St. John Bosco Oratory Peterborough, Canada SSVM Christmas Play

Last year (2015) St. John Bosco Children’s Oratory in Peterborough performed their fifth annual Christmas Play with a Canadian Theme. When the Jesuit missionaries came to Canada, then New France, in the 1600s they began evangelizing the Huron Nation that lived near the Georgian Bay (located a few hours north of Peterborough).  A Jesuit Relation from 1642 reads:

“The Indians have a particular devotion for the night that was enlightened by the birth of the Son of God. They built a small chapel of cedar and fir branches in honor of the manger of the Infant Jesus.”

Our Christmas Play this year was inspired by a hymn written by missionaries.

St. John Bosco Oratory Peterborough, Canada SSVM Christmas Play

St. John Bosco Oratory Peterborough, Canada SSVM Christmas Play

St. John Bosco Oratory Peterborough, Canada SSVM Christmas Play

The Huron Carol

St. Jean de Brebeuf composed “The Huron Carol” in Quebec while he was recuperating from a broken clavicle. He wrote the words to the music of a sixteenth century Carol called “Une Jeune Pucelle” (A Young Maid). Fortunately one of the last Jesuit Missionaries to the Hurons, Fr. de Villeneuve, wrote the old Huron words to the carol and later translated it into simple French. The following is a literal translation of the Huron Carol from the Huron language to English. (Translation by John Steckley/Teondecheron)

Huron Carol

Have courage, you who are humans; Jesus, he is born

Behold, the spirit who had us as prisoners has fled

Do not listen to it, as it corrupts the spirits of our minds

Jesus, he is born

They are spirits, sky people, coming with a message for us

They are coming to say, “Rejoice (Be on top of life)”

Marie, she has just given birth. Rejoice”

Jesus, he is born

Three have left for such, those who are elders

Tichion, a star that has just appeared on the horizon leads them there

He will seize the path, he who leads them there

Jesus, he is born

As they arrived there, where he was born, Jesus

the star was at the point of stopping, not far past it

Having found someone for them, he says, “Come here!”

Jesus, he is born

Behold, they have arrived there and have seen Jesus,

They praised (made a name) many times, saying “Hurray, he is good in nature”

They greeted him with reverence (greased his scalp many times), saying ‘Hurray’

Jesus, he is born

“We will give to him praise for his name,

Let us show reverence for him as he comes to be compassionate to us.

It is providential that you love us and wish, ‘I should adopt them.'”

Jesus, he is born.

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St. John de Brebeuf

Father Jean de Brébeuf came from Normandy. He arrived in Quebec in 1625 and spent his first winter in the bush with Montagnais hunters in order to study their way of life. He was in Huronia from 1626 to 1629 and again from 1634 until his death in 1649. He and his fellow Jesuit Father Gabriel Lalement were caught in a surprise attack in a village they had named St. Louis, and taken to another village they called St. Ignace, where they died after several hours of torture on March 16, 1649.

St. Jean de Brébeuf had actually made a vow not to shrink back from martyrdom. His brother Jesuits said of him, “He seemed to have been born for this country. His nature was such that he mastered the ways of the indigenous people, doing everything possible to touch their hearts and win them for Jesus Christ.” He was a man gifted in prayer who aspired to join Christ in his sufferings and cross. He wanted, like Our Lady with her pierced heart, to submit perfectly to “the will of God, though his heart had been filled with sorrow.”

After many years at the mission thousands of Hurons had been baptized, but they were almost entirely wiped out by the Iroqouis tribe and the missionaries returned with the remnant of their flock to Quebec City where some descendants still live to this day.

The Canadian Mission

The reality that the mystery of the Incarnation is for all people in every time and place, is beautifully reflected in this Christmas carol and indeed in the life of every missionary.  While the stories of the Canadian missions are fraught with danger and sacrifice; the golden thread is abandonment to God’s holy will and zeal for the salvation of souls. Even now – with the same charity for God and neighbor that motivated St. Jean de Brebeuf – we must be the missionaries and martyrs! Like them we may face many different challenges that are foreign to our own cultures, but our hope in Christ and the help of His holy mother remain constant and sure.

We hope and pray that the children and families of our oratory be inspired by the story of the early Canadian missionaries to be missionaries in our current society.

SSVM missionaries in Peterborough, Canada

1 COMMENT

  1. Did you write the play yourselves? If so are you willing to lend a copy? I’m looking for a play for the Catholic school I teach at, and we loved singing the Huron Carol this past Christmas.

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