For twenty-five years I was a priest of the Roman Church, and I tell you frankly that I loved my church, and she loved me. I would have shed every drop of my blood for my church and would have given a thousand times my life to extend her power and dignity over the continent of America , and over the whole world. My great ambition was to convert the Protestants, because I was told that outside the Church of Rome there is no salvation, and was sorry to think that those multitudes of Protestants were to be lost.
In Montreal , Canada , there is a splendid cathe-dral capable of holding 15,000 people. I used to preach there very often. One day the Bishop asked me to speak on the Virgin Mary. I said to those people what I thought to be true then, and what the priests preach everywhere. "My dear friends," I said, "we are all sinners, we have all offended the great and mighty King, the King of Kings. Shall we go ourselves with our hands filled with our iniquities to God for forgiveness? No! But, thanks to God, we have Mary, the mother of Jesus at His right hand. He has never refused any petition, which she presented to Him, when He was on earth. He has never rebuked His mother in any way. Let us present our petitions to His Holy mother; she will go to the feet of Jesus herself; she will ask our pardon and will obtain it."
That same day I opened my Bible and the following verses struck me, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew 12:49-50; Mark 3:34 -35).
Then a voice spoke to me all night: "Chiniquy, you have said a lie this morning, you have preached against the Scriptures when you said that Mary has the power to obtain any favor from Jesus." I prayed. The next morning I went to my Bishop and I asked to be allowed to present to him a few questions. I said, "My Bishop, who has saved you and saved me upon the cross?" He answered, "Jesus Christ." "And who paid your debts and mine by shedding His blood; was it Mary or Jesus?" He said, "Jesus Christ." "Did any sinner come to Mary on earth to be saved?" "No." "Do you remember that any sinner has gone to Jesus to be saved?" "Yes, many." "Have they been rebuked?" "Never." "Do you remember that Jesus said sometime, to sinners, 'Come to Mary and she will save you'?" "No," he said. "Do you remember that Jesus has said to the poor sinners, 'Come unto me'?" "Yes, He has said it." "Has He ever re-tracted those words?" "No."
"Now, my Bishop, since Jesus and Mary are in Heaven, can you show me in the Scriptures that Jesus has lost anything of His desire and power to save sinners, or that what He has lost has been gained by Mary?" And the Bishop answered, "No." Then I asked, "Why do we invite poor sinners to come to Mary, when, by your own confession she is nothing compared with Jesus in power, in mercy, in love and in compassion for the sinners?" The poor Bishop could not answer me. I was still not converted because there were many links by which I was still tied to the feet of the pope.
Several years later I was sent to Illinois to found a French Colony. I took with me 75,000 French Canadians, and settled on the magnificent prairies of Illinois to take possession in the name of the Church of Rome. I became a very famous priest, but I had no peace of mind, because I had no assurance of salvation. It seemed that God was far away from me, but instead He was very near. One Saturday the thought entered my mind: "You have your Gospel, read it and you will find the light." On my knees and with a trembling hand I opened the Book. My eyes fell on 1 Corinthians 7:23, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." With these words the light came to me and for the first time I saw the great mystery of sal-vation, as much as man can see it. I said to my-self, "Jesus has bought me, then, if Jesus has bought me, He has saved me. I am not saved by going to Mary; I am not saved by purgatory or by indulgences, confessions or penances. I am saved by Jesus alone."
On Sunday morning when my people came to church, instead of preaching to them about Mary or the saints, I presented to those gathered in the immense church, the Gift, Jesus Christ and through Jesus, the pardon of sins and the life eternal. Then, not knowing whether they would receive the Gift or not, I said to them, "It is time for me to go away from you, my friends. I have left the Church of Rome forever. I have taken the gift of Christ. But I respect you too much to impose myself on you; if you think it is better for you to follow the Pope than Christ and to invoke the name of Mary than the name of Jesus, in order to be saved, tell it to me by rising up." To my ex-ceeding great surprise the whole multitude re-mained in their seats, filling the church with their sobs amid tears. And as I watched I saw a change come over them, a marvelous change, which can-not be explained in natural ways. I said to them with a cry of joy, "The mighty God who saved me yesterday can save you today. With me you will cross the Red Sea and go into the Prom-ised Land. With me you will accept the great gift. You will be happy and rich in the gift. If you think it is better for you to have me preach to you the pure Gospel of Christ, than to have another priest come and preach to you the doc-trines of Rome , tell it to me by rising up - I am your man!"
And all, without a single exception, rose to their feet, and, with tears, asked me to remain with them. The Gift, the great Gift had for the first time come before their eyes in its beauty; they had found it precious, they had accepted and no words can tell you the joy of that multitude. One thousand souls had accepted the Savior in that day. Six months later we were two thousand converts; a year later we were four thousand. Now we are nearly twenty-five thousand who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
-From Chiniquy's pamphlet, "The Gift"
Edited by Joseph Zacchello