The Canadian Martyrs
The Canadian Martyrs were eight Jesuit missionaries who tried to convert the First Nations to Christianity in the mid-17
th Century. They played a significant role in Canadian history for their attempts to spread Christianity among the natives and for their status as Canada’s first saints.
The son of farmers, Jean de Brebeuf was born in France’s Normandy region in 1593. He joined the Jesuit Order in 1617. He was nearly expelled after contracting tuberculosis, and was unable to teach or preach.
In 1622, Brebeuf was ordained, and some despite the, was sent to Canada to work as a missionary. He did not remain in Canada for long, however. In 1625, Brebeuf was forced to return to France after war broke out with England. It took time to win the First Nations over to Christianity. The missionaries were frequently blamed for epidemics, defeats in battle and crop failures. As a result Brebeuf did not win his first converts until 1637.
In 1648, Brebeuf was joined by Gabriel Lalemant. Little is known about Lalemant, but what is known is that he was sent to Wendake to assist Jean de Brebeuf in his missionary work converting the Hurons.
In 1649, the Iroquois captured the Jesuit missions of St. Ignace and St. Louis, where they captured Brebeuf and Lalemant, at which point they were tortured to death. According to Catholic tradition, Brebeuf endured this torment in silence.
Born in Orleans, France, Isaac Jogues became a Jesuit in 1624. He was eventually sent to Canada in 1636. In 1642, Jouges was with a party thatincluded fellow CanadianMartyr Rene Goupil and a number of Huron converts. Jouges was captured after being attacked by Mohawks. He was tortured and mutilated, losing several fingers in the process. He survived the ordeal and became a Mohawk slave, all the while attempting to convert his captors to Christianity. He was eventually able to escape with the help of a group of Dutch traders who took him to Manhattan.
Despite his illtreatment at the hands of the Mohawks, Jogues, along with Jean Lalande, returned to try to secure the tentative peace that had been brokered between the Mohawks and the Hurons. Unfortunately, Jogues was not trusted by the Mohawks. As a result, both Jogues and Lalande were clubbed to death and beheaded near Auriesville, NewYork in 1645.
The Canadian Martyrs were canon ized as saints by Pope Pius XI in 1930. Their feast day is September 26.
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