Martyrs’ Shrine Nostalgia

On a note of fond nostalgia, a former student has written a reflection of his time here, going on pilgrimage to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland.

From his introduction:

Perhaps it is nostalgia that has me think back every March to when I attended an authentic Catholic college. The transience of those lighthearted years brings a bittersweet remembrance; as our student anthem suggested – Gaudeamus igitur, Juvenes dum sumus – Let us rejoice, therefore, while we are young. Though I remember many blessed trials and triumphs, there is one set of memories that surely stands above all others: The yearly pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs.

It is a crisp, dark morning, and the usual regime at the Catholic college, affectionately known as the Academy, is to head to the church for prayer and Mass. Today is different.[i] Prayer, yes, but Mass will have to wait. It is March 16th, which means we will pile into the old Academy van and start the over three-hour drive to the southern Georgian Bay region. These are the days before any student had Facebook and YouTube accounts, or even a cell phone for that matter. They are the good old days, and I mean that in all sincerity. Rosaries, conversations, music, and silence make the trip go quickly.

As many readers may be aware, but for those who are not, the shrine commemorates the sacrifice of the Jesuit missionaries who traveled here in the early 17th century to bring the salvific good news of the Faith, eight of them offering their lives. Although their collective feast in Canada is on September 26th, as a College, we pilgrimage annually in this late wintertide, as close as we can to the day of the martyrdoms of Saints Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalement. Until recently, as Dan’s article alludes, we would pilgrimage on the actual day of their martyrdom, which took place on March 16th, 1649, with an outdoor Mass at the time of Brebeuf’s glorious death, in the late afternoon (Father Lalemant survived until the following morning, a Frenchman going to glory on the feast of the patron saint of Ireland).  Whatever happens this year with the pilgrimage, we will commemorate the martyrs one way or the other, giving glory to God for their witness, and praying for a return to the Faith for this nation founded upon its salvific truth, without which we are all lost, and with which we will gain all.