On Thursday, October 19, the Regis High School community gathered at the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola to celebrate Mass in commemoration of the North American Martyrs. Below is a video reprint of Fr. Mario Powell, SJ's homily delivered at the Mass.
Intro: I woke this morning with my mind stayed on Jesus…Hallelu…hallelu…hallelujah.
Today we celebrate the martyrdom of 8 Jesuits. All eight were canonized in 1930. All eight were killed for the faith between 1642 and 1649 in upstate New York and Ontario, Canada. All eight had their minds “stayed on Jesus,” and what Jesus had given away to them, they fully returned it.
Rene Goupil was tomahawked in 1642, as far as we can tell, the first to go for making the sign of the cross on the brows of the children he was catechizing. He was tomahawked to death.
Isaac Jogues was taken as a slave by the Mohawks. He was tortured, and in the process had his fingers chewed off. So Isaac Jogues was eventually tomahawked as well.
Anthony Daniel was celebrating Mass when the Iroquois attacked a Huron village. He himself did not try to escape. He was pierced with arrows and then along with the Huron was huddled into a Church, the Church was set afire and the pierced body of Daniel, still breathing, was thrown into the Church where he had been celebrating Mass.
From all accounts the worst tortures were reserved for Brebeuf and Lalemant. Among other excruciating pain which they had to suffer, they had their hands lopped off, had red hot hatchets applied to their bodies, then their captors made belts of bark, soaked these belts in tar, bound their bodies with this resin dipped bark and set the bark and tar on fire.
Chabanel, who was one of the last martyrs, he vowed under the most excruciating pain and this went on for a long time, he vowed to remain among the Indians until he died, took a vow of perseverance until death. Finally, Garnier. He, too, like one of his conferees, died while he was teaching. Be forewarned Regis faculty.
What beats in the heart of a martyr? Gratitude. A heart that with each beat is renewed in faith for what is unseen. Each of these men possessed a heart that was in tune with Jesus—that is Jesus’ sacrifice. Pope Francis preached in his homily for the Canonization of St. Oscar Romero on Sunday, “Jesus gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart. Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?” What Pope Francis preached about was Christian gratitude. That we are so smitten by our love of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, that all we can do in response is an ever constant flow of gratitude back to others.
This was so for the martyrs and so it is for us. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” The martyrs gave of themselves a total offering in response to a God that gave of Godself a total offering. The martyrs loved God in a quite absolute way.
And so I ask, what beats in your heart Regis? What are you in love with in a quite absolute way? What breaks your heart? What amazes you with joy and gratitude? I am going to go out on a limb and guess that many of you are grateful for your Regis education. Fr. Michael Himes, a professor at Boston College once preached, “If you think of your education as a gift given you to be grasped, as something that you’ve achieved and will hold onto... if you think of your education as a training to make more money, or get a better job... if you think that your education is all about your success in being able to provide for yourself and your family — all of which are great and wonderful goods — but if you think that’s what’s central to your education, then I must say... that I think you’re unworthy of your education.”
The reason to be educated is to teach somebody else. You never fully grasp the fruits of your education until you give it away to another. The measure of the success of your education here at Regis is the measure to which people who never got to come to Regis, the measure to which their lives are richer, fuller, and more genuinely human because you did go to Regis. It is the measure that acknowledges, yes you are the few, the proud, the chosen, but the burden is great, for much is expected from those who have been given much. Its enabling you to give something to others. In that process you will fully possess your Regis education.
You never fully own what you don’t give away, and what you do give away you can never lose. This is the story of the martyr who gives his/her life away so readily, because Jesus did so first. It is the story of the Gospel...it is the story of the fullness of God present in a perfectly human being and the way in which he gave everything until there was nothing else to give. “Father, I hand myself to you...It is finished.” He has given away everything. To be able to give away everything is what all of us are in training to do from the moment of our baptism.
Jesus strongly commands the Eleven disciples in our Gospel reading from today...”Go!”
And so it is with us Regis...Go! Be grateful. Go...let that gratitude impact everything you do here at Regis. Go...spend the rest of your lives giving your education away.