saints and martyrs

Bl. James Sales, SJ and Bl. William Saultemouche, SJ


Bl. James Sales

Born : Mar 21,1556
Died : Feb 7, 1593
Beatified : June 6, 1926

Bl. William Saultemouche, SJ

Born: 1557
Died: Feb 7,1593
Beatified: June 6, 1926

James Sales was born at Lezoux in the Auvergne , France. He studied at the Jesuit school at Billom from 1568 to 1572 and was especially devoted to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament from his early teens. Although he felt God was calling him to be a Jesuit priest in his last year at Billom, he knew he was needed at home as he was the only son. His desire to become a priest increased when he moved to study at Clermont College in Paris and he would often kneel before the Blessed Sacrament asking our Lord to remove the obstacles keeping him from entering the Society. The following year in 1573 his father granted him permission and he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Verdun the same year.

James pursued his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Pont-a-Mousson but his theology course was interrupted and thus postponing his ordination when his superior asked him to teach philosophy at the university which lasted for three years. He was finally ordained in 1585 at the age of twenty-nine and continued to teach theology at the university.

Fr Sales wrote to Fr General Claudio Acquaviva in 1587 expressing his interest and willingness to go to any mission in America, China, or Japan but was told that there was mission work to be done at home in France. Fr Sales was initially disappointed, but later understood the meaning of the general’s letter – France itself was mission territory as it was torn apart by the Wars of Religions as the Huguenots, or French Calvinists had since 1562 forced their heterodox views on Catholics. Fr Sales thus resolved to make France his mission field to confirm the Catholics in their faith and to expose the errors of the Calvinists.

Fr Sales was able to put his theology to excellent use when he preached to the faithful at the missions he preached and despite the disturbance and heckling caused by the Huguenots to break up the meetings, the Catholics were strengthened in their faith. When Fr Sales was appointed chairman of “controversial” theology at Tournon, he was tasked to draw up a program of studies with the key objectives of showing the truth of the Catholic teaching and to respond to the objections of the Protestants. He also wrote several short booklets on the Catholic faith, one of which was on the Eucharist. As his booklets were well written, his superior suggested he have them printed for the benefit of others but before anything could be done, Fr Sales was sent to Aubenas in the Cevennes on his final mission.

In 1587 the Catholics of Aubenas had overthrown the Huguenots who had control of the city for several years. The governor of Aubenas had annually requested a Jesuit to give the Advent and the Lentern series of sermons. In 1592, the governor made a similar request; this time one who could in addition to confirming the Catholics in their faith, one who could also refute the Calvinist ministers, whose boldness was fast increasing in Aubenas. Fr Sales was well suited for the job and he was elated when told he was chosen and in thanksgiving he kissed the relic of the martyred Edmund Campion he was wearing for obtaining this great favour for him. He was assigned Bro William Saultemouche as his companion to the Aubenas mission.

Bro Saultemouche was born at Saint-Germain-l’Herm. He joined the Society as a brother in 1579 at Verdun at the age of twenty-two. He served as a porter at Pont-a-Mousson and was known for his simplicity, gentleness of character, and obedience. People referred to him as “an angel come down from heaven in human form.” He was transferred to Paris, then to Lyons and then in 1592, to Tournon, just in time to join Fr Sales on the Aubanus mission.

When Fr Sales left Tournon he knew he would not return. He told a fellow-Jesuit : “Adieu, pray for us. We are going to our death.” Fr Sales gave a clear exposition of Catholic teaching together with its proof; he never engaged in insults or recriminations against Protestants. However with the increased tension between Catholics and Huguenots in Aubenus, Fr Sales and Bro Saultemoutche returned there but when offered shelter from the inevitable Huguenot attack, Fr Sales said : “As for death, I have been thinking of martyrdom for the past fifteen years, and I desire to sacrifice my life for God. If struck down in hatred of the Catholic faith, then blessed is the hand that gives that deathblow.”

On the evening of Feb 5, 1593 while Fr Sales was instructing a Calvinist family, he heard strange uproar outside. He rushed out to the church as his first thought was to save the Blessed Sacrament from Huguenot profanation and found Bro Saultemoutche there. Together they offered their lives to God before going home and spent the night in prayer.

Early the next morning, cries of “Death! Death! Were heard in the streets and shortly after three soldiers forced their way into the Jesuit residence where they found them at prayer.

Fr Sales and Bro Saultemoutche were taken to Huguenot headquarters and were interrogated by Calvinist ministers, led by Labat on a discussion of various Catholic practices ranging from fasting, free will and ending with the sacraments, emphasing on the Eucharist. In all these, Fr Sales defended Christ’s real presence, which the Huguenots rejected as idolatory. The Huguenots abused the two Jesuits and heaped insults upon them thinking that this could get them to deny their faith. Bro Saultemoutche was not subject to guestioning but witnessed to the abuses suffered by Fr Sales and prayed for him in silence.

The interrogation continued for almost two days and the two Jesuits were without food and spent the night in a damp cell but Fr Sales held on under Labat’s relentless examination. When Labat learned that Fr Sales had not succumbed to the rigours of the interrogation but instead spoke eloquently enough to sway those listening, he wanted the Jesuit dead. Bro Saultemoutche insisted on going with Fr Sales as he wanted to receive the same crown saying: “ I will die with you for the truth of your arguments.’

Just before Fr Sales was executed, Labat once more asked him to abjure his belief in Christ’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament, but when he refused he was shot in his back. As Fr Sales fell to the ground, saying;”Jesus, Mary!”, a soldier drove a sword into his breast. As Bro Saultemoutche bent down and threw his arms around his martyred companion, someone thrust a sword into his side and stabbed him until he too laid dead at the feet of his murderers. The Calvinists in their hatred for the Jesuits had the bodies dragged through the streets of Aubenus and their bodies were thrown in a dumping place for debris after six days.

Fr Sales was thirty-seven and Bro Saultemoutche thirty-six when they were martyred in France for defending Christ’s real presence in the Holy Eucharist.