Saints of the Society of Jesus: Blessed Ignatius Azevedo and Companions

15 July, Martyrs

In the early Church, forty Christian soldiers were tortured to death standing in a pond of water in the middle of winter. The courage of one giving way, he stepped into the adjoining tepid bath in sign of his apostasy. One of their jailors took his place, and they died, as they had prayed to die, forty in number, the mother of the youngest carrying his yet palpitating body to the funeral-pyre.

On the 2d of June, 1570, Father Ignatius Azevedo, with thirty-nine companions, mostly novices, sailed from Lisbon to evangelize the savage nations of Brazil. But it was not for such labors Father Azevedo had prepared these youths during five months of solitude. Fierce savages met them on the water. On a Friday of the next month they fell in with the ship of Jacques Sourie, a French Calvinist pirate. A sharp conflict ensued, during which Father Azevedo encouraged the sailors, holding up a picture of Our Lady. When the Huguenots had taken the Portuguese vessel, they turned on the Jesuits. The body of Father Ignatius was thrown into the sea with the picture of Our Lady still in his hand. They tried to force meat down the young men’s throats, who spat it out and trampled on it. One they spared, a lay-brother, whom they kept to serve as cook. But the number had to be forty. A young man, nephew to the Portuguese captain, claimed to belong to the Society, into which he had asked admission. Sourie answered that he had not the habit. Then seizing the cassock of one of the martyred religious, the young man drew it on and instantly received his reward. At that moment St. Teresa, in the retirement of her convent at Alcala, beheld these forty chosen souls ascending gloriously into heaven.