St. Isaac Jogues, St. John De Brebeuf and companions
Over three hundred years ago, six Jesuit priests and two holy laymen, all from France, died as martyrs here in North America. These eight men were martyred between 1642 and 1649. They were a group of the bravest and most daring missionaries in the New World. They risked everything they had to bring Christ to the native people. After much hard work, they converted many of the Huron tribe. But the Iroquois, bitter enemies of the Hurons, put them all to death.
St. John de Brebeuf had tuberculosis. He was so sick in France that he could not even teach many classes. Yet he became a marvelous, valiant apostle. His courage amazed the fierce Iroquois as they tortured him to death. St. Isaac Jogues was tortured by the Mohawks, but was freed by the Dutch. He went back to France, but as soon as he could, he returned to North America. Father Jogues was killed with a tomahawk by the Bear Clan of the Mohawks. St. Anthony Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass for his Huron converts when the Iroquois attacked the village. The Christian Indians begged him to try to escape. But Father Daniel stayed. He wanted to baptize all those who were crying to him for Baptism before they would be killed. The Iroquois burned him to death in his little chapel. St. Gabriel Lallemont was tortured to death with St. John de Brebeuf. St. Charles Garnier and St. Noel Chabenel were both killed with tomahawks. St. Charles was first shot by an Iroquois musket during a surprise attack, but he still tried to crawl to help a dying man. He was killed by a hatchet blow.
Father Chabenel had found life very hard, but had made a vow to stay in North America. He was killed by a Huron traitor. The two lay helpers, Rene Goupil and John Lalande, were both killed with tomahawks. So it was that these heroes of Christ gave their lives for the native people of North America. After their death, new missionaries were able to convert almost every tribe that the martyrs had known. These brave men, often called the North American martyrs, were proclaimed saints in 1931 by Pope Pius XI.
The greatest desire of these saints was for others to know the love and friendship of Jesus. Isaac Jogues once spoke his willingness to teach the Gospel, saying, "I want whatever our Lord wants, even if it costs a thousand lives."