It is January 5, 1644, and a ragged traveler knocks at the door of the Jesuit college at Rennes, France. He is gaunt, poorly dressed in clothes that do not fit him. He is bearded and young, 38 years old, but, with thinning hair and a lined face, looks much older. His hands are mangled stumps, his left thumb is gone, and his forefingers, from which the nails have been torn, useless. He asks the porter if he may speak to the rector, for whom he has news from Canada.
The rector is vesting for Mass, but he lays aside his vestments to hurry to the door. This poor man, he says, may be in need.
The visitor hands him a packet of letters, but the rector peppers him with questions. Has he heard anything of Father Isaac Jogues?
“I knew him very well,” he answers.
“We have heard that he was taken by the Iroquois. Is he dead? Is he still captive? Have not those barbarians slain him?”
“He is at liberty,” the stranger replies. “And it is he, my Reverend Father, who speaks to you now.” Then he falls on his knees to ask the rector's blessing. Word spreads through the house and everyone rushes to see him. He is Lazarus raised from the dead.
In fact, he has less than two years to live.
Isaac Jogues, along with Jean de Brébeuf, is the best known of the eight North American Jesuits and their lay assistants who were martyred—Rene Goupil, Jean de Lalande, Gabriel Lallement, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel, and Antoine Daniel—in the story of the French penetration into New France. Their world, from the Jesuits' first arrival in French Canada in 1611 until their expulsion, in stages, in the 1770s, reached from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Northeast Canada down through the Canadian territory north of the river to and around the Great Lakes, in New England and upstate New York, and into the West and down the Mississippi River to Louisiana. Among