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martyrdom grew into a passion, until he exclaimed:
“What shall I render to thee, Jesus, my Lord, for all thy benefits? I will accept thy cup and invoke thy name!” and in sight of the eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary, most Holy Mother of Christ, before angels, saints, apostles and martyrs he made a vow never to decline the opportunity of martyrdom, and ever to receive the death-blow with joy.
The Jesuit missionaries suffered terribly from the Iroquois Indians, the hereditary enemies of the Hurons. Isaac Jogues, on his way to St. Mary's, was taken prisoner by the Mohawks on the St. Lawrence. He might have escaped; but there were unbaptized converts, and a Jesuit missionary was never known to save his own life at the risk of a soul. He was tormented with hunger and thirst and in several villages was compelled to run the gauntlet. Father Bressani was taken prisoner while on his way to the Hurons. Beaten, mangled, mutilated, driven bare-footed over rough paths, through briars and thickets, scourged by a whole village, burned, tortured, wounded and scarred. He was an eye-witness to the fate of one of his companions, who was boiled and eaten; yet some mysterious power seemed to preserve his life, and he and Jogues were humanely rescued by the Dutch. The devoted missionaries encountered danger and suffering in every form, from the perils of nature as well as the inhumanity of savages. Some were drowned on the way to their missions; some starved to death; others, losing their way among the pathless snows, perished by intense cold.
In time, each solitary mission among the Hurons became a special point of attraction to the invading Iroquois and liable to the horrors of an Indian massacre. Such a fate befell the village of St. Joseph. On the morning of July 4th, 1648, when the warriors were absent on a hunt, the village was attacked by the Mohawks. A group of helpless women and children flew to the missionary, Father Anthony Daniel, to escape the tomahawk, as if his lips uttering messages of love, could produce a spell that would curb the madness of destruction. Those who had formerly scoffed at his mission implored the benefit of baptism. Bidding them ask forgiveness of God, he dipped his handkerchief in water and baptized the crowd of frightened suppliants. He had just accomplished this important duty, when the palisades were forced. Instead of flying, the holy man of God, ran to the wigwams to baptize the sick, give absolution, and then, when the wigwams were set on fire and the Mobawks approached his chapel, he serenely advanced to resign his life as a sacrifice to his vows. As the savages drew nearer, they let fly a volley of arrows at the missionary. All gashed and rent with wounds, with arrows still sticking in his flesh, he addressed to them, with surprising energy, the affectionate messages of divine mercy and grace. Then the fatal blow was given, and he died with the name of Jesus on his lips. The wilderness furnished him a grave, and the Huron nation were his mourners.
Next year, the villages of St. Ignatius and St. Louis were destroyed by the Iroquois. In the latter village were Brebeuf and Lallemand. Both might have escaped had they not remained behind to bend over the dying converts and give them baptism. They were made prisoners. Brebeuf was set apart on a scaffold, and, despite every indignity and outrage offered him, rebuked his persecutors and encouraged the Huron converts. They cut off his lower lip and nose, applied burning torches to his body, burned his gums and thrust hot irons down his throat. Deprived of his voice, his assuring countenance and confiding eye still bore witness to his firmness. The delicate Lallemand was stripped naked and enveloped from head to foot with bark full of rosin. Brought into the presence of Brebeuf, he exclaimed:
“We are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men.”
The fine bark was set on fire and when it was in a blaze, boiling water was poured on the heads of both the missionaries. The voice of Lallemand was choked by the thick smoke; but the fire having snapped his bands, he lifted his hands to heaven, imploring the aid of Him who ever gives strength to the weak. Brebeuf was scalped while still alive, and died after a torture of three hours; but some historians state that the sufferings of Lallemand were protracted for seventeen hours. Thus went out the lives of two, who had been heroes in the cause of their Master, and whose deaths were the astonishment of their executioners.
Massacres and persecutions quenched not the enthusiasm. The Jesuits never receded one foot; but, as in a brave army, new troops press forward to fill the places of the fallen, there were never wanting heroism and enterprise in behalf of the Cross and French dominion.
The French were bold and aggressive. In 1654, two young traders went from Quebec to the wilderness far westward toward the Mississippi River, where they remained for two years and returned with fifty canoes and a number of Indians. Their marvellous accounts of the magnificent countries which they had traversed excited great enthusiasm, and the Church and State determined to possess that goodly land. Father Alloüez, a daring Jesuit, went boldly into that region. He proclaimed the king of France as sovereign of the Chippewas, and built mission houses in their country. He preached to the fiery Sioux, and from them heard of the magnificent Mississippi River which the Indians called the Father of Waters. When this wonderful intelligence reached Quebec, Fathers Marquette and Dablon, two energetic priests, set out to explore the mysterious land and plant the banner of the cross in the very heart of the heathen world. Among the Chippewas, they labored lovingly for their God and their king; and when Joliet, an agent of the French government of Canada, arrived there, Marquette gave him efficient aid in his political designs. He summoned a convention of all the surrounding tribes, at the falls of St. Mary's between Lakes Superior and Huron, where he had erected a rude chapel and founded a mission. There, by the side of the cross, the national emblems of France were raised in token of the conquest of the dominion in the name of Louis XIV. of France.