Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sundry saints and blessed.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of two religious founders - St. Bruno of Cologne and Bl. Marie-Rose Durocher - and a Jesuit missionary who died as a martyr, Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores. Rather than select one of these figures as deserving of special approbation, I'll write something about each one.

One of 11th century Europe's most eminent churchmen, Bruno of Cologne is said to have turned down a proferred bishopric to fulfill his ardent desire to become a hermit. Such were Bruno's talents that after spending six years in rural solitude he was called to serve at the court of Pope Urban II. Bruno reluctantly moved to Rome, but was so unhappy there that after a few months he left the Pope's service to return to the austerities of eremetical life. With a few companions, Bruno established a community that eventually became the Carthusian Order. Generally considered the most demanding religious order in the Roman Catholic Church, the Carthusians follow an intensely ascetic regimen that has remained largely unchanged since Bruno's day. The 'Carthusian mystique' has won Bruno's order numerous admirers - including Ignatius of Loyola, who found great spiritual inspiration in the writings of the Carthusian monk Ludolph of Saxony and who himself considered entering a Carthusian monastery before forming the resolve to form a new kind of religious community. The relationship between the Carthusian Order and the Society of Jesus continues to this day. Jesuits who feel called to explore a stricter form of religious life have long had the option of becoming Carthusians; nowadays the Trappists are also put forward as an option, but Bruno's order retains pride of place. I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the Carthusians are also known as the producers of a sublime liqueur known as Chartreuse, which I happen to be very fond of and am happy to recommend to interested parties.

As noted at the outset, Bruno of Cologne isn't the only religious founder celebrated on this date. In 1843, Mother Marie-Rose Durocher and two companions founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary to provide for the education of youth. From humble beginnings in Longeuil, Quebec, the Sisters of the Holy Names have grown to become an international community of religious women working in diverse apostolates but with a special concern for social justice. In 1982, the congregation's foundress was beatified in Rome. Since I entered the Jesuits, I've gotten to know the Sisters of the Holy Names in a number of different contexts but most notably through my current ministry at the Windsor Refugee Office, where my supervisor and one of my fellow volunteers are members of the Holy Names community. Working in the Refugee Office and enjoying the Sisters' hospitality at their nearby residence, I've developed a great fondness and respect for the women who've chosen to follow in Mother Marie-Rose's footsteps. Today, I'm happy to congratulate the Sisters of the Holy Names on the memorial of their foundress.

Last but not least, today the Society of Jesus remembers Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Spanish Jesuit who was martyred in the Mariana Islands in 1672. Remarkable for his tenacity, Diego knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Jesuit and a missionary. Diego argued bitterly with his parents for two years before they allowed him to enter the Society at age 13 in 1640. Though he retained a strong desire to serve in the missions, after studies and ordination Diego was initially assigned to teach grammar and theology in his native Spain. Diego's wishes were finally fulfilled in 1659 when he was sent to the missions - not to China or Japan, as he had initially hoped, but to the Philippines. After a few years teaching in Manila and preaching missions in rural areas, Diego was appointed superior of a new Jesuit mission to the Mariana Islands. Showing a great willingness to adapt their lifestyle and presentation of the Gospel to native culture, Diego and his companions were initially received well by the people of the Marianas and made many converts. Resistance to the Jesuits grew over time and some, including Diego, died for their faith. I have a soft spot for Diego Luis de San Vitores for a couple reasons. For one thing, I'm fond of Diego for the simple reason that the first homily I preached in the novitiate was delivered on this date last year. On another level - and this is a point I touched on in my homily - Diego's life is an object lesson in the dynamic tension between individual desires and the corporate mission of the Society. Above all else, Diego wanted to be a missionary, and he wanted to be one in China or Japan. Diego realized his missionary vocation only after a long wait, and he wasn't sent to either of the countries he hoped to serve in. Nonetheless, he achieved lasting renown as the founder of a new mission and died a heroic death in the course of his ministry. Such was Diego Luis de San Vitores - a man of great and holy desires, and a true Companion of Jesus. AMDG.


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