Page images
PDF
EPUB

Clergy and Missionaries—that is, natives; yet, on the whole, we may say that it continued extremely prosperous until the beginning of the last century, and then it was that persecution commenced in its fiercest form, and it has been continued unremittingly until the present day; so that every Missionary, who is engaged in a Mission to China at this time, is working with the fear of the axe over his head, and certainly if he is seized, the least he can expect is banishment to Tartary, but in many instances certain death; so that the Missionaries are introduced in every possible disguise. I have spoken myself with some of the native Chinese who have been educated in Europe, who are going out, and of course looking forward to the possibility of having to lay down their lives for the faith. In one particular instance, the province or peninsula of Corea, I know that from thence, for many years back, there has been annually a petition sent by the Christians there to the Propaganda, amounting to some twelve or fifteen, to entreat them to send them a priest: for, though they have not had any one to preach to them for many years, yet still they have continued attached to the faith. One had undertaken the task, and it was hard to say where the chances lay - whether be would be able to enter on the Mission, or would lose his life by the attempt. This is the state of the Mission at present. I bave authority for it, because I quote from the report of one of the societies. It is said in one of the Missionary reports “ that the Catholic missions, which have existed for a long time in China, are in a critical state. Every now and then new decrees are published against the Christian religion, and both Europeans and Chinese suffer martyrdom, and notwithstanding all this, the Catholic religion spreads in the midst of this persecution.” This is from one of the Missionary reports. Is not this what we see in the history of the ancient church? Do we not always read in former times, when persecution arose against the church, that, in spite of this persecution, though Christian after Christian lay down his life for Christ and bore testimony to the faith, instead of the church being extinguished, on the contrary, it rather increased and dilated its boundaries ? Such is the case with the church in China, and wbich, notwithstanding the dreadful state of persecution in which it has been for so many years, may be said really to be in a comparatively flourishing state.

There is one large district, under the direction of a French Missionary—the province of Su-chueu. In 1827, we have the return of the number of adults baptized in that province since 1800, that is, in twenty-seven years, and they amount to 22,000 in the midst of this cruel persecution. M. Fontana, Vicar Apostolic to the province, writes a letter on the 27th September, 1824. He states that, from the preceding September, that is, in one year, they had baptized 335 adults, consequently converts; and there were actually in the course of preparation for bap

tism 1,517 candidates. The total number of Christians, comprising these catechumens, amounted to 46,287. I may observe, that there is no part of the world, in spite of the difficulties, from which the church, or the authorities of Rome, have more accurate accounts than from China;

for they receive, from every part of the interior, by one means or another, an annual letter, giving them an account of what has been doing during the year. In another letter, dated the 18th September, 1826, he writes that, “ In the preceding year they had baptized 339, and had 285 under instruction ; and, he adds, that in his district, he had 27 schools for boys, and 62 for girls,” in spite, as I said before, of the persecution that is going on. This is one province alone, from which I have given you these accurate returns. Besides this, the French Missionaries have the provinces of Yunnam and Kouei- Tcheou ; the Italian Missionaries have Chensi, Kausiu and Kaukouan; the Spanish Dominicans had Fokien and Kiansi ; and, according to private returns-returns not published, but sent into the hands of the Dominican order at Madrid—they had, in the year 1824, in that province alone, 40,000 native Catholics; and the Portuguese priests had also Canton and Kouansi. So much, therefore, for the state of the Missions actually in China ; and in a country where every Missionary is there at the risk of his life. Not many years have elapsed since several were put to death ; and, indeed, I am not sure, at this moment, whether one of the Vicars Apostolic, who a few years ago was condemned to work in chains, which is a dreadful punishment, whether he is dead under his sufferings or not; but a few years back, a bishop did lose his life, being publicly executed for his faith. This, therefore, is a territory which we have quite to ourselves.

Besides this, there is another important country, of which comparatively little is known—I mean the united kingdoms of Tonquin and Cochin China; and there again there has been persecution. The king, fortunately, was bound by his father, on his death-bed, to promise not to put the Christiaus to death ; and, from filial respect, and from the peculiar feelings of the nation upon such a promise, he has not pursued the extremity of putting any of them to death; but he has seized upon their goods, and their churches—upon all they had ; and, in short, the Clergy cannot appear. Mons. Delgrado, the Spanish Dominican, watches over one district: and I had better mention that Tonquin is divi into two Missions; East Tonquin, which is under the direction of the Spanish Dominicans, and has a Vicar A postolic; and the West, which is under the direction of French Missionaries. To begin with the first-I have seen a letter from the Vicar Apostolic, written in the most simple and the most unaffected manner; it was not intended for publication, but it was published at Madrid. Besides that, I have seen a letter sent to the Authorities in Rome, in which he describes himself

as having been, for more than one or two years, in a cavern cut out of a rock, having no light but what came from an aperture in the upper part, and having no sustenance but what the Christians brought him by stealth. He is contriving to teach, by the aid of native priests, who will go to any extremity—who will go to any danger, to serve the cause of their religion. He describes how he crept out on Holy Thursday, for the purpose of consecrating the sacred oils, according to the sacred rites of the Catholic Church; that he had gone to the episcopal hut, which he found completely in a state of ruins—all the furniture and every thing destroyed; but that he was able, for two or three hours, to be there in the dead of the night, and performed what is considered au important rite. This is the real state of that portion of the country. In 1827, the return which he communicates is, that he has 170,000 Catholic natives, 780 churches, and 87 religious houses.

I will hurry on, because I perceive that I have already detained you very long, and I have a great deal of matter yet to go through, in order to do anything like justice to the subject.

In the Western part of Tonquin, the French provinces, we have 80 native priests constantly employed. We have the following returns. The baptisms of children in 1824 and 26 were 8,611; in 1827, 8,489. The number of adults baptized in 1824, was 350; in 1826, 1,006; in 1827, 309. The numbers of communicants in these years were, respectively, 75,400 ; 78,600; 81,070; showing a constant increase.

Joined to this is the kingdom of Cochin China, which is under the same dominion, and which is in the same state of persecution. The returns from thence are, that the number of children baptized, in 1826, was 2,955, giving, consequently, you see according to the usual calculation, about 88,650 communicants, and 106 adults had received baptism.

Not far off we have the Phillippine Islands, in which Dubois calculates, that the number of natives under the direction of the Spanish dominicans amounts to some millions. However, perhaps that may be considered a large return. Speaking of this Mission, I will read you a passage from Dr. Pritchard, in his Physical Researches of the History of the Human Race, a work no way connected with the subject under consideration, in which he names these Islands. He states that“ A great number of Missionaries have been sent out to the Phillippine Islands. The first attempt was made by the Augustines in 1565, and an emigration of ecclesiasties of various orders continued during the succeeding years. The several orders divided their spiritual provinces among them, and exerted themselves with the greatest assiduity, in spreading among the pagans

and

savages of these islands, the population of which has been stated at three millions of persons, the blessings of the Catholic faith. They soon rendered themselves familiar with the several languages of the people among whom they were to labour, and their labours

were sent.

appear to have been crowned with ample success. If we are to believe the narratives of these zealous and honest missionaries, miracles have been wrought by Heaven in their favour.” Here he acknowledges, therefore, that these labours of the Missionaries have been there successful; and, as I have said, one competent person rates the native Christians at two millions.

There is one field, however, where the Protestants have been unable to succeed. I mentioned a Mission to the Burman Empire, including the kingdoms of Ava and Pegu, and undertaken by Mr. Judson. The result was, that during the first seven years they had not made a single convert; that in the seventh year, one presented himself ; that he brought another; and, at the end of the seventh, or the beginning of the eighth year, they had four conversions. Now it is perhaps not much known, that there was there a well established Catholic Church, all the time they were labouring in vain, and that it continues to this day. This Mission was first commenced in 1719; I may say, by accident. Clement the Second sent M. Mezzabarba, as Ambassador to the Emperor of China, and he took a number of ecclesiastics with him. Not being successful in bis Mission, he dispersed the ecclesiastics in different provinces, and among the rest, into Ava and Pegu, Fathers Vittoni and Calchi

They were well received by the king; they soon built a church, and began to make converts. Father Calchi died in 1728; and a bishop was then appointed, and commenced his labours under Benedict. Afterwards, in 1749, a church was built, eighty feet long, the first brick edifice ever raised in this place, and very handsomely fitted up in every way.

Priests were allowed to instruct the people in the Catholic religion; and every thing was conducted quite in public, without the slightest reserve. The account which I have given you so briefly, I have extracted exclusively from authentic documents--chiefly from the correspondence of Missionaries during the last century, to which I have had access. At Siriam there were 40 students and two churches, one at Pegu, and in other places ; in short, I find between 20 and 25 churches in different parts of this kingdom. At the end of the last century it was still in their hands, but when the order was suppressed by the French, Missionaries could not be supplied, and the consequence was, that when Father Sangermano, whose learned work on this empire has been published within these three years by the French Asiatic Society, came over in 1808, there were no means of sending any one to assist him. Fatber Amato, at the age of seventy, had the whole care, and was, without intermission, exerting himself. In 1828, we find him writing the most affecting letters, begging assistance from home, for otherwise it was impossible that the church could be continued. In 1828, two Mis. sionaries were sent; and they arrived just in time to see the good old

clergyman before he departed, and to give him the consolation of being assisted by a priest of his own religion. In the course of the last year another was sent ; and now assistants will be forwarded as fast as possible. But I cannot say that we have any returns, except one, which 1 do not think by any means complete, which makes the Christians amount to 80,000 at present.

Another very interesting portion of our Missions, over which I must hurry, is that of North America. I showed you how the Missions had proceeded there, which had been conducted by others; and we have their concessions, that in Lower Canada, all the Indians had been converted by the Catholic Missionaries. We have a parliamentary report, made in 1833, of the aboriginal tribes of the British Colonies, and we have a letter from the Bishop of Quebec, who says, that all the Indians of the lower provinces are entirely Catholics. There are several such confessions, “ I cannot avoid mentioning,” says a writer in the Report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, for 1824, "a very interesting object which presented itself about two leagues from St. Peters, the Indian chapel, so called from its being exclusively the work of Indians. It is situated upon a delightful little island, with a house for the priest; this is served with tolerable regularity. St. Peters is altogether a Roman Catholic settlement.” Again, speaking of St. Regis, he says, in the Report for 1825, “ It is inhabited almost entirely by Indians. They profess the Romish faith in common with all the Indians of the Lower Province.” In another place, in 1826, there were 18,000 Roman Catholics, among whom were 500 natives.

But what I wish principally to detail, is the method in which these Indians are governed, and the way in which they conduct themselves. There are an immense number of settlements, besides those of wbich I have given you an account; but the most interesting is one on two mountains, which has been established 100 years. There are two villages, having a church between them; the Indians amounting to a thousand. Under the guidance of their Clergy, they go out on the month of September, hunting and fishing, and, according to their usual habits return in May. On a Sunday, or a holiday, though they have been without the sight of game for days before, nothing can induce the men to fire a gun on that day. If there be no fish to be found on the days prescribed for abstinence by the

h, a little

rched corn forms their only sustenance; and they return without having violated one single precept of the church which they obey. They are instructed in a very remarkable manner; and all are edified by the practice of their religion. But, before leaving this, I wish to mention one curious circumstance. It has been said, that where the Catholics bave once been established-and this is mentioned by the person alluded to at the beginning of my discourse, who has written a work to show, that the method

« PreviousContinue »