North American Martyrs
The French Jesuit priests St. Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), St. John de Brebeuf (1593-1649), and their companions St. John de Lalande, St. René Goupil, St. Anthony Daniel, St. Charles Garnier, St. Gabriel Lalemant, and St. Noel Chabanel were among the first missionaries to the North American Indians, and were the first martyrs of North America.
Isaac Jogues was born in Orleans, France, in 1607. He became a Jesuit in 1624, and in 1636 he traveled to Quebec with a group of missionaries, under the leadership of John de Brebeuf. The priests converted some of the Hurons, but in 1642 Isaac Jogues and several other missionaries, along with some of their Huron converts, were captured by an Iroquois war party. The Jesuits were tortured for 13 months, and the Huron Christians were murdered.
Isaac Jogues finally escaped and returned to France, where he was welcomed as a hero. He was allowed by Pope Urban VII the very exceptional privilege of celebrating Mass, even though the mutilated condition of his tortured hands made this impossible according to canonical norms. This was the first time such a concession had been granted. The Holy Father stated, “It would be unfitting to refuse permission to drink the blood of Jesus Christ to one who has testified to Christ with his blood.”
Isaac was invited by the Jesuits to stay in his homeland to teach, but he desired the conversion of pagans, so he returned to North America to continue his missionary work in the New World. In 1646 the Mohawks captured Isaac Jogues and John de Lalande; they were tomahawked and beheaded on October 18 in the area that later became upstate New York.
John de Brebeuf made two missionary journeys to the Hurons despite many difficulties, such as when the Huron medicine men blamed the Jesuits for an epidemic of smallpox. John composed catechisms and a dictionary of the Huron language, and eventually his efforts bore fruit: 7000 of the Hurons were converted. In 1649 he and St. Gabriel Lalemant were captured by the Iroquois, and tortured for several hours before dying.
From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day
For two days now I have experienced a great desire to be a martyr and to endure all the torments the martyrs suffered.— from the journal of St. Jean De Brébeuf
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). How do this passage and the above quotation help me to have confidence in what God’s will may be for me?
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Peter of Alcantara (1562), Priest, Religious
image: Martyrdom of Father Isaac Jogues S.J. Engraving by A. Malaer via Wellcome Images / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)