The Providence of God

One of the common objections that we hear concerning the Dogma is this one: What about all those ignorant natives in the wilderness (or in a desert, or an island; or in Tibet, or China or Siberia. . .) who don’t have a chance to become Catholic? Our simple answer is that God will provide that which He said is necessary to all souls of good will. God’s providence can and will supply the Faith and baptism for any soul who sincerely desires it. Two of our sisters compiled a little volume called “The Providence of God” giving documented accounts of such acts of God’s Providence. Here is an excerpt from it.

Eight North American Martyrs

Who were the eight North American martyrs? They were heroic members of the Society of Jesus, martyred in North America in the middle of the 17th century, having come from France, to bring the Faith that is necessary for salvation to the Huron, the Iroquois and the Mohawk Indians. Five were put to death in what is now Canada, and three in New York State. There is a shrine to the United States martyrs in Auriesville, New York and one to the Canadian martyrs at Fort St. Mary, near Midland, Ontario. They were St. Isaac Jogues, Priest; St. Rene Goupil and St. John de la Lande, lay-brothers — martyred in New York State; St. Anthony Daniel, St. John de Brebeuf, St. Charles Garnier, St. Noel Chabanel and St. Gabriel Lalemant, priests — martyred in Canada.

Clear Intention and Purpose

Why did these brave men leave a comfortable home in France to face a savage wilderness, with all its pains, dangers, fatigues and trials, even to the shedding of their blood? They came “primarily as priests and missioners, to bring the knowledge and the love of God to the pagans, to instruct and baptize them, to establish a Catholic church in their midst.” (Fr. Francis Talbot S. J. Saint Among Savages p.453)

Words of St. Isaac Jogues

“I have come into your country… to show you the road to Heaven.”

“These poor people do not understand that what keeps us here is more precious than all that they can conceive in the way of the pleasures of this world.”

“I have baptized more than sixty persons, several of whom have gone to Heaven. That is my single consolation, and the will of God, to which very gladly I unite my own. ” (our emphasis)

A few excerpts from the wonderful book just quoted from will give the reader a faint idea of the zeal of these saints of God.

Ice and Snow Bless the Lord

“They were outcast. Some nights they slept in the forests and dug their beds in the hollow of the snow. Some days they passed entirely without food. When they were received into a cabin, they exposed themselves to even greater dangers. It happened one night that a man of the hut in which they lodged had a terrifying dream. He rose in the middle of the night and stood over them menacingly, with his face distorted like a maniac and his fingers clutching wildly, he ordered them to leave his fire at once. On another occasion, in the dead of night, when all the village was asleep, they were roused by a brave pounding on the door and bellowing out threats against them, warning them that they would be murdered if they showed themselves in the village the next morning.

“Thus wandering about from place to place, and everywhere meeting with blows and threats and hatred, Jogues and Garnier came to a little cluster of cabins in the heart of the hills. They were both exhausted by the terrible exposure to the cold and by the lack of food. They forced themselves upon one of the cabins and were grudgingly received. Jogues felt feverish and sick through all his body. He could not move from his mat. Here they hoped to rest for a few days in comparative quiet. Then came a messenger from one of the villages in which they had been welcomed on their entry into the Petun land. The runner told them that some of the people who were sick were begging them to return.

“It was a call from God. They could not but heed it. In order to complete the journey of thirty five miles by daylight, they started out at three o’clock in the morning. All the country was pale with snow in the dawn, and the mountain air was painfully cold. Jogues was still gripped by the fever and unsteady on his legs. They slid their snowshoes laboriously over the crackling crust of the icy snow. Frequently they stopped for breath in deadly exhaustion. But they had to shorten their rests for fear lest they die of the cold. Their only food, a lump of corn bread about the size of the fist, was hard as ice. They arrived at the village late at night, covered with sweat, and yet half-frozen, they said. The sick persons were still alive. They were baptized. ‘Some souls gone astray here and there, who are placed on the road to heaven when they are just about to be swallowed up in hell ,’ was their comment, ‘deserve a thousand times more than these labors, since these souls have cost the Savior of the world much more than that. ‘” (our emphasis) p.161

“…True and Natural Water…”

“War-hoops split the air. Grotesque faces, bodies streaked with blood-red paint, erupted from the cover of the swamp. Thirty Iroquois stood among the waist-high weeds, took aim, blazed with their muskets. Balls whistled through the air… Father Jogues lifted himself to his knees, and with his arm making the sign of the cross, shouted the words of absolution over his people.

“Atieronhonk, the pilot of his canoe, crouching just in front of him, was pierced in the hand by the first volley.

“He was the only one in the boat who was not a Christian. Jogues asked him if he wanted Baptism. ‘Yes,’ he answered. The Father cupped the water in his hand, and sprinkled it over the head of the man, baptizing him Bernard. Another volley of shots sprinkled about them. The canoe smashed against the shore. Jogues felt himself catapulted into the weeds. .

“‘Most assuredly I could conceal myself here among the grasses and reeds,’ he argued within himself, ‘and perhaps free myself from the danger of capture. But could I ever be able to abandon…especially those who are not baptized?’ He was a priest of God. The thought of escape was horrible to him. ‘Could I think for a moment of abandoning our French and deserting these good neophytes and catechumens, without giving them the help and consolation that the Church of my God has entrusted to me? Never, never could that be,’ he told himself. ‘It is necessary, it must be, that my body suffer the fires of this earth in order to deliver these souls from the flames of hell. It must be that my body die a death that passes, in order to obtain for these a life that is eternal.’

“He lifted himself up and stood boldly among the reeds. . . ‘Take me prisoner! Put me with Frenchmen and the Hurons whom you have captured! . . .’

“The captives sat nearby in terror. Jogues mingled with them and spoke words of consolation. He counseled the few who were pagans that they should be baptized, for it was likely that the Iroquois might strike them down. They consented, and he squeezed a few drops of water from his wet garments while he pronounced the sacred words. ” (our emphasis) pp. 211-214

“Along the way, they had to cross a gorge of a swift mountain stream. The bridge was a tree trunk stretched a few feet above the swirling, deep waters. It was unsteady and slippery with moss. One of the party was a pregnant woman, who also carried a baby on her back and was otherwise burdened with the camp utensils… The squaw started to climb across the tree, while Father Jogues waited to follow her. She lost her balance, and toppled over into the tumbling rapids….

“In an instant, Father Jogues leaped into the gorge and the icy current. Wading and swimming, he fought his way to the woman, unstrapped the bundles and the cradle, and dragged her and the baby to the bank. He took good care to baptize the baby before he lifted it out of the water…

The woman recovered, but the newly baptized child died within a few days. ” (our emphasis) p. 298

“In This Sign Thou Shalt Conquer”

“…Father Jogues blessed the food and himself with the Sign of the Cross. ‘Stop that’, the old chief snapped at him. ‘That gesture is no good. The Dutchmen have told us of it….They hate these ceremonies of yours, and we hate them also. It is the making of that sign which caused the death of your comrade; and it will be the cause of your death if you continue to form it among us.’

‘That doesn’t make any difference to me,’ Jogues answered. ‘I shall continue to form this Sign of the Cross, since the Author of our lives commands it. Let the people do whatever they please about it.’

“. . .The words of the chief gave Father Jogues confirmation of his belief, that Rene Goupil was a martyr and had been put to death for his profession of this Faith.” p. 299

“‘The prince of this world, driven out from almost every corner of the globe by the power of the Cross, seems to have fled into these regions as his best fortified stronghold. So that, the kingdom which this strong man armed has possessed for so many thousands of years cannot be overthrown except by the process of time and by the constant attacks of the soldiers of Christ.’ He carried his apostolate out to the bleak streets of the village and to the windswept gates and wherever he could attract a listener. ‘Some refused to listen to me’, he narrates, ‘others drove me off, others assented merely with the lips. . .’

“Some few adults who listened to his words of promise and warning consented to receive baptism. Many infants in a critical state, he also contrived to baptize. ‘This was my only solace in the bitterest mental pains ‘.” (our emphasis) p. 304

“A war party arrived, parading with them four Hurons whom they had captured along the Saint Lawrence near Lake Erie. Jogues recognized the Hurons; they were not Christians; he must baptize them. They were already mutilated… Jogues watched in anguish as they ran the gauntlet. He hovered over them… He spoke to them consolingly and urged them to give their consent to being baptized….

Rain and Dew Bless the Lord

“Two of the Hurons, Jogues learned, were to be burned to death that night… He stayed with them on the platform and concentrated his appeals on them. Finally they consented. About that moment, the Mohawks threw the prisoners some raw corn which had been freshly plucked. The sheathes were wet from the recent rains. Father Jogues carefully gathered the precious drops of water on a leaf and poured them over the heads of the two neophytes, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” p.247

“The old man whom Father Jogues had just before baptized refused to stir from where he was sitting…. ‘If you don’t want to spare my life, I am willing to find my death here. It won’t be much of a disadvantage to lose my life anyway.’ They took him at his word. Scarcely had he finished speaking, when one of the braves smashed his skull and scalped him. Father Jogues rejoiced in the sorrow, for the waters of Baptism had scarce dried on his head.” p.220

More Words of Saint Isaac Jogues

“I baptized this woman while she was on the funeral pyre, since I was unable to do it before, while I was offering a drink to her parched lips.” p.319

“Naturally, I loved to get away into the quiet and solitude, where, far from the village, I would not be nauseated by the usual cruelty of the savages, and where I could be with God more freely and with greater devotion… I was mindful of the Institute of our Society, which places the salvation of our neighbors before our own private spiritual delight. Therefore, without reluctance, I remained about the cabin. By staying in the village, I had more opportunity to make progress in the study of the language. Also, I could better effect the baptism of children and the salvation of adults. I was greatly grieved whenever, during my absence, an adult died who had not been instructed, or a child who had not been baptized. ” (our emphasis)

“I desire all that Our Lord desires, and I desire it at the peril of a thousand lives. Ah, with what regret should I be filled, if I lost such a wonderful occasion (returning as a missioner to the Iroquois) one in which it might depend only on me that some souls were not saved. I hope that God’s goodness, which has never abandoned me on former occasions, will still continue to assist me, and that He and I, we together, will be able to trample under foot all the difficulties which rise up against us. It is a fearsome thing to be in the midst of fallen peoples, alone, without Mass, without the Sacrifice, without confession, without the Sacraments. Nevertheless, God’s holy Will and His sweet command on us are well worth that. He Who has preserved us by His holy grace without these aids for eighteen or twenty months, will not refuse the same favor to us who do not thrust ourselves into this position, but who undertake this work solely and only to please Him, and undertake it against all the instincts and inclinations of nature.” p.423

A Favor Returned

“Once when he had entered a cabin in one of the villages to inquire about the sick, he heard his name called from the darkness of a corner. Going over, he found a young man desperately ill.

‘Ondessonk,’ (that was the name the Indians gave Father Isaac Jogues) the sick young man exclaimed, ‘do you not know me?’

‘I do not remember ever having seen you before,’ Father Jogues replied.

‘Do you not remember well the favor I did you at your entrance into the country of the Iroquois?’ the man questioned.

‘But what favor did you do me?’ asked Jogues, puzzled.

‘Don’t you remember the man who cut your bonds…when you were at the end of your strength?’ he continued.

‘Of course, I remember that very well. That man put me in his debt very, very much. I have never been able to thank him. I beg you, give me some news of him, if you are acquainted with him.’

‘It was I, myself, who did it. It was I who took pity on you and loosed you.’

“Father Jogues bent over the sick man and embraced him. ‘ But oh, how sad I am to see you in this pitiable condition!’ he exclaimed. ‘How much I regret that I am unable to help you in your sickness. I never knew who you were. Nevertheless, I have often prayed for you to the great Master of our lives. You see that I am in great poverty. Despite that, I shall do you a greater favor than you did to me.’

“Father Jogues told the dying man about God, of the happiness in the next life with God for those who believed, of what it was necessary to believe in order to be baptized and made happy forever after death. The man listened with attention. With deep sincerity, he begged for baptism and for the happiness Ondessonk promised him. Father Jogues poured on his head the water of salvation. While he prayed beside the mat, a few hours later, the man died peacefully.

“Jogues felt himself compensated by winning the soul of this man for God.” pp. 327-8

A Not-So-Ignorant Native

“They held council, in the Huron fashion, and each of the natives who sought baptism was called upon to argue his position.

“Ahatsistari addressed them thus: ‘I have the Faith deep down in my heart… In two days, I am departing on the warpath. If I am killed in the battle, tell me: where will my soul go if you refuse me baptism? If you saw into my heart as clearly as the great Master of our lives, I would already be numbered among the Christians; and the fear of the flames of hell would not accompany me, now that I am about to face death. I cannot baptize myself. All that I can do is to declare with utmost honesty the desire that I have for it. After I do that, if my soul be burned in hell, you will bear the guilt of it. Whatever you may decide to do, however, I will always pray to God, since I know him. Perhaps He will have mercy on me, for you say that He is wiser than you are.’

“‘What made you first think of believing in God,’ one of the Fathers questioned him.

“‘Even before you came into this country,’ Ahatsistari responded, ‘I had escaped from a great many perils in which my comrades were killed. I saw very clearly that it was not I who saved myself from these dangers. I had the thought that some spirit, most powerful and unknown to me, was favorable to me and aided me. We peoples attribute all of our good fortune to dreams. But I was convinced that all that was only nonsense. Still, I did not know much about it. When I heard of the greatness of the God whom you preach, and of what Jesus Christ had done while He was on earth, I recognized him as the being who had preserved me. I was resolved to honor Him all my life. When I went to war, I recommended myself to Him night and morning. It is to Him that all my victories are due. He it is in whom I believe. I ask you for baptism so that He may have pity on me after my death.'” pp. 185-6 (Ahatsistari was solemnly baptized and was given the name Eustace.)

Light and Darkness Bless the Lord

The following quotes are taken from Saint Among the Hurons by Father Francis X.. Talbot S. J.

“The French were warned not to leave their houses after nightfall, lest some of the savages commit another crime. During this tense period, the trusted La Nasse one evening pounded on the door and begged Pere Paul to baptize a baby that was dying. Despite the prohibition, Le Jeune resolved to go with La Nasse. But de Brebeuf persuaded him to remain at home, since he was running a fever, and volunteered to take his place, with Pere de Noue as companion. They were guided by La Nasse along the dark paths to a cabin some two miles away, under the cliff of the Rock. The relatives of the baby refused to show it to the Blackrobes, lest they cast a spell over it and cause it to die. De Noue, frightened by the baleful looks of the savages in the cabin, slipped out to bring the interpreter…to protect de Brebeuf. Together they persuaded the mother that her baby would be happy if it were baptized. She finally agreed if the father, who was drunk in another cabin, would also consent. He was awakened, and sent back word: ‘Although I am drunk, I understand what you say. Tell the Blackrobes I know they will do my son no harm if they baptize him.’ Pere Jean poured the waters and named the child Francis Xavier. They returned to Notre Dame des Anges about ten o’clock. Le Jeune said to Brebeuf kindly: ‘Mon Pere, are you not very happy that you ended the day so well?’ ‘Alas!’ exclaimed de Brebeuf, ‘for this one single occasion I would travel all the way from France. I would cross the great ocean to win one little soul for Our Lord.”

No Greater Love

“Daniel, still clothed in white alb and red stole, hurried to the gate where the battle raged. With arm upraised, he shouted the words of absolution toward his believers, and paused over those who knelt for baptism, while musket balls whizzed through the palisades, and arrows showered down from above. He ran through the cabins, where some were sick, and others aged, ministering to them the Sacraments. He was caught up in a frantic mob trying to escape through the holes in the stockade. He dashed back to the chapel, while still there was time. Many of his Believers crowded in and about it. With a sweep of his hand, he pronounced general absolution over them…

“‘Flee, my children, and bear with you your Faith even till your last breath.’ They begged him to go with them. ‘No, no,’ he called back, ‘I must await death here, as long as there is here any soul that can be sent to Heaven.’ They pleaded with him; the Iroquois were breaking through; he must hurry. ‘No, I shall die here to save you. I do not care any longer for life.’ As they were turning away from him, he cried out in parting; ‘We shall see one another again in Heaven.’ Some remained with him, old men and women who could not follow the young. Tenderly he encouraged them: ‘My Brothers, my sisters, today we shall be in Paradise. Believe this, and hope that God may love you forever.’

“From the ferocious yells of victory, he judged the Iroquois had forced the gates and broken through the stockade. From the shrieks of those shrinking from the deathblow, he knew the enemy was raging through the streets and cabins… Darting here and there in the open area about his chapel, absolving and baptizing the terrorized Hurons who were fleeing confusedly past him, Antoine Daniel heard the horrible Iroquois wiiiiiii grow louder and louder. He stood at the door of the chapel. He saw a band of Iroquois burst from behind the cabins, their faces and bodies striped with the crimson war paint, their upraised tomahawks dripping with blood, their mouths open as they screeched their ear-splitting war whoops. He watched them as they smashed the heads of those they were overtaking. He must halt them, and save the escaping Hurons. From the chapel door, slowly, with crucifix uplifted, he strode against them.

“… He showed no fear of them, no, not any.

“‘The Blackrobe!’ one of them cried out…. One lodged a musket ball in his heart, while others let fly their arrows in his face and neck. They stood still, awed even yet by this frightening spectacle.

“…Taking him by the wrists and ankles, they heaved the bleeding body of Antoine Daniel into his chapel, now become his pyre.” pp. 286-7