St. Antonio Galvao de Santana – WYD2013 Patron of the Week

20 Sep 2012

Frei Galvão is one of the best-known religious figures in Brazil, renowned throughout the country for his healing powers. He was born in São Paulo in 1739, and was the fourth of ten children in a deeply religious family of high social and political status.

At age 13, Galvão was sent to the Jesuit-run seminary in Cachoeira, Bahia by his father. He aspired to become a Jesuit priest, but the anti-Jesuit persecution led by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo made him move to a Franciscan convent in Taubaté, following the advice of his father.

At age 21, on April 15, 1760, Galvão gave up a promising future and his family’s influence on society, becoming a novice at the Saint Bonaventure Friary in Macacu, Rio de Janeiro. There, he adopted the religious name of Antonio of Saint Anne Galvão, in honor to his family’s devotion to Saint Anne. During his novitiate, he was known for his piety, zeal and exemplary virtues. Galvão made his solemn profession on April 16, 1761, taking the Franciscan vow to defend the Blessed Virgin Mary’s title of “Immaculate”, which was still a controversial doctrine at that time.

On July 11, 1762, Galvão was ordained a priest and transferred to Saint Francis Friary the city of São Paulo, where he continued his studies in theology and philosophy. From 1769 to 1770 he served as confessor to the “Recolhimento de Santa Teresa”, a house of Recollect women devout to Saint Teresa in the city of São Paulo. There, he met Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit, a penitent nun who claimed to have visions of Jesus. Galvão studied these messages and consulted with others who recognized them as valid and supernatural.

Galvão was a man of great and intense prayer, and certain mystic phenomena are attributed to him, such as telepathy, premonition and levitation. Cases of bilocation are also famous in his life; he was reported to be in two different places at the same time in order to take care of sick or dying people which asked for his help.

He was also sought for his alleged healing powers, in a time where medical resources were scarce. At one occasion, he wrote a Latin phrase from the Office of Our Lady (“After childbirth thou didst remain a Virgin: O Mother of God, intercede for us“) in a piece of paper, rolled it like a pill, and gave it to a young woman in danger of death. She was cured! The story of the miracle pill spread, and Galvão had to teach the Recollect sisters to make the pills in order to give them for people in need, which they still do nowadays. They are handed out for free to some 300 faithful who require them daily.

In 1811 he founded Saint Clare Convent in Sorocaba. Eleven months later, he returned to the Saint Francis Friary in the city of São Paulo. In his old age, he obtained permission from the Bishop and the guardian to stay at the Recollect house. He died there on December 23, 1822, and was laid to rest in the Recolhimento Church.

On May 11, 2007, he became the first Brazilian-born canonized Saint, during Pope Benedict XVI’s five day visit to Brazil. Saint Antonio of Saint Anne Galvão was also the first saint Pope Benedict XVI canonized in a ceremony held outside the Vatican City.

Saint Antonio’s tomb continues to be a destination for pilgrimages of the faithful who obtain graces through his intercession. The site of his tomb will be a popular stop over for pilgrims travelling through Brazil on the road to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013.

Pray that, with your example, I will be a promoter of peace and love in all the moments of my life. Amen.