April 2, 2014 — Pope Francis is expected to canonize Blessed Jesuit Father José de Anchieta, known as the “Apostle of Brazil” and a patron of the country’s music and literature, this week. Blessed Anchieta, along with Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation, known as the Mother of the Canadian Church, and Blessed Francois de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, will be canonized by “equivalent canonization." All three saints were beatified together in 1980.
They have been put on a fast track to sainthood after Pope Francis waived some of the usual procedures in response to requests from the Canadian and Brazilian bishops' conferences. President of the Brazilian bishops' conference, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, announced in December that their request for Anchieta's canonization had been accepted by Pope Francis, though a miracle attributed to his intercession had not been officially confirmed
For "equivalent canonizations," the pope adds the name of the new saint to the universal calendar of saints, without verifying that a miracle was performed through his or her intercession and without holding a formal canonization ceremony. Pope Francis last used the process to canonize Jesuit Saint Peter Faber in December 2013.
According to Fr. Marc Lindeijer, assistant postulator of sainthood causes for the Jesuits, Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on April 24 for the new St. Anchieta. Bishops and pilgrims from Brazil and from Tenerife, Spain, where the saint was born, will join the pope for the celebration in the Jesuits’ Church of St. Ignatius in Rome.
The canonization process for Anchieta has been in the process for centuries, according to Jesuit José Célio dos Santos, a Brazilian scholastic studying at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. “People testified to his outstanding faith and remarked on his profound apostolic witness, but clashes between the Jesuits and European kingdoms led to the suspension of the process,” he said. “Now, Anchieta’s canonization will take place in the context of the bicentenary celebration of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. His canonization is not only a gift for the church in Brazil, but also for the Society of Jesus.”
José de Anchieta was born on March 19, 1534, in the Canary Islands. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1551, but was sent to Brasil because he suffered a dislocation of the spine during his novitiate and his health did not promise to improve in Portugal. He landed in Bahia in 1553 and settled in São Vicente where he discovered that he could quickly learn the language of the Tupi-Guaraní people. In January 1554 he accompanied Father Manuel de Nóbrega to a small village where they hoped to establish a mission and a school. They celebrated a Mass the day after they arrived; by chance it was the feast of St. Paul so they named the mission after him. Today's megapolis of São Paolo developed out of this mission.
Anchieta's assignment was to teach grammar and catechetical lessons to the native and Portuguese children and to teach Latin to those studying for the priesthood. He remained in this area doing missionary work for the next two decades. He also composed a Tupi grammar and dictionary.
The Portuguese missionary sometimes accompanied the superior whom he served as a translator. In 1563 he went with Nóbrega to negotiate peace between the Portuguese and the Tamoyo, a tribe who sometimes attacked the missions. Anchieta had to remain with the Tamoyo as a hostage for three months as the negotiations dragged on. He coped with the loneliness by composing a poem in honor of Mary, writing the Latin verses in wet sand on the seashore and then committing them to memory. He transcribed the whole poem on paper once he finally returned to Sao Vicente, all 4,172 lines.
In 1577, the fourth superior general of the Jesuits, Everard Mercurian, appointed Anchieta provincial superior of the Jesuits in Brazil. Anchieta died in Brazil on June 9, 1597, at Reritiba, Espírito Santo, and was mourned by more than 3,000 native peoples who valued all he had done for them both spiritually and in the promotion of their human dignity.
José Célio dos Santos said he believes St. Anchieta’s canonization will help Brazilians rediscover their Catholic faith and reconnect the country to its early history. “Anchieta’s canonization would challenge us to re-examine our prominent image of him as the great co-founder of São Paulo, which has become one of the largest cities in the world. Surely his canonization will cause us to recognize him as an ambassador of the Christian faith in Brazil,” he said.
St. Anchieta is an exceptionally prominent Brazilian historical figure, according to dos Santos. “As one of those instrumental in the formation of Brazil, he appears in virtually all historical literatures used in schools all over Brazil, such that every Brazilian has some knowledge of Anchieta,” he said.
“I mostly admire him for his respect and sensitivity to the cultures of the native/indigenous peoples,” dos Santos said. “For me, St. Anchieta means the image of an apostolic and missionary church; a person of faith who went to the peripheries of the world and human existence that which Pope Francis asks of us today; and someone who relentlessly went out to sow the seeds of the Kingdom transcending all geographical boundaries.” [Sources: Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, Sacred Space]