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Why did St. Isaac Jogues have to get special permission to say Mass?

Fr. Jogues knocked on the door of a Jesuit house in France in December 1643, emaciated, malnourished, exhausted…

…and missing two fingers on his left hand.

He had just returned to France from his first missionary venture, and his confreres must have received him with a stunned awe when they saw what he had suffered for the sake of the Cross.

Fr. Isaac Jogues had been sent to New France (now Canada) at the age of only twenty-nine to join the Jesuit missions who were bringing the Faith to the American Indians. He labored among the Huron for several years before he was captured by their enemies, the Mohawk, in 1642, spending over a year in captivity at a settlement in what is now upstate New York.

Not only did he have to endure the bitter northern winter as a slave, but he had been brutally tortured, including having his left-hand thumb and forefinger—essential for holding the Host during Mass—cut or bitten or torn off.

Fr. Jogues with his injury (Picture credit: Isaacjogues/Wiki Commons)

The Dutch Protestants, though allied with the Mohawk, had helped him to escape to the safety of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, whence he was able to sail to France.

And here he was, this living martyr among men. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to say Mass with his injury (permission was needed, since he couldn’t hold the Host according to the Mass rubrics) and the Queen Regent of France treated him with the utmost honor.

And what did he do after that? Fr. Jogues went back to the missions.

About this time, relations between the French/Huron and Dutch/Mohawk were actually starting to smooth out. Fr. Jogues was sent as a peace ambassador to his former captors, who treated him well at the beginning.

But things began to fall apart when the Mohawk suffered a rash of sickness and famine that year, which they blamed on the priests and their supposed “sorcerers’ magic.” Much of the tribe wanted to let them go, but a particular faction wanted them killed. Indeed, on October 18 and 19, 1646, Fr. Jogues and a companion, Jean de Lalande, received the crown of martyrdom at the hands of assassins. They, along with René Goupil, who had been previously imprisoned with Fr. Jogues and martyred four years earlier, became the first martyr-saints of the future United States.

Read more about the gripping adventures of Fr. Jogues in Fearless: Stories of the American Saints. You’ll not only hear about the intrepid Jesuits of New France, but a constellation of other holy men and women who dedicated their lives to the evangelization, education, care, and salvation of the people of our beautiful country. Pick up your copy today!

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