Last updated on July 8th, 2021 at 10:20 am
It is Canada Day. And as a proud Canadian, I cannot help but admit that my heart heaves as I write this.
Churches in my home and native land are burning. More than a handful, now… and counting; allegedly tied to unmarked graves at Residential Schools. And the outright hatred towards God and religion is palpable.
My heart heaves in sadness, surely. But also, in joy–
A cinematic masterpiece, Black Robe tells the story of a young Catholic priest leaving everything to travel a world away in order to convert the savage tribes of New France (which would become Canada some 230 years later).
While one may think the above scene from the film provides a glimpse into the seeming ambiguity of the Catholic Faith, it actually lays a sledgehammer to any perceived ambiguity; at least to those who understand the faith. The stained-glass, the sculpted stone, the wafted incense, and the glorious high altar of that majestic cathedral in France is played alongside the dank longhouse of the natives, choked by the unventilated smog-mixture of campfires, animal flesh, and human excrement, flatulence, and body odour of the huddled masses.
And then, the contrast within the contrast. The young and handsome LaForgue, with most healthy gait, strides up the Nave to see a priest preparing for Mass. What follows is a piece of directing brilliance from Bruce Beresford. From the shadows, the fresh-faced Laforgue enters the scene, and pauses while removing his coat. From the wide-eyed astonishment of LaForgue (remarkably and dutifully played by Canadian Lothaire Blutheau), the camera slowly pushes into the mangled face of the priest; the left “ear” reduced to a fleshy mound of scar tissue which leaves the viewer’s imagination to ponder the unbelievable torture that must have taken place.
And in the scene, the priest admits to the young man that he’s going back.
Armed with prayer and faith, the priest goes back into the depths of unbelievable pain and suffering.
Think of that for a moment.
Think for a moment of 17th century France and the high esteem the public held for such men of God. Remember, this is well before the demonic Reign of Terror and the lies it leeched on behalf of so-called liberté, égalité, fraternité.
It would not be far to wonder if, perhaps, the young LaForgue was likely making designs on being a simple priest, living a comfortable life, in a civilized world.
Perhaps, that notion came crumbling down just as soon as the words fell from the priest’s lips: “The savages live in outer darkness. We must convert them! What more glorious task, than that. What more glorious task!”
I tear up every time I watch that scene. And perhaps it’s because I’ve been drawn intimately to St. Isaac Jogues these past 20-some odd years. I like to think that Beresford was thinking of Fr. Jogues when he beautifully constructed that scene.
You see, Catholicism is in the same breath beautiful as it is savage. Its magnificent cathedrals and gold-encrusted manuscripts and intricate relics and sacramentals are as glorious as the charred flesh and gouged eyes and stumped digits of its bloody and Most Holy Martyrs.
I will say this about the film clip. It does little justice to the actual environment too many Jesuit missionaries found themselves mired in as they tended to their untamed and mocking sheepfold. For a most brilliant talk on what confronted these great intellectual giants who chose to live in utter squalor for the glory of God, I urge you to take the time and listen to Saving the Americas: The Story of the North American Martyrs.
And today, the mocking of the faith continues. And the burning. For now, church edifices. But the savagery is amping up.
An army of modern savages pound their fists, shouting that the Catholic Church must confess Her sins. This, from a band who care not one hoot for True Confession. And for what sins, precisely? For the unmarked graves that dot the res school landscapes? What crime, specifically, has been tied to these unmarked graves?
But alas, it makes no sense to query those who don’t stand to reason. They don’t understand the concept of reconciliation. They refuse to understand it. While reconciliation happens to be a Sacrament in the Catholic Church, to the secular monster prowling about for blood, it’s a badge of shame that must be sewn on the skin of their enemies, never to be removed.
The savages accuse the Church of “racism” against the Indigenous Peoples of this land. But for the Catholic Church, it has never been about culture or colour of skin. Never. It has always been about serving Jesus Christ and His Commission to go to the four corners of the earth.
In response to the young LaForgue who asks why the Indians would exact such excruciating pain on a man of peace, the mangled priest responds, “They are un-civilized… just as the English or Germans were before we took our Faith to them.” The “white man”, along with the “brown man”, and the “black man”, and the “yellow man” and every other coloured man throughout history, has perpetrated mind-numbing atrocities on the Church. And the Church–not the wicked men inside who work in concert with the Devil trying to sew dissension, but Christ’s Mystical Body–has always responded with self-sacrificing love.
The accusation of racism is, simply put, a wicked lie.
But here is some truth.
On numerous occasions, over the past few decades, the Catholic Church has issued not just heartfelt but very public apologies for any mistreatment towards our Indigenous Peoples.
The anti-Catholic kathlyks (I coined this term a while ago, for those who self-identify as Catholic but who have left Christ’s side latae sententiae) like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, cudgel the Church with claims of malfeasance. But it is a Marxist ploy by Trudeau-types who are outwardly sympathetic to Marxism.
And you’ll even hear from “conservative” corners, trying to foot the Liberal Party with the blame. They’ll claim that the Liberals were running the federal show 70% of the time residential schools were in existence. But the truth of the matter is that many of these residential schools were egregiously under-funded by Canadians of every political stripe. Another fact is that most of the people lying in those unmarked graves died from Tuberculosis, hampered by poor living conditions. And it would be criminal to not broach the “60s Scoop” which marked a very dark time in our history. While it should be mentioned that it was Liberals–including Methodist PM Lester Pearson, and a pair of kathlyks in Minister of Indian Affairs Jean Chrétien and PM Pierre Trudeau (yes, Justin’s dad)–who enacted and fortified the “Scoop”, we would be remiss to reinforce that it is a cabal of Liberals and kathlyks who are deflecting the blame on to not just the odd bad priest or bishop, but the very Mystical Body of Christ.
It’s enough to make one who loves Christ and His Church put his fist through a wall. But, you see, that’s where I would go awry. That’s where I would completely miss the mark. And I think of poor, misguided Peter saying to Christ, “there’s no way in hell we’re letting you go to Jerusalem to die a gruesome death on a damned cross! NO. WAY.” And Jesus’ response: “Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.”
I want to lash out at my enemies. I want to curse those cretins burning down Catholic Churches here, where I live.
And all I can think of, as I grit my teeth, is St. Isaac Jogues looking down on me with his Holy Wounds. And speaking to my heart: “child… arm yourself not with anger. But with prayer. And with faith.”
That, and only that, is the way to building a “true north, strong and free”.
That, and only that, is the way of the Cross which leads to Salvation.
And that is the only thing that matters.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, pray for us.