My 12-year-old son had to choose a saint to study for a school project in anticipation of All Saints Day. When I first heard about the assignment, I immediately wanted to suggest St. Isaac Jogues, but I held back and waited to see what Noah came up with on his own. When he came home from school, I asked him which saint he had selected: St. Isaac Jogues. Now, that syncronicity might be remarkable in many circumstances, but Noah has spent two camping retreat weekends on the grounds where St. Isaac Jogues was martyred, so the choice made perfect sense to him, and to me.
When you are a Catholic in upstate New York, only 45 minutes as we are from the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, Jesuit missionaries St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil are part of the landscape. We hear their stories, we walk the ground they walked, we marvel at their courage. Today we celebrate the Feast of the North American Martyrs, remembering those missionaries who died brutal deaths because of their commitment to the Good News.
When you go to the national shrine in Auriesville, which is also the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, you can walk the ravine and read St. Isaac Jogues’ own words explaining the prolonged torture and terrifying death St. Rene Goupil suffered at the hands of the Iroquois. It was a hatchet blow to the head while Rene Goupil was teaching the Sign of the Cross to children that finally sealed his fate in 1642. Isaac Jogues didn’t fare any better, having survived years of torture and enslavement and having his fingers chewed or burned off. He was killed and decapitated in 1646.
The other Jesuits martyred in North America are Antony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel, John Lalande, John de Brebeuf, and Gabriel Lalemant.
If you walk the grounds of Auriesville (which I posted about HERE), you can feel a holy presence, a sense that something awful but awesome happened in that place. It is sacred, to be sure. And beautiful.