Fr. Dwight Longenecker: The Amazon Synod and Ten Learning Points from St. John de Brebeuf

The Crisis of Catholic Leadership, by Dan Hitchens
October 23, 2019
Cardinal Müller Warns Against Rise of ‘Old Paganism’ During Amazon Synod, by Dr. Maike Hickson
October 23, 2019

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Oct. 20, 2019

The current Amazonian synod is a reminder that the struggles of Catholic missions to indigenous peoples is nothing new. Today is the memorial of St John deBrebeuf and his companions. The Jesuit missionaries to North America endured the most amazing hardships to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to tribal people who were locked in superstition, in bondage to repulsive demons and trapped in a cycle of revenge, torture cannibalism and violence of the most unimaginable kind.

A few months ago I read St Jean de Brebeuf- Saint Among the Hurons– the best biography of the great Jesuit missionary. Learning about his work and martyrdom along with his companions, Isaac Jogues, Gabriel Lalemant and others sheds genuine light on the church’s mission to indigenous peoples.

There are a few salient points we can observe from their work:

  1. They Loved the Indigenous People – The Huron and Algonquin tribes were not very loveable. Violent warriors, they were also bloodthirsty torturers and cannibals. Their living conditions were brutal and their behavior animalistic. Nevertheless, the Jesuit missionaries professed genuine love for their tribal people. So he wrote to a fellow Jesuit: “When you reach the Hurons, you will find us with hearts full of love. We shall receive you in a hut, so mean that I have scarcely found in France one wretched enough to compare it with. Fatigued as you will be, we shall be able to give you nothing but a poor mat for a bed. Besides you will arrive when fleas will keep you awake most of the night.” ….