Memorial of Saint John de Brebeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, and their companions, martyrs
"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." Luke 12:47
Today, the Church in the United States celebrates the feast of St. John de Brebéuf, St. Isaac Jogues and Companions. They were Jesuit missionaries and their lay followers. These men were martyred in North America between 1642 and 1649, in the territory that now includes New York State and Canada. At that time, this territory was the home of the Huron and Mohawk nations.
They were well aware of the dangers that they faced, given that they had been missionaries in those territories for years. Fr. Isaac Jogues was captured once, escaped, went back to France and then returned to this mission only to be martyred in 1646. These were no idealistic, naive missionaries that thought they could save souls just by praying rosaries and celebrating Mass. They must have known in their hearts of hearts that they would fail miserably in their missionary effort. But they did not measure success by the number of converts and the building of beautiful churches. Rather, their faith in the Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, their love of the God of Life and their hope in the Holy Spirit was what kept them going back time and time again. The youngest member of these martyrs was a teenager. It is upon their blood that we, the Church of America, has been established.
In 1999, Pope John Paul wrote an Apostolic Exhortation entitled, The Church in America. In his mind, there was only one America, not two Americas. The Church in America was founded by missionaries and martyrs, who were willing to give their whole lives to bringing the message of the Gospel to new peoples, some of whom were violently opposed to it and some of whom were willing to receive it with open arms and hearts. That is what the Gospel demands of us. We begin with the conviction that much is required of us and even more will be asked of us. The Love of God for us knows no boundaries, and our love for God’s people and the human needs that God’s people have are not based upon borders or boundaries but on the fact that God’s unconditional love was given to us when we did not deserve it. God does not count the cost of this Love that has made us Children of God.
The readings for today’s Mass are all about going beyond the boundaries of our human condition. How many times are we tempted to give up because we do not get what we want, because the temptation to live a life of sin is easier than to give ourselves over to a life of grace, because God does not seem to be arriving and we are so tired of doing our part? Let us not give up. Let us not be discouraged. Let us continue to love even when we are rejected. Let us continue to forgive even when repulsed. Let us continue to reach out even when it is not required. We do this one act at a time, one act of kindness at a time, one act of faith, hope and love at a time. Let us pray for the courage that these North American martyrs displayed by their life and witness. Much was required of them and they gave even more. We can do no less.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.