30 Nov 2015 | 04:01am IST
Blessed Denis and Redemptus—Proto-Martyrs of the Carmelites
Yesterday (29 November), the Carmelite Order celebrated the feast of Blessed Denis and Redemptus, proto-martyrs of the Order.
John Malvino Alfonso, OCD
Blessed Denis and Blessed Redemptus died for their faith on 29 November 1638. Both of these two men are interesting as they were late vocations, having had successful careers before becoming Carmelite friars. They both earned the title of the first martyrs of the Carmelite Reform.
Blessed Denis of the Nativity was born Denis Berthelot at Honfleur, France on December 12, 1600. As a young man he sailed abroad to Spain, England and America, becoming a skilled pilot. He worked as a cartographer and naval captain for the kings of France and Portugal. Because of his valor and genius, he became first pilot of the kings of France and Portugal. Some of his cartography, the Maritime Tables, is still preserved in the British Museum.
In 1635, while in Goa, he took counsel with his spiritual director, Father Philip of the Most Trinity, and consequently joined the Discalced Carmelites. He made his profession on Dec. 25, 1636, with the name of Dionysius of the Nativity. He was ordained a priest on Aug. 24, 1638. According to the testimony of the same Father Philip, he was an example of virtue to all the religious, both in the novitiate and after his profession. He was graced with the gift of contemplation; and more than once during prayer he appeared surrounded by heavenly splendors.
Thomas Rodriguez de Cunha ,born in Portugal in 15 March 1598 had made his own profession as a lay brother in 1615 in the same house, taking the name in religion of Redemptus of the Cross. His early career before becoming a Carmelite included military service in India at Goa. He accompanied the viceroy, Joao Coutinho, Count of Redondo, to India. He distinguished himself for bravery and had become captain of the guards in Mylapore. He became acquainted with the Carmelites in Tatta (Sind) and later evinced a desire to join them as a non-cleric.
Shortly after the Ordination to the priesthood of Blessed Denis, the Portuguese ambassador to the sultan of Achen wanted Bl. Denis to join him as a spiritual guide, as well as a Maritime expert. Brother Redemptus was sent by the superiors of the Order to accompany Father Denis of the Nativity as part of an ambassadorial mission from the Portuguese Empire to the Sultan of Aceh. The mission was led by Dom Francisco Sousa de Castro as ambassador. Father Denis, in turn, took as companion, Brother Redemptus.
The two left Goa with the delegation on Sept. 25, 1638, and after a successful voyage arrived at Achén on Oct. 25. However, the Sultan of Achen imprisoned them. They were tormented and their persecutors tried mightily to convince them to renounce their Catholic faith and become Muslims. This they steadfastly refused to do and they suffered a cruel death for their Christian faith on November 29, 1638. They were beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 10 June 1900.