Isaac Jogues: Missionary and Martyr - Martin J. Scott


Brief of Beatification

The venerable Servants of God, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garner, Noel Chabanel, priests; Rene Goupil and John de Lalande, their coadjutors, of the Society of Jesus, are declared Blessed.

Pius PP XI

For perpetual remembrance.—From its beginning down to Our own time, the Church of Christ has always been crimsoned by the precious blood of martyrs; for, since the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, very many of those, who, following the apostles in the footsteps of Christ, have endeavored to enlighten the nations of the world and barbarous peoples with the light of the Gospel, have received the palm of martyrdom, thus fertilizing the seed of Faith by their blood so that thence they might reap a richer harvest. Thus, to be sure, it happened about the middle of the seventeenth century in the regions now occupied by cities of Canada and the United States of North America. There fell eight of the bravest champions of Christ, who, all born in France, and worthy sons of the Society of Jesus, were sent by their superiors into the regions mentioned, then known as New France—though not all at the same time or in the same place—and who after continuous and most painful labors were most cruelly put to death for the sake of the Faith. Of the two groups of heroes which they formed, Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf are deservedly considered the leaders and masters.

First of all these Servants of God, Isaac Jogues, of Orleans, when seventeen years old, entered the Society of Jesus in the year 1624, with the thought that the way to a holy mission among unbelievers might be opened unto him. After finishing two years of noviceship in Rouen, he studied philosophy in Paris, and when raised to the priesthood came immediately to New France in the year 1636. For six years he lived among the Hurons, zealously instructing them in Christian truth. When in the year 1642, while war was raging between the Iroquois and Hurons, he had been called by his superiors to Quebec, and was returning from that city to the Hurons with Rene Goupil and some others, he fell with his companions into the hands of the barbarous Iroquois, who, according to their customs, took a delight in inflicting cruel torments on their captives, especially on Isaac and Rene, as teachers of the Christian religion. Very often they struck them with clubs, burned them with hot embers, tore out their nails, bit and tore away joints of their fingers with their teeth. Isaac, whose right thumb had been cut off, was suspended with cords between two poles. Finally, they condemned them both to a most painful captivity in which the Servants of God suffered hunger and cold and other afflictions.

Rene Goupil, for making the saving Sign of the Cross with his finger, as was his custom, on the forehead of a young boy, was by order of an aged Iroquois savage struck with an axe out of hatred of the same Sign of the Cross, and died whilst uttering the adorable name of Jesus, the first Martyr in the Mission of New France, on the 29th of September, 1642. Born at Angers, this Servant of God was then thirty-five years old, of singular simplicity, innocence of life, and patience amid hardships, entirely submissive, out of love to God and to His holy will, and mindful of His presence in all things. Up to this he had been devoted to the service of the Fathers with only the binding engagement, as they styled it, of a donne (oblate). A few days before he was killed he pronounced the religious vows of the Society. This is attested by the Servant of God, Isaac Jogues, who had him as companion on the journey and in slavery, and who venerated him after death as a Martyr.

When the Dutch, who occupied the neighboring territory which is now comprised by the State of New York, moved by pity offered God's servant Isaac, after a sad year of captivity, an opportunity to escape from slavery, he by God's favor towards the end of 1643 returned to his country where he was everywhere greeted as a Martyr. A year had scarcely elapsed when he returned to Marianapolis, or Montreal in Canada, and then went back to the Iroquois, his former torturers, for the sake of negotiating peace, in which he was successful, hopeless though it had seemed. He desired to visit again this same barbarous people in the year 1646 in order to preach the Gospel, but these superstitious Iroquois, fearing least the preaching of the Faith would bring misfortune on them, treacherously attacked their first apostle and at length on the 18th of October of that year killed him, cutting off his head, having first torn the flesh from his arms and back and devoured it whilst he was still alive. The Servant of God was by nature meek and timid, but by constant self-humiliation and the continuous practice of prayer he so strengthened his spirit that when commanded by his superiors he was always ready to undertake the most difficult things, and in facing dangers and torments he gave a truly marvelous example of Christian fortitude.

Associated with him as companion in his last days was John de Lalande, who, born in Dieppe in the Archdiocese of Rouen, had given himself as a donne (oblate) by a perpetual engagement to the Mission of New France. When he might have sought safety by flight, he preferred to follow the lot of his master, so that in the same manner and for the same cause he was killed on the following day.

About two years after their heroic death, the first of the other group of heroes of the Society of Jesus merited the eternal crown of glory under the leadership of the venerable Servant of God, John de Brebeuf. This was Anthony Daniel, who, born in Dieppe, in 1601, entered the Society of Jesus in his twentieth year. Admitted to the priesthood in the year 1633, he betook himself to the Canadian Missions and as one of the first companions of John de Brebeuf aided in founding the Mission of St. Joseph. Afterwards, in the city of Quebec, he erected a seminary for the instruction of Indian children, and then returning to the Hurons, he labored indefatigably in the work of founding and carrying on many missions. Still clad in his priestly garments, having just finished Mass, and while exhorting his flock to constancy, the Iroquois killed him and burned him in his church, when, during an invasion in 1648, they had taken and set fire to the village of St. Joseph.

After some months during another invasion of the Huron villages of St. Ignatius and St. Aloysius, the same Iroquois tortured and put to death both John de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant with unheard-of cruelty. The first of these Servants of God was born of noble lineage in the Diocese of Bayeux on the 25th of March, 1593, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1617 at Rouen where later he taught literature. He finished his noviceship and bound himself to God by the vows of religion. Raised to the Holy Order of Priesthood, from the end of the year 1625 he worked laboriously preaching the Gospel among the Hurons in the Canadian Mission, until on account of political changes he was forced to return to France in the year 1629. Four years later, however, returning to his beloved Hurons, he labored amongst them so diligently and fruitfully that he was rightly regarded as the first apostle of that people. He finished his most energetic life on the 16th of March, 1649, having borne unflinchingly unspeakable torments for many hours, the Iroquois first striking him with clubs and then piercing and lacerating his flesh with hot irons, cutting away his lips, tongue, nose, peeling off the skin of his head and tearing out his hair, and then pouring boiling water over his head and body in mimicry of Christian baptism. Finally, when the savages could not any longer bear the wonderful unflinching constancy of his spirit, one of them like a wild beast devoured the heart torn from the breast of the Servant of God whilst the others drank his blood.

On the following day also the companion of John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, of Paris, on whom the Iroquois had inflicted many of the tortures just mentioned and others besides, consummated his martyrdom. Born in 1600, he entered the Society of Jesus when twenty years old, and for nearly three years led a most laborious life before his glorious death in the Mission of New France. Towards the end of the same year the two remaining champions of Christ obtained the palm of martyrdom. One of them, Charles Gamier, born in Paris in 1606, and entering the Society of Jesus as a young man, after becoming a priest, set out for the Canadian Mission in the year 1636. There he engaged in the sacred ministry among the Hurons, brilliant by his apostolic labors and virtues, up to the time of his death, and endeared to all by his ingenuous candor of soul and virginal innocence. Seriously wounded by a bullet from the Iroquois raiders invading his village whilst he was ministering to the soul of a dying man, he was at length struck by an axe, and on the 7th of December exchanged this mortal life for an immortal one. On the next day the other of these two Martyrs, following those who were flying from the Iroquois and traveling through the woods alone with a certain Huron apostate, was killed out of hatred for religion by this deserter of the Faith and thrown into the river. His name was Noel Chabanel. Born in the Diocese of Mende and attached to the Toulouse Province of the Society of Jesus, he was raised to the dignity of the Priesthood and in the year 1643 came to the Canadian country when thirty years of age. In order to overcome the grave difficulties of his tasks, ardently desiring martyrdom, he bound himself perpetually by a vow to God to remain in the Huron Mission until his death. That he died for the Faith of Christ long remained hidden, becoming known later only by the shameless confession of his murderer.

Nearly all the relics of these eight heroes (with the exception of a few, namely, of the Servants of God, John de Brebeuf, Charles Garner and Gabriel Lalemant) were burned by the barbarians, or in other ways lost in the course of time. The people flock as pilgrims to the places consecrated by their blood and there erect chapels dedicated in their memory to God and to the Queen of Martyrs, since they venerate and extol them down to our own times as true martyrs of Christ. Very many writers of history, even non-Catholics, of no secondary authority, have thought and openly professed the same. After weighing these and all other things, We ourselves on the third day of Pentecost, that is, on the second of June just passed; decreed that the martyrdoms were established. The usual process by the Ordinary had first prepared the way for this Our judgment. Begun as early as the year 1650 by the Archbishop of Rouen, it was resumed and completed at the beginning of this 20th century, first in the Archdiocese of Quebec and then in other places. In addition to this is the decree for the introduction of the Cause which Our predecessor of happy memory, Pope Benedict XV, signed with his own hand on the 9th of August in the year 1916. The Apostolic Process being complete, and the meetings of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, ante-preparatory and preparatory, having been held, at length, on the 112th day of May of this year, the General Congregation, convened before Us in the Halls of the Vatican, affirmed unanimously that the martyrdom of these Servants of God, and the cause of martyrdom were established. For that reason signs or miracles were dispensed with. Wherefore, it remained only that the Cardinals and the Consultors of the Sacred Rites should be asked whether, in view of the approval of the martyrdom and the cause of martyrdom, and of the dispensation with signs and miracles, they thought that it would be safe to proceed to the solemn beatification of these Servants of God. In this aforesaid general meeting, held before Us the 12th day of the month of May just past, both Their Most Reverend Eminences the Cardinals and the Prelates and Consultors who were present responded that it would be safe to proceed. We, however, in a matter of so much importance, felt obliged to make known Our mind to the effect that We should first beg the divine aid in earnest prayer, after doing which, on the second day of this month, having most devoutly celebrated the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the presence of Our venerable Brother Anthony, His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Vico, Bishop of Portua and Sancta Rufina, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and the Relator of the Cause, and Our beloved sons, Alexander Verdi, Secretary of the same Congregation of Sacred Rites, and Angelo Mariani, Promoter General of the Faith, We have solemnly decided that it is safe to proceed with the solemn beatification of the venerable Servants of God, John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Gabriel Lalemant, Anthony Daniel, Charles Garner, Noel Chabanel, Rene Goupil and John Lalande. Wherefore, moved by the prayers of very many bishops, especially of the Dominion of Canada and of the ecclesiastical province of New York, as well as of the entire Society of Jesus, We, by Our apostolic authority, grant that these foremost Martyrs of North America, the venerable Servants of God, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Anthony Daniel, Charles Gamier, Noel Chabanel, priests, and Rene Goupil and John Lalande, coadjutors, all of the Society of Jesus, may in future be called Blessed, and that their relics, if any exist, may be exposed for the public veneration of the faithful, though not borne in solemn supplications. We likewise permit that the images of the Servants of God be adorned with rays. Moreover, by Our same authority We grant that each year their Office may be recited from the Common of many Martyrs with proper Lessons approved by Us and that Mass from the same Common may be celebrated, conformably to the rubrics, but only in the dioceses of the entire Dominion of Canada and of the ecclesiastical province of New York, as well as in all the churches and pious residences throughout the world belonging to the Society of Jesus, by all the faithful, secular as well as regular, who are obliged to recite the canonical hours, and, as concerns the Mass, by all priests who may visit the churches in which the Feast of the Blessed is celebrated.

Finally, We grant that the solemnity of the beatification of these same venerable Servants of God may, with due formality, be celebrated in the dioceses above mentioned on a day to be designated by the Ordinary, as well as in the churches or public chapels of the aforesaid Society of Jesus within a year from these same solemnities duly celebrated in the sacrosanct, patriarchal Vatican Basilica. All Apostolic constitutions and ordinations, as well as decrees issued de non cultu  and others whatsoever to the contrary, notwithstanding, and it is Our will that copies of these letters even when printed, provided they are signed by the hand of the Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites and stamped with the seal of the Cardinal Prefect, shall meet with the same acceptance in disputes, even judicial, as would the expression of Our will made known by these Letters.

Given at Rome at St. Peter's, under the seal of the Fisherman, the 21st day of the month of June in the year 1925, the fourth year of Our pontificate.


Secretary of State.

Taken from the Acts Apostolicae Sedis, July 1, 1925, page 302.

Translation of the Universal Knowledge Foundation.

Books of Reference on the Jesuit Martyrs of North America.

  • Pioneer Priests of North America.—Campbell, S.J.
  • Hurons et Iroquis.—Martin, S.J.
  • The Jesuits in North America.—Parkman.
  • History of the United States.—Bancroft.
  • The French in the Heart of America.—Finley.
  • The Jesuit Martyrs of North America.—Wynne, S.J.
  • The Jesuit Relations  and Allied Documents—Thwaites.
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia.