St. John de Britto
Society of Jesus, 1540
Saint John De Brito (1647-1693) was a native of Lisbon, Portugal, a courtier from an aristocratic family. When he was 15 he entered the Jesuit Order and became very interested in the life and mission of Saint Francis Xavier. Though his father was Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, John asked to be sent to the missions of India. He began his ministry in Goa, where he was assigned to teach Philosophy to Jesuit seminarians. But he soon asked for, and was assigned to serve, in direct pastoral ministry to the people.
John at first hoped to win over members of both the higher and the lower castes to Christianity, and so he dressed and lived as an Indian ascetic. He attracted so many members of the lowest caste to Christianity that members of the royalty of Madura saw John as a threat to the caste system. They imprisoned and tortured him, but then released him. The Jesuits recalled him to Portugal. But after four years, he was allowed to return to Goa, and went back to the same territory where he had once been held captive. When the raja of the area was dying, he asked John to baptize him, offering hope of further success with the higher caste. But, a short time later, a relative of one of the former raja’s many wives beheaded John with a scimitar.
John is portrayed in the attire of an ascetic, with a gold flame at each side of his head, representing two miracles attributed to him during his lifetime. The orange-red heart at the right knee and a black yin and yang symbol at the right ankle indicate his love for the people of all India. He stands on greenery, under which is a black scroll weighted down by a scimitar.
The shield of the Society of Jesus consists of a blue circlet on a purple background on which the Jesuit logo, IHS is written above the three nails of the crucifixion of Jesus, surrounded by rays of light. A circle around the shield contains the words “Society of Jesus” and the abbreviated motto of the Society, “A.M.D.G.” (“For the Greater Glory of God”). The foundation date of the Society is 1540.