The seventeenth century.

Now those were the days when Jesuits had guts!

St Isaac Jogues was born in Orleans, France in 1607 and entered the society in 1624. He was a professor of literature, then sent as a missionary to Canada in 1636 where he joined Fr John de Brebeuf.

On 3 August 1642, Fr Isaac and a group of Christian Huron Indians  were heading back from to Quebec City when they were waylaid by a war party of Mohawks. The Mohawk beat Jogues with sticks, tore out his fingernails, then gnawed the ends of his fingers until finger bones were visible. The war party then took their captives on a treacherous journey to a Mohawk village, during which worms began to fester in Jogues’ wounds.

There, the villagers tortured the prisoners by marching them through a gauntlet, which consisted of rows of Iroquois armed with rods and sticks beating the prisoners walking in single-file. Afterwards, the Iroquois forced Jogues and the prisoners onto an elevated platform where they were mocked. A captive Algonquin woman then cut off Jogues’ thumb. At night, the prisoners were tied spread-eagled in a cabin. Children threw burning coals onto their bodies. Three days later, Jogues and the prisoners were marched from one village to another, where the Iroquois flogged them in gauntlets, and jabbed sticks into their wounds and sores. At the third village, Jogues was hung from a wooden plank made of intersecting pieces of wood, and nearly lost consciousness, until an Iroquois had pity on him and cut him free. Throughout his captivity, Jogues comforted, baptized, heard confession from, and absolved the other prisoners.

Instead of being put to death, Jogues remained a captive at large. Perpetually malnourished and inadequately dressed for the harsh winters, he spent his days gathering wood, praying, and proselytizing his captors. His captivity dragged on, lasting between eight and ten months, during which he was kept in a state of severe malnourishment and exposure to the cold.

Some Dutch settlers convinced him to escape. He made his way to the city of New Amsterdam, and then sent in mid winter back across the Atlantic, landing on the coast of Brittany in complete destitution. He made his way to the nearest college of the society of Jesus and received a special dispensation from Pope Urban VII to celebrate Mass despite the mutilation of his hands.

In early spring of 1644 he returned to Canada and was sent to settle a peace treaty with the Iroquois. After further travels he requested to be sent again as a missionary to the Iroquois.  When his superiors asked why he would want to go back to the savages who had tortured him he said, “Because I love them.”

On 27 September he began last journey to the Mohawk. In the interim sickness had broken out in the tribe and a blight had fallen on the crops. This double catastrophe was ascribed to Jogues whom the tribal people considered  a sorcerer. They were determined to get revenge so they sent warriors out to capture him.

They stripped him naked, slashed him with their knives, beat him and then led him to the village. On 18 October, 1646, when entering a cabin he was struck with a tomahawk and afterwards decapitated. The head was fixed on the Palisades and the body thrown into the river.

Whew! Compare that Jesuit to today’s crop!