Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Saint Isaac Jogues and the sign of the cross

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"The sign of the cross is adorable and could not do anything but good to those who should use it. I have no intention of giving it up."
~Saint Isaac Jogues
This quote is taken from an account in the Jesuit Relations.

Following their capture and torture by the Mohawks, Jogues's companion, René Goupil, was murdered by his captors. Jogues did not know why Goupil had been murdered, nor had he been allowed to collect the remains.

Here is the rest of the story, as recorded in the Relations:
"The following Spring, some children reporting that they had seen the Frenchman in a brook, the Father betakes himself thither without saying a word, withdraws those sacred remains, kisses them with respect, and hides them in the hollow of a tree, in order to remove them with himself, if it so happen that they would set him at liberty.
"He did not yet know the cause of his companion's death; but the old man who had caused him to be slain having invited him, some days later, to his cabin, and giving him food, when the Father came to offer the blessing and express the sign of the Cross, that Barbarian said to him: "Do not do that; the Dutch tell us that that act is of no account. Know that I have had thy companion killed for having made it upon my grandson; the like shall be done to thee, if thou continue.''
"The Father answered him that this sign was adorable; that it could not do anything but good to those who should use it; that he had no intention of giving it up. That man dissimulated, for the time, and the Father employed no reserve in this devotion—asking nothing better than to die for having expressed the mark and sign of the Christian." 
Read the account in context here.

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Father Jogues managed to survive his brutal captivity with the Mohawks. With the help of Dutch settlers at Fort Orange (now Albany, New York), he was able to escape back to France. Incredibly, this living martyr volunteered to go back to New France after a short period of recovery. A few years later, he found himself on a diplomatic mission to the very Mohawks who had tortured and enslaved him before. This time, however, he would not survive. The treaty with the French broke down while Jogues was still in Iroquois country. He was killed by a warrior who clove his skull with a tomahawk and then dumped his body into the Mohawk River.

Read more about the wars between the Iroquois, the French and their allies in Iroquois Wars I and Iroquois Wars II.

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