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THE HURON AND THE JESUIT.
ENTHUSIASM FOR THE MISSION. - SICKNESS OF THE PRIESTS. – THE
PEST AMONG THE HURONS. – THE JESUIT ON HIS ROUNDS. — EFFORTS AT CONVERSION. -- PRIESTS AND SORCERERS. — THE MAN-DEVIL. - THE MAGICIAN'S PRESCRIPTION. — INDIAN Doc. TORS AND PATIENTS. - COVERT BAPTISMS. – SELF-DEVOTION OF THE JESUITS.
MEANWHILE, from Oid France to New came succors and reinforcements to the missions of the forest. More Jesuits crossed the sea to urge on the work of conversion. These were no stern exiles, seeking on barbarous shores an asylum for a persecuted faith. Rank, wealth, power, and royalty itself smiled on their enterprise, and bade them God-speed. Yet, withal, a fervor more intense, a self-abnegation more complete, a self-devotion more constant and enduring will scarcely find its record on the page of human history.
Holy Mother Church, linked in sordid wedlock to governments and thrones, numbered among her servants a host of the worldly and the proud, whose service of God was but the service of themselves, – and many, too, who, in the sophistry of the human heart, 1636.7 ENTIILSIASM FOR THE MISSION. 173 thought themselves true soldiers of Heaven, while earthly pride, interest, and passion were the lifesprings of their zeal. This mighty Church of Rome, in her imposing march along the high road of history, heralded as infallible and divine, astounds the gazing world with prodigies of contradiction, — now the protector of the oppressed, now the right arm of tyrants; now breathing charity and love, now dark with the passions of Hell; now beaming with celestial truth, now masked in hypocrisy and lies; now a virgin, now a harlot; an imperial queen, and a tinselled actress. Clearly, she is of earth, not of heaven; and her transcendently dramatic life is a type of the good and ill, the baseness and nobleness, the foulness and purity, the love and hate, the pride, passion, truth, falsehood, fierceness, and tenderness, that battle in the restless heart of man.
It was her nobler and purer part that gave life to the early missions of New France. That gloomy wilderness, those hordes of savages, had nothing to tempt the ambitious, the proud, the grasping, or the indolent. Obscure toil, solitude, privation, hardship, and death were to be the missionary's portion. He who set sail for the country of the Hurons left behind him the world and all its prizes. True, he acted under orders, – obedient, like a soldier, to the word of command; but the astute Society of Jesus knew its members, weighed each in the balance, gave each his fitting task; and when the word was passed to embark for New France, it was but the response to a
secret longing of the fervent heart. The letters of these priests, departing for the scene of their labors, breathe a spirit of enthusiastic exaltation, which, to a colder nature and a colder faith, may sometimes seem overstrained, but which is in no way disproportionate to the vastness of the effort and the sacrifice demanded of them.1
All turned with longing eyes towards the mission of the Hurons; for here the largest harvest promised to repay their labor, and here hardships and dangers most abounded. Two Jesuits, Pijart and Le Mer
1 The following are passages from letters of missionaries at this time. See “Divers Sentimens," appended to the Relation of 1635.
“On dit que les premiers qui fondent les Eglises d'ordinaire sont saincts : cette pensée m'attendrit si fort le cœur, que quoy que ie me voye icy fort inutile dans ceste fortunée Nouuelle France, si faut-il que i'auoüe que ie ne me sçaurois defendre d'vne pensée qui me presse le cœur: Cupio impendi, et superimpendi pro vobis, Pauure Nouuelle France, ie desire me sacrifier pour ton bien, et quand il me deuroit couster mille vies, moyennant que ie puisse aider à sauuer vne seule âme, ie seray trop heureux, et ma vie tres bien employée."
“Ma consolation parmy les Hurons, c'est que tous les iours ie me confesse, et puis ie dis la Messe, comme si ie deuois prendre le Viatique et mourir ce iour là, et ie ne crois pas qu'on puisse mieux viure, ny auec plus de satisfaction et de courage, et mesme de merites, que viure en un lieu, où on pense pouuoir mourir tous les jours, et auoir la deuise de S. Paul, Quotidie morior, fratres, etc. mes freres, ie fais estat de mourir tous les iours.”
“Que ne void la Nouuelle France que par les yeux de chair et de nature, il n'y void que des bois et des croix; mais qui les considere auec les yeux de la grace et d'vne bonne vocation, il n'y void que Dieu, les vertus et les graces, et on y trouue tant et de si solides consolations, que si ie pouuois acheter la Nouuelle France, en don. nant tout le Paradis Terrestre, certainement ie l'acheterois. Mon Dieu, qu'il fait bon estre au lieu où Dieu nous a mis de sa grace! veritablement i'ay trouué icy ce que i'auois esperé, vn caur selon le cœur de Dieu, qui ne cherche que Dieu."
1536–37.] PESTILENCE AMONG THE ITURONS. 175 cier, had been sent thither in 1635; and in midsummer of the next year three more arrived, – Jogues, Chatelain, and Garnier. When, after their long and lonely journey, they reached Ihonatiria one by one, they were received by their brethren with scanty fare indeed, but with a fervor of affectionate welcome which more than made amends; for among these priests, united in a community of faith and enthusiasm, there was far more than the genial comradeship of men joined in a common enterprise of self-devotion and peril. On their way, they had met Daniel and Davost descending to Quebec, to establish there a seminary of Huron children, — a project long cherished by Brébeuf and his companions.
Scarcely had the new-comers arrived, when they were attacked by a contagious fever, which turned their mission-house into a hospital. Jogues, Garnier, and Chatelain fell ill in turn; and two of their domestics also were soon prostrated, though the only one of the number who could hunt fortunately escaped. Those who remained in health attended the sick, and the sufferers vied with each other in efforts often beyond their strength to relieve their companions in misfortune. The disease in no case proved fatal. but scarcely had health begun to return to their household, when an unforeseen calamity demanded the exertion of all their energies.
1 “Ie luy preparay de ce que nous auions, pour le receuoir, mais quel festin! vne poignée de petit poisson sec auec vn peu de farine; i'enuoyay chercher quelques nouueaux espics, que nous luy fismes rostir à la façon du pays ; mais il est vray que dans son cœur et à l'entendre, il ne fit iamais meilleure chere. La ioye qui se ressent à ces entreueuës semble estre quelque image du contentement des bien-heureux à leur arriuée dans le Ciel, tant elle est pleine de ruauité.” – Le Mercier, Relation des Ilurons, 1637, 106.
The pestilence, which for two years past had from time to time visited the Huron towns, now returned with tenfold violence, and with it soon appeared a new and fearful scourge, — the small-pox. Terror was universal. The contagion increased as autumn advanced; and when winter came, far from ceasing, as the priests had hoped, its ravages were appalling. The season of Huron festivity was turned to a season of mourning; and such was the despondency and dismay, that suicide became frequent. The Jesuits, singly or in pairs, journeyed in the depth of winter from village to village, ministering to the sick, and seeking to commend their religious teachings by their efforts to relieve bodily distress. Happily, perhaps, for their patients, they had no medicine but a little senna. A few raisins were left, however; and one or two of these, with a spoonful of sweetened water, were always eagerly accepted by the sufferers, who thought them endowed with some mysterious and sovereign efficacy. No house was left unvisited. As the missionary, physician at once to body and soul, entered one of these smoky dens, he saw the inmates, their heads muffled in their robes of skins, seated around the fires in silent dejection. Everywhere was
i Lettre de Brébeuf au T. R. P. Mutio Vitelleschi, 20 Mai, 1637, ir Carayon, 157. Le Mercier, Relation des Ilurons, 1637, 120, 123.