St. Thomas the Apostle of Brazil – Francis X. Clooney, SJ

Fr. Francis Clooney, SJJesuit Francis X. Clooney, professor of Hinduism at the Harvard Divinity School. writes in his essay on Christian missionaries:

If, as Xavier found, non-Christian peoples were not entirely bereft of God’s wisdom and inklings of revealed truth, the cause of this knowledge had to be explained, and later generations spent a good deal of time reflecting on the matter. There were numerous theories early on among the missionary scholars. For example, Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, writing in Peru in the mid-seventeenth century, thought that since God would not have overlooked the Americas for fifteen hundred years, and since among the twelve apostles St. Thomas was known for his mission to the “most abject people in the world, blacks and Indians,” it was only reasonable to conclude that St. Thomas had preached throughout the Americas: “He began in Brazil—either reaching it by natural means on Roman ships, which some maintain were in communication with America from the coast of Africa, or else, as may be thought closer to the truth, being transported there by God miraculously. He passed to Paraguay, and from there to the Peruvians.”

Fr. Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, SJRuiz de Montoya reported that St. Thomas even predicted the arrival of later missionaries, including the Jesuits themselves: “[Thomas] had prophesied in the eastern Indies that his preaching of the gospel would be revived, saying: ‘When the sea reaches this rock, by divine ordinance white men will come from far-off lands to preach the doctrine that I am now teaching you and to revive the memory of it.'” Similarly, the saint prophesied in nearly identical words the coming of the Society’s members into the regions of Paraguay about which I speak: “You will forget what I preach to you, but when priests who are my successors come carrying crosses as I do, then you will hear once more the same doctrine that I am teaching you.”


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