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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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stood, she had a side view of the Blessed Virgin. I awoke with an
impression of extraordinary peace which lasted some days, but the vision
was yet a mystery whose meaning I could not divine."

A grand work of zeal lay before the Mother, but until it should please
God to reveal His future designs, her aim was to acquit herself perfectly
of the duties assigned her by providence in the present moment. The most
important of these was to form the novices to religious life by
conferences on its spirit and its obligations, and at the same time to
prepare them for the special function of the Ursuline institute, by
instructions on the Christian doctrine. She had a natural facility for
expressing her thoughts on every subject, but when spiritual things were
her theme, she surpassed herself, her abundant and most appropriate
quotations from Scripture adding immeasurably to the weight of her words.
Her talent for writing on pious subjects equalled her facility for
speaking of them. It was while second Mistress of novices, that she
composed her catechism, one of the most complete works of its kind,
combining, with admirable dogmatic instructions, equally valuable
practical lessons of conduct.

Habitually, the Mother of the Incarnation spoke little, and when obliged
to break silence, never used many words. This habit which she had
contracted in the world, she retained all her life, perfecting it more
and more as she advanced in sanctity. Her words, though few in number,
were comprehensive in meaning, as may be seen in the following specimens
of the maxims which she most frequently inculcated.

"A soul," she said, "which would follow her call to the perfection of the
spiritual life, must prepare first to pass, gradually through spiritual
death with all its varied and prolonged agonies. Those who have not
endured the ordeal, can scarcely calculate the degree of interior
crucifixion, or, the amount of self-abandonment required."

"Many desire, and would gladly accept the gift of prayer, but few aim at,
and labour for the spirit of humility and self-abnegation, without which
there can be no true spirit of prayer or recollection. Devotion
unsustained by mortification is of a doubtful character."

"Mortification and prayer cannot be separated. They have a close
connection, and are a mutual support."

"The gift of prayer and fervent devotion is not for the great talker; it
is impossible that the heart and lips should be uselessly occupied with
creatures, and at the same time employed with God."

"Interior purity is an essential condition for Divine union. As the sea
casts out corrupted matter, so God, the infinite Ocean of perfection,
rejects souls dead in sin, uniting Himself only to those who live by
grace and resemble Him in purity."

"There is no greater obstacle to the progress of the soul than curious
speculations in prayer, and the desire to know more than God intends. We
may exceed in the desire of knowledge, but never in the desire of love."

"The most sublime life is that which combines the external practice of
the virtues of the Gospel, with interior familiarity with God."

"We make God our debtor, if I may say so, when we cast ourselves into His
arms with child-like confidence. We should lose ourselves lovingly in
Him, for although it is true that we are nothing, while He is all, we
shall for that reason be more easily and more happily lost in Him."

"The Eternal Father has made known to a certain soul that whatever she
asks of Him through the most Sacred Heart of His Son, He will grant her."

Every day we must begin anew to love God, persuaded that the day before
we did not love Him truly; seeing only defects in the past, and work to
do in the present and future."

"I cannot imagine," she would sometimes say, "how a soul can seek her
pleasure in intercourse with creatures, when she can at all times
converse with the ever-present Creator. I wonder," she remarked on other
occasions, "how, having God for our Father, we are not always perfectly
contented. The reason is that we are too much occupied about ourselves."

"Even to the end of life the holiest souls experience the assaults, of
corrupt nature, which furnish a constant occasion of interior

"The practical experience of our weakness is the true teacher of contempt
of self and compassion for others."

"The nearer the soul approaches to God, the more clearly she sees her

"I cannot understand," she said, "how a religious soul who desires to
love God and to be loved by Him, can fail in obedience or find a
difficulty in it, knowing as she does that it is the certain means of
fulfilling the will of God."

"There is no shorter road to the perfection of the interior life, than
the universal retrenchment of all reflections, not only on annoying
subjects, but even on such as do not lead to God and the practice of

"The effect of over-eagerness to finish one action, in order to hasten to
another, is that both are done imperfectly."

"Our afflictions are not chance accidents, but graces from God, to detach
us from creatures, and unite us to Himself."

"It seems strange that we rebel against trials, since everything that God
sends is good and desirable?"

"Resignation in suffering is a mark that the soul is near to God and His

"Peace reigns in the heart, which, through holy self-hatred, endeavours
to destroy the very last vestiges of corrupt nature."

She had a hatred of all vices, but especially of deceit, and was
accustomed to say that "when the mouth opens to a falsehood, the heart
closes to God."

Another of her sayings was, that her temptations had been to her useful
practical lessons, teaching her how to govern others, by having taught
her first to command herself. She often inculcated that "to suffer and
pray is the only means by which, in the present life, we can honour the
Church Triumphant, and help the Churches Militant and Suffering."

From these few examples we can form an idea at least of the solidity of
her lessons, which she never intruded, always maintaining a strict
reserve unless pressed to speak by charity or obedience. Not only the
novices, but even many of the elder religious delighted in listening to
her spiritual instructions. Among other matters, she explained the Psalms
and the Canticle of Canticles in a style at once so sublime and so clear,
that both beginners and proficients derived profit from her words. Among
the numerous novices formed to the interior life by her example and
counsels, some became eminent for holiness. As her son remarks, the
beauty of the copies is the highest tribute to the perfection of the
original, and the solid virtue of the disciples, the best proof of the
excellence of the teacher.



From her first years, zeal for the salvation of souls had been a special
characteristic of the Mother Mary of the Incarnation. Her early delight
had been, as we know, to travel in spirit over infidel lands with the
holy missioners, and unite in heart and intention with their labours. Now
that the dream of her childhood was about to become a grand reality, the
holy fire acquired a ten-fold vehemence, as if her Divine Master would
thus predispose her for the revelation of His designs. She seemed
actually to burn with desire that the only Object of her love should be
known and adored by every creature, and, unable to endure the thought of
the triumph of Satan over Jesus, she gathered the poor perishing souls of
all unbelievers into her heart, and, presenting them to the Eternal
Father, reminded Him that He had promised the dominion of the nations to
His Son, who ought no longer to be deprived of the inheritance purchased
at the dear price of His own most precious blood. "The zeal of God's
house absolutely consuming her" (Ps. lxviii. 101), she continued to
traverse heathen lands in spirit, praying for a voice strong enough to
proclaim to the extremity of the earth that her heavenly Spouse is worthy
of the love and homage of every human heart. The worst torments of the
martyrs would have seemed light to her if by them she could have gained
these straying souls to her Lord. She besought God to inflict on her the
last excess of pain, and that until the Day of Judgment, if thus she
could extend the Kingdom of Christ. She might literally have said with
the Psalmist, "My zeal hath made me pine away" (Ps. cxviii. 139), for,
the inflamed ardour of her soul reacting on her bodily strength, she was
reduced to such great exhaustion, that it was feared she would have died.
Still the prayer seemed unheeded, though still it went on redoubling in
earnestness, until at last the Eternal Father made known to her that if
she would obtain her petition, she must present it through the Heart of
His Divine Son. Thus was the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus made
known to the Mother Mary of the Incarnation long before it was revealed
to the world through another of its fervent clients. All through her
remaining life, she cherished a most ardent devotion to that ever-
adorable Heart. She offered nothing to God, she asked nothing of Him,
except through it. She made it her refuge in difficulty and her
consolation in suffering; her repose in weariness, her treasure in
poverty, her all, for love of which she despised herself and renounced
all things created.

At the time of her vision, her director had remarked that the country
shown her might perhaps have been Canada, which was then exciting some
attention. It was a new light; she had never before heard of Canada;
neither had she for a moment imagined that God intended her to labour for
souls otherwise than by the interior practices of zeal and charity to
which she was accustomed. All doubt was removed when, in a repetition of
the vision, God revealed to her that it was indeed Canada which she had
seen, distinctly telling her at the same time that she was the instrument
chosen to build a house there for Jesus and Mary. Now, at last, she knew
her destiny. "Oh, my great God!" she exclaimed, "Thou art omnipotent, and
I am all weakness; if Thou wilt assist me I am ready. Do in me and by me
Thy most adorable will."

In every phase of her vocation to Canada, we are struck by the visible
intervention of the wonder-working, ever-watchful Providence of God. Thus
it happened that at this very crisis, she received for the first time a
"Report" of the affairs of the Church in the infant colony. It was the
one for 1635, the year following the regular establishment of the Huron
Mission, and was sent her by Father Poncet, a Jesuit. Without having the
least idea that their destinations were similar, he informed her of his
own vocation for that mission, sent her a miniature pilgrim's staff which
he had brought from Loretto, and invited her to join the great work. As
she knew that the good Father was absolutely ignorant of her spiritual
state, the whole affair greatly surprised her. How would her wonder have
increased had she been aware that the same Report of 1635 was to be the
means under God of deciding another vocation, on which hung the success
of the Ursuline Mission to Canada! She could answer the Father's
invitation only in general terms, unwilling, on the one hand, to speak of
the supernatural revelation granted her, and ignorant, on the other, of
the means by which the Almighty intended to execute His will in her
regard. The enterprise was one demanding not only superhuman courage, but
also pecuniary resources; in proportion as the Mother of the Incarnation
abounded in the one, so was she destitute of the other, but her future
was in the hands of Him to whom it is as easy to dispense the treasures
of earth, as the riches of heaven. While she tranquilly abandoned
herself as a passive instrument to His designs, His Almighty Providence
was employed in preparing for her a co-operatrix endowed at once with the
zeal and the wealth, each indispensable in its way,--Madame de la
Peltrie, to whom the next chapter will introduce us.



Marie Madeleine de Chauvigny, better known as Madame de la Peltrie, was
born in 1603, at Alençon, a town in Normandy. Through both her parents
she claimed connection with the noblest families of the province, and
from both also she derived a far more precious inheritance than exalted
birth, the imperishable heritage of piety. The virtues which reflected so
bright a lustre on her name, both in her own land and in the New World,
were, under God, the fruit of their teaching; but it must be owned that
her natural docility and amiability of disposition rendered her early
training an easy task. Compassion for the poor seemed so identified with
her nature, that she could not see a want without trying, according to
her opportunity, to relieve it, and when the power to do this failed, she
endeavoured to make up for the disappointment by an ever-ready and most
tender sympathy. She seemed to have no taste for the toys and sports of
children, preferring for her recreation the exercises of devotion, which
she had learned by observing them in others. In admiration of her early
piety, her parents loved to fancy that heaven must surely have some
singularly blessed destiny in store for her.

Under her mother's guidance, she received an education suitable to her
high social position and brilliant prospects, and when she had attained
her seventeenth year, she was informed that being of course intended for
married life, she would do well to accept a very excellent proposal which
had just offered. Most cordially despising the world with its pomps and
vanities, and desiring with her whole heart to have no spouse but a
Heavenly One, she was utterly overcome by the announcement. She had never
had a thought but of consecrating herself to God in religion, and had
refrained from speaking of her intentions merely because she believed
that the favourable time for doing so had not yet arrived. In the present
unexpected disappointment of her dearest hopes, she fancied that if she
were but once secure within the walls of a convent, her parents might
not, perhaps, carry their authority so far as to oblige her to leave it;
accordingly she went in all haste to a neighbouring abbey and asked
admittance for a few days to make a retreat. This step exceedingly
irritated her father, who at once insisted on her return home, and, as no
persuasion could induce him to alter his determination respecting her
future destiny, her spiritual guides finally decided that the will of God
in her regard was manifested by that of her parents, and that no
alternative remained but to submit. After much prayer for the light of
heaven, she consented to espouse the husband of their selection.

Monsieur de la Peltrie, her partner, was in every respect worthy of her,
and their union was one of such unbroken peace, that he often expressed a
hope of living long, in order to benefit by her holy influence, and to
enjoy the Christian happiness of which she was to him the ministering
angel. But God had decreed otherwise; five years after their marriage he
died in the very vigour of manhood. Their only child had passed at once
from earth to heaven.

Her worldly ties thus broken at the early age of twenty-two, the young
widow deliberated how she could most profitably dispose of herself and
her possessions for the glory of God. A hundred and a hundred times a day
she repeated, "Do with me, O Lord! as it shall please Thee; my heart, my
life, my riches, all are Thine!" She had not lost her first inclination
for the religious life, but the doubt arose whether, with her great
wealth, she might not, perhaps, promote the Divine honour more
effectually in the world than in a life of voluntary poverty. An ardent
zeal for the salvation of souls lighted up her heart, and, like the
Mother of the Incarnation, she flew in thought to the homes of the
heathens, there to aid, at least by her prayers and desires, the labours
of the missionaries. She panted to lend active succour to the work, bat
could not yet see how this was to be brought about. Meantime the
Providence of God was working out her destiny in its own sweet and
wondrous way. After years of incertitude and indecision, she accidentally
met with one of the Reports of the progress of the Canadian Mission. It
was a copy of the same which had been sent to the Mother of the
Incarnation by Father Poncet, bearing, as may be remembered, the date
1635. In burning accents of holy zeal, the writer asked whether no
Christian heroine could be found willing te co-operate with the designs
of Jesus by devoting herself to teach the Indian children the name of
their unknown God, and the value of the precious blood which had redeemed
them. The stirring appeal was an instantaneous answer to the doubts of
years; it revealed her vocation as plainly as if an angel's voice had
spoken. In a moment she saw that God destined her for the Canadian
Mission, and with equal promptitude she resolved to obey the call. Soon
after this first inspiration, God was pleased to confirm her resolution,
by distinctly revealing to her that it was His will she should go to
Canada, and there labour for the conversion of the Indian girls,
promising that He would bestow great graces on her in recompense. "O
Lord!" she exclaimed, "surely favours like these are not for a worthless,
sinful creature as I." And out Lord answered, "You speak truly; but the
more unworthy the object of My favours, the more is My liberality exalted
in bestowing them. I desire to employ you as the instrument of My mercies
to Canada, and, notwithstanding all obstacles, you will go there, and
there, too, you will end your days." Unmistakably as the project appeared
to be marked with the will of God, she would take ho measures for its
execution until competent judges had examined it in all its bearings,
pronounced it the work of the Holy Spirit, and decided that she ought to
carry it out without delay. Her vocation received its final confirmation
in a dangerous illness which brought her to the very verge of the tomb.
When the last hope had vanished, and her soul seemed on the very point of
hearing the great summons to eternity, she felt inspired to vow that if
her life were spared, she would build a church in Canada in honour of St.
Joseph, and devote herself and her wealth, under his patronage, to the
service of young Indian females. No sooner had she made the promise than
she fell into a sweet refreshing sleep, from which she awoke in restored
health. The amazement of the physicians was something wonderful. "What
has become of your illness, Madam?" they asked. "It seems to have gone to
Canada." Greatly surprised at the remark, she smilingly answered, "Yes,
sir, as you say, it is gone to Canada."

Thus miraculously snatched from the arms of death, she thought only of
fulfilling her vow as quickly as possible, but nearly four years were to
pass before she could realize her pious wishes. As might have been
expected, the enemy of all good set every engine at work to frustrate the
design. Her father insisted that she should marry again, and after
exhausting arguments and entreaties, he had recourse to threats,
declaring that he would disinherit her if she persevered in opposing his
washes, and that if she persisted in going to Canada, it would cost him
his life. As time passed, obstacles seemed only to multiply, and her
perplexity in consequence to increase, but before matters had finally
come to a crisis, it pleased God to call her father out of life after a
severe but short illness. This event, in removing one difficulty, created
another. Some of her relatives who had long had designs on her property,
eagerly seized the opportunity of securing the prize. With this object,
they declared her incompetent to manage her own affairs, in consequence
of her extravagance, as they termed her liberality to the poor and to the
Church. They had recourse to law proceedings to prove the statement, and
actually managed to procure a verdict in their favour. Just when her case
seemed hopeless, she was extricated from the difficulty by following the
advice of a kind friend, Monsieur de Bernières. At his suggestion she
appealed to the Parliament of Rouen, and obtained a reversal of the first
decision, with a full recognition of her rights. This great victory she
attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph, in whose hands she had
placed her cause, at the same time renewing her vow to build a church in
Canada under his invocation, and devote her remaining life to the service
of the Indians.

Her affairs no longer requiring her presence at home, she proceeded to
Paris to complete her preparations for the voyage. She profited of the
opportunity to submit her plans to two of the great lights of the age,
Père Condren, General of the Oratorians, and St. Vincent of Paul, who
both consoled her by the assurance that her vocation was genuine, and her
work the work of God. Even here her relatives continued to disquiet her.
Unwilling to relinquish their prey, some of them actually followed her to
the capital with the intention of seizing her person, and so closely did
they watch her movements, that, to baffle pursuit, she had to disguise
herself in the dress of her maid when obliged to go out on business. Once
more she had recourse to Monsieur de Bernières, and at his appearance,
the conspirators dispersed.

This good friend of Madame de la Peltrie and the Ursulines, was the scion
of an illustrious house in Normandy, and resided at Caen where he
occupied a high official position. Fearing that the distraction of
worldly business might divert his attention from the one thing necessary,
he had early assembled around him a little community of ecclesiastics and
pious laymen, who, united by the bonds of faith, charity, and prayer,
served as mutual helps in the pursuit of a common end--Christian
perfection This association, called "The Hermitage," once numbered among
its members Monseigneur de Laval, the first Bishop of Canada. A faithful
picture of the angelic soul of Monsieur de Bernières can be found in his
own work entitled "The Interior Christian," which is in fact the history
of his inner life written by the direction of his confessor. His ardent
zeal for the Divine honour inspired him with the liveliest interest in
the Canadian mission, to which he continued until death a devoted and
efficient friend. To Madame de la Peltrie in particular, he preyed
himself an invaluable assistant just at the time when she most needed
counsel and support. Her contradictions were not yet at an end; one
indeed seemed removed only to stake way for another. So it ever is with
the work of God, for the. sign by which that work conquers is the sign of
the cross. It was now the month of November, 1638. On applying for a
passage to Canada for the following spring, she was told that all the
vessels for the ensuing season would be fully freighted, so that no
alternative remained but to defer her departure for another year. Nothing
daunted, she declared that if necessary, she would charter a vessel at
her own expense, and when the time of departure came, so she actually



While the Almighty was thus slowly preparing the way for the
accomplishment of his designs, the Mother Mary of the Incarnation was
still calmly awaiting the manifestation of His will, in utter
unconsciousness of the progress of events. At the date to which we have
brought the history of Madame de la Peltrie, more than two years had
passed since she and the Venerable Mother almost simultaneously learned
by Divine revelation, that the Canadian mission was to be the scene of
their future labours. Having followed the progress of the destined
Foundress' vocation during those years, we shall now retrace our steps to
consider the development of the Venerable Mother's in the same interval.

The great work in prospect was to be the work of God alone, and nothing
of the creature was to be permitted to mingle with it, therefore, before
the time for carrying it into effect arrived, the Almighty signified to
his faithful servant, that even in the execution of the command which He
had himself imposed, her own will was to have no share. As once He had
assumed the dominion of her heart, He on this occasion assumed the
dominion of her will,--the heart of the soul,--not depriving her of the
faculty, but uniting it so closely to His own will, that hers became
absolutely absorbed and lost in His. It was, she says, as if while she
endeavoured to bend His will to hers, by her ardent prayers for the
extension of the Kingdom of His Son, He on the contrary triumphed over
hers so completely, that now she could will only as He willed.
Thenceforth, she waited in silence and peace for the further
manifestation of His designs, and deeply as she prized her vocation, she
constantly prayed that if He willed her to work for Him in another sphere
and another way, He would raise insuperable obstacles to her ever going
to Canada. The secret of her future destiny she buried in her heart,
until at the end of a year, the Almighty Himself commanded her to divulge
it. When she did so, the communication entailed on her only mortification
and humiliation. Her director rebuked her for indulging silly fancies;
the Mother Superior asserted that if God granted her request, it would be
only as a punishment for her presumption; others, whose judgment she
equally deferred to, pronounced the project visionary and delusive, yet
her great courage never failed, for it was founded on a perfect
confidence that in His own time, God would do His own work, using her as
his instrument, all unworthy though she was. In two letters, she fully
explained her position to her former spiritual guide, Dom Raymond of St.
Bernard, who like herself, aspired at this time to the Canadian mission,
though as the event proved, unsuccessfully. In one of these, she says,
"God is stronger than man; He commands the winds and calms the waves. If
He will have us in New France, He will surely conduct us thither in
defiance of all the obstacles which look like mountains in human eyes,
but before Him are only as straws and spiders' webs. When I consider my
great misery, I cannot help feeling that it may in the end divert His
choice to some worthier instrument, but if such should be His will, I
bless Him in anticipation for the selection; whatever it may be, coming
from Him, it must necessarily be all-wise." The humility, the trust in
God, the total absence of all attachment to her own will and judgment
which marked her communications, convinced this enlightened director that
her vocation was genuine, and he therefore promised to promote its
success to the best of his power. As God had decreed that she should
concur in the great enterprise by something more than mere passive
acquiescence, He again inspired and even urged her to repeat the
information which by His order she had already given on the subject to
her Superiors. This time, she addressed herself to Father de la Haye, who
approved of the undertaking, encouraged her to pursue it, and expressed a
hope that the time of its accomplishment was near at hand. An important
link was added to the chain of Providence by the communication just
referred to. Father de la Haye confided it to Father Poncet, who was a
good deal concerned in the affairs of the Canadian mission, and thus was
the Mother's cause placed in the direct road of success. Some time more
was, however, to pass, before the mysterious chain of Providence should
be perfected.

Although careful to avoid unnecessary allusion to her own especial
vocation, she spoke in such glowing terms of the happiness of labouring
for the salvation Of the infidels, that she effectually communicated her
apostolic spirit to her community, who all joined her in prayer and works
of penance for the conversion of heathen nations. The reputation of her
zeal had even reached New France, whence she received urgent petitions
from the missioners to hasten, to the aid of their dear converts. These
appeals, some of them traced on bark by saintly men who soon were to
water with their blood, the land blessed by their labours, she kissed
reverentially and bedewed with her tears.

All her letters from Canada were not, however, of this description. Soon
after the revelation of her vocation, she received two from Father le
Jeune, mortifying enough to have discouraged any soul less humble than
hers. As Superior of the missions in New France, he thought it advisable
to try her spirit before she was permitted to follow her call;
accordingly, he twice addressed her in the most humbling terms, dwelling
particularly on her intolerable presumption in aspiring to functions far
above her capacity, and aiming at a position in every way beyond her
sphere. She read and re-read the painful words with singular
satisfaction, and in showing them to her director, she merely said, "Is
he not a good Father to treat me so? If I ever fall under his authority,
I am sure of finding a true friend in him." When she learned later that
he was using his best efforts to procure nuns for Canada, and that he
especially desired to secure her services, she understood even better
than before, that sharp as were the arrows, they had indeed been guided
by a friendly hand.

Lest self-love or natural ardour should imperceptibly mingle with her
desire for the Canadian mission, she represented herself its most
alarming features, the danger of perishing of cold or hunger; the chance
of being led into captivity and perhaps cruelly tortured by the savages;
the immeasurable privations, the hardships, disappointments and varied
sufferings which without any doubt would he her daily portion, yet the
terrible anticipation rather strengthened than diminished her love for
her great vocation. "No creature," she said in a letter to her confessor,
"could be worthy of one so exalted. It is so grand, so sublime, so
glorious, that only God's gratuitous goodness could inspire Him to bestow
it. Gladly," she continued, "would I purchase it at the price of a
thousand lives if that were possible. Reflecting that 'Christ died for
all' (2 Cor. v. 15), I grieve to think that all do not yet live for Him,
and although confounded at my own presumption, I feel pressed by the
desire to bring unbelievers to the knowledge and love of Him who is the
true Life."

She continued to pray that she might be enabled at last to execute the
command imposed on her of building a house in Canada for Jesus and Mary,
adding a petition that it might be also in honour of St. Joseph, whom she
firmly believed to be the guardian of that country shown her in the
vision. There seemed, however, little present prospect of her
accomplishing her task, for, independently of other obstacles, more than
one promise of the necessary pecuniary aid had ended in disappointment.
Nothing then remained but to submit to the arrangements of Divine
Providence, and this she did so perfectly, that it was difficult to
decide whether most to admire her readiness to go to Canada, or her equal
willingness to give up the idea. "An enterprise undertaken for God,
should be renounced for God," she said, "when He withholds the means of
carrying it into execution." But the thought of Canada continued to be as
usual ever present to her heart, and although there seemed no human
likelihood of her going there, she could not divest herself of a strong
presentiment that the time of departure was approaching.



We left Madame de la Peltrie in Paris, preparing for her departure. All
her arrangements were made at last, except one, but that was all-
important. The projected work could not go on without the help of
religious Sisters, and none had been engaged; where were they to be
sought? Many voices were raised in favour of the Ursulines of Paris, but
God had chosen His own instrument, and in His own way He would manifest
the selection. Father Poncet was known to be closely connected with the
affairs of the mission, so he was appealed to for advice. His answer was
prompt and satisfactory. "The Mother of the Incarnation had a marked
vocation for New France; she possessed all needful qualifications, would
fly to the ends of earth at the call of God, was to be found at the
Ursuline Convent of at Tours." Following up the welcome hint, Madame de
la Peltrie wrote at once to the Mother Superior of that monastery to
secure the co-operation of so invaluable an assistant, and the letter was
accompanied by one from Father Poncet. It is easy to imagine the effect
of these letters on the two persons most concerned. Recognising in them
the almost visible trace of the hand of Providence, the Mother Superior
could only bow down and adore: equally lost in admiration of the wondrous
ways of God, the Mother of the Incarnation could but exclaim, "Lord, here
I am; send me!"

Thinking herself called on to second this manifest intervention of
Providence, the Mother resolved to communicate personally to Madame de la
Peltrie her wishes and sentiments on the subject of the mission. This
letter gives so beautiful an insight to her mind that a few sentences
from it will probably be read with interest and pleasure:--

"Can it be true, Madam," she asks, "that our Divine Master really calls
you to the terrestrial paradise of New France? Are you, indeed, happily
chosen to spread in that far-off region the heavenly flame of His love?
Icicles abound there, it is true; brambles and thorns grow in profusion;
but the fire of His Holy Spirit can dissolve the one and consume the
other. His almighty power can strengthen weak creatures to endure all
trials, and sacrifice all enjoyments for the salvation of God's children.
O favoured spouse of Jesus! yours is the blessed certainty that you love
Him truly, since you are about to give the strongest proof of love by
renouncing self and all things for His dear sake . . . . Since in His
infinite goodness He has granted me sentiments like your own, I feel that
our hearts are now one in the Heart of Jesus, and that, so united, they
embrace all the heathen children of Canada, whom, as we hope, it will
soon be our privilege to impress with the love of their infinitely
amiable God. Some years have passed since our Lord inspired me with the
desire of labouring for their salvation. Hitherto I could only tranquilly
wait until it should please His Providence to summon me to my work; now
it seems as if the welcome call had come at last through you. Will you,
then, accept me as the companion of your voyage and a co-operatrix in
your future labours? As I could explain myself more fully and
satisfactorily in a personal interview, I venture to promise that if you
can give me the opportunity, our Lord will indemnify you Himself for the
fatigue of the journey. You will meet here many affectionate sisters
ready to welcome you as a messenger from heaven, and I, although the most
unworthy of all, presume to ask a share in your prayers." This letter, so
full of the spirit of God, confirmed Madame de la Peltrie's first
favourable impression of the writer, and strengthened her desire to
secure her as the foundation stone of her projected edifice.

The interview so humbly requested was cordially granted. Accompanied by
Monsieur de Bernières, the Angel Raphael of her travels, Madame de la
Peltrie arrived at the Convent of Tours on the 19th of February, 1639,
having previously communicated the object of her visit to the Archbishop,
and received his unqualified sanction. She was met by the whole community
and conducted with due ceremonial to the choir, where the _Veni Creator_
and the _Te Deum_ were chanted. At first sight, the Mother Mary of the
Incarnation recognised in Madame de la Peltrie the well-remembered
features of the lady who had been represented in her vision as her
companion to the unknown land; and their hearts were drawn towards each
other irresistibly and for ever. The prayer of the Forty Hours was
offered to obtain the direction of Heaven in the choice of the
missioners, and on its conclusion, the selection commenced. The will of
God had been so clearly marked in regard of the Mother of the
Incarnation, that much deliberation would, in her case, have been
superfluous. The Mother Superior must have felt that in acceding to the
request of Madame de la Peltrie by granting her this rich treasure, she
was but concurring in a Divine appointment, which she was not at liberty
to oppose. The sanction of human authority was now formally. attached to
the Venerable Mother's call to Canada; in addition to the stamp of
heavenly revelation which it had so long borne, so she was free at last
to enter on the course which stretched before her. clear, direct and
well-defined, and while her soul magnified the Lord, and her spirit
exulted in God, her generous heart breathed the one aspiration, that she
might prove her gratitude for His mercies by pursuing that blessed course
even to its final term, with a love that would never cool and a fidelity
that would never tire.

As it was understood that one Sister was to accompany the Mother of the
Incarnation, many were the candidates who volunteered their services; it
was remarkable, however, that the one whom God had chosen was the only
one who kept aloof. Sister St. Bernard was full of holy ardour for the
salvation of souls, especially the Indians--an ardour fanned by the
perusal of the yearly Reports of the progress of the faith in Canada--but
her humility persuading her that youth and other disqualifications
unfitted her for the great work, she dared not present herself to Madame
de la Peltrie. She would not even enter her apartment with the others,
but hovered about outside, offering herself to God as a perpetual
holocaust for the conversion of the savages, and promising St. Joseph
that if he obtained for her the favour of joining the missioners, she
would change her present name for his, as a mark of her undying
gratitude. Her private petition to the Mother Superior to be sent on the
Mission had been rejected; the Mother Mary of the Incarnation, Madame de
la Peltrie, and Monsieur de Bernières had all begged for her, and been
likewise refused. Yet, when the community assembled to decide the
question, it was singular that some difficulty or objection arose about
every candidate except herself. This circumstance appearing to the Mother
Superior an indication of the will of God, she feared to persist in her
first indention, much as she regretted the loss of a subject whom she
looked on as a future pillar of the house. Sister St. Bernard's parents
threatened opposition, but He who holds in His hands the hearts of men,
soon changed theirs so completely, that they gave her not only the
desired permission, but their full approval and cordial benediction. Full
of joy and gratitude, she changed her name as she had promised, and
henceforth we know her as Mother St. Joseph. In the world she had been
called Marie de la Troche, and her family was one of the highest in

The aged Archbishop at once ratified the selection of the community, and
warmly blessed the two candidates for the Mission, or, as he called them,
the two foundation stones of the temple about to be erected in the New
World for the glory of God. He prayed that the monastery at Quebec might
be a home of grace, peace and benediction; that the efforts of hell might
never prevail against it; and that the Lord might dwell there as the
Father and Spouse not only of these its first inmates, but of all who
should join or succeed them to the end of ages. He then appointed the
Mother of the Incarnation Superior.

When all the preliminaries seemed satisfactorily concluded, it was found
that an intimate friend of Madame de la Peltrie's had, at the last
moment, revoked a promise to accompany her, alarmed, it would seem, at
the perils of the voyage and the anticipated hardships of life in Canada.
The circumstance was embarrassing, as little time now remained to seek a
substitute, but the difficulty was removed in a manner as satisfactory as
it was unexpected. There was just then in Tours a young person of
respectable position and great piety, who, for the previous six years,
had been determined on consecrating herself to the service of God and her
neighbour in religion, but had deferred the execution of her design,
merely because uncertainty as to the particular Order she was destined
for. By the arrangement of Providence, her confessor, a Jesuit, happened
likewise to be at Tours precisely at the moment of the nuns' perplexity,
and, hearing of it, he suggested to them that the lady in question would
very probably answer their purpose. She was at once presented to the
missioners, and, on being asked by Madame de la Peltrie, whether she
would consent to go to Canada as her personal companion, she promptly
replied that her intention had been to become a nun, but that, since the
Almighty was pleased to offer her so glorious an opportunity of
sacrificing her life for Him, she would accept it with joy and gratitude.
Her family name of Charlotte Barre she exchanged later for that of Mother
St. Ignatius, under which we know her as the first sister professed at
the Ursuline Convent of Quebec.

Another attempt was still to be made by the enemy of souls to frustrate
the design of the Mother of the Incarnation, and her natural affections
were again the arms which he tried to turn against her. Intensely grieved
at the news of her intended departure, her sister employed every
imaginable argument to prevent it, and, finding all else fail, appealed
once more to her love for her son. She declared that if his mother
forsook him, so would every one else, beginning with herself. Threats
producing no impression, she went to the length of actually revoking the
small pension which she had agreed to settle on the boy, as a kind of
compensation to his mother for her services. But all was in vain: nothing
could shake her courageous soul. One last effort remained: it was to
apprise Claude Martin of his mother's intention, and inform him at the
same time, that she was to pass through Orleans, where he was then
studying, so that if he pleased he could have an opportunity of seeing
her and working on her feelings. The hint was not lost on him, as we
shall presently see.

On the 22nd of February, 1639, Mother Mary of the Incarnation bade a last
farewell to the convent at Tours. It is easy to picture the grief of the
Sisters at losing the beloved Mother whose example had been to all a
perpetual stimulus to perfection, and whose counsels had encouraged so
many to tread bravely the narrow path that leads to sanctity. The regret
of the pupils for their saintly teacher, was the highest tribute to the
gentleness and charity which, had so greatly endeared her to them. As to
herself, she seems all through to have had a presentiment that she was in
the monastery only as a deposit, to be one day reclaimed by the Heavenly
Master. Her only ties were those which bound her to Himself; when,
therefore, He demanded His own, her disengaged soul was free to hasten on
the wings of love, even to the farthest boundaries of the globe.

Before her departure, she had a vision in which the church of her adopted
country was represented to her as formed, not of stones, like ordinary
buildings, but of human beings, fastened each to a cross. She was shown
her destined place among the crucified, and made to understand the weight
of her especial cross. She saw, not only in general, but in detail, all
the afflictions that awaited her;--the agonies of interior desolation,
the bitterness of external trials--all were vividly depicted; and it was
intimated to her that henceforth she must serve the Lord at her own cost,
and prove her gratitude for great favours, by great generosity in self-
sacrifice. It was not long before she entered on the dolorous way which
was to be henceforward her path here below. Faithful to his aunt's
directions, her son watched for her arrival in Orleans, and at once
presented himself before her. Feigning ignorance of her project, he
inquired with well-assumed surprise, where she could possibly be

"To Paris," she replied.

"But are you not going farther?" he continued.

"Probably to Normandy," she said.

Seeing that she tried to avoid an explanation, he produced his aunt's
letter, with the enclosed deed revoking his pension. She read the letter,
every word of which must have been a torture, picturing as it did in
glowing colours the isolation, the neglect, the actual destitution which
awaited her boy, and raising her eyes to heaven, she exclaimed, "Oh! how
many artifices Satan uses to oppose the designs of God!" Then, with the
mingled tenderness of a mother and heroism of a saint, she asked, "My
son, during the eight years which have elapsed since I left you to
consecrate myself to God, have you wanted anything?"

"No, mother," he replied.

"Well, then," she said, "the past ought to be to you a security for the
future. Prove yourself the worthy child of God, the best of Fathers; keep
His commandments, trust in His Providence, and you will find that He
never disappoints those who fear Him. If I bid you adieu for the second
time, it is again to obey His voice. If you really love me, you will
rejoice that I have been chosen to labour for His honour among the
infidels." She continued for some time thus to speak to him in the
language of faith and love. As she raised his thoughts to heaven, his
better feelings prevailed, and when she concluded, he knelt at her feet
in tears and asked her blessing. He arose quite changed, burned the
exciting letters, and, in the simplicity of his heart, offered to God the
sacrifice of that holy mother whose loss he understood better now than at
their first separation. That sacrifice was to him the source of immense
graces and a fruitful seed of future sanctification.

Five days after leaving Tours, the missioners arrived in Paris, and were
at first lodged near the house of the professed Jesuits, whence they
afterwards removed to the Ursuline house of St. Jacques, where, as the
Venerable Mother remarks, "they found themselves once more in their
element." To their great joy, they succeeded in obtaining permission for
one of the religious of this monastery to accompany them to Canada, but
their satisfaction was of short duration, for the Archbishop soon
recalled the permission, and could not be induced to renew it.

A still more severe disappointment awaited the Mother of the Incarnation
before her departure. Her son, the object of so much solicitude, the
cause of so much sorrow, had just gladdened her heart by most
unexpectedly expressing a desire to become a Jesuit. To leave him in the
novitiate of a religious house, cut off from the troubles and temptations
of the world, and with nothing to divert him from the concerns of his
salvation, would have been the very crown and climax of her happiness--
but the way of the cross was to be hers. The Father appointed to examine
the young candidate thought him disqualified for religion; anxious,
however, to soften the pain of an absolute refusal, he suggested that
there might be a better chance at a future period, when the novitiate was
less crowded. An ever-ruling Providence had destined the youth for
another Order, and when God's time came, the disqualifications complained
of had disappeared; the present trial was, however, none the less painful
to his mother.

Before leaving Paris, the missioners had the honour of two interviews
with the Queen, Anne of Austria, who then expressed and ever after
manifested the liveliest interest in their great work. At Dieppe, the
port of embarkation, they were lovingly received by their Ursuline
sisters, who granted them not only hospitality, but the richer gift of
one of their own religious, Mother Cecilia of the Cross. And now the hour
of departure had come. Their indefatigable benefactor, Monsieur de
Bernières, who had never lost sight of them, continued to the last moment
to watch over their interests. His zeal would have prompted him to
accompany them to Canada, but it was thought he could assist them more
effectually by remaining in France to look after Madame de la Peltrie's
property. After their departure, he returned to Caen, where he resumed
his ordinary life of prayer, retirement, and good works. He carefully
managed Madame de la Peltrie's estate of Haranvilliers, collected the
rents, sent out regular supplies of provisions and other necessaries to
Canada, and proved himself in every respect the visible guardian angel of
the Ursuline Mission. In these charitable offices he persevered for
twenty years from the period of which we now write, and then his holy
life was crowned by a saintly death. On the 8th of May, 1659, he retired
to his oratory for evening meditation, as was his wont. His servant
entering at the appointed hour, found him absorbed in prayer, and left
him, as requested, to continue his devotions. Returning after some time,
he noticed that his master still knelt in the very same spot and attitude
as he had left him. He approached and spoke, but there was no answer: the
hands were clasped, the eyes raised to heaven, the happy soul had flown
to God!

Resuming the interrupted order of our history, we meet the Mother of the
Incarnation for the last time on the shores of France. Her final adieu
was addressed to the Mother Superior of Tours. If this letter breathes a
sigh, it is rather one of longing for the land of her exile, than of
regret for the land of her birth. "It is time for our last farewell," she
writes, "for now our Lord summons us to follow wherever it shall please
Him to lead. To-day the vessel will enter port, and as soon after as the
wind is favourable, we shall set sail. You can understand how long each
moment of delay appears to one who desires to give her life for her God.
O dear Mother! how powerful is the Divine Master of our hearts. If you
could see the effects of His interior operations on our Canadian band,
you would bless His goodness a thousand times. Every soul is on fire with
love, and, at the same time, annihilated in its own unworthiness and
abjection.... Madame de la Ville aux Clercs has presented us with some
rich ornaments for our future church in Canada; she is, then, our first
benefactress next to you, most dear Mother, who will always rank before
all others, since, not to speak of other gifts, you have bestowed
ourselves." Such was her leave-taking of her country, which she was never
to see again; of her home, which henceforth would know her no more for
ever. "The earth with its fulness is the Lord's" (Ps. xxiii. 1),
therefore all parts of it were alike to her, since in all she could find
her God; in all she could unite her heart to the loving heart of Jesus in
His own Sacrement; from all she could see in the distance the heavenly
home where her heart and hopes reposed, for there dwelt her Treasure. Yet
a little while, and the golden gates must open to her, for had she not
our Lord's own promise, that they who renounce all things for His sake
shall have everlasting life in exchange? Meantime, while waiting for the
vision of the beauty of her God, she would find as much happiness as she
looked for on earth, in labouring and suffering to promote His honour and
extend His reign.

THIRD PERIOD, 1639-1672.




It was on the 4th of May, 1639, that the 'St. Joseph' set sail from
Dieppe. The coincidences were cheering: with St. Joseph for pilot, the
sweet Star of the Sea for beacon light, and the Mother of St. Augustine
for protectress, the good ship might fairly have been expected to weather
all storms and brave all perils. It was accompanied by some other
vessels, bound like itself for the Western World. Many a guardian angel
must have rejoiced at the departure of that little fleet, bearing God's
messengers of salvation to nations seated in darkness and enveloped in
the shades of death. On board the 'St. Joseph,' as the safest and most
commodious of the ships, was the Ursuline colony, five in number,
including the Foundress with her secular companion, and three Hospital
Sisters from Dieppe, who were going to establish a house of the Hôtel
Dieu at Quebec, under the auspices of the Duchess d'Aiguillon, a niece to
Cardinal Richelieu. Father Vimont, a Jesuit, took passage in this ship;
Fathers Poncet and Chaumonot each in one of the others, thus the better
to ensure spiritual aid for the whole crew.

It was with joy in her heart, and thanksgiving on her lips, that the
Venerable Mother turned her face towards the great goal of her earthly
hopes, the savage land, where, as she said, she would have the chance of
risking her life for love of Him who had bestowed it. The first movement
of the vessel in that direction seemed to her like a step towards the
bliss of heaven and, under the sheltering wings of Providence, she felt
as tranquil on the treacherous waters as a child reposing at peace in its
mother's arms.

It was not long before the travellers had an opportunity of realizing how
securely grounded are the hopes which rest in God. Scarcely had they lost
sight of the French shore, when they came in view of a Spanish fleet,
evidently bearing towards them. The only means of escape was by sailing
close to the English coast. Thanks to Divine Providence, the plan
succeeded, but as it involved a deviation from their direct course, their
progress was, in consequence, so much retarded, that they did not clear
the Channel until the 20th of May.

The cabin assigned to the Sisters in the 'St. Joseph' was transformed
into a miniature monastery, where the conventual exercises were daily
gone through with admirable fervour and regularity. Meditation, Mass, and
Holy Communion, sanctified the early hours, and at stated intervals the
Office was recited in choir by the Ursulines on one side, and the
Hospital Sisters on the other, Father Vimont presiding. Although the
voyage was very long and tempestuous, the Holy Sacrifice was omitted only
on thirteen days of exceptional storm.

"They that go down to the sea in ships, doing business in the great
waters; these have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the
deep" (Ps. cvi. 23, 24). It was the Feast of the Holy Trinity. The last
sounds of the morning Office had just arisen from the Sisters' little
sanctuary, when with the dying echo of the song of praise mingled a cry
of terror from the watch on-deck. In the dense fog of the preceding
night, the ship had drifted alarmingly close to an iceberg, but of this
peril the crew, of course, remained unconscious while the fog continued.
At last the mist yielded to the sun's rays, and then the awful spectacle
broke on them in all its horrors. The iceberg was of enormous dimensions.
It looked, the Venerable Mother tells us, like a fortified city floating
on the deep; its frowning towers and battlements relieved here and there
by tall graceful spars, which imagination could easily have transformed
into spires and pinnacles of churches and turrets. On it came proudly
through the waters, as if impatient to crush the frail vessel that lay in
its path, utterly helpless and all but hopeless. Even the elements seemed
to have conspired for the destruction of that devoted ship; no friendly
breeze arose to send it bounding beyond the reach of danger; the winds
were hushed, and in the struggle for life, its chances were as nothing.
Death seemed so inevitable and so near, that Father Vimont gave a general
absolution, and all prepared as best they could to meet the fate from
which there appeared no escape. But where, meantime, was the heavenly
Star, to whose guidance they had confided themselves so lovingly and so
implicitly? Temporarily hidden, for the trial of their faith and trust,
but ready to shine out with renewed brightness as soon as both should
have been sufficiently proved. Just as the last faint hope was vanishing,
Father Vimont made a vow in the name of the ship's company to perform a
specified act of devotion in honour of the Mother of God, if she would
deign to take compassion, on them in this extremity of distress. Swifter
than thought, the prayer for mercy reached the throne of Heaven's Queen,
and with equal rapidity came the answer. As a last chance, the captain
issued orders, to turn the helm in a particular direction; the steersman,
misunderstanding, turned it in the opposite, and, wonderful to say, the
apparent mistake saved the ship. Obeying the new impulse, it was borne to
one side of the dreaded iceberg, and, when once out of its direct path,
the imminence of the danger was over. As it floated past the enormous,
moving mountain, the rescued crew could vividly realize the peril which
they had escaped, and estimate as it deserved the extent of their debt of
gratitude to the Heavenly Mother who had befriended them so effectually
in the hour of their extreme need.

After a tedious and in many ways trying voyage of three months, the 'St.
Joseph' touched at Tadoussac, where to their great joy, the Sisters met
several Indians. Never having seen white people before, the poor savages
were lost in astonishment, but how did their wonder redouble when they
learned that these ladies were "great captains' daughters," as they would
themselves have expressed it, who had quitted, home, country, and all the
comforts of civilized life, for no other purpose than to come and teach
them and their children how to escape eternal fire, and ensure
everlasting happiness! They could not comprehend the strange tidings, and
to discover if possible the real object of the new-comers, they followed
along the shore as the ship resumed its way to Quebec, keeping a close
and watchful eye on its movements.

The missioners spent their first night in Canada at the Isle of Orleans,
which they reached on the evening of the 31st of July. As they landed,
the sun had just set in all the splendour which his setting is wont to
wear in Canada. The sky was literally glowing with gorgeous colours of
every hue, intermingled with ethereal gold, as if in descending to his
rest, the mighty monarch had left a fold of his mantle of glory floating
on the western heavens, to symbolize that brighter mantle of celestial
light which soon would envelop the benighted race whom those devoted
missioners had come so far to seek and to help to save. The island was
uninhabited, so three wigwams were constructed in Indian fashion, one for
the Nuns, one for the Jesuits and a third for the sailors. Unable to
contain their holy joy, the Sisters entoned a canticle of thanksgiving,
and for the first time since their creation, those venerable woods re-
echoed with songs of praise to the one true God and His adorable
Incarnate Son.

On the following day, August the 1st, 1639, the missioners reached
Quebec. Their first act on landing was to kneel and reverently press
their lips to the soil of the adopted country which was to be to them
thenceforth in place of home and fatherland. They were received with the
greatest enthusiasm. The moment they stepped on shore, a salute was fired
from Fort St. Louis. They were met at the landing-place by the whole
population headed by the Governor-General, Monsieur de Montmagny, and the
Jesuit Fathers of the colony, and after mutual salutations, were escorted
to the church, where the holy Sacrifice was offered with all the
solemnity that circumstances permitted, the ceremony concluding with the
Te Deum. After having been hospitably entertained by the Governor, the
Sisters of the two communities proceeded to their destined dwellings. As
a mark of the general joy, the day was inscribed in the red letter
calendar and work totally suspended.

The next day, the Jesuits conducted the Sisters to the mission at
Sillery, already noticed in the introductory chapter as formed on the
model of the Reductions of Paraguay. It would need a skilful artist to
paint that beautiful scene; on the one hand, the heavenly joy of the
Mother of the Incarnation and her companions, at sight of the Indian
children, for whose spiritual and temporal welfare their hearts had so
long yearned with more than mother's love; on the other, the amazement of
the little ones at finding themselves the objects of so much unwonted
solicitude. Utterly bewildered, they at first received the Sisters'
caresses with the characteristic caution and reserve of their nation, but
the language of kindness is easily understood, and very soon the children
had rightly interpreted their visitors' affectionate advances. Attracted
by their gentleness, their affability, their unmistakable
disinterestedness, they followed them step by step through the hamlet,
gaining confidence every moment. With the whole savage population for
escort, the Sisters proceeded to the little church, which was the chief
ornament, as well as the great treasure of the village, and there the
Indians all joined in a hymn which the Jesuit Fathers had composed for
them in their own language. The strain was simple, the temple humble, the
congregation illiterate and poorly clad, yet who shall say that
colonnaded aisle or fretted dome of proud cathedral ever resounded with
music sweeter in the ear of heaven, than was that unpretending hymn of
the despised Indians! Who would not envy the emotions of the Venerable
Mother and her fervent Sisters, as they knelt in the lowly church among
the poor savages in the hamlet of Sillery! This visit over, the Ursulines
and Hospitaliers separated, each community repairing to its appointed
home. The Ursulines were located in the Lower Town, at the foot of the
mountain road, not far from the spot occupied later by the Church of Our
Lady of Victories. The Hospital Sisters were lodged near Fort St. Louis.

The abode assigned to the Ursulines until a monastery could be built for
them, contained only two apartments, the larger of which, sixteen feet
square, served at once as choir, parlour, refectory and common dormitory;
the second was reserved for the school-room. A little shed near the house
was fitted up as a chapel, and although so very poor as forcibly to
recall the stable of Bethlehem, it was precious to them beyond words to
tell, for there the adorable Sacrifice was henceforth daily offered, and
there too at all times dwelt quite close to them in the Sacrament of His
love, the Divine Spouse for whose sake they had renounced themselves and
all things here below. A wooden palisade round the dwelling supplied the
place of cloister walls. In this most miserable abode they spent three
years, amidst unimaginable privations and inconveniences, exposed to
extreme cold in winter, and overpowering heat in summer; breathing the
air vitiated by a crowd of Indians, whose uncleanly habits are
proverbial, and whose very clothes exhaled a sickening odour. When the
children presented themselves at the school for the first time, their
attire was scanty, and of the coarsest materials. They wore a mass of
tangled hair, guiltless since first it began to grow, of all acquaintance
with scissors, brush or comb, and they were covered all over with a
greasy substance, which to judge from the care employed in laying it on,
must have been deemed an indispensable finishing touch to the juvenile
Indian's toilet. To bring that untidy hair into order, and to remove that
personal adornment, unsightly in appearance, as unattractive in aroma,
became a question of privilege. The Foundress claimed it as her right,
because as she said, she was fit for nothing else, but others thought
themselves entitled to the honour too, so finally a compromise was agreed
on, and all had their turn. The children's uncivilized ways must no doubt
have at first occasioned many a mortification to the Sisters; for
instance, the Mother of the Incarnation tells us that they daily found
some disgusting mixture in their food, a bunch of hair, a handful of
cinders, or even an old shoe being no uncommon addition to the ordinary
ingredients, yet so completely did grace triumph over nature in these
Christian heroines, that unsavoury as was the seasoning of their soup,
and countless as were the discomforts of their position, they enjoyed
indescribable happiness in their poverty, and preferred their humble
lodging with its uncouth inmates, to the grandest mansion without them.
Their dwelling, they called the "Louvre", and in their poor pupils, the
eye of faith enabled them to discern ornaments more costly, more precious
and more prized than all the splendour which art can devise and wealth
purchase for the embellishment of regal palaces, for what is the value of
a palace, compared with that of a soul?



The Mother of the Incarnation at once recognised in her adopted country,
that which had been represented to her in her prophetic vision: the lofty
mountains, the vast forests, the boundless plains, the general aspect and
the minute details, all were the same, except that the mist was less
heavy. She was in the land to which God Himself had called her, as in the
olden days He had called the patriarch to the land of promise, and in her
sacrifice, as in that of Abraham, a great result was involved; to her
obedience, as to his, a magnificent reward was attached. Not only was she
to bring a blessing to Canada in her own person, elevating it by her
lessons and embalming it with her virtues; she was moreover to found a
community of Ursulines, who inheriting her spirit, would perpetuate her
labours and immortalize her zeal. She was to erect an edifice to the
Lord, in which His name should be taught and His praises sung, not for
the years of her own life only, but through ages to come, and by
generations yet unborn. She was to inaugurate the work of education, for
which her natural capabilities so eminently fitted her, and which under
God was to be the efficient instrument in her own hands for the present
improvement of the colony; in those of her future spiritual children for
the development of the work so happily begun. That work was very great,
but it must be owned too that its instrument was very perfect.

Without delay the little community entered on its special function, the
instruction of youth, opening schools on a limited scale both for Indians
and French. Before they could begin to teach the former, it was of course
necessary to learn their languages. In order the more readily to
accomplish the difficult task, they agreed to divide the study, the
Mothers of the Incarnation and Cecilia of the Cross applying themselves
to the Algonquin, the Mother St. Joseph to the Huron, and under the
direction of Father le Jeune, so rapid was their progress, that in two
months they were judged capable of catechising their young charge. Later
in life, the Venerable Mother learned the Huron.

The charity and fortitude of the Mothers was very soon put to a severe
test. Towards the end of August, the small-pox broke out among the
savages, with whom it is usually fatal. After spreading with frightful
rapidity through the hamlet of Sillery, it showed itself at the Ursuline
Convent in Quebec, which was soon transformed into an hospital. Some of
the children contracted the disease three different times, and four died
of it. Through the protection of heaven, their devoted nurses escaped
under circumstances which rendered their preservation almost miraculous.
Night and day they watched their beloved patients, inhaling only the
plague-tainted air of the small, overcrowded room, and having continually
to step across the infected beds, which for want of space were laid
closely together along the floor. During the six months which the malady
lasted, these heroines of charity seemed to vie with each other in the
performance of the most bumbling and revolting offices, the Foundress
setting the example of self-abnegation and devotedness. Their sole
apprehension all through, was lest the panic-stricken savages might
remove their children from the monastery, and thus deprive them of the
spiritual blessings in store, an idea being prevalent among the
unconverted Indians, that the small-pox was a consequence of receiving
baptism, and of associating with the French. Fortunately the fear proved
groundless, for the little ones were afterwards confided in larger
numbers than ever, to the care of their tender, self-sacrificing Ursuline
mothers. When at last the contagion disappeared, the wardrobe of the
charitable Sisters was found not to have been the least of the sufferers
in the cause, every available article of clothing having been converted
into bandages for the sores of the poor patients.

The accounts from Canada might naturally have been expected rather to
check than to encourage vocations for the Ursuline mission, but on the
contrary, each letter from the Mother of the Incarnation to her Sisters
of Paris and Tours, served only to stimulate a holy emulation to share in
her sacrifices. "To enter," she says, "into the true spirit of a
missioner to Canada, the soul must die to all things created; on this
point, the Almighty Master is inexorable. Interior death is no doubt the
sure road to life in God, but who can describe what it costs nature thus
to die!" Notwithstanding the Venerable Mother's forewarnings, the Mother
Superior of the Paris convent prevailed on the Archbishop to allow two of
the Sisters to follow their call to Canada. The privileged two were the
Mother St. Athanasius and St. Clare, who in the world had borne the names
of Margaret de Flécelles and Anne le Bugle. On the 7th of July, 1640,
they landed at Quebec to the great joy of their expectant Sisters. This
addition to the original number necessitated the immediate building of a
monastery, which want of means had hitherto retarded.

It has been already noticed in our rapid sketch of the Ursuline Order,
that, while its spirit and end are everywhere uniform, the great family
having but one heart and one soul in God, the particular rules and
practices of the different Congregations vary on some points. As these
separate Congregations are never intermingled, no confusion or
inconvenience can possibly arise from difference of usages, but in the
instance of the Quebec Ursulines, the case was altered. The Mothers of
the Incarnation and St. Joseph were of the Congregation of Bordeaux,
which does not make the vow of the instruction of youth; the rest of the
Sisters belonged to that of Paris, which does. Again, there were some
points of difference in the costume of the two Congregations. As they
were henceforth to form but one community, it was evident to all that
diversity in any particular, would, for many reasons, be inadmissible.
But, if uniformity of life was indispensable, much tact and prudence were
needed in the adoption of the means best calculated to establish it.
Happily, the Mother of the Incarnation excelled in these great gifts,
and, best of all, she possessed in an eminent degree that heavenly wisdom
derived from her habitual communication with the Divine Source of light.
She held many consultations with her Sisters, evincing in all her
suggestions the practical good sense, mature experience, and gentle
moderation so conspicuous in her. As the little assembly had no object at
heart but the glory of God, their deliberations were quickly and happily
closed. In the decisions adopted, the natural feelings of both parties
seem to have been respectfully and tenderly considered. It was arranged
first, that the vow of instruction should be taken by all, but under the
condition that it should bind the Sisters of the Congregation of Bordeaux
only during their stay in Canada; secondly, that the costume of the
Congregation of Bordeaux should be substituted for that of Paris. Some
other necessary modifications of the rules were agreed on. with equal
unanimity. The decision was referred for approval to the Communities of
Paris and Tours, to whom it gave the most unqualified satisfaction. The
particular rules then accepted were observed until 1647, when, at the,
request of the Community, Father Lalemant drew up others equally in
accordance with the engagements of the Sisters, but better adapted to
their new country. These continued in force until 1682, when, at the
recommendation of Bishop Laval, the Ursulines of Quebec were affiliated
to those of the Congregation of Paris.

Uniformity of observance being thus established, the fervent Sisters
pursued their work with redoubled zeal, exhibiting in their daily
practice the virtues of the ancient solitaries; sustained in the hourly
trials of their mortified lives by that heavenly love which sweetens
suffering, and encouraged in their difficulties by the example of a
Superior who never asserted her authority except to claim for herself the
largest share of the common hardships, seeming to think that the first
place in rank, entitled her also to the place nearest her crucified Lord.
It was a common saying of these generous lovers of the cross; that if
they had anything to complain of in Canada, it was that they had not
enough to suffer. "You say," wrote the Mother of the Incarnation, some
years later, "that my actual experiences of Canada are something very
different from my anticipations. You are right in the remark, but not in
the sense which you attach to it. My life of labour and privation is so
full of consolation, that I now thoroughly realize how sweet is the yoke
and how light the burden of the Lord. The happiness which I experience
when I teach a poor savage to know God, is a solace in pain and a
refreshment in weariness." Canada, with all its sharp, thorns, she called
her paradise, and the company of her uncouth little Indian pupils, she
prized a thousand times beyond that of the greatest and highest of
earthly queens.

In the spring of 1641 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid by
Madame de la Peltrie in the present Upper Town of Quebec, and there, at
the close of nearly two centuries and a half, the Ursuline Convent still
stands. At the period we speak of, the ground was not even cleared; the
woodman's axe was the first implement needed in the construction of the
new monastery; tradesmen were few, wages high, and the poverty of the
country extreme. But at the time of the Venerable Mother's prophetic
vision, more than once referred to, our Lord had told her to go to
Canada, and there build a house for Jesus and Mary. He who had given the
command would, she knew, supply the means for its execution, so with
boundless trust in His providence, she confidently undertook her task,
although to human prudence it might have seemed hopeless.



Meantime, the work of zeal and love went on actively at the "Louvre."
Besides the "seminarists," or resident pupils, who were always as
numerous as space admitted, and the day scholars, who included all
children old enough to be taught, adults of both sexes received daily
instruction--the women in the school-room, the men at the parlour
grating--all manifesting equal eagerness to hear the word of God; all
afterwards showing in their altered lives the miraculously transforming
power of Divine grace. So great was the desire of the seminarists to
learn, that they would ask their mistresses, to punish them if they
failed in diligence; and when any one bad committed a fault, she, of her
own accord, begged pardon on her knees. The piety of these poor children
of the wilds was truly admirable, and especially so was the ardour with
which they received the doctrine of the Heal Presence of Jesus in His
Adorable Sacrament. "I never saw livelier joy," wrote the Mother St.
Joseph, "than in three of our pupils, each aged twelve, when told that
they were to be admitted to the Holy Table at Easter. They listened, as
if entranced, to the instructions on the Most Blessed Eucharist, and
seemed to possess a comprehension of the Mystery of Love quite beyond
their years. They begged to be allowed to fast on the eve of their first
Communion, a practice which they afterwards observed every time they
communicated. One day, while a Jesuit Father was speaking to them of
their approaching happiness, a little child of six ventured to present
her baby pleadings to be allowed to join them. The Father told her she
was too young. "Oh, Father!" she said, "do not send me away because I am
too young; you will see that I shall soon be as old and as tall as my
companions." She was allowed to assist at the instructions, which she
understood and retained so as to surprise all who questioned her;
nevertheless, she had to resign herself to wait yet longer for the much-
desired day. Her mother, coming soon after to see her, the child
undertook to instruct her in the holy truths of faith by the help of
pictures. Having taught her to pray, she proceeded to initiate her in the
mysteries of a lesson in reading, pointing out the letters in a book. To
please her dear child, the good Mother repeated the sounds one by one as
if she had been saying a lesson. "When our child returns to us," she said
to the Mothers, "she will prepare her father and me for Baptism, which we
are very desirous to receive." "The sentiments of our pupils on the Holy
Communion," wrote Madame de la Peltrie, "are most edifying. When asked
why they desire so much to receive it, they tell us that it is because
Jesus Himself will enter their souls, to purify and adorn them. The
countenance of my god-daughter, Mary, sometimes actually beams with joy,
and, if questioned as to its cause, she is sure to answer, "I am soon to
make my first Communion." The Indian pupils were sometimes heard
discussing what each, considered the greatest favour she had received
from God. The answer from one would be, "That He has made me a
Christian;" from another, "That He became man to rescue me from hell." On
one of these occasions, a little voice was heard to say, "The greatest
favour that Jesus does us, is to give Himself for our food in the Holy
Eucharist." The speaker, though only nine years of age, had made her
first Communion a year and a half before. The Mother of the Incarnation,
who mentions the circumstance, adds the reflection, "Are not such
sentiments admirable in children born in the very bosom of barbarism and
infidelity?" If a pupil saw a companion commit a fault, she checked her
by the simple words, "Take care, or your guardian angel will go away."

In proportion as the souls of these poor children opened to the softening
influence of religion, so did the hitherto latent qualities of their
better nature manifest themselves more clearly. In the genial atmosphere
of charity, their hearts expanded as flowers in sunshine, developing a
depth, a constancy, and a delicacy of feeling which none would have
suspected to underlie manners so cold, and characters apparently so
apathetic. They learned fully to appreciate, and sought only how best
they might return the tenderness of their devoted Mothers, and, as
affection is a ready teacher, they were not slow to discover that the
best proof of their gratitude would be found in strict compliance with
the wishes of their instructresses; hence the docility to directions, the
submission to reproof, the respect for school regulations, exemplified in
the daily lives of the seminarists, and all the more to be admired that
such practices were foreign to their habits and repugnant to their
nature. Madame de la Peltrie writes that they showed her the deference
and love of fond children, as well as a degree of refinement which, she
says, she would never have expected from savages. In her temporary charge
of them during the nuns' annual retreat, she found no difficulty in
enforcing silence; it was enough for them to know that their dear Mothers
were spending the week with God; the mere fear of even slightly
disturbing them, proved a sufficient restraint. If the Foundress
occasionally happened to be absent for a short time on some errand of
mercy, they were inconsolable until her return, which they greeted with
joyous acclamations. Once they were told that the Mother of the
Incarnation was ill, and would die if they made a noise. At the sound of
the word _die_, they burst into tears, and, with a consideration
which would have done honour to more polished natures, they kept
perfectly still, afraid, as it seemed, to move, or almost to breathe,
lest dreaded death should come and claim their first, best earthly
friend. As early as 1641, the Venerable Mother described the converts in
general as transformed beings--barbarians no longer, but fervent
Christians, animated, by a truly heavenly spirit. She, too, remarks, that
in refinement of feeling, they might have competed with many a favoured
child of civilization, and so charmed was she with the beautiful
simplicity of their piety, that she declares she would rather have
listened to their unstudied eloquence, than to the finished oratory of
the first speaker in Europe.

A remarkable characteristic of the converts, both adult and young, was
their ardour for the propagation of the faith among their countrymen; not
only, then, had the Mothers the consolation of seeing the fruit of their
labours among their immediate pupils, but that also of knowing that
through the zeal of these, the heavenly word would be borne far and wide
over the pagan land. So impressed were the Jesuit Fathers with the value
of this kind of apostolate, that they were wont to say, "One converted
Indian, who leads a truly Christian life, can do more good among the
infidels than three missioners." This spirit of zeal early manifested
itself among the seminarists at the convent. It was admirable to hear the
more grown teaching the less advanced the Christian doctrine, repeating
the questions which had been asked to themselves at catechism, and
exciting the interest of the new-comers by explaining the subject of a
pious picture, or relating an attractive history. Even some of the very
young ones had their own little mission of charity. One interesting child
in particular, was to be seen surrounded by a class of tiny ones younger
than herself, whom she assiduously catechised, teaching them especially
how to prepare for confession, and exhorting them above all things never
to conceal a sin. To the zeal of a Huron girl named Teresa, the first
Ursuline pupil of that nation, many of her countrymen were indebted for
their conversion. Though only about thirteen years of age, she spoke to
them of God with an earnestness and a force that they could not resist.
One of the converts, wishing to test her, feigned to have given up the
idea of receiving baptism nearly on the eve of the day fixed for its
administration. Inexpressibly grieved, she reproached him for his
inconstancy in the strongest terms, but, finding that her eloquence
seemed to produce no impression, she hastened, all in tears, to the
Mother of the Incarnation, beseeching her to use her influence with the
supposed apostate. "Oh!" she exclaimed in the vehemence of her
indignation, "if I could only have broken the grating which divided us, I
would have beaten him well!" The astonished Mother soon learned the
truth, but it was difficult to undeceive the sorely-afflicted Teresa.

Not seeing the Mothers during the eight days of their annual retreat, the
savages concluded that they concealed themselves to pray. On one of these
occasions Teresa determined to imitate them, so she hid behind the
palisade, and spent the day in prayer. When discovered at last by one of
her companions, and asked what she was doing, she replied, "I hide like
the Mothers to pray for you, for myself, for the French, and for the
Indians." "She is so constant in her faith, so well instructed, so
fervent," said one of her own race, "that it would seem as if she had not
been born a Huron. When she comes home she will be looked up to by the
whole tribe. Her teacher must surely be one of the wisest persons in all
France." On her way back to her own country, she was seized by the
Iroquois, together with Father Jogues and some of her relatives, and in
her captivity not only retained her faith, but professed it with the
heroism of a martyr. Deeply concerned at her fate, the Ursulines
interested all the authorities in her behalf, and, thanks to the
exertions of her good Mothers, her deliverance was stipulated for in the
arrangement of the articles of peace at the general meeting in 1645.

Besides religious and moral training, the seminarists received a simple
elementary education, comprising chiefly reading, writing, and
needlework. Before long, two of the more grown were able to write their
own language so well as to venture on letters to an absent Jesuit Father.
Great was the delight of their parents when shown the mysterious
productions. They took them reverently into their hands, turned them
cautiously in every direction, and begged to hear the contents again and
again, equally charmed and surprised to find that the paper could speak,
and in their own language too. It was always a matter of wonder to them
to hear that a few characters traced on paper could convey thought to the
remotest distance.

Another object of intense amazement was the first clock brought by the
missioners to the country of the Hurons. They called it 'The Captain of
the Day,' and many were the inquiries each time they came, how often he
had spoken since their last visit. Lest they should lose the benefit of
any of his remarks, they sometimes waited hour after hour to hear him
speak again. They were puzzled about his food, but never at a loss to
interpret the stroke which announced the hour of the good Fathers' frugal
meal, in which they fully calculated on sharing.

The Indians are fond of music, so to attract the adults, the Mothers of
Incarnation and St. Joseph taught their little pupils to sing hymns, and
many a grave chief listened with delight to the simple lay, returning the
compliment by a performance in Indian measure. A record has been
preserved of a certain old-fashioned stringed instrument in the convent
which greatly charmed the audience. Among the early pupils was a child of
twelve, whose disposition was so gentle that she received the name of
Agnes, and whose ear was naturally so attuned to all sweet sounds, that
she was considered capable of being taught to accompany her own warble on
the said wonderful instrument. When her parents removed her in due time
from school, still she sang God's praises among the echoes of the woods--
not only sang herself, but taught to others the hymns she had learned in
her Ursuline home--gathering a little choir about her in the heart of the
silent wilderness, and making it her holy joy thus to promote piety among
her companions. The predestined child desired to consecrate herself to
God in religion, but her Heavenly Father accepted the wish, and called
her to Himself at the age of fifteen.

But if the labours of the first Mothers were very richly repaid by the
pupils in general, it must be owned that their forbearance was often
severely tried by some among them, known as the vagrants of the woods.
The wild, free life of the forest had charms for these, for which all the
comforts of civilization could not compensate. Like caged birds, they
would flutter against the bars, and, at the first opportunity, break
through them, to fly back to their cabins and independence. Once a young
Algonquin was thus attacked by home-sickness; the Mothers did their best
to comfort and encourage her, but all in vain. The melancholy mood grew
deeper and darker--so dark at last, that, unable to bear the restraint
any longer, the truant jumped through the window, leaped the cloister
palisade, and fled in the direction of the woods. In a few minutes she
looked back, expecting to see a persuer, but, finding that her flight had
caused no concern, she began already to repent of it. Her reception at
home was rather cool, and when, a few days after, she proposed to her
mother to return to the monastery, the readily accorded permission was
accompanied by a significant hint not to leave again without being sent.
With a light heart, she presented herself at the convent door; but, alas!
it would not open. Her place, the portress told her, had been given to
another pupil. Vain were her entreaties, her tears and her sobs, for the
Mother of the Incarnation had decided on strict measures with the little
wanderers, who, by their restlessness, disturbed the peace and order of
the house. But nothing like perseverance! Poor Catherine watched for the
arrival of the day pupils, and so effectually did she excite their
compassion by her tale of woe, that they agreed to let her fall into the
ranks. When the door unclosed for their admission, she rushed to the feet
of the Mother of the Incarnation, confessed her fault, and asked pardon.
Touched by her penitence and promises the good Mother relented; Catherine
was restored to favour, and never again did she deserve a reproof or even
a reproach.

Another child, aged eight, stole away from the monastery, and spent the
winter with her parents at some distance from Quebec. When they returned
to the town in spring, she applied for re-admission, but the request was
refused. She persisted, but so did the Mothers too. At last she bethought
herself that by joining the procession on the festival of Corpus Christi,
she would be entitled to accompany her parents to the feast at the
convent, which was always understood to follow the devotions, and she
calculated that once there, it would be easy to keep her ground.
Accordingly, she took her place among the guests, but when the time came
for retiring, instead of joining them, she threw herself on her knees at
the door and repeated her petition. Another refusal--but, determined to
succeed, she crouched outside the door. Night came, and with it came
rain, and still the repentant culprit kept her post, so the kind-hearted
Mothers were constrained to admit her, and she eventually became an
example of virtue to the school.

The banquets at the "Louvre," to which we have alluded, were conducted
after a very original fashion; the bill of fare was restricted to one
dish, and this, as the receipt shows, could be prepared with little
expenditure of culinary skill, yet it fully satisfied the simple guests.
It was composed of bread, maize or pea-flour, and black plums, all boiled
together; and, as the savages relish unctuous food, a few melted tallow
candles and some rich pork were added for seasoning. On this dainty dish,
as many as sixty or eighty Indians were occasionally regaled at a time,
in what they considered splendid style. The Indians have no fixed hours
for meals. Hunger is the signal for beginning; the disappearance of the
provisions that for concluding. The latter point is one of strict

It would seem as if even the ingenuity of charity had left nothing undone
for the gratification of the poor savages, but it was not so. One day
that Father Lalemant visited the school-room, the children gathered round
him with an air of mystery and importance, as if burdened with some
weighty secret. "Look at our clothes, Father," they said; "you can see
that they are faded and worn, and, as our Mothers do not give us new
ones, we cannot look as smart as the French girls, which makes us
sorrowful." Much amused, the Father reported the complaint of the little
ones to the Venerable Mother. Without showing the least surprise at it,
or reminding the children of all her generosity, she at once provided
each with a new red dress, adding new shoes and stockings, and assisting
to prepare the finery with her own hands, lest, as she said, any
impression of sadness might connect itself with the memory of their first
instruction in the faith, and the Divine seed be thus hindered from
striking deep root and producing rich fruit.

Madame de la Peltrie had provided for the maintenance of six seminarists,
but this number had gradually swelled to eighteen, all of whom were not
only supported but likewise clothed from the common fund. The adult
Indians who crowded to the monastery for instruction, also expected and
invariably received hospitality, which was, moreover, occasionally
extended to the families of the pupils. The pecuniary resources of the
convent were wholly inadequate to meet so many claims on its charity, and
at the same time, defray its own moderate expenditure. But the self-
denying Mothers struggled bravely through their poverty, and by the
generous aid of benefactors in France, they managed not only to continue
their alms to the adults and to retain their seminarists, but by degrees
considerably to increase the number of these last.

Among the first pupils were some of very tender age, little ones of six
and less. One of these was brought to the Mother of the Incarnation, all
covered with small-pox. Young as she was, she had attended her parents
through the terrible malady, and after the death of both, had contracted
it herself. She recovered, and proved her gratitude to her devoted friend
by showing herself so perfect a model of obedience, that she would even
anticipate orders, running to put herself in the way if she thought there
was a chance of her being employed. Another would begin her baby prayers
of her own accord the moment she awoke, say her rosary during Mass, and
recreate herself by singing little hymns. A third, of scarcely four,
paralysed in all her limbs, gave ample exercise to the patience of the
kind mothers. Once her mistress had to rise four times in one night to
soothe the poor little sufferer. Next day, a companion remarked,
"Charity," for so the child was called, "Charity, you gave a great deal
of trouble to your mistress last night." "I know I did," coolly replied
Charity, "but my dear mistress is very good, and what she did for me was
just what she would have done for the Child Jesus, if He had been in my
place." Ah, wise little one! you have found out the secret--"Whatever you
did. to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me "(St. Matt. xxv.
40). In the eye of faith, the untutored Indian was as exalted, because as
much the representative of God, as the lady of noble birth or even royal
lineage; so, each object of loving care in that house of charity might
equally have said of every act of every Sister, "What she did for me, is
what she would have done for the Child Jesus in my place."



While the Mother of the Incarnation was thus spending her days in the
practice of the heroic charity and austere penance which possessed equal
attractions for her, pursuing the work of zeal which of all others she
loved best, and living in the heart of what was, perhaps the most fervent
portion of God's Church in those days, it would appear to us as if,
though still on earth, she had partially anticipated heaven; but heaven,
even on earth was not to be yet, for the measure of her merits, and,
therefore, of her sufferings, was not filled up. As we have already more
than once remarked, the Almighty had called her to a sublime degree of
purity of soul; to the end of life, therefore, He would furnish her with
opportunities of advancing in the virtue which here below can never
attain its last perfection, some alloy of the love of self mingling to
the end with the love of God, even in the holiest. As the virtue is one
which thrives best under the cross, He would re-conduct her to her well-
known place on Calvary, and subject her once more to the salutary action
of interior tribulation. She felt again as if suddenly deprived of all
the Divine gifts and favours, and reduced to the very extreme of
spiritual indigence. Her natural talents and capabilities seemed
paralysed; desolation overwhelmed her, temptations to anger, antipathy
and even despair pressed on her. The last, especially, became so
importunate, that she seemed to herself sometimes on the very brink of
the dread abyss, and might have echoed the words of the Psalmist, "The
sorrows of death have compassed me, and the perils of hell have found me"
(Ps. cxiv. 3). Not only had the Almighty apparently withdrawn His gifts,
but, hardest of all to bear, He had concealed Himself. Now and again a
ray of heavenly consolation beamed on her afflicted soul, but, like the
lightning's flash on the angry sky, it illumined for a moment, only to be
followed by deeper darkness. To her internal agonies were added external
trials of various kinds, including most painful contradictions and
humiliations. Support from creatures there was none, and even the
sympathy of friendship was denied her. She seemed to have lost confidence
in her holiest advisers, while, by the permission of God, she herself
became to others a subject of temptations to aversion. Oppressed with the
sense of her utter unworthiness, and brought down to the lowest depth of
interior abjection, she dared scarcely look at or address her Sisters.
She was alone in her agony, like the Divine Sufferer in the garden, and,
in the spirit of utter annihilation of self, and entire abandonment to
God, her desolate heart re-echoed the sublime cry of His agony, "Father,
not my will but Thine be done."

It is her own teaching, that the nearer the soul approaches to God, the
more distinctly also she discerns her sinfulness and misery; the more
clearly she sees the many hitherto unsuspected windings and lurking-
places of corrupt nature; the better, consequently, she understands how
numerous still are the impediments which must be removed before she can
fully and freely expand her wings and take her flight to her Lord. Of
this truth she had now renewed personal experience. In the high degree of
Divine union to which she had attained, she saw her imperfections in a
clearer light than ever, and the view filled her with confusion and
compunction. That by the help of Divine grace, she had through life been
preserved from every sin of deliberation, was the opinion of competent
judges, well acquainted with her soul's history. The imperfections which
she so bitterly deplored were, then, only an occasional infidelity to the
grace which had called her from early years to perfect detachment from
creatures and from self, or, at most, they were but the faults of
frailty, ignorance, surprise and inadvertence, from which even the saints
are not exempt in this life; but, viewed as they now were in their closer
contrast with the sanctity of God, they assumed a more serious aspect
than ever before. Her habitual horror of the very slightest faults was
intensified; her ordinary almost incredible care to avoid them,
increased. Inflamed with a holy zeal for the vindication of the rights of
Divine justice, as well with an insatiable ardour for the triumph of
God's pure love in her soul, she humbly bowed beneath the hand that
crucified her, confessing herself deserving of all chastisement, and,
praying that the last remnant of the love of self might be exterminated
from her heart at any cost of suffering and humiliation. 'O merciful
Lord!' she cried, send me a thousand torments, and as many deaths as I
respirations, rather than permit that I should offend Thee.' Looking on
her slow interior martyrdom as the instrument in God's hand for the
purification of her soul, she would not have exchanged its pangs for
imaginable joys united. Greatly as her trials on this occasion must have
promoted her personal sanctification, a second important result was
involved in them. In the generosity of her charity, she had offered
herself to suffer for the sins of two persons whose conversion she most
ardently desired; while, therefore, the Almighty 'proved her as gold in
the furnace, that she might found worthy of Himself' He at the same time
'received her as a victim of a holocaust', that through her sufferings
other souls might be made worthy of Him too (Wisdom iii. 5,6). But if He
accepted the oblation, and rewarded the sacrifice, it was not until the
victim had been entirely immolated.

As if to crown the tribulations of the Venerable Mother, it was while her
interior trials were at their height, that Madame de la Peltrie, the main
pillar of the Ursuline foundation, resolved to remove to Montreal, where
a new settlement was about to be established as a check to the incursions
of the Iroquois. Monsieur de Maisonneuve, the destined founder, was
accompanied by a troop of colonists, brave and chivalrous as himself;
also by Mademoiselle Mance, whose particular mission was to open a
convent of Hospital Sisters at Ville Marie, as the projected city was to
be called. The season being too far advanced for the commencement of
operations, the party passed the winter at Sillery, where Madame de la
Peltrie made acquaintance with Mademoiselle Mance. The intended
foundation naturally formed an ordinary topic of conversation during the
long evenings, and so strongly was Madame de la Peltrie's interest in it
excited, that in the end, she resolved to give it her personal co-
operation. Not being bound to the Ursulines by vow or formal engagement
of any kind, she was of course at perfect liberty to withdraw from them,
but the parting from one so dear was very painful to all, especially the
much tried Mother. The amiable Foundress had gained the affection and
esteem both of the Sisters and the pupils, cheerfully sharing the labours
and privations of the one, and devoting herself in the self-sacrificing
spirit of true charity to the care of the others: all loved and regretted
her, nevertheless she departed, impelled by the desire to accomplish what
she considered a more useful work. In her zeal for souls, she would have
flown, not merely to Montreal, but to the world's end, and when it
appeared to her that by going, she could extend her sphere of good, and
thereby more largely promote the glory of God, no hesitation was
admitted. She was accompanied by Charlotte Barré. On the 17th of May,
1642, the colonists landed on the Isle of Montreal.

Besides the trial to their feelings, the separation from their Foundress
was a source of serious pecuniary embarrassment to the Ursulines. If
before, they had been poor, they were now reduced to absolute
destitution. Madame de la Peltrie having found it necessary to remove her
furniture, they retained only a few articles which they had brought from
France, among the rest, three beds for their fourteen pupils. "The
children have to sleep on boards," wrote the Mother of the Incarnation;
"we do what we can to soften the hard couches, and as a substitute for
bed clothes, we borrow skins from the stores, the only alternative left
us in our poverty." But it was not the extreme indigence around her that
afflicted the Venerable Mother; the example of her Lord and Saviour had
on the contrary rendered this precious in her eyes and dear to her heart
If her soul was rent, it was chiefly by the dread of having to dismiss
her beloved pupils back to their native wilds. In one single year, fifty
Indian children had been taught, and more than seven hundred adults of
both sexes had received spiritual and corporal aid. Was this magnificent
harvest to be thus prematurely blighted?

Monsieur de Bernières had formally announced the necessity of dismissing
the pupils and discontinuing the new building, adding, that if Madame de
la Peltrie persisted in her present intention, the Sisters would have no
alternative but to return to France, unless indeed some other charitable
person would undertake the responsibility of providing for them. But
gloomy as were the prospects of the little community, the Mother of the
Incarnation never wavered in her trust in God. She resolved to retain her
scholars, to distribute her accustomed alms, and to continue the
building, writing as usual to Monsieur de Bernières for supplies for the
house, and inclosing him the bills for the workmen's wages. Who that
witnessed her calm, brave fortitude, could have suspected how immensely
the weight of the visible cross was aggravated by that of the invisible?
Yet it is certain that the external was but a faint image of the
internal. Still, beneath their united pressure, she discharged her
multiplied exterior duties with a punctuality, an energy and a presence
of mind which proved the extent of her disengagement from self, while by
her exactitude to the least of the conventual observances, she continued
to sustain her claim to the title of a living rule. Acting on her own
maxim, that fidelity in small things is the guardian of fidelity in
greater, she knew no distinction between lesser and more important
regulations; in her view, all were of equal consequence. She took her
share of the menial duties, which for the first years weighed heavily on
the community in consequence of their having no lay Sisters. No
indisposition or infirmity, no pressure of business or excess of fatigue
could induce her to deviate in one iota from the practices of common
life. Ever active and indefatigable, she might be seen, now teaching and
tending her dear Indian children, now directing the building of the new
convent, now superintending the domestic details of the monastery, and
all the time fulfilling to the least particular the duties of her
responsible office as Superior. She was the last to retire to rest at
night, the first to appear in the morning, and ever to be found either in
communion with God, or engaged in the active occupations of her charge.

It was at this period that she commenced correspondence with several
religious communities, and numerous pious seculars in France, in order to
engage their interest for the Indians. The number of her letters is
something wonderful, especially during her first twelve years in Canada,
and the alms which she thus procured, supplied the most pressing wants of
the institution. "This is but my second letter," she says in one place,
"since the arrival of the ships; they leave in a fortnight, and I have to
answer two hundred." In another, she remarks, "My hand is so tired that I
can scarcely hold the pen, but so it is that we must pass our time, while
waiting for the eternity which will never pass." The words, "Short
labour, eternal rest," formed her ordinary motto. Besides her letters on
business to persons of all conditions, she maintained a constant
correspondence with her son and her niece from the time of their joining,
the one the Benedictine, and the other the Ursuline Order. These last,
like all her spiritual letters, are replete with solid maxims of
practical piety, and manifest a knowledge of the secrets of the interior
life which could have been acquired only in her close and habitual
communications with God. While going through this almost incredible
amount of work, she never lost her calm self-possession and firm control
over natural feeling. More than twenty times in one morning, it has
happened her to be interrupted at an occupation, and never by look or
word was she known to betray annoyance or impatience.

The first elections at the Quebec Convent took place on the 12th of June,
1642, when the Mother of the Incarnation resumed the burden which for the
previous three years she had borne by the appointment of the Archbishop
of Tours. On the twenty-first of the following November, the feast of the
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, the little community bade adieu to
the miserable dwelling which had sheltered them for three years, and
become endeared as the scene of their first labours and their first
successes in Canada. The new building was in so unfinished a state as to
be barely habitable; consequently the first winter was one of extreme
suffering from cold. Stoves were a luxury unknown for many a year, and to
preserve themselves from being frozen at night, the poor Mothers had to
sleep in something like wooden chests. Notwithstanding its many
inconveniences, the new convent excited the unbounded admiration of the
Indians, especially the children, who were overjoyed at the prospect of
inhabiting so splendid a "Cabin."

After the Venerable Mother had borne her weight of mental anguish for
three years, the Almighty was pleased to alleviate it, propitiated as it
would seem by a new self-imposed and very heroic act of humiliation.
Externally too, prospects brightened. After spending eighteen months in
Montreal, Madame de la Peltrie resolved to return to Quebec. Her zeal for
the conversion of the savages urging her to attempt even impossibilities,
she had for a time entertained serious thoughts of penetrating to the
country of the yet pagan Hurons, but a Jesuit Father just returned from
those missions, dissuaded her from an undertaking so far above her
strength. In compensation, she provided for the permanent support of an
additional missions in that district. While at Montreal, she wrote to the
Mother of the Incarnation to explain that her great inducement in going
there, had been the hope of establishing a convent of Ursulines in the
town, a new proof that her holy ardour for the salvation of souls was
worthy of all praise. During this visit, she stood sponsor at the
baptismal font for an Algonquin Chief.

It is easier to imagine than to describe the joy with which her return
was greeted by the Sisters, the pupils, and most of all, the Mother on
whom had fallen the heaviest portion of the burden entailed by her
absence. Now, no future parting need be dreaded. To the last breath of
life she would cling to the friends whose difficulties and troubles she
had so generously shared from the first, and among the most precious of
her legacies to the Ursulines would be ranked the example of her zeal,
her charity, her humility, and her admirable self-abnegation. Without
assuming the obligations of a religious, she conformed in all respects to
the rule and discipline of the house, and so remarkable was her
punctuality, that the signal for regular observance was never given with
greater exactitude, than when it happened to be her turn to ring the



The mental sufferings of the Mother of the Incarnation had abated at the
end of three years, but they were very far from having wholly ceased.
They were to be traced in part, as we have seen, to that heroic act of
self-immolation by which she had offered herself as a victim to Divine
justice for the salvation of two erring souls very dear to her heart, and
until grace should have fully triumphed over both, her martyrdom was not
to terminate. These objects of her holy solicitude were her son, and one
of her nieces.

The former, as may be remembered, had applied for admission to the Jesuit
novitiate, much about the time of the Venerable Mother's departure for
Canada, and not being considered suitable for the Order, had been
rejected. The disappointment preyed on him for a while, but hope soon
succeeded to despondency. If the cloister was closed, the world, he
argued, was open to him. Why not then seek in the latter, the happiness
which he had vainly dreamed of finding in the former? Why not choose one
among the many paths to distinction which untried life held out so
temptingly, and take his chance of success as others had done before him?
Lured onwards by ambition, he resolved to settle in Paris, naturally
supposing that the Queen's well-known veneration for his saintly Mother,
would secure him her favour. The Duchess d'Aiguillon at once offered him
her patronage, and the difficulties of the first start being thus happily
removed, he seemed free to select his road to fortune.

And was he then really destined for nothing better than the slavery of
the world? Could it be true that that worthless world was one day to
boast of having thrown its shackles round the heart of the son of Marie
Guyart? She had consecrated his soul to God before his eyes had opened to
the light; she had taught him his first prayer; she had given him his
first impression of piety; she had instilled his first lesson, that it
were better far to die a thousand deaths if that were possible, than live
to commit one mortal sin. Had the remembrance of her teaching utterly
vanished, and the last trace of her maternal influence quite faded away?
No, that could not be. The mother, who like her, has rightly understood
the words maternal influence, and early taken care to establish her own,
will hold the key to her child's heart while ever his heart throbs. Vast
intervals may separate that mother and child; oceans and years may lie
between them, and still the mother's words will retain their grasp of her
boy's soul, starting from its depths in the hour of temptation, to awaken
the sweet echo of early lessons, and revive the memory of that last
promise at parting, to be true to God, to conscience and the maternal

And if perchance the child should have forgotten the maxims and rejected
the control of the mother, still can her influence reach his heart
through the sure channel of her prayers and tears. The Christian mother's
prayers fall on the soul of her prodigal child like genial sunshine on
the drooping plant; her tears like cool dew on the parched earth--they
revive, they warm, they soften. He cannot resist them, for they come
laden with the heavenly grace which they have been the blessed means of
winning from the all-merciful Heart of Jesus. This it was Claude Martin's
happiness to experience. While he thought only of plunging into the
vortex of the world, the Mother of the Incarnation prayed, and wept, and
suffered without intermission to obtain his entire conversion. "It could
not be that a child of those tears should perish." [Footnote: Words of a
Bishop to St. Monica, with reference to St. Augustine.] As may be
anticipated, his rebellious heart was finally won to God, wholly and for

The circumstances of his conversion are singular. It happened one day
that, weary of the noise and bustle of the great city, he retired to his
quiet room, to study. Before long he was disturbed by a knocking at the
door, but, although he opened it promptly, he could see nobody. He
resumed his study only to be a second and a third time similarly
interrupted, and with a similar result. The occurrence was so strange,
that he could explain it to himself only as the wondrous action of the
hand of God. The voice of grace spoke to his heart, even more distinctly
than the sound at the door had spoken to his ear. Without one moment's
hesitation, he flew to Dom Raymond of St. Bernard, his mother's former
director, and told him of the mysterious incident which, in an instant
had dispelled his dreams of ambition, subdued his will, and changed him
into a new being, and he concluded the strange communication by
beseeching the Father in earnest terms, to guide him to the road to which
God called. The unexpected news of the next day, was, that Claude Martin
had suddenly renounced his very brilliant prospects in the world to join
the Order of St. Benedict.

The joy and gratitude of his holy mother at the blessed tidings may be
imagined. "It would be difficult, my very dear son," she writes, "to
express the consolation which your letter afforded me. Impressed with the
dangers to which you were exposed, I have suffered much on your account,
especially during the past year, still I have ever been sustained by the
firm hope that our all-good God would never utterly forsake the son from
whom I had parted for His dear sake alone, and now I find that His mercy
to you has not only realized, but surpassed my expectations. The world
offered you some advantages, it is true, but how immeasurably inferior to
the blessing which God has bestowed! You are now enrolled in the army of
the Almighty King; take, then, well to heart the words of our Lord Jesus
Christ, 'No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit
for the Kingdom of God' (St. Luke ix. 62). The happiness in store for you
is infinitely beyond any which this world could give. 'Count then all
things here below to be but loss that you may gain Christ' (Phil. in. 8).
The example of your holy Father St. Benedict inculcates this generosity
of spirit; imitate it faithfully, that so I may have the consolation of
soon hearing that my uninterrupted prayers of many years for your
sanctification have at last found acceptance with God. I never pass a day
without offering you as a sacrifice to Him on the Heart of His well-
beloved Son, desiring and supplicating that you may be consumed as a
perfect holocaust on that Divine Altar. If any one were to tell me that
you had died a martyr's death, I think I should expire with joy; but be
faithful to grace, die constantly to self, imitate the many eminent
servants of God sanctified in your Order, and not only will the Almighty
make you a great saint, but He will grant you the reward of a martyr too.
If He should mercifully bring you to your religious profession, let me
know the joyful tidings. Tell me also the particulars of your call to
religion, and the manner of your correspondence with it. In a word, let
me have the consolation of participating fully in your spiritual
treasures. Pray for me very often. I meet you many times a day in God,
and speak of you unceasingly to Jesus and Mary."

The novice embraced the cross of religion with holy ardour, and bore it
with persevering fidelity. Cordially despising the world which had well
nigh betrayed him, he renounced it thoroughly, and directed all the
affections of his heart to God alone. Looking on religious perfection as
the only object worthy of his ambition, he pursued the one great end with
a fervour and an earnestness which ensured his rapid progress. His
success in his vocation, and the diminution of his mother's trials, all
along kept such equal pace, that she might safely have judged of the one
by the other. Hence, when obscurity again enveloped her soul, she
inferred that some obstacle to his profession had arisen, and so the
event proved. The difficulty being happily removed, he was permitted to
seal the irrevocable act of his consecration to God by the solemn vows.
After his promotion to the priesthood, he was appointed to some of the
principal offices of his Order, and his humility taking the alarm, he
wrote to his mother of his regret at being compelled to emerge from his
dear solitude. "Do not say, my son," she replied, "that you prefer an
obscure life to a higher sphere of action. Love the duties of the latter,
not because they are more important in the eyes of men, but because they
are in the order of God's will for you. It is well that you should be
impressed with your nothingness, for on that foundation it is that the
Almighty will erect the edifice of your perfection; but content yourself
wherever He places you--there for you is sanctity. Whether your position
is a high one or a low, be humble, and you will be happy." After having
rendered important services to his Order, and contributed to the
reformation of several abbeys, Dom Claude Martin died in the odour of
sanctity at Marmoutier, on the 9th of August, 1696, aged seventy-seven.
He survived his holy mother over twenty years, and after her death wrote
the history of her life, employing principally as material her own
relation of a portion of God's wondrous dealings with her, and her
voluminous correspondence with himself.[Footnote: This history, with that
of Père Charlevoix, forms the foundation of all the existing biographies
of the Venerable Mother. Dom Claude Martin likewise published two volumes
of her letters, the one the spiritual, the other the historical; her
explanation of the Christian Doctrine ("Grand Catéchisme,") and her
Retreats. For recent reprints of all we are indebted to the Abbé
Richaudeau, a distinguished ecclesiastic of Blois. The Ursulines of
Quebec possess, and prize as treasures, different articles once belonging
to the son of their saintly Mother; among others, a silver reliquiary
containing a precious particle of the true Cross.]

The Venerable Mother's work of zeal, though far advanced, was not
completed. She had happily obtained the conversion of her son; when she
had suffered more, she would be rewarded by that of her niece also, but
not until then would her self-imposed task of charity be perfected. The
niece alluded to had been from her birth a special object of her holy
aunt's interest. The idol of her mother, no pains had been spared for the
cultivation of her mind and the formation of her character; yet,
notwithstanding all, she bade fair to turn out a frivolous worldling,
unless arrested by Almighty grace. She was but fifteen when introduced to
the gay circles of fashion, in which her personal attractions and
brilliant accomplishments particularly fitted her to shine. Flattered at
finding herself the object of general attention, she accepted the homage
without pausing to weigh its sincerity, too dazzled by the glare of the
world, too dizzy from the excitement of pleasure to be capable of
discerning the serpent lurking among the flowers. A rude shock was to
awaken her from her short, sweet dream.

Among the many claimants for her hand, one had resolved to secure the
prize by stratagem, as he evidently could not hope to win it by
persuasion. Accordingly, one day as she was going to Mass, he had her
waylaid, forced into a carriage, and rapidly driven to his country seat,
hoping much from the eloquence of a lady of his acquaintance whom he had
engaged to meet her there and advocate his cause. Her mother very soon
released her from her embarrassing position, but her difficulties were
not yet over. On the death of that dear protectress, which occurred soon
after, her unprincipled persecutor returned to the charge, although the
law had taken cognizance of his first offence, and subjected him to well-
merited penalties. The more effectually to gain his ends, he had recourse
on this occasion to the intervention of the Duke of Orleans, whom he
succeeded in persuading that the rich and beautiful heiress was his
affianced bride, representing that the separation was as painful to her
as to him, and earnestly begging an order for her restoration. Her
guardian, clearly seeing that a convent alone could afford her a safe
asylum, advised her to take refuge in one until the storm should have
blown over. As this seemed the best thing to be done, she decided on
applying for a temporary lodging at her dear aunt's old home, the
Ursuline Monastery, in her native city of Tours. But even to this
secluded abode persecution followed her, and at last thoroughly wearied
out, she formed the dangerous resolution of embracing the religious
state, rather to free herself from importunity, than with any wish to
consecrate her life to God. No wonder that with her heart, and hopes and
thoughts in the world, she should have been unable to appreciate, or even
to discover the hidden happiness of her quiet cloistered home. No wonder
that the days should have seemed long the observances wearisome, the
duties monotonous, and uninteresting. But, oh! the wondrous power of
prayer which draws down grace from heaven to refresh the soul, as the
mountains attract the moisture-laden clouds to fertilize the earth!
Separated in person from the object of her holy affection, but closely
united to her in God, the Mother of the Incarnation prayed without
ceasing that grace might do its admirable work in her, through its own
unsearchable ways. She prayed that the bitter lesson which life had early
taught, might bear its abundant fruits; that the desolate child might
seek a balm in the Blood, and a home in the Heart of Jesus; and that
having learned by experience how different are the servitude of God and
that of the world, she might cling to the one and loathe the other
evermore and the petition was fully granted.

When the time came for assuming the religious habit, the novice might
well have doubted her own identity, so strangely and utterly was she
changed. Illusion had vanished, and truth had triumphed In laying aside
the secular dress, she seemed to be, in a moment mysteriously divested of
the spirit of the world. Its imaginary attractions ceased to tempt, now
that she could see them in their false colouring; its deceitful promises
ceased to allure, now that she could correctly interpret their hollowness
and insincerity. And if her ideas of the world were changed, so likewise
were her views of the religious life. Deeply appreciating the immense
favour which God had conferred on her in calling her to it, she devoted
herself heart and soul to all its duties, embracing its penitential
rigours with holy eagerness, and making it her great aim to hide her good
works from all but God. She pronounced her vows with a joy that was more
of heaven than earth, and would be named 'Mary of the Incarnation;' that

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