Saint John de Brébeuf (1593-1649), Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), and Companions
Feast: October 19 (United States), September 26 (Canada)
Patrons: missionaries, evangelizers, United States, Canada
This group of six Jesuit priests (John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Noel Chabanel, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Gabriel Lalemant) and two lay assistants (René Goupil and Jean de la Lande) were zealous missionary martyrs in Canada and upstate New York. The Jesuit Relations record in great detail their work and sufferings as they evangelized the native peoples. Isaac Jogues was captured, tortured, and held as a prisoner in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon for over a year. With help from the Dutch he escaped and returned to France. But in his zeal he asked to be sent back to the missions, not fearing martyrdom.
John de Brébeuf was outstanding for his courage, missionary zeal, and efforts to understand the native peoples. He learned the Huron language and adapted himself to their culture, living among the people. He and Gabriel Lalemant were martyred together after extreme torture on March 16, 1649. Brébeuf had reached such a high point in his spiritual life that he desired martyrdom as a way of giving the ultimate witness to Jesus Christ. The martyrs’ shrines at Midland, Ontario, and Auriesville, New York, recall their dedication and heroism.
For me, the most moving part of the Auriesville shrine is the ravine. There a grief-stricken Isaac Jogues, praying the psalms for the dead, sought in vain for the body of René Goupil. Rustic signposts along a silent, tree-shrouded path near a brook lead the pilgrim through that sorrowful journey. He relates, “Finally on the fourth trip I found René's head and some half gnawed bones. These I buried. Reverently did I kiss them as the bones of a martyr of Jesus Christ . . . ”
Holy martyrs, we stand in awe of your courage in the face of extreme suffering. Your love for Jesus moved you to sacrifice everything for his sake. Pray for us that we may have courage to profess our faith even in the midst of an unbelieving world.