Monday, October 19, 2009

Saint John de Brébeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

Isaac Jogues (1607-1646): Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed. An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues might have sat back, thanked God for his safe return and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons. In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York. The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children. Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649): Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and laboured there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada. Father Anthony Daniel, working among Hurons who were gradually becoming Christian, was killed by Iroquois on July 4, 1648. His body was thrown into his chapel, which was set on fire. Gabriel Lalemant had taken a fourth vow—to sacrifice his life to the Indians. He was horribly tortured to death along with Father Brébeuf. Father Charles Garnier was shot to death as he baptized children and catechumens during an Iroquois attack. Father Noel Chabanel was killed before he could answer his recall to France. He had found it exceedingly hard to adapt to mission life. He could not learn the language, the food and life of the Indians revolted him, plus he suffered spiritual dryness during his whole stay in Canada. Yet he made a vow to remain until death in his mission. These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930. "My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavour should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings" (from a letter of Isaac Jogues to a Jesuit friend in France, September 12, 1646, a month before he died).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.13-21)

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter between you? Then He said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God."

Material possessions
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

A professorship of political economy at Oxford was established in 1825, with Nassau William Senior as the first professor. He was followed by his old university tutor, Richard Whately who shortly afterwards was appointed Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. That founding of the Oxford professorship we may take as symbolic of the modern rise of the discipline of economics. With its foundations in moral philosophy, political economy originally was the term for the study of production, buying and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government. It developed in the 18th century as the study of the economies of states - hence “political economy.” Karl Marx understood history to consist of the struggle between opposing classes over mastery of the economy. In the late nineteenth century, the term "political economy" was generally replaced by the term “economics,” often used by those seeking to place the study of economy upon mathematical bases, rather than the relationships of production and consumption. So it is that economics is a principal discipline of the modern age. Business Studies is a popular elective at the final level of Secondary School, while Economics and Commerce remains ever strong at Universities. The combined Law/Economics degree has a high entrance requirement. The principal minister of Government after the Prime Minister is often the Treasurer or his equivalent, and a dominant Government department is the Treasury. The world pulsates with the importance of the economy - which is to say, with the importance of maximizing the availability of money and material goods for the short and long term. An observer of the modern world would be forgiven for gaining the impression that what matters most in the lives of human beings is money-making and the possession or control of material goods. But a little philosophical reflection ought dispel any conviction that this is as it should be, widespread though it might be. The fact is that money and material goods are manifestly ephemeral and profoundly vulnerable.

Yes, indeed. If an individual’s life and work has been directed towards economic goals alone or principally, he has spent his efforts on what can and (ultimately) will pass uncontrollably through his fingers. As it has always been said, you cannot take it with you. Because of divine revelation we know that there is a Hereafter, and we know a good deal about it. Ordinary common sense would suggest that our lives ought be spent working for what we will be able to retain - forever. Our economic interests and goals ought be sought only within this ultimate perspective. This common sense consideration brings us to our Gospel today, in which our Lord is asked a very practical question by a person in His audience. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” How common is this problem, the matter of the Will! The point here, though, is that our Lord uses the occasion to drive home a few simple and central points for human life. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Many have made their life to consist in the abundance of possessions, so as even to lead them into a variety of forms of theft on a massive scale. It has been argued that the great economic problem of 2009 was ultimately an ethical failure due to a rapacious desire for profits. A man’s life does not consist simply in possessions, let alone an abundance of possessions. He must have the use of some things, but those things ought be oriented towards the truly central goals of human flourishing. At the heart of the flowering of the human person is love - loving and being loved - and ultimately this is achieved in the love of God. Material goods and prosperity ought support and assist the attainment of the love and service of God. This applies to the life of the individual as well as to the life of society. It is this which a man takes with him, and if he cannot take this, he takes nothing. For all his labour and his talents, he goes from this life with everything having slipped through his fingers.

Our Lord tells the parable of the man who built large barns for his abundant possessions. But it was all so very vulnerable. He was about to lose it all, for “God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God”(Luke 12: 13-21). Let us heed our Lord’s words and make the love and service of God the great goal of every day, with the business of material security and prosperity serving that one all-important aim.

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