If I had to describe my experience of working and living at Martyrs’ Shrine in one word it would be blessed. I am a seminarian from St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto and have just completed my first of seven years of priestly formation. I am truly blessed to be here at the shrine for my summer placement, the very place that contributed to the creation of our beautiful Nation. I grew up coming to the shrine with my family every summer for a yearly pilgrimage.
I knew a little about the story of the Martyr’s and every time I heard it there was always something new to learn. The Jesuits of old settled and were later martyred in Huronia over 350 years ago, and yet they still live both in heaven and on earth through their story told at this shrine and their relics that are housed on this holy ground.
One of my first tasks working here at the shrine was to move the relics of St. Gabriel Lalemant, St. Charles Garnier and the skull of St. Jean de Brebeuf from the St. Ignatius chapel where they had been kept over the winter, upstairs in the Church for opening day. It was at that moment, riding in the back of the golf cart holding onto these relics for dear life, that I realized how precious these artifacts are.
Later that day I was asked to polish the two reliquaries. As I was cleaning these reliquaries I felt so blessed to be able to polish these sacred objects. I imagined the Martyrs were looking down at me from heaven making sure I didn’t miss a spot on their encasings. The bones of the martyrs are a fascinating link between the natural and supernatural, body and soul, natural and supernatural, the ordinary and the divine.
Although the Martyrs have been dead for hundreds of years they help more people now through their prayers than they could have ever imagined in their lives here in Huronia. The moment their blood was shed upon these grounds is the very moment the fulfilment of their mission had begun – the seeds of the Church had been planted in this country, and their new mission of healing and interceding for the faithful.
The crutches and canes that hang upon the wall are a testimony to this fact. Many people have been healed of various ailments through the intercessions of the Martyrs at this shrine. I too have been helped by the Martyrs after praying year after year every summer that I would be healed of the migraines that I suffered from – a side effect of the brain surgery I had undergone as a child.
I am not studying to be a Jesuit but I admire the Jesuit history, spirituality, and way of life. I have lived with the Jesuits here at the Shrine for nearly two months now and I am constantly learning about what it means to serve God through serving His people. My role as faith animator for the Shrine is important for me to be always present to the people of God because their visit may be yearly or visiting for the first time. “Either way we all walk with the Martyrs in some way at some point in our lives.”