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History comes to life at this 400-year-old Jesuit mission site in Canada | Historia Vitae

Louisa Florentin

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Stained glass window in Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario, depicting a meeting between Jesuit missionary and martyr St. Jean de Brébeuf and Wendat lay catechist Joseph Chiwatenwha (Photo courtesy of Martyrs Shrine)

Historia Vitae: Treasures of Our Faith returns to Salt + Light TV TOMORROW!

In this fifth episode of the series, we bring you to two important historical sites in Canada: Martyrs’ Shrine and Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. Tune in on Sunday, January 30th at 8:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm PT, only on Salt + Light TV and Salt + Light Plus.
“[The Jesuits’] yes to Christ for the sake of the Indigenous Peoples marks an important message that we share here at the shrine, through the lives of Saint Jean de Brébeuf,  Saint Gabriel Lalemant, Saint Charles Garnier,  Saint Jean de Lalande,  Saint René Goupil, Saint Isaac Jogues, Saint Antoine Daniel, Saint Noël Chabanel. Through each of them, in a particular way, we break open the mystery of offering oneself in love and the important trajectory of love that should mark our Christian life.” — Fr. Michael Knox, SJ, Director of Martyrs' Shrine
Two different groups. One common ground.
In the 1600s, the French established settlements across modern-day Canada, or what was then referred to as Nouvelle-France. These colonization efforts yielded opportunities to meet and trade with Indigenous peoples like the Wendat nation. With the arrival of the Jesuits and other missionaries, these two different groups of people forged an even deeper relationship, one that exchanged more than just trading goods but also wisdom, experiences, and even joys and sufferings.
A rich culture contact story that is still alive today 
That mingling of cultures remains evident today in two historical sites in Midland, Ontario, just 2 hours away from Toronto. Martyrs' Shrine was built to commemorate the place where many Jesuits served amongst the Wendat and were martyred for their faith. Just across from it is Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a living history museum which happens to be one of the locations of the Jesuit missions among the Wendat people.
People from different cultural and religious backgrounds come from all over the world to see, hear, and touch the very tangible experience of these two historical sites.
3 reasons why you should go to Martyrs’ Shrine and Sainte-Marie among the Hurons
If you have never been to either of these places, or haven’t been there in a while, here are just a few reasons why you need to visit:
  1. JPII was there. How many times have you been able to say, “I visited the place where Pope Saint John Paul II visited and spoke”? It’s true, JPII visited Martyrs’ Shrine on September 15, 1984. You can read his papal address to the sick and elderly here.
  2. Relics and graves. Fascinatingly, there are two churches dedicated to St. Joseph, one at Martyrs' Shrine and another at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. The former houses the relics of not one but three Jesuit saints, while the latter contains the graves of Saint Jean de Brébeuf and  Saint Gabriel Lalemant.
  3. The intricate architectural design. The designers of the Church of St. Joseph in Martyrs’ Shrine took great care to honour the meshing of Christian and Indigenous cultures. You can see that in the way they use a lot of natural elements like wood shaped in such a way as to look like a longhouse and canoe. See the interior design in full detail in the episode!
  4. Healing miracles. Many pilgrims who have visited the Shrine have experienced such deep, healing encounters with God that upon arriving with an ailment or impediment, they left completely healed! You can find countless crutches with rosaries located next to the relics inside the Shrine.
More to come in our newest episode airing TOMORROW
Learn about the impact of the Jesuit Missions on the Wendat people and how their legacies live on today in our latest episode of Historia Vitae: Treasures of Our Faith, airing this Sunday, January 30th at 8:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm PT.
BONUS: More content on the Jesuits and Martyrs’ Shrine
Check out this episode from This Holy Place for more information on Martyrs' Shrine. This blog post talks more about Saint Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, and this blog post is a wonderful reflection of what it means to be a Jesuit.

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