Saint Isaac Jogues
By John Martin
The life of St. Isaac Jogues is a shining example of faith, courage, perseverance, and a deep desire to spread the love of God. St. Isaac Jogues’ love for God was so intense that he sacrificed everything, including his life, to bring souls to God.
St. Isaac Jogues was born on January 10, 1607, in Orleans, France. He was the third son of a wealthy merchant who was enrolled in one of the finest schools of the area that was staffed by the Jesuits. Isaac became attracted by the good example, dedication to God, and the concern for those in need of the Jesuit priests. When he was seventeen years old, Isaac decided to enter the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and become a priest. His only goal was to be a good and holy servant of God. He could have had an easy, comfortable life as a diocesan priest. However, he had a great desire to live a missionary life. He wanted to instruct others in the Catholic Faith and lead them to God. St. Isaac became a missionary to the Huron Indians in North America.
During his ministry, he endured many sufferings, tortures, and captures at the hands of the Indians. He endured the pain and humiliation of having the tips of his fingers removed to prevent him from celebrating Mass. Pope Urban VIII, recognizing St. Isaac’s holiness and gave special permission for him to continue celebrating Mass with his damaged hands. He stated, “It would be shameful, that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.” He always turned to God in his sufferings. He heard a voice within him saying, “Serve God from love, not fear. Do not worry about yourself.” Those thoughts gave him courage to persevere and continue with his work. He placed his life in God’s hands. He was able to escape and returned to France. St. Isaac was a humble man and did not enjoy the honor and publicity he received on his return home. He felt he was not doing enough for the glory of God. He desired to return to North America and resume his missionary work with the Indians. St. Isaac wrote a letter to a priest friend before he left France. In his letter he said, “Pray that He will make of me what He desires and that I may be a man after His own Heart that the Lord may grant to me largeness of heart great as the sand on the shore of the sea. Would that He would somewhat enlarge my poor heart which is so narrow and by the experience of the past and by the abundance of His goodness and Mercy toward me I may learn to entrust myself entirely to Him being very sure that He will not draw back and let me fall when I shall cast myself lovingly into the arms of His divine and paternal providence.”
St. Isaac resumed his missionary work amongst the Indian nation. He was recaptured by the Iroquois and brutally beheaded on October 18, 1646. St. Isaac Jogues was canonized on June 29, 1930, along with the other seven North American martyrs. We celebrate his feast day on October 19.
The life of St. Isaac Jogues has many lessons to teach us. He would encourage us to learn our Catholic Faith, especially the Bible, in order to deepen our love for God. He would want us to use that knowledge of the faith to teach and bring souls to know and love God. St. Isaac would remind us to always work for the will of God and desire only what pleases Him. He shows us that courage and perseverance are possible when we love and trust God completely and turn to him in time of difficulties and sufferings.
St. Isaac Jogues and his companions planted the seeds of the Catholic Faith in North America. Ten years later, in the same village where St. Isaac was murdered, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha was born. St. Isaac shows us the importance of the missionary life. This life is not only one of bringing the Word and Love of God by traveling to distant lands. We are called to be “missionaries” to our family, friends, and everyone we encounter in our daily lives. We can accomplish this not only by discussing the Faith but in our living witness of the practice of our Catholic Faith. Every moment and action of our life can be an opportunity to share Christ’s love. Everyone who met St. Isaac Jogues recognized his holiness without his even preaching a word. We need our life to radiate our love of the Lord. May St. Isaac Jogues inspire us to become Christ’s missionaries in our own age!