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Forty days before the Triduum, the Lenten season disposes Catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery through prayer and penitential practices.
Turibius de Mongrovejo, Bishop, 1538-1606
As a young man, Turibius (or Toribio) was educated in law and soon recognized as a brilliant scholar. He became a professor of law at the University of Salamanca where he attracted the notice of the king, Philip II. After some time, the king appointed Turibius the chief judge of the Inquisition, an unusual appointment for a layman. He fulfilled his duties in a most humane manner, with wisdom and discretion.
Some years later, the archbishopric of Lima, Peru became vacant. Peru had been troubled by outrageous abuses against the Indians on the part of Spanish conquerors. The clergy, if not actually contributing to the abuses, condoned them by ignoring the plight of the natives. Missionary work was at a virtual standstill.
An archbishop who could change all of this was required and Turibius, who had impressed all with his judiciary skills and the strength of his character, was selected. Stunned by this decision, Turibius argued that canon law prohibited lay men from performing ecclesiastical duties. Undeterred, the hierarchy ordained Turibius, consecrated him a bishop, and put him on the next ship for Peru.
Taking up his duties in 1581, Turibius found conditions worse than expected. The Spaniards quarreled among themselves and sent conflicting reports on the conditions back to Spain. Communications were slow. The worst of the injustices could go on for years. Adding to the problems, the diocese covered 400 miles of coast line and inland to the Andes. Travel in this terrain was difficult.
Soon after arrival, Turibius undertook a journey though his diocese. His first order of the business of reform was to deal with the clergy, which he did with firmness. The powerful among the lay people were a little more intractable, but he succeeded in removing some of the most extreme abuses.
The archbishop established many churches, hospitals, and the first seminary in the New World. In order to converse directly with the Indians, he studied the native dialects and his efforts succeeded in converting many of them. He confirmed Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres, who themselves later became saints. The charities of Turibius were numerous. The bishop recognized that many of the poor Spaniards would not accept charity publicly or from anyone they knew. In these cases, he provided assistance without the beneficiaries knowing where the help came from.
Turibius was traveling in the north of the country when he fell ill, but he continued his travels until he knew that the end was near. Turibius made a will leaving all of his property for the benefit of the poor then died on March 23, 1606. Together with St. Rose of Lima, he is considered one of the first two saints of the New World.
St. Turibius is the patron of Peru and of Latin American bishops. He is honored in the United States on March 23 by an optional memorial.
Turbius' message today: In his lifetime, Turbius became known as a wise, humane, and just administrator, first during the Spanish Inquisition, then during his tenure in Peru. He met strong opposition from many who preferred the excesses of abuse and corruption. But this did not deter Turbius from seeking justice for the oppressed.