October 19, 2018
by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs
Lectionary: 471

Ephesians 1:11-14
Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 12-13
Luke 12:1-7

Praying Ordinary Time

Every weekend, and sometimes during the week, I sit at the piano in St. John’s on Creighton’s campus for Mass. I face the Eastern window depicting four of the North American (Jesuit) Martyrs and four of the Corporal Works of Mercy, and underneath the Western window depicting the other four of each. Ironically, before this reflection for their feast day, I hadn’t known much about the North American Martyrs who are my constant company in worship.

The North American Martyrs ministered to the Huron tribe of the Iroquois. They learned their language, worked alongside them in the life of the community, and taught them about Christ. They certainly must have practiced all the corporal works of mercy with which they are pictured in the windows at St. John’s! For many years, the community was friendly with them and glad for their ministry. Many of the Huron converted to Christianity. And yet, the relationship between the missionaries and the Huron was quickly undermined by the outbreak of smallpox around 1640 as more Europeans immigrated to the area. Since the missionaries cared for the sick and baptized those on their deathbeds, many of the Huron connected the priests and Christianity with death rather than new life. The “blackrobes” were suddenly seen as bringers of death. Despite this, like so many missionaries, all eight of these French Jesuit martyrs chose to stay with the Huron community and continue ministering to them. All eight men were tortured and killed between 1642-1649.

I have taken two ideas for reflection from their story. First, what a difference fear makes in relationships! In a time when I constantly hear “we are more divided” and “us/them” language, what are some ways I can choose dialogue and love over fear? Second, I noticed that I am not often aware of the communion of saints who pray and praise with us in the celebration of Eucharist, even when I can see a few of them represented in the windows right in front of me. These saints stuck with their faith and their faith communities, even (and especially) when doing so was incredibly painful for them. In a time when our Church is perceived by the world to be the cause of terrible suffering, and when indeed it’s members and systems are rightly accused, how can I learn from the example of my ancestors in faith? How can my participation in a faith community lead to healing and rebirth? We are in good company when we pray with the saints, our elder siblings in faith.

East window: Charles Garnier, Gabriel Lalemant, Jean de Lalande, Isaac Jogues;
Instruct the Ignorant, Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked

North American Martyrs Windows

West window: Jean de Brébeuf, Antoine Daniel, René Goupil, Noël Chabanel;
Harbor the Homeless, Visit the Sick, Free the Captive, Bury the Dead

North American Martyrs Window

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