Almeida, John (DNB00)

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ALMEIDA, JOHN (1572–1653), Jesuit missionary, was a native of London, his real name being Meade. At the age of ten he was taken, apparently without the consent of his parents, to Viana in Portugal, where he was piously brought up in the family of Benedict da Rocha, with whom he afterwards made the voyage to Pernambuco in Brazil. There he abandoned mercantile pursuits, and was admitted a member of the Society of Jesus in 1592. In describing the circumstances which led to his ‘vocation’ he says: ‘I have been withdrawn from England, from the city of London, a very nest of heresies, at a time when they were most rampant, and that too at an age when as yet I was ignorant of good and evil. I was taken away by one unknown to me, whom until then I had never seen, when alone, and in the absence of my parents, and, overcoming the objections to my accompanying him that suggested themselves, I went with him to Viana, and afterwards to Pernambuco in Brazil. It was here that God first inspired me to join this dear, beloved, and most holy society, of which I am so unworthy.’ At the end of the first year of his novitiate he was transferred to the city of Santo Spirito, where he had the Venerable Joseph Anchieta, the ‘modern thaumaturgus,’ for his master, on whose pattern he is said to have formed himself. After his ordination in 1602 he spent many years in wandering through the wilds of Brazil to preach the gospel and to reclaim unknown tribes to even a semblance of humanity. He always journeyed on foot, and, however rugged the way might be, he would never allow himself to be carried, as was the custom there, in a net. A detailed account of his missionary labours, his fastings, watchings, and other almost incredible austerities, is given by his companion, close friend, and religious superior, Fatheor Simon de Vasconcellos, in the scarce biography which bears the following title: ‘Vida do Joam d'Almeida da Companhia de Iesv, na provincia do Brazil, composta pello Padre Simam de Vasconcellos da mesma Companhia, Prouincial na dita Prouincia do Brazil. Dedicada ao Senhor Salvador Correa de Sâ, & Benauides dos Conselhos de Guerra, & Vltramarino de Sua Magestade,’ Lisbon, 1658, fol. pp. 414, with a fine portrait.

Father Almeida died in the Jesuit college at Rio Janeiro, 24 Sept. 1653. He had the reputation of a saint, and it is said that miracles were wrought in connection with him after his death.

[Life by Vasconcellos, quoted above; Morus, Historia Missionis Anglicanæ Soc Jesu, 503–518; Oliver's Collectanea S. J., 44; Foley's Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, vii. 1321–1339.]

T. C.