St. Isaac Jogues “trembled”

Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
Memorial of Sts. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and Companion Martyrs
Have you ever trembled a little on the inside before assuming a responsibility or responding to that vocation that you know for sure God is asking you to say yes to? Or, have you ever trembled, physically or spiritually, in the face of present or future suffering?If so, then don’t worry, you are in the company of many other Christians of good-will, even saints. On the occasion of the memorial of Sts. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf and Companion Martyrs, I would like to share with you some inspiring words from a letter that St. Isaac Jogues wrote to his superior admitting to the fact that he himself “trembled” before God’s will.


He wrote it on the occasion of having received news that he would be returning to his mission among the Hurons. This is no small detail in the life of St. Isaac Jogues, considering that prior to receiving this letter he had already spent 13 months in captivity among the Iroqoius, where he was forced to endure freezing temperatures, undernourishment, unimaginable tortures, grotesque living conditions, and the deprivation of sacramental consolation. What’s even more noteworthy is the fact that he asked to return. He wasn’t be forced to go back. He willingly wanted to leave behind his new found comforts and securities of Old France, for a new martyrdom in New France.He writes, “Reverend Father, at first my heart was seized with fear that what my soul had longed for and prized exceedingly was really going to happen. My poor nature, which remembered all that had gone before, trembled. But our Lord, in his goodness, calmed me, and will calm me still more. Yes, Father, I desire all that our Lord desires, and I desire it at the risk of a thousand lives. Ah, how sorry I would be to lose such a wonderful opportunity, an opportunity in which my ministry might perhaps provide the only means of salvation to certain souls. I hope that God’s goodness, which has never failed me on former occasions, will still continue to assist me and that he and I, we together, will be able to trample underfoot all the difficulties that beset us. It frightens me to be ‘in the midst of fallen peoples’ alone, without Holy Mass, without Holy Communion, without confession–without sacraments and sacramentals. Nevertheless, God’s holy will and his sweet command are well worth that deprivation.” [1]

These words reveal a man–and a saint–who knew how to “dangle” from Divine Providence. They also show us that Jogues is a shining example of how if we want to reach holiness in this life we have to be more than just resigned to God’s will, we have to love it through holy indifference. As St. Francis de Sales writes, “Resignation prefers God’s will above all things, yet it does not cease to love many other things in addition to God’s will. Holy indifference goes beyond resignation, for it loves nothing except for love of God’s will…The indifferent heart loves tribulation as much as consolation, although the latter is more agreeable in itself. It even has greater love for tribulation, because it sees in it nothing to be loved except the mark of God’s will…What does it matter whether God’s will is offered to me in tribulation or in consolation? In each of them, I neither desire nor seek anything except the divine will, which is better seen, because no other beauty is present there but that of God’s most holy, eternal good pleasure.” [2]

St. Isaac Jogues was truly a man of great confidence and holy indifference. He knew that his return to New France would be a new martyrdom, but he loved God more than his own life. He knew that for love of God and the salvation of souls, it was a sacrifice worth making. As we pray in the Collect prayer for today’s memorial, may our love for God’s will be “strengthened day by day” through the witness and intercession of this holy priest and that of his companion martyrs.

[1] Jesuit Missionaries to North America: Spiritual Writings and Biographical Sketches, Ignatius Press, 2006, p. 308-309.
[2] Finding God’s Will for You, Sophia Institute Press, 1998, p. 82-83.

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