in the Church of Rome
by Charles Chiniquy
CHAPTER 34 Back to Contents
"My thoughts are not your thoughts," saith the Lord. And, we may add, His works are not like the works of man. This great truth has never been better exemplified than in the marvelous rapidity with which the great temperance reformation grew in Canada, in spite of the most formidable obstacles. To praise any man for such a work seems to me a kind of blasphemy, when it is so visibly the work of the Lord. I had hardly finished reading the letter of Ireland's Apostle of Temperance, when I fell on my knees and said: "Thou knowest, O my God, that I am nothing but a sinner. There is no light, no strength in Thy poor unprofitable servant. Therefore, come down into my heart and soul, to direct me in that temperance reform which Thou hast put into my mind to establish. Without Thee I can do nothing, but with Thee I can do all things."
This was on a Saturday night, March 20, 1839. The next morning was the first Sabbath of Lent. I said to the people after the sermon:
"I have told you, many times, that I sincerely believe it is my mission from God to put an end to the unspeakable miseries and crimes engendered every day, here in our whole country, by the use of intoxicating drink. Alcohol is the great enemy of your souls and your bodies. It is the most implacable enemy of your wives, your husbands, and your children. It is the most formidable enemy of our dear country and our holy religion. I must destroy that enemy. But I cannot fight alone. I must form an army and raise a banner in your midst, around which all the soldiers of the Gospel will rally. Jesus Christ Himself will be our general. He will bless and sanctify us He will lead us to victory. The next three days will be consecrated by you and by me in preparing to raise that army. Let all those who wish to fill its ranks, come and pass these three days with me in prayer and meditation before our sacred altars. Let even those who do not want to be soldiers of Christ, or to fight the great and glorious battles which are to be fought, come through curiosity, to see a most marvelous spectacle. I invite every one of you, in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom alcohol nails anew to the cross every day. I invite you in the name of the holy Virgin Mary, and of all the saints and angels of God, who are weeping in heaven for the crimes committed every day by the use of intoxicating drinks. I invite you in the names of the wives whom I see here in your midst, weeping because they have drunken husbands. I invite you to come in the names of the fathers whose hearts are broken by drunken children. I invite you to come in the name of so many children who are starving, naked, and made desolate by their drunken parents. I invite you to come in the name of your immortal souls, which are to be eternally damned if the giant destroyer, Alcohol, be not driven from our midst."
The next morning, at eight o'clock, my church was crammed by the people. My first address was at half-past eight o'clock, the second at 10:30 a.m., the third at 2.0 p.m., and the fourth at five. The intervals between the addresses were filled by beautiful hymns selected for the occasion. Many times during my discourse the sobs and the cries of the people were such that I had to stop speaking, to mix my sobs and my tears with those of my people. That first day seventy-five men, from among the most desperate drunkards, enrolled themselves under the banner of temperance. The second day I gave again four addresses, the effects of which were still more blessed in their result. Two hundred of my dear parishioners were enrolled in the grand army which was to fight against their implacable enemy. But it would require the hand of an angel to write the history of the third day, at the end of which, in the midst of tears, sobs, and cries of joy, three hundred more of that noble people swore, in the presence of their God, never to touch, taste, or handle the cursed drinks with which Satan inundates the earth with desolation, and fills hell with eternal cries of despair. During these three days more than two-thirds of my people had publicly taken the pledge of temperance, and had solemnly said in the presence of God, before their altars, "For the love of Jesus Christ, and by the grace of God, I promise that I will never take any intoxicating drink, except as a medicine. I also pledge myself to do all in my power, by my words and example, to persuade others to make the same sacrifice." The majority of my people, among whom we counted the most degraded drunkards, were changed and reformed, not by me, surely, but by the visible, direct work of the great and merciful God, who alone can change the heart of man.
As a great number of people from the surrounding parishes, and even from Quebec, had come to hear me the third day through curiosity, the news of that marvelous work spread very quickly throughout the whole country. The press, both French and English, were unanimous in their praises and felicitations. But when the Protestants of Quebec were blessing God for that reform, the French Canadians, at the example of their priests denounced me as a fool and heretic.
The second day of our revival I had sent messages to four of the neighbouring curates, respectfully requesting them to come and see what the Lord was doing, and help me to bless Him. But they refused. They answered my note with their contemptuous silence. One only, the Rev. Mr. Roy, curate of Charlesbourg, deigned to write me a few words, which I cope here:
Rev. Mr. Chiniquy, Curate of Beauport.
My dear Confrere:Please forgive me if I cannot forget the respect I owe to myself, enough to go and see your fooleries.
Charlesbourg, March 5th, 1839.
The indignation of the bishop knew no bounds. A few days after, he ordered me to go to his palace and give an account of what he called my "strange conduct." When alone with me he said: "Is it possible, Mr. Chiniquy, that you have so soon forgotten my prohibition not to establish that ridiculous temperance society in your parish? Had you compromised yourself alone by that Protestant comedy for it is nothing but that I would remain silent, in my pity for you. But you have compromised our holy religion by introducing a society whose origin is clearly heretical. Last evening, the venerable Grand Vicar Demars told me that you would sooner or later become a Protestant, and that this was your first step. Do you not see that the Protestants only praise you? Do you not blush to be praised only by heretics? Without suspecting it, you are just entering a road which leads to your ruin. You have publicly covered yourself with such ridicule that I fear your usefulness is at an end, not only in Beauport, but in all my diocese. I do not conceal it from you: my first thought, when an eye-witness told me yesterday what you had done, was to interdict you. I have been prevented from taking that step only by the hope that you will undo what you have done. I hope that you will yourself dissolve that anti-Catholic association, and promise to put an end to those novelties, which have too strong a smell of heresy to be tolerated by your bishop."
I answered: "My lord, your lordship has not forgotten that it was absolutely against my own will that I was appointed curate of Beauport; and God knows that you have only to say a word, and, without a murmur, I will give you my resignation, that you may put a better priest at the head of that people, which I consider, and which is really, today the noblest and the most sober people of Canada. But I will put a condition to the resignation of my position. It is, that I will be allowed to publish before the world that the Rev. Mr. Begin, my predecessor, has never been troubled by his bishop for having allowed his people, during twenty-three years, to swim in the mire of drunkenness; and that I have been disgraced by my bishop, and turned out from that same parish, for having been the instrument, by the mercy of God, in making them the most sober people in Canada."
The poor bishop felt, at once, that he could not stand on the ground he had taken with me. He was a few moments without knowing what to say. He saw also that his threats had no influence over me, and that I was not ready to undo what I had done. After a painful silence of a minute or two, he said: "Do you not see that the solemn promises you have extorted from those poor drunkards are rash and unwise; they will break them at the first opportunity? Their future state of degradation, after such an excitement, will be worse than the first."
I answered: "I would partake of your fears if that change were my work; but as it is the Lord's work, we have nothing to fear. The works of men are weak, and of short duration, but the works of God are solid and permanent. About the prophecy of the venerable Mr. Demars, that I have taken my first step towards Protestantism by turning a drunken into a sober people, I have only to say that if that prophecy be true, it would show that Protestantism is more apt than our holy religion to work for the glory of God and the good of the people. I hope that your lordship is not ready to accept that conclusion, and that you will not then trouble yourself with the premises. The venerable grand Vicar, with many other priests, would do better to come and see what the Lord is doing in Beauport, than to slander me and turn false prophets against its curate and people. My only answer to the remarks of your lordship, that the Protestants alone praise me, when the Roman Catholic priests and people condemn me, proves only one thing, viz., that Protestants, on this question, understand the Word of God, and have more respect for it than we Roman Catholics. It would prove also that they understand the interests of humanity better than we do, and that they have more generosity than we have, to sacrifice their selfish propensities to the good of all. I take the liberty of saying to your lordship, that in this, as in many other things, it is high time that we should open our eyes to our false position.
"Instead of remaining at the lowest step of the ladder of one of the most Christian virtues, temperance, we must raise ourselves to the top, where Protestants are reaping so many precious fruits. Besides, would your lordship be kind enough to tell me why I am denounced and abused here, and by my fellow-priests and my bishop, for forming a temperance society in my parish, when Father Mathew, who wrote me lately to encourage and direct me in that work, is publicly praised by his bishops and blessed by the Pope for covering Ireland with temperance societies? Is your lordship ready to prove to me that Samson was a heretic in the camp of Israel when he fulfilled the promise made by his parents that he would never drink any wine, or beer; and John the Baptist, was not he a heretic and a Protestant as I am, when, to obey the voice of God, he did what I do today, with my dear people of Beauport?"
At that very moment, the sub-secretary entered to tell the bishop that a gentleman wanted to see him immediately on pressing business, and the bishop abruptly dismissed me, to my great comfort; and my impression was that he was as glad to get rid of me as I was to get rid of him.
With the exception of the Secretary, Mr. Cazeault, all the priests I met that day and the next month, either gave me the cold shoulder or overwhelmed me with their sarcasms. One of them who had friends in Beauport, was bold enough to try to go through the whole parish to turn me into ridicule by saying that I was half crazy, and the best thing the people could do was to drink moderately to my health when they went to town. But at the third house he met a woman, who, after listening to the bad advice he was giving to her husband, said to him: "I do not know if our pastor is a fool in making people sober, but I know you are a messenger of the devil, when you advise my husband to drink again. You know that he was one of the most desperate drunkards of Beauport. You personally know also what blows I have received from him when he was drunk; how poor and miserable we were; how many children had to run on the streets, half naked, and beg in order not to starve with me! Now that my husband has taken the pledge of temperance, we have every comfort; my dear children are well fed and clothed, and I find myself as in a little paradise. If you do not go out of this house at once, I will turn you out with my broomstick." And she would have fulfilled her promise, had not the priest had the good sense to disappear at the "double quick."
The next four months after the foundation of the society in Beauport, my position when with the other priests was very painful and humiliating. I consequently avoided their company as much as possible. And, as for my bishop, I took the resolution never to go and see him, except he should order me into his presence. But my merciful God indemnified me by the unspeakable joy I had in seeing the marvelous change wrought by Him among my dear people. Their fidelity in keeping the pledge was really wonderful, and soon became the object of admiration of the whole city of Quebec, and of the surrounding country. The change was sudden, so complete and so permanent, that the scoffing bishop and priests, with their friends, had, at last, to blush and be silent.
The public aspect of the parish was soon changed, the houses were repaired, the debts paid, the children well clad. But what spoke most eloquently about the marvelous reform was that the seven thriving saloons of Beauport were soon closed, and their owners forced to take other occupations. Peace, happiness, abundance, and industry, everywhere took the place of the riots, fighting, blasphemies and the squalid misery which prevailed before. The gratitude and respect of that noble people for their young curate knew no bounds; as my love and admiration for them cannot be told by human words.
However, though the great majority of that good people had taken the pledge, and kept it honourably, there was a small minority, composed of the few who never had been drunkards, who had not yet enrolled themselves under our blessed banners. Though they were glad of the reform, it was very difficult to persuade them to give up their social glass! I thought it was my duty to show them in a tangible way, what I had so often proved with my words only, that the drinking of the social glass of wine, or of beer, is an act of folly, if not a crime. I asked my kind and learned friend, Dr. Douglas, to analyze, before the people, the very wine and beer used by them, to show that it was nothing else but a disgusting and deadly poison. He granted my favour. During four days that noble philanthropist extracted the alcohol, which is not only in the most common, but in the most costly and renowned wines, beer, brandy and whisky. He gave that alcohol to several cats and dogs, which died in a few minutes in the presence of the whole people.
These learned and most interesting experiments, coupled with his eloquent and scientific remarks, made a most profound impression. It was the corner-stone of the holy edifice which our merciful God built with His own hands in Beauport. The few recalcitrants joined with the rest of their dear friends.
CHAPTER 35 Back to Contents
The people of Beauport had scarcely been a year enrolled under the banners of temperance, when the seven thriving taverns of that parish were deserted and their owners forced to try some more honourable trade for a living. This fact, published by the whole press of Quebec, more than anything forced the opponents, especially among the clergy, to silence, without absolutely reconciling them to my views. However, it was becoming every day more and more evident to all that the good done in Beauport was incalculable, both in a material and moral point of view. Several of the best thinking people of the surrounding parishes began to say to one another: "Why should we not try to bring into our midst this temperance reformation which is doing so much good in Beauport?" The wives of drunkards would say: "Why does not our curate do here what the curate of Beauport has done there?"
On a certain day, one of those unfortunate women who had received, with a good education, a rich inheritance, which her husband had spent in dissipation, came to tell me that she had gone to her curate to ask him to establish a temperance society in his parish, as we had done in Beauport; but he had told her "to mind her own business." She had then respectfully requested him to invite me to come and help to do so for his parishioners what I had done for mine, but she had been sternly rebuked at the mention of my name. The poor woman was weeping when she said: "Is it possible that our priests are so indifferent to our sufferings, and that they will let the demon of drunkenness torture us as long as we live, when God gives us such an easy and honourable way to destroy his power for ever?"
My heart was touched by the tears of that lady, and I said to her: "I know a way to put an end to the opposition of your curate, and force him to bring among you the reformation you so much desire; but it is a very delicate matter for me to mention to you. I must rely upon your most sacred promise of secrecy, before opening my mind to you on that subject."
"I take my God to witness," she answered, "that I will never reveal your secret." "Well, madam, if I can rely upon your discretion and secrecy, I will tell you an infallible way to force your priest to do what has been done here."
"Oh! for God's sake," she said, "tell me what to do."
I replied: "The first time you go to confession, say to your priest that you have a new sin to confess which is very difficult to reveal to him. He will press you more to confess it. You will then say:
"'Father, I confess I have lost confidence in you.' Being asked 'Why?' You will tell him: 'Father, you know the bad treatment I have received from my drunken husband, as well as hundreds of other wives in your parish, from theirs; you know the tears we have shed on the ruin of our children, who are destroyed by the bad examples of their drunken fathers; you know the daily crimes and unspeakable abominations caused by the use of intoxicating drinks; you could dry our tears and make us happy wives and mothers, you could benefit our husbands and save our children by establishing the society of temperance here as it is in Beauport, and you refuse to do it. How, then, can I believe you are a good priest, and that there is any charity and compassion in you for us?'
"Listen with a respectful silence to what he will tell you; accept his penance, and when he asks you if you regret that sin, answer him that you cannot regret it till he has taken the providential means which God offers him to persuade the drunkards.
"Get as many other women whom you know are suffering as you do, as you can, to go and confess to him the same thing; and you will see that his obstinacy will melt as the snow before the rays of the sun in May."
She was a very intelligent lady. She saw at once that she had in hand an irresistible power to face her priest out of his shameful and criminal indifference to the welfare of his people. A fortnight later she came to tell me that she had done what I had advised her and that more than fifty other respectable women had confessed to their curate that they had lost confidence in him, on account of his lack of zeal and charity for his people.
My conjectures were correct. The poor priest was beside himself, when forced every day to hear from the very lips of his most respectable female parishioners, that they were losing confidence in him. He feared lest he should lose his fine parish near Quebec, and be sent to some of the backwoods of Canada. Three weeks later he was knocking at my door, where he had not been since the establishment of the temperance society. He was very pale, and looked anxious. I could see in his countenance that I owed this visit to his fair penitents. However, I was happy to see him. He was considered a good priest, and had been one of my best friends before the formation of the temperance society. I invited him to dine with me, and made him feel at home as much as possible, for I knew by his embarrassed manner that he had a very difficult proposition to make. I was not mistaken. He at last said:
"Mr. Chiniquy, we had, at first, great prejudices against your temperance society; but we see its blessed fruits in the great transformation of Beauport. Would you be kind enough to preach a retreat of temperance, during three days, to my people, as you have done here?"
I answered: "Yes, sir; with the greatest pleasure. But it is on condition that you will yourself be an example of the sacrifice, and the first to take the solemn pledge of temperance, in the presence of your people."
"Certainly," he answered; "for the pastor must be an example to his people."
Three weeks later his parish had nobly followed the example of Beauport, and the good curate had no words to express his joy. Without losing a day, he went to the two other curates of what is called "La Cote de Beaupre," persuaded them to do what he had done, and six weeks after all the saloons from Beauport to St. Joachim were closed; and it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to persuade anyone in that whole region to drink a glass of any intoxicating drink.
Little by little, the country priests were thus giving up their prejudices, and were bravely rallying around our glorious banners of temperance. But my bishop, though less severe, was still very cold toward me. At last the good providence of God forced him, through a great humiliation, to count our society among the greatest spiritual and temporal blessings of the age.
At the end of August, 1840, the public press informed us that the Count de Forbin Janson, Bishop of Nancy, in France, was just leaving New York for Montreal. That bishop, who was the cousin and minister to Charles the Tenth, had been sent into exile by the French people, after the king had lost his crown in the Revolution of 1830. Father Mathew had told me, in one of his letters, that this bishop had visited him, and blessed his work in Ireland, and had also persuaded the Pope to send him his apostolical benediction.
I saw at once the importance of gaining the approbation of this celebrated man, before he had been prejudiced by the bishop against our temperance societies. I asked and obtained leave of absence for a few days, and went to Montreal, which I reached just an hour after the French bishop. I went immediately to pay my homage to him, told him about our temperance work, asking him, in the name of God, to throw bravely the weight of his great name and position in the scale in favour of our temperance societies. He promised he would, adding: "I am perfectly persuaded that drunkenness is not only the great and common sin of the people, but still more of the priests in America, as well as in Ireland. The social habit of drinking the detestable and poisonous wines, brandies, and beers used on this continent, and in the northern parts of Europe, where the vine cannot grow, is so general and strong, that it is almost impossible to save the people from becoming drunkards, except through an association in which the elite of society will work together to change the old and pernicious habits of common life. I have seen Father Mathew, who is doing an incalculable good in Ireland; and, be sure of it, I shall do all in my power to strengthen your hands in that great and good work. But do not say to anybody that you have seen me."
Some days later, the Bishop of Nancy was in Quebec, the guest of the Seminary, and a grand dinner was given in his honour, to which more than one hundred priests were invited, with the Archbishop of Quebec, his coadjutor, N. G. Turgeon, and the Bishop of Montreal, M.Q.R. Bourget.
As one of the youngest curates, I had taken the last seat, which was just opposite the four bishops, from whom I was separated only by the breadth of the table. When the rich and rare viands had been well disposed of, and the more delicate fruits had replaced them, bottles of the choicest wines were brought on the table in incredible numbers. Then the superior of the college, the Rev. Mr. Demars, knocked on the table to command silence, and rising on his feet, he said, at the top of his voice, "Please, my lord bishops, and all of you, reverend gentlemen, let us drink to the health of my Lord Count de Forbin Janson, Primate of Lorraine and Bishop of Nancy.
The bottles passing around were briskly emptied into the large glasses put before everyone of the guests. But when the wine was handed to me I passed it to my neighbour without taking a drop, and filled my glass with water. My hope was that nobody had paid any attention to what I had done; but I was mistaken. The eyes of my bishop, my Lord Signaie, were upon me. With a stern voice, he said: "Mr. Chiniquy, what are you doing there? Put wine in your glass, to drink with us the health of Mgr. de Nancy."
These unexpected words fell upon me as a thunderbolt, and really paralyzed me with terror. I felt the approach of the most terrible tempest I had ever experienced. My blood ran cold in my veins; I could not utter a word. For what could I say there, without compromising myself for ever. To openly resist my bishop, in the presence of such an august assembly, seemed impossible; but to obey him was also impossible; for I had promised God and my country never to drink any wine. I thought, at first, that I could disarm my superior by my modesty and my humble silence. However, I felt that all eyes were upon me. A real chill of terror and unspeakable anxiety was running through my whole frame. My heart began to beat so violently that I could not breathe. I wished then I had followed my first impression, which was not to come to that dinner. I think I would have suffocated had not a few tears rolled down from my eyes, and help the circulation of my blood. The Rev. Mr. Lafrance, who was by me, nudged me, and said, "Do you not hear the order of my Lord Signaie? Why do you not answer by doing what you are requested to do?" I still remained mute, just as if nobody had spoken to me. My eyes were cast down; I wished then I were dead. The silence of death reigning around the tables told me that everyone was waiting for my answer; but my lips were sealed. After a minute of that silence, which seemed as long as a whole year, the bishop, with a loud and angry voice, which filled the large room, repeated: "Why do you not put wine in your glass, and drink to the health of my Lord Forbin Janson, as the rest of us are doing?"
I felt I could not be silent any longer. "My lord," I said, with a subdued and trembling voice, "I have put in my glass what I want to drink. I have promised God and my country that I would never drink any more wine."
The bishop, forgetting the respect he owed to himself and to those around him, answered me in the most insulting manner: "You are nothing but a fanatic, and you want to reform us."
These words struck me as the shock of a galvanic battery, and transformed me into a new man. It seemed as if they had added ten feet to my stature and a thousand pounds to my weight. I forgot that I was the subject of that bishop, and remembered that I was a man, in the presence of another man. I raised my head and opened my eyes, and as quick as lightning I rose to my feet, and addressing the Grand Vicar Demars, superior of the seminary, I said, with calmness, "Sir, was it that I might be insulted at your table that you have invited me here? Is it not your duty to defend my honour when I am here, your guest? But, as you seem to forget what you owe to your guests, I will make my own defense against my unjust aggressor." Then, turning towards the Bishop de Nancy, I said: "My Lord de Nancy, I appeal to your lordship from the unjust sentence of my own bishop. In the name of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, I request you tell us here if a priest cannot, for His Saviour's sake, and for the good of his fellow-men, as well as for his own selfdenial, give up for ever the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks, without being abused, slandered, and insulted, as I am here, in your presence?"
It was evident that my words had made a deep impression on the whole company. A solemn silence followed for a few seconds, which was interrupted by my bishop, who said to the Bishop de Nancy, "Yes, yes, my lord; give us your sentence."
No words can give an idea of the excitement of everyone in that multitude of priests, who, accustomed from their infancy abjectly to submit to their bishop, were, for the first time, in the presence of such a hand-to-hand conflict between a powerless, humble, unprotected, young curate, and his all-powerful, proud, and haughty archbishop.
The Bishop of Nancy at first refused to grant my request. He felt the difficulty of his position; but after Bishop Signaie had united his voice to mine, to press him to give his verdict, he rose and said:
"My Lord Archbishop of Quebec, and you, Mr. Chiniquy, please withdraw your request. Do not press me to give my views on such a new, but important subject. It is only a few days since I came in your midst. It will not do that I should so soon become your judge. The responsibility of a judgment in such a momentous matter is too great. I cannot accept it."
But when the same pressing request was repeated by nine-tenths of that vast assembly of priests, and that the archbishop pressed him more and more to pronounce his sentence, he raised his eyes and hands to heaven, and made a silent but ardent prayer to God. His countenance took an air of dignity, which I might call majesty, which gave him more the appearance of an old prophet than of a man of our day. Then casting his eyes upon his audience, he remained a considerable time meditating. All eyes were upon him, anxiously waiting for the sentence. There was an air of grandeur in him at that moment, which seemed to tell us that the priest blood of the great kings of France was flowing in his veins. At last, he opened his lips, but it was again pressingly to request me to settle the difficulty with the archbishop among ourselves, and to discharge him of that responsibility. But we both refused again to grant him his request, and pressed him to give his judgment. All this time I was standing, having publicly said that I would never sit again at that table unless that insult was wiped away.
Then he said with unspeakable dignity: "My Lord of Quebec! Here, before us, is our young priest, Mr. Chiniquy, who, once on his knees, in the presence of God and his angels, for the love of Jesus Christ, the good of his own soul and the good of his country, has promised never to drink! We are the witnesses that he is faithful to his promise, though he has been pressed to break it by your lordship. And because he keeps his pledge with such heroism, your lordship has called him a fanatic! Now, I am requested by everyone here to pronounce my verdict on that painful occurrence. Here it is. Mr. Chiniquy drinks no wine! But, if I look through the past ages, when God Himself was ruling His own people, through His prophets, I see Samson, who, by the special order of God, never drank wine or any other intoxicating drink. If from the Old Testament I pass to the New, I see John the Baptist, the precursor of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, to obey the command of God, never drank any wine! When I look at Mr. Chiniquy, and see Samson at his right hand to protect him, and John the Baptist at his left to bless him, I find his position so strong and impregnable, that I would not dare attack or condemn him!" These words were pronounced in the most eloquent and dignified manner, and were listened to with a most respectful and breathless attention.
Bishop de Nancy, keeping his gravity, sat down, emptied his wine glass into a tumbler, filled it with water and drank to my health.
The poor archbishop was so completely confounded and humiliated that everyone felt for him. The few minutes spent at the table, after this extraordinary act of justice, seemed oppressive to everyone. Scarcely anyone dared look at his neighbour, or speak, except in a low and subdued tone, as when a great calamity has just occurred. Nobody thought of drinking his wine; and the health of the Bishop de Nancy was left undrunk. But a good number of priests filled their glasses with water, and giving me a silent sign of approbation, drank to my health. The society of temperance had been dragged by her enemies to the battlefield, to be destroyed; but she bravely fought, and gained the victory. Now, she was called to begin her triumphant march through Canada.
CHAPTER 36 Back to Contents
Has God given us ears to hear, eyes to see, and intelligence to understand? The Pope says, no! But the Son of God says, yes. One of the most severe rebukes of our Saviour to His disciples, was for their not paying sufficient attention to what their eyes had seen, their ears heard, and their intelligence perceived. "Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do not ye remember?" (Mark viii. 17, 18).
This solemn appeal of our Saviour to our common sense, is the most complete demolition of the whole fabric of Rome. The day that a man ceases to believe that God would give us our senses and our intelligence to ruin and deceive us, but that they were given to guide us, he is lost to the Church of Rome. The Pope knows it; hence the innumerable encyclicals, laws, and regulations by which the Roman Catholics are warned not to trust the testimony of their ears, eyes, or intelligence.
"Shut your eyes," says the Pope to his priests and people; "I will keep mine opened, and I will see for you. Shut your ears, for it is most dangerous for you to hear what is said in the world. I will keep my ears opened, and will tell you what you must know. Remember that to trust your own intelligence, in the research of truth, and the knowledge of the Word of God, is sure perdition. If you want to know anything, come to me: I am the only sure infallible fountain of truth," saith the Pope. And this stupendous imposture is accepted by the people and the priests of Rome with a mysterious facility, and retained with a most desolating tenacity.
It is to them what the iron ring is to the nose of the ox, when a rope is once tied to it. The poor animal loses its self-control. Its natural strength and energies will avail it nothing; it must go left or right, at the will of the one who holds the end of the rope. Reader, please have no contempt for the unfortunate priests and people of Rome, but pity them, when you see them walking in the ways into which intelligent beings ought not to take a step. They cannot help it. The ring of the ox is at their nose, and the Pope holds the end of the rope. Had it not been for that ring, I would not have been long at the feet of the wafer god of the Pope. Let me tell you one of the shining rays of truth, which were evidently sent by our merciful God, with a mighty power, to open my eyes. But I could not follow it; the iron ring was at my nose; and the Pope was holding the end of the rope.
This was after I had been put at the head of the magnificent parish of Beauport, in the spring of 1840. There was living at "La Jeune Lorette" an old retired priest, who was blind. He was born in France, where he had been condemned to death under the Reign of Terror. Escaped from the guillotine, he had fled to Canada, where the Bishop of Quebec had put him in the elevated post of chaplain of the Ursuline Nunnery. He had a fine voice, was a good musician, and had some pretensions to the title of poet. Having composed a good number of church hymns, he had been called "Pere Cantique," but his real name was "Pere Daule." His faith and piety were of the most exalted character among the Roman Catholics; though these did not prevent him from being one of the most amiable and jovial men I ever saw. But his blue eyes, like the eyes of the dove; his fine yellow hair falling on his shoulders as a golden fleece; his white rosy cheeks, and his constantly smiling lips, had been too much for the tender hearts of the good nuns. It was not a secret that "Pere Cantique," when young, had made several interesting conquests in the nunnery. There was no wonder at that. Indeed, how could that young and inexperienced butterfly escape damaging his golden wings, at the numberless burning lamps of the fair virgins? But the mantle of charity had been put on the wounds which the old warrior had received on that formidable battlefield, from which even the Davids, Samsons, Solomons, and many others had escaped only after being mortally wounded.
To help the poor blind priest, the curates around Quebec used to keep him by turn in their parsonages, and give him the care and marks of respect due to his old age. After the Rev. Mr. Roy, curate of Charlesbourgh, had kept him five or six weeks, I had him taken to my parsonage. It was in the month of May a month entirely consecrated to the worship of the virgin Mary, to whom Father Daule was a most devoted priest. His zeal was really inexhaustible, when trying to prove to us how Mary was the surest foundation of the hope and salvation of sinners; how she was constantly appeasing the just wrath of he son Jesus, who, were it not for His love and respect to her, would have long since crushed us down.
The Councils of Rome have forbidden the blind priests to say their mass; but on account of high piety, he had got from the Pope the privilege of celebrating the short mass of the Virgin, which he knew perfectly by heart. One morning, when the old priest was at the altar, saying his mass, and I was in the vestry, hearing the confessions of the people, the young servant boy came to me in haste, and said, "Father Daule calls you; please come quick."
Fearing something wrong had happened to my old friend, I lost no time, and ran to him. I found him nervously tapping the altar with his two hands, as in anxious search of some very precious thing. When very near to him, said: "What do you want?" He answered with a shriek of distress: "The good god had disappeared from the altar. He is lost! J'ai perdu le Bon Dieu. Il est disparu de dessus l'autel!" Hoping that he was mistaken, and that he had only thrown away the good god, "Le Bon Dieu," on the floor, by some accident, I looked on the altar, at his feet, everywhere I could suspect that the good god might have been moved away by some mistake of the hand. But the most minute search was of no avail; the good god could not be found. I really felt stunned. At first, remembering the thousand miracles I had read of the disappearance, and marvelous changes of form of the wafer god, it came to my mind that we were in the presence of some great miracle; and that my eyes were to see some of these great marvels of which the books of the Church of Rome are filled. But I had soon to change my mind, when a thought flashed through my memory which chilled the blood in my veins. The church of Beauport was inhabited by a multitude of the boldest and most insolent rats I have ever seen. Many times, when saying my mass, I had seen the ugly noses of several of them, who, undoubtedly attracted by the smell of the fresh wafer, wanted to make their breakfast with the body, blood, and soul, and divinity of my Christ. But, as I was constantly in motion, or praying with a loud voice, the rats had invariably been frightened and fled away into their secret quarters. I felt terror-stricken by the thought that the good god (Le Bon Dieu) had been taken away and eaten by the rats.
Father Daule so sincerely believed what all the priests of Rome are bound to believe, that he had the power to turn the wafer into God, that, after he had pronounced the words by which the great marvel was wrought, he used to pass from five to fifteen minutes in silent adoration. He was then as motionless as a marble statue, and his feelings were so strong that often torrents of tears used to flow from his eyes on his cheeks. Leaning my head towards the distressed old priest, I asked him: "Have you not remained, as you are used, a long time motionless, in adoring the good god, after the consecration?"
He quickly answered, "Yes; but what has this to do with the loss of the good god?"
I replied in a low voice, but with a real accent of distress and awe, "Some rats have dragged and eaten the good god!"
"What do you say?" replied Father Daule. "The good god carried away and eaten by rats!"
"Yes," I replied, "I have not the least doubt about it." "My God! my God! what a dreadful calamity upon me!" rejoined the old man; and raising his hands and his eyes to heaven, he cried out again, "My God! my God! Why have you not taken away my life before such a misfortune could fall upon me!" He could not speak any longer; his voice was chocked by his sobs.
At first I did not know what to say; a thousand thoughts, some very grave, some exceedingly ludicrous, crossed my mind more rapidly than I can say them. I stood there as nailed to the floor, by the old priest, who was weeping as a child, till he asked me, with a voice broken by his sobs, "What must I do now?" I answered him: "The Church has foreseen occurrences of that kind, and provided for them the remedy. The only thing you have to do is to get a new wafer, consecrate it, and continue your mass as if nothing strange had occurred. I will go and get you, just now, new bread." I went, without losing a moment, to the vestry, got and brought a new wafer, which he consecrated and turned into a new god, and finished his mass, as I had told him. After it was over, I took the disconsolate old priest by the hand to my parsonage for breakfast. But all along the way he rent the air with his cries of distress. He would hardly taste anything, for his soul was really drowned in a sea of distress. I vainly tried to calm his feelings, by telling him that it was no fault of his; that this strange and sad occurrence was not the first of that kind; and that it had been calmly foreseen by the Church, which had told us what to do in these circumstances; that there was no neglect, no fault, no offense against God or man on his part.
But as he would not pay the least attention to what I said, I felt the only thing I had to do was to remain silent, and respect his grief by telling him to unburden his heart by his lamentations and tears.
I had hoped that this good common sense would help him to overcome his feelings, but I was mistaken; his lamentations were as long as those of Jeremiah, and the expressions of his grief as bitter.
At last I lost patience, and said: "My dear Father Daule, allow me to tell you respectfully that it is quite time to stop these lamentations and tears. Our great and just God cannot like such an excess of sorrow and regret about a thing which was only, and entirely, under the control of His power and eternal wisdom."
"What do you say there?" replied the old priest, with a vivacity which resembled anger.
"I say that, as it was not in your power to foresee or to avoid that occurrence, you have not the least reason to act and speak as you do. Let us keep our regrets and our tears for our sins: we both have committed many; we cannot shed too many tears on them. But there is no sin here, and there must be some reasonable limits to our sorrow. If anybody had to weep and regret without measure what has happened, it would be Christ. For He alone could foresee that event, and He alone could prevent it. Had it been His will to oppose this sad and mysterious fact, it was in His, not in our power to prevent it. He alone has suffered from it, because it was His will to suffer it."
"Mr. Chiniquy," he replied, "you are quite a young man, and I see you have the want of attention and experience which are often seen among young priests. You do not pay sufficient attention to the awful calamity which has just occurred in your church. If you had more faith and piety you would weep with me, instead of laughing at my grief. How can you speak so lightly of a thing which makes the angels of God weep? Our dear Saviour dragged and eaten by rats! Oh! great God! does not this surpass the humiliation and horrors of Calvary?"
"My dear Father Daule," I replied, "allow me respectfully to tell you, that I understand, as well as you do, the nature of the deplorable event of this morning. I would have give my blood to prevent it. But let us look at that fact in its proper light. It is not a moral action for us; it did not depend on our will more than the spots of the sun. The only one who is accountable for that fact is our God! For, again I say, that He was the only one who could foresee and prevent it. And, to give you plainly my own mind, I tell you here that if I were God Almighty, and a miserable rat would come to eat me, I would strike him dead before he could touch me."
There is no need of confessing it here; every one who reads these pages, and pays attention to this conversation, will understand that my former so robust faith in my priestly power of changing the wafer into my God had melted away and evaporated from my mind, if not entirely, at least to a great extent.
Great and new lights had flashed through my soul in that hour; evidently my God wanted to open my eyes to the awful absurdities and impieties of a religion whose god could be dragged and eaten by rats. Had I been faithful to the saving lights which were in me then, I was saved in that very hour; and before the end of that day I would have broken the shameful chains by which the Pope had tied my neck to his idol of bread. In that hour it seemed to me evident that the dogma of transubstantiation was a most monstrous imposture, and my priesthood an insult to God and man.
My intelligence said to me with a thundering voice: "Do not remain any longer the priest of a god whom you make every day, and whom the rats can eat."
Though blind, Father Daule understood very well, by the stern accents of my voice, that my faith in the god whom he had created that morning, and whom the rats had eaten, had been seriously modified, if not entirely crumbled down. He remained silent for some time, after which he invited me to sit by him; and he spoke to me with a pathos and an authority which my youth and his old age alone could justify. He gave me the most awful rebuke I ever had; he really opened on my poor wavering intelligence, soul and heart, all the cataracts of heaven. He overwhelmed me with a deluge of Holy Fathers, Councils, and infallible Popes who had believed and preached before the whole world, in all ages, the dogma of transubstantiation.
If I had paid attention the voice of my intelligence, and accepted the lights which my merciful God was giving me, I could easily have smashed the arguments of the old priest of Rome. But what has the intelligence to do in the Church of Rome? What could my intelligence say? I was forbidden to hear it. What was the weight of my poor, isolated intelligence, when put in the balance against so many learned, holy, infallible intelligences?
Alas! I was not aware then that the weight of the intelligence of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was on my side; and that, weighted against the intelligence of the Popes, they were greater than all the worlds against a grain of sand.
One hour after, shedding tears of regret, I was at the feet of Father Daule, in the confessional box, confessing the great sin I had committed by doubting, for a moment, of the power of the priest to change a wafer into God.
The old priest, whose voice had been like a lion's voice when speaking to the unbelieving curate of Beauport, had become sweet as the voice of a lamb when he had me at his feet, confessing my unbelief. He gave me my pardon. For my penance he forbade me ever to say a word on the sad end of the god he had created that morning; for, said he, "This would destroy the faith of the most sincere Roman Catholics." For the other part of the penance I had to go on my knees every day, during nine days, before the fourteen images of the way of the cross, and say a penitential psalm before every picture, which I did. But the sixth day the skin of my knees was pierced, and the blood was flowing freely. I suffered real torture every time I knelt down, and at every step I made. But it seemed to me that these terrible tortures were nothing compared to my great iniquity!
I had refused, for a moment, to believe that a man can create his god with a wafer! and I had thought that a church which adores a god eaten by rats, must be an idolatrous church!
CHAPTER 37 Back to Contents
A few days before the arrival of Bishop de Forbin Janson, I was alone in my study, considering my false position towards my ecclesiastical superiors, on account of my establishing the temperance society against their formal protest. My heart was sad. My partial success had not blinded me to the reality of my deplorable isolation from the great mass of the clergy. With a very few exceptions, they were speaking of me as a dangerous man. They had even given me the nick-name of "Le reformateur au petit pied" (small-sized reformer) and were losing no opportunity of showing me their supreme contempt and indignation, for what they called my obstinacy.
In that sad hour, there were many clouds around my horizon, and my mind was filled with anxiety; when, suddenly, a stranger knocked at my door. He was a good-sized man; his smiling lips and honest face were beaming with the utmost kindness. His large and noble forehead told me, at once, that my visitor was a man of superior intellect. His whole mien was that of a true gentleman.
He pressed my hand with the cordiality of an old friend and, giving me his name, he told me at once the object of his visit, in these words:
"I do not come here only in my name: but it is in the name of many, if not of all, the English-speaking people of Quebec and Canada; I want to tell you our admiration for the great reform you have accomplished in Beauport. We know the stern opposition of your superiors and fellowpriests to your efforts, and we admire you more for that.
"Go on, sir, you have on your side the great God of heaven, who has said to us all: 'Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.'" (Prov. xxiii. 31, 32). "Take courage, sir," he added; "you have, on your side, the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ Himself. Fear not man, sir, when God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are on your side. If you find any opposition from some quarter; and if deluded men turn you into ridicule when you are doing such a Christian work, bless the Lord. For Jesus Christ has said: 'Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for My sake.' (Matt. v. 6, 11.) I come also to tell you sir, that if there are men to oppose you, there are many more who are praying for you day and night, asking our heavenly Father to pour upon you His most abundant blessings. Intoxicating drinks are the curse of this young country. It is the most deadly foe of every father and mother, the most implacable enemy of every child in Canada. It is the ruin of our rich families, as well as the destruction of the poor. The use of intoxicating drinks, under any form, or pretext, is an act of supreme folly; for alcohol kills the body and damns the soul of its blind victims. You have, for the first time, raised the glorious banners of temperance among the French Canadian people; though you are alone, today, to lift it up, be not discouraged. For, before long, you will see your intelligent countrymen rallying around it, to help you to fight and to conquer. No doubt, the seed you sow today is often watered with your tears. But, before long, you will reap the richest crop; and your heart will be filled with joy, when your grateful country will bless your name."
After a few other sentences of the same elevated sentiments, he hardly gave me time enough to express my feelings of gratitude, and said: "I know you are very busy, I do not want to trespass upon your time. Goodbye, sir. May the Lord bless you, and be your keeper in all your ways."
He pressed my hand, and soon disappeared. I would try, in vain, to express what I felt when alone with my God, after that strange and providential visit. My first thought was to fall on my knees and thank that merciful God for having sent such a messenger to cheer me in one of the darkest hours of my life; for every word from his lips had fallen on my wounded soul as the oil of the Good Samaritan on the bleeding wounds of the traveler to Jericho. There had been such an elevation of thought, such a ring of true, simple, but sublime faith and piety; such love of man and fear of God in all that he had said. It was the first time that I had heard words so conformable to my personal views and profound convictions on that subject. That stranger, whose visit had passed as quickly as the visit of an angel from God, had filled my heart with such joy and surprise at the unexpected news that all the Englishspeaking people of Canada were praying for me!
However, I did not fall on my knees to thank God; for my sentiments of gratitude to God were suddenly chilled by the unspeakable humiliation I felt when I considered that that stranger was a Protestant! The comparison I was forced to make between the noble sentiments, the high philosophy, the Christian principles of that Protestant layman, with the low expressions of contempt, the absolute want of generous and Christian thoughts of my bishop and my fellow-priests when they were turning into ridicule that temperance society which God was so visibly presenting to us the best, if not the only way, to save the thousands of drunkards who were perishing around us, paralyzed my lips, bewildered my mind, and made it impossible for me to utter a word of prayer. My first sentiments of joy and of gratitude to God soon gave way to sentiments of unspeakable shame and distress.
I was forced to acknowledge that these Protestants, whom my Church had taught me, through all her councils, to anathematize and curse as the slaves and followers of Satan, were, in their principles of morality, higher above us than the heavens are above the earth! I had to confess to myself that those heretics, whom my church had taught me to consider as rebels against Christ and His Church, knew the laws of God and followed them much more closely than ourselves. They had raised themselves to the highest degree of Christian temperance, when my bishops, with their priests, were swimming in the deadly waters of drunkenness!
A voice seemed crying to me, "Where is the superiority of holiness of your proud Church of Rome over those so called heretics, who follow more closely the counsels and precepts of the gospel of Christ?" I tried to stifle that voice, but I could not. Louder and Louder it was heard asking me, "Who is nearer God? The bishop who so obstinately opposes a reform which is so evidently according to the Divine Word, or those earnest followers of the gospel who make the sacrifice of their old and most cherished usages with such pleasure, when they see it is for the good of their fellow-men and the glory of God?" I wished them to be a hundred feet below the ground, in order not to hear those questions answered within my soul. But there was no help; I had to hear them, and to blush at the reality before my eyes. Pride! yes, diabolical pride! is the vice, par excellence, of every priest of Rome. Just as he is taught to believe and say that his church is far above every other church, so he is taught to believe and say that, as a priest, he is above all the kings, emperors, governors, and presidents of this world. That pride is the daily bread of the Pope, the bishop, the priests, and even the lowest layman in the Church of Rome. It is also the great secret of their power and strength. It is this diabolical pride which nerves them with an iron will, to bring down everything to their feet, subject every human being to their will, and tie every neck to the wheels of their chariot. It is this fearful pride which so often gives them that stoical patience and indomitable courage in the midst of the most cruel pain, of in the face of the most appalling death, which so many deluded Protestants take for Christian courage and heroism. The priest of Rome believes that he is called by God Almighty to rule, subdue, and govern the world; with all those prerogatives that he fancies granted him by heaven he builds up a high pyramid, on the top of which he sets himself, and from that elevation looks down with the utmost contempt on the rest of the world.
If anyone suspects that I exaggerate in thus speaking of the pride of the priests, let him read the following haughty words which Cardinal Manning puts in the lips of the Pope in one of his lectures:
"I acknowledge no civil power; I am the subject of no prince. I am more than this. I claim to be the supreme judge and director of the conscience of men: of the peasant who tills his field, and of the prince who sits upon the throne; of the household that lives in he shade of privacy, and the legislator that makes laws for the kingdom. I am the sole, last, supreme judge of what is right or wrong."
Is it not evident that the Holy Ghost speaks of this pride of the priests and of the Pope, the high priest of Rome, when He says: "That man of sin," that "son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or what is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. ii. 3, 4).
That caste pride which was in me, though I did not see it then, as it is in every priest of Rome, though he does not suspect it, had received a rude check, indeed, from that Protestant visitor. Yes, I must confess it, he had inflicted a deadly wound on my priestly pride; he had thrown a barbed arrow into my priestly soul which I tried many times, but always in vain, to take away. The more I attempted to get rid of this arrow, the deeper it went through my very bones and marrow. That strange visitor, who caused me to pass so many hours and days of humiliation, when forcing me to blush at the inferiority of the Christian principles of my church compared with those of the Protestants, is well known in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain as the founder and first editor of two of the best religious papers of America, the Montreal Witness and the New York Witness. His name is John Dougall. As he is still living, I am happy to have this opportunity of thanking and blessing him again for the visit he paid to the young curate of Beauport forty-five years ago. I was not aware then that the wounds inflicted by that unknown but friendly hand was one of the great favours bestowed upon me by my merciful God; but I understand it now. Many rays of light have since come from the wounds which my priestly pride received that day. Those rays of light helped much to expel the darkness which surrounded me by leading me to see, in spite of myself, that the vaunted holiness of the Church of Rome is a fraud.
CHAPTER 38 Back to Contents
The battle fought and gained at the grand dinner of the Quebec Seminary by the society of temperance had been decisive. The triumph was as complete as it was glorious. Hereafter her march to the conquest of Canada was to be a triumph. Her banners were soon to be planted over all the cities, towns, and villages of my dear country. To commemorate the expression of their joy and gratitude to God to the remotest generations, the people of Beauport erected the beautiful Column of Temperance, which is still seen half-way between Quebec and the Montmorency Falls. The Bishop de Nancy, my Lord Forbin Janson, blessed that first monument of Temperance, September 7th, 1841, in the midst of an immense multitude of people. The parishes of St. Peter, St. John, St. Famille (Orleans Island), with St. Michael were the first, after Lange Gardien, Chateau Richer, St. Anne and St. Joachin, to request me to preach on Temperance. Soon after, the whole population of St. Roch, Quebec, took the pledge with a wonderful unanimity, and kept it long with marvelous fidelity. In order to show to the whole country their feelings of gratitude, they presented me with a fine picture of the Column of Temperance and a complimentary address, written and delivered by one of the most promising young men of Quebec, Mr. John Cauchon, who was raised some years later to the dignity of a Cabinet Minister, and who has been the worthy Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.
That address was soon followed by another from the citizens of Quebec and Beauport, presented along with my portrait, by Mr. Joseph Parent, then editor of the Canadien, and afterwards Provincial Secretary of Canada.
What a strange being man is! How fickle are his judgments! In 1842, they had no words sufficiently flattering to praise the very man in the face of whom they were spitting in 1838, for doing the very same thing. Was I better for establishing the society of temperance in 1842, than I was in establishing it in 1838? No! And was I worse when, in 1838, bishops, priests, and people, were abusing, slandering, and giving me bad names for raising the banners of temperance over my country, than I was in continuing to lift it up in 1842? No! The sudden and complete judgments of men in such a short period of time had the good and providential effect of filling my mind with the most supreme indifference, not to say contempt, for what men thought or said of me. Yes! this sudden passage from condemnation to that of praise, when I was doing the very same work, had the good effect to cure me of that natural pride which one is apt to feel when publicly applauded by men.
It is to that knowledge, acquired when young, that I owe the preservation of my dignity as a man and priest, when all my bishops and their priests were arrayed against me at the dining table of the Seminary of Quebec. It is that knowledge, also, that taught me not to forget that I was nothing but a worm of the dust and an unprofitable servant of God, when the same men overwhelmed me with their unmerited praises. Let not my readers think, however, that I was absolutely indifferent to this charge of public feeling. For no words can tell the joy I felt at the assurance which these public manifestations afforded me that the cause of temperance was to triumph everywhere in my country. Let me tell here a fact too honourable to the people of Beauport to be omitted. As soon as the demon of intemperance was driven from my parish, I felt that my first duty was to give my attention to education, which had been so shamefully neglected by my predecessors that there was not a single school in the parish worthy of that name. I proposed my plan to the people, asked their co-operation, and set to work without delay. I began by erecting the fine stone school-house near the church, on the site of the old parsonage; the old walls were pulled down, and on the old foundation a good structure was soon erected with the free collections raised in the village. But the work was hardly half-finished when I found myself without a cent to carry on. I saw at once that, having no idea of the value of education, the people would murmur at my asking any more money. I therefore sold my horse a fine animal given me by a rich uncle and with the money finished the building.
My people felt humiliated and pained at seeing their pastor obliged to walk when going to Quebec or visiting the sick. They said to each other: "Is it not a burning shame for us to have forced our young curate to sell his fine horse to build our school-houses, when it would have been so easy to do that work ourselves? Let us repair our faults."
On my return from establishing the society of temperance in St. John, two weeks later, my servant man said to me:
"Please, Mr. le Cure, come to the stable and see a very curious thing."
"What curious thing can there be?" I answered.
"Well, sir, please come, and you will see."
What was both my surprise and pleasure to find one of the most splendid Canadian horses there as mine! For my servant said to me, "During you absence the people have raised five hundred dollars, and bought this fine horse for you. They say they do not want any longer to see their curate walking in the mud. When they drove the horse here, that I might present him to you as a surprise on your arrival, I heard them saying that with the temperance society you have saved them more than five hundred dollars every week in money, time, and health, and that it was only an act of justice to give you the savings of a week."
The only way of expressing my gratitude to my noble people, was to redouble my exertions in securing the benefits of a good education to their children. I soon proposed to the people to build another schoolhouse two miles distant from the first.
But I was not long without seeing that this new enterprise was to be still more uphill work than the first one among the people, of whom hardly one in fifty could sign his name.
"Have not our fathers done well without those costly schools?" said many. "What is the use of spending so much money for a thing that does not add a day to our existence, nor an atom to our comfort?"
I soon felt confronted by such a deadly indifference, not to say opposition, on the part of my best farmers, that I feared for a few days lest I had really gone too far. The last cent of my own revenues was not only given, but a little personal debt created to meet the payments, and a round sum of five hundred dollars had to be found to finish the work. I visited the richest man of Beauport to ask him to come to my rescue. Forty years before he had come to Beauport bare-footed, without a cent to work. He had employed his first earned dollars in purchasing some rum, with which he had doubled his money in two hours; and had continued to double his money, at that rate, in the same way, till he was worth nearly two hundred thousand dollars.
He then stopped selling rum, to invest his money in city properties. He answered me: "My dear curate, I would have no objections to give you the five hundred dollars you want, if I had not met the Grand Vicar Demars yesterday, who warned me, as an old friend, against what he calls your dangerous and exaggerated views in reference to the education of the people. He advised me, for your own good, and the good of the people, to do all in my power to induce you to desist from your plan of covering our parishes with schools."
"Will you allow me," I answered, "to mention our conversation to Mr. Demars, and tell him what you have just said about his advising you to oppose me in my efforts to promote the interests of education?" "Yes,sir, by all means," answered Mr. Des Roussell. "I allow you to repeat to the venerable superior of the Seminary of Quebec, what he said to me yesterday; ;it was not a secret, for there were several other farmers of Beauport to whom he said the very same thing. If you ignore that the priests of Quebec are opposed to your plans of educating our children, you must be the only one who does not know it, for it is a public fact. Your difficulties in raising the funds you want, come only from the opposition of the rest of the clergy to you in this matter; we have plenty of money in Beauport to day, and we would feel happy to help you. But you understand that our good will be somewhat cooled by the opposition of men whom we are accustomed to respect."
I replied: "Do you not remember, my dear Mr. Des Roussell, that those very same priests opposed me in the same way, in my very first efforts to establish the temperance society in your midst?"
"Yes, sir," he answered, with a smile, "we remember it well, but you have converted them to your views now."
"Well, my dear sir, I hope we shall convert them also in this question of education."
The very next morning, I was knocking at the door of the Rev. Grand Vicar Demars, after I had tied my splendid horse in the courtyard of the Seminary of Quebec. I was received with the utmost marks of courtesy. Without losing any time, I repeated to the old Superior what Mr. Des Roussell had told me of his opposition to my educational plans, and respectfully asked him if it were true.
The poor Grand Vicar seemed as if thunderstruck by my abrupt, though polite question. He tried, at first, to explain what he had said, by taking a long circuit, but I mercilessly brought him to the point at issue, and forced him to say, "Yes, I said it."
I then rejoined and said, "Mr. Grand Vicar, I am only a child before you, when comparing my age with yours; however, I have the honour to be the curate of Beauport, it is in that capacity that I respectfully ask you by what right you oppose my plans for educating our children!"
"I hope, Mr. Chiniquy," he answered, "that you do not mean to say that I am he enemy of education; for I would answer you that this is the first house of education on this continent, and that I was at its head before you were born. I hope that I have the right to believe and say that the old Superior of the Seminary of Quebec understands, as well as the young curate of Beauport, the advantage of a good education. But I will repeat to you what I said to Mr. Des Roussell, that it is a great mistake to introduce such a general system of education as you want to do in Beauport. Let every parish have its well-educated notary, doctor, merchants, and a few others to do the public business; that is enough. Our parishes of Canada are models of peace and harmony under the direction of their good curates, but they will become unmanageable the very day your system of education spreads abroad; for then all the bad propensities of the heart will be developed with an irresistible force. Besides, you know that since the conquest of Canada by Protestant England, the Protestants are waiting for their opportunity to spread the Bible among our people. The only barrier we can oppose to that danger is to have, in future, as in the past, only a very limited number of our people who can read or write. For as soon as the common people are able to read, they will, like Adam and Eve, taste the forbidden fruit; they will read the Bible, turn Protestant, and be lost for time and eternity."
In my answer, among other things, I said: "Go into the country, look at the farm which is well-cultivated, ploughed with attention and skill, richly manured, and sown with good seed; is it not infinitely more pleasant and beautiful to live on such a farm, than on one which is neglected, unskillfully managed and covered with noxious weeds? Well, the difference between a well educated and an uneducated people is still greater in my mind. "I know that the priests of Canada, in general, have your views, and it is for that reason that the parish of Beauport with its immense revenues had been left without a school worthy the name, from its foundation to my going there. But my views are absolutely different. And as for your fear of the Bible, I confess we are antipodes to each other. I consider that one of the greatest blessings God has bestowed upon me, is that I have read the Bible, when I was on my mother's knees. I do not even conceal from you, that one of my objects in giving a good education to every boy and girl of Beauport, is to put the Gospel of Christ in their hands, as soon as they are able to read it."
At the end of our conversation, which was very excited on both sides, though kept in the bounds of politeness during nearly two hours, I said:
"Mr. Grand Vicar, I did not come here to convert you to my views, this would have been impertinence on my part; nor can you convert me to yours, if you are trying it, for you know I have the bad reputation of being a hard case; I came to ask you, as a favour, to let me work according to my conscience in a parish which is mine and not yours. Do not interfere any more in my affairs between me and my parishioners, than you would like me to interfere in the management of your Seminary. As you would not like me to criticize you before your pupils and turn you into ridicule, please cease adding to my difficulties among my people, by continuing in the future what you have done in the past.
"You know, Mr. Grand Vicar, that I have always respected you as my father; you have many times been my adviser, my confessor, and my friend; I hope you will grant me the favour I ask from you in the name of our common Saviour. It is for the spiritual and temporal good of the people and pastor of Beauport that I make this prayer."
That old priest was a kind-hearted man; these last words melted his heart. He promised what I wanted, and we parted from each other on better terms than I had expected at first.
When crossing the courtyard of the Seminary, I saw the Archbishop Signaie, who, coming from taking a ride, had stopped to look at my horse and admire it. When near him, I said: "My lord, this is a bishop's horse, and ought to be in your hands."
"It is what I was saying to my secretary," replied the bishop. "How long is it since you got it?"
"Only a few days ago, my lord."
"Have you any intention of selling it?"
"I would, if it would please my bishop," I replied.
"What is the price?" asked the bishop.
"Those who gave it to me paid five hundred dollars for it," I replied.
"Oh! oh! that is too dear," rejoined the bishop, "with five hundred dollars, we can get five good horses. Two hundred would be enough."
"Your lordship is joking. Were I as rich as I am poor, one thousand dollars would not take that noble animal from my hands, except to have it put in the carosse of my bishop."
"Go and write a cheque of two hundred dollars to the order of Mr. Chiniquy," said the bishop to his sub-secretary, Mr. Belisle.
When the secretary had gone to write the cheque, the bishop being alone with me, took from his portfeuille three bank bills of one hundred dollars each, and put them into my hands, saying: "This will make up your five hundred dollars, when my secretary gives you the cheque. But, please, say nothing to anybody, not even to my secretary. I do not like to have my private affairs talked of around the corners of the streets. That horse is the most splendid I ever saw, and I am much obliged to you for having sold it to me."
I was also very glad to have five hundred dollars in hand. For with three hundred dollars I could finish my schoolhouse, and there was two hundred more to begin another, three miles distant. Just two weeks later, when I was dressing myself at sunrise, my servant man came to my room and said: "There are twenty men on horseback who want to speak to you."
"Twenty men on horseback who want to speak to me!" I answered. "Are you dreaming?"
"I do not dream," answered my young man; "there they are at the door, on horseback, waiting for you."
I was soon dressed, and in the presence of twenty of my best farmers, on horseback, who had formed themselves in a half-circle to receive me.
"What do you want, my friends?" I asked them.
One of them, who had studied a few years in the Seminary of Quebec, answered:
"Dear pastor, we come in the name of the whole people of Beauport, to ask your pardon for having saddened your heart by not coming as we ought to your help in the superhuman efforts you make to give good schools to our children. This is the result of our ignorance. Having never gone to school ourselves, the greater part of us have never known the value of education. But the heroic sacrifices you have made lately have opened our eyes. They ought to have been opened at the sale of your first horse. But we were in need of another lesson to understand our meanness. However, the selling of the second horse has done more than anything else to awaken us from our shameful lethargy. The fear of receiving a new rebuke from us, if you made another appeal to our generosity, has forced you to make that new sacrifice. The first news came to us as a thunderbolt. But there is always some light in a thunderbolt; through that light we have seen our profound degradation, in shutting our ears to your earnest and paternal appeals in favour of our own dear children. Be sure, dear pastor, that we are ashamed of our conduct. From this day, not only our hearts, but our purses are yours, in all you want to do to secure a good education for our families. However, our principal object in coming here today is not to say vain words, but to do an act of reparation and justice. Our first thought, when we heard that you had sold the horse we had given you, was to present you with another. We have been prevented from doing this by the certainty that you would sell it again, either to help some poor people or to build another schoolhouse. As we cannot bear to see our pastor walking in the mud when going to the city, or visiting us, we have determined to put another horse into your hands, but in such a way that you will not have the right to sell it. We ask you, then, as a favour, to select the best horse here among these twenty which are before you, and to keep it as long as you remain in our midst, which we hope will be very long. It will be returned to its present possessor if you leave us; and be sure, dear pastor, that the one of us who leaves his horse in your hands will be the most happy and proudest of all."
When speaking thus, that noble hearted man had several times been unable to conceal the tears which were rolling down his cheeks, and more than once his trembling voice had been choked by his emotion.
I tried in vain at first to speak. My feelings of gratitude and admiration could be expressed only with my tears. It took some time before I could utter a single word. At last I said: "My dear friends, this to too much for your poor pastor. I feel overwhelmed by this grand act of kindness. I do not say that I thank you the word thank is too small too short and insignificant to tell you what your poor unworthy pastor feels at what his eyes see and his ears hear just now. The great and merciful God, who has put those sentiments into your hearts, alone can repay you for the joy with which you fill my soul. I would hurt your feelings, I know, by not accepting your offering: I accept it. But to punish your speaker, Mr. Parent, for his complimentary address, I will take his horse, for the time I am curate of Beauport, which, I hope, will be till I die." And I laid my hand on the bridle of the splendid animal. There was then a struggle which I had not expected. Every one of the nineteen whom I left with their horses began to cry: "Oh!, do not take that horse; it is not worth a penny; mine is much stronger," said one. "Mine is much faster," cried our another. "Mine is a safe rider," said a third. Every one wanted me to take his horse, and tried to persuade me that it was the best of all; they really felt sorry that they were not able to change my mind. Has anyone ever felt more happy than I was in the midst of these generous friends? The memory of that happy hour will never pass away from my mind.
CHAPTER 39 Back to Contents
On the morning of the 25th August, 1842, we blessed and opened the seventh school of Beauport. From that day all the children were to receive as good an education as could be given in any country place of Canada. Those schools had been raised on the ruins of the seven taverns which had so long spread ruin, shame, desolation, and death over that splendid parish. My heart was filled with an unspeakable joy at the sight of the marvelous things which, by the hand of God, had been wrought in such a short time.
At about two p.m. of that never-to-be-forgotten day, after I had said my vespers, and was alone, pacing the alleys of my garden, under the shade of the old maple trees bordering the northern part of that beautiful spot, I was reviewing the struggles and the victories of these last four years: it seemed that everything around me, not only the giant trees which were protecting me from the burning sun, but even the humblest grasses and flowers of my garden, had a voice to tell me, "Bless the Lord for His mercies."
At my feet the majestic St. Lawrence was rolling its deep waters; beyond, the old capital of Canada, Quebec, with its massive citadel, its proud towers, its bristling cannons, its numerous houses and steeples, with their tin roofs reflecting the light of the sun in myriads of rays, formed such a spectacle of fairy beauty as no pen can describe. The fresh breeze from the river, mingled with the perfume of the thousand flowers of my parterre, bathed me in an atmosphere of fragrance. Never yet had I enjoyed life as at that hour. All the sanguine desires of my heart and the holy aspirations of my soul had been more than realized. Peace, harmony, industry, abundance, happiness, religion, and education had come on the heels of temperance, to gladden and cheer the families which God had entrusted to me. The former hard feelings of my ecclesiastical superiors had been changed into sentiments and acts of kindness, much above my merits. With the most sincere feelings of gratitude to God, I said with the old prophet, "Bless the Lord, O my soul."
By the great mercy of God that parish of Beauport, which at first had appeared to me as a bottomless abyss in which I was to perish, had been changed for me into an earthly paradise. There was only one desire in my heart. It was that I never should be removed from it. Like Peter on Mount Tabor, I wanted to pitch my tent in Beauport to the end of my life. But the rebuke which had shamed Peter came as quickly as lightning to show me the folly and vanity of my dreams.
Suddenly the carosse of the Bishop of Quebec came in sight, and rolled down to the door of the parsonage. The sub-secretary, the Rev. Mr. Belisle, alighting from it, directed his steps towards the garden, where he had seen me, and handed me the following letter from the Right Rev. Turgeon, Coadjutor of Quebec:
My Dear Mons. Chiniquy:
His lordship Bishop Signaie and I wish to confer with you on a most important matter. We have sent our carriage to bring you to Quebec. Please come without the least delay.
One hour after, I was with the two bishops. My Lord Signaie said:
"Monseigneur Turgeon will tell you why we have sent for you in such haste."
"Mons. Chiniquy," said Bishop Turgeon, "is not Kamouraska your birthplace?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Do you like that place, and do you interest yourself much in its welfare?"
"Of course, my lord, I like Kamouraska; not only because it is my birthplace, and the most happy hours of my youth were spent in it, but also because, in my humble opinion, the beauties of its scenery, the purity of its atmosphere, the fine manners and proverbial intelligence of its people, make it the very gem of Canada."
"You know," rejoined the bishop, "that Rev. Mons. Varin has been too infirm, these last years, to superintend the spiritual interest of that important place, it is impossible to continue putting a young vicar at the head of such a parish, where hundreds of the best families of our aristocracy of Quebec and Montreal resort every summer. We have, too long, tried that experiment of young priests in the midst of such a people. It has been a failure. Drunkenness, luxury, and immoralities of the most degrading kind are eating up the very life of Kamouraska today. Not less than thirty illegitimate births are known and registered in different places from Kamouraska these last twelve months. It is quite time to stop that state of affairs, and you are the only one, Mons. Chiniquy, on whom we can rely for that great and difficult work."
These last words passed through my soul as a two-edged sword. My lips quivered, I felt as if I were choking, and my tongue, with difficulty muttered: "My lord, I hope it is not your intention to remove me from my dear parish of Beauport."
"No, Mons. Chiniquy, we will not make use of our authority to break the sacred and sweet ties which unite you to the parish of Beauport. But we will put before your conscience the reasons we have to wish you at the head of the great and important parish of Kamouraska."
For more than an hour the two bishops made strong appeals to my charity for the multitudes who were sunk into the abyss of drunkenness and every vice, and had no one to save them.
"See how God and men are blessing you today," added the Archbishop Signaie, "for what you have done in Beauport! Will they not bless you still more, if you save that great and splendid parish of Kamouraska, as you have saved Beauport? Will not a double crown be put upon your forehead by your bishops, your country, and your God, if you consent to be the instrument of the mercies of God towards the people of your own birthplace, and the surrounding country, as you have just been for Beauport and its surrounding parishes? Can you rest and live in peace now in Beauport, when you hear day and night the voice of the multitudes, who cry: 'Come to our help, we are perishing'? What will you answer to God, at the last day, when He will show you the thousands of precious souls lost at Kamouraska, because you refused to go to their rescue? As Monseigneur Turgeon has said, we will not make use of our authority to force you to leave your present position; we hope that the prayers of your bishops will be enough for you. We know what a great sacrifice it will be for you to leave Beauport today; but do not forget that the greater the sacrifice, the more precious will the crown be."
My bishops had spoken to me with such kindness! Their paternal and friendly appeals had surely more power over me than orders. Not without many tears, but with a true good will, I consented to give up the prospects of peace and comfort which were in store for me in Beauport, to plunge myself again into a future of endless troubles and warfare, by going to Kamouraska.
There is no need of saying that the people of Beauport did all in their power to induce the bishops to let me remain among them some time longer. But the sacrifice had to be made. I gave my farewell address on the second Sabbath of September, in the midst of indescribable cries, sobs, and tears; and on the 17th of the same month, I was on my way to Kamouraska. I had left everything behind me at Beauport, even to my books, in order to be freer in that formidable conflict which seemed to be in store for me in my new parish. When I took leave of the Bishop of Quebec, they showed me a letter just received by them from Mons. Varin, filled with the most bitter expressions of indignation on account of the choice of such a fanatic and firebrand as Chiniquy, for a place as well known for its peaceful habits and harmony among all classes. The last words of the letter were as follows:
"The clergy and people of Kamouraska and vicinity consider the appointment of Mons. Chiniquy to this parish as an insult, and we hope and pray that your lordship may change your mind on the subject."
In showing me the letter, my lords Signaie and Turgeon said: "We fear that you will have more trouble than we expected with the old curate and his partisans, but we commend you to the grace of God and the protection of the Virgin Mary, remembering that our Saviour has said: 'Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world'" (John xvi. 33).
I arrived at Kamouraska the 21st of September, 1842, on one of the finest days of the year.
But my heart was filled with an unspeakable desolation, for all along the way the curates had told me that the people, with their old pastor, were unanimous in their opposition to my going there. It was even rumoured that the doors of the church would be shut against me the next Sunday. To this bad news were added two very strange facts. My brother Achilles, who was living at St. Michael, was to drive me from that place to St. Roch des Aulnets, whence my other brother Louis, would take me to Kamouraska. But we had not traveled more than five or six miles, when the wheel of the newly-finished and beautifully painted buggy, having struck a stone, the seat was broken into fragments, and we both fell to the ground.
By chance, as my brother was blessing the man who had sold him that rig for a new and first-class conveyance, a traveler going the same way passed by. I asked him for a place in his caleche, bade adieu to my brother, and consoled him by saying: "As you have lost your fine buggy in my service, I will give you a better one."
Two days after, my second brother was driving me to my destination, and when about three or four miles from Kamouraska, his fine horse stepped on a long nail which was on the road, fell down and died in the awful convulsions of tetanus. I took leave of him, and consoled him also by promising to give him another horse.
Another carriage took me safely to the end of my journey. However, having to pass by the church, which was about two hundred yards from the parsonage, I dismissed my driver at the door of the sacred edifice, and took my satchel in hand, which was my only baggage, entered the church, and spent more than an hour in fervent prayers, or rather in cries and tears. I felt so heart-sick that I needed that hour of rest and prayer. The tears I shed there relieved my burdened spirit.
A few steps from me, in the cemetery, lay the sacred remains of my beloved mother, whose angelic face and memory were constantly before me. Facing me was the altar where I had made my first communion; at my left was the pulpit which was to be the battlefield where I had to fight the enemies of my people and of my God, who, I had been repeatedly told, were cursing and grinding their teeth at me. But the vision of that old curate I had soon to confront, and who had written such an impudent letter against me to the bishops, and the public opposition of the surrounding priests to my coming into their midst, were the most discouraging aspects of my new position. I felt as if my soul had been crushed. My very existence seemed an unbearable burden.
My new responsibilities came so vividly before my mind in that distressing hour, that my courage for a moment failed me. I reproached myself for the act of folly in yielding to the request of the bishops. It seemed evident that I had accepted a burden too heavy for me to bear. But I prayed with all the fervour of my soul to God and to the Virgin Mary, and wept to my heart's content.
There is a marvelous power in the prayers and tears which come from the heart. I felt like a new man. I seemed to hear the trumpet of God calling me to the battlefield. My only business then was to go and fight, relying on Him alone for victory. I took my traveling bag, went out of the church and walked slowly towards the parsonage, which has been burnt since. It was a splendid two-storey building, eighty feet in length, with capacious cellars. It had been built shortly after the conquest of Canada, as a store for contraband goods; but after a few years of failure became the parsonage of the parish.
The Rev. Mons. Varin, though infirm and sick, had watched me from his window, and felt bewildered at my entering the church and remaining so long.
I knocked at the first door, but as nobody answered, I opened it, and crossed the first large room to knock at the second door; but, here also, no answer came except from two furious little dogs. I entered the room, fighting the dogs, which bit me several times. I knocked at the third and fourth doors with the same results no one to receive me.
I knew that the next was the old curate's sleeping room. At my knocking, an angry voice called out: "Walk in."
I entered, made a step toward the old and infirm curate, who was sitting in his large arm-chair. As I was about to salute him, he angrily said: "The people of Beauport have made great efforts to keep you in their midst, but the people of Kamouraska will make as great efforts to turn you out of this place."
"Mon. le Cure," I answered calmly, "God knoweth that I never desired to leave Beauport for the is place. But I think it is that great and merciful God who has brought me here by the hand; and I hope He will help me to overcome all opposition, from whatever quarter it may come."
He replied angrily: "Is it to insult me that you call me 'Mons. le Cure?' I am no more the curate of Kamouraska. You are the curate now, Mr. Chiniquy."
"I beg your pardon, my dear Mr. Varin; you are still, I hope you will remain all your life, the honoured and beloved curate of Kamouraska. The respect and gratitude I owe you have caused me to refuse the titles and honours which our bishop wanted to give me."
"But, then, if I am the curate, what are you?" replied the old priest, with more calmness.
"I am nothing but a simple soldier of Christ, and a sower of the good seed of the Gospel!" I answered. "When I fight the common enemy in the plain, as Joshua did, you, like Moses, will stand on the top of the mountain, lift up your hands to heaven, send your prayers to the mercy seat, and we will gain the day. Then both will bless the God of our salvation for the victory."
"Well! well! this is beautiful, grand, and sublime," said the old priest, with a voice filled with friendly emotions. "But whence is your household furniture, your library?"
"My household furniture," I answered, "is in this little bag, which I hold in my hand. I do not want any of my books as long as I have the pleasure and honour to be with the good Mons. Varin, who will allow me, I am sure of it, to ransack his splendid library, and study his rare and learned books."
"But what rooms do you wish to occupy?" rejoined the good old curate.
"As the parsonage is yours and not mine," I answered, "please tell me where you want me to sleep and rest. I will accept, with gratitude, any room you will offer me, even if it were in your cellar or granary. I do not want to bother you in any way. When I was young, a poor orphan in your parish, some twenty years ago, were you not a father to me? Please continue to look upon me as your own child, for I have always loved and considered you as a father, and I still do the same. Were you not my guide and adviser in my first steps in the ways of God? Please continue to be my guide and adviser to the end of your life. My only ambition is to be your right-hand man, and to learn from your old experience and your sincere piety, how to live and work as a good priest of Jesus Christ." I had not finished the last sentence when the old man burst into tears, threw himself into my arms, pressed me to his heart, bathed me with his tears, and said, with a voice half-suffocated by his sobs: "Dear Mr. Chiniquy, forgive me the evil things I have written and said about you. You are welcome in my parsonage, and I bless God to have sent me such a young friend, who will help me to carry the burden of my old age."
I then handed him the bishop's letter, which had confirmed all I had said about my mission of peace towards him.
From that day to his death, which occurred six months after, I never had a more sincere friend than Mr. Varin.
I thanked God, who had enabled me at once, not only to disarm the chief of my opponents, but to transform him into my most sincere and devoted friend. My hope was that the people would soon follow their chief and be reconciled to me, but I did not expect that this would be so soon and from such a unforeseen and unexpected cause.
The principal reason the people had to oppose my coming to Kamouraska was that I was the nephew of the Hon. Amable Dionne, who had made a colossal fortune at their expense. The Rev. Mr. Varin, who was always in debt, was also forced by the circumstances, to buy everything, both for himself and the church, from him, and had to pay without murmur the most exorbitant prices for everything.
In that way, the church and the curate, though they had very large revenues, had never enough to clear their accounts. When the people heard that the nephew of Mons. Dionne was their curate, they said to each other: "Now our poor church is for ever ruined, for the nephew will, still more than the curate, favour his uncle, and the uncle will be less scrupulous than ever in asking more unreasonable prices for his merchandise." They felt they had more than fallen from Charybdis into Scylla.
The very next day after my arrival, the beadle told me that the church needed a few yards of cotton for some repairs, and asked me if he would not go, as usual, to Mr. Dionne's store. I told him to go there first, ask the price of that article, and then go to the other stores, ordering him to buy at the cheapest one. Thirty cents was asked at Mr. Dionne's, and only fifteen cents at Mr. St. Pierre's; of course, we bought at the latter's store.
The day was not over, before this apparently insignificant fact was known all over the parish, and was taking the most extraordinary and unforeseen proportions. Farmers would meet with their neighbours and congratulate themselves that, at last, the yoke imposed upon them by the old curate and Mr. Dionne, was broken; that the taxes they had to pay the store were at an end, with the monopoly which had cost them so much money. Many came to Mr. St. Pierre to hear from his own lips that their new curate had, at once, freed them from what they considered the long and ignominious bondage, against which they had so often but so vainly protested. For the rest of this week this was the only subject of conversation. They congratulated themselves that they had, at last, a priest with such an independent and honest mind, that he would not do them any injustice even to please a relative in whose house he had spent the years of his childhood. This simple act of fair play towards that people won over their affection. Only one little dark spot remained in their minds against me. They had been told that the only subject on which I could preach was: Rum, whiskey, and drunkenness. And it seemed to them exceedingly tedious to hear nothing else from the curate, particularly when they were more than ever determined to continue drinking their social glasses of brandy, rum, and wine.
There was an immense crowd at church, the next Sunday. My text was: "As the Father has love Me, so have I loved you" (John xv. 9). Showing them how Jesus had proved that He was their friend. But their sentiments of piety and pleasure at what they had heard were nothing compared to their surprise when they saw that I preached nearly an hour without saying a word on whiskey, rum or beer. People are often compared to the waters of the sea, in the Holy Scriptures. When you see the roaring waves dashing on that rock today, as if they wanted to demolish it, do not fear that this fury will last long. The very next day, if the wind has changed, the same waters will leave that rock alone, to spend their fury on the opposite rock. So it was in Kamouraska. They were full of indignation and wrath when I set my feet in their midst; but a few days later, those very men would have given the last drop of their blood to protect me. The dear Saviour had evidently seen the threatening storm which was to destroy His poor unprofitable servant. He had heard the roaring waves which were dashing against me. So He came down and bid the storm "be still" and the waves be calm.
Continue to Chapter 40