment. He was overruled, consented, and was ordained priest and consecrated Bishop in order to fulfil his new obligations. He arrived in Lima, Peru to assume his office in 1581 at age 43.
His Diocese was immense, and the morals of the Spanish clergy and laymen were very far from being perfect. He also found that the Indian population were being exploited and persecuted. This did not discourage St. Toribio. On the contrary, he resolved to apply the decisions of the Council of Trent in order to reform the region.
Gifted with an exceptional prudence and great zeal, he began with a reform of the clergy. He was inflexible regarding any moral scandal. He became the scourge of public sinners and the protector of the oppressed. For this reason he was strongly criticized and persecuted, but he received the support of the virtuous Viceroy who had recently arrived in Lima, Don Francisco de Toledo.
The journeys through Peru were dangerous at that time, with few roads, and dense jungle. Turibius traveled alone, risking encounters with wild animals, unfriendly tribes, disease, heat, and danger. Over the course of his ministry in Peru, he would travel the length of his territory—always on foot—three times. During that time, he succeeded in eradicating the worst abuses occurring there, and successfully championed the rights of all peoples. He built roads, founded many churches, school houses, convents and hospitals, and the first seminary in the Americas, which allowed both Native Qechuans and those of European descent to enter, being educated together.
Saint Turibius worked tirelessly, continuing his mission despite contracting a fatal illness. Wracked with fever, he continued preaching until the very end. His favorite topic was that our lives belong not to ourselves, but to our Maker, saying, “Time is not our own and we must give a strict accounting of it.” Saint Turibius predicted his own death to the hour, years before he died in the Sanctuary of the Church at Sana. Upon his death, all that he had was bequeathed to the poor.
Turibius personally baptised and confirmed about half a million people, including two of South America’s best known saints, St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres.
He died on Holy Thursday, March 23 1606 and was canonised in 1672.
He is the patron saint of Peru.
Image: Saint Turibius (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff