Summary: Inacio and his companions continue their witness, but now to hundreds of scuba divers.
Thursday of the 14th Week in Course 2018
“No gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff.” It sounds like a scene from the luggage carrel at an airport I flew into a couple of decades ago. But it’s the operating instructions for the missionary given by Jesus Himself a couple of thousand years ago. It is an instruction that during the sixteenth century was carefully followed by thousands of Catholics who embarked from Europe to the East and to the West.
God loves us. God loves us, as Pope Benedict loves to say, to His own disadvantage. We erroneously think of God as being changeless in the wrong sense. God is changeless in the sense that He is perfect, so He can’t go from a state of want to a state of plenty. God is full and complete. But we make a huge mistake if we think that it didn’t cost anything for God to give us His only Son, to die a criminal’s death. The Father’s gift of the Son to us cost Him His human life. Hosea saw it hundreds of years before the Incarnation. Even when Israel responded to God’s many gifts with rebellion, God did not turn His back on His people. Again and again He sent prophets to tell the truth and plead for conversion. Again and again they said “no,” but in the end, God gave His best, His only-begotten Son.
We know that the sixteenth century was a time of rebellion. Germany for the most part was lost, then much of central Europe, then England and Scotland. In France, Catholics and Hugenots—Calvinists—struggled for power. From Spain came perhaps the greatest saint of the century, Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. And along with Franciscans and Augustinians, the Jesuits came to the Americas. Portuguese Jesuits came to Brazil, and had success. Inacio de Azevedo entered the Society of Jesus in mid-century. In 1565 the Jesuit superior, Saint Francis Borgia, charged him with a visitation to the Brazilian missions, and spent two years there, inspecting and organizing. In 1570 he returned with a number of companions in a merchant vessel, named after Saint James.
On the way they were attacked by the French Hugenot pirate Jacques de Sores, and all were captured. They were Portuguese, they were Catholic, they were missionaries. They were murdered. Pope Pius IX beatified them all as the forty martyrs of Brazil in 1854. About twenty years ago forty concrete crosses were placed at the approximate position where they were martyred, down about twenty meters below the ocean surface. So Inacio and his companions continue their witness, but now to hundreds of scuba divers.