Anchieta, José (Joseph) de, Bl.
ANCHIETA, JOSÉ (JOSEPH) DE, BL.
Jesuit priest, "Apostle of Brazil" cofounder of São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro; b. San Cristobál de la Laguna, northern end of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, March 19, 1534; d. Reitiba (now Anchieta), Espíritu Santo, Brazil, June 9, 1597. Anchieta was born into a noble family related to St. ignatius of loyola. After studying for a year in the Jesuit college at Coimbra, Portugal, he entered the Society of Jesus on May 1, 1551. Following his novitiate the 19-year-old Anchieta was sent to Brazil (1553) where he worked in the missions until his death 44 years later.
At first, Anchieta was in the captaincy of São Vicente and was one of the founders of the village of São Paulo de Pirtatininga and the Jesuit school there. He learned Tupi, the language in general use on the coast, and prepared a grammar for it.
In 1567, Anchieta was appointed superior of the Jesuits in the captaincy of São Vicente. During his ten years (1577–1587) as the fifth provincial of Brazil, he was the major architect of a plan later used elsewhere to liberate the indigenous people from brutal slavery under the colonists. He gathered the natives into aldeias, communities similar to the pueblas in Mexico and the reducciones in the Spanish colonies of South America, where they could be instructed in the faith, protected from exploitation, and taught the arts and letters. Much of the indigenous culture was preserved because he encouraged native crafts and music. He also possessed a fair knowledge of medicine, which he employed to help the natives. The last years of his life he spent in the captaincy of Espíritu Santo.
Anchieta was, above all, a man of action and a missionary of the first rank. During his life he was the object of popular veneration because of his apostolic work, his lofty ideals, and a certain untenable and unsubstantiated reputation for heroic deeds. He was said to have suppressed cannibalism practiced on enemy captives, who were eaten at ritual banquets, and to have protected the chastity of Christian native women, who were often raped in local wars. His fame as a miracle-worker added to his effectiveness as a missionary. No one has been so openly termed a saint, apostle, and father of Christianity in colonial Brazil as has Anchieta. Two biographers, Sebastián Beretario, who wrote in Latin, and Simão de Vasconcellos, who wrote in Portuguese, reflected in their writings the sincere feeling of veneration toward him then current in seventeenth-century Brazil. This devotion continues to be strong today among Brazilian Catholics. Pilgrimages are still made to the house of his birth in Tenerife, and a bronze statue of him was erected in La Laguna in 1960. It is said that he baptized two million natives. Although so high a number may be apocryphal, it assuredly testifies to his reputation for numerous baptisms.
Anchieta was an excellent writer, using both Portuguese and Tupi-Guaraní. In addition to two catechetical texts, he attempted to teach the faith to the native people by composing many canticles, dialogues, and religious plays. One of his morality plays, the three-hour Auto de Pregacão Universal, performed in the open-air at Bahia, may have been the first acted in the New World. His other important theatrical venture was the allegorical Na Festa de S. Lourenco or Misterio de Jesus. He compiled the first Tupi-Guaraní grammar (1555) and later a Tupi dictionary. His medieval-style poetry combined religious images with native customs.
After his death his body was buried in the Jesuit chapel at Espírito Santo where local tribes came in vast numbers to honor him. The bishop of Bahia preached at his funeral and named Anchieta the "Apostle of Brazil." Although Anchieta's cause was introduced by the petition of the Brazilian Jesuits in 1615 and he was declared venerable on Aug. 10, 1736, it was forgotten during the suppression of the Society of Jesus in the second half of the eighteenth century. Pope John Paul II beatified Anchieta on June 22, 1980.
Feast: June 9 (Jesuits).
Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 73 (1981): 253–258. Cartas: correspondência ativa e passiva, ed. h. a. viotti (Saão Paulo 1984); Cartas: informações, fragmentos históricos e sermões (Belo Horizonte 1988). Compendio de la vida del apóstol de el Brazil, V.P. J. de Anchieta, tr. b. anchieta (Xeres de la Fr. 1677). José de Anchieta: vida y obra, eds. m. rodrÍguez-pantoja mÁrquez and f. gonzÁlez luis (La Laguna, Tenerife 1988). L'Osservatore Romano, English edition 26 (1980): 10–11. s. beretario, Josephi Anchietae Societatis Jesu sacerdotis … vita (Lyons 1617). a. m. de b. carvalho, Anchieta (Rio de Janeiro 1989). crÉtineaujolly,
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