October 19, 2021

Memorial of the North American Martyrs

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.

This short passage has one basic lesson. It urges us to be faithful to our religious responsibilities 24/7, not just when we think we will be observed. The original statement of Jesus may well have been made against the expectation of his imminent return. The lesson doesn’t change even though we live in an era where we do not expect the second coming of Jesus anytime soon.

In a sense, we must be faithful in little things because there are really no little things. We must be faithful in the Lord’s absence because God is never absent. If we need examples of this kind of fidelity, we need only look to the saints we honor today. The North American martyrs came to the U.S. and Canada to work among the Huron Indians. These were eight Jesuit missionaries who were tortured and killed on various dates in the mid-17th century in Canada and upstate New York during the warfare between the Iroquois (particularly the Mohawk people) and the Huron.

The Iroquois considered the Jesuits legitimate targets, as the missionaries were nominally allies of the Huron and French fur traders. They were also encouraged in this by the English, who were allied with the Iroquois. In 1642, the Mohawk captured René Goupil and Father Isaac Jogues, bringing them back to their village of Ossernenon (Auriesville, NY), where they ritually tortured both men and killed Goupil. Dutch traders ransomed Jogues, and he returned for a time to France but then sailed back to Quebec, even after his tortures and having his fingers mostly chewed off. In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande were killed. Theirs was complete and total dedication.

Let Us Pray:

O Jesus, you gave everything for me. Give me the courage and dedication of the martyrs we celebrate today.


Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015. His most recent book is A Eucharistic Spirituality: Inspired by Saint Peter Julian Eymard – Apostle of the Eucharist, which he co-authored with Jim Brown.