Thomas of Jesus (THOMAS DE ANDRADA), reformer and preacher, b. at Lisbon, 1529; d. at Sagena, Morocco, April 17, 1582. He was educated by the Augustinian Hermits from the age of ten, entered the order at Lisbon in 1534, completed his studies at Coimbra, and was appointed novice-master. In his zeal for primitive observance he attempted a thorough reform of the order, but the opposition was such that he was obliged to desist. However, the eventual establishment of the Discalced or Reformed Augustinians is attributed to the initiative of Thomas de Andrada (see Hermits of St. Augustine). High in favor at Court, Thomas assisted, in 1578, at the death of John III, of which he has left an interesting narrative in a letter still extant.
John’s successor, Sebastian, immediately set out on his ill-starred expedition to Africa (see Portugal), and he insisted that Thomas should accompany the forces. The holy Hermit labored among the soldiery with his accustomed zeal until wounded and taken captive at Alcacer, 1578. A Mohammedan monk became his master and, first by kindness then by torture, strove to secure his perversion. Into the dungeon where he was confined a faint gleam penetrated for a short period at midday, and by that light, day after day, Thomas composed for the comfort of his fellow-prisoners his great work, “Os trabalhos de Jesus”, contemplations on the sufferings of Jesus, which have since proved the nourishment and edification of countless souls. The Portuguese ambassador, learning of his pitiable plight, rescued Thomas and placed him under the care of a Christian merchant. But he begged to be sent on at once to Sagena, where some two thousand of the poorest captives were detained. There he commenced an apostolate which was soon blessed with marvellous fruit; the jail seemed transformed into a monastery, numbers were saved from apostasy or reconciled, and several of his penitents suffered a glorious martyrdom. Mean-while vigorous efforts were being made to procure his complete liberation, but Thomas declared that, captive or free, he would remain to the end in the service of the Christian slaves of the Moors. His enfeebled frame at last succumbed to the combined effects of his sufferings, toils, and austerities. He spent his dying breath in reassuring some poor Christians on the point of apostasy that their ransom would arrive by a certain date if they persevered, as indeed it did.
Since early in the eighteenth century there have been several English editions of Thomas’s famous work on the Passion, but the last complete version has long been out of print.