Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Lake of the Blessed Sacrament

In 1646, Fr. Isaac Jogues, S.J. (1607-1646) named the body of water depicted in this lovely painting the "Lac du Saint Sacrement" (Lake of the Blessed Sacrament).* In the same year, Fr. Jogues and his companion Jean de Lalande, a lay missionary, were martyred by the Mohawk Indians near what is now Auriesville, New York, about 65 miles from the lake. Today is the anniversary of that event, which occurred on October 18, 1646.

In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized Isaac Jogues, along with Jean de Lalande and six other martyred missionaries, now known as the "North American Martyrs". Their feast is celebrated on September 26 in Canada and in the traditional calendar. In the novus ordo calendar, it is celebrated tomorrow, October 19.

Fr. Jogues was born in Orléans, France on January 10, 1607. He entered the Jesuit novitiate school at Rouen at age 17, and went on to study at the royal college at La Fleche, and then at the College of Clermont at the University of Paris. He celebrated his first Mass on February 10, 1636, and a few months later was on his way to the Jesuit mission in New France on the north American continent:
"In the summer of 1636, at the age of twenty-nine, he embarked for Canada with several of his fellows . . . Drawings of Jogues made at about this time reveal features of unusual refinement; this air of delicacy was, however, deceptive, for beneath it lay heroic powers of physical endurance."
In 1642, some Huron Indian converts, along with missionaries William Couture, Rene Goupil, and Fr. Jogues were attacked by Mohawk warriors. Some of the Hurons escaped. Fr. Jogues could have gotten away too but when he saw that Goupil, a physician, had been captured, he gave himself up. They were taken to the fortress of the Mohawks in what is now east central New York State:
"Fr. 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."
To be more specific, according to Fr. Jogues own description, the Mohawks used their teeth to tear out nearly all of his fingernails and bit off two of his fingers. Goupil was killed, and Fr. Jogues was held as a slave for more than a year:
"'He would sometimes escape. . . and wander in the forest, telling his beads and repeating passages of Scripture. In a remote and lonely spot he cut the bark in the form of a cross from the trunk of a great tree; and here he made his prayers. [He was a] living martyr, half clad in shaggy furs, kneeling in the snow among the icicled rocks and beneath the gloomy pines, bowing in adoration before the emblem of his faith in which was his only consolation and his only hope' . . . The Indians were not without respect for their strange captive, naming him 'the indomitable one.' . . . As opportunity offered, he baptized children he found dying. During the year he baptized some seventy persons . . ."
In Fr. Jogues letters, he wrote that once he baptized two Indians by using for baptismal water the raindrops that had gathered on some corn stalks given them to chew. He baptized others using water from a stream.

Some Protestant Dutchmen helped Fr. Jogues escape his Mohawk captors and paid a sum to the Indians not to pursue him. On November 5, 1643, Fr. Jogues left by ship from what is now New York City, and towards the end of December reached the coast of Cornwall. From there, he took a coal ship to Brittany, arriving on Christmas Day. Then he traveled on to Rennes where he went to the rector's house. There he astonished the rector since it was commonly believed he had likely been killed.

During an encounter with Fr. Jogues, Anne of Austria (1601-1666) was moved to tears when she saw his wounded hands, which had barely healed from the cruelty of the Indians. The Queen then paid him homage:
"Jogues was received by Anne of Austria, and told his story. At its conclusion, the Queen arose and stooped to kiss the mutilated hands . . ."
Fr. Joques was concerned that the injuries to his hands would make it illicit for him to say Mass. Pope Urban VIII, however, abrogated for him the rule that the Eucharist could only be touched with the thumb and forefinger. In doing this, the Pope used words to the effect that it would not be just to prevent a martyr for Christ from drinking the Blood of Christ.

Fr. Jogues desired to return to North America and was permitted to do so. By June, 1644, he was back in Quebec, and worked successfully for some time, even traveling back and forth to the place where he had formerly been held hostage. In 1646, however, he was again taken captive by the Mohawks, along with the lay missionary Jean de Lalande:
"In the [Mohawk] councils the majority were ready to give the brave Ondessonk [Fr. Jogues] his freedom, but the minority faction, members of the Bear clan, took matters into their own hands. They invited Jogues to pay them a visit, and as he unsuspectingly entered the cabin of the Bear chief, he was brutally tomahawked. The next day Lalande met the same fate, and both bodies were thrown into a nearby ravine. Their heads were cut off and placed on poles facing the trail by which they had come, as if in warning to other Black Robes."
On the site of the martyrdom of Fr. Jogues and Lalande, there is now a shrine:
"Today, near the town of Auriesville, New York, which on the best archeological authority is accepted as the site of Ossernenon, there is a famous Catholic shrine and pilgrimage place. It was dedicated in 1885 to the Martyrs of North America and to their Indian converts. Here pilgrims come to honor the memory of the Jesuits of the seventeenth century who faced death in the wilderness. The eight martyrs—Jogues, Lalande, Brebeuf, Lalemant, Garnier, Daniel, Goupil, and Chabanel . . .".
May they never be forgotten.

The quoted material is from "Saint Isaac Jogues, Martyr - 1646", an article in the online library of the Eternal Word Television Network that relies on a Lives of the Saints published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc., author and year unknown.

Painting by John F. Kensett, from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.

*Now more commonly known by its secular name, Lake George, this lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State will always be the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament to traditional Catholics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Marie-Jacqueline:

Keep on going with your blog. I just simple delight in reading it. There should be more Pious Spinters in the world. This is true inspiration for many.
I'll pray that a lot of young people find this blog.

Please blog about the Eucharistic Miracles.

Kind regards,



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