A Visit to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs

July 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Callie and I made a road trip to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs last Sunday.  It’s the second time I’ve been up to Auriesville, New York, to visit there and it was as peaceful and pretty as I’d remembered.

The Shrine Entrance

The Shrine is dedicated to St. Isaac Jogues, St. Rene Goupil, and St. John Lalande.  The first two were Jesuit priests and the third a lay missionary, all of whom came to minister to the Iroquois tribes back around the 1640s.  All three of them were killed by the Iroquois, martyred for their faith. 


The Shrine is located right by the Mohawk River, on the very land where St. Rene Goupil was killed.  It is also where Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born, about a decade later.  Bl. Kateri had her feast day celebrated on Wednesday, July 17th, hence the reason for our visit right in the middle of the summer.  


The Shrine is, frankly, in the middle of nowhere New York.  It’s not too far from the New York Thru-way, but there aren’t any cities close to it.  (Callie and I even saw a horse and buggy on the road at one point.  The horse neighed at us.  It may have been the highlight of my day.)  We walked down to the Ravine and visited the meadow where St. Isaac Jogues buried St. Rene Goupil.  The exact burial spot is unknown but from passages in his diary, they know the rough area.  There are some statues and a little grotto set up down there, along with plaques containing quotes from St. Isaac’s diary.  These quotes tell his memories of St. Rene’s death. 

In the Ravine

Back up at the top of the grounds, we walked around to the various statues and memorials set up on the land.  They have carvings of the Stations of the Cross and mosaics of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. 

Mosiac of the First Sorrow of Mary

Callie mentioned to me that she’d never made the Stations of the Cross and so we made a Way of the Cross, following the painted carvings as they spread across the ground.  Over the past 9 months or so, it’s been so amazing and humbling at times to hang out with Callie because her spiritual journey was so different from mine.  I have a bad tendency to forget that not everyone had the catechism lessons that I had, and sometimes I think I might come across as a snob.  I don’t ever really mean to, but when you grow up knowing and learning about something since childhood, it’s sometimes easy to forget not everyone had the same experience.  Having the perspective of someone relatively new to the faith can enlighten me in many different areas. 

After the Stations, we went inside the church to go to Confession and Mass (and escape the overbearing heat).  The altar inside the church there is gorgeous. 

I would recommend a trip to this Shrine for anyone who is looking for a quiet place to pray and reflect.  At three hours away (from NEPA, that is), it may be a bit of a drive but it’s well worth it.  I’d love to return in October when the leaves are changing and the autumn wind is sweeping through the Ravine trees.  

It was such a restful, serene day.  We spent much of the time in silence or quiet contemplation of what had taken place there so many years ago.  It’s a sobering reminder of how much freedom I really have to practice my faith.  Lately, I’ve fallen into the bad habit of complaining when I read or hear of people mocking Catholicism or claiming it should be left to the privacy of my personal life.  The Shrine reminded me that I need to stop that.  Stop complaining, stop whining.  Start praying and ask the intercession of those heroic men who died to do what I can do every day in peace: make the Sign of the Cross.

-All credit for these pictures goes to Callie!


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