This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19 -- Feast of the North American Martyrs (again)

Also known as the Canadian Martyrs of New France, these eight Jesuits are traditionally celebrated on September 26, but are now listed on October 19.  In a post for September 26, 2010,  I mostly repeated Father John Brebeuf's advice to Europeans who aspire to live among the Mohawks.  Good stuff, but perhaps the saintly Blackrobes deserve a little more attention, especially since we're two days away from the full canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks.  A road trip to her shrine is in order sometime -- maybe late spring 2013. 

Father John Brebeuf today
Father John Brebeuf, mentioned above, is a good place to start.  Although he was so sickly that there were doubts about even posting him to North America, he thrived in the New World.  A vigorous and large man, he was nicknamed Echon -- Load-bearer -- by the Huron people among whom he lived.  He wrote home that he struggled to learn the Huron language, but he was able to eventually create a French-Huron dictionary and a catechism in Huron.  He embraced the culture of the Huron, giving the name lacrosse to the game they played.  No doubt his enthusiasm for their culture helped with his efforts to convert them to Christianity.   However the Iroquois, who had been at war with the Huron long before the European diseases decimated their population, exploited the low numbers to raid their villages.  Father Brebeuf was tortured and killed along side his native hosts in 1649.
Bound for glory

Antoine Daniel arrived in Canada in 1632, starting out in Cape Breton but soon moving to the Huron territory.  He helped Samuel de Champlain found the Boys College and seminary in Quebec in 1635, one year before the Puritans founded Harvard in Massachusetts.  He traveled a fair bit through Huron territory, preaching and teaching.  In 1649, he hurried back from a Jesuit retreat to his home village of Saint Joseph II, but the Iroquois attacked the village only a day or two after his return.   He stayed close to the battle to assist the wounded, but was finally brought to his own death by a musket wound and many arrow wounds.  The Iroquois warriors mutilated his body before throwing it into the church which they were burning down.

Father Isaac Jogues was preaching among the Huron when he was taken prisoner by a Mohawk raiding party.  Tortured, maimed, and enslaved, he suffered thirteen months among the Mohawks, preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen.  Some Dutch settlers helped him to escape to France, where he recovered his health.  He then returned to North America and tried to negotiate a peace treaty among the warring native peoples.  He was tomahawked in Ossernenon, the same village in which Saint Kateri was born, in 1646.  His bashed head was severed and impaled on a stick; his body was dumped in the Mohawk River. 

Rene Goupil, a deaf Jesuit novitiate, worked as an assistant to Father Isaac Jogues.  He trained as a medic because his deafness disqualified him from Jesuit priesthood.  He was imprisoned by the Iroquois for making the sign of the Cross over a child's head, a gesture they feared was a curse.  Father Jogues welcomed him as a full Jesuit while they were prisoners together.  It was a kind thing to fulfill his wish since his head was also bashed in with a tomahawk in 1642, four years before Father Jogues' death.  As the first martyr in North America, a medic, and a tomahawk victim, he is assigned the patronage of anesthetists and anesthesiologists.

John de La Lande was also a layman working with Father Jogues.  Dangerous colleague to have.  John was also at Ossernenon -- present-day Auriesville, New York -- when the Iroquois attacked.  Like Father Jogues, he was clubbed to death with a tomahawk in 1646.

Charles Garnier, another Jesuit assigned to New France, spent thirteen years among the Huron until the Iroquois raided Fort Saint Jean, where he had been posted.  He spent his last hours in 1649 ministering to the wounded and dying until the fort was overrun; he was shot in the chest and belly, then tomahawked in the head.

Gabriel Lalement was the nephew of two other Jesuit missionaries.  He had been in New France for for only two and a half years when he was captured by Iroquois warriors and tortured to death with John de Brebeuf. 

Father Noel Charbanel was comfortably teaching rhetoric at Rodez College in Toulouse when he felt a call to the missions.  He arrived in New France in 1643 and found that it was not what he imagined.  The food did not appeal to him.  The Huron language eluded him.  The beds weren't soft and the streets weren't... streets.  He struggled, then doubled down on his faith and vowed to spend the rest of his life in the deprivation of wilderness to serve the Spirit.  When the Iroquois attacked in 1649, it must have seemed like he'd be delivered from the discomfort of his vow by an early death, but strangely, he survived.  He was leading Huron survivors to refuge when suddenly murdered by an apostate Huron.  At least his vow was fulfilled and he died in service to his flock. 

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