Fr. Michael Knox, SJ, broadcast from Martyrs' Shrine
This Week's Spiritual Reflection
Passing Through Adversity
With the current social restrictions instituted to protect us all, the gates of Martyrs’ Shrine have remained shut. And yet, whilst on a recent walk of the grounds, I noticed, at our west gate, bunches of flowers and candles placed under the statues of St. Jean de la Lande and St. René Goupil. To be there, some pilgrims had to have reached through the gates to lay them down.
This reach, through our gates, in an act of devotion, struck in me a moment of reflection upon a much greater reality, namely, the inability of people of faith to find solace with God in their churches or places of worship. There is, in fact, a gate, COVID-19, a reality, that not only puts our lives, and those around them, at risk but, consequently, isolates many of us from the very traditions that might keep us oriented, or even help us to cope with what is happening in the world around us. The question becomes: how do we pass through this gate?
Whilst labouring among the First Nations peoples of ‘New France’, St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, in their own way, faced a similar conundrum. Their usual way of life, eating habits, social interactions, their very environment, was changed. Being able to have Mass each day was not an option. Even going off to pray alone could be construed as suspicious. As one missionary wrote, ‘… we live in the country of the cross . . . a land filled with discomfort, inconveniences, strange customs, toil, and danger’. And yet, he then concluded, ‘we inhabit it with joy’, and a ‘very great happiness’. Again, and again, this dichotomy is presented throughout the writings of our missionary saints, suggesting that they were able to live in adversity, whilst, at the same time, see, in and beyond it, a hope that brought them joy. This gift they found in their relationship with Christ, for, it they dwelt in the ‘country of the cross’, certainly with them was Jesus who was hung upon it.
Down at the west gate of Martyrs’ Shrine is a witness to this fact in or present circumstances. Though the traditional forms of Sacramental life are largely unavailable to many, the yearning to reach out and touch Christ remains. Simple flowers. Candles burning throughout the night. These testify to a desire to see life in a time when death is more poignantly present, and to recognise the light amidst a surrounding darkness. Like these pilgrims, and like the Canadian Martyrs who, in the face of great trials, found grace-filled perspective through Christ, perhaps we too can pass through our present adversity hand in hand with the Lord.
Fr. Michael Knox, SJ