Saint Isaac Jogues

St. Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) was born in France to a middle-class family, and at the age of 17 entered a Jesuit seminary where he displayed a talent for writing and teaching. He was ordained in January of 1636 at the age of 29, and three months later was sent as a missionary priest to the rugged wilderness of New France (now Canada) to work among the Huron and Algonquin Native American tribes. Despite the hardship of life in the wilderness, Isaac experienced great spiritual joy in his mission. One day, six years into his work, he was captured by a Mohawk-Iroquois war party. He was enslaved and ritually tortured, in addition to being malnourished and inadequately clothed. His hands were severely mutilated and many of his fingers destroyed, which prevented his ability to say Mass. He continued to preach the faith and was named Ondessonk, "the indomitable one," by his Mohawk captors. After over a year in captivity he escaped with the help of Dutch settlers. He went back to France where he was honored as a "living martyr." He obtained special permission from the pope to say Mass with his mutilated hands. Instead of continuing his life in peace, St. Isaac was zealous to return to his mission field. He returned to New France, and by that time a peace treaty was arranged between the warring native tribes allowing him to work among the Mohawks. However, when they suffered a crisis of crop failure and epidemic disease, the Mohawks blamed the Christians for sorcery and attacked the settlers. St. Isaac Jogues died after being tomahawked in the head, and his body was thrown into the Mohawk River. He is the patron of the Americas and Canada. Isaac Jogues earned the name "Apostle of the Mohawks" for his work. New York state's first Catholic baptismal record was due to his priestly ministry. He and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. His feast day is October 19th.

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