We began just after daybreak. One by one, the brigades filed out of the parking lot, each singing a different hymn. Turning away from the water, the lengthening line of pilgrims snaked up the hill toward a colossal statue of St. Isaac Jogues.
This St. Isaac was not the bashful youth of prayer cards. His stance was gaunt but upright, boldly advancing, and he looked out on the lake with the unblinking gaze of charity. His left hand held a crucifix, while his right arm was extended, in greeting or defiance, to display a mutilated hand, missing the thumb and forefinger used to confect the Eucharist. Perhaps the Mohawk brave who gnawed his fingers to nubs meant to stanch the font of charity at its source, but here we were, more than three hundred fifty years later, gathered for Mass at St. Isaac’s feet on a hill above the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament.
Well, almost. Lac du Saint Sacrement is indeed the name St. Isaac bestowed on the lake he discovered. But in time came the British, who on an evil day disgraced the water with the name Lake George. Yet the Mass we were about to hear was indeed St. Isaac’s Mass—in form and not substance only, for I was among traditionalists.