Feast of the Jesuit Martyrs of Paraguay (November 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Province of Paraguay, 1600

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT ROQUE GONZÂLEZ DE LA CRUZ (NOVEMBER 17, 1576-NOVEMBER 15, 1628)

Spanish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1628

Alternative feast day = November 15

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SAINT ALPHONSUS RODRÍGUEZ OLMEDO (MARCH 10, 1595-NOVEMBER 15, 1628)

Spanish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1628

Alternative feast day = November 15

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SAINT JUAN DE CASTILLO (SEPTEMBER 14, 1595-NOVEMBER 17, 1628)

Spanish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1628

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Collective alternative feast day = November 17

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God does not command the Gospel of Our Lord to be preached with the noise of arms and with pillage.  What He rather commands is the example of a good life and teaching.

–St. Roque González de la Cruz, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 497

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The Jesuit Martyrs of Paraguay come to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Elllsberg, All Saints (1997).

The Jesuit missions in South American proclaimed the Gospel of Christ and shielded part of the indigenous population from slavery.  Many European colonists enjoyed exploiting the native people of South America for financial gain.  Therefore, powerful political forces in Europe in the Spanish colonies in the New World pushed back against the Jesuits’ missionary efforts.  Also, some indigenous people did not differentiate between the Jesuits shielding them from slavers and the European slavers.

These three saints lived, worked, and died in this perilous context.

St. Roque González, a son of Spanish colonists, entered the world at Asunción, Paraguay, on November 17, 1576.  His parents, Bartholomé González y de Villaverde and María de Santa Cruz, were from noble families.  Our saint grew up bilingual in Spanish and Guariní.  He, ordained a priest in 1598, became a Jesuit in 1609.  The Jesuits sent him to serve as a missionary in what is now Brazil, but was then within the borders of the Spanish Province of Paraguay.  González was the first person of European ancestry to enter what is now the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.  He founded the missions of San Ignacio Mani (1613), Itapúa (1615). Concepción de la Siena Candelaria (1619), San Javier, San Nicolás, Asunción del Ijui, and Todos los Santos de Caaró (1628).

Above:  The Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

González worked with St. Juan de Castillo.  Castillo, born in Belmonte, Toledo, Spain, on September 14, 1595.  He studied law at the University of Alcalá then became a lawyer.  Yet Castillo found that career unfulfilling.  Therefore, he joined the Society of Jesus on March 21, 1614, with the intention of becoming a priest.  Castillo and St. Alphonsus Rodríguez Olmedo traveled to South America together in November 1616.

St. Alphonsus Rodríguez Olmedo, born in Zamora, Spain, on March 10, 1598, joined the Society of Jesus in Villagarcía de Campos, Valladolid.

Castillo, ordained a priest, spent the rest of his life as a missionary.  He joined González at Ijui.  González left there to found another mission while Castillo ministered at Ijui (now in Brazil).

Rodríguez served in the missions of Paraná and Itapuá in 1628.  Later that year, he helped González found Todos los Santos de Caaró.  On November 15, 1628, González was preparing to supervise the installation of the new bell at the mission church.  However, local chieftain Nheçu had ordered the deaths of the Jesuits there.  González and Rodríguez died via tomahawks.  Hostile tribesmen dragged the corpses into the church and burned it.

Two days later, at Ijui, Castillo also became a martyr, on the orders of Nheçu.

The Jesuit missions in South America continued until 1773, when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus.  That shameful incident is the backdrop for The Mission (1986).

Holy Mother Church formally recognized these three martyrs.  Pope Pius XI declared them Venerables in 1933 then Beati in 1934.  Pope John Paul II canonized them in 1988.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL WOODFORD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF ELY, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, U.S. POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame

of your love in the hearts of your holy martyrs

Saint Roque González de la Cruz,

Saint Alphonsus Rodríguez Olmedo,

and Saint Juan de Castillo:

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-5

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 715

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