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Page 30 - St. Ann's Bay Letter

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1981/6/1 (297 reads)

CONTINUED FROM BACK COVER St. Ann's Bay Letter versed in it; for it is not credible that the light of nature should be altogether extinct in them in this regard, when it is not in other more barbarous Nations, or that they never talk among themselves of that of which they cannot be entirely ig? norant. For all that, we have not up to the present noticed any more Religion a- mong these poor Savages than among brutes. This is what wrings our hearts with com? passion for souls redeemed at the same price as ours, by which they would willing? ly profit better than we, if they could know what they themselves are worth, and what they cost him who has loved us all so much. Now what consoles us in the midst of this ignorance and barbarism, and what makes us hope some day to see the Faith widely planted, is partly the docility they have shown in wishing to be instructed, and partly the honesty and decency we observe in them. - They are very diligent and attentive to the instructions we give them; I do not know whether it is through complaisance, for they have a great deal of this natur? ally, or through an instinct from above, that they listen to us so willingly con? cerning the mysteries of our Faith, and repeat after us, whether they understand it or not, all that we declare to them. They very willingly make the sign of the Cross, as they see us make it, raising their hands and eyes to Heaven and pro? nouncing the words, "Jesus, Mary," as we do--so far that, having observed the honor we render to the Cross, these poor people paint it on their faces, chests, arms, and legs, without being asked to do so. I am very willing that they should do all these things in the beginning from a natural simplicity, which causes them to imitate all they see, rather than from any greater consideration; because in time they may be helped by it, and they will not be the first, who come to practice by choice that to which by casual encounter they have be? come accustomed. Besides, what is of no small importance, they sometimes urge us to'pray our good Jesus for them, for the success of their hunting and for relief from their diseases. The other encouragement we see here, for the preaching of the Gospel, is in the honesty and decency that we see shining forth in them like two bright rays of light in the midst of darkness. We never think of distrusting our Savages, or of watching their hands and their feet, as with some others who attract everything to them and appropriate all they find at their convenience. Everything is free to them in all places, and yet nothing is in danger in their presence, even if they are alone in a cabin and where no one can see them. As to decency, they hold it in such high estimation, at least as far as exter? nal appearances are concerned, in their actions and words, that there is a proba? bility that they will rise up on the last day and condemn many Christians, who will have cultivated this virtue less under the Law of grace, than these poor people have under that of nature. We have never heard them use unseemly words, nor seen any actions too free, al? though we have lived on familiar terms with them inside and outside their cabins. You would say they are trying to practice in advance that beautiful motto of the A- postle, which commands Christians not even to have, if they can help it, upon their lips a word which signifies indecency. Some one will readily reply that, if we were better versed in their language, we would not fail to notice it therein. But is it not a great deal, that the little we know of it has not taught us anything of the kind? And is there not great reason to blush for many Christian Nations, among whom one does not have to serve a long ap? prenticeship to their Grammar, to find oneself embarrassed and confused in com? pany, if he has even a little regard for propriety? And if our ears are not yet sufficiently opened to give positive evi? dence of the unconcern or decency of their talk; are we blind, or are we incapable of recognizing a shameful gesture or action? And yet we have never seen anything of this kind, not even among married people. But what shall I say about noticing one day a young Savage kissing a woman, who I did not think was his wife; as that seemed something extraordinary among them, I straightway asked him if that was his wife, and he replied that she was; but it was not without embarrassment on the part of the two who had been taken by surprise. Add to this modesty the gravity which I have said is natural to them, and you will judge that, God helping, they will receive with open arms a Law which recommends noth? ing so much as this virtue, which makes men like unto Angels; and that they will not have as much difficulty as many badly taught Christians have, to conform entirely to the injunctions of the Gospel, when it shall be declared to them in the words of the Apostle that they have to show their modesty in the eyes of all the world, since the Lord is near. It is true they have polygamy, and pay no attention to the indissolubility of Marriage. But we must hope that, when they come to recog? nize the obligations they are under, to? gether with all the Nations of the earth, to a God who made himself man for them, they will willingly submit to his most ho? ly Laws, especially in that which concerns a virtue by means of which he wishes us to bear witness to and glorify without ceas? ing, in our bodies, him who for us has de? livered his own up to torture, and who gives it to us every day as food, for this sole purpose. This letter from St. Ann's Bay is "Relation de quelques particularitez, du lieu & des Habitans de I'Isle du Cap Breton," and is taken from Volume 8 of the 73-volume book The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Mission aries in New France, 1610-1791, in the Original French, Latin, and Italian Texts, English Translations and Notes, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. with
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