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Image: The Martyrdom of John Coleridge Patteson – one of three scenes carved into the pulpit at Exeter Cathedral. (source)
At the age of fourteen, John Patteson knew he was going to be a priest. At the age of twenty-seven, he was. He grew up in England, and in 1855 would go to serve in Melanesia, a chain of some 10,000 islands off the northeast coast of Australia. His Bishop told him that his work would include “the evangelization of no less than 20 million.” Just to make it interesting, some of those 20 million were headhunters and cannibals, and had the custom of strangling a woman if her husband died. In addition, slave traders roamed the seas practicing “blackbirding” – capturing the natives and forcing them into slavery on the farms of the Europeans. Patteson was not deterred.
The goal of the mission was to travel to the islands and convince the tribes to allow one or two of the older boys to leave the island for ten months to a year, so that they could be trained in the teachings of Christianity, then take them back to their islands where they would evangelize the rest of the community. Continue reading “Sermon: John Coleridge Patteson and Companions”