Missionaries give up the comforts and familiarities of home and set out to bring the people of a strange land to God.
Between the years 1642 and 1649, eight French Jesuits gave their lives to bring eternal salvation to the Huron and Iroquois peoples of present-day southern Ontario and Upstate New York.
One of the martyrs, St. Jean de Brébeuf, described his fervor to save American Indians:
My God, it grieves me greatly that You are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to You, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.
He, like the other Jesuit missionaries, learned the Indians' language and culture. They did that in order to make God more understandable to the natives, who did not even have any written language.
In 1642, de Brébeuf wrote a beautiful Christmas hymn for the Huron people called the "Huron Carol" — also known as "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime."
The hymn describes the wiles of the demon they used to worship: "The Okee spirit who enslaved us has fled. Don't listen to him, for he corrupts the spirits of our thoughts. Jesus, He is born."
Describing the three kings who presented gold, frankincense and myrrh, the hymn makes them great Huron hunters: "As they entered and saw Jesus, they praised His name. They oiled His scalp many times, anointing His head with the oil of the sunflower."
"Let us place His name in a position of honor. Let us act reverently towards Him, for He comes to show us mercy. It is the will of the spirits that You love us, Jesus, and we wish that we may be adopted into Your family," the hymn continues.
What SS. Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brébeuf and their companions first possessed before shedding their blood was a martyr's heart. All Christians should pray for a martyr's heart.
Learn more by watching The Download—Dying to Save Souls.