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Devotees and Nuns

 Native American Nations | The Jesuits in North America                    

 

Quebec, as we have seen, had a seminary, a hospital, and a convent, before it had a population. It will be well to observe the origin of these institutions.

The Jesuits from the first had cherished the plan of a seminary for Huron boys at Quebec. The Governor and the Company favored the design; since not only would it be an efficient means of spreading the Faith and attaching the tribe to the French interest, but the children would be pledges for the good behavior of the parents, and hostages for the safety of missionaries and traders in the Indian towns. ["M. de Montmagny cognoit bien l'importance de ce Seminaire pour la gloire de Nostre Seigneur, et pour le commerce de ces Messieurs"--Relation, 1637, 209 (Cramoisy).] In the summer of 1636, Father Daniel, descending from the Huron country, worn, emaciated, his cassock patched and tattered, and his shirt in rags, brought with him a boy, to whom two others were soon added; and through the influence of the interpreter, Nicollet, the number was afterwards increased by several more. One of them ran away, two ate themselves to death, a fourth was carried home by his father, while three of those remaining stole a canoe, loaded it with all they could lay their hands upon, and escaped in triumph with their plunder. [Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 55-59. Ibid., Relation, 1638, 23.]

The beginning was not hopeful; but the Jesuits persevered, and at length established their seminary on a firm basis. The Marquis de Gamache had given the Society six thousand crowns for founding a college at Quebec. In 1637, a year before the building of Harvard College, the Jesuits began a wooden structure in the rear of the fort; and here, within one inclosure, was the Huron seminary and the college for French boys.

Meanwhile the female children of both races were without instructors; but a remedy was at hand. At Alençon, in 1603, was born Marie Madeleine de Chauvigny, a scion of the _haute noblesse_ of Normandy. Seventeen years later she was a young lady, abundantly wilful and superabundantly enthusiastic,--one who, in other circumstances, might perhaps have made a romantic elopement and a mésalliance.1 But her impressible and ardent nature was absorbed in other objects. Religion and its ministers possessed her wholly, and all her enthusiasm was spent on works of charity and devotion. Her father, passionately fond of her, resisted her inclination for the cloister, and sought to wean her back to the world; but she escaped from the chateau to a neighboring convent, where she resolved to remain. Her father followed, carried her home, and engaged her in a round of fêtes and hunting parties, in the midst of which she found herself surprised into a betrothal to M. de la Peltrie, a young gentleman of rank and character. The marriage proved a happy one, and Madame de la Peltrie, with an excellent grace, bore her part in the world she had wished to renounce. After a union of five years, her husband died, and she was left a widow and childless at the age of twenty-two. She returned to the religious ardors of her girlhood, again gave all her thoughts to devotion and charity, and again resolved to be a nun. She had heard of Canada; and when Le Jeune's first Relations appeared, she read them with avidity. "Alas!" wrote the Father, "is there no charitable and virtuous lady who will come to this country to gather up the blood of Christ, by teaching His word to the little Indian girls?" His appeal found a prompt and vehement response from the breast of Madame de la Peltrie. Thenceforth she thought of nothing but Canada. In the midst of her zeal, a fever seized her. The physicians despaired; but, at the height of the disease, the patient made a vow to St. Joseph, that, should God restore her to health, she would build a house in honor of Him in Canada, and give her life and her wealth to the instruction of Indian girls. On the following morning, say her biographers, the fever had left her.

Meanwhile her relatives, or those of her husband, had confirmed her pious purposes by attempting to thwart them. They pronounced her a romantic visionary, incompetent to the charge of her property. Her father, too, whose fondness for her increased with his advancing age, entreated her to remain with him while he lived, and to defer the execution of her plans till he should be laid in his grave. From entreaties he passed to commands, and at length threatened to disinherit her, if she persisted. The virtue of obedience, for which she is extolled by her clerical biographers, however abundantly exhibited in respect to those who held charge of her conscience, was singularly wanting towards the parent who, in the way of Nature, had the best claim to its exercise; and Madame de la Peltrie was more than ever resolved to go to Canada. Her father, on his part, was urgent that she should marry again. On this she took counsel of a Jesuit,2 who, "having seriously reflected before God," suggested a device, which to the heretical mind is a little startling, but which commended itself to Madame de la Peltrie as fitted at once to soothe the troubled spirit of her father, and to save her from the sin involved in the abandonment of her pious designs.

Among her acquaintance was M. de Bernières, a gentleman of high rank, great wealth, and zealous devotion. She wrote to him, explained the situation, and requested him to feign a marriage with her. His sense of honor recoiled: moreover, in the fulness of his zeal, he had made a vow of chastity, and an apparent breach of it would cause scandal. He consulted his spiritual director and a few intimate friends. All agreed that the glory of God was concerned, and that it behooved him to accept the somewhat singular overtures of the young widow,3 and request her hand from her father. M. de Chauvigny, who greatly esteemed Bernières, was delighted; and his delight was raised to transport at the dutiful and modest acquiescence of his daughter.4 A betrothal took place; all was harmony, and for a time no more was said of disinheriting Madame de la Peltrie, or putting her in wardship.

Bernières's scruples returned. Divided between honor and conscience, he postponed the marriage, until at length M. de Chauvigny conceived misgivings, and again began to speak of disinheriting his daughter, unless the engagement was fulfilled.5 Bernières yielded, and went with Madame de la Peltrie to consult "the most eminent divines."6 A sham marriage took place, and she and her accomplice appeared in public as man and wife. Her relatives, however, had already renewed their attempts to deprive her of the control of her property. A suit, of what nature does not appear, had been decided against her at Caen, and she had appealed to the Parliament of Normandy. Her lawyers were in despair; but, as her biographer justly observes, "the saints have resources which others have not." A vow to St. Joseph secured his intercession and gained her case. Another thought now filled her with agitation. Her plans were laid, and the time of action drew near. How could she endure the distress of her father, when he learned that she had deluded him with a false marriage, and that she and all that was hers were bound for the wilderness of Canada? Happily for him, he fell ill, and died in ignorance of the deceit that had been practised upon him.7

Whatever may be thought of the quality of Madame de la Peltrie's devotion, there can be no reasonable doubt of its sincerity or its ardor; and yet one can hardly fail to see in her the signs of that restless longing for éclat, which, with some women, is a ruling passion. When, in company with Bernières, she passed from Alençon to Tours, and from Tours to Paris, an object of attention to nuns, priests, and prelates,--when the Queen herself summoned her to an interview,--it may be that the profound contentment of soul ascribed to her had its origin in sources not exclusively of the spirit. At Tours, she repaired to the Ursuline convent. The Superior and all the nuns met her at the entrance of the cloister, and, separating into two rows as she appeared, sang the Veni Creator, while the bell of the monastery sounded its loudest peal. Then they led her in triumph to their church, sang Te Deum, and, while the honored guest knelt before the altar, all the sisterhood knelt around her in a semicircle. Their hearts beat high within them. That day they were to know who of their number were chosen for the new convent of Quebec, of which Madame de la Peltrie was to be the foundress; and when their devotions were over, they flung themselves at her feet, each begging with tears that the lot might fall on her. Aloof from this throng of enthusiastic suppliants stood a young nun, Marie de St. Bernard, too timid and too modest to ask the boon for which her fervent heart was longing. It was granted without asking. This delicate girl was chosen, and chosen wisely. [Casgrain, Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, 271-273. There is a long account of Marie de St. Bernard, by Ragueneau, in the Relation of 1652. Here it is said that she showed an unaccountable indifference as to whether she went to Canada or not, which, however, was followed by an ardent desire to go.]

There was another nun who stood apart, silent and motionless,--a stately figure, with features strongly marked and perhaps somewhat masculine;8 but, if so, they belied her, for Marie de l'Incarnation was a woman to the core. For her there was no need of entreaties; for she knew that the Jesuits had made her their choice, as Superior of the new convent. She was born, forty years before, at Tours, of a good bourgeois  family. As she grew up towards maturity, her qualities soon declared themselves. She had uncommon talents and strong religious susceptibilities, joined to a vivid imagination,--an alliance not always desirable under a form of faith where both are excited by stimulants so many and so powerful. Like Madame de la Peltrie, she married, at the desire of her parents, in her eighteenth year. The marriage was not happy. Her biographers say that there was no fault on either side. Apparently, it was a severe case of "incompatibility." She sought her consolation in the churches; and, kneeling in dim chapels, held communings with Christ and the angels. At the end of two years her husband died, leaving her with an infant son. She gave him to the charge of her sister, abandoned herself to solitude and meditation, and became a mystic of the intense and passional school. Yet a strong maternal instinct battled painfully in her breast with a sense of religious vocation. Dreams, visions, interior voices, ecstasies, revulsions, periods of rapture and periods of deep dejection, made up the agitated tissue of her life. She fasted, wore hair-cloth, scourged herself, washed dishes among the servants, and did their most menial work. She heard, in a trance, a miraculous voice. It was that of Christ, promising to become her spouse. Months and years passed, full of troubled hopes and fears, when again the voice sounded in her ear, with assurance that the promise was fulfilled, and that she was indeed his bride. Now ensued phenomena which are not infrequent among Roman Catholic female devotees, when unmarried, or married unhappily, and which have their source in the necessities of a woman's nature. To her excited thought, her divine spouse became a living presence; and her language to him, as recorded by herself, is that of the most intense passion. She went to prayer, agitated and tremulous, as if to a meeting with an earthly lover. "O my Love!" she exclaimed, "when shall I embrace you? Have you no pity on me in the torments that I suffer? Alas! alas! my Love, my Beauty, my Life! instead of healing my pain, you take pleasure in it. Come, let me embrace you, and die in your sacred arms!" And again she writes: "Then, as I was spent with fatigue, I was forced to say, 'My divine Love, since you wish me to live, I pray you let me rest a little, that I may the better serve you'; and I promised him that afterward I would suffer myself to consume in his chaste and divine embraces."9

Clearly, here is a case for the physiologist as well as the theologian; and the "holy widow," as her biographers call her, becomes an example, and a lamentable one, of the tendency of the erotic principle to ally itself with high religious excitement.

But the wings of imagination will tire and droop, the brightest dream-land of contemplative fancy grow dim, and an abnormal tension of the faculties find its inevitable reaction at last. From a condition of highest exaltation, a mystical heaven of light and glory, the unhappy dreamer fell back to a dreary earth, or rather to an abyss of darkness and misery. Her biographers tell us that she became a prey to dejection, and thoughts of infidelity, despair, estrangement from God, aversion to mankind, pride, vanity, impurity, and a supreme disgust at the rites of religion. Exhaustion produced common-sense, and the dreams which had been her life now seemed a tissue of illusions. Her confessor became a weariness to her, and his words fell dead on her ear. Indeed, she conceived a repugnance to the holy man. Her old and favorite confessor, her oracle, guide, and comforter, had lately been taken from her by promotion in the Church,--which may serve to explain her dejection; and the new one, jealous of his predecessor, told her that all his counsels had been visionary and dangerous to her soul. Having overwhelmed her with this announcement, he left her, apparently out of patience with her refractory and gloomy mood; and she remained for several months deprived of spiritual guidance. [Casgrain, 195-197.] Two years elapsed before her mind recovered its tone, when she soared once more in the seventh heaven of imaginative devotion.

Marie de l'Incarnation, we have seen, was unrelenting in every practice of humiliation; dressed in mean attire, did the servants' work, nursed sick beggars, and, in her meditations, taxed her brain with metaphysical processes of self-annihilation. And yet, when one reads her "Spiritual Letters," the conviction of an enormous spiritual pride in the writer can hardly be repressed. She aspired to that inner circle of the faithful, that aristocracy of devotion, which, while the common herd of Christians are busied with the duties of life, eschews the visible and the present, and claims to live only for God. In her strong maternal affection she saw a lure to divert her from the path of perfect saintship. Love for her child long withheld her from becoming a nun; but at last, fortified by her confessor, she left him to his fate, took the vows, and immured herself with the Ursulines of Tours. The boy, frenzied by his desertion, and urged on by indignant relatives, watched his opportunity, and made his way into the refectory of the convent, screaming to the horrified nuns to give him back his mother. As he grew older, her anxiety increased; and at length she heard in her seclusion that he had fallen into bad company, had left the relative who had sheltered him, and run off, no one knew whither. The wretched mother, torn with anguish, hastened for consolation to her confessor, who met her with stern upbraidings. Yet, even in this her intensest ordeal, her enthusiasm and her native fortitude enabled her to maintain a semblance of calmness, till she learned that the boy had been found and brought back.

Strange as it may seem, this woman, whose habitual state was one of mystical abstraction, was gifted to a rare degree with the faculties most useful in the practical affairs of life. She had spent several years in the house of her brother-in-law. Here, on the one hand, her vigils, visions, and penances set utterly at nought the order of a well-governed family; while, on the other, she made amends to her impatient relative by able and efficient aid in the conduct of his public and private affairs. Her biographers say, and doubtless with truth, that her heart was far away from these mundane interests; yet her talent for business was not the less displayed. Her spiritual guides were aware of it, and saw clearly that gifts so useful to the world might be made equally useful to the Church. Hence it was that she was chosen Superior of the convent which Madame de la Peltrie was about to endow at Quebec. [The combination of religious enthusiasm, however extravagant and visionary, with a talent for business, is not very rare. Nearly all the founders of monastic Orders are examples of it.]

Yet it was from heaven itself that Marie de l'Incarnation received her first "vocation" to Canada. The miracle was in this wise.

In a dream she beheld a lady unknown to her. She took her hand; and the two journeyed together westward, towards the sea. They soon met one of the Apostles, clothed all in white, who, with a wave of his hand, directed them on their way. They now entered on a scene of surpassing magnificence. Beneath their feet was a pavement of squares of white marble, spotted with vermilion, and intersected with lines of vivid scarlet; and all around stood monasteries of matchless architecture. But the two travellers, without stopping to admire, moved swiftly on till they beheld the Virgin seated with her Infant Son on a small temple of white marble, which served her as a throne. She seemed about fifteen years of age, and was of a "ravishing beauty." Her head was turned aside; she was gazing fixedly on a wild waste of mountains and valleys, half concealed in mist. Marie de l'Incarnation approached with outstretched arms, adoring. The vision bent towards her, and, smiling, kissed her three times; whereupon, in a rapture, the dreamer awoke. [Marie de l'Incarnation recounts this dream at great length in her letters; and Casgrain copies the whole, verbatim, as a revelation from God.]

She told the vision to Father Dinet, a Jesuit of Tours. He was at no loss for an interpretation. The land of mists and mountains was Canada, and thither the Virgin called her. Yet one mystery remained unsolved. Who was the unknown companion of her dream? Several years had passed, and signs from heaven and inward voices had raised to an intense fervor her zeal for her new vocation, when, for the first time, she saw Madame de la Peltrie on her visit to the convent at Tours, and recognized, on the instant, the lady of her nocturnal vision. No one can be surprised at this who has considered with the slightest attention the phenomena of religious enthusiasm.

On the fourth of May, 1639, Madame de la Peltrie, Marie de l'Incarnation, Marie de St. Bernard, and another Ursuline, embarked at Dieppe for Canada. In the ship were also three young hospital nuns, sent out to found at Quebec a Hôtel Dieu, endowed by the famous niece of Richelieu, the Duchesse d'Aiguillon. [Juchereau, Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu ae Québec, 4.] Here, too, were the Jesuits Chaumonot and Poncet, on the way to their mission, together with Father Vimont, who was to succeed Le Jeune in his post of Superior. To the nuns, pale from their cloistered seclusion, there was a strange and startling novelty in this new world of life and action,--the ship, the sailors, the shouts of command, the flapping of sails, the salt wind, and the boisterous sea. The voyage was long and tedious. Sometimes they lay in their berths, sea-sick and woe-begone; sometimes they sang in choir on deck, or heard mass in the cabin. Once, on a misty morning, a wild cry of alarm startled crew and passengers alike. A huge iceberg was drifting close upon them. The peril was extreme. Madame de la Peltrie clung to Marie de l'Incarnation, who stood perfectly calm, and gathered her gown about her feet that she might drown with decency. It is scarcely necessary to say that they were saved by a vow to the Virgin and St. Joseph. Vimont offered it in behalf of all the company, and the ship glided into the open sea unharmed.

They arrived at Tadoussac on the fifteenth of July; and the nuns ascended to Quebec in a small craft deeply laden with salted codfish, on which, uncooked, they subsisted until the first of August, when they reached their destination. Cannon roared welcome from the fort and batteries; all labor ceased; the storehouses were closed; and the zealous Montmagny, with a train of priests and soldiers, met the new-comers at the landing. All the nuns fell prostrate, and kissed the sacred soil of Canada.10 They heard mass at the church, dined at the fort, and presently set forth to visit the new settlement of Sillery, four miles above Quebec.

Noel Brulart de Sillery, a Knight of Malta, who had once filled the highest offices under the Queen Marie de Médicis, had now severed his connection with his Order, renounced the world, and become a priest. He devoted his vast revenues--for a dispensation of the Pope had freed him from his vow of poverty--to the founding of religious establishments.11 Among other endowments, he had placed an ample fund in the hands of the Jesuits for the formation of a settlement of Christian Indians at the spot which still bears his name. On the strand of Sillery, between the river and the woody heights behind, were clustered the small log-cabins of a number of Algonquin converts, together with a church, a mission-house, and an infirmary,--the whole surrounded by a palisade. It was to this place that the six nuns were now conducted by the Jesuits. The scene delighted and edified them; and, in the transports of their zeal, they seized and kissed every female Indian child on whom they could lay hands, "without minding," says Father Le Jeune, "whether they were dirty or not." "Love and charity," he adds, "triumphed over every human consideration."12

The nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu soon after took up their abode at Sillery, whence they removed to a house built for them at Quebec by their foundress, the Duchesse d'Aiguillon. The Ursulines, in the absence of better quarters, were lodged at first in a small wooden tenement under the rock of Quebec, at the brink of the river. Here they were soon beset with such a host of children, that the floor of their wretched tenement was covered with beds, and their toil had no respite. Then came the small-pox, carrying death and terror among the neighboring Indians. These thronged to Quebec in misery and desperation, begging succor from the French. The labors both of the Ursulines and of the hospital nuns were prodigious. In the infected air of their miserable hovels, where sick and dying savages covered the floor, and were packed one above another in berths,--amid all that is most distressing and most revolting, with little food and less sleep, these women passed the rough beginning of their new life. Several of them fell ill. But the excess of the evil at length brought relief; for so many of the Indians died in these pest-houses that the survivors shunned them in horror.

But how did these women bear themselves amid toils so arduous? A pleasant record has come down to us of one of them,--that fair and delicate girl, Marie de St. Bernard, called, in the convent, Sister St. Joseph, who had been chosen at Tours as the companion of Marie de l'Incarnation. Another Ursuline, writing at a period when the severity of their labors was somewhat relaxed, says, "Her disposition is charming. In our times of recreation, she often makes us cry with laughing: it would be hard to be melancholy when she is near." [Lettre de la Mère Ste Claire à une de ses Sœurs Ursulines de Paris, Québec, 2 Sept., 1640.--See Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 38.]

It was three years later before the Ursulines and their pupils took possession of a massive convent of stone, built for them on the site which they still occupy. Money had failed before the work was done, and the interior was as unfinished as a barn. [The interior was finished after a year or two, with cells as usual. There were four chimneys, with fireplaces burning a hundred and seventy-five cords of wood in a winter; and though the nuns were boxed up in beds which closed like chests, Marie de l'Incarnation complains bitterly of the cold. See her letter of Aug. 26, 1644.] Beside the cloister stood a large ash-tree; and it stands there still. Beneath its shade, says the convent tradition, Marie de l'Incarnation and her nuns instructed the Indian children in the truths of salvation; but it might seem rash to affirm that their teachings were always either wise or useful, since Father Vimont tells us approvingly, that they reared their pupils in so chaste a horror of the other sex, that a little girl, whom a man had playfully taken by the hand, ran crying to a bowl of water to wash off the unhallowed influence. [Vimont, Relation, 1642, 112 (Cramoisy).]

Now and henceforward one figure stands nobly conspicuous in this devoted sisterhood. Marie de l'Incarnation, no longer lost in the vagaries of an insane mysticism, but engaged in the duties of Christian charity and the responsibilities of an arduous post, displays an ability, a fortitude, and an earnestness which command respect and admiration. Her mental intoxication had ceased, or recurred only at intervals; and false excitements no longer sustained her. She was racked with constant anxieties about her son, and was often in a condition described by her biographers as a "deprivation of all spiritual consolations." Her position was a very difficult one. She herself speaks of her life as a succession of crosses and humiliations. Some of these were due to Madame de la Peltrie, who, in a freak of enthusiasm, abandoned her Ursulines for a time, as we shall presently see, leaving them in the utmost destitution. There were dissensions to be healed among them; and money, everything, in short, to be provided. Marie de l'Incarnation, in her saddest moments, neither failed in judgment nor slackened in effort. She carried on a vast correspondence, embracing every one in France who could aid her infant community with money or influence; she harmonized and regulated it with excellent skill; and, in the midst of relentless austerities, she was loved as a mother by her pupils and dependants. Catholic writers extol her as a saint.13 Protestants may see in her a Christian heroine, admirable, with all her follies and her faults.

The traditions of the Ursulines are full of the virtues of Madame de la Peltrie,--her humility, her charity, her penances, and her acts of mortification. No doubt, with some little allowance, these traditions are true; but there is more of reason than of uncharitableness in the belief, that her zeal would have been less ardent and sustained, if it had had fewer spectators. She was now fairly committed to the conventual life, her enthusiasm was kept within prescribed bounds, and she was no longer mistress of her own movements. On the one hand, she was anxious to accumulate merits against the Day of Judgment; and, on the other, she had a keen appreciation of the applause which the sacrifice of her fortune and her acts of piety had gained for her. Mortal vanity takes many shapes. Sometimes it arrays itself in silk and jewels; sometimes it walks in sackcloth, and speaks the language of self-abasement. In the convent, as in the world, the fair devotee thirsted for admiration. The halo of saintship glittered in her eyes like a diamond crown, and she aspired to outshine her sisters in humility. She was as sincere as Simeon Stylites on his column; and, like him, found encouragement and comfort in the gazing and wondering eyes below. [Madame de la Peltrie died in her convent in 1671. Marie de l'Incarnation died the following year. She had the consolation of knowing that her son had fulfilled her ardent wishes, and become a priest.]


1 There is a portrait of her, taken at a later period, of which a photograph is before me. She has a semi-religious dress, hands clasped in prayer, large dark eyes, a smiling and mischievous mouth, and a face somewhat pretty and very coquettish. An engraving from the portrait is prefixed to the "Notice Biographique de Madame de la Peltrie" in Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 348.

2 "Partagée ainsi entre l'amour filial et la religion, en proie aux plus poignantes angoisses, elle s'adressa à un religieux de la Compagnie de Jésus, dont elle connaissait la prudence consommée, et le supplia de l'éclairer de ses lumières. Ce religieux, après y avoir sérieusement réfléchi devant Dieu, lui répondit qu'il croyait avoir trouvé un moyen de tout concilier."--Casgrain, Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, 243.

3 "Enfin après avoir longtemps imploré les lumières du ciel, il remit toute l'affaire entre les mains de son directeur et de quelques amis intimes. Tous, d'un commun accord, lui déclarèrent que la gloire de Dieu y était interessée, et qu'il devait accepter."--Ibid., 244.

4 "The prudent young widow answered him with much respect and modesty, that, as she knew M. de Bernières to be a favorite with him, she also preferred him to all others."

The above is from a letter of Marie de l'Incarnation, translated by Mother St. Thomas, of the Ursuline convent of Quebec, in her Life of Madame de la Peltrie, 41. Compare Les Ursulines de Québec, 10, and the "Notice Biographique" in the same volume.

5 "Our virtuous widow did not lose courage. As she had given her confidence to M. de Bernières, she informed him of all that passed, while she flattered her father each day, telling him that this nobleman was too honorable to fail in keeping his word."--St. Thomas, Life of Madame de la Peltrie, 42.

6 "He" (Bernières) "went to stay at the house of a mutual friend, where they had frequent opportunities of seeing each other, and consulting the most eminent divines on the means of effecting this pretended marriage."--Ibid., 43.

7 It will be of interest to observe the view taken of this pretended marriage by Madame de la Peltrie's Catholic biographers. Charlevoix tells the story without comment, but with apparent approval. Sainte-Foi, in his Premières Ursulines de France, says, that, as God had taken her under His guidance, we should not venture to criticize her. Casgrain, in his Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, remarks:--

"Une telle conduite peut encore aujourd'hui paraître étrange à bien des personnes; mais outre que l'avenir fit bien voir que c'était une inspiration du ciel, nous pouvons répondre, avec un savant et pieux auteur, que nous ne devons point juger ceux que Dieu se charge lui-même de conduire."--p. 247.

Mother St. Thomas highly approves the proceeding, and says:--

"Thus ended the pretended engagement of this virtuous lady and gentleman, which caused, at the time, so much inquiry and excitement among the nobility in France, and which, after a lapse of two hundred years, cannot fail exciting feelings of admiration in the heart of every virtuous woman!"

Surprising as it may appear, the book from which the above is taken was written a few years since, in so-called English, for the instruction of the pupils in the Ursuline Convent at Quebec.

8 There is an engraved portrait of her, taken some years later, of which a photograph is before me. When she was "in the world," her stately proportions are said to have attracted general attention. Her family name was Marie Guyard. She was born on the eighteenth of October, 1599.

9 "Allant à l'oraison, je tressaillois en moi-même, et disois: Allons dans la solitude, mon cher amour, afin que je vous embrasse à mon aise, et que, respirant mon âme en vous, elle ne soit plus que vous-même par union d'amour. . . . Puis, mon corps étant brisé de fatigues, j'étois contrainte de dire: Mon divin amour, je vous prie de me laisser prendre un peu de repos, afin que je puisse mieux vous servir, puisque vous voulez que je vive. . . . Je le priois de me laisser agir; lui promettant de me laisser après cela consumer dans ses chastes et divins embrassemens. . . O amour! quand vous embrasserai-je? N'avez-vous point pitié de moi dans le tourment que je souffre? helas! helas! mon amour, ma beauté, ma vie! au lieu de me guérir, vous vous plaisez à mes maux. Venez donc que je vous embrasse, et que je meure entre vos bras sacréz!"

The above passages, from various pages of her journal, will suffice though they give but an inadequate idea of these strange extravagances. What is most astonishing is, that a man of sense like Charlevoix; in his Life of Marie de l'Incarnation, should extract them in full, as matter of edification and evidence of saintship. Her recent biographer, the Abbé Casgrain, refrains from quoting them, though he mentions them approvingly as evincing fervor. The Abbé Racine, in his Discours à l'Occasion du 192ème Anniversaire de l'heureuse Mort de la Vén. Mère de l'Incarnation, delivered at Quebec in 1864, speaks of them as transcendent proofs of the supreme favor of Heaven.--Some of the pupils of Marie de l'Incarnation also had mystical marriages with Christ; and the impassioned rhapsodies of one of them being overheard, she nearly lost her character, as it was thought that she was apostrophsizing an earthly lover.

10 Juchereau, 14; Le Clerc, II. 33; Ragueneau, Vie de Catherine de St. Augustin, "Epistre dédicatoire;" Le Jeune, Relation, 1639, Chap. II.; Charlevoix, Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, 264; "Acte de Reception," in Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 21.

11 See Vie de l'Illustre Serviteur de Dieu Noel Brulart de Sillery; also Études et Recherches Bioqraphiques sur le Chevalier Noel Brulart de Sillery, and several documents in Martin's translation of Bressani, Appendix IV.

12 ". . . sans prendre garde si ces petits enfans sauvages estoient sales ou non; . . . la loy d'amour et de charité l'emportoit par dessus toutes les considerations humaines."--Relation, 1639, 26 (Cramoisy).

13 There is a letter extant from Sister Anne de Ste Claire, an Ursuline who came to Quebec in 1640, written soon after her arrival, and containing curious evidence that a reputation of saintship already attached to Marie de l'Incarnation. "When I spoke to her," writes Sister Anne, speaking of her first interview, "I perceived in the air a certain odor of sanctity, which gave me the sensation of an agreeable perfume." See the letter in a recent Catholic work, Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 38, where the passage is printed in Italics, as worthy the especial attention of the pious reader.


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The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, 1867

Jesuits in North America

 

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