June 9th 1597 - José de Anchieta
† in Retiriba (today Anchieta)
José was born on March 19th 1534 on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. He studied in Coimbra and entered there on May 1st 1551 the Portuguese Province of the Society of Jesus. After the noviciate his superiors sent him, despite his delicate health, to Brazil where the Jesuits had established a blossoming mission station. There he was ordained priest in the year 1566.
After longer activity as Superior he was appointed Provincial of the Brazilian Province. In these years his unusual intelligence and his outstanding art of leadership became apparent. He was the first who, already soon after his arrival in Brazil, sketched a grammar of the native language of the Tupi Indians, which he improved and supplemented gradually. It was printed in 1595. In this language he wrote a Catechism and other pastoral texts, which were set partially by verses in native rhythms and melodies, because it was apparent that the Indians possessed amazing musical talents.
In a report of that time is said about him: 'Barefoot, with cross and rosary around his neck, in his hand a pilgrim's staff, the shoulders loaded with the breviary and altar utensils, he forced his way in the forests, swam through rivers, ascended wild mountain landscapes, lost himself in the depths of the deserts, stepped up to wild animals - and overcame all these troubles and labours only to win souls.' Thus he is described by Southey, History of Brasil II, 310.
He was an untiring missionary of the Indians and exerted by his charismatic personage large influence on the society of the country. His person is inseparably connected with the origin and development of the Brazilian church. Father General Kolvenbach in Rome wrote about him: 'The ability to adapt himself creatively into a new world, led by trustful hope and loving openness for the needs of human beings and the values of their culture, are also for us today, more than 400 years later, a source of inspiration, which calls us to meet the challenges of a new evangelisation.'
Anchieta is the Patron and Apostle of Brazil because of his merits on religion, culture and native country.
The Jesuits stood courageously up against the excesses of the slave hunts, against the drunkenness (which existed already long before the Europeans arrived), against the sexual practices (promiscuity), and particularly against cannibalism. And they proceeded with more patience and understanding as the Portuguese adventurers, who were motivated by gold and jewels only. Several times Anchieta mediated peace with the insurgents. For months he was as a hostage in mortal danger. But among the Indians he was throughout liked, and venerated as holy miracle-worker.
He died on June 9th 1597 in Retiriba, a small village, which to his honour is called today Anchieta. He died at the age of sixty four - and had been working in Brazil for 44 years. His beatification took place on June 22nd 1980 by Pope John Paul II.
The main celebrations of the canonisation were in Sao Paulo, the city which admires him as founder. In the festive Eucharist, celebrated in the overcrowded cathedral by Cardinal Arns, took also part the President of the Republic Cardosa, the Governor of the Federal State, and many notables. Particularly for that celebration Mrs. Marlui Miranda had composed a Mass with Indian rhythms and texts of the Tupi Guarani Indians.
Also a religious play of Anchieta was performed with great success, in which hundred twenty actors were involved. Much was broadcasted by the national television, also a documentary film (50 minutes) about the Beatified. The media were engaged quite actively, and also several books were published. At the place before the Jesuit Church a large public festival was celebrated. A national monument in his honour records the memory of the canonisation.
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