Quebec - ton histoire est une épopée!
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
When I first arrived in Quebec, I came with a question -
What is the Christian history of Canada?
I was delighted to find out that one of the first clues is found in the French lyrics
of the original national anthem, Oh Canada.
O, Canada! terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
il sait porter la croix.
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
O, Canada! Land of our forefathers,
Thy brow is girt with glorious flowerlets.
For thy arm knows how to bear the sword,
It knows how to bear the cross.
Thy history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits.
And thy valor, tempered with faith,
Will protect our hearths and our rights!
Will protect our hearths and our rights!
(And in a latter edited version)
O, Canada! Land of our ancestors,
You wear a garland of glorious flowers,
Because you arm knows how to carry the sword,
And it knows how to carry the cross.
Your history is an epic tale
Of the most brilliant adventures,
And your courage, strengthened by faith,
Will protect our homes and our rights!
Will protect our homes and our rights!
It made so much sense why God would have me start my season in Canada in the French province. Although a very secular province to date, Quebec boasts a deep spiritual history. How could I understand Canada without understanding the heart and soul of French Canada? Quebec is full of epic tales of explorers, missionaries and opportunists. Known by some as the heart of the nation, it was here in New France, that the first missionaries arrived to share their faith with the First Nations people. With my home base in Lenoxville, I headed off to explore three very significant and historical cities. My first stop, Montreal!
Montreal is one of the largest and most diverse cities in Canada. Walking through the streets of Montreal, one is met with the beautiful contrast of the old and the new. From statues and giant cathedrals, to Summer festivals and an assortment of ethnic restaurants, the city is alive with charm and ambiance.
It was here that Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence in 1533 and commemorated the founding of the city with these words, "we all kneeled down in the company of the Indians and with our hands raised toward heaven yielded our thanks to God." Cartier often shared with the "Indian" tribes he met from the Gospel of John, and regularly prayed for the sick. Samuel Champlain, the founder of New France, also valued his relationship with the First Nations, dreaming of a unified nation - "Our sons shall wed your daughters and henceforth we shall be one people."
Maisonneuve, the first governor of Montreal had similar aspirations, founding Ville-Marie, a missionary outpost, which would one day become one of the greatest cities in Canada.
It truly was surreal taking a tour in the old city at the Montreal Archeology Museum. It's not everyday you get to literally walk and pray on the original foundations of a nation!
And even the museum gave credit to the Jesuit father Vimont, who on May 17, 1642, proclaimed to those gathered for mass, " What you see here is but a grain of a mustard seed, but I have no doubt that this seed will grow into a great tree and spread into all directions."
But Montreal was nearly swept away in a flood its first winter.
Maisonneuve made a public promise before God that if the waters subsided he would carry a cross to the top of Mont Royal. After much prayer and to the communities relief, the flooding did stop and Maisonneuve kept his promise. I can't imagine how hard it was carrying a wooden cross through the bush. Thankfully, I had the luxury of public transport to get me to the foot of one of Montreal's most iconic symbols.
I took in the incredible city view and had a quick chat with a local policewoman on her noble steed, a black horse, and a breed which is literally called a Canadian.
And not far from the beautiful grounds of Mount Royal, is a room where faithful intercessors meet and pray weekly for the city and the province. I was very thankful to connect with the Zion House of Prayer, and be part of their times of prayer and worship.
From Montreal, I headed up to Trois Riviere to join my dear friend Evelyn, who traces her ancestry back 12 generations to this very city. I don't think one can beat that for a tour guide!
In my opinion she epitomizes the passion and creativity that the Quebecois are known for.
If Home is Where the Hearth is, then in chilly New France, the hearth was the centre of the home. Archeological and historical evidence shows that habitants worked hard to make their homes more comfortable in winter. After my first winter in chilly Quebec, I sure was grateful to be touring the sites in the Spring, a time when everyone comes out of hiding.
According to the National History Museum, New France evolved from a fur-trade outpost into a permanent agricultural society. French settlers became Canadiens and Acadiens. They created a distinct culture enduring to the present day. A typical Canadienne in New France could expect to have 11 children in her lifetime… Today, millions of Canadians count one or more "fille du roy" among their ancestors. Canada's thriving francophone societies are their legacy. Canadien Settlers in New France lived differently from their cousins in France. They enjoyed a better diet, endured colder winters, but they suffered less interference from their seigneurs…women alike were known to be independent-minded.
Three exceptional women who pioneered the way for others in New France were Marie Guyart (Marie de L'Incarnation), a devout Ursuline Catholic known as the Mother of New France, Jeanne Mance, the founder of Montreal's first hospital and Marguerite Bourgeoys, who opened Montreal's first school.
With such a strong catholic heritage, it was really a unique experience to spend a night at a local Charismatic Catholic Community. Evelyn and I were deeply moved by the spontaneous worship and the service, in which a cardinal from Laos shared of his three years in which he was imprisoned for his faith.
Afterwards, my host Caroline, practised her English while sharing about her community, the Charismatic Renewal Movement and the pledge that men and women like herself still take to this day: a pledge to poverty, chastity and obedience.
And then there was Quebec City! Truly the most charming and "European" city in Canada, it was fascinating learning about the people and events that shaped early Canadian history.
It was also here on the Plains of Abraham where two world powers fought for dominance in the nation. Fewer than 10,000 people lived in Quebec, the capital and largest city, on the eve of the British conquest in 1759. It was on The Plains of Abraham that the fateful battle ensued.
Neither general survived the battle, and Quebec entered into decades of what would become a battle for maintaining heritage and identity. For many Canadians outside of Quebec, it may seem hard to understand why Quebecers are so much more Quebecois than "Canadian." But the truth is that the French came before the English and there is over 400 years of French history in Quebec which we need to take the time to understand. Canadian confederation was only in 1867! God's heart is for French and English reconciliation, and I think there is still some distance to go with learning to listen to each others hearts...
Are Canadians outside of Quebec aware of what the French Canadians have experienced in their relationships with France, Roman Catholicism and through the Quiet Revolution?
Maybe reading this book could help us understand a little more about the complexity of Quebec and Canadian identity. The author, Donald Gingras, personifies Quebec as a "hurting child, living an orphan's life in some sort of a British "foster home" alongside native children...this new blended family."
Some definite food for thought.
And there is hope for Quebec and Canada! Hosted by American missionaries and a true Quebecois couple, my introduction to Quebec city was filled with stories of culture and what God is doing in the province. Aujourd'hui l'espoir (HOPE Today) is a live broadcast out of the city, which grapples with the power and relevance of faith in a truly postmodern society. And if you're French, there is always some good humour to go with!
God has a plan for Quebec and I was thankful to be part of it. What other province has a "national" holiday called Saint Jean Baptist? Yes Quebec, do you remember your foundations?
What a trip. I had met and stayed with many different individuals. A Muslim convert from Burkino Faso and his wife who had had to flee, a Charismatic Catholic nun, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and true Quebecois with roots in the province going back generations.
Meeting a Russian couple at a Messianic congregation in Montreal seemed to exemplify the diversity of the city. They had come to know the Lord in Canada, and now here they were teaching Chinese students English and French! The nations are literally everywhere.
From the local artist I met in Quebec City to the mural fest I indulged in in Montreal, Quebec is a province filled with passion and creativity. From my Armenian friend who writes beautiful poetry to my Haitian friend who just wrote a book celebrating diversity, we are all children of God. Yes, the truth is we are first and foremost children of God. It is not our French, British, First Nation or immigrant status that defines us... our identity comes from The Father.
Arriving back in Lenoxville to pack my suitcase was bitter sweet. Saying farewell to my friends and "family" became more of an "A bientot." I joined The Quebec House of Prayer for the annual BURN worship and prayer gathering and was prayed off on my next adventure by the wonderful Canadian spiritual family who had adopted me during this time. My heart was full.
I am so thankful for Canada's Masters Program and for a Dream Champion to help me discover my identity and calling as a Canadian. What a gift it was to dream, and what a gift it was to process my dreams. And now I was off to finish living my dream...
My quest to discover Canada's history -
"an epic tale of the most brilliant adventures"
It was all west from here, but... I would not forget Quebec.
Je Me Souviens
I WILL REMEMBER