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Juan Fernandez

Jesuit lay brother and missionary; b. at Cordova; d. June 12, 1567, in Japan

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Fernandez, JUAN, Jesuit lay brother and missionary; b. at Cordova; d. June 12, 1567, in Japan. In a letter from Malacca, dated June 20, 1549, St. Francis Xavier begs the prayers of the Goa brethren for those about to start on the Japanese mission, mentioning among them Juan Fernandez, a lay brother. On their arrival in Japan Juan rendered active service in the work of evangelizing. In September, 1550, he accompanied St. Francis to Firando (Hirado), thence to Amanguchi (Yamaguchi), and on to Miako (Saikio), a difficult journey, from which they returned to Amanguchi, where he was left with Father Cosmo Torres in charge of the Christians, when Francis started for China. There is still in the records of the Jesuit college at Coimbra a lengthy document professed to be the translation of an account rendered St. Francis by Fernandez of a controversy with the Japanese on such questions as the nature of God, creation, the nature and immortality of the soul. The success of Brother Fernandez on this occasion in refuting his Japanese adversaries resulted in the ill will of the bonzes, who stirred up a rebellion against the local prince, who had become a Christian. The missionaries were concealed by the wife of one of the nobles until they were able to resume their work of preaching. St. Francis says in one of his letters: “Joam Fernandez, though a simple layman, is most useful on account of the fluency of his acquaintance with the Japanese language and of the aptness and clearness with which he translates whatever Father Cosmo suggests to him.” His humility under insults impressed all, and on one occasion resulted in the conversion of a brilliant young Japanese doctor, who later became a Jesuit and one of the shining lights in the Japanese Church. Brother Fernandez compiled the first Japanese grammar and lexicon.



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