March 22 - Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo

Born in Mayorga, León, Spain, on November 16, 1538; died at Santa (Sana) near Lima, Peru, on March 26 (or 23), 1606; beatified by Pope Innocent XI on June 28, 1679; canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726; feast day formerly on April 27.
Turibius (Toribio) Alphonsus was the son of Don Luis Alfonso de Mogrovejo and Dona Ana de Robles y Moran. Although he was devoted from a young age, he had no plans to become a priest. He studied at Valladolid and Salamanca, and was such a successful student that he became a professor of law at the University of Salamanca. In February 1571, although he was still a layman, King Philip II appointed him the chief judge of the ecclesiastical court of the Inquisition at Granada.

In 1580, when the authorities required an archbishop of strong character to work to convert the Peruvians of Lima, they selected Turibius. He was horrified by this decision, and he presented the canons forbidding the promotion of laymen to Church offices to support his contention. He was overruled, however, was ordained priest, consecrated bishop, and arrived in Lima, Peru, on May 24, 1581.

The saint proved to be a wise selection because he was a most zealous shepherd of souls. Upon his arrival he was confronted with an enormous diocese of 18,000 square-miles--his first visitation took him seven years--and one in which the Spanish were guilty of mistreatment of the native population. Undaunted he began his work, traversing his entire diocese three times, generally on foot because there were no roads, defenseless, and often alone, exposed to tempests, torrents, deserts, wild beasts, tropical heat, and fevers.

He came into immediate conflict with the secular authorities over the treatment of the Quechuans, whose rights he defended and whose dialects he learned to speak. He found that many of the baptized Indians knew little or nothing about Christianity and proceeded to evangelize them. He fought injustice and vice, among the clergy as well as the laymen, and succeeded in eliminating many of the worst abuses. At the same time, he helped Spaniards who were too proud to ask for help in such a way that they were not aware of his assistance.

He himself baptized and confirmed nearly a million souls. He continuously studied the various Indian dialects to assist in converting the native population. Among his flock were Saint Rose of Lima, whom he befriended and confirmed, Saint Francis Solanus, Saint Martin de Porres, and Saint John Massias.

He founded many churches, religious houses, and hospitals, and, in 1591, founded the first American seminary in Lima. He also assembled 13 diocesan synods. His favorite topic when preaching was: "Time is not our own and we must give a strict accounting of it."

Turibius fell ill at Pacasmayo but worked to the end. On one of his journeys he arrived at Sana in dying condition; he dragged himself to the sanctuary and there received the viaticum, dying almost immediately thereafter. He left his belongings to his servants and the rest of his property to the poor.

His cultus was strongly celebrated in Latin America on April 27, until his feast was added to the universal calendar on March 23. He was selected for this worldwide cultus as a type of pioneering missionary and reforming bishop, and as a representative of South America, whose enormous Catholic population is often forgotten (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer, Schamoni, White).