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In order to understand what kind
of moral education students in Roman Catholic colleges receive, one must only
be told that from the beginning to the end they are surrounded by an atmosphere
in which nothing but Paganism is breathed. The models of eloquence which we
learned by heart were almost exclusively taken from Pagan literature. In the
same manner Pagan models of wisdom, of honour, of chastity were offered to our
admiration. Our minds were constantly fixed on the masterpieces which Paganism
has left. The doors of our understanding were left open only to receive the
rays of light which Paganism has shed on the world. Homer, Socrates, Lycurgus,
Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Tacitus, Caesar, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Alexander, Lucretia,
Regulus, Brutus, Jupiter, Venus, Minerva, Mars, Diana, ect., ect., crowded each
other in our thoughts, to occupy them and be their models, examples and masters
It may be said that the same Pagan writers, orators and heroes are studied, read and admired in Protestant colleges. But there the infallible antidote, the Bible, is given to the students. Just as nothing remains of the darkness of night after the splendid morning sun has arisen on the horizon, so nothing of the fallacies, superstitions and sophisms of Paganism can trouble or obscure the mind on which that light from heaven, the Word of God, comes every day with its millions of shining rays. How insignificant is the Poetry of Homer when compared with the sublime songs of Moses! How pale is the eloquence of Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, ect., when read after Job, David or Solomon! How quickly crumble down the theories which those haughty heathens of old wanted to raise over the intelligence of men when the thundering voice from Sinai is heard; when the incomparable songs of David, Solomon, Isaiah or Jeremiah are ravishing the soul which is listening to their celestial strains! It is a fact that Pagan eloquence and philosophy can be but very tasteless to men accustomed to be fed with the bread which comes down from heaven, whose souls are filled with the eloquence of God, and whose intelligence is fed with the philosophy of heaven.
But, alas! for me and my fellow-students in the college of Rome! No sun ever appeared on the horizon to dispel the night in which our intelligence was wrapped. The dark clouds with which Paganism had surrounded us were suffocating us, and no breath from heaven was allowed to come and dispel them. Moses with his incomparable legislation, David and Solomon with their divine poems, Job with his celestial philosophy, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel with their sublime songs, Jesus Christ Himself with His soul-saving Gospel, as well as His apostles Peter, John, Jude, James and Paul these were all put in the Index! They had not the liberty to speak to us, and we were forbidden, absolutely forbidden, to read and hear them!
It is true that the Church of Rome, as an offset to that, gave us her principles, precepts, fables and legends that we might be attached to her, and that she might remain the mistress of our hearts. But these doctrines, practices, principles and fables seemed to us so evidently borrowed from Paganism they were so cold, so naked, so stripped of all true poetry, that if the Paganism of the ancients was not left absolute master of our affections, it still claimed a large part of our souls. To create in us a love for the Church of Rome our superiors depended greatly on the works of Chateaubriand. The "Genie du Christianisme" was the book of books to dispel all our doubts, and attach us to the Pope's religion. But this author, whose style is sometimes really beautiful, destroyed, by the weakness of his logic, the Christianity which he wanted to build up. We could easily see that Chateaubriand was not sincere, and his exaggerations were to many of us a sure indication that he did not believe in what he said. The works of De Maistre, the most important history-falsificator of France, were also put into our hands as a sure guide in philosophical and historical studies. The "Memoirs du Conte Valmont," with some authors of the same stamp, were much relied upon by our superiors to prove to us that the dogmas, precepts and practices of the Roman Catholic religion were brought from heaven.
It was certainly our desire as well as our interest to believe them. But how our faith was shaken, and how we felt troubled when Livy, Tacitus, Cicero, Virgil, Homer, ect., gave us the evidence that the greater part of these things had their root and their origin in Paganism.
For instance, our superiors had convinced us that scapulars, medals, holy water, ect., would be of great service to us in battling with the most dangerous temptations, as well as in avoiding the most common dangers of life. Consequently, we all had scapulars and medals, which we kept with the greatest respect, and even kissed morning and evening with affection, as if they were powerful instruments of the mercy of God to us. How great, then, was our confusion and disappointment when we discovered in the Greek and Latin historians that those scapulars and medals and statuettes were nothing but a remnant of Paganism, and that the worshipers of Jupiter, Minerva, Diana and Venus believed themselves also free, as we did, from all calamity when they carried them in honour of these divinities! The further we advanced in the study of Pagan antiquity, the more we were forced to believe that our religion, instead of being born at the foot of Calvary, was only a pale and awkward imitation of Paganism. The modern Pontifex Maximus (the Pope of Rome), who, as we were assured, was the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, resembled the "Pontifex Maximus" of the great republic and empire of Rome as much as two drops of water resemble each other. Had not our Pope preserved not only the name, but also the attributes, the pageantry, the pride, and even the garb of that high pagan priest? Was not the worship of the saints absolutely the same as the worship of the demigods of olden time? Was not our purgatory minutely described by Virgil? Were not our prayers to the Virgin and to the saints repeated, almost in the same words, by the worshipers who repeated them every day before the images which adorned our churches? Was not our holy water in use among the idolaters, and for the same purpose for which it was used among us?
We know by history the year in which the magnificent temple consecrated to all the gods, bearing the name of Pantheon, had been built at Rome. We were acquainted with the names of several of the sculptors who had carved the statues of the gods in that heathen temple, at whose feet the idolaters bowed respectfully, and words cannot express he shame we felt on learning that the Roman Catholics of our day, under the very eyes and with the sanction of the Pope, still prostrated themselves before the same idols, in the same temple, and to obtain the same favours!
When we asked each other the question, "What is the difference between the religion of heathen Rome and that of the Rome of today?" more than one student would answer: "The only difference is in the name. The idolatrous temples are the same: the idols have not left their places. Today, as formerly, the same incense burns in their honour? Nations are still prostrated at their feet to give them the same homage and to ask of them the same favours; but instead of calling this statue Jupiter, we call it Peter; and instead of calling that one Minerva or Venus, it is called St. Mary. It is the old idolatry coming to us under Christian names."
I earnestly desired to be an honest and sincere Roman Catholic. These impressions and thoughts distracted me greatly, inasmuch as I could find nothing in reason to diminish their force. Unfortunately many of the books placed in our hands by our superiors to confirm our faith, form our moral character, and sustain our piety and our confidence in the dogmas of the Church of Rome, had a frightful resemblance to the histories I had read of the gods and goddesses. The miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary often appeared to be only a reproduction of the tricks and deceits by which the priests of Jupiter, Venus, Minerva, ect., used to obtain their ends and grant the requests of their worshipers. Some of those miracles of the Virgin Mary equaled, if they did not surpass, in absurdity and immorality what mythology taught us among the most hideous accounts of the heathen gods and goddesses.
I could cite hundreds of such miracles which shocked my faith and caused me to blush in secret at the conclusion to which I was forced to come, in comparing the worship of ancient and modern Rome. I will only quote three of these modern miracles, which are found in one of the books the best approved by the Pope, entitled "The Glories of Mary."
First miracle. The great favour bestowed by the Holy Virgin upon a nun named Beatrix, of the Convent of Frontebraldo, show how merciful she is to sinners. This fact is related by Cesanus, and by Father Rho. This unfortunate nun, having been possessed by a criminal passion for a young man, determined to leave her convent and elope with him. She was the doorkeeper of the convent, and having placed the keys of the monastery at the feet of a statue of the Holy Virgin she boldly went out, and then led a life of prostitution during fifteen years in a far off place.
"One day, accidentally meeting the purveyor of her convent, and thinking she would not be recognized by him, she asked him news of Sister Beatrix.
"`I know her well,' answered this man; `she is a holy nun, and is mistress of the novices.'
"At these words Beatrix was confused; but to understand what it meant she changed her clothing, and going to the convent, enquired after Sister Beatrix.
"The Holy Virgin instantly appeared to her in the form of the statue at whose feet she had placed the keys at her departure. The Divine Mother spoke to her in this wise: `Know, Beatrix, that in order to preserve your honour I have taken your place and done your duty since you have left your convent. My daughter, return to God and be penitent, for my Son is still waiting for you. Try, by the holiness of your life, to preserve the good reputation which I have earned you.' Having thus spoken, the Holy Virgin disappeared. Beatrix reentered the monastery, donned her religious dress, and, grateful for the mercies of Mary, she led the life of a saint." ("Glories of Mary," chap. vi., sec. 2.)
Second miracle. Rev. Father Rierenberg relates that there existed in a city called Aragona a beautiful and noble girl by the name of Alexandra, whom two young men loved passionately. One day, maddened by the jealousy each one had of the other, they fought together, and both were killed. Their parents were so infuriated at the young girl, the author of these calamities, that they killed her, cut her head off, and threw her into a well. A few days after St. Dominic, passing by the place, was inspired to approach the well and to cry out, "Alexandra, come here!" The head of the deceased immediately placed itself upon the edge of the well, and entreated St. Dominic to hear its confession. Having heard it, the Saint gave her the communion in the presence of a great multitude of people, and then he commanded her to tell them why she had received so great a favour.
She answered that, though she was in a state of mortal sin when she was decapitated, yet as she had a habit of reciting the holy rosary, the Virgin had preserved her life.
The head, full of life, remained on the edge of the well two days before the eyes of a great many people, and then the soul went to purgatory. But fifteen days after this the soul of Alexandra appeared to St. Dominic, bright and beautiful as a star, and told him that one of the surest means of removing souls from purgatory was the recitation of the rosary in their favour. ("Glories of Mary," chap. viii., sec. 2)
Third miracle. "A servant of Mary one day went into one of her churches to pray, without telling her husband about it. Owing to a terrible storm she was prevented from returning home that night. Harassed by the fear that her husband would be angry, she implored Mary's help. But on returning home she found her husband full of kindness. After asking her husband a few questions on the subject she discovered that during that very night the Divine Mother had taken her form and features and had taken her place in all the affairs of the household! She informed her husband of the great miracle, and they both became very much devoted to the Holy Virgin." (Glories of Mary," Examples of Protection, 40.)
Persons who have never studied in a Roman Catholic college will hardly believe that such fables were told us as an appeal for us to become Christians. But, God knows, I tell the truth. Is not a profanation of a holy word to say that Christianity is the religion taught the students in Rome's colleges?
After reading the monstrous metamorphoses of the gods of Olympus, the student feels a profound pity for the nations who have lived so long in the darkness of Paganism. He cannot understand how so many millions of men were, for such a long time, deceived by such crude fables. With joy his thoughts are turned to the God of Calvary, there to receive light and life. He feels, as it were, a burning desire to nourish himself with the words of life, fallen from the lips of the "great victim." But here comes the priest of the college, who places himself between the student and Christ, and instead of allowing him to be nourished with the Bread of Life he offers him fables, husks with which to appease his hunger. Instead of allowing him to slake his thirst from the waters which flow from the fountains of eternal life, he offers him a corrupt beverage!
God alone knows what I have suffered during my studies to find myself absolutely deprived of the privilege of eating this bread of life His Holy Word!
During the last years of my studies my superiors often confided to me the charge of the library. Once it happened that, as the students were taking a holiday, I remained alone in the college, and shutting myself up in the library I began to examine all the books. I was not a little surprised to discover that the books which were the most proper to instruct us stood on the catalogue of the library marked among the forbidden books. I felt an inexpressible shame on seeing with my own eyes that none but the most indifferent books were placed in our hands that we were permitted to read authors of the third rank only (if this expression is suitable to such whose only merit consisted in flattering the Popes, and in concealing or excusing their crimes). Several students more advanced than myself, had already made the observation to me, but I did not believe them. Self-love gave me the hope that I was as well educated as one could be at my age. Until then I had spurned the idea that, with the rest of the students, I was the victim of an incredible system of moral and intellectual blindness.
Among the forbidden books of the college I found a splendid Bible. It seemed to be of the same edition as the one whose perusal had made the hours pass away so pleasantly when I was at home with my mother. I seized it with the transports of a miser finding a lost treasure. I lifted it to my lips, and kissed it respectfully. I pressed it against my heart, as one embraces a friend from whom he has long been separated. This Bible brought back to my memory the most delightful hours of my life. I read in its divine pages till the scholars returned.
The next day Rev. Mr. Leprohon, our director, called me to his room during the recreation, and said: "You seem to be troubled, and very sad today. I noticed that you remained alone while the other scholars were enjoying themselves so well. Have you any cause of grief? or are you sick?"
I could not sufficiently express my love and respect for this venerable man. He was at the same time my friend and benefactor. For four years he and Rev. Mr. Brassard had been paying my board; for, owing to a misunderstanding between myself and my uncle Dionne, he had ceased to maintain me at college. By reading the Bible the previous day I had disobeyed my benefactor, Mr. Leprohon; for when he entrusted me with the care of the library he made me promise not to read the books in the forbidden catalogue.
It was painful to me to sadden him by acknowledging that I had broken my word of honour, but it pained me far more to deceive him by concealing the truth. I therefore answered him: "You are right in supposing that I am uneasy and sad. I confess there is one thing which perplexes me greatly among the rules that govern us. I never dared to speak to you about it: but as you wish to know the cause of my sadness, I will tell you. You have placed in our hands, not only to read, but to learn by heart, books which are, as you know, partly inspired by hell, and you forbid us to read the only book whose every word is sent from heaven! You permit us to read books dictated by the spirit of darkness and sin, and you make it a crime for us to read the only book written under the dictation of the Spirit of light and holiness. This conduct on your part, and on the part of all the superiors of the college, disturbs and scandalizes me! Shall I tell you, your dread of the Bible shakes my faith, and causes me to fear that we are going astray in our Church."
Mr. Leprohon answered me: "I have been the director of this college for more than twenty years, and I have never heard from the lips of any of the students such remarks and complaints as you are making to me today. Have you no fear of being the victim of a deception of the devil, in meddling with a question so strange and so new for a scholar whose only aim should be to obey his superiors?"
"It may be" said I, "that I am the first to speak to you in this manner, for it is very probable that I am the only student in this college who has read the Holy Bible in his youthful days. I have already told you there was a Bible in my father's house, which disappeared only after his death, though I never could know what became of it. I can assure you that the perusal of that admirable book has done me a good that is still felt. It is, therefore, because I know by a personal experience that there is no book in the world so good, and so proper to read, that I am extremely grieved, and even scandalized, by the dread you have of it. I acknowledge to you I spent the afternoon of yesterday in the library reading the Bible. I found things in it which made me weep for joy and happiness things that did more good to my soul and heart than all you have given me to read for six years. And I am so sad today because you approve of me when I read the words of the devil, and condemn me when I read the Word of God."
My superior answered: "Since you have read the Bible, you must know that there are things in it on matters of such a delicate nature that it is improper for a young man, and more so for a young lady, to read them."
"I understand," answered I; "but these delicate matters, of which you do not want God to speak a word to us, you know very well that Satan speaks to us about them day and night. Now, when Satan speaks about and attracts our thoughts towards an evil and criminal thing, it is always in order that we may like it and be lost. But when the God of purity speaks to us of evil things (of which it is pretty much impossible for men to be ignorant), He does it that we may hate and abhor them, and He gives us grace to avoid them. Well, then, since you cannot prevent the devil from whispering to us things so delicate and dangerous to seduce us, how dare you hinder God from speaking of the same things to shield us from their allurements? Besides, when my God desires to speak to me Himself on any question whatever, where is your right to obstruct His word on its way to my heart?"
Though Mr Leprohon's intelligence was as much wrapped up in the darkness of the Church of Rome as it could be, his heart had remained honest and true; and while I respected and loved him as my father, though differing from him in opinion, I knew he loved me as if I had been his own child. He was thunderstruck by my answer. He turned pale, and I saw tears about to flow from his eyes. He sighed deeply, and looked at me some time reflectingly, without answering. At last he said: "My dear Chiniquy, your answer and your arguments have a force that frightens me, and if I had no other but my own personal ideas to disprove them, I acknowledge I do not know how I would do it. But I have something better than my own weak thoughts. I have the thoughts of the Church, and of our Holy father the Pope. They forbid us to put the Bible in the hands of our students. This should suffice to put an end to your troubles. To obey his legitimate superiors in all things and everywhere is the rule a Christian scholar like you should follow; and if you have broken it yesterday, I hope it will be the last time that the child whom I love better than myself will cause me such pain."
On saying this he threw his arms around me, clasped me to his heart, and bathed my face in tears. I wept also. Yes, I wept abundantly.
But God knoweth, that through the regret of having grieved my benefactor and father caused me to shed tears at that moment, yet I wept much more on perceiving that I would no more be permitted to read His Holy Word.
If, therefore, I am asked what moral and religious education we received at college, I will ask in return, What religious education can we receive in an institution where seven years are spent without once being permitted to read the Gospel of God? The gods of the heathen spoke to us daily by their apostles and disciples Homer, Virgil, Pindar, Horace! and the God of the Christians had not permission to say a single word to us in that college!
Our religion, therefore, could be nothing by Paganism disguised under a Christian name. Christianity in a college or convent of Rome is such a strange mixture of heathenism and superstition, both ridiculous and childish, and of shocking fables, that the majority of those who have not entirely smothered the voice of reason cannot accept it. A few do, as I did, all in their power, and succeed to a certain extent, in believing only what the superior tell them to believe. They close their eyes and permit themselves to be led exactly as if they were blind, and a friendly hand were offering to guide them. But the greater number of students in Roman Catholic colleges cannot accept the bastard Christianity which Rome presents to them. Of course, during the studies they follow its rules, for the sake of peace; but they have hardly left college before they proceed to join and increase the ranks of the army of skeptics and infidels which overruns France, Spain, Italy and Canada which overruns, in fact, all the countries where Rome has the education of the people in her hands.
I must say, though with a sad heart, that moral and religious education in Roman Catholic colleges is worse and void, for from them has been excluded the only true standard of morals and religion, The Word of God!