Friday, May 20, 2011

St. Bernardine - 400 Years since the Arrival of the Jesuits in Canada


Most of the saints suffer great personal opposition, even persecution. Bernardine, by contrast, seems more like a human dynamo who simply took on the needs of the world.

He was the greatest preacher of his time, journeying across Italy, calming strife-torn cities, attacking the paganism he found rampant, attracting crowds of 30,000, following St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”

Compared with St. Paul by the pope, Bernardine had a keen intuition of the needs of the time, along with solid holiness and boundless energy and joy. He accomplished all this despite having a very weak and hoarse voice, miraculously improved later because of his devotion to Mary.

When he was 20, the plague was at its height in his hometown, Siena. Sometimes as many as 20 people died in one day at the hospital. Bernardine offered to run the hospital and, with the help of other young men, nursed patients there for four months. He escaped the plague but was so exhausted that a fever confined him for several months. He spent another year caring for a beloved aunt (her parents had died when he was a child) and at her death began to fast and pray to know God’s will for him.

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach. He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions (for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines).

The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation. Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of a branch of the Franciscan Order, the Friars of the Strict Observance, he strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law. When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling. (

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O God, who gave the Priest Saint Bernardine a great love for the holy Name of Jesus, grant, through his merits and prayers, that we may ever be set aflame with the spirit of your love. Through our Lord.

Friday of the 4th Week of Easter
O God, author of our freedom and of our salvation, hear the voices of those who call on you, and grant that those you have redeemed by the shedding of your Son’s Blood, may have life through you and under your protection rejoice for ever unharmed. Through our Lord.

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St. Ignatius and his early companions embraced the IHS motif widely diffused by St. Bernardine.

Many Jesuit Provinces have incorporated it into their self-identity as may be seen in the logo above, adopted to underline the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Society of Jesus in Canada at Port Royal in Nova Scotia on May 22, 2011.  Here is some information on the celebration this weekend that I made available to the Nouvelle Informateur Catholique in a recent monthly column.

The habitation/l'habitation, Port-Royal


On May 22, 1611, the French Jesuit Fathers Ennemond Massé and Pierre Biard landed at the small trading post of Port Royal, Nova Scotia. Their arrival was the start of the rich history of Jesuit culture in Canada that led to important contributions to Canadian history.

From mapping territory and rivers to reaching out to the Native Peoples across Canada, it is no exaggeration to say that these Jesuit ‘Blackrobes’ – priests, brothers and dedicate laymen known as “donnés”—immediately set out, as St. Ignatius had written about the Society, “to travel to various places and to live in any part of the world where there is hope of God’s greater service and the help of souls” (Jesuit Constitutions).

To some, these early Jesuits seemed like adventurers on the frontiers spreading Christianity to the ‘savages,’ forgetting that in the early Jesuit Missions, St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions in Huronia appreciated the natives’ rich culture.

Brébeuf once wrote: “I have never met anyone of those who have come to this area, who does not frankly admit that the native people are quicker of mind than our ordinary country people.”

Among his pastoral work with the natives, Brébeuf wrote a dictionary of the Huron language and Canada’s first Christmas carol – “The Huron Carol,” or “Jesous Ahatonhia” –in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people.

Beyond work among the First Nations, the Jesuits were establishing celebrated educational institutions in Canada, much like they had already done in Europe.

In 1635 the Jesuits established a boys’ school in which they would continue to teach for 140 years.

In 1940 there were seven French-speaking, five English speaking and two bilingual colleges as well as six English high schools started by the Jesuits in Canada. I had the privilege of attending Montreal’s Loyola High School, graduating fifty years ago this year in 1961.

The Jesuits’ Ratio Studiorum (or Plan and Method of Studies) eventually became the model for 12 Jesuit colleges and 15 Jesuit high schools spread across Canada - from St. John’s to Edmonton.

For the early Jesuits these schools were not simply exercises in learning but communities where all inquiry led to a reverence for the creation of God and a fuller understanding of the God of creation.

All knowledge became part of God’s word, an insight into the humanity of Christ, and the foundation for a society of humane learning and professional competence.

Besides education, the Jesuits founded a large number of parishes as native and European settlement moved westwards. It was said in the 1960s, for example, that in the Sault- Sainte-Marie Diocese, every one of the Catholic parishes had been founded by a Jesuit.

Since the mid-1800s Canadian Jesuits have opened centres of spirituality and retreat houses where visitors can strengthen their own spiritual lives and develop habits of reflection infused with St. Ignatius’ own spiritual journey, recorded in his Spiritual Exercises.

Today’s Jesuits continue in the work of their predecessors as priests, brothers, professors, university administrators, lawyers, doctors, writers, historians, musicians, ecologists, and artists. A couple have even been named bishops!

They continue in their ministry with First Nations’ communities of Canada and send men to work in places as diverse as Brazil, Belgium, China, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Nepal, Ukraine and Zambia.

To commemorate these 400 years since the beginning of their service in Canada, Jesuit communities and apostolates across the country are planning special events for the year-long celebration.

The anniversary year begins this month with an inaugural day-long celebration at Port Royal National Historical Site in Nova Scotia, on May 22nd, 2011 where Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini will preside at the Jubilee Mass.

Other celebrations to mark this significant anniversary will take place across the country, determined by the local Jesuit community. Watch for a celebration near you.

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Les Jésuites au Canada depuis 400 ans

Les saints martyrs canadiens, The Canadian Martyrs

Le 22 mai 1611, les pères jésuites Français Ennemond Massé et Pierre Biard ont atterri au petit comptoir du Port-Royal en Nouvelle-Écosse. Leur arrivée fut le début de l’histoire riche de la culture jésuite au Canada. Sur le plan historique du Canada, les jésuites ont beaucoup contribué au cours des années.

Il n'est pas une exagération quand on dit que ces jésuites en robes noires – prêtres, frères et laïcs consacrés – connus sous le nom de « donnés », en faisant la cartographie du territoire et de ses rivières et en tendant la main aux peuples autochtones partout au Canada, sont aussitôt parti, comme Saint Ignace a écrit au sujet de la société, « voyager à des endroits différents et vivre dans n'importe quelle partie du monde où il y a l’espoir du plus grand service de Dieu et l'aide des âmes» (Constitutions des Jésuites).

Pour certains, ces premiers jésuites semblaient s’être aventurés sur les frontières en propageant le christianisme aux « sauvages », oubliant que lors des premières missions jésuites, Saint-Jean de Brébeuf et ses compagnons en Huronie appréciaient la culture riche des autochtones.

Brébeuf a écrit: « Je n'ai jamais rencontré une personne qui est venu dans cette région qui n'avoue pas franchement que les autochtones sont plus rapides d'esprit que les gens ordinaire de la campagne. »

À l’époque de son travail pastoral avec les autochtones, Brébeuf a rédigé un dictionnaire de mots huronnes, ainsi que le premier chant de Noël au Canada – The Huron Carol, ou Jesous Ahatonhia – dans la langue maternelle du peuple Huron/Wendat.

Au-delà de leur travail avec les Premières nations, les jésuites établissaient au Canada des institutions d’enseignement reconnus, tout comme ils avaient fait en Europe.

En 1635, les Jésuites ont établi une école pour les garçons dans laquelle ils ont continué d’enseigner pour 140 ans.

En 1940, au Canada, il y avait sept collèges francophones, cinq collèges anglophones et deux collèges bilingues, ainsi que six écoles secondaires anglophones fondés par les Jésuites. J'ai eu le privilège d'étudier à l’école secondaire Loyola à Montréal et j’ai obtenu mon diplôme en 1961 ; il y a 50 ans.

Le plan des études des Jésuites Ratio Studiorum a fini par devenir le modèle des 12 collèges jésuites et des 15 écoles secondaires jésuites répartis à travers le Canada – de St. John's à Edmonton.

Pour les premiers jésuites, ces écoles ne servaient pas seulement de lieux où l’on faisait simplement des activités d'apprentissage, mais plutôt comme communautés où tout questionnement menait à un respect pour la création de Dieu et à une meilleure compréhension du créateur.

Toute connaissance a commencé de faire partie de la Parole de Dieu. Ceci nous a aidés à comprendre la nature humaine du Christ, ainsi que la fondation requise pour une société où l’on apprend à propos de l’humanité et où l’on acquiert des compétences professionnelles.

En plus des institutions d'éducation, les Jésuites ont fondé un grand nombre de paroisses lors du développement de l'ouest du pays. Par exemple, il a été dit dans les années 1960 que dans le diocèse de Sault-Sainte-Marie, chaque paroisse catholique avait été fondée par un jésuite.

Depuis le milieu des années 1800, des Jésuites canadiens ont ouvert des centres de spiritualité et des maisons de retraites où les visiteurs peuvent renforcer leur propre vie spirituelle et développer des habitudes de réflexion inspirés du cheminement spirituel et de ses exercices spirituels de Saint-Ignace.

Les Jésuites d'aujourd'hui continuent de faire le travail de leurs prédécesseurs à titre de prêtres, frères, professeurs, administrateurs universitaires, avocats, médecins, écrivains, historiens, musiciens, écologistes, et artistes. Un couple de Jésuites ont même été nommé évêques!

Ils continuent de desservir les Premières nations du Canada et d'envoyer des hommes aux pays de divers continents, comme le Brésil, la Belgique, la Chine, la République dominicaine, l’Haïti, l’Inde, la Jamaïque, le Népal, l’Ukraine et la Zambie.

Pour commémorer les 400 ans depuis le début de leur service au Canada, les communautés des Jésuites et les apostolats à travers le pays organisent des événements spéciaux pour fêter cette année spéciale.

Cette année célébrant l’anniversaire commence ce mois-ci avec une célébration inaugurale d'une journée – le 22 mai 2011 – à Port-Royal, lieu historique national en Nouvelle-Écosse où l'archevêque d’Halifax, Anthony Mancini, présidera la messe du jubilé.

D'autres célébrations pour marquer cet anniversaire important auront lieu à travers le pays et seront organisés par les communautés de jésuites locales. Voyez s’il y a une fête près de chez vous.

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