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Bishop Lavel
Chapter VII The Smaller Seminary


THE smaller seminary, founded by the Bishop of Petraea in 1668, for youths destined to the ecclesiastical life, justified the expectations of its founder, and witnessed an ever increasing influx of students. On the day of its inauguration, October 9th, there were only as yet eight French pupils and six Huron children. For lack of teachers the young neophytes, placed under the guidance of directors connected with the seminary, attended during the first years the classes of the Jesuit Fathers. Their special costume was a blue cloak, confined by a belt. At this period the College of the Jesuits contained already some sixty resident scholars, and what proves to us that serious studies were here pursued is that several scholars are quoted in the memoirs as having successfully defended in the presence of the highest authorities of the colony theses on physics and philosophy.

If the first bishop of New France had confined himself to creating one large seminary, it is certain that his chosen work, which was the preparation for the Church of a nursery of scholars and priests, the apostles of the future, would not have been complete.

For many young people, indeed, who lead a worldly existence, and find themselves all at once transferred to the serious, religious life of the seminary, the surprise, and sometimes the discomfort, may be great. One must adapt oneself to this at-niosphere of prayer, meditation and study. The rules of prayer are certainly not beyond the limits of an ordinary mind, but the practice is more difficult than the theory. Not without effort can a youthful imagination, a mind ardent and consumed by its own fervour, relinquish all the memories of family and social occupations, in order to withdraw into silence, inward peace, and the mortification of the senses. To the devoutly-minded our worldly life may well seem petty in comparison with the more spiritual existence, and in the religious life, for the priest especially, lies the sole source and the indispensable condition of happiness. But one must learn to be thus happy by humility, study and prayer, as one learns to be a soldier by obedience, discipline and exercise, and in nothing did Laval more reveal his discernment than in the recognition of the fact that the transition from one life to the other must be effected only after careful instruction and wisely-guided deliberation.

The aim of the smaller seminary is to guide, by insensible gradations towards the great duties and the great responsibilities of the priesthood, young men upon whom the spirit of God seems to have rested. There were in Israel schools of prophets; this does not mean that their training ended in the diploma of a seer or an oracle, but that this novitiate was favourable to the action of God upon their souls, and inclined them thereto. A smaller seminary possesses also the hope of the harvest. It is there that the minds of the students, by exercises proportionate to their age, become adapted unconstrainedly to pious reading, to the meditation and the grave studies in whose cycle the life of the priest must pass.

We shall not be surprised if the prelate's followers recognized in the works of faith which sprang up in his footsteps and progressed on all hands at Ville-Marie and at Quebec shining evidences of the protection of Mary to whose tutelage they had dedicated their establishments. This protection indeed has never been withheld, since to-day the fame of the university which sprang from the seminary, as a fruit develops from a bud, has crossed the seas. Father Monsabr£, the eloquent preacher of Notre-Dame in Paris, speaking of the union of science and faith, exclaimed: "There exists, in the field of the New World, an institution which has religiously preserved this holy alliance and the traditions of the older universities, the Laval University of Quebec."

Mgr. de Laval, while busying himself with the training of his clergy, watched over the instruction of youth. He protected his schools and his dioceses; at Quebec the Jesuits, and later the seminary, maintained even elementary schools. If we must believe the Abb£ de Latour and other writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the children of the early colonists, skilful in manual labour, showed, nevertheless, great indolence of mind. "In general," writes Latour, "Canadian children have intelligence, memory and facility, and they make rapid progress, but the fickleness of their character, a dominant taste for liberty, and their hereditary and natural inclination for physical exercise do not permit them to apply themselves with sufficient perseverance and assiduity to become learned men; satisfied with a certain measure of knowledge sufficient for the ordinary purposes of their occupations (and this is, indeed, usually possessed), we see no people deeply learned in any branch of science. We must further admit that there are few resources, few books, and little emulation. No doubt the resources will be multiplied, and clever persons will appear in proportion as the colony increases." Always eager to develop all that might serve for the propagation of the faith or the progress of the colony, the devoted prelate eagerly fostered this natural aptitude of the Canadians for the arts and trades, and he established at St. Joachim a boarding-school for country children; this offered, besides a solid primary education, lessons in agriculture and some training for different trades.

Mgr. de Laval gave many other proofs of his enlightened charity for the poor and the waifs of fortune; he approved and encouraged among other works the Brotherhood of Saint Anne at Quebec. This association of prayer and spiritual aid had been established but three years before his arrival; it was directed by a chaplain and two directors, the latter elected annually by secret ballot. He had wished to offer in 1660 a more striking proof of his devotion to the Mother of the Holy Virgin, and had caused to be built on the shore of Beauprd the first sanctuary of Saint Anne. This temple arose not far from a chapel begun two years before, under the care of the Abbe de Queylus. The origin of this place of devotion, it appears, was a great peril to which certain Breton sailors were exposed: assailed by a tempest in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, they made a vow to erect, if they escaped death, a chapel to good Saint Anne on the spot where they should land. Heaven heard their prayers, and they kept their word. The chapel erected by Mgr. de Laval was a very modest one, but the zealous missionary of Beaupre, the Abbe Morel, then chaplain, was the witness of many acts of ardent faith and sincere piety; the Bishop of Petraea himself made several pilgrimages to the place. " We confess," says he, "that nothing has aided us more efficaciously to support the burden of the pastoral charge of this growing church than the special devotion which all the inhabitants of this country dedicate to Saint Anne, a devotion which, we affirm it with certainty, distinguishes them from all other peoples." The poor little chapel, built of uprights, gave place in 1675 to a stone church erected by the efforts of M. Filion, proctor of the seminary, and it was noted for an admirable picture given by the viceroy, de Tracy, who did not disdain to make his pilgrimage like the rest, and to set thus an example which the great ones of the earth should more frequently give. This church lasted only a few years; Mgr. de Laval was still living when a third temple was built upon its site. This was enlarged in 1787, and gave place only in 1878 to the^ magnificent cathedral which we admire to-day. The faith which raised this sanctuary to consecrate it to Saint Anne did not die with its pious founder; it is still lively in our hearts, since in 1898 a hundred and twenty thousand pilgrims went to pray before the relic of Saint Anne, the precious gift of Mgr. de Laval.

In our days, hardly has the sun melted the thick mantle of snow which covers during six months the Canadian soil, hardly has the majestic St. Lawrence carried its last blocks of ice down to the ocean, when caravans of pious pilgrims from all quarters of the country wend their way towards the sanctuary raised upon the shores of Beaupr£. Whole families fill the cars; the boats of the Richelieu Company stop to receive passengers at all the charming villages strewn along the'banks of the river, and the cathedral which raises in the air its slender spires on either side of the immense statue of Saint Anne does not suffice to contain the ever renewed throng of the faithful.

Even in the time of Mgr. de Laval, pilgrimages to Saint Anne's were frequent, and it was not only French people but also savages who addressed to the Mother of the Virgin Mary fervent, and often very artless, prayers. The harvest became, in fact, more abundant in the missions, and "Les pretres ne pouvaient suffire aux sacrifices."

From the banks of the Saguenay at Tadousac, or from the shore of Hudson Bay, where Father Albanel was evangelizing the Indians, to the recesses of the Iroquois country, a Black Robe taught from interval to interval in a humble chapel the truths of the Christian religion. " We may say," wrote Father Dablon in 1671, "that the torch of the faith now illumines the four quarters of this New World. More than seven hundred baptisms have this year consecrated all our forests; more than twenty different missions incessantly occupy our Fathers among more than twenty diverse na-^lions ; and the chapels erected in the districts most remote from here are almost every day filled with these poor barbarians, and in some of them there have been consummated sometimes ten, twenty, and even thirty baptisms on a single occasion." And, ever faithful to the established power, the missionaries taught their neophytes not only religion, but also the respect due to the king. Let us hearken to Father Allouez speaking to the mission of Sault Ste. Marie: " Cast your eyes," says he, " upon the cross raised so high above your heads. It was upon that cross that Jesus Christ, the son of God, become a man by reason of His love for men, consented to be bound and to die, in order to satisfy His Eternal Father for our sins. He is the master of our life, the master of Heaven, earth and hell. It is He of whom I speak to you without ceasing, and whose name and word I have borne into all these countries. But behold at the same time this other stake, on which are hung the arms of the great captain of France, whom we call the king. This great leader lives beyond the seas; he is the captain of the greatest captains, and has not his peer in the world. All the captains that you have ever seen, and of whom you have heard speak, are only children beside him. He is like a great tree; the rest are only little plants crushed under men's footsteps as they walk. You know Onontio, the famous chieftain of Quebec; you know that he is the terror of the Iroquois, his mere name makes them tremble since he has desolated their country and burned their villages. Well, there are beyond the seas ten thousand Onontios like him. They are only the soldiers of this great captain, our great king, of whom I speak to you."

Mgr. de Laval ardently desired, then, the arrival of new workers for the gospel, and in the year 1668, the very year of the foundation of the seminary, his desire was fulfilled, as if Providence wished to reward His servant at once. Missionaries from France came to the aid of the priests of the Quebec seminary, and Sulpicians, such as MM. de Queylus, d'Urfe, Dallet and Brehan de Gallinée, arrived at Montreal; MM. Francis de Salignac-Fdnelon and Claude Trouve had already landed the year before. "I have during the last month," wrote the prelate, "commissioned two most good and virtuous apostles to go to an Iroquois community which has been for some years established quite near us on the northern side of the great Lake Ontario. One is M. de Fenelon, whose name is well-known in Paris, and the other M. Trouve. We have not yet been able to learn the result of their mission, but we have every reason to hope for its complete success."

While he was enjoining upon these two missionaries, on their departure for the mission on which he was sending them, that they should always remain in good relations with the Jesuit Fathers, he gave them some advice worthy of the most eminent doctors of the Church :—

"A knowledge of the language," he says, "is necessary in order to influence the savages. It is, nevertheless, one of the smallest parts of the equipment of a good missionary, just as in France to speak French well is not what makes a successful preacher. The talents which make good missionaries are :

"1. To be filled with the spirit of God; this spirit must animate our words and our hearts : Ex abundantia cordis os loquitur.

"2. To have great prudence in the choice and arrangement of the things which are necessary either to enlighten the understanding or to bend the will; all that does not tend in this direction is labour lost.

"3. To be very assiduous, in order not to lose opportunities of procuring the salvation of souls, and supplying the neglect which is often manifest in neophytes; for, since the devil on his part circuit tanquam leo rugiens, queer ens quern devoret, so we must be vigilant against his efforts, with care, gentleness and love.

"4. To have nothing in our life and in our manners which may appear to belie what we say, or which may estrange the minds and hearts of those whom we wish to win to God.

"5. We must make ourselves beloved by our gentleness, patience and charity, and win men's minds and hearts to incline them to God. Often a bitter word, an impatient act or a frowning countenance destroys in a moment what has taken a long time to produce.

"6. The spirit of God demands a peaceful and pious heart, not a restless and dissipated one; one should have a joyous and modest countenance; one should avoid jesting and immoderate laughter, and in general all that is contrary to a holy and joyful modesty: Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus homin-ibus."

The new Sulpicians had been most favourably received by Mgr. de Laval, and the more so since almost all of them belonged to great families and had renounced, like himself, ease and honour, to devote themselves to the rude apostleship of the Canadian missions.

The difficulties between the bishop and the Abb£ de Queylus had disappeared, and had left no trace of bitterness in the souls of these two servants of God. M. de Queylus gave good proof of this subsequently; he gave six thousand francs to the hospital of Quebec, of which one thousand were to endow facilities for the treatment of the poor, and five thousand for the maintenance of a choir-nun. His generosity, moreover, was proverbial: "1 cannot find a man more grateful for the favour that you have done him than M. de Queylus," wrote the intendant, Talon, to the minister, Colbert. "He is going to arrange his affairs in France, divide with his brothers, and collect his wordly goods to use them in Canada, at least so he has assured me.. If he has need of your protection, he is striving to make himself Worthy of it, and I know that he is most zealous for the welfare of this colony. I believe that a little show of benevolence on your part would redouble this zeal, of which 1 have good evidence, for what you desire the most, the education of the native children, which he furthers with all his might."

The abbe found the seminary in conditions very different from those prevailing at the time of his departure. In 1663, the members of the Company of Notre-Dame of Montreal had made over to the Sulpicians the whole Island of Montreal and the seigniory of St. Sulpice. Their purpose was to assure the future of the three works which they had not ceased, since the birth of their association, to seek to establish: a seminary for the education of priests in the colony, an institution of education for young girls, and a hospital for the care of the sick.

To learn the happy results due to the eloquence of MM. Trouv£ and de Fdnelon engaged in the evangelization of the tribes encamped to the north of Lake Ontario, or to that of MM. Dollier de Casson and Gallin^e preaching on the shores of Lake Erie, one must read the memoirs of the Jesuit Fathers. We must bear in mind that many facts, which might appear to redound too much to the glory of the missionaries, the modesty of these men refused to give to the public. We shall give an example. One day when M. de F^nelon had come down to Quebec, in the summer of 1669, to give account of his efforts to his bishop, Mgr. de Laval begged the missionary to write a short abstract of his labours for the memoirs. " Monseig-neur," replied humbly the modest Sulpician, " the greatest favour that you can do us is not to allow us to be mentioned." Will he, at least, like the traveller who, exhausted by fatigue and privation, reaches finally the promised land, repose in Capuan delights ? Mother Mary of the Incarnation informs us on this point: "M. L'abbd de Fdnelon," says she, " having wintered with the Iroquois, has paid us a visit. I asked him how he had been able to subsist, having had only sagamite1 as sole provision, and pure water to drink. He replied that he was so accustomed to it that he made no distinction between this food and any other, and that he was about to set out on his return to pass the winter again there with M. de Trouvd, having left him only to go and get the wherewithal to pay the Indians who feed them. The zeal of these great servants of God is admirable."

The activity and the devotion of the Jesuits and of the Sulpicians might thus make up for lack of numbers, and Mgr. de Laval judged that they were amply sufficient for the task of the holy ministry. But the intendant, Talon, feared lest the Society of Jesus should become omnipotent in the colony ; adopting from policy the famous device of Catherine de Medici, divide to rule, he hoped that an order of mendicant friars would counterbalance the influence of the sons of Loyola, and he brought with him from France, in 1670, Father Allard, Superior of the Recollets in the Province of St. Denis, and four other brothers of the same order.

We must confess that, if a new order of monks was to be established in Canada, it was preferable in all justice to apply to that of St. Francis rather than to any others, for had it not traced the first evangelical furrows in the new field and left glorious memories in the colony ?

Mgr. de Laval received from the king in 1671 the following letter: "My Lord Bishop of Petraea: "Having considered that the re-establishment of the monks of the Order of St. Francis on the lands which they formerly possessed in Canada might be of great avail for the spiritual consolation of my subjects and for the relief of your ecclesiastics in the said country, I send you this letter to tell you that my intention is that you should give to the Rev. Father Allard, the superior, and to the four monks whom he brings with him, the power of administering the sacraments to all those who may have need of them and who may have recourse to these reverend Fathers, and that, moreover, you should aid them with your authority in order that they may resume possession of all which belongs to them in the said country, to all of which I am persuaded you will willingly subscribe, by reason of the knowledge which you have of the relief which my subjects will receive. . ."

The prelate had not been consulted ; moreover, the intervention of the newcomers did not seem to him opportune. But he was obstinate and unapproachable only when he believed his conscience involved; he received the Recollets with great benevolence and rendered them all the service possible. "He gave them abundant aid," says Latour, "and furnished them for more than a year with food and lodging. Although the Order had come in spite of him, he gave them at the outset four missions: Three Rivers, He Perc£, St. John's River and Fort Frontenac. These good Fathers were surprised; they did not cease to praise the charity of the bishop, and confessed frankly that, having only come to oppose his clergy, they could not understand why they were so kindly treated."

After all, the breadth of character of these brave heroes of evangelic poverty could not but please the Canadian people ; ever gay and pleasant, and of even temper, they traversed the country to beg a meagre pittance. Everywhere received with joy, they were given a place at the common table; they were looked upon as friends, and the people related to them their joys and afflictions. Hardly was a robe of drugget descried upon the horizon when the children rushed forward, surrounded the good Father, and led him by the hand to the family fireside. The Recollets had always a good word for this one, a consolatory speech for that one, and on occasion, brought up as they had been, for the most part under a modest thatched roof, knew how to lend a hand at the plough, or suggest a good counsel if the flock were attacked by some sickness. On their departure, the benediction having been given to all, there was a vigorous handshaking, and already their hosts were discounting the pleasure of a future visit.

On their arrival the Recollet Fathers lodged not far from the Ursuline Convent, till the moment when, their former monastery on the St. Charles River being repaired, they were able to install themselves there. Some years later they built a simple refuge on land granted them in the Upper Town. Finally, having become almoners of the Chateau St. Louis, where the governor resided, they built their monastery opposite the castle, back to back with the magnificent church which bore the name of St. Anthony of Padua. They reconquered the popularity which they had enjoyed in the early days of the colony, and the bishop entrusted to their devotion numerous parishes and four missions. Unfortunately, they allowed themselves to be so influenced by M. de Frontenac, in spite of repeated warnings from Mgr. de Laval, that they espoused the cause of the governor in the disputes between the latter and the intendant, Duchesneau. Their gratitude towards M. de Frontenac, who always protected them, is easily explained, but it is no less true that they should have respected above all the authority of the prelate who alone had to answer before God for the religious administration of his diocese.


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