North American Martyrs

Tomorrow is the feast of the North American Martyrs, eight French Jesuits who were tortured and killed in southern Ontario and upstate New York in the mid-17th century during warfare between the Iroquois and Huron Indians. These Jesuits worked in conditions of appalling suffering and hardship. St. John de Brébeuf described the situation in a letter to a friend in France who was coming to join them:

We shall receive you in a hut, so mean that I have scarcely found in France one wretched enough to compare it with. Fatigued as you will be, we shall be able to give you nothing but a poor mat for a bed. Besides you will arrive when ï¬â€šeas will keep you awake most of the night.

It was a different time, but was it so very different? Today the Jesuits are anxiously seeking word about the fate of Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, kidnapped in July by radical Islamists in Syria. The persecution of Christians today is the subject of a new book by John Allen, the widely respected Vatican analyst.

We admire the North American Martyrs for their dedication to God and for their good cheer. John de Brébeuf told his friend, “When you reach the Hurons, you will find us with hearts full of love.”


  1. I think all Second Nations should wait for the First Nations to say whether they want to live as “we/one” with them…It’s easy enough for Anglos to say that.
    I respect all martyrs and feel sorry for the ones mentioned here who had to go through so much, but that’s a different cup of tea.

    • There is a “WE” element in our family now! My husband’s nephew married a full blood First Nations girl and they have a beautiful family of children who resemble many of his relatives, but with smiling brown faces and dark eyes and hair. To see his grandmother in his great niece, his sister in another of their children is amazing.

  2. The Jesuit Martyrs were beaten, tortured on an on-going basis, yet remained rooted in their faith in Christ and their mission to evangelize the First Nations Peoples. When St. Jean de Brebeuf was martyred, his heart was torn from his chest and eaten, a supreme compliment, I read. To have lived and died for the love of Christ, and for the love of these people, in turn, sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us. The Shrine of Saint-Marie Among the Hurons, in Midland, Ontario is a beautiful place to visit, learn the history of these Martyrs. We were blessed to have arrived just in time for Mass on the day we went there many years ago.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here