Tag Archives: Jesuits

North American Martyrs

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The North American Martyrs, eight Jesuits and their associates were killed by warring Indian tribes in the 17th century. They’re the first saints of North America and we celebrate their feast October 19th.. I’ve visited Auriesville in New York State and the Midlands in Canada where they were martyred; in both places their heroic faith and bravery are remembered.

The missionaries came to the New World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples of this land, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of the foreigners and the seed of the gospel seemed to fall on hard ground. The martyrdom of the eight Jesuits witnesses that resistance.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

Not far from Auriesville, near Fonda, NY, is the Indian village called Caughnawaga.  In the spring of 1675, after the Jesuits were killed in Auriesville in 1646, Father Jacques de Lamberville visited Caughnawaga . The priest entered a lodge where a young Indian girl Kateri Tekakwitha was alone because a foot injury prevented her from working in the fields. She spoke to him of her desire to receive baptism and on Easter, 1676, the young Indian girl was baptized and took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, the mystic and a favorite patron of Christian Indian women. She was 20 years old.

Her uncle and relatives in the long house opposed her conversion to Christianity and pressured her to marry and follow their ways. The early Jesuits considered it a miracle that Kateri resisted  family and tribal pressure.  Her early biographer says “She practiced her faith without losing her original fervor and her extraordinary virtue was seen by all. The Christians saw her obeying their rules exactly, going to prayers everyday in the morning and evening and Mass on Sunday. At the same time she avoided the dreams feasts and the dances,” practices endangering her belief.  (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Father de Lamberville finally recommended that Kateri escape to the newly-established  Indian Christian village in Kahnawake near Montreal, where she could live her faith freely.  In 1676, aided by other Christian Indians, she made the dangerous journey northward. There she lived a fervent life of prayer and faith;  she died and was buried on April 17th, 1680.

Kateri was canonized  October 21th in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” (Tertullian)

Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680)

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Kateri statue, Auresville

Sometime ago I stumbled on a map of New York rivers and lakes.  The rivers and lakes were the roads and highways used by the native peoples and early settlers centuries ago. Even today, the New York Thruway follows the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers from New York City to Buffalo.

Just north of Albany near the town of Fonda are the ruins of the17th century Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, excavated in the 1950s by a Franciscan priest,  Thomas Grassmann. In the excavated village are traces of 12 long houses surrounded by a fortified stockade which was built in 1666 after a French army from Quebec destroyed an earlier Mohawk village at Osserneron (today, Auriesville) a few miles south.

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Model of Longhouses, Fonda

The French army was punishing the Mohawks for their part in the Iroquois- Huron wars, when they plundered and destroyed villages along the St. Lawrence Rive belonging to the Hurons and Algonquins, Indian allies of the French. The Mohawks, members of the Iroquois confederation, wanted to gain control of the fur trade from their northern neighbors.

In destroying Ossernenon, the French army was also probably avenging the deaths of Fr. Isaac Jogues, SJ, and Rene Goupil and Gabriel Lalande, three French missionaries  killed in that village some years before:  honored  today by the Church as martyrs.

In the war against their neighbors to the north, the Mohawks  took women and children captive.  At the time,  native tribes replenished  their own numbers– diminished by wars or disease– by kidnapping members from other tribes. One of the Christian Algonquin women captured in an earlier raid married a Mohawk brave from Ossernenon and they had a daughter,  Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), whom the Catholic Church  honors as a saint.

An epidemic of smallpox ravaged Ossernenon when Kateri was four years old, killing   many children and adults. The young girl almost died of the disease that left her disfigured. Her early Jesuit biographer says “ She almost lost her eyesight, and her eyes hurt so much from this illness that she covered herself with a blanket when out in strong light.” (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Both parents died when Kateri was a little girl and she was taken in by relatives in the new Mohawk village of Caughnawaga, where she lived most of her life. Her mother was a devout Christian and must have told her about Christianity, but Kateri’s new family and  tribe strongly opposed the religion.

The French military, as one condition for not returning to the Mohawk villages, demanded that Jesuit missionaries be allowed to visit them and minister to captive Christians or others interested in their faith. Jesuit missionaries visited Caughnawaga for three days in 1667 and received hospitality in the long house where Kateri lived with her uncle, a Mohawk leader opposed to Christians.

According to witnesses, Kateri  was a normal Indian girl and young woman.  “She brought wood and tended the fire when her aunt ordered her, and got water when those in the long house needed it. When she had nothing to do she amused herself making small jewels and dressing as other girls of her age. She placed shell bead necklaces around her neck, shell bead bracelets on her arms, rings on her fingers and ornaments in her ears.” (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Though sickly, she was not lazy or proud. She never talked about others. Timid, she avoided dances and games. She didn’t like seeing captives harmed or people tortured, witnesses said.

 

In the spring of 1675  Jesuit Father Jacques de Lamberville visited Caughnawaga . Kateri was alone in her long house because a foot injury prevented her from working in the fields and the priest entered her lodge. She spoke to him of her desire to receive baptism and on Easter, 1676, the young Indian girl was baptized and took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, the mystic and a favorite patron of Christian Indian women. She was 20 years old.

Her uncle and relatives in the long house opposed her conversion to Christianity and pressured her to marry and follow their ways, though against  her beliefs. The early Jesuits considered it a miracle for a Christian to resist family and tribal pressure such as Kateri experienced in Caughnawaga. Yet, her early biographer says “She practiced her faith without losing her original fervor and her extraordinary virtue was seen by all. The Christians saw her obeying their rules exactly, going to prayers everyday in the morning and evening and Mass on Sunday. At the same time she avoided the dreams feasts and the dances,” practices endangering her belief.  (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Father de Lamberville finally recommended that Kateri escape to the newly-established  Indian Christian village in Kahnawake near Montreal, where she could live her faith more easily. In 1676, aided by other Christian Indians, she made the dangerous journey northward.  There she lived a fervent life of prayer and faith;  she died and was buried on April 17th, 1680.

KATERI 2

Early Painting of Kateri, Fonda

She was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012, Her feast day is July 14.

Friday Thoughts: Pure Faith

by Howard Hain

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“God won’t let His power flow through someone who demands clarity.”

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“The Crucified One” (H. Hain, 2006)


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Faith. Pure Faith.

 


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

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Morning Thoughts: To All Gathered in Thought and Prayer

by Howard Hain

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Jesus Christ is Real.

He is not made of wood or ink or paint. He is not a distant figure from a distant past. He is here. We gather in His name—He is here. He is as real as each one of us. He is what makes each one of us real.

The message is simple:

He is the Son of God. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. He is Love. He is Forgiveness. He is Humility. He is Boldness and Obedience.

He is Lord. He is God. He is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

He is Christ Jesus, and He is Real.

I see Him now in each of you. I say to Him, I say to you: “I love You, my Lord and my God.”

Now, let us go and tell others…

 

egon schiele conversion

Egon Schiele, “Conversion” (1912)

 

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:20

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