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ual 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 naught 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.1
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
i 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.
marble, spotted with vermilion, and intersected with lines of vivid scarlet; and all around stood monasteries of matchless architecture. But the two trayellers, 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.1.
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.
1 Marie de l'Incarnation recounts this dream at great length in her letters, and Casgrain copies the whole, verbatim, as a revelation from God
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.1 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 fapping 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;
1 Juchereau, Ilistoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 4.
BRULART DE SILLERY.
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. 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. 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
1 Juchereau, 14; Le Clerc, ii. 33; Ragueneau, Vie de Catherine de St. Augustin, “ Epistre dedicatoire;” Le Jeune, Relation, 16:39, chap. ii.; Charlevoix, Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, 264; “Acte de Reception,” in Les Ursulines de Québec, i. 21.
2 See Vie de l'Illustre Serviteur de Dieu Noel Brulart de Sillery; also Études et Recherches Biographiques sur le Chevalier Voel Brulart de Sillery, and several documents in Martin's translation of Bressani, Appendix IV.
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 fe. male 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.”i
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
1“... 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, 20 (Cramoisy).