HotFreeBooks.com
The Life of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation
by "A Religious of the Ursuline Community"
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE LIFE OF THE VENERABLE MOTHER MARY OF THE INCARNATION

BY A RELIGIOUS OF THE URSULINE COMMUNITY



INTRODUCTION.

The materials for the following Biography have been gathered principally from "The Life of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation" by her son, and from "The History of the Ursuline Monastery at Quebec," by a member of that community, the former published in 1677; the latter in 1863.

The Life of the Venerable Mother by her son, is founded partly on her own communications regarding the graces with which she had been favoured, and partly on her correspondence with himself extending over the thirty years which she passed in Canada. With the genuine information thus received, he intersperses, under the name of "Additions," further details which had either come under his personal observation, or been gleaned from perfectly reliable sources. His work is therefore a sure and invaluable guide to the biographer.

The accounts of her inner life referred to, were written by the Venerable Mother at two different epochs, and each time in obedience to an imperative command from her confessors. The first written in 1633, the 34th year of her age, fell into the possession of the Ursulines of St. Denis, near Paris, who on hearing that Dom Claude Martin was engaged in writing his holy Mother's life, obligingly sent him the precious document. The second, written in 1654, was forwarded to him from Canada.

The Annals of the Quebec Ursulines also afford rich material to the historian of the Mother of the Incarnation, their pages containing constant references to and quotations from her letters both spiritual and historical, as well as from the Annual Reports of the Jesuit Missioners, and other contemporary documents of the highest authenticity and the deepest interest.

The historical statements in the introductory chapter, rest chiefly oh the authority of the Abbe Ferland in his "Cours d'Histoire du Canada," 1861, and of Bancroft in his "History of the United States," 1841. The historical facts incidentally introduced in the course of the work can be verified by reference to the Abbe Ferland or any other Canadian historian, or to the Letters of the Mother of the Incarnation.

It only remains to be noticed that the words "saint," "saintly," and others of similar import are used throughout solely in their popular acceptation, and not with any intention of anticipating the decision of the Church regarding the sanctity of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation or of any other of God's servants mentioned in these pages.

In like manner, the record of miraculous occurrences, visions, and other extraordinary supernatural favours, is understood to rest as yet only on human authority, and therefore to claim no more than the degree of credibility which attaches to any well authenticated human statement.

April 30th 1880.

208th Anniversary of the death of the Venerable Mother of the Incarnation.



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER. A Glance at Canada, as it was in the days of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation.

THE LIFE OF THE VENERABLE MOTHER. FIRST PERIOD, 1599 TO 1631. HER LIFE IN THE WORLD

CHAPTER I. Her infancy, childhood and youth—Early call to union with God.—Charity to the poor.—Purity of soul—Inclination for the Religious Life.

CHAPTER II. Her married life.—Rule of life.—Love of prayer—Perfect fulfilment of duty.—Patience under trial—Zeal for her household.—Influence.—Death of her Husband.

CHAPTER III. Her First year of Widowhood.—Life of solitude in the World.—Vision of the application of the Precious Blood to her soul.—Increased purity of conscience.—Charity to the sick poor.

CHAPTER IV. She quits her solitude.—New evidence of her purity of soul.—Humiliation and dependence in her Sister's house.

CHAPTER V. She is called to a high degree of Divine Union.—New invitation to the perfection of Interior Purity.—Infused knowledge of the nature of the works of God.—Austerities.—Love of contempt.—Active life.—Makes the vows of poverty and obedience.—Heavenly favour.—Temptations.

CHAPTER VI. Supernatural favours.—Lights on the mystery of the Incarnation.—Vision of the Most Adorable Trinity.—Submission to her Director.—Temptations renewed.—Lights on the Divine attributes.

CHAPTER VII. Second Vision of the Most Adorable Trinity.—She is elevated to a sublime degree of Divine Union.

CHAPTER VIII. She resolves to embrace the Religious Life.—Decides finally on the Ursuline Order.—Temptations.—Disappearance of her son.—His return.— Enters the Convent.

CHAPTER IX. Saint Angela, Foundress of the Ursulines.—Her Early sanctity.—Zeal for the instruction of the ignorant.—Lays the foundation of her great work at Dezenzano—Vision of the Mysterious Ladder.—Removes to Brescia.—Goes to the Holy Land.—To Rome.—To Cremona.—Returns to Brescia.—Founds her Order.—Her holy Death.—Parting Counsels.—Prediction of the stability of her work.—Diffusion of the Order.—Archconfraternity of St. Angela.

SECOND PERIOD, 1631 TO 1639. THE VENERABLE MOTHER'S RELIGIOUS LIFE IN FRANCE.

CHAPTER I. Her Novitiate.—Holy joy.—Virtue tested.—Love of common life.— Humility.—Obedience.—Trials from her son.—Offers herself as a victim for his salvation.—Third Vision of the Adorable Trinity.—Receives the Holy Habit.

CHAPTER II. Supernatural favours.—Infused knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of the Latin language.—Facility for imparting Spiritual Instruction.— Temptations.—Loses her Director.—Interior desolation.—Fidelity.— Consolation.—Profession.—Renewed Trials.—Reassuring direction.—New difficulties about her son.

CHAPTER III. She is named Assistant-Mistress of Novices.—Prophetic Vision of her vocation to Canada.—Spiritual maxims and instructions.—Spirit of silence.—Forms many Saints.

CHAPTER IV. Increase of zeal for the salvation of souls.—Divinely directed to pray for their conversion through the Heart of Jesus.—Her vocation for Canada is revealed to her.

CHAPTER V. Madame de la Peltrie.—Early Piety.—Charity.—Desire for the Religious State.—Obliged to marry.—Loses her Husband.—Zeal for Souls.—Is inspired to devote herself to the Canadian Mission.—Her vocation confirmed in a dangerous illness.—Opposition.—Death of her Father.— Services of Monsieur de Bernieres.—Goes to Paris.

CHAPTER VI. The Mother of the Incarnation declares her vocation for Canada.— Contradictions and Humiliations.—Her confidence in God.—Esteem for her vocation.—Submission to the Divine Will.

CHAPTER VII. Madame de la Peltrie invites the Mother of the Incarnation to accompany her to Canada.—The Venerable Mother's answer.—Madame de la Peltrie at Tours.—The Mothers of the Incarnation and St. Bernard selected for the Mission.—Opposition from relatives.—The Venerable Mother's vision of the trials awaiting her.—Monsieur de Bernieres.—Farewell Letter.

THIRD PERIOD, 1639 TO 1672. THE VENERABLE MOTHER'S LIFE IN CANADA.

CHAPTER I. Embarkation.—Alarm from a Spanish Fleet.—Danger from an Iceberg.— Arrival at Tadoussac.—First night in Canada.—Reception at Quebec.— Visit to Sillery.—The "Louvre."

CHAPTER II. The Mother of the Incarnation recognises Canada to be the country shown her in her prophetic vision.—Opening of the Schools.—Study of the Indian languages.—Small-pox among the Pupils.—Arrival of two Sisters from Paris.—Union of Congregations.-Building of new Convent.

CHAPTER III Work at the "Louvre."—Progress of the Pupils.—Piety.—Lively Faith in the Real Presence.—Refinement of feeling.—Zeal.—Teresa the Huron.— Agnes.—Little Truants.—Banquets at the "Louvre,"

CHAPTER IV. Renewed Trials of the Venerable Mother.—Madame de la Peltrie removes to Montreal.—Great Poverty of the Ursulines.—Apprehensions.—The Venerable Mother's confidence in God.—Fidelity to grace.—Exactitude to duty.— Active Life.—First Elections.—Removal to the New Monastery.—Return of Madame de la Peltrie.

CHAPTER V. The Mother of the Incarnation a victim for the Conversion of her son and her niece.—Conversion of both, followed by the cessation of her interior sufferings.—Arrival of new subjects from France.—Mother St. Athanasius Superior.—First Profession at Quebec.—Destruction of the Hurons.— Charity of the Ursulines to the Survivors.

CHAPTER VI. The Monastery consumed.—Charity of the Hospital Sisters.—Sympathy of the Hurons.—Serenity of the Venerable Mother.—Lodgings in Madame de la Peltrie's House.—Poverty.—Monastery Rebuilt.—A Pretty Picture.— Removal to the New Monastery.

CHAPTER VII. Early Life of Mother St. Joseph.—Her zeal for the Indians.—Virtues.— Last Illness.—Happy Death.—Apparitions after Death.

CHAPTER VIII. The Seminary Re-opened.—The good work partially checked.—Genevieve and Catherine.—Appointment of Bishop Laval.—Threatened Invasion of the Iroquois.—Heroism of Daulac and his Companions.

CHAPTER IX. Trade in Intoxicating Liquors.—Awful Manifestation of Divine Anger.— Repentance.—Prosperity.—The Marquis of Tracy Viceroy.—Expedition against the Iroquois.—Advancement of the Colony.

CHAPTER X. New Sisters from France.—Illness of Mother of the Incarnation.—She is Re-elected Superior.—Lingers for Eight Years.—Illness and Death of Madame de la Peltrie.

CHAPTER XI. Last Illness of the Mother of the Incarnation.—Her Blessed Death.— Universal regret for her loss.—Her Virtues.

APPENDIX.

Evening Devotion of the Mother of the Incarnation in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Evening Devotion of the Venerable Mother in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A few Parting Words on the Old Monastery of Quebec.



A GLANCE AT CANADA IN THE DAYS OF THE VENERABLE MOTHER MARY OF THE INCARNATION.

Early in the sixteenth century, reports of the progress of discovery in America began to make their way to France, and, as a natural result, to arouse emulation. For no one had the stirring tales a greater charm than for the reigning Sovereign, Francis I., whose spirit of rivalry, thirst of glory, and love of adventure, they were especially calculated to stimulate. It would have been as repugnant to the nature, as it was inconsistent with the policy of the ambitious monarch, to permit the Kings of Spain [Footnote: In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the islands of the Western Hemisphere, and took possession in the name of the Spanish Sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella. At his third voyage, in 1498, he added to the first discovery, that of the Continent of South America.] and Portugal [Footnote: in 1500, Alvarez de Cabral, a Portuguese navigator, took possession of Brazil for his royal master, Emmanuel, King of Portugal. Amerigo Vespucci had discovered its coast in 1498.] to monopolize the glory and the advantages anticipated from possession of the western world; such an idea was not to be for a moment entertained. If their banners waved over its Southern Continent, that was no reason, he argued, why France should not unfurl her fair white lilies in the Northern. [Footnote: The mainland of North America was discovered in 1497 by the celebrated Italian adventurers, John Cabot and his sons, under a commission from Henry VII of England, who, however, did not avail of the discovery.] "I should like," he exclaimed with characteristic impetuosity and originality, "I should like to see the clause in Adam's will which authorizes these, my royal cousins, to divide the New World between them!" As there seemed, however, little chance of his being permitted to adjust the rival claims by a reference to our first father's last testament, he resolved, as a more practical solution of difficulties, to take the law into his own hands, and by getting possession of a share of the spoils to secure at least nine points of it in his favour.

In justice to his Most Christian Majesty, it must be admitted that although self-interested considerations had no doubt a large part in his decision, other and worthier views influenced him. perhaps even more strongly. If his proud title of eldest son of the Church was to be more than an empty name, it devolved on him, he felt, to take prompt measures for introducing Christianity into some part of the newly discovered idolatrous West. Spain and Portugal had anticipated him in one direction, it was true, but the world of Canada still presented a vast field for his zeal in another. The existence of that barbarous, heathen land was now an ascertained fact, What nobler use could he make of his royal resources than to introduce into it the two-fold light of faith and civilization? None, assuredly. Over far-off Canada, therefore, he determined that, fortune favouring, the banner of the Lily should ere long float.

And, truly, it was well worth the seeking, that fair, too long neglected gem in Nature's coronet, the distant land over the Western sea. Cultivation has no doubt done much for the Canada of Francis I., still even in the undeveloped beauty of those remote days, its natural features were strikingly fine. Prominent then, as now, was the noble river flowing through its midst—its own beautiful St. Lawrence, "the river of Canada," as the French sometimes styled it by pre-eminence; a recognised monarch [Footnote: "The St. Lawrence has a course of nearly three thousand miles, and varies in breadth from one mile to ninety miles. It annually discharges to the ocean about 4,277,880 millions of tons of fresh water, of which 2,112,120 millions of tons may be reckoned melted snow— the quantity discharged before the thaw comes on being 4,512 millions of tons per day for 240 days, and the quantity after the thaw begins being 25,560 millions per day for 125 days, the depths and velocity when in and out of flood being duly considered."—Martin's British Colonies.] in the world of waters, embracing in its wide-spread dominion, rapids and cataracts, and tributary streams, with vast lakes like seas, and a little world of islands like fairy realms, [Footnote: Among others, the Thousand Islands, happily described as "picturesque combinations of wood, rock, and water, such as imagination is apt to attach to the happy islands in the Vision of Mirza."] the whole enclosed within romantic shores, worthy to form the framing of so magnificent a picture.

Then, as now, the valley of the St. Lawrence was rich in every variety of natural beauty, but with this difference, that at the arrival of the French the superb panorama was more or less enveloped in an apparently interminable forest, to which the predominance of the pine imparted in some places an air of solemnity, and even gloom. Since then, the axe has done its work in the inhabited portions, opening up a landscape of singular loveliness in some parts; of stern, wild grandeur in others; nevertheless, enough of the lordly old woods still remains, to justify their claim to a place among the characteristics of Canadian scenery. Lovely in their summer garb of many-hued green, relieved by a carpeting of myriads of flowering plants, they are glorious beyond telling, when after a few frosty nights at the close of autumn, they assume every imaginable variety of shade, from glowing scarlet and soft violet, to rich brown and bright yellow.

Champlain, the founder of Quebec, describes the Canada of his day as beautiful, agreeable, and fertile; producing grain of every kind; abounding in valuable trees; yielding wild fruits of pleasant flavour, and well-stocked with fish and game. Later observation was to add to the catalogue of its natural riches, mines of iron, lead and copper. The early colonists, too, have recorded that the river banks were covered with a profusion of vines so productive, that it seemed difficult to trace all their luxuriance to the unaided hand of nature.

As a partial counterpoise to its many advantages, Canada is exposed to extremes of temperature, alternating between heat nearly tropical, and cold approaching polar. Owing to the clearing of the forests, and other causes, the winter is now somewhat less harsh than in the days of the first settlers; it is, however, still a very severe one. And yet, even under its stern reign, Canada is not without natural charms,—its giant river fast bound in icy chains; every stream, and lake and rivulet in the land a sheet of sparkling crystal; every trunk, and branch, and twig glittering in the sun as if sprinkled with diamond dust; every valley, hill and woodland, every mountain slope and far-stretching plain wrapped in a soft mantle of spotless snow.

Yet, with all its gifts and resources, Canada had reposed for long ages in lonely grandeur. The chronicles of the Old World told of many a generation gone by. They traced the rise and fall of many empires, and the succession of many dynasties. They recorded the advance of art and science. They contained long lists of names inscribed, some in the annals of human greatness, some on the pages of the Book of Life. They spoke of the glorious triumphs of the Church, and enumerated the nations gathered within her fold, and still, on that fair land of the West, no step had trodden but that of the Red Man; on its broad, deep river no boat had ever bounded but his own light canoe; through its length and breadth no Deity's name had resounded, save that of some senseless pagan idol. Truly it was time, as Francis I. concluded, that the ray of faith and civilization should beam on it at last.

In 1523, he sent out his first expedition, under the command of Verrazani, a Florentine, who, sailing along the coast from 28 degrees to 50 degrees north latitude, formally took possession of the whole region in the name of his royal patron, and called it "La Nouvelle France." But while France was thus adding to her glory in the New World, her arms received a severe check in the Old. When Verrazani returned in 1525, he found the nation mourning the disastrous results of the battle of Pavia, and too much absorbed by grave interests at home, to be disposed to concern itself about lesser ones abroad. Deprived of the support of his royal protector, then a prisoner at Madrid, he could neither utilize nor follow up his first observations, and for ten years more we hear nothing of Canada, except that mariners from France, and other European nations, carried on a successful fishery on its coasts, where as many as fifty ships from Europe might sometimes be seen together. The French called the country the newly found lands, an appellation which survives in that of the largest island. It is stated on the authority of certain old chroniclers, that the islands off the mainland had been known more than a century before the era of Columbus and Cabot to sailors from the Basque Provinces, who named them "Bacallos," their term for cod-fish. The name "Canada" seems to have been vaguely applied at this period sometimes to a part, sometimes to the whole of the region watered by the St. Lawrence. One derivation of it supposes the arrival of the French to have been preceded by a visit from the Spaniards, who, searching for precious metals, and finding none, expressed their disappointment by the frequent repetition of the words "aca nada," "nothing here." According to a more probable etymology, the term may be traced to the Iroquois word "Kanata," a village, or assembly of huts, which word the early European discoverers mistook for the name of the country.

Nothing daunted by the failure of his first attempt at colonisation, Francis authorized a new expedition in 1534, and intrusted the command of it to Jacques Cartier, a well-known navigator of St. Malo. In addition to his experience as a seaman, Cartier possessed a profoundly religious spirit, and in risking the long voyage, with its certain dangers and uncertain, success, he seems to have been wholly influenced by zeal for the conversion of the savages. He has given us an insight into his ideas in his own quaint style: "Considering," he says, "the varied benefits of God to man, I note among others how the sun pours his genial rays on every part of the globe in succession, excluding none from their beneficent influence, and my simple mode of reasoning leads me to infer that our great Creator intends for all his creatures a share in the illumination of faith, no less than in the cheering light of the orb of day. The sun comes to us from the East, as did our holy faith; may we not conclude, that as he passes thence to the West, the beams of the Gospel are meant to follow in his track, and pour their brightness in that direction too."

Cartier set sail on the 20th of April, 1534; reached Newfoundland in safety on the 10th of May, and sailing along the coast as far as the Bay of Gaspe, planted near its entrance a lofty cross bearing a shield with the lilies of France, and a suitable inscription. The chief result of this first voyage was the discovery of the great river of Canada, and the opening of communication with the natives. The season being somewhat too advanced for farther exploration, Cartier returned to France in the month of August, accompanied by two young Indians, destined as a future interpreter to their countrymen.

Re-entering the river on the 10th of August of the following year, he named it the St. Lawrence, in honour of the saint whose feast the Church celebrates on that day. The island at its mouth, now called Anticosti, he named the isle of the Assumption. He finally anchored off Stadacona, where Quebec now stands, and on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in the next month, the Holy Sacrifice was for the first time offered on the Canadian shores. Cartier next visited the Indian settlement of Hochelaga, situated on an island formed by the St. Lawrence and a branch of the Ottawa. The discovery of this vaunted hamlet, with its picturesque surroundings, had been among the most cherished of his day dreams, nor was the reality unworthy of the dream. From the summit of an isolated mountain at the extremity of the island; his view embraced in front a wide expanse of fertile land; around him stretched forests of oak, with here and there a waving field of silken-tufted Indian corn; at his feet lay the hamlet, built in the form of a circle, and fortified in Indian fashion by three graduated rows of palisades, and to crown the whole, girding the island like a broad silver belt, as far as the eye could reach, shone the sunlit river. Enchanted with the beauty of the scene, and delighted too with the courteous greeting of the savages, their simplicity, their generosity and their ardour for instruction, he breathed a prayer, that a land so fair and a people so gentle might be marked ere long as the heritage of France,—above all, as a portion of the Kingdom of God. In his enthusiasm, he called the mountain on which he stood, Mount Royal, whence the name "Montreal." [Footnote: Nearly three centuries and a half have gone by since Jacques Cartier surveyed Hochelaga and its environs for the first time from the heights of Mount Royal. Could he view the same locality from the same stand point to-day, how great would be his wonder at its transformation! The mountain itself is now covered, both base and acclivities, with flourishing corn fields, fruitful orchards, and handsome residences, above which, to the very summit, trees grow in luxuriant variety. On the site of the Indian hamlet of the olden time, is a large, wealthy city; its streets and squares adorned with remarkably fine buildings; its busy ways thronged with an active, industrious, thriving population; its port crowded with shipping and bordered with commodious quays; its vast river spanned by the great tubular bridge, and traversed through its length and breadth by vessels of every build. The environs are in keeping with the city, combining natural beauty with the refinements of art and the improvements of industry. Nestling among rich woodlands, are gay villages, rural churches and pleasant villas, while thickly interspersed through fertile, well cultivated grounds, are pretty cottages, substantial farms and happy peasant homes. The living picture acquires additional animation from the constant movement of long rows of railway carriages, ever sending up light streams of transparent vapour which curl among the bright foliage, with a grace of their own, then fade away heavenwards. Could Jacques Cartier see it all, he might well wonder at time's changes!] At Stadacona where he spent the winter, he had the consolation of instructing the natives in the holy faith, by the aid of the two Indian youths, who, as already noticed, had accompanied him to France on his first return voyage, and spent the interval between that and his second expedition in learning the French tongue. So eager were these simple people to receive the truth, that he had to promise to take measures for their admission to the Sacrament of regeneration at his nest voyage.

The extreme rigour of this first winter rendered it a season of terrible suffering to the French; sickness, broke out amongst them and death thinned their ranks. Cartier had therefore no alternative but to conduct the discouraged survivors back to France early in spring. He determined to bring with him also some specimens of the natives whom he wished to present to the King. The practice of the time seemed to give a tacit sanction to the act, but it is much to be regretted that in carrying out his object, Cartier should have had recourse to stratagem. Donacona, one of the chiefs, was decoyed on board the French ship, with nine other savages, and borne away from his home in the wilds, which poor though it might be, was more precious to him than all the grandeur of the French King's capital. To pacify his people, he promised them before sailing away, that he would return after twelve moons, but save in dreams, he saw his beloved woods no more. With the exception of one little girl, all the exiles died in France, where, however, they were well treated, and had the happiness of being instructed in the faith and received into the Church.

On returning to Canada for the third time in 1540, Cartier found it difficult to resume his former intercourse with the natives, whom the disappearance of their chief had rendered distrustful and suspicious. Besides, he occupied only a subordinate position in this new expedition, the principal direction of which had been committed to the Lord of Roberval. The division of authority seems to have worked badly. Cartier had spent a year of inactivity in Canada before the Viceroy was prepared to join him, so seeing no prospect of success, he left for France, just as Roberval reached Canada. Without the co-operation of his lieutenant, the leader could accomplish little; his expedition may indeed be said to have resulted only in corroborating the reality of the discoveries reported by the navigator of St. Malo. The purport of Cartier's fourth and last voyage, was to bring back to France the miserable remnant of the adventurers who had accompanied Roberval.

Though an apparent disappointment, the failure of the first attempt to colonize Canada was in reality a blessing. A few persons of good position had, it is true, joined Roberval's expedition, but it is equally certain that a considerable proportion of his recruits had been drawn from among the convicts of the French jails. Had the colony been then established, the mixture of such an element must have tainted its very source, and exercised an utterly demoralizing influence on its future. But God had designs of special mercy on Canada, so the day of her visitation was deferred, only that it might rise at a later period with a steadier, a clearer, and a more enduring light. Although Jacques Cartier failed in his immediate object, he succeeded in exploring a considerable part of the country, and as the first to open a way for missionaries to the hitherto unknown region, his claim to the gratitude of Catholic hearts should ever be recognised. He died at his peaceful home of Limoilou in Brittany, leaving the wilds of the West once more in undisputed possession of the native tribes.

During the next sixty years, the French took no active steps for the colonization of Canada. Their attempts under Henry II and Charles IX, to form settlements in Brazil and Florida, seem to have diverted their attention from New France, but they never quite forgot it, nor utterly relinquished the hope of one day founding a State on the St. Lawrence. Merchants from Dieppe and St. Malo continued to visit its shores, and from time to time, slight, ineffectual attempts at settlement were made. It was not, however, until 1608, that an expedition of any importance was organized. Monsieur des Monts, a Calvinist of wealth and rank, then received from Henry IV, the authority necessary for the purpose, and as an indemnity for consequent expenses, he also obtained the monopoly of the fur trade for one year. A company of merchants was immediately formed, and the command of the expedition given to the illustrious Samuel Champlain. Quebec, the Stadacona of Cartier, was decided on as the most advantageous site for the projected settlement, the destined cradle of the Canadian nation. There accordingly, Champlain unfurled the white Banner on the 3rd of July, 1608. In the Algonquin tongue, "Kebec" signifies a strait, the St. Lawrence flowing at this point in a narrow channel between two high banks. The intended capital [Footnote: Quebec is now considered the military capital of Canada, Montreal ranking as the commercial metropolis, and Ottawa as the legislative.] of Canada could not have been more judiciously located. It possesses a magnificent harbour, navigable for the largest vessels, and capable of containing the most numerous fleet. The great river at its base forms a commodious highway of communication with the very heart of the continent, while in consequence of the narrowing of the waters in its immediate vicinity, the citadel commands the passage. Quebec is thus the key of the great valley of the St. Lawrence, "the advanced guard," as the Abbe Ferland calls it in his History of Canada, of the vast French empire, which, according to the project of Louis XIV., was to extend from the Straits of Belle Isle to the Gulf of Mexico. The colony was not, however, to be established on a firm basis, until it had passed through much tribulation. Its early annals were to record an ordeal of trials, sickness, privation, hardship, destitution, alarms from the terrible Iroquois, molestation from the English, and finally, all but total extinction. They were to tell how the growth of the young nation had been checked, and its very existence threatened, by the bad faith of self-interested companies; worse than all, how, destined as it was for a bright star in the firmament of the Church, and a beacon light to the benighted heathen, its grand end had been temporarily frustrated by the frequent appointment of Calvinists for its patrons, and a mingling of the same sectarians among its small population. Then the page of triumph would come, and on it would be inscribed, how, like its own flower-enamelled meadows, bursting into bloom and beauty from beneath their pall of snow, Canada had emerged from its long moral winter, neither paralysed by the chill, nor depressed by the gloom, but glowing to its inmost heart with warm young life, and throbbing in every pulse with irrepressible energy and vigour.

Happily for the result of the undertaking Champlain, its guiding spirit, was eminently qualified for his position. Wise, as energetic; persevering, as enterprising; brave in reverse, as unassuming in. success, he laid his plans with consummate prudence and carried them out with unwavering constancy. Disinterested, honourable and patriotic, he suffered no secret view of personal advantage to narrow his mind or mar his usefulness. Looking on his work as the work of God, and therefore believing implicitly in its final success, he threw his whole heart into it, devoting to it time, talents, wealth and life, and pursuing it with a courage that never quailed and a heroism of self-sacrifice that never faltered. Profoundly religious, his great aim was to establish it on the solid foundation of faith and piety. For this end, he looked carefully from the beginning to the moral elements of the little society, and as far as his control extended, admitted among the early colonists only persons of irreproachable character. As soon as affairs appeared sufficiently promising, he invited missioners to the spiritually destitute land. Four Franciscans answered the appeal, and on the 25th of June; 1615, to the great joy of the Catholic inhabitants, Mass was celebrated in Quebec for the first time since the days of Cartier and Roberval. In 1624, St. Joseph was solemnly chosen Patron of Canada, which from its birth has claimed devotion to the Holy Family and to St. Anne, as its devotion by excellence. The following year, the Recollet Fathers were joined by a little band of Jesuits, who came to fertilize the soil with martyrs' blood and win for themselves the martyrs' palm. Their arrival gradually prepared the way for the realization of the pious governor's first and dearest wish, the establishment of missions throughout the country. On these we shall touch in a future page.

Indefatigable in his zeal for the colony, Champlain made frequent voyages to France in its interests, undeterred by the inconveniences and even positive dangers then often attendant on travelling, and although he was subjected to constant petty annoyances from the selfishness and parsimony of the Company, the jealousy and rivalry of the traders, and the coolness and indifference of noble patrons, he never relaxed in his exertions, because ever sustained by trust in God and faith in his work. At great personal risk, and with incredible fatigue, he explored the country in all directions, observing, and afterwards describing its physical features, as well as the character and customs of the savages. From time to time, we even find him in arms against the dreaded Iroquois, but notwithstanding his superhuman efforts, the colony could make but little progress while its destinies remained in the hands of mercenary agents, who were utterly regardless of its interests, and intent only on enriching themselves at its cost. After Quebec had been founded fourteen years, it still contained only fifty-five inhabitants, and its growth in all other respects had been proportionally tardy. Hope, however, began to brighten, when in 1627, the Canada Company was superseded by that of the Hundred Partners, with Richelieu at its head. This association was to hold Canada, as a feudal seigniory under the King, and with the right of soil, was to possess a monopoly of trade. In return for these privileges, it contracted the obligation of amply supplying the country with colonists, including a sufficient number of artisans and labourers. It was also bound to provide for the support of a specified number of missioners, and in general, to promote the welfare of the colony. Unfortunately, five years elapsed before it was ready to enter on the government of the province, which meantime was brought to the very verge of ruin, partly by famine, and partly by foreign invasion.

Much about the time of the transfer of Canada to the new Company, the Huguenots raised the standard of civil war in France, and being aided by England and Holland, their revolt soon assumed a formidable aspect. To complicate the difficulties of the mother country, a band of French Calvinists in the service of England determined to seize the favourable opportunity of invading her possessions in America. These were headed by Sir David Kerkt and his brothers, who procured the command of a small fleet of English vessels, and after devastating the coasts in the vicinity of Quebec, sent a summons to the Governor to surrender the town itself. Not having received supplies from France for three years, its resources were nearly exhausted, nevertheless, as Champlain. was in. hourly expectation of succour, he bravely determined to resist the summons and maintain his ground to the last. Before long, the people were reduced to a daily allowance of five ounces of bread; a little later, they were compelled to subsist on roots and herbs, yet still, even after hearing that the vessels containing the much needed supplies had been intercepted by the English, the resolute Commander never faltered. He encouraged his companions in misfortune by word and example; exhorted them, to patience; cheerfully shared their privations, and strained every nerve to improve their condition. But although they struggled through the trying winter and spring, it was but too evident that without relief they could not hold out much longer; when therefore the last hope was blighted by the wreck of two ships laden with provisions, the Governor, recognising the inutility of further resistance, accepted the only alternative left him, and at the second demand, surrendered the heroic little town, which amidst almost incredible difficulties had withstood the invaders an entire year. It was on the 20th of July, 1629, that the English took possession, and the following month, Champlain and his people embarked for England, whence, according to the terms of surrender, they were to be conveyed to France. One French family alone consented to remain in Quebec, and that only until after the next harvest. Thus it would seem as if a single step had brought us from Canada's cradle to her grave, for in what light can we look on those vessels bearing Champlain and the colonists from her shores, but as the tomb of the hopes lately so bright and buoyant? It happened however that when Kerkt seized Quebec, he was ignorant of the triumph of Richelieu at La Rochelle; unconscious therefore that the French Calvinist party was utterly crushed, and the long protracted civil war at an end. On landing at Plymouth in the following October, he learned to his dismay that peace had been concluded between England and France two months before the seizure of Quebec, the restitution of which had now become, simply an obligation of justice. But although its restoration was at once decided on, the measure was, not carried out until 1632, when by the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, France secured a formal recognition of her right to Canada, including Nova, Scotia and Cape Breton Island, or as they were then called, Acadia and Isle Royal. As it was evident that the interests of the country could not be in better hands than those of the great and good Champlain, happily for its future destiny, the government of the province was once more confided to him.

It was hard to have to begin his work anew, but he set about repairing the wreck around him with all his old energy and devotedness. While intent as ever on the material interests of the colony, those of religion were still his first concern. Fortunately, there was no longer a dominant Calvinist party in the country, to thwart his zealous projects, and molest the Catholics in the discharge of their duty to God. The era of Calvinist rule had passed; that of Catholic triumph had dawned. One of the Governor's first acts was to build a church which was dedicated to our Blessed Lady in honour of her Immaculate Conception. The facility thus afforded for the practice of religion was eagerly availed of by the new band of exclusively Catholic colonists. All approached the Sacraments at fixed intervals; morning and evening prayers were said in common in private families; the precepts of God and the Church were strictly observed. Stimulated by good example some who had been careless about religion in France devoted themselves earnestly to it in Canada. So admirable was the order which Champlain established that some years later a missionary wrote:—"Murder, robbery, usury, injustice, and similar crimes are heard of here only once a year, when, on the arrival of the ships from France, a newspaper account of them accidentally finds its way among us." And, again, "Our churches are too small to contain the congregation; we have the consolation of seeing them filled to overflowing. By the grace of God, virtue walks here with head erect; it is in honour; vice alone in disrepute." The infant Church of Canada seemed, indeed, to have revived the golden age of the Church of the Apostles. Under the direction of the Governor, the Fort was in some respects not unlike a monastery. The soldiers approached the Sacraments regularly; instructive books were read aloud at meals; duty was punctually discharged, and the well spent day was closed by night prayers said in common, and presided over by the Governor. He it was who introduced the custom, ever since religiously observed, of ringing the Angelus three times a day. He watched so carefully over the public and private interests of both French and Indians, that all looked on him as a father, and although continually appealed to for decisions between rival claimants, his integrity was never called in question. Uniting in his own person the functions and the authority of Governor, Legislator, and Judge, his power was necessarily great, but never was he known to abuse it. It was his maxim that the salvation of one single soul is of more importance than the subjugation of an Empire, and that the only object which kings should have in view in the conquest of idolatrous nations, is to lay them as trophies at the feet of their Saviour Jesus Christ. This maxim is the key-note to his life; its practical influence was manifested in his zeal for the conversion of the Indians, and for the diffusion of a solidly religious spirit among the French population, and assuredly it is not the least of his claims to the gratitude of posterity, that the Canada of his formation has ever clung to her faith with so tenacious a grasp, that still she wears as her crown of highest honour, and proclaims as her proudest boast, the glorious title of Catholic Canada. The writers of his time are unanimous in ascribing to Champlain all the qualifications suited to the founder of a colony, and when, after a connection of thirty-two years with the country, he was summoned to his reward, on the 25th of December, 1635, he was followed to the grave, as well he might be, by the heartfelt regret of the whole colony, who looked on his death as the greatest of all calamities. After his demise, his widow founded the Ursuline Convent at Meaux, and there made her religious profession. During her residence in Canada, she had endeared herself both to French and Indians by her unvarying kindness and affability. Seeing their faces reflected in a small mirror which, according to the fashion of the day, she wore at her girdle, the poor savages were much delighted to find that she carried them all, as they said, in her heart. She learned the Algonquin tongue that she might teach the children their Catechism, and to the end of life retained a lively interest in the Canadian Mission.

Champlain was succeeded in the government of Quebec by Monsieur Charles de Montmagny, a man distinguished alike for courage, ability, piety, and zeal. His first act on landing was to kneel at the foot of a cross erected on the road to the town, and there invoke the blessing and protection of heaven on the colony intrusted to his charge; thence he proceeded to the church to assist at the Te Deum. His second act on the same morning was to visit an Indian wigwam, and stand sponsor for an invalid who desired baptism, the greatest honour and sweetest consolation, he said, which he could have desired at his arrival in New France. His great aim from the beginning was to walk in the steps of his predecessor, and thus develop and consolidate the work so happily commenced. He maintained the moral and religious tone of society, by following up Champlain's plan of excluding disreputable and vicious characters. One of his first concerns was to build a Seminary for the education of the Huron youth, an object which he knew to have been very dear to the heart of the late Governor. He also constructed a stone fort, strengthened the fortifications at Three Rivers, and traced a correct plan of the city, which as yet, it must be owned, existed only among the visions of hope. The Quebec of the Mother of the Incarnation was, indeed, widely different from that for which in after years, England and France contended, and Wolfe and Montcalm bled and died. At the time of which we write, it consisted of little more than a few rudely-constructed huts, and contained scarcely two hundred and fifty inhabitants, but we have dwelt thus long on its origin and early history because of its connection with the life and labours of the Venerable Mother, which give interest to every least detail concerning it. We have now reached the date of its annals when Heaven was pleased to bless it with her presence; but before entering on her biography, a glance at the Indian portion of the population will be necessary to the completion of our little sketch of Canada as it was in her days.

All the tribes dispersed over the territory comprised in the basin of the St. Lawrence, were at this period divided into two groups, the Algonquin and Huron-Iroquois, classified according to their respective languages. To each of these mother tongues belonged dialects more or less numerous, according to the sub-divisions of the tribes who spoke them. The Algonquins were scattered under various names over perhaps more than a half of the territory south of the St. Lawrence and east of the Mississippi. Several branches of the same widely-extended family were also to be found wandering in Canada to the north of the St. Lawrence. The five confederate tribes of the Hurons inhabited the peninsula included between Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. The Iroquois stretched from the borders of Vermont to Western New York, and from the lakes, to the head waters of the Ohio, Susquehanna, and Delaware. They, too, formed a confederation of five tribes, and are commonly known as the Five Nations. The Hurons and the Iroquois are said to have received their names from the French—the former in allusion to the French word hure, a head of hair, these savages being distinguished by a singular mode of dressing theirs; the latter from their frequent repetition of the word "hiro," "I have said it," the ordinary termination of the warriors' harangues.

When the early missionaries began to study the Indian dialects, they were much astonished to find them characterized by remarkable richness and variety of expression, as well as regularity of construction. Notwithstanding gradual alterations, they still retain much of their traditionary character, being, in fact, less liable to change than written language, because of the ridicule with which the Indian visits any attempt at innovation on the point. One peculiarity of the American tongues is their singular power of extending the primitive signification of words by the addition of new syllables to the original term. Taking the verb for his starting point, the Indian is enabled, by prefixing, inserting, and adding syllables, to form at last some word which will not only express the action in question, but include at once, subject, object, time, place, and modifying circumstances. If he is shown an article with which he is unacquainted, he will ask its use, and then adding word to word at pleasure, he will at last give it a name comprising perhaps an entire definition. For sake of sound, the chain of words is sometimes linked by syllables of no particular significance. Strictly speaking, the Indian tongues consist only of the verb, which may be said to absorb all the other parts of speech. Declensions, articles, and cases are deficient; the adjective has a verbal termination; the idea expressed by the noun takes a verbal form; every thing is conjugated, nothing declined. The conjugation changes with every slight variation in the action spoken of. For instance, the same word will not express two similar actions performed, the one on the water, the other on the land; or two similar actions, the one referring to a living; the other to an inanimate object; there must be a separate conjugation for each. The forms of the verb thus vary to infinity, and hence arose the immense difficulty to the missioners of learning the languages.

A second peculiarity of the Indian dialects, is the abundant use which they allow of figurative language, a result of their total want of terms expressive of abstract, and purely spiritual ideas. To clothe these in words, they must have recourse to figures, chiefly metaphor and allegory, hence arises so much of what an American writer calls "the picturesque brilliancy" of the savage tongues. To express the term "prosperity," for example, the Indian will employ the image of a bright sun, a cloudless sky, or a calm river. "To make peace," will be "to smooth the forest path, to level the mountain," or "to bury the tomahawk." "To console the bereaved by the offering of presents," will be "to cover the graves of the departed." Unconsciously, the Indian habitually speaks poetry. He knows nothing of written characters, so his method of writing is by hieroglyphics, or rude pictures traced on a stone or a piece of bark. In the Huron and Iroquois, the words are almost entirely composed of vowels, both languages being deficient in consonants, and totally wanting in labials. The Algonquin is also deficient in several letters, among others the consonants f, l, v, x, z. In the Indian tongues, many of the sounds are merely guttural, and produced without any movement of the lips. Ou, as sounded in you, is of this description; to distinguish it from the articulated sounds, the early missioners marked it by the figure 8.

The religion of the native tribes of North America was a species of pantheism. They believed that in every visible object dwelt good or evil spirits, who exercised a certain influence over human events, and they tried to propitiate them by sacrifices and prayers. Faith in dreams constituted the foundation of almost all their superstitions. The dream was to them an irrevocable decree which it was never allowable to slight. It, therefore, formed the starting point of their deliberations, and the basis of their decisions. Rather than reject the warning of a dream, they would have consigned to the flames or the waves the produce of a successful hunting or fishing expedition, or of a rich harvest. The most intelligent held as a theory that dreams are the speech of the soul, which through them manifests her innate desires, these desires remaining for ever unknown, unless thus revealed. To carry out the dream was, therefore, to satisfy the soul's cravings; to slight it was to excite her desires afresh.

They believed that after death the soul wandered for a time in the vicinity of the body which it had quitted, and then departed on a long journey to a village in the direction of the setting sun. The country of the dead differed but little in their imagination, from the land of the living, and accordingly, looking on death merely as a passage from one region to another nearly similar, they met the summons with indifference. The deceased warrior was placed outside his wigwam in a sitting posture, to show that although life was over, the principle of existence still survived, and in that position he was buried, together with his pipe, manitou, tomahawk, quiver, and bent bow, and a supply of maize and venison for his travels to the paradise of his ancestors. The mourning for near relatives lasted two years.

Among the Huron-Iroquois and Algonquins, liberty was uncontrolled. Each hamlet was independent; so was the head of each family in the hamlet; so was each child in the family. This mass of independent wills could be ruled only by persuasion and promises of reward, and of these the chief was lavish. Sometimes there were many. rulers, or "captains," as they were called, in one hamlet, especially the larger ones; sometimes the government of the village was committed to a single chief. Among the principal tribes, the latter office was in general hereditary, though occasionally conferred by election. Public affairs were discussed in council with great formality, and votes taken by straws or small reeds, the majority theoretically deciding the question, but the conclusion was not carried out unless all agreed. The rebellious were generally won over by presents or flattery.

The savage tribes were divided into several great familes, each distinguished by the name of some animal chosen by the chief as his totum or distinctive mark. Among the Iroquois, for instance, the highest family was that of the Tortoise; the second of the Beaver, and the third of the Wolf. In battle, the totum was borne as the standard. The criminal code was not elaborate, yet it sufficed to maintain order in the small republics. Murder, robbery treason and sorcery were the crimes understood to entail its penalties. Instead of being punished by death, murder was expiated by a very large number of presents, to provide which, not only the assassin, but every family in the village was laid under contribution. The punishment of the criminal was thus multiplied by the reproaches and sarcasms of all the unwilling sharers in the atonement. Among the Algonquins, stealing was of rare occurrence; the Hurons, on the contrary, prided themselves on their feats in that line. They stole for the mere pleasure of stealing, and so accomplished were they in the art, that they could purloin an article under the very eye of the owner, using the foot for the purpose, quite as dexterously as the hand. If the thief could be identified, the person robbed might despoil him of everything he possessed, supposing always he was not strong enough to defend himself. If he belonged to another village, goods to the value of those lost might be taken from any one in his village, and kept until the robber had made restitution. Traitors and sorcerers, as objects of special dread, were always liable to heavy penalties.

According to the savage code of honour, war was the only road to glory; it was in consequence frequent, and once begun, lasted for years, national hatred descending as a legacy from generation to generation. Stealth and cunning entered largely into the tactics of the Indians; to lie in ambush was their delight; to surprise the enemy, their grand triumph. The assailants advanced in single file, the last carefully strewing leaves on the footprints of those who had preceded. When they had discovered the enemy, they crept on all-fours until near enough for the attack, then suddenly bounding up, and yelling fearfully, they rushed forward to the onslaught. If the enemy were on his guard, they withdrew noiselessly; if retreat were impossible, they fought with desperation. The number of foes overcome, was marked by that of the scalps hanging as trophies of bloody triumph from the girdles of the savage victors. Their arms were a species of javelin, a bow and arrow, the latter tipped with a sharp bone or flint, and the dreaded tomahawk or head-breaker. But more important to the warrior than all besides was his manitou, or the symbol of his familiar spirit,—some fantastic object represented in a dream, or selected according to his peculiar taste; a bird's head, it might have been, a beaver's tooth, or the knot of a tree; whatever, it was, the warrior would as little have thought of going to battle without arms, as without it. They treated their prisoners with great cruelty, partly it is said from the superstitious belief that the manes of their fallen companions were soothed by the sufferings of the captives. The prisoners who were not sacrificed, were adopted into the tribes in place of the slain, and treated thenceforth as members of the family.

The savages of North America were well formed and finely proportioned. They considered painting the face and tattooing the person, so great an addition to their personal charms, that jealous of the adornment, they denied it to the women. The skins of beasts formed their ordinary attire; their shoes were of the same material, but prepared for the purpose by a particular process. The women were likewise clad in skins, which on festive occasions they ornamented elaborately. They often displayed much taste and skill in embroidering ornamental works on bark or skin.

The dwelling was the wigwam, easily constructed and easily removed. Long poles fixed in the ground and bent inwards at the upper end, were covered outside with bark, and inside with mats; a loose skin was attached for the door, an opening left at the top for the chimney, and the house was built. In the larger hamlets, such as that of Hochelaga, described by Cartier, the dwellings ran along a sort of gallery, sometimes nearly two hundred feet long and thirty wide; in these several families could be accommodated. A raised platform was introduced into some, as a kind of upper story, serving for sleeping apartments.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the savages were subject to but few maladies, and these they cured by natural remedies, the indigenous medicinal plants, abstemious diet, and vapour baths of their own invention forming the basis of all prescriptions. Of persons skilled in the medical art, there was no scarcity, every cabin generally containing several. But not always satisfied with natural remedies, the patients had frequent recourse to the juggler or "medicine man," to discover the magical source of their illness, and avert evil consequences. The medicine man was likewise consulted on the issue of future events, and his mysterious predictions were received as so many oracles, his wondrous spells looked on as so many talismans.

The husband's duty was to hunt and fish, leaving his venison at the cabin door, and his fish at the water's edge, to be thence removed by his wife. He had also to construct and repair the canoe, and provide wood and bark for building the hut,—that was all. Most of his time was passed in listless lounging, or in games of hazard at which he often staked his whole possessions. His wife was mistress of the wigwam, and on her it devolved to draw the water, hew the wood, dress the food, prepare the ground to receive the grain, sow and gather in the harvest, weave the mats, make the rude garments of the family, and in their frequent journeys, to bear the house on her shoulders, not figuratively, but very literally. Her lord was supposed to carry nothing but his arms; if particularly condescending, he might of his own accord deviate from the rule without compromise of dignity.

Among the North American Indians in general, woman was considered a being of an inferior order, created only to obey the caprices of man, yet by a strange contradiction, the children belonged to the mother, and recognising only her authority, looked on their father merely in the light of a guest permitted to occupy a place in the cabin. In return, the squaw loved her offspring with passionate fondness, not manifested perhaps by demonstrative caresses, but not on that account the less tender, vigilant, or enduring. At home or abroad, she never parted from her nursling. When she travelled, she lifted her black-eyed babe to her shoulders, gaily-decked cradle and all, and so they journeyed on happily together, her great love divesting the burden of all weight. When she worked in the fields, she laid it at her feet among the sweet wild flowers, or she swung it from the bough of some pleasant shady tree close by, but never under any circumstances did she entrust it to other care than her own. Parental love indeed often degenerated into weakness among the Indians, and proved one of the great obstacles to the formation of schools by the missionaries. Unable to bear separation from their little ones, the parents soon recalled them home. As the children grew, they were left to do pretty much as they pleased. They received no moral instruction, but in order to excite their emulation, they were duly initiated in the illustrious deeds of their ancestors, in whose footsteps they were supposed to follow. For the correction of their faults, the mother employed prayers and tears, but never threats or punishment; these, their independent spirits would not have brooked. The severest chastisement ever inflicted was a dash of cold water in the face. The naturally unexcitable temperament of the Indians served as an antidote to the defects of their rearing. Reason early taught them the necessity of self-control, and so it happened, that at the age when the character is formed, they presented a strange combination of good and bad qualities.

First among the virtues of the savages was fortitude. Fitted by their stern nature and their early habits to support privation and pain, they would exhibit the very stoicism of endurance under the extreme of both. Without a word of complaint they would bear the pangs of hunger for ten or fifteen days, sometimes in compliance with a superstition, but very frequently from necessity too. They would glory in dying without a groan amidst inconceivable agonies. They seemed insensible to cold, heat, fatigue, sickness, and every other species of physical suffering. To inure themselves early to the torture of fire, boys and girls of ten and twelve would place a live coal on their joined arms, the palm of courage being, of course, for the one who bore the pain longest without letting the coal fall.

Hospitality they exercised in the style of the patriarchs. By day and by night, the guest, whether stranger or friend, was welcome to the best place in the wigwam, and to the choicest portion of the family stores. If a stranger, he was visited by all the notabilities of the village, and at the subsequent entertainments given in his honour, was treated with marked distinction. The Indians were ever ready to divide their possessions with those in greater need, and especially prompt to relieve the widow and the orphan. "Their life is so void of care," remarked an old writer, "and they are so loving also, that they make use of those things which they enjoy as common goods, and are therein so compassionate, that rather than one should starve, all would starve." With a courtesy of which they might have been supposed incapable, they paid visits of condolence, as a matter of course, to all in affliction. When they offered their sympathy on the occasion of death, the departed was never named, lest so direct an allusion might wound the sensitive feelings of the bereaved; he was spoken of only as "the one who has left us." They were remarkable for their reverence for the sepulchres of their kindred, and would travel miles to visit some tomb in the woods, where, according to their traditions, the bones of their ancestors had been deposited. When the graves were within reach, it was a practice of some of the tribes to keep them in the neatest order, the grass closely mown, and the weeds and brambles carefully removed. The Hurons honoured their dead by a special festival, celebrated every ten or twelve years at some hamlet decided on in general council. On this occasion, each family brought to the place appointed the bones of the relatives who had died since the last celebration. These remains of mortality had been previously washed, then wrapped in beaver skins ornamented with shell work or embroidery. A common grave was ready to receive them, and on its preparation, no pains had been spared. It was lined throughout with rich furs, and partially filled with various presents, including articles both of ornament and of use. The venerated remains were respectfully laid on these; then followed, layer after layer, another supply of presents, a store of provisions, and finally, a covering of bark, the whole surmounted by a mound of earth. Over all a roof was raised, to protect the precious deposit from the cold and snow of winter, and the rain and heat of summer.

So greatly did the Indians prize domestic peace and harmony, that to maintain it in their little communities, they often carried forbearance and self-control to the last extreme.

So many good qualities combined assuredly prove the accuracy of the remark of Washington Irving that "although there seems but little soil in the Indian's heart for the growth of the kindly virtues, if we would penetrate through the proud stoicism and habitual taciturnity which hide his character from casual observers, we should find him linked to his fellow-men of civilized life by more of those sympathies and affections than are usually ascribed to him." Much in the same spirit, Father Smet writes—"The Indians are in general little known in the civilized world. People judge by those whom they see on the frontiers, the mere wrecks and remnants of once powerful tribes. Among these the 'fire-water' and the degrading vices of the whites have wrought sad ruin. The farther one penetrates into the desert, the better he finds the aborigines, and the more worthy and desirous to receive religious instruction."

Among the evil impulses of the Red Man's nature, pride and revenge were predominant. Fostered and strengthened by indulgence, as well as by the peculiar nature of early training, these passions finally acquired so great a dominion, that to gratify either, the savages would have sacrificed all they held most dear. They were fond of praise too, and although they declared themselves indifferent to general opinion, their constant fear of provoking an unfavourable one, rendered them, in truth, its slaves. In their dealings with the whites, they were often found false, treacherous, and regardless of promises and treaties, although in domestic intercourse they were not in general deceitful. In extenuation, it must be remembered that from their earliest years, they were not only initiated in stratagem by the necessity of self-defence, but taught to look on every exhibition of craft and cunning as a triumph of skill and a worthy subject of admiration. And again, it is but too true that the example of the more enlightened Europeans was not always calculated to inspire them with respect for truth. Another ground of accusation against the Indians was their barbarity to the vanquished. This originated partly in policy and superstition, but from the era of European aggression, savage cruelty needed no other stimulus than the desire of revenge.

In the long journeys of the Indians, whether for war or the chase, the sun, moon, and stars answered the purpose of time-piece and compass. Distant periods they calculated by the solar year, but for short intervals they reckoned by lunations. They had observed and even given names to the principal constellations. Among the Iroquois, the Pleiades were called the "Dancers;" the Milky Way, "the Path of Souls;" the Great Bear had a name corresponding with that which we give it; the Polar Star was designated as "the star that never sets;" it served to guide them in their long marches through the forests and across the great prairies of the west. When the sky was clouded, they were led through the woods by certain infallible signs—indeed by a species of instinct—besides which, their memory of places was so wonderful that, after once visiting any locality, they ever after retained a perfectly distinct recollection of it. They preferred water to land travelling, possessing thorough command of their light bark canoe, which they could direct with ease and security amidst the most formidable rapids. If they came to an absolutely impassable spot, they raised the slight vessel on their shoulders and carried it until they reached the next navigable point.

Christianity produced a wonderful change in these wild children of the woods, developing all that was good in their nature, correcting what was evil, and softening down much of what was harsh, but when the Mother of the Incarnation arrived in Canada, it had made but little progress. As early as 1615, it is true, Pere Caron, a Recollet, had penetrated to the Huron land, and, during the succeeding years, he and his religious brethren had laboured at intervals for the conversion of its inhabitants, but although their zeal was ardent, their success had been only very partial. Unlike the tribes of whom Jacques Cartier speaks, these manifested so strong an opposition to the dogmas of the Catholic faith, that it was evident many years must elapse before they would be disposed to embrace it. Although the most intelligent of all the North American tribes, and the most susceptible of ordinary instruction, the Hurons appeared absolutely inaccessible to religious teaching.

The plan of the missioners in the northern continent was to try and gain access to some Indian village, and, this point attained, to build a cabin and as soon as opportunity offered, announce the Word of God to all who would receive it. Gradually a little congregation was formed around them, but the tie between the converts and their heathen relatives was not severed, both continuing to associate; neither was the original name of the village changed; it merely received in addition that of the particularly saint who had been chosen as its patron. In South America, on the contrary, it was the practice of the missioners to prepare settlements, or "reductions," as they were called, to which they attracted their neophytes, whom they induced to live in community.

In the year 1634, the three Jesuit Fathers, Breboeuf, Daniel, and Davost, succeeded in establishing themselves in the village of Ihonhatiria, in the land of the Hurons, and there, in a very poor little chapel dedicated to St. Joseph, they planted the seed of that interesting portion of the early Canadian Church, the Huron Mission. In a year after, they were joined by Pere Jogues. When the Venerable Mother arrived, five years had passed over that precious seed, and it had given scarcely a sign of life, nor did it for long afterwards. The efforts of the Fathers were everywhere thwarted—prejudice, superstition, ignorance, and vice all rose in arms against them. They were accounted sorcerers; the breaking out of the dreaded small-pox was attributed to their magic arts, and they once owed their escape from a sentence of death only to the intervention of a friendly Indian. But the blood of a martyr was to fertilize the seed of Christianity in the New World, as in primitive times it had so often done in the Old. Pere Jogues was seized by the Iroquois, and after enduring torments which only the ingenuity of savage barbarity could have invented, he wonderfully escaped alive from their hands. In 1646 he was sent to found a mission in the heart of the Iroquois land itself—a mission which was to be dedicated to, and appropriately named after, the holy Martyrs. "I shall go," he said, on receiving the order; "I shall go, but I shall not return." The words were prophetic; his own blood was the first to water the mission of the holy martyrs, and, as might have been anticipated, its eloquent voice pierced the heavens. It had scarcely sent up its pleadings, when the work of conversion among the Hurons began in earnest. Missionary stations multiplied rapidly. The Christianized villages of St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Ignatius, and St. John smiled in the desert like green spots amidst the barren sands. At the central station of St. Mary's alone, three thousand Indians received hospitality in the course of one year. Undeterred by the certainty of privation and suffering, new missioners continued to swell the ranks and aid the work. With indefatigable zeal and unwearied patience, they catechised, exhorted, consoled, encouraged. The morning hours, from four until eight, were reserved for their private devotions; the remainder of the day belonged to the neophytes. Like St. Francis Xavier, Pere Breboeuf would walk through the villages and their environs, ringing a bell to summon the warriors to a conference. Seated round the good Father under the pleasant shade of their own ancient forest trees, they would drink in his words and joyfully accept his doctrines. "When I escaped some particular danger," a brave would remark, "I said to myself, 'A powerful spirit watches over me.' Now I know that my Protector was the great God of whom you tell us." The first desire and aim of the converts was to bring as many of their nation as possible to the faith; and so wondrously rapid was its diffusion, that within two years after the martyrdom of Pere Jogues, the whole Huron nation was converted.

The harvest had taken long to ripen, but in compensation it was so rich, that only the golden garners seemed fit to receive it, and to these, accordingly, the Almighty Master of the vineyard was pleased speedily to transfer it. The Iroquois had long maintained a deadly enmity to the Hurons, and frequent bloodshed had necessarily been its consequence; but, no longer satisfied with partial vengeance, they resolved in the year 1648 on carrying on a war of absolute extermination into the Huron territory itself. They chose for their incursion the season when all the Huron warriors were absent on the chase, and no one left in the hamlets but women, children, and aged men. The village of St. Joseph, with its venerable pastor, Father Daniel, at once fell a prey to their terrible fury. The following year the villages of St. Louis and St. Ignatius shared the same fate, and all the inhabitants, men, women, and children, were slain. Fathers Breboeuf and Lalemant were included in the general massacre, but their deaths were marked by an exceptional refinement of barbarity. In explanation of the bitter hatred of the Iroquois to the French, we learn that about a year after his arrival in Canada, Champlain had provoked their hostility by entering into an alliance with the Algonquins and Hurons, their traditional foes. The step was taken in choice of the lesser of two evils, for unless conciliated, it seemed but natural to expect that the Algonquins, as the nearest neighbours, would prove the most dangerous enemies. Wise as may have been the motive, the act led to disastrous results.

After the almost total annihilation of their nation, a part of the surviving Hurons descended the St. Lawrence to Quebec, in the environs of which their posterity is still to be seen; another portion was adopted into the nation of the conquerors on equal terms, and the rest dispersed. Many of those admitted into the enemy's tribe were Christians, and not only did they preserve their faith in exile, but they were the happy means of drawing to it many of their new allies. Several years after, missioners were amazed and charmed at finding a little band of fervent Christians in the very centre of heathen vice and barbarism. The exiled Hurons who sought an asylum in Quebec were located in the Isle of Orleans, to which they gave the name of St. Mary's, in memory of their old and still dearly-cherished home. Our limits do not permit us to dwell on the heroism of the missioners in the daily, hourly sacrifices of their crucified lives, ending for very many among them in death by a cruel martyrdom. The record fills one among the many beautiful pages in the annals of the sons of St. Ignatius. Commenting on their glorious work, the historian, Bancroft, remarks that "the history of their labours is connected with the origin of every celebrated town within the limits of French Canada. Not a cape was turned," he says, "not a river entered, but a Jesuit led the way." This, however, is but secondary merit; their true glory is in having led the way to heaven for innumerable souls who will for ever bless their charity, and sing praise to Him who inspired it.

Before the arrival of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation, missions for the converted Indians had sprung up under their direction in and about Quebec and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The most remarkable of the former was that called St. Joseph of Sillery, in honour of the patron of Canada, to whom it was dedicated, and of Monsieur de Sillery, [Footnote: After having been Ambassador for France at the Spanish and Papal Courts, Monsieur de Sillery was appointed Prime Minister of Louis XIII. He finally renounced the world, and embraced the ecclesiastical state.] its munificent founder. A few savage families lived happily in this peaceful hamlet, fervently discharging their duty as Christians, and insensibly falling into the spirit and usages of civilized life. These converts were chiefly from among the Algonquins proper, and the kindred tribe of the Montagnais. As the desire for the conversion of the Indians strengthened, so did the conviction that the work must begin with the systematic religious training of the children. Thanks to the zeal and charity of the lamented Champlain, a step had been taken in this direction for the benefit of the Indian boys;—that a similar advantage might be extended to the girls, had long been the prayer of all who sighed for the coming of the Kingdom of God among the heathens of Canada. And God heard the prayer, and in his own time He sent His mercy and His blessing to the heathen land in the person of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation, whose wondrous call, and faithful co-operation will engage our attention in the following pages, a tribute of filial love and reverence to her saintly memory.



THE LIFE OF THE VENERABLE MOTHER MARY OF THE INCARNATION



FIRST PERIOD, 1599-1631.

HER LIFE IN THE WORLD.



CHAPTER I

HER BIRTH, PARENTAGE, INFANCY, CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.

The world of nature is no doubt very beautiful in itself, and very wonderful in its works, yet infinitely surpassing it, both in intrinsic loveliness and in magnificence of production, is the world of grace. It is in that world that the saints are formed, and compared with the grandeur of the work of grace in the sanctification of a soul, all the splendours of this material universe fade to nothing. When grace forms a saint, it restores the beauty, and renews the purity which were the dowry of the soul before the fall. For this end, it has to transform man from a terrestrial into a heavenly being, elevating what is low in his fallen nature, correcting what is evil, spiritualizing what is earthly, improving what is good;—re-forming, re-moulding, and in a manner re- creating.

Considering the subjects on which divine grace has to act, and the opposition which it has to encounter, this, its work in the saints, may well be called the most wonderful of all works, and its triumph the grandest of all triumphs. Unseen and unheeded though it may be, that divine work is ever silently but surely and steadily progressing in the spiritual world over which grace rules. We can see it in its development, if not in its actual operation, and if so minded, can estimate its magnitude by examining its results in the annals of the saints.

Those annals are of a singularly diversified character. They comprise the history of once rebellious souls won by the sweet attractions of grace from every part of the empire of Satan, and by a strange contrast, they at the same time record that of faithful souls, who, upheld by its strength, never swerved from their allegiance to God. They tell of saintly penitents, dating their first correspondence with its inspirations from the eleventh hour, and of docile hearts, obedient from earliest childhood to its voice. They show us, side by side, profaned temples re-consecrated, and holy sanctuaries never sullied; scentless flowers restored to fragrance, and garlands of purity from which not a blossom or even a leaf had ever fallen. In different ways both manifest the magnificence of the riches of divine grace. In different ways, both prove that whether grace changes a sinner into a saint, or preserves a saint from sin, it is pre-eminently the worker of wonders. If the catalogue of holy penitents forms a dazzling page in its record, so does that of the privileged few who never lost their baptismal innocence. While the one is traced in characters of mercy, the other is written in letters of light. While the one reveals the grandeur, and the other the sweetness of the work of grace, both concur in proclaiming the triumph of its omnipotence.

In obdurate wills subdued, the conquests of grace are often hard to win. In the docile souls of the early sanctified, its task is easy. Into these, its inspirations sink as the soft dew into good soil; and with the same result. Finding in them no impediment to its action, no check to its liberality, it is free to pour out the wealth of its exhaustless treasury, and so it leads them from virtue to virtue, from height to height, even to the sublimity of perfection and the consummation of divine union, when, resplendent with heavenly light, and dazzling with interior beauty, they excite the admiration, nay, perhaps even the wonder of the angels.

To this bright page of the annals of the work of grace belongs the name of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation, whose history is about to engage us.

As we follow the progress of the great work of God in her soul, noting, on the one hand, the rich abundance of heavenly inspiration, and, on the other, the perfection of her fidelity, let us not be satisfied with simply admiring the one, but let us set ourselves in earnest to imitate the other, according to our measure and degree.

She was born in the historic city of Tours on the 28th of October 1599. With the very gift of life itself, she received an accompanying protecting grace in the blessing of good, religious parents. Her father, Florence Guyart, was noted among his fellow-citizens for piety, integrity, and uprightness, but although richly endowed with the treasures of virtue, he was but indifferently provided with those of fortune, his business as a silk-mercer supplying him barely with a competency. Her mother, Jeanne Michelet, was of the noble house of Babou de la Bourdaisiere, to which France was once indebted for some of her eminent ecclesiastics and statesmen, but at the period of the birth of her holy child, she ranked—like the royally descended Virgin of Juda at the birth of Christ—only among other obscure individuals of the middle class.

The predestined infant received baptism on the day after her birth, in the church of St. Saturninus, and with it the name of Mary, a happy presage, as one of her biographers remarks, of her life-long, most tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as well as of the singular favours which that generous Mother reserved for her well-loved child. It was her happiness to be surrounded from earliest infancy with none but holy influences, and to breathe from her very cradle an atmosphere of purity. The first words which she heard, the first she tried to lisp, were the sweet names of Jesus and Mary. The first bent she received was an inclination to virtue; the first and only examples she witnessed were examples of piety. Thus passed the years preceding the dawn of reason, her beautiful soul expanding under the combined action of the baptismal grace, and of favourable external influences, like a bud of rich promise in the bright spring sunshine; then the clouds of infancy cleared away, and the light of reason shone. Her good mother seized the all-important moment to direct the child's opening mind to the knowledge of God, and her fresh, pure heart to His love, a grace for which the Venerable Mother returned Him very earnest thanks in after life, remarking that early impressions of religion are a most precious favour, and a strong predisposition to future sanctity. Truly it was a picture to delight the angels, that Christian mother so carefully directing the first feeble steps of her little child along the road that leads to God, and that docile child eagerly watching the guardian hand, and steadily treading the path to which it pointed,—the sure and blessed path of holiness, from which throughout life's long journey, she was never even once to swerve.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse