Ss. Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions, Martyrs

Today’s readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 & Luke 12:1-7 | Today’s saints
Mass for the school children (Junior high)

A long time ago now, when I was your age, I used to like watching movies about the wild west, and playing cowboys and Indians. It was fun to think about our history in those days and to re-enact what we thought it must have been like. But the truth is, the history of the frontier that included our nation was pretty dark, and pretty barbaric, and quite often very sad. Just like in lots of times and places in the world and in history, men and women who were people of faith gave their lives for the faith. Life was brutal, but courageous people brought faith to this land.

St. Paul says to the Corinthians in today’s first reading, “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. We face death every day because of Jesus.”

namartyrsSaints Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf knew what St. Paul was talking about. They were Jesuits from France. They lived in the seventeenth century and worked among the various Indian tribes, bringing them the Christian faith. Father Isaac worked among the Huron Indians. The Hurons were constantly being attacked by the Iroquois. Father Isaac was captured and tortured for thirteen months. When he finally managed to escape back to France, he returned with many fingers missing from his torture. Priests aren’t allowed to say Mass if they don’t have all of their hands, but Father Isaac received special permission to say Mass from Pope Urban VIII who said, “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.” Now you’d think that having escaped to safety, Father Isaac would have stayed put, but he didn’t. He still had a deep concern and love for his friends the Huron Indians and so he returned to the New World. But on the way, he was captured by a Mohawk Indian party who tomahawked and beheaded him on October 18, 1646.

Father John de Brébeuf lived and worked in Canada for 24 years until the English expelled the Jesuits from the land. He returned four years later, also to work among the Hurons. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture.

Father Isaac and Father John were two of eight Jesuits who gave their lives for the faith in North America. They were canonized – made saints – in 1930. They knew what Jesus meant in today’s Gospel when he said, “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Those eight men lived during very dangerous times. They had seen a lot of violence in the New World, but they were not afraid. They gave their lives willingly so that people would come to know the Lord Jesus who gave his own life for all of us.

You probably won’t ever have to decide whether to keep believing in Jesus and die or renounce him and live. But you absolutely will have to decide to keep believing in Jesus even when it’s unpopular. Even when your friends want to do something wrong. Even when you are tempted to cheat in school, make fun of someone because everyone else is doing it, or try drugs, or look at things on the Internet you’re not supposed to, or hang out with the wrong crowd. It’s going to be hard and maybe even a little scary to say no to those things and yes to your faith in God. But that’s what Jesus is asking you to do today. And he is telling you not to be afraid to do that, not to be afraid to stand up for your faith. Because he will help you do the right thing. And saints like Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf will intercede for you and will be your guides. All you have to do is to decide to do the right thing. Remember, Jesus tells you today, God takes care of even the little sparrows. And you are worth more than many, many sparrows.