John Britto was born in 1647 to a noble family in Lisbon. As a child, he loved hearing stories about Francis Xavier and the Jesuit missionaries. When he was only fifteen years old he fulfilled his childhood desire of becoming a Jesuit by gaining admission to the Society of Jesus. Ordained in 1673, John was sent to a Portuguese colony in southern India. He decided the best way to minister to the Indian people was to adapt his style as much as possible to the traditions of the Indians. He dressed as an Indian holy man would dress, abstained from meat, and translated the Gospel into terminology that would be understood within the context of the Indians’ Hindu culture. John was not accepted by all, however, and encountered violent persecutions. In 1686, he and some fellow Indian evangelists were arrested and tortured over a period of several days. When his tormentors finally released him, he was recalled to Lisbon. Although his superiors wanted him to stay in Europe, John insisted on returning to India, which he did. Three years later, while in India, John was again arrested by orders of a local prince and sentenced to death.
St. John de Britto wrote a letter to his superior while awaiting execution. In the letter he stated:
The only true crime with which I am charged is that I teach the religion of the true God and do not worship idols. It is indeed glorious to suffer death for such a crime! That is what fills me with happiness and joy in our Lord. My guards are keeping a sharp eye on me and I can write no more. Farewell, Fathers! I ask your blessing and commend myself to your holy sacrifices. Your Reverences’ very humble servant in Jesus Christ, John de Britto.
Dear Father, may each of us be given the grace to persevere in our faith and to face obstacles and tribulations with the joy that St. John de Britto had unto death. Thank You, Father, for the faith that St. John de Britto taught and lived throughout his life and ministry. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Roumald (1027), Abbot, Founder of the Camaldolese Order
St. Richard of Lucca (722), King, Father of Sts. Walburga, Willibald and Winnebald