By Charles Chiniquy
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 self-denial, 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 battle-field, to be destroyed; but she bravely fought, and gained the victory. Now, she was called to begin her triumphant march through Canada.
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!
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 fellow-priests 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, to-day, 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 to-day 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. Good-bye, 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 English-speaking 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.
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 school-house 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 to-day 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 school-house. 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. 50year14.htm