Q. When we celebrate a feast day of a saint “and companions,” what is meant by “companions”? Are we honoring the saint’s friends?
A. “Companions” in this sense refers to those who suffered martyrdom for the Christian faith along with the saint who is named. They may not all have died on the same day or in the same place, but they share certain important circumstances of their martyrdom. For example, next week (on October 19), we celebrate the memorial of the martyr priests St. Jean de Brebeuf (1593–1649) and St. Isaac Jogues (1607–1646) and their companions. Collectively known as “the North American Martyrs,” they were all Jesuit missionaries who were tortured and killed within a seven-year period by the native Mohawk people of what is now New York State and Canada.
There were eight North American Martyrs in all: St. Jean de Brebeuf; St. Isaac Jogues; St. Rene Goupil (lay brother, died 1642, New York State); St. John de Lalande (lay brother, died 1646, New York State); St. Anthony Daniel (priest, died 1648, Canada); St. Charles Garnier, St. Noel Chabanel, and St. Gabriel Lalemant (priests who all died 1649, Canada. Through their martyrdom, they experienced what we might call a companionship of suffering with Our Lord and with one another.