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St. John de Britto

He was dedicated at birth to St. Francis Xavier, and his family was known to the king at that time, King Pedro. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of fifteen.

St. John de Britto

John de Britto was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1647.

He was dedicated at birth to St. Francis Xavier, and his family was known to the king at that time, King Pedro. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of fifteen. In his effort to promote education among the native Indian people as a missionary to Goa, he wandered through Malabar and other regions and even adopted the customs and dress of the Brahmin caste which gave him access to the noble classes. His dress was yellow cotton; he abstained from every kind of animal food and from wine in an effort to be one with the people he wished to serve.

Saint John de Britto also known as Arul Anandar was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary and martyr, often called ‘the Portuguese St Francis Xavier’ by Indian Catholics.

A terrible illness made him turn for aid to St. Francis Xavier, a Saint so well loved by the Portuguese; and when, in answer to his prayers, he recovered, his mother vested him for a year in the dress worn in those days by the Jesuit Fathers. From that time John’s heart burned to follow the example of the Apostle of the Indies. He gained his wish.

On December 17, 1662, he entered the novitiate of the Society at Lisbon; and eleven years later, in spite of the most determined opposition of his family and of the court, he left all to go to convert the Hindus of Madura. When Blessed John’s mother knew that her son was going to the Indies, she used all her influence to prevent him leaving his own country, and persuaded the Papal Nuncio to interfere. “God, Who called me from the world into religious life, now calls me from Portugal to India,” was the reply of the future martyr. “Not to answer the vocation as I ought, would be to provoke the justice of God. As long as I live, I shall never cease striving to gain a passage to India.”

For fourteen years he toiled, preaching, converting, baptizing multitudes, at the cost of privations, hardships, and persecutions. In 1683, John de Britto had to leave India but returned in 1691.

He advised Teriadeven, a Maravese to dismiss the many wives he had and keep only one. However, one of Teriadeven’s wives was the niece of the king. Due to this, John de Britto began to be persecuted. In 1693, he was taken to the capital Ramnad and from there led to Oriyur a small village in Tamil Nadu, where he was tortured and put to death by beheading.

He had wrought many conversions during his life, established many stations, and was famous for his miracles before and after his death.

There is a shrine to Britto in Oriyur, where he is a significant figure revered by the Kallar, Maravar and Agamudayar castes who together are often referred to as the Thevars.

There is only one church In Coimbatore, dedicated to John de Britto located at R S Puram and is one of the largest parishes in the diocese of Coimbatore.

One of the four houses in the Jesuit school, St Xavier’s, Kolkata, is named after John de Britto. In the Campion School of Mumbai and St Xavier’s Hazaribag there is a house named after Britto (Britto House). The other two houses are named for Francis Xavier (Xavier House) and Ignatius of Loyola (Loyola House). One of four houses in the Jesuit school, St Stanislaus High School. The other three houses named after Francis Xavier (Xavier House), Ignatius of Loyola (Loyola House) and Stanislaus Kostka (Kostka House).

One of the three houses in the Infant Jesus Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School Tangasseri, Kollam is named after John de Britto (Brittos). The other two houses are named for John Bosco (Boscos) and John Berchmans (Berchmans).

St Britto High School in Goa is named after Britto as he lived there for seven months to complete his theological studies at St Paul’s College in Old Goa. The school is administered by the Jesuits. There is an Anglo-Indian Boys High School in the Diocese of Kochi, in the old Portuguese city of Fort Cochin, named after John de Britto, nearby the Bishop’s House, in Kochi.

Britto is the patron saint (referred as Pathukavul) of Sakthikulangara Parish in Kollam Diocese, Kerala. Every year, Britto’s feast day is celebrated in Sakthikulanagara with a big procession (prathikshanam). The St John De Britto Anglo-Indian High School is named after him. One of the Jesuit colleges established in Tamil Nadu is named after Britto as Arul Anandar College (Arts & Science) which is in Karumathur, Madurai, as well as St Arul Anandar School, Oriyur, in the town where Britto died. These last two schools were established by the Jesuits to promote education in the rural parts of Tamil Nadu.

He was beatified in 1853 and was canonized in 1947.

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