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The North American Martyrs

Also known as Canadian Martyrs; Isaac Jogues and Companions; Jesuit Martyrs of North America; Martyrs of New France.Memorial: 19 October; 26 September (Canada)The eight North American martyrs, also known as the Candian Martyrs, the Jesuit Martyrs of North America or the Martyrs of France, included six priests and two lay brothers. They were heroic members of the Society of Jesus who were martyred in North America in order to bring the Faith that is necessary for salvation to the Huron, the Iroquois and the Mohawk Indians. Five of the eight North American martyrs were put to death in what is now Canada, and three of them in New York State. There is a shrine to the United States' martyrs at Auriesville in New York, and there is a shrine to the Canadian martyrs at Fort Saint Mary near Midland, Ontario. The names of the eight North American martyrs are: Saint Rene Goupil, a lay brother martyred in 1642 in New York State,Saint Isaac Jogues, a priest,Saint John de Lalande, a lay brother, martyred in 1646 in New York State,Saint Anthony Daniel, a priest, martyred in Canada in 1648,Saint John de Brebeuf,Saint Charles Garnier, Saint Noel Chabanel and Saint Gabriel Lalemant, all priests, and all martyred in Canada in 1649. Saint Isaac Jogues, after thirteen months' imprisonment by the Mohawks, had several fingers cut off of his hand. He went back to Europe, but returned again to North America and was killed by tomahawk blows at Ossernenon, now called Auriesville, in New York State. Saint John de Brebeuf declared before he died, "I have a strong desire to suffer for Jesus Christ." He was tortured terribly, and a burning torch was put into his mouth, which strangled him. Saint Rene Goupil, thirty-five, was the youngest of the martyrs, and cried "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" as he died. Saint Noel Chabanel was thirty-six, and Saint Isaac Jogues and Saint Gabriel Lalemant were thirty-nine. The oldest of the eight North American martyrs, Saint John de Brebeuf, was fifty-six when the Indians killed him.They were canonized June 29 of 1930 by Pope Pius XI. Their memorial is October 19, and Spetember 26 in Canada.

Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions

<em>Martyrdom of Father Isaac Jogues S.J.</em> | Engraving by A. Malaer | Wellcome Images
Image: Martyrdom of Father Isaac Jogues S.J. | Engraving by A. Malaer | Wellcome Images

Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions

Saint of the Day for October 19

(d. 1642 – 1649)

 

Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions’ Story

Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636, he and his companions, under the leadership of Jean de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured, and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.

An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed, or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ not be allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.”

Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues might have sat back, thanked God for his safe return, and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646, he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18, Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the sign of the cross on the brow of some children.

Father Anthony Daniel, working among Hurons who were gradually becoming Christian, was killed by Iroquois on July 4, 1648. His body was thrown into his chapel, which was set on fire.

Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and labored there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec in 1629 and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them.

He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death in 1649. Having been captured by the Iroquois at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada, Father Brébeuf died after four hours of extreme torture.

Gabriel Lalemant had taken a fourth vow—to sacrifice his life for the Native Americans. He was horribly tortured to death along with Father Brébeuf.

Father Charles Garnier was shot to death in 1649 as he baptized children and catechumens during an Iroquois attack.

Father Noel Chabanel also was killed in 1649, before he could answer his recall to France. He had found it exceedingly hard to adapt to mission life. He could not learn the language, and the food and life of the Indians revolted him, plus he suffered spiritual dryness during his whole stay in Canada. Yet he made a vow to remain in his mission until death.

These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930.


Reflection

Faith and heroism planted belief in Christ’s cross deep in our land. The Church in North America sprang from the blood of martyrs, as has been true in so many places. The ministry and sacrifices of these saints challenges each of us, causing us to ask just how deep is our faith and how strong our desire to serve even in the face of death.


Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions are the Patron Saints of:

North America
Norway


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The Messiness of Life

Messiness exposes vulnerability. I will admit, vulnerability is not my strong suit. I do prefer self-sufficiency. And rising above. And yet, self-reliance sounds laudable, but can be an obstacle, because it is difficult to say the words “help” or “thank you.” So, here’s the good news: There is power in embracing vulnerability. And vulnerability never exempts us from the sacrament of the present. Because vulnerability allows us to rest in that touch, that blessing.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

What It Means to Be Blessed

To be blessed, is to know that place of no striving.

To be blessed, is to know that place of rest and dignity.

To be blessed, is to know that I am loved by a gracious Creator, and that I can own and celebrate my identity—this identity—knowing that it, and it alone, is enough.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Unabashed Joy Is Already Inside of Us

Let us pause and remember that savoring isn’t something you add or acquire. Unabashed joy is already inside. It springs from within. It is a well of abundance that you draw from. So, savoring is not a technique. And savoring is never an end unto itself. It is always fueled by gratitude. And gratitude lights up our senses. We enter into, we show up to the needs and cares of this day. I suppose that it’s a chicken or egg scenario. And which comes first, I’m not sure. I do know that savoring makes space for gratitude. And gratitude begets savoring. Either way, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the present.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Listen to This Moment

A Hasidic rabbi was interrupted by one of his followers while he was tending his garden, “What would you do, rabbi,” the student asked, “if you knew the messiah was coming today?” Stroking his beard and pursing his lips, the rabbi replied, “Well, I would continue to water my garden.”

So, before we decipher life, let us see life.

Before we wish for another life, let us feel this life.

Before we give in to “if only,” let us listen to this moment.

Before we succumb to “someday,” let us inhale this day.

Before we trade in this life for the life we “should” have, let us taste this life.

Each of the above is a choice; a choice to be open. To be available. To be curious. To be alive. To be willing to be surprised by joy. To know there is power in the word enough.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Live Without Holding Back

I have lived most of my emotional and spiritual life with a heart condition. Because I have lived cautious and afraid, holding back my heart because of what it might cost, or require of me. Or fearing (running from) my brokenness, not believing that an open and broken heart is an invitation to live my days giving, creating, embracing, connecting, savoring, and celebrating. It is no wonder that, too often, I do not see. Hundreds of years ago, in an era much more fraught than ours, St. Francis learned to live without holding back his heart. His antidote to confusion and paralysis was a return to simplicity, one step at a time, one person at a time, one good thing at a time, the right-in-front-of-you idea of searching for the light even while living with the darkness. His genius was that he saw what was hidden in plain sight. It was so simple it is almost impossible to see; we are wired to be present.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Living Intentionally and Fully Alive

Living intentionally and fully alive—from a place of groundedness, being at home in our own skin—is not a technique. Nor is it a kind of mental Rubik’s cube, to be solved. There is no list. But if we demand one, chances are, we pass this life by—the exquisite, the messy, the enchanting, the wondrous, the delightful, the untidy—on our way to someplace we think we ought to be.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

The Power of Enough

We know there is power in the word enough. We carry this capacity to honor the present into every encounter and relationship, meaning that we honor the dignity that is reflected by God’s goodness and grace. Every encounter, every relationship, is a place to include, invite mercy, encourage, receive, heal, reconcile, repair, say thank you, pray, celebrate, refuel, and restore.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Live in the Mystery of God's Love

Did you ever have one of those days where the whole idea of God was just too much to think about? As if trying to “get a handle” on God was like trying to kiss the moon? If the mystics are right (and usually they are because they see things much differently than we do) then you were probably closer that day to God than any other day in your life. How is this possible, you ask? How can God be close to you (or you to God) when God seems so far away or not at all? Even better, how can God be close to you when you are totally confused? This is my answer to you: God is a mystery of humble love. It is a mystery that you cannot reason or try to figure out. You must simply live in the mystery. This is my hope for you—that you may live in the mystery of God’s humble love.

—from the book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective  by Ilia Delio, OSF