Language Sites
  • UCAN China
  • UCAN India
  • UCAN Indonesia
  • UCAN Vietnam
Gospel Reflections » International

Saint John de Britto

February 4, 2013

Mail This Article
(For more than one recipient, type addresses separated by commas)

John de Britto was the son of rich and influential parents at the court of Lisbon, Portugal in the 17th century. As a child, he had fallen seriously ill, and his mother prayed to St Francis Xavier for his recovery. Little John recovered, but then to the dismay of his parents, he determined to follow the great missionary saint in every respect: he joined the Jesuits, and volunteered to work in India, as his saintly predecessor had.


John’s field of work was south India, or what is today Tamil Nadu. His labours were mainly pastoral – he preached, catechised, built and nurtured Catholic communities among the outcastes, and generally lived a life of hardship and austerity. His popular name was ‘Arulsamy’, literally, “Father John”, and his mastery of the local language and his adoption of local dress endeared him to thousands of his Catholics, who saw in him a different kind of priest than those they had been used to.


Not all was smooth sailing, though. His successes aroused the hostility of the local Hindus, and he was banished from Tamil Nadu, and sent back to Portugal. But John managed to return after eight years, and resume his mission work with the same zeal. His challenge to  a local ruler to put aside his several wives and live with just one woman, excited the anger of those deposed, and Father John was arrested, imprisoned and put to death at Oriyur, a martyr for the faith like John the Baptist before him.


Today, four centuries later, John de Britto is revered as the patron of the Church in South India where his martyrdom has yielded an abundant harvest of disciples of the Lord.

UCAN needs your support to continue our independent journalism
Access to UCAN stories is completely free of charge - however it costs a significant amount of money to provide our unique content. UCAN relies almost entirely on donations from our readers and donor organizations that support our mission. If you are a regular reader and are able to support us financially, please consider making a donation. Click here to donate now.