A Spanish General Testifies to Saint José de Anchieta’s Spiritual Majesty

March 23, 2023

The force of Anchieta’s personality in influencing strangers is well illustrated by his contact with a Spanish General, Diogo Flores Valdéz. In March, 1582, the Provincial was in Rio [de Janeiro] when a fleet of sixteen sails appeared unexpectedly in the bay. The inhabitants of Rio were naturally alarmed at the sight of so many strange ships, for just the year before three British ships had threatened Espírito Santo. Fearing that enemies were about to attack, citizens, including the members of the Society [of Jesus], who hastened to hide the holy relics, began to hide their treasures. Anchieta viewed the ships from a window, and assured his companions that friends, not enemies, had sailed into the bay. . . . It was the fleet of Diogo Flores Valdéz, whom Philip II had sent on a voyage to the Straits of Magellan . . . .

Valdéz remained in Rio most of the winter. . . .

St. José de Anchieta

Some time after the arrival of the fleet, Anchieta sent one of his priests to the General to ask him to release an Englishman who was interned in Rio. At first the General, clearly annoyed, refused the request. The priest then apologized and explained that he had been sent by his Provincial, Anchieta. At the mention of the Apostle’s name the General’s attitude changed and he said to the amazed priest, “Do at once whatever Anchieta wishes, because God does not want me to fail to grant his request. The first time I saw the padre, nothing seemed more miserable and abject, but after I observed him well, and heard him speak, never in the presence of any king did I feel so insignificant as I did before him.”

Helen G. Dominian, Apostle of Brazil: The Biography of Padre José de Anchieta, S.J. (15341597) (New York: Exposition Press, 1958), 267–68.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 871


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