Tuesday, November 9, 2010

America's Catholic History

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is how much I learn as I prepare and teach the various subjects to the boys. I find it amazing that I graduated from high school with a high grade point average, but came away knowing so little in the subject of history. Now, I'm not placing any blame on the public school system; I think I just didn't apply myself to the courses. I memorized what information would be on the tests, usually scored well, then let the information flow right back out the other ear. History at that time didn't mean very much to me, unfortunately. Now, more than a couple of decades later, I'm teaching history to my boys and I'm finding myself curious and interested, perhaps for the first time in my life. I now have the interest that makes all the facts and information found on those dreaded Trivial Pursuit history questions, stick!

In the boys' studies we've covered various eras from the nomads in Mesopotamia to the Greeks, Roman History, Bible History, and now we've jumped forward to the early explorers, leading into our main focus this year in early American History. Our main text is From Sea to Shining Sea . It is an interesting read-aloud, and it is an excellent springboard from which to jump to more in-depth study, if desired, of the major historical figures as we encounter them. Another thing I like about this text is that it emphasizes the Catholic roots of our nation and, therefore, details the lives of people who in many cases I have never heard of, given my secular history education.

One such man we've studied in recent weeks is Father Juan de Padilla. Fr. Padilla accompanied Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado as he explored much of what is now the southwest United States in 1541-42. Fr. Padilla's love for the Indian tribes he encountered and evangelized caused him to stay behind when Coronado returned to Mexico. He journeyed into what is now Kansas, offered the first documented Mass within US boundaries near Ft. Dodge, KS, in 1541, and it was in Kansas that he was martyred, becoming the United States' Protomartyr.

Last night at dinner our boys were talking about what they had learned lately in history. They were able to tell their dad about Fr. Padilla's life, and that he was the first martyr in what is now the US. My husband had not heard of him either, but wondered about his martyrdom in Kansas. Is there a shrine somewhere to this Franciscan priest? We didn't know, and that was as far as the discussion went, until in today's mail we received the answer!

We are on the mailing list of a Catholic newsletter, Regina Coeli Report. As I opened the latest issue today, how very surprised was I to read the following title of one of the articles: Trek to the Padilla Cross: The Santa Fe Pilgrimage. The article was about a group of 53 Catholic men and boys who this past summer had gone on an annual pilgrimage to the Padilla Cross, just west of Lyons, KS. How convenient to have our questions about this holy priest and the shrine dedicated to him answered so quickly!

The history of our nation is rich, indeed, and it is sprinkled with the blood of many Catholic priests and religious as they gave their lives to convert the native Indian tribes that occupied this land 500 years ago. For my own information (not as part of my boys' studies) I am reading another book on this subject: Discovering A Lost Heritage: The Catholic Origins of America by Adam S. Miller. Mr. Miller provides an in-depth look at America's Catholic heritage and how, unfortunately, it has been left out of the history texts in our schools today. What an interesting read.

And so, having studied the Spanish Franciscan priests, we will be moving north and to the French explorers and the Jesuits and their efforts to spread the gospel in America. I am blessed, indeed, that through homeschooling I have a second opportunity to learn the history of our nation and world, with the appreciation and desire that I didn't have during my own school years. And it is my hope that I will be able to impart to my boys a hunger to know their roots in a way that will stick with them beyond their schoolroom days.

Trivial Pursuit anyone??

* * *

God bless you!

1 comment: