Leonard of Chatres

Capuchin Priest

Father Leonard of Chatres, a veteran Capuchin Missionary in America, was administering the sacraments to a dying Indian Child when he was shot in the back with an arrow. It seemed as though he was to be the first Capuchin Martyr of America, but not so. He managed to recover but, being no longer fit for the hardships of a missionary, he was sent to Port Royal.

A short time later Father Leonard was made Superior of the Capuchin Mission house at Port Royal. He began to assume full charge of the school which the friars had built for the education of the Indian children. Peace and happiness filled his life as he taught his red skinned scholars about the God who was his and theirs. It was an inspiring scene to see the humble, brown clad friar with the Indian boys and girls sitting at his feet in open mouthed wonder and admiration. They loved their spiritual father very much because he was so much one of them.

Then, one summer morning of the year 1654, the gentle peace of Port Royal was irreverently violated by the appearance of a small fleet of English ships that sailed up the Bay of Fundy and entered Port Royal Harbour.

The French garrison capitulated to the English with absolutely no attempts at resistance and the English soldiers entered the town. Leaving destruction and misery in their wake, the Indian school of the Capuchins was closed. All the friars, except those who had escaped, were commanded to march to the beach where they were to be taken aboard the English ships anchored out in the harbour.

One Friar, however, refused, he was Father Leonard of Chatres. He refused to leave his little Indian charges alone without a spiritual father. When other friars had volunteered to remain with their superior, they were commanded in obedience to escape. As the small boat carried the friars across the waters to the waiting ships, they saw their Superior facing certain death.

A report was heard from the receding shoreline and as it reached in the morning stillness, the friars knew that their brother missionary had really gained the palm of martyrdom this time.