Saint of the Day – 9 October – St Louis Bertrand O.P. (1526-1581) “Apostle of South America” – Dominican Priest, Missionary, Preacher, Confessor, Teacher, Spiritual Director, Miracle-Worker – born as Luis Beltrán on 1 January 1526 at Valencia, Spain and died on 9 October 1581 of natural causes at Valencia, Spain. Patronages – Buñol; New Granada; Colombia.
Saint Louis Bertrand was born in the year 1526, the oldest of the eight children of his good Christian parents, at Valencia in Spain. He was in every way a model of modesty and obedience and it was foreseen that God had some particular role for him. He devoted himself to the sick in the hospitals. He desired to enter the Order of Saint Dominic but for some time could not obtain his parents’ permission. Finally, in 1545, he became professed in the Dominican Order, then was ordained a priest in 1547 when he was only 21 years old, according to the desire of his Superiors. In 1551, at the age of twenty-five, he was made master of novices and in this post he formed many great servants of God. In demeanour he was grave and apparently without any sense of humour, yet withal possessed of a gentle and sweet disposition that greatly endeared him to those with whom he came in contact. It is said that despite his strictness, he was so gentle that his chastisements were more agreeable to his novices than the favours of their best friends.
In 1560, when the plague broke out in Valencia, his Superiors, not wanting to lose him, sent him elsewhere for a time, he preached with great success and was endowed with the spirit of prophecy. He continued his preaching when recalled to Valencia. In 1562 he obtained leave to embark for Carthagena in the American mission and there converted vast multitudes to the Faith. He hoped to obtain the grace of martyrdom there, but God conserved his life. He was favoured with the gift of miracles and, after praying for the gift to be understood without an interpreter, since one of those had disappointed him seriously, he preached in his mother tongue, Spanish but was understood by all the natives of various tribes.
In his mission at Tubera he himself baptised 10,500 Indians, without counting those his companions baptised, and obliged them to burn their idols and the sites of their sacrifices. Often his gentleness charmed his worst enemies. He preached also at Capicoa and Paluato, having established missions there . He refused all remuneration -he brought down rain after a drought. He was poisoned by some pagans who had suffered a reproach but the poison did not harm him and the nativeswere converted by the miracle. He went to many other places, preaching and healing the sick – again he was poisoned without effect. There was no one who did not consider him a Saint, sent for the benefit of the new continent.
After seven years he returned to Spain to plead the cause of the Indians, oppressed and given bad example by his own countrymen. He used his own growing reputation for sanctity, as well as family and other contacts, to lobby on behalf of the native peoples he had encountered, as well as serving in his native diocese of Valencia. There he also became a spiritual counsellor to many, including St Teresa of Ávila. He was not permitted, however, to return and labour among his beloved peoples. He spent his remaining days preaching, labouring for the conversion of different cities and again forming the novices of the Order at Valencia. He was elected Prior of that convent and never had a more charitable or more zealous Superior been seen there.
At length, after suffering from a long and painful illness, he was carried from the pulpit in the Cathedral at Valencia to the bed from which he never rose. He died on the day he had foretold, 9 October 1581, at the age of 55 years.
He was Canonised by Pope Clement X in 1671.
There is a statue of Louis Bertrand on the north colonnade of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The festival known as La Tomatina is held in Buñol, Valencia, in honour of the town’s patron saints, Louis Bertrand and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats – Mother of God of the Defenceless, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary.