Today is the feast of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), founder of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, and founder also of the first official school in Canada. A missionary from France in the mid-seventeenth century, she faced innumerable difficulties in her first years in the nascent Quebec City – then just a scrabbling outpost – before going to Ville-Marie (now Montreal). It here she started in the first elementary school, free of charge, in an abandoned stone stable, which caused some astonishment. For this was in the era when every female religious was cloistered, not ‘out in the world’, and there were attempts to unite her new Order with the Ursulines, making them contemplative.
But Marguerite knew her mind, or, more properly, the will of God, and rightly resisted, stating firmly that her Sisters were not meant to be in convents, but going forth to form young souls, especially in education. Her Order flourished, and did indispensable and glorious work in forming the hearts and minds of generations of the young in Quebec. The days of such Sisters teaching for the glory of God and the salvation of souls – instead of the benefits, a hefty pension and generous vacation time that are now the lot of government-paid educators – are not that long ago, and may yet be again, Deo volente. The last few years of her long and fruitful life she spent in prayer and writing, before she died on this day in 1700.
The year that Marguerite had set sail for Canada, 1653, was just four years after the last of the Jesuit martyrdoms, of Saints Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, whose blood, we may presume, laid the seeds for the great fruit of Marguerite and all the early Canadian saints who would follow. Yes, we once had a Catholic Canada, which is still the ‘real’ Canada, lurking somewhere beneath the atheistic, secularized, culture-less, multi-culti hodge-podge, brought to its nadir under the Trudeau dynasties and their successors, which is the only thing the past two or three generations know. Under Trudeau Jr., we’re doubling down on killing our unborn children, and now about to allow the same via euthanasia for the born.