in the Church of Rome
This page contains Chapters 41-50
Table of Contents
Chapter 41 . . . Perversion of Dr. Newman to the Church of Rome in the light of his own Explanations, Common Sense and the Word of God Chapter 42 . . . Noviciate in the Monastery of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Longueuil- Some of the Thousand Acts of Folly and Idolatry which form the Life of a Monk- The Deplorable Fall of one of the Fathers- Fall of the Grand Vicar Quiblier- Sick in the Hotel Dieu of Montreal- Sister Urtubise: what she says of Maria Monk- The Two Missionaries to the Lumber Men- Fall and Punishment of a Father Oblate- What one of the best Father Oblates thinks of the Monks and the Monastery Chapter 43 . . . I accept the hospitality of the Rev. Mr. Brassard of Longueuil- I give my Reasons for Leaving the Oblates to Bishop Bourget- He presents me with a splendid Crucifix blessed by his Holiness for me, and accepts my Services in the Cause of Temperance in the Diocese of Montreal Chapter 44 . . . Preparations for the Last Conflict- Wise Counsel, Tears, and Distress of Father Mathew- Longueuil the First to Accept the Great Reform of Temperance- The whole District of Montreal, St. Hyacinthe and Three Rivers Conquered- The City of Montreal with the Sulpicians take the Pledge- Gold Medal- Officially named Apostle of Temperance in Canada- Gift of £500 from Parliament Chapter 45 . . . My Sermon on the Virgin Mary- Compliments of Bishop Prince- Stormy Night- First Serious Doubts about the Church of Rome- Faithful Discussion with the Bishop- The Holy Fathers opposed to the Modern Worship of the Virgin- The Branches of the Vine Chapter 46 . . . The Holy Fathers- New Mental Troubles at not finding the Doctines of my Church in their Writings- Purgatory and the Sucking Pig of the Poor Man of Varennes Chapter 47 . . . Letter from the Rev. Bishop Vandeveld, of Chicago- Vast Project of the Bishop of the United States to take Possession of the Rich Valley of the Mississippi and the Prairies of the West to Rule that Great Republic- They want to put me at the Heart of the Work- My Lectures on Temperance at Detroit- Intemperance of the Bishops and Priests of that City Chapter 48 . . . My Visit to Chicago in 1857- Bishop Vandeveld- His Predecessor Poisoned- Magnificent Prairies of the West- Return to Canada- Bad feelings of Bishop Bourget- I decline sending a Rich Woman to the Nunnery to enrich the Bishop- A Plot to destroy me Chapter 49 . . . The Plot to destroy me- The Interdict- The Retreat at the Jesuit's College- The Lost Girl, employed by the Bishop, Retracts- The Bishop Confounded, sees his Injustice, makes Amends- Testimonial Letters- The Chalice- The Benediction before I leave Canada Chapter 50 . . . Address presented me at Longueuil- I arrive at Chicago- I select the spot for my Colony- I build the first Chapel- Jealousy and Opposition of the Priests of Bourbounais and Chicago- Great Success of the Colony
CHAPTER 41 Back to Table of Contents
The year 1843 will be long remembered in the Church of Rome for the submission of Dr. Newman to her authority. This was considered by many Roman Catholics as one of the greatest triumphs ever gained by their church against Protestantism. But some of us, more acquainted with the daily contradictions and tergiversations of the Oxford divine, could not associate ourselves in the public rejoicings of our church.
From almost the very beginning of his public life, Dr. Newman as well as Dr. Pusey appeared to many of us as cowards and traitors in the Protestant camp, whose object was to betray the church which was feeding them, and which they were sworn to defend. They both seemed to us to be skillful but dishonest conspirators.
Dr. Newman, caught in the very act of that conspiracy, has boldly denied it. Brought before the tribunal of public opinion as a traitor who, though enrolled under the banners of the Church of England, was giving help and comfort to its foe, the Church of Rome, he has published a remarkable book under the title of "apologia pro vita sua," to exculpate himself. I hold in my hands the New York edition of 1865. Few men will read that book from beginning to end; and still fewer will understand it at its first reading. The art of throwing dust in the eyes of the public is brought to perfection in that work. I have read many books in my long life, but I have never met with anything like the Jesuit ability shown by Dr. Newman in giving a colour of truth to the most palpable errors and falsehoods. I have had to read it at least four times, with the utmost attention, before being sure of having unlocked all its dark corners and sophistries.
That we may be perfectly fair towards Dr. Newman, let us forget what his adversaries have written against him, and let us hear only what he says in his own defense. Here it is. I dare say that his most bitter enemies could never have been able to write a book so damaging against him as this one, which he has given us for his apology.
Let me tell the reader at once that I, with many other priests of Rome, felt at first an unspeakable joy at the reading of many of the "Tracts for the Times." It is true that we keenly felt the blows Dr. Newman was giving us now and then; but we were soon consoled by the more deadly blows which he was striking at his own Church the Church of England. Besides that, it soon became evident that the more he was advancing in his controversial work, the nearer he was coming to us. We were not long without saying to each other: "Dr. Newman is evidently, though secretly, for us; he is a Roman Catholic at heart, and will soon join us. It is only from want of moral courage and honesty that he remains a Protestant."
But from the very beginning there was a cloud in my mind, and in the minds of many other of my co-priests, about him. His contradictions were so numerous, his sudden transitions from one side to the other extreme, when speaking of Romanism and Anglicanism; his eulogiums of our Church today, and his abuses of it the very next day; his expressions of love and respect for his own Church in one tract, so suddenly followed by the condemnation of her dearest doctrines and practices in the next, caused many others, as well as myself, to suspect that he had no settled principles, or faith in any religion.
What was my surprise, when reading this strange book, I found that my suspicions were too well founded; that Dr. Newman was nothing else than one of those free-thinkers who had no real faith in any of the secret dogmas he was preaching, and on which he was writing so eloquently! What was my astonishment when, in 1865, I read in his own book the confession made by that unfortunate man that he was nothing else but a giant weathercock, when the whole people of England were looking upon him as one of the most sincere and learned ministers of the Gospel. Here in his own confession, pages 111, 112. Speaking of the years he had spent in the Episcopal Church as a minister, he says: "Alas! It was my portion, for whole years, to remain without any satisfactory basis for my religious profession; in a state of moral sickness, neither able to acquiesce in Anglicanism, or able to go to Rome!" This is Cardinal Newman, painted by himself! He tells us how miserable he was when an Episcopalian minister, by feeling that his religion had no basis no foundation!
hat is a preacher of religion who feels that he has no basis, no foundation, no reason to believe in that religion? Is he not that blind man of whom Christ speaks, "who leads other blind men into the ditch?"
Note it is not Rev. Charles Kingsley; it is not any of the able Protestant controversialists; it is not even the old Chiniquy who says that Dr. Newman was nothing else but an unbeliever, when the Protestant people were looking upon him as one of their most pious and sincere Christian theologians. It is Dr. Newman himself who, without suspecting it, is forced by the marvelous providence of God to reveal that deplorable fact in his "Apologia pro vita sua."
Now, what was the opinion entertained by him on the high and low sections of his church? Here are his very words, p. 91: "As to the High Church and the Low Church, I thought that the one had not much more of a logical basis than the other; while I had a thorough contempt for the Evangelical!" But please observe that, when this minister of the Church of England had found, with the help of Dr. Pusey, that this church had no logical basis, and that he had a "thorough contempt for the Evangelical," he kept a firm and continuous hold upon the living which he was enjoying from day to day. Nay, it is when paid by his church to preach her doctrines and fight her battles, that he set at work to raise another church! Of course, the new church was to have a firm basis of logic, history, and the Gospel: the new church was to be worthy of the British people it was to be the modern ark to save the perishing world!
The reader will, perhaps, think I am joking, and that I am caricaturing Dr. Newman. No! the hour in which we live is too solemn to be spent in jokes it is rather with tears and sobs that we must approach the subject. Here are the very words of Dr. Newman about the new church he wished to build after demolishing the Church of England as established by law. He says (page 116): "I have said enough on what I consider to have been the general objects of the various works which I wrote, edited, or prompted in the years which I am reviewing. I wanted to bring out in a substantive form a living Church of England, in a position proper to herself and founded on distinct principles; as far as paper could do it, and as earnestly preaching it and influencing others towards it could tend to make it a fact; a living church, made of flesh and blood, with voice, complexion, motion, and action, and a will of its own." If I had not said that these words were written by Dr. Newman, would the reader have suspected?
What is to be the name of the new church? Dr. Newman himself called it "Via Media." As the phrase indicates, it was to stand between the rival Churches of England and Rome, and it was to be built with the materials taken, as much as possible, from the ruins of both.
The first thing to be done was, then, to demolish that huge, illogical, unscriptural, unchristian church restored by the English Reformers. Dr. Newman bravely set to work, under the eye and direction of Dr. Pusey. His merciless hammer was heard almost day and night, from 1833 to 1843, striking alternately with hard blows, now against the church of the Pope, whom he called Antichrist, and then against his own church, which he was, very soon, to find still more corrupted and defiled than its anti-Christian rival. For as he was proceeding in his work of demolition, he tells us that he found more clearly, every day, that the materials and the foundations of the Church of Rome were exceedingly better than those of his own. He then determined to give a coup de grace to the Church of England, and strike such a blow that her walls would be for ever pulverized. His perfidious Tract XC. aims at this object.
Nothing can surpass the ability and the pious cunning with which Dr. Newman tries to conceal his shameful conspiracy in his "Apologia."
Hear the un-British and unmanly excuses which he gives for having deceived his readers, when he was looked upon as the most reliable theologian of the day, in defense of the doctrines of the Church of England. In pages 236 7 he says: "How could I ever hope to make them believe in a second theology, when I had cheated them in the first? With what face could I publish a new edition of a dogmatic creed, and ask them to receive it as gospel? Would it not be plain to them that no certainty was to be found anywhere? Well, in my defense I could but make a lame apology; however, it was the true one, viz., that I had not read the Fathers critically enough; that in such nice points as those which determine the angle of divergence between the two churches, I had made considerable miscalculations; and how came this about? Why, the fact was, unpleasant as it was to avow, that I had leaned too much upon the assertions of Usher, Jeremy Taylor, or Barrow, and had been deceived by them."
Here is a specimen of the learning and honesty of the great Oxford divine! Dr. Newman confesses that when he was telling his people, "St. Augustine says this, St. Jerome says that" when he assured them that St. Gregory supported this doctrine, and Origen that, it was all false. Those holy fathers had never taught such doctrines. It was Usher, Taylor, and Barrow who were citing them, and they had deceived him!
Is it not a strange thing that such a shrewd man as Dr. Newman should have so completely destroyed his own good name in the very book he wrote, with so much care and ingenuity, to defend himself? One remains confounded he can hardly believe his own eyes at such want of honesty in such a man. It is evident that his mind was troubled at the souvenir of such a course of procedure. But he wanted to excuse himself by saying it was the fault of Usher, Taylor, and Barrow!
Are we not forcibly brought to the solemn and terrible drama in the Garden of Eden? Adam hoped to be excused by saying, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I did eat." The woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." But what was the result of those excuses? We read: "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden." Dr. Newman has lost the precious inheritance God had given him. He has lost the lamp he had received to guide his steps, and he is now in the dark dungeon of Popery, worshiping, as a poor slave, the wafer god of Rome.
But what has become of that new church, or religion, the Via Media which had just come out from the sickly brain of the Oxford professor? Let us hear its sad and premature end from Dr. Newman himself. Let me, however, premise, that when Dr. Newman began his attack against his church, he at first so skillfully mixed the most eloquent eulogiums with his criticisms, that, though many sincere Christians were grieved, few dared to complain. The names of Pusey and Newman commanded such respect that few raised their voice against the conspiracy. This emboldened them. Month after month they become unguarded in their denunciations of the Church of England, and more explicit in their support of Romanism. In the meantime the Church of Rome was reaping a rich harvest of perverts; for many Protestants were unsettled in their faith, and were going the whole length of the road to Rome so cunningly indicated by the conspirators. At last, the 90th Tract appeared in 1843. It fell as a thunderbolt on the church. A loud cry of indignation was raised all over England against those who had so mercilessly struck at the heart of that church which they had sworn to defend. The bishops almost unanimously denounced Dr. Newman and his Romish tendencies, and showed the absurdity of his Via Media.
Now, let us hear him telling himself this episode of his life. For I want to be perfectly fair to Dr. Newman. It is only from his own words and public acts that I want the reader to judge him.
Here is what he says of himself, after being publicly condemned: "I saw indeed clearly that my place in the movement was lost. Public confidence was at an end. My occupation was gone. It was simply an impossibility that I could say anything henceforth to good effect, when I had been posted up by the Marshal on the buttery hatch of every college of my University after the manner of discommend pastry-cooks, and when, in every part of the country, and every class of society, through every organ and occasion of opinion, in newspapers, in periodicals, at meetings, in pulpits, at dinner tables, in coffee-rooms, in railway carriages, I was denounced as a traitor who had laid his train, and was detected in the very act of firing it against the time-honoured establishment."....."Confidence in me was lost. But I had already lost full confidence in myself" (p 132).
Let the reader hear these words from the very lips of Dr. Newman "Confidence in me was lost! But I had already lost full confidence in myself" (p. 132). Are these words the indications of a brave, innocent man? Or are they not the cry of despair of a cowardly and guilty conscience?
Was it not when Wishart heard that the Pope and his millions of slaves had condemned him to death, that he raised his head as a giant, and showed that he was more above his accusers and his judges than the heavens are above the earth? He had lost his confidence in himself and in his God and when he said, "I am happy to suffer and die for the cause of Truth?" Did Luther lose confidence in himself and in his God when condemned by the Pope and all his Bishops, and ordered to go before he Emperor to be condemned to death, if he would not retract? No! it is in those hours of trial the he made the world to re-echo the sublime words of David: "God is our refuge and our strength, a present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." But Luther had a good cause. He knew, he felt that the God of Heaven was on his side, when Dr. Newman knew well that he was deceiving the world, after having deceived himself. Luther was strong and fearless; for the voice of Jesus had come through the fifteen centuries to tell him: "Fear not, I am with thee." Dr. Newman was weak, trembling before the storm, for his conscience was reproaching him for his treachery and his unbelief.
Did Latimer falter and lose his confidence in himself and in his God, when condemned by his judges and tied to the stake to be burnt? No! It is then that he uttered those immortal and sublime words: "Master Ridley: Be of good comfort and play the man; we shall, this day, light a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out!"
This is the language of men who are fighting for Christ and His Gospel. Dr. Newman could not use such noble language when he was betraying Christ and His Gospel.
Now, let us hear from himself when, after having lost the confidence of his Church and his country, and had also lost his own confidence in himself, he saw a ghost and found that the Church of Rome was right. At page 157, he says: "My friend, an anxiously religious man, pointed out the palmary words of St. Augustine which were contained in one of the extracts made in the (Dublin) Review, and which had escaped my observation, 'Securus judicat obis terrarum.' He repeated these words again and again; and when he was gone, they kept ringing in my ears....The words of St. Augustine struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the 'Turn again, Whittington' of the chime; or to take a more serious one, they were like the 'tolle lege' of a child which converted St. Augustine himself. 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum!' By those great words of the ancient father, the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized. I became excited at the view thus opened upon me....I had seen the shadow of a hand upon the wall....He who has seen a ghost cannot be as if he had never seen it. The heaven had opened and closed again. The thought, for the moment, had been: 'The Church of Rome will be found right, after all'" (158).
It would be amusing, indeed, if it were not so humiliating, to see the naivete with which Dr. Newman confesses his own aberrations, want of judgment and honesty in reference to the pet scheme of his whole theological existence at Oxford. "By these words," he says, "the Via Media was absolutely pulverized!"
We all know the history of the mountain in travail, which gave birth to a mouse. Dr. Newman tells us frankly that, after ten years of hard and painful travail, he produced something less than a mouse. His via Media was pulverized; it turned to be only a handful of dust.
Remember the high sounding of his trumpet about his plan of a new church, that New Jerusalem on earth, the church of the future, which was to take the place of his rotten Church of England. Let me repeat to you his very words about that new ark of salvation with which the professor of Oxford was to save the world. (Page 116): "I wanted to bring out, in a substantive form, a living Church of England, in a position proper to herself and founded on distinct principles, as far as paper could do it, and as earnestly preaching in an influencing others towards it could tend to make it a fact; a living church, made of flesh and blood, with voice, complexion, and motion, and action, and a will of its own."
Now, what was the end of that masterpiece of theological architecture of Dr. Newman? Here is its history, given by the great architect himself: "I read the palmary words of St. Augustine, 'securus judical orbis terrarum!' By those great words of the ancient father, the theory of the Via Media was pulverized! I become excited at the view thus opened before me. I had seen the shadow of a hand on the wall. He who has seen a ghost can never be as if he had not see it; the heavens had opened and closed again. The thought, for a moment, was 'The Church of Rome will be found right, after all'" (158). Have we ever seen a man destroying himself more completely at the very moment that he tries to defend himself? Here he does ingeniously confess what everyone knew before, that his whole work, for the last ten years, was not only a self-deception, but a supreme effort to deceive the world his Via Media was a perfect string of infidelity, sophism, and folly. The whole fabric had fallen to the ground at the sight of a ghost! To build a grand structure, in the place of his Church which he wanted to demolish, he had thought it was sufficient to throw a great deal of glittering sand, with some blue, white, and red dust, in the air! He tells us that one sad hour came when he heard five Latin words from St. Augustine, saw a ghost and his great structure fell to the ground!
What does this all mean? It simply means that God Almighty has dealt with Dr. Newman as He did with the impious Pharaoh in the Red Sea, when he was marching at the head of his army against the church of old, His chosen people, to destroy them.
Dr. Newman was not only marching with Dr. Pusey at the head of an army of theologians to destroy the Church of God, but he was employing all the resources of his intellect, all his false and delusive science, to raise a idolatrous church in its place; and when Pharaoh and Dr. Newman thought themselves sure of success, the God of heaven confounded them both. The first went down with his army to the bottom of the sea as a piece of lead. The second lost, not his life, but something infinitely more precious he lost his reputation for intelligence, science, and integrity; he lost the light of the Gospel, and became perfectly blind, after having lost his place in the kingdom of Christ!
I have never judged a man by the hearsay of any one, and I would prefer to have my tongue cut out than to repeat a word of what the adversaries of Dr. Newman have said against him. But we have the right, and I think it is our duty, to hear and consider what he says of himself, and to judge him on his own confession.
At page 174 we read these words from his own pen to a friend: "I cannot disguise from myself that my preaching is not calculated to defend that system of religion which has been received for three hundred years, and of which the Heads of Houses are the legitimate maintainers in this place....I fear I must allow that, whether I will or no, I am disposing them (the young men) towards Rome." Here Dr. Newman declares, in plain English, that he was disposing his hearers and students at Oxford to join the Church of Rome! I ask it: what can we think of a man who is paid and sworn to do a thing, who not only does it not, but who does the very contrary? Who would hesitate to call such a man dishonest? Who would hesitate to say that such a one has no respect for those who employ him, and no respect for himself?
Dr. Newman writes this whole book to refute the public accusation that he was a traitor, that he was preparing the people to leave the Church of England and to submit to the Pope. But, strange to say, it is in that very book we find the irrefutable proof of his shameful and ignominious treachery! In a letter to Dr. Russell, President of the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth, he wrote, page 227: "Roman Catholics will find this to be the state of things in time to come, whatever promise they may fancy there is of a large secession to their church. This man or that may leave us, but thee will be no general movement. There is, indeed, an incipient movement of our church towards yours, and this your leading men are doing all they can to frustrate by their unwearied efforts, at all risks, to carry off individuals. When will they know their position, and embrace a larger and wiser policy?" Is not evident here that God was blinding Dr. Newman, and that He was making him confess his treachery in the very moment the he was trying to conceal it? Do we not see clearly that he was complaining of the unwise policy of the leaders of the Church of Rome who were retarding that incipient movement of his church towards Romanism, for which he was working day and night with Dr. Pusey?
But had not Dr. Newman confessed his own treachery, we have, today, its undeniable proof in the letter of Dr. Pusey to the English Church Union, written in 1879. Speaking of Dr. Newman and the other Tractarians, he says: "An acute man, Dr. Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, said of the 'Tracts,' on their first appearance, 'I know they have a forced circulation.' We put the leaven into the meal, and waited to see what would come of it. Our object was to Catholicism England."
And this confession of Dr. Pusey, that he wanted to Catholicism England, is fully confirmed by Dr. Newman (pages 108, 109) where he says: "I suspect it was Dr. Pusey's influence and example which set me and made me set others on the larger and more careful works in defense of the principles of the movement which followed" (towards Rome) "in a course of years."
Nothing is more curious than to hear from Dr. Newman himself with what skill he was trying to conceal his perfidious efforts in preparing that movement towards Rome. He says on that subject, page 124: "I was embarrassed in consequence of my wish to go as far as was possible in interpreting the articles in the direction of Roman dogma, without disclosing what I was doing to the parties whose doubts I was meeting, who might be, thereby, encouraged to go still further than, at present, they found in themselves any call to do."
A straw fallen on the water indicates the way the tide goes. Here we have the straw, taken by Dr. Newman himself, and thrown by him on the water. A thousand volumes written by the ex-Professor of Oxford to deny that he was a conspirator at work to lead his people to Rome, when in the service of the Church of England, could not destroy the evident proof of his guilt given by himself in this strange book.
If we want to have a proof of the supreme contempt Dr. Newman had for his readers, and his daily habit of deceiving them by sophistries and incorrect assertions, we have it in the remarkable lines which I find at page 123 of his Apologia. Speaking of his "Doctrinal Development," he says: "I wanted to ascertain what was the limit of that elasticity in the direction of Roman dogma. But, next, I had a way of inquiry of my own which I state without defending. I instanced it afterward in my essay on 'Doctrinal Development.' That work, I believe, I have not read since I published it, and I doubt not at all that I have made many mistakes in it, partly from my ignorance of the details of doctrine as the Church of Rome holds them, but partly from my impatience to clear as large a range for the Principles of doctrinal development (waiving the question of historical fact) as was consistent with the strict apostolicity and identity of the Catholic creed. In like manner, as regards the Thirty Nine Articles, my method of inquiry was to leap in medias res" (123-124).
Dr. Newman is the author of two new systems of theology; and, from his own confession, the two systems are a compendium of error, absurdities, and folly. His Via Media was "pulverized" by the vision of a ghost, when he heard the four words of St. Augustine: "Securus judicat obis terrarum." The second, known under the name of "Doctrinal Development," is, from his own confession, full of errors on account of his ignorance of the subject on which he was writing, and his own impatience to support his sophisms.
Dr. Newman is really unfortunate in his paternity. He is the father of two literary children. The first-born was called Via Media; but as it had neither head nor feet, it was suffocated on the day of its birth by a "ghost." The second, called "Doctrinal Development," was not viable. The father is so shocked with the sight of the monster, that he publicly confesses its deformities and cries out, "Mistake! mistake! mistake!" (pages 123, 124 "Apologia pro vita sua.")
The troubled conscience of Dr. Newman has forced him to confess (page 111) that he was miserable, from his want of faith, when a minister of the Church of England and a Professor of Theology of Oxford: "Alas! it was my portion for whole years to remain without any satisfactory basis for my religious profession!" At pages 174 and 175 he tells us how miserable and anxious he was when the voice of his conscience reproached him in the position he held in the Church of England, while leading her people to Rome. At page 158 he confesses his unspeakable confusion when he saw his supreme folly in building up the Via Media, and heard its crash at the appearance of a ghost. At page 123 he acknowledges how he deceived his readers, and deceived himself, in his "Doctrinal Development." At page 132 he tell us how he had not only completely lost the confidence of his country, but lost confidence in himself. And it is after this humiliating and shameful course of life that he finds out "that the Church of Rome is right!"
Must we not thank God for having forced Dr. Newman to tell us through what dark and tortuous ways a Protestant, a disciple of the Gospel, a minister of Christ, a Professor of Oxford, fell into that sea of Sodom called Romanism or Papism! A great lesson is given us here. We see the fulfillment of Christ's words about those who have received great talents and have not used them for the "Good Master's honour and glory."
Dr. Newman, without suspecting it, tells us that it was his course of action towards that branch of the Church of Christ of which he was a minister, that caused him to lose the confidence of his country, and troubled him so much that it caused him to lose that self-confidence which is founded on our faith and our union with Christ, who is our rock, our only strength in the hour of trial. Having lost her sails, her anchor, and her helm, the poor ship was evidently doomed to become a wreck. Nothing could prevent her from drifting into the engulfing abyss of Popery.
Dr. Newman confesses that it is only when his guilty conscience was uniting its thundering voice with that of his whole country to condemn him that he said, "After all, the Church of Rome is right!" These are the arguments, the motives, the lights which have led Dr. Newman to Rome! And it is from himself that we have it! It is a just, an avenging God who forces His adversary to glorify Him and say the truth in spite of himself in this "Apologia pro vita sua."
No one can read that book, written almost with a superhuman skill, ability, and fineness, without a feeling of unspeakable sadness at the sight of such bright talents, such eloquence, such extensive studies, employed by the author to deceive himself and deceive his readers; for it is evident, on every page, that Dr. Newman has deceived himself before deceiving his readers. But no one can read that book without feeling a sense of terror also. For he will hear, at every page, the thundering voice of the God of the Gospel, "Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. ii. 10-11).
What, at first, most painfully puzzles the mind of the Christian reader of this book is the horror which Dr. Newman has for the Holy Scriptures. The unfortunate man who is perishing from hydrophobia does not keep himself more at a distance from water than he does from the Word of God. It seems incredible, but it is the fact, that from the first page of the history of his "Religious Opinions" to page 261, where he joins the Church of Rome, we have not a single line to tell us that he has gone to the Word of God for light and comfort in his search after truth. We see Dr Newman at the feet of Daniel Wilson, Scott, Milner, Whately, Hawkins, Blanco, White, William James, Butler, Keble, Froude, Pusey, ect., asking them what to believe, what to do to be saved; but you do not see him a single minute, no, not a single minute, at the feet of the Saviour, asking him, "Master, what must I do to have 'Eternal Life'?" The sublime words of Peter to Christ, which are filling all the echoes of heaven and earth, these eighteen hundred years, "Lord! to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life!" have never reached his ears! In the long and gloomy hours, when his soul was chilled and trembling in the dark night of infidelity; when his uncertain feet were tired by vainly going here and there, to find the true way, he has never heard Christ telling him: "Come unto Me. I am the Way; I am the Door; I am the Life!" In those terrible hours of distress of which he speaks so eloquently, when he cries (page 111) "Alas, I was without any basis for my religious profession, in a state of moral sickness: neither able to acquiesce in Anglicanism, nor able to go to Rome:" when his lips were parched with thirst after truth, he never, no never, went to the fountain from which flow the waters of eternal life!
One day he goes to the Holy Fathers. But what will he find there? Will he see how St. Cyprian sternly rebuked the impudence of Stephen, Bishop of Rome, who pretended to have some jurisdiction over the See of Carthage? Will he find how Gregory positively says that the Bishop who will pretend to be the "Universal Bishop" is the forerunner of Antichrist? Will he hear St. Augustine declaring that when Christ said to Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," He was speaking of Himself as the rock upon which the Church would stand? No. The only thing which Dr. Newman brings us from the Holy Fathers is so ridiculous and so unbecoming that I am ashamed to have to repeat it. He tells us (page 78), "I have an idea. The mass of the Fathers (Justin, Athenagoras, Ireanaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose) hold that, though Satan fell from the beginning, the angels fell before the deluge, falling in love with the daughters of men. This has lately come across me as a remarkable solution of a notion I cannot help holding."
Allow me here to remind the reader that, though the Fathers have written many beautiful evangelical pages, some of them have written the greatest nonsense and the most absurd things which human folly can imagine. Many of them were born and educated as pagans. They had learned and believed the history and immorality of their demi-gods; they had brought those notions with them into the Church; and they had attributed to the angels of God, the passions and love for women which was one of the most conspicuous characters of Jupiter, Mars, Cupid, Bacchus, ect. And Dr. Newman, whose want of accuracy and judgment is so often revealed and confessed by him in this book, has not been able to see that those sayings of the Fathers were nothing but human aberrations. He has accepted that as Gospel truth, and he has been silly enough to boast of it.
The bees go to the flowers to make their precious honey; they wisely choose what is more perfect, pure and wholesome in the flowers to feed themselves. Dr. Newman does the very contrary; he goes to those flowers of past ages, the Holy Fathers, and takes from them what is impure for his food. After this, is it a wonder that he has so easily put his lips to the cup of the great enchantress who is poisoning the world with the wine of her prostitution?
When he reader has followed with attention the history of the religious opinions of Dr. Newman in his "Apologia pro vita sua," and he sees him approaching, day after day, the bottomless abyss of folly, corruption, slavery, and idolatry of Rome, into which he suddenly falls (page 261), he is forcibly reminded of the strange spectacle recorded in the eloquent pages of Chateaubriand, about the Niagara Falls.
More than once, travelers standing at the foot of that marvel of the marvels of the works of God, looking up towards heaven, have been struck by the sight of a small, dark spot moving in large circles, at a great distance above the fall. Gazing at that strange object, they soon remarked, that in its circular march in the sky, the small dark spot was rapidly growing larger, as it was coming down towards the thundering fall. They soon discovered the majestic form of one of the giant eagles of America! And the eagle, balancing himself in the air, seemed to looked down on the marvelous fall as if absolutely taken with admiration at its grandeur and magnificence! For some time, the giant of the air remained above the majestic cataract describing his large circles. But when coming down nearer and nearer the terrific abyss, he was suddenly dragged as by an irresistible power into the bottomless abyss to disappear. Some time later the body, bruised and lifeless, is seen floating on the rapid and dark waters, to be for ever lost in the bitter waters of the sea, at a long distance below.
Rome is a fall. It is the name which God Himself has given her: "There come a falling away" (2 Thess. ii. 3). As the giant eagle of America, when imprudently coming too near the mighty Fall of Niagara, is often caught in the irresistible vortex which attracts it from a long distance, so that eagle of Oxford, Dr. Newman, whom God has created for better things, his imprudently come too near the terrific papal fall. He has been enchanted by its beauty, its thousand bright rainbows: he has taken for real suns the fantastic jets of light which encircle its misty head, and conceal its dark and bottomless abyss. Bewildered by the bewitching voice of the enchantress, he has been unable to save himself from her perfidious and almost irresistible attractions. The eagle of Oxford has been caught in the whirlpool of the engulfing powers of Rome, and you see him today, bruised, lifeless, dragged on the dark waters of Popery towards the shore of a still darker eternity.
Dr. Newman could not make his submission to Rome without perjuring himself. He swore that he would never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers. Well, I challenge him here, to meet me and show me that the Holy Fathers are unanimous on the supremacy of the power of the Pope over the other bishops; that he is infallible; that the priest has the power to make his God with a wafer; that the Virgin Mary is the only hope of sinners. I challenge him to show us that auricular confession is an ordinance of Christ. Dr. Newman knows well that those things are impostures. He has never believed, he never will believe them. The fact is that Dr. Newman confesses that he never had any faith when he was a minister of the Church of England; and it is clear that he is the same since he became a Roman Catholic. In page 282 we read this strange exposition of his faith: "We are called upon not to profess anything, but to submit and be silent," which is just the faith of the mute animal which obeys the motion of the bridle, without any resistance or thought of its own. This is I cannot deny it the true, the only faith in the Church of Rome; it is the faith which leads directly to Atheism or idiotism. But Christ gave us a very different idea of the faith He asks from His disciples when He said: "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John iv. 23).
That degrading and brutal religion of Dr. Newman surely was not the religion of Paul, when he wrote, "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say" (1 Cor. x. 15). Dr. Newman honestly tells us (page 228), when speaking of the worship of the Virgin Mary: "Such devotional manifestations in honour of our Lady had been my great Crux as regards Catholicism. I say frankly I do not fully enter into them now...they are suitable for Italy, but are not suitable for England." He has only changed his appearance his heart is what it was formerly, when a minister of the Church of England. He wanted then another creed, another Church for England. So now, he finds that this and that practice of Rome may do for the Italians, but not for the English people!
Was he pleased with the promulgation of Papal infallibility? No. It is a public fact that one of his most solemn actions, a few years since his connection with the Church of Rome, was to protest against the promulgation of that dogma. More than that, he expressed his doubts about the wisdom and the right of the Council to proclaim it.
Let us read his interesting letter to Bishop Ullathorne "Rome ought to be a name to lighten the heart at all times; and a council's proper office is, when some great heresy or other evil impends, to inspire hope and confidence in the faithful. But now we have the greatest meeting which ever has been, and that at Rome, infusing into us by the accredited organs of Rome and of its partisans (such as the Civilta, the Armonia, the Univers, and the Tablet) little else than fear and dismay! When we are all at rest and have no doubts, and at least practically, not to say doctrinally hold the Holy Father to be infallible, suddenly there is thunder in the clear sky, and we are told to prepare for something, we know not what, to try our faith, we know not how no impending danger is to be averted, but a great difficulty is to be created. Is this the proper work of an Ecumenical Council? As to myself personally, please God, I do not expect any trial at all: but I cannot help suffering with the many souls who are suffering, and I look with anxiety at the prospect of having to defend decisions which may not be difficult to my own private judgment, but may be most difficult to maintain logically in the face of historical facts.
"What have we done to be treated as the faithful never were treated before? When has a definition de fide been a luxury of devotion, and not a stern, painful necessity? Why should an aggressive, insolent faction be allowed to 'make the heart of the just sad, whom the Lord hath not made sorrowful?' why cannot we be let alone, when we have pursued peace, and thought no evil!
"I assure you, my Lord, some of the truest minds are driven one way and another, and do not know where to rest their feet one day determining 'to give up all theology as a bed job,' and recklessly to believe henceforth almost that the Pope is impeccable: at another, tempted to 'believe all the worst which a book like Janus says:' others doubting about 'the capacity possessed by bishops drawn from corners of the earth, to judge what is fitting for European society'; and then, again, angry with the Holy See for listening to 'the flattery of a clique of Jesuits, redemptorists, and converts.' "Then, again, think of the store of Pontifical scandals in the history of eighteen centuries, which have partly been poured forth and partly are still to come. What Murphy inflicted upon us in one way, M. Veuillot is indirectly bringing on us in another. And then, again, the blight which is falling upon the multitude of Anglican Ritualists, ect., who, themselves, perhaps at least, their leaders may never become Catholics, but who are leavening the various English denominations and parties (far beyond their own range), with principles and sentiments tending towards their ultimate absorption into the Catholic Church.
"With these thoughts ever before me, I am continually asking myself whether I ought not to make my feelings public: but all I do is to pray those early doctors of the Church whose intercession would decide the matter (Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Basil) to avert this great calamity.
"If it is God's will that the Pope's infallibility be defined, then is it God's will to throw back 'the times and movements' of that triumph which He has destined for His kingdom, and I shall feel I have but to bow my head to His adorable, inscrutable providence.
"You have not touched upon the subject yourself, but I think you will allow me to express to you feelings, which, for the most part, I keep to myself."*
These eloquent complaints of the new convert exceedingly irritated Pius IX. and the Jesuits at Rome: they entirely destroyed their confidence in him. They were too shrewd to ignore that he had never been anything else but a kind of free-thinker, whose Christian faith was without any basis, as he has himself confessed. They had received him, of course, with pleasure, for he was the very best man in England to unsettle the minds of the young ministers of the Church, but they had left him alone in his oratory of Birmingham, where they seemed to ignore him.
However, when the protest of the new so-called convert showed that his submission was but a sham, and that he was more Protestant than ever, they lashed him without mercy. But before we hear the stern answers of the Roman Catholics to their new recruit, let us remember the fact the when that letter appeared, Dr. Newman has lost the memory of it; he boldly denied its paternity at first; it was only when the proofs were publicly given the he had written it, that he acknowledged it, saying for his excuse that he had forgotten his writing it!!
Now let us hear the answer to the Civilta, the organ of the Pope, to Dr. Newman: "Do you not see that it is only temptation that makes you see everything black? If the holy doctors whom you invoke, Ambrose, Jerome, ect., do not decide the controversy in your way, it is not, as the Protestant Pall Mall Gazette fancies, because they will not or cannot interpose, but because they agree with St. Peter and with the petition of the majority. Would you have us make procession in sackcloth and ashes to avert this scourge of the definition of a verity?" (Ibid., p. 271).
The clergy of France, through their organ L'Univers (Vol. II., pp. 31 34), were still more severe and sarcastic. They had just collected $4,000 to help Dr. Newman to pay the enormous expenses of the suit for his slanders against Father Achilli, which he had lost.
Dr. Newman, as it appears by the article from the pen of the celebrated editor of the Univers, had not even had the courtesy to acknowledge the gift, not the exertions of those who had collected that large sum of money. Now let us see what they thought and said in France about the ex-professor of Oxford whom they called the "Respectable convict." Speaking of the $4,000 sent from France, Veuillot says: "The respectable convict received it, and was pleased; but he gave no thanks and showed no courtesy. Father Newman ought to be more careful in what he says: everything that is comely demands it of him. But, at any rate, if his Liberal passion carries him away, till he forgets what he owes to us and to himself, what answer must one give him, but that he had better go on as he set out, silently ungrateful." (L'Univers, Vol. II. pp. 32 34; Ibid., p. 272).
These public rebukes, addressed from Paris and Rome by the two most popular organs of the Church of Rome, tell us the old story; the services of traitors may be accepted, but they are never trusted. Father Newman had not the confidence of the Roman Catholics.
But some will say: "Has not the dignity of Cardinal, to which he has lately been raised, proved that the present Pope has the greatest confidence in Dr. Newman?"
Had I not been twenty-five years a priest of Rome, I would say "Yes!" But I know too much of their tactics for that. The dignity of Cardinal has been given to Drs. Manning and Newman as the baits which the fishermen of Prince Edward Island throw into the sea to attract the mackerels. The Pope, with those long scarlet robes thrown over the shoulders of the two renegades from the Church of England, hopes to catch more English mackerel.
Besides that, we all know the remarkable words of St. Paul: "And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness" (1 Cor. xii. 23).
It is on that principle that the Pope has acted. He knew well that Dr. Newman had played the act of a traitor at Oxford, that he had been caught in the very act of conspiracy by his Bishops, that he had entirely lost the confidence of the English people. These public facts paralyzed the usefulness of the new convert. He was really a member of the Church of Rome, but he was one of the most uncomely ones; so much so that the last Pope, Pius IX., had left him alone, in a dark corner, for nearly eighteen years. Leo XIII. was more shrewd. He felt that Newman might become one of the most powerful agents of Romanism in England, if he were only covering his uncomeliness with the rich red Cardinal robe.
But will the scarlet colours which now clothe Dr. Newman make us forget that, today, he belongs to the most absurd, immoral, abject, and degrading form of idolatry the world has ever seen? Will we forget that Romanism, these last six centuries, is nothing else but old paganism in its most degrading forms, coming back under a Christian name? What is the divinity which is adored in those splendid temples of modern Rome? Is it anything else but the old Jupiter Tonans! Yes, the Pope has stolen the old gods of paganism, and he has sacrilegiously written the adorable name of Jesus in their faces, that the deluded modern nations may have less objection to accept the worship of their pagan ancestors. They adore a Christ in the Church of Rome: they sing beautiful hymns to His honour: they build Him magnificent temples; they are exceedingly devoted to Him they make daily enormous sacrifices to extend His power and glory all over the world. But what is that Christ? It is simply an idol of bread, baked every day by the servant-girl of the priest, or the neighbouring nuns.
I have been twenty-five years one of the most sincere and zealous priests of that Christ. I have made Him with mine own hands, and the help of my servants, for a quarter of a century; I have a right to say that I know Him perfectly well. It is that I may tell what I know of that Christ that the God of the Gospel has taken me by the hand, and granted me to give my testimony before the world. Hundreds of times I have said to my servant-girl what Dr. Newman and all the priests of Rome say, every day, to their own servants or their nuns: "Please make me some wafers, that I may say mass and give the communion to those who want to receive it." And the dutiful girl took some wheat flour, mixed it with water, and put the dough between those tow well-polished and engraven irons, which she had well heated before. In less time than I can write it, the dough was baked into wafers. Handing them to me, I brought them to the altar, and performed a ceremony which is called "the mass." In the very midst of that mass, I pronounced on that wafer five magic words, "Hoc est enim corpus meum," and had to believe, what Dr. Newman and all the priests of Rome profess to believe, that there were no more wafers, no more bread before me, but that what were wafers, had been turned into the great Eternal God who had created the world. I had to prostrate myself, and ask my people to prostrate themselves before the god I had just made with five words from my lips; and the people, on their knees, bowing their heads, and bringing their faces to the dust, adored god whom I had just made, with the help of these heated irons and my servant-girl.
Now, is this not a form of idolatry more degrading, more insulting to the infinite majesty of God than the worship of the gold calf? Where is the difference between the idolatry of Aaron and the Israelites adoring the gold calf in the wilderness and the idolatry of Dr. Newman adoring the wafer in his temple? The only difference is, that Aaron worshipped a god infinitely more respectable and powerful, in melted gold, than Dr. Newman worshiping his baked dough.
The idolatry of Dr. Newman is more degrading than the idolatry of the worshipers of the sun.
When the Persians adore the sun, they give their homage to the greatest, the most glorious being which is before us. That magnificent fiery orb, millions of miles in circumference, which rises as a giant, every morning, from behind the horizon, to march over the world and pour everywhere its floods of heat, light an life, cannot be contemplated without feelings of respect, admiration, and awe. Man must raise his eyes up to see that glorious sun he must take the eagle's wings to follow his giant strides throughout the myriads of worlds which are there, to speak to us of the wisdom, the power, and love of our God. It is easy to understand that poor, fallen, blind men may take that great being for their god. Would not every one perish and die, if the sun would forget to come every day, that we may bathe and swim in his ocean of light and life?
Then, when I see the Persian priests of the sun, in their magnificent temple, with censors in their hands, waiting for the appearance of its first rays, to intone their melodious hymns and sing their sublime canticles, I know their error and I understand it; I was about to say, I almost excuse it. I feel an immense compassion for these deluded idolaters. However, I feel they are raised above the dust of the earth: their intelligence, their souls cannot but receive some sparks of life and life from the contemplation of that inexhaustible focus of light an life. But is not Dr. Newman wit his Roman Catholic people a thousand times more worthy of our compassion and our tears, when they are abjectly prostrated before his ignoble wafer to adore it as their Saviour, their Creator, their God? Is it possible to imagine a spectacle more humiliating, blasphemous, and sacrilegious, than a multitude of men and women prostrating their faces to the dust to adore a god whom the rats and mice have, thousands of times, dragged and eaten in their dark holes? Where are the rays of light and life coming from that wafer? Instead of being enlarged and elevated at the approach of this ridiculous modern divinity, is not the human intelligence contracted, diminished, paralyzed, chilled, and struck with idiocy and death at its feet?
Can we be surprised that the Roman Catholic nations are so fast falling into the abyss of infidelity and atheism, when they hear their priests telling them that more than 200,000 times, every day, this contemptible wafer is changed by them into the great God who has created heaven and earth at the beginning, and who has saved this perishing world by sacrificing the body and the blood which He has taken as His tabernacle to show us His eternal love!
Come with me and see those multitudes of people with their faces prostrated in the dust, adoring their white elephant of Siam.
Oh! what ignorance and superstition! what blindness and folly! you will exclaim. To adore a white elephant as God!
But there is a spectacle more humiliating and more deplorable: there is a superstition, an idolatry below that of the Siamese. It is the idolatry practiced by Dr. Newman and his millions of co-religionists today. Yes! the elephant god of the Asiatic people is infinitely more respectable than the wafer god of Dr. Newman. That elephant may be taken as the symbol of strength, magnanimity,patience, ect. There is life, motion in that noble animal he sees with his eyes, he walks with his feet. Let some one attack him, he will protect himself with his mighty trunk he will throw his enemy high in the air he will crush him under his feet.
But look at this modern divinity of Rome. It has eyes, but does not see; feet, but does not move; a mouth, but does not speak. There is neither life nor strength in the wafer god of Rome.
But if the fall of Dr. Newman into the bottomless abyss of the idolatry of Rome is a deplorable fact, there is another fact still more deplorable.
How many fervent Christians, how many venerable ministers of Christ everywhere, are, just now, prostrated at the dear Saviour's feet, telling Him with tears: "Didst Thou not sow the good Gospel seed all over our dear country, through the hands of our heroic and martyred fathers? From whence, then, hath it these Popish and idolatrous tares?" And the "Good Master" answers, today, what He answered eighteen hundred years ago: "While men slept, the enemy came during the night; he has sowed those tares among the wheat, and he went away" (Matthew xii. 25).
And if you want to know the name of the enemy who has sowed tares, in the night, amongst the wheat, and went away, you have only to read this "Apologia pro vita sua." You will find this confession of Dr. Newman at page 174: -
"I cannot disguise from myself that my preaching is not calculated to defend that system of religion which has been received for three hundred years, and of which the Heads of Houses are the legitimate maintainers in this place....I must allow that I was disposing 'the minds of young men' towards Rome!"
Now, having obtained from the very enemy's lips how he has sowed tares during the night (secretly), read page 262, and you will see how he went away and prostrated himself at the feet of the most implacable enemy of all the rights and liberties of men, to call him "Most Holy Father." Read how he fell at the knees of the very power which prepared and blessed the Armada destined to cover his native land, England, with desolation, ruins, tears and blood, and enchain those of her people who would not have been slaughtered on the battle-field! See how the enemy, after having sown the tares, wet away to the feet of a Sergius III., the public lover of Marozia and to the feet of his bastard, John XI., who was still more debauched than his father and to the feet of Leo VI., killed by an outraged citizen of Rome, in the act of such an infamous crime that I cannot name it here to the feet of an Alexander, who seduced his own daughter, and surpassed in cruelty and debauchery Nero and Caligula. Let us see Dr. Newman falling at the feet of all these monsters of depravity, to call them, "Most Holy Fathers," "Most Holy Heads of the Church," "Most Holy and Infallible Vicars of Jesus Christ!"
At the sight of such a fall, what can we do, but say with Isaiah:
"The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the ruler....How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, Son of the morning! how are thou cut down to the ground?" (Is. xiv.)
CHAPTER 42 Back to Table of Contents
On the first Sabbath of November, 1846, after a retreat of eight days, I fell on my knees, and asked as a favour, to be received as a novice of the religious order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Longueuil, whose object is to preach retreats (revivals) among the people. No child of the Church of Rome ever enrolled himself with more earnestness and sincerity under the mysterious banners of her monastic armies than I did, that day. It is impossible to entertain more exalted views of the beauty and holiness of the monastic life, than I had. To live among the holy men who had made the solemn vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, seemed to me the greatest and the most blessed privilege which my God could grant on earth.
Within the walls of the peaceful monastery of Longueuil, among those holy men who had, long since, put an impassable barrier between themselves and that corrupted world, from the snares of which I was just escaping, my conviction was that I should see nothing but actions of the most exalted piety; and that the deadly weapons of the enemy could not pierce those walls protected by the Immaculate Mother of God!
The frightful storms which had covered with wrecks the roaring sea, where I had so often nearly perished, could not trouble the calm waters of the port where my bark had just entered. Every one of the members of the community was to be like an angel of charity, humility, modesty, whose example was to guide my steps in the ways of God. My superior appeared to be less a superior than a father, whose protecting care, by day and night, would be a shield over me. Noah, in the ark, safe from the raging waves which were destroying the world, did not feel more grateful to God than I was, when once in this holy solitude. The vow of perfect poverty was to save me for ever from the cares of the world. Having, hereafter, no right to possess a cent, the world would become to me a paradise, where food, clothing, and lodging would come without anxiety or care. My father superior would supply all these things, without any other condition on my part, than to love and obey a man of God whose whole life was to be spent in guiding my steps in the ways of the most exalted evangelical virtues. Had not that father himself made a solemn vow to renounce not only all the honours and dignities of the church, that his whole mind and heart might be devoted to my holiness on earth, and my salvation in heaven?
How easy to secure that salvation now! I had only to look to that father on earth, and obey him as my Father in Heaven. Yes! The will of that father was to be, for me, the will of my God. Though I might err in obeying him, my errors would not be laid to my charge. To save my soul, I should have only to be like a corpse, or a stick in the hands of my father superior. Without any anxiety or any responsibility whatever on my own, I was to be led to heaven as the new-born child in the arms of his loving mother, without any fear, thoughts, or anxiety of his own.
With the Christian poet I could have sung:
"Rocks and storms I fear no more,
When on that eternal shore,
Drop the anchor! Furl the sail!
I am safe within the vail."
But how short were to be these fine dream of my poor deluded mind! When on my knees, Father Guigues handed me, with great solemnity, the Latin books of the rules of that monastic order, which is their real gospel, warning me that it was a secret book, that there were things in it I ought not to reveal to anyone; and he made me solemnly promise that I would never show it to any one outside the order.
When alone, the next morning, in my cell, I thanked God and the Virgin Mary for the favours of the last day, and the thought came involuntarily to my mind: "Have you not, a thousand times, heard and said that the Holy Church of Rome absolutely condemns and anathematizes secret societies. And do you not belong, today, to a secret society? How can you reconcile the solemn promise of secrecy you made last night, with the anathemas hurled by all your popes against secret societies?" After having, in vain, tried, in my mind, to reconcile these two things, I happily remembered that I was a corpse, that I had for ever given up my private judgment that my only business now was to obey. "Does a corpse argue against those who turn it from side to side? Is it not in perfect peace, whatever may be the usage to which it is exposed, or to whatever place it is dragged. Shall I lose the rich crown which is before me, at my first step in the ways of perfection?"
I bade my rebellious intelligence to be still, my private judgment to be mute, and, to distract my mind from this first temptation, I read that book of rules with the utmost attention. I had not gone through it all before I understood why it was kept from the eyes of the curates and the other secular priests. To my unspeakable amazement, I found that, from the beginning to the end, it speaks with the most profound contempt for them all. I said to myself: "What would be the indignation of the curates, if they should suspect that these strangers from France have such a bad opinion of them all! Would the good curates receive them as angels from heaven, and raise them so high in the esteem of the people, if they knew that the first thing an Oblate has to learn, is that the secular priest is, today, steeped in immorality, ignorance, wordiness, laziness, gluttony, ect.; that he is the disgrace of the church, which would speedily be destroyed, was she not providentially sustained, and kept in the ways of God, by the holy monastic men whom she nurses as her only hope! Clear as the light of the sun on a bright day, the whole fabric of the order of the Oblates presented itself to my mind, as the most perfect system of Pharisaism the world had ever seen."
The Oblate, who studies his book of rules, his only gospel, must have his mind filled with the idea of his superior holiness, not only over the poor sinful, secular priest, but over every one else. The Oblate alone is Christian, holy, and sacred; the rest of the world is lost! The Oblate alone is the salt of the earth, the light of the world! I said to myself: "Is it to attain to this pharisaical perfection that I have left my beautiful and dear parish of Kamouraska, and given up the honourable position which my God had given me in my country!"
However, after some time spent in these sad and despondent reflections, I again felt angry with myself. I quickly directed my mind to the frightful, unsuspected, and numberless scandals I had known in almost every parish I had visited. I remembered the drunkenness of the curate, the impurities of this, the ignorance of another, the worldliness and absolute want of faith of others, and concluded that, after all, the Oblates were not far from the truth in their bad opinion of the secular clergy. I ended my sad afflictions by saying to myself: "After all, if the Oblates live a life of holiness, as I expect to find here, is it a crime that they should see, feel, and express among themselves, the difference which exists between a regular and a secular clergy? Am I come here to judge and condemn these holy men? No! I came here to save myself by the practice of the most heroic Christian virtues, the first of which, is that I should absolutely and for ever, give up my private judgment consider myself as a corpse in the hand of my superior."
With all the fervour of my soul, I prayed to God and to the Virgin Mary, day and night, that week, that I might attain that supreme state of perfection, when I would have no will, no judgment of my own. The days of that first week passed very quickly, spent in prayer, reading and meditation of the Scriptures, study of ecclesiastical history and ascetical books, from half-past five in the morning till half-past nine at night. The meals were taken at the regular hours of seven, twelve, and six o'clock, during which, with rare exceptions, silence was kept, and pious books were read. The quality of the food was good; but, at first, before they got a female cook to preside over the kitchen,everything was so unclean, that I had to shut my eyes at meals, not to see what I was eating. I should have complained, had not my lips been sealed by that strange monastic view of perfection that every religious man is a corpse! What does a corpse care about the cleanliness or uncleanliness of what is put into its mouth? The third day, having drank at breakfast a glass of milk which was literally mixed with the dung of a cow, my stomach rebelled; a circumstance which I regretted exceedingly, attributing it to my want of monastic perfection. I envied the high state of holiness of the other fathers who had so perfectly attained to the sublime perfection of submission that they could drink that impure milk just as if it had been clean.
Everything went on well the first week, with the exception of a dreadful scare I had at the dinner of the first Friday. Just after eating soup, when listening with the greatest attention to the reading of the life of a saint, I suddenly felt as if the devil had taken hold of my feet; I threw down my knife and fork, and I cried at the top of my voice, "My God! my God! what is there?" and as quick as lightning I jumped on my chair to save myself from Satan's grasp. My cries were soon followed by an inexpressible burst of convulsive laughter from everyone.
"But what does that mean? Who has taken hold of my feet?" I asked. Father Guigues tried to explain the matter to me, but it took him a considerable time. When he began to speak, an irrepressible burst of laughter prevented his saying a word. The fits of laughter became still more uncontrollable, on account of the seriousness with which I was repeatedly asking them who could have taken hold of my feet! At last some one said, "It is Father Lagier who wanted to kiss your feet!" At the same time, Lagier walking on his hands and knees, his face covered with sweat, dust, and dirt, was crawling out from under the table; literally rolling on the floor, in such an uncontrollable fit of laughter that he was unable to stand on his feet. Of course, when I understood that no devil had tried to drag me by the feet, but that it was simply one of the father Oblates, who, to go through one of the common practices of humility in that monastery, had crawled under the table, to take hold of the feet of every one and kiss them, I joined with the rest of the community, and laughed to my heart's content.
Not many days after this, we were going, after tea, from the dining-room to the chapel, to pass five or ten minutes in adoration of the wafer god; we had two doors to cross, and it was pretty dark. Being the last who had entered the monastery, I had to walk first, the other monks following me. We were reciting, with a loud voice, the Latin Psalm: "Miserere mei Deus." We were all marching pretty fast, when, suddenly, my feet met a large, though unseen object, and down I fell, and rolled on the floor; my next companion did the same, and rolled over me, and so did five or six others, who, in the dark, had also struck their feet on that object. In a moment, we were five or six "Holy Fathers" rolling on each other on the floor, unable to rise up, splitting our sides with convulsive laughter. Father Brunette, in one of his fits of humility, had left the table a little before the rest, with the permission of the Superior, to lay himself flat on the floor, across the door. Not suspecting it, and unable to see anything, from the want of sufficient light, I had entangled my feet on that living corpse, as also the rest of those who were walking too close behind me, to stop before tumbling over one another.
No words can describe my feelings of shame when I saw, almost every day, some performance of this kind going on, under the name of Christian humility. In vain I tried to silence the voice of my intelligence, which was crying to me, day and night, that this was a mere diabolical caricature of the humility of Christ. Striving to silence my untamed reason, by telling it that it had no right to speak, and argue, and criticize, within the holy walls of a monastery, it, nevertheless, spoke louder, day after day, telling me that such acts of humility were a mockery. In vain, I said to myself, "Chiniquy, thou art not come here to philosophize on this and that, but to sanctify thyself by becoming like a corpse, which has no preconceived ideas, no acquired store of knowledge, no rule of common sense to guide it! Poor, wretched, sinful Chiniquy, thou art here to save thyself by admiring every iota of the holy rules of your superiors, and to obey every word of their lips!"
I felt angry against myself, and unspeakably sad when, after whole weeks and months of efforts, not only to silence the voice of my reason, but to kill it, it had more life than ever, and was more and more loudly protesting against the unmanly, unchristian, and ridiculous daily usages and rules of the monastery. I envied the humble piety of the other good Fathers, who were apparently so happy, having conquered themselves so completely, as to destroy that haughty reason, which was constantly rebelling in me.
Twice, every week, I went to reveal to my guide and confessor, Father Allard, the master of novices, my interior struggles; my constant, though vain efforts, to subdue my rebellious reason. He always gladdened me with the promise that, sooner or later, I should have that interior perfect peace which is promised to the humble monk when he has attained the supreme monastic perfection of considering himself as a corpse, as regards the rules and will of his superiors. My sincere and constant efforts to reconcile myself to the rules of the monastery were, however, soon to receive a new and rude check. I had read in the book of rules, that a true monk must closely watch those who live with him, and secretly report to his superior the defects and sins which he detects in them. The first time I read that strange rule, my mind was so taken up by other things, that I did not pay much attention to it. But the second time I studied that clause, the blush came to my face, and in spite of myself, I said: "Is it possible that we are a band of spies?" I was not long in seeing the disastrous effects of this most degrading and immoral rule. One of the fathers, for whom I had a particular affection for his many good qualities, and who had many times given me the sincere proof of his friendship, said to me one day: "For God's sake, my dear Father Chiniquy, tell me if it is you who denounced me to the Superior for having said that the conduct of Father Guigues towards me was uncharitable?"
"No! my dear friend," I answered, "I never said such a thing against you, for two reasons: The first is, that you have never said a word in my presence which could give me the idea that you had such an opinion of our good Father Superior; the second reason is, that though you might have told me anything of that kind, I would prefer to have my tongue cut, and eaten by dogs, than to be a spy, and denounce you!"
"I am glad t know that," he rejoined, "for I was told by some of the fathers that you were the one who had reported me to the Superior as guilty, though I am innocent of that offense, but I could not believe it." He added with tears, "I regret having left my parish to be an Oblate, on account of that abominable law which we are sworn to fulfill. That law makes a real hell of this monastery, and, I suppose, of all the monastic orders, for I think it is a general law with all the religious houses. When you have passed more time here, you will see that that law of detection puts an insurmountable wall between us all; it destroys every spring of Christian and social happiness."
"I understand, perfectly well, what you say," I answered him; "the last time I was alone with Father Superior, he asked me why I had said that the present Pope was an old fool; he persisted in telling me that I must have said it, 'for,' he added, 'one of our most reliable fathers has assured me you said it.' 'Well, my dear Father Superior,' I answered him, 'that reliable father has told you a big lie; I never said such a thing, for the good reason that I sincerely think that our present Pope is one of the wisest that ever ruled the church.' I added, 'Now I understand why there is so much unpleasantness in our mutual intercourse, during the hours we are allowed to talk. I see that nobody dares to speak his mind on any grave subject. The conversations are colourless and without life.'" "That is just the reason," answered my friend. When some of the fathers, like you and me, would prefer to be hung rather than become spies, the great majority of them, particularly among the French priests recently imported from France, will not hear ten words from your lips on any subject, without finding an opportunity of reporting eight of them as unbecoming and unchristian, to the superiors. I do not say that it is always through malice that they give such false reports; it is more through want of judgment. They are very narrow minded; they do not understand the half of what they hear in its true sense; and they give their false impressions to the superiors, who, unfortunately, encourage that system of spying, as the best way of transforming every one of us into corpses. As we are never confronted with our false accusers, we can never know them, and we lose confidence in each other; thus it is that the sweetest and holiest springs of true Christian love are for ever dried up. It is on this spying system which is the curse and the hell of our monastic houses, that a celebrated French writer, who had been a monk himself, wrote of all the monks:
"Ils rentrent dans leurs monasteres sans so connaaitre; ils y vivent, sans s'aimr: et ils se separent sans se regretter" (Monks enter a monastery without knowing each other; they live there, without loving each other; and they depart from each other without any regret.)
However, though I sincerely deplored that there was such a law of espionage among us, I tried to persuade myself that it was like the dark spots of the sun, which do not diminish its beauty, its grandeur and its innumerable blessings. The Society of the Oblates was still to me the blessed ark where I should find a sure shelter against the storms which were desolating the rest of the world.
Not long after my reception as a novice, the providence of God put before our eyes one of those terrible wrecks which would make the strongest of us tremble. Suddenly, at the hour of breakfast, the superior of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, and grand vicar of the Diocese of Montreal, the Rev. Mr. Quiblier, knocked at our door, to rest an hour, and breakfast with us, when on his way to France.
This unfortunate priest, who was among the best orators and the best looking men Montreal had ever seen, had lived such a profligate life with his penitent nuns and ladies of Montreal, that a cry of indignation from the whole people had forced Bishop Bourget to send him back to France. Our father superior took the opportunity of the fall of that talented priest, to make us bless God for having gathered us behind the walls of our monastery, where the efforts of the enemy were powerless. But, alas! we were soon to know, at our own expense, that the heart of man is weak and deceitful everywhere.
It was not long after the public fall of the grand vicar of Montreal, when a fine-looking widow was engaged to preside over our kitchen. She was more than forty years old, and had very good manners. Unfortunately, she had not been four months in the monastery, when she fell in love with her father confessor, one of the most pious of the French father Oblates. The modern Adam was not stronger than the old one against the charms of the new Eve. Both were found, in an evil hour, forgetting one of the holy laws of God. The guilty priest was punished and the weak woman dismissed. But an unspeakable shame remained upon us all! I would have preferred to have my sentence of death, than the news of such a fall inside the walls of that house where I had so foolishly believed that Satan could not lay his snares. From that day, it was the will of God that the strange and beautiful illusions which had brought me to that monastery, should fade away one after the other, like the white mist which conceals the bright rays of the morning sun. The Oblates began to appear to me pretty much like other men. Till then, I had looked at them with my eyes shut, and I had seen nothing but the glittering colours with which my imagination was painting them. From that day, I studied them with my eyes opened, and I saw them just as they were.
In the spring of 1847, having a severe indisposition, the doctor ordered me to go to the Hotel Dieu of Montreal, which was, then, near the splendid St. Mary's Church. I made there, for the first time, the acquaintance of a venerable old nun, who was very talkative. She was one of the superiors of the house; her family name was Urtubise. Her mind was still full of indignation at the bad conduct of two father Oblates, who, under the pretext of sickness, had lately come to her monastery to seduce the young nuns who were serving them. She told me how she had turned them out ignominiously, forbidding them ever to come again, under any pretext, into the hospital. She was young, when Bishop Lartigue, being driven away from the Sulpician Seminary of Montreal, in 1823, had taken refuge, with his secretary, the Rev. Ignace Bourget, into the modest walls of that nunnery. She told me how the nuns had soon to repent having received the bishop with his secretary and other priests.
"It was nearly the ruin of our community. The intercourse of the priests with a certain number of nuns" she said, "was the cause of so much disorder and scandal, that I was deputed with some other nuns, to the bishop to respectfully request him not to prolong his stay in our nunnery. I told him, in my name, and in the name of many others, that if he would not comply with our legitimate request, we should instantly leave the house, go back to our families and get married, that it was better to be honestly married than to continue to live as the priests, even our father confessors, wanted us to do."
After she had given me several other spicy stories of those interesting distant days, I asked her if she had known Maria Monk, when she was in their house, and what she thought of her book, "Awful Disclosures?" "I have known her well," she said. "She spent six months with us. I have read her book, which was given me, that I might refute it. But after reading it, I refused to have anything to do with that deplorable exposure. There are surely some inventions and suppositions in that book. But there is sufficient amount of truth to cause all our nunneries to be pulled down by the people, if only the half of them were known to the public!"
She then said to me: "For God's sake, do not reveal these things to the world, till the last one of us is dead, if God spares you." She then covered her face with her hands, burst into tears, and left the room.
I remained horrified. Her words fell upon me as a thunderbolt. I regretted having heard them, though I was determined to respect her request not to reveal the terrible secret she had entrusted to me. My God knows that I never repeated a word of it till now. But I think it is my duty to reveal to my country and the whole world the truth on that grave subject, as it was given me by a most respectable and unimpeachable eyewitness.
The terrible secrets which Sister Urtubise had revealed to me rendered my stay in the Hotel Dieu as unpleasant as it had been agreeable at first. Though not quiet recovered I left, the same day, for Longueuil, where I entered the monastery with a heavy heart. The day before, two of the fathers had come back from a two or three months' evangelical excursion among the lumber men, who were cutting wood in the forests along the Ottawa River and its tributaries, from one to two hundred miles north-west of Montreal. I was glad to hear of their arrival. I hoped that the interesting history of their evangelical excursions, narrow escapes from the bears and the wolves of the forests; their hearty receptions by the honest and sturdy lumber men, which the superior had requested me, some weeks before, to write, would cause a happy diversion from the deplorable things I had recently learned. But only one of those fathers could be seen, and his conversation was anything but interesting and pleasant. There was evidently a dark cloud around him. And the other Oblate, his companion, where was he? The very day of his arrival, he had been ordered to keep his room, and make a retreat of ten days, during which time he was forbidden to speak to anyone.
I inquired from a devoted friend among the old Oblates the reason of such a strange thing. After promising never to reveal to the superiors the sad secret he trusted me with, he said: "Poor Father Dhas seduced one of his fair penitents, on the way. She was a married woman, the lady of the house where our missionaries used to receive the most cordial hospitality. The husband having discovered the infidelity of his wife, came very near killing her; he ignominiously turned out the two fathers, and wrote a terrible letter to the superior. The companion of the guilty father denounced him, an confessed everything to the superior, who has seen that the letter of the enraged husband was only giving too true and correct a version of the whole unfortunate and shameful occurrence. Now, the poor, weak father for his penance, is condemned to ten days of seclusion from the rest of the community. He must pass that whole time in prayer, fasting, and acts of humiliation, dictated by the superior."
"Do these deplorable facts occur very often among the father Oblates?" I asked.
My friend raised his eyes, filled with tears, to heaven, and with a deep sigh, he answered: "Dear Father Chiniquy, would to God that I might be able to tell you that it is the first crime of that nature committed by an Oblate. But alas! you know, by what has occurred with our female cook not long ago, that it is not the first time that some of our fathers have brought disgrace upon us all. And you know also the abominable life of Father Telmont with the two nuns at Ottawa!"
"If it be so," I replied, "where is the spiritual advantage of the regular clergy over the secular?"
"The only advantage I see," answered my friend, "is that the regular clergy gives himself with more impunity to every kind of debauch and licentiousness than the secular. The monks being concealed from the eyes of the public, inside the walls of their monastery, where nobody, or at least very few people, have any access, are more easily conquered by the devil, and more firmly kept in his chains, than the secular priests. The sharp eyes of the public, and the daily intercourse the secular priests have with their relations and parishioners, form a powerful and salutary restraint upon the bad inclinations of our depraved nature. In the monastery, there is no restraint except the childish and ridiculous punishments of retreats, kissing of the floor, or of the feet, prostration upon the ground, as Father Burnette did, a few days after your coming among us.
"There is surely more hypocrisy and selfishness among the regular than the secular clergy. That great social organization which forms the human family is a divine work. Yes! those great social organizations which are called the city, the township, the country, the parish, and the household, where every one is called to work in the light of day, is a divine organization, and makes society as strong, pure, and holy as it can be.
"I confess that there are also terrible temptations, and deplorable falls there, but the temptations are not so unconquerable, and the falls not so irreparable, as in these dark recesses and unhealthy prisons raised by Satan only for the birds of night, called monasteries or nunneries.
"The priest and the woman who falls in the midst of a well-organized Christian society, break the hearts of the beloved mother, covers with shame a venerable father, cause the tears of cherished sisters and brothers to flow, pierce, with a barbed arrow, the hearts of thousands of friends; they for ever lose their honour and good name. These considerations are so many providential, I dare say Divine, shields, to protect the sons and daughters of Eve against their own frailty. The secular priest and the women shrink before throwing themselves into such a bottomless abyss of shame, misery, and regret. But behind the thick and dark walls of the monastery, or the nunnery, what has the fallen monk or nun to fear? Nobody will hear of it, no bad consequences worth mentioning will follow, except a few days of retreat, some insignificant, childish, ridiculous penances, which the most devoted in the monastery are practicing almost every day.
"As you ask me in earnest what are the advantages of a monastic life over a secular, in a moral and social point of view, I will answer you. In the monastery, man, as the image of God, forgets his divine origin, loses his dignity; and as a Christian, he loses the most holy weapons Christ has given to His disciples to fight the battle of life. He, at once and for ever, loses that law of self-respect, and respect for others, which is one of the most powerful and legitimate barriers against vice. Yes! That great and divine law of self-respect, which God Himself has implanted in the heart of every man and woman who live in a Christian society, is completely destroyed in the monastery and nunnery. The foundation of perfection in the monk and the nun is that they must consider themselves as corpses. Do you not see that this principle strikes at the root of all that God has made good, grand, and holy in man? Does it not sweep away every idea of holiness, purity, greatness! every principle of life which the Gospel of Christ had for its mission to reveal to the fallen children of Adam?
"What self-respect can we expect from a corpse? and what respect can a corpse feel for the other corpses which surround it? Thus it is that the very idea of monastic perfection carries with it the destruction of all that is good, pure, holy, and spiritual in the religion of the Gospel. It destroys the very idea of life to put death into its place.
"It is for that reason that if you study the true history, not the lying history, of monachism, you will find the details of a corruption impossible, anywhere else, not even among the lowest houses of prostitution. Read the Memoirs of Scipio de Ricci, one of the most pious and intelligent bishops our Church has ever had, and you will see that the monks and the nuns of Italy live the very life of the brutes in the fields. Yes! read the terrible revelations of what is going on among those unfortunate men and women, whom in the iron hand of monachism keeps tied in their dark dungeons, you will hear from the very lips of the nuns that the monks are more free with them than the husbands are with their legitimate wives; you will see that every one of those monastic institutions is a new Sodom!
"The monastic axiom, that the highest point of perfection is attained only when you consider yourself a corpse in the hand of your superior, is anti-social and Antichristian: it is simply diabolical. It transforms into a vile machine that man whom God had created in His likeness, and made for ever free. It degrades below the brute that man whom Christ, by His death, has raised to the dignity of a child of God, and an inheritor of an eternal kingdom in Heaven. Everything is mechanical, material, false, in the life of a monk and a nun. Even the best virtues are deceptions and lies. The monks and the nuns being perfect only when they have renounced their own free-will and intelligence to become corpses, can have neither virtues or vices.
"Their best actions are mechanical. Their acts of humility are to crawl under the table and kiss the feet of each other, or to make a cross on a dirty floor with the tongue, or lie down in the dust to let the rest of the monks or the nuns pass over them! Have you not remarked how those so-called monks speak with the utmost contempt of the rest of the world? One must have opportunities as I have had of seeing the profound hatred which exists among all monastic orders against each other. How the Dominicans have always hated the Franciscans, and how they both hate the Jesuits, who pay them back in the same coin! What a strong and nameless hatred divides the Oblates, to whom we belong, from the Jesuits! The Jesuits never lose an opportunity of showing us their supreme contempt! You are aware that, on account of those bad feelings, it is absolutely forbidden to an Oblate to confess to a Jesuit, as we know it is forbidden to the Jesuits to confess to an Oblate, or to any other priest.
"I need not tell you, for you know, that their vow of poverty is a mask to help them to become rich with more rapidity than the rest of the world. Is it not under the mask of that vow that the monks of England, Scotland, and France became the masters of the richest lands of those countries, which the nations were forced, by bloody revolutions, to wrench from their grasp?
"Is it not still under the mask of extreme poverty that the monks of Italy are among the richest proprietors in that unfortunate country?
"I have seen much more of the world than you. When a young priest, I was the chaplain, confessor, and intimate friend of the Duchess de Berry, the mother of Henry V, now the only legitimate king of France. When, in the midst of those great and rich princes and nobles of France, I never saw such a love of money, of honour, of vain glory, as I have seen among the monks since I have become one of them. When the Duchess de Berry finished her providential work in France, after making the false step which ruined her, I threw myself into the religious order of the Chartreux. I have lived several years in their palatial monastery of Rome; have cultivated and enjoyed their sweet fruits in their magnificent gardens; but I was not there long without seeing the fatal error I had committed in becoming a monk. During the many years I resided in that splendid mansion, where laziness, stupidity, filthiness, gluttony, superstition, tediousness, ignorance, pride, and unmentionable immoralities, with very few exceptional cases, reigned supreme, I had every opportunity to know what was going on in their midst. Life soon became an unbearable burden, but for the hope I had of breaking my fetters. At last I found out that the best, if not the only way of doing this, was to declare to the Pope that I wanted to go and preach the gospel to the savages of America, which was, and is still true.
"I made my declaration, and by the Pope's permission the doors of my goal were opened, with the condition that I should join the order of the Oblates Immaculate, in connection with which I should evangelize the savages of the Rocky Mountains.
"I have found among the monks of Canada the very same things I have seen among those of France and Italy. With very few exceptions they are all corpses, absolutely dead to every sentiment of true honesty and real Christianity; they are putrid carcasses, which have lost the dignity of manhood.
"My dear Father Chiniquy," he added, "I trust you as I trust myself, when I tell you for our own good a secret which is known to God alone. When I am on the Rocky Mountains, I will raise myself up, as the eagles of those vast countries, and I shall go up to the regions of liberty, light, and life; I will cease being a corpse, to become what my God has made me a free and intelligent man: I will cease to be a corpse, in order to become one of the redeemed of Christ, who serve God in spirit and in truth.
"Christ is the light of the world; monachism is its night! Christ is the strength, the glory, the life of man; monachism is its decay, shame, and death! Christ died to make us free; the monastery is built up to make slaves of us! Christ died that we might be raised to the dignity of children of God; monachism is established to bring us down much below he living brutes, for it transforms us into corpses! Christ is the highest conception of humanity; monachism is its lowest!
"Yes, yes, I hope my God will soon give me the favour I have asked so long! When I shall be on the top of the Rocky Mountains, I will, for ever, break my fetters. I will rise from my tomb; I will come out from among the dead, to sit at the table of the redeemed, and eat the bread of the living children of God!"
I do regret that the remarkable monk, whose abridged views on monachism I have here given, should have requested me never to give his name, when he allows me to tell some of his adventures, which will make a most interesting romance. Faithful to his promise, he went, as an Oblate, to preach to the savages of the Rocky Mountains, and there, without noise, he slipped out of their hands; broke his chains to live the life of a freedman of Christ, in the holy bonds of a Christian marriage with a respectable American lady.
Weak and timid soldier that I was once; frightened by the ruins spread everywhere on the battle-field, I looked around to find a shelter against the impending danger; I thought that the monastery of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was one of those strong towers, built by my God, where the arrows of the enemy could not reach me, and I threw myself into it.
But, hardly beginning to hope that I was out of danger, behind those dark and high walls, when I saw them shaking like a drunken man; and the voice of God passed like a hurricane over me.
Suddenly, the high towers and walls around me fell to the ground, and were turned into dust. Not one stone remained on another.
And I heard a voice saying to me: "Soldier! come out and get in the light of the sun; trust no more in the walls built by the hand of man; they are nothing but dust. Come and fight in the open day, under the eyes of God, protected only by the gospel banner of Christ! come out from behind those walls they are a diabolical deception, a snare, a fraud!"
I listened to the voice, and I bade adieu to the inmates of the monastery of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
When, on the 1st of November, 1847, I pressed them on my heart for the last time, I felt the burning tears of many of them falling on my cheeks, and my tears moistened their faces: for they loved me, and I loved them. I had met there several noble hearts and precious souls worthy of a better fate. Oh! if I could have, at the price of my life, given them the light and liberty which my merciful God had given me! But they were in the dark; and there was no power in me to change their darkness into light. The hand of God brought me back to my dear Canada, that I might again offer it the sweat and the labours, the love and life of the least of its sons.
CHAPTER 43 Back to Table of Contents
The eleven months spent in the monastery of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, were among the greatest favours God has granted me. What I had read of the monastic orders, and what my honest, though deluded imagination, had painted of the holiness, purity, and happiness of the monastic life, could not be blotted out of my mind, except by a kind of miraculous interposition. No testimony whatever could have convinced me that the monastic institutions were not one of the most blessed of the Gospel. Their existence, in the bosom of the Church of Rome, was, for me, an infallible token of her divine institution, and miraculous preservation; and their absence among Protestants, one of the strongest proofs that these heretics were entirely separated from Christ. Without religious orders the Protestant denominations were to me, as dead and decayed branches cut from the true vine, which are doomed to perish.
But, just as the eyes of Thomas were opened, and his intelligence was convinced of the divinity of Christ, only after he had seen the wounds in his hands and side, so I could never have believed that the monastic institutions were of heathen and diabolical origin, if my God had not forced me to see with my own eyes, and to touch with my fingers, their unspeakable corruptions.
Though I remained, for some time longer, a sincere Catholic priest, I dare say that God Himself had just broken the strongest tie of my affections and respect for that Church.
It is true that several pillars remained, on which my robust faith in the holiness and apostolicity of the Church rested for a few years longer, but I must here confess to the glory of God, that the most solid of these pillars had for ever crumbled to pieces, when in the monastery of Longueuil.
Long before my leaving the Oblates, many influential priests of the district of Montreal had told me that my only chance of success, if I wanted to continue my crusade against the demon of drunkenness, was to work alone. "Those monks are pretty good speakers on temperance," they unanimously said, "but they are nothing else than a band of comedians. After delivering their eloquent tirades against the use of intoxicating drinks, to the people, the first thing they do is to ask for a bottle of wine, which soon disappears! What fruit can we expect from the preaching of men who do not believe a word of what they say, and who are the first, among themselves, to turn their own arguments into ridicule? It is very different with you; you believe what you say; you are consistent with yourself; your hearers feel it; your profound, scientific, and Christian convictions pass into them with an irresistible power. God visibly blesses your work with a marvelous success! Come to us," said the curates, "not as sent by the superior of the Oblates, but as sent, by God Himself, to regenerate Canada. Present yourself as a French
Canadian priest; a child of the people. That people will hear you with more pleasure, and follow your advice with more perseverance. Let them know and feel that Canadian blood runs in your veins; that a Canadian heart beats in your breast; continue to be, in the future, what you have been in the past. Let the sentiments of the true patriot be united with those of a Catholic priest; and when you address the people of Canada, the citadels of Satan will crumble everywhere before you in the district of Montreal, as they have done in that of Quebec."
At the head of the French Canadian curates, who thus spoke, was my venerable personal friend and benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Brassard, curate of Longueuil. He had not only been one of my most devoted friends and teachers, when I was studying in the college at Nicolet, but had helped me, with his own money, to go through the last four years of my studies, when I was too poor to meet my collegiate expenses. No one had thought more highly than he of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, when they first settled in Canada. But their monastery was too near his parsonage for their own benefit. His sharp eyes, high intelligence, and integrity of character, soon detected that there was more false varnish than pure gold, on their glittering escutcheon. Several love scrapes between some of the Oblates and the pretty young ladies of his parish, and the long hours of night spent by Father Allard with the nuns, established in his village, under the pretext of teaching them grammar and arithmetic, had filled him with disgust. But what had absolutely destroyed his confidence, was the discovery of a long-suspected iniquity, which at first seemed incredible to him. Father Guigues, the superior, after his nomination, but before his installation to the Bishopric of Ottawa, had been closely watched, and at last discovered when opening the letters of Mr. Brassard, which, many times, had passed from the post office, through his hands. That criminal action had come very near to being brought before the legal courts by Mr. Brassard; this was avoided only by Father Guigues acknowledging his guilt, asking pardon in the most humiliating way, before me and several other witnesses.
Long before I left the Oblates, Mr. Brassard had said to me: "The Oblates are not the men you think them to be. I have been sorely disappointed in them, and your disappointment will be no less than mine, when your eyes are opened. I know that you will not remain long in their midst. I offer you, in advance, the hospitality of my parsonage, when your conscience calls you out of their monastery!"
I availed myself of this kind invitation on the evening of the 1st of November, 1847.
The next week was spent in preparing the memoir which I intended to present to my Lord Bourget, Bishop of Montreal, as an explanation of my leaving the Oblates. I knew that he was disappointed and displeased with the step I had taken.
The curate of Chambly, Rev. Mr. Mignault, having gone to the bishop, to express his joy that I had left the monks, in order to serve again in the church, in the ranks of the secular clergy, had been very badly received. The bishop had answered him: "Mr. Chiniquy may leave the Oblates if he likes; but he will be disappointed if he expects to work in my diocese. I do not want his services."
This did not surprise me. I knew that those monks had been imported by him, from France, and that they were pets of his. When I entered their monastery, just eleven months before, he was just starting for Rome, and expressed to me the pleasure he felt that I was to join them. My reasons, however, were so good, and the memoir I was preparing was so full of undoubted facts and unanswerable arguments, that I was pretty sure, not only to appease the wrath of my bishop, but to gain his esteem more firmly than before. I was not disappointed in my expectation.
A few days later I called upon his lordship, and was received very coldly. He said: "I cannot conceal from you my surprise and pain at the rasp step you have taken. What a shame, for all your friends to see your want of consistency and perseverance! Had you remained among those good monks, your moral strength, could have been increased more than tenfold. But you have stultified yourself in the eyes of the people, as well as in mine; you have lost the confidence of your best friends, by leaving, without good reasons, the company of such holy men. Some bad rumours are already afloat against you, which give us to understand that you are an unmanageable man, a selfish priest, whom the superiors have been forced to turn out as a black sheep, whose presence could not be any longer tolerated inside the peaceful walls of that holy monastery."
Those words were uttered with an expression of bad feeling which told me that I had not heard the tenth part of what he had in his heart. However, as I came into his presence prepared to hear all kinds of bad reports, angry reproaches, and humiliating insinuations, I remained perfectly calm. I had, in advance, resolved to hear all his unfriendly, insulting remarks, just as if they were addressed to another person, a perfect stranger to me. The last three days had been spent in prayers to obtain that favour. My God had evidently head me; for the storm passed over me without exciting the least unpleasant feelings in my soul.
I answered: "My lord, allow me to tell you that, in taking the solemn step of leaving the monastery of Longueuil, I was not afraid of what the world would say, or think of me. My only desire is to save my soul, and give the rest of my life to my country and my God, in a more efficacious way than I have yet done. The rumours which seem to trouble your lordship about my supposed expulsion from the Oblates do not affect me in the least, for they are without the least foundation. From the first to the last day of my stay in that monastery, all the inmates, from the superior to the last one, have overwhelmed me with the most sincere marks of kindness, and even of respect. If you had seen the tears which were shed by the brothers, when I bade them adieu, you would have understood that I never had more devoted and sincere friends than the members of that religious community. Please read this important document, and you will see that I have kept my good name during my stay in that monastery." I handed him the following testimonial letter which the superior had given me when I left:
"I, the undersigned, Superior of the Noviciate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Longueuil, do certify that the conduct of Mr. Chiniquy, when in our monastery, has been worthy of the sacred character which he possesses, and after this year of solitude, he does not less deserve the confidence of his brethren in the holy ministry than before. We wish, moreover, to give our testimony of his preserving zeal in the cause of temperance. We think that nothing was more of a nature to give a character of stability to that admirable reform, and to secure its perfect success, than the profound reflections and studies of Mr. Chiniquy, when in the solitude of Longueuil, on the importance of that work.
"T. F. Allard,
"Superior of the Noviciate O.M.I."
It was really most pleasant for me to see that every line of that document read by the bishop was blotting out some of the stern and unfriendly lines which were on his face, when speaking to me. Nothing was more amiable than his manners, when he handed it back to me, saying: "I thank God to see that you are still as worthy of my esteem and confidence, as when you entered that monastery. But would you be kind enough to give me the real reasons why you have so abruptly separated from the Oblates?"
"Yes, my lord, I will give them to you; but your lordship knows that there are things of such a delicate nature, that the lips of man shiver and rebel when required to utter them. Such are some of the deplorable things which I have to mention to your lordship. I have put those reasons in these pages, which I respectfully request your lordship to read," and I handed him the Memoir, about thirty pages long, which I had prepared. The bishop read, very carefully five or six pages, and said: "Are you positive as to the exactness of what you write here?"
"Yes, my lord! They are as true and real as I am here."
The bishop turned pale and remained a few minutes silent, biting his lips, and after a deep sigh, said: "Is it your intention to reveal those sad mysteries to the world, or can we hope that you will keep that secret?"
"My lord," I answered, "if your lordship and the Oblates deal with me, as I hope they will do, as with an honourable Catholic priest; if I am kept in the position which an honest priest has a right to fill in the church, I consider myself bound, in conscience and honour, to keep those things secret. But, if from any abuse, persecutions emanating from the Oblates, or any other party, I am obliged to give to the world the true reasons of my leaving that monastic order, your lordship understands that, in self-defense, I will be forced to make these revelations!"
"But the Oblates cannot say a word, or do anything wrong against you," promptly answered the bishop, "after the honourable testimony they have given you."
"It is true, my lord, that I have no reason to fear anything from the Oblates!" I answered; "but those religious men are not the only ones who might force me to defend myself. You know another who has my future destinies in his hands. You know that my future course will be shaped by h is own toward me."
With an amiable smile the bishop answered:
"I understand you. But I pledge myself that you have nothing to fear from that quarter. Though I frankly tell you that I would have preferred seeing you work as a member of that monastic institution, it may be that it is more according to the will of God, that you should go among the people, as sent by God, rather than by a superior, who might be your inferior in the eyes of many, in that glorious temperance, of which you are evidently the blessed apostle in Canada. I am glad to tell you that I have spoken of you to his holiness, and he requested me to give you a precious medal, which bears his most perfect features, with a splendid crucifix. His holiness has graciously attached three hundred days' for indulgences to every one who will take the pledge of temperance in kissing the feet of that crucifix. Wait a moment," added the bishop, "I will go and get them and present them to you."
When the bishop returned, holding in his hands those two infallible tokens of the kind sentiments of the Pope towards me, I fell on my knees to receive them and press them both to my lips with the utmost respect. My feelings of joy and gratitude in that happy hour cannot be expressed. I remained mute, for some time, with surprise and admiration, when holding those precious things which were coming to me, as I then sincerely believed, from the very successor of Peter, and the true Vicar of Christ Himself. When handing me those sacred gifts, the bishop addressed me the kindest words which a bishop can utter to his priest, or a father to his beloved son. He granted me the power to preach and hear confessions all over his diocese, and he dismissed me only after having put his hand on my head and asked God to pour upon me His most abundant benedictions everywhere I should go to work in the holy cause of temperance in Canada.
CHAPTER 44 Back to Table of Contents
Our adorable Saviour said: "What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (Luke xiv. 31). To follow that advice, how often had I fallen on my knees before my God, to implore the necessary strength and wisdom to meet that terrible enemy which was marching against me and my brethren! Often I was so discouraged by the sense of my personal incapacity, that I came near fainting and flying away at the sight of the power and resources of the foe! But the dear Saviour's voice had as many times strengthened me, saying! "Fear not, I am with thee!" He seemed at every hour to whisper in my ears, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!" (John xvi. 33). Trusting, then, in my God, alone, for victory, I nevertheless understood that my duty was to arm myself with the weapons which the learned and the wise men of the past ages had prepared. I again studied the best works written on the subject of wine, from the learned naturalist, Pliny, to the celebrated Sir Astley Cooper. I not only compiled a multitude of scientific notes, arguments, and facts from these books, but prepared a "Manual of Temperance," which obtained so great a success, for such a small country as Canada, that it went through four editions of twenty-five thousand copies in less than four years. But my best source of information and wisdom was from letters received from Father Mathew, and my personal interviews with him, when he visited the United States.
The first time I met him, in Boston, he told me how he regretted his having, at first, too much relied on the excitement and enthusiasm of the multitudes. "Those fits," he said, "pass away as quickly as the clouds of the storm; and they, too often, leave no more traces of their passage. Persevere in the resolution you have taken in the beginning, never to give the pledge, except when you give a complete course of lectures on the damning effects of intoxicating drinks. How can we expect that the people will for ever give up beverages which they honestly, though ignorantly, believe to be beneficial and necessary to their body? The first thing we do we must demonstrate to them that these alcoholic drinks are absolutely destructive of their temporal, as well as of their eternal life. So long as the priest and the people believe, as they do today, that rum, brandy, wine, beer, and cider give strength to help man to keep up his health in the midst of his hard labours; that they warm his blood in winter and cool it in the summer; all our efforts, and even our successes, will be like the bundle of straw, which makes a bright light, attracts the attention for a moment, and leaves nothing but smoke and cinders.
"Hundreds of times I have seen my Irish countrymen honestly taking the pledge for life; but before a week had elapsed, they had obtained a release from their priests, under the impression that they were unable to earn their own living and support their families, without drinking those detestable drugs. Very few priests in Ireland have taken the pledge, and still fewer have kept it. In New York, only two Irish priests have given up their intoxicating glass, and the very next week I met both of them drunk! Archbishop Hughes turned my humble efforts into ridicule, before his priests, in my own presence, and drank a glass of brandy to my health with them at his own table to mock me. And here in Boston the drinking habits of the bishop and his priests are such, that I have been forced, through self-respect, to quietly withdraw from his palace and come to this hotel. This bad conduct paralyses and kills me."
In saying these last words, that good and noble man burst into a fit of convulsive sobs and tears; his breast was heaving under his vain efforts to suppress his sighs. He concealed his face in his hands, and for nearly ten minutes he could not utter a word. The spectacle of the desolation of a man whom God has raised so high, and so much blessed, and the tears of one who had himself dried so many tears, and brought so much joy, peace, and comfort, to so many desolate homes, has been one of the most solemn lessons my God ever gave me. I then learned more clearly than ever, that all the glory of the world is Vanity, and that one of the greatest acts of folly is to rely, for happiness, on the praises of men and the success of our own labours. For who had received more merited praises, and who had seen his own labours more blessed by God and man, than Father Mathew, whom all ages will call "The Apostle of Temperance of Ireland?"
My gratitude to Mr. Brassard caused me to choose his parish, near Montreal, for the first grand battlefield of the impending struggle against the enemy of my God and my country; and the first week of Advent determined upon for the opening of the campaign. But the nearer the day chosen to draw the sword against the modern Goliath, the more I felt the solemnity of my position, and the more I needed the help of Him on whom alone we can trust for light and strength.
I had determined never to lecture on temperance in any place, without having previously inquired, from the most reliable sources, about: (1) The number of deaths and accidents caused by drunkenness the last fifteen or twenty years. (2) The number of orphans and widows made by drunkenness. (3) The number of rich families ruined, and the number of poor families made poorer by the same cause. (4) The approximate sum of money expended by the people during the last twenty years.
As the result of my enquiries, I learned that during that short period, that 32 men had lost their lives when drunk; and through their drunkenness 25 widows and 73 orphans had been left in the lowest degree of poverty! 72 rich families had been entirely ruined and turned out of their once happy homes by the demon of intemperance, and 90 kept poor. More than three hundred thousand dollars (300,000 dollars) had been paid in cash, without counting the loss of time, for the intoxicating beverages drank by the people of Longueuil during the last twenty years.
For three days, I spoke twice a day to crowded houses. My first text was: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup: when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder" (Prov. xxiii. 31,32).
The first day I showed how alcoholic beverages were biting like a serpent and stinging like an adder, by destroying the lungs, the brains, and the liver, the nerves and the muscles, the blood and the very life of man. The second day I proved that intoxicating drinks were the most implacable and cruel enemies of the fathers, the mothers, the children; of the young and the old; of the rich and the poor; of the farmers, the merchants, and the mechanics; the parish and the country. The third day I proved, clearly, that those intoxicating liquors were the enemy of the intelligence, and the soul of man; the gospel of Christ and of His holy Church; the enemy of all the rights of man and the laws of God. My conclusion was, that we were all bound to raise our hands against that gigantic and implacable foe, whose arm was raised against every one of us. I presented the thrilling tableau of our friends, near and dear relations, and neighbours, fallen and destroyed around us; the thousands of orphans and widows, whose fathers and husbands had been slaughtered by strong drink. I brought before their minds the true picture of the starving children, the destitute widows and mothers, whose life had to be spent in tears, ignominy, desolation and unspeakable miseries, from the daily use of strong drink. I was not half through my address when tears flowed from every eye. The cries and sobs so much drowned my voice, that I had several times to stop speaking for a few minutes.
Then holding the crucifix, blessed and given to me by the Pope, I showed what Christ had suffered on the cross for sins engendered by the use of intoxicating drinks. And I requested them to listen to the voices of the thousands of desolate orphans, widows, wives and mothers, coming from every corner of the land; the voices of their priests and their church; the voices of the angels, the Virgin Mary and the saints in heaven; the voice of Jesus Christ their Saviour, calling them to put an end to the deluge of evils and unspeakable iniquities caused by the use of those cursed drinks; "for," said I, "those liquors are cursed by millions of mothers and children, widows and orphans, who owe to them a life of shame, tears, and untold desolation. They are cursed by the Virgin Mary and the angels who are the daily witnesses of the iniquities with which they deluge the world. They are cursed by the millions of souls which they have plunged into eternal misery. They are cursed by Jesus Christ, from whose hands they have wrenched untold millions of souls, for whom He died on Calvary."
Every one of those truths, incontrovertible for Roman Catholics, were falling with irresistible power on that multitude of people. The distress and consternation were so profound and universal, that they reacted, at last, on the poor speaker, who several times could not express what he himself felt except with his tears and his sobs.
When I hoped that, by the great mercy of God, all resistances were subdued, the obstacles removed, the intelligence enlightened, the wills conquered, I closed the address, which had lasted more than two hours, by an ardent prayer to God to grant us the grace to give up for ever the use of those terrible poisons, and I requested everyone to repeat with me, in their hearts, the solemn pledge of temperance in the following words:
"Adorable and dear Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to take away my sins and save my guilty soul, for Thy glory, the good of my brethren and of my country, as well as for my own good, I promise, with Thy help, never to drink, not to give to anybody any intoxicating beverages, except when ordered by an honest physician."
Our merciful God had visibly blessed the work and His unprofitable servant. The success was above our sanguine expectations. Two thousand three hundred citizens of Longueuil enrolled under the pledge, I asked them to come to the foot of the altar and kiss the crucifix I was holding, as the public and solemn pledge of their engagement.
The first thing done by the majority of the intelligent farmers of Longueuil, on the return from the church, was to break their decanters and their barrels, and spill the last drop of the accursed drink on the ground. Seven days later, there were eighty requests in my hands to go and show the ravages of alcoholic liquors to man other parishes. Boucherville, Chambly, Varennes, St. Hyacinthe, ect., Three Rivers, the great city of Montreal, Three Rivers, and St. Hyacinthe, one after the other, raised the war cry against the usages of intoxicating drinks, with a unanimity and determination which seemed to be more miraculous than natural. During the four years, I gave 1,800 public addresses, in 200 parishes, with the same fruits, and enrolled more than 200,000 people under the banners of temperance. Everywhere, the taverns, the distilleries and breweries were shut, and their owners forced to take other trades to make a living; not on account of any stringent law, but by the simple fact that the whole people had ceased drinking their beverages, after having been fully persuaded that they were injurious to their bodies, opposed to their happiness, and ruinous to their souls.
The convictions were so unanimous and strong on that subject, that, in many places, the last evening I spent in their midst, the merchants used to take all their barrels or rum, beer, wine and brandy to the public squares, make a pyramid of them, to which I was invited to set fire. The whole population, attracted by the novelty and sublimity of that spectacle, would then fill the air with their cries and shouts of joy. When the husbands and wives, the parents and children of the redeemed drunkards rent the air with their cries of joy at the destruction of their enemy, and the fire was in full blaze, one of the merchants would give me an axe to stave in the last barrel of rum. After the last drop was emptied, I usually stood on it to address some parting words to the people.
Such a spectacle baffles any description. The brilliant light of the pine and cedar trees, mixed with all kinds of inflammable materials which everyone had been invited to bring, changed the darkest hour of that night into the brightest of days. The flames, fed by the fiery liquid, shot forth their tongues of fire towards heaven, as if to praise their great God, whose merciful hand had brought the marvelous reformation we were celebrating. The thousand faces, illuminated by the blaze, beamed with joy. The noise of the cracking barrels, mixed with that of a raging fire; the cries and shouts of that multitude, with the singing of the Te Deum, formed a harmony which filled every soul with sentiments of unspeakable happiness. But where shall I find words to express my feelings, when I had finished speaking! The mothers and wives to whom our blessed temperance had given back a loving husband and some dear children, were crowding around me with their families and redeemed ones, to thank me, press my hands to their lips, and water them with their grateful tears.
The only thing which marred that joy were the exaggerated honours and unmerited praises with which I was really overwhelmed. I was, at first, forced to received an ovation from the curates and people of Longueuil and the surrounding parishes, when they presented to me my portrait, painted by the artist Hamel, which filled me with confusion, for I felt so keenly that I did not deserve such honours. But it was still worse at the end of May, 1849. Judge Mondelet was deputed by the bishop and the priests and the city of Montreal, accompanied by 15,000 people, to present me with a gold medal, and a gift of four hundred dollars.
But the greatest surprise my God had in store for me, was kept for the end of June, 1850. At that time, I was deputed by 40,000 tee-totalers, to present a petition to the Parliament of Toronto, in order to make the rum sellers responsible for the ravages caused to the families of the poor drunkards to whom they had sold their poisonous drugs. The House of Commons having kindly appointed a committee of ten members to help me to frame that bill, it was an easy matter to have it pass through the three branches. I was present when they discussed and accepted that bill. Napoleon was not more happy after he had won the battle of Austerlitz, than I was when I heard that my pet bill had become law, and that hereafter, the innocent victims of the drunken father or husband would receive an indemnity from the landsharks who were fattening on their poverty and unspeakable miseries.
But what was my surprise and consternation, when, immediately after the passing of that bill, the Hon. Dewitt rose and proposed that a public expression of gratitude should be given me by Parliament, under the form of a large pecuniary gift! His speech seemed to me filled with such exaggerated eulogiums, that I would have been tempted to think it was mockery, had I not known that the Protestant gentleman was one of my most sincere friends. He was followed by the Honourables Baldwin and Lafontaine, Ministers at that time, and half a dozen other members, who went still further into what I so justly consider the regions of exaggeration. It seemed to me bordering on blasphemy to attribute to Chiniquy a reformation which was so clearly the work of my merciful God. The speeches on that subject lasted two hours, and were followed by a unanimous vote to present me with $500, as a public testimony of the gratitude of the people for my labours in the temperance reform of Canada. Previous to that, the Bishops of Quebec and Montreal had given me tokens of their esteem which, though unmerited, had been better appreciated by me.
When in May, 1850, Archbishop Turgeon, of Quebec, sent the Rev. Charles Baillargeon, curate of Quebec, to Rome, to become his successor, he advised him to come to Longueuil, and get a letter from me, which he might present to the Pope, with a volume of my "Temperance Manual." I complied with his request, and wrote to the Pope. Some months later, I received the following lines:
Rome, Aug. 10th, 1850.
Rev. Mr. Chiniquy,
Sir and dear friend;Monday, the 12th was the first opportunity given me to have a private audience with the Sovereign Pontiff. I presented him your book, with your letter, which he received, I will not say with that goodness which is so eminently characteristic of him, but with all special marks of satisfaction and approbation, while charging me to state to you that he accords his apostolic benediction to you and to the holy work of temperance you preach. I consider myself happy to have had to offer on your behalf, to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, a book which, after it had done so much good to my countrymen, had been able to draw from his venerable lips, such solemn words of approbation of the temperance society and of blessings on those who are its apostles; and it is also, for my heart, a very sweet pleasure to transmit them to you.
A short time before I received that letter from Rome, Bishop Bourget, of Montreal, had officially given me the title of "Apostle of Temperance;" in the following document, which, on account of its importance, the readers will probably like to have in its original Latin:-
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, Miseratioine Divina et St e. Sedis Apostolic e Gratia, Episcopus Marianopolitanensis, Etc., Etc., Etc."
"Universis praesentes litteras inspecturis, notum facimus et attestamur Venerabilem Carolum Chiniquy, Temperantiae Apostolum, Nostrae Diocoecis Sacerdotem, Nobis optime notum esse, exploratumque habere illum vitam laudabilem et professione Ecclesiastica consonam agere, nullisque ecclesiasticis censuris, saltem quae ad nostram devenerunt Notitiam innodatum; qua propter, per viscera Misericordiae Dei Nostri, obsecramus omnes et Singulos Archiepiscopos, Episcopos, coeterasque Ecclesiae dignitates ad quos ipsum declinare contingerit, ut eum, pro Christi Amore, benigne tractare digentur, et quando cumque ab eo fuerint requisiti, Sacrum Missae Sacrificium ipsi celebrare, nec non alia munia Ecclesiastica, et pietatis opera exercere permittant, paratos nos ad similia et majora exhibentes: In quorum fidem, praesentes litteras signo sigilloque nostris, ac Secretarii Episcopatus nostri subscriptione communitas expediri mandavimus Marianopoli, in (Edibus Nostris Beati Jacobi, anno millesimo quinquagesimo. Die vero mensis Junii Sexta.
IG. EPIS. MARIANOPOLITANENSIS.
"J. O. Pare, Can, Secrius."
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, By the Divine Mercy and Grace of the Holy Apostolic See, Bishop of Montreal.
"To all who inspect the present letters, we make known and certify that the venerable Charles Chiniquy, 'Apostle of Temperance,' Priest of our Diocese, is very well known to us, and we regard him as proved, to lead a praiseworthy life, and one agreeable to his ecclesiastical profession. Through the tender mercies of our God, he is under no ecclesiastical censures, at least, which have come to our knowledge.
"We entreat each and all, Archbishop, Bishop, and other dignitaries of the Church, to whom it may happen that he may go, that they, for the love of Christ, entertain him kindly and courteously, and as often as they may be asked by him, permit him to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the mass, and exercise other ecclesiastical privileges of piety, being ourselves ready to grant him these and other greater privileges. In proof of this we have ordered the present letters and to be prepared under our sign and seal, and with subscription of our secretary, in our palace of the blessed James, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty, on the sixth day of the month of June.
IGNATIUS, Bishop of Marianopolis.
"By order of the most illustrious and most Reverend Bishop of Marianopolis, D.D.
"J. O. Pare, Canon, Secretary."
No words from my pen can give an idea of the distress and shame I felt when these unmerited praises and public honours began to flow upon me. For, when the siren voice of my natural pride was near to deceive me, there was the noise of a sudden storm in my conscience, crying with a louder voice: "Chiniquy, thou art a sinner, unworthy of such praises and honours."
This conflict made me very miserable. I said to myself, "Are those great successes due to my merits, my virtues and my eloquence? NO! Surely, No! They are due to the great mercy of God for my dear country. Shall I not for ever be put to shame if I consent to these flattering voices which come to me from morning till night, to make me forget that to my God alone, and not to me, must be given the praise and glory of that marvelous reform?"
These praises were coming every day, thinker and thicker, through the thousand trumpets of the press, as well as through the addresses daily presented me from the places which had been so thoroughly reformed. Those unmerited honours were bestowed on me by multitudes who came in carriages and on horseback, bearing flags, with bands of music, to receive me on the borders of their parishes where the last parishes had just brought me with the same kind of ovations. Sometimes, the roads were lined on both sides, by thousands and thousands of maple, pine or spruce trees, which they had carried from distant forests, in spite of all my protests.
How many times the curates, who were sitting by me in the best carriages, drawn by the most splendid horses, asked me: "Why do you look so sad, when you see all these faces beaming with joy?" I answered, "I am sad, because these unmerited honours these good people do me, seem to be the shortest way the devil has found to destroy me." "But the reform you have brought about is so admirable and so complete the good which is done to the individuals, as well as to the whole country, is so great and universal, that the people want to show you their gratitude." "Do you know, my dear friends," I answered, "that that marvelous change is too great to be the work of man? It is not evidently the work of God? To Him, and Him alone, then we ought to give the praise and the glory."
My constant habit, after these days of ovation, was to pass a part of the night in prayer to God, to the Virgin Mary, and to all the saints in heaven, to prevent me from being hurt by these worldly honours. It was my custom then to read the passion of Jesus Christ, from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem to His death on the cross, in order to prevent this shining dust from adhering to my soul. There was a verse of the Gospel which I used to repeat very often in the midst of these exhibitions of the vanities of this world: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26).
Another source of serious anxiety for me was then coming from the large sums of money constantly flowing from the hands of my too kind and grateful reformed countrymen into mine. It was very seldom that the public expression of gratitude presented me in their rhetorical addresses were not accompanied by a gift of from fifty dollars to two hundred dollars, according to the means and importance of the place. Those sums multiplies by the 365 days of the year would have soon made of me one of the richest men of Canada. Had I been able to trust in my own strength against the dangers of riches, I should have been able, easily, to accumulate a sum of at least seventy thousand dollars, with which I might have done a great amount of good.
But I confess that, when in the presence of God, I went to the bottom of my heart, to see if it were strong enough to carry such a glittering weight, I found it, by far, too weak. I knew so many who, though evidently stronger than I was, had fallen on the way and perished under too heavy burden of their treasures, that I feared for myself at the sight of such unexpected and immense fortune. Besides, when only eighteen years old, my venerable and dear benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Leprohon, director of the College of Nicolet, had told me a thing I never had forgotten: "Chiniquy," he said, "I am sure you will be what we call a successful man in the world. You will easily make your way among your contemporaries; and, consequently, it is probable that you will have many opportunities of becoming rich. But when the silver and gold flow into your hands, do not pile and keep it. For, if you set your affection on it, you will be miserable in this world and damned in the next. You must not do like the fattened hogs which give their grease only after their death. Give it while you are living. Then you will not be blessed only by God and man, but you will be blessed by your own conscience. You will live in peace and die in joy."
These solemn warnings from one of the wisest and best friends God had ever given me, when young, has never gone out of my mind. I found them corroborated in every page of that Bible which I loved so much, and studied every day. I found them also written, by God, in my heart. I then, on my knees, took the resolution, without making an absolute vow to it, to keep only what I wanted for my daily support and give the rest to the poor, or some Christian or patriotic object. I kept that promise. The $500 given me by Parliament did not remain three weeks in my hands. I never put a cent in Canada in the vaults of any bank; and when I left for Illinois, in the fall of 1851, instead of taking with me 70,000 dollars, as it would have been very easy, had I been so minded, I had hardly 1,500 dollars in hand, the price of a part of my library, which was too heavy to be carried so far away.
CHAPTER 45 Back to Table of Contents
The 15th of August, 1850, I preached in the Cathedral of Montreal, on the Blessed Virgin Mary's power in heaven, when interceding for sinners, I was sincerely devoted to the Virgin Mary. Nothing seemed to me more natural than to pray to her, and rely on her protection. The object of my sermon was to show that Jesus Christ cannot refuse any of the petitions presented to Him by His mother; that she has always obtained the favours she asked her Son, Jesus, to grant to her devotees. Of course, my address was more sentimental than scriptural, as it is the style among the priests of Rome. But I was honest; and I sincerely believed what I said.
"Who among you, my dear brethren," I said to the people, "will refuse any of the reasonable demands of a beloved mother? Who will break and sadden her loving heart when, with supplicating voice and tears, she presents to you a petition which it is in your power, nay, to your interest, to grant? For my own part, were my beloved mother still living, I would prefer to have my right hand crushed and burned into cinders, to have my tongue cut out, than to say, No! to my mother, asking me any favour which it was in my power to bestow. These are the sentiments which the God of Sinai wanted to engrave in the very hearts of humanity, when giving His laws to Moses, in the midst of lightning and thunders, and these are the sentiments which the God of the Gospel wanted to impress on our souls by the shedding of His blood on Calvary. The sentiments of filial respect and obedience to our mothers, Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, practiced to perfection. Although God and man, He was still in perfect submission to the will of His mother, of which He makes a law to each of us. The Gospel says, in reference to His parents, Joseph and Mary, He 'was subject unto them' (Luke ii. 51). What a grand and shining revelation we have in these few short words: Jesus was subject unto Mary! Is it not written, that Jesus is the same today, as He was yesterday, and will be for ever? (Heb. xiii. 8). He has not changed. He is still the Son of Mary, as He was when only twelve years old. In His divine humanity, He is still subject unto Mary, as He was then. This is why our holy Church, which is the pillar and fountain of Truth, invites you and me, today, to put an unbounded confidence in her intercession. Remembering that Jesus has always granted the petitions presented to Him by His divine mother, let us put our petitions in her hands, if we want to receive the favours we are in need of.
"The second reason why we must all go to Mary, for the favours we want from heaven, is that we are sinners rebels in the sight of God. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. Yes! but He is also our God, infinitely just, infinitely holy. He hates our sins with an infinite hatred. He abhors our rebellions with an infinite, a godly hatred. If we had loved and served Him faithfully we might go to Him, not only with the hope, but with the assurance of being welcomed. But we have forgotten and offended Him; we have trampled His blood under our feet; we have joined with those who nailed Him on the cross, pierced His heart with the lance, and shed His blood to the last drop. We belong to the crowd which mocked at His tortures, and insulted Him at His death. How can we dare to look at Him and meet His eyes? Must we not tremble in His presence? Must we not fear before that Lion of the tribe of Judah whom we have wounded and nailed to the cross? Where is the rebel who does not shiver, when he is dragged to the feet of the mighty Prince against whom he has drawn the sword? What will he do if he wants to obtain pardon? Will he go himself and speak to that offended Majesty? No! But he looks around the throne to see if he can find some of the great officers, and friends, or some powerful and influential person through whose intercession he can obtain pardon. If he finds any such, he goes immediately to him, puts his petitions into their hands, and they go to the foot of the throne to plead for the rebel, and the favour which would have been indignantly refused to the guilty subject, had he dared to speak himself, is granted, when it is asked by a faithful officer, a kind friend, a dear sister, or a beloved mother. This is why our holy church, speaking through her infallible supreme pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, Gregory XVI., has told us, in the most solemn manner, that 'Mary is the only hope of sinners.'"
Winding up my arguments, I added: "We are those insolent ungrateful rebels. Jesus is that King of kings against whom we have, a thousand times, risen in rebellion. He has a thousand good reasons to refuse our petitions, if we are impudent enough to speak to Him ourselves. But look at the right hand of the offended King, and behold His dear and divine mother. She is your mother also. For it is to every one of us, as well as to John, that Christ said on the cross, speaking of Mary, 'Behold thy mother' (John xix. 27). Jesus has never refused any favour asked by that Queen of Heaven. He cannot rebuke His mother. Let us go to her; let us ask her to be our advocate and plead our cause, and she will do it. Let us suppliantly request her to ask for our pardon, and she will get it."
I then sincerely took these glittering sophisms for the true religion of Christ, as all the priests and people of Rome are bound to take them today, and presented them with all the earnestness of an honest, though deluded mind.
My sermon had made a visible and deep impression. Bishop Prince, coadjutor of my Lord Bourget, who was among my hearers, thanked and congratulated me for the good effect it would have on the people, and I sincerely thought I had said what was true and right before God.
But when night came, before going to bed, I took my Bible as usual, knelt down before God, in the neat little room I occupied in the bishop's palace, and read the twelfth chapter of Matthew, with a praying heart and a sincere desire to understand it, and be benefited thereby. Strange to say! when I reached the 40th verse, I felt a mysterious awe, as if I had entered for the first time into a new and most holy land. Though I had read that verse and the following many times, they came to my mind with a freshness and newness as if I had never seen them before. There was a lull in my mind for some moments. Slowly, and with breathless attention, supreme veneration and respect, I read the history of that visit of Mary to the sacred spot where Jesus, my Saviour, was standing in the midst of the crowd feeding His happy hearers with the bread of life.
When I contemplated that blessed Mary, whom I loved, as so tenderly approaching the house where she was to meet her divine Son, who had been so long absent from her, my heart suddenly throbbed in sympathy with hers. I felt as if sharing her unspeakable joy at every step which brought her nearer to her adorable and beloved Son. What tears had she not shed when Jesus had left her alone, in her now, poor, and cheerless home, that He might preach the Gospel in the distant places, where His Father had sent Him! With Jesus in her humble home, was she not more happy then than the greatest queen on her throne! Did she not possess a treasure more precious than all the world! How sweet to her ears and heart were the words she had heard from His lips!
How lovely the face of the most beautiful among the sons of men! How happy she must have felt, when she heard that He was, now, near enough to allow her to go and see Him! How quick were her steps. How cheerful and interesting the meeting! How the beloved Saviour will repay by His respectful and divine love to His beloved mother, the trouble and the fatigue of her long journey! My heart beat with joy at the privilege of witnessing that interview, and of hearing the respectful words Jesus would address to His mother!
With heart and soul throbbing with these feelings, I slowly read "While He yet talked to the people, behold His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him: Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him: Who is My mother? and Who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hands towards His disciples, and said: Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."
I had hardly finished reading the last verse, when big drops of sweat began to flow from my face, my heart beat with a tremendous speed, and I came near fainting; I sat in my large arm-chair, expecting every minute to fall on the floor. Those alone who have stood several hours at the falls of the marvelous Niagara, heard the thundering noise of its waters, and felt the shaking of the rocks under their feet, can have any idea of what I felt in that hour of agony.
A voice, the voice of my conscience, whose thunders were like the voice of a thousand Niagaras was telling me: "Do you not see that you have preached a sacrilegious lie this morning, when, from the pulpit, you said to your ignorant and deluded people, that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother, Mary? Are you not ashamed to deceive yourself, and deceive your poor countrymen with such silly falsehoods?"
"Read, read again these words! and understand that, far from granting all the petitions of Mary, Jesus has always, except when a child, said No! to her requests. He has always rebuked her, when she asked Him anything in public! Here she comes to ask Him a favour before the whole people. It is the easiest, the most natural favour that a mother ever asked of her son. It is a favour that a son has never refused to a mother. He answers by a rebuke, a public and solemn rebuke! It is through want of love and respect for Mary that He gave her that rebuke? No! Never a son loved and respected a mother as He did. But it was a solemn protest against the blasphemous worship of Mary as practiced in the Church of Rome."
I felt at once so bewildered and confounded, by the voice which was shaking my very bones, that I thought it was the devil's voice; and, for a moment, I feared less I was possessed of a demon. "My God," I cried, "have mercy on me! Come to my help! Save me from my enemy's hands!" As quick as lightning the answer came: "It is not Satan's voice you hear. It is I, thy Saviour and thy God, who speaks to thee. Read what Mark, Luke, and John tell you about the way I received her petitions, from the very day I began to work, and speak publicly as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world."
These cries of my awakening intelligence were sounding in my ears for more than one hour, before I consented to obey them. At last, with a trembling hand, and a distressed mind, I took my Bible and read in St. Mark: "There came then His brethren and his mother, and standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without, seek for Thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren? And He looked around about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother" (Mark iii. 31 35).
The reading of these words acted upon me as the shock of a sword going through and through the body of one who had already been mortally wounded. I felt absolutely confounded. The voice continued to sound in my ears: "Do you not see you have presented a blasphemous lie, every time you said that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother?"
I remained again, a considerable time, bewildered, not knowing how to fight down thoughts which were so mercilessly shaking my faith, and demolishing the respect I had kept, till then, for my Church. After more than half an hour of vain struggle to silence these thoughts, it came to my mind that St. Luke had narrated this interview of Mary and Jesus in a very different way. I opened the holy book again to read the eighth chapter. But how shall I find words to express my distress when I saw that the rebuke of Jesus Christ was expressed in a still sterner way by St. Luke than by the two other evangelists! "Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. And it was told Him by certain which said, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee. And He answered and said unto them, My mother and My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it" (Luke viii. 19-21).
It then seemed to me as if those three evangelists said to me: "How dare you preach with your apostate and lying Church, that Jesus has always granted all the petitions of Mary, when we were ordered by God to write and proclaim that all the public petitions she had presented to Him, when working as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, had been answered by a public rebuke?"
What could I answer? How could I stand the rebuke of these three evangelists? Trembling from head to foot, I fell upon my knees, crying to the Virgin Mary to come to my help and pray that I might not succumb to this temptation, and lose my faith and confidence in her. But the more I prayed, the louder the voice seemed to say: "How dare you preach that Jesus has always granted the petitions of Mary, when we tell you the contrary by the order of God Himself?"
My desolation became such, that a cold sweat covered my whole frame again; my head was aching, and I think I would have fainted had I not been released by a torrent of tears. In my distress, I cried: "Oh! my God! my God! look down upon me in Thy mercy; strengthen my faith in Thy Holy Church! Grant me to follow her voice and obey her commands with more and more fidelity; she is Thy beloved Church. She cannot err. She cannot be an apostate Church." But in vain I wept and cried for help. My whole being was filled with dismay and terror from the voices of the three witnesses, who were crying louder and louder:
"How dare you preach that Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary, when the gospels, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, tell you so clearly the contrary?"
When I had, in vain, wept, prayed, cried, and struggled from ten at night till three in the morning, the miraculous change of water into wine, by Christ, at the request of his mother, suddenly came to my mind. I felt a momentary relief from my terrible distress, by the hope that I could prove to myself that in this case the Saviour had obeyed he demands of His holy mother. I eagerly opened my Bible again and read:
"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John ii. 1-5).
Till that hour I had always accepted that text in the sense given in the Church of Rome, as proving that the very first miracle of Jesus Christ was wrought at the request of His mother. And I was preparing myself to answer the three mysterious witnesses: "Here is the proof that you are three devils, and not three evangelists, when you tell me that Jesus has never granted the petitions of His mother, except when a child. Here is the glorious title of Mary to my confidence in her intercession; here is the seal of her irresistible superhuman power over her divine Son; here is the undeniable evidence that Jesus cannot refuse anything asked by His divine mother!" But when, armed with these explanations of the church, I was preparing to meet what Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke had just told me, a sudden distressing thought came to my mind; and this thought was as if I heard the three witnesses saying: "How can you be so blind as not to see that instead of being a favour granted to Mary, this first miracle is the first opportunity chosen by Christ to protest against her intercession. It is a solemn warning to Mary never to ask anything from Him, and to us, never to put any confidence in her requests. Here, Mary, evidently full of compassion for those poor people, who had not the means to provide the wine for the guests who had come with Jesus, wants her Son to give them the wine they wanted. How does Christ answer her requests? He answers it by a rebuke, a most solemn rebuke. Instead of saying, "Yes, mother, I will do as you wish," He says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" which clearly means, "Woman, thou hast nothing to do in this matter. I do not want you to speak to me of the bridegroom's distress. It was My desire to come to their help and show My divine power. I do not want you to put yourself between the wants of humanity and Me. I do not want the world to believe that you had any right, any power or influence over me, or more compassion on the miseries of man than I have. Is it not to Me and Me alone, the lost children of Adam must look to be saved? Woman, what have I to do with thee in My great work of saving this perishing world? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I know what I have to do to fulfill, not our will, but My Father's will!"
This is what Jesus meant by the solemn rebuke given to Mary. He wanted to banish all idea of her ever becoming an intercessor between man and Christ. He wanted to protest against the doctrine of the Church of Rome, that it is through Mary that He will bestow His favour to His disciples, and Mary understood it well when she said, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." Never come to me, but got to Him. "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12).
Every one of these thoughts passed over my distressed soul like a hurricane. Every sentence was like a flash of lightning in a dark night. I was like the poor dismantled ship suddenly overtaken by the tempest in the midst of the ocean.
Till the dawn of day, I felt powerless against the efforts of God to pull down and demolish the huge fortress of sophisms, falsehoods, idolatries, which Rome had built around my soul. What a fearful thing it is to fight against the Lord!
During the long hours of that night, my God was contending with me, and I was struggling against Him. But though brought down to the dust, I was not conquered. My understanding was very nearly convinced. My rebellious and proud will was not yet ready to yield.
The chains by which I was tied to the feet of the idols of Rome, though rudely shaken, were not yet broken. However, to say the truth, my views about the worship of Mary had received a severe shock, and were much modified. That night had been sleepless; and in the morning my eyes were red, and my face swollen with my tears. When at breakfast, Bishop Prince, who was sitting by me, asked: "Are you sick? Your eyes are as if you had wept all night?" "Your lordship is not mistaken, I have wept the whole night!" I answered. "Wept all the night!" replied the bishop. "Might I know the cause of your sorrow?" "Yes, my lord. You can, you must know it. But please come to your room. What I have to say is of such a private and delicate nature, that I want to be alone with your lordship, when opening my mind to the cause of my tears."
Bishop Prince, then coadjutor of Bishop Bourget and late bishop of St. Hyacinthe, where he became insane in 1858 and died in 1860, had been my personal friend from the time I entered the college at Nicolet, where he was professor of Rhetoric. He very often came to confession to me, and had taken a lively interest in my labours on temperance.
When alone with him, I said: "My lord, I thank you for your kindness in allowing me to unburden my heart to you. I have passed the most horrible night of my life. Temptations against our holy religion such as I never had before, have assailed me all night. Your lordship remembers the kind words you addressed to me yesterday about the sermon I preached. But, last night, very different things came to my mind, which have changed the joys of yesterday into the most unspeakable desolation. You congratulated me yesterday on the manner I had proved that Jesus had always granted the requests of His mother, and that He cannot refuse any of her petitions. The whole night it has been told me that this was a blasphemous lie, and from the Holy Scriptures themselves, I have been nearly convinced that you and I, nay, that our holy church, are preaching a blasphemous falsehood every time we proclaim the doctrines of the worship of Mary as the Gospel truth."
The poor bishop, thunderstruck by this simple and honest declaration, quickly answered: "I hope you have not yielded to these temptations, and that you will not become a Protestant as so many of your enemies whisper to each other."
"It is my hope, my lord, that our merciful God will keep me, to the end of my life, a dutiful and faithful priest of our holy church. However, I cannot conceal from your lordship that my faith was terribly shaken last night.
"As a bishop, your portion of light and wisdom must be greater than mine. I hope you will grant me some of the lights which will brightly shine before your eyes: I have never been so much in need of the counsels of your piety and the help of your scriptural knowledge as today. Please help me to come out from the intellectual slough in which I spent the night.
"Your lordship has congratulated me for having said that Jesus Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary. Please tell me how you reconcile that proposition with the text;" and I handed him the Gospel of Matthew, pointing to the last five verses of the twelfth chapter, I requested him to read them aloud.
He read them and said: "Now, what do you want from me?"
"My lord, I want respectfully to ask you how we can say that Jesus has always granted the requests of His mother, when this evangelist tells us that He never granted her petitions, when acting in His capacity of Saviour of the world.
"Must we not fear that we proclaim a blasphemous falsehood when we support a proposition directly opposed to the Gospel?"
The poor bishop seemed absolutely confounded by this simple and honest question. I also felt confused and sorry for his humiliation. Beginning a phrase, he would give it up; trying arguments, he could not push to their conclusion. It seemed to me that he had never read that text, of if he had read it, he, like myself and the rest of the priests of Rome, had never noted that they entirely demolish the stupendous impostures of the church, in reference to the worship of Mary.
In order to help him out of the inextricable difficulties into which I had at once pushed him, I said: "My lord, will you allow me to put a few more questions to you?"
"With pleasure," he answered.
"Well! my lord, who came to this world to save you and me? Is it Jesus or Mary?"
"It is Jesus," answered the bishop.
"Now, please allow me a few more questions."
"When Jesus and Mary were on earth, whose heart was most devoted to sinners? Who loved them with a more efficacious and saving love; was it Jesus or Mary?"
"Jesus, being God, His love was evidently more efficacious and saving than Mary's," answered the bishop.
"In the days of Jesus and Mary, to whom did Jesus invite sinners to go for their salvation; was it to Himself or Mary?" I asked again.
The bishop answered: "Jesus has said to all sinners, 'Come unto Me.' He never said, come or go to Mary."
"Have we any examples, in the Scriptures, of sinners, who, fearing to be rebuked by Jesus, have gone to Mary and obtained access to Him through her, and been saved through her intercessions?"
"I do not remember of any such cases," replied the bishop.
I then asked: "To whom did the penitent thief on the cross address himself to be saved; was it to Jesus or Mary?"
"It was to Jesus," replied the bishop.
"Did that penitent thief do well to address himself to Jesus on the cross, rather than to Mary who was at his feet?" said I.
"Surely he did better," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, allow me only one question more. You told me that Jesus loved sinners, when on earth, infinitely more than Mary; that He was infinitely more their true friend than she was; that He infinitely took more interest in their salvation than Mary; that it was infinitely better for sinners to go to Jesus than to Mary, to be saved; will you please tell me if you think that Jesus has lost, in heaven, since He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, any of His divine and infinite superiority of love and mercy over Mary for sinners; and can you show me that what Jesus has lost has been gained by Mary?"
"I do not think that Christ has lost any of His love and power to save us now that He is in heaven," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, if Jesus is still my best friend, my most powerful, merciful, and loving friend, why should I not go directly to Him? Why should we, for a moment, go to any one who is infinitely inferior, in power, love, and mercy, for our salvation?"
The bishop was stunned by my question.
He stammered some unintelligible answer, excused himself for not being able to remain any longer, on account of some pressing business; and extending his hand to me before leaving, he said, "You will find an answer to your questions and difficulties in the Holy Fathers."
"Can you lend me the Holy Fathers, my lord?"
He replied, "No, sir, I have them not."
This last answer, from my bishop, shook my faith to its foundation, and left my mind in a state of great distress. With the sincere hope of finding in the Holy Fathers some explanations which would dispel my painful doubts, I immediately went to Mr. Fabre, the great bookseller of Montreal, who got me, from France, the splendid edition of the Holy Fathers, by Migne. I studied, with the utmost attention, every page where I might find what they taught of the worship of Mary, and the doctrines that Jesus Christ had never refused any of her prayers.
What was my desolation, my shame, and my surprise to find that the Holy Fathers of the first six centuries had never advocated the worship of Mary, and that the many eloquent pages on the power of Mary in heaven, and her love for sinners, found in every page of my theologians, and other ascetic books I had read till then, were but impudent lies; additions interpolated in their works, a hundred years after their death. When discovering these forgeries, under the name of the Holy Fathers, of which my church was guilty, how many times, in the silence of my long nights of study and prayerful meditations, did I hear a voice telling me: "Come out of Babylon!"
But where could I go? Out of the Church of Rome, where could I find that salvation which was to be found only within her walls? I said to myself, "Surely there are some errors in my dear church! The dust of ages may have fallen on the precious gold of her treasures, but will I not find still more damnable errors among those hundreds of Protestant churches, which, under the name of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, ect., ect., are divided and subdivided into scores of contemptible sects, anathematizing and denouncing each other before the world?"
My ideas of the great family of evangelical churches, comprised under the broad name of Protestantism, were so exaggerated then, that it was absolutely impossible for me to find in them that unity, which I considered the essentials of the church of Christ. The hour was not yet come, but it was coming fast, when my dear Saviour would make me understand His sublime words: "I am the vine, and ye are the branches."
It was some time later, when under the beautiful vine I had planted in my own garden, and which I had cultivated with mine own hands, I saw that there was not a single branch like another in that prolific vine. Some branches were very big, some very thin, some very long, some very short, some going up, some going down, some straight as an arrow, some crooked as a flash of lightning, some turning to the west, some to the east, some to the north, and others to the south. But, although the branches were so different from each other in so many things, they all gave me excellent fruit, so long as they remained united to the vine.
CHAPTER 46 Back to Table of Contents
The most desolate work of a sincere Catholic priest is the study of the Holy Fathers. He does not make a step in the labyrinth of their discussions and controversies without seeing the dreams of his theological studies and religious views disappear as the thick morning mist, when the sun rises above the horizon. Bound as he is, by a solemn oath, to interpret the Holy Scriptures only according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers, the first thing which puzzles and distresses him is their absolute want of unanimity on the greater part of the subjects which they discuss. The fact is, that more than two-thirds of what one Father has written is to prove that what some other Holy Father has written is wrong and heretical.
The student of the Fathers not only detects that they do not agree with one another, but finds that many of them do not even agree with themselves. Very often they confess that they were mistaken when they said this or that; that they have lately changed their minds; that they now hold for saving truth what they formerly condemned as a damning error!
What becomes of the solemn oath of every priest in presence of this undeniable fact? How can he make an act of faith when he feels that its foundation is nothing but falsehood?
No words can give an idea of the mental tortures I felt when I saw positively that I could not, any longer, preach on the eternity of the suffering of the damned, nor believe in the real presence of the body, soul, and divinity of Christ in the sacrament of communion; nor in the supremacy of the sovereign Pontiff of Rome, nor in any of the other dogmas of my church, without perjuring myself! For there was not one of those dogmas which had not been flatly and directly denied by some Holy Fathers.
It is true, that in my Roman Catholic theological books I had long extracts of Holy Fathers, very clearly supporting and confirming my faith in those dogmas. For instance, I had the apostolic liturgies of St. Peter, St. Mark, and St. James, to prove that the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, prayers for the dead, transubstantiation, were believed and taught from the very days of the apostles. But what was my dismay when I discovered that those liturgies were nothing else than vile and audacious forgeries presented to the world, by my Popes and my church, as gospel truths. I could not find words to express my sense of shame and consternation, when I became sure that the same church which had invented those apostolical liturgies, had accepted and circulated the false decretals of Isidore, and forged innumerable additions and interpolations to the writings of the Holy Fathers, in order to make them say the very contrary of what they intended.
How many times, when alone, studying the history of the shameless fabrications, I said to myself: "Does the man whose treasury is filled with pure gold, forge false coins, or spurious pieces of money? No! How, then, is it possible that my church possess the pure truth, when she has been at work during so many centuries, to forge such egregious lies, under the names of liturgies and decretals, about the holy mass, purgatory, the supremacy of the Pope, ect. If those dogmas could have been proved by the gospel and the true writings of the Fathers, where was the necessity of forging lying documents? Would the Popes and councils have treasuries with spurious bank bills, if they had had exhaustless mines of pure gold in hand? What right has my church to be called holy and infallible, when she is publicly guilty of such impostures."
From my infancy I had been taught, with all the Roman Catholics, that Mary is the mother of God, and many times, every day, when praying to her, I used to say, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me." But what was my distress when I read in the "Treatise on Faith and Creed," by Augustine, Chapter iv. 9, these very words: "When the Lord said, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come' (John ii. 4), He rather admonishes us to understand that, in respect of His being God, there was no mother for Him."
This was so completely demolishing the teachings of my church, and telling me that it was blasphemy to call Mary mother of God, that I felt as if struck with a thunderbolt.
Several volumes might be written, if my plan were to give the story of my mental agonies, when reading the Holy Fathers. I found their furious battles against each other, and reviewed their fierce divisions on almost every subject. The horror of many of them, at the dogmas which my church had taught to make me believe from my infancy, as the most solemn and sacred revelations of God to man, such as transubstantiation, auricular confession, purgatory, the supremacy of Peter, the absolute supremacy of the Pope over the whole Church of Christ. Yes! what thrilling pages I would give to the world, were it my intention to portray, in their true colours, the dark clouds, the flashing lights and destructive storms which, during the long and silent hours of many nights I spent in comparing the Fathers with the Word of God and the teachings of my church. Their fierce and constant conflicts; their unexpected, though undeniable oppositions to many of the articles of the faith I had to believe and preach, were coming to me, day after day, as the barbed darts thrown at the doomed whale when coming out of the dark regions of the deep to see the light and breathe the pure air.
Thus, as the unexpected contradictions of the Holy Fathers to the tenets of my church, and their furious and uncharitable divisions among themselves, were striking me, I plunged deeper and deeper in the deep waters of the Fathers and the Word of God, with the hope of getting rid of the deadly darts which were piercing my Roman Catholic conscience. But, it was in vain. The deeper I went, the more the deadly weapons would stick to the flesh and bone of my soul. How deep was the wound I received from Gregory the Great, one of the most learned Popes of Rome, against the supremacy and universality of the power of the Pope of Rome as taught today, the following extracts from his writings will show: "I say confidently, Whosoever calls himself Universal Priest, or desires so to be called, is in his pride the forerunner of Antichrist, because, in his pride, he sets himself before the rest." *
These words wounded me very painfully. I showed them to Mr. Brassard, saying: "Do you not see here the incontrovertible proof of what I have told you many times, that, during the first six centuries of Christianity, we do not find the least proof that there was anything like our dogma of the supreme power and authority of the Bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, over the rest of the Christian world? If there is anything which comes to the mind with an irresistible force, when reading the Fathers of the first centuries, it is that, not one of them had any idea that there was, in the church, any man chosen by God, to be, in fact or name, the universal and supreme Pontiff. With such an undeniable fact before us, how can we believe and say that the religion we profess and teach is the same which was preached from the beginning of Christianity?"
"My dear Chiniquy," answered Mr. Brassard, "did I not tell you, when you bought the Holy Fathers, that you were doing a foolish and dangerous thing? In every age, the man who singularizes himself and walks out of the common tracks of life is subject to fall into ridicule. As you are the only priest in Canada who has the Holy Fathers, it is thought and said, in many quarters, that it is through pride you got them; that it is to raise yourself above the rest of the clergy, that you study them, not at home, but that you carry some wherever you go. I see, with regret, that you are fast losing ground in the mind, not only of the bishop, but of the priests in general, on account of your indomitable perseverance in giving all your spare time to their study. You are also too free and imprudent in speaking of what you call the contradictions of the Holy Fathers, and their want of harmony with some of our religious views. Many say that this too great application to study, without a moment of relaxation, will upset your intelligence and trouble your mind. They even whisper that there is danger ahead of your faith, which you do not suspect, and that they would not be surprised if the reading of the Bible and the Holy Fathers would drive you into the abyss of Protestantism. I know that they are mistaken, and I do all in my power to defend you. But, I thought, as your most devoted friend, that it was my duty to tell you those things, and warn you before it is too late."
I replied: "Bishop Prince told me the very same things, and I will give you the answer he got from me; 'When you ordain a priest, do you not make him swear that he will never interpret the Holy Scriptures except according to the unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers? Ought you not, then, to know what they teach? For, how can we know their unanimous consent without studying them? Is it not more than strange that, not only the priests do not study the Holy Fathers, but the only one in Canada who is trying to study them, is turned into ridicule and suspected of heresy? Is it my fault if that precious stone, called 'unanimous consent of the Holy Fathers,' which is the very foundation of our religious belief and teaching, is to be found nowhere in them? Is it my fault if Origen never believed in the eternal punishment of the damned; if St. Cyprian denied the supreme authority of the Bishop of Rome; if St. Augustine positively said that nobody was obliged to believe in purgatory; if St. John Chrysostom publicly denied the obligation of auricular confession, and the real presence of the body of Christ in the eucharist? Is it my fault if one of the most learned and holy Popes, Gregory the Great, has called by the name of Antichrist, all his successors, for taking the name of supreme Pontiff, and trying to persuade the world that they had, by divine authority, a supreme jurisdiction and power over the rest of the church?"
"And what did Bishop Prince answer you?" rejoined Mr. Brassard.
"Just as you did, by expressing his fears that my too great application to the study of the Bible and the Holy Fathers, would either send me to the lunatic asylum, or drive me into the bottomless abyss of Protestantism."
I answered him, in a jocose way: "That if the too great study of the Bible and the Holy Fathers were to open me the gates of the lunatic asylum, I feared I would be left alone there, for I know that they are keeping themselves at a respectable distance from those dangerous writings." I added seriously, "So long as God keeps my intelligence sound, I cannot join the Protestants, for the numberless and ridiculous sects of these heretics are a sure antidote against their poisonous errors. I will not remain a good Catholic on account of the unanimity of the Holy Fathers, which does not exist, but I will remain a Catholic on account of the grand and visible unanimity of the prophets, apostles, and the evangelists with Jesus Christ. My faith will not be founded upon the fallible, obscure, and wavering words of Origen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Augustine, or Jerome; but on the infallible word of Jesus, the Son of God, and of His inspired writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and Paul. It is Jesus, and not Origen, who will now guide me; for the second was a sinner, like myself, and the first is for ever my Saviour and my God. I know enough of the Holy Fathers to assure your lordship that the oath we take of accepting the Word of God according to their unanimous consent is a miserable blunder, if not a blasphemous perjury. It is evident that Pius IV., who imposed the obligation of that oath upon us all, never read a single volume of the Holy Fathers. He would not have been guilty of such an incredible blunder, if he had known that the Holy Fathers are unanimous in only one thing, which is to differ from each other on almost everything; except, we suppose, that, like the last Pope, he was too fond of good champagne, and that he wrote that ordinance after a luxurious dinner."
I spoke this last sentence in a half-serious and half-joking way.
The Bishop answered: "Who told you that about our last Pope?" "Your lordship," I answered, "told me that, when you complimented me on the apostolical benediction which the present Pope sent me through my Lord Baillargeon, 'that his predecessor would not have given me his benediction for preaching temperance, because he was too fond of wine!'"
"Oh yes! yes! I remember it now," answered the bishop. "But it was a bad joke on my part, which I regret."
"Good or bad joke," I replied, "it is not the less a fact that our last Pope was too fond of wine. There is not a single priest of Canada who has gone to Rome without bringing that back as a public fact from Italy."
"And what did my Lord Prince say to that," asked again Mr. Brassard.
"Just as when he was cornered by me, on the subject of the Virgin Mary, he abruptly put an end to the conversation by looking at his watch, and saying that he had a call to make at that very hour."
Not long after that painful conversation about the Holy Fathers, it was the will of God, that a new arrow should be thrust into my Roman Catholic conscience, which went through and through, in spite of myself.
I had been invited to give a course of three sermons at Vareness. The second day, at tea time, after preaching and hearing confessions for the whole afternoon, I was coming from the church with the curate, when, half-way to the parsonage, we were met by a poor man, who looked more like one coming out of the grave, than a living man; he was covered with rags, and his pale and trembling lips indicated that he was reduced to the last degree of human misery. Taking off his hat, through respect for us, he said to Rev. Primeau, with a trembling voice: "You know, Mr. le Cure, that my poor wife died, and was buried ten days ago, but I was too poor to have a funeral service sung the day she was buried, and I fear she is in purgatory, for almost every night I see her, in my dreams, wrapped up in burning flames. She cries to me for help, and asks me to have a high mass sung for the rest of her soul. I come to ask you to be so kind as to sing that high mass for her."
"Of course," answered the curate, "your wife is in the flames of purgatory, and suffers there the most unspeakable tortures, which can be relieved only by the offering of the holy sacrifice of mass. Give me five dollars and I will sing that mass to-morrow morning."
"You know very well, Mr. le Cure," answered the poor man, in a most supplicating tone, "that my wife has been sick, as well as myself, a good part of the year. I am too poor to give you five dollars!"
"If you cannot pay, you cannot have any mass sung. You know it is the rule. It is not in my power to change it."
These words were said by the curate with a high and unfeeling tone, which were in absolute contrast with the solemnity and distress of the poor sick man. They made a very painful impression upon me, for I felt for him. I know the curate was well-off, at the head of one of the richest parishes of Canada; that he had several thousand dollars in the bank. I hoped, at first, that he would kindly grant the petition presented to him without speaking of the pay, but I was disappointed. My first thought, after hearing this hard rebuke, was to put my hand in my pocket and take out one of the several five-dollar gold pieces I had, and give it to the poor man, that he might be relieved from his terrible anxiety about his wife. It came also to my mind to say to him: "I will sing you high mass for nothing to-morrow." But alas! I must confess, to my shame, I was too cowardly to do that noble deed. I had a sincere desire to do it, but was prevented by the fear of insulting that priest, who was older than myself, and for whom I had always entertained great respect. It was evident to me that he would have taken my action as a condemnation of his conduct. When I was feeling ashamed of my own cowardice, and still more indignant against myself than against the curate, he said to the disconcerted poor man: "That woman is your wife; not mine. It is your business, and not mine, to see how to get her out of purgatory."
Turning to me, he said, in the most amiable way: "Please, sir, come to tea."
We hardly started, when the poor man, raising his voice, said, in a most touching way: "I cannot leave my poor wife in the flames of purgatory; if you cannot sing a high mass, will you please say five low masses to rescue her soul from those burning flames?"
The priest turned towards him and said: "Yes, I can say five masses to take the soul of your wife out of purgatory, but give me five shillings; for you know the price of a low mass is one shilling."
The poor man answered: "I can no more give one dollar than I can five. I have not a cent; and my three poor little children are as naked and starving as myself."
"Well! well," answered the curate, "when I passed this morning before your house, I saw two beautiful sucking pigs. Give me one of them, and I will say your five low masses."
The poor man said: "These small pigs were given me by a charitable neighbour, that I might raise them to feed my poor children next winter. They will surely starve to death, if I give my pigs away."
But I could not listen any longer to that strange dialogue; every word of which fell upon my soul as a shower of burning coals. I was beside myself with shame and disgust. I abruptly left the merchant of souls finishing his bargains, went to my sleeping-room, locked the door, and fell upon my knees to weep to my heart's content.
A quarter of an hour later, the curate knocked at my door, and said, "Tea is ready; please come down!" I answered: "I am not well; I want some rest. Please excuse me if I do not take my tea to-night."
It would require a more eloquent pen than mine, to give the correct history of that sleepless night. The hours were dark and long.
"My God! my God!" I cried, a thousand times, "is it possible that, in my so dear Church of Rome, there can be such abominations as I have seen and heard today? Dear and adorable Saviour, if Thou wert still on earth, and should see the soul of a daughter of Israel fallen into a burning furnace, wouldst Thou ask a shilling to take it out? Wouldst Thou force the poor father, with his starving children, to give their last morsel of bread, to persuade Thee to extinguish the burning flames? Thou hast shed the last drop of Thy blood to save her. And how cruel, how merciless, we, Thy priests, are, for the same precious soul! But are we really Thy priests? Is it not blasphemous to call ourselves Thy priests, when not only we will not sacrifice anything to save that soul, but will starve the poor husband and his orphans? What right have we to extort such sums of money from Thy poor children to help them out of purgatory? Do not Thy apostles say that Thy blood alone can purify the soul?
"Is it possible that there is such a fiery prison for the sinners after death, and that neither Thyself nor any of Thy apostles has said a word about it? Several of the Fathers consider purgatory as of Pagan origin. Tertullian spoke of it only after he had joined the sect of the Montanists, and he confesses that it is not through the Holy Scriptures, but through the inspiration of the Paraclete of Montanus that he knows anything about purgatory. Augustine, the most learned and pious of the Holy Fathers, does not find purgatory in the Bible, and positively says that its existence is dubious; that every one may believe what he thinks proper about it. Is it possible that I am so mean as to have refused to extend a helping hand to that poor distressed man, for fear of offending the cruel priest? "We priests believe, and say that we can help souls out of the burning furnace of purgatory, by our prayers and masses: but instead of rushing to their rescue, we turn to the parents, friends, the children of those departed souls, and say: 'Give me five dollars; give me a shilling, and I will put an end to those tortures; but if you refuse us that money, we will let your father, husband, wife, child, or friend endure those tortures, hundreds of years more! Would not the people throw us into the river, if they could once understand the extent of our meanness and avarice? Ought we not to be ashamed to ask a shilling to take out of the fire a human being who calls us to the rescue? Who, except a priest, can descend so low in the regions of depravity?"
It would take too long to give the thoughts which tortured me during that terrible night. I literally bathed my pillow with my tears. Before saying my mass next morning, I went to confess my criminal cowardice and want of charity towards that poor man, and also the terrible temptation against my faith which tortured my conscience during the long hours of that night! And I repaired my cowardice by giving five dollars to that poor man.
I spent the morning in hearing confessions till ten o'clock, when I delivered a very exciting sermon on the malice of sin, proved by the sufferings of Christ on the cross. This address gave a happy diversion to my mind, and made me forget the sad story of the sucking pig. After the sermon, the curate took me by the hand to his dining-room, where he gave me, in spite of myself, the place of honour.
He had the reputation of having one of the best cooks of Canada, in the widow of one of the governors of Nova Scotia, whom he had as his housekeeper. The dishes before our eyes did not diminish his good reputation. The first dish was a sucking pig, roasted with an art and perfection as I had never seen; it looked like a piece of pure gold, and its smell would have brought water to the lips of the most penitent anchorite.
I had not tasted anything for the last twenty-four hours; had preached two exciting sermons, and spent six hours in hearing confessions. I felt hungry; and the sucking pig was the most tempting thing to me. It was a real epicurean pleasure to look at it and smell its fragrance. Besides, that was a favourite dish with me. I cannot conceal that it was with real pleasure that I saw the curate, after sharpening his long, glittering knife on the file, cutting a beautiful slice from the shoulder, and offering it to me. I was too hungry to be over patient. My knife and fork had soon done their work. I was carrying to my mouth the tempting and succulent mouthful when, suddenly, the remembrance of the poor man's sucking pig came to my mind. I laid the piece on my plate, and with painful anxiety, looked at the curate and said: "Will you allow me to put you a question about this dish?"
"Oh! yes: ask me not only one, but two questions, and I will be happy to answer you to the best of my ability," answered he, with his fine manners.
"Is this the sucking pig of the poor man of yesterday?" I asked.
With a convulsive fit of laughter, he replied: "Yes; it is just it. If we cannot take away the soul of the poor woman out of the flames of purgatory, we will, at all events, eat a fine sucking pig!" The other thirteen priests filled the room with laughter, to show their appreciation of their host's wit.
However, their laughter was not of long duration. With a feeling of shame and uncontrollable indignation, I pushed away my plate with such force, that it crossed the table and nearly fell on the floor; saying, with a sentiment of disgust which no pen can describe: "I would rather starve to death than eat of that execrable dish; I see in it the tears of the poor man; I see the blood of his starving children; it is the price of a soul. No! no, gentlemen; do not touch it. You know, Mr. Curate, how 30,000 priests and monks were slaughtered in France, in the bloody days 1792. It was for such iniquities as this that God Almighty visited the church in France. The same future awaits us here in Canada, the very day that people will awaken from their slumber and see that, instead of being ministers of Christ, we are the vile traders of souls, under the mask of religion."
The poor curate, stunned by the solemnity of my words, as well as by the consciousness of his guilt, lisped some excuse. The sucking pig remained untouched; and the rest of the dinner had more the appearance of a burial ceremony than of a convivial repast. By the mercy of God, I had redeemed my cowardice of the day before. But I had mortally wounded the feelings of that curate and his friends, and for ever lost their goodwill.
It is in such ways that God was directing the steps of His unprofitable servant through ways unknown to him. Furious storms were constantly blowing around my fragile bark, and tearing my sails into fragments. But every storm was pushing me, in spite of myself, towards the shores of eternal life, where I was to land safely, a few years later.
CHAPTER 47 Back to Table of Contents
On the 15th of December, 1850, I received the following letter:
"Chicago, Ill., December 1st, 1850.
"Rev. Father Chiniquy:
"Apostle of Temperance of Canada.
"Dear Sir: When I was in Canada, last fall, I intended to confer with you on a very important subject, but you were then working in the diocese of Boston, and my limited time prevented me from going so far to meet you. You are aware that the lands of the State of Illinois and the whole valley of the Mississippi are among the richest and most fertile of the world. In a near future, those regions, which are now a comparative wilderness, will be the granary, not only of the United States, but of the whole world; and those who will possess them will not only possess the very heart and arteries of this young and already so great republic, but will become its rulers.
"It is our intention, without noise, to take possession of those vast and magnificent regions of the west in the name and for the benefit of our holy Church. Our plan to attain that object, is as sure as easy. There is, every year, an increasing tide of emigration from the Roman Catholic regions of Europe and Canada towards the United States. Unfortunately, till now, our emigrants have blindly scattered themselves among the Protestant populations, which too often absorb them and destroy their faith.
"Why should we not direct their steps to the same spot? Why should we not, for instance, induce them to come and take possession of these fertile states of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, ect. They can get those lands now, at a nominal price. If we succeed, as I hope we will, our holy Church will soon count her children here by ten and twenty millions, and through their numbers, their wealth and unity, they will have such a weight in the balance of power that they will rule everything.
"The Protestants, always divided among themselves, will never form any strong party without the help of the united vote of our Catholic people; and that party alone, which will ask and get our help by yielding to our just demands, will rule the country. Then, in reality, though not in appearance, our holy Church will rule the United States, as she is called by our Saviour Himself to rule the whole world. There is, today, a wave of emigrants from Canada towards the United States, which, if not stopped or well directed, is threatening to throw the good French Canadian people into the mire of Protestantism. Your countrymen, when once mixed with the numberless sects which try to attract them, are soon shaken in their faith. Their children sent to Protestant schools, will be unable to defend themselves against the wily and united efforts made to pervert them.
"But put yourself at the head of the emigrants from Canada, France and Belgium; prevent them from settling any longer among the Protestants, by inducing them to follow you to Illinois, and with them, you will soon see here, a Roman Catholic people, whose number, wealth and influence will amaze the world. God Almighty has wonderfully blessed your labours in Canada in that holy cause of temperance. But now the work is done, the same Great God presents to your Christian ambition a not less great and noble work for the rest of your life. Make use of your great influence over your countrymen to prevent them from scattering any longer among Protestants, by inducing them to come here, in Illinois. You will then lay the foundation of a Roman Catholic French people, whose piety, unity, wealth and number will soon renew and revive, on this continent, the past and fading glories of the Church of France.
"We have already, at Bourbonnais, a fine colony of French Canadians. They long to see and hear you. Come and help me to make that comparatively small, though thriving people, grow with the immigrants from the French-speaking countries of Europe and America, till it covers the whole territory of Illinois with its sturdy sons and pious daughters. I will ask the Pope to make you my coadjutor, and you will soon become my successor, for I already feel too weak and unhealthy to bear alone the burden of my too large diocese.
"Please consider what I propose to you before God, and answer me. But be kind enough to consider this overture as strictly confidential between you and me, till we have brought our plans into execution.
"Truly yours, Olvi Vandeveld,
"Bishop of Chicago."
I answered him that the Bishops of Boston, Buffalo and Detroit, had already advised me to put myself at the head of the French Canadian immigration, in order to direct its tide towards the vast and rich regions of the west. I wrote him that I felt as he did, that it was the best way to prevent my countrymen from falling into the snares laid before them by Protestants, among whom they were scattering themselves. I told him that I would consider it a great honour and privilege to spend the last part of my life in extending the power and influence of our holy Church over the Untied States, and that I would, in June next, pay my respects to him in Chicago, when on my way towards the colony of my countrymen at Bourbonnais Grove. I added that after I should have seen those territories of Illinois and the Mississippi valley, with my own eyes, it would be more easy to give him a definite answer. I ended my letter by saying: "But I respectfully request your lordship to give up the idea of selecting me for your coadjutor, or successor. I have already twice refused to become a bishop. That high dignity is too much above my merits and capacities to be ever accepted by me. I am happy and proud to fight the battles of our holy Church; but let my superiors allow me to continue to remain in her ranks as a simple soldier, to defend her honour and extend her power. I may, then, with the help of God, do some good. But I feel, and know that I would spoil everything, if raised to an elevated position, for which I am not fit."
Without speaking to anybody of the proposition of the Bishop of Chicago, I was preparing to go and see the new field where he wanted me to work, when, in the beginning of May, 1851, I received a very pressing invitation from my Lord Lefebre, Bishop of Detroit, to lecture on temperance to the French Canadians who were, then, forming the majority of the Roman Catholics of that city.
That bishop had taken the place of Bishop Rese, whose public scandals and infamies had covered the whole Catholic Church of America with shame. During the last years he had spent in his diocese, very few weeks had past without his being picked up beastly drunk in the lowest taverns, and even in the streets of Detroit, and dragged, unconscious to his place.
After long and vain efforts to reform him, the Pope and bishops of America had happily succeeded in persuading him to go to Rome, and pay his respects to the so-called vicar of Jesus Christ. This was a snare too skillfully laid to be suspected by the drunken bishop. He had hardly set his feet in Rome when the inquisitors threw him into one of their dungeons, where he remained till the republicans set him at liberty, in 1848, after Pope Pius IX. had fled to Civita Vecchia. In order to blot out from the face of his Church the black spots with which his predecessor had covered it, Bishop Lefebre made the greatest display of zeal for the cause of temperance. As soon as he was inducted, he invited his people to follow his example and enroll themselves under its banners, in a very powerful address on the evils caused by the use of intoxicating drinks. At the end of his eloquent sermon, laying his right hand on the altar, he made a solemn promise never to drink any alcoholic liquors.
His telling sermon on temperance, with his solemn and public promise, were published through almost all the papers of that time, and I read it many times to the people with good effect. When, on my way to Illinois, I reached the city of Detroit to give the course of lectures demanded by the bishop, in the first week of June. Though the bishop was absent, I immediately began to preach to an immense audience in the Cathedral. I had agreed to give five lectures, and it was only during the third one that Bishop Lefebre arrived. After paying me great compliments for my zeal and success in the temperance cause, he took me by the hand to his dining-room, and said: "Let us go and refresh ourselves."
I shall never forget my surprise and dismay when I perceived the long dining table, covered with bottles of brandy, wine, beer, ect., prepared for himself and his six or seven priests, who were already around it, joyfully emptying their glasses. My first thought was to express my surprise and indignation, and leave the room in disgust, but by a second and better thought I waited a little to see more of that unexpected spectacle. I accepted the seat offered me by the bishop at his right hand.
"Father Chiniquy," he said, "this is the sweetest claret you ever drank." And before I could utter a word, he had filled my large glass with the wine, and drank his own to my health.
Looking at the bishop in amazement, I said, "What does this mean, my lord?"
"It means that I want to drink with you the best claret you ever tasted."
"Do you take me for a comedian?" I replied, with lips trembling with indignation.
"I did not invite you to play a comedy," he answered. "I invited you to lecture on temperance to my people, and you have done it in a most admirable way, these last three days. Though you did not see me, I was present at this evening's address. I never heard anything so eloquent on that subject as what you said. But now that you have fulfilled your duty, I must do mine, which is to treat you as a gentleman, and drink that bottle of wine with you."
"But, my lord, allow me to tell you that I would not deserve to be called or treated as a gentleman, were I vile enough to drink wine after the address I gave this evening."
"I beg your pardon for differing from you," answered the bishop. "Those drunken people to whom you spoke so well against the evils on intemperance, are in need of the stringent and bitter remedies you offer them in your teetotalism. But here we are sober men and gentlemen, we do not want such remedies. I never thought that the physicians were absolutely bound to take the pills they administered to their patients."
"I hope your lordship will not deny me the right you claim for yourself, to differ with me in this matter. I entirely differ from you, when you say that men who drink as you do with your priests, have a right to be called sober men."
"I fear, Mr. Chiniquy, that you forget where you are, and to whom you speak just now," replied the bishop.
"It may be that I have made a blunder, and that I am guilty of some grave error in coming here, and speaking to you as I am doing, my lord. In that case, I am ready to ask your pardon. But before I retract what I have said, please allow me to respectfully ask you a very simple question."
Then taking from my pocket-book his printed address, and his public and solemn promise never to drink, neither to offer any intoxicating drinks to others, I read it aloud, and said: "Are you the same Bishop of Detroit, called Lefebre, who has made this solemn promise? If you are not the same man, I will retract and beg your pardon, but if you are the same, I have nothing to retract."
My answer fell upon the poor bishop as a thunderbolt.
He lisped some unintelligible and insignificant explanation, which, however, he ended by a coup d'etat, in saying:
"My dear Mr. Chiniquy, I did not invite you to preach to the bishop, but only to the people of Detroit."
"You are right, my lord, I was not called to preach to the bishop, but allow me to tell you that if I had known sooner, that when the Bishop of Detroit, with his priests, solemnly, publicly, and with their right hand on the altar, promised that they would never drink any intoxicating drinks, it means that they will drink and fill themselves with those detestable liquors, till their brains shiver with their poisonous fumes, I would not have troubled you with my presence or my remarks here. However, allow me to tell your lordship to be kind enough to find another lecturer for your temperance meetings. For I am determined to take the train to-morrow morning for Chicago."
There is no need to say that, during that painful conversation, the priests (with only one exception) were as full of indignation against me as they were full of wine. I left the table and went to my sleeping apartment, overwhelmed with sadness and shame.
Half an hour later, the bishop was with me, conjuring me to continue my lectures, on account of the fearful scandals which would result from my sudden and unexpected exit from Detroit, when the whole people had the assurance from me, that very night, that I would continue to lecture the two following evenings. I acknowledged that there would be a great scandal, but I told him that he was the only one responsible for it by his want of faith and consistency.
He, at first, tried to persuade me that he was ordered to drink, by his own physicians, for his health; but I showed him that this was a miserable illusion. He then said that he regretted what had occurred, and confessed that it would be better if the priests practiced what they preached to the people. After which, he asked me, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to forget the errors of the bishops and priests of Detroit, in order to think only of the good which the conversion of the numberless drunkards of that city would do to the people.
He spoke to me with such earnestness of the souls saved, the tears dried, the happiness restored to hundreds of families, by temperance, that he touched the most sensitive chords of my heart, and got from me the promise that I would deliver the other two expected lectures. He was so glad, that he pressed me on his bosom, and gave me, what we call in France, Le baiser de paix (kiss of peace), to show me his esteem and gratitude.
When alone, I tried to drown in a sound sleep the sad emotions of that evening; but it was impossible. That night was to be again a sleepless one to me. The intemperance of that high dignitary and his priests filled me with an unspeakable horror and disgust. Many times, during the dark hours of that night, I head as if it were a voice saying to me, "Do you not see that the bishops and priests of your church do not believe a word of their religion? Their only object is to throw dust in the eyes of the people, and live a jolly life. Do you not see that you do not follow the Word of God, but only the vain and lying traditions of men in the Church of Rome? Come out of it. Break the heavy yoke which is upon you, and follow the simple, pure religion of Jesus Christ."
I tried to silence that voice by saying to myself: "These sins are not the sins of my holy church; they are the sins of individuals. It was not the fault of Christ if Judas was a thief! It is not more the fault of my holy church if this bishop and his priests are drunkards and worldly men. Where will I go if I leave my church? Will I not find drunkards and infidels everywhere I may go in search of a better religion?"
The dawn of the next day found me feverish, and unable to get any rest in my bed. Hoping that the first fresh air of the morning would do me good, I went to the beautiful garden, covered with fruit trees of all kinds, which was, then, around the episcopal residence. But what was my surprise to see the bishop leaning on a tree, with his handkerchief over his face, and bathed in tears. I approached him with the least noise possible. I saw that he did not perceive me. By the motion of his head and shoulders, it became evident to me that he was in anguish of soul. I said to him: "My dear bishop, what is the matter? Why do you weep and cry at such an earl hour?"
Pressing my hand convulsively in his, he answered:
"Dear Father Chiniquy, you do not yet know the awful calamity which has befallen me this night?"
"What calamity?" I asked.
"Do you not remember," he answered, "that young priest who was sitting at your right hand last evening? Well! he went away, during the night, with the wife of a young man, whom he had seduced, and stole four thousand dollars from me before he left."
"I am not at all surprised at that, when I remember how that priest emptied his glasses of beer and wine last night," I answered. "When the blood of a man is heated by those fiery liquors, it is sheer absurdity to think that he will keep his vow of chastity."
"You are right! You are right! God Almighty has punished me for breaking the public pledge I had taken never to drink any intoxicating drinks. We want a reform in our midst, and we will have it,'" he answered. "But what horrible scandal! One of my young priests gone with that young wife, after stealing four thousand dollars from me! Great God! Must we not hide our face now, in this city?"
I could say nothing to alleviate the sorrow of the poor bishop, but to mingle my tears of shame and sorrow with his. I went back to my room, where I wept a part of the day, to my heart's content, on the unspeakable degradations of that priesthood of which I had been so proud, and about which I had such exalted views when I entered its ranks, before I had an inside view of its dark mysteries.
Of course, the next two days that I was the guest of Bishop Lefebre, not a single drop of intoxicating drink was seen on the table. But I know that not long after, that representative of the Pope forgot again his solemn vows, and continued with his priests, drinking, till he died a most miserable death in 1875.
CHAPTER 48 Back to Table of Contents
The journey from Detroit to Chicago, in the month of June, 1851, was not so pleasant as it is today. The Michigan Central Railroad was completed, then, only to New Buffalo. We took the steamer there and crossed Lake Michigan to Chicago, where we arrived the next morning, after nearly perishing in a terrible storm. On the 15th of June, I first landed, with the greatest difficulty, on a badly wrecked wharf, at the mouth of the river. Some of the streets I had to cross in order to reach the bishop's place were almost impassable. In many places loose planks had been thrown across them to prevent people from sinking in the mud and quicksands.
The first sight of Chicago, was then far from giving an idea of what that city has become in 1884. Though it had rapidly increased the last ten years, its population was then not much more than 30,000. The only line of railroad finished was from Chicago to Aurora, about forty miles. The whole population of the State of Illinois was then not much beyond 200,000. today, Chicago alone numbers more than 500,000 souls within her limits. Probably more grain, lumber, beef and pork, are now bought and sold in a single day in Chicago than were then in a whole year.
When I entered the miserable house called the "bishop's palace," I could hardly believe my eyes. The planks of the lower floor, in the diningroom, were floating, and it required a great deal of ingenuity to keep my feet dry while dining with him for the first time. But the Christian kindness and courtesy of the bishop, made me more happy in his poor house, than I felt, later, in the white marble palace built by his haughty successor, C. Regan.
There were, then, in Chicago about 200 French Canadian families, under the pastorate of the Rev. M. A. Lebel, who, like myself, was born in Kamouraska. The drunkenness and other immoralities of the clergy, pictured to me by that priest, surpassed all I had ever heard known.
After getting my promise that I would never reveal the fact before his death, he assured me that the last bishop had been poisoned by one of his grand vicars in the following way. He said, the grand vicar, being father confessor of the nuns of Loretto, had fallen in love with one of the so-called virgins, who died a few days after becoming the mother of a still-born child.
This fact having transpired, and threatening to give a great deal of scandal, the bishop thought it was his duty to make an inquest, and punish his priest, if he should be found guilty. But the grand vicar, seeing that his crime was to be easily detected, found that the shortest way to escape exposure was to put an end to the inquest by murdering the poor bishop. A poison very difficult to detect, was administered, and the death of the prelate soon followed, without exciting any surprise in the community.
Horrified by the long and minute details of that mystery of iniquity, I came very near returning to Canada, immediately, without going any further. But after more mature consideration, it seemed to me that these awful iniquities on the part of the priests of Illinois was just the reason why I should not shut my eyes to the voice of God, if it were His will that I should come to take care of the precious souls He would trust to me. I spent a week in Chicago lecturing on temperance every evening, and listening during the days to the grand plans the bishop was maturing, in order to make our Church of Rome the mistress and ruler of the magnificent valley of the Mississippi, which included the States of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, ect. He clearly demonstrated to me, that once mistress of the incalculable treasures of those rich lands, through the millions of her obedient children, our church would easily command the respect and the submission of the less favoured States of the east. My zeal for my church was so sincere that I would have given, with pleasure, every drop of my blood, in order to secure to her such a future of power and greatness. I felt really happy and thankful to God that He should have chosen me to help the Pope and the bishops realize such a noble and magnificent project. Leaving Chicago, it took me nearly three days to cross that vast prairies, which were then a perfect wilderness, between Chicago and Bourbonnais, where I spent three weeks in preaching and exploring the country, extending from Kankakee river to the south-west, towards the Mississippi. It was only then that I plainly understood the greatness of the plans of the bishop, and that I determined to sacrifice the exalted position God had given me in Canada to guide the steps of the Roman Catholic emigrants from France, Belgium and Canada, towards the regions of the west, in order to extend the power and influence of my church all over the United States. On my return to Chicago, in the second week of July, all was arranged with the bishop of my coming back in the autumn, to help him to accomplish his gigantic plans. However, it was understood between us that my leaving Canada for the United States, would be kept a secret till the last hour, on account of the stern opposition I expected from my bishop. The last thing to be done, on my return to Canada, in order to prepare the emigrants to go to Illinois, rather than any other part of the United States, was to tell them through the press the unrivaled advantages which God had prepared for them in the west. I did so by a letter, which was published not only by the press of Canada, but also in many papers of France and Belgium. The importance of that letter is such, that I hope my readers will bear with me in reproducing the following extracts from it.
Montreal, Canada East.
August 13th, 1851.
It is impossible to give our friends, by narration, an idea of what we feel, when we cross, for the first time, the immense prairies of Illinois. It is a spectacle which must be seen to be well understood. As you advance in the midst of these boundless deserts, where your eyes perceive nothing but lands of inexhaustible richness, remaining in the most desolating solitude, you feel something which you cannot express by any words. Is your soul filled with joy, or your heart broken by sadness? You cannot say; you lift up your eyes to heaven, and the voice of your soul is chanting a hymn of gratitude. Tears of joy are trickling down your cheeks, and you bless God, whose curse seems not to have fallen on the land where you stand: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake;" "thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee" (Gen. iii. 17, 18).
You see around you the most luxuriant verdure; flowers of every kind, and magnificent above description. But, if in the silence of meditation, you look with new attention on those prairies, so rich, so magnificent, you feel an inexpressible sentiment of sadness, and addressing yourself to the blessed land, you say, "Why art thou so solitary? Why is the wild game alone here to glorify my God?" And if you continue to advance through those immense prairies, which, like a boundless ocean, are spreading their rolling waves before you, and seem to long after the presence of man, to cover themselves with incalculable treasures, you remember your friends in Canada, and more particularly those among them who, crushed down by misery, are watering with the sweat of their brow a sterile and desolated soil, you say: "Ah! if such and such of my friends were here, how soon they would see their hard and ungrateful labours changed into the most smiling and happy position.
Perhaps I will be accused then of trying to depopulate my country, and drive my countrymen from Canada to the United States. No! no. I never had so perverse a design. Here is my mind about the subject of emigration, and I see no reason to be ashamed of it, or to conceal it. It is a fact that a great number (and much greater than generally believed) of French Canadians are yearly emigrating from Canada, and nobody regrets it more than I do; but as long as those who govern Canada will not pay more attention to that evil, it will be an incurable one, and every year Canada will lose thousands and thousands of its strongest arms and noblest hearts, to benefit our happy neighbours. With many others, I had the hope that the eloquent voice of the poor settlers of our eastern townships would be heard, and that the government would help them; but that hope is gone like a dream, and we have now every reason to fear that our unfortunate settlers of the east will be left to themselves. The greatest part of them, for the want of roads to the markets of Quebec and Montreal, and still more by the tyranny of their cruel landlords, will soon be obliged to bid an eternal adieu to their country, and with an enraged heart against their haughty oppressors, they will seek, in exile to a strange land, the protection they could not find in their own country. Yes! If our Canadian government continues a little longer to show the same incomprehensible and stupid apathy for the welfare of its own subjects, emigration will increase every year from Canada, to swell the ranks of the American people.
Since we cannot stop that emigration, is it not our first duty to direct it in such a way that it will be, to the poor emigrants, as beneficial as possible? Let us do everything to hinder them from going to the large cities of the United States. Drowned in the mixed population of American cities, our unfortunate emigrating countrymen would be too much exposed to losing their morality and their faith. Surely there is not another country under the heavens where space, bread, and liberty are so universally assured to every member of the community, as the United States. But it is not in the great cities of the United States that our poor countrymen will sooner find these three gifts. The French Canadian who will stop in the large cities, will not, with a very few exceptions, raise himself above the unenviable position of a poor journeyman. But those among them who will direct their steps toward the rich and extensive prairies of Bourbonnais, will certainly find a better lot. Many in Canada would believe that I am exaggerating, were I to publish how happy, prosperous, and respectable is the French Canadian population of Bourbonnais. The French Canadians of Bourbonnais have had the intelligence to follow the good example of the industrious American farmers, in the manner of cultivating the lands. On their farms as well as on those of their neighbours, you will find the best machinery to cut their crops, to thresh their grain. They enjoy the just reputation of having the best horses of the country, and very few can beat them for the number and quality of their cattle.
Now, what can be the prospect of a young man in Canada, if he has not more than two hundred dollars? A whole life of hard labour and continued privation is his too certain lot. But, let that young man go directly to Bourbonnais, and if he is industrious, sober, and religious, before a couple of years he will see nothing to envy in the most happy farmer of Canada.
As the land he will take in Illinois is entirely prepared for the plough, he has no trees to cut or eradicate, no stones to move, no ditch to dig; his only work is to fence and break his land and sow it, and the very first year the value of the crop will be sufficient to pay for his farm. Holy Providence has prepared everything for the benefit of the happy farmers of Illinois. That fertile country is well watered by a multitude of rivers and large creeks, whose borders are generally covered with the most rich and extensive groves of timber of the best quality, as black oak, maple, white oak, burr oak, ash, ect. The seeds of the beautiful acacia (locust), after five or six years, will give you a splendid tree. The greatest variety of fruits are growing naturally in almost every part of Illinois; coal mines have been discovered in the very heart of the country, more than sufficient for the wants of the people. Before long, a railroad from Chicago to Bourbonnais will bring our happy countrymen to the most extensive market, the Queen city of the west Chicago.
I will then say to my young countrymen who intend emigrating from Canada: "My friend, exile is one of the greatest calamities that can befall a man. Young Canadian, remain in the country, keep thy heart to love it, thy intelligence to adorn it, and thine arms to protect it. Young and dear countrymen, remain in thy beautiful country; there is nothing more grand and sublime in the world than the waters of the St. Lawrence. It is on its deep and majestic waters that, before long, Europe and America will meet and bind themselves to each other by the blessed bonds of an eternal peace; it is on its shores that they will exchange their incalculable treasures. Remain in the country of thy birth, my dear son. Let the sweat of thy brow continue to fertilize it, and let the perfume of thy virtues bring the blessing of God upon it. But, my dear son, if thou has no more room in the valley of the St. Lawrence, and if, by the want of protection from the Government, thou canst not go to the forest without running the danger of losing thy life in a pond, or being crushed under the feet of an English or Scotch tyrant, I am not the man to invite thee to exhaust thy best days for the benefit of the insolent strangers, who are the lords of the eastern lands. I will sooner tell thee, 'go my child,' there are many extensive places still vacant on the earth, and God is everywhere. That great God calleth thee to another land, submit thyself to His Divine will. But, before you bid a final adieu to thy country, engrave on thy heart and keep as a holy deposit, the love of thy holy religion, of thy beautiful language, and of the dear and unfortunate country of thy birth. On thy way to the land of exile, stop as little as possible in the great cities, for fear of the many snares thy eternal enemy has prepared for thy perdition. But go straight to Bourbonnais. There you will find many of thy brothers who have erected the cross of Christ; join thyself to them, thou shalt be strong of their strength; go and help them to conquer to the Gospel of Jesus those rich countries, which shall, very soon, weigh more than is generally believed, in the balance of the nations.
"Yes, go straight to Illinois. Thou shalt not be entirely in a strange and alien country. Holy Providence has chosen thy fathers to find that rich country, and to reveal to the world its admirable resources. More than once that land of Illinois has been sanctified by the blood of thy ancestors. In Illinois thou shalt not make a step without finding indestructible proof of the perseverance, genius, bravery, and piety of the French forefathers. Go to Illinois, and the many names of Bourbonnais, Joliet, Dubuque, Le Salle, St. Charles, St. Mary, ect., that you will meet everywhere, will tell you more than my words, that that country is nothing but the rich inheritance which your fathers have found for the benefit of their grandchildren.
I would never have published this letter, if I had foreseen its effects on the farmers of Canada. In a few days after its appearance, their farms fell to half their value. Every one, in some parishes, wanted to sell their lands and emigrate to the west. It was only for want of purchasers that we did not see an emigration which would have surely ruined Canada. I was frightened by its immediate effect on the public mind. However, while some were praising me to the skies for having published it, others were cursing me and calling me a traitor. The very day after its publication, I was in Quebec, where the Bishops of Canada were met in council. The first one I met was my Lord De Charbonel, Bishop of Toronto. After having blessed me, he pressed my hand in his, and said:
"I have just read your admirable letter. It is one of the most beautiful and eloquently written articles I ever read. The Spirit of God has surely inspired every one of its sentences. I have, just now, forwarded six copies of it to different journals of France and Belgium, where they will be republished, and do an incalculable amount of good, by directing the French-speaking Catholic emigrants towards a country where they will run no risk of losing their faith, with the assurance of securing a future of unbounded prosperity for their families. Your name will be put among the names of the greatest benefactors of humanity."
Though these compliments seemed to me much exaggerated and unmerited, I cannot deny that they pleased me, by adding to my hopes and convictions that great good would surely come from the plan I had of gathering all the Roman Catholic emigrants on the same spot, to form such large and strong congregations; that they would have nothing to fear from heretics. I thanked the bishop for his kind and friendly words, and left him to go and present my respectful salutations to Bishop Bourget, of Montreal, and give him a short sketch of my voyage to the far west. I found him alone in his room, in the very act of reading my letter. A lioness, who had just lost her whelps, would not have broken upon me with more angry and threatening eyes than that bishop did.
"Is it possible," he said, "Mr. Chiniquy, that your hand has written and signed such a perfidious document? How could you so cruelly pierce the bosom of your own country, after her dealing so nobly with you? Do you not see that your treasonable letter will give such an impetus to emigration that our most thriving parishes will soon be turned into solitude? Though you do not say it, we feel at every line of that letter that you will leave your country, to give help and comfort to our natural enemies."
Surprised by this unexpected burst of bad feeling, I kept my sang froid, and answered: "My lord, your lordship has surely misunderstood me, if you have found in my letter my treasonable plan to ruin our country. Please read it again, and you will see that every line has been inspired by the purest motives of patriotism, and the highest views of religion. How is it possible that the worthy Bishop of Toronto should have told me that the Spirit of God Himself had directed every line of that letter, when my good bishop's opinion is so completely opposite?" The abrupt answer the bishop gave to these remarks, clearly indicated that my absence would be more welcome than my presence. I left him, after asking his blessing, which he gave me in the coldest manner possible.
On the 25th of August, I was back at Longueuil, from my voyage to Quebec, which I had extended as far as Kamouraska, to see again the noblehearted parishioners, whose unanimity in taking the pledge of temperance, and admirable fidelity in keeping it then, had filled my heart with such joy.
I related my last interview with Bishop Bourget to my faithful friend Mr. Brassard. He answered me: "The present bad feelings of the Bishop of Montreal against you are not a secret to me. Unfortunately the lowminded men who surround and counsel him are as unable as the bishop himself to understand your exalted views in directing the steps of the Roman Catholics towards the splendid valley of the Mississippi. They are besides themselves, because they see that you will easily succeed in forming a grand colony of French-speaking people in Illinois. Now, I am sure of what I say, though I am not free to tell you how it came to my knowledge, there is a plot somewhere to dishonour and destroy you at once. Those who are at the head of that plot hope that if they can succeed in destroying your popularity, nobody will be tempted to follow you to Illinois. For, though you have concealed it as well as you could, it is evident to everyone now, that you are the man selected by the bishops of the west to direct the uncertain steps of the poor emigrants towards those rich lands."
"Do you mean, my dear Mr. Brassard," I replied, "that there are priests around the Bishop of Montreal, cruel and vile enough to forge calumnies against me, and spread them before the country in such a way that I shall be unable to refute them?"
"It is just what I mean," answered Mr. Brassard; "mind what I tell you; the bishop has made use of you to reform his diocese. He likes you for that work. But your popularity is too great today for your enemies; they want to get rid of you, and no means will be too vile or criminal to accomplish your destruction, if they can attain their object."
"But, my dear Mr. Brassard, can you give me any details of the plots which are in store against me?" I asked.
"No! I cannot, for I know them not. But be on your guard; for your few, but powerful enemies, are jubilant. They speak of the absolute impotency to which you will soon be reduced, if you accomplish what they so maliciously and falsely call your treacherous objects."
I answered: "Our Saviour has said to all His disciples: 'In the world ye shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (John xvi. 33). I am more determined than ever to put my trust in God, and to fear no man."
Two hours after this conversation, I received the following from the Rev. M. Pare, secretary to the bishop:
To the Rev. Mr. Chiniquy,
Apostle of Temperance.
My Dear Sir, My Lord Bishop of Montreal would like to see you upon some important business. Please come at your earliest convenience.
Jos. Pare, Secretary.
The next morning I was alone with Monseigneur Bourget, who received me very kindly. He seemed at first to have entirely banished the bad feelings he had shown in our last interview at Quebec. After making some friendly remarks on my continual labours and success in the cause of temperance, he stopped for a moment, and seemed embarrassed how to resume the conversation. At last he said:
"Are you not the father confessor of Mrs. Chenier?"
"Yes, my lord. I have been her confessor since I lived in Longueuil."
"Very well, very well," he rejoined, "I suppose that you know that her only child is a nun, in the Congregation Convent?"
"Yes! my lord, I know it," I replied.
"Could you not induce Mrs. Chenier to become a nun also?" asked the bishop.
"I never thought of that, my lord," I answered, "and I do not see why I should advise her to exchange her beautiful cottage, washed by the fresh and pure waters of the St. Lawrence, where she looks so happy and cheerful, for the gloomy walls of the nunnery."
"But she is still young and beautiful; she may be deceived by temptations when she is there, in that beautiful house, surrounded by all the enjoyments of her fortune," replied the bishop.
"I understand your lordship. Yes, Mrs. Chenier has the reputation of being rich; though I know nothing of her fortune; she has kept well the charms and freshness of her youth. However, I think that the best remedy against the temptations you seem to dread so much for her, is to advise her to marry. A good Christian husband seems to me a much better remedy against the dangers to which your lordship alludes, than the cheerless walls of a nunnery."
"You speak just as a Protestant," rejoined the bishop, with an evident nervous irritation. "We remark that, though you hear the confessions of a great number of young ladies, there is not a single one of them who has ever become a nun. You seem to ignore that the vow of chastity is the shortest way to a life of holiness in this world and happiness in the next."
"I am sorry to differ from your lordship, in that matter," I replied. "But I cannot help it, the remedy you have found against sin is quite modern. The old remedy offered by our God Himself, is very different and much better, I think."
"'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him' (Gen. ii. 18)., said our Creator in the earthly paradise. 'Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband' (1 Cor. vii. 2), said the same God, through His Apostle Paul."
"I know too well how the great majority of nuns keep their vows of chastity, to believe that the modern remedy against the temptations you mention, is an improvement on the old one found and given by our God!" I answered.
With an angry look, the bishop replies: "This is Protestantism, Mr. Chiniquy. This is sheer Protestantism."
"I respectfully ask your pardon for differing from your lordship. This is not Protestantism. It is simply and absolutely the 'pure Word of God.' But, my lord, God knows that it is my sincere desire, as it is my interest and my duty, to do all in my power to deserve your esteem. I do not want to vex nor disobey you. Please give me a good reason why I should advise Mrs. Chenier to enter a monastery, and I will comply with you request the very first time she comes to confess."
Resuming his most amiable manner, the bishop answered me, "My first reason is, the spiritual good which she would receive from her vows of perpetual chastity and poverty in a nunnery. The second reason is, that the lady is rich, and we are in need of money. We would soon possess her whole fortune; for her only child is already in the Congregation Convent."
"My dear bishop," I replied, "you already know what I think of your first reason. After having investigated that fact, not in the Protestant books, but from the lips of the nuns themselves, as well as from their father confessors, I am fully convinced that the real virtue of purity is much better kept in the homes of our Christian mothers, married sisters, and female friends than in the secret rooms, not to say prisons, where the poor nuns are enchained by the heavy fetters assumed by their vows, which the great majority curse when they cannot break them. And for the second reason, your lordship gives me to induce Mrs. Chenier becoming a nun, I am again sorry to say that I cannot conscientiously accept it. I have not consecrated myself to the priesthood to deprive respectable families of their legal inheritance in order to enrich myself, or anybody else. I know she has poor relations who need her fortune after her death."
"Do you pretend to say that your bishop is a thief?" angrily rejoined the bishop.
"No, my lord! By no means. No doubt, for your high standpoint of view, your lordship may see things in a very different aspect, from what I see them, in the low position I occupy in the church. But, as your lordship is bound to follow the dictates of his conscience in everything, I also feel obligated to give heed to the voice of mine."
This painful conversation had already lasted too long. I was anxious to see the end of it; for I could easily read in the face of my superior, that every word I uttered was sealing my doom. I rose up to take leave of him, and said: "My lord, I beg your pardon for disappointing your lordship."
He coldly answered me: "It is not the first time; though I would it were the last, that you show such a want of respect and submission to the will of your superiors. But, as I feel it is a conscientious affair on your part, I have no ill-will against you, and I am happy to tell you that I entertain for you all my past esteem. The only favour I ask from you just now is, that this conversation may be kept secret."
I answered: "It is still more to my interest than your to keep this unfortunate affair a secret between us. I hope that neither your lordship nor the great God, who alone has heard us, will ever make it an imperious duty for me to mention it."
"What good news do you bring me from the bishop's palace?" asked my venerable friend, Mr. Brassard, when I returned, late in the afternoon.
"I would have very spicy, though unpalatable news to give you, had not the bishop asked me to keep what has been said between us a secret."
Mr. Brassard laughed outright at my answer, and replied: "A secret! a secret! Ah! but it is a gazette secret; for the bishop has bothered me, as well as many others, with that matter, frequently, since your return from Illinois. Several times he has asked us to persuade you to advise your devoted penitent, Mrs. Chenier, to become a nun. I knew he invited you to his palace yesterday for that object. The eyes and heart of our poor bishop," continued Mr. Brassard, "are too firmly fixed on the fortune of that lady. Hence, his zeal about the salvation of her soul through the monastic life. In vain I tried to dissuade the bishop from speaking to you on that subject, on account of your prejudices against our good nuns. He would not listen to me. No doubt you have realized my worst anticipations; you have, with your usual stubbornness, refused to yield to his demands. I fear you have added to his bad feelings, and consummated your disgrace."
"What a deceitful man that bishop is!" I answered, indignantly. "He has given me to understand that this was a most sacred secret between him and me, when I see, by what you say, that it is nothing else than a farcical secret, known by the hundreds who have heard of it. But, please, my dear Mr. Brassard, tell me, is it not a burning shame that our nunneries are changed into real traps, to steal, cheat, and ruin so many unsuspecting families? I have no words to express my disgust and indignation, when I see that all those great demonstrations and eloquent tirades about the perfection and holiness of the nuns, on the part of our spiritual rulers, are nothing else, in reality, than a veil to conceal their stealing operations. Do you not feel, that those poor nuns are the victims of the most stupendous system of swindling the world has ever seen? I know that there are some honourable exceptions. For instance, the nunnery you have founded here is an exception. You have not built it to enrich yourself, as you have spent your last cent in its erection. But you and I are only simpletons, who have, till now, ignored the terrible secrets which put that machine of the nunneries and monkeries in motion. I am more than ever disgusted and terrified, not only by the unspeakable corruptions, but also by the stupendous system of swindling, which is their foundation stone. If the cities of Quebec and Montreal could know what I know of the incalculable sums of money secretly stolen through the confessional, to aid our bishops in building the famous cathedrals and splendid palaces; or to cover themselves with robes of silk, satin, silver, and gold: to live more luxurious than the Pashas of Turkey; they would set fire to all those palatial buildings; they would hang the confessors, who have thrown the poor nuns into these dungeons under the pretext of saving their souls, when the real motive was to lay hands on their inheritance, and raise their colossal fortunes. The bishop has opened before me a most deplorable and shameful page of the history of our church. It makes me understand many facts which were a mystery to me till today. Now I understand the terrible wrath of the English people in the days of old, and of the French people more recently, when they so violently wrenched from the hands of the clergy the enormous wealth they had accumulated during the dark ages. I have condemned those great nations till now. But, today, I absolve them. I am sure that those men, though blind and cruel in their vengeance, were the ministers of the justice of God. The God of Heaven could not, for ever, tolerate a sacrilegious system of swindling, as I know, now, to be in operation from one end to the other, not only of Canada, but of the whole world, under the mask of religion. I know that the bishop and his flatterers will hate and persecute me for my stern opposition to his rapacity. But I do feel happy and proud of his hatred. The God of truth and justice, the God of the gospel, will be on my side when they attack me. I do not fear them; let them come. That bishop surely did not know me, when he thought that I would consent to be the instrument of his hypocrisy, and that, under the false pretext of a delusive perfection, I would throw that lady into a dungeon for her life, that he might become rich with her inheritance."
Mr. Brassard answered me: "I cannot blame you for your disobeying the bishop, in this instance. I foretold him what has occurred; for I knew what you think of the nuns. Though I do not go so far as you in that, I cannot absolutely shut my eyes to the facts which stare us in the face. Those monkish communities have, in every age, been the principal cause of the calamities which have befallen the church. For their love of riches, their pride and laziness, with their other scandals, have always been the same. Had I been able to foresee what has occurred inside the walls of the nunnery I built up here, I never would have erected it. However, now that I have built it, it is as the child of my old age, I feel bound to support it to the end. This does not prevent me from being afflicted when I see the facility with which our poor nuns yield to the criminal desires of their too weak confessors. Who could have thought, for instance, that that lean and ugly superior of the Oblates, Father Allard, could have fallen in love with his young nuns, and that so many would have lost their hearts on his account. Have you heard how the young men of our village, indignant at his spending the greater part of the night with the nuns, have whipped him, when he was crossing the bridge, not long before his leaving Longueuil for Africa? It is evident that our bishop multiplies too fast those religious houses. My fear is that they will, sooner than we expect, bring upon our Church of Canada the same cataclysms which have so often desolated her in England, France, Germany, and even in Italy."
The clock struck twelve just when this last sentence fell from the lips of Mr. Brassard. It was quite time to take some rest. When leaving me for his sleeping room he said:
"My dear Chiniquy, gird your loins well, sharpen your sword for the impending conflict. My fear is that the bishop and his advisers will never forget your wrenching from their hands the booty they were coveting so long. They will never forgive the spirit of independence with which you have rebuked them. In fact, the conflict is already begun, may God protect you against the open blows, and the secret machinations they have in store for you."
I answered him: "I do not fear them. I put my trust in God. It is for His honour I am fighting and suffering. He will surely protect me from those sacrilegious traders in souls."
CHAPTER 49 Back to Table of Contents
The first week of September, 1851, I was hearing confessions in one of the churches of Montreal, when a fine-looking girl came to confess sins, whose depravity surpassed anything I had ever heard. Though I forbade her twice to do it, she gave me the names of several priests who were the accomplices of her orgies. The details of her iniquities were told with such cynical impudence, that the idea struck me at once, that she was sent by some one to ruin me. I abruptly stopped her disgusting stories by saying: "The way you confess your sins is a sure indication that you do not come here to reconcile yourself to God, but to ruin me. By the grace of God, you will fail. I forbid you to come any more to my confessional. If I see you again among my penitents, I will order the beadle to turn you out of the church."
I instantly shut the door of the small aperture through which she was speaking to me. She answered something which I could not understand. But the tone of her voice, the shaking of her hands and head, with her manner of walking, when she left the confessional, indicated that she was beside herself with rage, as she went to speak a few words to a carter who was in the church, preparing himself to confess.
The next evening, I said to Rev. Mr. Brassard that I suspected that a girl was sent to my confessional to ruin me.
He answered: "Did I not warn you, some time ago, that there was a plot to destroy you? I have not the least doubt but that that girl was hired to begin that diabolical work. You have no idea of my anxiety about you. For I know your enemies will not shrink from any iniquity to destroy your good name, and prevent you from directing the tide of emigration from Canada to the valley of Mississippi."
I replied, "That I could not partake of his fears; that God knew my innocence and the purity of my motives; He would defend and protect me."
"My dear Chiniquy," replied Mr. Brassard, "I know your enemies. They are not numerous, but they are implacable, and their power for mischief knows no limits. Surely, God can save you from their hands; but I cannot share your security for the future. Your answer to the bishop, in reference to Mrs. Chenier, when you refused to send her to the nunnery, that he might inherit her fortune, has for ever alienated him from you. Bishop Bourget has the merited reputation of being the most revengeful man in Canada. He will avail himself of the least opportunity to strike you without mercy."
I answered, "Though there should be a thousand Bishops Bourget to plot against me, I will not fear them, so long as I am in the right, as I am today." As the clock struck twelve, I bade him good-night, and ten minutes later, I was sound asleep.
The following days, I went to deliver a course of lectures on temperance to several parishes south of Laprairie, till the 28th of September, after which I came back from St. Constant to rest for a few days, and prepare to start for Chicago. On my arrival, I found, on my table, a short letter from Bishop Bourget telling me, that, for a criminal action, which he did not want to mention, committed with a person he would not name, he had withdrawn all my priestly powers and interdicted me. I handed the letter to Mr. Brassard and said: "Is not this the fulfillment of your prophecies? What do you think of a bishop who interdicts a priest without giving him a single fact, and without even allowing him to know his accusers?"
"It is just what I expected from the implacable vengeance of the Bishop of Montreal. He will never give you the reasons of your interdict, for he knows well you are innocent, and he will never confront you with your accusers; for it would be too easy for you to confound them."
"But is not this against all the laws of God and man? Is it not against the laws of the church?" I replied.
"Of course it is," answered he, "but do you not know that, on this continent of America, the bishops have, long ago, thrown overboard all the laws of God and man, and all the laws of the church, to rule and enslave the priests?"
I replied: "If it be so, are not Protestants correct, when they say that our church has rejected the Word of God to follow the traditions of man? What can we answer them when they tell us that our church has no right to be called the church of God? Would the Son of God have given up His life on the cross to save men, that they might be the property of a few lawless tyrants, who should have the right to take away their honour and life?"
"I am not ready to answer those puzzling questions," he answered, "but this is the fact. Though it is absolutely against all the laws of the church to condemn a priest without showing him his guilt, and confronting him with his accusers, our modern bishops, every week, condemn some of their priests without specifying any fact, or even giving them the names of their accusers."
"Mind what I tell you," I replied. "I will not allow the bishop to deal with me in that way. If he dares to trample the laws of the Gospel under his feet, to accomplish my ruin, and satisfy his vengeance, I will teach him a lesson that he will never forget. Thanks be to God, it is not the gory cross of the bloody Inquisition, but the emblem of the British Lion, which I see there floating on the tower, to protect our honour and life, in Canada. I am innocent; God knows it. My trust is in Him; He will not forsake me. I will go immediately to the bishop. If he never knew what power there is in an honest priest, he will learn it today."
Two hours later, I was knocking at the bishop's door. He received me with icy politeness. "My lord," I said, "you already know why I am in your presence. Here is a letter from you, accusing me of a crime which is not specified, under the testimony of accusers whom you refuse to name! And before hearing me, and confronting me with my accusers, you punish me as guilty! You not only take away my honour with that unjust sentence, but my life! I come in the name of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, to respectfully ask you to tell me the crime of which I am accused, that I may show you my innocence. I want to be confronted with my accusers, that I may confound them."
The bishop was, at first, evidently embarrassed by my presence; his lips were pale and trembling, but his eyes were dry and red, like the tiger's eyes, in the presence of his prey. He answered: "I cannot grant your request, sir."
Opening then my New Testament, I read: "Receive no accusation against a priest, except under two or three witnesses" (1st Tim. v. 19). I added: "It was after I had heard this voice of God, and of His holy church, that I consented to be a priest. I hope it is not the intention of your lordship to put aside this Word of God and of His church. It is not your intention to break that solemn covenant made by Christ with His priests, and sealed with His blood?"
With an air of contempt and tyrannical authority, which I had never suspected to be possible in a bishop, he answered: "I have no lesson of Scripture or canonical law to receive from you, sir, and no answer to give to your impertinent questions; you are interdicted! I have nothing to do with you."
These words, uttered by the man whom I was accustomed to consider as my superior, had a strange effect upon me. I felt as if awakening from a long and painful dream. For the first time, I understood the sad prophecies of the Rev. Mr. Brassard, and I realized the honour of my position. My ruin was accomplished. Though I knew that that high dignitary was a monster of hypocrisy, injustice and tyranny, he had, among the masses, the reputation of a saint. His unjust sentence would be considered as just and equitable by the multitude over whom he was reigning supremely; at a nod of his head the people would fall at his feet, and obey his commands to crush me. All ears would be shut, and all hearts hardened against me. In that fatal hour, for the first time in my life, my moral strength and courage failed me. I felt as if I had just fallen into a bottomless abyss, out of which it was impossible to escape. What would my innocence, known only to God, avail me, when the whole world would believe me guilty? No words can give an idea of the mental torture of that horrible hour.
For more than a quarter of an hour, not a word was exchanged between the bishop and me. He seemed very busy writing letters, while I was resting my head between my hands, and shedding torrents of tears. At last I fell on my knees, took the hands of the bishop in mine, and, with a voice half-choked with sighs, I said: "My lord, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the presence of God, I swear that I have done nothing which could bring such a sentence against me. I again implore your lordship to confront me with my accusers, that I may show you my innocence."
With a savage insolence, the bishop withdrew his hands, as if I had contaminated them, and said, after rising from his chair: "You are guilty; go out of my presence."
A thousand times since I have thanked my God that I had no dagger with me, for I would have plunged it into his heart. But, strange to say, the diabolical malice and dishonesty of that depraved man suddenly brought back my former self-respect and courage. I, at once took the stern resolution to face the storm. I felt, in my soul, that giant strength which often God Himself implants in the breast of the oppressed, when he is in the presence of his merciless tyrants. It seemed that a flash of lightning had passed through my soul, after having written in letters of fire, on the walls of the palace: "Mystery of iniquity."
Relying entirely on the God of truth and justice, who knew my innocence and the great perversity of my oppressor, I left the room, without saying a word, and hastened back to Longueuil, to acquaint the Rev. Mr. Brassard with my firm resolution to fight the bishop to the end. He burst into tears when I told him what had occurred in the bishop's palace.
"Though innocent, you are condemned," he said. "The infallible proof of your innocence is the cruel refusal of allowing you to be confronted with your accusers. Were you guilty, they would be too glad to show it, by confounding you before those witnesses. But the perversity of your accusers is so well known, that they are ashamed of giving their names. The bishop prefers to crush you under the weight of his unmerited reputation for justice and holiness; for very few know him as we do. My fear is that he will succeed in destroying you. Though innocent, you are condemned and lost; you will never be able to contend against such a mighty adversary."
"My dear Mr. Brassard, you are mistaken," I replied. "I never was so sure of coming out victorious from a conflict as today. The monstrous iniquity of the bishop carries its antidote with itself. It was not a dream I saw when he so ignominiously turned me out of his room. A flash of lightning passed before my eyes, and wrote, as if on the walls of the palace: 'Mystery of iniquity!' When Canada, the whole of Christendom, shall know the infamous conduct of that dignitary; when they shall see the 'mystery of iniquity,' which I shall stamp upon his forehead, there will be only one cry of indignation against him! Oh! If I can only find out the names of my accusers! How I will force that mighty tyrant to withdraw that sentence, at double quick. I am determined to show, not only to Canada, but to the whole world, that this infamous plot is but the work of the vile male and female slaves by whom the bishop is surrounded. My first thought was to start immediately for Chicago, where Bishop Vandeveld expected me. But I am resolved not to go until I have forced my merciless oppressor to withdraw his unjust sentence. I will immediately go to the Jesuit College, where I purpose spending the next eight days in prayer and retreat. The Jesuits are the ablest men under heaven to detect the most hidden things. I hope they will help me to unearth that dark mystery of iniquity, and expose it to the world."
I am glad to see that you do not fear that terrible storm which is upon you, and that your sails are so well trimmed," answered Mr. Brassard. "You do well in putting your trust in God first, and in the Jesuits afterwards. The fearless way in which you intend to meet the attacks of your merciless enemies, will give you an easy victory. My hope is that the Jesuits will help you to find out the names of your false accusers, and that you will make use of them to hurl back in the face of the bishop the shame and dishonour he had prepared for you."
At six p.m., in a modest, well-lighted and ventilated room of the Jesuit College, I was alone with the venerable Mr. Schneider, its director. I told him how the Bishop of Montreal, four years before, after giving up his prejudices against me when I had left the Oblates, had earnestly supported me in my labours. I acquainted him also with the sudden change of those good feelings into the most uncontrollable hatred, from the day I had refused to force Mrs. Chenier to become a nun, that he might secure her fortune. I told him also how those bad feelings had found new food in my plan to consecrating the rest of my life to direct the tide of the French Catholic emigration towards the Mississippi Valley. I exposed to him my suspicions about that miserable girl I had turned out from my confessional. "I have a double object in view," I added. "The first is to spend the last eight days of my residence in Canada in prayer. But my second is to ask the help of your charity, wisdom, and experience in forcing the bishop to withdraw his unjust sentence against me. I am determined, if he does not withdraw it, to denounce him before the whole country, and to challenge him, publicly, to confront me with my accusers."
"If you do that," answered Mr. Schneider, "I fear lest you not only do an irreparable damage to the Bishop of Montreal, but to our holy church also."
I replied: "Our holy church would indeed suffer an irreparable damage, if she sanctioned the infamous conduct of the bishop; but this is impossible."
"You are correct," rejoined the Jesuit. "Our holy church cannot sanction such criminal conduct. She has, hundreds of times, condemned those tyrannical and unjust actions in other bishops. Such want of common honesty and justice will be condemned everywhere, as soon as it is known. The first thing we have to do it to find out the names of your accusers. I have not the least doubt that they are the blind instruments of Machiavelist plots against you. But those plots have only to be brought to light, to vanish away. My impression is, that the miserable girl you have so abruptly and so wisely turned out of your confessional, knows more than the bishop wants us to find out, about the plots. It is a pity you did not ask her name and residence. At all events, you may rely on my efforts to persuade our bishop that his personal interest, as well as the interest of our holy religion, is, that he should speedily withdraw that sentence, which is a nullity by itself. It will not be difficult for me to show him that he is fallen into the very pit he has dug under your feet. He has taken a position against you which is absolutely untenable. Before your retreat is at an end, no doubt he will be too happy to make his peace with you. Only trust in God, and in the blessed Virgin Mary, and you have nothing to fear from your conflict. Our bishop has put himself above all the laws of man and God, to condemn the priest he had himself officially named 'the Apostle of Temperance of Canada.' There is not a single man in the Church, who will allow him to stand on that ground. The 200,000 soldiers you have enrolled under the holy banners of temperance, will force him to retreat his too hasty and unjust sentence."
It would be too long to repeat here all the encouraging words which that wise Jesuit uttered. Father Schneider was a European priest, who was in Montreal only since 1849. He had won my confidence the very first time I met him, and I had chosen him, at once, for my confessor and adviser. The third day of my retreat, Father Schneider came to my room earlier than usual, and said:
"I have worked hard the last two days, to find out the name and residence of the carter to whom that miserable girl spoke in the church, after you had turned her out of your confessional, and I have it. If you have no objection I will send for him. He may know that girl and induce her to come here."
"By all means, dear father," I answered, "do it without losing a moment."
Two hours later, the carter was with me. I recognized him as one of those dear countrymen whom our society of temperance had transformed into a new man. I asked him if he remembered the name of the girl who, a few days before, had spoken to him in the church, after going out of my confessional.
"Yes sir! I know her well. She has a very bad name, though she belongs to a respectable family."
I added: "Do you think you can induce her to come here, by telling her that a priest, in the Jesuit College, wants to see her? But do not give her my name."
He answered: "Nothing is more easy. She will be here in a couple of hours, if I find her at home."
At three p.m., the carter was again knocking at my door, and said, with a low voice: "The girl you want is in the parlour; she has no idea you are here, for she told me that you were now preaching in St. Constant, she seems to be very angry against you, and bitterly complains against your want of courtesy, the very first time she went to confess to you."
"Is it possible that she told you that?" I replied.
"Yes sir! She told me that to explain her terrible excitement when coming out of your confessional, the other day; she then requested me to drive her home. She was really beside herself, and swore that she would make you pay for your harsh words and rude manners towards her. You will do well to be on your guard with her. She is one of the most depraved girls of Montreal, and has a most dangerous tongue, though to the shame of our holy religion, she is daily seen in the bishop's palace."
I immediately went to Father Schneider, and said: "My dear father, by the mercy of God, the girl we want to see is in the parlour. But what I have just heard from the carter who drove her, I have not the least doubt but that she is the one employed by the bishop to slander me, and get a pretext for what he has done. Please come with me to witness my innocence. But, take your Gospel, ink, paper and pen with you."
"All right," answered the wise Jesuit.
Two minutes later we were in her presence. It is impossible to describe her dismay when she saw me. She came near fainting. I feared she would not be able to utter a word. I spoke to her very kindly, and ran to get a glass of cold water, which did her good. When she recovered, I said to her, with a tone of mixed authority and kind firmness: "You are here in the presence of God and of two of His priests. That great God will hear every word which will fall from your lips. You must speak the truth. You have denounced me to the bishop as guilty of some great iniquity. You are the cause of my being interdicted. You, alone, can repair the iniquity you have done me. That injury is very great; but it can be easily repaired by you. In the presence of that venerable priest, say whether or not, I am guilty of the crime you have brought to my charge!"
At these words, the unfortunate girl burst into tears. She hid her face in her handkerchief, and with a voice half-suffocated with sighs, she said: "No sir! You are not guilty."
I added: "Confess another thing. Is it not a fact that you had come to my confessional more with the intention of tempting me to sin, than to reconcile yourself to God?"
"Yes sir!" she added, "this was my wicked intention."
"Continue to tell the truth, and our great and merciful God will forgive you. Is it not to revenge yourself for my rebuking you, that you have brought the false accusations to the bishop in order that he might interdict me?"
"Yes sir! that is the only reason I had for accusing you."
After Father Schneider had made four copies of those declarations, signed by him as witness, and after she had sworn on the Gospel, I forgave her the injury she had done me, I gave her some good advice and dismissed her.
"Is it not evident," I said to Father Schneider, "that our merciful God never forsakes those who trust in Him?"
"Yes, I never saw the interposition of God so marvelously manifested as in this perfect deliverance from the hands of your enemies. But, please, tell me why you requested me to make four copies of her sworn declaration of your innocence; was not one sufficient?" asked Mr. Schneider.
I answered: "One of those copies was for the bishop; another will remain in your hands, Mr. Brassard will have one, and I need one for myself. For the dishonesty of the bishop is so evident to me, now, that I think him able to destroy the copy I will send him, with the hope, after its destruction, of keeping me at his feet. If he does that new act of iniquity, I will confound him with the three other authentic copies which will remain. Besides, this unfortunate girl may die sooner than we expect. In that case, I would find myself again with the bishop's knife on my throat, if I had no other retractation to the perjured declaration which he has persuaded her to give him."
"You are right," replied Father Schneider; "now the only thing for you to do is to send that retractation to the bishop, with a firm and polite request to retract his unjust sentence against you. Let me do the rest with him. The battle is over. It has been fierce, but short. However, thanks be to God, you have a most complete victory over your unjust aggressors. The bishop will do all in his power, no doubt, to make you forget the darkest page of his life."
The shrewd Jesuit was correct in his previsions. Never did any bishop receive me with so many marks, not only of kindness, but I dare say of respect, than Bishop Bourget, when, after my retreat, I went to take leave of him, before my departure from Canada for the United States.
"I trust, my lord," I said, "that, today, I can hope to possess the confidence and friendly feelings of your lordship?"
"Certainly, my dear Mr. Chiniquy, certainly; you possess my full confidence and friendship. I dare say more; you possess my most sincere gratitude, for what you have done in my diocese."
I answered: "I am much obliged to your lordship for this expression of your kind feelings. But, now, I have two new favours to ask from your lordship. The first, is a written document expressive of those kind feelings. The second, is a chalice from your hands to offer the holy sacrifice of mass the rest of my life."
"I will grant you your request with the utmost pleasure," answered the bishop; and without losing a moment, he wrote the following letter, which I reproduce here, on account of its importance:
Montreal, Oct. 13th. 1851.
Sir, You request me to give you permission to leave my diocese, in order to go and offer your service to the Bishop of Chicago. As you still belong to the diocese of Quebec, I think you ought to address yourself to my lord of Quebec, to get the extract you want. As for me, I cannot but thank you for what you have done in our midst; and in my gratitude towards you, I wish you the most abundant blessing from heaven. Every day of my life I will remember you. You will always be in my heart, and I hope that on some future day the providence of God will give me some opportunity of showing you all the feelings of gratitude I feel towards you.
I remain, your most obedient servant, Ignace,
Rev. C. Chiniquy.
Bishop of Montreal.
Though that letter was a most perfect recantation of all he had said and done against me, and was of immense value to me in such circumstances, the bishop added to its importance by the exceedingly kind manner in which he handed it to me.
As he was going into another room he said: "I will give you the silver chalice you want, to offer the holy sacrifice of mass the rest of your days." But he came back and said: "My secretary is absent, and has the key of the trunk which contains those vases."
"It makes no difference, my lord," I replied, "please order your secretary to put that chalice in the hands of Rev. Mr. Brassard, who will forward it, with a box of books which he has to send me to Chicago next week."
The bishop very kindly promised to do so; and he fulfilled his promise. The next day, that precious gift was put in the hands of Mr. Brassard, in presence of several priests. It was sent, the following week, to Chicago, where I got it, and that fine silver chalice is still in my possession.
I then fell on my knees, and said: "My lord, I am just leaving Canada for the Far West, please give me your benediction." He blessed me and pressed me to his heart with the tenderness of a father, saying, "May God Almighty bless you, wherever you go and in everything you do, till the end of your life."
CHAPTER 50 Back to Table of Contents
Though I had kept my departure from Canada as secret as possible, it had been suspected by many; and Mr. Brassard, unable to resist the desire that his people should give me the expression of their kind feelings, had let the secret slip from his lips two days before I left. I was not a little surprised a few hours before my taking leave of him, to see his whole parish gathered at the door of his parsonage, to present me the following address:
To the Rev. Father Chiniquy.
Venerable Sir, It is only three years since we presented you with your portrait, not only as an expression of our gratitude for your labours and success in the cause of temperance in our midst, but also as a memorial, which would tell our grandchildren the good you have done to our country. We were, then, far from thinking that we were so near the day when we would have the sorrow to see you separating yourself from us.
Your unforeseen exit from Canada fills us with a regret and sadness, which is increased by the fear we have, that the reform you have started, and so gloriously established everywhere, will suffer from your absence. May our merciful God grant that your faithful co-labourers may continue it, and walk in your footsteps.
While we submit to the decrees of Providence, we promise that we will never forget the great things you have done for the prosperity of our country. Your likeness, which is in every Canadian family, will tell to the future generations what Father Chiniquy has done for Canada.
We console ourselves by the assurance that, wherever you go, you will rise the glorious banners of temperance among those of our countrymen who are scattered in the land of exile. May these brethren put on your forehead the crown of immortality, which you have so well deserved for your noble work in our midst.
L. M. Brassard, Priest and Curate.
H. Hicks, Vicar, and 300 others.
Gentlemen, I thank you for the honour you do me by your address. But allow me to tell you, that the more I look upon the incalculable good resulting from the Temperance Reform I have established, nearly from one end of Canada to the other, the more I would deceive myself, were I to attribute to myself the whole merit of that blessed work.
If our God has chosen me, His so feeble servant, as the instrument of His infinite mercies towards our dear country, it is because He wanted us to understand that He alone could make the marvelous change we see everywhere, and that we shall give all the glory to Him.
It is more to the fervent prayers, and to the good examples of our venerable bishops and curates, than to my feeble efforts, that we owe the triumph of temperance in Canada; and it is my firm conviction that that holy cause will lose nothing by my absence.
Our merciful God has called me to another field. I have heard His voice. Though it is a great sacrifice for me to leave my own beloved country, I must go to work in the midst of a new people, in the distant lands of Illinois.
From many parts of Europe and Canada multitudes are rushing towards the western territories of the United States, to secure to their families the incalculable treasures which the good providence of God has scattered over those broad prairies.
Those emigrants are in need of priests. They are like those little ones of whom God speaks in His Word, who wanted bread and had nobody to give them any: "I have heard their cries, I have seen their wants." And in spite of the great sacrifice I am called upon to make, I must bless the Good Master who calls me to work in that vineyard, planted by His own hands in those distant lands.
If anything can diminish the sadness of my feelings, when I bid adieu to my countrymen, it is the assurance given me by the noble people of Longueuil, that I have in Canada many friends whose fervent prayers will constantly ascend to the throne of grace, to bring the benedictions of heaven upon me wherever I go.
I arrived at Chicago on the 29th of October, 1851, and spent six days with Bishop Vandeveld, in maturing the plans of our Catholic colonization. He gave me the wisest advices, with the most extensive powers which a bishop can give a priest, and urged me to begin at once the work, by selecting the most suitable spot for such an important and vast prospect. May heart was filled with uncontrollable emotions when the hour came to leave my superior and go to the conquest of the magnificent State of Illinois, for the benefit of my church. I fell at his knees to ask his benediction, and requested him never to forget me in his prayers. He was not less affected than I was, and pressing me to his bosom, bathed my face with his tears, and blessed me.
It took me three days to cross the prairies from Chicago to Bourbonnais. Those prairies were then a vast solitude, with almost impassable roads. At the invitation of their priest, Mr. Courjeault, several people had come long distances to receive and overwhelm me with the public expressions of their joy and respect.
After a few days of rest, in the midst of their interesting young colony, I explained to Mr. Courjeault that, having been sent by the bishop to found a settlement for Roman Catholic immigrants, on a sufficiently grand scale to rule the government of Illinois, it was my duty to go further south, in order to find the most suitable place for the first village I intended to raise. But to my unspeakable regret, I saw that my proposition filled the heart of that unfortunate priest with the most bitter feelings of jealousy and hatred. It had been just the same thing with Rev. Lebel, at Chicago.
The very moment I told him the object of my coming to Illinois, I felt the same spirit of jealousy had turned him into an implacable enemy. I had expected very different things from these two priests, for whom I had entertained, till then, most sincere sentiments of esteem. So long as they were under the impression that I had left Canada to help them increase their small congregations, by including the immigrants to settle among them, they loaded me, both in public and in private, with marks of their esteem. But the moment they saw that I was going to found, in the very heart of Illinois, settlements of such a large scale, they banded together to paralyze and ruin my efforts. Had I suspected such opposition from the very men on whose moral help I had relied for the success of my colonizing schemes, I would have never left Canada, for Illinois. But it was now too late to stop my onward march. Trusting in God alone for success, I felt that those two men were to be put among those unforeseen obstacles which Heaven wanted me to overcome, if I could not avoid them. I persuaded six of the most respectable citizens of Bourbonnais to accompany me, in three wagons, in search of the best site for the centre of my future colony. I had a compass, to guide me through those vast prairies, which were spread before me like a boundless ocean. I wanted to select the highest point in Illinois for my first town, in order to secure the purest air and water for the new immigrants. I was fortunate enough, under the guidance of God, to succeed better than I expected, for the government surveyors have lately acknowledged that the village of St. Anne occupies the very highest point of that splendid state. To my great surprise, ten days after I had selected that spot, fifty families from Canada had planted their tents around mine, on the beautiful site which forms today the town of St. Anne. We were at the end of November, and though the weather was still mild, I felt I had not an hour to lose in order to secure shelters for every one of those families, before the cold winds and chilly rains of winter should spread sickness and death among them. The greater part were illiterate and poor people, without any idea of the dangers and incredible difficulties of establishing a new settlement, where everything had to be created. There were, at first, only two small houses, one 25 by 30, and the other 16 by 20 feet, to lodge us. With the rest of my dear immigrants, wrapped in buffalo robes, with my overcoat for my pillow, I slept soundly, many nights on the bare floor, during the three months which it took to get my first house erected.
Having taken the census of the people on the first of December, I found two hundred souls, one hundred of whom were adults. I said to them: "There are not three of you, if left alone, able to prepare a shelter for your families, this winter; but if, forgetting yourselves, you work for each other, as true friends and brethren, you will increase your strength tenfold, and in a few weeks, there will be a sufficient number of small, but solid buildings, to protect you against the storms and snow of the winter which is fast coming upon us. Let us go to the forest together and cut the wood, today; and to-morrow we will draw that timber to one of the lots you have selected, and you will see with what marvelous speed the house will be raised, if your hands and hearts are perfectly united to work for each other, under the eyes and for the love of the merciful God who gives us this splendid country for our inheritance. But before going to the forest, let us kneel down to ask our Heavenly Father to bless the work of our hands, and grant us to be of one mind and one heart, and to protect us against the too common accidents of those forest and building works."
We all knelt on the grass, and, as much with our tears as with our lips, we sent to the mercy seat a prayer, which was surely heard by the One who said "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matt. vii. 7), and we started for the forest.
The readers would scarcely believe me, were I to tell them with what marvelous rapidity the first forty small, but neat houses were put up on our beautiful prairies. Whilst the men were cutting timber, and raising one another's houses, with a unity, a joy, a good-will and rapidity, which many times drew from me tears of admiration, the women would prepare the common meals. We obtained our flour and pork from Bourbonnais and Momence, at a very low price; and, as I was a good shot, one or two friends and I used to kill, every day, enough prairie chickens, quails, ducks, wild geese, brants and deer, to feed more people than there were in our young colony.
Those delicious viands, which would have been welcomed on the table of the king, and which would have satisfied the most fastidious gourmand, caused many of my poor, dear immigrants to say: "Our daily and most common meals here are more sumptuous and delicate than the richest ones in Canada, and they cost almost nothing."
When I saw that a sufficient number of houses had been built to give shelter to every one of the first immigrants, I called a meeting, and said:
"My dear friends, by the great mercy of God, and in almost a miraculous way (thanks to the unity and charity which have bound you to each other till now, as members of the same family) you are in your little, but happy homes, and you have nothing to fear from the winds and snow of the winter. I think that my duty now is to direct your attention to the necessity of building a two-story house. The upper part will be used as the schoolhouse for your children on week days, and for a chapel on Sundays, and the lower part will be my parsonage. I will furnish the money for the flooring, shingles, and nails, and the windows, and you will give your work gratis to cut and draw the timber and put it up. I will also pay the architect, without asking a cent from you. It is quite time to provide a school for your children; for in this country, as in any other place, there is no possible prosperity or happiness for a people, if they neglect the education of their children. Now, we are too numerous to continue having our Sabbath worship in any private house, as we have done till now. What do you think of this?"
They unanimously answered: "Yes! after you have worked so hard to give a home to every one of us, it is just that we should help you to make one for yourself. We are happy to hear that it is your intention to secure a good education for our children. Let us begin the work at once." This was the 16th of January, 1852. The sun was as warm as on a beautiful day of May in Canada. We again fell upon our knees to implore the help of God, and sang a beautiful French hymn.
The next day, we were seventy-two men in a neighbouring forest, felling the great oaks; and on the 17th of April, only three months later, that fine two-story building, nearly forty feet square, was blessed by Bishop Vandeveld. It was surmounted by a nice steeple, thirty feet high, in which we had put a bell, weighing 250 pounds, whose solemn sound was to tell our joys and sorrows over the boundless prairies. On that day, instead of being only fifty families, as at the last census, we numbered more than one hundred, among whom more than five hundred persons were adults. The chapel which we thought at first would be too large, was filled to its utmost capacity on the day of its consecration to God.
Not a month later, we had to speak of making an addition of forty feet more, which, when finished, six months later, was found to be still insufficient for the accommodation of the constantly increasing flood of immigration, which came, not only from Canada, but from Belgium and France. It soon became necessary to make a new centre, and expand the limits of my first colony; which I did by planting a cross at l'Erable, about fifteen miles south-west of St. Anne, and another at a place we call St. Mary, twelve miles south-east, in the country of Iroquois. These settlements were soon filled; for that very spring more than one thousand new families came from Canada to join us.
No words can express the joy of my heart, when I saw with what rapidity my (then) so dear Church of Rome was taking possession of those magnificent lands, and how soon she would be unrivaled mistress, not only of the State of Illinois, but of the whole valley of the Mississippi. But the ways of men are not the ways of God. I had been called by the Bishops of Rome to Illinois, to extend the power of that church. But my God had called me there, that I might give to that church the most deadly blow she has ever received on this Continent.
My task is now to tell my readers, how the God of Truth, and Light, and Life, broke, one after another, all the charmed bonds by which I was kept a slave at the feet of the Pope; and how He opened my eyes, and those of my people, to the unsuspected and untold abominations of Romanism.
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