"The [Catholic] Missions are a branch of the subject which I regard with very great interest. The more I examine them, the more I am impressed with the purity of motive, the devoted self sacrifice and the heroism of the early missionaries, some of whom seem to me to fall no whit below the martyrs of the primitive church, and although not writing from the same point of view, my testimony to their virtues will often be no less emphatic than your own." So wrote Francis Northcote Parkman, the Unitarian agnostic who was both attracted to and repelled by the Catholic Faith. Though nearly blind, frequently ill and forced to dictate his work to a secretary, Parkman's thorough study of the original missionary journals maintained by the Jesuit motherhouse in France allowed him to create a work whose historical accuracy remains unrivalled even today. As this book shows, even though Parkman was deeply anti-clerical and more than willing to sneer at the beliefs of the Jesuits who worked among the cannibalistic tribes of North America's eastern shore, he also had enormous, albeit grudging, respect for their willingness to endure hardship, suffering and sacrifice.Even though his work panders to the anti-Catholic Protestant American audience of his day, we cannot forget the respect he had for the Catholic Faith or the service he has done for the Church: "They are mistaken who sneer at [Catholic] ceremonies as a mere mechanical farce: they have a powerful and salutary effect on the mind.
Those who have witnessed the services in the Benedictine church and deny what I say, must either be singularly stupid and insensible by nature or rendered so by prejudice." Francis Parkman's book arguably made the French Jesuit missionary martyrs famous. His work brought these great martyrs to the attention of the world, allowing us to discover what Parkman himself discovered: The United States' first and only canonized martyrs Antoine Daniel . Charles Garnier . Gabriel Lalemant . Isaac Jogues John de Brebeuf . John de la Lande . Neol Chabanel . Rene Goupil