June marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec. It is an impressive milestone, but the achievement is marked by ambiguity. Indeed, the celebration begs the question: can it really be said that Quebec has endured this long?

During the 1960s, Quebec went from being the most religious province in Canada to the most secular. In what became known as “the Quiet Revolution,” the Catholic church was not merely separated from the state, but was divorced. However, because religion was such a vital part of the identity and history of the province, in losing its faith, Quebec lost itself in the process. The Quiet Revolution was the only revolution in history that didn’t begin anything new; rather, Quebec, as a recognizable entity, merely ceased to exist.

It is little wonder, then, that the secularization of Quebec produced a desire for the “separation” of Quebec. Severed from its history, unmoored from its morals, haunted by its memory, Quebec became an exile in its own land. But seceding from Canada will not solve these problems, for the true separation of Quebec has already occurred. Indeed, the Quiet Revolution separated Quebec from itself.

A separated Quebec would be a new national body. But it would be a body without a soul. In fact, the longing for a new beginning, after 400 years of a unique and dramatic history, indicates a restlessness that no political end can fulfill. As Cardinal Marc Ouellet said in an open letter to the Catholics of Quebec, the province’s “search for spirituality is languishing.”

All of the goals that separatism seeks can be achieved through a renewed appreciation by Quebec of its heritage. As the French version of our national anthem announces, “Our story is an epic.” But that story — histoire, in French – remains incomplete without the living faith that animated Quebec for so many centuries.

Thus, there is a way forward, but it leads through the past; to cure the malaise of Quebec, it is necessary to recognize the sickness as amnesia. And it is equally important to recognize this sickness as a symptom of the culture of death. In the words of Cardinal Ouellet, Quebec’s “spiritual void … is the fruit of the spirit of the world which, by wanting to eliminate God, suggests, in a thousand ways, that we become our own God.”

“Reluctance to procreate, to spawn life, compromises Quebec’s future … We need a serious dialogue on values and our Christian stance to once again give faith and hope to Quebec’s soul.” Cardinal Ouellet’s incisive diagnosis links Quebec’s spiritual crisis to its demographic collapse. A nation with no memory has no future and a nation with no faith has no hope.

In 1950, William Faulkner said in his Nobel address that man “is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” If man lives on by virtue of his soul, a nation lives on, in the same way, through its children. The children of a nation are both its soul and its future.

Quebec’s wounds will not be healed by separation, but by healing the separation that has already occurred. Quebec does not need to become a new nation, but rather, it needs to celebrate its culture by sharing it with new children. A culture walks on its feet; true patriotism lies in the patrimony of faith and the propagation of the family.

Cardinal Ouellet writes, “A just and enlightened exam of our past would help, I think, recognize our limits, but also nourish Quebecers’ pride and confidence in their future.” We share the Cardinal’s confidence in the future of Quebec, a future that is guaranteed by the new generation that will inherit an epic history, a valour steeped in faith. We hope that the motto of La Belle Province will take on a new meaning as it enters its fifth century: “Je me souviens” – I remember.