Monday, November 22, 2010

Martyrs of Paraguay (17th century)

  At the Native Arts Festival, at the Towers in Narragansett yesterday, I enjoyed a late afternoon lunch of blueberry jonnycakes and succotash at a communal table with several couples. Even though I was having a roast beef dinner two hours later with friends, I couldn't miss out on some good Narragansett Indian food.
  One of the woman sitting with me said she was Jewish and that someone told her Native Americans don't like Jewish people.
  "That's ridiculous," I said. "They are a peaceful people."
  The woman apparently had a problem. It was a beautiful event with interesting music, art, and quahog jewelry, and she had to bring up something negative that made no sense.
  She continued to say that there were a lot of similarities between Native Americans and Jewish people because they were both persecuted tribal people. I felt like telling her that the French and Acadians, the Armenians, and probably every group except for the English were all slaughtered at one time or another.
  In many American cities there are Holocaust monuments for people who died in Eastern Europe, but nowhere in this country are there equivalent monuments for Native American people.
  In the spirit of my blog, I thought about how there are several saints who were born Jewish (and of course later converted) and the Pope will not canonize Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, who would be the first Native American saint.
  When the woman was leaving, she said she hoped that one day all religions and nationalities could live together in harmony. Finally, something I could agree with.
  Although there is no Native American saint, the Martyrs of Paraguay are the patron saints of native traditions.  St. Alonso Rodriguez, St. Juan de Castillo, and St. Roque Gonzalez (born in Paraguay in 1576) were Jesuit priests who helped establish about 40 settlements called reductions for Christian Indians. The missionaries were guardians/trustess of native people and their traditions.
  The trio converted numerous people to Christianity in Paraguay and Brazil. St. Alonso Rodriguez and St. Roque Gonzalez were murdered on Nov. 15, 1628 and St. Juan de Castillo was murdered two days later, all in Brazil. They were canonized in 1988 and their feast day is Nov. 17.

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