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"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

On Sickness as an Exercise of Virtue: To Teutonio Da Bragança, Rome, January 1, 1554


Teutonio da Bragança was the eccentric son of the Duke of Bragança. He became a great admirer of Simão Rodrigues, and when the latter was removed from office, he felt that Rodrigues had been harshly and unjustly treated and began to champion his cause. Using Teutonio's poor health as the excuse, his superiors sent him to Spain to continue his theology and Ignatius likewise invited him to study in Rome. Prior to Teutonio's leaving for Rome, he fell seriously ill and the trip was postponed. Ignatius hearing of his illness, wrote this brief encouraging letter exhorting him to reap spiritual fruit from his illness and suggests that he now not come to Rome but go to Córdoba to continue his studies. However, before Ignatius sat down to write this letter, Teutonio had recovered, and since he had again met Rodrigues in Spain, he decided to forget about Rome and follow Rodrigues to Portugal and become his "protector." Thus, begins, as Polanco termed it, "the tragedy of Master Teutonio."1 The letter was written in Spanish [Ep. 6:130-131].


May the sovereign grace and everlasting love of Christ our Lord be always our strength and support.

Letters from Master Nadal, our commissary, inform me, my dear brother, that God our Lord has afflicted you with no slight illness. I am quite convinced that in His Divine Goodness that this illness has been sent you in the interest of more important health, as an occasion for merit and the exercise of virtue. I am sure that you have tried to draw the fruit which God our Lord wishes you to draw from such visitations. In His infinite mercy and love He seeks our greater good and perfection no less with bitter medicines than with consolations that are sweet to the taste. Nevertheless, I hope with His divine favor soon to have news of your improvement, and I am sure that you will make much use of your better health in his service.

As to your coming to Rome, though it would give us the greatest consolation to see you, yet considering that in all this time there has been no opportunity to satisfy this desire which we both have, I suppose that we had better, taking your illness into account, give that thought up for the present, and that it would be more for your progress in studies and your spiritual consolation if you were to go to Córdoba, where you will be able to continue your education. Put aside whatever other cares you may have, and rest assured that we will look after you, and that in the end all will be for the greater service and glory of our Lord. May His Infinite and Supreme Goodness grant us all the bountiful grace to know and do His most holy will.

From Rome, January 1, 1554.
1. Teutonio (born 1530; entered the Society June 12, 1549) returned to Portugal without the permission of his superiors, and went to live with his mother in the family palace in Vila Viçosa. On April 18, 1554, writing to Ignatius he pleads: "Help me, I pray, out of this abyss." Always patient even with an undutiful son, Ignatius responded welcoming him again to Rome. In July 1554 Teutonio started his trip to Rome by accompanying Philip II, who was on his way to England to marry Mary Tudor. Teutonio arrived in Venice on September 9 and there, by chance, again met Rodrigues. Ignatius heard of this meeting and convinced that the old Jesuit was a bad influence on the younger, wrote to Teutonio on September 22, ordering him, under holy obedience, to get to Rome as soon as possible. Teutonio arrived in the Eternal City on October 14 and settled down for a while. He had a difficult time with studies and his restlessness soon returned. He required endless privileges, and always went out without permission. When feeling poorly, he needed two or three infirmarians to care for him, as well as organ music to calm his nerves. After Ignatius’ many attempts to save the young man’s vocation, the ultimate conclusion was that Teutonio was unsuitable for a life of obedience in the Society. He left Rome on September 9, 1556. He then went to the University of Paris, where he received a degree in theology and eventually became (1578) Archbishop of Évora. He always remained friendly and a sincere well-wisher of the Society. He died at Évora on July 29, 1602.
I. In July 1521, a 30-year-old Basque knight, named Iñigo was brought home to recuperate after his cannonball experience in the battle of Pamplona—his watershed moment. The wounds on his lower limbs led to the first long lockdown in his life, about nine months, during which he read a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints, the only reading matter the Loyola castle afforded. He also killed time by recalling tales of martial valor and by day-dreaming about a great lady who captured his heart. Later when he was out of mortal danger, his attention was centered on the saints. This profoundly moved and attracted him that soon after he had barely recovered he resolved to do something about his many sins. To fulfill this he must embark on a journey towards conversion. He followed the holy austerities of the saints, e.g. Francis of Assisi and Dominic, that God sent as his first spiritual guides in his lifelong task towards holiness.
II. "That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life… The contemplation of these mysteries, as St Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, leads us to incarnate them in our choices and attitudes" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 20).

St Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens c. 1622
III. "This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what St Ignatius of Loyola calls 'holy indifference', which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: 'We need to train ourselves to be indifferent to our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden’ so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 69).