By Charles Chiniquy
Our adorable Saviour said: "What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (Luke xiv. 31). To follow that advice, how often had I fallen on my knees before my God, to implore the necessary strength and wisdom to meet that terrible enemy which was marching against me and my brethren! Often I was so discouraged by the sense of my personal incapacity, that I came near fainting and flying away at the sight of the power and resources of the foe! But the dear Saviour's voice had as many times strengthened me, saying! "Fear not, I am with thee!" He seemed at every hour to whisper in my ears, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!" (John xvi. 33). Trusting, then, in my God, alone, for victory, I nevertheless understood that my duty was to arm myself with the weapons which the learned and the wise men of the past ages had prepared. I again studied the best works written on the subject of wine, from the learned naturalist, Pliny, to the celebrated Sir Astley Cooper. I not only compiled a multitude of scientific notes, arguments, and facts from these books, but prepared a "Manual of Temperance," which obtained so great a success, for such a small country as Canada, that it went through four editions of twenty-five thousand copies in less than four years. But my best source of information and wisdom was from letters received from Father Mathew, and my personal interviews with him, when he visited the United States.
The first time I met him, in Boston, he told me how he regretted his having, at first, too much relied on the excitement and enthusiasm of the multitudes. "Those fits," he said, "pass away as quickly as the clouds of the storm; and they, too often, leave no more traces of their passage. Persevere in the resolution you have taken in the beginning, never to give the pledge, except when you give a complete course of lectures on the damning effects of intoxicating drinks. How can we expect that the people will for ever give up beverages which they honestly, though ignorantly, believe to be beneficial and necessary to their body? The first thing we do we must demonstrate to them that these alcoholic drinks are absolutely destructive of their temporal, as well as of their eternal life. So long as the priest and the people believe, as they do to-day, that rum, brandy, wine, beer, and cider give strength to help man to keep up his health in the midst of his hard labours; that they warm his blood in winter and cool it in the summer; all our efforts, and even our successes, will be like the bundle of straw, which makes a bright light, attracts the attention for a moment, and leaves nothing but smoke and cinders.
"Hundreds of times I have seen my Irish countrymen honestly taking the pledge for life; but before a week had elapsed, they had obtained a release from their priests, under the impression that they were unable to earn their own living and support their families, without drinking those detestable drugs. Very few priests in Ireland have taken the pledge, and still fewer have kept it. In New York, only two Irish priests have given up their intoxicating glass, and the very next week I met both of them drunk! Archbishop Hughes turned my humble efforts into ridicule, before his priests, in my own presence, and drank a glass of brandy to my health with them at his own table to mock me. And here in Boston the drinking habits of the bishop and his priests are such, that I have been forced, through self-respect, to quietly withdraw from his palace and come to this hotel. This bad conduct paralyses and kills me."
In saying these last words, that good and noble man burst into a fit of convulsive sobs and tears; his breast was heaving under his vain efforts to suppress his sighs. He concealed his face in his hands, and for nearly ten minutes he could not utter a word. The spectacle of the desolation of a man whom God has raised so high, and so much blessed, and the tears of one who had himself dried so many tears, and brought so much joy, peace, and comfort, to so many desolate homes, has been one of the most solemn lessons my God ever gave me. I then learned more clearly than ever, that all the glory of the world is Vanity, and that one of the greatest acts of folly is to rely, for happiness, on the praises of men and the success of our own labours. For who had received more merited praises, and who had seen his own labours more blessed by God and man, than Father Mathew, whom all ages will call "The Apostle of Temperance of Ireland?"
My gratitude to Mr. Brassard caused me to choose his parish, near Montreal, for the first grand battlefield of the impending struggle against the enemy of my God and my country; and the first week of Advent determined upon for the opening of the campaign. But the nearer the day chosen to draw the sword against the modern Goliath, the more I felt the solemnity of my position, and the more I needed the help of Him on whom alone we can trust for light and strength.
I had determined never to lecture on temperance in any place, without having previously inquired, from the most reliable sources, about:—(1) The number of deaths and accidents caused by drunkenness the last fifteen or twenty years. (2) The number of orphans and widows made by drunkenness. (3) The number of rich families ruined, and the number of poor families made poorer by the same cause. (4) The approximate sum of money expended by the people during the last twenty years.
As the result of my enquiries, I learned that during that short period, that 32 men had lost their lives when drunk; and through their drunkenness 25 widows and 73 orphans had been left in the lowest degree of poverty! 72 rich families had been entirely ruined and turned out of their once happy homes by the demon of intemperance, and 90 kept poor. More than three hundred thousand dollars (300,000 dollars) had been paid in cash, without counting the loss of time, for the intoxicating beverages drank by the people of Longueuil during the last twenty years.
For three days, I spoke twice a day to crowded houses. My first text was: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his 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).
The first day I showed how alcoholic beverages were biting like a serpent and stinging like an adder, by destroying the lungs, the brains, and the liver, the nerves and the muscles, the blood and the very life of man. The second day I proved that intoxicating drinks were the most implacable and cruel enemies of the fathers, the mothers, the children; of the young and the old; of the rich and the poor; of the farmers, the merchants, and the mechanics; the parish and the country. The third day I proved, clearly, that those intoxicating liquors were the enemy of the intelligence, and the soul of man; the gospel of Christ and of His holy Church; the enemy of all the rights of man and the laws of God. My conclusion was, that we were all bound to raise our hands against that gigantic and implacable foe, whose arm was raised against every one of us. I presented the thrilling tableau of our friends, near and dear relations, and neighbours, fallen and destroyed around us; the thousands of orphans and widows, whose fathers and husbands had been slaughtered by strong drink. I brought before their minds the true picture of the starving children, the destitute widows and mothers, whose life had to be spent in tears, ignominy, desolation and unspeakable miseries, from the daily use of strong drink. I was not half through my address when tears flowed from every eye. The cries and sobs so much drowned my voice, that I had several times to stop speaking for a few minutes.
Then holding the crucifix, blessed and given to me by the Pope, I showed what Christ had suffered on the cross for sins engendered by the use of intoxicating drinks. And I requested them to listen to the voices of the thousands of desolate orphans, widows, wives and mothers, coming from every corner of the land; the voices of their priests and their church; the voices of the angels, the Virgin Mary and the saints in heaven; the voice of Jesus Christ their Saviour, calling them to put an end to the deluge of evils and unspeakable iniquities caused by the use of those cursed drinks; "for," said I, "those liquors are cursed by millions of mothers and children, widows and orphans, who owe to them a life of shame, tears, and untold desolation. They are cursed by the Virgin Mary and the angels who are the daily witnesses of the iniquities with which they deluge the world. They are cursed by the millions of souls which they have plunged into eternal misery. They are cursed by Jesus Christ, from whose hands they have wrenched untold millions of souls, for whom He died on Calvary."
Every one of those truths, incontrovertible for Roman Catholics, were falling with irresistible power on that multitude of people. The distress and consternation were so profound and universal, that they reacted, at last, on the poor speaker, who several times could not express what he himself felt except with his tears and his sobs.
When I hoped that, by the great mercy of God, all resistances were subdued, the obstacles removed, the intelligence enlightened, the wills conquered, I closed the address, which had lasted more than two hours, by an ardent prayer to God to grant us the grace to give up for ever the use of those terrible poisons, and I requested everyone to repeat with me, in their hearts, the solemn pledge of temperance in the following words:
"Adorable and dear Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to take away my sins and save my guilty soul, for Thy glory, the good of my brethren and of my country, as well as for my own good, I promise, with Thy help, never to drink, not to give to anybody any intoxicating beverages, except when ordered by an honest physician."
Our merciful God had visibly blessed the work and His unprofitable servant. The success was above our sanguine expectations. Two thousand three hundred citizens of Longueuil enrolled under the pledge, I asked them to come to the foot of the altar and kiss the crucifix I was holding, as the public and solemn pledge of their engagement.
The first thing done by the majority of the intelligent farmers of Longueuil, on the return from the church, was to break their decanters and their barrels, and spill the last drop of the accursed drink on the ground. Seven days later, there were eighty requests in my hands to go and show the ravages of alcoholic liquors to man other parishes. Boucherville, Chambly, Varennes, St. Hyacinthe, ect., Three Rivers, the great city of Montreal, Three Rivers, and St. Hyacinthe, one after the other, raised the war cry against the usages of intoxicating drinks, with a unanimity and determination which seemed to be more miraculous than natural. During the four years, I gave 1,800 public addresses, in 200 parishes, with the same fruits, and enrolled more than 200,000 people under the banners of temperance. Everywhere, the taverns, the distilleries and breweries were shut, and their owners forced to take other trades to make a living; not on account of any stringent law, but by the simple fact that the whole people had ceased drinking their beverages, after having been fully persuaded that they were injurious to their bodies, opposed to their happiness, and ruinous to their souls.
The convictions were so unanimous and strong on that subject, that, in many places, the last evening I spent in their midst, the merchants used to take all their barrels or rum, beer, wine and brandy to the public squares, make a pyramid of them, to which I was invited to set fire. The whole population, attracted by the novelty and sublimity of that spectacle, would then fill the air with their cries and shouts of joy. When the husbands and wives, the parents and children of the redeemed drunkards rent the air with their cries of joy at the destruction of their enemy, and the fire was in full blaze, one of the merchants would give me an axe to stave in the last barrel of rum. After the last drop was emptied, I usually stood on it to address some parting words to the people.
Such a spectacle baffles any description. The brilliant light of the pine and cedar trees, mixed with all kinds of inflammable materials which everyone had been invited to bring, changed the darkest hour of that night into the brightest of days. The flames, fed by the fiery liquid, shot forth their tongues of fire towards heaven, as if to praise their great God, whose merciful hand had brought the marvelous reformation we were celebrating. The thousand faces, illuminated by the blaze, beamed with joy. The noise of the cracking barrels, mixed with that of a raging fire; the cries and shouts of that multitude, with the singing of the Te Deum, formed a harmony which filled every soul with sentiments of unspeakable happiness. But where shall I find words to express my feelings, when I had finished speaking! The mothers and wives to whom our blessed temperance had given back a loving husband and some dear children, were crowding around me with their families and redeemed ones, to thank me, press my hands to their lips, and water them with their grateful tears.
The only thing which marred that joy were the exaggerated honours and unmerited praises with which I was really overwhelmed. I was, at first, forced to received an ovation from the curates and people of Longueuil and the surrounding parishes, when they presented to me my portrait, painted by the artist Hamel, which filled me with confusion, for I felt so keenly that I did not deserve such honours. But it was still worse at the end of May, 1849. Judge Mondelet was deputed by the bishop and the priests and the city of Montreal, accompanied by 15,000 people, to present me with a gold medal, and a gift of four hundred dollars.
But the greatest surprise my God had in store for me, was kept for the end of June, 1850. At that time, I was deputed by 40,000 tee-totalers, to present a petition to the Parliament of Toronto, in order to make the rum sellers responsible for the ravages caused to the families of the poor drunkards to whom they had sold their poisonous drugs. The House of Commons having kindly appointed a committee of ten members to help me to frame that bill, it was an easy matter to have it pass through the three branches. I was present when they discussed and accepted that bill. Napoleon was not more happy after he had won the battle of Austerlitz, than I was when I heard that my pet bill had become law, and that hereafter, the innocent victims of the drunken father or husband would receive an indemnity from the landsharks who were fattening on their poverty and unspeakable miseries.
But what was my surprise and consternation, when, immediately after the passing of that bill, the Hon. Dewitt rose and proposed that a public expression of gratitude should be given me by Parliament, under the form of a large pecuniary gift! His speech seemed to me filled with such exaggerated eulogiums, that I would have been tempted to think it was mockery, had I not known that the Protestant gentleman was one of my most sincere friends. He was followed by the Honourables Baldwin and Lafontaine, Ministers at that time, and half a dozen other members, who went still further into what I so justly consider the regions of exaggeration. It seemed to me bordering on blasphemy to attribute to Chiniquy a reformation which was so clearly the work of my merciful God. The speeches on that subject lasted two hours, and were followed by a unanimous vote to present me with $500, as a public testimony of the gratitude of the people for my labours in the temperance reform of Canada. Previous to that, the Bishops of Quebec and Montreal had given me tokens of their esteem which, though unmerited, had been better appreciated by me.
When in May, 1850, Archbishop Turgeon, of Quebec, sent the Rev. Charles Baillargeon, curate of Quebec, to Rome, to become his successor, he advised him to come to Longueuil, and get a letter from me, which he might present to the Pope, with a volume of my "Temperance Manual." I complied with his request, and wrote to the Pope. Some months later, I received the following lines:
Rome, Aug. 10th, 1850.
Rev. Mr. Chiniquy,
Sir and dear friend;—Monday, the 12th was the first opportunity given me to have a private audience with the Sovereign Pontiff. I presented him your book, with your letter, which he received, I will not say with that goodness which is so eminently characteristic of him, but with all special marks of satisfaction and approbation, while charging me to state to you that he accords his apostolic benediction to you and to the holy work of temperance you preach. I consider myself happy to have had to offer on your behalf, to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, a book which, after it had done so much good to my countrymen, had been able to draw from his venerable lips, such solemn words of approbation of the temperance society and of blessings on those who are its apostles; and it is also, for my heart, a very sweet pleasure to transmit them to you.
Your friend, Charles Baillargeon Priest.
A short time before I received that letter from Rome, Bishop Bourget, of Montreal, had officially given me the title of "Apostle of Temperance;" in the following document, which, on account of its importance, the readers will probably like to have in its original Latin:-
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, Miseratioine Divina et St e. Sedis Apostolic e Gratia, Episcopus Marianopolitanensis, Etc., Etc., Etc."
"Universis praesentes litteras inspecturis, notum facimus et attestamur Venerabilem Carolum Chiniquy, Temperantiae Apostolum, Nostrae Diocoecis Sacerdotem, Nobis optime notum esse, exploratumque habere illum vitam laudabilem et professione Ecclesiastica consonam agere, nullisque ecclesiasticis censuris, saltem quae ad nostram devenerunt Notitiam innodatum; qua propter, per viscera Misericordiae Dei Nostri, obsecramus omnes et Singulos Archiepiscopos, Episcopos, coeterasque Ecclesiae dignitates ad quos ipsum declinare contingerit, ut eum, pro Christi Amore, benigne tractare digentur, et quando cumque ab eo fuerint requisiti, Sacrum Missae Sacrificium ipsi celebrare, nec non alia munia Ecclesiastica, et pietatis opera exercere permittant, paratos nos ad similia et majora exhibentes: In quorum fidem, praesentes litteras signo sigilloque nostris, ac Secretarii Episcopatus nostri subscriptione communitas expediri mandavimus Marianopoli, in (Edibus Nostris Beati Jacobi, anno millesimo quinquagesimo. Die vero mensis Junii Sexta.
IG. EPIS. MARIANOPOLITANENSIS. "J. O. Pare, Can, Secrius."
"IGNATIUS BOURGET, By the Divine Mercy and Grace of the Holy Apostolic See, Bishop of Montreal.
"To all who inspect the present letters, we make known and certify that the venerable Charles Chiniquy, 'Apostle of Temperance,' Priest of our Diocese, is very well known to us, and we regard him as proved, to lead a praiseworthy life, and one agreeable to his ecclesiastical profession. Through the tender mercies of our God, he is under no ecclesiastical censures, at least, which have come to our knowledge.
"We entreat each and all, Archbishop, Bishop, and other dignitaries of the Church, to whom it may happen that he may go, that they, for the love of Christ, entertain him kindly and courteously, and as often as they may be asked by him, permit him to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the mass, and exercise other ecclesiastical privileges of piety, being ourselves ready to grant him these and other greater privileges. In proof of this we have ordered the present letters and to be prepared under our sign and seal, and with subscription of our secretary, in our palace of the blessed James, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty, on the sixth day of the month of June.
IGNATIUS, Bishop of Marianopolis.
"By order of the most illustrious and most Reverend Bishop of Marianopolis, D.D. "J. O. Pare, Canon, Secretary."
No words from my pen can give an idea of the distress and shame I felt when these unmerited praises and public honours began to flow upon me. For, when the siren voice of my natural pride was near to deceive me, there was the noise of a sudden storm in my conscience, crying with a louder voice: "Chiniquy, thou art a sinner, unworthy of such praises and honours."
This conflict made me very miserable. I said to myself, "Are those great successes due to my merits, my virtues and my eloquence? NO! Surely, No! They are due to the great mercy of God for my dear country. Shall I not for ever be put to shame if I consent to these flattering voices which come to me from morning till night, to make me forget that to my God alone, and not to me, must be given the praise and glory of that marvelous reform?"
These praises were coming every day, thinker and thicker, through the thousand trumpets of the press, as well as through the addresses daily presented me from the places which had been so thoroughly reformed. Those unmerited honours were bestowed on me by multitudes who came in carriages and on horseback, bearing flags, with bands of music, to receive me on the borders of their parishes where the last parishes had just brought me with the same kind of ovations. Sometimes, the roads were lined on both sides, by thousands and thousands of maple, pine or spruce trees, which they had carried from distant forests, in spite of all my protests.
How many times the curates, who were sitting by me in the best carriages, drawn by the most splendid horses, asked me: "Why do you look so sad, when you see all these faces beaming with joy?" I answered, "I am sad, because these unmerited honours these good people do me, seem to be the shortest way the devil has found to destroy me." "But the reform you have brought about is so admirable and so complete—the good which is done to the individuals, as well as to the whole country, is so great and universal, that the people want to show you their gratitude." "Do you know, my dear friends," I answered, "that that marvelous change is too great to be the work of man? It is not evidently the work of God? To Him, and Him alone, then we ought to give the praise and the glory."
My constant habit, after these days of ovation, was to pass a part of the night in prayer to God, to the Virgin Mary, and to all the saints in heaven, to prevent me from being hurt by these worldly honours. It was my custom then to read the passion of Jesus Christ, from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem to His death on the cross, in order to prevent this shining dust from adhering to my soul. There was a verse of the Gospel which I used to repeat very often in the midst of these exhibitions of the vanities of this world: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26).
Another source of serious anxiety for me was then coming from the large sums of money constantly flowing from the hands of my too kind and grateful reformed countrymen into mine. It was very seldom that the public expression of gratitude presented me in their rhetorical addresses were not accompanied by a gift of from fifty dollars to two hundred dollars, according to the means and importance of the place. Those sums multiplies by the 365 days of the year would have soon made of me one of the richest men of Canada. Had I been able to trust in my own strength against the dangers of riches, I should have been able, easily, to accumulate a sum of at least seventy thousand dollars, with which I might have done a great amount of good.
But I confess that, when in the presence of God, I went to the bottom of my heart, to see if it were strong enough to carry such a glittering weight, I found it, by far, too weak. I knew so many who, though evidently stronger than I was, had fallen on the way and perished under too heavy burden of their treasures, that I feared for myself at the sight of such unexpected and immense fortune. Besides, when only eighteen years old, my venerable and dear benefactor, the Rev. Mr. Leprohon, director of the College of Nicolet, had told me a thing I never had forgotten: "Chiniquy," he said, "I am sure you will be what we call a successful man in the world. You will easily make your way among your contemporaries; and, consequently, it is probable that you will have many opportunities of becoming rich. But when the silver and gold flow into your hands, do not pile and keep it. For, if you set your affection on it, you will be miserable in this world and damned in the next. You must not do like the fattened hogs which give their grease only after their death. Give it while you are living. Then you will not be blessed only by God and man, but you will be blessed by your own conscience. You will live in peace and die in joy."
These solemn warnings from one of the wisest and best friends God had ever given me, when young, has never gone out of my mind. I found them corroborated in every page of that Bible which I loved so much, and studied every day. I found them also written, by God, in my heart. I then, on my knees, took the resolution, without making an absolute vow to it, to keep only what I wanted for my daily support and give the rest to the poor, or some Christian or patriotic object. I kept that promise. The $500 given me by Parliament did not remain three weeks in my hands. I never put a cent in Canada in the vaults of any bank; and when I left for Illinois, in the fall of 1851, instead of taking with me 70,000 dollars, as it would have been very easy, had I been so minded, I had hardly 1,500 dollars in hand, the price of a part of my library, which was too heavy to be carried so far away.
The 15th of August, 1850, I preached in the Cathedral of Montreal, on the Blessed Virgin Mary's power in heaven, when interceding for sinners, I was sincerely devoted to the Virgin Mary. Nothing seemed to me more natural than to pray to her, and rely on her protection. The object of my sermon was to show that Jesus Christ cannot refuse any of the petitions presented to Him by His mother; that she has always obtained the favours she asked her Son, Jesus, to grant to her devotees. Of course, my address was more sentimental than scriptural, as it is the style among the priests of Rome. But I was honest; and I sincerely believed what I said.
"Who among you, my dear brethren," I said to the people, "will refuse any of the reasonable demands of a beloved mother? Who will break and sadden her loving heart when, with supplicating voice and tears, she presents to you a petition which it is in your power, nay, to your interest, to grant? For my own part, were my beloved mother still living, I would prefer to have my right hand crushed and burned into cinders, to have my tongue cut out, than to say, No! to my mother, asking me any favour which it was in my power to bestow. These are the sentiments which the God of Sinai wanted to engrave in the very hearts of humanity, when giving His laws to Moses, in the midst of lightning and thunders, and these are the sentiments which the God of the Gospel wanted to impress on our souls by the shedding of His blood on Calvary. The sentiments of filial respect and obedience to our mothers, Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, practiced to perfection. Although God and man, He was still in perfect submission to the will of His mother, of which He makes a law to each of us. The Gospel says, in reference to His parents, Joseph and Mary, He 'was subject unto them' (Luke ii. 51). What a grand and shining revelation we have in these few short words: Jesus was subject unto Mary! Is it not written, that Jesus is the same to-day, as He was yesterday, and will be for ever? (Heb. xiii. 8). He has not changed. He is still the Son of Mary, as He was when only twelve years old. In His divine humanity, He is still subject unto Mary, as He was then. This is why our holy Church, which is the pillar and fountain of Truth, invites you and me, to-day, to put an unbounded confidence in her intercession. Remembering that Jesus has always granted the petitions presented to Him by His divine mother, let us put our petitions in her hands, if we want to receive the favours we are in need of.
"The second reason why we must all go to Mary, for the favours we want from heaven, is that we are sinners—rebels in the sight of God. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. Yes! but He is also our God, infinitely just, infinitely holy. He hates our sins with an infinite hatred. He abhors our rebellions with an infinite, a godly hatred. If we had loved and served Him faithfully we might go to Him, not only with the hope, but with the assurance of being welcomed. But we have forgotten and offended Him; we have trampled His blood under our feet; we have joined with those who nailed Him on the cross, pierced His heart with the lance, and shed His blood to the last drop. We belong to the crowd which mocked at His tortures, and insulted Him at His death. How can we dare to look at Him and meet His eyes? Must we not tremble in His presence? Must we not fear before that Lion of the tribe of Judah whom we have wounded and nailed to the cross? Where is the rebel who does not shiver, when he is dragged to the feet of the mighty Prince against whom he has drawn the sword? What will he do if he wants to obtain pardon? Will he go himself and speak to that offended Majesty? No! But he looks around the throne to see if he can find some of the great officers, and friends, or some powerful and influential person through whose intercession he can obtain pardon. If he finds any such, he goes immediately to him, puts his petitions into their hands, and they go to the foot of the throne to plead for the rebel, and the favour which would have been indignantly refused to the guilty subject, had he dared to speak himself, is granted, when it is asked by a faithful officer, a kind friend, a dear sister, or a beloved mother. This is why our holy church, speaking through her infallible supreme pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, Gregory XVI., has told us, in the most solemn manner, that 'Mary is the only hope of sinners.'"
Winding up my arguments, I added: "We are those insolent ungrateful rebels. Jesus is that King of kings against whom we have, a thousand times, risen in rebellion. He has a thousand good reasons to refuse our petitions, if we are impudent enough to speak to Him ourselves. But look at the right hand of the offended King, and behold His dear and divine mother. She is your mother also. For it is to every one of us, as well as to John, that Christ said on the cross, speaking of Mary, 'Behold thy mother' (John xix. 27). Jesus has never refused any favour asked by that Queen of Heaven. He cannot rebuke His mother. Let us go to her; let us ask her to be our advocate and plead our cause, and she will do it. Let us suppliantly request her to ask for our pardon, and she will get it."
I then sincerely took these glittering sophisms for the true religion of Christ, as all the priests and people of Rome are bound to take them to-day, and presented them with all the earnestness of an honest, though deluded mind.
My sermon had made a visible and deep impression. Bishop Prince, coadjutor of my Lord Bourget, who was among my hearers, thanked and congratulated me for the good effect it would have on the people, and I sincerely thought I had said what was true and right before God.
But when night came, before going to bed, I took my Bible as usual, knelt down before God, in the neat little room I occupied in the bishop's palace, and read the twelfth chapter of Matthew, with a praying heart and a sincere desire to understand it, and be benefited thereby. Strange to say! when I reached the 40th verse, I felt a mysterious awe, as if I had entered for the first time into a new and most holy land. Though I had read that verse and the following many times, they came to my mind with a freshness and newness as if I had never seen them before. There was a lull in my mind for some moments. Slowly, and with breathless attention, supreme veneration and respect, I read the history of that visit of Mary to the sacred spot where Jesus, my Saviour, was standing in the midst of the crowd feeding His happy hearers with the bread of life.
When I contemplated that blessed Mary, whom I loved, as so tenderly approaching the house where she was to meet her divine Son, who had been so long absent from her, my heart suddenly throbbed in sympathy with hers. I felt as if sharing her unspeakable joy at every step which brought her nearer to her adorable and beloved Son. What tears had she not shed when Jesus had left her alone, in her now, poor, and cheerless home, that He might preach the Gospel in the distant places, where His Father had sent Him! With Jesus in her humble home, was she not more happy then than the greatest queen on her throne! Did she not possess a treasure more precious than all the world! How sweet to her ears and heart were the words she had heard from His lips!
How lovely the face of the most beautiful among the sons of men! How happy she must have felt, when she heard that He was, now, near enough to allow her to go and see Him! How quick were her steps. How cheerful and interesting the meeting! How the beloved Saviour will repay by His respectful and divine love to His beloved mother, the trouble and the fatigue of her long journey! My heart beat with joy at the privilege of witnessing that interview, and of hearing the respectful words Jesus would address to His mother!
With heart and soul throbbing with these feelings, I slowly read—"While He yet talked to the people, behold His mother and His brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him: Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him: Who is My mother? and Who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hands towards His disciples, and said: Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."
I had hardly finished reading the last verse, when big drops of sweat began to flow from my face, my heart beat with a tremendous speed, and I came near fainting; I sat in my large arm-chair, expecting every minute to fall on the floor. Those alone who have stood several hours at the falls of the marvelous Niagara, heard the thundering noise of its waters, and felt the shaking of the rocks under their feet, can have any idea of what I felt in that hour of agony.
A voice, the voice of my conscience, whose thunders were like the voice of a thousand Niagaras was telling me: "Do you not see that you have preached a sacrilegious lie this morning, when, from the pulpit, you said to your ignorant and deluded people, that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother, Mary? Are you not ashamed to deceive yourself, and deceive your poor countrymen with such silly falsehoods?"
"Read, read again these words! and understand that, far from granting all the petitions of Mary, Jesus has always, except when a child, said No! to her requests. He has always rebuked her, when she asked Him anything in public! Here she comes to ask Him a favour before the whole people. It is the easiest, the most natural favour that a mother ever asked of her son. It is a favour that a son has never refused to a mother. He answers by a rebuke, a public and solemn rebuke! It is through want of love and respect for Mary that He gave her that rebuke? No! Never a son loved and respected a mother as He did. But it was a solemn protest against the blasphemous worship of Mary as practiced in the Church of Rome."
I felt at once so bewildered and confounded, by the voice which was shaking my very bones, that I thought it was the devil's voice; and, for a moment, I feared less I was possessed of a demon. "My God," I cried, "have mercy on me! Come to my help! Save me from my enemy's hands!" As quick as lightning the answer came: "It is not Satan's voice you hear. It is I, thy Saviour and thy God, who speaks to thee. Read what Mark, Luke, and John tell you about the way I received her petitions, from the very day I began to work, and speak publicly as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world."
These cries of my awakening intelligence were sounding in my ears for more than one hour, before I consented to obey them. At last, with a trembling hand, and a distressed mind, I took my Bible and read in St. Mark: "There came then His brethren and his mother, and standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without, seek for Thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren? And He looked around about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother" (Mark iii. 31 - 35).
The reading of these words acted upon me as the shock of a sword going through and through the body of one who had already been mortally wounded. I felt absolutely confounded. The voice continued to sound in my ears: "Do you not see you have presented a blasphemous lie, every time you said that Jesus always granted the petitions of His mother?"
I remained again, a considerable time, bewildered, not knowing how to fight down thoughts which were so mercilessly shaking my faith, and demolishing the respect I had kept, till then, for my Church. After more than half an hour of vain struggle to silence these thoughts, it came to my mind that St. Luke had narrated this interview of Mary and Jesus in a very different way. I opened the holy book again to read the eighth chapter. But how shall I find words to express my distress when I saw that the rebuke of Jesus Christ was expressed in a still sterner way by St. Luke than by the two other evangelists! "Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. And it was told Him by certain which said, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee. And He answered and said unto them, My mother and My brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it" (Luke viii. 19 - 21).
It then seemed to me as if those three evangelists said to me: "How dare you preach with your apostate and lying Church, that Jesus has always granted all the petitions of Mary, when we were ordered by God to write and proclaim that all the public petitions she had presented to Him, when working as the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, had been answered by a public rebuke?"
What could I answer? How could I stand the rebuke of these three evangelists? Trembling from head to foot, I fell upon my knees, crying to the Virgin Mary to come to my help and pray that I might not succumb to this temptation, and lose my faith and confidence in her. But the more I prayed, the louder the voice seemed to say: "How dare you preach that Jesus has always granted the petitions of Mary, when we tell you the contrary by the order of God Himself?"
My desolation became such, that a cold sweat covered my whole frame again; my head was aching, and I think I would have fainted had I not been released by a torrent of tears. In my distress, I cried: "Oh! my God! my God! look down upon me in Thy mercy; strengthen my faith in Thy Holy Church! Grant me to follow her voice and obey her commands with more and more fidelity; she is Thy beloved Church. She cannot err. She cannot be an apostate Church." But in vain I wept and cried for help. My whole being was filled with dismay and terror from the voices of the three witnesses, who were crying louder and louder:
"How dare you preach that Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary, when the gospels, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, tell you so clearly the contrary?"
When I had, in vain, wept, prayed, cried, and struggled from ten at night till three in the morning, the miraculous change of water into wine, by Christ, at the request of his mother, suddenly came to my mind. I felt a momentary relief from my terrible distress, by the hope that I could prove to myself that in this case the Saviour had obeyed he demands of His holy mother. I eagerly opened my Bible again and read:
"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it" (John ii. 1 - 5).
Till that hour I had always accepted that text in the sense given in the Church of Rome, as proving that the very first miracle of Jesus Christ was wrought at the request of His mother. And I was preparing myself to answer the three mysterious witnesses: "Here is the proof that you are three devils, and not three evangelists, when you tell me that Jesus has never granted the petitions of His mother, except when a child. Here is the glorious title of Mary to my confidence in her intercession; here is the seal of her irresistible superhuman power over her divine Son; here is the undeniable evidence that Jesus cannot refuse anything asked by His divine mother!" But when, armed with these explanations of the church, I was preparing to meet what Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke had just told me, a sudden distressing thought came to my mind; and this thought was as if I heard the three witnesses saying: "How can you be so blind as not to see that instead of being a favour granted to Mary, this first miracle is the first opportunity chosen by Christ to protest against her intercession. It is a solemn warning to Mary never to ask anything from Him, and to us, never to put any confidence in her requests. Here, Mary, evidently full of compassion for those poor people, who had not the means to provide the wine for the guests who had come with Jesus, wants her Son to give them the wine they wanted. How does Christ answer her requests? He answers it by a rebuke, a most solemn rebuke. Instead of saying, "Yes, mother, I will do as you wish," He says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" which clearly means, "Woman, thou hast nothing to do in this matter. I do not want you to speak to me of the bridegroom's distress. It was My desire to come to their help and show My divine power. I do not want you to put yourself between the wants of humanity and Me. I do not want the world to believe that you had any right, any power or influence over me, or more compassion on the miseries of man than I have. Is it not to Me and Me alone, the lost children of Adam must look to be saved? Woman, what have I to do with thee in My great work of saving this perishing world? Nothing, absolutely nothing. I know what I have to do to fulfill, not our will, but My Father's will!"
This is what Jesus meant by the solemn rebuke given to Mary. He wanted to banish all idea of her ever becoming an intercessor between man and Christ. He wanted to protest against the doctrine of the Church of Rome, that it is through Mary that He will bestow His favour to His disciples, and Mary understood it well when she said, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." Never come to me, but got to Him. "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12).
Every one of these thoughts passed over my distressed soul like a hurricane. Every sentence was like a flash of lightning in a dark night. I was like the poor dismantled ship suddenly overtaken by the tempest in the midst of the ocean.
Till the dawn of day, I felt powerless against the efforts of God to pull down and demolish the huge fortress of sophisms, falsehoods, idolatries, which Rome had built around my soul. What a fearful thing it is to fight against the Lord!
During the long hours of that night, my God was contending with me, and I was struggling against Him. But though brought down to the dust, I was not conquered. My understanding was very nearly convinced. My rebellious and proud will was not yet ready to yield.
The chains by which I was tied to the feet of the idols of Rome, though rudely shaken, were not yet broken. However, to say the truth, my views about the worship of Mary had received a severe shock, and were much modified. That night had been sleepless; and in the morning my eyes were red, and my face swollen with my tears. When at breakfast, Bishop Prince, who was sitting by me, asked: "Are you sick? Your eyes are as if you had wept all night?" "Your lordship is not mistaken, I have wept the whole night!" I answered. "Wept all the night!" replied the bishop. "Might I know the cause of your sorrow?" "Yes, my lord. You can, you must know it. But please come to your room. What I have to say is of such a private and delicate nature, that I want to be alone with your lordship, when opening my mind to the cause of my tears."
Bishop Prince, then coadjutor of Bishop Bourget and late bishop of St. Hyacinthe, where he became insane in 1858 and died in 1860, had been my personal friend from the time I entered the college at Nicolet, where he was professor of Rhetoric. He very often came to confession to me, and had taken a lively interest in my labours on temperance.
When alone with him, I said: "My lord, I thank you for your kindness in allowing me to unburden my heart to you. I have passed the most horrible night of my life. Temptations against our holy religion such as I never had before, have assailed me all night. Your lordship remembers the kind words you addressed to me yesterday about the sermon I preached. But, last night, very different things came to my mind, which have changed the joys of yesterday into the most unspeakable desolation. You congratulated me yesterday on the manner I had proved that Jesus had always granted the requests of His mother, and that He cannot refuse any of her petitions. The whole night it has been told me that this was a blasphemous lie, and from the Holy Scriptures themselves, I have been nearly convinced that you and I, nay, that our holy church, are preaching a blasphemous falsehood every time we proclaim the doctrines of the worship of Mary as the Gospel truth."
The poor bishop, thunderstruck by this simple and honest declaration, quickly answered: "I hope you have not yielded to these temptations, and that you will not become a Protestant as so many of your enemies whisper to each other."
"It is my hope, my lord, that our merciful God will keep me, to the end of my life, a dutiful and faithful priest of our holy church. However, I cannot conceal from your lordship that my faith was terribly shaken last night.
"As a bishop, your portion of light and wisdom must be greater than mine. I hope you will grant me some of the lights which will brightly shine before your eyes: I have never been so much in need of the counsels of your piety and the help of your scriptural knowledge as to-day. Please help me to come out from the intellectual slough in which I spent the night.
"Your lordship has congratulated me for having said that Jesus Christ has always granted the petitions of Mary. Please tell me how you reconcile that proposition with the text;" and I handed him the Gospel of Matthew, pointing to the last five verses of the twelfth chapter, I requested him to read them aloud.
He read them and said: "Now, what do you want from me?"
"My lord, I want respectfully to ask you how we can say that Jesus has always granted the requests of His mother, when this evangelist tells us that He never granted her petitions, when acting in His capacity of Saviour of the world.
"Must we not fear that we proclaim a blasphemous falsehood when we support a proposition directly opposed to the Gospel?"
The poor bishop seemed absolutely confounded by this simple and honest question. I also felt confused and sorry for his humiliation. Beginning a phrase, he would give it up; trying arguments, he could not push to their conclusion. It seemed to me that he had never read that text, of if he had read it, he, like myself and the rest of the priests of Rome, had never noted that they entirely demolish the stupendous impostures of the church, in reference to the worship of Mary.
In order to help him out of the inextricable difficulties into which I had at once pushed him, I said: "My lord, will you allow me to put a few more questions to you?"
"With pleasure," he answered.
"Well! my lord, who came to this world to save you and me? Is it Jesus or Mary?"
"It is Jesus," answered the bishop.
"Now, please allow me a few more questions."
"When Jesus and Mary were on earth, whose heart was most devoted to sinners? Who loved them with a more efficacious and saving love; was it Jesus or Mary?"
"Jesus, being God, His love was evidently more efficacious and saving than Mary's," answered the bishop.
"In the days of Jesus and Mary, to whom did Jesus invite sinners to go for their salvation; was it to Himself or Mary?" I asked again.
The bishop answered: "Jesus has said to all sinners, 'Come unto Me.' He never said, come or go to Mary."
"Have we any examples, in the Scriptures, of sinners, who, fearing to be rebuked by Jesus, have gone to Mary and obtained access to Him through her, and been saved through her intercessions?"
"I do not remember of any such cases," replied the bishop.
I then asked: "To whom did the penitent thief on the cross address himself to be saved; was it to Jesus or Mary?"
"It was to Jesus," replied the bishop.
"Did that penitent thief do well to address himself to Jesus on the cross, rather than to Mary who was at his feet?" said I.
"Surely he did better," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, allow me only one question more. You told me that Jesus loved sinners, when on earth, infinitely more than Mary; that He was infinitely more their true friend than she was; that He infinitely took more interest in their salvation than Mary; that it was infinitely better for sinners to go to Jesus than to Mary, to be saved; will you please tell me if you think that Jesus has lost, in heaven, since He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, any of His divine and infinite superiority of love and mercy over Mary for sinners; and can you show me that what Jesus has lost has been gained by Mary?"
"I do not think that Christ has lost any of His love and power to save us now that He is in heaven," answered the bishop.
"Now, my lord, if Jesus is still my best friend, my most powerful, merciful, and loving friend, why should I not go directly to Him? Why should we, for a moment, go to any one who is infinitely inferior, in power, love, and mercy, for our salvation?"
The bishop was stunned by my question.
He stammered some unintelligible answer, excused himself for not being able to remain any longer, on account of some pressing business; and extending his hand to me before leaving, he said, "You will find an answer to your questions and difficulties in the Holy Fathers."
"Can you lend me the Holy Fathers, my lord?"
He replied, "No, sir, I have them not."
This last answer, from my bishop, shook my faith to its foundation, and left my mind in a state of great distress. With the sincere hope of finding in the Holy Fathers some explanations which would dispel my painful doubts, I immediately went to Mr. Fabre, the great bookseller of Montreal, who got me, from France, the splendid edition of the Holy Fathers, by Migne. I studied, with the utmost attention, every page where I might find what they taught of the worship of Mary, and the doctrines that Jesus Christ had never refused any of her prayers.
What was my desolation, my shame, and my surprise to find that the Holy Fathers of the first six centuries had never advocated the worship of Mary, and that the many eloquent pages on the power of Mary in heaven, and her love for sinners, found in every page of my theologians, and other ascetic books I had read till then, were but impudent lies; additions interpolated in their works, a hundred years after their death. When discovering these forgeries, under the name of the Holy Fathers, of which my church was guilty, how many times, in the silence of my long nights of study and prayerful meditations, did I hear a voice telling me: "Come out of Babylon!"
But where could I go? Out of the Church of Rome, where could I find that salvation which was to be found only within her walls? I said to myself, "Surely there are some errors in my dear church! The dust of ages may have fallen on the precious gold of her treasures, but will I not find still more damnable errors among those hundreds of Protestant churches, which, under the name of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, ect., ect., are divided and subdivided into scores of contemptible sects, anathematizing and denouncing each other before the world?"
My ideas of the great family of evangelical churches, comprised under the broad name of Protestantism, were so exaggerated then, that it was absolutely impossible for me to find in them that unity, which I considered the essentials of the church of Christ. The hour was not yet come, but it was coming fast, when my dear Saviour would make me understand His sublime words: "I am the vine, and ye are the branches."
It was some time later, when under the beautiful vine I had planted in my own garden, and which I had cultivated with mine own hands, I saw that there was not a single branch like another in that prolific vine. Some branches were very big, some very thin, some very long, some very short, some going up, some going down, some straight as an arrow, some crooked as a flash of lightning, some turning to the west, some to the east, some to the north, and others to the south. But, although the branches were so different from each other in so many things, they all gave me excellent fruit, so long as they remained united to the vine. 50year18.htm