Monday, October 19, 2015

Literature: The North American Martyrs: Excerpt from Joseph Tylenda's "Jesuit Saints and Sinners."

On the return to Sainte-Marie, one day out of Three Rivers, August 2, the party noticed footprints on the shore and soon heard the shrill cry of war whoops and a volley of shots. About seventy Mohawks had caught sight of the flotilla and swooped down upon them. In the exchange a Frenchman was injured. When Fr. Jogues tried to care for him the Mohawks beat him, bit out his fingernails, and chewed his forefingers. Rene was likewise the victim of Mohawk barbarity. With three Frenchman and twenty Hurons as prisoners, the Mohawks made their way through the St. Lawrence, into the Richelieu River, through Lake Champlain and into Lake George heading for their village of Ossernenon. While Fr. Jogues and Rene were making this fateful trip, Rene spoke to his companion about his desire to be a Jesuit brother and asked if the priest would accept his vows there and then. Fr. Jogues could not refuse such an earnest request.

Before arrives at their destination, the Mohawks met some of their own nation and to display their prisoners and to engage in torture both groups took to shore. The prisoners were forced to strip and run up a rocky hill between two rows of Indians, who beat them on head, neck, back, and shoulders as they passed. Fr. Jogues was the last in line receiving the greatest fury. When this torture came to an end, the prisoners and captors continued on their way by water. On August 14, the flotilla finally arrived at Ossernon (today's Auriesville, N.Y.), on the bank of the Mohawk River. The prisoners again had to endure the pain of running the gauntlet. Fr. Jogues and Rene were then exposed on a platform where village braves took turns stabbing them. To add to the pain of Fr. Jogues, a squaw cut off his left thumb with a jagged shell. The men were then led to a longhouse and tied to the ground so that children could drop hot coals on their naked bodies.

After three days of torture, Fr. Jogues and Rene were given as personal slaves to the chief who had captured them. Within weeks of his capture, Rene, because he had made the sign of the cross on a child, was tomahawked to death by a brave on September 29, 1642. Seeing his companions fall to the ground, Fr. Jogues knelt by the body with lowered head and awaited his blow, but it never came.

Fr. Jogues lived out his months of slavery carrying out degrading types of work and suffering everyone's contempt. To his captors he was no more than a beast of burden, but to the captive Christian Hurons, he was still their priest and to these he continued to bring the consolations of the faith. For his own moments of prayer, he walked into the forest at the settlement's edge and there prayed to God in private. The forest was his chapel.