Memorial of Saints John Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions, martyrs
(Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 12:13-21)
Sts. John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues were not martyred together. Neither were their “companions” killed with them. They represent the efforts of many Jesuits working with native Americans on the American continent. Both de Brebeuf and Jogues had two tours in the North American missions. Brebeuf was sent back to France when the English expelled Jesuits from Quebec. Jogues returned to France after suffering torture by the Iroquois. He asked to return to America. Shortly afterwards on a peace mission to the Iroquois he was captured by a Mohawk war party and beheaded.
Both Brebeuf and Jogues seem to have had a special love for Native Americans, at least the Hurons among both worked. But in explaining what motivated them to persist in their missionary activity despite hardship and persecution one must go deeper than that. The Letter to the Ephesians provides a satisfactory reason. Grace recreated them in Christ so that they might sacrifice themselves for others. Grace moves martyrs not only to love Christ but many others as well.
Despite their dedication to the people, no doubt the North American Jesuits have detractors criticizing their apostolic zeal. In their defense something needs to be said. The missionaries changed peoples’ culture so that the people may know the love of God. This change does not disrupt culture so much as deepen it. It keeps what is noble and infuses it with selfless love. To criticize such a change is tantamount to saying that selfless love is unbecoming of greatness. But what is greater, more admirable that selfless love?