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Bishop Lavel
Chapter IV Establishment of the Seminary


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, Quin-tilian, 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 M£zy 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 Mdzy. 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. Th£r&se; 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,1 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 Berni&res, 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 Berni&res, 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 Beaupr£ was also acquired, which with remarkable foresight the bishop exchanged for the lie Jesus. "It was prudent," remarks the Abb£ 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.


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