The North American Martyrs we celebrate on this memorial laid down their lives in their efforts to bring the faith of Christ to the Native people in what is now New York and Ontario
Reflections on the readings for the Memorial of Ss. John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues and their companions (October 19, 2022): 2COR 4:7-15; PS 126:1-2,2-3,4-5,6; MT 28:16-20
MISSIO offers “Mission In Scripture” to nurture a missionary heart, providing reflections on the missionary themes in the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
Both the importance of spreading the Good News of salvation through our Lord and His promise to remain with us is essential to the belief of all Christians.
The Gospel reading for today’s Mass honoring the North American Martyrs is taken from Christ’s final words to his Apostles before He ascended into heaven. “Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). Both the importance of spreading the Good News of salvation through our Lord and His promise to remain with us is essential to the belief of all Christians. And it is vital to our resolve in sharing His mercy with others, especially those who do not yet know Him. The Jesuits who willingly risked and, ultimately, gave up their lives as missionaries in North America in the 17th-century clearly understood and embraced Jesus’ challenge.
Six French Jesuit priests and two lay Oblates volunteered to evangelize the Huron people of upstate New York as well as Ontario. Their hardships included immense differences in social conditions and languages, as well as harsh climate and difficult geography. The Huron were also enemies of the Iroquois who, in turn were also enemies of the French and, therefore, the missionaries they called Blackrobes. While these Jesuits and others labored to instruct Huron people in the Christian faith, the Iroquois frequently sought to capture or kill them. In the 1640’s, these eight men were martyred in their service to Christ and His people. In 1930, the eight North American Martyrs were canonized by the Church.
Suggested missionary action: St. John de Brebeuf wrote a Christmas hymn for the Huron in their own language. Known now as the “Huron Carol,” the first verse is translated: “’Twas in the moon of wintertime /When all the birds had fled, That mighty Gitchi Manitou (Great Spirit or God) / Sent angel choirs instead; / Before their light the stars grew dim, / And wandering hunters heard the hymn: / Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, / In excelsis Gloria.” We can find this song hymn books or online and add this beautiful music to our Christmas celebrations.