The Society of Jesus, The Jesuits
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The Society of Jesus, The Jesuits
The Society of Jesus, The Jesuits
In 1615, France insisted that Champlain send missionaries to New France in order to convert the natives.
The Jesuit missionaries, called the "soldiers of Christ", focused on converting pagans. (As portrayed by Paul Doucet in Canada: A People's History)
The Jesuit missionaries, called the "soldiers of Christ", focused on converting pagans. (As portrayed by Paul Doucet in Canada: A People's History)
The Recollet friars were the first to arrive.

Fifteen years later, the missionaries of the Society of Jesus arrived, also known as the Jesuits and the "soldiers of Christ". They had had great success in converting pagans in Asia, Africa, and South America. The Society of Jesus now faced a fresh challenge: converting thirty thousand natives in Huronia.

Paul Le Jeune admitted that that he did not know what the land of the Huron was like but declared that he would rather go among them than reach earthly paradise. The danger seemed to fascinate him and his fellow missionaries: "It would never do," he wrote, "for everyone to know how fine life is in the horrors of these forests, in the compelling darkness of such barbarity. Otherwise, we would simply have too many people trying to come here."

The first to arrive, Paul Le Jeune, Charles Lalemant and Jean de Brébeuf, were not welcomed by the Huron.
The Huron were reluctant to take missionaries like Jean de Brbeuf to their villages. (As portrayed by Paul Doucet in Canada: A People's History)
The Huron were reluctant to take missionaries like Jean de Brbeuf to their villages. (As portrayed by Paul Doucet in Canada: A People's History)
"The Huron would have preferred well-armed Frenchmen to these men in long robes who had no arquebuses," Le Jeune wrote. They only wanted to take three of us: two young Frenchmen and one priest. The missionaries promised that they would paddle and offered presents. They insisted as much as they could, but the Huron were not interested in salvation."

Jean de Brébeuf wrote: "The fathers that God will call to the holy mission of the Huron have to foresee the work, suffering and perils that must be incurred to them...for coming from a civilized place...you fall into the hands of barbarians, who do not care for your philosophy nor for your theology...
The Jesuits lived among the Huron but they found it difficult to adapt to their culture. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The Jesuits lived among the Huron but they found it difficult to adapt to their culture. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
that they absolutely despise you."

However, despite the attitude of the Huron, a considerable number of Jesuits settled in Huronia.

Life among the Huron was not easy for the missionaries. A Jesuit recounted what he saw:

"They lack tables and household utensils, we eat on the ground... We have neither salt nor oil nor fruit nor bread nor wine, except the wine that is kept for mass. Our beds are made of a piece of tree bark on which a cover is laid out. We won't even talk about the sheets. These people have neither towers, nor cities, nor temples, nor masters of any science or art.
The Jesuits built permanent missions in Huronia, the largest at Ste. Marie.
The Jesuits built permanent missions in Huronia, the largest at Ste. Marie. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
They know neither reading nor writing. Smoke fills up the dwelling and spoils everything that we want to keep there. When night falls there is no other light other than the fire in the cabin, which we use to recite our breviary."

The Jesuits had little success in their evangelization. A shaman engaged them in theological argument, claiming that the Christian God did not live in Canada, and that was why he did not believe in Him. He maintained that native souls might not have been made the same as European ones, that they did not go to the same place after death. Besides, he concluded, who had ever returned from that land beyond death to describe it?

But the missionaries persisted, insisted and sometimes succeeded.
Each soul converted was duly accounted for and faithfully reported to their superior. In Quebec, the superior of the Jesuits kept a diary of what life was like in Huronia. He transformed difficulties into success and the diary was finally published as: Relations of the most remarkable events that have occurred during the mission of the Fathers of the Company of Jesus in New France. Translated into Latin, Italian, and German, the Relations were devoured by a passionately devout readership in Europe.

"...one wrote to me on a piece of tree-bark, recounted a Jesuit, "that the demons in Huronia were furious, and strongly opposed to our plans. Turning that thought around in my head, I found myself astonished by the greatness of God for the more bloody the battle, the more noble the victory and the more glorious the triumph".

Paul Le Jeune bore witness to this:

"I learnt with my eyes and eyes that France was on fire for us and the land of savages was only ice.
I understood on one hand that the great of the land would give us their hearts for heaven and that the little people of this world, that is what I call those who do not believe in God, would be horrified by us."

In France, these writings sparked an insatiable apostolic zeal for the "Savages" of Canada.

The Jesuits built missions on Huron territory and the most significant was Saint Mary. They brought with them French youths as servants.
Amongst them was Charles Lemoyne, 16, and Pierre Boucher who was only 15. The discovered a new world.

Pierre Boucher recounted:

"Usually all the savages are well-meaning...They believe in the immortality of the soul and ...that after death, it goes to a beautiful place...They have a number of fables that they tell...They know Gods, they have a great aversion to sorcerers. They are very superstitious, and add faith to their thoughts: this is what gives the most pain to the Jesuit fathers who instruct them."

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Converting the natives in Huronia
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Epidemics
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Iroquois' destruction of Huronia
Iroquois' destruction of Huronia
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Missionaries Paul Le Jeune and Isaac Jogues
Missionaries Paul Le Jeune and Isaac Jogues
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Ministry of Culture, France. New France. French resources. Annual account of the Sault mission since its founding in 1686 (in French only)

History of the Society of Jesus (in French only)

The Jesuits of French Canada

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