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The Jesuits, 1534-1921

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Xavier departs for the East – Goa – Around Hindostan – Malacca – The Moluccas – Return to Goa – The Valiant Belgian – Troubles in Goa – Enters Japan – Returns to Goa – Starts for China – Dies off the Coast – Remains brought to Goa – Africa – Congo, Angola, Caffreria, Abyssinia – Brazil, Nobrega, Anchieta, Azevedo – Failure of Rodriguez in Portugal.

When John III of Portugal asked for missionaries to evangelize the colonies which the discoveries of Da Gama and others had won for the crown in the far east, Bobadilla, Rodriguez and Xavier were assigned to the work. Bobadilla's sickness prevented him from going, and then His Majesty judged that he was too generous to his new possessions and not kind enough to the mother country; so it was decided to keep Rodriguez in Portugal, his native land, and send Xavier to the Indies.

Xavier arrived at Lisbon in June, 1540, and waited there eight months for the departure of the vessel, during which time he and Rodriguez effected a complete reformation in the morals of the city. He then began a series of apostolic journeys which were nothing less than stupendous in their character, not only for the distances covered during the eleven years to which they were restricted, but because of the extraordinary and often unseaworthy craft in which he traversed the yet uncharted seas of the East, which were swept by typhoons and infested by pirates, and where there was constant danger of being wrecked on inhospitable coasts and murdered by the savage natives. Three times his ship went to pieces on the rocks, and on one occasion he had to cling to a plank for days while the waves swept over him. Several times he came near being poisoned, and once he had to hide in the bush for a long time to escape the head-hunters of the Moluccas. The distances he traversed can only be appreciated by having an atlas at hand while perusing the story.

Leaving Europe, his course lay along the west coast of Africa, rounding Cape of Good Hope and then making for far away Mozambique. From there he pointed across the Arabian Sea to Goa on the west coast of Hindostan. Shortly afterwards, he continued down the coast to Cochin and Cape Comorin and across to Ceylon, then along the eastern side of the peninsula to the Pearl Fisheries, and back to Goa. Soon after, he is sailing across the Bay of Bengal to distant Malacca, which lies north of Sumatra; from there he penetrates into the Chinese Sea, and skirting Borneo and the Celebes, he arrives at the Molucca Islands, going through them from north to south and back. Returning to Goa, he again makes for Malacca and points north to Japan, passing the Philippines on his way, though it is claimed that he landed at Mindanao. From Japan he returns to Goa and then sets out for China. He reached an island opposite Canton, pined away there for a month or so, as no one dared to carry him over to the coast. He then took his flight to heaven, which was very near.

It was a great day for Lisbon when, on April 7, 1541, which happened to be his birthday, Xavier set sail for India. He was papal nuncio and King John's ambassador to the Emperor of Ethiopia. Nevertheless the princes and potentates whom this poorly clad ambassador met on his way must have gazed at him in wonder; for in spite of his honors, he washed and mended his own clothes, and while on shipboard refused the assistance of a servant and scarcely ate any food. The crew were a rascally set, as were most of the sea-rovers of those days; but this extraordinary papal nuncio and ambassador passed his time among them, always bright, approachable and happy, nursing them when they were sick, and gently taking them to task for their ill-spent lives. All day long he was busy with them, and during the night he was scourging himself or praying. By the time the ship reached its destination it was a floating church.

Goa was the capital of Portuguese India. It was not yet the golden Goa of the seventeenth century; but it had churches and chapels and a cathedral, an inchoate college and a bishop and a Franciscan friary. Mingled, however, with the Christian population was a horde of idolaters, Mussulmans, Jews, Arabians, Persians, Hindoos and others, all of them rated as inferior races by the Portuguese who were the hidalgos or fidalgos of Goa, even if they had been cooks and street-sweepers in Lisbon or Oporto. They were now clad in silks and brocades, and wore gold and precious gems in profusion; they delighted in religious displays; but in morality they were more debased than the worst pagans they jostled against in the streets. There were open debauchery, concubinage, polygamy and kindred crimes.

The coming of the papal nuncio was a great event, but he refused all recognition of his official rank. He lived in the hospital, looked after the lepers in their sheds, or the criminals in the jails, taught the children their catechism, and conversed with people of every class and condition. He got the secrets of their conscience; and in five months, Goa, at least in its Christian population, was as decent in its morals as it had formerly been corrupt and depraved. At the end of the peninsula, but beyond Cape Comorin, were the Pearl Fisheries, where lived a degraded caste who had been visited by the Franciscans and baptized some years before; but they had been left in their ignorance and vice, and no one in Goa now ever gave them a thought. Thither Xavier betook himself with his chalice and vestments and breviary, but with no provisions for his support.

On his way he passed Salsette, where Rudolph Aquaviva was martyred in later days; and he saw Canara and Mangalore and Cananon, where there was a mission station. He then went to Calicut and Cranganore and Cape Comorin, where the goddess Dourga was worshipped, and finally arrived at the Fisheries, where he found a people who were wretchedly poor, with nothing to cover them but a turban and a breech-clout, and who lived in huts along the shifting sands near the cocoanut-trees. With their tiny boats and rafts they contrived to get a livelihood from the sea, but they were shunned by the other Hindoos; for baptism had made them outcasts, and they were also the helpless victims of the pirates who were constantly prowling along the coast. Xavier lived in their filthy houses, talked with them through interpreters, gave them what instructions they were capable of receiving, and baptised all who had not yet become Christians. He remained two years with them, and after getting Portuguese ships to patrol the Sea, sent other missionaries to replace him when he had built catechumenates and little churches here and there. Although Xavier appears to have justified these rapid conversions by the precedent of 3000 people becoming Christians after the first sermon of St. Peter, yet Ignatius, while not blaming his methods, wrote him later that the instructions should precede and not follow baptism, and that quality rather than quantity should be the guide in accessions to the Faith.

Xavier returned thence to Goa, but we find him in the last days of September, 1545, abandoning India for a time and going ashore near the Portuguese settlement on the Straits of Malacca. It was a dangerous post, for it swarmed with Mohammedans. There were fierce écumeurs de mer, or sea-combers, on the near-by coasts of Sumatra, and on the island of Bitang the dethroned sultans were waiting for a chance to expel the Portuguese, while all through the interior were fierce and unapproachable savage tribes. Besides all this, the whites who had settled there for trade were a depraved mob; it is recorded that Xavier spent three whole days without food hearing their confessions, and passed entire nights praying for their conversion. In spite of all this accumulation of labor, he contrived to write a catechism and a prayer-book in Malay. In 1546 he went further east, past Java and Flores, and reached the Moluccas after a month and a half. He was on sociable terms everywhere, with soldiers and sailors and commandants of posts as well as cannibals, and made light of every hardship and danger in his efforts to win souls to God. Up and down the islands of the archipelago he travelled, meeting degeneracy of the worst kind at every step. But he established missionary posts, with the wonderful result that ten years later, De Beira, whom he sent there, had forty-seven stations and 300 °Christian families in these islands. Xavier spent two years in the Moluccas to prepare the way, and was back again in Goa in 1548.

During his absence, a number of missionaries, making in all six priests and nine coadjutor brothers, had been sent from Portugal. With them were a dozen Dominicans. Among the Jesuits were Fernandes and Cosmo de Torres, who, later on, were to be along with Xavier the founders of the great mission of Japan. There came also Antonio Gomes, a distinguished student of Coimbra, a master of arts, a doctor of canon law, and a notable orator. But, except as an orator, he was not to have the success in Goa that he had won in Lisbon. Likewise in the party was Gaspard Baertz, a Fleming, who had had a varied career, as a master of arts at Louvain, a soldier in the army of Charles V, a hermit at Montserrat, a Jesuit in Coimbra, and now a missionary in India. It was Baertz's capacity for work that prompted Xavier's famous petition: "Da mihi fortes Belgas" (Give me sturdy Belgians). Criminali, the first of the Society to be martyred in the East, had arrived previously, as had Lancilotti, a consumptive, who seemed to be particularly active in writing letters to Rome complaining of Xavier's frequent absences from Goa.

Gomes was appointed rector of the nondescript college, which belonged to the Bishop of Goa, and which had been partly managed by Lancilotti up to that time. The new superior immediately proceeded to turn everything upside down, and his hard, authoritative methods of government immediately caused discontent. According to Lancilotti, he was utterly unused to the ways of the Society in dealing not only with the members of the community but with the native students. His idea was to make the college another Coimbra – a great educational institution with branches at Cochin, Bacaim and elsewhere. However, the plan was not altogether his conception. Something of that kind had been projected for India in connection with a great educational movement which was agitating Portugal at that time. In writing to Lisbon and Rome about this matter, Xavier incidentally reveals his ideas on the question of a native priesthood. He required for it several previous generations of respectable Christian parents. The division of castes in India also created a difficulty, for the reason that a priest taken from one caste was never allowed intercourse with those who belonged to another; and, finally, he pointed out that for a Portuguese to confess to a native was unthinkable.

Meanwhile, although domestic matters were not as satisfactory as they might have been, Xavier was planning his departure for Japan. He first visited several posts and settled the difficulties that presented themselves. Gomes was his chief source of worry, and there is no doubt that he would have been removed from his post as rector on account of the dissatisfaction he had caused, had it not been for his wonderful popularity in the city as a preacher. Just then a change might have caused an outbreak among the people and a rupture with the bishop. Xavier contented himself, therefore, with restricting the activities of Gomes to temporal matters; and assigned to Cypriano the care of the spiritual interests of the community. He could have done nothing more, even if he had remained at Goa.

These repeated absences of Francis Xavier from Goa have often been urged against him as revealing a serious defect in his character; a yielding to what was called "Basque restlessness," which prompted those who had that strain in their blood to be continually on the road in quest of new scenes and romantic adventures. The real reason seems to have been his despair of doing anything in Goa, with its jumble of Moslems and pagans and corrupt Portuguese, and its string of military posts where every little political commandant was perpetually interfering with missionary efforts. It could never be the centre of a great missionary movement. "I want to be," he said, "where there are no Moslems or Jews. Give me out and out pagans, people who are anxious to know something new about nature and God, and I am determined to find them." He had heard something about Japan, as verifying these conditions; and, though he had travelled much already and was aware of the complaints about himself, he resolved to go further still; so, taking with him de Torres and Fernandes, besides a Japanese convert, Xaca, and two servants, he set his face towards the Land of the Rising Sun. He was then forty-three years of age.

He was at Malacca from May 31 to June 24, 1549, and found that the missions he had established there were doing remarkably well, as were the others in the Moluccas. The latter, however, he did not visit. He started for Japan in a miserable Chinese junk, three other associates having joined him meantime, – a Portuguese, a Chinaman, and a Malay. It took two months before he saw the volcanoes of Kiu Siu on the horizon, and it was only on August 15, 1549, that he went ashore at Kagoshima, the native city of his Japanese companion. The day was an auspicious one. It was the anniversary of his first vows at Montmartre.

Xavier began studying the language of the country and remained for a time more or less in seclusion; with the help of Xaca, or Paul as they called him, a short statement of the Christian Faith was drawn up. With that equipment, after securing the necessary permission, he, Fernandes and Xaca started on their first preaching excursion. Their appearance excited the liveliest curiosity. In the eyes of the people Xavier was merely a new kind of bonze, and they listened to him with the greatest attention. The programme adopted was first for Xaca to summon the crowd and address them, then Xavier would read his paper. They were always ready to stop at any part of the road or for any assembly and repeat their message. Soon their work rose above mere street preaching. They were invited to the houses of the great who listened more or less out of curiosity or for a new sensation. When they had accomplished all they could in one place, they went to another, always on foot, in wretched attire, through cities and over snow-clad mountains, always, however, with the aim of getting to the capital of the empire, both to see the emperor and to reach the great university, about which they had heard before they set out for Japan. Naturally, the teaching of this new religion brought Xavier into conflict with the bonzes, who were a grossly immoral set of men, though outwardly pretending to great austerity. The people, however, understood them thoroughly and were more than gratified when the hypocrites were held up to ridicule.

By this time he discovered his mistake in going about in the apparel of a beggar, and henceforward he determined to make a proper use of his position as envoy of the Governor of the Indies and of the Bishop of Goa. He, therefore, presented himself to the Daimyo of Yamaguchi in his best attire, with his credentials engrossed on parchment and an abundant supply of rich presents – an arquebus, a spinnet, mirrors, crystal goblets, books, spectacles, a Portuguese dress, a clock and other objects. Conditions changed immediately. The Daimyo gave him a handsome sum of money, besides full liberty to preach wherever he went. He lived at the house of a Japanese nobleman at Yamaguchi, and crowds listened to him in respectful silence as he spoke of creation and the soul – subjects of which the Japanese knew nothing. His learning was praised by every one, and his virtue admired; soon several notable conversions followed. After remaining at this place for six months, Xavier went to the capital, Meaco, the present Kioto, but apparently he made little or no impression there. Then news came from Goa which compelled him to return to India. So leaving his faithful friends, de Torres and Fernandes, to carry on the work which was so auspiciously begun, he started for Goa, somewhere between 15 and 20 November, 1551. He had achieved his purpose – he had opened Japan to Christianity.

On the ship that carried him back to Goa, Xavier made arrangements with a merchant named Pereira to organize an expedition to enter China. Pereira was to go as a regularly accredited ambassador of the Viceroy of the Indies, while Xavier would get permission from the emperor to preach the Gospel, and ask for the repeal of the laws hostile to foreigners and, among other things, for the liberation of the Portuguese prisoners – dreams which were never realized, but which reveal the buoyant and almost boyish hopefulness of Xavier's character. On his way back he heard of the tragic death of Criminali at Cape Comorin – the first Jesuit to shed his blood in India. It occurred in one of the uprisings of the Badages savages against the Portuguese. Later a brother was killed at the same place. Success, however, had attended the labors of Criminali and his associates; for according to Polanco and an incomplete government census, there were between 50,000 and 60,00 °Christians at that point in 1552. It was well on in February of that year when Xavier stepped ashore at Goa.

During his absence, the missions had all achieved a remarkable success. Among them was a new post at Ormuz off the coast of Arabia where Mussulmans of Persia, Jews from far and near, even from Portugal, Indian Brahmans and Jains, Parsees, Turks, Arabians, Christians of Armenia and Ethiopia, apostate Italians, Greeks, Russians and a Portuguese garrison met for commerce, and for the accompanying debauchery of such Oriental centres. The Belgian missionary, Baertz, had transformed the place. All this was satisfactory; but the college at Goa where Gomes presided was in disorder. Before that imprudent man could have possibly become acquainted with the ways of the new country, he had let himself be duped by one of the native chiefs who pretended to be a convert, but who was in reality a black-hearted traitor. He had also nullified the authority of his associate in the government of the college, and had been acting almost as superior of the entire mission. Among the people he had caused intense irritation by changing the traditional church services; he had dismissed the students of the college and put novices in their stead; he had appropriated a church belonging to a confraternity and, in consequence, had got both himself and the Society embroiled with the governor-general. But in spite of all this, it was still difficult to depose him on account of his popularity and because he was looked upon as an angel by the bishop. Unfortunately, Gomes refused to be convinced of his shortcomings and even disputed the right of his successor, who had already been appointed. Hence popular though he was, he was given his dimissorial letters. He appealed to Rome, and on his way thither was lost at sea. It is rather startling to find that Francis Xavier not only used this power of dismissal himself but gave it even to local superiors (Monumenta Xaveriana, 715-18). Possibly it was because of the difficulty of communication with Rome that this method was adopted, but it would be inconceivable nowadays.

When all this was settled, Xavier appointed Baertz, vice-provincial, and, on April 17, 1552, departed for China. On arriving at Cochin, he heard that one of the missionaries had been badly treated by the natives, that the mission was in dire want, and that Lancilotti was in sore straits at Coulam. But all that did not stop him. He merely wrote to Baertz to remedy these evils, and then continued on his journey. Of course it would be impossible to judge such missionary methods from a mere human standpoint. For Xavier's extraordinary thaumaturgic powers, his gifts of prayer and prophecy easily explain how he could not only convert multitudes to the Faith, in an incredibly short space of time, but keep them firm and constant in the practice of their religion, long after he had entrusted the care of them to others. The memory of his marvellous works, which are bewildering in their number, would necessarily remain in the minds of his neophytes, while the graces which his prayers had gained for them would give them a more intelligent comprehension of the doctrines he had taught them than if they had been the converts of an ordinary missionary.

Up to the time of his departure for China his apostolic career had been like a triumphal progress. He was now to meet disaster and defeat, but it is that dark moment of his life which throws about him the greatest lustre. His friend, Pereira, had been duly accredited as ambassador of the viceroy and had invested the largest part of his fortune in the vessel that was to convey Xavier as papal nuncio to the court of the Emperor of China. It was the only way to enter the country and to reach the imperial court; but the Governor of Malacca defeated the whole scheme. He was a gambler and a debauchee, and wanted the post of ambassador for himself to pay his debts. Hence, in spite of the entreaties of Xavier and the menace of the wrath both of the king and the Pope he confiscated the cargo and left the two envoys stranded, just when success was assured. The result was that Pereira had to remain in hiding, while Xavier shook the dust from his feet, not figuratively but actually, so as to strike terror into the heart of Don Alvaro. He embarked on his own ship, "The Holy Cross," which was now converted into a merchantman and packed with people. In that unseemly fashion he started for China.

A landing was made on the island of Sancian which lay about thirty miles from the mainland, on a line with the city of Canton. Trading was allowed at that distance, but any nearer approach to the coast meant imprisonment and death. That island was Xavier's last dwelling-place on earth; there he remained for months gazing towards the land he was never to enter. There were several ships in the offing, but he was shunned by the crews, for fear of the terrible Alvaro who was officially "master of the seas" and could punish them for being friends of his enemy. At least the Chinese traders who had come over to the island were approachable, and Xavier succeeded in inducing one of them for a money consideration to drop him somewhere on the coast – he did not care where. But no sooner was the bargain known than there was an uproar among the crews of the ships. If he were caught, they would all be massacred, and so he agreed to wait till they had sailed away.

Slowly the weeks passed, as one by one the vessels hoisted sail and disappeared over the horizon. Xavier's strength was failing fast, and he lay stretched out uncared for, under a miserable shed which had been built on the shore to protect him from the inclemency of the weather. With his gaze ever turned towards the coast which he had so longed to reach, he breathed his last on December 2, 1552, with the words on his lips: "In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me not be confounded forever." He was but forty-six years old; eleven years and seven months had elapsed since he sailed down the Tagus for the Unknown East. Only four people were courageous enough to give him the decencies of a burial, the others looked on from the gunwales of the ship, while his grave was being dug on shore. His body was placed in a box of quick-lime so that the flesh might be quickly consumed, and the bones carried back to Goa; having lowered it into a grave which was made in a little hillock above the sea, the small party withdrew.

Two months later, when the ship was about to leave, the box was opened, and to the amazement and almost the terror of all, not only was the flesh found to be intact, but the face wore a ruddy hue, and blood flowed from an incision made below the knee. It was a triumphant ship's-crew that now carried the precious freight to Malacca. They were no longer afraid, for their ship was a sanctuary guarding the relics of a saint. The ceremonies were impressive when they reached Malacca, though Don Alvaro scorned even to notice them; but when the vessel entered the harbor of Goa the splendor of the reception accorded the dead hero surpassed all that the Orient had ever seen. Xavier rests there yet, and his body is still incorrupt. It was a proper ending of the earthly career of the greatest missionary the world has known since the days of the Apostles. In 1622 he was canonized with his friend Ignatius by Pope Gregory XV.

In striking contrast with all this glory is the failure of every one of the missions on the Dark Continent of Africa. Between 1547 and 1561 the Congo and Angola had been visited, but no permanent post had been established. In Caffreria, Father Silveira and fifty of his neophytes were martyred. In 1555 Nunhes, Carnero and Oviedo were sent to Abyssinia, the first as patriarch, the others as suffragans. The patriarchate subsequently passed to Oviedo, who was the only one to reach the country. He was well received by the Negus, Asnaf, and permitted to exercise his ministry, but, in 1559 the king was slain in battle, and his successor drove the missionary and his little flock out into the desert of Adowa, a region made famous, in our own times, by the disastrous defeat of the Italian troops when they met Menelik and his Abyssinians. Oviedo continued to live there during twenty years of incredible suffering. In 1624 Paez, one of his successors, succeeded in converting the Emperor Socimos, and in getting Abyssinia to abjure its Eutychianism, but when Basilides mounted the throne in 1632 he handed over the Jesuits to the axe of the executioner. After that, Abyssinia remained closed to Christianity until 1702.

The most curious of these efforts to win Africa to the Faith occurred as early as 1561, when Pius IV, at the request of the Patriarch of Alexandria, sent a delegation to the Copts, in an endeavour to re-unite them to the Church. Among the papal representatives was a Jesuit named Eliano, who was a converted Jew. He had been brought up as a strict Hebrew, and when his brother became a Christian he had hurried off to Venice to recall him to Judaism. The unexpected happened. Eliano himself became a Christian and, later, a Jesuit. As he had displayed great activity in evangelizing his former co-religionists, he was thought to be available in this instance, but unfortunately on arriving at Alexandria, he was recognized by the Jews, who were numerous and influential there, and a wild riot ensued, the voice that shrieked the loudest for his blood being that of his own mother. It was with great difficulty that his friends prevented his murder. He returned to Europe and his last days were spent in Rome where he was the friendly rival of the great Cardinal Farnese in caring for the poor of the city. They died on the same day, and their tombs were regarded as shrines by their sorrowing beneficiaries.

In the western world, the first Jesuit missionary work was begun in the Portuguese possession of Brazil. After Cabral had accidentally discovered the continent in 1500, a number of Portuguese nobles established important colonies along the coast; and when subsequently some French Calvinists, under Villegagnon, attempted a settlement on the Rio Janeiro, Thomas da Sousa was commissioned by the king to unite the scattered Portuguese settlements and drive out the French intruders. He chose the Bay of All Saints as his central position, and there built the city of San Salvador. Fortifications were thrown up; a cathedral, a governor's palace and a custom house were erected, and a great number of houses were built for the settlers. Unlike France and England, Spain and Portugal lavished money on their colonies. With da Sousa were six Jesuit missionaries, chief of whom was the great Nobrega. They were given an extensive tract of land some distance from San Salvador, and there in course of time the city of São Paolo arose. There was plenty to do with the degenerate whites in the various settlements, but the savages presented the greatest problem. They were cannibals of an advanced type, and no food delighted them more than human flesh. To make matters worse, the white settlers encouraged them in their horrible practices, probably in the hope, that they would soon eat each other up.

Nobrega determined to put an end to these abominations, he went among the Indians, spoke to them kindly, healed their bodily ailments, defended them against the whites, and was soon regarded by these wild creatures as their friend and benefactor. At last, concluding that the time had come for a master stroke, he one day walked straight into a group of women who were preparing a mangled body for the fire, and with the help of his companions carried off the corpse. This was sweeping away in an instant all their past traditions, and as a consequence the whole tribe rose in fury and swarmed around the walls of the city determined to make an end of the whites. But Sousa called out his troops, and, whether the Indians were frightened by the cannon or mollified by the kind words of the governor, the result was that they withdrew and promised to stop eating human flesh. This audacious act had the additional effect of exciting the anger of the colonists against Nobrega and his associates. The point had been made, however, that cannibalism was henceforth a punishable offence and great results followed. Tribe after tribe accepted the missionaries and were converted to Christianity. But it was very hard to keep them steady in their faith. A pestilence or a dearth of food was enough to make them fall into their old habits; and they were moreover, easily swayed by the half-breeds who, time and time again, induced them to rise against the whites. But da Sousa was an exceptional man, and had the situation well in hand. He pursued the Indians to their haunts, and, as his punitive expeditions were nearly always headed by a priest with his uplifted cross he often brought them to terms without the shedding of blood.

Another obstacle in this work of subjugation was found in the remnants of Villegagnon's old French garrison. At one time they had succeeded in uniting all the savages of the country in a league to exterminate the Portuguese. Villegagnon's supposedly impregnable fort was taken and battle after battle was won by the Portuguese, but the war seemed never to end. At last Nobrega took the matter in his own hands. "Let me go," he said, "to see if I cannot arrange terms of peace with the enemy." It was a perilous undertaking, for it might mean that in a few days his body would be roasting over a fire in the forest, in preparation for a savage banquet. But that did not deter him. He and his fellow-missionary Anchieta set out and found the Indians wild with rage against the whites. Plea after plea was made, but in vain. At last, he got them to make some concession, and then returned to explain matters to the governor, leaving Anchieta alone with the Indians. They did him no harm, however; on the contrary, he won their hearts by his kindness and amazed them by his long prayers, his purity of life, his prophecies and his miraculous powers. Month after month went by and yet there was no news from Nobrega. Finally the governor, accepting the conditions insisted on by the Indians, yielded, and peace was made.

It is interesting to learn that the lonely man who had stayed all this while in the forest, José Anchieta, was a perfect master of Latin, Castilian and Portuguese; besides being somewhat skilled in medicine, he was an excellent poet and even a notable dramatist. He composed grammars and dictionaries of the native language, after he returned to where pen and ink were available; and it is said he put into print a long poem which he had meditated and memorized during his six terrible months of captivity. He died in 1597; but before departing for heaven, he saw the little band of six Jesuits who had landed with Nobrega increased to one hundred and twenty, and when his career ended one hundred more rushed from Portugal to fill the gap.

As for Nobrega, the day before he died, he went around to call on his friends. "Where are you going?" they asked him. "Home to my own country," he answered, and on the morrow they were kneeling around his coffin. Southey says that "so well had Nobrega and Anchieta trained their disciples that in the course of half a century, all the nations along the coast of Brazil, as far as the Portuguese settlements extended, were collected in villages under their superintendence" (History of Brazil, x, 310). "Nobrega died at the close of the sixteenth century," says Ranke, "and in the beginning of the seventeenth we find the proud edifice of the Catholic Church completely reared in South America. There were five arch-bishoprics, twenty-seven bishoprics, four hundred monasteries and innumerable parish churches." Of course, with due regard to Ranke, all that was not the work of Jesuits, but men of his kind see "Jesuit" in everything. It may be said, however, that they contributed in no small degree to bring about this result.

In 1570 Azevedo conducted thirty-nine Jesuits from Madeira to Brazil. Simultaneously, thirty more in two other ships set sail from Lisbon for the same destination. But the day after Azevedo's party had left Madeira, the famous Huguenot pirate, Jaques Soria, swooped down upon them, hacked them to pieces on the deck, and then threw the mangled remains to the sharks. The amazing Southey narrates this event as follows: "He did by the Jesuits as they would have done by him and all their sect: – put them to death." When the news reached Madeira, the brethren of the martyrs sang a Te Deum which Southey informs us, "was as much the language of policy as of fanaticism." Four days later, one English and four French cruisers which Southey fails to tell us were commanded by the Huguenot Capdeville, caught the other missionaries and did their work so effectually, that of the sixty-nine splendid men whom Azevedo started out with, only one arrived in Brazil. The struggle did not end with the massacre. Sixty years afterwards the same enemy attacked the missions of Pernambuco in Brazil where, "one hundred and fifty tribes" – a Protestant annalist calls them "hordes" – had been brought into alliance with the Portuguese, and were rapidly making progress both in Christianity and civilization; on Good Friday in the year 1633 the freebooters, passing at midnight through the smoking ruins of Olinda, attacked Garassu in the early morning, while the inhabitants were assembled at Mass, with the result, says Southey, that "the men who came their way were slaughtered, the women were stripped, and the plunderers with cruelty tore away ear-rings through the ear-flap, and cut off fingers for the sake of the rings that were upon them. They then plundered and burnt the town."

Similar heroism was shown in other parts of the world about this time. Thus in 1549 Ribeira was poisoned at Amboina; a like fate overtook González in 1551 at Bazaim, India; in 1555 three Jesuits were wrecked on a desert island while on their way to the East, and died of starvation; in 1573, Alvares, the visitor of Japan and four companions were lost at sea; and in 1575 another Jesuit died at Angola in Africa after fourteen years' cruel imprisonment.

Over all this splendor, however, there rests a shadow. Simon Rodriguez, who was so to speak the creator of all this apostolic enthusiasm, came very near being expelled from the Society. He was the idol of Portugal and the intimate friend and adviser of King John III, who was untiring in promoting missionary enterprise in the vast regions over which he held sway, both in the Eastern and Western world. This association, however, involved frequent visits to the court, and the attractions of the work soon grew on Rodriguez, though with his characteristic unsteadiness he was writing to Xavier and others to say that he was longing to go out to the missions, a longing he never gratified. Moreover, his judgment in the choice of missionaries was of the worst. Untrained novices were sent out in great numbers and were naturally found unfit for the work with the result that they had to return to Europe. Meantime another influence was effacing the real spirit of the Society from the soul of this chosen man whom Ignatius himself had trained. A craze for bodily mortifications had swept over Portugal, and Brou in his "Vie de St. François Xavier" tells us: that it was not uncommon to see eight or ten thousand flagellants scourging themselves as they walked processionally through the streets of Lisbon. The Jesuits there were naturally affected by the movement, with the result that although intense fervor was displayed in the practice of this virtue, domestic discipline suffered. The supreme fact that obedience was the characteristic trait of the Society had never been thoroughly appreciated or understood by Simon Rodriguez, although he was one of the first companions of St. Ignatius.

Astrain in his "Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en la Asistencia de España", does not mince matters on this point (I, xix). Indeed, the provincialship of Rodriguez in Portugal almost brought about a tragedy in the history of the Society. Yielding to the popular craze for public penances, his subjects paid little attention to mortification of the will, with the result that the defections from the Society in that country, both in number and quality, amounted to a public scandal. Finally, the removal of Rodriguez became imperative, but, unfortunately, his successor, Father Mirón, was deplorably lacking in the very elements of prudence. Disregarding the advice of Francis Borgia and of the official visitor, de Torres, who were sent with him as advisers, he went alone into Portugal and abruptly removed Rodriguez from his post. As Rodriguez was almost adored then by the people of Portugal and was very much admired and beloved by King John III and by the whole royal family, they should have been first approached and the reason of the change explained. To pass by such devoted friends who had lavished favors on the Society and who could do so much harm, if alienated, was not only highly impolitic but grossly discourteous. Anyone else but John III might well not only have driven them from Portugal but have withdrawn them from Brazil and the Indies, with the result that the Society would probably never have had an Anchieta or a Francis Xavier. Happily such a calamity was averted. Mirón's subsequent administration was in keeping with his initial act, and when at last the visitor arrived and restored normal conditions in the province no less than one hundred and thirty-seven members of the province had either left the Society or had to be dismissed.

Rodriguez was summoned to Rome and might have been pardoned immediately had he avowed his fault, but he demanded a canonical trial. Several grave fathers were, therefore, appointed and their sentence was extremely severe, but Ignatius made them reconsider it again and again, and make it milder. He even modified their final verdict. Rodriguez never went back again to Portugal in an official capacity.

This humiliating episode is somewhat slurred over by Crétineau-Joly, but the Jesuit historians like Jouvancy, Brou, Astrain, Valignano, Pollen make no attempt to conceal or palliate it. The failure of Rodriguez only illustrates the difficulty that St. Ignatius had in making his followers grasp the fundamental idea of the Society.

Paulsen, the German Protestant historian, is shocked to find that in Jesuits, generally, there exists "something of the silent but incessant action of the powers of nature. Without passion, without appeals to war, without agitation, without intemperate zeal, they never cease to advance, and are scarcely ever compelled to take a step backward. Sureness, prudence and forethought characterize each of their movements. As a matter of fact, these are not lovable qualities," he says, "for whoever acts without some human weakness is never amiable." The "step backward" made by Rodriguez, in this instance, ought to satisfy Paulsen's requirements for that amiability which, according to him, is associated with "human weakness." One need not be reminded that it is a curious psychology that can find amiability in a disease or a deformity. The amiability is in the person who puts up with it, not in the offender. Henri Joly in his "Psychologie des Saints," furnishes another example of this disregard of facts which so often affects the vision of a man in pursuit of a theory. To prove the marvellous power which Ignatius exerted over men, he tells us that when Rodriguez was summoned to Rome "the only sentiment in his mind was that of almost delirious joy, at again seeing the companion of his youth, his friend and master." The facts narrated above would imply that there was anything but delirious joy in the mind of Rodriguez before, during or after his trial, and the facts also show that sometimes it takes more than the marvellous power of a St. Ignatius to control even a holy man under the influence of a passion or a delusion.

This incident also disposes of the hallucination that Jesuits are all run in the same mould and hence easily recognizable as members of the Order. This is far from being the case. It is true that as the Society is governed to a certain extent on military principles, cheerful and prompt obedience is its characteristic. The General is supreme commander and is in touch with every member of the organization; he can tell in a moment where the individual is, what he is doing and what are his good qualities and defects. He can assign him to any country or any post; refusal to obey is absolutely out of the question. Such is the special trait of the Society, but apart from this, it is an aggregation of as disparate units as can possibly be imagined. Men of all races, conditions, dispositions, aspirations and attainments, Americans, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Syrians, Hungarians, Hindoos, Chinese, Japanese, Malgache, and others live in the same house, follow the same rules, and maintain absolute peace with each other. All infractions of brotherly love are frowned upon and severely punished, and continued dissension or rebellion means expulsion. These men, from the highest to the lowest, do not shirk danger – like genuine soldiers they covet it; nor are they depressed by the repeated exiles, expulsions, spoliations and persecutions, to which the Society has been always subject. Taught by experience of the past, they know that they will emerge from the struggle stronger and better than before and will win further distinction in the battle for God.



Ignatius – Laínez – Borgia – Bellarmine – Toletus – Lessius – Maldonado – Suárez – Lugo – Valencia – Petavius – Warsewicz – Nicolai – Possevin – Vieira – Mercurian.

St. Ignatius died on July 31, 1556. During his brief fifteen years as General, he had seen some of his sons distinguishing themselves in one of the greatest councils of the Church; others turning back the tide of Protestantism in Germany and elsewhere; others again, winning a large part of the Orient to the Faith; and still others reorganizing Catholic education throughout regenerated Europe, on a scale that was bewildering both in the multitude of the schools they established and the splendor of their success. Great saints were being produced in the Society and also outside of it through its ministrations. Meantime, its development had been so great that the little group of men which had gathered around him a few years before had grown to a thousand, with a hundred establishments in every part of the world.

Magnificent as was this achievement he did not allow it to reflect any glory upon himself personally. On the contrary, he withdrew more and more from public observation, and devoted to the establishment of his multiplied and usual charities, among the humblest and most abandoned classes of the city of Rome, what time was left him from the absorbing care of directing, advising, exhorting and inspiring his sons who were scattered over the earth in ever changing and dangerous situations. The palaces of the great rarely, if ever, saw him, and he was the most positive and persistent antithesis of what he is so commonly accused of being: a schemer, a plotter, a politician, a poisoner of public morality and the like. Nor was he seeking to exercise a dominating influence either in the Church or State, as he is calumniously charged with doing. The glory of God and the advancement of the spiritual kingdom on earth was his only thought, and so far was he from imagining that the Society was an essential factor in the Church's organization that he did not hesitate to say that if it were utterly destroyed, or as he expressed it, "if it were to dissolve like salt in water," a quarter of an hour's recollection in God would have been sufficient to console him and restore peace to his soul, provided the disaster had not been brought about by his fault.

He was not, as he has often been charged with being, stern, severe, arbitrary, harsh, tyrannical; on the contrary, his manner was most winning and attractive. He was fond of flowers; music had the power of making him forget the greatest bodily pain, and the stars at night filled his soul with rapturous delight. He would listen with infinite patience to the humblest and youngest person, and every measure of importance before being put into execution was submitted to discussion by all who had any concern in it. He would show intense and outspoken indignation, it is true, at flagrant faults and offences, especially if committed by those who were in authority in the Society; his wrath, however, was vented not against the culprit, but against the fault. Moreover, while reprehending, he kept his feelings under absolute control. Indeed, his longanimity in the cases both of Rodriguez and Bobadilla is astounding, and it is very doubtful if St. Francis Xavier, whom he wanted to be his successor, would have been as tolerant or as gentle. In his directions for works to be undertaken he was not meticulous nor minute, but left the widest possible margin for personal initiative; nor would he tolerate an obedience that was prompted by servile fear. He continually insisted that the only motive of action in the Society was love of God and the neighbor.

The gentle Lionel Johnson, poet though he was, gives us a fairly accurate appreciation of the character of Saint Ignatius. "In the Saints of Spain," he says, "there is frequently prominent the feature of chivalry. Even the great Saint James, apostle and Patriarch of Spain, appears in Spanish tradition and to Spanish imagination as an hidalgo, a knight in gleaming mail who spurs his white war horse against the Moor. And of none among them is this more true than of the founder of the Society of Jesus. Cardinal Newman, describing him in his most famous sermon, finds no phrase more fitting than 'the princely patriarch, St. Ignatius, the Saint George of the modern world with his chivalrous lance run through his writhing foe.' He was ever a fighter, a captain-general of men, indomitable, dauntless. The secret of his character lies in his will; in its disciplined strength; its unfailing practicality; its singleness and its power upon other wills. It was hardly a Franciscan sweetness that won to him his followers who from the famous six at Montmartre grew so swiftly into a great band; it was not supremacy of intellect or of utterance; it was not even the witness of his intense devotion and self-denial. It was his unequalled precision and tenacity of purpose; it was his will and its method. But we can detect no trace of that proud personal ambition and imperiousness often ascribed to him. He simply had learned a way of life that was profitable to religion which was all in all to him, and he could not be lukewarm in its service. Noblesse oblige, and a Christian holds a patent from the King of kings. The Jesuit A. M. D. G. was his ruling principle. The former heroic soldier of Spain was still a soldier, a swordsman, a strategist, but in a holy war. His eyes were always turned towards the battle; but he was far from forbidding, harsh, grim. He was tender and stern and like Dante kept his thoughts fixed on the mysteries of good and evil."

His death was in keeping with his life. There was no show, no ostentation, nothing "dramatic" about it, as Henri Joly imagines in his "Psychologie des Saints." There was no solemn gathering of his sons about his bedside, no parting instruction or benediction, as one would have expected from such a remarkable man who had established a religious order upon which the eyes of the world were fixed. He was quite aware that his last hour had come, and he simply told Polanco, his secretary, to go and ask for the Pope's blessing. As the physicians had not said positively that there was any immediate danger, Polanco inquired if he might defer doing so for the moment, as there was something very urgent to be attended to; whereupon the dying Saint made answer: "I would prefer that you should go now, but do as seems best." These were his last words. He left no will and no instructions, and what is, at first, incomprehensible, he did not even ask for Extreme Unction – possibly because he was aware that the physicians disagreed about the seriousness of his malady, and he was unwilling to discredit any of them; possibly, also, he did so in order to illustrate the rule that he laid down for his sons "to show absolute obedience in time of sickness to those who have care of the body." When at last they saw that he was actually dying someone ran for the holy oils, but Ignatius was already in his agony.

For one reason or another, he had not designated the vicar, who, according to the Constitution, was to govern the Society, until a General was regularly elected. Hence, as the condition of the times prevented the assembling of the professed from the various countries of Europe, the fathers who were in Rome elected Laínez. He, therefore, summoned the congregation for Easter, 1557, but it happened just then that Philip II and the Pope were at odds with each other, and no Spaniard was allowed to go to Rome. Because of that, Borgia, Araoz and others sent in a petition for the congregation to meet at Barcelona. This angered the Pope, and he asked Laínez, who put the case before him: "Do you want to join the schism of that heretic Philip?" Nevertheless, when the papal nuncio at Madrid supported the request of the Spanish Jesuits, his holiness relented somewhat, and said he would think of it.

The situation was critical enough with a Pope who was none too friendly, when something very disedifying and embarrassing occurred. The irrepressible Bobadilla who had not only voted for the election of Laínez as vicar, but had served under him for a year, suddenly discovered that the whole previous proceeding was invalid, and he pretended, that, because St. Ignatius had failed to name a vicar, the government of the Society devolved on the general body of the professed. The matter was discussed by the Fathers and he was overruled, but he still persisted and demanded the decision of Carpi, the cardinal protector of the Society. When that official heard the case, he decided against Bobadilla who forthwith appealed to the Pope. This time the Cardinal assigned to investigate was no other than the future St. Pius V. He took in the situation at a glance and dismissed Bobadilla almost with contempt. There was another offender, Cogordan, who does not appear to have objected to Laínez personally but who sent a written communication to his holiness saying that Laínez and some others really wanted to go to Spain, so as to be free from Roman control. This so incensed the Pope that Laínez, though greatly admired by Paul IV, obtained an audience only with the greatest difficulty, and was then ordered to hand over the Constitutions for examination. Fortunately, the same holy Inquisitor was sent, and Cogordan never forgot the lesson he received on that occasion for daring to suggest such a thing about Laínez. In the meantime, Philip had allowed the Spanish Jesuits to go to Rome, and Laínez was elected General on July 2, 1558. As has been said in speaking of Rodriguez, this incident is another illustration of the tremendous difficulty of the task St. Ignatius undertook when he gathered around him those unusually brilliant men, who were accustomed to take part in the diets of the Empire, to be counsellors of princes and kings and even popes. He proposed to make them all, as he said "think the same thing according to the Apostle." He succeeded ultimately.

The splendid work performed by Laínez at the Council of Trent had naturally made him a prominent figure in the Church at that time. Personally, also he was most acceptable to the reigning Pontiff, Paul IV; nevertheless, owing to outside pressure, there was imminent danger on several occasions of serious changes being made in the Constitutions of the Society. The Pope had been dissuaded from urging most of them, but he refused to be satisfied on one point, namely the recitation of the Divine Office. He insisted that it must be sung in choir, as was the rule in other religious orders. Laínez had to yield, and for a time the Society conformed to the decision, but the Pope soon died, and in the course of a year, his successor, Pius IV, declared the order to be merely the personal wish of his predecessor and not a decree of the Holy See.
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