Zacharie in high society
Father Zacharie Laçasse has become legendary, in Quebec, especially because of his irresistible joviality and sense of humor. However, these traits of character in no way diminished
the great influence that this passionate preacher exercised on the Canadians of his generation with his fiery words and persuaded nationalism.
Zacharie saw the light of day at Saint-Jacques-de-Montcalm on March 9, 1845. He entered the Oblates and was ordained in 1869. Beginning as a missionary in Côte-Nord, for a couple
of years, he was given the task of colonizing in the region of Beauce and Dorchester. During this time, in 1881, a parish was founded which bears his name: Saint Zachary. Then he
moved on to the preaching ministry for about a dozen years. In 1895 he was made pastor of Ville-Marie, in Temiscamingue, and two years later he headed west for Gravelbourg , where
he resided until his death, which occurred on February 28, 1921. Father Zacharie, as he was familiarly called , was always the life of the party. In his book Une mine de souvenirs he
left us the story of one of his youthful adventures.
A visit to Montreal
As a young country lad of fifteen, he came to the great city for the first time. It was on August 10, 1860. The occasion was a visit of the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, who
had been invited for the inauguration of Victoria Bridge, which was being dedicated in honor of his mother, the Queen of England. Zacharie took advantage of this occasion to visit
an aunt, Mrs. L’Heureux. This kind aunt had decided to celebrate, on that day, her daughter Imelda’s Birthday, who was the same age as her cousin Zacharie. Somewhat hesitatingly,
the young Assumption high school student, timid and stiff in a suit of clothes that didn’t quite fit, found himself in this party amidst more sophisticated boys and girls.
The celebration began with playful enough society games. This was followed by songs and recitations. Then everyone sat at table for a copious meal. As was appropriate, Zacharie was
given the place of honor, next to the heroine of the day, pretty Imelda! Lest he offend his host, he felt obliged to taste of every dish presented before him: rich consommé, truffled
turkey, hors-d’oeuvre… and especially, for desert, an unfamiliar dish, but beautiful in appearance: Russian-charlotte! The guests were afterward invited to pass on to the belvedere,
a kind of garden with rows of flowers. Now we’ll let Father Laçasse himself tell us the rest of the story.
The fatal swing ride
“When I arrived at the rounded shelter, I noticed that one of the young ladies was in the swing. It came to my turn… ‘You can take pride’ said Miss Imelda, ‘that you are in
the highest swing in the city of Montreal. It was designed so that from the highest point of this swing you can enjoy the whole panorama of the city showing itself before your astonished
eyes!’ My astonished eyes! I would close my eyes when I was only half way up to that highest point. Everyone wanted me to take the complete tour! All the guests at this celebration
formed two rows so that they could witness my adventure. I had previously swung with friends on the pole of a fence, but I had never gone higher than the pickets! And here I was
launched at forty feet in the air!
Fright got hold of me, and I shouted: ‘Not so high! Not so high!’ To complicate matters, I began to feel nauseous… and grew visibly paler. My stomach
was on fire. One young lady, unaware of my critical state called out: ‘Isn’t it a great sensation to fly about freely in the sky like a swallow, especially on such a warm evening?’ ‘If
you don’t back off from there’, I
thought, ‘you’re the one who’ll have the sensation!’ I cried out: ‘I’m sick… Stop… Stop.’ But it was too late. At the first movement from back to up in the swing, a mixture of Russian-charlotte
and jujube splashed out over the garden. A young lady shouted: ‘Oh, my silk dress!’ But the strange visitor from up in the sky was no less sparing of her silk dress than of the white
horsehair of his own jacket!”
Thus ended, pitifully, Zacharie’s visit to high society.
André DORVAL, OMI