Each year on August 17, we Dominicans celebrate the commemoration of our brother and saint, Hyacinth of Poland. He received the habit of our Order from the hands of Saint Dominic himself, who then sent Hyacinth back to Poland to continue the evangelization of that country and the surrounding region.
We fast-forward this story now about three hundred years to the time when Spanish missionaries were coming to this part of the world and were first preaching the gospel around what is now Galveston Bay, and the cities of Galveston and Houston. They gave Christian names to the places and geographical features that they found; to one little river that flowed into Galveston Bay, they gave the name of “el rio de San Jacinto”: the river of Saint Hyacinth. They probably named it that because they discovered it on August 17, the day we commemorate that saint.
That little river would probably have remained forever obscure and known only to those who live in its immediate vicinity, except for the fact that after the battle of the Alamo, the Mexican forces under their military commander and their president, Santa Anna, marched east and decided to rest along the banks of that little river. And on the afternoon of April 21, 1836, a group of Texans under the leadership of Sam Houston took the Mexican troops by surprise and either killed, wounded, or captured the forces of Santa Anna. As a result of that battle, Texas won its independence from Mexico. This led to the annexation of Texas by the United States and to the Mexico War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of an enormous amount of territory, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. So the little battle on the banks of the river of Saint Hyacinth became very famous, and the name “San Jacinto,” (pronouncing the “Ja” like the “ju” in “jump”), as we mispronounce the Spanish, is certainly one of the greatest names in Texas history. Interesting how a Polish Dominican saint of the 13th century enters into Texas and therefore American history centuries later. When you are driving along interstate highway 10 east of Houston, you can see the San Jacinto monument towering to the south of the interstate highway, and raising its lone star to proclaim the liberty of Texas from Mexico. I wonder how many of us Catholics and Dominicans of Texas are aware of the connection of our saint, and our brother, with the history of this state and of our nation. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.