Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hearts According to God's Own

Yesterday was the feast of Saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and companions, French Jesuits who were martyred in the mid-17th Century while carrying the Gospel to the natives in the New World.  Last night as I was reading through the account of their missionary experiences, frought with pain, captivity, and frightful torture at the hands of the people who they came to bring the love of the Gospel to, I could not help but wonder:  what did these men possess that enabled them to endure such suffering and hardship, and to do it with such great joy?  They were willing to preach the Gospel and try to negotiate peace with a nation who came to despise them as sorcerers, and they returned literally again and again.

Contrast that with today, when we Catholics (myself included) are so hesitant to speak the name of Jesus and share Him with those around us who do not believe, for fear that we might be shunned socially, professionally, or worse by our own families.  Why?  What's holding us back?

Some members of the Church throughout the world face the same kind of suffering and "martyrdom of the red" today, where the Church is physically persecuted, but most of us do not face the threat of physical hardship for the faith.  Unfortunately, in many ways it seems the Church in America has allowed itself to be lulled into a hazy, sleepy faith, where many do not even know the faith, let alone being able to proclaim it.  We end up more bored in the presence of Christ than burning with grateful love for the fact that God himself came to live with us and share in our suffering and death so that we might be raised up into His eternal life.

It would do us well to rediscover the stories of many of the martyrs and tell them to our children, but first and most especially to meditate on what their lives and deaths point us to: the love Christ poured out for us (literally) in His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Let us pray for the reality of that burning love to be driven deep into our hearts and light them on fire.  Let the words of Saint John de Brebeuf in a letter he wrote encouraging would-be French missionaries to come to the New World, ring just as true to us today, as we are faced with a "brave new world" of radical secularism and indifference:

"We have learned that the salvation of many innocent souls, washed and whitened by the Blood of the Son of God, is stirring deeply the hearts of many men, inflaming them with fresh desires to leave Old France and come to the New.  May God be forever blessed!  By this means he has showed us that he has finally opened up to these tribes the depths of his infinite mercy.  Far be it from me to chill the ardor of the generous resolutions of those noble souls who aspire to become missionaries.  Theirs are hearts according to God's own, and we are eagerly awaiting for them...
It is true that "love is strong as death" (Sg 8:6); that the love of God has power to do what death does--that is, detach us entirely from creatures and even from ourselves!...
When you reach the land of the Hurons, you will indeed find our hearts full of love.  We will receive you with open arms as we would an angel from paradise."
 Saint John de Brebeuf (+1649)


1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent, thought-provoking post. I would boldly proclaim that I would die for Christ. Yet, I fail to "die" to self for Him many, many times throughout the day. We are a culture addicted to good feelings and fitting in. We would do well focus on the lives of the saints as you have pointed out! Thanks for the reminder!