Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs


To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given,
to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery
hidden from ages past in God who created all things….


“Whodunit?” The mystery genre of literature intrigues and entertains the mind. I spent a vacation reading Agatha Christie novels; our rented cabin had a complete set and given more time I’d have read the entire collection.

But, unfortunately, the genre also confuses the meaning of the word, mystery. This is critical for Christians because Saint Paul uses the word so often. It’s vital for Catholics in particular because the word could be replaced by sacrament or liturgy. When we worship God with the formal rituals of our church we plunge like divers into the living mystery of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Mystery is not an enigma solved by clever insight; it is not satisfied by the answers to a catechism drill. Mystery is more like a place, perhaps a gothic cathedral with its high ceiling, vaulted undercroft, vast open space, scent of candles and incense, and windows casting living colors on floors, walls and people. To enter this space is to be changed forever, and no one enters unwillingly.

But it’s not a building either. It’s more like someone who is very old, who knew your great-grandparents when they were newlyweds; and yet appears to you like an innocent, defenseless child. Mystery is way of life; it’s a way of living confidently within the timeless Cloud of Unknowing.

Life within this mystery is framed by liturgy, sacraments and devotions. There are words, gestures, songs and silence. There are ancient texts, inexplicable traditions and continual adaptations. It is, as Saint Augustine said, ever ancient, ever new. This mystery belongs to no one but it claims its members and molds their life, drawing them out of isolation into communion.

Initiates of the mystery know they did not choose it and they had little choice upon entering it. Rather they were drawn by a call; it fell upon them with such delight they found no reason to refuse; even when it demanded great sacrifice they were eager for it. They were like the merchant of fine pearls who, finding one really valuable pearl, sells all he has and buys it. If it appears to be madness to others, that cannot be helped.

There were many French people who tried to persuade today's martyrs --Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions-- that they were crazy to go off to the wilderness of America to initiate the aboriginals into the Mystery. Nor were they surprised when the news of their death arrived.

Almost five centuries later, their decision is still puzzling, an enigma to the uninitiated. a beautiful mystery to us.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.