Oct 19 – Memorial for Sts. John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, martyrs; Memorial for St. Paul of the Cross, Priest
St. John de Brebeuf (1593–1649) was a French Jesuit. He wanted to enter the priesthood since young, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. His posting as a missionary to frontier Canada at the age of 32 was a literal godsend. He spent the rest of his life there, and the harsh and hearty climate so agreed with him that the natives, surprised at his endurance, called him “Echon”, which means ‘load bearer’. His massive size made them think twice about sharing a canoe with him for fear of sinking.
John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.” However, he eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French-Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries.
According to the histories of the game, it was John who named the present-day version of the Indian game ‘lacrosse’ because the stick used reminded him of a bishop’s crosier (la crosse).
He was martyred in 1649, tortured to death by the Iroquois. By 1650, the Huron nation was exterminated, and the laboriously built mission was abandoned. But it proved to be “one of the triumphant failures that are commonplace in the Church’s history”. These martyrdoms created a wave of vocations and missionary fervour in France, and it gave new heart to the missionaries in New France.
- Patron Saint Index
Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) joined the Jesuits at Rouen, France in 1624. He was ordained a priest and taught literature. He became a missionary to New France (Canada) in 1636, starting in Quebec and working among the Hurons and Petuns in the area of the Great Lakes. This was a rough assignment – not only were the living conditions hard, but the locals blamed the ‘Blackrobes’ for any disease, ill luck, or other problems that occurred where they were.
He was captured on 3 August 1642 by the Mohawks, enslaved, tortured and mutilated for 13 months, but he taught the Faith to any who would listen. With the help of local Dutch settlers, he finally escaped and was sent back to France to recover.
In 1644, he returned to Canada to continue his work with the natives and negotiate peace with the Iroquois. He was martyred with fellow Jesuit priest John de Brebeuf and several lay missionaries when the natives blamed Christian sorcery for an epidemic and crop failure. He is one of the North America Martyrs.
- Patron Saint Index
St. Paul of the Cross (1694–1775) was the son of a merchant and a pious youth. After receiving a vision and while still a layman, he founded the Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionists) in 1721 to preach about Jesus Crucified. He was a preacher of such power that hardened soldiers and bandits were seen to weep.
The community lived a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus. He was ordained in 1727, along with his brother John Baptist by Pope Benedict XIII. After ordination, they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were insufficient priests pastorally involved. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.
However, the austere life of the Passionists did not encourage large numbers and at one point, all the brothers in the Order deserted him. But Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular. In 1741, his Rule was approved by Pope Benedict XIV, and the community began to grow again.
During his lifetime, Paul of the Cross was best known as a popular preacher and a spiritual director. More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved. By the time of his death, the congregation had 80 fathers and brothers. He is considered among the greatest Catholic mystics of the 18th century.
- Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia
…grace will reign to bring eternal life
Just as Adam brought sin into the world and hence, as humans, we bear in us ‘original sin’ – which is the sin of origin – Jesus came to give us life eternal. He is the second Adam. Who then is the second Eve? For without Eve in the Old Testament, Adam would not have taken a bite from the forbidden fruit.
Mary, having conceived Jesus in her womb, is the second Eve. But unlike Eve, Mary stands firmly with God and conquers the serpent (the Devil) and remains humble and steadfast, in spite of the many trials that come her way. And in giving birth to Jesus, she gives birth to the church. We were recently asked to ponder the question of Jesus’ formation before he began his public ministry. Everyone is aware of how Christ spent 3 years preaching and healing; but what of his first thirty years here on earth? Who took on the responsibility of teaching him, forming him and imparting values to him? It was his earthly parents – Mary and Joseph.
In Mother Mary, we have a living example of how God’s graces can flow through someone who is willing to give up his or her life in faith, truly dedicated to God’s mission. And in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay awake because we never know when God will call us. So how are we to ensure that we will always be ready? Simply by living the life that God has called us to live. Because by living the life God called Mary to live, she helped to mould and prepare Jesus for his ministry on earth. So, just as God called Mary, He too calls us each and every day so that we can slowly shape and mould ourselves more and more to live Christ-centred lives. Thanks to Mary and Jesus, we now have the Sacraments as well as the rosary to help us get through each day as we struggle.
A few years ago, the visit of the statue of Fatima to Singapore opened the door for me to better appreciate Mother Mary’s role in our church and also to listen to the preaching of Fr Francis Tiquia, a truly anointed son of God. He exhorted that as Catholics, we needed to practice CARE in our lives. To go for weekly Confession, daily Adoration, say the Rosary (4 to 5 times a day) and to go for daily Eucharist.
Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by Mary and Jesus through their sacrifices in humble obedience to God the Father. Let us honour them by living a life of sacrifice and humility so that others may see through us the living example of what it means to be a child of God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace of humility as you call us to mission.
Thanksgiving: Thank you dear Lord, for your patience and everlasting love.