About José de Anchieta, s.j.
Saint Jose de Anchieta was canonized by Pope Francis on April 3, 2014.
José de Anchieta Llarena was born on March 19, 1534, in San Cristóbal de La Laguna on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, to a rich family. His father, Juan López de Anchieta, was a landowner from Urrestilla, in the Basque Country, who had escaped in 1525 to Tenerife after participating in a failed rebellion against the King, Charles V. His mother, Mencia Díaz de Clavijo y Llarena, was a descendant of the conquerors of Tenerife, and came from a Jewish family. He was a relative of Loyola's.
Anchieta first went to study in Portugal when he was 14 years old, in the Royal College of Arts in Coimbra. He was intensely religious and felt the vocation for priesthood, so he sought admission in 1551 to the Jesuit College of University of Coimbra as a novice. During his studies, the young Anchieta became quite sick, with an affliction of the spine which tormented him throughout his life, but he was considered an exceptionally intelligent student and a gifted poet. He learned to write in Portuguese and Latin as well as in his mother tongue. at the age of seventeen, and when a novice nearly ruined his health by his excessive austerity, causing an injury to the spine which made him almost a hunchback.
Missionary in Brazil
In 1553, just nineteen years old, Anchieta was chosen to travel to Brazil as a missionary of the third group of Jesuits sent to the New World, accompanying Duarte da Costa, the second governor general nominated by the Portuguese crown. After a perilous journey and a shipwreck, Anchieta and his small group arrived in São Vicente, the first village which was founded in Brazil, in 1534. There, he had his first contact with the Tapuia Indians living in the region.
In the same year, Manuel da Nóbrega, a Portuguese Jesuit, sent 13 Jesuits, Anchieta among them, to climb the fearsome Serra do Mar to a plateau which the Indians had named Piratininga, along the Tietê river, where the Jesuits established a small missionary settlement. This was done on January 25, 1554, the date when the first mass was celebrated. There, Anchieta started with his Jesuit colleagues the work of conversion, baptism and catechesis and education for which the Society of Jesus was so famous. Anchieta taught Latin to the Indians and began to learn their language, Old Tupi, and to compile a dictionary and a grammar, as it was the aim and custom of Jesuit missions all over the world, after their first contact with the "heathens". The Jesuit College of São Paulo of Piratininga, as it was called, soon began to expand and to prosper as a population nucleus.
Meanwhile, due to the systematic killings and ransacking of their villages by the Portuguese colonists and attempts at enslaving them, the Indian tribes along the coast of present-day states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo rebelled and formed an alliance, the Tamoyo Confederation, which soon supported the French colonists who in 1555 had settled in the Guanabara Bay under the command of a Huguenot Vice-Admiral, Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon. The Confederation attacked São Paulo several times from 1562 to 1564, but the town resisted. Anchieta and Nóbrega, who were against the way the Portuguese colonists treated the Indians, and had had a serious conflict with Duarte da Costa over the matter, decided to initiate peace negotiations with the Tamoyos, in the village of Iperoig (in present-day Ubatuba, in the northern coast of São Paulo state). Anchieta's skill with the Tupi language was crucial in these efforts. After many incidents and the near massacre of Anchieta and Nóbrega by the Indians, they finally succeeded in gaining the Indian's confidence, and peace was established between the Tamoyo and Tupiniquim nations and the Portuguese.
Peace was broken, however, when Estácio de Sá, a nephew of the new governor-general of Brazil, Mem de Sá (1500–1572), was ordered to expel the French colonists definitively. With the influential support and blessings of Anchieta and Nóbrega, he departed with an army from São Vicente and founded the ramparts of Rio de Janeiro, at the foot of Pão de Açúcar, in 1565. Anchieta was with him and participated in a number of battles between the Portuguese and their Indian allies and the French and their Indian allies; acting as a surgeon and interpreter. He was also responsible for reporting back to the governor-general headquarters in Salvador, Bahia and participated in the final, victorious battle against the French, in 1567.
A story places Anchieta and Nóbrega against this background and links them to the arrest and death of a Huguenot refugee, the tailor Jacques Le Balleur, by Governor General Mem de Sá in 1559, but historical research, based on period documents show that the Huguenot did not die in Brazil, in fact he was led to Bahia and then sent to Portugal, where he had his first trial completed in 1569. In a second case in India, in 1572, was finally condemned by the Tribunal of the Inquisition of Goa. There was no involvement of Anchieta in this episode, retrofitted by anti jesuitic advertising. After the peace, a Jesuit college was founded in Rio under the direction of Nóbrega, and Anchieta was invited to stay, succeeding him after his death, in 1570. Despite his frailty and ill health, and the rigors of slow travel by foot and ship of the time, in the next ten years Anchieta travelled extensively between Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Espírito Santo and São Paulo consolidating the Jesuit mission in Brazil. In 1577 the fourth superior general of the Jesuits, Everard Mercurian, appointed Anchieta provincial superior of the order's members in Brazil.
With worsening health, Anchieta requested relief from his duties in 1591. He died in his country of adoption, on June 9, 1597, at Reritiba, Espírito Santo, mourned by more than 3,000 Indians, who much valued his intercession in the defense of their souls and human dignity. During and after his life, José de Anchieta was considered almost a supernatural being. Many legends formed around him, such as when he supposedly preached and calmed down an attacking jaguar. To this day, a popular devotion holds that praying to Anchieta protects against animal attacks. José de Anchieta is celebrated the founder of Brazilian letters and, with Nóbrega, Apostle of Brazil. He gives his name to two cities, Anchieta, in the State of Espírito Santo (formerly called Reritiba, his place of death), and Anchieta, in the state of Santa Catarina, and many other places, roads, institutions, hospitals, and schools.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, Anchieta acquired the title "Blessed José de Anchieta." A movement exists to promote his eventual canonization and thus veneration as a Catholic saint. Works
In the tradition of Jesuits, Anchieta was a prolific rapporteur, communicating mainly by letters to his superiors, writing flawlessly in Spanish, Portuguese, Latin and Tupi. His writings are published in Cartas, Informações, Fragmentos Históricos e Sermões (Letters, Reports, Historical Fragments and Sermons). He was accomplished at singing religious chants and wrote several ones, as well as a drama to teach morals to the Indians by means of music and theater. He wrote a famous poem to Virgin Mary, allegedly writing it every morning on the wet sand of a beach at Iperoig and committing it to memory until he could much later transcribe its more than 4,900 verses to paper. Because of this, Anchieta is the patron of literature and music in Brazil.
Anchieta was pioneer to transcribe and standardize the Old Tupi language, writing theology, religious instruction, theater and poetry, and the first published work on that language. He was also a historiographer, a keen naturalist (he described several new plants and animals) and an excellent surgeon and physician. The lucid and detailed reports he left are still important today to understand the lifestyle, knowledge and customs of Indian and Europeans during his time, as well as the astounding novelties of Brazil's wildlife and geography.
Anchieta's poem De Gestis Meni de Saa, written around 1560, described the "heroic deeds" of Portuguese soldiers fighting these wars of conquest "in the immense wilderness."