The Canadian Martyrs
January issue, we started to cover the story of the Canadian Martyrs.
This month, we are pleased to give you a report on the life of St. Antoine
ST. ANTOINE DANIEL (1601-1648)
Fr. Antoine Daniel was born in Dieppe, France, May 27, 1601. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer, but God had other plans for him. He completed his classical studies, but in 1621, at the age of twenty-three, he entered the Jesuit Order at Rouen. After he completed his novitiate and made his religious profession, he was sent to the Jesuit College of Rouen to teach and govern.
That same year, Amantacha, a young Huron from one of the missions of New France was attending the college at Rouen. Fr. Jerome Lalemant had sent Amantacha to the College of Rouen so that when he was well taught, he would be useful in making the way easy for the missionaries in New France, to visit the different Huron tribes. Amantacha was baptised and given the name Louis. While at the college, Antoine taught him, and the ease with which Louis learned, undoubtedly gave his teacher the desire to work in the Huron missions of New France. A few years later, in 1627, Fr. Charles Lalemant returned to the College of Clermont, in Paris. Our saint was sent there to take theology and his meeting with Fr. Lalemant also heated his desires to join the missions. After Antoine was ordained in 1630, his desire to join the Indian missions was even greater, but he was obliged to wait for two years, at the College of Eu, before he could leave for New France.
In the summer of 1632, Fr. Daniel and Fr. Davost arrived at St. Anne's Bay and began their ministry among the few French colonists and fishermen who had not been able to receive the Sacraments. For a whole year the two priests lived with these poor people providing them with the Mass and the Sacraments. They went to Quebec in June 1633, and there, Fr. de Brébeuf helped them learn the Huron tongue. It was the wish of all three to start for Georgian Bay immediately, but the danger of falling into the hands of the Iroquois along the route, stopped them from taking the journey. So they decided to spend time studying the Huron language until the next year.
In 1634, the three Jesuits set out for Huronia. Fr. Daniel had learned the Huron language quickly. He translated the Lord's Prayer into Huron and told the Indians to learn it by heart and sing it, a method which helped him greatly in teaching them the basics of the Catholic Faith.
The Jesuits wanted to send more young native boys to France with the hope that when the boys had been fully instructed in the Catholic Faith and civilized ways, and had returned to their villages, their words and examples would help to convert the older members of their tribe. But in time it was found that sending Huron Indians to France was not the best idea, so a plan was made to carry out this idea in New France.
Meanwhile the missionaries kept themselves busy among the Hurons. Fr. Brébeuf especially liked the plan and was promised twelve intelligent Huron boys who would be sent to Quebec. The important task of taking the youths down to Quebec and acting as father and teacher to them while there was entrusted to Fr. Daniel. But when the time came for the boy's departures, the mothers cried so much that in the end, only three boys went to Quebec.
In August 1636, Antoine and the three youths first arrived at Trois-Rivières. A few days later, three more boys were added to the group and Fr. Daniel continued on down to Quebec, full of hope that one of the problems of the missions was about to be solved. Meanwhile, other Indian boys nearer home had been encouraged to enter the school and soon fifteen boys were gathered together at Note Dame des Anges, two miles from Quebec.
But the crosses and trials, which usually go hand in hand with all works undertaken for God, were about to begin for the Huron school. Two of the students became ill and died. Because of this, Fr. Daniel worried himself sick, wondering what the Huron parents and relatives would say when they heard that their sons were dead. But in time our saint got better and continued his work at the school. In time the Jesuits realized that the school must be established among most of the French population, so that the French children may attract the Indians. Since 1635, a college had been built in Quebec and to this place the Indians were sent. It was hoped that their contact with the people of New France would civilize them and cause the conversion of their countrymen. But unhappily, this mixing of races never worked out and after experimenting for five years, the Jesuits had to abandon the project.
Fr. Daniel did not stay long enough in Quebec to witness the failure of the school. In the fall of 1637, he handed over to others his class work among the French and Hurons, and in the spring of 1638 started out for the missions. After weeks of hardship and suffering, our saint reached Huronia on July 19, 1638. He went to reside at Ossossané, which had been opened the year before and which was already well protected against the attacks of the Iroquois. Brébeuf, Le Mecier, Ragueneau, and Garnier occupied this fort.
With Simon Le Moyne as assistant, Fr. Daniel had under his pastoral care, both Teanaostaye and Cahiagué. For nine years our saint worked in these two places. The number of good Christians grew so rapidly that there was enough work for at least six priests. So these two priests had to work hard, walk many miles to the other places and were often open to attack by wandering Iroquois.
So successful was our saint's ministry along the border of Lake Simcoe that a permanent house might have been set up at Cahiagué, had not the Iroquois begun to come around. This village lie in route to and from Iroquois country. Because of this, many Hurons moved to St. Joseph's mission at Teanaostaye where it was somewhat safer to live than Cahiagué.
The Iroquois had grown more daring by the spring of 1648, especially along the frontiers of Huronia. Small parties of them appeared here and there and then disappeared, only after having scalped a few Hurons, whom they left for dead or carried off as prisoners. They had now begun to raid Huron territory, so the Jesuits and their converts; especially those at St. Ignace, drew nearer to Fort St. Marie where they looked for better protection.
Towards the close of the month of June 1648, Fr. Daniel had gone to Fort St. Marie to make his annual retreat. After making an eight-day retreat, he was then inspired to hurry back to his mission at Teanaostaye. On the morning of July 4th, he had just said Mass, when a swarm of Iroquois appeared behind the walls of the village. The pious Hurons were still saying their prayers when a cry rang out: "To arms! The enemy is here!"
Terror seized the poor Hurons. Our saint, realizing the desperate situation, stood up in their midst and encouraged them to defend themselves. Fr. Daniel gave absolution to the Catholics kneeling at his feet and told the catechumens present, to prepare for baptism, which they had not yet received. Unable to give the sacrament on each one singly, he grabbed a handkerchief, plunged it in water, raised it over his head and sprinkled dozens of kneeling Hurons before him, while saying the words of baptism.
While the Iroquois were killing, and destroying the village, our saint ran from hut to hut to baptise, to absolve the old and sick, and encourage them to die bravely. Fr. Daniel then raced back to the church, which was now filled with terrified Hurons. Closely at his heels rushed the terrible Iroquois. After a second absolution and a word of consolation to his flock, the holy priest fearlessly faced the enemy at the door. The Iroquois, astonished at the Blackrobe standing before them, suddenly drew back. A moment later, they surrounded him from every side, aimed their arrows and guns at him, and fired. As our friend crumpled to the ground, his soul sped to Heaven. The enraged Iroquois washed their hands and faces with our saint's blood, because it was formed in so brave a heart. Then they stripped his body naked; covered it with blows and having set fire to the church, threw the body of the martyr into the flames.
Fr. Daniel was the first missionary to die among the Hurons. He gave his soul to God bravely and dutifully, as a good pastor, sacrificing his life for the salvation of his flock. Of our saint, one priest said, "He seemed to have been born only for the salvation of these people; he had no stronger desire than to die for them…"
Not long after his death, Heaven gave its stamp of approval to Fr. Daniel's holiness. He appeared twice to Fr. Chaumonot who had been his intimate friend and who had been his companion at various times: once in a dream and once in an apparition. In the dream our saint encouraged Fr. Chaumonot to, "Forgive us our trespasses!" and during the apparition when Fr. Chaumonot complained about the fact that there were no relics of our friend, since he had been burned, Fr. Daniel told him that, "God, holy and adorable, had considered his death and sufferings and made them a great help to the souls in Purgatory."
God grant that we too may sacrifice our lives for others, living and dead; at least in little ways, during our daily life.
Saint Antoine Daniel, Pray for Us!
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