This column is so Catholic, I can’t imagine the comments being that “JOOOOOO!!!!”-y, but…
Being a Vatican II baby meant I otherwise hadn’t been steeped in these sagas. The only saints we learned about in the 1970s were the Canadian Martyrs, and only because of the “Canadian” part. In my childhood, the 17th-century Sainte-Marie among the Hurons site was on (ironically) “the cutting edge of modern museology”:
On school trips, you sat in the dark watching a short (although it seemed really long) movie about Jean de Brébeuf converting Indians and getting killed, and then THE PROJECTION SCREEN WALL ROLLED UP—gasps of “Wow!”—the sun came in, and you strode outside onto the restored mission grounds!
(Pretty much everyone who grew up within three hours of me who is reading this is going, “Yes!!!” right now, so PS: “Irv Weinstein.”)
(PPS: They don’t show that particular movie at the Martyrs’ Shrine anymore. I presume it’s been deemed “problematic.” BUT you can still see Brébeuf’s smashed-in skull under glass! Wicked!)
What I couldn’t fit in — from Kathleen Norris’s classic essay in Martyrs that later reappeared in her bestseller The Cloister Walk:
A recent Newsweek contains a grim account of a married couple in Canada who habitually kidnapped, tortured, raped and sometimes murdered teenage girls. Because they videotaped their victims, the defiance of one fifteen-year-old, Kristen French, is on record. “Ordered to perform a particular sex act,” the article notes, “she refused, insisting, ‘Some things are worth dying for.’” The girl never gave in, even when her tormenters showed her the videotaped death of another of their victims. (…)
The mystery of holiness infuses such defiance. I am haunted by the idea that Kristen French’s killers may have responded to this spark of holiness in her. They had dismembered the corpse of a fourteen-year-old girl they’d killed the year before. It was a videotape of her death that they showed to Kristen French in an attempt to intimidate her into submission. This may signify nothing at all, but it is the stuff of hagiography: The body of Kristen French they buried intact.