CHAPTER VIII. 1636, 1637. THE HURON AND THE JESUIT.
ENTHUSIASM FOR THE MISSION. - SICKNESS OF THE PRIESTS. -
THE PEST AMONG THE HURONS. - THE JESUIT ON HIS ROUNDS. -
EFFORTS AT CONVERSION. - PRIESTS AND SORCERERS. - THE MAN-DEVIL. -
THE MAGICIAN'S PRESCRIPTION. - INDIAN DOCTORS AND PATIENTS. -
COVERT BAPTISMS. - SELF-DEVOTION OF THE JESUITS.
Meanwhile from Old France to New came succors and reinforcements to the missions of the forest. More Jesuits crossed the sea to urge on the work of conversion. These were no stern exiles, seeking on barbarous shores an asylum for a persecuted faith. Rank, wealth, power, and royalty itself, smiled on their enterprise, and bade them God-speed. Yet, withal, a fervor more intense, a self-abnegation more complete, a self-devotion more constant and enduring, will scarcely find its record on the page of human history.
Holy Mother Church, linked in sordid wedlock to governments and thrones, numbered among her servants a host of the worldly and the proud, whose service of God was but the service of themselves, - and many, too, who, in the sophistry of the human heart, thought themselves true soldiers of Heaven, while earthly pride, interest, and passion were the life-springs of their zeal. This mighty Church of Rome, in her imposing march along the high road of history, heralded as infallible and divine, astounds the gazing world with prodigies of contradiction: now the protector of the oppressed, now the right arm of tyrants; now breathing charity and love, now dark with the passions of Hell; now beaming with celestial truth, now masked in hypocrisy and lies; now a virgin, now a harlot; an imperial queen, and a tinselled actress. Clearly, she is of earth, not of heaven; and her transcendently dramatic life is a type of the good and ill, the baseness and nobleness, the foulness and purity, the love and hate, the pride, passion, truth, falsehood, fierceness, and tenderness, that battle in the restless heart of man.
It was her nobler and purer part that gave life to the early missions of New France. That gloomy wilderness, those hordes of savages, had nothing to tempt the ambitious, the proud, the grasping, or the indolent. Obscure toil, solitude, privation, hardship, and death were to be the missionary's portion. He who set sail for the country of the Hurons left behind him the world and all its prizes. True, he acted under orders, - obedient, like a soldier, to the word of command: but the astute Society of Jesus knew its members, weighed each in the balance, gave each his fitting task; and when the word was passed to embark for New France, it was but the response to a secret longing of the fervent heart. The letters of these priests, departing for the scene of their labors, breathe a spirit of enthusiastic exaltation, which, to a colder nature and a colder faith, may sometimes seem overstrained, but which is in no way disproportionate to the vastness of the effort and the sacrifice demanded of them.
[ The following are passages from letters of missionaries at this time. See "Divers Sentimens," appended to the Relation of 1635.
"On dit que les premiers qui fondent les Eglises d'ordinaire sont saincts: cette pensee m'attendrit si fort le coeur, que quoy que ie me voye icy fort inutile dans ceste fortunee Nouuelle France, si faut-il que 'auouee que ie ne me scaurois defendre d'vne pensee qui me presse le coeur: Cupio impendi, et superimpendi pro vobis, Pauure Nouuelle France, ie desire me sacrifier pour ton bien, et quand il me deuroit couster mille vies, moyennant que ie puisse aider a sauuer vne seule ame, ie seray trop heureux, et ma vie tres bien employee."
"Ma consolation parmy les Hurons, c'est que tous les iours ie me confesse, et puis ie dis la Messe, comme si ie deuois prendre le Viatique et mourir ce iour la, et ie ne crois pas qu'on puisse mieux viure, ny auec plus de satisfaction et de courage, et mesme de merites, que viure en un lieu, ou on pense pouuoir mourir tous les iours, et auoir la deuise de S. Paul, Quotidie morior, fratres, etc. mes freres, ie fais estat de mourir tous les iours."
"Qui ne void la Nouuelle France que par les yeux de chair et de nature, il n'y void que des bois et des croix; mais qui les considere auec les yeux de la grace et d'vne bonne vocation, il n'y void que Dieu, les vertus et les graces, et on y trouue tant et de si solides consolations, que si ie pouuois acheter la Nouuelle France, en donnant tout le Paradis Terrestre, certainement ie l'acheterois. Mon Dieu, qu'il fait bon estre au lieu ou Dieu nous a mis de sa grace! veritablement i'ay trouue icy ce que i'auois espere, vn coeur selon le coeur de Dieu, qui ne cherche que Dieu." ]
All turned with longing eyes towards the mission of the Hurons; for here the largest harvest promised to repay their labor, and here hardships and dangers most abounded. Two Jesuits, Pijart and Le Mercier, had been sent thither in 1635; and in midsummer of the next year three more arrived, - Jogues, Chatelain, and Garnier. When, after their long and lonely journey, they reached Ihonatiria one by one, they were received by their brethren with scanty fare indeed, but with a fervor of affectionate welcome which more than made amends; for among these priests, united in a community of faith and enthusiasm, there was far more than the genial comradeship of men joined in a common enterprise of self-devotion and peril. [ 1 ] On their way, they had met Daniel and Davost descending to Quebec, to establish there a seminary of Huron children, - a project long cherished by Brebeuf and his companions.