This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17 -- Feast of Saint Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz

The Indian Reductions of the Spanish Empire were sort of the reverse of the Indian Reservation policy practiced in the USA and Canada.  Rather than blocking off chunks swaths of land (often less desirable) to while Indians were removed (exiled, driven, etc), Reductions were cities into which indigenous South Americans were forced.  The plan was to force their assimilation by imposing an urban lifestyle on them. 
Saints on money -- Not sure how I feel about that...

Martyrs: Roque, Joao, and Alfonso
Watch out for Nheçu
The exception among Reductions was the style created by Spanish Jesuits, especially those in Paraguay and most especially those created by Father Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz.  Born in Asuncion, Paraguay on 17 November 1576 to aristocratic parents, young Roque grew up speaking Guarani (an indigenous language) as well as Spanish.  His plan was to save the Guarani from slave hunters by moving them to Reductions under Jesuit control.  Of course he also sought to Christianize them, but unlike the Christianization programs in the state-controlled Reductions, he sought a greater balance with indigenous beliefs and customs.  On big feast days, Mass was celebrated outside and then dancing, drumming, flute music, games, fireworks, and all manner of revelry followed. 

Roque, with heart and dart
Jeremy Irons, more Roque than Rogue
When slave-hunters began to lure Guarani away from his Reductions and then sell them into slavery, Roque protested to the Spanish government.  He successfully secured some protection for some of his Reductions, though I don't guess it was as much as he wanted.

In the end, though, it was neither the Spanish authorities nor the slave-hunters that did him in.  Chief Nheçu, a regional leader intent on keeping all European settlement out of his realm, had Father Roque and two other Jesuits (João de Castilho and Afonso Rodrigues) assassinated.  Roque's heart (I mean this in the literal sense of the actual organ that pumped blood) and the dart that stopped it from beating are preserved in the Chapel of the Martyrs in Asuncion.

The film The Mission, starring Jeremy Irons as Father Gabriel and Robert de Niro as a slave-hunter, is said to be loosely based on the life of Father Roque (also called Roch and Rocco).  

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