In a couple of weeks this nation will be celebrating the Federal Holiday known as Columbus Day. As we know, it’s named after the man who is given credit for discovering the New World, Christopher Columbus. Even though he never set foot on what is now the United States of America, he is nevertheless accorded the honor and respect rightfully owed to the man who had the courage to sail across the vast uncharted waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and plant the flag of Spain in the Caribbean. This was the beginning of the great conquest of the western hemisphere by the civilized nations of Europe. Marred, unfortunately, by the rivalries that existed between these various countries, western civilization was nevertheless successfully extended into the Americas by Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain, paving the way for the millions of European settlers who followed.
These pioneers brought all the qualities of their homeland with them. The most important benefit they tried to instill among the natives was the Gospel of Christianity. Both North and South America were inhabited by fierce warrior-like tribes of savages, many of them cannibals. Human sacrifice and slavery were commonplace among them, and they were defiant in their resistance to the new religion brought by the black-robed missionaries sent from Europe to convert them.
In today’s liberal atmosphere of anti-American ignorance, it has become the vogue to sympathize with the savages in their bloody war against the missionaries. Statues of Columbus are being torn down by leftist mobs all over the country, and even Columbus Day itself has been replaced in some states by the more trendy “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” Horrific tales are told to our children about the evil pioneers stealing land from the native peoples, massacring villages, and wiping out entire tribes. The idea of the “noble savage”, first popularized by early liberal thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, now finds its echo in the halls of elite, progressive, modern society, where even football teams like the Washington Redskins are shamed into shedding their mascots and even their very names.
It is well to remember on this 26th of September, feast of the North American Martyrs, just how noble these savages were not. The good Jesuit fathers, who had devoted their lives to bringing the faith of Christ to the Iroquois, were met, not with gratitude and hospitality, but with torture and death. One had his fingers literally chewed off, others were tomahawked or shot with arrows, and two in particular were tied to stakes and subjected to one of the worst martyrdoms in history, a trial which culminated in their still beating hearts being torn out of their chests and devoured before them. It is indicative of the extent evil has insinuated itself into our topsy-turvy world, that we now honor these brutes rather than the men they tortured for trying to show the way to eternal life.
But what is there to separate us from this savage side of humanity? Is it not inherent in the fallen nature of man that we are all capable of falling into the worst of cruelties towards our fellow human beings? It is a mere couple of years or so that ISIS was torturing and beheading Christians in the Middle East. And the bloody murder of unborn babies continues even in our own hospitals across the land, to the frenzied cries for even more abortions from so-called Catholics like Nancy Pelosi and her poisoned ilk. Bloodlust is in the air, and martyrdom may not be far behind it.
When news of the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues and his companion Jean de la Lande reached the headquarters of the Jesuits in Quebec, they did not offer Requiem Masses for the repose of their souls. Instead, they immediately recognized them for the martyrs they were, and offered instead Masses of Thanksgiving. We would do well to instill within us their feelings of gratitude to replace our own dark fears. Let the promise of martyrdom and its reward inspire us to embrace any suffering we may have to endure in the days to come. Let us give thanks to God. Deo gratias!