Today is the feast of Saint Jean de Brébeuf, Saint Isaac Jogues, and Companions (Ss. Ioannis, Isaaci et Soc. Martyrum). Here is a brief excerpt from his martyrdom in March of 1649:
The Iroquois chose Father Brébeuf and some Hurons for the first torments. Leaping upon him as he prayed, they broke the bones of his hands, tore out his fingernails, and munched on his fingers. When they dragged him to one of the posts, he embraced it and kissed it. Quickly they pulled back his arms and fastened his wrists to the post. They were determined to smash his courage and to make him cry for mercy. They put burning sticks about his feet, ran flaming torches up, down, and between his legs, around his neck, and under his armpits. Puzzled that he neither cried out nor winced, they held the firebrands closer till the skin frizzled, then they slashed his flesh with knives.
Father Brébeuf addressed the captive converts in a strong voice: “My sons, my brothers, let us lift up our eyes to Heaven in our affliction. Let us remember that God is the witness of our sufferings, that very soon He will be our exceedingly great reward. Let us die in our Faith. Let us hope from Him the fulfillment of His promises to us. I have more pity for you than I have for myself. Bear up with courage under the few torments remaining. The sufferings will end with our lives. The grandeur which follows them will never have an end.”
Brébeuf’s tormenters hacked him with hatchets and knives and stabbed him with javelin heads. “Jesus, have mercy on us” was the only cry that came from his lips; it was re-echoed by the Christian Hurons.
Incensed by his defiance, the Iroquois cut away his lower lip and thrust a red-hot iron down his throat. As the indomitable priest still stood tall and voiced no sound of pain—no plea for mercy—they tried other means. They brought forth young Lalemant, that Brébeuf might see them torture him. They had fastened strips of bark, smeared with pitch, about Gabriel’s naked body. When the young priest saw the burnt and bleeding body of his superior, aghast and trembling Lalemant spoke the words of St. Paul: “We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.”
Saint Jean de Brébeuf, pray for us!
Saint Gabriel Lalemant, pray for us!