Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Genesis, Chapter 6, verse 4a

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Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the North American martyrs.

These were French Jesuits who had come over to Canada to evangelize the various indigenous tribes, and who were martyred.

I always find it somehow comforting that all "three" branches of Jesuitdom were represented in this martyrdom; brother, priest and lay. (I'm taking a liberty with the lay thing, sue me.)

The first of the Jesuit missionaries arrived in Quebec in 1625. At first, they were mostly concerned with the French colonists, trappers and traders, as well as preaching and converting the tribes in the vicinity. Eventually, their missionary work took them to the Hurons. At first, these Jesuit missionaries visited various Huron villages, and they were welcomed and lived with various Huron families.

As their efforts increased in success greater numbers of missionaries followed. As a result a Christian outpost in the Huron nation was established, and there converts and missionaries could live. They began constructing Sainte Marie in to house ten Jesuits and five laborers. Eventually it became a fort/village where almost 30 Jesuits and almost 40 workmen lived; it included a church, food warehouse, a hospital, and housing for traveling Hurons. For the next few years, this mission was the epicenter of an effort that saw hundreds of converts receive baptism as well as the building of churches in the nearby settlements.

But the combative Iroquois to the south had become a very serious threat, attacking the route between Huronia and Quebec. In 1648 they invaded Huronia, where they destroyed several villages. In the winter of 1648, more than 6,000 homeless Hurons managed to get food and shelter at Sainte Marie. Fifteen Huron villages had been destroyed in the first half of 1649 alone. The survivors departed to Sainte Marie or to neighboring settlements but they knew Sainte Marie could not resist an Iroquois onslaught. Therefore they left for St. Joseph's Island with the remaining converts. In St. Joseph, they experienced a bitter winter, where they were sorely tested by starvation and sickness. The following summer (1650) the surviving Jesuits and three hundred or so Huron converts left St. Joseph and, forty-nine day journey, they finally reached safety in Quebec.

St. Jean de Brebeuf
Jean de Brébeuf was ordained at age 33 and was the first Jesuit Missionary in Huronia (1626). He had a gift for language and conversed with the various tribes fluently. He worked tirelessly all over the region, founding Missions and converting thousands. He was the inspiration for many Jesuits to volunteer in this region. He was a strong, athletic man of impressive build, but with a disarmingly gentle nature. He had received visions of the cross and these were fulfilled when he was taken on March 16, 1649. He received savage torture for almost half a day (When he started evangelizing to his assailants, he was gagged. He, along with Gabriel Lalemant, had his nose cut off and his lips ripped out. His captors mocked the Sacrament of Baptism by showering them with gallons of boiling water. According to Butler's Lives of the Saints: "large pieces of flesh were cut out of the bodies of both the priests and roasted by the Indians, who tore out their hearts before their death by means of an opening above the breast, feasting on them and on their blood, which they drank while it was still warm.") and was martyred.

St. Gabriel Lalemant
Gabriel Lalemant was ordained at 27, and although he was a college professor and of a frail frame, he had a burning zeal for the Huron missions. Less than a year after arriving, he was speaking the local language. He was martyred the day after Brebeuf (March 17, 1649) and in a similar fashion.

St. Anthony Daniel
Anthony Daniel was ordained at 29, founded the first boys' College in North America in 1635, and worked among the Hurons for 12 years. On July 4, 1648 he had just finished saying Mass when the Mission was attacked. In vestments, he faced the Iroquois, allowing many converts to escape to safety. The assailants surrounded him and, at point-blank range, shot him dead with arrows. His martyred corpse was tossed into the flames of the burning Church.

St. Charles Garnier
Charles Garnier was a Jesuit Missionary by age 31, and pastor and missionary to the Hurons and Petuns. Gentle, kind, brave, and heroically faithful, he attracted hundreds of converts to the faith. Even when his Mission was attacked and he was wounded, he continued to administer the Sacraments and to help with those wounded, giving absolution and baptizing until he received a fatal tomahawk blow to the head.

St. Noel Chabanel
Noel Chabanel, was a Jesuit ordained at age 28, was also a university professor in France, and also had a zeal for the North American Missions. His work was always difficult and he judged himself harshly, but vowed to stay with the missions, always in danger of martyrdom. He was betrayed and martyred on December 8, 1649.

St. Isaac Jogues
Isaac Jogues arrived to the Huron missions in 1636 and was captured by the Iroquois when he was traveling to Ste. Marie in 1642, and he was brutally he was tortured, he lost his fingers (his Iroquois captors ate them while they were on him), and he was enslaved. He escaped but returned to be a missionary to the Iroquois. He was martyred by beheading on October 18, 1646.

St. René Goupil
Rene Goupil was a Jesuit oblate who had studied medicine and offered his assistance to the Jesuit missions in North America. He was traveling with Isaac Jogues when they were both taken and tortured. He was martyred by tomahawk, for making the Sign of the Cross on a small child, on September 29, 1642.

St. Jean de Lalande
At only 19, Jean de Lalande (a layman) volunteered to help the Jesuits in North America. He was with Jogues at the Mohawk Mission and was taken with him, and was also tortured and saw Jogues martyred. The next day, October 19, 1646, he himself was martyred, at Auriesville, N.Y.
The North American Martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. Their feast day is celebrated on October 19th in the United States. The dates of their martyrdom are as follows:

Now, given that:

1- These guys are Jesuits, and
2- Sometimes there are some prominent Jesuits who do not quite adhere as closely as we'd like to the teachings of the Church and the Magisterium and all that, it seems extra appropriate to post the prayer to the NAMs:

Holy Martyrs and patrons, protect this land which you have blessed by the shedding of your blood. Renew in these days our Catholic faith which you helped to establish in this new land. Bring all our fellow citizens to a knowledge and love of the truth. Make us zealous in the profession of our faith so that we may continue and perfect the work which you have begun with so much labour and suffering. Pray for our homes, our schools, our missions, for vocations, for the conversion of sinners, the return of those who have wandered from the fold, and the perseverance of all the Faithful. And foster a deeper and increasing unity among all Christians. Amen.




  • At 3:10 PM, October 20, 2006 , Blogger Veritas said...

    The Jesuits were the first ever to promote the true doctrine of Social Justice (just in case there are any out there who think the missionaries "forced" conversions).

  • At 7:54 PM, October 20, 2006 , Blogger Joe said...

    It stands to reason that a guy who could force someone to believe as he did could also force someone to not tomahawk him to death.




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