THE LIFE OF VENERABLE SISTER MARGARET BOURGEOIS,
FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME.
ESTABLISHED AT MONTREAL, CANADA, 1659.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
BY A RELIGIEUSE, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA.
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Having read a French edition of the Life of Venerable Sister Bourgeois, published in 1818, the translator of the present work was so charmed by its perusal that she resolved on rendering it into English for the spiritual edification of others.
Many years ago the work of translation was commenced, but from some preventing cause or other, was as often laid aside. Yet the idea of presenting it to the public remained, as no English Version of Sister Bourgeois' life exists, at least in the United States.
Therefore determining at last to obey an impulse of long standing, the scattered translation sheets have been prepared for publication, with the humble hope that the reader may derive as much benefit from their perusal as did the writer.
In this age of miscellaneous and corrupt literature, when people of every condition of life are literally devouring irreligious magazines and serials, it surely cannot be amiss to add another volume to the already rich store of our libraries in order to help roll back the torrent of universal depravity that threatens the rain of our beloved country, and also to place before the minds of the young, the glorious example of one of God's heroines.
The Second Centennial of Sister Bourgeois' advent to America is already past, and more than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence, was she laboring in the cause of humanity for the glory of God in the New World.
If reading the lives of such women as Mrs. Seton—a Protestant American lady, who after her conversion to the Catholic Church in Italy so burned with the love of God, as to return to her native land in her early widowhood to form a flourishing religious sisterhood in New York; of Nano Nagle, an Irish aristocrat, who turned from a useless fashionable life to the lowly spirit of the gospel on seeing the poor artizans of Paris crowding to early Mass in the Church of Notre Dame before beginning their daily toil, while she lolled weariedly in her carriage after a midnight ball; heroically putting her hand to the plough, she never turned back, and left behind her another religious Sisterhood in Ireland to perpetuate her philanthropic sanctity: of Catharine McAuley, who receiving from her adopted Protestant parents a princely fortune, expended every shilling of it in building up the Order of Mercy, one of the latest and most flourishing outposts of the Church of God; of St. Jane de Chantal, who after having been tried in the fire of affliction for years—founded in her advanced widowhood the Order of the Visitation, under the direction of St. Francis de Sales—and who attained such an extraordinary degree of perfection as to be seen ascending to heaven like a luminous meteor after her happy death.
If the perusal of the lives of these, and a host of other sainted women, such as the Catholic Church alone can produce, has filled many a young heart with high and holy aspirations—perhaps the contents of this little volume will not be less efficacious for the glory of God, the interests of religion, and the salvation of souls.
A literal translation has been adhered to as far as possible—one or two remarks at the close being the only additions. So if any defects exist in the work they belong solely to the translator, whose aim has not been rhetorical composition, but the greater glory of God. And if but one heart be won more closely to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ by its perusal, she will be amply repaid, and prays that the blessing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus may be given to her humble effort to advance His honor and glory.
Respectfully, THE AUTHORESS.
THE DISCOVERY OF CANADA AND COLONIZATION OF MONTREAL.
MESSRS. DAUVERSIERE AND DE MAISONNEUVE VISIT MONTREAL
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE HOTEL DIEU—ECCLESIASTICAL APPOINTMENTS FOR CANADA, ETC.
EARLY YEARS OF MARGARET BOURGEOIS AND HER VOCATION FOR THE CANADIAN MISSION
MARGARET BOURGEOIS, AFTER MANY TRIALS AND MORTIFICATIONS, AT LENGTH SAILS WITH M. DE MAISONNEUVE FOR CANADA
SISTER BOURGEOIS'S ARRIVAL IN CANADA
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SISTERS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME AT VILLE-MARIE
M. FRANCOIS DE LAVAL DE MONTMORENCI IS APPOINTED FIRST BISHOP OF CANADA—SISTER BOURGEOIS SUCCEEDS IN BUILDING THE CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME
THE RULES OF THE CONGREGATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF MISSIONS
THE PRIVATE AND SOCIAL VIRTUES OF SISTER BOURGEOIS
SISTER BOURGEOIS'S HAPPY DEATH AND THE WONDERS THAT FOLLOWED IT
THE EXCELLENCE OF HER INSTITUTES, HER MAXIMS, INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
A RECAPITULATION OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS OF THE LIFE OF SISTER BOURGEOIS
LIFE OF THE VENERABLE SISTER MARGARET BOURGEOIS.
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THE DISCOVERY OF CANADA AND COLONIZATION OF MONTREAL.
Every one knows that America is called the New World because, until the close of the 15th century, it was unknown to the other nations of the earth—at least it was then unknown to Europe. Until quite near the end of that century, Canada was absolutely a terra incognita—being one vast forest, inhabited only by the red man, and by beasts as wild and untamable as he. In the year 1534, James Cartier, a skilful navigator, being provided with a commission from the King of France, set sail from St. Malo, with two ships of sixty tons burden, carrying one hundred and twenty-two well-equipped seamen, in order to reconnoitre that part of the New World. Cartier's first voyage was quite successful. He discovered Canada and took possession of it, in the name of the French King. Having made his observations from the different posts which surround the Gulf that receives into its bosom the waters of the great river of Canada, since called the St. Lawrence, he conversed as well as he could with the savages, whenever an opportunity offered, in order to study their characters, and thought he occasionally discovered in them dispositions favorable to Christianity.
This led him to hope that the King would form a colony in the country, that might be equally useful to commerce and religion. He accordingly returned to France, to acquaint his sovereign with his projects and the success of the expedition that inspired them.
His plans met with a very favorable reception, and were immediately acted upon. The following year he received a new commission from the King and three well-appointed ships, several Breton gentlemen at the same time volunteering to accompany him. They left the port of St. Malo on the 3rd of May, but did not arrive at the Canadian Gulf until the 10th of August. This being the festival of St. Lawrence, they called the Gulf by the Saint's name, in thanksgiving for their safe arrival. Having entered the river with his little fleet, he sailed as far as the Jacques Cartier River, so named in his honor. Here they landed, and tradition says, he lost one of his ships at this place, although his biographers make no mention of the occurrence. Perhaps the vessel was stranded, and therefore became useless. But whatever accident happened, it did not cool his enterprising spirit in the least, nor prevent him from ascending the river as high as the Isle of Fochelagu (the present city of Montreal), which was described to him as a delightful place by the savages he met along his route. At Lake St. Pierre, three leagues above Three Rivers, he failed to procure material to repair his ships, and was compelled to leave them there. However, he manned two shallops and embarked on them with the bravest of his volunteers, arriving safely at Fochelagu on the 2d of October. Here he found a village of savages at the foot of a mountain (the site of the City of Montreal is a little to the right of that old Indian village), who received him very kindly—and he completely gained their friendship by making them various little presents. He was enchanted by the situation of the island, and surprised and dazzled by the beauty of the scene that presented itself to his view. He called it, in the enthusiasm of the moment, Mont Royal—since corrupted into Montreal. He remained, however, but a few days, as the season was advancing, and on the 5th of October set out to rejoin his fleet and return to Europe, convinced that the beautiful island was the most desirable locality in the country for a new colony. He related his success a second time at the French court, but as all attempted discoveries then had only one object in view—viz., the finding of gold and silver—and as Carrier's journal of discovery made no mention of the precious metals, he met with a very cool reception. However, in 1540 the King deemed it advisable to appoint Francis de la Roque his viceroy and Lieutenant-General of Canada. To be sure, the office was not a lucrative one—as for many years he had only the woods and forests to govern, and though boundless wealth lay concealed in these woods and forests, he had not the means to bring it forth. He made some voyages to Canada in virtue of his appointment, and attempted the foundation of a few colonies, which proved sadly unsuccessful, as France, being then occupied with domestic troubles, seemed to have forgotten Canada. It was not until 1598, in the reign of Henry IV., when a commission was given to the Marquis de la Roche—a Breton gentleman—(such as had been given to Francis de la Roque more than forty years before), that renewed interest in the affairs of the New World was awakened. This commission expressly provided that he should have chiefly in view the establishment of the Catholic Religion in all the countries under his jurisdiction. He received no assistance from the government, however, for the success of the enterprise, and it therefore failed, like the preceding ones.
These successive failures damped the ardor of the French court, and further colonization plans hung trembling in the balance. But during the period of this fluctuating policy several navigators and merchants of Normandy, Bretony, and elsewhere, sailed up the St. Lawrence on their own account, established many trading posts, and carried on a sufficiently lucrative trade with the savages. Their mercantile success excited the emulation of M. Chauvin, a sea-captain, who solicited and obtained from the King a continuance of the commission that had been formerly granted to Lords Roberval and de la Roche, with the additional privilege of an exclusive trade in furs. The subject of religion did not trouble M. Chauvin very much, his negative Protestantism being quite satisfied with the good things of this life. He made two voyages—one in 1601, the other in 1602—realizing great wealth each, time, but died while preparing for a third enterprise. The Commander de la Chappe, Governor of Dieppe, succeeded him in 1603, having the same privileges accorded to him that had been bestowed on his predecessors. In order to extend his commercial pursuits he formed a company of traders and other persons of wealth and distinction. They prepared a considerable fleet, entered the St. Lawrence, and reconnoitered the island of Montreal a second time. On their return to France they heard with regret of the death of de la Chappe, and learned that his commission had been given to Pierre Dugats, a Protestant gentleman, but an honest man, who intended in good faith to establish the Catholic Religion according to the articles of the Commission. But God had not chosen any of these people to found Montreal, although Pierre Dugats continued the trading association formed by his predecessors, and increased its wealth very considerably, by carrying on commerce with the principal ports of France. He prepared a much more considerable fleet than any that had been hitherto attempted, and sailed again from France in 1604. Lord Champlain was one of his companions on this voyage, which, however, accomplished nothing beneficial for France. In 1608 he carried into effect the intentions of the court by establishing a permanent colony at Quebec on the St. Lawrence, and erecting a barrack for its security. This he did in the name and at the expense of the colony.
Champlain remained there through the winter to prepare ground for agriculture—but in the spring of 1609 he made war against the Iroquois, who had been constantly harrassing the military post since its establishment. He pursued them as far as Lake Champlain, to which he gave his name, having first left a light garrison at Quebec, and in the autumn returned to France. About this time the name of New France was first given to Canada. Champlain returned in 1610, and visited Montreal, intending to establish another colony there. But Providence had other designs in view. He was not successful, and contented himself with building a few huts for the purpose of trading with the savages.
The death of Henry IV., which occurred at this time, produced a great change in the affairs of the new country. The commission of Governor of Canada was transferred from M. de Monts to Champlain, by the Queen Regent—who also appointed him Lieutenant-General to the Prince of Conde, which step was intended to pave the way for his additional title of Viceroy of New France.
Champlain gave quite a different form to the Mercantile Company of Canada, and by his influence with Conde, obtained from the King letters patent and many new privileges. He returned to Canada in 1614 with a goodly number of colonists, and also a few Recollets to minister to their spiritual wants. Intending to pass the summer at Montreal, with some of his companions for the purpose of trading more advantageously with the savages, he left Quebec. But again his plans met with very partial success.
In 1620 the Prince of Conde conferred the viceroyalty of Canada on the Marechal de Montmorenci, his brother-in-law, who in turn bestowed it on the Duke de Ventadour, his nephew. Until this period the affairs of the colony had been entirely in the hands of Protestants, who sought nothing but material wealth. Everything was languishing, and there were not more than fifty persons at Quebec. Some Jesuit Fathers arrived this year, having been sent over to assist the Recollets, and it was proposed to exclude Protestants from the colony, as they were becoming more numerous than was convenient for a Catholic settlement. Cardinal Richelieu, then minister of France, during the minority of Louis XIII., lent them his powerful assistance in their designs for the glory of God. By an edict dated May, 1627, given at the camp before La Rochelle, all the old Commercial Companies of Canada were suppressed and dissolved, new ones being erected in their stead, with the express conditions and stipulations that the colony was to be exclusively French and Catholic, that the new company should, at its own expense, support a sufficient number of priests, and that agriculture should be actively encouraged.
His majesty empowered the company to make grants of land throughout the whole extent of New France, in such proportions and with such title-deeds, as they deemed most prudent for the settlement of the country. He gave them also the exclusive control of the fur-trade, particularly that of the beaver, requiring the colonists to bring this kind of merchandise to the store-houses of the company, where they were to receive fixed prices for it, in order to ensure the success of the colony during the first ten years of its existence. He promised to all classes of persons, no matter what their rank or condition of life might be, whether ecclesiastics, nobles, military men, or others, that by incorporating themselves in the association they should not in any case forfeit the privileges of their rank. The Duke de Ventadour resigned his viceroyalty to the French minister, and Cardinal Richelieu, with M. Marechal d'Effiat, were named the heads of the Association. Many ecclesiastics and seculars at once became members of the Society, and with them were soon incorporated several of the wealthiest and most enterprising merchants of the kingdom. But while the Company was being thus enthusiastically formed in France, the English made an attack on Quebec, and the effect of the edict was suspended for a season. The King came almost to the conclusion of abandoning Canada forever, as he had only been influenced by religious and honorable motives in preserving the treaty of peace he had made at St. Germain in 1632. The newly-formed company, in this predicament, began to assert their own rights. They presented Champlain to the king as the man best suited to their wants, and his Majesty at once appointed him Governor of New France. He had the command of several well-appointed ships, and many Jesuit missionaries offered to accompany him to labor for the salvation of souls in the new field that was opened to them. The Associates decided that the sons of St. Ignatius would be more useful in the colony than the Recollets, who complained that they did not find sufficient support in Canada, and who had in fact left it for a time, nor did they return until 1670, when the colony had become quite populous. Champlain died at Quebec in 1635, and the same year the Jesuits of New France began to build their first college. The following year Chevalier de Montmagni succeeded Champlain as Governor of Canada. The settlers had now become very numerous, being encouraged by their trade with the new company, and many of the savages had embraced the faith, a mission having been opened for them at Sillery, near Quebec. France again took an active part in the success of the enterprise, and as the settlements were more French than Indian, an organization for a hospital was set on foot, and also a school for children. The Duchess d'Aiguillon took upon herself the foundation of the Hotel-Dieu, and defrayed the entire expense of the undertaking.
She sent over some experienced Hospital Sisters from the hospital at Dieppe, who were glowing with zeal for the New World missions—Madame de la Pelleterie, a rich young widow of high birth, undertook at the same time the establishment of the Ursulines, consecrating herself also to the good work. She was ably seconded by the celebrated Sister Mary of the Incarnation, and Sister Mary of St. Joseph, whom she brought from the Ursuline Monastery at Bourges. All these pious women met at Dieppe in 1639, and thence set sail for New France, arriving the same year at Quebec.
Yet, notwithstanding the philanthropic exertions of so many holy people, the colony was backward and languishing. The cruel and ceaseless attacks of the Iroquois had nearly disheartened the Christian world, men, women and children being mercilessly butchered, burnt alive, or carried into a still more horrible captivity. But Divine Providence remedied this terrible state of affairs, by means not naturally looked for, and which in the commencement seemed not only foolhardy, but little suited to the end. Yet a very special providence was visibly at work, in a chain of events that were altogether miraculous, as the sequel proved. A new colony was founded at Montreal, which was intended as a barrier against the inroads of the savages, and of which it will be necessary to speak a little in advance. While the French seemed to be taking an enthusiastic interest in the colonization of Canada—partly from political motives, partly from individual and and private interest, and partly from zeal for the spread of religion and the conversion of the Indians, Almighty God was quietly preparing a number of pious persons who would have His glory really at heart. The first to whom He was pleased to manifest His designs, was Jerome le Royer, Receiver-General of the King's domains. This gentleman was an exemplary Christian, and quite remarkable for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. It would appear that God had specially chosen him for the accomplishment of the work we are going to relate, and that the glorious Virgin herself had revealed to him the means by which he would succeed, as he rendered the greatest assistance to Sister Bourgeois in after years, in the establishment of her Congregation. Although he had never been in Canada, nor had ever seen the isle of Montreal, he had a supernatural and distinct knowledge of it, and knew it better than its present inhabitants. It was a vision that he never lost sight of, and he felt confident he would obtain from the king the proprietorship of the island, in order to consecrate it to the Blessed Virgin, and build a city on it, which he intended to call Ville-Marie (City of Mary). The aim of all his enterprises and hopes of the future centered in one grand idea, viz., the propagation of the Faith among the savages, and the greater glory of God. But as he knew well that he alone could not accomplish so great a work, he conceived the idea of forming a new company, that would not be devoted either to self-interest or commercial pursuits, like the preceding Associations, but whose chief desire would be the propagation of the Faith in America, and the conversion of the Indians. Full of these pious aspirations, he came to Paris, for the purpose of procuring means to put them into execution. He had many interviews with persons of distinction there, but, as generally happens with the works of God, he experienced so much difficulty, and encountered so much opposition, that a person less devoted to the divine honor, and less susceptible of the impressions of grace, would have been completely disheartened. Cardinal Richelieu himself, who was so clearsighted in human policy, when spoken to on this subject, treated it as a chimera full of imprudence and temerity. M. Dauversiere (le Royer) made no reply to his distinguished opponent, but went quietly to seek an interview with M. Olier, then professor in the Seminary of St. Sulpice, a man who had devoted all his masterly energies to that great undertaking. This true servant of God generously assisted every good work, and when there was question of promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin, his unbounded confidence in her made him act instantaneously. One cannot doubt by the splendid sequel that he had a very strong presentiment of the ultimate success of the pious project. Therefore he applied himself earnestly to the task of persuading influential persons to join the company when formed, and also took the necessary steps to secure to the company, when formed, the proprietorship of the isle of Montreal. In 1656 he did secure it, with ample concessions from M. Jean de Lanzon, the King's counsellor and minister of finance.
MESSRS. DAUVERSIERE AND DE MAISONNEUVE VISIT MONTREAL.
It has been stated that Cardinal Richelieu at first opposed the building of Ville-Marie, but this he did, not through apathy for anything relating to the spread of religion, but lest the work was a human impossibility, as indeed it then appeared to be. However, his opposition, from whatever cause it had arisen, disappeared before the reasoning of M. de Lanzon, for whom the Cardinal entertained the most sincere respect. He now gave the project his unqualified approbation, and obtained from the King a renewed confirmation of all the privileges conferred on the preceding associations, with undisturbed possession of the land. Being thus furnished with the best means of procuring funds, and being under the protection of His Eminence the Cardinal, Messrs. de Faucamp and Dauversiere, with a great number of other influential persons, who were pledged to support them, no longer hesitated to announce themselves as "The Company of Montreal," bound to uphold the Catholic Faith in Canada, and more especially to convert the savages, which was the real end they proposed to themselves. But it was not only the associates themselves who provided the necessary funds. Other persons also contributed, and none more generously than M. Alexander Bretonvilliers, a priest of the community of St. Sulpice, and afterwards its second Superior. Being son of the minister of state, he was the wealthiest eccelesiastic in France, and bestowed the greater part of his patrimony on this undertaking. The Duchess de Bullion also, who preserved an incognita for a long time, gave large sums of money to M. Dauversiere to assist the Montreal Association in the propagation of the Faith, as she had hitherto provided the principal funds for the establishment of the Hotel-Dieu, as shall be noticed again.
It is now time to give the names of the principal members of this pious association, as they are undoubtedly written in the Book of Life. Most happily heading the list is the name of the great Cardinal Richelieu. Then follow such names as Marechal Duke d'Effiat, M. Jean de Lanzon, Jean Jacques Olier, first Superior of St Sulpice, Alexander Bretonvilliers, Gabriel de Quelus and Nicholas Barreau, all priests of St. Sulpice; Pierre le Pretre, priest by name and office, Louis Le Pretre his brother, Pierre Chevrier, Jerome de Royer, Jacques Gerard, Michael Royer Duplessis, Bertrand Drouart, a member of the suite of the Duke of Orleans, Christopher Duplessis, Antoine Barrilon, Jean Galibal, Louis Seignier, Louis d'Aibout de Coulonges, Paul de Chaumeday, the Duchess de Bullion, and the Venerable Sister Margaret Bourgeois, whose life we are about to record, and who, without being formally a member of the Society, took a most active part in it. We shall soon see her concealing the brightest virtues under the veil of humility.
But pre-eminently was M. Olier the guiding spirit of this splendid association of Catholic hearts. He it was who projected the plans necessary for the greatness and security of the enterprise. The first thing he declared necessary was to secure the blessing of God and the protection of the ever Blessed Virgin. This was to be accomplished by an imposing ceremony that might be recorded in after ages for the edification of those who should undertake a similar work for the glory of God. It was a spectacle worthy of the complacency of heaven, and the zealous children of the Church who participated in it. On the 3rd of February, 1641, the day following the Feast of the Purification, all the members of that illustrious Society being assembled in Paris, went in the morning at an appointed hour to the church of Notre Dame. M. Olier celebrated Mass at the Altar of the Blessed Virgin, and all the associates who were not priests received Holy Communion from his hands. The priests at the same time offered the holy sacrifice at other altars. With one accord they supplicated the Queen of Heaven to bless their undertaking, and forever keep the Isle of Montreal under her special protection. At the close of the edifying ceremony the Associates assembled at the Hotel de Lanzon to hold their first meeting. The plan being already matured, it was resolved that in the spring of the year they would get ready a sufficient number of ships, three of which were to be devoted to the transportation of such respectable and honest families as were willing to go to Montreal and commence the foundation of a permanent colony. They were required to take with them all the provisions, clothing, furniture, and mechanical or other tools necessary for the first two years, and were to take possession of the isle in the name of Mary, whom they were to regard as their mother and mistress.
With the King's permission they were to build a city in her honor, which was to be called Ville-Marie. Under the protection of Cardinal Richelieu, and during the first session of the assembly, M. de Lanzon was named administrator of the Society, M. Dauversiere being appointed its principal agent, which duty was especially suited to him because of his devotion to the Mother of God. When the plans were finally agreed upon, each member made it a point of honor to contribute as generously as possible to the success of the colony, and before the meeting broke up they received more than two hundred thousand livres. With this substantial aid, M. Dauversiere set to work in good earnest to prepare for the voyage across the Atlantic, the remainder of the winter being employed in preparing the necessary fleet. Authorized by the King, he enlisted a number of soldiers, whom he foresaw would be required to garrison and protect the colony. He also assembled a great number of families who volunteered to accompany him to the New World, and devote themselves to agriculture, retaining in his own service about thirty married people of various avocations, so that religion rather than worldly interest should range under his standard.
Among the emigrants, the nobility were represented by such names as De Beletre, Closse and Mignon; merchants, by Lemoine, Lebert, Charly, etc.; mechanics and farmers, by Caron, Barbier, Archambault, Cavalier, Decari, and others. In the spring of 1641 all these different classes of people met at La Rochelle, from which port they were to embark. M. Dauversiere was everywhere—now at Paris, now at Rochelle—and all were ready to depart, when the idea suddenly struck him that a man of prudence, experience, and authority was still wanted to govern the miscellaneous crowd, and take the lead in the young colony. It was now the month of May, and the embarkation had not yet taken place because of this void. But Providence did not forsake him, and the want was supplied in a rather remarkable manner. Being one day in Paris he was invited to dine at the house of an intimate friend. During the conversation the subject of colonizing Montreal was discussed, as it was his absorbing idea, and he spoke of the embarrassing want that delayed him. After dinner one of the guests, until then a stranger to him, but who had listened very attentively to the colonization plan, of which he had not before heard, freely offered to accompany the expedition. "I am a gentleman of about forty years of age," he said, "I have spent my youth honorably in the King's service, and flatter myself with having acquired both experience and reputation. A desire to devote myself to the service of God in some way or other has induced me to withdraw from the service of his majesty, and I have lived for some time in a simple, quiet way, on a pension of two thousand livres, which is sufficient for my subsistence, but I see in the enterprise you have undertaken for the honor of the Mother of God so special a field for the spread of our holy religion, that if my services are agreeable to you, I willingly make the sacrifice of repose, and even of life."
This man was Paul de Chaumeday, alias de Maisonneuve. On hearing these words Dauversiere, filled with gratitude to God, adored His Divine Providence, and believed that the noble volunteer was appointed by heaven to lead the colonists. He embraced him with tears of joy and departed forthwith to relate the circumstance to his associates. The name of de Maisonneuve was well known to many of them, and his services were gladly accepted. A second meeting of the association was then held, at which it was unanimously agreed to appoint him Governor of Montreal. In this quality he was presented to the King for the purpose of expediting an official appointment. He was certainly a suitable person to head such an expedition, as he had long been a faithful client of Mary Immaculate. Many years before he made a vow of perpetual chastity in her honor, and recited her office every day. His reputation stood very high, and being in the full vigor of manhood, had given proofs of courage and prudence, even in religious matters. His business being quickly settled up, he set out for Rochelle with M. Dauversiere, each rejoicing at having met the other. They had scarcely arrived there, when another singular intervention of Providence took place, which was quite as remarkable as the preceding one. This was the vocation of Jean Mance, whose name will appear again. She was a young woman, about thirty years old, the daughter of simple, honest parents in Langers, where she had spent her youth in the most fervent exercises of piety, and was ignorant of the extraordinary exertions then being made in France to colonize Canada, but she felt inspired to pass the remainder of her life in some place consecrated to the Blessed Virgin, and waited for Divine Providence to direct her. She proposed her views to her confessor, but he being also ignorant of the projected establishment of Montreal, treated her as a visionary. Yet as she persisted in asking advice, he spoke of her in Paris to persons more enlightened than himself. Those with whom he conversed did not fail to recognize something remarkable in her vocation, and she was accordingly introduced to the Duchess at the Hotel de Bullion. As this lady was already laboring for the colonization of Montreal she took a lively interest in Jean, retaining her for some time as a confidential attendant in her own household. In this capacity the Duchess could not but admire the special designs of God, manifested in her well-formed habits of virtue. She encouraged her to go with the volunteers to the New World, and remain faithful to her vocation. As the day appointed for the embarkation drew near, after giving her a well-filled purse to supply her wants, she exacted a promise to apply to her in future for assistance in carrying on whatever good works Divine Providence might appoint for her. She then took an affectionate leave of Jean, and sent her to M. Dauversiere at Rochelle. On her arrival he desired to test her zeal and courage as a postulant, and represented the difficulty of such an enterprise for a young, friendless girl. He spoke of his intention to found Ville-Marie, but added that it might be reddened with human blood, if the savages should attack the colonists, and that she might possibly have to attend alone in the hospital on the wounded and dying. Finding that such pictures of horror only increased her zeal, he blessed the inscrutable ways of God, and joyfully permitted her to embark with the others. He did not hesitate even to enrol her name among the Associates, and she eventually became a most useful instrument in the hands of Divine Providence for completing the establishment of the Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph at Ville-Marie.
The events we have just recorded delayed the sailing of the fleet until the end of June, at which time it left the port of Rochelle, but did not arrive at Quebec until the close of September. The season was then too far advanced to ascend the river to Montreal, and if it had been attempted they would have been compelled to winter at some place where there was neither human habitation nor fort, and would consequently be exposed to the attacks of the fierce Iroquois. They therefore concluded to pass the winter at Quebec as best they could. The Governor, Chevalier de Montmagni, welcomed them with much cordiality, but had views of his own in the Quebec colony, which were not favorable to an establishment at Montreal. He supposed naturally that in a country so weak as Canada then was, it would be unwise and imprudent to divide their strength, and that the success of a settlement at Montreal was impossible on account of its proximity to the Indian camping grounds, and their constant attacks on the French. He intended asking them to select the isle of Orleans, which was still unoccupied, and where assistance could more easily reach them in case of an attack. Like a wise politician, however, he was slow to reveal his plan, preferring to await the return of the ships to France, which had scarcely set sail when he convoked a general assembly in order to disclose his projects. It is not to be doubted that the garrison were as interested as he was, and so were the other inhabitants of Quebec. But the firmness of M. de Maisonneuve was a match for their intrigue, and when his views and opinions were asked during the debate, he replied with much dignity, that he was surprised the Governor of Quebec thought it necessary to convoke a public assembly on a matter which concerned the speaker only—that he made no secret of his intentions—that the settlement of the isle of Orleans had never been proposed by the Montreal Association—that he came expressly to found a new city, which was to be dedicated to the Mother of God, on the isle of Montreal—that he had not the least idea of changing his original plan—and finally, that unless he lost his life, he would execute his commission. It was impossible to gainsay him, and the assembly dissolved without deciding on anything. De Maisonneuve contented himself with sending some of his party to Montreal to cut down trees during the winter, that they might have a cleared section of land to work on in spring. He and the rest of the colonists passed the season quietly in their tents at Quebec, awaiting the arrival of fine weather, and the breaking up of the ice.
In the month of May, as soon as the river was open to navigation, they were again in readiness to move on, and Governor Montmagni expressed a strong desire to accompany them. De Maisonneuve invited the Jesuit missionaries, Simon and Poncet, to go with them and bless the site of the new city, and take charge of the church they intended to erect when circumstances permitted. As there was no road through the country, and no settlements along the river between Montreal and Quebec, the journey was long, and everywhere beset with difficulties, so that they did not arrive at their destination until the 17th of May. Then they encamped, and called the neck of land at the mouth of the little river "Pointe a Calieres," in honor of the third Governor of Montreal, M. de Calieres, who built a fort there, in which he resided during the term of his administration.
The fervent colonists erected a tent immediately, in which the holy sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated, and in which they afterwards kept the Blessed Sacrament. M. de Maisonneuve's first care was to give every family sufficient land on which to erect a house, and each one built to suit his own convenience. He erected a house for himself also, which was known long after as the "Old Seminary."
To Jean Mance he gave sufficient ground for a hospital, the expense of building which was to be paid out of the fund bestowed by the Duchess de Bullion. The hospital was as large and convenient as the young colony required, and the people took the precaution to build their church near it. This building served for years not only as a parish church, but likewise as a chapel of devotion for the sick and wounded. As the houses were all wooden structures, they were speedily erected, and on the 15th of August, 1642—being the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin—the Adorable Sacrament was taken from the tent in which it was hitherto kept, and carried in solemn procession to the church with all the pomp and magnificence possible under the circumstances. Curiosity attracted the savages from all quarters, and as they were then less familiar with the ceremonies of our holy religion than now, they were transported with admiration and joy at what they saw. Nor were they less edified by the simple fervor and piety of the first French settlers. This glorious festival of Mary was long remembered in Canada by both French and Indians, as was the singing of the "Salve Regina" by Columbus and his crew, when he neared the shores of the New World.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE HOTEL DIEU—ECCLESIASTICAL APPOINTMENTS FOR CANADA, ETC.
While M. de Maisonneuve was arranging matters to insure the success of the new colony, he received a reinforcement which, though not so numerous as the first band of emigres, was equally well selected. It was led by M. Louis d'Aillebout de Masseau, a man of eminent piety, and a member of the Montreal Association. With this opportune and important addition, De Maisonneuve undertook to inclose the young city with palisades in the manner of a fort, as a barrier against the attacks of the furious Indians. These attacks they might any moment expect, and very justly feared, on account of the atrocities that were daily related to them. The Governor of Quebec being informed of the proposed fortification, or rather being assured that it was nearly completed, determined to oppose it, but de Maisonneuve would permit no outside interference. In order, therefore, that there might be no clashing of interests, he returned to France the same year, leaving the command of the garrison to M. d'Aillebout, with the title of Lieutenant-Governor. This gentleman discharged the duties of his office to the entire satisfaction of the people, securing both their esteem and their property. On his arrival in Paris de Maisonneuve sought an interview with the King, and related faithfully to him, as likewise to the members of the Association, the exact state of things in Canada. Every one was astonished at his success, and approved of his conduct. The King, moreover, on learning the opposition policy of the Governor of Quebec, gave De Maisonneuve a letter to place in the hands of that gentleman, which read as follows:
"M. DE MONTMAGNI,—Being especially informed by the Montreal Association, at present residing in Montreal, that their intention is to establish a colony on that island, in order to labor more effectually for the conversion of the savages, we strongly approve of their design, and have given them permission to erect a fort on the said island, at their own expense, which fort they are to furnish with artillery and all other military supplies that may be needed to secure them from the fury of the savages. We desire that you render them all the assistance in your power, and we have named M. de Maisonneuve governor and controller of the enterprise, so that nothing may occur to prevent its success. "LOUIS."
"February 21, 1643."
Furnished with this letter, Messrs. de Maisonneuve and Dauversiere labored in concert to procure a third fleet and a new set of recruits, and they were quite as successful as on the two former occasions. The volunteers were select and numerous, their voyage across the Atlantic safe and pleasant, and at the end of July that year they arrived at Ville-Marie. The death of Louis XIII. occurring at that period, the Associates deemed it prudent to apply to the Queen Regent, mother of Louis XIV., for a confirmation of their former privileges, which she freely granted, permitting them also to organize militia companies for their future safety, and to secure the services of such ecclesiastics as they should judge most useful for the rising colony. Yet, nothwithstanding repeated royal favors, and untiring exertions to promote the general prosperity, the colony was languishing, and had much to suffer from the increasing ferocity of the Indians. But de Maisonneuve was always equal to the occasion, and derived advantage from their fury, that is, spiritual advantage. Many and many a time, he had the consolation to see those barbarous warriors throw down the bloody tomahawk and embrace Christianity. He was truly an apostle in their midst, attracting them as much by affability, as by the benefits he conferred, and it was his greatest pleasure to act as sponsor for them in baptism. Almighty God blessed the new settlement so visibly as to cause astonishment and admiration in the hearts of all devoted to His glory. Jean Mance also labored zealously in the service of the sick, who were cared for in the hospital she established, and already the work was greater than she alone could accomplish. Madame de la Peleterie, who founded the Ursulines at Quebec, came to Ville-Marie to offer her services to Mlle. Mance, who admired her generosity and good will without accepting her assistance. The members of the Association resident in Paris labored meanwhile very earnestly to establish the hospital in Montreal, but declined the interference of outsiders. The Duchess de Bullion had already made large advances for its support, and in 1648 donated an additional fund of sixty thousand livres. With this money M. de Maisonneuve assisted Jean Mance in building a wing of 60 by 24 feet for the nurses, who were still wanting, and whose services it was time to secure, as the number of patients was constantly increasing. The ladies of the Hotel Dieu at Quebec, on hearing of the crowded state of the hospital, presented themselves as nurses, and two remained in Ville-Marie a considerable length of time to watch how matters would be arranged. Even the French court approved of them as nurses, but Providence ordained otherwise, as at that very time the Associates in France were making their own arrangements, and disappointed those who wished to press the matter in Montreal.
There existed at La Fleche a new congregation of Hospital Sisters, partly secular, who by simple vows added the service of the sick to the ordinary duties of a religious community. They were in their first fervor, the members applying themselves with zeal and edification to serve the poor invalids in the Hotel Dieu of St. Joseph, lately established in their city. Dauversiere, who was acquainted with their piety, asked and obtained a few Sisters to go to Ville-Marie and establish the Hotel Dieu of Canada. As soon as his proposal was made known, these pious women strove who should be first to claim the sacred honor of expatriating themselves for the cause of charity, and sacrifice life, if necessary, in a strange land, among wild savages who would most likely, in return, confer on them the crown of martyrdom. The French emigrants of those days had no other idea of the Canadian mission, and prepared themselves accordingly. On the 20th of May, 1656, the community pledged itself to send four of its zealous souls, who awaited the time of their embarkation with eagerness, but from some cause or other did not leave France until 1660. On their arrival at Ville-Marie, Jean Mance received them with every mark of esteem and affection that Christian charity could inspire. She put them in immediate possession of that portion of the hospital set apart for them, reserving to herself only the administration of the funds for the poor and destitute, a duty which she discharged faithfully, and with solid benefit to the recipients, the rest of her life. The new Sisters were little more than a secular congregation, until 1666, when Pope Alexander VII. approved of them as a religious order, by a bull dated January 8th, 1666, in which strict enclosure was enjoined, and a religious dress appointed to be worn.
While the interests of the hospital were being thus carefully attended to in France, it was evident that the spiritual wants of the colony were becoming every day more pressing. Montreal was now populous, and numbers of the Indians who embraced Christianity were anxious that their respective tribes should do the same. Yet there was but one Jesuit Father in the whole colony, who could not possibly discharge all the duties required of him. When M. Olier heard of it, he thought seriously of sending to Canada a mission from the Seminary of St. Sulpice, and as he was suffering painful infirmities for many years, brought on by the laborious discharge of his official duties, he contemplated accompanying them himself. He accordingly selected four priests of his community, who were gentlemen of merit and distinction, viz., Gabriel de Quelus, Abbe of Laudieu (one of the Montreal associates), M. Francis d'Allet, Gabriel Souart, and Dominick Gallitier. M. de Quelus was a man of illustrious birth, and was appointed by their ecclesiastical Superior (the Archbishop of Rouen) Grand Vicar of the missionaries in Canada, with the entire spiritual control of New France. He was received both at Quebec and Ville-Marie with all the respect due to his dignity and birth, encountering no opposition in the discharge of his duties in either city. M. Souart was appointed pastor of Ville-Marie, the Jesuit Father, Claude Pigots, who had until then discharged the duties of pastor, resigning gracefully in his favor.
The new pastor before becoming a Sulpician, had been a rich aristocratic Parisian. His parents, expecting he would have a brilliant career in the world, almost forced upon him a marriage suitable to his rank and wealth, and the day of the ceremony, which was the Feast of the Assumption, 1660, was fast approaching. His simple piety led him on the eve of that day to the parish church of St. Sulpice, where he heard an eloquent sermon, on the necessity of seeking light from heaven in the choice of a state of life. He was deeply impressed by the preacher's convincing eloquence, and entering into himself, found that he had not sufficiently consulted God on the alliance he was about to contract. The next day, therefore, instead of plighting his troth to a willing bride, he went to the seminary of St. Sulpice to make a retreat, during which Divine Providence clearly manifested to him that he was called to the ecclesiastical state. Faithful to the call of divine grace he renounced the world, entered St. Sulpice, and devoted his young life and rare talents to the service of the Church. He was joyfully admitted into the seminary, and having already received a university education, was soon promoted to holy orders, and raised to the dignity of the priesthood. His glowing zeal impelled him to volunteer for the mission of Ville-Marie, where he eventually succeeded M. de Quelus as Superior of the Montreal Seminary, which he governed happily for many years. He was the first priest who undertook the perilous task of forming the baptized savages into villages, and his successful attempt at civilization resulted in the famous "Mission of the Mountain," where he died shortly after.
Two other missionaries, le Maitre and Vignal, arrived subsequently, and were killed by the treacherous Iroquois while laboring for their conversion with incredible self-sacrifice. It is a tradition of these times, that the savage who killed le Maitre, having wrapped the bloody head in a cloth, the face of the martyred priest was distinctly imprinted thereon, and so indelible was the impression that when the terrified savage displayed the cloth in his native village as a trophy of the war-path, the features of le Maitre were instantly recognized, the murderer being cuttingly upbraided for his cruelty by the braves of his tribe.
It was now several years since the French had established themselves at Ville-Marie, and during all that time they suffered the most shocking cruelties from the relentless Iroquois. The earth might be said to have been constantly wet with the blood of the noblest and best sons of France, and the survivors, disgusted and disheartened, resolved to abandon the country. In speaking of this period of horror and dismay, Jean Mance says, "In 1560 the Iroquois had conquered and almost exterminated the Hurons, their ancient foes, and full of barbarian pride and insolence, turned their arms against the colonists, who were an easy prey, as their attacks were sudden, fierce, and stealthy. They killed several persons in the suburbs of Ville-Marie, and burned their houses; even our hospital was not secure from their brutal recklessness, and we were obliged to fortify it by a garrison. At length people despaired of being able to protect life or property, and resolved on abandoning the enterprise. In this extremity I reflected that many souls would be forever lost to God if the young city was forsaken, and that it would be a national humiliation for France to abandon Canada to the vengeance of wild savages, who were constantly killing each other. Therefore, fluctuating between hope and fear, I implored M. de Maisonneuve to hasten back to France and secure additional military protection for Montreal and its martyred people."
He willingly acceded to the brave woman's request, and in September, 1651, returned to France, having first appointed de Masseau commander of Ville-Marie in his absence. He was obliged to spend two entire years inducing recruits to enlist for Canada, so great was their horror of the Indians, and had to labor hard against disappointments, and go to great expense to secure his object. But God at length blessed with success his efforts in the cause of religion. He secured a company of more than a hundred brave soldiers, who sailed with him to the New World in 1653. It was during this voyage he first became acquainted with the remarkable virtues of Margaret Bourgeois, who accompanied him from France at a period when the whole nation was disgusted with the Canadian mission. This admiriable young woman, who had no other resources than courage and confidence in God, did not hesitate to cross the sea, to consecrate herself to the service of the Church, and to propagate devotion to the Mother of God. How perfectly she succeeded is proven by the splendid monument of her zeal which still exists in almost primitive fervor, after the lapse of more than two centuries. That monument is the "Congregation of Notre Dame," which has rendered such incalculable service to the cause of religion in Canada.
EARLY YEARS OF MARGARET BOURGEOIS, AND HER VOCATION FOR THE CANADIAN MISSION.
Margaret Bourgeois was born in the city of Troyes, in Champagne, on the 15th of April, 1620. Her father, Abraham Bourgeois, was an honest merchant of that city, who espoused Guillamette Garnier. If these good people were not distinguished for high birth or the possession of great wealth, they were at least remarkable for the purity of their lives, for sound religious principles, and for unusual probity of character. As they belonged to the middle class of society, their means were limited, yet they took care to have their children educated, and instilled into their young minds a cordial love for the duties of religion. Their family consisted of five children, two boys and three girls, Margaret being the third born to them. She was baptized in the parish church of St. John of Troyes, and nothing is known of her infancy or childhood except that at a proper age she learned to read and write, with the other attainments of early school years. Of this we are certain, that, at an early period, she became a practical Christian, and never deviated from the principles she then imbibed. Almighty God had special designs on her future life, and from childhood infused into her heart a great love of labor and mortification, which foreshadowed what she was one day to become. Scarcely had she attained her tenth year when she was to be seen among her little companions, like a mother in Israel, assembling them together in secluded places, far from the noise and bustle of the city, instructing them in the discharge of their duties, principally in practices of piety, advising them to love labor and shun idleness, the fruitful source of the sins of youth, and to select such work as Almighty God had given them particular inclinations for.
These assemblies of children were so many little communities of innocent souls in which God took great complacency, and it was at this time she made her first Holy Communion. Her mother's death occurring soon after, she had an opportunity of practising the virtues of obedience, etc., under circumstances far in advance of her years. By the death of his wife, M. Bourgeois found himself embarrassed with the care of a helpless young family, but noticing in little Margaret a certain air of gravity and prudence, accompanied by sincere piety, he seriously thought of giving her charge of the household, and particularly of the education of a younger brother and sister. Nothing is known with certainty of the after lives of these children, except that, in 1653, when Margaret was making arrangements to leave France for Canada, two of them were minors, in whose favor she voluntarily dispossessed herself of her share of the family inheritance. Neither can anything be recorded of the virtues she displayed in discharging the laborious duties of the position in which her father placed her at so tender an age. No one could speak of these years of responsibility except herself, and humility would never permit her to raise the veil, or speak of what must have been a most interesting portion of her saintly life. Only one circumstance of these early years could she ever be induced to mention, and of this she sometimes spoke with great bitterness of soul, and much exaggeration. It was that, a few times, during seasons of worldly dissipation, she had attached undue importance to dress—taking great pains to arrange her toilette fashionably so as to display her personal attractions to advantage. Although this happened without dressing beyond her station of life, or exceeding the bounds of modesty, she acknowledged that it tarnished the purity of her heart, and filled her mind with vain and foolish thoughts. It was one of those youthful faults for which she took care to punish herself severely in after life, being remarkable for the simplicity and modesty of her attire, even before she became a religeuse. Her beautiful and well-concealed spirit of mortification made her correspond faithfully to the motions of grace which Divine Providence infused into her soul, and by which she was to become so intimately united to God. As He always makes an instrument of His Blessed Mother to bestow such graces on His elect, it was by devotion to Mary that He attached Margaret Bourgeois irrevocably to His service. She had always been a devoted client of the Blessed Virgin, and the singular favor she received, that will now be related, was probably not the first vouchsafed her by the Queen of Heaven. The circumstances under which she received it prove that she was a member of the Rosary Society, which was then effecting such wonders in the spiritual life of Christendom.
On the first Sunday of October, 1640—the Feast of the Holy Rosary—the Dominicans held grand processions in honor of Mary, and celebrated the feast with all possible splendor. Margaret Bourgeois, being then twenty years old, came with many others to assist at the procession, which was to take place within the monastery enclosure. The public were allowed on such occasions to join in the ceremony, but by a particular dispensation of Providence, the crowd was so great this year that the procession was obliged to pass along a public route, and file off before the church of Notre Dame-the cathedral of Troyes. There was a very fine marble statue of the Blessed Virgin placed on a pedestal in the porch of the church, and as Margaret turned reverently to gaze upon it, it shone brilliantly with supernatural light—the face of the Virgin beaming with an extraordinary life-like beauty. She had often seen the statue before, but never as now, and, like St. Paul, was almost blinded by the dazzling vision. To the last day of her life she felt her heart moved to its inmost depths when she recalled this celestial favor.
On entering the church she reflected seriously on what had occurred, and felt convinced that God demanded of her something more than she had yet accomplished for His glory, and that His Blessed Mother was to be hereafter her strength and support. She immediately resolved by the help of God to eradicate from her heart the two imperfections that counteracted the influence of divine grace. These were an inordinate love of dress, and a strong desire to attract to herself the esteem and love of creatures. Accordingly she determined for the future to wear a simple dress of cheap material, to use no color but black or brown, and never again to display the vain ornaments of jewelry that young girls so much prize. In her fervor she made a vow to receive humiliations as coming directly from the hand of God, and we shall see that as SISTER BOURGEOIS she received many such favors.
With these dispositions it was natural she should seek admission into a religious community, which in effect she did. There existed at Troyes a Carmelite Convent, of the reform of St. Teresa. Every one knows that the Carmelites are in a special manner devoted to Mary, under the title of "Our Lady of Mt. Carmel," and that their congregation is the origin and centre of the Confraternities of the Scapular. There is not a community of women in the Church whose discipline and manner of life is so austere, if we except the "Poor Clares." During all seasons of the year they dress in a heavy coarse habit, wear sandals on their feet, never make use of linen, are seldom seen in the parlor, sleep on a hard mattress, rise simultaneously, to chant the Divine Office, spend at least two hours each night at prayer, and are familiar with the use of the discipline, hair-shirt, etc. In a word, their mortifications are continual and rigorous. Now these extraordinary penances were what especially attracted Margaret Bourgeois to join them. But in order to act prudently, and learn the will of God clearly regarding her vocation, she addressed herself to M. Antoine Jandret, a virtuous and enlightened priest, who was confessor to the Carmelites. Having heard her attentively, he was struck with admiration at the manner in which God was working in her soul. She continued for some time to be his penitent, and after he had made trial of her virtue, he no longer hesitated to propose her as a subject to the Carmelites.
The chapter met to discuss the matter, but some changes in her exterior manner of living (the motives of which they did not know) led them to suppose that her disposition was frivolous and volatile; and they refused to admit her. But it was not there Almighty God intended her to become a religieuse, and their refusal did not lessen her esteem for the austerities practised by them, and on which she modelled her own penances for the remainder of her life. Neither did a first refusal discourage her; on the contrary, she redoubled her prayers to learn the will of God, and it pleased His divine Majesty to unfold to the eyes of her soul, gradually but clearly, his designs regarding her. Being rejected by the Carmelites, she next sought admission into the extern congregation of young girls, at Troyes. It will be necessary to give some explanation of this society, as the singular graces accorded to Sister Bourgeois while she was one of its members influenced her very much in the formation of the congregation she afterwards founded.
There existed in Troyes another convent of religieuses known as the "Congregation of Notre Dame," who were founded by Pere Fourier, cure of Martincourt, a man eminent for piety. They were cloistered nuns, who added to the ordinary duties of a religious life the education of young girls. This duty they discharged within the cloister, and without secular assistance. The Ursulines conducted their schools more publicly, and had established several successful missions. The former, therefore, were obliged to use as auxiliaries an extern congregation composed of virtuous young girls, who lived in their own families, but assembled on Sundays and festivals for the exercise of works of charity. They went two and two together, wherever the glory of God or the good of their neighbors required, always subject to the appointment of the religieuses. Most of the young ladies of the city belonged to this association, which was of course secular (enclosure not being suitable to their work), and they willingly admitted Margaret Bourgeois among them. It was in this edifying association that God manifested his designs on her future life, and it was for her a real apprenticeship in the school of virtue. Once received, she was soon distinguished for zeal and fervor, and was to be seen everywhere, exercising the duties of Christian charity. Her distinguishing trait, however, was the instruction of the ignorant, and teaching young girls the principles of religion, as well as the rudiments of education. It may be truly said of her from that period, that the animating principle of all her actions was to unite them in spirit with the human actions of the Mother of God.
She never relaxed in her efforts to imitate this high model of sanctity, and never ceased by word and example to animate the Christian virgins who afterwards joined her religious order to imitate as closely as human infirmity would permit, the daily actions of Mary during her sojourn on earth. To quote her own words will best exemplify her spirit. She said: "Our Lord before His ascension into heaven left behind Him on earth a kind of congregation or community that would embrace persons of every condition of life, the first superior being His own divine Mother. The holy spirit in the Gospel has given us the name of this community, which had a two-fold object, and was to serve as a model for all future associations of women to be established in the Church. This was no other than the community of Magdalen and Martha,' the disciples and friends of Christ. The first represented religious congregations devoted to prayer and contemplation in the cloister. While Martha was to be a model for those who devote themselves to the service of their neighbor. But the Blessed Virgin reserved to herself the duty of instruction. She was the Mother and mistress of the rising Church, which she formed and trained to the practise of virtue, by word and example. Not that she undertook to preach the Gospel, which was the mission of the Apostles, but she instructed the little ones in the virtues of poverty and humility, of which she herself made profession, knowing that the majority of the followers of Christ would be the poor and lowly. Thus was she the true model of a missionary congregation."
By such admirable sentiments as these did she excite her companions to fervor in the discharge of their several duties. Yet her labors as a member of the externs at Troyes did not satisfy her. She felt that God required more from her, although He had not yet manifested his will, so she again determined to seek admission into a religious house, applying this time to the "Poor Clares." It is true she saw nothing in their institute that corresponded to her ardent desire of consecrating herself to the service of the Blessed Virgin, and of laboring for the salvation of souls, but she felt she would be unfaithful to grace if she did not make another effort to find out the will of God concerning her vocation. She therefore consulted her director, who advised her to present herself for admission, which she did, but as before, met with a humiliating refusal, as it was not there either, that Almighty God intended to make use of her for His glory, and He took this means of putting her humility to the test, and proving and perfecting her virtue.
The first refusal of the Carmelites only served to animate her to greater perfection, and she made the same use of this second mortifying rejection. Being more and more impressed with a desire to consecrate herself to God, she resolved on making a vow of perpetual chastity, first acquainting M. Landret, her confessor, with her intention. He was a prudent man, and thought that circumstanced as she was, she might sometime repent having made the vow, or something might occur to change her resolution, and therefore told her to postpone such a promise until she was at least thirty years old, being then twenty-two. She submitted to his decision in silence, as humbly as if God had spoken. He soon changed his opinion, however, being convinced by her submission that God was operating great things in her soul, and permitted her to follow her inclination by consecrating her virginity to Jesus, which she did with fervor on the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, December 21st, 1643, being in her twenty-third year. Shortly after she added the a vow of poverty, and from that time her career of sanctity was unmistakable. She advanced in virtue as she advanced in age, and the practise of every good work, and held the office of Prefect of the extern congregation for many years. In 1647, her father falling dangerously sick, she attended him with all the love and charity that might be expected from such a daughter, and had the consolation of seeing him die full of hope and trust in the mercy of God. She arranged his body in the coffin with her own hands, although others were willing to spare her the performance of that duty of filial love, and the pious practice of preparing the dead for burial she ever after continued in Canada, until strength and life failed her, although it was often repugnant to her feelings.
As M. Jandret knew the humiliation she endured by being refused admission in two religious orders, and knew also her virtues, he did not feel justified in advising anything that would stifle the operations of divine grace in her soul. He was, moreover, an eye-witness of her successful efforts in instructing young girls, both secularly and religiously, and thought it might be pleasing to God to associate with her other pious young persons, who could easily be found in the congregation of which she was Prefect, and establish them permanently in the discharge of that duty. He accordingly made the proposal to her, which she did not refuse, believing it would contribute to the glory of God, and be a means of accomplishing His will. In order to act prudently, however, M. Jandret consulted his superior, M. de Theoloyal, of the cathedral of Troyes, who assured him that the project was a wise one, and the two priests in concert drew up a formula of rules which they judged fit to lead those for whom they were intended securely in the path of Christian perfection. M. le Theoloyal went to Paris to submit the rules to the doctors of the Sorbonne, who decided in their favor, and advised that they be reduced to practice.
Two virtuous young ladies were thereupon associated with Margaret Bourgeois, and Mme. de Chuly, of whom we shall have occasion to speak more at length, gave them an apartment in her own house to make the experiment. In proposing the rules to these pious young women, the persons who had written and approved of them had undoubtedly the future in view, but God had still wiser and other designs. It was only a preparation or foundation for the rules and constitutions that Margaret, many years after, sought to have approved in France for the government of the Community she established at Ville-Marie, she and her first companions having had a most happy experience of them during their early religious life. They engaged zealously in the education of the children confided to their care, always making moral training the principal object, but most especially did they seek to guard those whose surroundings endangered their virtue. On one occasion, a set of libertines managed to entice a poor but honest girl away from home. Margaret Bourgeois fortunately heard of the intended outrage, and taking a crucifix in her hand fearlessly followed the ruffians in order to rescue the girl. Without taking any notice of the violence they threatened, as they were well armed, she spoke so forcibly of the judgments of God, that would inevitably fall on them if they persisted in their diabolical purpose, that they retired in confusion, leaving the trembling girl at liberty, and overpowered with gratitude for her benefactress. She afterwards became one of Margaret's life-long companions, and accompanied her to Canada, where she was known as Sister Crolo. But the trial establishment of M. Jandret did not last very long. One of the two associates died, and the other left, so that Margaret, finding herself alone, was forced to abandon a position in which she could not succeed without companions, and again occupied herself as a simple congregationalist. The mortified life she had thus been leading for years, always uncertain of the future, and without a particle of human consolation, could not fail to draw down upon her signal favors from heaven, and those she experienced were of the most precious kind. Almighty God favored her many times with ineffable and sweet consolations when she approached Holy Communion. The fire of divine love then burned so vividly in her heart that she could hardly refrain from letting appear exteriorly the ecstatic joy with which her soul was inundated. Once she saw Our Lord in the Holy Host during Mass, in the form of a little child, of a ravishing and incomparable beauty, and by such a singular favor we may easily judge of the state of her soul at that period of her life.
On the Feast of the Assumption, 1650, which was the principal Feast of the externs, she was appointed to remain in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament during the annual procession in honor of the holy Virgin, which was that day held. After remaining a considerable time in prayer she felt suddenly inspired to raise her eyes and look at the holy Host in the ostensorium. A vision of the Redeemer was distinctly presented to her, and she was so profoundly penetrated with love and gratitude that earth had no more charms for her from that happy hour. Such is always the effect of celestial manifestations, and it was by these favors Almighty God prepared the soul of His servant for the great designs He had upon her, of which she was then ignorant. However, they were not much longer unfolding, and we shall, in the sequel, everywhere find occasion to notice the watchful care of Divine Providence and the marked protection of the Blessed Virgin over the colony of Ville-Marie, over Sister Bourgeois herself, and over the Institute of the Sisters of the Congregation.
MARGARET BOURGEOIS, AFTER MANY TRIALS AND MORTIFICATIONS, AT LENGTH SAILS WITH M. DE MAISONNEUVE FOR CANADA.
In a proceeding chapter we have spoken of M. de Maisonneuve, who was a native of Champenois, and consequently a fellow-countryman of Margaret Bourgeois—so favorably does divine Providence dispose the course of future events. We have also seen what a remarkable chain of circumstances led to his appointment as first Governor of Montreal. One might almost consider it miraculous. He laid the foundations of the new city, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin—naming it Ville-Marie, City of Mary. He had two sisters in the city of Troyes, one a religieuse of the Congregation of Notre Dame, the other a secular lady—Mme. de Chuly, of whom mention has been made. Before he left France he confided to these pious ladies his views for the advancement of religion, and his intention to build a city in honor of the Mother of God engaging them to unite with him in prayer for its success. As soon as the Congregation Sisters heard of the project they offered to accompany him, and establish in the New World a community of their Order. But as he was not prepared to make such an establishment, and as they pressed him very urgently to comply, he contented himself by promising that, in the future, if both parties agreed, he would attempt a foundation. As a pledge of their mutual understanding, they presented him a statue of the Blessed Virgin, on which were inscribed the following words: "Sainte Mere de Dieu, et Vierge au Coeur loyal, Gardez nous une place, en votre Mont-Royal."
It is true there was to be, in the new city, a community of Christian virgins specially devoted to Mary, but it was not the religieuses of Troyes God intended to be there, and so the matter ended. Three years after, when M. de Maisonneuve returned to France to procure assistance for Ville-Marie, he again visited these religieuses, who importuned him anew to take some of them to Canada, but he assured them as before that matters were not sufficiently matured in the New World for the establishment of a cloistered Sisterhood. So neither party took any more decisive step than a renewal of good wishes, and indefinite promises for the future. Divine Providence, meanwhile, was quietly preparing the way for the accomplishment of its inscrutable designs, not yet manifested. While these good ladies were filled with ardent hopes of the near future of their Canadian establishment, Margaret Bourgeois had many business interviews with them, being Prefect of the extern congregation connected with their monastery, and her singular virtue being very well known, they spoke to her confidentially of the expected mission they had so much at heart, frequently asking if she did not wish to be one of those selected for Ville-Marie. This was plainly hinting that they would not object to her joining their community. But, though God did intend her for Canada, He did not intend her for that Order; therefore she made no other reply to their proposal than that she desired to do the will of God with her whole heart, whenever and wherever He would please to manifest it to her. Although she had hitherto met with refusals on applying for admission to religious communities, yet she was not discouraged, and the proposal of the Canadian mission only incited her to learn the will of God, with more ardor than before. She sought the advice of her spiritual directors, knowing that their decisions were the usual means God makes use of in the direction of souls. M. Jandret being consulted, advised her to think seriously on the matter, as it seemed to him it might be the will of God she should go to Canada. However, diffiding in his own light, he recommended her to consult M. Pertuis another experienced priest, who was of the same opinion with the former, and both advised her to ask advice of the Bishop of Troyes. This distinguished prelate being absent at the time, she had recourse to M. Rose, his vicar general, who counselled her at once to go to Canada, as it seemed to be the will of God she should. Having thus taken every precaution that prudence suggested to learn the divine will, Sister Bourgeois no longer doubted of her vocation for Canada, but God had not yet declared either the time or the manner of her going. It was natural to suppose she would accompany the religieuses of the Congregation, but the Great Disposer of events ordained differently. During all this time, the savage Iroquois had repeated their attacks on the people of Montreal with the wildest fury. Men, women, and children fell beneath the tomahawk, and in 1651, M. de Maissonneuve was obliged to return a second time to France for military assistance. On these occasions he never failed to go to the city of Troyes, to visit the members of his family who resided there, and also to pay a visit of respect to the religieuses of the Congregation, for whom he entertained a sincere friendship, his sister being a member of the community. On the eve of his arrival, Sister Bourgeois had a singular prediction of the future. She saw in a dream, a grave, venerable-looking man, dressed like an ecclesiastic, standing silently before her. The form and features of the man, who was not then known to her, remained distinctly imprinted on her imagination, and she had an indefinable inspiration that he was to be in some way connected with the work for which God intended her. She related the dream to some of her friends, and three days afterwards M. de Maisonneuve arrived at Troyes. He called at the Convent, when as usual the subject of the proposed foundation at Ville-Marie was discussed. Sister Bourgeois was sent for, that her opinion might be heard with the others. On entering the parlor, the first person that attracted her attention was the strange gentleman, who corresponded exactly to the person she had seen in her dream. Struck with astonishment, she could not help exclaiming, "Behold the priest of my dream." She was requested to relate the dream, which she did quite simply, and as a matter of course, had to submit to a good deal of badinage about her vision, as they called it, but jest soon turned to earnest, and before parting M. de Maisonneuve and Sister Bourgeois conceived a lasting friendship for each other. He asked if she would like to go to Montreal and teach a primary school for girls, to which she promptly replied that nothing would afford her greater pleasure, and that nothing was more suited to her inclinations. By her reply he understood that Divine Providence had fitted her for the New World, although he had not the most remote idea of the great things intended to be accomplished by her ever-increasing zeal. In the then state of the colony he felt convinced that nothing was more conducive to its welfare than the Christian education of children, and as the inhabitants were few, one skilful mistress would easily suffice; nor could he, at the time, procure a suitable dwelling for more. He accepted the offer of Sister Bourgeois on the spot, and the religieuses thanked him for even that concession, awaiting, as they said, a happier occasion for the foundation they so eagerly desired. The occasion, however, never presented itself, and they seemed to have some such presentiment, as they charged Margaret Bourgeois with breach of faith in accepting the proposal without their consent. Seeing they were touched with a sort of holy jealousy, she pleasantly replied, that if she had promised to go with them to Ville-Marie, she was ready to fulfil her promise, but if she had not made the promise, or if they delayed too long, she should certainly go without them.
As soon as Mlle. Crolo (whom she so heroically saved from dishonor) heard of her determination to cross the sea, she begged with much earnestness to accompany her, but this M. de Maisonneuve would not permit at the time, because he was bringing a regiment of soldiers to the New World, for the defence of Ville-Marie. This circumstance frightened Sister Bourgeois very much, as she found herself alone, and without escort, in the midst of a troop of soldiers, Her modesty was alarmed, and she sought her confessor's