Friday, October 19, 2012

The North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs, also known as the Canadian Martyrs, were eight French Jesuit missionaries who worked among the Huron Indians, and who were martyred in the 17th century in Canada and Upstate New York, all martyred between 1642 and 1649. The Martyrs are St. Jean de Brébeuf, St. Noël Chabanel, St. Antoine Daniel, St. Charles Garnier, St. René Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Jean de Lalande and St. Gabriel Lalemant. They all laid the foundation of the Catholic religion in the North East, just as Blessed Junipero Serra did in the North West of the USA.
They were each killed during the wars between the Huron and Iroquois. They had converted many of the Hurons, but the Huron considered them to be evil men who brought death and disease wherever they traveled. The Iroquois considered them legitimate targets as the missionaries were nominally allies of the Huron, and they had often helped organize resistance to Iroquois invasions.
Isaac Jogues and his assistant, Rene Goupil, besides being beaten to the ground and assailed several times with knotted sticks and fists, had their hair, beards and nails torn off and their forefingers bitten through. What grieved them far more, was the cruelty practiced on their Christian converts. The first of all the martyrs to suffer death was Rene Goupil, who was tomahawked on September 29, 1642, for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children. This Rene Goupil was a remarkable man. He had tried hard to be a Jesuit and had even entered the Novitiate, but his health forced him to give up the attempt. He then studied surgery and found his way to Canada, where he offered his services to the missionaries. 

They were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. The Martyrs' Shrine church in Midland, Ontario, the site of their missionary work among the Huron, and the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, along the Mohawk River, are dedicated to them. They are collectively patron saints of Canada. Their feast day is celebrated on September 26 in Canada and on October 19 in the United States under the title of "The North American Martyrs."

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