By Charles Chiniquy
The hour of my absence had been one of anxiety for the curate and the vicars. But my prompt return filled them with joy.
"What news?" they all exclaimed.
"Good news," I answered; "the battle has been fierce but short. We have gained the day; and if we are only true to ourselves, another great victory is in store for us. The bishop is so sure that we are the only ones who think of that reform, that he will not move a finger to prevent the other priests from following us. This security will make our success infallible. But we must not lose a moment. Let us address our circular to every priest in Canada."
One hour later there were more than twenty writers at work, and before twenty-four hours, more than three hundred letters were carried to all the priests, giving them the reasons why we should try, by all fair means, to put an end to the shameful simoniacal trade in masses which was going on between Canada and France.
The week was scarcely ended, when letters came from almost all curates and vicars to the bishop, respectfully requesting him to withdraw his name from "The Society of the Three Masses." Only fifty refused to comply with our request.
Our victory was more complete than we had expected. But the Bishop of Quebec, hoping to regain his lost ground, immediately wrote to the Bishop of Montreal, my Lord Telemesse, to come to his help and show us the enormity of the crime we had committed, in rebelling against the will of our ecclesiastical superiors.
A few days later, to my great dismay, I received a short and very cold note from the bishop's secretary, telling me that their lordships, the Bishops of Montreal and Quebec, wanted to see me at the palace, without delay. I had never seen the Bishop of Montreal, and my surprise and disappointment were great in finding myself in the presence of a man, my idea of whom was of gigantic proportions, when in reality, he was very small. But I felt exceedingly well pleased by the admirable mixture of firmness, intelligence, and honesty of his whole demeanor. His eyes were piercing as the eagle's; but when fixed on me, I saw in them the marks of a noble and honest heart.
The motions of his head were rapid, his sentences short, and he seemed to know only one line, the straight one, when approaching a subject or dealing with a man. He had the merited reputation of being one of the most learned and eloquent men of Canada. The Bishop of Quebec had remained on his sofa, and left the Bishop of Montreal to receive me. I fell at his feet and asked his blessing, which he gave me in the most cordial way. Then, putting his hand upon my shoulder, he said, in a Quaker style: "Is it possible that thou art Chiniquy—that young priest who makes so much noise? How can such a small man make so much noise?"
There being a smile on his countenance as he uttered these words, I saw at once that there was no anger or bad feeling in his heart; I replied: "My lord; do you not know that the most precious pearls and perfumes are put up in the smallest vases?"
The bishop saw that this was a compliment to his address; he smilingly replied: "Well, well, if thou art a noisy priest, thou art not a fool. But, tell me, why dost thou want to destroy our 'Three Mass Society' and establish that new one on its ruins, in spite of thy superiors?"
"My lord, my answer will be as respectful, short, and plain as possible. I have left the 'Three Mass Society' because it was my right to do it, without anybody's permission. I hope our venerable Canadian bishops do not wish to be served by slaves!"
"I do not say," replied the bishop, "that you wert bound in conscience to remain in the 'Three Mass Society;' but, can I know why thou hast left such a respectable association, at the head of which thou seest thy bishops and the most venerable priests in Canada?"
"I will again be plain in my answer, my lord. If your lordship wants to go to hell with your venerable priests by spiriting away twenty cents from every one of our honest and pious penitents, for masses which you get said for five, by bad priests in Paris, I will not follow you. Moreover, if your lordship wants to be thrown into the river by the furious people, when they know how long and how cunningly we have cheated them, with our simoniacal trade in masses, I do not want to follow you into the cold stream."
"Well! well, answered the bishop, "let us drop that matter for ever."
He uttered this short sentence with such an evidence of sincerity and honesty, that I saw he really meant it. He had, at a glance, seen that his ground was untenable, in the presence of priests who knew their rights, and had a mind to stand by them.
My joy was great indeed at such a prompt and complete victory. I fell again at the bishop's feet, and asked his benediction before taking leave of him—I then left to go and tell the curates and vicars the happy issue of our interview with the bishop of Montreal.
From that time till now, at the death of every priest, the Clerical Press never failed mentioning whether the deceased priest belonged to the "Three" or "One Mass Society."
We had, to some extent, diminished the simoniacal and infamous trade in masses; but unfortunately we had not destroyed it; and I know that today it has revived. Since I left the Church of Rome, the Bishops of Quebec have raised the "Three Mass Society" from its grave.
It is a public fact, that no priest will dare deny, that the trade in masses is still conducted on a large scale with France. There are in Paris and other large cities in that country, public agencies to carry on that shameful traffic. It is, generally, in the hands of booksellers or merchants of church ornaments. Every year their houses send a large number of prospectuses through France and Belgium and other Catholic countries, in which they say that, in order to help the priests, who having received money for their masses, don't know where to have them said; they offer a premium of twenty-five or thirty per cent to those who will send them the surplus of the money they have in hand, to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The priests who have such surplus, tempted by that premium, which is usually paid with a watch or a chain, or a chalice, disgorge a part, or the whole of the large sums they possess, into the hands of the pious merchants, who take this money and use it as they please.
But they never pay the masses in money, they give only merchandise. For instance, that priest will receive a watch, if he promises to celebrate one or two hundred masses, or a chalice to celebrate three or four hundred masses. I have, here in my hand, several of the contracts or promissory notes sent by those merchants of masses to the priests. The public will, no doubt, read the following documents with interest. They were handed me by a priest lately converted from the Church of Rome:
RUE DE REIMES - PARIS
Ant. Levesques, editor of the works of Mr. Dufriche-Desgenettes.
Cure of Notre Dame des Victories.
Delivered to the Rev. Mr. Camerle, curate of Ansibeau (Basses Alpes). Paris, October 12, 1874.
10 metres of Satin Cloth at 22 francs.................... 220.
8" of Merino, all wool.................................. 123.
Month of May............................................. 2.
History of Mary Christina................................ 1.40
Life of St. Stanislas Koska.............................. 2.
Meditations of the Soul.................................. 4.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World..................... 2.
Packing and Freight...................................... 9.30_______Total .........................................................363.70
Mr. Curate; We have the honour of informing you that the packages containing the articles you have ordered on the 4th of October, were shipped on the 12th of October, to Digne, where we respectfully request you to go and ask for them. For the payment of these articles, we request you to say the following masses:
58 ad intentionem of the giver, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Montet.
58 ad intentionem of the givers, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Hoeg.
100 - 188 for the dead, for the discharge of Rev. Mr. Wod.
Mr. Curate: Will you be kind enough to say or have said all those masses in the shortest time possible, and answer these Revd. gentlemen, if they make any inquiries about the acquittal of those masses.
Respectfully yours, (Signed) Ant. Levesques.
Paris, November 11th, 1874.
Rev. Mr. Camerle; We have the honour of addressing you the invoice of what we forwarded to you on the 12th of October. On account we have put to your credit 188 masses. We respectfully request you to get said the following intentions:
73 for the dead, to the acquittal of Rev. Mr. Watters,
70 pro defuncto, For the discharge of
20 ad intentionem donatis, Rev. Mr. C.
13 ad intentionem donatis, ____ 176
Mr. Curate; Be kind enough to say these masses, or have them said as soon as possible, and answer the reverend gentleman who may inquire from you about their acquittal. The 188 masses mentioned in our letter of the 3rd inst., added to the 176 here mentioned, make 364 francs, the value of the goods sent you. We thought you would like to have the pamphlets of propaganda we address you. Respectfully your, (signed) Ant. Levesques.
Hence, it is that priests, in France and elsewhere, have gold watches, rich house furniture, and interesting books, purchased with the money paid by our poor deluded Canadian Catholics to their priests, for masses which are turned into mercantile commodities in other places. It would be difficult to say who makes the best bargain between those merchants of masses, the priests to whom they are sold, or those from whom they are bought at a discount of twenty-five to thirty per cent.
The only evident thing is the cruel deception practiced on the credulity and ignorance of the Roman Catholics by their priests and bishops. Today, the houses of Dr. Anthony Levesques in Paris are the most accredited in France. In 1874, the house of Mesme was doing an immense business with its stock of masses, but in an evil day, the government suspected that the number of masses paid into their hands, exceeded the number of those celebrated through their hired priests. The suspicions soon turned into certainty when the books were examined. It was then found that an incredible number of masses, which were to empty the large room of purgatory, never reached their destination, but only filled the purse of the Parisian mass merchant; and so the unlucky Mesme was unceremoniously sent to the penitentiary to meditate on the infinite merits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which had been engulfed in his treasures.
But these facts are not known by the poor Roman Catholics of Canada, who are fleeced more and more by their priests, under the pretext of saving souls from purgatory.
A new element of success in the large swindling operations of the Canadian priests has lately been discovered. It is well known that in the greater part of the United States, the poor deluded Irish pay one dollar to their priest, instead of a shilling, for a low mass. Those priests whose conscience are sufficiently elastic (as is often the case), keep the money without ever thinking of having the masses said, and soon get rich. But there are some whose natural honesty shrinks from the idea of stealing; but unable to celebrate all the masses paid for and requested at their hands, they send the dollars to some of their clerical friends in Canada, who, of course, prefer these one dollar masses to the twenty-five cent ones paid by the French Canadians. However, they keep that secret and continue to fill their treasury.
There are, however, many priests in Canada who think it less evil to keep those large sums of money in their own hands, than to give them to the bishops to traffic with the merchants of Paris. At the end of one of the ecclesiastical retreats in the seminary of St. Sulpice in 1850, Bishop Bourget told us that one of the priests who had lately died, had requested him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to ask every priest to take a share in the four thousand dollars which he had received for masses he never said. We refused to grant him that favour, and those four thousand dollars received by that priest, like the millions put into the hands of other priests and the bishops, turned to be nothing less than an infamous swindling operation under the mask of religion.
To understand what the priests of Rome are, let the readers note what is said in the Roman Catholic Bible, of the priest of Babylon: -
"And King Astyges was gathered to his fathers, and Cyrus, of Persia, received his kingdom, and Daniel conversed with the king, and was honoured above all his friends. Now the Babylonians had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent upon him, every day, twelve measures of fine flour, and forty sheep and six vessels of wine. And the king worshipped it and went daily to adore: but Daniel worshipped his own God, and the king said unto him: 'Why dost thou not worship Bel?' who answered and said: 'Because I may not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh.' Then the king said: 'Thinkest thou not that Bel is a living God! Seest thou not how much he eateth and drinketh every day?'
"Then Daniel smiled and said: 'Oh, king! be not deceived; for this is but clay within and brass without, and did never eat or drink anything.'
"So that king was wroth, and called for his priests and said: 'If ye tell me not who this is that devoureth these expenses, ye shall die; but if ye can certify me that Bel devoureth them, then Daniel shall die, for he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.' And Daniel said unto the king; 'Let it be according to thy word."
"Now the priests of Bel were three score and ten, besides their wives and children.
"And the king went with Daniel to the temple of Bel—so Bel's priests said: 'Lo! we go out, but thou, O king, set on the meat, and make ready the wine, and shut the door fast, and seal it with thine own signet; and to-morrow when thou comest in, if thou findest not that Bel had eaten up all, we will suffer death; or else, Daniel, that speaketh falsely against Bel, shall die—and they little regarded it, for under the table they had made a privy entrance, whereby they entered continually and consumed those things.'
"So when they were gone forth, the king set meats before Bel.
"Now Daniel had commanded his servants to bring ashes, and those they strewed throughout all the temple, in the presence of the king alone: then went they out, and shut the door, and sealed it with the king's signet, and so departed.
"Now in the night came the priests, with their wives and children, as they were wont to do, and did eat and drink up all.
"In the morning betimes the king arose, and Daniel with him.
"And the king said, 'Daniel, are the seals whole?' And he said, 'Yea, O king, they be whole.' And as soon as they had opened the door, the king looked upon the table, and cried with a loud voice: 'Great art thou, O Bel! and with thee there is no deceit at all.' Then laughed Daniel, and held the king that he should not go in, and said: 'Behold now the pavement, and mark well whose footsteps are these.' And the king said: 'I see the footprints of men, women, and children.' And then the king was angry, and took the priests, with their wives and children, who showed him the privy doors, where they came in and consumed such things as were on the tables.
"Therefore the king slew them, and delivered Bel into Daniel's power, who destroyed him and his temple."
Who does not pity the king of Babylon, who, when looking at his clay and brass god, exclaimed: "Great art thou, O Bel, and with thee there is no deceit!"
But, is the deception practiced by the priests of the Pope on their poor, deluded dupes, less cruel and infamous? Where is the difference between that Babylonian god, made with brass and baked clay, and the god of the Roman Catholics, made with a handful of wheat and flour, baked between two hot polished irons?
How skilful were the priests in keeping the secret of what became of the rich daily offerings brought to the hungry god! Who could suspect that there was a secret trap through which they came with their wives and children to eat the rich offerings?
So, to-day, among the simple and blind Roman Catholics, who could suppose that the immense sums of money given every day to the priests to glorify God, purify the souls of men, and bring all kinds of blessings upon the donors, were, on the contrary, turned into the most ignominious and swindling operation the world has ever seen?
Though the brass god of Babylon was a contemptible idol, is not the wafer god of Rome still more so? Though the priests of Bel were skilful deceivers, are they not surpassed in the art of deception by the priests of Rome! Do not these carry on their operations on a much larger scale than the former?
But, as there is always a day of retribution for the great iniquities of this world, when all things will be revealed; and just as the cunning of the priests of Babylon could not save them, when God sent His prophet to take away the mask, behind which they deceived their people, so let the priests of Rome know that God will, sooner or later, send His prophet, who will tear off the mask, behind which they deceive the world. Their big, awkward, and flat feet will be seen and exposed, and the very people whom they keep prostrated before their idols, crying: "O God! with Thee there is no deceit of all!" will become the instruments of the justice of God in the great day of retribution.
One of the first things done by the curate Tetu, after his new vicars had been chosen, was to divide, by casting lots, his large parish into four parts, that there might be more regularity in our ministerial labours, and my lot gave me the north-east of the parish, which contained the Quebec Marine Hospital.
The number of sick sailors I had to visit almost every day in that noble institution, was between twenty-five and a hundred. The Roman Catholic chapel, with its beautiful altar, was not yet completed. It was only in 1837 that I could persuade the hospital authorities to fix it as it is to-day. Having no place there to celebrate mass and keep the Holy Sacrament, I soon found myself in presence of a difficulty which, at first, seemed to me of a grave character. I had to administer the viaticum (holy communion) to a dying sailor. As every one knows, all Roman Catholics are bound to believe that by the consecration, the wafer is transformed into the body, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Hence, they call that ceremony: "Porter le bon dieu au malade" (carry the good god to the sick). Till then, when in Charlesbourgh or St. Charles, I, with the rest of Roman Catholic priests, always made use of pomp and exterior marks of supreme respect for the Almighty God I was carrying in my hands to the dying.
I had never carried the good God without being accompanied by several people, walking or riding on horseback. I then wore a white surplice over my long black robe (soutane) to strike the people with awe. There was also a man ringing a bell before me, all along the way, to announce to the people that the great God, who had not only created them, but had made Himself man to save them, by dying on Calvary, was passing by; that they had to fall on their knees in their houses, or along the public roads, or in their fields, and prostrate themselves and adore Him.
But could I do that in Quebec, where so many miserable heretics were more disposed to laugh at my god than to adore him?
In my zeal and sincere faith, I was, however, determined to dare the heretics of the whole world, and to expose myself to their insults, rather than give up the exterior marks of supreme respect and adoration which were due to my god everywhere; and twice I carried him to the hospital in the usual solemnity.
In vain, my curate tried to persuade me to change my mind. I closed my ears to his arguments. He then kindly invited me to go with him to the bishop's palace, in order to confer with him on that grave subject. How can I express my dismay when the bishop told me, with a levity which I had not yet observed in him, "that on account of the Protestants whom we had to meet everywhere, it was better to make our 'god' travel incognito in the streets of Quebec." He added in a high and jocose tone: "Put him in your vest pocket, as do the rest of the city priests. Carry him to your dying patients without any scruples. Never aim at being a reformer and doing better than your venerable brethren in the priesthood. We must not forget that we are a conquered people. If we were masters, we would carry him to the dying with the public honours we used to give him before the conquest; but the Protestants are the stronger. Our governor is a Protestant, as well as our Queen. The garrison, which is inside the walls of their impregnable citadel, is composed chiefly of Protestants. According to the laws of our holy church, we have the right to punish, even by death, the miserable people who turn into ridicule the mysteries of our holy religion. But though we have that right, we are not strong enough to enforce it. We must, then, bear the yoke in silence. After all, it is our god himself, who in his inscrutable judgment, has deprived us of the power of honouring him as he deserves; and to tell you my whole mind as plainly as possible, it is not our fault, but his own doing, so to speak, if we are forced to make him travel incognito through our streets. It is one of the sad results of the victory which the God of battles gave to the heretics over us on the plains of Abraham. If, in his good providence, we could break our fetters, and become free to pass again the laws which regulated Canada before the conquest, to prevent the heretics from settling among us, then we would carry him as we used to do in those happy days."
"But," said I, "when I walk in the streets with my good god in my vest pocket, what will I do if I meet any friend who wants to shake hands and have a joke with me?"
The bishop laughed and answered: "Tell your friend you are in a hurry, and go your way as quickly as possible; but if there is no help, have your talk and your joke with him, without any scruple of conscience. The important point in this delicate matter is that the people should not know we are carrying our god through the streets incognito, for this knowledge would surely shake and weaken their faith. The common people are, more than we think, kept in our holy church, by the impressing ceremonies of our processions and public marks of respect we give to Jesus Christ, when we carry Him to the sick; for the people are more easily persuaded by what they see with their eyes and touch with their hands, than by what they hear with their ears."
I submitted to the order of my ecclesiastical superior; but I would not be honest, were I not to confess that I lost much of my spiritual joy for some time in the administration of the viaticum. I continued to believe as sincerely as I could, but the laughing words and light tone of my bishop had fallen upon my soul as an icy cloud. The jocose way in which he had spoken of what I had been taught to consider as the most awful and adorable mystery of the church, left the impression on my mind that he did not believe one iota of the dogma of transubstantiation. And in spite of all my honest efforts to get rid of that suspicion, it grew in my mind every time I met him to talk on any ministerial subject.
It took several years before I could accustom myself to carry my god in my vest pocket as the other priests did, without any more ceremony than with a piece of tobacco. So long as I was walking alone I felt happy. I could then silently converse with my Saviour, and give Him all the expression of my love and adoration. It was my custom, then, to repeat the 103rd or 50th Psalm of David, or the Te Deum, or some other beautiful hymn, or the Pange Lingua, which I knew by heart. But no words can express my sadness when, as it was very often the case, I met some friends forcing me to shake hands with them, and began one of those idle and commonplace talks, so common everywhere.
With the utmost efforts, I had then to put a smiling mask on my face, in order to conceal the expressions of faith which are infallibly seen, in spite of one's self, if one is in the very act of adoration.
How, then, I earnestly cursed the day when my country had fallen under the yoke of Protestants, whose presence in Quebec prevented me from following the dictates of my conscience! How many times did I pray my wafer god, whom I was personally pressing on my heart, to grant us an opportunity to break those fetters, and destroy for ever the power of Protestant England over us! Then we should be free again, to give our Saviour all the public honours which were due to His Majesty. Then we should put in force the laws by which no heretic had any right to settle and live in Canada.
Not long after that conversation with the bishop, I found myself in a circumstance which added much to my trouble and confusion of conscience on that matter.
There was then, in Quebec, a merchant who had honourably raised himself from a state of poverty, to the first rank among the wealthy merchants of Canada. Though, a few years after, he was ruined by a series of most terrible disasters, his name is still honoured in Canada, as one of the most industrious and honest merchants of our young country. His name was James Buteau. He had built a magnificent house, and furnished it in a princely style. In order to celebrate his "house warming" in a becoming style, he invited a hundred guests from the elite of the city, among whom were all the priests of the parishes. But in order not to frighten their prudery—though that party was to be more of a nature of a ball than anything else—Mr. Buteau had given it the modest name of an Oyster Soiree.
Just as the good curate, Tetu, with his cheerful vicars was starting, a messenger met us at the door, to say that Mr. Parent, the youngest vicar, had been called to carry the "good god" to a dying woman.
Mr. Parent was born, and has passed his whole life in Quebec, in whose seminary he had gone through a complete and brilliant course of study. I think there was scarcely a funny song in the French language which he could not sing. With a cheerful nature, he was the delight of the Quebec society, by almost every member of which he was personally known.
His hair was constantly perfumed with the richest pomade, and the most precious eau de cologne surrounded him with an atmosphere of the sweetest odours. With all these qualities and privileges, it is no wonder that he was the confessor, a la mode, of the young ladies of Quebec.
The bright luminaries which hover around Jupiter are not more exact in converging toward that brilliant star than those pious young ladies were in gathering around the confessional box of Mr. Parent every week or fortnight.
The unexpected announcement of a call to the death-bed of one of his poorest penitents, was not quite the most desirable thing for our dear young friend, at such an hour. But he knew too well his duty to grumble. He said to us, "Go before me and tell Mr. Buteau that I will be in time to get my share of the oysters."
By chance, the sick house was on the way and not far from Mr. Buteau's splendid mansion. He left us to run to the altar and take the "good god" with him. We started for the soiree, but not sympathizing with our dear Mr. Parent, who would lose the most interesting part, for the administration of the viaticum. The extreme unction, with the giving of indulgences, in articulo moris, and the exhortations to the dying, and the people gathered from the neighbourhood to witness those solemn rites, could not take much less than three quarters, or even an hour of his time. But, to my great surprise, we had not yet been ten minutes in the magnificent parlour of our host, when I saw Mr. Parent, who like a new-born butterfly, flying from flower to flower, was running from lady to lady, joking, laughing, surpassing himself with his inimitable and refined manners. I said to myself, "How is it possible that he has so quickly got rid of his unpalatable task with his dying penitent?" and I wanted an opportunity of being alone with him, to satisfy my curiosity on that point; but it was pretty late in the evening when I found a chance to say to him: "We all feared lest your dying patient may deprive us of the pleasure of your company the greatest part of the soiree!"
"Oh! oh!" answered he, with a hearty laugh, "that intelligent woman had the good common sense to die just two minutes before I entered her house. I suppose that her guardian angel, knowing all about this incomparable party, had despatched the good soul to heaven a little sooner than she expected, in my behalf."
I could not but smile at his answer, which was given in a manner to make a stone laugh. "But," said I, "what have you done with the 'good god' you had carried with you?"
"Ah! ah! the 'good god,'" he replied, in a jocose and subdued tone. "Well, well; the 'good god!' He stands very still in my vest pocket; and if he enjoys this princely festivity as well as we all do, he will surely thank me for having brought him here, even en survenant. But do not say a word of his presence here; it would spoil everything."
That priest, who was only one year younger than myself, was one of my dearest friends. Though his words rather smelt of the unbeliever and blasphemer, I preferred to attribute them to the sweet champagne he had drank than to a real want of faith.
But I must confess that, though I had laughed very heartily at first, his last utterance pained me so much that, from that moment to the end of the soiree, I felt uneasy and confounded. My firm belief that my Saviour, Jesus Christ, was there in person, kept a prisoner in my young friend's vest pocket, going to and fro from one young lady to the other, witnessing the constant laughing, hearing the idle words, the light and funny songs, made my whole soul shudder, and my heart sunk within me. By times I wished I could fall on my knees to adore my Saviour, whom I believed to be there. However, a mysterious voice was whispering in my ear: "Are you not a fool to believe that you can make a God with a wafer; and that Jesus Christ, your Saviour and your God, can be kept a prisoner, in spite of himself, in the vest pocket of a man? Do you not see that your friend, Parent, who has much more brains and intelligence than you, does not believe a word of that dogma of transubstantiation? Have you forgotten the unbeliever's smile, which you saw on the lips of the bishop himself only a few days ago? Was not that laugh the infallible proof that he also does not believe a particle of that ridiculous dogma?"
With superhuman effort I tried, and succeeded partly, to stifle that voice. But that struggle could not last long within my soul, without leaving its exterior marks on my face. Evidently a sad cloud was over my eyes, for several of my most respectable friends, with Mr. and Mrs. Buteau, kindly asked if I were sick.
At last I felt so confused at the repetition of the same suggestion by so many, that I felt I was only making a fool of myself by remaining any longer in their midst. Angry with myself for any want of moral strength in this hour of trial, I respectfully asked pardon from my kind host for leaving their party before the end, on account of a sudden indisposition.
The next day there was only one voice in Quebec saying that young Parent had been the lion of that brilliant soiree, and that the poor young priest, Chiniquy, had been its fool.
God controls the greatest as well as the smallest of the events of this world. Our business during the few days of our pilgrimage, then, is to know His will and do it. Our happiness here, as in heaven, rests on this foundation, just as the success and failures of our lives come entirely from the practical knowledge or ignorance of this simplest and sublimest truth. I dare say that there is not a single fact of my long and eventful life which has not taught me that there is a special providence in our lives. Particularly was this apparent in the casting of the lots by which I became the first chaplain of the Quebec Marine Hospital. After the other vicars had congratulated each other for having escaped the heavy burden of work and responsibilities connected with that chaplaincy, they kindly gave me the assurance of their sympathies for what they called my bad luck. In thanking them for their friendly feeling, I confessed that this occurrence appeared to me in a very different light. I was sure that God had directed this for my good and His own glory, and I was right. In the beginning of November, 1834, a slight indisposition having kept me a few days at home, Mr. Glackmayer, the superintendent of the hospital, came to tell me that there was an unusually large number of sick, left by the Fall fleets, in danger of death, who were day and night calling for me. He added, in a secret way, that there were several cases of small-pox of the worst type; that several had already died, and many were dying from the terrible cholera morbus, which was still raging among the sailors.
This sad news came to me as an order from heaven to run to the rescue of my dear sick seamen. I left my room, despite my physician, and went to the hospital.
The first man I met was Dr. Douglas, who was waiting for me at Mr. C. Glackmayer's room. He confirmed what I had known before of the number of sick, and added that the prevailing diseases were of the most dangerous kind.
Dr. Douglas, who was one of the founders and governors of the hospital, had the well-merited reputation of being one of the ablest surgeons of Quebec. Though a staunch Protestant by birth and profession, he honoured me with his confidence and friendship from the first day we met. I may say I have never known a nobler heart, a larger mind and a truer philanthropist.
After thanking him for the useful though sad intelligence he had given me, I requested Mr. Glackmayer to give me a glass of brandy, which I immediately swallowed.
"What are you doing there?" said Dr. Douglas.
"You see," I answered; "I have drunk a glass of excellent brandy."
"But please tell me why you drank that brandy."
"Because it is a good preservative against the pestilential atmosphere I will breathe all day," I replied. "I will have to hear the confessions of all those people dying form small-pox or cholera, and breathe the putrid air which is around their pillows. Does not common sense warn me to take some precautions against the contagion?"
"Is it possible," rejoined he, "that a man for whom I have such a sincere esteem is so ignorant of the deadly workings of alcohol in the human frame? What you have just drank is nothing but poison; and, far from protecting yourself against the danger, you are now more exposed to it than before you drank that beverage."
"You poor Protestants," I answered, in a jocose way, "are a band of fanatics, with your extreme doctrines on temperance; you will never convert me to your views on that subject. Is it for the use of the dogs that God has created wine and brandy? No; it is for the use of men who drink them with moderation and intelligence."
"My dear Mr. Chiniquy, you are joking; but I am in earnest when I tell you that you have poisoned yourself with that glass of brandy," replied Dr. Douglas. "If good wine and brandy were poisons," I answered, "you would be long ago the only physician in Quebec, for you are the only one of the medical body whom I know to be an abstainer. But, though I am much pleased with your conversation, excuse me if I leave you to visit my dear sick sailors, whose cries for spiritual help ring in my ears."
"One word more," said Dr. Douglas, "and I have done. Tomorrow morning we will make the autopsy of a sailor who has just died suddenly here. Have you any objection to come and see with your eyes, in the body of that man, what your glass of brandy has done in your own body."
"No, sir; I have no objection to see that," I replied. "I have been anxious for a long time to make a special study of anatomy. It will be my first lesson; I cannot get it from a better master."
I then shook hands with him and went to my patients, with whom I passed the remainder of the day and the greater part of the night. Fifty of them wanted to make general confessions of all the sins of their whole lives; and I had to give the last sacraments to twenty-five who were dying from small-pox or cholera morbus. The next morning I was, at the appointed hour, by the corpse of the dead man, when Dr. Douglas kindly gave me a very powerful microscope, that I might more thoroughly follow the ravages of alcohol in every part of the human body.
"I have not the least doubt," said he, "that this man has been instantly killed by a glass of rum, which he drank one hour before he fell dead. That rum has caused the rupture of the aorta" (the big vein which carries the blood to the heart).
While talking thus the knife was doing its work so quickly that the horrible spectacle of the broken artery was before our eyes almost as the last word fell from his lips.
"Look here," said the doctor, "all along the artery, and you will see thousands, perhaps millions, of reddish spots, which are as many holes perforated through it by alcohol. Just as the musk rats of the Mississippi river, almost every spring, dig little holes through the dams which keep that powerful river within its natural limits, and cause the waters to break through the little holes, and thus carry desolation and death along its shores, so alcohol every day causes the sudden death of thousands of victims by perforating the veins and opening small issues through which the blood rushes out of its natural limits. It is not only this big vein which alcohol perforates; it does the same deadly work in the veins of the lungs and the whole body. Look at the lungs with attention, and count, if you can, the thousands and thousands of reddish, dark and yellow spots, and little ulcers with which they are covered. Every one of them is the work of alcohol, which has torn and cut the veins and caused the blood to go out of its canals, to carry corruption and death all over these marvelous organs. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous poisons—I dare say it is the most dangerous. It has killed more men than all the other poisons together. Alcohol cannot be changed or assimilated to any part or tissue or our body, it cannot go to any part of the human frame without bringing disorder and death to it. For it cannot in any possible way unite with any part of our body. The water we drink, and the wholesome food and bread we eat, by the laws and will of God are transformed into different parts of the body, to which they are sent through the millions of small canals which take them from the stomach to every part of our frame. When the water has been drunk, or the bread we have eaten is, for instance, sent to the lungs, to the brain, the nerves, the muscles, the bones—wherever it goes it receives, if I can so speak, letters of citizenship; it is allowed to remain there in peace and work for the public good. But it is not so with alcohol. The very moment it enters the stomach it more or less brings disorder, ruin and death, according to the quantity taken. The stomach refuses to take it, and makes a supreme effort to violently throw it out, either through the mouth, or by indignantly pushing it to the brain or into the numberless tubes by which it discharges its contents to the surface through all the tissues. But will alcohol be welcome in any of these tubes or marvelous canals, or in any part or tissue of the body it will visit on its passage to the surface? No! Look here with your microscope, and you will see with your own eyes that everywhere alcohol has gone in the body there has been a hand-to-hand struggle and a bloody battle fought to get rid of it. Yes! every place where King Alcohol has put his foot has been turned into a battlefield, spread with ruin and death, in order to ignominiously turn it out. By a most extraordinary working of nature, or rather by the order of God, every vein and artery through which alcohol has to pass suddenly contracts, as if to prevent its passage or choke it as a deadly foe. Every vein and artery has evidently heard the voice of God: "Wine is a mocker; it bites like a serpent and stings as an adder!" Every nerve and muscle which alcohol touched, trembled and shook as if in the presence of an implacable and unconquerable enemy. Yes, at the presence of alcohol every nerve and muscle loses its strength, just as the bravest man, in the presence of a horrible monster or demon, suddenly loses his natural strength, and shakes from head to foot."
I cannot repeat all I heard that day from the lips of Dr. Douglas, and what I saw with my own eyes of the horrible workings of alcohol through every part of that body. It would be too long. Suffice to say that I was struck with horror at my own folly, and at the folly of so many people who make use of intoxicating drinks.
What I learned that day was like the opening of a mysterious door, which allowed me to see the untold marvels of a new and most magnificent world. But though I was terror-stricken with the ravages of strong drink in that dead man, I was not yet convinced of the necessity of being a total abstainer from wine and beer, and a little brandy now and then, as a social habit. I did not like to expose myself to ridicule by the sacrifice of habits which seemed then, more than now, to be among the sweetest and most common links of society. But I determined to lose no opportunity of continuing the study of the working of alcohol in the human body. At the same time I resolved to avail myself of every opportunity of making a complete study of anatomy under the kind and learned Dr. Douglas.
It was from the lips and works of Dr. Douglas that I learned the following startling facts:
1st. The heart of man, which is only six inches long by four inches wide, beats seventy times in a minute, 4,200 in one hour, 100,300 in a day, 36,792,000 in a year. It ejects two ounces and a half of blood out of itself every time it beats, which makes 175 ounces every minute, 656 pounds every hour, seven tons and three-quarters of blood which goes out of the heart every day! The whole blood of a man runs through his heart in three minutes.
2nd. The skin is composed of three parts placed over each other, whose thickness varies from a quarter to an eighth of a line. Each square inch contains 3,500 pores, through which the sweat goes out. Every one of them is a pipe a quarter of an inch long. All those small pipes united together would form a canal 201,166 feet long—equal to forty miles, or nearly thirteen leagues!
3rd. The weight of the blood in an ordinary man is between thirty and forty pounds. That blood runs through the body in 101 seconds, or one minute and forty-one seconds. Eleven thousand (11,000) pints of blood pass through the lungs in twenty-four hours.
4th. There are 246 bones in the human body; 63 of them are in the head, 24 in the sides, 16 in the wrist, 14 in the joints, and 108 in the hands and feet!
The heart of a man who drinks nothing but pure water beats about 100,300 a day, but will beat from 25,000 to 30,000 times more if he drinks alcoholic drinks. Those who have not learned anatomy know little of the infinite power, wisdom, love and mercy of God. No book except the Bible, and no science except the science of astronomy is like the body of man to tell us what our God is, and what we are. The body of man is a book written by the hand of God, to speak to us of Him as no man can speak. After studying the marvelous working of the heart, the lungs, the eyes and the brain of man, I could not speak; I remained mute, unable to say a single word to tell my admiration and awe. I wept as overwhelmed with my feelings. I should have like to speak of those things to the priests with whom I lived, but I saw at first they could not understand me; they thought I was exaggerating. How many times, when alone with God in my little closet, when thinking of those marvels, I fell on my knees and said: "Thou are great, O my God! The works of Thy hands are above the works of man! But the works of Thy love and mercy are above all Thy other works!"
During the four years I was chaplain of the Marine Hospital, more than one hundred corpses were opened before me, and almost as many outside the hospital. For when, by the order of the jury and the coroner, an autopsy was to be made, I seldom failed to attend. In that way I have had a providential opportunity of acquiring the knowledge of one of the most useful and admirable sciences as no priest or minister probably ever had on this continent. It is my conviction that the first thing a temperance orator ought to do is to study anatomy; get the bodies of drunkards, as well as those of so called temperate drinkers, opened before him, and study there the working of alcohol in the different organs of man. So long as the orators on temperance will not do that, they cannot understand the subject on which they speak. Though I have read the best books written by the most learned physicians of England, France, and United States on the ravages of rum, wines and beer of every kind and name in the body of men, I have never read anything which enlightened me so much, and brought such profound convictions to my intelligence, as the study I have made of the brain, the lungs, the heart, veins, arteries, nerves and muscles of a single man or woman. These bodies, opened before me, were books written by the hand of God Himself, and they spoke to me as no man could speak. By the mercy of God, to that study is due the irresistible power of my humble efforts in persuading my countrymen to give up the use of intoxicating drinks. But here is the time to tell how my merciful God forced me, His unprofitable and rebellious servant, almost in spite of myself, to give up the use of intoxicating drinks.
Among my penitents there was a young lady belonging to one of the most respectable families of Quebec. She had a child, a girl, almost a year old, who was a real beauty. Nothing this side of heaven could surpass the charms of that earthly angel. Of course that young mother idolized her; she could hardly consent to be without her sweet angel, even to go to church. She carried her everywhere, to kiss her at every moment and press her to her heart. Unfortunately that lady, as it was then and is till now often the case, even among the most refined, had learned in her father's house, and by the example of her own mother, to drink wine at the table, and when receiving the visits of her friends or when visiting them herself. Little by little she began to drink, when alone, a few drops of wine, at first by the advice of her physician, but soon only to satisfy the craving appetite, which grew stronger day by day. I was the only one, excepting her husband, who knew this fact. He was my intimate friend, and several times, with tears trickling down his cheeks, he had requested me, in the name of God, to persuade her to abstain from drinking. That young man was so happy with his accomplished wife and his incomparably beautiful child! He was rich, had a high position in the world, numberless friends, and a palace for his home! Every time I had spoken to that young lady, either when alone or in the presence of her husband, she had shed tears of regret; she had promised to reform, and take only the few glasses prescribed by her doctor. But, alas! that fatal prescription of the doctor was like the oil poured on burning coals; it was kindling a fire which nothing could quench. One day, which I will never forget, a messenger came in haste and said: "Mr. A. Wants you to come to his home immediately. A terrible misfortune has just happened—his beautiful child has just been killed. His wife is half crazy; he fears lest she will kill herself."
I leaped into the elegant carriage drawn by two fine horses, and in a few minutes I was in the presence of the most distressing spectacle I ever saw. The young lady, tearing her robes into fragments, tearing her hair with her hands, and cutting her face with the nails of her fingers, was crying, "Oh! for God's sake, give me a knife that I may cut my throat? I have killed my child! My darling is dead! I am the murderess of my own dear Lucy! My hands are reddened with her blood. Oh! may I die with her!"
I was thunderstruck, and at first remained mute and motionless. The young husband, with two other gentlemen, Dr. Blanchet and Coroner Panet, were trying to hold the hands of his unfortunate wife. He did not dare to speak. At last the young wife, casting her eyes upon me, said: "Oh, dear Father Chiniquy, for God's sake give me a knife that I may cut my throat! When drunk, I took my precious darling in my arms to kiss her; but I fell—her head struck the sharp corner of the stove. Her brain and blood are there spread on the floor! My child! my own child is dead! I have killed her! Cursed liquor! cursed wine! My child is dead! I am damned! Cursed drink!"
I could not speak, but I could weep and cry. I wept, and mingled my tears with those of that unfortunate mother. Then, with an expression of desolation which pierced my soul as with a sword, she said: "Go and see." I went to the next room, and there I saw that once beautiful child, dead, her face covered with her blood and brains! There was a large gap made in the right temple. The drunken mother, falling with her child in her arms, had caused the head to strike with such a terrible force on the stove that it upset on the floor. The burning coals were spread on every side, and the house had been very nearly on fire. But that very blow, with the awful death of her child, had suddenly brought her to her senses, and put an end to her intoxication. At a glance she saw the whole extent of her misfortune. Her first thought had been to run to the sideboard, seize a large, sharp knife, and cut her own throat. Providentially, her husband was on the spot. With great difficulty, and after a terrible struggle, he took the knife out of her hands, and threw into the street through the window. It was then about five o'clock in the afternoon. After an hour passed in indescribable agony of mind and heart, I attempted to leave and go back to the parsonage. But my unfortunate young friend requested me, in the name of God, to spend the night with him. "You are the only one," he said, "who can help us in this awful night. My misfortune is great enough, without destroying our good name by spreading it in public. I want to keep it as secret as possible. With our physician and coroner, you are the only man on earth whom I trust to help me. Please pass the night with us."
I remained, but tried in vain to calm the unfortunate mother. She was constantly breaking our hearts with her lamentations—her convulsive efforts to take her own life. Every minute she was crying, "My child! my darling Lucy! Just when thy little arms were so gently caressing me, and thy angelic kisses were so sweet on my lips, I have slaughtered thee! When thou wert pressing me on thy loving heart and kissing me, I, thy drunken mother, gave thee the death-blow! My hands are reddened with thy blood! My breast is covered with thy brains! Oh! for God's sake, my dear husband, take my life. I cannot consent to live a day longer! Dear Father Chiniquy, give me a knife that I may mingle my blood with the blood of my child! Oh that I could be buried in the same grave with her!"
In vain I tried to speak to her of the mercies of God towards sinners; she would not listen to anything I could say; she was absolutely deaf to my voice. At about ten o'clock she had a most terrible fit of anguish and terror. Though we were four men to keep her quiet, she was stronger than we all. She was strong as a giant. She slipped from our hands and ran to the room where the dear child was lying in her cradle. Grasping the cold body in her hands, she tore the bands of white linen which had been put round the head to cover the horrible wound, and with cries of desolation she pressed her lips, her cheeks, her very eyes on the horrible gap from which the brain and blood were oozing, as if wanting to heal it and recall the poor dear one to life.
"My darling, my beloved, my own dear Lucy," she cried, "open they eyes—look again at thy mother! Give me a kiss! Press me again to thy bosom! But thine eyes are shut! thy lips are cold! Thou dost not smile on me any longer! Thou art dead, and I, thy mother, have slaughtered thee! Canst thou forgive me thy death? Canst thou ask Jesus Christ, our Saviour, to forgive me? Canst thou ask the blessed Virgin Mary to pray for me? Will I never see thee again? Ah, no! I am lost—I am damned! I am a drunken mother who has murdered her own darling Lucy! There is no mercy for the drunken mother, the murderess of her own child."
And when speaking thus to her child she was sometimes kneeling down, then running around the room as if flying before a phantom.
But even then she was constantly pressing the motionless body to her bosom or convulsively passing her lips and cheeks over the horrible wound, so that her lips, her whole face, her breast and hands were literally besmeared with the blood flowing from the wound. I will not say that we were all weeping and crying, for the words "weeping and crying" cannot express the desolation—the horror we felt. At about eleven o'clock, when on her knees, clasping her child to her bosom, she lifted her eyes towards me, and said;
"Dear Father Chiniquy, why is it that I have not followed your charitable advice when, still more with your tears than with words, you tried so often to persuade me to give up the use of those cursed intoxicating wines? How many times you have given me the very words which come from heaven: 'Wine is a mocker; it bites as a serpent, and stings as an adder!' How many times, in the name of my dear child, in the name of my dear husband, in the name of God, you have asked me to give up the use of those cursed drinks! But listen now to my prayer. Go all over Canada; tell all the fathers never to put any intoxicating drink before the eyes of their children. It was at my father's table that I first learned to drink that wine which I will curse during all eternity! Tell all the mothers never to taste these abominable drinks. It was my mother who first taught me to drink that wine which I will curse as long as God is!
"Take the blood of my child, and go redden with it the top of the doors of every house in Canada, and say to all those who dwell in those houses that that blood was shed by the hand of a murderess mother when drunk. With that blood write on the walls of every house in Canada that 'wine is a mocker.' Tell the French Canadians how, on the dead body of my child, I have cursed that wine which has made me so wretchedly miserable and guilty."
She then stopped, as if to breathe a little for a few minutes. She added:
"In the name of God, tell me, can my child forgive me her death? Can she ask God to look upon me with mercy? Can she cause the blessed Virgin Mary to pray for me and obtain my pardon?"
Before I could answer, she horrified us by the cries, "I am lost! When drunk I killed my child! Cursed wine!"
And she fell a corpse on the floor. Torrents of blood were flowing from her mouth on her dead child, which she was pressing to her bosom even after her death!
That terrible drama was never revealed to the people of Quebec. The coroner's verdict was that the child's death was accidental, and that the distressed mother died from a broken heart six hours after. Two days later the unfortunate mother was buried, with the body of her child clasped in her arms.
After such a terrible storm I was in need of solitude and rest, but above everything I was in need of praying. I shut myself in my little room for two days, and there, alone, in the presence of God, I meditated on the terrible justice and retribution which He had called me to witness. That unfortunate woman had not only been my penitent: she had been, with her husband, among my dearest and most devoted friends. It was only lately that she had become a slave to drunkenness. Before that, her piety and sense of honour were of the most exalted kind known in the Church of Rome. Her last words were not the commonplace expressions which ordinary sinners proffer at the approach of death; her words had a solemnity for me which almost transformed them into oracles of God in my mind. Each of them sounded in my ears as if an angel of God had touched the thousand strings of my soul, to call my attention to a message from heaven. Sometimes they resembled the terrible voice of thunder; and again it seemed as if a seraph, with his golden harp, were singing them in my ears, that I might prepare to fight faithfully for the Lord against His gigantic enemy, alcohol.
In the middle of that memorable night, when the darkness was most profound and the stillness fearful, was I awake, was I sleeping? I do not know. But I saw a calm, beautiful, and cherished form of my dear mother standing by me, holding by the hand the late murderess, still covered with the blood of her child. Yes! my beloved mother was standing before me; and she said, with power and authority which engraved every one of her words on my soul, as if written with letters of tears, blood, and fire: "Go all over Canada; tell every father of a family never to put any intoxicating drink before his children. Tell all the mothers never to take a drop of those cursed wines and drinks. Tell the whole people of Canada never to touch nor look at the poisoned cup, filled with those cursed intoxicating drinks. And thou, my beloved son, give up for ever the use of those detestable beverages, which are cursed to hell, in heaven, and on earth. It bites like a serpent; it stings like an adder."
When the sound of that voice, so sweet and powerful, was hushed, and my soul had ceased seeing that strange vision of the night, I remained for some time exceedingly agitated and troubled. I said to myself, "Is it possible that the terrible things I have seen and heard these last few days will destroy my mind, and send me to the lunatic asylum?"
I had hardly been able to take any sleep or food for the last three days and nights, and I seriously feared lest the weakness of my body would cause me to lose my reason. I then threw myself on my knees to weep and pray. This did me good. I soon felt myself stronger and calmer.
Raising again my mind to God, I said: "O my God, let me know Thy holy will, and grant me the grace to do it. Do the voices I have just heard come from Thee? Hast Thou really sent one of the angels of Thy mercy, under the form of my beloved mother? or is all this nothing but the vain dreams of my distressed mind?
"Is it Thy will, O my God, that I should go and tell my country what Thou hast so providentially taught me of the horrible and unsuspected injuries which wine and strong drink cause to the bodies as well as the souls of men? Or is it Thy will that I should conceal from the eyes of the world the wonderful things Thou has made known to me, and that I might bury them with me in my grave?"
As quick as lightning the answer was suggested to me. "What I have taught thee in secret, go and tell it to the housetops!" Overwhelmed with an unspeakable emotion, and my heart filled with a power which was not mine, I raised my hands towards heaven and said to my God:
"For my dear Saviour Jesus' sake, and for the good of my country, O my God, I promise that I will never make any use of intoxicating drinks; I will, moreover, do all in my power to persuade the other priests and the people to make the same sacrifice?"
Fifty years have passed since I took that pledge, and, thanks be to God, I have kept it.
For the next two years I was the only priest in Canada who abstained from the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks; and God only knows what I had to suffer all that time—what sneers, and rebukes and insults of every kind I had silently to bear! How many times the epithets of fanatic, hypocrite, reformer, half-heretic, have been whispered into my ear, not only by the priests, but also by the bishops. But I was sure that my God knew the motives of my actions, and by His grace I remained calm and patient. In His infinite mercy He has looked down upon His unprofitable servant and has taken his part. He had Himself chosen the day when I saw those same priests and bishops, at the head of their people, receiving the pledge and blessing of temperance from my hands. Those very bishops who had unanimously, at first, condemned me, soon invited the first citizens of their cities to present me with a golden medal, as a token of their esteem, after giving me, officially, the title of "Apostle of Temperance of Canada." The Governor and the two Chambers of Parliament of Canada voted me public thanks in 1851, and presented me $500 as a public testimony of their kind feeling for what had been done in the cause of temperance. It was the will of my God that I should see, with my own eyes, my dear Canada taking the pledge of temperance and giving up the use of intoxicating drinks. How many tears were dried in those days! Thousands and thousands of broken hearts were consoled and filled with joy. Happiness and abundance reigned in many once desolate homes, and the name of our merciful God was blessed everywhere in my beloved country. Surely this was not the work of poor Chiniquy!
It was the Lord's work, for the Lord, who is wonderful in all His doings, had once more chosen the weakest instrument to show His mercy towards the children of men. He has called the most unprofitable of His servants to do the greatest work of reform Canada has ever seen, that the praise and glory might be given to Him, and Him alone! 50year11.htm