Religious Persecution….Isn’t that an oxymoron? It makes no sense.
Recently I have researched my Cajun ancestors. My mother was a Melancon and a direct descendant of Pierre Melanson from Grand Pre’ in Nova Scotia. She grew up a devout Catholic. Her parents with their children said the rosary on their knees every evening. Her father went to mass with the Knights of Columbus every Monday morning and always showed up at their house after mass to kiss her mother good morning, with the saying, “Kiss me mother, I have Jesus in me!” They were taught to honor and respect the Blessed Mother.
I was surprised to find out in my research that the founder of the Melancon family was Pierre Laverdure, a Huguenot. In 1627, Pierre lived in La Rochelle, France, which had been established as a Huguenot sanctuary by the Edict of Nantes. In that year, King Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes and laid siege to La Rochelle, which had a population of about 28,000 Protestants. Nothing could go in or out during the seige. People began to starve to death. Several months later, La Rochelle surrendered. Pierre Laverdure was one of only 5000 survivors. King Louis allowed the survivors to leave and Pierre moved to England where he met and married Priscilla Mallinson in 1630. The two of them had three sons, Pierre, Charles, and John. The family migrated to Nova Scotia while it was under British rule. In 1667 Acadie was returned to France and Pierre was unable to live under French Catholic rule due to his persecution in La Rochelle. Pierre and Priscilla and their son John moved to Boston. Sons, Pierre and Charles, stayed in Acadie, where they converted to Catholicism after marrying Acadian girls. In 1664, Pierre married Marie d’ Entremont and changed his last name to Melanson.
Again, Acadie was to exchange owners as Colonel Nicholson captured Port Royal on October 13, 1710. The Treaty of Utrecht allowed England to keep Nova Scotia. England’s anti-Catholic laws would not allow Acadians to hold office or vote. The English spent 40 years trying to get the Acadians to take an oath of allegiance to the English King. The Catholics would not swear and allegiance to a Protestant King – in their eyes, this was an act against God.
July 31, 1755, the Acadians were rounded up and were deported soon after. Their homes and crops were destroyed. Families were separated and dispersed among 13 British colonies. Many of them perished. For ten years, the Acadians were detained, moved around, and lived in utter misery. They held on to their faith and the hope that one day they could create a new Acadie. By the end of the French and Indian War, the Acadians began arriving in Louisiana and were inviting exiled cousins to join them. This led to the largest group of exiled Acadians in America living in Southern Louisiana.
That was many generations and hundreds of years ago; yet religious persecution continues today.
It seems to be everywhere today. In Syria 2 million Christians are scattered and are in hiding. Father Paolo was abducted and his whereabouts are still unknown. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted. Churches that are hundreds of years old have been burned to the ground. We are not immune. The Catholic Church is being ordered by the United States government to pay for birth control practices that are against the church’s beliefs…..It is everywhere.
“Blessed are the persecuted for the sake of Righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus warned us. To follow His ways will lead to suffering and persecution. The funny thing is that the only way to stop the madness is to follow HIS ways!
As a family, as a community, as a nation, as a world; we must pray and love in imitation of the life of Christ.
We are all God’s children. We are all created equally with equal value and worth to this world.
Generations from now, will my great-great-grandchildren look at these times with sorrow and compassion for ancestors who were persecuted for their beliefs?? My granddaughter is six years old. She is in first grade at a Catholic school. Two weeks ago, she led the family rosary at my mother-in-laws. There is hope!