Our Patron Saints

Our Patron Saints, known as the North American Martyrs or the Martyrs of New France, were eight Jesuit missionaries from Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, who were tortured and martyred on various dates in the mid-17th century in Canada, in what are now southern Ontario and upstate New York, during the warfare between the Iroquois (particularly the Mohawk people) and the Huron.

In the list below, click on one of the Martyrs to expand that section to learn more about them.

The North American Martyrs: Our Founding Fathers in Faith

The following video and article was taken from the Catholic Online web site.  It shows the faith, courage, strength and the love of God that these eight priests had to endure what they went through... all to get His name known.

  • St. René Goupil (1642)

    Goupil was baptized in St-Martin-du-Bois, near Angers, in the ancient Province of Anjou, on 15 May 1608, the son of Hipolite and Luce Provost Goupil. He was a surgeon in Orléans before entering the novitiate of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Paris on 16 March 1639. He had to leave the novitiate due to deafness.

     

    Goupil volunteered to serve as a lay missionary working to assist the Jesuit Fathers. In 1640 he arrived in New France. From 1640 to 1642, he served at the Saint-Joseph de Sillery Mission, near Quebec, where he was charged with caring for the sick and wounded at the hospital His work primarily involved wound dressings and bloodlettings.

     

    In 1642 Goupil travelled to the Huron missions with about forty other persons, including several Huron chiefs and Jesuit Father Isaac Jogues. They were captured by the Iroquois, taken to Iroquois territory at Ossernenon (Auriesville, New York), and tortured. After teaching the native children the sign of the cross, Goupil was killed 29 September 1642 by several blows to the head with a tomahawk. Before being martyred, he had professed religious vows as a Jesuit lay brother before Fr. Jogues.

     

  • St. Isaac Jogues (1646)

    Jogues was born on January 10, 1607, at Orleans, into a good bourgeois family, who had him educated at home. In 1624, at the age of seventeen, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Rouen, where his Master of novices was Louis Lallemant, S.J. The master already had two brothers and a nephew serving as missionaries in the colony of New France. Jogues professed simple vows in 1626, and was sent to study philosophy at the royal college in La Flèche. The Jesuit community running it had a strong missionary spirit; its teachers included missionary pioneers, Énemond Massé, and later Jean de Brébreuf, while the colony was in British hands. Upon completing these studies, Jogues was sent to the Collège de Clermont in Paris to pursue his study of theology.

     

    Being allowed to cut his studies short, Jogues was ordained a priest in January 1636, and was accepted for service in the missions and sent to New France. He was assigned as a missionary to the Huron and Algonquian allies of the French. He sailed from France on the following 8 April, arriving in the village of Quebec in late May. He celebrated his first Mass in the New World on 31 May. He proceeded to the settlement of Trois-Rivieres, where he stayed several weeks until he was instructed to join the Superior of the Jesuit Mission, Jean de Brébeuf, at their settlement on Lake Huron. Arriving there on 11 September, he immediately fell ill, as did later the other Jesuits and then the people of the village. Due to recurring epidemics, the people of the village soon threatened to kill the missionaries, but the epidemics ended before any attacks took place.

     

    In 1639, the new superior of the Jesuit Mission, Father Jérôme Lalemant, entrusted the building of Fort Sainte-Marie to Jogues. The younger man traveled with Garnier to the Petun, known as the Tobacco Nation for their chief commodity crop. In September 1641, Jogues and Charles Raymbaut went into the territory of the Sauteurs (Chippewa). They pushed on a considerable distance to the west and came to the Sainte-Marie Falls (Sault Ste. Marie). They were warmly welcomed, the meeting was a productive one, and the priests had to promise to come back to teach the people of the Christian faith.

     

    On 3 August 1642, while on his way by canoe to the country of the Huron, Jogues, in the company of Guillaume Cousture, René Goupil, and several Huron Christians, was captured by a war party of Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Mohawk took their captives to their village of Ossernenon (now Auriesville, New York) on the Mohawk River, about forty miles west of the present city of Albany, New York. They were ritually tortured  and Jogues lost two fingers on his right hand.

     

    Jogues survived this event and lived as a slave among the Mohawk for some time; he tried to teach his captors about Christianity. Some Dutch traders from Fort Orange (now Albany, New York) ransomed him and gave him money for passage down the Hudson River to New Amsterdam (New York) and a return to France. Jogues was the first Catholic priest to visit Manhattan Island. From there, he sailed back to France, where he was greeted with surprise and joy. As a "living martyr", Jogues was given a dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to say Mass with his mutilated hand. Under Church law of the time, the Blessed Sacrament could not be touched with any fingers but the thumb and forefinger.

     

    Jogues visited his mother in Orléans but was eager to return to the missions. Within a few months, he returned to New France to continue his work. In 1645, a tentative peace was forged between the Iroquois and the Huron, Algonquin, and French. In the spring of 1646, Jogues was sent back to the Mohawk country along with Jean de Lalande to act as ambassador among them.

     

    Some among the Mohawk regarded Jogues and other missionaries as evil practitioners of magic. When they suffered another crisis of infectious disease and crop failure at Ossernenon, they blamed it on the chest of vestments and books that the Jesuits had left behind. On October 18, 1646, Jogues was attacked with a tomahawk and died; LaLande was killed the next day. The Mohawk threw the missionaries' bodies into the Mohawk River.

     

     

  • St. Jean de Lalande (1646)

    Jean de Lalande was a native of Dieppe, Normandy. He arrived in New France at the age of nineteen to serve with the Jesuits in New France as a donné, a lay brother. In late September 1646, Lalande was a member of a party led by Jesuit Isaac Jogues as an envoy to the Mohawk lands to protect the precarious peace of the time. However, Mohawk attitudes towards this peace had soured during the men's journey and they were attacked by a Mohawk party en route. They were taken to the village of Ossernenon (Auriesville, N.Y.), where they were decreed to be set free by the moderate Turtle and Wolf clans. Angered by this, the more hawkish Bear clan killed Jogues on October 18.The next day, La Lande was killed when he attempted to recover the body of Father Jogues from the paths of the village.

     

    Jean de Lalande was beatified by Pope Pius XI on June 21, 1925 and canonized on June 29, 1930. His feast day is October 19.

     

     

  • St. Antoine Daniel (1648)

    Daniel was born at Dieppe, in Normandy. After two years' study of philosophy and one year of law, Daniel entered the Society of Jesus in Rouen on October 1, 1621. He was sent as a missionary to Canada. He was slain by the Iroquois at Teanaostaye, near what is now Hillsdale, Simcoe County, Ontario.

     

    Daniel travelled to New France in 1633 and studied the Wendat (Huron) language. He was first stationed at Cape Breton (in what is now Nova Scotia), where his brother Captain Daniel had established a French fort in 1629. In 1634 he travelled to Wendake with Frs. Brébeuf and Daoust. For two years, in what is now Quebec, he had charge of a school for Indian boys, but with the exception of this period, he was connected with the mission at Ihonatiria, in Huron country, from July 1634, until his death fourteen years later.

     

    He returned to Teanaostaye in July 1648. Shortly thereafter, the Iroquois made a sudden attack on the mission while most of the Huron men were away. Father Daniel did all in his power to aid his people. Before the palisades had been scaled, he hurried to the chapel where the women, children, and old men were gathered. He gave them general absolution and baptized the catechumens. Daniel made no attempt to escape, but is reported to have calmly advanced to meet the enemy.

     

    In an effort to cause a diversion, Fr. Daniel took up a cross and walked towards the advancing Iroquois. Seized with amazement the Iroquois halted for a moment, then fired on him. They flung Daniel's lifeless body into the chapel, which they had set on fire. Many of the Huron did escape during this incident.

     

    Three missionaries were martyred in present-day New York: one in 1642 and two in 1646. Daniel was the first martyr of the missionaries to the Hurons. Father Ragueneau, his superior, speaks of him in a letter to the Superior General of the Jesuits as "a truly remarkable man, humble, obedient, united with God, of never failing patience and indomitable courage in adversity" (Thwaites, tr. Relations, XXXIII, 253–269).

     

    Daniel and the other seven martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius XI on June 29, 1930.

     

     

  • St. Noël Chabanel (1649)

    Chabanel entered the Jesuit novitiate at Toulouse at the age of seventeen, and was a professor of rhetoric at several Jesuit colleges. He was highly esteemed for virtue and learning. In 1643, he was sent to New France, and after studying the Algonquin language for a time, was appointed to the mission at Sainte-Marie, where he remained till his death. In his apostolic labours he was the companion of Fr. Charles Garnier. As he felt a strong repugnance to the life and habits of the Huron, and feared it might result in his own withdrawal from the work, he bound himself by vow never to leave the mission. Chabanel was martyred on December 8, 1649, by what is described as a "renegade" Huron.

  • St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649)

    Early years

     

    Brébeuf was born 25 March 1593 in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France. (He was the uncle of poet Georges de Brébeuf). He joined the Society of Jesus in 1617 at the age of 24, spending the next two years under the direction of Lancelot Marin. Between 1619 and 1621, he was a teacher at the college of Rouen. Brébeuf was nearly expelled from the Society when he contracted tuberculosis in 1620—an illness which prevented both studying and teaching for the traditional periods.

     

    His record as a student was not particularly distinguished, but he was already beginning to show an aptitude for languages. Later in New France, he would become a language teacher to missionaries and French traders. Brébeuf was ordained as a priest at Pontoise in February 1622.

     

    Missionary

     

    After three years as Steward at the College of Rouen, Brébeuf was chosen by the Provincial of France, Father Pierre Coton, to embark on the missions to New France. In June 1625 Brébeuf arrived in Quebec with Fathers Charles Lalemant and Énemond Massé, together with the lay brothers Francois Charton and Gilbert Burel. For about five months Brébeuf lived with a tribe of Montagnais, and was later assigned in 1626 to the Huron with Father Anne Nouée. Brébeuf worked mostly with the Huron, an Iroquoian-language group, as a missionary in North America. Brébeuf briefly took up residence with the Bear Tribe at Toanché. Brébeuf met with no success. He was summoned to Quebec because of the danger to which the entire colony was then exposed by the English, and arrived there after an absence of two years, 17 July 1628. On 19 July 1629, Champlain surrendered, and the missionaries returned to France.

     

    In Rouen Brébeuf served as a preacher and confessor, taking his final Jesuit vows in 1630. Between 1631 and 1633, Brébeuf worked at the College of Eu in northern France as a steward, minister and confessor. He returned to New France in 1633, where he spent the rest of his life.

     

    Along with Antoine Daniel and Ambroise Davost, Brébeuf chose Ihonatiria (Saint-Joseph I) as the centre for missionary activity with the Hurons. At the time, the Huron suffered epidemics of newly introduced Eurasian diseases contracted from the Europeans. Their death rates were high, as they had no immunity to the diseases long endemic in Europe. They blamed the Europeans for the deaths, without understanding the causes.

     

    Called ‘Echon’ by the Hurons, he was personally involved with teaching and his conversations with Huron friends left him with a good knowledge of their culture and spirituality.[6] He learned their language and taught it to other missionaries and colonists. Fellow Jesuits such as Rageuneau describe his ease and adaptability to the Huron way of life.

     

    His efforts to develop a complete ethnographic understanding of the Huron has been described as ‘the longest and most ambitious piece of ethnographic description in all the Jesuit Relations. Brébeuf tried to find parallels between the Huron religion and Christianity, to facilitate conversion of the Huron to the European religion.[9] Brébeuf was known by the Huron for his apparent shamanistic skills, especially in rainmaking. Brébeuf had an ambivalent relationship with the Natives. He considered Huron spiritual beliefs to be ‘foolish delusions’ and was determined to convert them to Christianity. The priest did not enjoy universal popularity with the Huron, as many believed he was a sorcerer. By 1640, smallpox had killed as many as half the Hurons. The disease devastated Huron society, killing children and elders. With their loved ones dying before their eyes, many Hurons began to listen to the words of Jesuit missionaries who, unaffected by the disease, were clearly man of great power.

     

    His progress as a missionary was very slow, and only in 1635 did some Huron agree to be baptized as Christians. He claimed to have made 14 converts as of 1635, and by the next year, he claimed 86. Among his important descriptions of Huron ceremonies was his detailed account in 1636 of The Huron Feast of the Dead, a mass reburial of remains of loved ones after a community moved the location of its village. It was accompanied by elaborate ritual and gift-giving. In the 1940s, an archeological excavation was made at the site Brébeuf had described, confirming many of his observations.

     

    In 1638, Brébeuf turned over direction of the mission at Saint-Joseph I to Jerome Lalemant; he moved on to become Superior at his newly founded Saint-Joseph II. In 1640, after an unsuccessful mission into Neutral Nation territory, Brébeuf broke his collarbone. He was sent to Quebec to recover, and worked there as a mission procurator. He taught the Huron, acting as confessor and advisor to Ursulines and religious Hospitallers. On Sundays and feast days, he preached to French colonists.

     

     

  • St. Charles Garnier (1649)

    Saint Charles Garnier, S.J., baptised in Paris on May 25, 1606, was a Jesuit missionary, who was killed in a Tobacco Nation village on December 7, 1649.

     

    The son of a secretary to King Henri III of France, Garnier joined the Jesuit seminary in Clermont in 1624 and was ordained in 1635. His father initially forbade him from travelling to Canada where he would face almost certain death as a missionary, but he was eventually allowed to go and arrived in the colony of New France in 1636. He travelled immediately to the Huron mission with fellow Jesuit, Pierre Chastellain.

     

    He spent the rest of his life as a missionary among the Hurons, never returning to Quebec. The Hurons nicknamed him "Ouracha", or "rain-giver", after his arrival was followed by a drought-ending rainfall. He was greatly influenced by fellow missionary Jean de Brébeuf, and was known as the "lamb" to Brebeuf's "lion". When Brébeuf was killed in March 1649, Garnier knew he too might soon die. On December 7, 1649 he was indeed killed by the Iroquois during an attack on the Petun village where he was living.

     

    Charles Garnier was canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI with the other Canadian Martyrs, and his feast day is October 19.

     

     

  • St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649)

    Gabriel Lalemant was born in Paris, October 31, 1610, the son of a French jurist[1] and the third of six children, five of whom entered religious life. Gabriel was the nephew of Charles Lalemant, the first superior of the Jesuit missions in Canada, and Jérôme Lalemant, Vicar-General of Quebec.

     

    In 1630 Lalemant joined the Jesuits and in 1632 took the vow to devote himself to foreign missions. He taught at the Collège in Moulins from 1632 to 1635. He was at Bourges from 1635 to 1639 studying theology[1] and then taught at three different schools before arriving in Quebec in September, 1646.

     

    Little is known about Lalemant's stay in Quebec. In September 1648 he was sent to Wendake, the land of the Wendat, as an assistant to Father Jean de Brébeuf. He was first posted to the mission at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. In February 1649 he replaced Noël Chabanel at the mission of Saint Louis. In March Lalemant and Brébeuf were captured there by the Iroquois and taken to the nearby mission at Saint Ignace. There he was tortured before being killed on March 17, 1649.

     

    Lalemant was canonized by Pope Pius XI on June 29, 1930.

     

    His last moments are recorded as follows:

    "At the height of these torments, Father Gabriel Lallemant lifted his eyes to Heaven, clasping his hands from time to time and uttering sighs to God, whom he invoked to his aid." [He] "had received a hatchet blow on the left ear, which they had driven into his brain, which appeared exposed: we saw no part of his body, from the feet even to the head, which had not been broiled, and in which he had not been burned alive, – even the eyes, into which those impious ones had thrust burning coals."

    His surname may be spelled either Lallemant or Lalemant by different references.

     

     

In 1611, Jesuit missionaries first set foot on our continent.  Within forty years eight of them, (whose feast day is October 19th) gave up their lives near the Georgian Bay and in upstate New York.  This quadricentennial of the Jesuit mission gives us cause to look to our spiritual roots.

 

Much like the setting sun, we often see the full beauty of the Saints as their mortal light exits this world.  This is especially true of martyrs.  The following is a brief summary of a few of the deaths of these Jesuits, which sums up the heroism with which they lived.

 

When St. Isaac Jogues was received into the Jesuits his superior asked what he desired.  His response: "Ethiopia and Martyrdom."  "Not so." was the reply.  "You will receive Canada and martyrdom."

 

After years of ministry among the Huron, St. Isaac Jogues was captured and tortured by the Mohawk Indians.  On the verge of execution, he escaped and was smuggled back to France by the Dutch.  He quickly rose to "stardom."  Everyone regarded him as a living Saint and national hero.  The Queen of France even stooped to kiss his mangled hands, fingers missing, having being cut or gnawed off by his torturers.  St. Isaac could have retired in the safety of France but returned to his mission as soon as he was able.  He was killed by a Mohawk brave with a tomahawk.

 

St. Charles Garnier was ministering to his Huron village when it was attacked.  He ran from one burning cabin to another, baptizing and comforting his people when he was shot in the upper chest and lower abdomen.  After regaining consciousness he saw a wounded Huron writhing across the room.  He pulled himself up and struggled toward the dying man to help him.  An Iroquois brave noticed and killed him with his hatchet.  He died with hand outstretched, reaching to minister to the wounded.

 

St. Rene Goupil was a layman who worked side by side with the Jesuits.  When St. Isaac Jogues was captured there was a time when St. Rene could have easily escaped but chose to stay with his friend.  He endured weeks of disfiguring tortures, during which he comforted and converted fellow captives who were suffering a similar fate.  He was tomahawked while walking side by side with Jogues for teaching a child how to make the sign of the cross.  He fell to the ground saying the name of Jesus.

 

St. Anthony Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass with his Huron friends at sunrise when the war cries of the Iroquois rang out through his village.  He went to those who had been butchered to comfort and baptize them in their last moments.  When the Iroquois were headed toward his church to burn it down he sprinted toward them and commanded them to stop.  They did for a moment, stunned by this unarmed man's courage.  Then they brought him down with muskets and arrows.

 

St. John de Brebeuf was a huge man with amazing courage.  Though he lived under constant threat of death, a fellow missionary wrote, "Nothing could upset him during the twelve years I've known him."

 

He was the first missionary to enter Huronia.  In time he became like one of them.  He wrote instructions to those who wanted to join his mission starting with, "You must love these Huron, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers."

 

Though he could have escaped, he chose to die with them when Iroquois raided their village.  The younger St. Gabriel Lalemont, who had looked up to St. John, remained and died with him as well.  Together they underwent some of the most gruesome tortures of any martyr in history for endless hours.  Through it all they comforted their fellow captives.  John reminded them, "The sufferings will end with your lives.  The grandeur which follows will never have an end."

 

Seven years after their deaths, the daughter of an Iroquois chief was born in the very tribe that killed them.  She is known today as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified, proving true the words spoken by Tertullian 1,400 years before these martyrs entered paradise, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church!"

 

These men set out into nations where a violent, gruesome death was constantly before them.  We set out into an increasingly anti-religious culture where we might lose a few friends for standing up for the truth, or at worst, get mocked or sued, but probably not tomahawked.  They set out on canoes into uncharted waters filled with tribes who were hunting them down.  We set out in our cars to work or the supermarket to bump shoulders with a world that needs to be reminded of God through our words and our charity.

 

If only we had a little of the courage of our founding fathers in faith.

Copyright 2016 North American Martyrs