Blessed Ignatius of Azevedo, Brazilian Martyr



On 17 July, the Church celebrates the memory of Blessed Ignatius of Azevedo and his fellow martyrs. The blood of such an eminent man has planted the supernatural roots of Catholicism in Brazil.

Newsdesk (Gaudium Press) The year was 1570. The missionaries commissioned by the Society of Jesus for the conversion of the new continent set sail for the beaches of north-eastern Brazil. Ignatius of Azevedo, the Superior of the Society of Jesus,[1] a man of strong character and ready for any adversity, spared no effort for the glory of the Church. The Society’s motto: “Ad maiorem Dei glóriam” was most applicable to him.

The main task of the Jesuits was the Christianization of the new colonies, of bringing the Gospel and civilization to the uncultivated corners of the unbaptized world. Spurred on by his pastoral zeal, Ignatius recruited many other missionaries for this campaign.

He was near Las Palmas when suddenly the roar of the waves was interrupted by the shouts of the sentry warning of an enemy fleet. They were corsairs, sent to intercept the Catholic ship. At that hour, Providence showed him the path to follow: to transform every evangelizing desire into a personal testimony for Christ, through martyrdom.

The holocaust, prelude to victory

Ignatius, with true gallantry, knew that it would please God more to be the martyr of Brazil than its apostle. Thus, he resolved to never retreat, not even for an instant before those perfidious and dishonorable men. Facing his impending death, he said to his group: “Children, do not fear! I am going ahead to prepare your dwellings,”[3] and, stretching out his arms in the form of a cross, he surrendered his soul to God. Soon afterwards, all the followers of this Saint won the palm of martyrdom!

If in fact “semen est sanguis christianorum,” (the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians)[4] in truth we may say that Ignatius’ blood was the seed of the Brazilian faith, and that thanks to his holocaust our homeland can truly be called the Land of the Holy Cross!

If Brazil is known as a great country, – whether for its continental vastness, or its innumerable other attributes – much more is it due to the faith of Ignatius, whose punctured chest poured forth the blood which spread across the ocean to irrigate this land full of promise, laying down here the supernatural roots of Catholicism as a prelude to the victory of Our Lord in our beloved country.

By Fabio Soares

[1] Ignatius was born in 1526, near Porto, the son of Don Manuel de Azevedo and Dona Francisca de Abreu. He joined the Jesuits and in 1570 was named Provincial of Brazil, embarking on a ship that would never touch Brazilian soil.

[2] Latin: “For the greater glory of God”.

[3] Cf. GONÇALVES DA COSTA, M. Inácio de Azevedo, the man and his time. Braga: Cruz 1957

[4] “Blood of martyrs, seed of Christians” (cf. Apology 50, 13).

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Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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