The Example of Martyrs

“…he wintered with the Algonquins, learning their speech and their customs under conditions of appalling discomfort and occasionally of hunger” (Butlers Lives of the Saints).

Today marks the memorial of the North American martyrs, Sts. Jean de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, who were tortured and martyred in the Canada and New York region after spreading the Faith to the indigenous tribes of the area.

These Saints and their story have a deep meaning to me as a mother. Let me explain.

Just three years and one kid (with one on the way) into marriage, my husband was sent to Western New York for an indefinite amount of time for work. Having been living in Coastal Texas prior to this, just about every cell in my body was lashing out in defiance. You see, I grew up with plenty of snow and ice. Having done my time in the Arctic, err.. um I mean Wisconsin, I was more than happy to keep my feet in the sand and arms out of a parka.

But apparently, God had other plans.

When I got the call and Jake told me the news, my heart dropped to my toes as soon as I heard it. In my limited human capacity of God’s bigger plan, it had felt like a death sentence. How would I get my vitamin D?! How would I shovel snow with a toddler and heavily pregnant?! What would it feel like to trade sunny, warm winters for cold and gray ones?! It wasn’t something I would have voluntarily signed up for – yet, here we were. Stuck thick in the middle of God’s will for our family. “Drive North. I’ll see you there. Love, God.”

And so we did. Goodbye, palm trees. Goodbye, authentic tacos. Goodbye, warmth. We’ll see you when we see you.

Now my hunch is that many of my readers might be expecting the next lines to read something like God had so much more for me than I ever could have imagined! Blessed! While there are seasons in life when that is true, it didn’t happen to us. We moved away from a place we loved, and while we had loved ones where we were moving, it was a location that was a cross for us all. The weather, the work schedule, the circumstances of life. One big ugly cross. And this was where God’s will was leading us. Not so delicious.

So what happened? In a nutshell, we had two year of tears, pain, suffering, sickness, and hurt sprinkled with just enough love from friends and family to keep us kicking.

What about the North American martyrs then?

After moving to the area we were able to visit the Shrine of the North American Martyrs on their feast. It was incredible. It was October, cold and rainy, with the scent of winter looming through the trees. We walked the trail that commemorated the violent torture and eventual death of Brebeuf. I was hit deep inside in a way I can’t describe adequately standing in the places where they had given their lives for Jesus.

To them, sharing the love of God until the whole world hears was so paramount that they gladly accepted the harsh conditions of a New York winter. We hear of winters now and have a hard time understanding the difficulty since we can flip a heater on or hop in the car to the store. But standing there, I understood. Their love of God didn’t make the cold go away. Their love of God didn’t magically shower sunshine upon them in the darkest night. Their love of God didn’t change the bodily mutilations done to them into soft touches.

What the love of God changed was them.

Their hearts were capable of enduring the worst suffering as long as it meant they were in God’s will. The Love they had found deep in the Heart of Jesus was so unearthly sweet that no suffering could make them forget it. All for Jesus. All for souls. And this is what made them Saints.

As I walked the paths, prayed in the chapel dedicated to St. Kateri, I was given a great grace. The grace of continuing on even in the darkest winter of my life. I didn’t do it perfectly like the Saints, but I did make it.

Today, as I reflect on all of this, I think it’s helpful for us all to go back to these words and apply them to our own circumstances:

“…he wintered with the Algonquins, learning their speech and their customs under conditions of appalling discomfort and occasionally of hunger” (Butlers Lives of the Saints).

For me today, it might be as simple as “I wintered with the toddlers, learning their babble and their odd customs, often under the condition of the appalling discomfort of stepping on Legos and occasionally of hunger when they need to be wiped up when I’m trying to eat…”

For others, it might be as dark as night. Cancer. Separation. Death. Chronic illness. Mental disorders. Fear. Depression.

Regardless of the circumstance, today we can celebrate these heroic Saints and look to them as proof of the word’s of St. Paul:

I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…If God is for us, who is against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 8: 18, 31, 35, 37-39

#, #, #

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you!