|THE SAINTS AND BEATIFIED SERVANTS OF GOD WHO
HAVE FLOURISHED IN AMERICA
|Sanctity is not confined to any
clime or country. America, too, has had her saints, but of all that are
inscribed on the dyptics of the Church, the least known, perhaps, are those who
have flourished in the Western continent. The Spanish colonies being the first
settled, it was in them that exalted sanctity first appeared, and that quite
naturally, because Spain, untainted by the novelties of the sixteenth century,
still maintained all her fervor, and, in the re-awakening of the religious
spirit which followed the great innovation, sent forth a host of eminent saints.
Ignatius, Xavier, Teresa, John of the Cross, Thomas of Villanova, Francis,
Borgia, Paschal Baylon, all illustrated by their lives the kingdom of the
peninsula, and rekindled, abroad, the flame of Catholic devotion.
Towards the middle of the century, Louis Bertrand, subsequently canonized, passed to America, and labored for Spaniard and native; while at its close, St. Philip of Jesus, a native of Mexico, died for the faith in Japan; the Blessed Sebastian de la Aparicion sanctified the city of Puebla; Lima beheld at once within her walls St. Turibius, her archbishop; St. Francis Solano, her evangelical preacher; St. Rose, her glorious virgin; the Blessed John Massias and the Blessed Martin Porras, who, in the degree of lay-brothers, obtained the reward which Christ promised to the humble; and almost at the same time the blessed Maria de Paredes, the Lily of Quito, blossomed in her virgin purity, and the blessed Peter Claver devoted himself to the social and moral improvement of the poor Negro slaves at Carthagena. Besides these, all beatified by the Holy See, many others of exalted sanctity flourished in the Spanish provinces, and at a later period, in those of Portugal and France; but of these last we shall not speak; the former give abundant and more than abundant matter for the limits which we have set to ourselves.
Louis Bertrand was born at Valencia on the 1st of January, 1526. His parents were persons of exemplary piety, and their son soon showed a more than ordinary desire of serving God with perfection: so that, when he asked leave to enter the order of St. Dominic, they presently yielded to his pressing entreaties. Here, under the care of the sage and holy Mico, Bertrand became a model of piety. Being raised to the priesthood, he was soon acknowledged to be a consummate director, and so overcame natural defects as to become a preacher of no ordinary power. After devoting himself to the care of the sick during a pestilence which ravaged Valencia, in 1557 he solicited an American mission, and was sent to New Grenada in 1562. Here he was chosen to labor among the Indians, and without relaxing any of his austerities, commenced his work in the Isthmus If Panama, the island of Tobago, and the adjacent country. Attempts were made upon him life, but his courage, his zeal, his sanctity, his miracles, soon overcame even the of his enemies, whom the powers of darkness were goading on. Idolatry was abolished at Tubara; ten thousand natives embraced the faith of Christ. At Cepacoa and Paluato they came down from the mountains to listen to his words: he converted all but one stubborn tribe, whom he left, and hastened on to the fierce Caribs, among whom he labored for a time almost in vain, and narrowly escaped death by poison, administered to him in revenge for his destruction of the objects of their idolatrous worship. After this he returned to the West and announced the Gospel to the Indians in the mountains of Santa Martha, at Mompox, and in the island of St. Thomas. Here his zeal was rewarded: a new people was gained to Christ. With the zeal of an apostle he overthrew idols, and when the infuriated heathen rushed on to slay him, they found themselves arrested, they faltered and were converted. Amid all these labors the life of St. Louis was most mortified, his food scanty, his only shelter a rude hut or the trees of the forest. This was not all he suffered, however: on behalf of his dear Indians, he raised his voice against the cupidity of his own countrymen, and the guilty assailed him with the most odious calumnies. Carthagena became the next theatre of his mission, but seeing the deleterious influence exercised here by the Spaniards, he resolved to return to Europe, in the hopes of inducing the government to adopt a better regulation of the Indian department. In 1569 he was again in Valencia: and after several years of most holy toil, expired on the 9th of October, 1581, was canonized by Pope Clement X, in 1671, and subsequently declared protector and chief patron of New Grenada.
A saint had thus visited the American shores and spread abroad the odor of sanctity, converting the heathen, reforming the corrupt, astonishing all by wondrous gifts bestowed upon him by the Almighty. Soon after, opened the saintly career of Gregory Lopez. whom the Church will no doubt propose to our veneration, when peace shall enable the examinations to be made in Mexico. About the same time the capital of that province beheld the birth of St. Philip of Jesus. His early life was one of disorder and sin. Vain were the remonstrances of his parents and of those who had trained him up in the path of virtue: his heart seemed hardened to every influence of grace. At last, however, he was touched. He suddenly abandoned his vicious career, and returning to God in the sacrament of penance, began a new and virtuous life. Anxious even to edify as much as he had hitherto scandalized, he yielded to an inward voice which bade him consecrate himself to God in the religious life. He applied to the children of St. Francis and was soon enrolled in their number. For a time he was faithful to the inspirations of grace, but the tempter was loth to see a soul thus wrested from him: he again assailed the young man, and Philip, yielding in an evil hour, flung off his habit returned to the world, and again plunged into every excess. More grieved than ever at the scandal committed by their son, his parents resolved to send him abroad) and having furnished him with capital, beheld him at last depart for China. Here he traded for a time, but troubles and misfortunes overtook him, and like the prodigal son, he longed to return to his father's house. Business called him to Manila. There he asked to be received in a fervent convent of St. Francis, of the Reform of St. Peter of Alcantara. His conversion was now sincere: his edifying life excited general admiration: and men wondered to see one whose conduct had been so irregular, become a fervent, humble religious. The tidings reached his parents in Mexico, and anxious to have the consolation of witnessing this work of the hand of the Most High, they applied to the commissary of the order, then in Mexico, and obtained an order for their son's return to America. He set sail from Manila, with five other friars of his order, but after three months of storms was driven in at Urando, a Japanese port. A cross of light, which had been seen hovering over the vessel, warned them of the close of their career. F. Philip and another who remained, became missionaries in Japan, but the jealousy of Taycosama was aroused: the rash, boasting words of a Spanish mariner induced him to renew the persecution: six Franciscan Fathers, three Japanese Jesuits, and seventeen Japanese Christians, were arrested at Nangasacki and other places. Father Philip of Jesus was one of this happy band of martyrs. He was taken, with the rest, to Meaco, where they were all condemned by the emperor to be carted through the streets of the ecclesiastical capital, to have their noses and ears cut off, then to be sent to Ozaca,, to be carried through the streets of that city, and then through those of Sacai, with a placard before them declaring the cause of their condemnation, and finally to be crucified at Nangasacki.
The martyrdom of these heroes began on the 3d of January, 1597. On that day they were led to the place of execution in Meaco, and a piece of the ear of each was cut off; then, three by three, in carts, they were conveyed through the streets. Now, however, the usual shouts and hootings gave place to silence and tears, at the sight of these innocent men and children. In a similar way they passed through the other cities on their way to Nangasacki, but from city to city were driven on foot like cattle, to their own great joy and consolation, for at Facata they were met by some Fathers who confessed them and prepared them to die. They reached Nangasacki on the 4th of February: twenty-five crosses had been erected on a hill overlooking the bay, and to this spot, on the following day, they were conveyed. Surrounded by Christians who had flocked together from all the country around, the martyrs, full of joy, prepared for their last triumph. In a short time they were all bound to the crosser by the iron collars and fetters used in Japan, and a lancer stood by each, ready at the word of command to pierce him to the heart. Father Baptist, superior of the Franciscans, intoned the canticle of Zachary, in which all joined, and while the boys were singing the Laudate pueri Dominum, the word was given, and the lancers gave the fatal blow. Father Philip of Jesus died first, and thus gave Mexico the honor of having one of her children, as protomartyr of Japan, begin that long line of heroes which have made that country a wonder in Christian annals.
Miracles attested the will of Heaven, and Urban VIII at last formally declared St. Philip of Jesus and his companions to be martyrs, appointing the 5th of February for their commemoration.
While a native of Mexico was thus shedding his blood in the isles of far Japan, atoning for the disorders of earlier years, that province witnessed the close of a holy life, prolonged beyond the usual span. The Blessed Sebastian de Aparicion was born at Gudina in Galicia, of poor, but pious parents. While he was yet a child, a contagious disorder desolated the place, and little Sebastian, being seized with it, was exposed in a ruined cabin, near which food was placed for him. Abandoned by men, he was cured by a wolf, which, entering the hut, opened the tumor, and thus saved his life. Born to a life of toil, he took service at an early age, but, after a few years, found this station full of danger to his purity for he was modest, handsome, and correct in his deportment. He next took a little cottage near San Lucar, and became a small farmer, but meeting temptations again, he sailed to America and landed at Vera Cruz in 1533 Puebla was the city which he chose, and there he spent most of his life. He turned his attention to the breaking and training of horses and cattle, and, in a short time, acquired considerable wealth, although the poor were always certain of abundant alms at his hands. Perceiving the difficulty of transportation in that country, he opened a new road from Zacatecas to Mexico, and ran a line of express wagons from; the mines to the capital, and thence to Puebla wealth now flowed in upon him, and many parents sought to gain him as a son-in-law, but he had chosen a life of chastity and austerity: in a state of affluence. his manner of life was hard—a life of toil and self-denial, less comfortable than that of many who relied on his alms for support. While residing at Chapultepec, where he had taken a farm, he fell dangerously ill, and preparing to die, bequeathed all he had to a neighboring convent of Dominicans.
But his career was not yet ended. He recovered his health, and resumed his former way of life: but believing it prudent, at his advanced age, to have someone near him, he married a poor, but virtuous girl, proposing, with her consent, to lead a life of perfect continency, as many holy couples have done. In this state he lived in great peace for about a year, when the early death of his wife left him again alone in the world. At the age of sixty-three he again married, but his second wife, who was greatly attached to him, being troubled one day at his prolonged absence, climbed a tree that stood by their door, to look down the road, when by some accident she fell, receiving injuries which caused her death.
Soon after this, Sebastian felt himself called to enter the religious state, and obedient to his vocation, proceeded to Mexico, to consult his director, an Observantine Friar. By the advice of the latter, he gave all his property to a convent of Poor Clares, and assuming the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis, entered the service of the convent. This state did not, however, realize his desires: he wished to be a religious bound by vows, and renewing his solicitations, he was at last received by Father John de Bastidas, warden at Mexico, into the novitiate of the Observantine Franciscans, on the 9th of June, 1573, in the 71st year of his age.
His fervor and assiduity in performing the duties imposed upon him, soon won the esteem of his superiors, and after his profession in the following year, he was sent to Puebla, and made alms-questor for the convent. In this post he continued to the close of his life, except during a short period, when, on a charge of being a stupid, slovenly old man, he was deprived of it and sent back to the novitiate. His sanctity was, however, too clear not to triumph over persecution. His life as a monk was a series of miracles and prophecies; the very animals obeyed him, as they did Adam before the fall, and he had but to assign his cattle limits in their pasture to be sure that not a blade of grass beyond would be taken.
After having spent many years in this laborious career, obsessed by devils, worn by disease he was seized with a fatal malady, and, for the first time almost in his life, placed in a comfortable bed. He sank gradually, edifying all by his sanctity and desire to be with God, and expired on the 25th of February, 1600, at the age of 98. He was at once invoked as a saint; miracles attested the approval of Heaven; his body remained incorrupt, and the civil and ecclesiastical authorities called for his canonization. The process began, was again and again delayed, but he was at last beatified, on the 23d of February, 1789.
While Mexico was thus illustrious in her children by birth or adoption, Peru, the other great province of the Western dominions of Spain, was similarly honored. Lima, the capital, was governed by a saintly bishop. Toribio Alphonso Mogrobejo was born in the kingdom of Leon, on the 16th of November, 1538. After a boyhood of greet piety and austerity, a youth of study and diligence, he became, in manhood, chief judge at Granada, and was so esteemed for his virtue that he was employed in many offices more generally filled by ecclesiastics. When the see of Lima fell vacant, Philip II, than whom no king ever knew better the capacity of all in his employ, nominated him archbishop of Lima, justly deeming him well fitted to restore and extend religion in the colony of Peru. In vain did Toribio plead his unworthiness, the fact of his being a layman, and other impediments. Overcome by the royal command, he yielded at last, received minor orders, the diaconates and priesthood, with the episcopal consecration, in 1580. Without delay he set out for his diocese, and reached it in the ensuing year. The times needed a saint, one full of piety, self-devotion and zeal, and one firm in the cause of the Church, and ready to maintain her rights at the peril of his life. Such was St. Toribio. His first care was to visit his diocese, a work of incredible danger and hardship, yet one which he several times performed in person. His visitations were not sterile; he everywhere corrected abuses, reformed the clergy, and aided, by abundant alms, the charitable institutions and the suffering poor. His days were spent in toil, his nights in prayer, or in composing works for the use of his flock. He founded fervent convents, colleges and seminaries in his episcopal city, to perpetuate a succession of zealous clergy and religious. To remedy many general evils, he convoked a provincial council, the first held in the colony, and by a series of decrees, which were approved after long examination by the Holy See, established the rights of the Indians, and raised a barrier to avarice in the clergy. Besides the provincial councils, he convoked, at different times, twelve diocesan synods, and from his endeavors to carry out the directions of the council of Trent, was deservedly ranked with St. Charles Borromeo.
In his private life he was no less an imitation of the holy bishop of Milan. Even in his journeys he daily said Mass, after a long meditation: the leisure hours of the day he spent as a missionary, in catechizing the Indians and the ignorant, in visiting the wretched and those confined in prison. After sanctifying Peru for a quarter of a century, he at last, in the midst of his labors, fell sick at Santa, during a visitation of his diocese, and died a most holy death on the 23d of March, 1606, full of desire to see and enjoy the Lord whom he had so faithfully served. In life he had been regarded as a saint; miracles had justified the popular opinion. The cause of his canonization was undertaken, and having resulted in his beatification in 1679, terminated by his solemn canonization in 1726.
Thus a saint presided over the metropolitan church of Peru. A saint also honored its priesthood. Francis Solano was born at Montilla in Andalusia in 1549, of a family in which piety was hereditary. Educated by the Jesuits, his fervor, his love of God and spirit of prayer increased with his years. Having completed his studies, he took the habit of St. Francis in 1569, and was soon so eminent as a model of religious perfection that he was made novice-master and superior. His sermons, unadorned by human eloquence, but replete with the fragrance of virtue, gained the most obdurate sinners and drew them from vice. In 1583 he was chosen for the American missions of his order, but the plague having broken out in Spain, Francis implored his superiors to allow him to go to Montoro, a little place near Cordova, fairly desolated by the fearful scourge. The warden of his convent opposed his desire, but at last himself accompanied Solano to the post of danger: there, in the hospitals, they both lavished every care on the sick, nursing them with the most tender care, and inviting all to return sincerely to God. In a short time both were seized with the fatal malady; the warden died a victim of his charity; Francis recovered to renew his care of the sick. At last, in 1589, he sailed to America and landed at Portobello, whence he proceeded on a foot to Pahama, and there embarked for Peru, but was shipwrecked on the coast, narrowly escaping with his life. Reaching Lima on foot, he proceeded to the distant mission of Tucuman, and began his missionary labors among the India is on the La Plata. Wonderful was his success: so rapid was his career of conquest, that the pagan priests or medicine men aroused the neighboring tribes to make war upon his neophytes. On Maunday Thursday they burst on his mission, but when the man of God went forth to meet them, overcome by the awe with which the Almighty surrounded him, they listened to his words, and to the number of nine thousand implored baptism. His virtues and abilities however, now led to his elevation to the rank of superior in several places, and finally at Lima. Restored to his duties as a missionary, he spent the last five years of his life in that city, and effected a vast amount of good. So great was the idea of his sanctity and prophetic power, that an expression of his being misunderstood, spread terror through the city; for supposing him to have predicted an earthquake, none doubted that it would really happen. After a lingering illness, borne as he had borne all the hardships of his long apostleship, he expired on the 14th of June, 1610, in the 62d year of his age. Beatified by Clement X, he was canonized, together with St. Toribio, by Benedict XIII, in 1726.
St. Francis Solano had, as we have seen, evangelized the south and the Pacific shore. On the very year of his death, embarked for America a holy Father of the Society of Jesus, destined to become the Apostle of Carthagena, and the slave of the slave.
The Blessed Peter Claver was born at Verdu in Catalonia in the year 1581, of parents eminent for piety and virtue, who instilled like qualities into his infant heart from the very cradle. In youth his piety and love of study won general admiration, and every preferment was open to him, but zeal for his neighbor's salvation led him to enter the Society of Jesus. His reputation was such that he was instantly admitted on his application in August, 1602. After a fervent noviceship, he was sent to the college of Majorca and there had the inexpressible happiness of enjoying the direction of the Blessed Alphonsus Rodriguez, then porter of the college, an eminent contemplative, from whom Claver derived much spiritual profit, and even a knowledge of his future career. Before completing his studies, he solicited the American mission, and was sent out in 1610. From that time he never asked about Spain, and seemed to have forgotten everything but the land of his labors. Completing his studies at Santa Fe de Bogota, he was ordained at Carthagena in 1615, and from that moment devoted himself to the care of the Negro slaves. No sooner did a slaver reach the port than he hastened on board with his interpreters, a basket of delicacies for the sick, and other necessaries. The sick were the first objects of his zeal. Gaining their good will by his kind and gentle manner, he instructed them in the doctrines of Christianity; and if there was danger, baptized them. He then began his regular instructions for those in health, which he continued from day to day, till they were prepared for baptism. Then, on an appointed day, he administered the sacrament to all, after a touching exhortation to persevere in virtue, The amount of his toil may be conceived, when we learn that at that time ten or twelve thousand slaves were annually landed at Carthagena. Nor did this include all, as many slavers, to avoid the custom-house duties, landed their cargo on the coast and pretended that they belonged to former licensed importations, and were already baptized. The zeal of the servant of God was more active than the interest of the government officers; he discovered most of these Negroes, instructed and baptized them. Not wearied with these labors, he visited the hospitals, and especially that of the Incurables and Lepers, whom he nursed with the greatest charity. The poor forsaken Negroes, too, in their hovels, were never too forlorn or too distant to escape him. So long did he breathe the pestiferous atmosphere of these abodes of misery, that his taste and smell were entirely lost. Besides all this, his austerities were frightful: his life was a miracle, as nothing but a miracle could have sustained it in such a climate, where a scratch is often fatal. Over the Negroes, he maintained a general direction; he had regular masses, instructions and devotions for them; he was their pastor, their father, their protector. In their behalf he frequently exercised the miraculous powers with which God, in a most eminent degree, invested him. Among the Spaniards he labored reluctantly, as they had clergy in abundance; but the poor could always have recourse to him, and for them, as for Moors, and heretics or unbelievers, he spared no toil.
During the season when slavers were not accustomed to arrive, he traversed the country, visiting plantation after plantation, to give spiritual consolation to the slaves. For a time, also, he was sent to labor among the Indians near the Isthmus, the field of the labors of St. Louis Bertrand, but, being seized with a fatal fever, he was carried back to Carthagena; there, partly recovering, he renewed his labors, but was again prostrated, and for the last four years of his life was scarcely able to move. Such was the poverty and wretchedness of the Jesuits, that he had no attendant but a Negro boy, and men were actually tearing down the house when he died, on the 8th of September, 1654, at the age of 72, a faithful imitator of the great Xavier. His canonization was immediately undertaken and almost brought to a close in 1747; but the suppression of his order and the troubles in Europe deferred the publication of the brief till the 29th of August, 1848, when he was solemnly beatified by Pope Pius IX.
St. Rose of Lima is one of whom we scarce need write. Her devotion extends from Canada to Patagonia: her name is given in baptism to the children of the faith throughout the continent; it marks the convents, missions and towns of the last two centuries.
Her life is one of the most wonderful on record: it is entirely beyond the ordinary course of the operations of nature and grace, and is proposed by the Church rather as an object of admiration than of imitation, to those of her sex and age.
Born at Lima, on the 20th of April, 1586, of Gaspar de Flores, a native of Puerto Rico, of Spanish extraction, and Maria de Oliva, an Indian, she received in baptism the name of Isabella, but by her mother was almost as soon styled "Rose," from the beauty of her complexion; and having been confirmed under this name by St. Turibius, bears it in the dyptics of the Church.
As she grew up, she evinced a total aversion to the vanities of the world and a love of suffering; and while, on the one hand, her mother sought every means to guard and heighten the beauty of her lovely child, Rose made all her decorations objects of pain and mortification; for, mindful of filial duty, she cheerfully obeyed on all occasions.
At the age of five she took as her patroness St. Catharine of Sienna, and resolving to imitate her in all things, consecrated herself to God by a vow of virginity, and formed a resolution never to eat flesh meat unless ordered to do so. This was not enough, however, to satisfy her love of suffering: she also abstained from all kinds of fruit, fasted frequently, and on Fridays mingled her scanty portion with gall or wormwood. Such austerities soon rendered bread and water the only food which she could take, and for the rest of her life she may be said to have fasted perpetually.
Forming a little hermitage in her father's garden, she spent her time there in prayer and labor, interrupted only by pious reading; for, uninstructed by men, she had learned to read and write. Heavenly favors, ecstasies, revelations, suddenly followed, as so often happens in the servants of God, by dryness, temptation, and spiritual abandonment, daily achieved her sanctification. Her life was so extraordinary that St. Turibius appointed a commission of theologians to examine and see whether she was not the victim of a delusion: but after a long scrutiny, their sound and learned judgment decided that she was evidently directed by the Spirit of God.
Her parents, who had been hitherto affluent, now fell into poverty, and the task of supporting them devolved chiefly on Rose. She did not shrink from the duty: still giving much time to her interior exercises, she found enough left to accomplish more work than any of her companions. This cause compelled her to remain in the world, for though urged to enter a newly founded convent of Poor Clares, her mother absolutely refused her consent and pressed her to marry. Rose then confessed her vow of virginity, which defeating the hopes of her parents, drew upon her a series of persecutions, even to blows, and ill treatment of every kind. Amid this storm she displayed the humility and obedience which had always characterized her, and at last she triumphed. Left in peace to pursue her vocation and her imitation of St. Catharine, she begged leave to take the habit of the third order of St. Dominic. This project her mother still opposed, but Rose being divinely enlightened, beheld the future open: she saw a convent of St. Catharine rise in her native city, and in it herself and her mother in the habit which she so ardently desired. She declared this firmly in spite of the ridicule which her prophecy encountered: and as we shall see, that prophecy, contrary to every human probability, was actually accomplished.
Soon after completing her twentieth year, her mother yielded, and she received the Dominican habit in August, 1606, and thus devoted to God, yet remaining in the world, continued to serve her family, to edify her neighbor, and to devote herself to works of mercy, especially visiting the sick and wretched, on whom she lavished every care. Full of zeal for the conversion of the Indian tribes, to whom she was allied by blood, she aroused the devotion and courage of apostolic men, and by her burning words urged them to new labors. Her own words and example, nay, her very appearance, converted many from a life of sin, while her care and devotion to them in their maladies won many more. Hers was not a useless life, even in the eyes of the world, which so often reviles the cloister: and it will, perhaps easily pardon her most extraordinary austerities, when it considers that in spite of them, and impelled by the self-same spirit which prompted them, she accomplished more works of philanthropy than a hundred ladies, whose life is spent in boudoirs and saloons, who suffer only from the effects of late hours and other sacrifices to the prince of this world. But the world, naturally, does not condemn these last so warmly as it does those who choose to suffer a little for God's sake.
As the close of her life drew near, she was frequently, to all appearance, at the point of death, but herself foretold the place of that event and thus reassured her friends. She was to die in the house of her friend, Senora Gonzales de Mesa, and begged that when she was dead, none but her own mother and that lady should lay out her corpse for burial.
On the 23d of August, 1617, Father John de Lorenzana, her confessor, was about to leave her in the evening, when she asked the last blessing. "I will give it tomorrow," he replied. "It will be too late," said Rose, "at the first hour of the festival of St. Bartholomew, I shall go to meet the bridegroom who calls me." Begging pardon of all present, she then made her profession of faith, received the last sacraments, and during her thanksgiving calmly expired, on the 24th of August, 1617, in the 32d year of her age. "Jesus be ever with me!" were her last words, as they were the first she had ever uttered.
On the news of her death the whole city crowded to Mesa's house, so that the soldiery were required to preserve order: rank and distinction were forgotten: the Spanish noble and the poorest Indian struggled alike to reach the body of the saint. From this moment she was invoked as a saint, and miracles rewarded the faith of her clients. The convent of St. Catharine's, founded according to her prediction, and the entrance into it of her mother and many others, as she had foretold, confirmed the confidence of the people. The process of her canonization was begun. "The whole life of Rose," said Father Antonio de la Nega Loaysa, of the Society of Jesus, when under oath, "the whole life of Rose, from her cradle to her latest breath, was a continuous miracle." Fuller testimony confirmed this: and after the usual close examination, she was beatified by Alexander VII, in 666, but her cultus was confined to the Dominicans and Peru. This did not satisfy the piety of the faithful; in 1669, although not yet canonized, she was declared protectress and principal patron of all the churches of the new world. In the following year the decree of her canonization was published, though the bull was not issued or the solemnization performed, till the 12th of April, 1671.
Saints flourished likewise in the cloister. Lima possessed two holy lay-brothers of the order of St. Dominic, who have been raised to the rank of Beati. The Blessed Martin Porras was a mulatto, and as too often happens, the fruit of an illicit intercourse. Left at first in the care of his Negro mother, in poverty and vice, he displayed the greatest modesty, piety and charity for the poor. Touched by this, his father, a knight of Alcantara, acknowledged his pious child, and had him educated. Able now to give more time to prayer, and to nourish his mind by reading, Martin rapidly advanced in sanctity. The Church, the hospital, the homes of affliction, were his only haunts of pleasure. When he had attained the age of 22, he resolved to fly the world and applied for admission into the order of St. Dominic. Father Francis de Vega, prior of the convent of the Rosary, gladly received one already regarded as a saint. As a religious, all his virtues acquired new strength, but for humility he became truly eminent. It was with delight therefore, that he found himself made infirmarian, and enabled thus to render the most humble services to his brethren. Accustomed from youth to the care of the sick, he possessed a skill and knowledge which particularly fitted him for the labor to which charity had called him from his cradle. Some time after his profession, a pestilential fever broke out in Peru; and Martin was permitted to serve the poor. Limatombo was the first theatre of his zeal: Spaniard, Negro, Indian, alike received his care. He cured many, consoled all; inspired sorrow for sin, resignation and love for God. In death he assisted his penitents, and afterwards gave them decent interment. Recalled to Lima by his superiors, he renewed his career of charity, and the miraculous cures which he effected, apparently by trifling herbs, made all look up to him as a saviour. His convent was surrounded by the sick, and at last his superiors allowed him to make it a hospital, those of the city being full. His sister next gave her house for the same purpose, for his charity and zeal were such that none could help being carried away by it.
When the epidemic ceased, he became the almoner of Lima: his hand was the ordinary channel of charity: he relieved the bashful poor, youth whom poverty exposed to temptation, and those whom sickness prevented from even seeking alms. His spirit of prophecy enabled him to foresee the result of each ease of sickness: so that when any one of his friends fell ill and received no visit from Brother Martin, it was certain that he would recover.
His humility induced him to ascribe the cures he performed to his medicinal plants, and his knowledge of diseases to experience; but the archbishop elect of Mexico falling ill, and being abandoned by physicians, summoned Martin, and commanding the brother to touch his side, recovered his health. So clear a miracle could not be concealed.
After a life of such charity, of prayer and of austerities, the Blessed Martin was warned of his own end, and prepared to die. A last trial came. He who had consoled thousands in death, was himself bereft of all comfort, temptation assailed him; but at last he calmly expired on the 3rd of November, 1639, at the age of 60, nearly forty of which had been spent in the religious state. Regarded by all as a saint, his death was deplored as a general calamity, except when it was considered that his charity could not be less fervent in heaven, or his heart have grown cold when clasped to the heart of that Jesus whom he had so faithfully served. His intercession was invoked, his relics were sought, and such were the crowds that Hocked to his tomb, that fourteen years after his death his cell was changed into a chapel, and his uncorrupted body transferred to it.
Lima called for his canonization, and after the usual proceedings, he was beatified by Pope Pius VII.
The Blessed John Massias was born in Estremadura in 1585, of poor and pious parents. Heir of these virtues, his early years was spent as a shepherd, till he was called by God to America. Landing at Carthagena, he made his way on foot to Lima, and applied for admission at the Dominican Convent of St. Mary Magdalen where he was received on the 23d of January, 1022; for though he was unknown, his piety, gravity and modesty prepossessed all in his favor. He was soon made porter, and entrusted with the distribution of alms, and in this ministry spent the rest of his life. No poor person could escape his charitable search-none ever went from him without receiving relief: All were astonished how a poor religious obtained the means of bestowing such alms; but as one biographer remarks, "If he gave from the store-house of God, which is infinite, what wonder that he gave so much?" His charity was not confined to bodily wants; he daily instructed the poor who came to the door, in their catechism, and made them touching exhortations.
A severe illness, produced by his austerities, spread a general grief through Lima, followed by as general a joy at his recovery, for as he told one who came to weep beside him: "Stop! this vile worm is not ripe yet."
His knowledge of the secrets of the heart, his insight into the future, and his zeal for God's glory, enabled him to draw many from vice; none could resist his words, for conceal their disorders us they might, they felt that all was known to him. Conversions of the most remarkable character are ascribed, to the Blessed Massias. At last, after twenty-four years spent in the service of his neighbor by day, and in prayer and austerities by night, he was seized with a fatal malady in August, 1645, and after an illness of three weeks, during which he was visited by the most eminent persons of the city, expired, as he had predicted, on the 17th of September. His death was no sooner known, than the convent was besieged; so eager were thousands to possess some of his relics, that the body was saved with difficulty. After his solemn obsequies, his tomb was the resort of the afflicted, so that on the first anniversary of his de death, his cell having been enlarged into a chapel, his body was transferred to it.
Proceedings for his canonization were undertaken at an early date, and he too was beatified by Pope Pius VII.
In the same year the Blessed Mariana de Paredes y Flores closed her mortal, career; the last American raised by an official act to the veneration of the faithful, she is the counterpart of the Rose of Lima, and has long been known in ecclesiastical history as the Lily of Quito. Born in that city, on the 31st of October, 1618, she inherited from her father, a noble officer named Don Jerome Paredes, a deep and tender piety. Her early years showed a self-sacrificing devotion, and a love of suffering. Guided by the Jesuit Fathers, she heard the story of the martyr church of Japan, and was enflamed with a desire of converting the heathen. Taking in her first communion the name of Mariana de Jesus, at twelve she bound herself by the three vows of religion, and soon after, with three companions, whom she had gained by the fire of her zeal, she left her father's house to go and convert the Indians. Brought back from her wild attempt, she next resolved to lead an eremitical life, and retired to a hermitage near Quito. She was induced to leave it, when shown by her directors that such was not, and could not be her duty. Her father's house was thenceforward the shrine of her virtues: not called to the cloister, she remained to hallow the secular state, and in it, guided by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, she made rapid progress in the way of perfection. Giving to the poor her dowry, she led a life of austerity and penance, similar to that of St. Rose, being ever ready to sacrifice herself for others. An occasion soon offered for an heroic act of this virtue. A pestilence ravaged Quito in 1645; Mariana, in prayer in the church, offered herself a sacrifice for the people-the offering was accepted-she died, and the pestilence ceased. Her body arrayed in a Franciscan habit, was laid out in the church of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, and the people of the city flocked around it as around a holy corpse, to touch their beads and reliquaries, and implore her prayers.
The Society of Jesus adopted her cause and became the postulants for her canonization; their suppression checked, their restoration renewed the process, and she was at last beatified by Pius IX, on the 20th of November, 1853.
Such are the saints and beatified servants of God, who have flourished in America, unless with many we believe, that St. Ansgar reached Greenland. Besides these, however, several in Europe are closely connected with the history of the Church in America. St. Pius V took a deep interest in the missions to the Western World; St. Francis Borgia, while general of his order, founded missions in the Chesapeake Bay, Florida, Cuba and Mexico; Blessed Alphonsus Rodriguez formed a Claver and other heroic missionaries expressly and prophetically for that field; St. Francis Regis burned with a desire to labor amid the snows of Canada, was even appointed to that mission, but was unexpectedly recalled; and many another, like Maria de Agreda, in her cloister, labored in spirit amid the native tribes of the Western World, but their history is not written here below; it is inscribed in the book of Divine knowledge.
1 Touron Hist. de l'Amerique, x, 245, xi, 1. Butler, March 23.
2 Touron xi, 54. Butler, July 24.
3 Fleurian: Life of B. Peter Claver; Abridged Life, N. York; Butler, Feb. 5, Note.
4 " I have more martyrs in your walls, Than God has," Says Lucifer in the Golden Legend, and it is but too true.
5 Touron Hist. de l'Am. xii, 544.
6 Notice in American Celt.
This article appeared in the June and July 1854 issues of "The Metropolitan."
Provided Courtesy of: