Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Isaac Jogues (1607–1646)

Saint Isaac Jogues (1607–1646)

One of North American Martyrs, patron saints of North America

Feast day: October 19

Throughout the history of the Church, Catholics have imitated Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This was particularly true of some missionaries who preached the Gospel to people who were hostile to its message. Saint Isaac Jogues was one of those people.

Born in Orleans, France, in 1607, Isaac Jogues became a Jesuit and was ordained to the priesthood. He was sent as a missionary to the Hurons in Canada. The Huron tribe was open to the Christian message, and many were baptized into the Catholic faith.

But the Hurons’ enemy, the Mohawk tribe, was not as open. Isaac Jogues and his traveling companions were captured by Mohawks and tortured. His lay assistant was killed. Isaac Jogues was made a slave to the chief and was later freed by Dutch traders who eventually returned him to France.

In 1644 Isaac Jogues returned to Canada and attended a peace conference between the Iroquois Confederacy and the French. He was chosen as an envoy to the Mohawks to secure their approval of the peace treaty, which he accomplished. On his return to Quebec, he requested and received permission to go back to the Mohawks as a missionary.

On the journey there he was captured again by the Mohawks, who thought the gifts he had left for them on his previous visit were responsible for a crop failure and an epidemic. This time he was tortured and killed. Several other Jesuit missionaries were also martyred during those early years, and together with Isaac Jogues they are known as the North American Martyrs, the patron saints of North America.

Their feast day is October 19. (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Mary’s Press]) 

(Image PPOC, Library of Congress, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)