Friday, October 19, 2007

Coming soon: North American Martyrs

...that would be us. I mean, could be us. Whatever the form of "witness" (to translate "martyrdom" a different way) we have the opportunity to give.
I was thinking of today's incredible saints. We had a story of St. Isaac Jogues, or maybe it was a poem, in one of our text books when I was in grade school. It impressed me no end. In it, a man was telling a priest about a missionary he had heard of, someone who had suffered tortures at the hands of the people he had come to evangelize, and yet returned to them to continue preaching the Gospel. At the end of the tale, the visitor was leaving, and his hands bore the scars of the torture the man had been talking about.
St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil were martyred at Auriesville, NY, where the Jesuits have run a retreat house (and where the mosquitoes were ferocious enough to truly call to mind the sufferings of the martyrs!). In decades past, the Martyrs' Shrine was the goal of enormous pilgrimages, and the shrine Church is something like a gymnasium in the round, capable of accomodating tens of thousands of visitors. But it has lost considerable cachet of late. In part, I suspect that is due to the remoteness of the place, and the more-than-rustic condition of the shrine buildings. And in some way, it (and the martyrs it honors) seems to be a victim of political correctness. It just doesn't do today to quote the writings of those selfsame missionaries when they mention the "savages," even though the brutality they suffered was, in fact, savage. Perhaps some of the Jesuits themselves are embarassed by the missionary zeal of those Frenchmen, disrupting the lives and wars and hunts of the Iroquois and Mohawks and attempting to set up villages so that Christian life could be established in a consistent way, and thus "imposing" European culture on them. (That is a pretty harsh accusation against men who journeyed with the native peoples, sleeping in the longhouses and eating their typical diet.) Today's saints deserve to be listened to. They are some of the best witnesses the Church has ever been offered.
And if you have a chance to go to Canada, to the reconstructed village of Ste. Marie on the Huron (and the nearby Martyr's Church there), don't pass it by. Even if it's as out of the way as Auriesville.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Archbishop Sheen referred to "dry Martyrs". Is that any less efficacious that being drawn and quartered. Just reviewing my options in case your prediction comes to pass in my lifetime. spqr