Canadian Martyrs

Catherine Fournier

Domestic-Church.Com - Saint Profile - Canadian Martyrs

Saints Isaacs Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Charles Garnier, Anthony Danile, Gabriel Lallemant, Noel Chabanel, John de Lalande and Rene Goupil.
Feast Day: October 19

Young Families

We all know that the first settlers in North America had a very hard time learning to live in their new country. The soil was different, the climate was strange, the plants and animals were unfamiliar, everything was different and new. Many people died of disease, hardship and other causes in the first two hundred years of the history of the United States and Canada.

One of the trials faced by the settlers was learning to live with the people who were already here - the North American Indians. There were a lot of mistakes made in those first years, by the settlers and by the Indians, and a lot of tragedy because of it. For a long time, some explorers, settlers and conquerers weren't really sure if the Indians were even human - after all their skin and hair was a different colour, their language was strange and their customs unusual. They didn't seem to know anything about God. Fortunately, most people were sure they were human and treated them that way.

Some of the people who came to this new land wanted to harvest the wood and furs and weren't interested in the Indians. Others, like the French Jesuits, wanted to bring the Word of God to the Indians and help them meet Jesus. They came to the new land and lived in extreme poverty and hardship so that they could witness to the Indians and help them learn about God, Jesus and the Salvation He brought to all mankind.

They travelled all over the explored lands of North America preaching, teaching and baptising the Indians. Some Jesuits with their Indian converts, founded a community near Lake Huron in Ontario and called it Huronia. They lived peacefully and happily there.

Just like some people in Jesus's time didn't want to hear His message, some Indians didn't want to hear the Jesuit's message. Some didn't understand how a God could be killed and then rise again, others hated all white people because they thought they would lose their lands, still others saw their lives and villages changing and wanted the changes to stop. These Indian people captured, tortured and killed the Catholic priests whenever they could.

Saints Isaacs Jogues, John de Brebeuf, Charles Garnier, Anthony Danile, Gabriel Lallemant, Noel Chabanel, John de Lalande and Rene Goupil all died at different times for the Faith, in the service of bringing the faith to the people of North America. They are remembered at a shrine built at the former site of Huronia called 'Canadian Martyrs.'

Practiced Families:

The men known today as The Canadian Martyrs were among the hardy and brave missionaries who brought the Gospel to the Huron and Iroquis people in the United States and Canada. They were martyred by the Iroquis between 1642 and 1649. They were beatified by Pope Pius Xi on June 21, 1925 and canonized by the same Pope in 1930.

The story of Saint Issac Jogues in especially moving, so much so that Francis Parkman in his definitive history of the colonization of America grudgingly mentions him, despite Parkman's strongly Protestant dis-approval of anything or anyone Catholic. In the course of his preaching the Gospel to the Mohawks in Canada, he travelled to the eastern end of Lake Superior, a distance of one thousand miles inland and farther than any other European at the time.

He was taken captive by the Iroquois in 1642 and imprisoned for thirteen months. He was kept as a slave and beaten by the women of the tribe regularily. The Indians considered it a dishonourable and shameful thing to be captured and death preferable to slavery, so keeping the priest as a slave was a worse punishment than merely killing him. Father Jogues did not think so. He welcomed the opportunity to witness to the Indians with his example to submission to God's will, and secretly taught and baptized the other captives and slaves of the tribe.

His greatest sorrow was the torture that cost him the use of his hands. The law of the Church is that whatever other infirmities a priest may have, he must retain the use of his hands in order to celebrate the Eucharist. After more than a year with the Iroquois, he was rescued by the Dutch and made his way back to France. The only passage available was on the open deck of a fishing boat, he slept in a coil of rope.

Once in France, he obtained a dispensation to continue as a priest, despite the injuries to his hands, and eagerly returned to the New World to continue the Lord's Work. During this time, he visited Auriesville, New York and is believed to be the first Catholic priest to set foot on Manhattan Island.

On a third visit to the Iroquois, he was seized by the Bear Clan who, believing him to be a sorcerer, held him responsible for the disease which was ravaging the tribe and for the failure of their food crops. He was tortured and beheaded.

Experienced Families

(This excerpt from a newspaper article written by a Toronto Journalist in 1939 provides both an interesting view of the Canadian Martyrs and a nostalgic view of the respect given to religion sixty years ago.)

It was a warm, still afternoon in August of 1939. All though the air there was the peculiar fragrance of the country as it begins to be northern--the spice from the evergreen trees when the sun burns into them. And everybody was happy who had come to the Shrine of the Jesuit Martyrs near Midland to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the dedication of Ste. Marie among the Hurons.

The Shrine is on a hill which slopes gently up from the little Wye River below. Close by the river lie the ruins of Ste. Marie built by the Jesuit missionaries in 1639 as a centre for their work among the Huron Indians.

Three hundred years ago the Jesuit missionaries came to the country of the Huron Indians with a great, passionate dream in their souls, and great, strong courage to devote to that dream. Europe — then as now — and as at any time in its restless history — was full of war and sin and plans of conquest. The missionaries believed that if they have an opportunity of teaching a simple people from the beginning, they could build a Christian State where the people could live in equality and peace. Huronia was to be such a Christian State in North America. The Fathers believed that if they had time enough, and could successfully protect the Natives from the greed of the white man, it would be possible. And so it likely would have been but for the muskets and the brandy of the whites and the lure of the furs of the Natives.

For 10 years Ste. Marie was the centre of the Jesuit mission to the Huron. There the Fathers taught the Natives how to treat the land so it would nourish them; how to live so they could be healthy; how to live according to a law which would bring the greatest good to the greatest number; and in addition how to sustain the inner life of the spirit so it might be strong enough to take the individual through life's experiences.

To this end the Fathers learned the Huron tongue and lived among the Natives year in and year out, impressing upon them the sweetness of the Christian faith through their own example of kindness, unselfishness and knowledge - not to mention their purity of lives and conduct.

It remains in our history one of the noblest of all humanitarian efforts and one of the highest of all Christian actions.

In 1649 the Iroquois came raiding into the north. One by one, the Huron villages fell before the Iroquois and five of the missionaries fell in Martyrdom. All through Huronia the smoke rose from the burning and destruction. The missionaries suffered the anguish of the spirit, beaten back once more by hatred and violence. But was it not always so? "Crucify Him … Crucify Him". To the end, the Martyrs bore themselves with that strange, benign dignity of holy office … looking with eyes full of compassion upon the Iroquois who thought that the death of a man was the end of faith.

It is the story of Christianity … that simple, pure story which has stayed with us these many centuries and which nothing can take from us, neither the failings of Christians, nor fashions in doubt, and not even the cruelty of one to another.

Where Ste. Marie was, archaeologists are now working. They work gently, almost tenderly, as the pure scientist always works, and the more so because sensitive people are remarkably aware of the holy atmospheric quality of Huronia. And most of them find that, regardless of creed, they start thinking while in Huronia about how amazing it was that the ruin was found as it was, and left as it was. It might so easily, in the passing of time and in the development of Canada, have been under a building of a city, or beneath its streets. As the earth beneath old Ste. Marie is opened and probed for its secrets, the abiding secret of the land of Huronia and its Shrine is unchangingly present. It is a fragrance, perhaps, from another world. It is a light, maybe, filtered though time and distance, and covering all the beautiful land around, and the water, with another greater beauty from the spirit. It is a sound, perhaps, in the soul. It is a Shrine of religion.

It was at the beginning a mission field, and men came to it who believed so deeply in God they were willing to love and to serve in an unbelievably difficult mission. They were a Society formed for the following of Jesus; and they loved so much they were willing and glad to offer their lives in order that it be known their Lord lived in his followers, century and forever.

For full biographies of each of the martyrs and more information, please visit the Martyr's Shrine at Midland, Ontario, Canada.


Novena to Canadian 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 labor 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. And foster a deeper and increasing unity among all Christians. Amen.

PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH (Patron of the Martyrs and of Canada)

O God, who in your special Providence deigned to choose blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your holy Mother, grant, we beseech you, that we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in heaven whom we venerate on earth as our protector; You who live and reign world without end. Amen.


Glorious Queen of Martyrs, to whom the early missionaries of this country were so devoted and from whom they received so many favours, graciously listen to my petition. Ask your Divine Son to remember all they did for his glory. Remind him that they preached the Gospel and made his holy name known to thousands who had never heard of him, and then for him had their apostolic labors crowned by shedding their blood. Exercise your motherly influence as you did at Cana, and implore him to grant me what I ask in this novena, if it be according to his holy will. Amen.


O God, who by the preaching and the blood of your blessed Martyrs, John and Isaac and their companions, consecrated the first fruits of the faith in the vast regions of North America, graciously grant that by their intercession the flourishing harvest of Christians may be everywhere and always increased. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


O God, who inflamed the hearts of your blessed Martyrs with an admirable zeal for the salvation of souls, grant me, I beseech you, my petitions and all the requests recommended here today, so that the favors obtained through their intercession may make manifest before men the power and the glory of your name. Amen.

Saint John de Brebeuf, pray for us.
Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel Lalemant, pray for us.
Saint Anthony Daniel, pray for us
Saint Charles Garnier, pray for us.
Saint Noel Chabanel, pray for us.
Saint Rene Goupil, pray for us.
Saint John de la Lande, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.

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