By Guest Blogger Heather Jordan
Amidst seventy-eight acres of rolling hills on the east side of Tallahassee, Florida, people are working and praying to honor those who died for the Faith, those who planted the early seeds of Christianity in our nation. Plans have been made to build a shrine, to re-present the sacrifice of the martyrs, a priceless gift… our nation’s secret treasure.
Over three hundred years ago, in mission territory of La Florida, Spanish Franciscan friars and Apalachee Indians lived together in peace. The Franciscans learned the language and ways of the great native people and lived in friendship in their farming villages. The Apalachee, who had invited the Franciscans, learned and accepted the Faith and became baptized.
In January of 1704, their community and way of life was shattered; and in June of 1704, it was all but destroyed. Colonel Moore from the Carolinas led the assaults, fueled by religious persecution, resulting in thousands taken as slaves and a thousand men, women and children who were killed because of their embrace of the Catholic faith. Indians and Spaniards died together. The suffering was very great, as some were even tortured and burned to death on outdoor Stations of the Cross, all the while proclaiming the Gospel, and crying out to the Virgin, whom they described as near and giving them courage.
The former San Pedro y San Pablo de Patale was the site of a great martyrdom in the mission territory where the Spanish and Apalachee Indians fought their last battle together. The seventy-eight acre piece is a short distance from the chapel site where many Indians are buried along with their pastor, Fr. Manuel de Mendoza, who was martyred there.
Among Americans, there exists a lacuna in history education, knowledge and understanding of the great Catholic roots of our country. The Martyrs of La Florida Missions, with the blessing of Bishop Emeritus John Ricard, SSJ, seeks to build a shrine to honor those who gave their lives for the faith in our nation. Today, our nation aches from a deep spiritual poverty. May this shrine always be a source of grace and prayer, bringing visitors the beautiful faith of our nation’s heroes!
La Florida’s Catholic missions are a story of love and heroism. Yet, so few, even Catholics, know it, and therefore very few can say ‘thank you’ to those who at great risk and much suffering brought the Faith to the native people and also to the native people who loved the Faith so courageously. May the Lord abundantly bless all who assist in this gift of a shrine to Him, to His martyrs, and to the people of our nation.
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