Tuesday, July 27, 2010

400th Anniversary of the Baptism of Mi'kmaq Chief, French Catholics in Canada, and a Book about the Liturgy and Two Native American Missions

In both VIS and Zenit yesterday, mention was made of Marc Cardinal Ouellet -- the newly appointed Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops and former Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada -- acting as the special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI this Sunday for the observance of the 400th anniversary of the conversion and baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou of the Mi'kmaq in Canada.

The Zenit story sets forth some of the history:

Grand Chief Henri Membertou of the Mi'kmaq nation was baptized June 24, 1610, by French Father Jessé Fléché. Another 20 members of the indigenous leader's family were also baptized, and within 50 years the entire nation was Christian. The chief, who was the first aboriginal in North America to become Christian, led the Mi'kmaq people in the choice of St. Anne as their patron... The Mi'kmaq started an annual pilgrimage to St. Anne's Mission on Chapel Island, marking the event with a procession, Mass, and feasting.

The article continues further on:
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, who previously served as archbishop of Halifax, told the Canadian Catholic Register that the Catholics of the East Coast owe a debt of gratitude to the Mi'kmaq nation.

He explained that in the mid 18th century, French Catholics were being deported from that region by the British army. Yet in 1752, the Holy See signed a treaty with the British to allow for a French priest to enter that region to care for the Mi'kmaq.

"And so when the priest came to minister to the Mi'kmaq," the archbishop explained, "he also came to minister to [other Catholics], rather clandestinely, but nonetheless he gave them the opportunity when he was in the area."

The prelate affirmed that the people of that region had access to the sacraments due to the treaty with the Mi'kmaq people, which helped the Church to survive in that region.

This story, and its relationship to the historic Native American missions, provides an opportunity to remind readers of a rather interesting liturgical study which was written by Claudio Salvucci, and which we have noted here on the NLM before, The Roman Rite in the Algonquian and Iroquoian Missions: From the Colonial Period to the Second Vatican Council.

As one can see from the title, this particular book doesn't deal with the Mi'kmaq nation that is the subject of the aforementioned story, but rather with the Algonquins and Iroquois. Nonetheless, it is of related interest, and further provides some very interesting and pertinent insights into those particular Native American missions and their liturgical life -- inclusive, incidentally, of some rather unexpected insights related to the place of Latin and of hieratic forms of vernacular within the liturgy; a historical element which is most certainly pertinent to contemporary discussion and debate.

It is a unique study and one which I would encourage people to pick up sooner than later, lest it become unavailable.

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