As so often in the past, we came back again this year to the shrine of the North American martyrs in Auriesville, New York (west of Albany) for a personal “pilgrimage.” The time was right – it was the Saturday before the feast of St. Isaac Jogues on October 19. The fall weather and the foliage were magnificent. Only the temperature was distinctly on the chilly side – snow fell the next day. That’s the reason the “Pilgrimage for the Restoration” – which originally took place at this time – was pushed back to September.
(Above and below) A strange, sacred calm prevails here in the “offseason.” That is particularly so in the Ravine – the holiest part of the shrine – where Rene Goupil was martyred.
(above) The deserted second shrine church from the 1890’s. Only a handful of visitors could be found on the grounds of the Auriesville shrine this brilliant Saturday afternoon. The shrine “welcome center” and bookstore were “closed for the season.” Signs of neglect abound: outdoor stations of the cross have been knocked over here and there; a a large cross formed of pine trees created to advertise the shrine to the nearby thruway is sadly overgrown. Yet the brooding silence is welcome relief from the daily reports of the unfolding chaos of the synod in Rome.
(Above and below). After 120 years the Jesuits are giving up at the end of this year care of the Shrine of the North American Martyrs. “We’re moving on!” one of them proudly told us. Who will take over the spiritual care for the shrine is uncertain at this time. But this year money has become available – from the Knights of Columbus, among others – for some urgently needed repainting in the main church. And it seems that “master sculptor” Timothy P. Schmalz has obtained two or three big commissions.
(Below) It seems that the modest Victorian statuary of the past no longer suffices. The new funds are a mixed blessing indeed.
(Above) As the Catholic Church contracts, the Buddhists expand. Some years ago the Jesuits sold or leased the former Jesuit retreat house to a Chinese sect. They have expanded, constructing a pagoda-like tower peering over the shrine and a very Chinese-looking gate. The Buddhists have also gotten into disputes with the shrine over non-payment of utilities and the use of an access road (below – the “Father” is the Jesuit head of the shrine). What happens next is anyone’s guess. In the last few years, confronted with decreasing numbers of visitors (and correspondingly diminishing donations), the Jesuits responded by restricting or excluding Traditionalist pilgrimages. We would hope the new management of the Shrine of the North American Martyrs adopts a more Christian approach – and shows more energy in promoting what should be focal point of Catholicism on the East Coast.