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, she faced difficulties in her first years in Quebec City before going to Ville-Marie (now Montreal), where she started in the first elementary school, free of charge, in an abandoned stone stable. This was in an era when every female religious was cloistered, 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, opting for her Sisters to work in the ‘world’, 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 Sisters teaching for the glory of God, and not for benefits, a hefty pension and summers off, 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.
Marguerite had set sail for Canada in 1653, 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 secularized, culture-less, wayward society brought to its imperfection under the Trudeau dynasties and their successors, which is the only thing the past two or three generations know.
Is it possible for Canada to once again become who she was, who she is, and who she might be again? Unlikely, given the current and deteriorating state of affairs, but all things are possible with God. Pray to Saint Marguerite, the martyrs, and all the panoply of those early saints, known and unknown, that many may return to the true faith, and save Canada from the tragic path on which she now travels.
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, prie pour nous!