The Makers of Canada: Bishop Laval
by A. Leblond de Brumath
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Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada in the year 1906 by Morang & Co., Limited, in the Department of Agriculture.
























If, standing upon the threshold of the twentieth century, we cast a look behind us to note the road traversed, the victories gained by the great army of Christ, we discover everywhere marvels of abnegation and sacrifice; everywhere we see rising before us the dazzling figures of apostles, of doctors of the Church and of martyrs who arouse our admiration and command our respect. There is no epoch, no generation, even, which has not given to the Church its phalanx of heroes, its quota of deeds of devotion, whether they have become illustrious or have remained unknown.

Born barely three centuries ago, the Christianity of New France has enriched history with pages no less glorious than those in which are enshrined the lofty deeds of her elders. To the list, already long, of workers for the gospel she has added the names of the Recollets and of the Jesuits, of the Sulpicians and of the Oblate Fathers, who crossed the seas to plant the faith among the hordes of barbarians who inhabited the immense regions to-day known as the Dominion of Canada.

And what daring was necessary, in the early days of the colony, to plunge into the vast forests of North America! Incessant toil, sacrifice, pain and death in its most terrible forms were the price that was gladly paid in the service of God by men who turned their backs upon the comforts of civilized France to carry the faith into the unknown wilderness.

Think of what Canada was at the beginning of the seventeenth century! Instead of these fertile provinces, covered to-day by luxuriant harvests, man's gaze met everywhere only impenetrable forests in which the woodsman's axe had not yet permitted the plough to cleave and fertilize the soil; instead of our rich and populous cities, of our innumerable villages daintily perched on the brinks of streams, or rising here and there in the midst of verdant plains, the eye perceived only puny wigwams isolated and lost upon the banks of the great river, or perhaps a few agglomerations of smoky huts, such as Hochelaga or Stadacone; instead of our iron rails, penetrating in all directions, instead of our peaceful fields over which trains hasten at marvellous speed from ocean to ocean, there were but narrow trails winding through a jungle of primeval trees, behind which hid in turn the Iroquois, the Huron or the Algonquin, awaiting the propitious moment to let fly the fatal arrow; instead of the numerous vessels bearing over the waves of the St. Lawrence, at a distance of more than six hundred leagues from the sea, the products of the five continents; instead of yonder floating palaces, thronged with travellers from the four corners of the earth, then only an occasional bark canoe came gliding slyly along by the reeds of the shore, scarcely stopping except to permit its crew to kindle a fire, to make prisoners or to scalp some enemy.

A heroic courage was necessary to undertake to carry the faith to these savage tribes. It was condemning one's self to lead a life like theirs, of ineffable hardships, dangers and privations, now in a bark canoe and paddle in hand, now on foot and bearing upon one's shoulders the things necessary for the holy sacrament; in the least case it was braving hunger and thirst, exposing one's self to the rigours of an excessive cold, with which European nations were not yet familiar; it often meant hastening to meet the most horrible tortures. In spite of all this, however, Father Le Caron did not hesitate to penetrate as far as the country of the Hurons, while Fathers Sagard and Viel were sowing the first seeds of Christianity in the St. Lawrence valley. The devotion of the Recollets, to the family of whom belonged these first missionaries of Canada, was but ill-rewarded, for, after the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, which restored Canada to France, the king refused them permission to return to a region which they had watered with the sweat of their brows and fertilized with their blood.

The humble children of St. Francis had already evangelized the Huron tribes as far as the Georgian Bay, when the Company of the Cent-Associes was founded by Richelieu. The obligation which the great cardinal imposed upon them of providing for the maintenance of the propagators of the gospel was to assure the future existence of the missions. The merit, however, which lay in the creation of a society which did so much for the furtherance of Roman Catholicism in North America is not due exclusively to the great cardinal, for Samuel de Champlain can claim a large share of it. "The welfare of a soul," said this pious founder of Quebec, "is more than the conquest of an empire, and kings should think of extending their rule in infidel countries only to assure therein the reign of Jesus Christ."

Think of the suffering endured, in order to save a soul, by men who for this sublime purpose renounced all that constitutes the charm of life! Not only did the Jesuits, in the early days of the colony, brave horrible dangers with invincible steadfastness, but they even consented to imitate the savages, to live their life, to learn their difficult idioms. Let us listen to this magnificent testimony of the Protestant historian Bancroft:—

"The horrors of a Canadian life in the wilderness were resisted by an invincible, passive courage, and a deep, internal tranquillity. Away from the amenities of life, away from the opportunities of vain-glory, they became dead to the world, and possessed their souls in unalterable peace. The few who lived to grow old, though bowed by the toils of a long mission, still kindled with the fervour of apostolic zeal. The history of their labours is connected with the origin of every celebrated town in the annals of French Canada; not a cape was turned nor a river entered but a Jesuit led the way."

Must we now recall the edifying deaths of the sons of Loyola, who brought the glad tidings of the gospel to the Hurons?—Father Jogues, who returned from the banks of the Niagara with a broken shoulder and mutilated hands, and went back, with sublime persistence, to his barbarous persecutors, to pluck from their midst the palm of martyrdom; Father Daniel, wounded by a spear while he was absolving the dying in the village of St. Joseph; Father Brebeuf, refusing to escape with the women and children of the hamlet of St. Louis, and expiring, together with Father Gabriel Lalemant, in the most frightful tortures that Satan could suggest to the imagination of a savage; Father Charles Garnier pierced with three bullets, and giving up the ghost while blessing his converts; Father de Noue dying on his knees in the snow!

These missions had succumbed in 1648 and 1649 under the attacks of the Iroquois. The venerable founder of St. Sulpice, M. Olier, had foreseen this misfortune; he had always doubted the success of missions so extended and so widely scattered without a centre of support sufficiently strong to resist a systematic and concerted attack of all their enemies at once. Without disapproving the despatch of these flying columns of missionaries which visited tribe after tribe (perhaps the only possible method in a country governed by pagan chiefs), he believed that another system of preaching the gospel would produce, perhaps with less danger, a more durable effect in the regions protected by the flag of France. Taking up again the thought of the Benedictine monks, who have succeeded so well in other countries, M. Olier and the other founders of Montreal wished to establish a centre of fervent piety which should accomplish still more by example than by preaching. The development and progress of religious work must increase with the material importance of this centre of proselytism. In consequence, success would be slow, less brilliant, but surer than that ordinarily obtained by separate missions. This was, at least, the hope of our fathers, and we of Quebec would seem unjust towards Providence and towards them if, beholding the present condition of the two seminaries of this city, of our Catholic colleges, of our institutions of every kind, and of our religious orders, we did not recognize that their thought was wise, and their enterprise one of prudence and blessed by God.

Up to 1658 New France belonged to the jurisdiction of the Bishops of St. Malo and of Rouen. At the time of the second voyage of Cartier, in 1535, his whole crew, with their officers at their head, confessed and received communion from the hands of the Bishop of St. Malo. This jurisdiction lasted until the appointment of the first Bishop of New France. The creation of a diocese came in due time; the need of an ecclesiastical superior, of a character capable of imposing his authority made itself felt more and more. Disorders of all kinds crept into the colony, and our fathers felt the necessity of a firm and vigorous arm to remedy this alarming state of affairs. The love of lucre, of gain easily acquired by the sale of spirituous liquors to the savages, brought with it evils against which the missionaries endeavoured to react.

Francois de Laval-Montmorency, who was called in his youth the Abbe de Montigny, was, on the recommendation of the Jesuits, appointed apostolic vicar by Pope Alexander VII, who conferred upon him the title of Bishop of Petraea in partibus. The Church in Canada was then directly connected with the Holy See, and the sovereign pontiff abandoned to the king of France the right of appointment and presentation of bishops having the authority of apostolic vicars.

The difficulties which arose between Mgr. de Laval and the Abbe de Queylus, Grand Vicar of Rouen for Canada, were regrettable, but, thanks to the truly apostolic zeal and the purity of intention of these two men of God, these difficulties were not long in giving place to a noble rivalry for good, fostered by a perfect harmony. The Abbe de Queylus had come to take possession of the Island of Montreal for the company of St. Sulpice, and to establish there a seminary on the model of that in Paris. This creation, with that of the hospital established by Mlle. Mance, gave a great impetus to the young city of Montreal. Moreover, religion was so truly the motive of the foundation of the colony by M. Olier and his associates, that the latter had placed the Island of Montreal under the protection of the Holy Virgin. The priests of St. Sulpice, who had become the lords of the island, had already given an earnest of their labours; they too aspired to venerate martyrs chosen from their ranks, and in the same year MM. Lemaitre and Vignal perished at the hands of the wild Iroquois.

Meanwhile, under the paternal direction of Mgr. de Laval, and the thoroughly Christian administration of governors like Champlain, de Montmagny, d'Ailleboust, or of leaders like Maisonneuve and Major Closse, Heaven was pleased to spread its blessings upon the rising colony; a number of savages asked and received baptism, and the fervour of the colonists endured. The men were not the only ones to spread the good word; holy maidens worked on their part for the glory of God, whether in the hospitals of Quebec and Montreal, or in the institution of the Ursulines in the heart of the city of Champlain, or, finally, in the modest school founded at Ville-Marie by Sister Marguerite Bourgeoys. It is true that the blood of the Indians and of their missionaries had been shed in floods, that the Huron missions had been exterminated, and that, moreover, two camps of Algonquins had been destroyed and swept away; but nations as well as individuals may promise themselves the greater progress in the spiritual life according as they commence it with a more abundant and a richer record; and the greatest treasure of a nation is the blood of the martyrs who have founded it. Moreover, the fugitive Hurons went to convert their enemies, and even from the funeral pyres of the priests was to spring the spark of faith for all these peoples. Two hamlets were founded for the converted Iroquois, those of the Sault St. Louis (Caughnawaga) and of La Montagne at Montreal, and fervent neophytes gathered there.

Certain historians have regretted that the first savages encountered by the French in North America should have been Hurons; an alliance made with the Iroquois, they say, would have been a hundred times more profitable for civilization and for France. What do we know about it? Man imagines and arranges his plans, but above these arrangements hovers Providence—fools say, chance—whose foreseeing hand sets all in order for the accomplishment of His impenetrable design. Yet, however firmly convinced the historian may be that the eye of Providence never sleeps, that the Divine Hand is never still, he must be sober in his observations; he must yield neither to his fancy nor to his imagination; but neither must he banish God from history, for then everything in it would become incomprehensible and inexplicable, absurd and barren. It was this same God who guides events at His will that inspired and sustained the devoted missionaries in their efforts against the revenue-farmers in the matter of the sale of intoxicating liquors to the savages. The struggle which they maintained, supported by the venerable Bishop of Petraea, is wholly to their honour; it was a question of saving even against their will the unfortunate children of the woods who were addicted to the fatal passion of intoxication. Unhappily, the Governors d'Avaugour and de Mezy, in supporting the greed of the traders, were perhaps right from the political point of view, but certainly wrong from a philanthropic and Christian standpoint.

The colony continuing to prosper, and the growing need of a national clergy becoming more and more felt, Mgr. de Laval founded in 1663 a seminary at Quebec. The king decided that the tithes raised from the colonists should be collected by the seminary, which was to provide for the maintenance of the priests and for divine service in the established parishes. The Sovereign Council fixed the tithe at a twenty-sixth.

The missionaries continued, none the less, to spread the light of the gospel and Christian civilization. It seems that the field of their labour had never been too vast for their desire. Ever onward! was their motto. While Fathers Garreau and Mesnard found death among the Algonquins on the coasts of Lake Superior, the Sulpicians Dollier and Gallinee were planting the cross on the shores of Lake Erie; Father Claude Allouez was preaching the gospel beyond Lake Superior; Fathers Dablon, Marquette, and Druilletes were establishing the mission of Sault Ste. Marie; Father Albanel was proceeding to explore Hudson Bay; Father Marquette, acting with Joliet, was following the course of the Mississippi as far as Arkansas; finally, later on, Father Arnaud accompanied La Verendrye as far as the Rocky Mountains.

The establishment of the Catholic religion in Canada had now witnessed its darkest days; its history becomes intimately interwoven with that of the country. Up to the English conquest, the clergy and the different religious congregations, as faithful to France as to the Holy See, encouraged the Canadians in their struggles against the invaders. Accordingly, at the time of the invasion of the colony by Phipps, the Americans of Boston declared that they would spare neither monks nor missionaries if they succeeded in seizing Quebec; they bore a particular grudge against the priests of the seminary, to whom they ascribed the ravages committed shortly before in New England by the Abenaquis. They were punished for their boasting; forty seminarists assembled at St. Joachim, the country house of the seminary, joined the volunteers who fought at Beauport, and contributed so much to the victory that Frontenac, to recompense their bravery, presented them with a cannon captured by themselves.

The Church of Rome had been able to continue in peace its mission in Canada from the departure of Mgr. de Laval, in 1684, to the conquest of the country by the English. The worthy Bishop of Petraea, created Bishop of Quebec in 1674, was succeeded by Mgr. de St. Vallier, then by Mgr. de Mornay, who did not come to Canada, by Mgr. de Dosquet, Mgr. Pourroy de l'Aube-Riviere, and Mgr. de Pontbriant, who died the very year in which General de Levis made of his flags on St. Helen's Island a sacred pyre.

In 1760 the Protestant religion was about to penetrate into Canada in the train of the victorious armies of Great Britain, having been proscribed in the colony from the time of Champlain. With conquerors of a different religion, the role of the Catholic clergy became much more arduous and delicate; this will be readily admitted when we recall that Mgr. Briand was informally apprised at the time of his appointment that the government of England would appear to be ignorant of his consecration and induction by the Bishop of Rome. But the clergy managed to keep itself on a level with its task. A systematic opposition on its part to the new masters of the country could only have drawn upon the whole population a bitter oppression, and we would not behold to-day the prosperity of these nine ecclesiastical provinces of Canada, with their twenty-four dioceses, these numerous parishes which vie with each other in the advancement of souls, these innumerable religious houses which everywhere are spreading education or charity. The Act of Quebec in 1774 delivered our fathers from the unjust fetters fastened on their freedom by the oath required under the Supremacy Act; but it is to the prudence of Mgr. Plessis in particular that Catholics owe the religious liberty which they now enjoy.

To-day, when passions are calmed, when we possess a full and complete liberty of conscience, to-day when the different religious denominations live side by side in mutual respect and tolerance of each other's convictions, let us give thanks to the spiritual guides who by their wisdom and moderation, but also by their energetic resistance when it was necessary, knew how to preserve for us our language and our religion. Let us always respect the worthy prelates who, like those who direct us to-day, edify us by their tact, their knowledge and their virtues.



Certain great men pass through the world like meteors; their brilliance, lightning-like at their first appearance, continues to cast a dazzling gleam across the centuries: such were Alexander the Great, Mozart, Shakespeare and Napoleon. Others, on the contrary, do not instantly command the admiration of the masses; it is necessary, in order that their transcendent merit should appear, either that the veil which covered their actions should be gradually lifted, or that, some fine day, and often after their death, the results of their work should shine forth suddenly to the eyes of men and prove their genius: such were Socrates, Themistocles, Jacquard, Copernicus, and Christopher Columbus.

The illustrious ecclesiastic who has given his name to our French-Canadian university, respected as he was by his contemporaries, has been esteemed at his proper value only by posterity. The reason is easy to understand: a colony still in its infancy is subject to many fluctuations before all the wheels of government move smoothly, and Mgr. de Laval, obliged to face ever renewed conflicts of authority, had necessarily either to abandon what he considered it his duty to support, or create malcontents. If sometimes he carried persistence to the verge of obstinacy, he must be judged in relation to the period in which he lived: governors like Frontenac were only too anxious to imitate their absolute master, whose guiding maxim was, "I am the state!" Moreover, where are the men of true worth who have not found upon their path the poisoned fruits of hatred? The so-called praise that is sometimes applied to a man, when we say of him, "he has not a single enemy," seems to us, on the contrary, a certificate of insignificance and obscurity. The figure of this great servant of God is one of those which shed the most glory on the history of Canada; the age of Louis XIV, so marvellous in the number of great men which it gave to France, lavished them also upon her daughter of the new continent—Brebeuf and Lalemant, de Maisonneuve, Dollard, Laval, Talon, de la Salle, Frontenac, d'Iberville, de Maricourt, de Sainte-Helene, and many others.

"Noble as a Montmorency" says a well-known adage. The founder of that illustrious line, Bouchard, Lord of Montmorency, figures as early as 950 A.D. among the great vassals of the kingdom of France. The heads of this house bore formerly the titles of First Christian Barons and of First Barons of France; it became allied to several royal houses, and gave to the elder daughter of the Church several cardinals, six constables, twelve marshals, four admirals, and a great number of distinguished generals and statesmen. Sprung from this family, whose origin is lost in the night of time, Francois de Laval-Montmorency was born at Montigny-sur-Avre, in the department of Eure-et-Loir, on April 30th, 1623. This charming village, which still exists, was part of the important diocese of Chartres. Through his father, Hugues de Laval, Seigneur of Montigny, Montbeaudry, Alaincourt and Revercourt, the future Bishop of Quebec traced his descent from Count Guy de Laval, younger son of the constable Mathieu de Montmorency, and through his mother, Michelle de Pericard, he belonged to a family of hereditary officers of the Crown, which was well-known in Normandy, and gave to the Church a goodly number of prelates.

Like St. Louis, one of the protectors of his ancestors, the young Francois was indebted to his mother for lessons and examples of piety and of charity which he never forgot. Virtue, moreover, was as natural to the Lavals as bravery on the field of battle, and whether it were in the retinue of Clovis, when the First Barons received the regenerating water of baptism, or on the immortal plain of Bouvines; whether it were by the side of Blanche of Castile, attacked by the rebellious nobles, or in the terrible holocaust of Crecy; whether it were in the fight of the giants at Marignan, or after Pavia during the captivity of the roi-gentilhomme; everywhere where country and religion appealed to their defenders one was sure of hearing shouted in the foremost ranks the motto of the Montmorencys: "Dieu ayde au premier baron chretien!"

Young Laval received at the baptismal font the name of the heroic missionary to the Indies, Francois-Xavier. To this saint and to the founder of the Franciscans, Francois d'Assise, he devoted throughout his life an ardent worship. Of his youth we hardly know anything except the misfortunes which happened to his family. He was only fourteen years old when, in 1636, he suffered the loss of his father, and one of his near kinsmen, Henri de Montmorency, grand marshal of France, and governor of Languedoc, beheaded by the order of Richelieu. The bravery displayed by this valiant warrior in battle unfortunately did not redeem the fault which he had committed in rebelling against the established power, against his lawful master, Louis XIII, and in neglecting thus the traditions handed down to him by his family through more than seven centuries of glory.

Some historians reproach Richelieu with cruelty, but in that troublous age when, hardly free from the wars of religion, men rushed carelessly on into the rebellions of the duc d'Orleans and the duc de Soissons, into the conspiracies of Chalais, of Cinq-Mars and de Thou, soon followed by the war of La Fronde, it was not by an indulgence synonymous with weakness that it was possible to strengthen the royal power. Who knows if it was not this energy of the great cardinal which inspired the young Francois, at an age when sentiment is so deeply impressed upon the soul, with those ideas of firmness which distinguished him later on?

The future Bishop of Quebec was then a scholar in the college of La Fleche, directed by the Jesuits, for his pious parents held nothing dearer than the education of their children in the fear of God and love of the good. They had had six children; the two first had perished in the flower of their youth on fields of battle; Francois, who was now the eldest, inherited the name and patrimony of Montigny, which he gave up later on to his brother Jean-Louis, which explains why he was called for some time Abbe de Montigny, and resumed later the generic name of the family of Laval; the fifth son, Henri de Laval, joined the Benedictine monks and became prior of La Croix-Saint-Leuffroy. Finally the only sister of Mgr. Laval, Anne Charlotte, became Mother Superior of the religious community of the Daughters of the Holy Sacrament.

Francois edified the comrades of his early youth by his ardent piety, and his tender respect for the house of God; his masters, too, clever as they were in the art of guiding young men and of distinguishing those who were to shine later on, were not slow in recognizing his splendid qualities, the clear-sightedness and breadth of his intelligence, and his wonderful memory. As a reward for his good conduct he was admitted to the privileged ranks of those who comprised the Congregation of the Holy Virgin. We know what good these admirable societies, founded by the sons of Loyola, have accomplished and still accomplish daily in Catholic schools the world over. Societies which vie with each other in piety and encouragement of virtue, they inspire young people with the love of prayer, the habits of regularity and of holy practices.

The congregation of the college of La Fleche had then the good fortune of being directed by Father Bagot, one of those superior priests always so numerous in the Company of Jesus. At one time confessor to King Louis XIII, Father Bagot was a profound philosopher and an eminent theologian. It was under his clever direction that the mind of Francois de Laval was formed, and we shall witness later the germination of the seed which the learned Jesuit sowed in the soul of his beloved scholar.

At this period great families devoted to God from early youth the younger members who showed inclination for the religious life. Francois was only nine years old when he received the tonsure, and fifteen when he was appointed canon of the cathedral of Evreux. Without the revenues which he drew from his prebend, he would not have been able to continue his literary studies; the death of his father, in fact, had left his family in a rather precarious condition of fortune. He was to remain to the end of his career the pupil of his preferred masters, for it was under them that, having at the age of nineteen left the institution where he had brilliantly completed his classical education, he studied philosophy and theology at the College de Clermont at Paris.

He was plunged in these noble studies, when two terrible blows fell upon him; he learned of the successive deaths of his two eldest brothers, who had fallen gloriously, one at Freiburg, the other at Noerdlingen. He became thus the head of the family, and as if the temptations which this title offered him were not sufficient, bringing him as it did, together with a great name a brilliant future, his mother came, supported by the Bishop of Evreux, his cousin, to beg him to abandon the ecclesiastical career and to marry, in order to maintain the honour of his house. Many others would have succumbed, but what were temporal advantages to a man who had long aspired to the glory of going to preach the Divine Word in far-off missions? He remained inflexible; all that his mother could obtain from him was his consent to devote to her for some time his clear judgment and intellect in setting in order the affairs of his family. A few months sufficed for success in this task. In order to place an impassable abyss between himself and the world, he made a full and complete renunciation in favour of his brother Jean-Louis of his rights of primogeniture and all his titles to the seigniory of Montigny and Montbeaudry. The world is ever prone to admire a chivalrous action, and to look askance at deeds which appear to savour of fanaticism. To Laval this renunciation of worldly wealth and honour appeared in the simple light of duty. His Master's words were inspiration enough: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

Returning to the College de Clermont, he now thought of nothing but of preparing to receive worthily the holy orders. It was on September 23rd, 1647, at Paris, that he saw dawn for him the beautiful day of the first mass, whose memory perfumes the whole life of the priest. We may guess with what fervour he must have ascended the steps of the holy altar; if up to that moment he had merely loved his God, he must on that day have dedicated to Jesus all the powers of his being, all the tenderness of his soul, and his every heart-beat.

Mgr. de Pericard, Bishop of Evreux, was not present at the ordination of his cousin; death had taken him away, but before expiring, besides expressing his regret to the new priest for having tried at the time, thinking to further the aims of God, to dissuade him from the ecclesiastical life, he gave him a last proof of his affection by appointing him archdeacon of his cathedral. The duties of the archdeaconry of Evreux, comprising, as it did, nearly one hundred and sixty parishes, were particularly heavy, yet the young priest fulfilled them for seven years, and M. de la Colombiere explains to us how he acquitted himself of them: "The regularity of his visits, the fervour of his enthusiasm, the improvement and the good order which he established in the parishes, the relief of the poor, his interest in all sorts of charity, none of which escaped his notice: all this showed well that without being a bishop he had the ability and merit of one, and that there was no service which the Church might not expect from so great a subject."

But our future Bishop of New France aspired to more glorious fields. One of those zealous apostles who were evangelizing India at this period, Father Alexander of Rhodes, asked from the sovereign pontiff the appointment for Asia of three French bishops, and submitted to the Holy See the names of MM. Pallu, Picquet and Laval. There was no question of hesitation. All three set out immediately for Rome. They remained there fifteen months; the opposition of the Portuguese court caused the failure of this plan, and Francois de Laval returned to France. He had resigned the office of archdeacon the year before, 1653, in favour of a man of tried virtue, who had been, nevertheless, a prey to calumny and persecution, the Abbe Henri-Marie Boudon; thus freed from all responsibility, Laval could satisfy his desire of preparing himself by prayer for the designs which God might have for him.

In his desire of attaining the greatest possible perfection, he betook himself to Caen, to the religious retreat of M. de Bernieres. St. Vincent de Paul, who had trained M. Olier, was desirous also that his pupil, before going to find a field for his apostolic zeal among the people of Auvergne, should prepare himself by earnest meditation in retirement at St. Lazare. "Silence and introspection seemed to St. Vincent," says M. de Lanjuere, the author of the life of M. Olier, "the first conditions of success, preceding any serious enterprise. He had not learned this from Pythagoras or the Greek philosophers, who were, indeed, so careful to prescribe for their disciples a long period of meditation before initiation into their systems, nor even from the experience of all superior men, who, in order to ripen a great plan or to evolve a great thought, have always felt the need of isolation in the nobler acceptance of the word; but he had this maxim from the very example of the Saviour, who, before the temptation and before the transfiguration, withdrew from the world in order to contemplate, and who prayed in Gethsemane before His death on the cross, and who often led His disciples into solitude to rest, and to listen to His most precious communications."

In this little town of Caen, in a house called the Hermitage, lived Jean de Bernieres of Louvigny, together with some of his friends. They had gathered together for the purpose of aiding each other in mutual sanctification; they practised prayer, and lived in the exercise of the highest piety and charity. Francois de Laval passed three years in this Hermitage, and his wisdom was already so highly appreciated, that during the period of his stay he was entrusted with two important missions, whose successful issue attracted attention to him and led naturally to his appointment to the bishopric of Canada.

As early as 1647 the king foresaw the coming creation of a bishopric in New France, for he constituted the Upper Council "of the Governor of Quebec, the Governor of Montreal and the Superior of the Jesuits, until there should be a bishop." A few years later, in 1656, the Company of Montreal obtained from M. Olier, the pious founder of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, the services of four of his priests for the colony, under the direction of one of them, M. de Queylus, Abbe de Loc-Dieu, whose brilliant qualities, as well as the noble use which he made of his great fortune, marked him out naturally as the probable choice of his associates for the episcopacy. But the Jesuits, in possession of all the missions of New France, had their word to say, especially since the mitre had been offered by the queen regent, Anne of Austria, to one of their number, Father Lejeune, who had not, however, been able to accept, their rules forbidding it. They had then proposed to the court of France and the court of Rome the name of Francois de Laval; but believing that the colony was not ready for the erection of a see, they expressed the opinion that the sending of an apostolic vicar with the functions and powers of a bishop in partibus would suffice. Moreover, if the person sent should not succeed, he could at any time be recalled, which could not be done in the case of a bishop. Alexander VII had given his consent to this new plan, and Mgr. de Laval was consecrated by the nuncio of the Pope at Paris, on Sunday, December 8th, 1658, in the church of St. Germain-des-Pres. After having taken, with the assent of the sovereign pontiff, the oath of fidelity to the king, the new Bishop of Petraea said farewell to his pious mother (who died in that same year) and embarked at La Rochelle in the month of April, 1659. The only property he retained was an income of a thousand francs assured to him by the Queen-Mother; but he was setting out to conquer treasures very different from those coveted by the Spanish adventurers who sailed to Mexico and Peru. He arrived on June 16th at Quebec, with letters from the king which enjoined upon all the recognition of Mgr. de Laval of Petraea as being authorized to exercise episcopal functions in the colony without prejudice to the rights of the Archbishop of Rouen.

Unfortunately, men's minds were not very certain then as to the title and qualities of an apostolic vicar. They asked themselves if he were not a simple delegate whose authority did not conflict with the jurisdiction of the two grand vicars of the Jesuits and the Sulpicians. The communities, at first divided on this point, submitted on the receipt of new letters from the king, which commanded the recognition of the sole authority of the Bishop of Petraea. The two grand vicars obeyed, and M. de Queylus came to Quebec, where he preached the sermon on St. Augustine's Day (August 28th), and satisfied the claim to authority of the apostolic vicar.

But a new complication arose: the St. Andre, which had arrived on September 7th, brought to the Abbe de Queylus a new appointment as grand vicar from the Archbishop of Rouen, which contained his protests at court against the apostolic vicar, and letters from the king which seemed to confirm them. Doubt as to the authenticity of the powers of Mgr. de Laval might thus, at least, seem permissible; no act of the Abbe de Queylus, however, indicates that it was openly manifested, and the very next month the abbe returned to France.

We may understand, however, that Mgr. de Laval, in the midst of such difficulties, felt the need of early asserting his authority. He promulgated an order enjoining upon all the secular ecclesiastics of the country the disavowal of all foreign jurisdictions and the recognition of his alone, and commanded them to sign this regulation in evidence of their submission. All signed it, including the devoted priests of St. Sulpice at Montreal.

Two years later, nevertheless, the Abbe de Queylus returned with bulls from the Congregation of the Daterie at Rome. These bulls placed him in possession of the parish of Montreal. In spite of the formal forbiddance of the Bishop of Petraea, he undertook, strong in what he judged to be his rights, to betake himself to Montreal. The prelate on his side believed that it was his duty to take severe steps, and he suspended the Abbe de Queylus. On instructions which were given him by the king, Governor d'Avaugour transmitted to the Abbe de Queylus an order to return to France. The court of Rome finally settled the question by giving the entire jurisdiction of Canada to Mgr. de Laval. The affair thus ended, the Abbe de Queylus returned to the colony in 1668. The population of Ville-Marie received with deep joy this benefactor, to whose generosity it owed so much, and on his side the worthy Bishop of Petraea proved that if he had believed it his duty to defend his own authority when menaced, he had too noble a heart to preserve a petty rancour. He appointed the worthy Abbe de Queylus his grand vicar at Montreal.

When for the first time Mgr. de Laval set foot on the soil of America, the people, assembled to pay respect to their first pastor, were struck by his address, which was both affable and majestic, by his manners, as easy as they were distinguished, but especially by that charm which emanates from every one whose heart has remained ever pure. A lofty brow indicated an intellect above the ordinary; the clean-cut long nose was the inheritance of the Montmorencys; his eye was keen and bright; his eyebrows strongly arched; his thin lips and prominent chin showed a tenacious will; his hair was scanty; finally, according to the custom of that period, a moustache and chin beard added to the strength and energy of his features. From the moment of his arrival the prelate produced the best impression. "I cannot," said Governor d'Argenson, "I cannot highly enough esteem the zeal and piety of Mgr. of Petraea. He is a true man of prayer, and I make no doubt that his labours will bear goodly fruits in this country." Boucher, governor of Three Rivers, wrote thus: "We have a bishop whose zeal and virtue are beyond anything that I can say."



The pious bishop who is the subject of this study was not long in proving that his virtues were not too highly esteemed. An ancient vessel, the St. Andre, brought from France two hundred and six persons, among whom were Mlle. Mance, the foundress of the Montreal hospital, Sister Bourgeoys, and two Sulpicians, MM. Vignal and Lemaitre. Now this ship had long served as a sailors' hospital, and it had been sent back to sea without the necessary quarantine. Hardly had its passengers lost sight of the coasts of France when the plague broke out among them, and with such intensity that all were more or less attacked by it; Mlle. Mance, in particular, was almost immediately reduced to the point of death. Always very delicate, and exhausted by a preceding voyage, she did not seem destined to resist this latest attack. Moreover, all aid was lacking, even the rations of fresh water ran short, and from a fear of contagion, which will be readily understood, but which was none the less disastrous, the captain at first forbade the Sisters of Charity who were on board to minister to the sick. This precaution cost seven or eight of these unfortunate people their lives. At least M. Vignal and M. Lemaitre, though both suffering themselves, were able to offer to the dying the consolations of their holy office. M. Lemaitre, more vigorous than his colleague, and possessed of an admirable energy and devotion, was not satisfied merely with encouraging and ministering to the unfortunate in their last moments, but even watched over their remains at the risk of his own life; he buried them piously, wound them in their shrouds, and said over them the final prayers as they were lowered into the sea. Two Huguenots, touched by his devotion, died in the Roman Catholic faith. The Sisters were finally permitted to exercise their charitable office. Although ill, they as well as Sister Bourgeoys, displayed a heroic energy, and raised the morale of all the unfortunate passengers.

To this sickness were added other sufferings incident to such a voyage, and frightful storms did not cease to attack the ship until its entry into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Several times they believed themselves on the point of foundering, and the two priests gave absolution to all. The tempest carried these unhappy people so far from their route that they did not arrive at Quebec until September 7th, exhausted by disease, famine and trials of all sorts. Father Dequen, of the Society of Jesus, showed in this matter an example of the most admirable charity. He brought to the sick refreshments and every manner of aid, and lavished upon all the offices of his holy ministry. As a result of his self-devotion, he was attacked by the scourge and died in the exercise of charity. Several more, after being conveyed to the hospital, succumbed to the disease, and the whole country was infected. Mgr. of Petraea was admirable in his devotion; he hardly left the hospital at all, and constituted himself the nurse of all these unfortunates, making their beds and giving them the most attentive care. "He is continually at the hospital," wrote Mother Mary of the Incarnation, "in order to help the sick and to make their beds. We do what we can to prevent him and to shield his health, but no eloquence can dissuade him from these acts of self-abasement."

In the spring of the year 1662, Mgr. de Laval rented for his own use an old house situated on the site of the present parochial residence at Quebec, and it was there that, with the three other priests who then composed his episcopal court, he edified all the colonists by the simplicity of a cenobitic life. He had been at first the guest of the Jesuit Fathers, was later sheltered by the Sisters of the Hotel-Dieu, and subsequently lodged with the Ursulines. At this period it was indeed incumbent upon him to adapt himself to circumstances; nor did these modest conditions displease the former pupil of M. de Bernieres, since, as Latour bears witness, "he always complained that people did too much for him; he showed a distaste for all that was too daintily prepared, and affected, on the contrary, a sort of avidity for coarser fare." Mother Mary of the Incarnation wrote: "He lives like a holy man and an apostle; his life is so exemplary that he commands the admiration of the country. He gives everything away and lives like a pauper, and one may well say that he has the very spirit of poverty. He practises this poverty in his house, in his manner of living, and in the matter of furniture and servants; for he has but one gardener, whom he lends to poor people when they have need of him, and a valet who formerly served M. de Bernieres."

But if the reverend prelate was modest and simple in his personal tastes, he became inflexible when he thought it his duty to maintain the rights of the Church. And he watched over these rights with the more circumspection since he was the first bishop installed in the colony, and was unwilling to allow abuses to be planted there, which later it would be very difficult, not to say impossible, to uproot. Hence the continual friction between him and the governor-general, d'Argenson, on questions of precedence and etiquette. Some of these disputes would seem to us childish to-day if even such a writer as Parkman did not put us on our guard against a premature judgment.[1] "The disputes in question," writes Parkman, "though of a nature to provoke a smile on irreverent lips, were by no means so puerile as they appear. It is difficult in a modern democratic society to conceive the substantial importance of the signs and symbols of dignity and authority, at a time and among a people where they were adjusted with the most scrupulous precision, and accepted by all classes as exponents of relative degrees in the social and political scale. Whether the bishop or the governor should sit in the higher seat at table thus became a political question, for it defined to the popular understanding the position of Church and State in their relations to government."

In his zeal for making his episcopal authority respected, could not the prelate, however, have made some concessions to the temporal power? It is allowable to think so, when his panegyrist, the Abbe Gosselin, acknowledges it in these terms: "Did he sometimes show too much ardour in the settlement of a question or in the assertion of his rights? It is possible. As the Abbe Ferland rightly observes, 'no virtue is perfect upon earth.' But he was too pious and too disinterested for us to suspect for a moment the purity of his intentions." In certain passages in his journal Father Lalemant seems to be of the same opinion. All men are fallible; even the greatest saints have erred. In this connection the remark of St. Bernardin of Siena presents itself naturally to the religious mind: "Each time," says he, "that God grants to a creature a marked and particular favour, and when divine grace summons him to a special task and to some sublime position, it is a rule of Providence to furnish that creature with all the means necessary to fulfil the mission which is entrusted to him, and to bring it to a happy conclusion. Providence prepares his birth, directs his education, produces the environment in which he is to live; even his faults Providence will use in the accomplishment of its purposes."

Difficulties of another sort fixed between the spiritual and the temporal chiefs of the colony a still deeper gulf; they arose from the trade in brandy with the savages. It had been formerly forbidden by the Sovereign Council, and this measure, urged by the clergy and the missionaries, put a stop to crimes and disorders. However, for the purpose of gain, certain men infringed this wise prohibition, and Mgr. de Laval, aware of the extensive harm caused by the fatal passion of the Indians for intoxicating liquors, hurled excommunication against all who should carry on the traffic in brandy with the savages. "It would be very difficult," writes M. de Latour, "to realize to what an excess these barbarians are carried by drunkenness. There is no species of madness, of crime or inhumanity to which they do not descend. The savage, for a glass of brandy, will give even his clothes, his cabin, his wife, his children; a squaw when made drunk—and this is often done purposely—will abandon herself to the first comer. They will tear each other to pieces. If one enters a cabin whose inmates have just drunk brandy, one will behold with astonishment and horror the father cutting the throat of his son, the son threatening his father; the husband and wife, the best of friends, inflicting murderous blows upon each other, biting each other, tearing out each other's eyes, noses and ears; they are no longer recognizable, they are madmen; there is perhaps in the world no more vivid picture of hell. There are often some among them who seek drunkenness in order to avenge themselves upon their enemies, and commit with impunity all sorts of crimes under the pretext of this fine excuse, which passes with them for a complete justification, that at these times they are not free and not in their senses." Drunken savages are brutes, it is true, but were not the whites who fostered this fatal passion of intoxication more guilty still than the wretches whom they ignominiously urged on to vice? Let us see what the same writer says of these corrupters. "If it is difficult," says he, "to explain the excesses of the savage, it is also difficult to understand the extent of the greed, the hypocrisy and the rascality of those who supply them with these drinks. The facility for making immense profits which is afforded them by the ignorance and the passions of these people, and the certainty of impunity, are things which they cannot resist; the attraction of gain acts upon them as drunkenness does upon their victims. How many crimes arise from the same source? There is no mother who does not fear for her daughter, no husband who does not dread for his wife, a libertine armed with a bottle of brandy; they rob and pillage these wretches, who, stupefied by intoxication when they are not maddened by it, can neither refuse nor defend themselves. There is no barrier which is not forced, no weakness which is not exploited, in these remote regions where, without either witnesses or masters, only the voice of brutal passion is listened to, every crime of which is inspired by a glass of brandy. The French are worse in this respect than the savages."

Governor d'Avaugour supported energetically the measures taken by Mgr. de Laval; unfortunately a regrettable incident destroyed the harmony between their two authorities. Inspired by his good heart, the superior of the Jesuits, Father Lalemant, interceded with the governor in favour of a woman imprisoned for having infringed the prohibition of the sale of brandy to the Indians. "If she is not to be punished," brusquely replied d'Avaugour, "no one shall be punished henceforth!" And, as he made it a point of honour not to withdraw this unfortunate utterance, the traders profited by it. From that time license was no longer bridled; the savages got drunk, the traders were enriched, and the colony was in jeopardy. Sure of being supported by the governor, the merchants listened to neither bishop nor missionaries. Grieved at seeing his prayers as powerless as his commands, Mgr. de Laval decided to carry his complaint to the foot of the throne, and he set sail for France in the autumn of 1662. "Statesmen who place the freedom of commerce above morality of action," says Jacques de Beaudoncourt, "still consider that the bishop was wrong, and see in this matter a fine opportunity to inveigh against the encroachments of the clergy; but whoever has at heart the cause of human dignity will not hesitate to take the side of the missionaries who sought to preserve the savages from the vices which have brought about their ruin and their disappearance. The Montagnais race, which is still the most important in Canada, has been preserved by Catholicism from the vices and the misery which brought about so rapidly the extirpation of the savages."

Mgr. de Laval succeeded beyond his hopes; cordially received by King Louis XIV, he obtained the recall of Governor d'Avaugour. But this purpose was not the only one which he had made the goal of his ambition; he had in view another, much more important for the welfare of the colony. Fourteen years before, the Iroquois had exterminated the Hurons, and since this period the colonists had not enjoyed a single hour of calm; the devotion of Dollard and of his sixteen heroic comrades had narrowly saved them from a horrible danger. The worthy prelate obtained from the king a sufficiently large assignment of troops to deliver the colony at last from its most dangerous enemies. "We expect next year," he wrote to the sovereign pontiff, "twelve hundred soldiers, with whom, by God's help, we shall try to overcome the fierce Iroquois. The Marquis de Tracy will come to Canada in order to see for himself the measures which are necessary to make of New France a strong and prosperous colony."

M. Dubois d'Avaugour was recalled, and yet he rendered before his departure a distinguished service to the colony. "The St. Lawrence," he wrote in a memorial to the monarch, "is the key to a country which may become the greatest state in the world. There should be sent to this colony three thousand soldiers, to be discharged after three years of service; they could make Quebec an impregnable fortress, subdue the Iroquois, build redoubtable forts on the banks of the Hudson, where the Dutch have only a wretched wooden hut, and in short, open for New France a road to the sea by this river." It was mainly this report which induced the sovereign to take back Canada from the hands of the Company of the Cent-Associes, who were incapable of colonizing it, and to reintegrate it in the royal domain.

Must we think with M. de la Colombiere,[2] with M. de Latour and with Cardinal Taschereau, that the Sovereign Council was the work of Mgr. de Laval? We have some justification in believing it when we remember that the king arrived at this important decision while the energetic Laval was present at his court. However it may be, on April 24th, 1663, the Company of New France abandoned the colony to the royal government, which immediately created in Canada three courts of justice and above them the Sovereign Council as a court of appeal.

The Bishop of Petraea sailed in 1663 for North America with the new governor, M. de Mezy, who owed to him his appointment. His other fellow-passengers were M. Gaudais-Dupont, who came to take possession of the country in the name of the king, two priests, MM. Maizerets and Hugues Pommier, Father Rafeix, of the Society of Jesus, and three ecclesiastics. The passage was stormy and lasted four months. To-day, when we leave Havre and disembark a week later at New York, after having enjoyed all the refinements of luxury and comfort invented by an advanced but materialistic civilization, we can with difficulty imagine the discomforts, hardships and privations of four long months on a stormy sea. Scurvy, that fatal consequence of famine and exhaustion, soon broke out among the passengers, and many died of it. The bishop, himself stricken by the disease, did not cease, nevertheless, to lavish his care upon the unfortunates who were attacked by the infection; he even attended them at the hospital after they had landed.

The country was still at this time under the stress of the emotion caused by the terrible earthquake of 1663. Father Lalemant has left us a striking description of this cataclysm, marked by the naive exaggeration of the period: "It was February 5th, 1663, about half-past five in the evening, when a great roar was heard at the same time throughout the extent of Canada. This noise, which gave the impression that fire had broken out in all the houses, made every one rush out of doors in order to flee from such a sudden conflagration. But instead of seeing smoke and flame, the people were much surprised to behold walls tottering, and all the stones moving as if they had become detached; the roofs seemed to bend downward on one side, then to lean over on the other; the bells rang of their own accord; joists, rafters and boards cracked, the earth quivered and made the stakes of the palisades dance in a manner which would appear incredible if we had not seen it in various places.

"Then every one rushes outside, animals take to flight, children cry through the streets, men and women, seized with terror, know not where to take refuge, thinking at every moment that they must be either overwhelmed in the ruins of the houses or buried in some abyss about to open under their feet; some, falling to their knees in the snow, cry for mercy; others pass the rest of the night in prayer, because the earthquake still continues with a certain undulation, almost like that of ships at sea, and such that some feel from these shocks the same sickness that they endure upon the water.

"The disorder was much greater in the forest. It seemed that there was a battle between the trees, which were hurled together, and not only their branches but even their trunks seemed to leave their places to leap upon each other with a noise and a confusion which made our savages say that the whole forest was drunk.

"There seemed to be the same combat between the mountains, of which some were uprooted and hurled upon the others, leaving great chasms in the places whence they came, and now burying the trees, with which they were covered, deep in the earth up to their tops, now thrusting them in, with branches downward, taking the place of the roots, so that they left only a forest of upturned trunks.

"While this general destruction was going on on land, sheets of ice five or six feet thick were broken and shattered to pieces, and split in many places, whence arose thick vapour or streams of mud and sand which ascended high into the air; our springs either flowed no longer or ran with sulphurous waters; the rivers were either lost from sight or became polluted, the waters of some becoming yellow, those of others red, and the great St. Lawrence appeared quite livid up to the vicinity of Tadousac, a most astonishing prodigy, and one capable of surprising those who know the extent of this great river below the Island of Orleans, and what matter must be necessary to whiten it.

"We behold new lakes where there never were any; certain mountains engulfed are no longer seen; several rapids have been smoothed out; not a few rivers no longer appear; the earth is cleft in many places, and has opened abysses which seem to have no bottom. In short, there has been produced such a confusion of woods upturned and buried, that we see now stretches of country of more than a thousand acres wholly denuded, and as if they were freshly ploughed, where a little before there had been but forests.

"Moreover, three circumstances made this earthquake most remarkable. The first is the time of its duration, since it lasted into the month of August, that is to say, more than six months. It is true that the shocks were not always so rude; in certain places, for example, towards the mountains at the back of us, the noise and the commotion were long continued; at others, as in the direction of Tadousac, there was a quaking as a rule two or three times a day, accompanied by a great straining, and we noticed that in the higher places the disturbance was less than in the flat districts.

"The second circumstance concerns the extent of this earthquake, which we believe to have been universal throughout New France; for we learn that it was felt from Ile Perce and Gaspe, which are at the mouth of our river, to beyond Montreal, as likewise in New England, in Acadia and other very remote places; so that, knowing that the earthquake occurred throughout an extent of two hundred leagues in length by one hundred in breadth, we have twenty thousand square leagues of land which felt the earthquake on the same day and at the same moment.

"The third circumstance concerns God's particular protection of our homes, for we see near us great abysses and a prodigious extent of country wholly ruined, without our having lost a child or even a hair of our heads. We see ourselves surrounded by confusion and ruins, and yet we have had only a few chimneys demolished, while the mountains around us have been overturned."

From the point of view of conversions and returns to God the results were marvellous. "One can scarcely believe," says Mother Mary of the Incarnation, "the great number of conversions that God has brought about, both among infidels who have embraced the faith, and on the part of Christians who have abandoned their evil life. At the same time as God has shaken the mountains and the marble rocks of these regions, it would seem that He has taken pleasure in shaking consciences. Days of carnival have been changed into days of penitence and sadness; public prayers, processions and pilgrimages have been continual; fasts on bread and water very frequent; the general confessions more sincere than they would have been in the extremity of sickness. A single ecclesiastic, who directs the parish of Chateau-Richer, has assured us that he has procured more than eight hundred general confessions, and I leave you to think what the reverend Fathers must have accomplished who were day and night in the confessional. I do not think that in the whole country there is a single inhabitant who has not made a general confession. There have been inveterate sinners, who, to set their consciences at rest, have repeated their confession more than three times. We have seen admirable reconciliations, enemies falling on their knees before each other to ask each other's forgiveness, in so much sorrow that it was easy to see that these changes were the results of grace and of the mercy of God rather than of His justice."


[1] The Old Regime in Canada, p. 110.

[2] Joseph Sere de la Colombiere, vicar-general and archdeacon of Quebec, pronounced Mgr. de Laval's funeral oration.



No sooner had he returned, than the Bishop of Petraea devoted all the strength of his intellect to the execution of a plan which he had long meditated, namely, the foundation of a seminary. In order to explain what he understood by this word we cannot do better than to quote his own ordinance relating to this matter: "There shall be educated and trained such young clerics as may appear fit for the service of God, and they shall be taught for this purpose the proper manner of administering the sacraments, the methods of apostolic catechism and preaching, moral theology, the ceremonies of the Church, the Gregorian chant, and other things belonging to the duties of a good ecclesiastic; and besides, in order that there may be formed in the said seminary and among its clergy a chapter composed of ecclesiastics belonging thereto and chosen from among us and the bishops of the said country, our successors, when the king shall have seen fit to found the seminary, or from those whom the said seminary may be able of itself to furnish to this institution through the blessing of God. We desire it to be a perpetual school of virtue, and a place of training whence we may derive pious and capable recruits, in order to send them on all occasions, and whenever there may be need, into the parishes and other places in the said country, in order to exercise therein priestly and other duties to which they may have been destined, and to withdraw them from the same parishes and duties when it may be judged fitting, reserving to ourselves always, and to the bishops, our successors in the said country, as well as to the said seminary, by our orders and those of the said lords bishops, the power of recalling all the ecclesiastics who may have gone forth as delegates into the parishes and other places, whenever it may be deemed necessary, without their having title or right of particular attachment to a parish, it being our desire, on the contrary, that they should be rightfully removable, and subject to dismissal and displacement at the will of the bishops and of the said seminary, by the orders of the same, in accordance with the sacred practice of the early ages of the Church, which is followed and preserved still at the present day in many dioceses of this kingdom."

Although this foregoing period is somewhat lengthy and a little obscure, so weighty with meaning is it, we have been anxious to quote it, first, because it is an official document, and because it came from the very pen of him whose life we are studying; and, secondly, because it shows that at this period serious reading, such as Cicero, Quintilian, and the Fathers of the Church, formed the mental pabulum of the people. In our days the beauty of a sentence is less sought after than its clearness and conciseness.

It may be well to add here the Abbe Gosselin's explanation of this mandement: "Three principal works are due to this document as the glorious inheritance of the seminary of Quebec. In the first place we have the natural work of any seminary, the training of ecclesiastics and the preparation of the clergy for priestly virtues. In the next place we have the creation of the chapter, which the Bishop of Petraea always considered important in a well organized diocese; it was his desire to find the elements of this chapter in his seminary, when the king should have provided for its endowment, or when the seminary itself could bear the expense. Finally, there is that which in the mind of Mgr. de Laval was the supreme work of the seminary, its vital task: the seminary was to be not only a perpetual school of virtue, but also a place of supply on which he might draw for the persons needed in the administration of his diocese, and to which he might send them back when he should think best. All livings are connected with the seminary, but they are all transferable. The prelate here puts clearly and categorically the question of the transfer of livings. In his measures there is neither hesitation nor circumlocution. He does not seek to deceive the sovereign to whom he is about to submit his regulation. For him, in the present condition of New France, there can be no question of fixed livings; the priests must be by right removable, and subject to recall at the will of the bishop; and, as is fitting in a prelate worthy of the primitive Church, he always lays stress in his commands on the holy practice of the early centuries. The question was clearly put. It was as clearly understood by the sovereign, who approved some days later of the regulation of Mgr. de Laval."

It was in the month of April, 1663, that the worthy prelate had obtained the royal approval of the establishment of his seminary; it was on October 10th of the same year that he had it registered by the Sovereign Council.

A great difficulty arose: the missionaries, besides the help that they had obtained from the Company of the Cent-Associes, derived their resources from Europe; but how was the new secular clergy to be supported, totally lacking as it was in endowment and revenue? Mgr. de Laval resolved to employ the means adopted long ago by Charlemagne to assure the maintenance of the Frankish clergy: that of tithes or dues paid by the husbandman from his harvest. Accordingly he obtained from the king an ordinance according to which tithes, fixed at the amount of the thirteenth part of the harvests, should be collected from the colonists by the seminary; the latter was to use them for the maintenance of the priests, and for divine service in the established parishes. The burden was, perhaps, somewhat heavy. Mgr. de Laval, who, inspired by the spirit of poverty, had renounced his patrimony and lived solely upon a pension of a thousand francs which the queen paid him from her private exchequer, felt that he had a certain right to impose his disinterestedness upon others, but the colonists, sure of the support of the governor, M. de Mezy, complained.

The good understanding between the governor-general and the bishop had been maintained up to the end of January, 1664. Full of respect for the character and the virtue of his friend, M. de Mezy had energetically supported the ordinances of the Sovereign Council against the brandy traffic; he had likewise favoured the registration of the law of tithes, but the opposition which he met in the matter of an increase in his salary impelled him to arbitrary action. Of his own authority he displaced three councillors, and out of petty rancour allowed strong liquors to be sold to the savages. The open struggle between the bishop and himself produced the most unfavourable impression in the colony. The king decided that the matter must be brought to a head. M. de Courcelles was appointed governor, and, jointly with a viceroy, the Marquis de Tracy, and with the Intendant Talon, was entrusted with the investigation of the administration of M. de Mezy. They arrived a few months after the death of de Mezy, whom this untimely end saved perhaps from a well-deserved condemnation. He had become reconciled in his dying hour to his old and venerable friend, and the judges confined themselves to the erasure of the documents which recalled his administration.

The worthy Bishop of Petraea had not lost for a moment the confidence of the sovereign, as is proved by many letters which he received from the king and his prime minister, Colbert. "I send you by command of His Majesty," writes Colbert, "the sum of six thousand francs, to be disposed of as you may deem best to supply your needs and those of your Church. We cannot ascribe too great a value to a virtue like yours, which is ever equally maintained, which charitably extends its help wherever it is necessary, which makes you indefatigable in the functions of your episcopacy, notwithstanding the feebleness of your health and the frequent indispositions by which you are attacked, and which thus makes you share with the least of your ecclesiastics the task of administering the sacraments in places most remote from the principal settlements. I shall add nothing to this statement, which is entirely sincere, for fear of wounding your natural modesty, etc...." The prince himself is no less flattering: "My Lord Bishop of Petraea," writes Louis the Great, "I expected no less of your zeal for the exaltation of the faith, and of your affection for the furtherance of my service than the conduct observed by you in your important and holy mission. Its main reward is reserved by Heaven, which alone can recompense you in proportion to your merit, but you may rest assured that such rewards as depend on me will not be wanting at the fitting time. I subscribe, moreover, to my Lord Colbert's communications to you in my name."

Peace and harmony were re-established, and with them the hope of seeing finally disappear the constant menace of Iroquois forays. The magnificent regiment of Carignan, composed of six hundred men, reassured the colonists while it daunted their savage enemies. Thus three of the Five Nations hastened to sue for peace, and they obtained it. In order to protect the frontiers of the colony, M. de Tracy caused three forts to be erected on the Richelieu River, one at Sorel, another at Chambly, a third still more remote, that of Ste. Therese; then at the head of six hundred soldiers, six hundred militia and a hundred Indians, he marched towards the hamlets of the Mohawks. The result of this expedition was, unhappily, as fruitless as that of the later campaigns undertaken against the Indians by MM. de Denonville and de Frontenac. After a difficult march they come into touch with the savages; but these all flee into the woods, and they find only their huts stocked with immense supplies of corn for the winter, and a great number of pigs. At least, if they cannot reach the barbarians themselves, they can inflict upon them a terrible punishment; they set fire to the cabins and the corn, the pigs are slaughtered, and thus a large number of their wild enemies die of hunger during the winter. The viceroy was wise enough to accept the surrender of many Indians, and the peace which he concluded afforded the colony eighteen years of tranquillity.

The question of the apportionment of the tithes was settled in the following year, 1667. The viceroy, acting with MM. de Courcelles and Talon, decided that the tithe should be reduced to a twenty-sixth, by reason of the poverty of the inhabitants, and that newly-cleared lands should pay nothing for the first five years. Mgr. de Laval, ever ready to accept just and sensible measures, agreed to this decision. The revenues thus obtained were, none the less, insufficient, since the king subsequently gave eight or nine thousand francs to complete the endowment of the priests, whose annual salary was fixed at five hundred and seventy-four francs. In 1707 the sum granted by the French court was reduced to four thousand francs. If we remember that the French farmers contributed the thirteenth part of their harvest, that is to say, double the quantity of the Canadian tithe, for the support of their pastors, shall we deem excessive this modest tax raised from the colonists for men who devoted to them their time, their health, even their hours of rest, in order to procure for their parishioners the aid of religion? Is it not regrettable that too many among the colonists, who were yet such good Christians in the observance of religious practices, should have opposed an obstinate resistance to so righteous a demand? Can it be that, by a special dispensation of Heaven, the priests and vicars of Canada are not liable to the same material needs as ordinary mortals, and are they not obliged to pay in good current coin for their food, their medicines and their clothes?

The first seminary, built of stone,[3] rose in 1661 on the site of the present vicarage of the cathedral of Quebec; it cost eight thousand five hundred francs, two thousand of which were given by Mgr. de Laval. The first priest of Quebec and first superior of the seminary, M. Henri de Bernieres, was able to occupy it in the autumn of the following year, and the Bishop of Petraea abode there from the time of his return from France on September 15th, 1663, until the burning of this house on November 15th, 1701. The first directors of the seminary were, besides M. de Bernieres, MM. de Lauson-Charny, son of the former governor-general, Jean Dudouyt, Thomas Morel, Ange de Maizerets and Hugues Pommier. Except the first, who was a Burgundian, they were all born in the two provinces of Brittany and Normandy, the cradles of the majority of our ancestors.

The founder of the seminary had wished the livings to be transferable; later the government decided to the contrary, and the edict of 1679 decreed that the tithes should be payable only to the permanent priests; nevertheless the majority of them remained of their own free will attached to the seminary. They had learned there to practise a complete abnegation, and to give to the faithful the example of a united and fervent clerical family. "Our goods were held in common with those of the bishop," wrote M. de Maizerets, "I have never seen any distinction made among us between poor and rich, or the birth and rank of any one questioned, since we all consider each other as brothers."

The pious bishop himself set an example of disinterestedness; all that he had, namely an income of two thousand five hundred francs, which the Jesuits paid him as the tithes of the grain harvested upon their property, and a revenue of a thousand francs which he had from his friends in France, went into the seminary. MM. de Bernieres, de Maizerets and Dudouyt vied in the imitation of their model, and they likewise abandoned to the holy house their goods and their pensions. The prelate confined himself, like the others, from humility even more than from economy on behalf of the community, to the greatest simplicity in dress as well as in his environment. Aiming at the highest degree of possible perfection, he was satisfied with the coarsest fare, and incessantly added voluntary privations to the sacrifices demanded of him by his difficult duties. Does not this apostolic poverty recall the seminary established by the pious founder of St. Sulpice, who wrote: "Each had at dinner a bowl of soup and a small portion of butcher's meat, without dessert, and in the evening likewise a little roast mutton"?

Mortification diminished in no wise the activity of the prelate; learning that the Seminary of Foreign Missions at Paris, that nursery of apostles, had just been definitely established (1663), he considered it his duty to establish his own more firmly by affiliating it with that of the French capital. "I have learned with joy," wrote he, "of the establishment of your Seminary of Foreign Missions, and that the gales and tempests by which it has been tossed since the beginning have but served to render it firmer and more unassailable. I cannot sufficiently praise your zeal, which, unable to confine itself to the limits and frontiers of France, seeks to spread throughout the world, and to pass beyond the seas into the most remote regions; considering which, I have thought I could not compass a greater good for our young Church, nor one more to the glory of God and the welfare of the peoples whom God has entrusted to our guidance, than by contributing to the establishment of one of your branches in Quebec, the place of our residence, where you will be like the light set upon the candlestick, to illumine all these regions by your holy doctrine and the example of your virtue. Since you are the torch of foreign countries, it is only reasonable that there should be no quarter of the globe uninfluenced by your charity and zeal. I hope that our Church will be one of the first to possess this good fortune, the more since it has already a part of what you hold most dear. Come then, and be welcome; we shall receive you with joy. You will find a lodging prepared and a fund sufficient to set up a small establishment, which I hope will continue to grow...." The act of union was signed in 1665, and was renewed ten years later with the royal assent.

Thanks to the generosity of Mgr. de Laval and of the first directors of the seminary, building and acquisition of land was begun. There was erected in 1668 a large wooden dwelling, which was in some sort an extension of the episcopal and parochial residence. It was destroyed in 1701, with the vicarage, in the conflagration which overwhelmed the whole seminary. Subsequently, there was purchased a site of sixteen acres adjoining the parochial church, upon which was erected the house of Madame Couillard. This house, in which lodged in 1668 the first pupils of the smaller seminary, was replaced in 1678 by a stone edifice, large enough to shelter all the pupils of both the seminaries. The seigniory of Beaupre was also acquired, which with remarkable foresight the bishop exchanged for the Ile Jesus. "It was prudent," remarks the Abbe Gosselin, "not to have all the property in the same place; when the seasons are bad in one part of the country they may be prosperous elsewhere; and having thus sources of revenue in different places, one is more likely never to find them entirely lacking."

The smaller seminary dates only from the year 1668. Up to this time the large seminary alone existed; of the five ecclesiastics who were its inmates in 1663, Louis Joliet abandoned the priestly career. It was he who, impelled by his adventurous instincts, sought out, together with Father Marquette, the mouth of the Mississippi.


[3] The house was first the presbytery.



Now, what were the results accomplished by the efforts of the missionaries at this period of our history? When in their latest hour they saw about them, as was very frequently the case, only the wild children of the desert uttering cries of ferocious joy, had they at least the consolation of discerning faithful disciples of Christ concealed among their executioners? Alas! we must admit that North America saw no renewal of the days when St. Peter converted on one occasion, at his first preaching, three thousand persons, and when St. Paul brought to Jesus by His word thousands of Gentiles. Were the missionaries of the New World, then, less zealous, less disinterested, less eloquent than the apostles of the early days of the Church? Let us listen to Mgr. Bourgard: "A few only among them, like the Brazilian apostle, Father Anthony Vieyra, died a natural death and found a grave in earth consecrated by the Church. Many, like Father Marquette, who reconnoitred the whole course of the Mississippi, succumbed to the burden of fatigue in the midst of the desert, and were buried under the turf by their sorrowful comrades. He had with him several Frenchmen, Fathers Badin, Deseille and Petit; the two latter left their venerable remains among the wastes. Others met death at the bedside of the plague-stricken, and were martyrs to their charity, like Fathers Turgis and Dablon. An incalculable number died in the desert, alone, deprived of all aid, unknown to the whole world, and their bodies became the sustenance of birds of prey. Several obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom; such are the venerable Fathers Jogues, Corpo, Souel, Chabanel, Ribourde, Brebeuf, Lalemant, etc. Now they fell under the blows of raging Indians; now they were traitorously assassinated; again, they were impaled." In what, then, must we seek for the cause of the futility of these efforts? All those who know the savages will understand it; it is in the fickle character of these children of the woods, a character more unstable and volatile than that of infants. God alone knows what restless anxiety the conversions which they succeeded in bringing about caused to the missionaries and the pious Bishop of Petraea. Yet every day Mgr. de Laval ardently prayed, not only for the flock confided to his care but also for the souls which he had come from so far to seek to save from heathenism. If one of these devout men of God had succeeded at the price of a thousand dangers, of a thousand attempts, in proving to an Indian the insanity, the folly of his belief in the juggleries of a sorcerer, he must watch with jealous care lest his convert should lapse from grace either through the sarcasms of the other redskins, or through the attractions of some cannibal festival, or by the temptation to satisfy an ancient grudge, or through the fear of losing a coveted influence, or even through the apprehension of the vengeance of the heathen. Did he think himself justified in expecting to see his efforts crowned with success? Suddenly he would learn that the poor neophyte had been led astray by the sight of a bottle of brandy, and that he had to begin again from the beginning.

No greater success was attained in many efforts which were exerted to give a European stamp to the character of the aborigines, than in divers attempts to train in civilized habits young Indians brought up in the seminaries. And we know that if success in this direction had been possible it would certainly have been obtained by educators like the Jesuit Fathers. "With the French admitted to the small seminary," says the Abbe Ferland, "six young Indians were received; on the advice of the king they were all to be brought up together. This union, which was thought likely to prove useful to all, was not helpful to the savages, and became harmful to the young Frenchmen. After a few trials it was understood that it was impossible to adapt to the regular habits necessary for success in a course of study these young scholars who had been reared in complete freedom. Comradeship with Algonquin and Huron children, who were incapable of limiting themselves to the observance of a college rule, tended to give more force and persistence to the independent ideas which were natural in the young French-Canadians, who received from their fathers the love of liberty and the taste for an adventurous life."

But we must not infer, therefore, that the missionaries found no consolation in their troublous task. If sometimes the savage blood revealed itself in the neophytes in sudden insurrections, we must admit that the majority of the converts devoted themselves to the practice of virtues with an energy which often rose to heroism, and that already there began to appear among them that holy fraternity which the gospel everywhere brings to birth. The memoirs of the Jesuits furnish numerous evidences of this. We shall cite only the following: "A band of Hurons had come down to the Mission of St. Joseph. The Christians, suffering a great dearth of provisions, asked each other, 'Can we feed all those people?' As they said this, behold, a number of the Indians, disembarking from their little boats, go straight to the chapel, fall upon their knees and say their prayers. An Algonquin who had gone to salute the Holy Sacrament, having perceived them, came to apprise his captain that these Hurons were praying to God. 'Is it true?' said he. 'Come! come! we must no longer debate whether we shall give them food or not; they are our brothers, since they believe as well as we.'"

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