Pére Jacques Marquette, S.J., is best remembered as the French explorer, who, along with Louis Joliet, discovered the Mississippi River in 1673. The fact that he was first a Jesuit missionary priest, whose work as an explorer was subjected and directed to that noble vocation, is often overlooked.
In preparation for tomorrow’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I present here a lovely prayer Father Marquette authored in his youth, which would help to explain why he named the great waters 1 he found “The River of the Immaculate Conception”:
Hail daughter of God the Father, hail Mother of God the Son, hail spouse of God the Holy Ghost, hail temple of all the Persons of the Trinity, by your holy virginity and your Immaculate Conception, make clean my heart and my song.
Coincidentally, the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto had already named the Mississippi Río del Espíritu Santo (River of the Holy Ghost) in 1541. Separated by 132 years, the Spanish named the River for Our Lady’s Spouse, and the French named it for Our Lady. Disciples of Saint Maximilian Kolbe may see in this concurrence a happy resemblance to that Marian apostle’s theories involving the Holy Ghost as the Uncreated Immaculate Conception and the Blessed Virgin as the Created Immaculate Conception.
Father Marquette gets mention on this site in my More Catholic Than You Think , and in a beautiful story told by the Jesuit, Father Neil Boyton, S.J., Pére Marquette and the Invincibly Ignorant Native.
- Mississippi means “the great waters” in the Ojibwa language. ↩