Dear Parishioners of Our Beloved St. Paul:
Praised be Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother Mary! On October 19th the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of the Holy North American martyrs. These were eight Frenchmen, both priests and lay faithful, who gave their lives gloriously for the faith in the vast regions of North America during the middle of the seventeenth century. They suffered and died in what is now New York State and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
For our own purposes we will look at one of these martyrs who gave his life for Our Lord in our own New York State about ten miles west of Albany.
Isaac Jogues was born and raised in Brittany in the north west of France. From a young age he had the desire to journey to the vast wilderness of North America and there preach the grace of the redemption to the Native Huron, Mohawk and Algonquin peoples. After his ordination to the sacred priesthood in the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) he began an academic career in Paris teaching what we would call today High School Latin. But his heart called him to North America and eventually his superiors allowed him to go there.
Leaving the most cultured and advanced society on earth in Paris, he made the long voyage to North America. There he gave himself completely for the service of the Native Americans. He tirelessly worked for the conversion of the Mohawk, Huron and Algonquin nations but was met with great resistance for these nations were enslaved by the devil. That can be the only explanation for the horrible tortures that were visited upon him. In fact in an act of savagery originating from hell itself, Father Jogues fingers were bitten down to stubs.
Miraculously, he escaped his captors (with the help of the friendly Dutch who ruled New York at that time). He made his way back to France and, in a very moving scene, was reunited with his Jesuit confreres in Brittany on Christmas day. This is how it came to pass. The Dutch ship dropped him off in Brittany which they would be passing on their way to Holland. He ran to the Jesuit House and knocked on the door. After eight years in the wilderness he was unrecognizable and presented a frightening countenance. Nevertheless, the father Superior met him in the visitor’s room, and, after learning he had just returned from North America, asked him, “Do you know anything of our dear Father Jogues? We have not heard from or of him in eight years.” Father Jogues rose from his chair and exclaimed, “Not only do I know of him; the man who speaks with you now is he!” It was a tearful reunion. Father Jogues went to Paris where King Louis XIV rose from his throne and kissed his mangled hands, calling him a martyr of Christ. The Pope himself granted a dispensation so that Father Jogues could celebrate Holy Mass without the use of his hands. The pope wrote, “It is not right that one, who has shed his blood for Christ, should not consecrate the chalice of His Blood.”
Incredible as it may seem, Fr. Jogues’ only hope was to return to his dear Native Americans. He did so and once again was taken prisoner by the Mohawks. Not knowing that he was a priest (but the devil knew) a Mohawk woman looked at him and cried out, “I hate this one most of all!” (The devil always hates the priests). This time Isaac would not be so fortunate. With one blow of the tomahawk he was put to death and his body thrown into a ravine near present day Auriesville, New York. It was eaten by wolves and wild dogs. One may visit that ravine today. It is one of the most peaceful places on the earth, for it is a natural basilica containing the remains of this holy Martyr. Many visit this great shrine in our own state. In the eyes of the world Fr. Jogues died a failure in his mission, but his mission was to be faithful to God. His blood was the seed of the Church in our state.
Although in all likelihood we will never be called upon to shed our blood for Christ, nonetheless each day we may accept our difficulties and offer them up in union with Christ’s Cross. In that way our sufferings bring us closer to Christ and bring innumerable blessings to the world.
Please remember in this month of the Holy Rosary to try to pray the Rosary (or even one decade) each day. And in your good prayers perhaps you will also remember your pastor who is in such need of prayers so that I may always be a Priest after Our Lord’s own Loving Heart.
Please be sure to visit our new parish website www.stpaulsbrookville.org
May God reward your goodness to St. Paul’s.
Nos cum prole pia, Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,