The Makers of Canada: Bishop Laval eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 200 pages of information about The Makers of Canada.

CHAPTER III

THE SOVEREIGN COUNCIL

The pious bishop who is the subject of this study was not long in proving that his virtues were not too highly esteemed.  An ancient vessel, the St. Andre, brought from France two hundred and six persons, among whom were Mlle. Mance, the foundress of the Montreal hospital, Sister Bourgeoys, and two Sulpicians, MM.  Vignal and Lemaitre.  Now this ship had long served as a sailors’ hospital, and it had been sent back to sea without the necessary quarantine.  Hardly had its passengers lost sight of the coasts of France when the plague broke out among them, and with such intensity that all were more or less attacked by it; Mlle. Mance, in particular, was almost immediately reduced to the point of death.  Always very delicate, and exhausted by a preceding voyage, she did not seem destined to resist this latest attack.  Moreover, all aid was lacking, even the rations of fresh water ran short, and from a fear of contagion, which will be readily understood, but which was none the less disastrous, the captain at first forbade the Sisters of Charity who were on board to minister to the sick.  This precaution cost seven or eight of these unfortunate people their lives.  At least M. Vignal and M. Lemaitre, though both suffering themselves, were able to offer to the dying the consolations of their holy office.  M. Lemaitre, more vigorous than his colleague, and possessed of an admirable energy and devotion, was not satisfied merely with encouraging and ministering to the unfortunate in their last moments, but even watched over their remains at the risk of his own life; he buried them piously, wound them in their shrouds, and said over them the final prayers as they were lowered into the sea.  Two Huguenots, touched by his devotion, died in the Roman Catholic faith.  The Sisters were finally permitted to exercise their charitable office.  Although ill, they as well as Sister Bourgeoys, displayed a heroic energy, and raised the morale of all the unfortunate passengers.

To this sickness were added other sufferings incident to such a voyage, and frightful storms did not cease to attack the ship until its entry into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Several times they believed themselves on the point of foundering, and the two priests gave absolution to all.  The tempest carried these unhappy people so far from their route that they did not arrive at Quebec until September 7th, exhausted by disease, famine and trials of all sorts.  Father Dequen, of the Society of Jesus, showed in this matter an example of the most admirable charity.  He brought to the sick refreshments and every manner of aid, and lavished upon all the offices of his holy ministry.  As a result of his self-devotion, he was attacked by the scourge and died in the exercise of charity.  Several more, after being conveyed to the hospital, succumbed to the disease, and the

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The Makers of Canada: Bishop Laval from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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