Sept. 27, 2005, 1:06 p.m.

France: Church's Eldest Daughter

This is the third of a series sent by Joy as email to me. It's about those brave and holy martyrs of the faith who shed their blood for Christ. "The blood of martyrs" as is said, "is the seed of Christianity." Sometimes we wonder about their heroism, but then we realize that we're just pilgrims here on earth; our real citizenship is in heaven. The surest sign of sanctity is martyrdom. (Some groups misused the word martyr--used by homicide-suicide bombers in their sacrifice; no! martyrdom is dying for the faith, not killing for the faith.) Most of the martyrs mentioned were French citizens, explaining the title partly. In history, France has always been the faithful daughter of the Church; several saints come from France. St. Joan of Arc, their patron saint, is the most famous, instrumental in ending the Hundred Years war. Joy's email follow...

The Canadian Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario is "cooler [than Toronto] but not that cold. Besides, it wasn't fall yet when we went so it was warmer... For your information, St. Lorenzo Ruiz has a statue on the shrine grounds... Many Filipinos go to Midland regularly when it's open to the public for pilgrimage and picnic. The shrine opens in late March and closes in the second week of October. I think the reason it closes is that the roads leading there can be dangerous in the winter (very slippery due to ice).

"The Canadian martyrs are French Jesuit priests who came to North America in the 1600s in response to the call for 'missionaries to the Indians'. They catechized the natives, specifically the Hurons. They died a gruesome death in the hands of the Iroquois (other natives who I think are responsible in making the Hurons extinct). The Jesuit priest who celebrated the mass we attended said in his homily that their fingers were all cut-off during their torture but St. Jean de Brebeuf managed to escape to France with the help of the Hurons. But he returned to Huronia to continue his work until he was recaptured and decapitated. The names of the martyrs are: the Jesuit priests, Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Antoine Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel and the laymen Rene Goupil and Jean de la Lande. September 26 is their feast day.

"Just a reminder: September 28 is the feast day of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, and September 29 is the feast day of the Archangels St. Michael, St. Raphael and St. Gabriel. God bless!"