Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Théodat-Gabriel Sagard

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Théodat-Gabriel Sagard

by Lionel Lindsay


Recollect lay brother, missionary, and historian, b. in France at the end of the sixteenth century; d. towards the close of the seventeenth. In 1623, with Nicolas Viel, the future martyr, he was sent to Canada on the Huron mission. Anne of Austria, the consort of Louis XIII, had provided them with a portable altar and vestments. On his way to the Hurons, he acquired from Joseph Le Caron, his superior, the first rudiments of their difficult tongue, so that on reaching his post he began to catechize and baptize the Indians. He shared in the incredible hardships of his companions. The provision of mass wine having been exhausted, they had recourse to the juice of the wild grape (Vitis Canadensis). In one year's residence he won the affection of his neophytes and acquired a certain ascendency over them. When appointed, in the spring of 1624, to descend to Quebec for provisions, he was allowed by the Indians to depart on the express condition that he would return. A letter of his superior, ordering him back to France, thwarted his most ardent desire. He presented a memoir concerning the state of religion to the Duc de Montmorency, Viceroy of New France, inveighing against the agents of the trading companies whose evil influence paralyzed the zeal of the missionaries. He convinced his superiors of the necessity of introducing a more powerful and influential religious order to cope with the difficult situation. The Jesuits having been suggested, the choice of them was ratified by Cardinal Richelieu in 1625. In 1686, Sagard published a history of Canada under the title: "Histoire du Canada et voyages que les Freres Mineurs Recollets ont faits pour la conversion des infideles". It is a clear and simple account of all he saw or heard mentioned in this new land. Charlevoix criticises his Huron vocabulary as inaccurate compared with later studies of the language, but gives him credit for his good judgment and zeal for the conversion of souls and the progress of the colony.

CHARLEVOIX, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1744); SIXTE LE TAC, Histoire chronologique de la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1888); BEAUBIEN, Le Sault-au-Recollet (Montreal, 1898); GOSSELIN, La mission du Canada avant Mgr de Laval (Evreux, 1909).

LIONEL LINDSAY