Saturday, October 15, 2016


With hurricanes descending upon Florida, I am reminded to pray to these new saints.  Also interesting to note, when a group is placed before us for sainthood, the leader of the band is not necessarily  the one whose name is chosen. The Church chooses the one who will represent a particular segment of society. Such is the case for the following. 

ANTONIO CUIPO was an Apalachee Indian from San Luis Mission, in present-day Tallahassee, who was converted by Franciscan missionaries. His martyred companions include Dominican, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries. Their killers were typically non-Christian Indians sometimes working in conjunction with English Protestants and French Huguenots (Protestants) making incursions into Spanish territory from the north. There were 67 laypersons (of whom 59 are Native Americans), eleven Franciscans, three Dominicans, and one Jesuit. 

Franciscan friars Juan de Parga Araujo and Tiburcio de Osorio were killed by Indians working with the English along with Antonio and other Indian converts.

Antonio Cuipa was a leader among the Apalachee people, a carpenter and a catechist for the Franciscan friars. He was slain in 1704 at the mission of La Concepcion de Ayubale by the English and Creek forces of English Col. James Moore.

While not a missionary, Antonio is significant because he and his fellow converts are the fruit of a 150-year effort to preach the Gospel to the natives in this part of the New World.

A second generation Catholic, Antonio was responsible for the upkeep of the common buildings of San Luis de Talimali, the largest and most important of the Apalachee Spanish Missions. He  was a husband and father, and played guitar. Having accompanied the Franciscans on visits to non-Christian villages, he began to imitate and adapt their practices of evangelism. Bringing maize cakes mixed with honey and reed pipes as gifts, he would then proclaim the faith in the very language of those he encountered.

An English governor in the Carolinas recruited a large number of Creek Indians and began a series of raids into La Florida, wiping out Catholic communities throughout what today is northern Florida.

On January 25th, 1704, Antonio participated in an attempt to defend the Catholic Mission of La Concepcion de Ayubale from a force of Carolina Colony soldiers and Creek warriors seeking to collect slaves and eradicate the faith from the land. He was tortured and killed, tied to a cross alongside two other Apalachee.

While encouraging his companions and admonishing their assailants, it was reported by eyewitnesses of the events that the Virgin Mary appeared to him, consoling him in his last moments. His last words were that his body was falling to the earth, but that his soul was going to God.

The killing was partly political to push the Spanish out of Florida, but also due to the hatred of the Catholic Faith.

The American martyrs quickly came to the attention of Rome. In 1704, Pope Clement XI directed that sworn testimony be taken regarding the Tallahassee martyrs. In 1743, King Philip V of Spain established Oct. 3 as a day to commemorate the Florida martyrs. Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit communities each instituted their own days of remembrance for the martyrs of their orders. In 1939, Bishop John Mark Gannon of Erie, Pennsylvania, initiated a cause for canonization of 106 North American martyrs, including some in Florida, but the effort was stalled by World War II.
It is only now that the cause of these early martyrs is being reconsidered.

"It is significant that the passage of time has allowed us to discover that it was not only foreign missionaries who laid down their lives for Christ in La Florida. Rather, we now know the incredible stories of so many Native Americans who chose martyrdom rather than renounce the faith they had accepted. It is a meaningful sign that the faith was not simply imposed upon them, but rather they freely accepted the Catholic faith to the point that they understood that it was worth dying for." Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine

No comments:

Post a Comment