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Now praise, oh, praise the sinless Mother,

Praise to that Household’s gentle Master be;


And, with the Child whom we call Brother,

Weep, weep for joy of that dear Family.

Rev. F. W. Faber. 

In the life of the servant of God, Peter de Basto, we find an example which shows how the holy angels, even while they are watching over us upon earth, interest themselves in behalf of the souls in purgatory.  And since we have mentioned the name of Brother de Basto we will make known this admirable religious; his history is as interesting as it is edifying. 


Peter de Basto, brother coadjutor of the Society of Jesus, and whom his biographer calls the Alphonsus Rodriguez of Malabar, died in the order of sanctity at Cochin, March 1, 1645. He was born in Portugal, of the illustrious family of Machado, united by blood to all the nobility of the whole province between the Douro and the Minho.  The Dukes of Pastrano and Hixar were among the number of his relatives, and the world held out to him a career of the most brilliant prospects.  But God had reserved him for Himself, and had endowed him with the most marvelous spiritual gifts.  While still a little child, when taken to the church, he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament with the fervor of an angel.  He believed that all the people saw as he did, with the eyes of the body, the legions of celestial spirits in adoration near the altar and the tabernacle, and from that time forward the Savior, hidden under the Eucharistic veil, became by excellence the center of all his affections, and the innumerable prodigies which characterized his long and holy life. 


It was there that, later, as in a divine sun, he discovered without veils the future and its unforeseen details.  It was there also that God showed him the mysterious symbols of a ladder of gold which united Heaven and earth, supported by the tabernacle, and of the lily of purity shooting forth its roots and drawing its nourishment from the flower of the wheat of the elect and the wine which alone can bring forth virgins. 

Towards his seventeenth year, thanks to that purity of heart and that strength of which the Sacrament of the Eucharist was for him the inexhaustible source, Peter made at Lisbon a vow of perpetual chastity at the feet of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor. He did not yet, however, think of quitting the world and, some days later embarked for the Indies, and for two years followed the military profession. 


But at the end of that time, on the point of perishing by ship wreck, being tossed about at the mercy of the waves for five days, supported and saved by the Queen of Heaven and her Divine Son, who appeared to him, he promised to consecrate himself entirely to their service in the religious state for the remainder of his life. As soon as he returned to Goa, being then but nineteen years of age, he went and offered himself in the quality of lay brother to the superiors of the Society of Jesus.  Fearing that his name might procure for him some mark of distinction or esteem, he adopted henceforward that of the humble village where he had received baptism, and was called simply Peter de Basto. 


It was a short time afterwards, during one of the trials of his novitiate that this wonderful incident occurred which is recorded in the Annals of the Society, and which is so consoling for all the children of St. Ignatius.  Brother Peter’s novice-master sent him on a pilgrimage with two young companions in the Island of Salsetto, ordering them not to accept hospitality from any of the missionaries, but to beg from village to village for their daily bread and their night’s lodging.  One day, fatigued with their long journey, they met a humble family, consisting of an old man, a woman, and a little child, who received them with the greatest charity, and pressed them to partake of a frugal repast.  But at the moment of their departure, after having returned them a thousand thanks, when Peter de Basto begged his hosts to tell him their names, wishing, no doubt, to recommend them to God: "We are," replied the mother, "the three founders of the Society of Jesus," and all three disappeared at the same instant. 



The whole religious life of this holy man until his death, that is to say, almost fifty-six years, was but a tissue of wonders and extraordinary graces; but we must add that he merited them, and purchased them, so to say, at the price of virtue, labors, and the most heroic sacrifices.  Charged by turns with care of the laundry, the kitchen, or the door, in the colleges of Goa, of Tuticurin, of Coulao, and of Cochin, Peter never sought to withdraw himself from the hardest labors, nor to reserve a little leisure time at the expense of his different offices that he might enjoy the delights of prayer.  Serious infirmities, the sole cause of which was excessive labor, were, he said smilingly, his most pleasant distractions.  Moreover, abandoned, so to speak, to the fury of the demon, the servant of God enjoyed scarcely any repose.  These spirits of darkness appeared to him under the most hideous forms.  They often beat him severely, especially at that hour each night when, as was his custom, he interrupted his sleep to go and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. 

One day while traveling, his companions fled at the sound of a troop of formidable-looking men, horses, and elephants, who appeared to approach them with furious gestures.  He alone remained calm; and when his companions expressed their astonishment that he had not manifested the least sign of fear, he replied, "If God does not permit the demons to exercise their rage against us, what have we to fear? and, if He gives them the permission, why, then, should I endeavor to escape their blows?"  He had only to invoke the Queen of Heaven, when she appeared immediately and put the infernal troop to flight. 


Often it seemed as though all was confusion, even to the very depths of his soul, and he found calm, peace, and victory only near his ordinary refuge, Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist.  Loaded one day with outrages, which caused him some little disturbance, he prostrated himself at the foot of the altar and asked of Our Divine Savior the gift of patience.  Then Our Lord appeared to him covered with wounds, a purple mantle about His shoulders, a rope around His neck, a reed in His hands, and a crown of thorns upon His head ;  then addressing Peter, He said, "See what the true Son of God has suffered 

to teach men how to suffer." 


But we have not touched the point we wished to illustrate by his holy life I mean to say, the devotion of Peter de Basto towards the souls in purgatory, a devotion encouraged and seconded by his good angel guardian.  Notwithstanding his many labors, he daily recited the Rosary for the dead.  One day having forgotten it, he retired without having recited it, but scarcely had he fallen asleep when he was awakened by his angel.  "My son," said this heavenly spirit, "the souls in purgatory await the benefit of your daily alms." Peter arose instantly to fulfil that duty of piety. 



O! blessed day, which gives the eternal lie

To self and sense and all the brute within;

O! come to us amid this war of life;

To hall and hovel, come; to all who toil

In senate, shop, or study; and to those

Who, sundered by the wastes of half a world,

Ill-warned and sorely tempted, every face,

Nature’s brute powers, and men unmanned to brutes

Come to them, blest and blessing, Christmas Day;

Tell them once more the tale of Bethlehem

The kneeling shepherds and the Babe Divine;

And keep them men indeed, fair Christmas Day.


Charles Kingsley.  

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