At first glance, this title might seem out of place. Indeed, how can we talk about Franciscan roots at the founding of Ville-Marie, since the Recollects Franciscan who came on this island in 1615 and remained in New France until 1629, were no more present in this country the day of the founding of Montreal. It is only 50 years later, in 1692, that they had a friary in Montreal.
A book that helped me a lot to discover the Franciscan roots of the Foundation of Ville-Marie is the one of father Ephrem Longpré, o.f.m., The Third Order Secular of St. Francis of Assisi in Canada, published in 1921 on the occasion of the 7th centenary of the Foundation of the Franciscan Third Order. Reading this book made me discover new elements concerning some of the agents of the Colony in France.
In it we learn that two Queens of France, Anne of Austria and Marie-Thérèse – wives of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, tertiaries or members of the Secular Franciscan Order – had been in close contact with the Recollects of the St-Denis Province. Father Pascal Rapine, nephew of Father Charles Rapine, both Recollects, gave one of the eulogies of Anne of Austria at the friary of Orleans, in the presence of the Royal Court.
Marie-Thérèse was superior of the fraternity of Seculars attached to the Recollects in Paris, taking part with her sisters in monthly meetings and processions with the Most Blessed Sacrament. Her dedication to the Franciscan order was such that at her death in 1683, the Friars Minor, by special decree, did celebrate for her the same prayers for the departed as for the Minister General of the Order.
So it comes as no surprise that these two Queens, marked by the Franciscan spirituality, played a role in the sending of the Recollects in 1615. They contributed to the movement of sympathy for the mission of Canada that marked several influential people of the Kingdom of France.
Among these we must mention first of all the founders of the “Company of Montreal”: the Venerable Mr. Olier, tertiary full of the purest spirit of poverty of St. Francis; and also the Venerable Mr Jérôme Royer de la Dauversière, tertiary and trustee of the Recollects of la Flèche, a great promoter of the Foundation of Montreal. We should also mention Madame Angélique Fauré de Bullion, wife of the Superintendent of the finances of France and, on the advice of Father Charles Rapine, anonymous benefactress of Montréal and co-founderess of the Hôtel-Dieu of Jeanne Mance.
Finally let us not forget the Norman Mystics who constituted the Hermitage of Caen. Mgr Laval lived for four years, from 1655 to 1659, under the spiritual leadership of Mr. Jean Berniere, lay tertiary, and Father Chrysostom of St-Lo, a Third Order Regular of St-Francis.
These names are written in letters of gold on the main title page of the book of our history. They presided over, so to speak, the Foundation of Ville-Marie. In addition, as they were in intimate relationship with the Franciscans Recollect trough the Third Order, we can say that through them Francis of Assisi presided over the destinies of Canada.
Georges Morin, ofm