Before returning to the USA from my long years in England I had never heard of the Jesuit martyrs of North America. Once back in my homeland I was intrigued to learn the stories of St John de Brebeuf, St Isaac Jogues and their companions–whose memorial we celebrate today.
When we began construction of the new church of Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville we purchased a set of stained glass windows from the closed church of St Mary Morning Star in Pittsfield, MA. When we went to visit the church to see the windows I spotted another set of small windows picturing St Isaac Jogues, St John de Brebeuf and St Gabriel Lalamant. We salvaged those windows (along with ones of St Therese of Lisieux and St Kateri Tekakwitha) for our Lower Church. You can view them here.
Earlier this year we were honored to receive first class relics of John de Brebeuf, Gabiel Lalamant and Charles Garnier to enshrine near the windows. They will be on the altar this evening for the celebration of Mass at 6pm.
At the beginning of last month I was in the UK to visit my mother in law and took the opportunity to travel across the channel to Normandy to visit my friend Gavin Ashenden. I had learned that St John de Brebeuf was from Normandy (like St Therese) and that there was a shrine in the village of his birth, so Gavin very kindly drove me to the town of Conde sur Vire. The trip took us through the rolling hills and ancient towns where Allied troops launched their attack on Nazi occupied Europe. Once there we explored the village church with a small shrine to St John, and the woman cleaning the church put us in touch with the caretaker of the shrine at St John’s birthplace–now now more than a ruined farmhouse and outbuildings where a small chapel and shrine to St John has been built. We drove out into the countryside. She opened the shrine for our visit. The picture illustrating this post is the chapel/shrine.
I remember asking her and her husband (who were in their 80s) if they remembered the D-Day landings. “Yes. We were ten and eight years old.” The husband said, “The Americans gave us chewing gum. We had never had such a treat.” She said,, “I remember the jeeps with stars on them bouncing through our village. We were very excited!”
This picture inside the shrine chapel shows my resemblance to the saint. I hope I may be spared the torture he went through!, but may God grant me the intercessions of this great saint.
One of the remarkable things about St John de Brebeuf is the power of his intellect. He was an expert linguist and mastered the incredibly difficult Huron language. He was also a pioneering ethnologist–recording the customs and beliefs of the Native Americans and analyzing their religion and culture–thus laying the foundation for later work in ethnology and anthropology.
I love exploring the lives and territory of the saints! What heroes the North American martyrs were and what a contrast to today’s decadent Jesuit order. Information on John de Brebeuf is here. The best biography of St John de Brebeuf is Saint Among the Hurons . The novel and film Black Robe concern the Jesuit missions to the Huron and the film The Mission recounts a similar tale of the heroic Jesuit missionaries to the New World.
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