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North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs were eight Jesuit missionaries who went to Canada in the 17th century. They aimed to spread Christianity among the Huron people.

St. René Goupil was a Jesuit lay brother and the first of the group to be martyred, in 1642. Originally trained as a surgeon, he was unable to take vows due to poor hearing. Nonetheless, he volunteered to go to New France and served as a medical aide. He was captured and killed by Mohawk warriors shortly after arriving.

St. Isaac Jogues was a priest captured by Mohawk warriors in 1642. He was tortured and held in captivity for a year before escaping. Despite this, he returned to continue his mission and was killed in 1646. He’s known for his strong will and enduring faith.

St. Jean de Lalande was a Jesuit lay brother who accompanied Jogues on his final journey. He was killed shortly after Jogues in 1646. Little is known about his early life, but his sacrifice alongside Jogues highlights his dedication to the mission.

St. Antoine Daniel was a priest who worked to compile a Huron dictionary and catechism. He was killed during an Iroquois attack on a Huron village in 1648. He stood firm, encouraging Christian Hurons to keep their faith even as they were attacked.

St. Jean de Brébeuf was a key figure in the Jesuit mission to the Hurons. He learned the Huron language and wrote extensive records of his experiences. He was captured and tortured by the Iroquois in 1649 and showed remarkable courage before his death.

St. Noël Chabanel was a teacher in France before joining the mission in New France. He found it hard to adapt to the new land and culture but remained committed. He disappeared in 1649, believed to be killed while retreating from Iroquois forces.

St. Charles Garnier was a devoted priest who chose to stay with his Huron converts during an Iroquois attack, despite the risks. He was killed in 1649 while tending to a wounded man. His dedication to the mission and his flock was unwavering.

St. Gabriel Lalemant was the last of the eight to be martyred, also in 1649. He had spent only a short time in the missions when he was captured and killed by the Iroquois. Despite his short service, he was committed to his missionary work and faith.

Legacy and Lessons of the North American Martyrs

The North American Martyrs’ collective legacy is one of courage, dedication, and unwavering faith. Their willingness to face hardship and danger has inspired many to take up missionary work or to be steadfast in their beliefs. Their stories are often cited in Catholic literature and teachings as examples of ultimate sacrifice for faith.

Cultural Contributions

Several of these missionaries, like St. Jean de Brébeuf and St. Antoine Daniel, took steps to understand and respect the Huron culture. They compiled dictionaries and wrote catechisms in the Huron language, laying groundwork for cultural exchange. Their efforts, though not always welcomed, showed an intent to engage respectfully with indigenous cultures.

Educational Influence

The Jesuits are well-known for their focus on education, and these martyrs were no exception. Their teachings, writings, and efforts to create dictionaries and catechisms have been studied by scholars and serve as historical documents, helping us understand both the Jesuit and Huron cultures of the time.

Patron Saint of …

The North American Martyrs are the patron saints of Canada.

Daily Mass Readings for the Memorial of the North American Martyrs

In addition to the suggested readings below, the readings may also be taken from the weekday readings, the Common of Martyrs, or the Common of Holy Men and Women.

  • First Reading2 Corinthians 4:7-15: We face various challenges, but we’re not defeated. Our struggles reveal Jesus’ life in us. We’re united in faith, and our tribulations serve a greater purpose: to glorify God.
  • Responsorial PsalmPsalm 126: We were filled with joy when God restored us. Our suffering led to happiness, recognized even by other nations. Despite initial sorrow, we find joy in the end.
  • Gospel Matthew 28:16-20: Jesus met the Eleven in Galilee, where he endowed them with the mission to make disciples globally. He assured them of his perpetual presence until the end of time.

St. Isaac Jogues Activity – Footsteps of the American Saints

The Footsteps of the American Saints program encourages all Catholic youth to get to know holy men and women who lived in America or who had a strong influence on American life.  One of the saints included in this series is St. Isaac Jogues, who is one of the North American Martyrs.

St. Isaac Jogues - one of the North American Martyrs - Footsteps of American Saints patch with his image. He was one of

Learn About St. Isaac Jogues

The first step in the activity is to learn about St. Isaac Jogues, one of the North American Martyrs, and answering a few questions about him. Here are the basics of his story.

Sent as a Missionary

St. Isaac Jogues was born in Orleans, France on January 10, 1607. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1636 and was sent as a missionary to Quebec. He and some fellow priests were captured by the Mohawk Iroquois. He was tortured and lived as a slave among the Iroquois until some Dutch traders ransomed him.

A Living Martyr

While among the Iroquois he taught them about Christianity. Upon his return to Europe, he was greeted with joy and revered for being a “living martyr.” Everyone thought he had already died. His hand had been so mutilated by the earlier torture that he had to be given a dispensation by Pope Urban VIII to say Mass since the Church law at the time said that only the thumb and forefinger could touch the host.

His Return

After a time, he returned to New France (Canada), but the Mohawks were suspicious of him and his fellow missionaries. He was killed by a tomahawk blow on June 29, 1646. Seven other North American martyrs were also killed. St. Isaac Jogues feast day is celebrated on October 19.

Other Requirements

The second part of the program involves some activities to understand why St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs are important to us. These include the following choices:

  • A discussion of his life
  • Drawing a picture of the things he did
  • Creating a collage with the other martyrs who died with St. Isaac Jogues
  • Creating a cross and hanging it in a room

Get the Patch

Upon completion of the activity, a patch may be ordered. This program is sponsored by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, but it is open to all youth and adults whether they are involved in Scouting or not.  Read the full requirements for the patch.

Frequently Asked Questions about the North American Martyrs

What date is the Feast of the North American Martyrs?

It is observed annually on October 19.

What are the Mass readings for the Memorial of the North American Martyrs?

First Reading – 2 Corinthians 4:7-15:Earthen Vessels
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 126: Reaping Joy
Gospel – Matthew 28:16-20: The Great Commission

Who were the North American Martyrs?

The North American Martyrs were a group of eight Jesuits who served as missionaries to the Hurons in Canada. They were martyred between 1642 and 1649. The martyrs are St. René Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Jean de Lalande, St. Antoine Daniel, St. Jean de Brébeuf,  St. Noël Chabanel,  St. Charles Garnier , and St. Gabriel Lalemant .

Were the North American Martyrs successful in converting the Hurons?

The missionaries had varying levels of success. While many Hurons did convert to Christianity, the Jesuits also faced resistance from both the Hurons and rival Iroquois tribes.

What languages did the North American Martyrs speak?

Besides their native French, some of the missionaries learned the Huron language to better communicate and to write religious texts.

Who are the North American Martyrs the patron saints of?

They are the patron saints of Canada.

Why are the North American Martyrs important in Catholic history?

They are revered for their unwavering faith and their commitment to spreading Christianity, even in the face of extreme danger. Their stories are cited as examples of the ultimate sacrifice for one’s faith.

Who was St. René Goupil?

St. René Goupil was a Jesuit lay brother and one of the eight North American Martyrs. He was the first among them to be martyred, in 1642.

What was St. René Goupil’s background?

He was trained as a surgeon in France. Although he wanted to become a Jesuit, he couldn’t take vows due to poor hearing. Despite this, he volunteered for missionary work in New France (now Canada).

How did St. René Goupil die?

St. René Goupil was captured by Mohawk warriors shortly after his arrival in New France. He was killed soon after, making him the first of the North American Martyrs to be martyred.

Who was St. Isaac Jogues?

St. Isaac Jogues was a French Jesuit priest and one of the eight North American Martyrs. He was known for his enduring faith and strong will.

How was St. Isaac Jogues captured?

St. Isaac Jogues was captured by Mohawk warriors in 1642 while on a mission. He endured torture and a year of captivity before managing to escape.

Did St. Isaac Jogues return after his escape?

Yes, St. Isaac Jogues chose to return to New France to continue his missionary work, despite the dangers and his previous captivity.

How did St. Isaac Jogues die?

St. Isaac Jogues was killed in 1646, shortly after returning to his mission among the Huron. He was captured again by the Mohawks and executed.

Who was St. Jean de Lalande?

St. Jean de Lalande was a Jesuit lay brother and one of the eight North American Martyrs. He was martyred in 1646, shortly after St. Isaac Jogues.

How did St. Jean de Lalande die?

St. Jean de Lalande was killed by Mohawk warriors shortly after the death of St. Isaac Jogues. He had accompanied Jogues on his final mission.

Who was St. Antoine Daniel?

St. Antoine Daniel was a French Jesuit priest, part of the group known as the North American Martyrs. He was killed in 1648.

What was special about St. Antoine Daniel’s mission?

St. Antoine Daniel was notable for his educational efforts. He was keen on learning the Huron language and contributed to the translation of religious texts.

How did St. Antoine Daniel die?

He was killed during an Iroquois raid on a Huron village where he was stationed. It’s said he continued his duties until the end, even amidst the attack.

Who was St. Jean de Brébeuf?

St. Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit missionary and one of the eight North American Martyrs. He served among the Huron people and was martyred in 1649.

What contributions did St. Jean de Brébeuf make?

St. Jean de Brébeuf is known for his efforts in learning the Huron language. He also wrote a Huron dictionary and catechism, aiding both cultural exchange and religious education.

How did St. Jean de Brébeuf die?

He was captured by the Iroquois during a raid on a Huron village. After enduring significant torture, he was killed in 1649.

Who was St. Noël Chabanel?

St. Noël Chabanel was a French Jesuit missionary, part of the group known as the North American Martyrs. He served among the Huron people and was martyred in 1649.

What challenges did St. Noël Chabanel face?

He found it particularly hard to adapt to the Huron way of life and language but remained committed to his mission.

How did St. Noël Chabanel die?

St. Noël Chabanel’s death is somewhat mysterious. He disappeared in December 1649 and is believed to have been killed, although the exact circumstances are not clear.

What distinguishes St. Noël Chabanel from the other martyrs?

His struggle with acclimatizing to the Huron culture while remaining committed to his mission sets him apart as a model of perseverance.

Who was St. Charles Garnier?

St. Charles Garnier was a French Jesuit priest and one of the eight North American Martyrs. He was killed in 1649 while serving among the Huron people.

What did St. Charles Garnier focus on in his mission?

St. Charles Garnier was especially attentive to the sick and the poor, administering care along with his religious duties.

What makes St. Charles Garnier notable?

His compassion for the sick and the impoverished distinguished him. He’s remembered for his focus on charitable work alongside his religious mission.

How did St. Charles Garnier die?

He was killed during an Iroquois raid on a Huron village. Reports indicate that he was providing sacraments to the dying when he was killed.

Who was St. Gabriel Lalemant?

St. Gabriel Lalemant was a French Jesuit and the last of the eight North American Martyrs to be killed, meeting his end in 1649.

What were St. Gabriel Lalemant’s contributions?

St. Gabriel Lalemant is known for his deep spirituality and focus on the education of the Huron people.

How did St. Gabriel Lalemant die?

He was captured and tortured by Iroquois warriors during a raid on a Huron village, and eventually killed.

What is unique about St. Gabriel Lalemant?

He joined the Huron missions later than the other martyrs but quickly became known for his piety and educational efforts.

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