Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré: Une histoire de fantôme et d’amour qui transcende le temps

Early evening, Beaupré Quebec, June 1916:

Atsenta dit Du Plat, Great Bear Chief of the Huron Wendats stood in the church sanctuary of Saint Anne de Beaupre transfixed with awe and love at his son Adelard.  His son was kneeling beside his wife Eva in front of the Tabernacle.  The red candle flickered and in its quiet light he could see Eva’s eyes closed, lips moving ever so slightly in prayer.  Adelard’s eyes were open and glistening in the dim light. They were kind eyes, patient and perhaps in a better time playful, but now sadness, not mirth shown in them.  It was Adelard’s eyes that reminded Atsenta most of his beloved daughter, Ouenta.

Adelard wasn’t Atsenta’s son exactly, more like his 6th great-grandson.  But he loved him as a son, because he was a descendant of his daughter Ouenta.  She was gone now of course, living in the Great Father’s Long House along with his wife Annengthon.  But now, kneeling in front of him, was a part of Ouenta still living in this world, and Atsenta loved him for it.

Adelard’s toolmaker hands, rugged and callused, fidgeted with a black rosary.  He would in turn glance down at it, twisting and turning a dark rosary bead, then looking up at the ornate gold Tabernacle.  Eva was to his right and he was careful to not to disturb her, only moving his head slightly for an occasional, concerned glance.  Eva’s delicate hands were tightly clenched with her rosary intertwined in her fingers.  She still prayed, or was it pleading…

They’ve been married for over ten years now and although their marriage was happy it was not blessed with children.  Prayers, Novenas, candles nothing brought forth the miracle of a new life into the world.  Adelard resigned himself that he would never be a father and unlike other men of his time he didn’t blame Eva.  He loved her, and he would do anything to heal her pain.  For Eva, growing up in the noise and hustle of a French-Canadian family of nine children, the lack of even one child in her home with Adelard was unbearable.  So now, here they prayed at the church in honor of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus.  Eva was devoted to Saint Anne, and so now she wanted to plead, mother to mother, woman to woman… for children of her own.

As Atsenta watched his son and his wife he became aware of Elder Brother standing beside him.  Elder Brother, that’s what Atsenta called him, was what the Black Robes said was his guardian angel, given to all people by the Great Father. Atsenta remembered the first time he saw Elder Brother, after he died at the end of a Mohawk warrior’s club in the Iroquois village of Canajoharie, two hundred and fifty-nine years ago…

 

Early morning, before the dawn, Canajoharie, April 1657

At that point he had been a prisoner of the Mohawks for a full moon, captured in Quebec by a Mohawk raiding party and dragged to the Mohawk River far to the south.  Enduring ritualistic humiliation and slavery, he was mocked especially for his Christian faith.  But the worst suffering was reliving his last memory of Ouenta, not yet a woman, sleeping contently in the arms of Annengthon.  On his last night, a moonless night, Atsenta warily snuck out, intending to go north and return to Ouenta and Annengthon.  He wasn’t aware that he was being observed and followed.  Mercifully, he was only briefly aware of the pain and flash of light in his head as the club swung around and hit the right side of his temple.

When Atsenta awoke, finding himself face down in the snow, he saw a middle-aged Wendat man of his tribe sitting by a fire.  Atsenta knew instinctively that he was now in the realm of the dead and although he didn’t know the man at the fire, his presence felt familiar.  Atsenta moved himself to the fire and sat across from the man.  Staring into the fire, Atsenta felt no heat nor any cold from the snow around him.

“I believe I may know you… may I ask your name?” Atsenta asked.

“Don’t you know me Atsenta?…  I have always been with you… the Great Father sent me to you while you were still in your mother’s womb.” The man used a stick to move a few logs in the fire.

Atstenta lowered his head for a moment, his eyes probing the fire, thinking about what to say next.  Listening, Atsenta heard none of the usual sounds of the forest, wind, birds, people moving about.  Nothing but the crackle of fire.

“Are you now going to take me to the Great Father’s Long House?”

‘Yes… but not yet. You are not ready Atsenta to have your eyes uncovered so you can see the next world.  Now we must ensemble faire une promenade.”

With that the Wendat man stood up, smiled and with his outstretched hand lifted Atsenta up.

“You may call me Elder Brother”

Moving north, it took two hundred and fifty-nine years to finally reach Quebec north of Trois-Rivières.  During their long journey together, Elder Brother shared many things to Atsenta about his life, where he helped people and when he failed to follow the way of love toward his fellow human beings.  Atsenta saw clearly how he hurt others and how sometimes his actions hurt himself.  But Elder Brother remained with him and by helping him understand his life, he began to let go of all that kept him from clearly seeing the next world and entering the Great Father’s Long House.

 

Early evening, Beaupré Quebec, June 1916:  

So now Atsenta and Elder Brother stood together in the Church of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré observing Adelard and Eva.  Moments earlier, when they reached Beaupré, Elder Brother announced that Atsenta was now ready to go the Great Father.  But before they turned to go Atsenta had one final question:

“Elder Brother, you told me in our travels together that Ouenta became a woman, took a husband, and had children.”

“Yes… she had children and even now they live scattered about this land.”

“But in our travels, and of all the people we have seen together, it was never revealed to me which ones were my children.  On my last day, may I see at least one of them?”

With that, Elder Brother guided Atsenta into Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Church and pointed to Adelard and Eva, kneeling in front of the Tabernacle.

Elder Brother also looked upon Adelard and Eva with love but then turned to Atsenta and placing a hand gently on his shoulder said: “It is a time of joy my brother, Ouenta and Annengthon await you at the door.”

Atsenta started to turn to go but: “Wait Elder Brother… my son’s wife, Eva, her tears burrow into my heart.  What do they pray for?”

“Children… they have no children…  now come, see Ouenta and Annengthon awaiting by the door.”

At that moment, the doors of the church swung slowly open, reveling an unearthly light, impossibly bright.  Atsenta could make out the silhouette of two women just outside.

Still, Atsenta could not move: “Will their prayer be answered?”

Elder Brother shook his head, “No Atsenta, a child for them will only bring suffering.”

At that, Atsenta finally began to sadly turn and go when Adelard’s right hand slowly moved to cover Eva’s hands. The Gordian knot that made up Eva’s rosary unwound and it fell to the floor as Eva now entwined her fingers into Adelard’s.

The rosary on the floor distracted Eva and she didn’t know what to do next but Adelard reached down, picked it up and wrapped both their hands within the black wooden beads.

“Elder Brother…” Atsenta, didn’t know what to say but the tenderness between his son and Eva transfixed him and again he could not move to the door.  Atsenta then moved closer and stood in front of Eva.  At that moment Adelard looked up as the red candle suddenly flickered.

Atsenta reached out and gently wiped a tear from Eva’s cheek.  Eva only felt a gentle breeze. “Elder Brother see the love within her, so much love, its bursting through her tears.  She suffers because she loves.”

Atsenta finally understood, he suffered these many years with the loss of his child Ouenta.  He suffered because he loved.  But… he would rather have known his daughter for just a few short years and suffer centuries without her than never to have loved her at all.

Atsenta became resolute: “Elder Brother, you say she will suffer, yes, but in this life, Love and Suffering are brothers, traveling together. I have seen it over these years wandering the Earth, there is no true love, without sacrifice, without suffering.  It is a poor miserable human being, who has never suffered for love. I stand with them; I join my prayers with my son and his wife.  My heart stands with them.”

Elder Brother turned around to face to Atsenta: “Do you know what you are asking brother?  Are you wiling to suffer with them? Are you willing to stay with them?”

Atsenta again turned to Adelard and Eva, “Yes Elder Brother, I will stay with them and watch over them, I will experience their joys, their sufferings, theirs and their children’s.”

The door at the end of the church closed, and darkness returned.

Elder Brother reached out and drew Atsenta into his arms: “I can’t stay with you my brother, this journey you must do alone.  Even I don’t know how long you must remain but you cannot follow me to the Great Father’s Long House until one of your children remember you in their prayers.” And with that Atsenta stood alone, unseen, with Adelard and Eva in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Church.

 

Epilogue:  Early Sunday Morning, Our Lady of the Lake Church, Leominster, Massachusetts May 2019:

Atsenta dit Du Plat, Great Bear Chief of the Huron Wendats stood in the church of Our Lady of the Lake transfixed with awe and love at his son Joseph, the great grandson of Adelard and Eva.  Today, he was to be honored by name in the Holy Mass.  His son Joseph, remembered Atsenta, and knew that he was his son and, in his memory, asked that this Mass on this day be said for Atsenta, Ouenta and Annengthon.

A great light burst into the Church at the words of the consecration of the bread and wine: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is My body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of My blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.”

A few moments later, the Priest continued: Remember also those who have died in the peace of Christ and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known.  Especially for Atsenta dit Du Plat, Ouenta and Annengthon, for whom this Mass is offered. To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God…”

At those words, Atsenta felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Ouenta and Annengthon standing by his side.  Then looking beyond them he could see Elder Brother, Adelard and Eva and countless other of his children who have passed on to the Great Father’s Long House.  Atsenta looked at his family, some still in this world, some who have passed on.  But they were here together as one family.  Atsenta looked at them with deep love because they were his children.  With that, Atsenta finally stepped through the doorway.

Postscript:

My mother’s maternal grandparents:  Adelard and Eva St Goddard really did go to to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to pray for a child.   As my mother’s sister Aunt Jean explains:

“The basic story is one I know well – that of Eva and Adelard and their journey to St. Anne de Beaupre.  And we know (according to Memere Eva), that she was pregnant on the return trip.   And, then of course, intense suffering with the death of Vivian (January 1936) at the age of 18; and five years and three months later (April 1, 1941) with the death of Adelard.
From there, one year later (April 11, 1942), her sadness was eased and her life renewed, by the birth of your mother . . . followed of course, by ten more grandchildren.  In 1963, your Mom and Dad married, and you were born 9 months later.  And so on and so on . . .
BUT, after so many years of praying and pleading by Eva and Adelard, what made the difference at St. Anne de Beaupre?  It is true that St. Anne and her husband St. Joachim, were barren for many years, and they prayed and pleaded for a child. And, late in life, Anne became pregnant with Mary, who was in God’s plan to be the Mother of Jesus Christ.  So, St. Anne is the patron saint of “barren” women and troubled pregnancies.”
__________________________________________________________________
Atsenta Dit Du Plat is  what I call a “Super Ancestor” .  I have found five different paths from his daughter Ouenta  (later baptized Catherine) to my mother and her siblings.  In fact three out of four of my mother and her sibling’s grandparents are descendants of Ouenta.  That includes: Phileas Savoie, his wife Isala Meuiner and Adelard St Goddard.  Only Eva is not a descendant of Ouenta .
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The original St. Anne de Beaupre burned to the ground in 1922. The exterior and interior pictures of St. Anne de Beaupre within the blog are from the original Shrine and show how the Shrine would have looked like to Adelard and Eva.  The cover photo is how St. Anne de Beaupre looks today.  Here are some current photos of St. Anne de Beaupre:

Frankenstein Cliff: A Father’s Love from Strength

“I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12

In August of 1969, in the days long before cell phones and GPS, a young, athletic, twenty nine year old man stood at bottom of the trail to Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.  With him were two of his sons, ages five and four.  The man had grown to love the White Mountains while an engineering student at Northeastern University in Boston and for many years, he would treasure  black and white pictures of him and his college buddies climbing Mount Washington.

The young father loved his boys and wanted to share the adventure of the mountains with them. The older one, who was named Joey after his father, was inquisitive and curious.  Intuitive, he could grasp scientific and mathematical concepts that simultaneously astonished and intimidated adults around him.  Joey though, was forgetful, hated details, couldn’t tie his shoes, and would struggle with the mundane.  The same adults around him, at those times, would find Joey exasperating.  The younger boy Davy,  nicknamed “Muggsy” by his father, loved to throw rocks.  Muggsy also had an uncanny sense of direction in the woods.  Naturally fearless, he always wanted to be the trailblazer on any expedition.  His jet black hair, ruddy cheeks and and dark eyes made him irresistible to the adults around him.  Muggsy would also have a tendency to disappear on his own adventures leaving a trail of broken windows (darn rocks) doors taken off hinges and other expensive household disasters.  It was safe to say, that while Muggsy was irresistibly lovable, the adults around him would also find him exasperating,  just like his brother.  But the young father loved those boys, and that is why he now stood at the trail head of Frankenstein Cliff, in August of 1969.

The father with his two young boys camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Muggsy on the left, Joey on the right.

The father studied the roughly drawn map in front of him…

and then with Muggsy blazing the trail and Joey at his side asking questions, the father entered the woods.

Passing underneath Frankenstein Trestle promoted questions from Joey; When will a train be coming? Will we be OK under the track? Will it smoke?  Why do trains smoke?  Muggsy looked around for a rock that would fit into his hand.  Leaving the trestle behind, the trail became steep and the boys scrambled up on all fours.  A small rock would  occasionally kick lose and tumble down the mountain.  The boys should have felt scared but didn’t.  Joey and Muggsy trusted their father and felt safe with him. The father’s strength emanated from him, protecting the boys and they always felt invincible within their father’s love.   As they continued to climb, the father would occasionally reach down and pull up the boys to the next ledge along the trail.  Throughout his life, the father always had a soft spot for the underdog and would reach out to lift up the vulnerable around him.

At the top, the little group stopped to rest and enjoy the view of the White Mountains and Crawford Notch spread out below them.  Joey had to know the name of every mountain, wanted to know if there was a trail up it, which mountain was the highest and how high it was.  Muggsy found a nice rock and tossed it over the side of the cliff and listened for the crash below.

After a snack, the father led his boys further on the trail past the cliff. Did they miss the turn off loop to the bottom?  Did the father over estimate the length of the trail ahead?  No one knows but hours later, the father and his boys would find themselves back on the road many miles north of the campground where they were staying.  With cell phones still decades in the future, the father started the trek south along the road.  Surely,  someone would give them a ride back to the campground and the father would turn around and stick his thumb out with every passing car.

No one gave them a ride.  Car after car would ride on by the father and his two very young sons.  They boys were tired by this time and the father would alternate with one boy on his shoulders and the other by his side, hand in hand.  The father never complained, or cursed the drivers, or felt bad for himself.  In fact, for his whole life no one ever heard him say anything negative about anyone.   But the father never forgot walking along that road, with his boys, mile after mile, with no one giving them a ride.  For the rest of his life, as long as he was able, the father would always give a ride to strangers thumbing it on the side of the road.  Some of them were blind, one in New Hampshire was a philosophy graduate student, another was a British man in his twenties touring  the country with just a backpack and a deck of cards.  Some were just people needing a ride.  In any case, the father never passed anyone in need on the road like others had done to him.

It was many years later and the father was awoken from an uneasy sleep by a chime beside his bed.  His worried thoughts would never let him sleep as deep or as long as he wanted to now.  The chime rang again and the father struggled to sit himself up on the side of the bed.  He put his glasses on and looked at the clock: 1:22 AM.  The father carefully swung his feet on to the floor and balanced himself.

He slept in the basement and his boy’s room was on the second floor and so he readied himself for the climb up the two flights of stairs.  Racked with the illnesses of old age, the man who climbed Mt Washington years ago now struggled to walk across the room, much less two flights of stairs.  But as he did many times over the last few months, the father went up the stairs and made it to the boy’s door.

Cracking the door open he could see Muggsy’s hair by the hall light. His hair was amazingly still thick and jet black for his forty-eight years .  As the door widened, Muggsy’s dark eyes came into view, just barely visible above his full CPAP mask.  Relief was shown in Muggsy’s eyes as he recognized his father.  Muggsy could not throw any rocks anymore, much less walk.  He could barely move his finger to ring the chime to his father’s room.  ALS had taken everything from Muggsy, everything but love, and that love emanated from his father at the door.

Muggsy’s requests  for help would come on all hours and quite often more than once a night.  Tonight, the father had to lift his boy and adjust his position on the bed.  It was tiring but the father never complained and he never failed to answer the chime.  The old father loved his boy, and that is why he sat beside his bed and held his hand, in August of 2013.

Years passed and Joey now stood alone at the foot of the Frankenstein Cliff trail.  As he stood there trying to see the cliff from the parking lot it suddenly occurred to him that he was now old enough to be his father’s father when the three of them stood here fifty years ago.  This thought quickly lead to another one: that he was the last person on this Earth who has any first hand knowledge what happened that day.  Muggsy died from ALS in November of 2013 and his father passed away last January.  The memory of that hike suddenly felt fragile.  Trying to reclaim it, Joey took a few tentative steps into the forest and stood looking up the trail.  He hoped that by standing on the trail and intersecting himself with this place of memory he would also intersect himself with that moment of time fifty years ago…and remember.   Alas, no new memories would come.  Nevertheless, Joey stood there, remembering his father’s love.  The father who loved them enough to drive three hours to the White Mountains to camp and take them on an adventure in the woods.  Joey loved his father and honored him.  And that is why he now stood at the trail head of Frankenstein Cliff, in August of 1969, 2019.

“It is only when you grow up and step back from him- or leave him for your own home- it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. “ Margret Thruman

Joey, Dad and Muggsy, 1969

For Dad: Thank you for all your love and for passing on to me your love of the mountains. I miss you…

Postscript:

All Things Must Pass
Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up
And has left you with no warning
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this my love is up
And must be leaving
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So I must be on my way
And face another day
Now the darkness only stays at night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good
At arriving at the right time
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away
Written by George Harrison, released by George Harrison 1970

And then, he was Answered

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Saint Augustine

I was born in 1964 and I had a child’s view of growing up in the 1960’s.   Even though it was a time of change and turmoil, my perspectives of the 1960s are to this day influenced by watching and observing  my mother’s ten teenage siblings.   I was the first grandchild and growing up among them I felt loved and protected.  They imprinted on to me with their actions and attitudes a sense of optimism,  hopefulness and compassion.  The expectation was that a new world of love and kindness was on the horizon and that all people were brothers and sisters.
Me sitting on top of the shoulders of my Uncle Paul. From left to right some of Mom’s siblings, Uncle Dave, Uncle Paul and me, Aunt Marian, Aunt Annie, Aunt Teresa, and my brother Davy. Taken in North Attleboro MA circa 1967

My young aunts and uncles shared their music with me.  I was enraptured by the drama of the Beatles; haunted by the character of Tommy by The Who; puzzled by how Alice Copper could by a guy with a girl’s name; and I was curious of the story behind the gnomes surrounding a bearded George Harrison on the cover of “All things Must Pass”.

And now, at 55, I see that it so true, all things must pass.  With the eyes of middle age, I find myself circling back to a song by popular 60’s rock band The Moody Blues: The Balance.

The song is really a poem… a poem of journey,  introspection, understanding…of questions and of answers.  A reflection of it’s time, The Balance addresses the universal struggle of how we relate to our fellow human beings and how positive change begins within ourselves first.  Like other 60s anthems, it ends on a note of optimism and it acknowledges, if only indirectly, that humans are spiritual creatures living in a mysterious spiritual world.

Metaphorically, we are The Balance’s journeyer in the poem.  We are at times tired, our feet are sore and we need respite and time for reflection.

Sometimes, within the coolness of an orange grove,  we can reflect on the magnificent perfection that is life and the world around us. Tasting it, experiencing it, we see and understand that Creation is Good.  Acknowledging this, we then seek to place ourselves in balance  within Creation.

Finding our balance, we are inspired to ask… but the answer is not given yet.  Although we don’t have the answer, the very act of asking opens us to an opportunity of introspection:

And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not a evil man,
It’s painful to see ourselves the way we are, how we have been the cause of the unhappiness of others, even if we don’t mean to be cruel.  But now we have an understanding of ourselves and that empowers us to compassion and empathy.  We can see others with the “eye of compassion” and realize to our joy we can be a source of comfort and happiness to others.  Compassion leads us to Love.  It is only within Love that we are finally answered.
Love is God… God is Love
The Balance
After he had journeyed,
And his feet were sore,
And he was tired,
He came upon an orange grove
And he rested.
And he lay in the cool,
And while he rested,
He took to himself an orange
And tasted it,
And it was good.
And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked,
And he saw the tree above him,
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light,
And the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not a evil man,
And he understood.
He understood himself.
Upon this
He saw that when he was of anger
Or knew hurt
Or felt fear,
It was because he was not understanding.
And he learned, compassion.
And with his eye of compassion
He saw his enemies
Like unto himself,
And he learned Love.
Then, he was answered.
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
Lyrics by Graeme Edge / Ray Thomas.  Narrated by Mike Pinder
Released by The Moody Blues in 1970

PostScript:

The pictures in the video were taken by myself over the course of one day this past week. The Mountain is Mt Greylock in Massachusetts.  The sunset pictures were taken from the Western Slope of Savoy Mountain overlooking North Adams and Williamstown Massachusetts.  As I sat on the mountain top watching the sunset I thought of my grandfather Roland Savoie, my father Joseph A Bolton and my brother Davy.   All three of them have passed away and but they are closely tied in my mind with the Berkshires.  My father used to take my brother and I camping at Savoy Mountain, my grandfather lived in North Adams and Williamstown.  He loved the Berkshires and would often drive us kids up Mt Greylock.

As I thought of them, and took the pictures of the sunset, I noticed some unusual pictures.  One has a perfect equilateral  black triangle in the sky over the setting sun. The black triangle faded away but came back later only now it was surrounded by a much larger white equilateral triangle.  Although this was a natural but very unusual phenomenon, it made me think of Dad, Pepere and Davy.  The three sided black triangle reminded me that the three of them were in Heaven.  The black triangle surrounded by the much larger white triangle reminded me that not only were they in heaven, but that they are surrounded by the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, represented by the white triangle surrounding them.  Take a look at the video again and see for yourself!

Henri Membertou: To love and to be loved

As I have grown in my faith and in my knowledge of my ancestors through genealogical research, the concepts of “Community of Saints” and “family” have merged and overlapped with each other.  In turn, as I have sat in front of the Eucharist at the church, I have become aware, through my eyes of faith, that where Jesus is, so are the saints and my family members in heaven.  At this moment, I feel closer to my family members who have passed away like my brother Davy and my father.

My thoughts move on to other members of my family that I have never met but are present also, some of whom died just before I was born like my great uncle Brother Donald and my great-grandparents.  Others are more distant ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago.  All one family, sitting at the table.

June 24th, (Saint John the Baptist Day) has brought to mind my 12h great grandfather, Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Henri Membertou.  Father Jessé Fléché baptized him into the Catholic faith on this day in 1610 in present day Nova Scotia.  Pepere Henri was a remarkable man; he lived to be 104 years old and even at his advanced age had no grey or white hair.  He was a large, vigorous man who kept his health and sharp mind to the end of his life.  It was dysentery, not the ravages of old age, that ended his life on September 18th, 1611.

Pepere Henri loved his family and the Mi’kmaq culture and saw his faith in the context of Mi’kmaq life.  He insisted that the French learn the Algonquian Mi’kmaq language and signed a special relationship with the Catholic Church, the Mi’kmaw Concordat.  He also wrote music and three songs of his are the first transcribed music compositions that originated in the Americas.  His defense of Mi’kmaq culture contributed to the preservation of the Mi’kmaq language today.

Like many of my other ancestors though, Pepere Henri was a times a contrarian.  He kept a beard throughout his life when other Mi’kmaq men removed any facial hair.  In a society where polygamy was the norm, he had only one wife.  His large stature, good health and incredible age when most people only lived to their early fifties must have seemed super human to those around him.

Above all else, though, Pepere Henri was a man who radiated love to those around him.  At his death, Jesuit Father Baird gave the finest eulogy that any person can aspire to: “They loved him, and were loved by him. He was the greatest, most renowned, and most formidable Aboriginal within the memory of man.”

They loved him, and were loved by him. In that simple statement is the summation of what it means to have lived a good life.  It is family in the broadest sense.  All of us, sitting around the table, with Jesus in the center, loving each other and being loved by Him.

Last, I leave you with a recording of a song composed by Pepere Henri Membertou.  Take a moment, remember this great man, and listen the voice of his heart:

 

 

postscript: here is the Our Father in Mi’kmaq

 

Here is a link to Henri Membertou’s transcribed songs

https://www.flutopedia.com/song_Membertou.htm

Henri Membertou’s last words were directed to his children: It was his hope “that they would live Christian lives”.  I believe that wish has been passed down to every member of his family down to my grandfather Roland Savoie, his siblings and my mother and her siblings.

104 years old? Henri claimed to have met recalled meeting French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534 as well as  Samuel de Champlain .

The Dream of Lone Tree Hill

In my dream I was sitting under a lone tree on top of a hill.  It was warm, and a gentle breeze blew across the hilltop. Sitting across from me was Jesus.  He smiled, and we sat together, enjoying the moment. I felt peace, joy and a sense of contentment such that I didn’t want to leave.

I began to feel uneasy though, unworthy of the moment. Reflecting back on my life, I knew I didn’t deserve the Lord’s loving attention. I’ve been far from Him, I was certainly a sinner.  Why I wondered, did the Lord seek me out?  Why did he go through so much trouble to find me? I had to understand this… So I asked Him: Lord, why me? Why did you draw me to Yourself… as weak and sinful as I am? I know I have offended You Lord, many times in my life.

The Lord looked intently at me smiling and said simply, as if it was the most obvious thing in the universe, “Because you have sprung from the very heart of my Mercy”  My reaction was “What?? I don’t understand.” I want to ask the Lord more but at that moment I unwillingly woke up, beginning yet another hectic day.

But even in the daily distractions of life, I pondered the meaning of what the Lord told me in my dream.  It was so unexpected.  When I asked Him my question, I was looking for an answer along the lines of: “Because you are My child”…. “Because I love you”… or that it was because of something good that I did that earned His attention.

Because you have sprung from the very heart of my Mercy…. As I continued to reflect on this, some insights became clearer.  God is Mercy and Love itself and therefore our creation and existence is a direct consequence of His very nature. We are not an afterthought of creation, but we have sprung up from the heart of God’s Love like water from a fountain.  As such, God is more father or mother to us than any human parent could be. For God to say to us: “because you are my child” would only do partial justice to the deep level of intimacy and dignity that each of us have because we have sprung from the very heart of God’s Mercy and Love.  It’s for this reason that the Lord is always trying to draw us back to Himself.  As human parents, we would do anything for our children, even giving our lives for them.  Jesus, like a true father, gave everything of Himself, to include dying for us on the cross.

Jesus, as true God and true Man, has a human heart too.  He feels and understands the pains and heartaches of human parents.  Have you lost a child?  Remember that Jesus wept at the death of His friend Lazarus.  Are you estranged from your children?  Remember that Jesus was inconsolable when His apostles, each of whom were loved dearly by Him, abandoned, denied and betrayed Him.  Do you have a child who is struggling with a serious illness?  Think back to Jesus, His heart full of pity and compassion, laying hands on lepers and healing those who had no one to help them.

So what about the dream? It is real?  Is Jesus talking to me through dreams?  Or was it just my deep imagination?  I don’t know… and it’s not important that I know or even worry about.  It would be a great burden if Jesus required us to seek Him though signs and portents and having to sort through what is real and what isn’t.  Thankfully, He makes it easy for us to find Him. 

Before I had this dream of Jesus under the tree on top of the hill I had several dreams of sitting in Church in front the Eucharist.  In those dreams I felt the same joy, peace and contentment that I felt in my dream with Jesus under the tree.  The connection seems clear: whether I see Jesus while sitting at His feet under a tree or kneeling at His feet in front of the Eucharist at Church the experience is fundamentally the same.  This is Jesus’s great gift to us.

There, in front of the Eucharist, we don’t have to wonder if He is really there or if our experience of Him is real.  He is truly present for us.  Kneeling before Him, we can behold the imponderable mystery of our beginning and our end within the very heart of God’s Love and Mercy.  Before us in the Eucharist is the human heart of Jesus, true God but also true Man, who smiles at us because we came to spend time with Him.  Like Martha and Lazarus’s sister Mary, we too can sit with Jesus anytime we wish and we don’t have to wait for a dream or a sign to experience Him.

The Chapel inside the Poor Clare Monastery

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Gospel of Luke

The Vocation of a Soldier, Service and the Act of Love

…the soldier ought to train himself in every variety of change and irregularity, and, above all, to bring himself to endure hunger and the loss of sleep without difficulty.” Plutarch

Warfare has always been a part of the human condition and throughout recorded history philosophers and historians have taken a paradoxical, perhaps even schizophrenic take on warfare.  On one hand ancient historians, philosophers and theologians have debated the causes of war, recorded it horrific effects and the morality of governments employing warfare .  On the other hand, people have always been fascinated by the drama of war and our common myths  and histories have reflected this.  Greek historian Thucydides  recorded the horrors of a world-wide thirty year-long Greek civil war (The Peloponnesian Wars) with its terrors of mass destruction of cities, disease and famine while Herodotus records the heroism of outnumbered Greeks defending their polis and families from Xerxes’s Persian armies.   We have been enthralled with the mythical heroism, tragedy and yes, adventure of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey as well as the true adventure of Greek general Xenophon’s successful evacuation of ten thousand Greek mercenary soldiers under his command from deep behind enemy lines in Persia.   War brings out the best, and the worst of us and does so with cold honesty.  As Julius Caesar noted,  the stress of combat would crack open the truth of a man’s hidden inner strengths, virtues and weakness for all to see.  As he observed in the heat of battle:  “It was the hour that proclaimed the man.”

But war had its heroes too and ancient historians noted that war also held the lure of adventure and personnel glory.  It is a recurring theme in Plutarch’sLives of Noble Greeks and Romans” that talented men sought leadership in war as a means of adventure and political ambition.   However, some of Plutarch’s noble Greeks and Romans had more altruistic motives:  Roman General Titus Flamininus  lead an army into Greece, not as a conqueror, but a liberator.  He freed Greece from the invading tyrant King Phillip of Macedonia and took great satisfaction in “reconciling Greeks with Greeks.”

Flamininus  himself sought war only to bring about a more just peace.  Plutarch lauds him as a man of courage and wisdom who knew not only the art of war “but how  to employ that success [of war] to generous and honest purposes.”  Flamininus was one of the first practitioners of nation building and encouraged the newly liberated Greeks to “obedience to law, of constant justice, and unity, and friendship with one another. “

The New Testament has two other examples of soldiers serving in a foreign land engaging in “nation building” with the Roman Centurion of Capernaum from Luke’s Gospel and the Roman Centurion Cornelius in the Acts of the Apostles.  As you read through the accounts below notice how the Centurion’s acts of charity towards the Jewish people are acts of love not just duty.  Even more startling,  neither Jesus or the Apostle Peter ask these men to leave the Roman Army  even as they follow God! The Roman Officers’ faith in God and their love of their follow human beings are totally compatible and interwoven into their responsibilities as soldiers and leaders.  The implication is that a soldier,  serving with justice and love toward others, is a vocation.

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Luke Chapter 7 v 1-10

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman Army.  He and his whole household were pious, Gentile God-worshippers. He gave generously to those in need among the Jewish people and prayed to God constantly. One day at nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, he clearly saw an angel from God in a vision. The angel came to him and said, “Cornelius!”Startled, he stared at the angel and replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said, “Your prayers and your compassionate acts are like a memorial offering to God. Send messengers to Joppa at once and summon a certain Simon, the one known as Peter.  From the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 10

As I reflect on Titus Famininus, and the two Roman Centurions I recall an insightful and illuminating incident early in my deployment to Afghanistan.  When I first arrived in February of 2006, I like most of my fellow soldiers were filled with thoughts of our upcoming year-long deployment.  We faced a year of danger, hard work and long hours away from our families and comforts of home.  Although we were not filled with self-pity, we were for the moment self focused.  All of that changed when a slightly heavy-set older Afghan man in a rumbled suit insisted on speaking at our commanding general’s assumption of mission ceremony in Bagram Afghanistan.  Our general was visibly flustered being pushed off the center stage.  After all, it was his moment.  He was going to lead American soldiers into battle and it was his right to sound the charge!
The 10th Mountain Division assumes command of Military operations in Afghanistan, Feb 2006

Into this breach of protocol this quiet, unassuming man stepped up to the podium.  He was the Afghan Minister of Defense, Abdul Rahim Wardak and his heart-felt, unprepared remarks changed my perspective on the year ahead in an unexpected way.

He began by saying how amazed he was at the dedication of the American military for traveling thousands of miles from their homes and families, especially since he lived in a country were most people rarely ventured a few miles from the village they were born in.  It was nice of him to notice our sacrifices to deploy to Afghanistan but what he said next changed everything:

The People of Afghanistan are touched by the generosity and bravery of Americans. … Their willingness to leave their families, to sacrifice even their lives so that the people of Afghanistan can have a better future. I am touched by such love and I can only hope that the people of Afghanistan will show themselves worthy of such love shown to them.

– Abdul Rahim Wardak February 2006

I was stunned,  In the mist of war, this man talked about love.  How sacrifice on behalf of those we served as soldiers was love.  From that moment on thru the rest of my deployment, I vowed to see my service in Afghanistan as an opportunity to practice love and not ever allow myself a moment of focus on my circumstances.  Thank you Mr. Wardak, for your words of wisdom and for having the courage to speak out that day even though it ruffled the pomp and circumstance of the moment.

A young boy seeks shelter behind a soldier with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division after gunshots rang out at the scene where just a few minutes earlier a suicide car bomber blew himself up in a busy commercial district in central Baghdad on Monday, May 28, 2007, killing at least 21 people and wounding 66, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed )

Post Script:

I want to take a moment to thank all of my family members who have served with love and honor in the military over the years. They were not only good soldiers, but more importantly they were, and are, good men.

  • Brother David Bolton Lt. Colonel (US Army): Gulf War
  • Brother Peter Bolton Staff Sergeant (US Army): Cold War
  • Cousin John Heslin Lt. Colonel (US Air Force): Afghanistan
  • Cousin Jim Heslin Captain (US Army): Cold War
  • Uncle Thomas Savoie Lt. Colonel (US Army):  Cold War
  • Uncle Paul Savoie  Technical Sergeant (US Air Force) Cold War
  • Uncle Jack Heslin Lt. Colonel (US Army)  multiple tours Vietnam
  • Great Uncle James Bolton Sergeant (USMC)  India and Pacific WWII
  • Great Uncle Thomas Bolton Chief Petty Officer (US Navy) WWII Pacific theater, only survivor of the USS Bain
  • Great Uncle Raymond  Gaffney  Sergeant (US Army)  WWII
  • 5th Great Grandfather Laurent De Soly, Spanish soldier served with a Swiss Regiment in Ft. Louisbourg, Acadia, Canada
  • 18th Great Grandfather Amadeus VI Count of Savoy (Crusades)
  • 47th Great Grandfather Flavius Richomeres General (Roman Army):  At Adrianople he tried to persuade Roman Emperor Valens to wait on additional forces for support before engaging the Goths. When the Gothic leader Fritigern demanded hostages to secure peace from the Romans Flavius Richomeres volunteered and departed the Roman camp to bring the other hostages safely to Fritigern, but before he arrived some elements of the two armies got out of control and engaged, starting the famous Battle of Adrianople. Richomeres ended up at a battlefield in complete chaos but he saved himself and a portion of the Roman Army from annihilation by withdrawing. However the Roman army of Valens was largely destroyed and many officers fell including emperor Valens.

My Uncle Jack is certainly one of my heroes.  When I was a child during the Vietnam War, he took on an almost mythical in stature. He is also a dedicated historian of the Vietnam and hosts an informative website on the Battle of Kontum late in the Vietnam war.  If you have served in Vietnam, or the military or just  have a deep respect of what our Vietnam veterans sacrificed for our country then please visit his website. http://thebattleofkontum.com/

It has all of the drama, tragedy and heroism worthy of Plutarch, Thucydides , Herodotus and Xenophon.

“I Love”: A Sanctifying Response to Adversity

Humility is a genuine sense of your place in the universe and understanding that it is OK to play a quiet, supportive role in the lives of others.      -Paul David Hewson

When I was young my memories of my grandfather, Joseph A Bolton II, or “Granddad” as he was known to us, were straight forward and simple:

-He especially loved the Red Sox as well as all Boston sports teams

-He liked to laugh and joke

-He was strong and could still beat me in an arm wrestle when I was a teenager

-He was always willing to give a hug

-He would give us each a quarter to “go get some ice cream” at Bliss Bros Dairy in Attleboro MA at the end of our visits with him

Granddad’s life was beset by tragedy and missed opportunities.  A gifted student who loved school, Granddad was heartbroken when his father pulled him out at sixteen to get a job to support the family. Two years later, the Red Sox invited him to try out in spring training.  A talented catcher, he seemed destined to be a great professional baseball player. His father, however, would not give him the money or his permission to take the train to the try outs. Granddad begged on his knees to no avail.

My Grandfather Joe Bolton as a catcher (first row on left) on the Hebronville (Attleboro Massachusetts) youth baseball team
Joe and Teresa Bolton wedding October 1938

He married my grandmother in October instead of waiting until the following spring so he could get her out of a dangerous home situation.

My grandparents share a laugh a few months before they were married

 They were still a young couple when their married life was radically altered when my grandmother became an invalid.  Suddenly Granddad had four  children and a wife to take care of.  This meant doing all of the house cleaning, cooking, and washing on top of working up to three jobs.  A lesser man would have folded and an average man might have persevered only grudgingly. Granddad never complained and with a quiet cheerfulness supported his family.  He tenderly loved and cared for my grandmother always.

A strong and handsome man, he was loyal to his wife in thought and deed and never felt that he was “entitled” to look for companionship elsewhere.  Later in life, tragedy struck again when his beloved older brother Eddie died just before I was born.

Eddie Bolton (L) and my Grandfather on the right

Granddad had a strong sense of justice and fairness. One night, dressed in a tuxedo walking to a boxing match in Providence, he saw a group of men roughing up a teen aged boy. Unlike some of his more pugnacious brothers, Granddad never looked for a fight.  Given the odds, no one would blame him if he walked on by on the other side of the street. But Granddad’s courage matched his sense of fair play and he jumped into the middle of the men and took them on allowing the boy escape and call the police.

Granddad understood the proper roles in the family and the importance that respect for your elders plays in them. For example, he was charitable to his father in law, even though he was not a good man.  One summer at the beach, my father struck my grandmother’s brother Harold who was teasing and bullying him.  My grandfather’s sense of the natural order of things would not let my father escape punishment for hitting his uncle.  However, Granddad understood that justice had been served to Harold when afterward he pulled my father aside and explained that while he had to spank him, he thought that Uncle Harold had that slug coming to him.

The Bolton family camping on Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts. My father is on the far left foreground with infamous Uncle Harold lurking in the back.
The Bolton Family on their annual vacation on Horseneck Beach. Left to right, my father, Nana, Granddad, and in the front, Aunt Patty, Aunt Gerri and Uncle Ray.

Granddad’s unwavering dedication and sacrifice for his family, his generosity, sense of justice and perseverance proclaimed him a good man. To be a saint though, there was one more thing that set him apart: every day, even thru all the jobs, caring and cleaning he had to do, Granddad still made time to kneel at his bedside and say the Rosary.

The last couple of years of his life Granddad suffered with a relapse of stomach cancer. Two days before he died, Granddad had a dream of heaven.  As he explains; “there were all these bright lights, and my mother was there. I kept yelling for my brother Eddie and my mother would reassure me that Eddie was right here.” The day before he died, he hung up his best suit on his bedroom door and placed his rosary in the pocket of the jacket. The next day, he signed his will and within minutes he had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital.

His last words perfectly encapsulated his response to all life gave him as a brother, husband, father, grandfather, and yes, saint:

“I love”

 

Postscript:

Who is Paul David Hewson? Here is a picture of him receiving communion at a Mass in Bogota after a concert.

Mr. Hewson is also known as Bono from the Irish band U2.  My thanks to my cousin Tom Savoie for sharing the quote at the top of the page and helping to inspire this blog post.

 

Because the unexamined life isn't worth living