Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History


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Selections from Lalemant’s Relation (1638–9)

". . . Let us come to our usual occupations in these countries.

From four o’s clock until eight in the morning, the time is passed in Masses and other special devotions. About eight o’s clock the door of the House is opened to the Savages; in the past, this was not closed again until four o’s clock in the evening,—as much to save themselves the annoyance that was otherwise apprehended,—the Savages not seeming able to understand a refusal to enter, at least in the daytime, the cabins that are in their country, which are not usually closed then to any one,—as to take opportunity to profit by this custom. For, whatever the number of barbarians that come to see you, they are so many Masters and pupils visiting you, and saving you the trouble of going to them,—Masters, I say, in the use of the language; Pupils, as regards their salvation and Christianity.

However,—the importunity of these Barbarians, lazy to the last degree, becoming unbearable, and henceforward almost profitless, since we have found the secret of their language,—we have taken the reasonable liberty of no longer admitting any except those by whom we hope to profit. It was somewhat difficult to bring this about, but God himself seems to have guided the affair so that we have fortunately come out victorious, with great comfort inside and outside our houses,—except perhaps, in the case of a few of these Barbarians, whose minds are more perverted.

Those of our Fathers who remain upon guard take turns in staying in the cabin, and especially the one who keeps the little school for children, Christians, and Catechumens; the others go to the Village to make the rounds and visits in their quarters, the Village being divided into as many districts as there are persons familiar with the language and consequently capable of working. But on account of the few laobrers there are now for this purpose, some of us are charged with forty cabins,—in several of which there are four or five fires, that is, eight or ten families,—which would lay out for them much more work than they could execute, if their courage did not give them strength for that, and even more.

These visits consist, first, in seeing the sick, and taking care that not one of them, child or adult, dies without Baptism or without instruction,—to attain which more easily, we give them all the temporal relief and assistance possible, and especially remedies and bleedings, which have very good effects. In the 2nd place, we watch to seize opportunities to instruct those who are well, and to inculcate in them especially the instruction at the last Catechisms,—or councils, to speak according to the manner of the country,—and to prepare them for an intelligent understanding of the next ones. But, above all, we apply ourselves to discovering the soil or persons where the seed and the germ of the word of God may have taken root, in order to give our attention to them afterwards and cultivate them as Catechumens.

At four or five o’s clock, according to the season, we withdraw, and the Savages who are in our cabin go away; then we have a conference, sometimes on the obstacles against and means for advancing the conversion of these peoples; sometimes on matters incident to the establishment of a new Church; but generally upon the rules of the language, and the new words and idioms that we have heard. In these exercises, and in others that regard the Spiritual and the individual duties of each one, the time passes so quickly, that although it may be true that there is here a dearth of all the comforts that are found in France,—as we have only the four elements, and, besides, no more of ordinary food and covering than that necessary to keep us from dying with hunger and cold,—yet I have only heard one complaint, namely, that there is not time enough. And in fact there is not enough, by half.

Public Catechisms are held several times a week in this way: First, Sundays and Feast days are set aside for the suitable and individual instruction of our Neophytes and new Christians. In the morning, during the Mass, they are given instruction in the form of a sermon, in which we are careful to instruct them in what they ought to know, and at the same time train their minds to piety and Christian devotion. In the afternoon, after Vespers, we feed them in these beginnings with the pure word of God,—relating to them one Sunday the histories and the connection of the old Testament, with reflections upon the profit they ought to derive from them; and, the next Sunday, doing the same thing from the New,—all, that it may conform to what is written, Haec est vita aeterna, ut cognoscant te Deum, et quem misisti Jesum Christum.

We take one working-day of the week to give another public lesson to all alike,—be they believers or unbelievers,—which takes place thus: At the hour of Noon, a man goes calling aloud through the village, or with the bell, in the streets and public places, inviting to the council, but to the council of councils, which concerns the important matter of salvation. In a place where there is no Chapel, and where our cabin is too small, we do this as well as we can outdoors, and when the weather and season do not permit it, it is done indoors,—but then we admit only the men, reserving the women and children for the next day. The people having assembled, after the invocation of the holy Ghost we say or chant a Prayer suitable to this service, in the Huron language. After this we begin the instruction, which is sometimes interrupted by the approbation or objections of the Savages; at the end of this, we have them say a few prayers, and among others, a little one in which is included the act of contrition. After that, we engage in singing the Credo, the Commandments, the Pater, the Ave, and other prayers,—many or few, as we see the Savages attentive and in a condition to profit by them.

Besides this public instruction, on another day in the week we give a less general one, to which are especially invited the people that we wish to have present,—the Captains and most notable men of the Village who have been recognized as having pious tendencies and a leaning towards Christianity, and whom it is particularly important to make well understand the mysteries of our faith, and to have them duly informed of our intentions in this country through all these various meetings and preparations.

In addition to all the above, in a place where Catechumens cannot be sufficiently instructed through private talks with those who have charge of their cabins, they are assembled every evening and are together given the instruction considered most suitable, touching the things they should know before being baptized.

We are not satisfied with working in the Villages where we have residences; but feeling ourselves a little stronger, than in the past, in workers familiar with the language, we have undertaken Missions in the Villages, large and small, of the country,—especially during the Winter, which is the only time suitable for this. The Hurons take up their abode in their cabins at this season only; at all other times, they are either at war, or engaged in trading, hunting, or fishing. We shall first go all over the country which was the first to receive us, then push farther on,—and always on and on,—until we have accomplished our task, which, as we have already said, is only bounded by the setting Sun."

Text—Lalemant’s Relation of 1638–39, in Thwaites’s : The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. XVI, pp. 241–249.


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Chicago: "Selections from Lalemant’s Relation (1638– 9)," Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History 303–305. Original Sources, accessed April 17, 2024,

MLA: . "Selections from Lalemant’s Relation (1638– 9)." Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp. 303–305. Original Sources. 17 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Selections from Lalemant’s Relation (1638– 9)' in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History. cited in , Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp.303–305. Original Sources, retrieved 17 April 2024, from