“We begged God to accept our lives and our blood.”
Name: St. René Goupil
Can laypeople be missioner saints? Students of Catholic history know it is rare. But that’s more from a lack of organized, expensive, canonization campaigns. As we all know, holiness abounds among the laity. René Goupil, French missioner to North America, was a layman who lived his faith and ultimately gave his life for it. St. René was the first to be canonized as a North American martyr, to be followed by the Jesuits he worked among, who also were slain for their faith.
St. René joined the band of Jesuit missioners after he had become a practicing surgeon. Surgery at the time was a practice of general healing and bloodletting more than what we think of today as surgery. He went from his comfortable home in France to the wilds of New France, in the south of modern-day Canada. He worked at a mission near Quebec, tending to the sick and wounded.
Eventually he traveled to the Huron regions inland, in what is upstate New York, with Jesuit missionaries. It was there they met their martyrdom. After teaching a Mohawk boy the Sign of the Cross, Goupil was killed by a blow to the head with a tomahawk. As he lay dying, he professed oaths as a Jesuit lay Brother, a lifelong dream, to Father Isaac Jogues. Father Jogues was eventually martyred, along with all of the Christian Hurons in that camp. St. Isaac wrote of St. René, “We begged God to accept our lives and our blood and unite them to His life and His blood for the salvation of these tribes.” St. René, among the other North American Martyrs, is a patron of Glenmary Home Missioners.
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