March 22, 2017

Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo, Apostle of Peru

Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo

March 23rd, is the optional memorial of St. Toribio of Mogrovejo (1538 – 1606), the 16th century bishop, reformer and missionary who, by his tireless zeal and boundless love, renewed the Church in Peru. Though he began life as a law professor at the prestigious University of Salamanca, it would be as a poor missionary in the New World, not as a high Spanish government official, that St. Toribio of Mogrovejo would discover what God wanted him to do with his life.

Toribio was born into Spanish nobility in 1538. His father was Don Louis Alfonso, mayor of Mayorga, and his mother was Anna de Roblès y Moran y Villaquexida. It was Toribios’ great learning and reputation for virtue that attracted the attention of King Philip II of Spain; this subsequently led to his appointment as chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. Some argued that he succeeded too well in that position; whether or not that is true, the strength of character he displayed made him a natural choice to be appointed the Archbishop of Lima, Peru in 1579.

Lima was rife with scandal, with the clergy and the Spanish conquerors brutally oppressing the native people. Toribio traveled on foot throughout his immense archdiocese, championing the rights of the poor against their Spanish overlords. It is said that he baptized and confirmed over half a million people, among them Saint Rose of Lima and possibly Saint Martin de Porres.  Among his greatest contributions to the Church in the New World was overseeing the Third Provincial Council of Lima (1582-1583), one of the most important and comprehensive councils held in the Americas. Unlike earlier provincial councils, the it made no distinctions between the Spaniards and the Indians in treating them equally.

Laboring to the very end, Saint Toribio died of a fever in Sana, Peru, in 1606. In addition to championing the rights of native peoples, he started the first seminary in the Americas, the Conciliar Seminary of Lima, and was canonized the first male saint of the New World in 1726. He is the patron of Native rights, Latin American bishops, and the country of Peru. Almighty God, who gave increase to your holy Church through the apostolic labors and zeal for truth of the Bishop Saint Toribio, grant that the people consecrated to you may always receive new growth in faith and holiness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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