During the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe was discovering entire civilizations whom had never been introduced to Jesus. Jean de Brébeuf, a young Jesuit priest, felt called to lo leave his home in France and take up the challenge of a missioner’s life among the Huron people in modern-day Canada.
Typical of missioners everywhere, St. Jean lived in the way of the people he had come to serve. He ate their food, slept in homes like theirs–worked in every way to affirm what was good and beautiful in the local culture. He was well received by his Huron friends, many of whom he baptized. They called him Echon, “the man who carries his load.”
War and disease was widespread in New France. European smallpox killed off entire populations. The Sacrament of Anointing, administered by Jesuits to the dying, was unfortunately perceived by some Hurons as a lethal curse.
Ultimately Pere Jean de Brébeuf was martyred by Iroquois warriors. He and others were ritually tortured, skinned alive, “baptized” with boilng water and more. He endured his death with such bravery that his torturers ate his heart. Canonized in 1930, his group of companions is known as the North American Martyrs.
St. Jean, pray that each of us might find the passion to reach out to those not like us. Help us to be confident in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In your holy martyrdom, inspire our imaginations to think not of the cost as we serve the Lord.