Tuesday, 4 August 2009

I go to morning prayer to pray, have my horizons widened and learn new things

This week through the ecumenical prayer cycle we are praying for Canada and the United States. This morning the focus was on Canada. We listened to a recording of the wonderful Huron carol translated by Jean de Brébeuf, prayed some wonderful and very funny words by Karl Barth, listened to verses from John's gospel. In preparation for the gospel reading we listened to an extract from Stephen Neill's, A History of Christian Missions, The Penguin History of the Church 2nd edition (US printing), Penguin, New York and London, 1986, p.171

A veil of romance has concealed from the world what life among the Indians was really like. With noble courage they combined unbelievable squalor, treachery, and bestial cruelty. Conditions of life for the missionaries were miserable; communications were so difficult that at one time the rule had to be made that no more than three drops of wine could be allowed for each Mass. The constant wars between the Indians threatened the peace of the mission. In 1642 Father Isaac Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and brutally tortured. He managed to escape, but in 1646 returned among them, saying Ibo et non redibo, “I shall go but not return”. His prophecy was true; on 18 October 1646 he was murdered, to be followed the next day by the young layman, Jean de la Lande, who was his companion. Worse was to follow. In 1649-40 the Iroquois fell on the Hurons and practically exterminated them; the three Jesuit missionaries Brébeuf, Lalemant, and Garnier were tortured and burned alive. This was practically the end of the mission. Various further attempts at missionary work were made throughout the area which is now Canada and the United States, but with little lasting success. The missionaries were, in fact, watching the tragedy of the red man. Neither Britain, France, nor Holland comes well out of this.
The inhuman cynicism with which the white man engaged the Indian in his own
quarrels, setting Indian against Indian and Indian against European, makes one of the most shameful passages of colonial history. To make things worse, “drink and the devil had done for the rest”; the Indian could not resist the temptation of the white man’s fire-water, and here as elsewhere the supply of alcohol to a primitive people was almost tantamount to deliberate murder.

Find the ful order of morning prayer here, recommended for Barth's prayer if nothing else which includes the inimitable lines:

Be the Lord of the well-fed and of the underfed,
and also of those who are called to speak and write,
whether they produce creations that are good or not so good.

If tonight I learn how to transfer the audio files from my Nokia we might even be able to offer podcasts of morning prayer soon. However, I susupect this may require technological skill I do not yet have ...