Season 1 – Episode 8

The New World of the Catholic Reformation: New France and Old Religion

Ep. 8 The French Catholic New World with Mack Brza

The traditional telling of the Reformation often centers on the European experience: Luther’s Protest, Calvin’s Geneva, Henry VIII’s divorces, or the Council of Trent. However, the Age of the Reformation also coincided with the Age of Discovery, and the fraught religious perspectives of the Old World often accompanied travel and settlement in the New.

For France and French Catholicism, this was particularly true of their community in what is now Quebec, otherwise known as New France. Here, the culture of the Catholic Reformation and the Council of Trent found a new home among the council grounds of the idigenous tribes of the Great Lakes. A culture of sainthood, relics, and church hierarchy was imported into the New World and fused with indigenous culture in the form of St. Ketari and others to create a transatlantic culture of renewed Tridentine Catholicism.

This project explores the emergence of this indigenous world of the Counter Reformation in New France, its spread, operation, and results in this frontier for the Old Faith in the New World. 

Nicolas de Fer: Le Canada, ou Nouvelle France, la Floride, la Virginie, Pensilvanie, Caroline …, Paris 1702
L’Atlas curieux, ou la Monde…, quatrième partie, 1703


Primary Sources 

Christien Le Clerq, Premier établissement De La Foy Dans La Nouvelle France Contenant La Publication De L’Évangile, L’histoire Des Colonies françoises, & Les Fameuses découvertes Depuis Le Fleuve De Saint Laurent, La Loüisiane & Le Fleuve Colbert Jusqu’au Golphe Mexique …: Avec Les Victoires remportées En Canada Par Les Armes De Sa Majesté Sur Les Anglois & Les Iroquois En 1690 … Paris, FR: Chez Amable Auroy, 1691.

Jean-Jacques Olier. Les véritables motifs de messieurs et dames de la Société de Nostre Dame de Montréal, pour la conversion des sauvages de la nouvelle France. 1643.

Secondary Sources 

Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat. New York: Bloomsbury, 2008.

Mairi Cowan, Education, Francisation, and Shifting Colonial Priorities at the Ursuline Convent in Seventeenth-Century Québec. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Newman C. Eberhardt,  A Summary of Catholic History. St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1962.

Carlos Eire. Reformations: The Early Modern World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Peter Goddard, The devil in New France: Jesuit demonology, 1611-50 New York: University of Toronto Press,1997.

Sarah Richardson, “Native Saint.” American History 54 (4): 24–25.

Bruce G.Trigger. “The Jesuits and the Fur Trade.” Ethnohistory 12, no. 1 (1965): 30-53. 

Michael Welton, Cunning Pedagogics: The Encounter Between the Jesuit Missionaries and Amerindians in 17th Century New France. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005.

Published by Hear the Voice and Prayer

How can we study belief? What are the longer term implications of religious change in society? These connected questions form the core of our course and our investigation of Early Modern Europe (c. 1450-1789). Indeed, the meaning of belief was the central issue of contention in Europe from the dawn of the Renaissance until the twilight of the eighteenth century and its Revolutions. The shattering of the Christian consensus and the rise of the empirical frame was a pathway cleared with the twin swords of Humanism’s cry of ad fontes and Luther’s injunction of sola fide. The route uncovered was a journey to the “Modern” in all its beauty and ugliness. Yet, stones lay upon this trail, rocky reminders whose pain and obstacle convey the irony that Europe’s greatest religious revolution resulted in the ultimate secularization of the continent and of the West in general. Still, secularization, caught as it is in a dialectic with Christianity, is a form of belief, and belief remains central. The effort to experience, define, and understand both acceptable and unacceptable beliefs will be our compass to map Europe’s Early Modern world, the world of unfolding Reformations. This course will consist of primary and secondary readings, lecture, classroom discussion, as well as multiple student writing assignments culminating in a final research based student podcast.

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