Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the East: João de Brito’s second departure to India – 11

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

At the moment of João de Brito’s departure from Europe, there would be a last rocambolesque episode, which serves us today to better understand the determination that always animated the Portuguese saint.

After a delay due to a storm, the armada of 1690 was scheduled to leave on 8th April. A cannon shot warned all who were going to leave that it was time to board. João immediately went towards the quay, but on the way he met the Count of Marialva, who asked him insistently to say goodbye to the King again. D. Pedro II and his queen successively delayed his departure until  a new cannon shot was heard – it was the signal that the fleet had just left.

João quickly left the monarch’s company and ran to the quay; the ships were already sailing toward the Atlantic. The Jesuit then saw a small sailing ship whose crew was ready to take him to the fleet. But the vessel was slower than the great ships, and these continued to distance themselves. In the middle of the river, João managed to change to another faster ship, and this one was able to reach the ships of India. It was in this, somewhat, ridiculous way that João de Brito definitively left Portugal.

It is curious to note that if the first time his mother fought hard against João’s departure, now she did nothing in that sense and it was the monarch who tried everything. In 1673, it was his family that reacted negatively to the removal of a loved one. By 1690, however, they had already gotten used to the situation and were happy to have had the opportunity to see him again. This time it was the Crown that did not want to lose its counselor and educator, and that would have liked to increase its prestige by having the “hero of Maravá” at its side. None of these reasons could bend João de Brito’s vocation. In his life, this last passage through Portugal was like the last great obstacle he had to overcome in order to achieve the objective of his life – to die in India announcing the Gospel.