Wednesday, March 10, 2010

St. Isaac Jogues and St. Paul

Called the "Apostle of the Mohawks," and known to the Mohawks themselves as Ondessonk, "the indomitable one," Isaac Jogues has been selected to represent this group of North American saints. He was born on January 10, 1607, at Orleans, France, into a good bourgeois family; at the age of seventeen he entered the Jesuit novitiate school at Rouen.

Father Jogues was appointed to lead an expedition to Quebec for supplies and reinforcements. The journey was safely made, but unfortunately they had been sighted on the way down by a Mohawk scouting party. The Mohawks were members of the confederation of Five Nations into which the great Iroquois people had banded themselves, and were the sworn enemies of the Hurons. More Mohawk warriors were recruited by the scouting party and they lay in wait for the Black Robes and their detested Huron converts as the flotilla traveled back upstream.

About a day's journey beyond Trois Rivieres, the main body of warriors fell upon them, killing or maiming some and taking many prisoners, including the girl Therese. The more agile of the Hurons escaped to the woods. Father Jogues could also have escaped, but gave himself up when he saw that Goupil had been taken. Couture was singled out for severe torture later because in the fray he had slain a Mohawk leader.

The white men and the Huron prisoners were led south to the home ground of the Mohawks in east central New York. At the southern end of Lake Champlain is a small island, now called Jogues Island, which is believed to have been the scene of barbarous cruelties inflicted on the prisoners. Jogues wrote: "We were made to go up from the shore between two lines of Indians who were armed with clubs, sticks, and knives. I was the last and blows were showered on me. I fell on the ground and thought my end had come, but they lifted me up all streaming with blood and carried me more dead than alive to the platform." Worse tortures followed. The Iroquois were especially cruel to the Huron converts. At this time and during subsequent torturings Father Jogues suffered the loss of two fingers.

The extent of suffering that St. Isaac Jogues was willing to take without any complaint is astounding. He was, as he said of his mission, "doing the will of God."

St. Paul endured infliction time and time again, he wrote of his ordeals in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians:

“Five times at the hands of the Jews I received 40 lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24- 28).

Each and every time after his suffering he picked up and continued God's work by preaching the Gospel as he was commanded to do. When we find difficulty in "our mission" recall the extent of suffering Our Lord received as well as St. Isaac and St. Paul. We must pick ourselves up and press on.


Maria said...

Thank you. Great post. I notices a stain glassed window with St. Isac Jogues at Church the other day and read his Fr. Hardon SJ's bio. It is almost impossible to imagine this kind of martyrdom. Fr. Hardon likes to remind us that the blood of martyrs if the seed of Chistianity. We need martyrs for the Faith, today. St. Paul reminds us" "in the world we will have trouble".

Paul Bernacchio said...

Maria, I am grateful for your kind comments. It is in witnessing the courage, fortitude and resolve of all those great martyrs whom carried their crosses that we are bonded and strengthened. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."