13 July 2008

Summer vacation, part I: martyrs

I've taken Mondays and Tuesdays off for the month of July so I can take some day trips with the kids and give them some small form of summer vacation. Last Monday we went to Midland and visited Martyr's Shrine. The Shrine was built in honour of the Jesuit Martyrs Jean de Brébeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, Noël Chabanel, Isaac Jogues, René Goupil & Jean de Lalande. The church built on the site has many relics of many of the martyrs, including most of Brebeuf''s skull. It is a lovely place, but many of its features seem to me to be fading, as it were, and it seems it could do with some maintenance.

I used the opportunity to explain to the children what I could of the martyr's and their importance to our history. We ate lunch and prayed in the church for a time.

It is a lovely site, but it is only near the place where the Jesuits located their main mission. The mission itself has been restored, on site, down the hill from the shrine, and it is run by the Ontario Government. It is called St Marie Among the Huron, and we went there after the Shrine.

Though not operated by the Church, this is the place where the saints walked. The site was excavated and the new buildings were built on the foundations of many of the old. The original site, incidentally, was destroyed by the Jesuits and the French themselves as they left the area in the face of the Iroquois invasions.

It is currently run as a pioneer village type of operation, and was very interesting and rather educational. They have built two chapels on site- apparently on the site of the original chapels where the martyrs would have said or heard Mass. One chapel was for the Jesuits themselves, the other for the Jesuits and also for the Huron who came to hear the ceremony. Oddly, or perhaps sadly, they are two of the few churches I know in the area that still have communion rails. The man in charge of the larger church explained to us that the Huron- or Wendat, as they called themselves- journeyed for a day to hear Mass. He also explained how the Jesuits actually changed the common practice of saying the Mass and turned to face the people, and also spoke much of the Mass to the Wendat in their own language. had the Wendat made the long journey only to have the priest turn their back on them and speak in some incomprehensible language, they would have been insulted and left, and there would be no hope of making converts. The Jesuits knew what they were doing.

It was also in that church that we saw the most important part of the trip, for there in the back of the church, with little in the way of a marker, was the final resting place of Brebeuf and Lalemant. After their deaths, what was left of their bodies was buried near the remains of St Marie among the Huron. Jesuits returned to their graves years later, and removed what bones they could find for relics, and put the remains of the remains back into the graves, leaving a small lead plaque noting the resting place of the two martyrs. Later, at the excavations for Ste Marie, the plaque was found. The ground hear the plaque was tested and phosphorous was found to be present in the earth, which indicated the presence of animal fats. The dirt was dug up and put placed again inside the little church in the Mission. They are buried close to where they served, but at the same time, they are on government property, not Church. I wonder how and what deal may have been made to allow that to happen.

All in all, it was a pleasant, if hot and sticky, day. Tuesday was rainy and all trips were cancelled. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll go to Centre Island. While of no theological significance, it is a fun place. Plus, it is of some historical value, as it is really the reason Toronto is here at all, as it forms the outside of the harbour. I should say, we plan on going, if the weather permits.

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