Saint Toribio of Mogrovejo: Evangelizer of Spanish America

On March 23, the Church celebrates the ascent to heaven of another of her sons: Saint Turibius de Mogrovejo, “protector of the natives” and great evangelist of Spanish America.

Newsroom (24/03/2022 9:49, Gaudium PressToribio or Turibius, second son of the lord of Mogrebeyo, was born on November 16, 1538, in Mayorga, in the diocese of Leon, Spain. Since his childhood he showed a marked taste for virtue and horror of sin. He studied Law at the universities of Coimbra and Salamanca. At the age of 40, he was the President of the Tribunal of Granada when, by indication of King Philip II, Pope Gregory XIII named him Archbishop of Lima. Turíbio was considered the only man able to cure the ills of the church in that country.

Hastily, almost overnight, a simple layman was elevated to the dignity of bishop of the Holy Church. Such are the ways of Providence when She decides to carry out a work. It was done to the jurist Toribio what had been done, a little more than a thousand years before, with the statesman St. Ambrose: In four consecutive Sundays, Toribio received minor orders; a few weeks later he was ordained a priest, and finally, consecrated bishop.

The distinguished jurist becomes a catechist

Saint Toribio of Mogrovejo arrived in his archdiocese in May 1581. At first, he had to face the spiritual decadence of the colonizing Spaniards, whose abuses the priests did not dare to correct. The new archbishop tackled the evil at its root. Many of those guilty of intolerable vices and scandals tried to justify themselves:

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“We do what is customary here….”

“But Christ is truth, and not custom!” – he replied.

With energy and, above all, with his personal example, he put a brake on abuses, moralized customs, and promoted the reform of the clergy.

In a short time, the former lawyer became an excellent catechist who evangelized the natives with simple but fervent words. He made three pastoral visits to the immense territory of his archdiocese, tirelessly traveling thousands of kilometers. He entered miserable huts, sought out the fugitive natives, smiled paternally at them, spoke kindly in their languages and won them over to Christ.

Great activities, intense life of piety

The three pastoral visitations took him more than ten of his twenty-five years of episcopacy!

He convoked and presided over thirteen regional synods of bishops. He regulated and perfected the catechesis of the natives, and printed for them the first books edited in South America: the Catechism in Spanish, in Quechua and in Aymara. He founded one hundred new parishes in his archdiocese.

All this without harming in any way the fundamental point of every authentic apostle: his own spiritual life. His intense life of piety, to which he dedicated many hours of prayer and meditation every day, called the attention of all those who lived with him.

Immense joy: “I will go to the House of the Lord!”

He had the priceless satisfaction of converting thousands of indigenous people and of confirming three saints: Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Francis Solano, and Saint Rose of Lima.

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Death struck him during his last pastoral visit, in a poor chapel almost 500 kilometers from Lima. Feeling the extreme hour approaching, he recited Psalm 121: “I was filled with joy when they came to tell me: let us go up to the House of the Lord!” He expired gently at 3:30 pm on March 23, 1606, a Holy Thursday.

Benedict XIII canonized him in 1726 and John Paul II proclaimed him Patron Saint of the Latin American Bishops in 1983.

Text adapted from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel, n. 51, March 2006. By Sr. Mariana Morazzani Arráiz, EP.

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