Francesco Bressani

The First Italian Jesuit in North America

By Frank Spezzano


Excerpts from "Brebeuf & His Brethren" By E. J. Pratt

The western missions waiting Jogues's return were held together by a scarlet thread.

The sparse reports had filtered to Quebec and the command was given to Bressani to lead the rescue band to Sainte Marie. Leaving Three Rivers in the spring when ice was on the current, he was caught like Jogues with his six Hurons and a French oblate.

Bressani wrote one day when vigilance relaxed and his split hand was partly healed and only one finger of the hand is left unburned. The blood has stained the paper. My writing table is the earth; the ink gunpowder mixed with water. And again this time to his Superior - I could not have believed it to be possible that a man's body was so hard to kill.

Bressani ill-equipped to speak the Huron has speech more eloquent to capture souls; it is his scars; his mutilated hands "Only show us," the neophytes exclaim, "The wounds, for they teach better than our tongues your faith, for you have come again to face the dangers. Only thus we know that you believe the truth and would have us believe it."

Infested by the Iroquois were traps of death. Three bands of Hurons had been caught that summer.

Rumours of treaties between the French and Mohawks stirred belief that peace was in the air.

This was the pipe-dream - was it credible?

Where little proof was given of the root of faith, but now the Fathers told of deeds that flowered from the stems. Had not Eustache bequeathed his record like a Testament?

here little proof was given of the root of faith, but now the Fathers told of deeds that flowered from the stems. Had not Eustache Bequeathed his record like a Testament?

Not only was the faith sustained by hopes nourished within the bosom of their home and by the wish-engendered talk of peace, but there outside the fort was evidence of tenure for the future.

Where even the sun and moon and stars revolved around a Life and a redemptive Death. They pushed their missions to the north and west further into Algonquin territories.

As the months passed the pressure of attack moved grimly towards the west, making complete the isolation of Huronia.

And the Huron curse inspired by sorcerers who saw black magic in the Jesuit robes and linked disaster with their ritual,

Against arrows, muskets, spears and tomahawks. That momentary pause had saved the lives of hundreds as they fled into the forest, but not the life of Daniel. Though afraid at first to cross a charmed circumference to take a struggle hand-to-hand, they drove their arrows through him, then in frenzied rush mastering their awe, they hurled themselves upon. The body, stripped it of its clothes and flung it into the burning church. By noon nothing remained but ashes of the town, the fort, the cabins and their seven hundred dead.

The Collected Poems of E. J. Pratt.

The dramatic portrayal of the martyrdom of the Jesuit Fathers Brebeuf and Lalemant embellishes this beautiful map, attributed to the Jesuit Bressani, who himself had lost three fingers of one hand while being tortured by the Indians. This map portrayed the most intimate details of the land west of Montreal for its time.

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