Today the Church in the US and Canada celebrates the Jesuits who were martyred in the mid 17th century in missions among the Native Americans.
The stories of the martyrdom of the North American Jesuit martyrs are horrid.
But their heroism in the face of suffering and death inspired me when I read their stories in high school.
What I now find amazing is that St. Isaac Jogues, even after being tortured and losing some fingers, returned to the missions.
Their life was horrid. As St. Jean de Brebeuf wrote to a friend who would be joining them on mission:
We shall receive you in a hut, so mean that I have scarcely found in France one wretched enough to compare it with. Fatigued as you will be, we shall be able to give you nothing but a poor mat for a bed. Besides you will arrive when fleas will keep you awake most of the night.
They gave up so much – out of love.
There is a poem of Fr. Dan Berrigan, S.J., in his Prison Poems, that expresses their experience as only a mystic-poet-prophet can:
A Bit of History
Those Jesuit fathers (wrote Isaac Jogues from New France)
who purpose volunteering for these wilds
and the service of their Indian brothers
had best leave behind all regret for
university degrees, honors, prerequisites.
The questions raise by their clients will be other
than the subtleties their minds
sharpened and shone on, elsewhere.
TO WIT: can they bear heartbreaking portages
survive on sour pemmican
live under intense extremes of heat, cold, solitude?
The times mitigate the questions, never quite stilling them.
As I learn, my middle cast cranium
bending to the intricacies, simplicities
of a new a b c.
All of us in mission have to learn a new “a b c,” though for most of us far less uncomfortable than the experience of those Jesuits.
But it means leaving much behind.
That is real poverty – and can bring real joy
Apologies for the poem which has indentations that I cannot replicate here.
The quote from St. John de Brebeuf is taken from dot magis: here