St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brébeuf and Companions
Today in the dioceses of the United States the Church celebrates the optional memorial of Sts. Issac Jogues and John de Brébeuf (priests and martyrs) and their companions (martyrs). They were Jesuit missionaries who died martyrs in North America, where they preached the Gospel.
French Jesuits were the first missionaries to go to Canada and North America after J. Cartier discovered Canada in 1534. Their mission region extended from Nova Scotia to Maryland. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Noel Chabanel, Charles Garnier, Anthony Daniel, Rene Goupil and John de Lalande (the first six Jesuits, the last two laymen) preached the gospel to the Iroquois and Huron Indians, and after being tortured, they were martyred in the area of what is now Auriesville, New York. The martyrdoms took place between 1642 and 1649. Ten years after the martyrdom of St. Isaac Jogues, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village in which he died. These martyrs are co-patrons of Canada.
The missionaries arrived in Canada less than a century after its discovery by Cartier in 1534, in the hope of converting the Indians and setting up “New France.” Their opponents were often the English and Dutch colonists. When Isaac Jogues returned to Paris after his first capture and torture, he said to his superior: “Yes, Father, I want whatever our Lord wants, even if it costs a thousand lives.” He had written in his mission report: “These tortures are very great, but God is still greater, and immense.”
In the Office of Readings we have an excerpt from the mission journal of St. John de Brébeuf, who had been a student of the great Jesuit spiritual writer, Louis Lallemant. He wrote:
For two days now I have experienced a great desire to be a martyr and to endure all the torments the martyrs suffered…. I vow to you, Jesus my Savior, that as far as I have the strength I will never fail to accept the grace of martyrdom, if some day you in your infinite mercy should offer it to me, your most unworthy servant…. On receiving the blow of death, I shall accept it from your hands with the fullest delight and joy of spirit…. My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it.
~Excerpted from Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo Lodi
Patron: Americas; Canada.