In the 1600's, Jesuits of French origin did considerable missionary work among the Indians of North America, chiefly in what is now Quebec and in upper New York State. Some of them were killed. They are remembered collectively on 19 October.
Antony Daniel was born at Dieppe, France, in 1601. He joined the Jesuits, and was sent to Canada. From 1637 to 1648 he taught in the Georgian Bay area. He was stationed in the Huron village of Teanaustaye, near Hillsdale, Ontario, when it was attacked by the Iroquois, and he chose to stay with his flock. He was shot, and his body burned with his church. He died 4 July 1648.
Charles Garnier was born in Paris in 1606. He joined the Jesuits and was sent to Canada in 1636. In 1649 the Huron village of Saint Jean, Quebec, where he was stationed, was attacked by the Iroquois. He was shot down while assisting his flock to escape. He struggled to his feet and attempted to reach a dying Huron to give him absolution, but an Iroquois struck him dead with a tomohawk. He died 7 December 1649.
Noel Chabanel was born in France in 1613. He joined the Jesuits and was sent to Quebec in 1643 to work with Charles Garnier. He found the Huron language difficult to learn, and the Huron way of life distasteful, and he suffered from depression. As a precaution against temptation, he took a vow not to leave his post. At the time when Garnier was killed, he had just gone to another village to preach, and was never seen again. Later, a Huron who had been baptized but returned to paganism revealed that he had ambushed Chabanel and killed him out of hostility for the Christian religion. He died somewhere around 7 December 1649.
Isaac Jogues was born in Orleans in 1607, became a Jesuit in 1624 and was sent to Canada in 1636, where he worked among the Mowhawks, travelling as far inland as Lake Superior. Assisting him were two laymen, Rene Goupil and John Lalande (the latter like Daniel a native of Dieppe). Goupil, who had studied surgery, had been unable to enrol as a Jesuit because of bad health, so he came to Canada at his own expense and there volunteered to help with the Indian mission. In 1642 Jogues and Goupil were captured by the Iroquois and kept prisoners at Ossernenon, now Auriesville, New York, during which time they were tortured and Jogues lost the use of his hands. On 29 September 1642 Goupil was tomahawked for making the sign of the cross over the head of an Indian child. After a year of captivity, Jogues escaped, with the help of some Dutchmen from Fort Orange, but three years later returned to Ossernenon as a missionary. When there was an outbreak of sickness, and a failure of the crops, Jogues was accused of witchcraft. He and Lalande were seized, beaten and slashed with knives. That evening (18 October 1646), Jogues was tomahawked, and Lalande was tomahawked the next day.
John de Brebeuf was born in Normandy in 1593. He was one of the first three Jesuits assigned to the Canadian mission. He preached among the Hurons, beginning in 1625, at first with no success. In 1633, he made another attempt, which lasted for nearly sixteen years, and was slightly more successful. In 1648 he was joined by Gabriel Lalemant. Lalemant had been born in Paris in 1610, and joined the Jesuits in 1630, but because of bad health was not sent to Canada until 1646. After two years in Quebec, he joined de Brebeuf on the Huron Mission in 1648, the following spring, the two priests were captured in an Iroquois raid and taken to what is now the village of Saint-Ignace in Ontario, where they were horribly tortured. De Brebeuf survived only a few hours, and died 16 March 1649. His frailer companion, Lalemont, lived through the night and died the following day. A contemporary wrote, "There was no part of his body that was not burnt, even his eyes, for the villains had forced burning embers into the sockets."
Two remarks by way of historical background.
Many of the Indian tribes were hereditary enemies of one another. An early French expedition, headed by Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City, "Father of New France," was with a group of Huron Indians when they were attacked by an Iroquois war party. Champlain and his men, using their muskets, drove off the Iroquois, killing many, and from that time on the Iroquois were anti-French (and therefore, when the occasion arose, pro-British), while most other tribes of the area became pro-French and anti-British. This was relevant in subsequent struggles between the British and the French, and later between the British crown and the American colonists.
Many of the Indian tribes placed extreme value on courage and hardihood, as demonstrated by the ability to endure pain without flinching; and so the practice of torturing prisoners taken from other tribes was a kind of competition, in which a prisoner upheld his tribal honor by showing no sign of pain, deriding the tortures that he was undergoing, scorning his captors for a lack of imagination, and assuring them that his discomforts were mere fleabites compared with the tortures which his tribe had invented, and stood ready to inflict on his captors once the tables were turned.
Anglicans who have visited St Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan, will remember that the high altar there contains relics of two of the martyrs mentioned above.
O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs Antony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Gabriel Lalemant, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, John Lalande, Noel Chabanel, and Rene Goupil triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
O Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs Antony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Gabriel Lalemant, Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, John Lalande, Noel Chabanel, and Rene Goupil triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.