Around 1820, the majority of French Canadians were Catholics and the majority of English-speaking Loyalists were Protestants. The spiritual beliefs and practices of Indigenous People varied, especially in different nations. Traditional Indigenous spiritualities were impacted by contact with Protestant and Catholic individuals, particularly missionaries.

It wasn’t easy being a good Catholic in 1820. People were afraid of dying and ending up in hell.

Religious rules were therefore very important in everyday life. People had to thank God before each meal, go to church every Sunday, confess their sins before receiving communion, and so on. But there weren’t enough priests, especially in the new regions being colonized. As a result, religious rules were not always enforced or practiced by all.

Religion continued to mark the main stages of one’s life. Life’s biggest moments became official during religious ceremonies. Births and deaths still occurred at home, but these events would be followed by a baptism or a funeral at the church. Marriage was obviously still celebrated in the church, too.

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Religion was also part of public events. Whenever people feasted or celebrated an event, a mass would always be held at the church.

Among farmers, religious beliefs were often mixed with superstition. If the summer was too dry, prayers were held to make it rain. People would also pray to find misplaced objects or to stop a forest fire.

The church was still the most important building in the village. In the old parishes, churches were enlarged to accommodate a bigger population. They were now large ornate stone buildings. A beautiful and large church was a symbol of prosperity and pride for the parish.

Author: Léon Robichaud

See also – Traces of the past:

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