Mary, Mother of La Florida Martyrs is a collection of poems celebrating the martyrdom of Native American Indians, Franciscan priests and Spanish settlers that are currently being studied for canonization.
Review:“It is an account in verse of Spanish missionaries first encounters with the indigenous people in the territory they would call La Florida…. The Franciscans in St. Augustine…brought with them the appealing image of Mary, nursing the infant Jesus (Our Lady of La Leche/Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery) and the next 100 years saw thousands of conversions along with the peaceful spread of missions that fostered prosperous agrarian communities.
“Against those efforts, fortune hunters were cruel and exploitative, forcing natives into slavery or pitting one tribe against another. The religious wars of Europe were imported onto the American continent and the missionaries and their converts were now martyred by other Europeans and their tribal allies specifically for being Catholic. The majority of Murray’s thirteen poems commemorate the heroic fidelity of these individuals.
“For instance, there is the story of the convert, “Joseph”, who served as sacristan to the St. Augustine chapel. He was killed in 1727, protecting the Blessed Sacrament with his own body, shot through with arrows by a band of British and Creeks.
…. when they turned him over,
His arms bent in an embrace,
Clutched the holy vessel
With the lid locked in place.
“Each poetic vignette is its own study of a remarkable – and largely unknown – chapter of Church history that deserves to be contemplated, honored, and celebrated. The people who lived these histories have so much to teach us about courage in the face of persecution. Hopefully, the tribute to them that is Mary, Mother of La Florida Martyrs will encourage a wider appreciation for these missionary and Native American heroes of the Faith.
Reviewed by Historian and author
Stephanie Block, Change Agents, Alinskyian Organizing. Vol. 1 - 4