“How I grieve, my God, that you are not known, that this savage country is not yet wholly converted to faith in you, that sin is not yet blotted out!”
– St. John de Brébeuf
The daily life of a missionary
“During the day the sun burns you; during the night, you run the risk of being a prey to Mosquitoes. […] The only bed is the earth, sometimes only the rough, uneven rocks, and usually no roof but the stars; and all this in perpetual silence. If you are accidentally hurt, if you fall sick […], I would not like to guarantee that they would not abandon you, if you could not make shift to follow them”.
“When you reach the Hurons […], we shall receive you in a Hut, so mean that I have scarcely found in France one wretched enough to compare it with; that is how you will be lodged. Harassed and fatigued as you will be, we shall be able to give you nothing but a poor mat, or at most a skin, to serve you as a bed; and, besides, you will arrive at a season when miserable little insects that we call here Taouhac, and, in good French, puces [fleas], will keep you awake almost all night, for in these countries they are incomparably more troublesome than in France; […] and this petty martyrdom, not to speak of Mosquitoes, Sandflies, and other like vermin, lasts usually not less than three or four months of the Summer”.
“And then how do you think you would pass the Winter with us? […] I say it without exaggeration, the five and six months of Winter are spent in almost continual discomforts,—excessive cold, smoke, and the annoyance of the Savages; we have a Cabin built of simple bark […]; the smoke is very often so thick, so annoying, and so obstinate that, for five or six days at a time, if you are not entirely proof against it, it is all you can do to make out a few lines in your Breviary”.
“After all, if we had here the exterior attractions of piety, as they exist in France, all this might pass. In France the great multitude and the good example of Christians, the solemnity of the Feasts, the majesty of the Churches so magnificently adorned, preach piety to you […] You have the consolation of celebrating every day the holy Mass […]. Here we have nothing, it seems, which incites towards good; we are among Peoples who are astonished when you speak to them of God, and who often have only horrible blasphemies in their mouths […]. Especially I would not dare to speak of the danger there is of ruining oneself among their impurities […]. But enough of this; the rest can only be known by experience”.
An appeal for missionaries
“But is that all?” someone will exclaim. ” Do you think by your arguments to throw water on the fire that consumes me, and lessen ever so little the zeal I have for the conversion of these Peoples? I declare that these things have served only to confirm me the more in my vocation; that I feel myself more carried away than ever by my affection for New France, and that I bear a holy jealousy towards those who are already enduring all these sufferings; all these labors seem to me nothing, in comparison with what I am willing to endure for God; if I knew a place under Heaven where there was yet more to be suffered, I would go there.” Ah! whoever you are to whom God gives these sentiments and this light, come, come, my dear Brother, it is workmen such as you that we ask for here; it is to souls like yours that God has appointed the conquest of so many other souls whom the Devil holds yet in his power”.
Saint John de Brébeuf