Wednesday 19 October 2022

Joseph the Huron - Antoinette Bosco - Portraits in Faith and Freedom

Joseph the Huron 
Portraits in Faith and Freedom
Norman Pomerantz (Illustrator)
Bethlehem Books
ISBN 9781932350623

I was asked if I had ever read and reviewed any books in this series. I had not and this one immediately grabbed my attention, not that several others did not as well also. I was asked by someone who had enjoyed my reviews of the Encounter the Saints books by Pauline Books and Media, and who was following now my reviews on the Vision Books for Young Readers now from Ignatius Press. This volume was originally published in 1961 by P. J. Kenedy & Sons. This edition from Bethlehem Books is revised, it has added maps, and other additional material. It is part of the Portraits in Faith and Freedom series and is part of Set 5 Missionaries On The Frontier. Based on how good this volume was I see myself reading all in the set and likely all in the whole series.

The description of this volume is:

“Much like an unexpected buried treasure, this narrative of a young Huron man has come to light again today. “Chiwatenwa’s” story, recaptured by author Antoinette Bosco from the records of the earliest Jesuit missionaries in Canada, portrays the man (who would one day be christened “Joseph”) in the fascinating details of his tribal culture. Chiwatenwa, strong and manly, had avoided the wife-trading, idle gambling and questionable superstitions of his peers. In 1637, at the arrival of Father Jean de Brebeuf, he heard the Christian faith explained and, recognizing in it the goodness and truth he had intuitively sought, he asked for baptism. “Joseph the Believer” becomes an evangelist within his own people, interpreting the Jesuits’ message to the Hurons in language and images relatable to their traditions—and producing openness among some, anger from others. In Joseph Chiwatenwa the life of faith is on trial before his family and native people, with the verdict in the balance. Joseph’s story witnesses dramatically to the contest within human souls and even nations; it points to a goal beyond the limits of one’s own culture: the encounter of man with the fullness of truth.”

The chapters in this volume are:

Title Page and Notes
1. The-People-of-One-Land-Apart
2. The Pact with Evil
3. The Coming of Echon
4. The Believer
5. Prophecy of Doom
6. The Canoe Brings Terror
7. The Demon Strikes!
8. The Council Votes
9. The Rescuer
10. The Shadows Grow Long
11. Attack in the Woods
12. The Favor from Heaven
About the Author
Historical Insights

At the beginning of the volume are several sections they are:

Web Resources
Author’s Note
Principal Persons and Places

Those sections at the beginning of the book are excellent for helping young readers, for use in the classroom or for home schooling. The downloadable resources are top quality. And the additional information at both the beginning and end of the story are greatly beneficial for readers of all ages. There are several subjects in this series that I am familiar with a few I have read a number of books about. This was my first in depth encounter with Joseph the Huron. I devoured this volume over 2 sittings on consecutive days. I just could not put it down. It is a story of the faith and devotion of the Black Robes the early Jesuit Missionaries and of the early converts to Christianity.

The writing is engaging, and the biography is masterfully written. It was well researched, and the authors notes and supplemental material supports that emphatically. It is a moving story of faith, commitment and following God. In the Historical insights section, we are informed that:

“Internet research on Joseph will reward the researcher with a few additional facts about his life. As you search, keep in mind that there are alternate spellings of Joseph’s Huron name. “Chiwatenwa” will give you one set of results, “Chiwatenha” will yield another, and “Chiwahtenha” a third. For an especially rewarding (and lengthy) piece, look up “Friends of God: The Early Native Huron Church in Canada.” This article contains the complete text of that long prayer composed by Joseph which is quoted in Joseph the Huron.”

The final paragraph of that section states:

“We might wonder why there apparently was no process launched for the eventual beatification and canonization of Joseph Chiwatenwa. He seems at least as worthy as St. Kateri Tekakwitha of this honor. The reasons are many and complex. The troubles faced by the Jesuits in Canada from the French/English/Indian wars led to their eventual expulsion from Canada by the victorious English and the seizure of all their property. Not long afterward, political intrigue in the Vatican brought about a suppression of the order which lasted for 40 years. Given these factors, it is remarkable that the causes of the North American martyrs (Isaac Jogues, Jean Brebeuf, and others) and eventually, that of Kateri Tekakwitha, were ever revived and completed. It is also understandable that the memory of a native martyr from the decimated Huron tribe came near to being lost altogether. Though Joseph may never be raised to the ranks of official saints, that should not stop any of us from remembering him, imitating his virtues, and asking his intercession in prayer. Indeed, the existence of these unofficial saints, whose lives we discover like hidden treasure, is heartening. They are signs that sanctity is not the purview of a chosen few, but the goal for all of us.”

And I could not agree more. I hope one day this story will be as well known as that of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. This book appears to bring back into bring a volume that is a great read for tweens and teens today. It is also an important read for us older folks. The example of Joseph’s faith is at times chilling. It was a very inspiring read. This is a volume any Catholic would benefit from reading and it leaves you desperate to read others in the set and the series. An excellent read I can easily recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books in the Portraits in Faith and Freedom Series:
Set 1: Founding Voices For Freedom In The U.S.
Charles Carroll and the American Revolution - Milton Lomask
Priest, Patriot and Leader: The Story of Archbishop Carroll - Eva K. Betz
Mathew Carey: Pamphleteer for Freedom - Jane F. Hindman

Set 2: Polish Advocates Of Hope And Nationhood
The Lion of Poland: The Story of Paderewski - Ruth and Paul Hume

Set 3: Spanish And Mexican Heroes
The Sea Tiger: The Story of Pedro Menéndez - Frank Kolars

Set 4: Women Of Faith And Courage
Star of the Mohawk: Kateri Tekakwitha - Francis MacDonald
Margaret Haughery: Bread Woman of New Orleans - Flora Strousse
The Door of Hope: The Story of Katharine Drexel - Katherine Burton

Set 5: Missionaries On The Frontier
Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure - Elizabeth Bartelme
Frontier Priest and Congressman: Father Gabriel Richard, S.S. - Brother Alois
Black Robe Peacemaker: Pierre De Smet - J. G. E. Hopkins

Set 6: New York Ambassadors Of Brotherhood
Pierre Toussaint: Pioneer in Brotherhood - Arthur and Elizabeth Sheehan
John Hughes: Eagle of the Church - Doran Hurley
Alfred E. Smith: Sidewalk Statesman - William G. Schofield

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