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THE EARLY JESUIT MISSIONARIES
THERE is no page of our country's history more touching and romantic, than that which records the labors and sufferings of Jesuit Missionaries. In these western wilds they were the earliest pioneers of civilization and faith. The wild hunter or the adventurous traveller, who, penetrating the forests, came to new and strange tribes, often found that years before, the disciples of Loyola had preceded him in that wilderness. Traditions of the “Black Robes” still lingered among the Indians. On some moss-grown tree they pointed out the traces of their work, and in wonder they, deciphered, carved side by side on its trunk, the emblem of our salvation and the lilies of the Bourbons. Amid the snows of Hudson's Bay, among the woody islands and beautiful inlets of the St. Lawrence, by the council fires of the Hurons and the Algonquins, at the source of the Mississippi, where, first of the white men, their eyes looked upon the Falls of St. Anthony, and traced down
the course of the bounding river, as it rushed onward to earn its title of “Father of Waters ”-on the vast prairies of Illinois and Missouri, among the blue hills which hem in the salubrious dwellings of the Cherokees, and in the thick canebrakes of Louisiana-everywhere were found the members, of the “Society of Jesus.” Marquette, Joliet, Brebeuf, Jogues, Lallemand, Rasles, and Marest, are the names which the West should ever hold in remembrance. But it was only by suffering and trial that these early laborers won their triumphs. Many of them, too, were men who had stood high in camps and courts, and could contrast their desolate state in the solitary wigwam with the refinement and affluence which had waited on them in their early years. But now all these were gone. Home, the love of kindred, the golden ties of relationship, all were to be forgotten by these stern and high-wrought men, and they were often to go forth into the wilderness without an adviser on their way, save their God. Through long and sorrowful years they were obliged to “sow in tears” before they could "reap in joy.” Every self-denial gathered around them which could wear upon the spirit and cause the heart to fail. Mighty forests were to be threaded on foot, and the great lakes of the West passed in the feeble
bark canoe. Hunger and cold and disease were to be encountered, until nothing but the burning zeal within could keep alive the wasted and sinking frame. Most of them, too, were martyrs to their faith. It will be noticed in reading their lives how few of their number “died the common death of all men,” or slept at last in the ground which their Church had consecrated. Some, like Jogues, and du Poisson, and Souel, sunk beneath the blows of the infuriated savages, and their bodies were thrown out to feed the vulture, whose shriek, as he flapped his wings above them, had been their only requiem. Others, like Brebeuf and Lallemand and Sanet, died at the stake, and their ashes “flew, no marble tells us whither," while the dusky sons of the forest stood around, and mingled their wild yells of triumph with the martyrs' dying prayers. Others again, like the aged Marquette, sinking beneath years of toil, fell asleep in the wilderness, and their sorrowing companions dug their graves in the green turf, where for many years the rude forest ranger stopped to invoke their names, and bow in prayer before the cross which marked the spot. But did these things stop the progress of the Jesuits? The sons of Loyola never retreated. The mission they founded in a tribe ended only with the extinction
of the tribe itself. Their lives were made up of fearless devotedness and self-sacrifice. Though sorrowing for the dead, they pressed forward at once to occupy their places, and if needs be, share their fate. Nothing," wrote Father le Petit after describing the martyrdom of two of his brethren, “nothing has happened to these two excellent missionaries for which they were not prepared, when they devoted themselves to the Indian Missions." If the flesh trembled, the spirit seemed never to falter. Each one, indeed, felt that he was “baptized for the dead,” and that his own blood, poured out in the mighty forests of the West, would bring down perhaps greater blessings on those for whom he died, than he could win for them by the labors of a life. He realized that he was appointed unto death." “Ibo, et non redibo," were the prophetic words of Father Jogues, when, for the last time, he departed to the Mohawks. When Lallemand was bound to the stake, and for seventeen hours his excruciating agonies were prolonged, his words of encouragement to his companions were, “ Brothers, we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” When Marquette
' was setting out for the source of the Mississippi, and the friendly Indians who had known him, wished to turn him from his purpose by declaring,
“Those distant nations never spare the stranger, the calm reply of the missionary was, “I shall · gladly lay down my life for the salvation of souls." And then the red sons of the wilderness bowed with him in prayer, and before the simple cross of cedar, and among the stately groves of elm and maple which line the St. Lawrence, there rose that old chant which the aged man had been accustomed to hear in the distant Cathedrals of his own land
• Vexilla Regis prodeunt ;
But how little is known of all these men! The history of their bravery and sufferings, touching as it is, has been comparatively neglected.
Rev. WILLIAM INGRAHAM KIP, Early Jesuit Missions in North America.
* The banner of Heaven's king advance, The mystery of the Cross shines forth.
BANCROFT'S UNITED STATES, Vol. iii., 156. .