Father Ennemond Massé the First European who made his home at St. John

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Father Ennemond Massé the First European who made his home at St. John
W, K. Reynolds
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FATHER ENNEMOND MASSE. THE FIRST EUROPEAN WHO MADE HIS HOME AT ST. JOHN. He came from Port Royal to Learn the Indian Language. A Missionary Whose Name is Held in Honor…His Monument at Québec A little over four miles from the grand old city of Québec, at Sillery, on the north shore of the River St. Lawrence, stands a two-story building which bears such marks of antiquity that it looks old even in this part of Canada, where so much that was of the days of the seventeenth century stands side by side with the material evidence of the busy world today. It is, indeed an ancient structure, one of the oldest in Canada, and it is an historic spot as well. It is the original mission house of the Jesuit Fathers, founded in 1637 by the liberality of Noel Brulart de Sillery, sometime Knight of Malta, Commandeur de Troyes, Knight of Honour and Ambassador to the court of Spain, who later, under the guidance of the devout Vincent de Paul, renounced the allurements of the world and entered holy orders. Selling his palace and disbanding this retinue, he devoted his mind and ample means to the propagation of the faith in Canada, and his first act was to place 12,000 livers in the hands of Father Charles Lalemant, who established the mission to which was given the name of the benefactor. Across the way from this house, between it and the river side, is a small plot of ground, in which stands a cut stone monument, some twenty feet in height, with marble tablets setting forth the reasons for its erection. In the grassy sod are portions of what is seen to have been the stone foundation of a small building. They mark the site of the Jesuit mission church of St. Michel. In the old house across the way, on the night of May 11-12 1646, there passed from this life to a better one the first white man who had made his abode where is now the city of St. John, New Brunswick. His ashes have mingled with the earth of the grassy plot, and the monument marks his grave. His name was Ennemond Massé, and he had been the pioneer missionary to Canada. The Jesuit missionaries raised no monuments to the memory of those of then number who finished their flight for the Faith and fell on sleep either amid peaceful surroundings or wearing martyr’s crowns. In time the grave of Father Masse was forgotten, one generation succeeded another, the flag of England took the place of the banner of France, the old mission church fell into ruin, and the name of the pioneer missionary lived only in records of which the world at large knew little. More than two hundred years passed ere the historical zeal of Abbes Casgrain and Laverdiere led to the discovery of what had been a nameless grave, but when that happened little time was lost in doing justice to the memory of one worthy of recognition. The inhabitants of Sillery erected the monument which is seen today and on the 26th of June, 1870, in the presence of a concourse of people, the monument was unveiled. On one of the tablets is this inscription: The inhabitants of Sillery Have erected this Monument to the Memory of PERE ENNSEMOND MASSE S.J. First Missionary in Canada Buried in 1646’In the Church of Saint Michel On the Domain of Saint Joseph of Sillery The oldest known map of St. John harbor shows what is described as “a pebbley point where there is a cross”. That pebbley point was what was later known as Sand Point. It is today one of the most busy parts of the city, and the spot where the cross is believed to have been erected is now a portion of the site of the elevator. This cross was placed there by Samuel de Champlain, lieutenant and pilot of the early explorers under DeMonts. On the 24th June, 1604, his little vessel entered this harbour, and in honor of the feast day he named the river the St.John. It was not until four years later that he founded the city of Quebec. Eight years after Champlain gave the river the name which it bears to this day, came Ennemond Massé, the pioneer missionary. The story of the beginning of the first mission to Canada of the delays which were encountered and the difficulties which had to be overcome before setting out from France, would of itself make a long narrative. From the first, however, there was no lack of those who were eager to be missionaries. Many pressed forward to giver their lives to a work which meant a sacrifice, it might be, even of life itself, with no reward save that which comes to the servants of God. Yet no higher reward could be given, and so realized those who volunteered to encounter the difficulties and discomforts, the thousand and one dangers of life among a barbarous people. Of these volunteers two were chosen, Fathers Pierre Biard and Ennemond Massé. Both of these were men of high scholarship and with refined tastes. Father Biard had occupied the chair of Scholastic Theology and Hebrew at Lyons. Father Masse, who was then a little past 30, had been admitted to the Society at the age of 20 and had also filled a chair of theology at Lyons. It is said of him (*) that “Of an impetuous and violent nature, he had all he could do to restrain it. But, by vigilance and perseverance he conquered it so well that he no longer seemed to have any impulse or passions. Industrious, and wearying of robust health, he was prepared for the hardships of a distant mission by a life of penitence and denial frequently fasting, sleeping upon hard boards, accustoming his taste to everything and his body to extreme heat and cold. Although innocent as a child, he led the life of a penitent anchorite. In 1608 they made him an associate of Father Coton, then confessor and preacher to the King. But this austere apostle preferred a life of privation and sacrifice to that of the court. He chose Canada. Such was the character of him who “sighing” only for the crosses and sufferings of the new world,” was one of the first two missionaries to Canada, and the first European resident of St. John. The missionaries were ready to leave France for Acadia in 1608, but three years passed before the opportunity came to them to take their passage and it was not until January 26, 1611, that they left Dieppe in the ship “La Grace de Dieu, of about 00 tons burden. In this little vessel, tossed on the seas at the most severe time of the winter, were 36 persons. The voyage was a long one, as the vessel did not make the usual course in starting out, and for six weeks the cold was so intense that all on board suffered severely. “Good Father Masse suffered a great deal, “writes his companion.” He was ill about forty days, eating very little and seldom leaving his bed; yet, not withstanding all that, he wanted to fast. After Easter he continued to improve, thank God more and more.” They reached Land at Canso (Campeau) on May 5 and there celebrated Mass. Resuming the voyage the ship coasted along the south and west shore of Nova Scotia, entered the bay Fundy and reached Port Royal on May 22, the Feast of Pentecost, after a cruise of four months. There they were welcomed by Potricourt [Poutrincourt] and his followers, who had been reduced to considerable straits during the winter. Rude, indeed, were the accommodations at Port Royal on the arrival of the missionaries, and when winter came again the supplies fell short, so that the allowance for each man for a whole week, (10 ounces of bread, half pound of lard, three dishes of peas and one of prunes) was not sufficient for him for one day. But the missionaries had come from the ease of the most luxurious capital of Europe to endure distress, toil and poverty and they were cheerful. Their records contain no murmur or complain. The first letter ever sent to Canada by the General of the Jesuits was to Father Masse and in his reply the latter says, “Surely we sow in great poverty and in tears: may the Lord grant that we some day reap in joy”. The missionaries realized that all their learning would avail them little in the conversion of the savages unless they could acquire a knowledge of the Indian language. They accordingly applied themselves to this task, Father Masse coming to St. John harbor in the summer of 1612 with a young Frenchman to act as his server at Mass. The Indian village was then on what is now Navy Island and on the mainland hear at hand. The missionary made his home in the wigwam of Louis Membertou. This pioneer white resident at St. John saw much more of the country than that which lay in the immediate vicinity. His idea was that to learn the usages, habits, disposition and general life of the Indians, he should go with them in their journeys over mountains and through valleys in the interior and sharing their canoe voyages on the water. In this way he must have explored a large part of the country along the lower St. John, and it is probable these excursions frequently extended as far as the settlements at what is now Fredericton. The Indians doubtless gave Father Massé the best they had, but that was poor enough. Scant as had been the accommodations at Port Royal, they were luxurious as compared with those of the Indian camps. “ It was, says the Realtion of Fr. Biard, “a life without bread , without said, and often without anything; always moving on and changing in the air and in bad weather; for roof, a wretched cabin for couch, the earth for rest and quiet, odious cries and songs for medicine, hunger and hard work.” He and his companions suffered many discomforts and were prostrated by sickness but he continued to live among the Indians for some months, after which he returned to Port Royal. Two years later, in 1613, Fathers Biard and Massé with two others of their society established a mission at Mount Desert Island, but they had scarcely done so when the colony was attacked by the English under Argall and dispersed. A lay brother of the society was killed in the attack. Father Biard was taken to England and thence returned to France. Father Masse with some others was placed on a small vessel, which coasted along the shore and into the open sea destitute of sailors, provisions of equipment until it had the good fortune to meet with two French ships and the party was enabled to get to France. Father Masse and his companion were “in the plight of two poor beggars all in rage.” says Jerome Lalemant. He returned to Canada, going to Quebec in 1625 in company with Charles Lalemant and Jean de Brebeuf. During the English occupation of Canada, from 1629 to 1631, dying at Sillary as previously mentioned at the age of 72 and after having been 50 years in the religious order. After the death of Father Masse a paper which none but himself had seen in is lifetime was found. It contained his private rule s of life and these show the humble character of the man. Having resolved to serve his Divine Master for Canada, as Jacob served fourteen years for Rachael he sought for Crosses. “ So great a blessing so lofty an employ so sublime a vocation in a word, Canadas and its delights which are the Cross, can only be obtained through a frame of mind conformed to the Cross “ Therefore he makes his roles, eight in number, one which will suffice to show the humility of his observances: “7. Thou shalt fast three times in the week but so that none may perceive it save that one who must have knowledge thereof. AS though usually takest thy meal only at the second table, though canst easily conceal these little mortifications”. “If his purity was great, his charity was not less; it made him a wood sawyer and ship’s carpenter along with Father Biard, his companion. They made planks and built a shallop or boat in order to go fishing for cod, so s to succor the settlement in which they were, which was under the pressure of extreme necessity. This good Father plied all sorts of trades but especially that by which one gains Paradise; he has run so well that he has carried off the prize or the crown; he has navigated so prosperously that he has at last arrived, in spite of all the storms, at the port of a glorious eternity.” Such was the first white man who lived for a season at St. John, nearly a century and three quarters before the founding of the city which we have today. When the three hundredth anniversary is celebrated in 1904, let not the name of Ennemond Massé, the pioneer missionary, be forgotten. W.K. REYNOLDS. *Rochemonteix, Jesuites 1.24 Relations, Cleveland edtion, 1,149