July 4th: Saint Anthony Daniel, SJ

July 4th: Saint Anthony Daniel, SJ

Born: May 27, 1601
Died: July 4, 1648
Beatified: June 21, 1925
Canonized: June 29, 1930

Fr Daniel was born in Dieppe, France. He gave up his law studies to enter the Jesuit novitiate at Rouen. He studied Theology at Clermont College in Paris and was ordained in 1631.

He was interested to do missionary work and in the conversion of the Huron Indian natives of New France (today’s Canada) since he heard about them from a Huron youth who studied with him in Rouen. While teaching at Eu, Fr Daniel met Fr John de Brebeuf, recently exiled from New France.

His opportunity to work with the Huron natives came in 1634, by which time he was well versed in the Huron language. He began his apostolate work in early 1635. Together with Fr Brebeuf they invited the Huron children to their cabin and gave them catechethical instruction and taught them prayer and God’s commandments by setting the lessons to music. He was very successful with the children and became their director when the mission school for Huron boys was opened in Quebec.

After his return from Quebec, Fr Daniel was asked to establish a new mission at Cahiague. Here a smallpox epidemic was in progress and he went from cabin to cabin nursing the sick. He won their confidence and converted 140 adults. When he left Cahiague 8 years later, it was a flourishing Christian village.

His next mission was to Teanaustaye where he enjoyed great success. However the Iroquois threat was increasing and the village was near the route that the Iroquois took.

In the summer of 1649, the Iroquois made a sudden attack on the mission while most of the Huron braves were away. Fr Daniel had just finished celebrating Mass when he heard cries of “Iroquois, Iroquois”. The children and women went for cover while Fr Daniel rushed to the cabins of the sick and dying to baptize as many as he could, telling them: “Brother, today we shall be in heaven”. The outnumbered Hurons ran to the church thinking that that would be the best place in which to die. Fr Daniel joined them and stood fearlessly before the Iroquois, forbading them to enter the church. Though the Iroquois were amazed at the priest’s courage and valor, they shot a shower of arrows at him, killing him. They set fire to the church and when it was fully ablaze, they tossed Fr Daniel’s body into the flames.

Fr Daniel was 47 when he gave his life for his sheep and his Shepherd. When his Jesuit brethren came to look for the missionary’s body, they could not find a trace. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI on June 21, 1925 and canonized on June 29. 1930.