Saturday, September 12, 2015
Dominican Martyrs of Florida
If you are interested in the history of the Catholic church in the New World and how the faith was brought to La Florida I encourage you to read this article:
Here is the written text:
HEARING A DIVINE CALL
FRAY LUIS CÁNCER, OP AND COMPANIONS, PROTOMARTYRS OF FLORIDA
[Companions: Fray Diego de Tolosa, OP; Brother Esteban Fuentes, OP
(first lay brother martyr)]
On June 20 and 26, 1549, near Tampa Bay…
Father Luis was a Dominican priest from Spain – gentle and merciful, courageous and wise –
and an amazing missionary. Zeal for the salvation of souls filled his heart. Father Luis was also
a tireless advocate for the rights of the indigenous people. He is remembered as the ‘apostle of
Puerto Rico,’ and as the missionary who brought the Gospel to the natives of Guatemala in their
own language – through song! Thousands became baptized and loved this white-robed missionary
who sang to them about the Son. Father Luis Cáncer longed to go to the land of La Florida and help
the native people to know, love and serve the Lord.
Father Cáncer’s prayer was answered: he and his Dominican companions set sail for Florida.
Against Father Luis’s direction, the ship’s captain landed where the native people had suffered
greatly from Hernando de Soto’s expedition – now Tampa Bay.
This band of Dominicans came with no weapons but prayer. The Indians greeted them warmly at
first and participated as they prayed. Father Diego and Brother Fuentes responded to a divine call
to go inland and stay with the Indians who welcomed them. Father Cáncer remained hopeful that
the missionaries were safe until he learned the tragic news – Father Diego and Brother Fuentes
had been killed.
The captain insisted on sailing away, yet Father Luis insisted on staying. He had long thought that
the cost of conversion may be the blood of martyrs, and, after the martyrdom of his friends, he was
determined to go ashore… either to begin evangelization or to offer his life as a martyr.
Despite the protests of the others, he left the ship and waded through the water in his long white
robes. Forgetting his cross on the boat, he hesitated, but continued. He would not go back.
Fray Luis Cáncer walked onto the shore, knelt on the beach, and prayed. A native man embraced
him, but then he and others dragged the great missionary up a nearby hill and there clubbed him
Father Luis Cáncer, your blood, shed on our land, has borne great fruit. Thank you, Father, for
giving us this foundation of courage and love. Help us to be willing to sacrifice generously for love
of Him, Who gave all for us. You forgot your cross, but instead, your body became the cross. The
gift of your life was your evangelization. Please help us to persevere in the Lord’s work with holy
zeal and great determination regardless of the challenges or risks.
Lay Dominicans del Espiritu Santo
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