Saint Isaac Jogues
Feast Day: October 19
Saint Isaac Jogues
confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his
designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be
faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings."
-Saint Isaac Jogues
These martyrs probably mean nothing to our European friends, but they were among the earliest saints of North America. All were French born Jesuits: Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Antony Daniel, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel, priests; and John Lalande and René Goupil, lay-brothers. They selflessly worked among the native Hurons until they met their death at the hands of mortal enemies of the Hurons: the Iroquois and the Mohawks. The Iroquois were animated by the bitter hatred of the missionaries, whom they subjected to indescribable tortures before putting them to death.
Isaac Jogues (Born at Orléans, France, on January 1, 1607; died October 18, 1646) was the son of wealthy parents. He studied at the Jesuit school in his home town and entered the Society of Jesus at Rouen in 1624. He continued his education at Le Flèche. After his ordination in 1636, he requested and received permission to work as a missionary in Quebec, Canada. He took the Gospel to the Mohawks and in the course of his labors penetrated to the eastern entrance of Lake Superior, one thousand miles inland--the first European to do so.
Fr. Jogues' plan to preach the Gospel to the Sioux Indians in the region of the Mississippi headwaters came to an end when he was captured, together with René Goupil and other Jesuits, by an Iroquois war party on October 3, 1642. They had just completed a mission of mercy to the Hurons, who were suffering from famine and disease, when they were ambushed by the enemies of the Hurons. Saint René was killed. The rest were held for 13 months in slavery and so cruelly tortured that Father Jogues lost the use of his hands when the Indians, knowing the importance of a priest' fingers, chewed most of them off (Pope Urban VIII permitted him to say Mass despite this deformity. This was a unique dispensation in the history of the Church. The holy father observed, "It would be unfitting to refuse permission to drink the blood of Jesus Christ to one who has testified to Christ with his blood.")
After his return, he was captured and was staked. When he was about to be slowly roasted to death , friend from the nearby Fort Orange (Albany, New York) they helped him to escape to New York--thus, he became the first Catholic priest to come to that state. From New Amsterdam (as New York was then called), he traveled by small ship to England, arriving there on Christmas Day completely destitute. He finally reached France, where the Queen Mother received him with extreme deference, but in 1644 he requested to be allowed to return to Quebec.
Less than three years after his captivity, he set out with Jean de Lalande for his place of imprisonment (Osserneon, now Auriesville, NY), this time as a missionary to the Iroquois with whom a peace treaty had been signed. During this second visit, Father Isaac left behind a box of religious objects. These were wrongly believed to be the cause of an epidemic and a crop failure that occurred soon after his departure.
On his third visit, a member of the Mohawk Bear clan, believing him to be a sorcerer, blamed him for the suffering of his people. One afternoon the Mohawk invited Jogues for a meal. The priest was seized, together with the Jesuit lay-brother, Saint John Lalande. The other missionaries with them had fled at that change of attitude they sensed among the natives. Jogues and Lalande were beaten and slashed with knives and that evening Isaac Jogues was tomahawked. The next day Lalande was killed in the same way. Their heads were struck off and impaled on the settlement palisade, and their trunks thrown into the Mohawk River about 40 miles west of Albany, NY, near Midland, Ontario.
There is a portrait of Father Isaac that was painted in 1644 during his visit to France. In it you can see that only the middle and ring fingers remain of his right hand. He is a slender, white- haired man with a very long and flaring nose, deep-set eyes, curly hair, beard, and mustache. After his death, the fatal tomahawk wound was added to the picture.
Prayer to the North American Martyrs
Holy Martyrs and patrons, protect this land which you have blessed by the shedding of your blood. Renew in these days our Catholic faith which you helped to establish in this new land. Bring all our fellow citizens to a knowledge and love of the truth. Make us zealous in the profession of our faith so that we may continue and perfect the work which you have begun with so much labour and suffering. Pray for our homes, our schools, our missions, for vocations, for the conversion of sinners, the return of those who have wandered from the fold, and the perseverance of all the Faithful. Amen.
Memorial Day: August 15th
Isidore Bakanja is known as Africa's Scapular Martyr. He was born into the Boangi tribe in the 1880's. Belgium colonized the Congo in 1885. Various Belgian companies moved into the area, especially interested in rubber and ivory. Many of them treated the natives inhumanly, and the Belgian king, Leopold II, begged Pope Leo XIII to do something about it. The Pope sent Trappist monks to be missionaries in the Congo.
Many of the companies employed agents who were admitted atheists, who hated the missionaries because they opposed the agentsâ€™ abuse of the natives. "Mon pere" was used as an insult for priests. Also, company agents disliked any of the natives who associated with the missionaries. The missionaries taught that the uniform of a Christian is a Brown Scapular. One young African was to take this teaching quite seriously.
Isidore was baptized by the missionaries at about age 18, in 1906 or 1907. He taught others about God and prayer, wore the Brown Scapular (Mary's habit, as it was named in Isidore's native tongue), and was often seen praying while walking. He quickly became unpopular with his employer, a Belgian agent who hated the missionaries. Isidore asked for leave to return home; permission was refused. He was told to stop teaching his fellow workers how to pray: "You'll have the whole village praying and no one will want to work", one agent shouted at him.
One night as Isidore was serving supper, his employer noticed his brown scapular. He ordered him to take it off. Isidore did not. A few days later the agent noticed it again. He had Isidore beaten. A few days later he personally tore off Isidore's scapular and had him whipped mercilessly. The whip was made of elephant hide with nails protruding at the end.
Since an inspector was due, Isidore was banished to another village. He dragged himself before the inspector, who left his written account: "I saw a man come from the forest with his back torn apart by deep, festering, malodorous wounds, covered with filth, assaulted by flies. He leaned on two sticks in order to get near me - he wasn't walking; he was dragging himself". The agent appeared on the scene and tried to kill "that animal of mon pere", but the inspector physically prevented him. He took Isidore to his own settlement, hoping to help him heal. Isidore told a friend, "If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet the priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian".
Two missionaries spent several days with him. He devoutly received the last sacraments. He told them the reason for his beating: "The white man did not like Christians.... He did not want me to wear the scapular.... He yelled at me when I said my prayers". The missionaries urged Isidore to forgive the agent; he assured them that he had already done so. They urged Isidore to pray for the agent. "Certainly I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much".
His agony - more painful than the actual flogging - lasted six months. He died on either August 8 or 15, 1909, with his rosary in his hand and the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel around his neck.
Isidore Bakanja, pray for us to be brave and strong when faced with opposition, ridicule or persecution.