My family and I traveled to Midland, Ontario this summer. We had surprising revelations that brought further meaning to our faith during our stay. I, as a Catholic revert, have been getting my head wrapped around the lives of Saints and Martyrs these past years. As of last week, it was really drilled home as to why they are held in such high esteem as you will see below.
After kayaking in the Wye Marsh (right beside St. Maire), we made our way through Ontario’s first European community (1639) “St. Marie among the Hurons”. The headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron (Wendat) people. It struck me that Canada did not even exist yet…this was 400 years ago that the Jesuit Order (Catholic religious order) first spread Christianity to many people in our land.They traveled 3-4 weeks in dangerous conditions (from Quebec to the foreign Midland area) in cramped bark canoes with strangers. Talk about back aches and adventure?! What sacrifice, courage, dedication and great Missionaries for God as follows next…
During one of many Huron Village captures, the Iroquois, on March 16, 1649, seized St. Jean de Brebeuf and his fellow Jesuit St. Gabriel Lallemant and brought them back to St. Ignace (6 miles from St. Marie).There they were fastened to stakes at the church and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, necklaces of red hot hatchets and mutilation. Brebeuf did not make a single outcry while he was being tortured but instead tried consoling the Wendats. The Iroquois bashed his chin off to silence him during the 17 hours of torture. He astounded the Iroquois and so after he died, they cut out and ate his heart, in hopes of acquiring his courage.
As recorded about his fellow priest Lallemant tied to a stake beside him: “At the height of these torments, Father Gabriel Lallemant lifted his eyes to Heaven, clasping his hands from time to time and uttering sighs to God, whom he invoked to his aid. He had received a hatchet blow on the left ear, which they had driven into his brain, which appeared exposed: we saw no part of his body, from the feet even to the head, which had not been broiled, and in which he had not been burned alive -even his eyes, into which those impious ones had thrust burning coals.” This is hard to read but relevant to understand our history of sacrifice and love for God and His people.
We lastly, on our trip, made our way across the street to the Martyr’s Shrine. The Shrine now makes sense to me. It is a Roman Catholic Church consecrated to the memory of the Canadian Martyrs that I now understand more intimately. A place of worship to God and a place to remember what real faith can and should be. Where am I in my faith, where are you? Well, I am sure these men are in heaven due to their reverence for God and great miracles that have occurred from these prayer warriors, in the heavenly realm. They carry prayer requests to the throne of God. Many crutches in the church and testimony letters witness to the healing miracles occurring at this holy place.
We ask our friends and family to pray for us. So I conclude by saying, St. Jean de Brebeuf and St. Gabriel Lallemant and all the Canadian Martyrs, pray for us. Please take our prayer petitions to God as you are surely with Him. May we learn by your example, to carry our small crosses in life, compared to what you endured.
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