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1636–37.] SELF-DEVOTION OF THE JESUITS.
That equivocal morality, lashed by the withering satire of Pascal, – a morality built on the doctrine that all means are permissible for saving souls from perdition, and that sin itself is no sin when its object is the greater glory of God,” — found far less scope in the rude wilderness of the Hurons than among the interests, ambitions, and passions of civilized life. Nor were these men, chosen from the purest of their Order, personally well fitted to illustrate the capabilities of this elastic system. Yet now and then, by the light of their own writings, we may observe that the teachings of the school of Loyola had not been wholly without effect in the formation of their ethics.
But when we see them, in the gloomy February of 1637, and the gloomier months that followed, toiling on foot from one infected town to another, wading through the sodden snow, under the bare and dripping forests, drenched with incessant rains, till they descried at length through the storm the clustered dwellings of some barbarous hamlet, — when we see them entering, one after another, these wretched abodes of misery and darkness, and all for one sole end, the baptism of the sick and dying, we may smile at the futility of the object, but we must needs admire the self-sacrificing zeal with which it was pursued.
CHARACTER OF THE CANADIAN JESUITS.
JEAN DE BRÉBEUF. – CHARLES GARNIER. — JOSEPH MARIE CHAU
MONOT. — Noël CHABANEL. — Isaac JOGUES. -OTHER Jesuits. - NATURE OF THEIR FAITH. – SUPERNATURALISM. – Visions. — MIRACLES.
BEFORE pursuing farther these obscure, but noteworthy, scenes in the drama of human history, it will be well to indicate, so far as there are means of doing so, the distinctive traits of some of the chief actors. Mention has often been made of Brébeuf, — that masculine apostle of the Faith, — the Ajax of the mission. Nature had given him all the passions of a vigorous manhood, and religion had crushed them, curbed them, or tamed them to do her work, — like a dammed-up torrent, sluiced and guided to grind and saw and weave for the good of man. Beside him, in strange contrast, stands his co-laborer, Charles Garnier. Both were of noble birth and gentle nurture; but here the parallel ends. Garnier's face was beardless, though he was above thirty years old. For this he was laughed at by his friends in Paris, but admired by the Indians, who thought him
handsome.1 His constitution, bodily or mental, was by no means robust. From boyhood, he had shown a delicate and sensitive nature, a tender conscience, and a proneness to religious emotion. He had never gone with his schoolmates to inns and other places of amusement, but kept his pocket-money to give to beggars. One of his brothers relates of him, that, seeing an obscene book, he bought and destroyed it, lest other boys should be injured by it. He had always wished to be a Jesuit, and, after a novitiate which is described as most edifying, he became a professed member of the Order. The Church, indeed, absorbed the greater part, if not the whole, of this pious family, — one brother being a Carmelite, another a Capuchin, and a third a Jesuit, while there seems also to have been a fourth under vows. Of Charles Garnier there remain twenty-four letters, written at various times to his father and two of his brothers, chiefly during his missionary life among the Hurons. They breathe the deepest and most intense Roman Catholic piety, and a spirit enthusiastic, yet sad, as of one renouncing all the hopes and prizes of the world, and living for Heaven alone. The affections of his sensitive nature, severed from earthly objects, found relief in an ardent adoration of the Virgin Mary. With none of the bone and sinew of rugged manhood he entered, not only without hesitation, but with eagerness, on a life which would have tried the boldest; and, sustained by the spirit within him, he was more than equal to it. His fellowmissionaries thought him a saint; and had he lived a century or two earlier, he would perhaps have been canonized: yet, while all his life was a willing martyrdom, one can discern, amid his admirable virtues, some slight lingerings of mortal vanity. Thus, in three several letters, he speaks of his great success in baptizing, and plainly intimates that he had sent more souls to Heaven than the other Jesuits. 1
1“C'est pourquoi j'ai bien gagne à quitter la France, ou vous me fesiez la guerre de n'avoir point de barbe; car c'est ce qui me fait estimer beau des Sauvages.” — Lettres de Garnier, MSS.
Next appears a young man of about twenty-seven years, Joseph Marie Chaumonot. Unlike Brébeuf and Garnier, he was of humble origin, — his father being a vine-dresser, and his mother the daughter of a poor village schoolmaster. At an early age they sent him to Châtillon on the Seine, where he lived with his uncle, a priest, who taught him to speak Latin, and awakened his religious susceptibilities, which were naturally strong. This did not prevent him from yielding to the persuasions of one of his 1637.] JOSEPH MARIE CHAUMONOT. 191 companions to run off to Beaune, a town of Bur. gundy, where the fugitives proposed to study music under the Fathers of the Oratory. To provide funds for the journey, he stole a sum of about the value of a dollar from his uncle, the priest. This act, which seems to have been a mere peccadillo of boyish levity, determined his future career. Finding himself in total destitution at Beaune, he wrote to his mother for money, and received in reply an order from his father to come home. Stung with the thought of being posted as a thief in his native village, he resolved not to do so, but to set out forthwith on a pilgrimage to Rome; and accordingly, tattered and penniless, he took the road for the sacred city. Soon a conflict began within him between his misery and the pride which forbade him to beg. The pride was forced to succumb. He begged from door to door; slept under sheds by the wayside, or in haystacks ; and now and then found lodging and a meal at a convent. Thus, sometimes alone, sometimes with vagabonds whom he met on the road, he made his way through Savoy and Lombardy in a pitiable condition of destitution, filth, and disease. At length he reached Ancona, when the thought occurred to him of visiting the Holy House of Loretto, and imploring the succor of the Virgin Mary. Nor were his hopes disappointed. He had reached that renowned shrine, knelt, paid his devotions, and offered his prayer, when, as he issued from the door of the chapel, he was accosted by a young man, whom he
1 The above sketch of Garnier is drawn from various sources. Observations du P. Henri de St. Joseph Carme, sur son Frère le P. Charles Garnier, MS. – Abré jé de la Vie du R. Père Charles Garnier, MS. This unpublished sketch bears the signature of the Jesuit Ragueneau, with the date 1652. For the opportunity of consulting it I am indebted to Rev. Felix Martin, S. J. - Lettres du P. Charles Garnier, MSS. These embrace his correspondence from the Huron country, and are exceedingly characteristic and striking. There is another letter in Carayon, Première Mission. Garnier's family was wealthy, as well as noble. Its members seem to have been strongly attached to each other, and the young priest's father was greatly distressed at his departure for Canada.