Shrine of the North American Martyrs (In Transition)
Auriesville, New York
This hilltop shrine is dedicated to three of America's canonized martyrs, who "shed their blood for Christ" on or around this spot in the 1640s -- all while trying to spread the doctrine of the Mother Church to occasionally unappreciative Native Americans. Father Isaac Jogues "died from the blow of a tomahawk," while Ren Goupil and John LaLande suffered such indignities as having their fingernails ripped out with teeth before they were dispatched.
Fascinating details of the "barbaric torture" are provided in the Martyr's Museum on the shrine grounds. Lots of statuary graces the attractively landscaped property.
A giant, round church contains shrines to such notables as St. Aloysius Gonzaga ("died during the plague in Italy, 1591") and St. Joseph ("patron of a happy death"). The altar in the center of the church is built to resemble a 17th century frontier stockade, only this one has a giant Crucifix ascending out of it -- an addition that probably would have helped the Jesuits scare off the Indians had they thought of it. The altar is surrounded by over 1,500 novena candles that can be lit at the touch of a button.
Small plastic bottles of blessed Ravine Water, drawn from the spot where Ren was buried, are only a dollar in the gift shop.
Since this report, the Shrine, while still open, is only making the museums available to advance group arrangements and "pilgrimages."
Note: We might not be considered the target audience for the Shrine. One visitor had this perspective: "This is a beautiful park-like, hilltop setting, perfect for spiritual contemplation. The large circular church is a place where people from all over NY State and beyond gather to worship. It has a well known Native American museum and is a place where members of the Iroquois Nation and other visitors meet to share a common religious heritage, not to mention its importance in the early history of New York State."
More info at www.martyrshrine.org.