Father de Smet and the Flathead Indians July 25, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Ecumenism, General Catholic, history, manhood, priests, sanctity, Society, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
I posted the audio of the sermon below over 3 years ago, but since the links for the sermon were then on AudioSancto which is now defunct, I was glad to see this sermon come back up on Sensus Fidelium last week.
The sermon discusses the life of St. Peter de Smet and other priests, mostly Jesuits, who very effectively evangelized the quite fierce tribes of the northern plains and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States. These were tribes that had effectively resisted conversion by protestant missionaries for centuries. However, they found the Truth of Jesus Christ, as revealed through the Church and its many faithful priests (at that time), quite irresistible. Tens of thousands of Native Americans were converted to the Faith through the efforts of a mere handful of men, especially Father de Smet (whose biography I strongly recommend). To say it was a struggle would be an understatement.
Not only were the physical dangers enormous, the scope of work incredible, the difficulty in converting what may be termed barbarians, who had engaged in many immoral practices for generations, and making that conversion stick, were almost insurmountable. Many tribes made quick converts, but tended to relapse into bad behavior, especially when protestant Americans, lusting for land and wealth, would come bringing mass quantities of liquor to trade with the tribes – a few barrels of whiskey for 10,000 acres of land, say. Even more tragically, when it became apparent that the Catholic priests were making thousands of lasting converts, the predominately protestant Americans appealed to their government to break the Catholic influence by forcibly removing them from their missions and installing protestants in their place. Most of the natives subsequently fell away, either reverting to animistic religions or adopting a far less efficacious “ecumenical” form of Christianity. Among those who remained nominally Christian, very few had the same depth of conviction and practice they had embraced under Catholic influence.
All of this was ordered to produce a demoralization in the native peoples to make them less cohesive, less of a threat to manifest destiny, and more apt to be moved, by force, onto always shrinking reservations, reservations often located on land so poor no white wanted it.
I say all the above as someone who is fairly cold to the “noble
savage native” narrative the Left likes to impose. For just one example, Native Americans fought many genocidal wars amongst themselves, which is why there are no, or virtually no, Mohicans or Hurons, among others, around today. There was an urgent need for conversion, not only with regard to the eternal destiny of souls, but as a practical matter. Many of the Catholic priests understood that, and sought to help make Native tribes/communities stronger by giving them a solid moral base on which to stand. Thus, their exclusion from the missionary field permitted by the US government was not simply an instance of anti-Catholic bias, but also one with a tangible worldly purpose in mind.
This has long been one of my favorite sermons to listen to. One of its best characteristics is its destruction of errors like “invincible ignorance” and “implicit baptism by desire”:
Even if you’ve heard this one before, as I have, it’s worth more than one listen! I pick up new points every time I hear it.