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March 16

St John de Brébuef - March 16

Saint John de Brébeuf

Priest, Martyr

(1593 – 1649)

“All these labors seem to me nothing, in comparison with what I am willing to endure for God.

Saint John de Brébeuf

Saint’s Life Story

His Life in France

Jean (John) was born in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France on March 25, 1593. He wanted to enter the priesthood from an early age, but his health was so bad there were doubts he could make it. John joined the Society of Jesus in 1617 at the age of 24 starting his life as a Jesuit.

Teacher and Then Ordained

John spent the next two years under the direction of Lancelot Marin. Between 1619 and 1621, he was a teacher at the college of Rouen. He was nearly expelled from the Society when he contracted tuberculosis in 1620 —a severe and usually fatal illness that prevented his studying and teaching for the traditional periods. His record as a student was not particularly distinguished, but John was already beginning to show an aptitude for languages. John was ordained in 1622. For the next three years John was the Steward at the College of Rouen.

His Missionary Life in New France

John volunteered and was chosen by the Provincial of France, Father Pierre Coton, to embark on the missions to New France (Canada). At the age of 32, John began his posting as a missionary in the frontier of Quebec, Canada together with Fathers Charles Lalemant and Énemond Massé and the lay brothers Francois Charton and Gilbert Burel.

No Success Converting so Returned to France

John worked mostly as a missionary to the Huron, who spoke an Iroquoian language. He briefly took up residence with the Bear Tribe at Toanché, but met with no success in trying to convert them to Catholicism. John returned to France in 1629 when Samuel de Champlain surrendered to the English.

Preacher and Confessor in France

Back in France at Rouen, John served as a preacher and confessor. He took his final Jesuit vows in 1630. Between 1631 and 1633, John worked at the College of Eu, Seine-Maritime in northern France as a steward, minister and confessor. 

Echon Returned to New France

John returned to New France in 1633, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. John had tuberculosis, but the climate agreed with him. Surprised at his endurance, the Hurons called John Echon, which meant load bearer. John was personally involved with teaching. His lengthy conversations with Huron friends left him with a good knowledge of their culture and spirituality.

Difficulty Learning Huron Language

John had great difficulty learning the Huron language. “You may have been a famous professor or theologian in France,” he wrote in a letter home, “but here you will merely be a student, and with what teachers! The Huron language will be your Aristla crosse.”  However, John eventually wrote a catechism in Huron, and a French–Huron dictionary for use by other missionaries. 

Named the Game Lacrosse

According to histories of the game, it was John de Brebeuf who named the present day version of the Indian game lacrosse because the stick used reminded him of a bishop‘s crosier (la crosse).

John’s progress as a missionary in achieving conversions was slow. Not until 1635 did some Huron agree to be baptized as Christians. Slowly this number steadily increased. In 1638, Brébeuf turned over direction of the mission at Saint-Joseph I to Jérôme Lalemant. John was called to become Superior at his newly founded Saint-Joseph II. He tried to find parallels between the Huron religion and Christianity, so as to facilitate conversion of the Huron to the European religion.

His Torture and Martyrdom

In 1649, John was taken captive with Gabriel Lalemant when the Iroquois destroyed the Huron mission village at Saint-Louis. The Iroquois took the priests to the occupied village of Taenhatenteron (also known as St. Ignace), where they subjected the missionaries and native converts to ritual torture before killing them.

Throughout the torture, John was reported to have been more concerned for the fate of the other Jesuits and of the captive Native converts than for himself. As part of the ritual, the Iroquois drank his blood and ate his heart, as they wanted to absorb Brébeuf’s courage in enduring the pain. John was slain on March 16, 1649 at the age of 55 in near Sainte-Marie among the Hurons,  a French settlement near modern day Midland, Ontario, Canada.

His Jesuit Companions – Martyrs of North America

John’s Jesuit companions (also known as Martyrs of North America) that were also killed include:

Noel Chabanel
Anthony Daniel
Charles Garnier
René Goupil
Isaac Jogues
John Lalande
Gabriel Lalemant

John is reported to have converted 7,000 Indians during his missionary work in Canada that he was killed for.

Beatified:           June 21, 1925 by Pope Pius XI

Canonized:        June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI

Feast Day:         March 16, October 19 as part of the Martyrs of North America

Patron Saint:    Canada



Saint John de Brébeuf, you died far from the comforts of home and family. You accepted sufferings you did not deserve for the greater glory of God. Grant us patience when we are impetuous and endurance when tempted to quit. Also grant us  humility when confronted with ignorance and physical toughness when the comforts of life are not to be found. You and I  may never be called to suffer for the Lord as a martyr. But, you can still make an offering of the sufferings that come your way and pray that joined to Christ’s cross, they play a role in the salvation of the world.

Can you patiently call on Jesus today to help you avoid today’s temptations that may take you away from doing God’s will? Just as Saint John de Brebeuf accepted his sufferings, may God give you the grace and strength to accept your sufferings today that you offer up to God.

Source: Adapted from Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions – My Catholic Life!


St. John, you fearlessly pursed God’s calling upon your life, ignoring the opinions of those who tried to stop you. Even health problems could not keep you from your vocation. Pray that we may also do what God asks of us, even if we face opposition from our friends and family or when we have health problems.

Saint John de Brébeuf, pray for us. Amen.

Source: St. Jean de Brebeuf: Canadian Martyr & Missionary to New France • TKM (

Saint Links 

Aleteia – This Jesuit missionary preached the Gospel through his love of Native Americans

Anastpaul – Saint of the Day – 16 March – St Jean de Brebeuf SJ

Catholic Culture – Feast Day Highlights: The North American Martyrs

Catholic Exchange – The Martyrdom of St. John de Brebeuf

Catholic Fire – Sts. John de Brébeuf and Issac Jogues and their companions

Catholic Ireland – Oct 19 – Saint Jean de Brebeuf and companions (17th century) The Jesuit Martyrs of North America

Catholic News Agency – The North American Martyrs

Catholic Online – St. Jean de Brebeuf

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint John de Brébeuf

CatholicSaints.Info – Catholic World – Memoir of Father John de Brébeuf, S.J.

Franciscan Media – Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions

Loyola Press – Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions Feast Day October 19

My Catholic Life – Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions

New Advent – Campbell, T. (1907). Jean de Brébeuf. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Newman Ministry – Saint Jean de Brebeuf

Saints, Feast, Family – Saints Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brébeuf, and Companions’ Story

Salt + Light Media – St. Jean de Brébeuf: Canadian Martyr

Wikipedia – Jean de Brébeuf

Video Link

North American Martyrs (10/19/16) – YouTube Video (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)