A group of young Jesuits made retreat one summer at the North American Jesuit Martyrs’ Shrine in Auriesville NY.  One hot and humid afternoon I found myself down in the unbroken quiet of the very ravine where Rene Goupil was tomahawked to death by an Iroquois brave. Goupil was trained in France as a surgeon and volunteered for the Jesuit mission to New France. He accompanied Fr. Isaac Jogues and his companions into the Mohawk territory of upstate New York, where later they were all captured by enemy Iroquois.  In the silence of that summer afternoon I was very conscious that Fr. Jogues had buried Goupil’s body somewhere in that very ravine.  I was truly standing on holy ground.

Today’s first reading from Romans plumbs the mystery of faith and grace that moved missionaries then and now to share the gospel with people in distant lands. This work of evangelization continues in our own day as lay and religious volunteers give weeks, months, even years of their time for the needs of others.  Moving out of their comfort zones, often in languages not their own, the gospel comes alive through their faith and service.

Closer to home is the daily service of a visiting nurse caring for shut-ins, or someone who daily watches over a special needs child, or a single parent working two menial jobs who scrapes to put food on the table for kids at home. These realities mirror a different kind of martyrdom, no less precious to the Lord. It’s all that business of melding “flesh” and “spirit” in the service of Jesus who is always our salvation and hope.

What does today’s feast provoke in the “ravine” of my own heart and spirit?

–The Jesuit Prayer Team