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The Life of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation by "A Religious of the Ursuline Community"

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The materials for the following Biography have been gathered principally
from "The Life of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation" by her son, and
from "The History of the Ursuline Monastery at Quebec," by a member of
that community, the former published in 1677; the latter in 1863.

The Life of the Venerable Mother by her son, is founded partly on her own
communications regarding the graces with which she had been favoured, and
partly on her correspondence with himself extending over the thirty years
which she passed in Canada. With the genuine information thus received,
he intersperses, under the name of "Additions," further details which had
either come under his personal observation, or been gleaned from
perfectly reliable sources. His work is therefore a sure and invaluable
guide to the biographer.

The accounts of her inner life referred to, were written by the Venerable
Mother at two different epochs, and each time in obedience to an
imperative command from her confessors. The first written in 1633, the
34th year of her age, fell into the possession of the Ursulines of St.
Denis, near Paris, who on hearing that Dom Claude Martin was engaged in
writing his holy Mother's life, obligingly sent him the precious
document. The second, written in 1654, was forwarded to him from Canada.

The Annals of the Quebec Ursulines also afford rich material to the
historian of the Mother of the Incarnation, their pages containing
constant references to and quotations from her letters both spiritual and
historical, as well as from the Annual Reports of the Jesuit Missioners,
and other contemporary documents of the highest authenticity and the
deepest interest.

The historical statements in the introductory chapter, rest chiefly oh
the authority of the Abbé Ferland in his "Cours d'Histoire du Canada,"
1861, and of Bancroft in his "History of the United States," 1841. The
historical facts incidentally introduced in the course of the work can be
verified by reference to the Abbé Ferland or any other Canadian
historian, or to the Letters of the Mother of the Incarnation.

It only remains to be noticed that the words "saint," "saintly," and
others of similar import are used throughout solely in their popular
acceptation, and not with any intention of anticipating the decision of
the Church regarding the sanctity of the Venerable Mother Mary of the
Incarnation or of any other of God's servants mentioned in these pages.

In like manner, the record of miraculous occurrences, visions, and other
extraordinary supernatural favours, is understood to rest as yet only on
human authority, and therefore to claim no more than the degree of
credibility which attaches to any well authenticated human statement.

_April 30th_ 1880.

208th Anniversary of the death of the Venerable Mother of the


A Glance at Canada, as it was in the days of the Venerable Mother Mary of
the Incarnation.

FIRST PERIOD, 1599 TO 1631.

Her infancy, childhood and youth--Early call to union with God.--Charity
to the poor.--Purity of soul--Inclination for the Religious Life.

Her married life.--Rule of life.--Love of prayer--Perfect fulfilment of
duty.--Patience under trial--Zeal for her household.--Influence.--Death
of her Husband.

Her First year of Widowhood.--Life of solitude in the World.--Vision of
the application of the Precious Blood to her soul.--Increased purity of
conscience.--Charity to the sick poor.

She quits her solitude.--New evidence of her purity of soul.--Humiliation
and dependence in her Sister's house.

She is called to a high degree of Divine Union.--New invitation to the
perfection of Interior Purity.--Infused knowledge of the nature of the
works of God.--Austerities.--Love of contempt.--Active life.--Makes the
vows of poverty and obedience.--Heavenly favour.--Temptations.

Supernatural favours.--Lights on the mystery of the Incarnation.--Vision
of the Most Adorable Trinity.--Submission to her Director.--Temptations
renewed.--Lights on the Divine attributes.

Second Vision of the Most Adorable Trinity.--She is elevated to a sublime
degree of Divine Union.

She resolves to embrace the Religious Life.--Decides finally on the
Ursuline Order.--Temptations.--Disappearance of her son.--His return.--
Enters the Convent.

Saint Angela, Foundress of the Ursulines.--Her Early sanctity.--Zeal for
the instruction of the ignorant.--Lays the foundation of her great work
at Dezenzano--Vision of the Mysterious Ladder.--Removes to Brescia.--Goes
to the Holy Land.--To Rome.--To Cremona.--Returns to Brescia.--Founds her
Order.--Her holy Death.--Parting Counsels.--Prediction of the stability
of her work.--Diffusion of the Order.--Archconfraternity of St. Angela.

SECOND PERIOD, 1631 TO 1639.

Her Novitiate.--Holy joy.--Virtue tested.--Love of common life.--
Humility.--Obedience.--Trials from her son.--Offers herself as a victim
for his salvation.--Third Vision of the Adorable Trinity.--Receives the
Holy Habit.

Supernatural favours.--Infused knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of
the Latin language.--Facility for imparting Spiritual Instruction.--
Temptations.--Loses her Director.--Interior desolation.--Fidelity.--
Consolation.--Profession.--Renewed Trials.--Reassuring direction.--New
difficulties about her son.

She is named Assistant-Mistress of Novices.--Prophetic Vision of her
vocation to Canada.--Spiritual maxims and instructions.--Spirit of
silence.--Forms many Saints.

Increase of zeal for the salvation of souls.--Divinely directed to pray
for their conversion through the Heart of Jesus.--Her vocation for Canada
is revealed to her.

Madame de la Peltrie.--Early Piety.--Charity.--Desire for the Religious
State.--Obliged to marry.--Loses her Husband.--Zeal for Souls.--Is
inspired to devote herself to the Canadian Mission.--Her vocation
confirmed in a dangerous illness.--Opposition.--Death of her Father.--
Services of Monsieur de Bernières.--Goes to Paris.

The Mother of the Incarnation declares her vocation for Canada.--
Contradictions and Humiliations.--Her confidence in God.--Esteem for her
vocation.--Submission to the Divine Will.

Madame de la Peltrie invites the Mother of the Incarnation to accompany
her to Canada.--The Venerable Mother's answer.--Madame de la Peltrie at
Tours.--The Mothers of the Incarnation and St. Bernard selected for the
Mission.--Opposition from relatives.--The Venerable Mother's vision of
the trials awaiting her.--Monsieur de Bernières.--Farewell Letter.

THIRD PERIOD, 1639 TO 1672.

Embarkation.--Alarm from a Spanish Fleet.--Danger from an Iceberg.--
Arrival at Tadoussac.--First night in Canada.--Reception at Quebec.--
Visit to Sillery.--The "Louvre."

The Mother of the Incarnation recognises Canada to be the country shown
her in her prophetic vision.--Opening of the Schools.--Study of the
Indian languages.--Small-pox among the Pupils.--Arrival of two Sisters
from Paris.--Union of Congregations.-Building of new Convent.

Work at the "Louvre."--Progress of the Pupils.--Piety.--Lively Faith in
the Real Presence.--Refinement of feeling.--Zeal.--Teresa the Huron.--
Agnes.--Little Truants.--Banquets at the "Louvre,"

Renewed Trials of the Venerable Mother.--Madame de la Peltrie removes to
Montreal.--Great Poverty of the Ursulines.--Apprehensions.--The Venerable
Mother's confidence in God.--Fidelity to grace.--Exactitude to duty.--
Active Life.--First Elections.--Removal to the New Monastery.--Return of
Madame de la Peltrie.

The Mother of the Incarnation a victim for the Conversion of her son and
her niece.--Conversion of both, followed by the cessation of her interior
sufferings.--Arrival of new subjects from France.--Mother St. Athanasius
Superior.--First Profession at Quebec.--Destruction of the Hurons.--
Charity of the Ursulines to the Survivors.

The Monastery consumed.--Charity of the Hospital Sisters.--Sympathy of
the Hurons.--Serenity of the Venerable Mother.--Lodgings in Madame de la
Peltrie's House.--Poverty.--Monastery Rebuilt.--A Pretty Picture.--
Removal to the New Monastery.

Early Life of Mother St. Joseph.--Her zeal for the Indians.--Virtues.--
Last Illness.--Happy Death.--Apparitions after Death.

The Seminary Re-opened.--The good work partially checked.--Geneviève and
Catherine.--Appointment of Bishop Laval.--Threatened Invasion of the
Iroquois.--Heroism of Daulac and his Companions.

Trade in Intoxicating Liquors.--Awful Manifestation of Divine Anger.--
Repentance.--Prosperity.--The Marquis of Tracy Viceroy.--Expedition
against the Iroquois.--Advancement of the Colony.

New Sisters from France.--Illness of Mother of the Incarnation.--She is
Re-elected Superior.--Lingers for Eight Years.--Illness and Death of
Madame de la Peltrie.

Last Illness of the Mother of the Incarnation.--Her Blessed Death.--
Universal regret for her loss.--Her Virtues.


Evening Devotion of the Mother of the Incarnation in honour of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus.

Evening Devotion of the Venerable Mother in honour of the Immaculate
Heart of Mary.

A few Parting Words on the Old Monastery of Quebec.


Early in the sixteenth century, reports of the progress of discovery in
America began to make their way to France, and, as a natural result, to
arouse emulation. For no one had the stirring tales a greater charm than
for the reigning Sovereign, Francis I., whose spirit of rivalry, thirst
of glory, and love of adventure, they were especially calculated to
stimulate. It would have been as repugnant to the nature, as it was
inconsistent with the policy of the ambitious monarch, to permit the
Kings of Spain [Footnote: In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the
islands of the Western Hemisphere, and took possession in the name of the
Spanish Sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella. At his third voyage, in 1498,
he added to the first discovery, that of the Continent of South America.]
and Portugal [Footnote: in 1500, Alvarez de Cabral, a Portuguese
navigator, took possession of Brazil for his royal master, Emmanuel, King
of Portugal. Amerigo Vespucci had discovered its coast in 1498.] to
monopolize the glory and the advantages anticipated from possession of
the western world; such an idea was not to be for a moment entertained.
If their banners waved over its Southern Continent, that was no reason,
he argued, why France should not unfurl her fair white lilies in the
Northern. [Footnote: The mainland of North America was discovered in 1497
by the celebrated Italian adventurers, John Cabot and his sons, under a
commission from Henry VII of England, who, however, did not avail of the
discovery.] "I should like," he exclaimed with characteristic impetuosity
and originality, "I should like to see the clause in Adam's will which
authorizes these, my royal cousins, to divide the New World between
them!" As there seemed, however, little chance of his being permitted to
adjust the rival claims by a reference to our first father's last
testament, he resolved, as a more practical solution of difficulties, to
take the law into his own hands, and by getting possession of a share of
the spoils to secure at least nine points of it in his favour.

In justice to his Most Christian Majesty, it must be admitted that
although self-interested considerations had no doubt a large part in his
decision, other and worthier views influenced him. perhaps even more
strongly. If his proud title of eldest son of the Church was to be more
than an empty name, it devolved on him, he felt, to take prompt measures
for introducing Christianity into some part of the newly discovered
idolatrous West. Spain and Portugal had anticipated him in one direction,
it was true, but the world of Canada still presented a vast field for his
zeal in another. The existence of that barbarous, heathen land was now an
ascertained fact, What nobler use could he make of his royal resources
than to introduce into it the two-fold light of faith and civilization?
None, assuredly. Over far-off Canada, therefore, he determined that,
fortune favouring, the banner of the Lily should ere long float.

And, truly, it was well worth the seeking, that fair, too long neglected
gem in Nature's coronet, the distant land over the Western sea.
Cultivation has no doubt done much for the Canada of Francis I., still
even in the undeveloped beauty of those remote days, its natural features
were strikingly fine. Prominent then, as now, was the noble river flowing
through its midst--its own beautiful St. Lawrence, "the river of Canada,"
as the French sometimes styled it by pre-eminence; a recognised monarch
[Footnote: "The St. Lawrence has a course of nearly three thousand miles,
and varies in breadth from one mile to ninety miles. It annually
discharges to the ocean about 4,277,880 _millions of tons_ of fresh
water, of which 2,112,120 millions of tons may be reckoned melted snow--
the quantity discharged before the thaw comes on being 4,512 millions of
tons per day for 240 days, and the quantity after the thaw begins being
25,560 millions per day for 125 days, the depths and velocity when in and
out of flood being duly considered."--_Martin's British Colonies_.]
in the world of waters, embracing in its wide-spread dominion, rapids and
cataracts, and tributary streams, with vast lakes like seas, and a little
world of islands like fairy realms, [Footnote: Among others, the Thousand
Islands, happily described as "picturesque combinations of wood, rock,
and water, such as imagination is apt to attach to the happy islands in
the Vision of Mirza."] the whole enclosed within romantic shores, worthy
to form the framing of so magnificent a picture.

Then, as now, the valley of the St. Lawrence was rich in every variety of
natural beauty, but with this difference, that at the arrival of the
French the superb panorama was more or less enveloped in an apparently
interminable forest, to which the predominance of the pine imparted in
some places an air of solemnity, and even gloom. Since then, the axe has
done its work in the inhabited portions, opening up a landscape of
singular loveliness in some parts; of stern, wild grandeur in others;
nevertheless, enough of the lordly old woods still remains, to justify
their claim to a place among the characteristics of Canadian scenery.
Lovely in their summer garb of many-hued green, relieved by a carpeting
of myriads of flowering plants, they are glorious beyond telling, when
after a few frosty nights at the close of autumn, they assume every
imaginable variety of shade, from glowing scarlet and soft violet, to
rich brown and bright yellow.

Champlain, the founder of Quebec, describes the Canada of his day as
beautiful, agreeable, and fertile; producing grain of every kind;
abounding in valuable trees; yielding wild fruits of pleasant flavour,
and well-stocked with fish and game. Later observation was to add to the
catalogue of its natural riches, mines of iron, lead and copper. The
early colonists, too, have recorded that the river banks were covered
with a profusion of vines so productive, that it seemed difficult to
trace all their luxuriance to the unaided hand of nature.

As a partial counterpoise to its many advantages, Canada is exposed to
extremes of temperature, alternating between heat nearly tropical, and
cold approaching polar. Owing to the clearing of the forests, and other
causes, the winter is now somewhat less harsh than in the days of the
first settlers; it is, however, still a very severe one. And yet, even
under its stern reign, Canada is not without natural charms,--its giant
river fast bound in icy chains; every stream, and lake and rivulet in the
land a sheet of sparkling crystal; every trunk, and branch, and twig
glittering in the sun as if sprinkled with diamond dust; every valley,
hill and woodland, every mountain slope and far-stretching plain wrapped
in a soft mantle of spotless snow.

Yet, with all its gifts and resources, Canada had reposed for long ages
in lonely grandeur. The chronicles of the Old World told of many a
generation gone by. They traced the rise and fall of many empires, and
the succession of many dynasties. They recorded the advance of art and
science. They contained long lists of names inscribed, some in the annals
of human greatness, some on the pages of the Book of Life. They spoke of
the glorious triumphs of the Church, and enumerated the nations gathered
within her fold, and still, on that fair land of the West, no step had
trodden but that of the Red Man; on its broad, deep river no boat had
ever bounded but his own light canoe; through its length and breadth no
Deity's name had resounded, save that of some senseless pagan idol. Truly
it was time, as Francis I. concluded, that the ray of faith and
civilization should beam on it at last.

In 1523, he sent out his first expedition, under the command of
Verrazani, a Florentine, who, sailing along the coast from 28 degrees to
50 degrees north latitude, formally took possession of the whole region
in the name of his royal patron, and called it "La Nouvelle France." But
while France was thus adding to her glory in the New World, her arms
received a severe check in the Old. When Verrazani returned in 1525, he
found the nation mourning the disastrous results of the battle of Pavia,
and too much absorbed by grave interests at home, to be disposed to
concern itself about lesser ones abroad. Deprived of the support of his
royal protector, then a prisoner at Madrid, he could neither utilize nor
follow up his first observations, and for ten years more we hear nothing
of Canada, except that mariners from France, and other European nations,
carried on a successful fishery on its coasts, where as many as fifty
ships from Europe might sometimes be seen together. The French called the
country the newly found lands, an appellation which survives in that of
the largest island. It is stated on the authority of certain old
chroniclers, that the islands off the mainland had been known more than a
century before the era of Columbus and Cabot to sailors from the Basque
Provinces, who named them "Bacallos," their term for cod-fish. The name
"Canada" seems to have been vaguely applied at this period sometimes to a
part, sometimes to the whole of the region watered by the St. Lawrence.
One derivation of it supposes the arrival of the French to have been
preceded by a visit from the Spaniards, who, searching for precious
metals, and finding none, expressed their disappointment by the frequent
repetition of the words "aca nada," "nothing here." According to a more
probable etymology, the term may be traced to the Iroquois word "Kanata,"
a village, or assembly of huts, which word the early European discoverers
mistook for the name of the country.

Nothing daunted by the failure of his first attempt at colonisation,
Francis authorized a new expedition in 1534, and intrusted the command of
it to Jacques Cartier, a well-known navigator of St. Malo. In addition to
his experience as a seaman, Cartier possessed a profoundly religious
spirit, and in risking the long voyage, with its certain dangers and
uncertain, success, he seems to have been wholly influenced by zeal for
the conversion of the savages. He has given us an insight into his ideas
in his own quaint style: "Considering," he says, "the varied benefits of
God to man, I note among others how the sun pours his genial rays on
every part of the globe in succession, excluding none from their
beneficent influence, and my simple mode of reasoning leads me to infer
that our great Creator intends for all his creatures a share in the
illumination of faith, no less than in the cheering light of the orb of
day. The sun comes to us from the East, as did our holy faith; may we not
conclude, that as he passes thence to the West, the beams of the Gospel
are meant to follow in his track, and pour their brightness in that
direction too."

Cartier set sail on the 20th of April, 1534; reached Newfoundland in
safety on the 10th of May, and sailing along the coast as far as the Bay
of Gaspé, planted near its entrance a lofty cross bearing a shield with
the lilies of France, and a suitable inscription. The chief result of
this first voyage was the discovery of the great river of Canada, and the
opening of communication with the natives. The season being somewhat too
advanced for farther exploration, Cartier returned to France in the month
of August, accompanied by two young Indians, destined as a future
interpreter to their countrymen.

Re-entering the river on the 10th of August of the following year, he
named it the St. Lawrence, in honour of the saint whose feast the Church
celebrates on that day. The island at its mouth, now called Anticosti, he
named the isle of the Assumption. He finally anchored off Stadacona,
where Quebec now stands, and on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed
Virgin in the next month, the Holy Sacrifice was for the first time
offered on the Canadian shores. Cartier next visited the Indian
settlement of Hochelaga, situated on an island formed by the St. Lawrence
and a branch of the Ottawa. The discovery of this vaunted hamlet, with
its picturesque surroundings, had been among the most cherished of his
day dreams, nor was the reality unworthy of the dream. From the summit of
an isolated mountain at the extremity of the island; his view embraced in
front a wide expanse of fertile land; around him stretched forests of
oak, with here and there a waving field of silken-tufted Indian corn; at
his feet lay the hamlet, built in the form of a circle, and fortified in
Indian fashion by three graduated rows of palisades, and to crown the
whole, girding the island like a broad silver belt, as far as the eye
could reach, shone the sunlit river. Enchanted with the beauty of the
scene, and delighted too with the courteous greeting of the savages,
their simplicity, their generosity and their ardour for instruction, he
breathed a prayer, that a land so fair and a people so gentle might be
marked ere long as the heritage of France,--above all, as a portion of
the Kingdom of God. In his enthusiasm, he called the mountain on which he
stood, Mount Royal, whence the name "Montreal." [Footnote: Nearly three
centuries and a half have gone by since Jacques Cartier surveyed
Hochelaga and its environs for the first time from the heights of Mount
Royal. Could he view the same locality from the same stand point to-day,
how great would be his wonder at its transformation! The mountain itself
is now covered, both base and acclivities, with flourishing corn fields,
fruitful orchards, and handsome residences, above which, to the very
summit, trees grow in luxuriant variety. On the site of the Indian hamlet
of the olden time, is a large, wealthy city; its streets and squares
adorned with remarkably fine buildings; its busy ways thronged with an
active, industrious, thriving population; its port crowded with shipping
and bordered with commodious quays; its vast river spanned by the great
tubular bridge, and traversed through its length and breadth by vessels
of every build. The environs are in keeping with the city, combining
natural beauty with the refinements of art and the improvements of
industry. Nestling among rich woodlands, are gay villages, rural churches
and pleasant villas, while thickly interspersed through fertile, well
cultivated grounds, are pretty cottages, substantial farms and happy
peasant homes. The living picture acquires additional animation from the
constant movement of long rows of railway carriages, ever sending up
light streams of transparent vapour which curl among the bright foliage,
with a grace of their own, then fade away heavenwards. Could Jacques
Cartier see it all, he might well wonder at time's changes!] At Stadacona
where he spent the winter, he had the consolation of instructing the
natives in the holy faith, by the aid of the two Indian youths, who, as
already noticed, had accompanied him to France on his first return
voyage, and spent the interval between that and his second expedition in
learning the French tongue. So eager were these simple people to receive
the truth, that he had to promise to take measures for their admission to
the Sacrament of regeneration at his nest voyage.

The extreme rigour of this first winter rendered it a season of terrible
suffering to the French; sickness, broke out amongst them and death
thinned their ranks. Cartier had therefore no alternative but to conduct
the discouraged survivors back to France early in spring. He determined
to bring with him also some specimens of the natives whom he wished to
present to the King. The practice of the time seemed to give a tacit
sanction to the act, but it is much to be regretted that in carrying out
his object, Cartier should have had recourse to stratagem. Donacona, one
of the chiefs, was decoyed on board the French ship, with nine other
savages, and borne away from his home in the wilds, which poor though it
might be, was more precious to him than all the grandeur of the French
King's capital. To pacify his people, he promised them before sailing
away, that he would return after twelve moons, but save in dreams, he saw
his beloved woods no more. With the exception of one little girl, all the
exiles died in France, where, however, they were well treated, and had
the happiness of being instructed in the faith and received into the

On returning to Canada for the third time in 1540, Cartier found it
difficult to resume his former intercourse with the natives, whom the
disappearance of their chief had rendered distrustful and suspicious.
Besides, he occupied only a subordinate position in this new expedition,
the principal direction of which had been committed to the Lord of
Roberval. The division of authority seems to have worked badly. Cartier
had spent a year of inactivity in Canada before the Viceroy was prepared
to join him, so seeing no prospect of success, he left for France, just
as Roberval reached Canada. Without the co-operation of his lieutenant,
the leader could accomplish little; his expedition may indeed be said to
have resulted only in corroborating the reality of the discoveries
reported by the navigator of St. Malo. The purport of Cartier's fourth
and last voyage, was to bring back to France the miserable remnant of the
adventurers who had accompanied Roberval.

Though an apparent disappointment, the failure of the first attempt to
colonize Canada was in reality a blessing. A few persons of good position
had, it is true, joined Roberval's expedition, but it is equally certain
that a considerable proportion of his recruits had been drawn from among
the convicts of the French jails. Had the colony been then established,
the mixture of such an element must have tainted its very source, and
exercised an utterly demoralizing influence on its future. But God had
designs of special mercy on Canada, so the day of her visitation was
deferred, only that it might rise at a later period with a steadier, a
clearer, and a more enduring light. Although Jacques Cartier failed in
his immediate object, he succeeded in exploring a considerable part of
the country, and as the first to open a way for missionaries to the
hitherto unknown region, his claim to the gratitude of Catholic hearts
should ever be recognised. He died at his peaceful home of Limoilou in
Brittany, leaving the wilds of the West once more in undisputed
possession of the native tribes.

During the next sixty years, the French took no active steps for the
colonization of Canada. Their attempts under Henry II and Charles IX, to
form settlements in Brazil and Florida, seem to have diverted their
attention from New France, but they never quite forgot it, nor utterly
relinquished the hope of one day founding a State on the St. Lawrence.
Merchants from Dieppe and St. Malo continued to visit its shores, and
from time to time, slight, ineffectual attempts at settlement were made.
It was not, however, until 1608, that an expedition of any importance was
organized. Monsieur des Monts, a Calvinist of wealth and rank, then
received from Henry IV, the authority necessary for the purpose, and as
an indemnity for consequent expenses, he also obtained the monopoly of
the fur trade for one year. A company of merchants was immediately
formed, and the command of the expedition given to the illustrious Samuel
Champlain. Quebec, the Stadacona of Cartier, was decided on as the most
advantageous site for the projected settlement, the destined cradle of
the Canadian nation. There accordingly, Champlain unfurled the white
Banner on the 3rd of July, 1608. In the Algonquin tongue, "Kebec"
signifies a strait, the St. Lawrence flowing at this point in a narrow
channel between two high banks. The intended capital [Footnote: Quebec is
now considered the military capital of Canada, Montreal ranking as the
commercial metropolis, and Ottawa as the legislative.] of Canada could
not have been more judiciously located. It possesses a magnificent
harbour, navigable for the largest vessels, and capable of containing the
most numerous fleet. The great river at its base forms a commodious
highway of communication with the very heart of the continent, while in
consequence of the narrowing of the waters in its immediate vicinity, the
citadel commands the passage. Quebec is thus the key of the great valley
of the St. Lawrence, "the advanced guard," as the Abbé Ferland calls it
in his History of Canada, of the vast French empire, which, according to
the project of Louis XIV., was to extend from the Straits of Belle Isle
to the Gulf of Mexico. The colony was not, however, to be established on
a firm basis, until it had passed through much tribulation. Its early
annals were to record an ordeal of trials, sickness, privation, hardship,
destitution, alarms from the terrible Iroquois, molestation from the
English, and finally, all but total extinction. They were to tell how the
growth of the young nation had been checked, and its very existence
threatened, by the bad faith of self-interested companies; worse than
all, how, destined as it was for a bright star in the firmament of the
Church, and a beacon light to the benighted heathen, its grand end had
been temporarily frustrated by the frequent appointment of Calvinists for
its patrons, and a mingling of the same sectarians among its small
population. Then the page of triumph would come, and on it would be
inscribed, how, like its own flower-enamelled meadows, bursting into
bloom and beauty from beneath their pall of snow, Canada had emerged from
its long moral winter, neither paralysed by the chill, nor depressed by
the gloom, but glowing to its inmost heart with warm young life, and
throbbing in every pulse with irrepressible energy and vigour.

Happily for the result of the undertaking Champlain, its guiding spirit,
was eminently qualified for his position. Wise, as energetic;
persevering, as enterprising; brave in reverse, as unassuming in.
success, he laid his plans with consummate prudence and carried them out
with unwavering constancy. Disinterested, honourable and patriotic, he
suffered no secret view of personal advantage to narrow his mind or mar
his usefulness. Looking on his work as the work of God, and therefore
believing implicitly in its final success, he threw his whole heart into
it, devoting to it time, talents, wealth and life, and pursuing it with
a courage that never quailed and a heroism of self-sacrifice that never
faltered. Profoundly religious, his great aim was to establish it on the
solid foundation of faith and piety. For this end, he looked carefully
from the beginning to the moral elements of the little society, and as
far as his control extended, admitted among the early colonists only
persons of irreproachable character. As soon as affairs appeared
sufficiently promising, he invited missioners to the spiritually
destitute land. Four Franciscans answered the appeal, and on the 25th of
June; 1615, to the great joy of the Catholic inhabitants, Mass was
celebrated in Quebec for the first time since the days of Cartier and
Roberval. In 1624, St. Joseph was solemnly chosen Patron of Canada, which
from its birth has claimed devotion to the Holy Family and to St. Anne,
as its devotion by excellence. The following year, the Recollet Fathers
were joined by a little band of Jesuits, who came to fertilize the soil
with martyrs' blood and win for themselves the martyrs' palm. Their
arrival gradually prepared the way for the realization of the pious
governor's first and dearest wish, the establishment of missions
throughout the country. On these we shall touch in a future page.

Indefatigable in his zeal for the colony, Champlain made frequent voyages
to France in its interests, undeterred by the inconveniences and even
positive dangers then often attendant on travelling, and although he was
subjected to constant petty annoyances from the selfishness and parsimony
of the Company, the jealousy and rivalry of the traders, and the coolness
and indifference of noble patrons, he never relaxed in his exertions,
because ever sustained by trust in God and faith in his work. At great
personal risk, and with incredible fatigue, he explored the country in
all directions, observing, and afterwards describing its physical
features, as well as the character and customs of the savages. From time
to time, we even find him in arms against the dreaded Iroquois, but
notwithstanding his superhuman efforts, the colony could make but little
progress while its destinies remained in the hands of mercenary agents,
who were utterly regardless of its interests, and intent only on
enriching themselves at its cost. After Quebec had been founded fourteen
years, it still contained only fifty-five inhabitants, and its growth in
all other respects had been proportionally tardy. Hope, however, began to
brighten, when in 1627, the Canada Company was superseded by that of the
Hundred Partners, with Richelieu at its head. This association was to
hold Canada, as a feudal seigniory under the King, and with the right of
soil, was to possess a monopoly of trade. In return for these privileges,
it contracted the obligation of amply supplying the country with
colonists, including a sufficient number of artisans and labourers. It
was also bound to provide for the support of a specified number of
missioners, and in general, to promote the welfare of the colony.
Unfortunately, five years elapsed before it was ready to enter on the
government of the province, which meantime was brought to the very verge
of ruin, partly by famine, and partly by foreign invasion.

Much about the time of the transfer of Canada to the new Company, the
Huguenots raised the standard of civil war in France, and being aided by
England and Holland, their revolt soon assumed a formidable aspect. To
complicate the difficulties of the mother country, a band of French
Calvinists in the service of England determined to seize the favourable
opportunity of invading her possessions in America. These were headed by
Sir David Kerkt and his brothers, who procured the command of a small
fleet of English vessels, and after devastating the coasts in the
vicinity of Quebec, sent a summons to the Governor to surrender the town
itself. Not having received supplies from France for three years, its
resources were nearly exhausted, nevertheless, as Champlain. was in.
hourly expectation of succour, he bravely determined to resist the
summons and maintain his ground to the last. Before long, the people were
reduced to a daily allowance of five ounces of bread; a little later,
they were compelled to subsist on roots and herbs, yet still, even after
hearing that the vessels containing the much needed supplies had been
intercepted by the English, the resolute Commander never faltered. He
encouraged his companions in misfortune by word and example; exhorted
them, to patience; cheerfully shared their privations, and strained every
nerve to improve their condition. But although they struggled through the
trying winter and spring, it was but too evident that without relief they
could not hold out much longer; when therefore the last hope was blighted
by the wreck of two ships laden with provisions, the Governor,
recognising the inutility of further resistance, accepted the only
alternative left him, and at the second demand, surrendered the heroic
little town, which amidst almost incredible difficulties had withstood
the invaders an entire year. It was on the 20th of July, 1629, that the
English took possession, and the following month, Champlain and his
people embarked for England, whence, according to the terms of surrender,
they were to be conveyed to France. One French family alone consented to
remain in Quebec, and that only until after the next harvest. Thus it
would seem as if a single step had brought us from Canada's cradle to her
grave, for in what light can we look on those vessels bearing Champlain
and the colonists from her shores, but as the tomb of the hopes lately so
bright and buoyant? It happened however that when Kerkt seized Quebec, he
was ignorant of the triumph of Richelieu at La Rochelle; unconscious
therefore that the French Calvinist party was utterly crushed, and the
long protracted civil war at an end. On landing at Plymouth in the
following October, he learned to his dismay that peace had been concluded
between England and France two months before the seizure of Quebec, the
restitution of which had now become, simply an obligation of justice. But
although its restoration was at once decided on, the measure was, not
carried out until 1632, when by the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, France
secured a formal recognition of her right to Canada, including Nova,
Scotia and Cape Breton Island, or as they were then called, Acadia and
Isle Royal. As it was evident that the interests of the country could not
be in better hands than those of the great and good Champlain, happily
for its future destiny, the government of the province was once more
confided to him.

It was hard to have to begin his work anew, but he set about repairing
the wreck around him with all his old energy and devotedness. While
intent as ever on the material interests of the colony, those of religion
were still his first concern. Fortunately, there was no longer a dominant
Calvinist party in the country, to thwart his zealous projects, and
molest the Catholics in the discharge of their duty to God. The era of
Calvinist rule had passed; that of Catholic triumph had dawned. One of
the Governor's first acts was to build a church which was dedicated to
our Blessed Lady in honour of her Immaculate Conception. The facility
thus afforded for the practice of religion was eagerly availed of by the
new band of exclusively Catholic colonists. All approached the Sacraments
at fixed intervals; morning and evening prayers were said in common in
private families; the precepts of God and the Church were strictly
observed. Stimulated by good example some who had been careless about
religion in France devoted themselves earnestly to it in Canada. So
admirable was the order which Champlain established that some years later
a missionary wrote:--"Murder, robbery, usury, injustice, and similar
crimes are heard of here only once a year, when, on the arrival of the
ships from France, a newspaper account of them accidentally finds its way
among us." And, again, "Our churches are too small to contain the
congregation; we have the consolation of seeing them filled to
overflowing. By the grace of God, virtue walks here with head erect; it
is in honour; vice alone in disrepute." The infant Church of Canada
seemed, indeed, to have revived the golden age of the Church of the
Apostles. Under the direction of the Governor, the Fort was in some
respects not unlike a monastery. The soldiers approached the Sacraments
regularly; instructive books were read aloud at meals; duty was
punctually discharged, and the well spent day was closed by night prayers
said in common, and presided over by the Governor. He it was who
introduced the custom, ever since religiously observed, of ringing the
Angelus three times a day. He watched so carefully over the public and
private interests of both French and Indians, that all looked on him as a
father, and although continually appealed to for decisions between rival
claimants, his integrity was never called in question. Uniting in his own
person the functions and the authority of Governor, Legislator, and
Judge, his power was necessarily great, but never was he known to abuse
it. It was his maxim that the salvation of one single soul is of more
importance than the subjugation of an Empire, and that the only object
which kings should have in view in the conquest of idolatrous nations, is
to lay them as trophies at the feet of their Saviour Jesus Christ. This
maxim is the key-note to his life; its practical influence was manifested
in his zeal for the conversion of the Indians, and for the diffusion of a
solidly religious spirit among the French population, and assuredly it is
not the least of his claims to the gratitude of posterity, that the
Canada of his formation has ever clung to her faith with so tenacious a
grasp, that still she wears as her crown of highest honour, and proclaims
as her proudest boast, the glorious title of Catholic Canada. The writers
of his time are unanimous in ascribing to Champlain all the
qualifications suited to the founder of a colony, and when, after a
connection of thirty-two years with the country, he was summoned to his
reward, on the 25th of December, 1635, he was followed to the grave, as
well he might be, by the heartfelt regret of the whole colony, who looked
on his death as the greatest of all calamities. After his demise, his
widow founded the Ursuline Convent at Meaux, and there made her religious
profession. During her residence in Canada, she had endeared herself both
to French and Indians by her unvarying kindness and affability. Seeing
their faces reflected in a small mirror which, according to the fashion
of the day, she wore at her girdle, the poor savages were much delighted
to find that she carried them all, as they said, in her heart. She
learned the Algonquin tongue that she might teach the children their
Catechism, and to the end of life retained a lively interest in the
Canadian Mission.

Champlain was succeeded in the government of Quebec by Monsieur Charles
de Montmagny, a man distinguished alike for courage, ability, piety, and
zeal. His first act on landing was to kneel at the foot of a cross
erected on the road to the town, and there invoke the blessing and
protection of heaven on the colony intrusted to his charge; thence he
proceeded to the church to assist at the _Te Deum_. His second act
on the same morning was to visit an Indian wigwam, and stand sponsor for
an invalid who desired baptism, the greatest honour and sweetest
consolation, he said, which he could have desired at his arrival in New
France. His great aim from the beginning was to walk in the steps of his
predecessor, and thus develop and consolidate the work so happily
commenced. He maintained the moral and religious tone of society, by
following up Champlain's plan of excluding disreputable and vicious
characters. One of his first concerns was to build a Seminary for the
education of the Huron youth, an object which he knew to have been very
dear to the heart of the late Governor. He also constructed a stone fort,
strengthened the fortifications at Three Rivers, and traced a correct
plan of the city, which as yet, it must be owned, existed only among the
visions of hope. The Quebec of the Mother of the Incarnation was, indeed,
widely different from that for which in after years, England and France
contended, and Wolfe and Montcalm bled and died. At the time of which we
write, it consisted of little more than a few rudely-constructed huts,
and contained scarcely two hundred and fifty inhabitants, but we have
dwelt thus long on its origin and early history because of its connection
with the life and labours of the Venerable Mother, which give interest to
every least detail concerning it. We have now reached the date of its
annals when Heaven was pleased to bless it with her presence; but before
entering on her biography, a glance at the Indian portion of the
population will be necessary to the completion of our little sketch of
Canada as it was in her days.

All the tribes dispersed over the territory comprised in the basin of the
St. Lawrence, were at this period divided into two groups, the Algonquin
and Huron-Iroquois, classified according to their respective languages.
To each of these mother tongues belonged dialects more or less numerous,
according to the sub-divisions of the tribes who spoke them. The
Algonquins were scattered under various names over perhaps more than a
half of the territory south of the St. Lawrence and east of the
Mississippi. Several branches of the same widely-extended family were
also to be found wandering in Canada to the north of the St. Lawrence.
The five confederate tribes of the Hurons inhabited the peninsula
included between Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. The Iroquois stretched
from the borders of Vermont to Western New York, and from the lakes, to
the head waters of the Ohio, Susquehanna, and Delaware. They, too, formed
a confederation of five tribes, and are commonly known as the Five
Nations. The Hurons and the Iroquois are said to have received their
names from the French--the former in allusion to the French word _hure_,
a head of hair, these savages being distinguished by a singular mode of
dressing theirs; the latter from their frequent repetition of the word
"_hiro_," "I have said it," the ordinary termination of the warriors'

When the early missionaries began to study the Indian dialects, they were
much astonished to find them characterized by remarkable richness and
variety of expression, as well as regularity of construction.
Notwithstanding gradual alterations, they still retain much of their
traditionary character, being, in fact, less liable to change than
written language, because of the ridicule with which the Indian visits
any attempt at innovation on the point. One peculiarity of the American
tongues is their singular power of extending the primitive signification
of words by the addition of new syllables to the original term. Taking
the verb for his starting point, the Indian is enabled, by prefixing,
inserting, and adding syllables, to form at last some word which will not
only express the action in question, but include at once, subject,
object, time, place, and modifying circumstances. If he is shown an
article with which he is unacquainted, he will ask its use, and then
adding word to word at pleasure, he will at last give it a name
comprising perhaps an entire definition. For sake of sound, the chain of
words is sometimes linked by syllables of no particular significance.
Strictly speaking, the Indian tongues consist only of the verb, which may
be said to absorb all the other parts of speech. Declensions, articles,
and cases are deficient; the adjective has a verbal termination; the idea
expressed by the noun takes a verbal form; every thing is conjugated,
nothing declined. The conjugation changes with every slight variation in
the action spoken of. For instance, the same word will not express two
similar actions performed, the one on the water, the other on the land;
or two similar actions, the one referring to a living; the other to an
inanimate object; there must be a separate conjugation for each. The
forms of the verb thus vary to infinity, and hence arose the immense
difficulty to the missioners of learning the languages.

A second peculiarity of the Indian dialects, is the abundant use which
they allow of figurative language, a result of their total want of terms
expressive of abstract, and purely spiritual ideas. To clothe these in
words, they must have recourse to figures, chiefly metaphor and allegory,
hence arises so much of what an American writer calls "the picturesque
brilliancy" of the savage tongues. To express the term "prosperity," for
example, the Indian will employ the image of a bright sun, a cloudless
sky, or a calm river. "To make peace," will be "to smooth the forest
path, to level the mountain," or "to bury the tomahawk." "To console the
bereaved by the offering of presents," will be "to cover the graves of
the departed." Unconsciously, the Indian habitually speaks poetry. He
knows nothing of written characters, so his method of writing is by
hieroglyphics, or rude pictures traced on a stone or a piece of bark. In
the Huron and Iroquois, the words are almost entirely composed of vowels,
both languages being deficient in consonants, and totally wanting in
labials. The Algonquin is also deficient in several letters, among others
the consonants _f, l, v, x, z_. In the Indian tongues, many of the
sounds are merely guttural, and produced without any movement of the
lips. _Ou_, as sounded in _you_, is of this description; to distinguish
it from the articulated sounds, the early missioners marked it by the
figure 8.

The religion of the native tribes of North America was a species of
pantheism. They believed that in every visible object dwelt good or evil
spirits, who exercised a certain influence over human events, and they
tried to propitiate them by sacrifices and prayers. Faith in dreams
constituted the foundation of almost all their superstitions. The dream
was to them an irrevocable decree which it was never allowable to slight.
It, therefore, formed the starting point of their deliberations, and the
basis of their decisions. Rather than reject the warning of a dream, they
would have consigned to the flames or the waves the produce of a
successful hunting or fishing expedition, or of a rich harvest. The most
intelligent held as a theory that dreams are the speech of the soul,
which through them manifests her innate desires, these desires remaining
for ever unknown, unless thus revealed. To carry out the dream was,
therefore, to satisfy the soul's cravings; to slight it was to excite her
desires afresh.

They believed that after death the soul wandered for a time in the
vicinity of the body which it had quitted, and then departed on a long
journey to a village in the direction of the setting sun. The country of
the dead differed but little in their imagination, from the land of the
living, and accordingly, looking on death merely as a passage from one
region to another nearly similar, they met the summons with indifference.
The deceased warrior was placed outside his wigwam in a sitting posture,
to show that although life was over, the principle of existence still
survived, and in that position he was buried, together with his pipe,
manitou, tomahawk, quiver, and bent bow, and a supply of maize and
venison for his travels to the paradise of his ancestors. The mourning
for near relatives lasted two years.

Among the Huron-Iroquois and Algonquins, liberty was uncontrolled. Each
hamlet was independent; so was the head of each family in the hamlet; so
was each child in the family. This mass of independent wills could be
ruled only by persuasion and promises of reward, and of these the chief
was lavish. Sometimes there were many. rulers, or "captains," as they
were called, in one hamlet, especially the larger ones; sometimes the
government of the village was committed to a single chief. Among the
principal tribes, the latter office was in general hereditary, though
occasionally conferred by election. Public affairs were discussed in
council with great formality, and votes taken by straws or small reeds,
the majority theoretically deciding the question, but the conclusion was
not carried out unless all agreed. The rebellious were generally won over
by presents or flattery.

The savage tribes were divided into several great familes, each
distinguished by the name of some animal chosen by the chief as his
_totum_ or distinctive mark. Among the Iroquois, for instance, the
highest family was that of the Tortoise; the second of the Beaver, and
the third of the Wolf. In battle, the _totum_ was borne as the
standard. The criminal code was not elaborate, yet it sufficed to
maintain order in the small republics. Murder, robbery treason and
sorcery were the crimes understood to entail its penalties. Instead of
being punished by death, murder was expiated by a very large number of
presents, to provide which, not only the assassin, but every family in
the village was laid under contribution. The punishment of the criminal
was thus multiplied by the reproaches and sarcasms of all the unwilling
sharers in the atonement. Among the Algonquins, stealing was of rare
occurrence; the Hurons, on the contrary, prided themselves on their feats
in that line. They stole for the mere pleasure of stealing, and so
accomplished were they in the art, that they could purloin an article
under the very eye of the owner, using the foot for the purpose, quite as
dexterously as the hand. If the thief could be identified, the person
robbed might despoil him of everything he possessed, supposing always he
was not strong enough to defend himself. If he belonged to another
village, goods to the value of those lost might be taken from any one in
his village, and kept until the robber had made restitution. Traitors and
sorcerers, as objects of special dread, were always liable to heavy

According to the savage code of honour, war was the only road to glory;
it was in consequence frequent, and once begun, lasted for years,
national hatred descending as a legacy from generation to generation.
Stealth and cunning entered largely into the tactics of the Indians; to
lie in ambush was their delight; to surprise the enemy, their grand
triumph. The assailants advanced in single file, the last carefully
strewing leaves on the footprints of those who had preceded. When they
had discovered the enemy, they crept on all-fours until near enough for
the attack, then suddenly bounding up, and yelling fearfully, they rushed
forward to the onslaught. If the enemy were on his guard, they withdrew
noiselessly; if retreat were impossible, they fought with desperation.
The number of foes overcome, was marked by that of the scalps hanging as
trophies of bloody triumph from the girdles of the savage victors. Their
arms were a species of javelin, a bow and arrow, the latter tipped with a
sharp bone or flint, and the dreaded tomahawk or head-breaker. But more
important to the warrior than all besides was his manitou, or the symbol
of his familiar spirit,--some fantastic object represented in a dream,
or selected according to his peculiar taste; a bird's head, it might have
been, a beaver's tooth, or the knot of a tree; whatever, it was, the
warrior would as little have thought of going to battle without arms, as
without it. They treated their prisoners with great cruelty, partly it is
said from the superstitious belief that the manes of their fallen
companions were soothed by the sufferings of the captives. The prisoners
who were not sacrificed, were adopted into the tribes in place of the
slain, and treated thenceforth as members of the family.

The savages of North America were well formed and finely proportioned.
They considered painting the face and tattooing the person, so great an
addition to their personal charms, that jealous of the adornment, they
denied it to the women. The skins of beasts formed their ordinary attire;
their shoes were of the same material, but prepared for the purpose by a
particular process. The women were likewise clad in skins, which on
festive occasions they ornamented elaborately. They often displayed much
taste and skill in embroidering ornamental works on bark or skin.

The dwelling was the wigwam, easily constructed and easily removed. Long
poles fixed in the ground and bent inwards at the upper end, were covered
outside with bark, and inside with mats; a loose skin was attached for
the door, an opening left at the top for the chimney, and the house was
built. In the larger hamlets, such as that of Hochelaga, described by
Cartier, the dwellings ran along a sort of gallery, sometimes nearly two
hundred feet long and thirty wide; in these several families could be
accommodated. A raised platform was introduced into some, as a kind of
upper story, serving for sleeping apartments.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the savages were subject to but few
maladies, and these they cured by natural remedies, the indigenous
medicinal plants, abstemious diet, and vapour baths of their own
invention forming the basis of all prescriptions. Of persons skilled in
the medical art, there was no scarcity, every cabin generally containing
several. But not always satisfied with natural remedies, the patients had
frequent recourse to the juggler or "medicine man," to discover the
magical source of their illness, and avert evil consequences. The
medicine man was likewise consulted on the issue of future events, and
his mysterious predictions were received as so many oracles, his wondrous
spells looked on as so many talismans.

The husband's duty was to hunt and fish, leaving his venison at the cabin
door, and his fish at the water's edge, to be thence removed by his wife.
He had also to construct and repair the canoe, and provide wood and bark
for building the hut,--that was all. Most of his time was passed in
listless lounging, or in games of hazard at which he often staked his
whole possessions. His wife was mistress of the wigwam, and on her it
devolved to draw the water, hew the wood, dress the food, prepare the
ground to receive the grain, sow and gather in the harvest, weave the
mats, make the rude garments of the family, and in their frequent
journeys, to bear the house on her shoulders, not figuratively, but very
literally. Her lord was supposed to carry nothing but his arms; if
particularly condescending, he might of his own accord deviate from the
rule without compromise of dignity.

Among the North American Indians in general, woman was considered a being
of an inferior order, created only to obey the caprices of man, yet by a
strange contradiction, the children belonged to the mother, and
recognising only her authority, looked on their father merely in the
light of a guest permitted to occupy a place in the cabin. In return, the
squaw loved her offspring with passionate fondness, not manifested
perhaps by demonstrative caresses, but not on that account the less
tender, vigilant, or enduring. At home or abroad, she never parted from
her nursling. When she travelled, she lifted her black-eyed babe to her
shoulders, gaily-decked cradle and all, and so they journeyed on happily
together, her great love divesting the burden of all weight. When she
worked in the fields, she laid it at her feet among the sweet wild
flowers, or she swung it from the bough of some pleasant shady tree close
by, but never under any circumstances did she entrust it to other care
than her own. Parental love indeed often degenerated into weakness among
the Indians, and proved one of the great obstacles to the formation of
schools by the missionaries. Unable to bear separation from their little
ones, the parents soon recalled them home. As the children grew, they
were left to do pretty much as they pleased. They received no moral
instruction, but in order to excite their emulation, they were duly
initiated in the illustrious deeds of their ancestors, in whose footsteps
they were supposed to follow. For the correction of their faults, the
mother employed prayers and tears, but never threats or punishment;
these, their independent spirits would not have brooked. The severest
chastisement ever inflicted was a dash of cold water in the face. The
naturally unexcitable temperament of the Indians served as an antidote to
the defects of their rearing. Reason early taught them the necessity of
self-control, and so it happened, that at the age when the character is
formed, they presented a strange combination of good and bad qualities.

First among the virtues of the savages was fortitude. Fitted by their
stern nature and their early habits to support privation and pain, they
would exhibit the very stoicism of endurance under the extreme of both.
Without a word of complaint they would bear the pangs of hunger for ten
or fifteen days, sometimes in compliance with a superstition, but very
frequently from necessity too. They would glory in dying without a groan
amidst inconceivable agonies. They seemed insensible to cold, heat,
fatigue, sickness, and every other species of physical suffering. To
inure themselves early to the torture of fire, boys and girls of ten and
twelve would place a live coal on their joined arms, the palm of courage
being, of course, for the one who bore the pain longest without letting
the coal fall.

Hospitality they exercised in the style of the patriarchs. By day and by
night, the guest, whether stranger or friend, was welcome to the best
place in the wigwam, and to the choicest portion of the family stores. If
a stranger, he was visited by all the notabilities of the village, and at
the subsequent entertainments given in his honour, was treated with
marked distinction. The Indians were ever ready to divide their
possessions with those in greater need, and especially prompt to relieve
the widow and the orphan. "Their life is so void of care," remarked an
old writer, "and they are so loving also, that they make use of those
things which they enjoy as common goods, and are therein so
compassionate, that rather than one should starve, all would starve."
With a courtesy of which they might have been supposed incapable, they
paid visits of condolence, as a matter of course, to all in affliction.
When they offered their sympathy on the occasion of death, the departed
was never named, lest so direct an allusion might wound the sensitive
feelings of the bereaved; he was spoken of only as "the one who has left
us." They were remarkable for their reverence for the sepulchres of their
kindred, and would travel miles to visit some tomb in the woods, where,
according to their traditions, the bones of their ancestors had been
deposited. When the graves were within reach, it was a practice of some
of the tribes to keep them in the neatest order, the grass closely mown,
and the weeds and brambles carefully removed. The Hurons honoured their
dead by a special festival, celebrated every ten or twelve years at some
hamlet decided on in general council. On this occasion, each family
brought to the place appointed the bones of the relatives who had died
since the last celebration. These remains of mortality had been
previously washed, then wrapped in beaver skins ornamented with shell
work or embroidery. A common grave was ready to receive them, and on its
preparation, no pains had been spared. It was lined throughout with rich
furs, and partially filled with various presents, including articles both
of ornament and of use. The venerated remains were respectfully laid on
these; then followed, layer after layer, another supply of presents, a
store of provisions, and finally, a covering of bark, the whole
surmounted by a mound of earth. Over all a roof was raised, to protect
the precious deposit from the cold and snow of winter, and the rain and
heat of summer.

So greatly did the Indians prize domestic peace and harmony, that to
maintain it in their little communities, they often carried forbearance
and self-control to the last extreme.

So many good qualities combined assuredly prove the accuracy of the
remark of Washington Irving that "although there seems but little soil in
the Indian's heart for the growth of the kindly virtues, if we would
penetrate through the proud stoicism and habitual taciturnity which hide
his character from casual observers, we should find him linked to his
fellow-men of civilized life by more of those sympathies and affections
than are usually ascribed to him." Much in the same spirit, Father Smet
writes--"The Indians are in general little known in the civilized world.
People judge by those whom they see on the frontiers, the mere wrecks and
remnants of once powerful tribes. Among these the 'fire-water' and the
degrading vices of the whites have wrought sad ruin. The farther one
penetrates into the desert, the better he finds the aborigines, and the
more worthy and desirous to receive religious instruction."

Among the evil impulses of the Red Man's nature, pride and revenge were
predominant. Fostered and strengthened by indulgence, as well as by the
peculiar nature of early training, these passions finally acquired so
great a dominion, that to gratify either, the savages would have
sacrificed all they held most dear. They were fond of praise too, and
although they declared themselves indifferent to general opinion, their
constant fear of provoking an unfavourable one, rendered them, in truth,
its slaves. In their dealings with the whites, they were often found
false, treacherous, and regardless of promises and treaties, although in
domestic intercourse they were not in general deceitful. In extenuation,
it must be remembered that from their earliest years, they were not only
initiated in stratagem by the necessity of self-defence, but taught to
look on every exhibition of craft and cunning as a triumph of skill and a
worthy subject of admiration. And again, it is but too true that the
example of the more enlightened Europeans was not always calculated to
inspire them with respect for truth. Another ground of accusation against
the Indians was their barbarity to the vanquished. This originated partly
in policy and superstition, but from the era of European aggression,
savage cruelty needed no other stimulus than the desire of revenge.

In the long journeys of the Indians, whether for war or the chase, the
sun, moon, and stars answered the purpose of time-piece and compass.
Distant periods they calculated by the solar year, but for short
intervals they reckoned by lunations. They had observed and even given
names to the principal constellations. Among the Iroquois, the Pleiades
were called the "Dancers;" the Milky Way, "the Path of Souls;" the Great
Bear had a name corresponding with that which we give it; the Polar Star
was designated as "the star that never sets;" it served to guide them in
their long marches through the forests and across the great prairies of
the west. When the sky was clouded, they were led through the woods by
certain infallible signs--indeed by a species of instinct--besides which,
their memory of places was so wonderful that, after once visiting any
locality, they ever after retained a perfectly distinct recollection of
it. They preferred water to land travelling, possessing thorough command
of their light bark canoe, which they could direct with ease and security
amidst the most formidable rapids. If they came to an absolutely
impassable spot, they raised the slight vessel on their shoulders and
carried it until they reached the next navigable point.

Christianity produced a wonderful change in these wild children of the
woods, developing all that was good in their nature, correcting what was
evil, and softening down much of what was harsh, but when the Mother of
the Incarnation arrived in Canada, it had made but little progress. As
early as 1615, it is true, Père Caron, a Recollet, had penetrated to the
Huron land, and, during the succeeding years, he and his religious
brethren had laboured at intervals for the conversion of its inhabitants,
but although their zeal was ardent, their success had been only very
partial. Unlike the tribes of whom Jacques Cartier speaks, these
manifested so strong an opposition to the dogmas of the Catholic faith,
that it was evident many years must elapse before they would be disposed
to embrace it. Although the most intelligent of all the North American
tribes, and the most susceptible of ordinary instruction, the Hurons
appeared absolutely inaccessible to religious teaching.

The plan of the missioners in the northern continent was to try and gain
access to some Indian village, and, this point attained, to build a cabin
and as soon as opportunity offered, announce the Word of God to all who
would receive it. Gradually a little congregation was formed around them,
but the tie between the converts and their heathen relatives was not
severed, both continuing to associate; neither was the original name of
the village changed; it merely received in addition that of the
particularly saint who had been chosen as its patron. In South America,
on the contrary, it was the practice of the missioners to prepare
settlements, or "reductions," as they were called, to which they
attracted their neophytes, whom they induced to live in community.

In the year 1634, the three Jesuit Fathers, Bréboeuf, Daniel, and Davost,
succeeded in establishing themselves in the village of Ihonhatiria, in
the land of the Hurons, and there, in a very poor little chapel dedicated
to St. Joseph, they planted the seed of that interesting portion of the
early Canadian Church, the Huron Mission. In a year after, they were
joined by Père Jogues. When the Venerable Mother arrived, five years had
passed over that precious seed, and it had given scarcely a sign of life,
nor did it for long afterwards. The efforts of the Fathers were
everywhere thwarted--prejudice, superstition, ignorance, and vice all
rose in arms against them. They were accounted sorcerers; the breaking
out of the dreaded small-pox was attributed to their magic arts, and they
once owed their escape from a sentence of death only to the intervention
of a friendly Indian. But the blood of a martyr was to fertilize the seed
of Christianity in the New World, as in primitive times it had so often
done in the Old. Père Jogues was seized by the Iroquois, and after
enduring torments which only the ingenuity of savage barbarity could have
invented, he wonderfully escaped alive from their hands. In 1646 he was
sent to found a mission in the heart of the Iroquois land itself--a
mission which was to be dedicated to, and appropriately named after, the
holy Martyrs. "I shall go," he said, on receiving the order; "I shall go,
but I shall not return." The words were prophetic; his own blood was the
first to water the mission of the holy martyrs, and, as might have been
anticipated, its eloquent voice pierced the heavens. It had scarcely sent
up its pleadings, when the work of conversion among the Hurons began in
earnest. Missionary stations multiplied rapidly. The Christianized
villages of St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Ignatius, and St. John smiled in
the desert like green spots amidst the barren sands. At the central
station of St. Mary's alone, three thousand Indians received hospitality
in the course of one year. Undeterred by the certainty of privation and
suffering, new missioners continued to swell the ranks and aid the work.
With indefatigable zeal and unwearied patience, they catechised,
exhorted, consoled, encouraged. The morning hours, from four until eight,
were reserved for their private devotions; the remainder of the day
belonged to the neophytes. Like St. Francis Xavier, Père Bréboeuf would
walk through the villages and their environs, ringing a bell to summon
the warriors to a conference. Seated round the good Father under the
pleasant shade of their own ancient forest trees, they would drink in his
words and joyfully accept his doctrines. "When I escaped some particular
danger," a brave would remark, "I said to myself, 'A powerful spirit
watches over me.' Now I know that my Protector was the great God of whom
you tell us." The first desire and aim of the converts was to bring as
many of their nation as possible to the faith; and so wondrously rapid
was its diffusion, that within two years after the martyrdom of Père
Jogues, the whole Huron nation was converted.

The harvest had taken long to ripen, but in compensation it was so rich,
that only the golden garners seemed fit to receive it, and to these,
accordingly, the Almighty Master of the vineyard was pleased speedily to
transfer it. The Iroquois had long maintained a deadly enmity to the
Hurons, and frequent bloodshed had necessarily been its consequence; but,
no longer satisfied with partial vengeance, they resolved in the year
1648 on carrying on a war of absolute extermination into the Huron
territory itself. They chose for their incursion the season when all the
Huron warriors were absent on the chase, and no one left in the hamlets
but women, children, and aged men. The village of St. Joseph, with its
venerable pastor, Father Daniel, at once fell a prey to their terrible
fury. The following year the villages of St. Louis and St. Ignatius
shared the same fate, and all the inhabitants, men, women, and children,
were slain. Fathers Bréboeuf and Lalemant were included in the general
massacre, but their deaths were marked by an exceptional refinement of
barbarity. In explanation of the bitter hatred of the Iroquois to the
French, we learn that about a year after his arrival in Canada, Champlain
had provoked their hostility by entering into an alliance with the
Algonquins and Hurons, their traditional foes. The step was taken in
choice of the lesser of two evils, for unless conciliated, it seemed but
natural to expect that the Algonquins, as the nearest neighbours, would
prove the most dangerous enemies. Wise as may have been the motive, the
act led to disastrous results.

After the almost total annihilation of their nation, a part of the
surviving Hurons descended the St. Lawrence to Quebec, in the environs of
which their posterity is still to be seen; another portion was adopted
into the nation of the conquerors on equal terms, and the rest dispersed.
Many of those admitted into the enemy's tribe were Christians, and not
only did they preserve their faith in exile, but they were the happy
means of drawing to it many of their new allies. Several years after,
missioners were amazed and charmed at finding a little band of fervent
Christians in the very centre of heathen vice and barbarism. The exiled
Hurons who sought an asylum in Quebec were located in the Isle of
Orleans, to which they gave the name of St. Mary's, in memory of their
old and still dearly-cherished home. Our limits do not permit us to dwell
on the heroism of the missioners in the daily, hourly sacrifices of their
crucified lives, ending for very many among them in death by a cruel
martyrdom. The record fills one among the many beautiful pages in the
annals of the sons of St. Ignatius. Commenting on their glorious work,
the historian, Bancroft, remarks that "the history of their labours is
connected with the origin of every celebrated town within the limits of
French Canada. Not a cape was turned," he says, "not a river entered, but
a Jesuit led the way." This, however, is but secondary merit; their true
glory is in having led the way to heaven for innumerable souls who will
for ever bless their charity, and sing praise to Him who inspired it.

Before the arrival of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation,
missions for the converted Indians had sprung up under their direction in
and about Quebec and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The most remarkable
of the former was that called St. Joseph of Sillery, in honour of the
patron of Canada, to whom it was dedicated, and of Monsieur de Sillery,
[Footnote: After having been Ambassador for France at the Spanish and
Papal Courts, Monsieur de Sillery was appointed Prime Minister of Louis
XIII. He finally renounced the world, and embraced the ecclesiastical
state.] its munificent founder. A few savage families lived happily in
this peaceful hamlet, fervently discharging their duty as Christians, and
insensibly falling into the spirit and usages of civilized life. These
converts were chiefly from among the Algonquins proper, and the kindred
tribe of the Montagnais. As the desire for the conversion of the Indians
strengthened, so did the conviction that the work must begin with the
systematic religious training of the children. Thanks to the zeal and
charity of the lamented Champlain, a step had been taken in this
direction for the benefit of the Indian boys;--that a similar advantage
might be extended to the girls, had long been the prayer of all who
sighed for the coming of the Kingdom of God among the heathens of Canada.
And God heard the prayer, and in his own time He sent His mercy and His
blessing to the heathen land in the person of the Venerable Mother Mary
of the Incarnation, whose wondrous call, and faithful co-operation will
engage our attention in the following pages, a tribute of filial love and
reverence to her saintly memory.


FIRST PERIOD, 1599-1631.




The world of nature is no doubt very beautiful in itself, and very
wonderful in its works, yet infinitely surpassing it, both in intrinsic
loveliness and in magnificence of production, is the world of grace. It
is in that world that the saints are formed, and compared with the
grandeur of the work of grace in the sanctification of a soul, all the
splendours of this material universe fade to nothing. When grace forms a
saint, it restores the beauty, and renews the purity which were the dowry
of the soul before the fall. For this end, it has to transform man from a
terrestrial into a heavenly being, elevating what is low in his fallen
nature, correcting what is evil, spiritualizing what is earthly,
improving what is good;--re-forming, re-moulding, and in a manner re-

Considering the subjects on which divine grace has to act, and the
opposition which it has to encounter, this, its work in the saints, may
well be called the most wonderful of all works, and its triumph the
grandest of all triumphs. Unseen and unheeded though it may be, that
divine work is ever silently but surely and steadily progressing in the
spiritual world over which grace rules. We can see it in its development,
if not in its actual operation, and if so minded, can estimate its
magnitude by examining its results in the annals of the saints.

Those annals are of a singularly diversified character. They comprise the
history of once rebellious souls won by the sweet attractions of grace
from every part of the empire of Satan, and by a strange contrast, they
at the same time record that of faithful souls, who, upheld by its
strength, never swerved from their allegiance to God. They tell of
saintly penitents, dating their first correspondence with its
inspirations from the eleventh hour, and of docile hearts, obedient from
earliest childhood to its voice. They show us, side by side, profaned
temples re-consecrated, and holy sanctuaries never sullied; scentless
flowers restored to fragrance, and garlands of purity from which not a
blossom or even a leaf had ever fallen. In different ways both manifest
the magnificence of the riches of divine grace. In different ways, both
prove that whether grace changes a sinner into a saint, or preserves a
saint from sin, it is pre-eminently the worker of wonders. If the
catalogue of holy penitents forms a dazzling page in its record, so does
that of the privileged few who never lost their baptismal innocence.
While the one is traced in characters of mercy, the other is written in
letters of light. While the one reveals the grandeur, and the other the
sweetness of the work of grace, both concur in proclaiming the triumph of
its omnipotence.

In obdurate wills subdued, the conquests of grace are often hard to win.
In the docile souls of the early sanctified, its task is easy. Into
these, its inspirations sink as the soft dew into good soil; and with the
same result. Finding in them no impediment to its action, no check to its
liberality, it is free to pour out the wealth of its exhaustless
treasury, and so it leads them from virtue to virtue, from height to
height, even to the sublimity of perfection and the consummation of
divine union, when, resplendent with heavenly light, and dazzling with
interior beauty, they excite the admiration, nay, perhaps even the wonder
of the angels.

To this bright page of the annals of the work of grace belongs the name
of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation, whose history is about to engage

As we follow the progress of the great work of God in her soul, noting,
on the one hand, the rich abundance of heavenly inspiration, and, on the
other, the perfection of her fidelity, let us not be satisfied with
simply admiring the one, but let us set ourselves in earnest to imitate
the other, according to our measure and degree.

She was born in the historic city of Tours on the 28th of October 1599.
With the very gift of life itself, she received an accompanying
protecting grace in the blessing of good, religious parents. Her father,
Florence Guyart, was noted among his fellow-citizens for piety,
integrity, and uprightness, but although richly endowed with the
treasures of virtue, he was but indifferently provided with those of
fortune, his business as a silk-mercer supplying him barely with a
competency. Her mother, Jeanne Michelet, was of the noble house of Babou
de la Bourdaisière, to which France was once indebted for some of her
eminent ecclesiastics and statesmen, but at the period of the birth of
her holy child, she ranked--like the royally descended Virgin of Juda at
the birth of Christ--only among other obscure individuals of the middle

The predestined infant received baptism on the day after her birth, in
the church of St. Saturninus, and with it the name of Mary, a happy
presage, as one of her biographers remarks, of her life-long, most tender
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as well as of the singular favours which
that generous Mother reserved for her well-loved child. It was her
happiness to be surrounded from earliest infancy with none but holy
influences, and to breathe from her very cradle an atmosphere of purity.
The first words which she heard, the first she tried to lisp, were the
sweet names of Jesus and Mary. The first bent she received was an
inclination to virtue; the first and only examples she witnessed were
examples of piety. Thus passed the years preceding the dawn of reason,
her beautiful soul expanding under the combined action of the baptismal
grace, and of favourable external influences, like a bud of rich promise
in the bright spring sunshine; then the clouds of infancy cleared away,
and the light of reason shone. Her good mother seized the all-important
moment to direct the child's opening mind to the knowledge of God, and
her fresh, pure heart to His love, a grace for which the Venerable Mother
returned Him very earnest thanks in after life, remarking that early
impressions of religion are a most precious favour, and a strong
predisposition to future sanctity. Truly it was a picture to delight the
angels, that Christian mother so carefully directing the first feeble
steps of her little child along the road that leads to God, and that
docile child eagerly watching the guardian hand, and steadily treading
the path to which it pointed,--the sure and blessed path of holiness,
from which throughout life's long journey, she was never even once to

The crowning grace of this privileged infancy was, however, yet to come.
Our Lord, whose Spirit breatheth where He will, had chosen that little
child to be in an especial manner all His own, and He desired to secure
possession of her soul while yet it looked so lovely, all glistening with
the baptismal dew in the morning light of its young purity. But as the
gift of the heart, to be acceptable, must be voluntary, her concurrence
in His designs of mercy had to be asked. Neither, however, to visible or
invisible guardian angel would He intrust the invitation, which, to crown
His infinite condescension, was to come from Himself in person. She has
left us a touchingly simple description of the extraordinary favour
referred to, which she always looked on as the first link in the chain of
her vocation to the mystic life, and prized accordingly.

"I was only about seven years old," she says, "when one night in sleep, I
seemed to myself to be in the courtyard of a country school with one of
my young companions. My eyes were fixed on the heavens, when suddenly I
saw them opened, and our Lord Jesus Christ descending towards me through
the air. As His most adorable Majesty drew near, I felt my heart all on
fire with His love, and eagerly stretched out my arms to Him. The most
lovely above the sons of men, beautiful and attractive beyond
description, lovingly embraced me, and then He asked, 'Wilt thou be
mine?' I answered, 'yes,' and having thus received my consent, He re-
ascended in our sight to heaven. When I awoke, my soul was so ravished
with joy at this unspeakable favour, that in my childish simplicity, I
detailed the wonderful particulars to all who would listen to me. The
sweet words of our Blessed Lord remained ever indelibly engraven on my
memory, and so completely did they absorb my attention, that although I
saw His sacred Humanity, I afterwards retained no distinct impression
concerning it."

It was an important crisis in the child's spiritual life, that heavenly
vision, for on its results depended the bent and colouring of her future
career. By her ready compliance with the invitation of divine grace, she
subjected her whole will unreservedly and for ever to the dominion of her
Lord, and thus left Him free to carry out His yet unrevealed designs for
her personal sanctification, and the salvation of innumerable souls bound
up with hers. Henceforth, His divine inspirations would find no
impediment to their action in the docile heart of that little child.

According to St. Bernard, the embrace of God means His Holy Spirit. To
embrace a soul, and to give her His Spirit, are then in God identical
acts. By the embrace noted in the vision, the Holy Ghost took possession
of the heart of His chosen Spouse in quality of her Director, and
although unacquainted as yet with the secrets, and even the name of the
interior life, she found herself guided along its paths by that divine
Master, as steadily and securely as if she had been led by a visible
hand. In her doubts, she consulted Him with great simplicity, and never
failed to receive the light which she needed for her practical direction;
light so clear and vivid, that it sometimes carried with it the force
almost of demonstration. This supernatural guidance, commenced thus
early, and continued through life, may be ranked among the most eminent
of her great spiritual privileges. But although the first, it was not the
only favour conferred on her by our Lord at His most gracious visit.
Other precious, practical effects of that visit were to disengage her
heart from the amusements in general so eagerly sought by children of her
age; to confirm her desire of virtue; to develop her love of retirement
and prayer; to intensify her hatred of sin, and strengthen her resolution
to guard with jealous care the holy treasure of her baptismal innocence.
The embrace vouchsafed her by our Lord, so embalmed her soul with
sweetness, so inflamed her heart with love, that she ceased not
thenceforth to "run after Him in the odour of His perfumes," and so
readily did her thoughts and affections turn to Him, their Centre, that
it would seem as if in vanishing from her sight in the vision just
referred to, He had taken both back to heaven with Himself. Her delight
was to resort to the most solitary places and the least frequented
churches, that she might enjoy with less interruption the sweets of
communion with Him. Struck by the humble and respectful attitudes of
pious persons whom she met in the church, and believing that God must
certainly grant the petitions of those who prayed with so much reverence,
she at once set about imitating them; and no doubt, even indifferent
observers must have been impressed by the sight of a child between nine
and ten years of age spending long hours on her knees before the
tabernacle, her little hands devoutly joined, her soul absorbed as if in
ecstasy, and her very countenance wearing a seraphic expression. She
spoke of her childish wants, with simple confidence to our Lord and His
Blessed Mother, and every day she asked that dear Mother that she might
see her at least before death. From constant association with Him who is
the joy of the angels, and the sweetness of the saints, her naturally
bright disposition grew the brighter, and her engaging amiability and
artless courtesy, the more striking and attractive.

She early manifested a singular reverence and love for religious
instruction. Having heard that God speaks through the preachers of His
word, she conceived so profound a veneration for their office and their
person, that when she met one of them in the street, she would have
followed him to kiss the traces of his steps, had she not been restrained
by the fear of observation. Without understanding much of what was said
in sermons, she still loved to listen to them, and on her return home,
would repeat what she had retained, adding her own simple ideas and
reflections. As she grew older, and therefore better able to take in
their meaning, her heart, she says, seemed to her like a vessel into
which the word of God poured in the manner of a liquid into a vase. Like
the brimming vase, her soul so overflowed with heavenly emotions, that
unable to contain their abundance, she was constrained to give them vent
in prayer, or in humble efforts to impart some of her treasures to other
souls. This early inclination for receiving and communicating religious
instruction, was a pre-disposition for the grand work which the future
reserved for her, and when, after the lapse of many years, her destiny
had associated her with the generous missionaries who bore the knowledge
of the name of Christ to infidel lands, she recalled the aspirations of
childhood's days, in which, as she says, her heart had followed the
ministers of the Gospel to the scenes of their labours, and her mind had
been more engrossed by their noble deeds, than by the events actually
passing around her.

Daily more intent on excluding from the solitude of her soul every
distracting thought and care thus the better to dispose it for the
permanent abode of the divine Guest who will have the heart to Himself,
she withdrew more and more from all intercourse with creatures, except
that required by charity and courtesy. Seeing in the recreative reading
provided for her by her parents, an obstacle to recollection and a waste
of time, she totally laid it aside, substituting for books of mere
amusement, those which treated of spiritual subjects.

As she advanced in years, the love of God which inflamed her soul sought
a vent not only in her almost uninterrupted communications with the
divine Object of her affections, but in exterior active works of charity
towards her neighbour. The tabernacle and the poor were the two magnets
that attracted her heart, and next to the hours spent before the altar,
none yielded her such pure delight as those passed among the lowly,
suffering members of her dear Saviour. She found no company so congenial
as theirs; no occupation so agreeable as the humble services which their
desolate condition required. She fed, clothed and consoled them, and even
sometimes partook of their poor fare, reserving for her own share their
remnants and refuse. She would have been glad to suffer in their stead,
and says, that but for the uprightness of her intention, she might
sometimes have erred by excess of liberality towards them.

Going one day, as usual, on a mission of charity, she inadvertently
passed too near a cart which some workmen were in the act of loading. Not
seeing her, they raised the vehicle so suddenly, that her sleeve was
caught in the shaft, and after being lifted into the air, she was dashed
back violently to the ground. The terrified spectators concluded that she
must have been killed, but she had not received the least injury, a
favour for which, as the Almighty revealed to her, she was indebted to
her love for the poor.

After some years, we hear of the first notable imperfection of her
childhood and youth, and nothing perhaps gives a more accurate idea of
her innocence, than the gravity which that imperfection assumed in her
estimation. The singular degree of supernatural light vouchsafed her, the
sublimity of interior purity to which she was called, and the height of
the virtue to which she had already attained, explain the reproaches of
the Holy Spirit, and her own keen remorse for an infidelity which appears
trivial to us because of our want of enlightenment in the ways of God.

In her childish recreations, it had been her favourite amusement to copy
the devotional practices which she had witnessed at Church; to kneel, to
prostrate, to clasp her hands, to raise her eyes to heaven, to strike her
breast; in short, to repeat as a pastime what she had seen done at
prayer. In ordinary children, a fancy for such diversions is often
considered a happy presage of a future vocation to the ecclesiastical or
religious state, but in her enlightened eyes, these childish follies
seemed inconsistent with the gravity and reserve becoming one so favoured
as she had been. Viewed in this aspect, they appeared to her, not as sins
certainly, but as imperfections; light vapours, it is true, but vapours
still, and therefore capable of intercepting to some extent the rays of
the eternal Sun of justice. It was not until her sixteenth year that her
early pastimes struck her as reprehensible, and then, with the new light,
there came a second to the effect, that although deliberate sin alone
forms necessary matter for confession, an imperfection like that recorded
might lawfully find a place in the self-accusations of one, destined as
she was, for an exceptional degree of purity of soul. No positive duty
however, required the sacrifice of natural feeling involved in the latter
course, therefore she hesitated for awhile to adopt it, thus for the
first time balancing the repugnances of nature against the inspirations
of grace. But the Spouse of souls will admit no reservation in those whom
He has chosen to be all His own, and we learn from herself, that by this
infidelity, she interrupted for a time the fulness of the flow of divine
liberality in her regard, and checked the freedom and rapidity of her
progress to God. To all but herself, however, that progress was very
apparent, furnishing matter of wonder and admiration, no less than of

Only two convents existed at that period in the city of Tours; one of
Carmelites, quite recently founded; the other of Benedictines, governed
just then by a near relative of her mother's. This latter monastery she
frequently visited, and as might have been expected, the oftener she
breathed its atmosphere of peace and prayer, the more she longed to make
it the place of her rest for ever. Her inclination for the religious life
gradually settled into a desire so strong and irrepressible, that even
before she had reached her sixteenth year, with its renewed call to
perfection, she had confided her wishes to her mother. While rejoicing at
the intelligence, and giving the project every reasonable encouragement,
that good mother suggested, that although the step was undeniably a holy
and a happy one, it was very important too, consequently, that it would
he better to delay it until time and reflection had more fully manifested
its wisdom. Had the youthful Mary been at that time under regular
spiritual direction, there can be no doubt that she would have been
advised to follow her attraction for the cloister, but she knew nothing
whatever about direction, imagining that spiritual communications even to
a confessor were limited to the accusation of sins at confession. Being
very timid, she did not venture to press the matter, so her mother,
hearing nothing more of it, naturally concluded that her inclination for
religion had been the result of some passing fit of fervour, or perhaps
only a childish fancy, forgotten as soon as formed, an idea apparently so
much the more reasonable, as her natural gaiety of character seemed to
dispose her rather for the world than for a convent. The seeming mistake
was in reality a step to the development of the particular designs of God
over His faithful servant, for although His general design is alike in
all the saints, the especial destiny of each varies, and while the great
outline of sanctity is universally the same, there are minute shades of
difference in the characteristic virtues of individuals. The saints form
the beautiful garden of the Church, redolent of every variety of sweetest
fragrance, and enamelled with every shade of fairest tinting. The day was
to come, when the Mother of the Incarnation would be bound to her Lord by
the vows of religion, but before becoming a guide for His consecrated
Spouses, she was to pass through married life and widowhood, that she
might first furnish an example of perfection in both conditions, and thus
serve as a model for woman in every state. Her ultimate destiny involved
a species of apostolate among the savages of Canada, and for this, the
novitiate awaiting her in the world would prove a more effectual
preparation, than would the novitiate of the cloister. There she would
have ample opportunities of practically learning the lesson of the cross,
and at the same time of consolidating the virtues which were to be the
distinguishing characteristics of her sanctity. Her zeal and charity
would find a wider field, and her gentle patience reap a richer harvest,
her union with God would be strengthened, while tested, by exposure to
the distracting cares of life, and her purity of soul would shine out
with brighter lustre amidst hitherto unknown difficulties and dangers.
And so, when in after years, the voice of the Spouse would bid her arise,
and leave her home and country, and follow Him to the distant land which
He would show her, she would be prepared to answer, "My heart, O Lord, is
ready; my heart is ready and my work is done!"

The first page of the history of her life,-which we are about to close,
has not been without its practical teaching. It is the page of the young;
happy those who study well the record! They will discover, that "it is
good for a man when he hath borne the yoke from his youth." (Lam. iii.
27). They will learn to admire the heavenly beauty of a pure soul, and
fascinated by its unearthly charms, they will resolve to close their own
hearts against sin, excluding even the smallest, as a security against
the entrance of the greater. They will learn to appreciate the happiness
of knowing and loving our Lord, like the blessed child who found her
sweetest joy before the altar, and they will surely ask her to beg for
them a share in her love of Jesus and her spirit of prayer, courageously
checking the propensity for idle talking and still idler reading which,
are so great an obstacle to recollection. Studying her love of
retirement, they will pray for grace to resist worldly influences, and
following her to the miserable homes of the destitute, they will aspire
to become, like her, angels of comfort to the desolate and sorrowing.
Thus will their childhood and youth be saintly, as, were those of the
model now presented to them.



Mary Guyart was just entering on her seventeenth year, when her parents
proposed to her a matrimonial alliance apparently calculated to insure
her happiness. Such an engagement was utterly repugnant to her
inclinations; it was inconsistent with the high hopes she had cherished
of consecrating herself wholly to God in religion; its duties and
solicitudes seemed a decided obstacle to the cultivation of that spirit
of prayer and recollection which had become as her life-breath. Drawn
daily more and more forcibly to an interior life in God, she shrank with
her whole soul from a position which must necessarily immerse her in he
distracting occupations and harassing cares of the world. But accustomed
to look on her parents as the representatives of God, and therefore
seeing only His will in the impending project, she submitted with the
respectful docility habitual to her, and none but the interior witness
of. the sacrifice to obedience, could have suspected the cost at which it
was offered. She simply assured her mother of her readiness to obey,
adding the, almost prophetic promise, that if God should bless her with a
son, she would dedicate him to the Divine service, and that if He should
ever restore her own liberty, she would consecrate it also to Him alone.

Her only object now became to prepare so fervently for the holy sacrament
of marriage, that she might receive with it the abundant supply of grace
needed for the due fulfilment of the difficult and responsible
obligations soon to be hers.

Few indeed have ever brought to it more admirable dispositions than did
that reluctant, yet in one sense, willing bride, therefore it followed,
that although the absence of pomp and show may have divested the
ceremonial of all charm for worldlings, the perfection: of her interior
preparation rendered it one of rare beauty in the eyes of heaven. She
wore no costly attire, it is true, but in compensation, her soul was
arrayed in that fairest of garments, her white baptismal robe, free still
from spot or wrinkle, as on the day when it was first assumed. She
displayed no sparkling gems, but many a virtue shone instead with a
glorious light, before whose lustre that of flashing diamond and gilded
coronet fades away, and as she thus stood before the altar in all the
freshness of her innocence and the radiance of her spiritual beauty, must
she not have won the smiles. of angels? Must she not have attracted the
complacency of the angels' Lord?

The duties of her new state came to her marked with the sign of the
cross, nevertheless she set about them with an energy and devotedness
which clearly manifested the singleness of her views, the purity of her
motives, and the enlightened character of her piety. Knowing that
perfection is in the accomplishment of God's will, and believing that as
long as she faithfully complied with the duties of her condition in life,
she should walk in the sure, straight path of obedience to that holy
will, she took immediate measures for the discharge of its fourfold
obligations to God, her husband, her servants and herself. The spirit of
prayer conferred on her at the early visit of our Lord, had been ever
since developing itself more and more strongly, and her first precaution
in arranging her role of life, was that no worldly interests should ever
be permitted to interfere with her spiritual exercises, whence alone she
could derive strength to fulfil her daily duties and courage to bear her
daily crosses. Yet she never allowed them to encroach on domestic
arrangements, her well-regulated piety having taught her, that when these
latter required the sacrifice of her love of prayer and solitude she was
doing God's will more perfectly in substituting active work for the
enjoyment of immediate communion with Himself. Prolonged meditations,
holy Mass, the sacraments and the word of God,--these were the four
sources whence she drew the waters of grace to refresh and invigorate her
soul. The holy Communion was above all, her joy and her life. As she
herself tells us, it replenished her with sweetness, enlivened her faith,
fortified her inclination for virtue, strengthened her confidence in God,
intensified her love of her neighbour, and supported her under the weight
of the cross. In one of her letters of after years, she remarks that a
single communion well made, is sufficient to sanctify a soul, since it
unites, her to the Saint of Saints, adding, that the reason why it does
not produce this result, is, that the soul after having given herself to
our Lord, in return for His having given Himself to her, too soon revokes
the offering in practice, nature shrinking from the total renunciation of
self which the divine Sanctifier requires as a preliminary to His action.
It was not so, her son remarks, with the holy Mother. Bringing to the
heavenly Banquet a disengaged heart, an almost annihilated will, and an
entire abandonment to the Spirit of God, she not only co-operated with,
but facilitated the operation of the sacramental grace, which meeting in
her no obstacle to its freedom of action, bore her with marvellous
rapidity along the path of solid virtue. Of such Communions it was, that
she says, "The more frequently I received the sacraments, the more
ardently I desired to receive them, because the more clearly I saw that
they were to me the source of all spiritual blessings."

The love and reverence for God's word which she had manifested from
earliest childhood, had but gained strength with years. To listen to it
was still her delight, as it had been in her young days. She loved it for
its own sake, irrespectively of the manner in which it might be
announced, looking on every preacher as a herald of the great King,
charged with the divine message of salvation. She says that her assiduity
in attending sermons was rewarded by a great abundance of light and love,
an increase of attraction and facility for prayer, and a renewal of
fervour in the practice of the virtues of her state. With the enlarged
experience of the spiritual life acquired at a later date, she recognised
that He who never tries His creatures beyond their strength, had imparted
to her in these benedictions of His sweetness, the particular graces
needed to support her under the crosses with which it had been His will
to surround her in the troubled days of her married life.

Her veneration for the preachers of God's word extended to all the
ceremonies of Divine worship. Enchanted with their beauty and grandeur,
and at the same time supernaturally enlightened to understand their
mysterious signification, she was filled with gratitude to her eternal
Benefactor for the signal favour of having been born of Catholic parents,
and thus made a child of the one true Church long before she could
appreciate, or even comprehend the blessing. She was always eager to be
among the first to enter the church, that securing a place where no part
of the sublime ceremonial could escape her, she might be free to meditate
on, and enter into the spirit of all.

The uprightness of her motives, and the holiness of her dispositions in
entering the marriage state, ought, we naturally imagine, to have secured
her at least the average amount of its happiness. But for the
purification of her soul and the perfecting of her virtue, God permitted
that her garland of bridal flowers should soon be turned into a wreath of
thorns, and thorns all the sharper, that they were pointed by the hand to
which she might have expected to look as her shield against trouble. It
is difficult to explain this singular phase of her diversified career.
Her husband is represented as eminently endowed with the richest gifts of
mind and person; he fully appreciated the value of the treasure which he
possessed in her, and did ample justice to her admirable qualities,
impressed most of all, perhaps, by the calm patience which no annoyance
could ruffle; the steady love which no trial could shake; the Christian
heroism which gathered new courage from each new shock;--yet it is
nevertheless quite certain that the bitter sufferings of her married life
originated, though unintentionally, with him. They rendered her duty in
his regard all the more arduous, yet it was not on that account the less
perfectly fulfilled. In uniting her destiny with his, she believed that
she was carrying out an arrangement of the admirable providence of God;
hence from the first moment of their union, she looked on him as holding
to her the place of God. In thus adopting the supernatural principles of
faith as the guide of all her relations towards him, she cut off the
thousand sources of trouble and temptation which are sure to arise
whenever nature, and not grace, holds rule,--so it happened, that among
the sorrows of her wedded life, domestic disunion, at least, never found
a place, and it followed too, that her spiritualized affection stood
tests, which purely human love would not have borne. She was never known
to fail in the respect or obedience due to her husband; her constant
study was to promote his comfort; her unceasing aim not only to defer to,
but even to anticipate his slightest wishes, and all was done with the
winning sweetness and rare prudence which were among her characteristics.

Nature had indeed dealt bountifully with her, and grace developing,
refining and spiritualizing the gifts of nature, had produced one of
those dispositions, which, to include all praise in a single word, are
sometimes termed angelic. Her temper was sweet and gentle, but it was a
gentleness as much removed from languid apathy and insensibility, as from
impulsive quickness and impetuosity. It was the serenity of a soul which,
possessing God, is happy in Him, and has no desire beyond Him, and it
excluded neither firmness in decision, nor courage and resolution in
difficulty, nor promptitude and energy in action. Her nature was so
placid and docile, that we never hear, even in her childhood, of the
least of those ebullitions of anger or manifestations of self-will, usual
in ordinary children. It was so enduring and forgiving, that while
inoffensive herself, she was incapable of taking offence, and absolutely
inaccessible to resentment. It was so kind and tender, that sympathy for
the troubles of others, especially the poor, was among the very first of
the features which her childish disposition revealed, and which, like all
her great qualities, strengthened with time. There was nothing rigid in
her piety, repulsive in her manner, austere in her ideas, or contracted
in her mind. She served the Lord with joy, and so, her interior peace was
reflected in an external cheerfulness, tempered ever by a sweet, modest
gravity that imparted dignity to her demeanour and commanded universal
respect. Her heart's history might be epitomized in one word,--self-
sacrifice,--and truly it was the quality of which she had most need. Her
charity has drawn an impenetrable veil over the precise nature, as well
as the painful details of the trials which lasted all through her short
union with Mr. Martin. Alluding to them in later life, in one of her
confidential letters to her son, she says "The only comfort of my married
life was that I was able to consecrate you to God before your birth, and
that your father, who possessed a good heart, and had the fear of God,
not only sanctioned, but even approved of my devotions. Regarding certain
occurrences with which you are acquainted, and which are to be imputed to
inadvertence, he regretted them most heartily, and often asked my pardon
for them with tears,"--tears, she might have added, not only of self-
reproach, but of admiration for the meek endurance of the gentle

To the perfect fulfilment of her duty to her husband, she added the exact
discharge of her obligations to her household. Mr. Martin was at the head
of a silk manufactory which gave employment to a number of workmen, and
these at once became the objects of the zeal and charity of their good
mistress. Her first aim was to secure influence over them, that she might
gain their hearts, and then bring their hearts so won, to God. For this
end, she attended to their wants as carefully as if they had been her own
children, devoting her chief solicitude to the concerns of the soul.
Dreading beyond all evils, an offence against the God whom she loved
supremely, she induced them to go regularly to confession, that its
protecting grace might be their preservative from sin. To animate them to
virtue, she gave them occasional exhortations, repeating the instructions
which she had heard in sermons, and adding her own reflections; but
prudent in her zeal, she took care not to intrude her lessons at
unseasonable times, generally selecting for them the hours of meals, and
by this means at once feeding the souls of her hearers with the word of
God, and cutting off frivolous, or perhaps sinful topics.

A living model of the virtues which she inculcated, she encouraged her
dependents even more by example than by precept, to love and serve God
faithfully. Always calm and self-possessed, affable and kind, she
practically illustrated the beauty of peace and union. Patient and self-
controlled, she taught the heroism of Christian endurance. As solicitous
for the interests and as intent on the happiness of others, as if her own
heart had not been wrung with anguish, and oppressed with care, she
exemplified the unselfishness of true charity. Enlightened and judicious
in her views, orderly and systematic in her arrangements, active and
energetic in the practical details of business, she taught by her
conduct, more forcibly than by any words, that "piety is good for all
things." It need not be added that she won the love of her domestics, who
looking on her more as a gentle mother than as a mistress, sympathized in
her sorrows as if they had been personal, and manifested on all occasions
their compassion for her afflictions, their admiration of her fortitude,
and their reverence for her person. Knowing that well-ordered charity
begins at home, she took care never to devote herself so entirely to the
salvation of others, as to neglect her own soul. In order to secure time
for the requirements of both, she avoided unnecessary visits and idle
amusements, and having fully complied with her domestic duties, she
retired to her oratory, there to find in prayer and spiritual reading
repose from past fatigues, and courage for new labours.

Thus passed her first probation in the world. The death of her husband
brought it to a close at the end of only two years, but they were years
so rich in every virtue of her condition, that the married woman who
would lead a sanctified and useful life, is sure of attaining the holy
end by following her example. She was indeed the model of a faultless
wife; so assiduous in prayer, that it would seem as if she considered
prayer her only obligation; so devoted at the same time to the interests
of all connected with her, that it would appear as if her domestic
responsibilities were her absorbing concern, and through all, so utterly
forgetful of self, that chance observers could never have suspected how
those cheerfully discharged duties involved the living sacrifice of her
bleeding heart.

In this second page of the life of the Venerable Mother Mary of the
Incarnation, we read a continuance of the work of grace in her soul. We
meet the same virtues with which the opening page has made us familiar,
but now expanded on a wider sphere, and strengthened by severer
conflicts, and still, at every step, we note for our own instruction the
action of the Spirit of God, and her docile correspondence, the two
necessary and inseparable agents in the sanctification of man. In the
biography which he has left us of his saintly mother, her son
particularly directs attention to the solidity of the foundation which
she prepared for the edifice of her future holiness. Guided by the Divine
Director, who since early childhood had undertaken the formation of her
soul, she adopted as the four fundamental principles of her spiritual
life, fidelity to the duty of prayer, careful avoidance of every
deliberate sin, the frequent reception of the holy sacraments, and
punctual attendance at divine service, as well as at sermons, and all
public observances and ceremonies of the Church. By thus steadying the
foundation, she ensured the permanent stability of the building, and by
similar means only will any one else secure the same end. Prayer and the
sacraments purify the soul; purity of soul prepares for union with God;
union with the Church at once forms and cements the bonds of union with
God. Sanctity, as so often observed, is primarily the work of grace, but
grace will come to us only through the appointed channels. If we cut off
the channel, we cut off also the supply, deprived of which, far from
advancing in the ways of God, we shall but languish and lose ground.
"Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
(Ps. cxxvi. 1).



The young wife was but nineteen when a new scene in life's great drama
was opened before her by the death of her husband. Although, through
God's permission, he had caused her very bitter sorrows, her naturally
warm heart was not the less grieved at the separation. She had fully
appreciated his good qualities; had found excuses in her charity for his
shortcomings, and had loved him with sincere affection, but as she had
seen and accepted an arrangement of the divine will in the formation of
the marriage tie, so did she recognise and adore a dispensation of the
same Almighty will in the. breaking of the bond, and this one
consideration sufficed to reconcile her to the trial, and to give rest to
her soul. At the period of her widowhood, her prospects were no doubt
cheerless enough. Her pecuniary affairs had been left in a state of great
embarrassment; she had an infant of six months old to provide for, and as
she remarks, her comparative youth and inexperience seemed to unfit her
for a struggle with the difficulties of her position, but here, as ever,
her beautiful trust in God supported her, and with a firm, filial
reliance on His promise to be with those who are in tribulation, she took
up her new crosses with resignation and abandonment so perfect, that
neither loss of fortune, nor anticipation of absolute poverty, nor
anxiety for the fate of her little child could disturb her serenity or
shake her confidence.

The virtue and amiability which she had evinced during her first
matrimonial engagement, soon procured her new and far more advantageous
offers, while the capacity and integrity which had marked her business
transactions, led to very promising proposals for re-embarking in
commerce. Prudence seemed in favour of acceptance; natural inclination
was opposed to it. In weighing the question, however, it was not to
natural inclination that she appealed for a decision; this never had been
her guide, nor should it now. If it were, the remembrance of the miseries
of her married life would have been quite sufficient reason to deter her
from risking a repetition of them, but faith had taught her to see in
those past crosses, only valuable opportunities of practising virtue and
acquiring merit, therefore she gave the apprehension of their renewal no
place in her deliberations. The interior attraction which sweetly but
irresistibly urged her to devote herself all to God,--this it was which
determined her to embrace a life of entire seclusion in the world, as
soon as her affairs should be arranged. In forming her plans, she can
scarcely have refrained from casting a wistful glance at the attractive
solitude of the cloister, but knowing that its entrance was for the
present closed to her by her duty to her child, she resigned herself to
wait for the promised land, until she should first have crossed the
intervening desert. Referring to this period in one of her after letters
to her son, she speaks of the transports of her gratitude at finding
herself free to follow her call to solitude, where without distraction or
division she could think of and love her Lord, while she watched over the
babe whom He had committed to her keeping. The death of her mother-in-
law, in about a month after that of her husband, removed the last
obstacle to the accomplishment of her project.

Connected with the early months of her widowhood, is a wondrous
supernatural favour, granted her as if to confirm her late determination,
and mark it with a sensible sign of heaven's approval. We shall record it
in the words best suited to so sublime a subject,--her own. "On the eve,"
she says, "of the feast of the Incarnation, 1620, I was on my way to
business, which I recommended to God by my ordinary aspiration, 'In thee,
O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded!'--when suddenly, my
progress was unaccountably arrested, and while I stood motionless in
body, the action of my mind was equally suspended, all recollection of
the affairs I was engaged in vanishing instantaneously from my memory.
Then the eyes of my soul were wondrously opened in one moment, and all
the sins, faults and imperfections of my life revealed to me in general
and in particular, with indescribable distinctness. At the same time, I
saw myself plunged in a bath of blood, and I knew that it was the blood
of the Son of God which had been shed for the very sins now so clearly
represented to me. If the Almighty in His great goodness had not
sustained me, I think I should have died of terror, so horrible did even
the smallest sin appear. Oh! what words can express the emotion of the
soul at seeing the Lord of infinite goodness and incomprehensible
sanctity insulted by a worm of the earth, and a Man-God shedding His most
adorable blood to reconcile sinners to His Father! Above all, who can
describe her feelings at finding herself personally stained with sin, and
recognising that the Incarnate God would have done for the expiation of
her individual guilt, what He has done for the atonement of the
transgressions of all men in general! At that moment, my heart seemed
wholly changed into love for Him who had shown me this signal mercy, and
it was filled at the same time with indescribable, and even unimaginable

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