His Fingers Chewed, Cut, and Burned Off

Feast of St. Isaac Jogues and Companions

October 19th is the Feast day of St. Isaac Jogues and his companions.  St. Isaac was a French Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians in Canada who died a martyr in 1646 and helped thousands of Indians to convert to the faith in his lifetime.

He ministered to the Huron Indians from 1636 to 1642, when he was captured by the Iroquois Indians.  St. Isaac and other Frenchman were imprisoned and tortured, St. Isaac had several of his fingers bitten off, burned, or severed.  Even though he was severely mistreated, he urged the others held captive with him to forgive their captors and to offer their sufferings up to God for them.

St. Isaac was rescued and returned to France in 1643, where he was given a special dispensation to celebrate Mass with so few fingers.  The following year he willingly went back to minister to the very Indians who tortured him.

After two years ministering to his persecutors, he was captured by the Mohawk Indians who killed him with a tomahawk.

St. Isaac and his companions, "The North American Martyrs," are honored as Saints, missionaries, and examples of total loving sacrifice, even for your enemies.

Letter from a Willing Martyr

Here is a heart wrenching excerpt of one of St. Isaac Jogues' letters to a Priest friend before St. Isaac made his last journey where he was captured and martyred.

. . . <The Iroquois have come to make some presents to our governor>, ransom some prisoners he held, and treat of peace with him in the name of the whole country. It has been concluded, to the great joy of France. It will last as long as pleases the Almighty.

To maintain, and see what can be done for the instruction of these tribes, it is here deemed expedient to send them some father. I have reason to think I shall be sent, since I have some knowledge of the language and country. You see what need I have of the powerful aid of prayers while amidst these savages. I will have to remain among them, almost without liberty to pray, without Mass, without Sacraments, and be responsible for every accident among the Iroquois, French, Algonquins, and others. But what shall I say? My hope is in God, who needs not us to accomplish his designs. We must endeavor to be faithful to Him and not spoil His work by our shortcomings....

My heart tells me that if I have the happiness of being employed in this mission, <Ibo et non redibo> (I shall go and shall not return); but I shall be happy if our Lord will complete the sacrifice where He has begun it, and make the little blood I have shed in that land the earnest of what I would give from every vein of my body and my heart.

In a word, this people is "a bloody spouse" to me (Exodus iv, 25). May our good Master, who has purchased them in His blood, open to them the door of His Gospel, as well as to the four allied nations near them.

Adieu, dear Father. Pray Him to unite me inseparably to Him.

Isaac Jogues, S.J.


Jesus, our Brother, you won the heart of St. Isaac Jogues and helped him grow as a caring, courageous person. He dedicated his life to sharing his love for you by carrying the Good News about your love for all people to others.

Remembering the spirit of St. Isaac Jogues, may we all grow in caring and courage. Help each of us, Jesus, to be strong and gentle messengers of your love. Amen.

St. Isaac Jogues and Companions, Pray for us!