Jean de Brébeuf
|Father Jean de Brébeuf|
|Martyr; Apostle of the Hurons|
25 March 1593|
Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France
|Died||16 March 1649
Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada
|Honored in||Roman Catholicism, Anglican Communion|
|Canonized||June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI|
|Major shrine||Martyrs' Shrine, Midland, Ontario, Canada|
Early years 
Brébeuf was born 25th March 1593 in Condé-sur-Vire, Normandy, France, the uncle of poet Georges de Brébeuf. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1617 at the age of 24 and spent two years under the direction of Lancelot Marin. Between 1619 and 1621 he was a teacher at the college of Rouen but was almost expelled from the Society because he contracted tuberculosis in 1620—an illness which prevented both studying and teaching for the traditional periods. His record as a student was not particularly distinguished, but at this age he was already beginning to show an aptitude for languages. Later he would become a language teacher to missionaries and French traders. (Leahey 106). Brébeuf finally achieved his priesthood at Pontoise in 1622.
Priestly years 
After three years as Steward at the College of Rouen, Brébeuf was chosen by the Provincial of France, Father Pierre Coton, to embark on the missions to New France, and in June 1625 Brébeuf arrived in Quebec with Fathers Charles Lalemant and Énemond Massé, alongside the lay brothers Francois Charton and Gilbert Burel. For about five months Brébeuf lived with a tribe of Montagnais, but would later be assigned to the Hurons with Father Anne Nouee in 1626. It was with the Hurons that Brebeuf would do the most work as a missionary to the Native peoples of North America. Brébeuf briefly took up residence with the Bear Tribe at Toanché, but in 1629 was recalled back to France when the post was retaken by Natives.
Brébeuf returned to Rouen and worked as a preacher and confessor, taking his final Jesuit vows in 1630. Between 1631 and 1633 Brébeuf worked at the College of Eu in northern France as a steward, minister and confessor, but was able to return to New France in 1633, where he would spend the rest of his life.
Along with Antoine Daniel and Ambroise Davost, Brébeuf chose Ihonatiria (Saint-Joseph I) as the centre for missionary activity with the Hurons. This return to Huron land corresponded with the spread of European diseases amongst Natives which would frequently damage Native-European relations in the area.
Called ‘Echon’ by the Hurons, Brébeuf's relationship with the Natives that he worked with was ambiguous. On the one hand, his relationship with Hurons was deeply personal, such as teaching six young Hurons who were put into his care. and his conversations with Huron friends left him with a good knowledge of their culture and understanding of spirituality, especially their language, which he taught to other missionaries. Fellow Jesuits such as Rageuneau describe his ease and adaptability to their way of life (Ibid.). His efforts to develop a complete ethnographic understanding of the Huron has been described as ‘the longest and most ambitious piece of ethnographic description in all the Jesuit relations’. Brébeuf would try to find parallels between the Huron Religion and Christianity, so as to model Christianity as a natural and straightforward transformative step from what the Hurons currently believed. (Ibid. 41; 61) Brébeuf’s built a reputation amongst the Huron also for his apparent shamanistic skills, especially in rainmaking. However, Brébeuf was also fundamentally of the opinion that Huron spiritual beliefs were ‘foolish delusions’ and was determined to propagate Christianity amongst the Huron. Likewise, Brébeuf did not enjoy universal popularity with the Huron, many Hurons considered Brébeuf a sorcerer and were instrumental in his death.
His success as a missionary was very slow and it was only in 1635 that he made his first converts. He claimed to have made 14 as of 1635, and as of 1636 he said the number went up 86. In 1638, Brébeuf handed over direction of Saint-Joseph I to Jerome Lalemant and moved on to become superior at his newly founded Saint-Joseph II. In 1640, after an unsuccessful mission into Neutral Native territory, Brébeuf broke his collarbone and was sent to Quebec as mission procurator, teaching Hurons, acting as confessor and advisor to Ursulines and religious Hospitallers and preaching to French settlers on Sundays and feast days. Brébeuf returned to Huron Country in 1644, where he remained in turbulent circumstances until his death in 1694.
Linguistic Work 
Jean de Brébeuf is particularly distinguished for his commitment to learning the Huron language. The educational rigor of the Jesuit seminaries prepared missionaries for the process of acquiring native languages but the fact that the Europeans would only have been versed in the classical and romance languages would make the process extremely difficult as native languages did not follow the same conventions His study of the language was also shaped by his religious training, as the existing theological ideas tried to reconcile knowledge of world languages with accounts in the bible of the tower of Babel. This influence can be seen in his discussion of language in the Jesuit Relations.
Brébeuf had a remarkable facility with language, which was one of the reasons he was chosen for the Huron mission in 1626. This is telling of Brébeuf’s character and his relationship with the Hurons in his mission, as linguistic data suggests that people with a strong positive attitude towards the language community often learn the language much more easily.
Brébeuf worked tirelessly to become fluent with the language himself and to record his findings for the benefit of other missionaries. He built on the work of Recollet Priests but significantly advanced the study, particularly in his representations of sounds. Brébeuf was widely acknowledged to have best mastered the Native oratory style that especially implemented metaphor, circumlocution and repetition. Acquiring the language, however was an onerous task, and in his letters, warned other missionaries of the difficulties of learning the language.
To explain the low number of converts to possibly disappointed audiences, Brebeuf suggested that this was primarily because the missionaries had decided to first master the Huron language. The commitment to this vocation shows that mutual intelligibility was vital for communicating complex and abstract religious ideas and therefore it was imperative for the future of the Jesuit missions. Also, that it was so difficult a task as to consume most of the Priest’s time. Brébeuf felt his primary goal at this time was to learn the language. Increasing proficiency with the language made Brébeuf optimistic about his ability to communicate abstract ideas to the natives, and further pursue the religious goals of the mission. With a greater capacity to understand Huron Religious belief and to communicate the fundamentals He was better able to secure the conversion of Native communities to Christianity, though not necessarily to the exclusion of the existing spiritual landscape.
Perhaps Brébeuf’s biggest contribution to the linguistic body of knowledge was his discovery of the feature of compound words in the native language which he reported excitedly about. This breakthrough had enormous consequences for the further study of the language and was the foundation for all subsequent Jesuit linguistic work.
With his singular proficiency with the language, Brébeuf pursued projects that would contribute to the spiritual mission of the Jesuits. He translated Ledesma's catechism from French to Huron which was the first printed text in of that language. He also compiled a dictionary of Huron words, putting an emphasis on the translation of religious phrases, such as from prayers and the Bible.
Brébeuf was killed at St. Ignace in Huronia on March 16, 1649. He had been taken captive with Gabriel Lalemant when the Iroquois destroyed the Huron mission village at Sainte-Louis. They were taken to the Iroquois-occupied village of Taenhatenteron, where they were tortured for hours before being killed. Five Jesuits, named Antoine Daniel, Lalement, Charles Garnier, Noel Charbanel, and Brébeuf, were killed in this conflict, which was seen as proof that the mission was blessed by God and would be successful. Throughout the torture, Brébeuf was much more concerned for the fate of the others and the captive Native converts than for himself. The Iroquois stripped him and tied him to a post, burned him, cut off his lip because he kept preaching to the other captive Christian converts, ripped out his fingernails, put a heated rod down his throat, put a collar of hot hatchets around his neck, cut off and ate strips of his flesh, scalped him, drank his blood, and ripped his heart out and ate it. His blood was drank in hopes of absorbing Brébeuf’s courage in enduring such pain. The Iroquois mocked the missionaries and Christianity by imitating baptism through the pouring of boiling water over Brébeuf’s head. They claimed that they were hurting him so that he would be happier in Heaven, as Jesuits preached that “the more one suffers on earth, the happier he is in Heaven”. Lalemant was given a belt of resin and set on fire, but survived until the next morning (Pearson, 98). These tortures resembled adoption torture rituals that Iroquois used in initiating captives into their society.
The Jesuits Christophe Regnault and Paul Ragueneau provide the two recollections of the deaths of Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalement. According to Christophe Regnault, the Jesuits learned of the tortures and deaths from Huron refugee witnesses that had escaped from Saint-Marie. Regnault went to see the bodies to verify the accounts, and the account of the deaths by the superior at the Saint-Marie mission, Paul Rageuneau, is based on this. The main accounts of Brébeuf’s death come from the Jesuit Relations, which tend to portray the Iroquois as savages and glorify Brébeuf. Many authors have continued this depiction, furthering the image of Brébeuf as a self-sacrificing martyr. Jesuit accounts of his torture emphasize his stoic nature and non-resistance, claiming that he suffered silently without complaining. Martyrdom was a central component of the Jesuit missionary identity. Missionaries going to Canada expected to be sacrificed in the name of God, and saw it as an opportunity to save converts and be saved. Martyrdom was associated with sanctification and holiness and these in turn were associated with the expansion of Christendom throughout the world.
Relics, Beatification and Canonization 
Father Brébeuf and Lalement were together buried in a Sainte Marie cemetery after their executions. However, Brébeuf's relics, or what was left of his body, became important objects within the Catholic space of New France. On 21 March 1649, Jesuit inspectors found the bodies of Brébeuf and Lalement and buried them. Their exhumation coincided with the 1649 withdrawal of the Jesuits from New France, and the remaining body of Brébeuf was prepared by Christophe Regnault for transportation. Regnault boiled away any remaining flesh, scraped the bones then dried them in an oven, wrapped each relic in separate silk, deposited them in two small chests, and sent them to Québec.
Brébeuf's family later donated his skull in a silver bust, and it was held by the Québec Hôtel-Dieu nuns and the Ursuline convent from 1650 until 1925, when the relics were moved to the Québec Seminary for his beatification. These relics provided physical access to the holy influence of the saint whom they are a part, and were to be called upon for their energy and connection.
in 1652 Paul Raguenau went through the Relations and pulled out material relating to the martyrs of New France and formalized them all in a document, to be used for the foundation of canonization proceedings, entitled "Memoires touchant la mort et les vertus (des Pères Jesuits)" or the Manuscript of 1652 1652. The religious communities in New France were impacted by the Jesuits' martyrdom, since they saw them as imitators of previous saints in the Catholic Church. In this sense, Brébeuf in particular, and others like him, connected Catholics of New France to their parishes because it reinforced the notion that "...Canada was a land of saints".
Any candidacy for sainthood must provide evidence of miracles from the afterlife, and Brébeuf was no exception. His appearance is said to have appeared to Catherine de Saint-Augustine at the Québec Hôtel-Dieu while she was in a state of "mystical ecstasy," and acted as her spiritual advisor. One story exists in which Catherine de Saint-Augustine ground up part of his bone and fed it in a drink to a heretical and mortally ill man. It is said that the man was not only cured of his disease. Continuing this trend, a possessed woman was exorcised using one of his ribs, again under the care of Catherine de Saint-Augustine in 1660-61; however, the exact circumstances of this event are disputed. Brébeuf's relics even managed to be used by nuns who were treating wounded Huguenot soldiers, who "reported that his assistance [bone slivers put in soldiers' drinks] helped rescue these patients from heresy". His relics became important objects both for the nuns who often used them in a medical setting, but also to those who admired what he represented for the Catholic Church in New France.
Jean de Brébeuf was canonized by Pope Pius XI on 29 June 1930, and his canonization was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on 16 October 1940; with this, Brébeuf became a patron saint of Canada with the seven other martyred companions installed simultaneously.  A contemporary newspaper account of the canonization declares: “Brébeuf, the ‘ajax of the mission’ stands out among them [others made saints with him] because of his giant frame, a man of noble birth, of vigorous passions tamed by religion” (New York Times, 19 June 1930), solidifying both the man and his defining drive.
Modern Times 
It is said that the modern name of the Native North American sport of lacrosse was first coined by Brébeuf who thought that the sticks used in the game reminded him of a bishop's crosier (crosse in French, and with the feminine definite article, la crosse). 
He is buried in the Church of St. Joseph at the reconstructed Jesuit mission of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons across Highway 12 from the Martyrs' Shrine Catholic Church near Midland, Ontario. A plaque near the grave of Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant was unearthed during excavations at Ste Marie in 1954. The letters read "P. Jean de Brébeuf /brusle par les Iroquois /le 17 de mars l'an/1649" (Father Jean de Brébeuf, burned by the Iroquois, 17 March 1649.
In September, 1984, Pope John Paul II prayed over Brébeuf's skull before saying an outdoor Mass on the grounds of the Martyrs' Shrine. Thousands of people came to hear him speak from a platform built especially for the day.
Many Jesuit schools are named after him, such as Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf in Montreal, Brébeuf College School in Toronto and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana. St. John de Brebeuf Catholic High Schools in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada are also named in his honour. There is a high school St-Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. There is also Eglise St-Jean de Brebeuf in Sudbury, Ontario.
- Huron Relations for 1635-1636 Jean de Brébeuf, a translation by Fr. William Lonc.
Blackburn, Carol. Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America,1632-1650. Montréal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000.
- Greer, Allan. “Colonial Saints: Gender, Race, and Hagiography in New France.” The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, vol. 57, no. 2 (2000): 323-348.
- Greer, Allan, ed. The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000.
- Latourelle, René. “Brébeuf, Jean de.” In Dictionary of Canadian Bibliography Online. Université Laval/University of Toronto, 2000. http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?
- Leahey, Margaret J. “‘Comment peut un muet prescher l'évangile’ Jesuit Missionaries and the Native Languages of New France.” French Historical Studies 95, vol. 19, issue 1 (1995):
- Parkman, Francis. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1888.
- Pearson, Timothy G. “Becoming holy in early Canada: Performance and the making of holy persons in society and culture.” PhD diss., McGill University (Canada), 2008.
- Talbot, Francis X. Saint Among the Hurons: The Life of Jean de Brébeuf. New York: Harper, 1949.
- Trigger, Bruce G.. Natives and newcomers: Canada's "Heroic Age" reconsidered. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1986.
- Francis X. Talbot, Saint Among the Hurons: The Life of Jean de Brébeuf, (New York: Harper, 1949), p. 7.
- Bruce Trigger, Natives and newcomers: Canada's "Heroic Age" reconsidered, (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1986), p. 229.
- Allan Greer, (ed.) The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000), p. 37.
- Margaret J. Leahey, “‘Comment peut un muet prescher l'évangile’ Jesuit Missionaries and the Native Languages of New France.”, French Historical Studies 95, vol. 19, issue 1 (1995): 105-131, p. 119.
- Greer, Jesuit Relations, p. 38.
- Trigger, p. 202.
- Greer, Jesuit Relations, p. 37.
- Trigger, p. 290.
- Jesuit Relations, p. 11, vol. X.
- Leahey, p. 108.
- Ibid. 109.
- Greer, Jesuit relations, p. 38.
- Leahey, p. 112.
- Ibid., p. 113.
- Ibid., p. 116.
- Carol Blackburn, Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632-1650, (Montréal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000), p. 88.
- Ibid., p. 111.
- Ibid., p. 117.
- Ibid., p. 88.
- Leahey, p. 122.
- Ibid., p. 129.
- Ibid., p. 115-116.
- Timothy G. Pearson, “Becoming holy in early Canada: Performance and the making of holy persons in society and culture.” PhD diss., McGill University (Canada), 2008., p. 96.
- Ibid., p. 68.
- Ibid., p. 97.
- Ibid., p. 98.
- Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1888), p. 389.
- Ibid., p. 96.
- Ibid., p. 101.
- Ibid. pp. 96-97.
- Talbot, p. 297.
- Pearson, p. 74.
- Ibid., p. 72.
- Ibid., p. 70).
- Parkman, p. 391.
- Pearson, p. 101.
- Ibid., p. 112.
- Ibid., p. 112.
- Parkman, p. 391.
- Pearson, p. 123.
- Ibid., p. 128.
- Ibid., p. 116.
- Ibid., p. 123.
- Ibid., p. 165.
- Ibid., p. 123.
- Ibid., p. 124.
- Ibid., p. 125.
- Allan Greer, "Colonial Saints", in The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, vol. 57, no. 2 (2000): pp. 323-348. p. 333.
- Charlotte Gray 'The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder' Random House, 2004
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Free scores by Jean de Brébeuf in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
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