Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October 19th, Black Robes: The Feast of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America

Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning,
and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants!
Today's Gospel: Luke 12:35-38

In the 17th Century, the Catholic Church was recovering from decades of Protestant revolt. The Church took a hard look at itself and began to Reform. As part of that Reformation, the Order of Jesuits ( Society of Jesus) was formed by a Spanish soldier named Ignatius Loyola and organized according to military science with a clear and single mission - Progagate the Faith.

In 1646, French Jesuits appeared in North America and quickly converted the Huron Nation to Christianity covering an area from what is now New York to well north and west of Quebec.

Words strive in vain to convey to a comfortable world the virtue of the first missionaries, and to describe the difficulties confronted by these heros desiring to implant Christianity amid the savage nations of the north. Building materials, chapel accessories, everything in effect had to be imported from France; the Indian languages were varied and difficult; customs were at best non-Christian; insects infested the woods where they dwelt; the tribes were migrant and had to be followed from place to place. There were less belligerent ones who responded rapidly to the pacifying and sanctifying influences of the Faith, but the Iroquois of the northeast were dreaded, and it was to them that the eight martyrs all fell victims, over a period of seven years.

The Indians called the Black Robes. They were talented men of science, medicine and military professionals. They were the result of the Church's long hard look. The Catholic Church is taking that long hard look again and so are Catholics themselves.

These men were giants.

St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1649), St. Antoine Daniel (1648), St. Charles Garnier (1649), St. René Goupil (1642), St. Isaac Jogues (1646), St. Jean de Lalande ,[6] and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649).

These were some tough and dedicated men.

I feel particularly small and petty in their shadows.

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