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Biography of Isaac Jogues, St.

Name: Isaac Jogues, St.
Bith Date: 1607
Death Date: 1646
Place of Birth: Orléans, France
Nationality: French
Gender: Male
Occupations: martyr, Jesuit priest
Isaac Jogues, St.

St. Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), French Jesuit priest and martyr, was a missionary among the North American Indians.

Isaac Jogues was born in Orléans. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at 17 and became a priest in 1636. He went immediately to Canada as a missionary and from Quebec was sent to the Huron Missions on Georgian Bay. Later he proselytized among the so-called Tobacco Nation (the Petuns) south of the Hurons but failed to make any religious impression on them.

In 1642 Jogues returned to Quebec. In August he left again for the Georgian Missions with a party of Hurons and two French lay missionaries. At Lake Saint Peter they were attacked and captured by an Iroquois war party, which took them south to the Iroquois villages in present-day New York State. All underwent torture on the way; Jogues had his hands mutilated and fire applied to his body; he was near death several times but managed to struggle on. He was held captive from late 1642 to late 1643, undergoing constant ill treatment but never losing a chance to perform baptisms--frequently by stealth. The Indians had not the slightest understanding of Jogues's ceremony, and later he said that he had no idea why they refrained from killing him.

Jogues, now a slave, accompanied a group of Mohawks to the Dutch village of Rensselaerswyck (later Rensselaer, N. Y.), where the Indians traded for firearms. The governor of the town and a Protestant minister, who both spoke French, befriended Jogues and planned for his escape aboard a ship bound for New Amsterdam. This proved impossible, but the minister managed to keep Jogues with them until the governor of New Netherland arranged for the priest's ransom and transfer to New Amsterdam. Jogues sailed in a Dutch ship to Falmouth, England, and from there traveled to France, arriving on Christmas Day 1643.

Jogues was given a warm reception by the French Jesuits, who had already learned something of his captivity. The queen mother (Anne of Austria) and the ladies of the French court knelt to kiss his mutilated hands. Though those with physical deformities are barred from performing mass, Pope Urban VIII granted Jogues a special dispensation. In the spring of 1644 he departed again for Canada with no intention of returning to the Mohawks. However, he was persuaded in 1646 to head a government mission to them. Because he came in lay dress and because the Mohawks for the moment wished peace with France, he suffered no injury.

Later that year the Jesuit mission superior asked Jogues to return to the dangerous post to continue his missionary work. He made his departure with a premonition of death, and on October 18 he was murdered by the Mohawks, who had always thought him a practitioner of evil magic.

Jogues was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and canonized by him in 1930. Jogues had accomplished little as a missionary, but his religious zeal and unflinching courage fully justified sainthood.

Further Reading

  • An old but still excellent account of Jogues is Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century (1867; 2 vols., 1897). There are two 20th-century biographies by American Jesuits: Francis Talbot, Saint among Savages: The Life of Isaac Jogues (1935), is a well-documented work; Glenn D. Kittler's briefer Saint in the Wilderness: The Story of St. Isaac Jogues (1965) is worthwhile, though Kittler apparently describes imagined incidents.
  • Jogues, Isaac, Saint, Narrative of a captivity among the Mohawk Indians, New York: Garland Pub., 1977.
  • Shea, John Dawson Gilmary, Perils of the ocean and wilderness, New York: Garland Pub., 1976.

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