Saints 17th century

Saints of the American Wilderness

Author(s): 
John A. O'Brien
Copyright: 
1953
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
257 pages
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a detailed (and rather intense) history of the eight French Jesuit martyrs who worked among the Huron Indians in North America in the 1600s: St. Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), St. René Goupil (1608-1642), St. Jean de Lalande (died. 1646), St. Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649), St. Gabriel Lalemant (1610-1650), St. Antoine Daniel (1601-1648), St. Charles Garnier (1605-1649), and St. Noël Chabanel (1613-1649).

This is an important piece of American History that is often ignored in textbooks or twisted to some degree (in part, I think, because of the animosity between the English and French early on in American History). The book is carefully detailed with an extensive bibliography and source citations throughout the text. A number of these Saints personally wrote detailed accounts of their work in North America; writings which still survive and which were extremely helpful in compiling a definitive, but accessible book. Readers will gain significant insight into the Huron and Iroquois Nations and the history of the French in Eastern Canada.

Everyone should give themselves an opportunity to be inspired by these missionaries, however. If these men were, by the grace of God, able to endure horrible living conditions, travels on foot through bitter cold, and death around every corner to bring love and hope to the peoples of North America four centuries ago, should we not be willing to do a small part in bringing Christ to the 21st century? Should we not consider that someone needs to bring love and hope to nations that are besieged by war, violence and hate; and to America's inner cities?

Read and be inspired. The stories of these heroic men might actually make the tasks and challenges of our own day seem easy!

Here is a brief portion that highlights some of their challenges and successes:

The Hurons, Brébeuf reported, "acknowledged the Commandments to be very just and very reasonable. They thought these were matters of great importance, worthy of being discussed at the councils." They admitted the logic of his conclusions about God and His attributes. But, alas, "They know the beauty of the truth," he commented sadly; "they approve of it, but they do not embrace it... They condemn their wicked customs, but when will they abandon them?" The step from belief to action was a long step, and they hesitated to pass from acknowledgement of God's existence to conformity with His laws.

Among the young, progress was more marked. Three little girls had mastered the catechism so thoroughly and gave such clear evidence of interior piety that Brébeuf and Daniel judged them ready for Baptism. Inviting the whole village to attend the ceremony, which took place on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, they performed the ritual with all possible solemnity. The chapel was thronged with Hurons when the three girls, beautifully appareled and ornamented with strings of wampum and porcelain, renounced Satan and all his works and received the waters of regeneration.

The Jesuit community that morning dedicated the Huron mission to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. They promised to offer twelve Masses in the ensuing year toward accomplishing in Huronia the erection of a permanent church named after the Immaculate Conception. "We believe," wrote Brébeuf, "that the Blessed Virgin has accepted our humble devotions. Before the end of December we baptized twenty-eight."

This book is suitable for adults and possibly older teens. Some of the accounts of torture, death and living conditions might be too disturbing for younger teens.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-29-06
Reviewed by: 

The Seashell on the Mountaintop

Author(s): 
Alan Cutler
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Plume Publishing
Number of pages: 
240 pages
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Seashell on the Mountaintop is a very welcome biography of St. Neils Stenson, also known as Nicholas Steno and about 16 other variations. The good news is that, after years of neglect, this convert, this holy man, and this founder of the science of geology is being pulled from the edge of oblivion to be remembered for his true greatness. The title of the book refers to the presence of fossil shells in the mountain soils of Italy and , among other places, and the long effort to interpret such a curiosity. As a Dane, Neils had not grown up in the presence of fossils, but he went to Italy as an adult and joined the academy that had been Galileo's fellowship a generation earlier. Here he took an interest in everything around, including the hills of Tuscany and their shells.

The geology part is interesting because Steno's ideas were so far ahead of others' that those who were interested in figuring out the fossil puzzle read them for a hundred years before they were able to take the next step in building the science. During his own lifetime, Neils was famous for he was a seminal thinker on several topics, but by the time the geologists were able to build on his work, his extraordinary personality was almost forgotten although, even today, the principles expressing our basic understanding of sedimentation are still called Steno's laws.

Cutler's gives a striking account of the competing ideas about fossils in Stenson's days – late 17th century. Did shell forms naturally grow in the soil? And if so, did they grow with breakages and wormholes and all, just as if they'd been on the shore? Were they dropped by Noah's Flood? If so, how had they come so far inland; many thought that Noah's finding a live tree branch after the flood meant it could not have brought salt water all the way inland everywhere. Cutler presents all this material thoughtfully and in a manner respectful of the mental challenges of another age, so easy to underestimate.

Not only the shells interested Neils, but also the faith of Italy, and though welcomed by the Florentine academy as a Lutheran, he became a Catholic in time, then a priest, and finally a very holy bishop of a vast tract of Lutheran Europe, for whose salvation he relinquished his scientific investigations and then sacrificed his health.

This is a good introduction to the 17th century, to geology, and to a saint with a wonderful, Renaissance mind.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
12-26-06
Reviewed by: 

Saint Margaret Mary, Apostle of the Sacred Heart

Author(s): 
Ruth Fox Home
Copyright: 
1960
Publisher: 
Farrar Straus and Cudahy
Series: 
Vision
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
187 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is such a beautiful story of a simple, humble nun who was chosen by Jesus to spread devotion to his most Sacred Heart. I especially like how the author presents God's plan and how He had specially prepared Sr. Alocoque and Father de la Columbiere for this important mission. As Ignatius Press is reprinting many books from the Vision series, I hope this will be back in print sometime soon.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: