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The Consecration of Oceania to Our Lady

A later heart
Departure for Oceania had been set for 25 October from Le Havre and lots of things needed to be done in Paris and in the port. Pompallier left Lyon for Paris on 7 October, with Catherin Servant, Claude Bret and Brother Joseph-Xavier Luzy. On the 12th, in Paris, Fr. Bret made the first entry in his diary.[1]

Chanel and Bataillon stayed behind to complete the purchases necessary for the mission and to look after the dispatch of some thirty odd cases. They were to wait for the Brothers Marie-Nizier and Michel Colomb, still in retreat in the Hermitage. The two priests started a novena and they bought a gilt-silver heart on which was engraved: Missionnaires de la Polynésie. On Saturday the 15th the two brothers had arrived and together they closed the novena with a last Mass in the chapel of Fourvière after which they performed an act of consecration. The names of all eight of them, written on a ribbon, were enclosed in the ex voto heart that Peter Chanel then hung around the neck of the Infant of the black Madonna.[2] Next morning the two priests and the two Brothers set out for Paris. Although none of the missionaries had been present at the original consecration in 1816, their gesture associated them and their missionary project with the original intent of the first Marist group. Colin was told about the consecration and he later followed the example. It became a beautiful ceremony at many later departures.[3]

prayer, date and signatures

Colin's own farewell messages

It was with the knowledge of the painful farewells still in mind that, having returned to Belley, Fr. Colin, 13 October 1836, wrote a memorable letter to the missionaries. He addressed it to Chanel, still in Lyon, who took it with him to Paris for the other men.[4]

It is with a kind of secret jealousy that I see the holy courage with which you break all the bonds of flesh and blood in order to follow the voice that calls you, and to carry the torch of the faith to the peoples of Western Oceania. Wish I could share your happiness, your pains and your labours, so as to share also in the great reward that awaits you in heaven. Unfortunately, my sins make me unworthy of the grace of such an apostolate and of martyrdom. Still, allow me to give you a few points of advice, that may be of use to you and be a sign of my heart-felt love.

1° Never rely on self – neither in adversity nor in prosperity – but solely on Jesus and Mary. The more you distrust self and trust in God, the more you will attract the light and the graces of heaven. The man of faith who places his confidence in God alone is unshakeable in the midst of great dangers; he is neither rash nor fainthearted. His device is: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’. The success of your mission will be the reward of your faith and trust in God alone.

2° Live in the presence of the Saviour. It is on his behalf that you are leaving. It is He who sends you. ‘As the Father sends me, so I send you’. He will be with you everywhere as in the past he was with his apostles; he will be with you in your travels, on land, on sea, in the calm as in the tempest, in health as in sickness; if you are hungry or thirsty, he will be hungry or thirsty with you. It is he who shall be received where you are, persecuted when you are and rebuffed when you are. See him everywhere and at all times, in all events good or bad, see him intimately united to you, sharing your work, your sufferings, your joys, your consolations. Give him the glory of your actions, disregard yourselves as useless instruments. Constantly thinking of him will be the source of your strength, of your peace and of all the enlightenment you will need.

3° In persecution and in danger, in privations and in temptations, don`t argue with yourself, don`t look inward. If you do, desolations, regret and sadness will get the better of you and you will feel your courage and your virtue wither away. Immediately turn your eyes and your thoughts towards Jesus and Mary, towards heaven and the sufferings of Our Lord. I urgently recommend you this practice. You will soon feel how important it is.

4° Be men of prayer. Converting souls is more than raising the dead. Such things are not done without prayer. Pray continually for the conversion of your heathens. Offer your actions each day for that intention, and one day a week of your own choice, you can offer all the good actions in each of the branches of the Society for the same intention and for your own needs. This will attract many graces upon you.

5° However busy you are let no day pass without saying at least a few decades of the rosary. Place every island you may set foot on, under the protection of Mary.

6° As much as circumstances permit and you are up to it, be unassuming, modest, poor, but clean in your clothing and your external attire. If you cannot reach Mgr Pompallier, then ask each other for the permissions you may need.

7° ‘Woe the solitary’, says the Holy Spirit, and especially in Polynesia loneliness will be dangerous. Only in urgent need will you go out alone, or be alone. In all other situations be conscientious to the point of scrupulosity to be always at least two together, even if you only go for a walk. This precaution will shelter you from many a danger.

8° Finally, be united with Jesus and Mary. Let there be no contention among you, and do not argue among yourselves. Obey Mgr. Pompallier as your bishop and your superior. I again recommend that you address all letters to Europe to the Superior of the Society.

I end this letter as I began. I wish you the peace and the love of Jesus and Mary. Be courageous. Do not let fear or sadness take root in your soul. Read this letter again and again. Make a copy for each. I embrace you all with the utmost tenderness. I promise that the whole Society will pray for you. Use every opportunity to let us hear from you.

By way of postscript Colin added:

I understand you can follow no other rule than circumstances will permit. Nevertheless, you may feel better with a summary of the constitutions of the Society. I send you one. But remember it is still far from perfect. I shall send it later, because I have not found the time to make a copy. Do not show it to anyone. Mgr. Pompallier, or whoever he will appoint, will be your superior. Adieu.

The letter remained a document of great value. The missionaries read it regularly.[5]

On 18 October Colin addressed a personal letter to Pompallier:[6]
We are with you on your travels in mind and in heart, and in a more useful way, I hope, by our prayers…. Be full of courage. I have sent Monsieur Chanel in Lyon a summary of the Rule. Be so kind as to ask Monsieur Coudrin, the superior of the Picpus, to allow me to correspond with him, so that he can pass me whatever news he gets from Polynesia and let me know how I can get news to you. He is closer to the ports than we are in Lyon.
Do not hide from me the dangers you incur, your sufferings and the other problems you may run into from the part of the unbelievers or from other people. These things will be very useful to me in the choice of future missionaries.
Make sure that your missionaries are faithful to the counsels I have given them in my letter to Monsieur Chanel, especially not to go out without a companion. Mind that these counsels are not just mine, they have cost me several days of prayer.
Try by all possible means to maintain among them unity, peace and a holy gaiety. Wherever you will be, you will find back your home country, because you will find back God, who, alone, will take the place of father and mother, of brothers and sisters and who will never fail to be with you.

Set great store by consulting your missionaries. It will enhance the interest they take in your projects and foster unity. Be with your whole heart a father and a mother for each of them. You are their bishop and their superior; they owe you obedience and respect on both counts.

Think of the poverty and the simplicity of the Apostles; they too were bishops, and still, often they worked with their hands for the first necessaries of life. Missionaries of Mary will always be known for their simplicity, their poverty and their zeal. Her sweet name will remind you incessantly that you part under her banner, that it she who walks with you, who is the star of the sea, the fear of hell and that under her protection you have nothing to fear. In need and in danger, look only at Jesus and Mary; don`t look for help elsewhere. Don`t argue with yourself but look up at Jesus and Mary.

Behave and arrange your external behaviour in such a way that people everywhere will recognise in you the children of Mary, and that the missionaries we shall send you, find back among you the spirit of the Society: a spirit of poverty, humility and simplicity.

Receive this letter in the right mind, and see it as a proof of my ardent desire to contribute to the success of your apostolate.

Pompallier certainly appreciated Colin’s letter. Echoing the spiritual direction given by Colin, Pompallier writes: ‘We leave everything to find everything’.[7]


  1. LRO, doc. 1 [1].
  2. Claude Rozier, The Consecration of Western Oceania to Our Lady in October 1836, ASM, 1960, pp. 134 – 141, cf. Kerr, op. cit., p. 306. Marie-Nizier Delorme, much later, attributes the initiative to Pompallier, and Rozier takes this over. So does Wiltgen, op. cit., p. 132. When Pompallier alludes to the event in a letter to Colin (LRO, 10 [7]), he does so in a casual way, without claiming it was his idea. Neither Bataillon (LRO, doc. 3 [2]), nor Chanel (EC 27 [5]) attribute it to Pompallier. Kerr rightly does not follow Rozier and does not give Pompallier a role in the event. As a similar ceremony had already taken place in the Hermitage, we can safely assume that the idea came from there. Cf. Servant to Champagnat, 14.12.36. LO, Clisby004.
  3. Cf. CS, doc. 130 [1]. The original of the consecration and the ribbon with the names have not been preserved.
  4. CS, doc. 4. Cf. Kerr, op. cit., p. 301f. Patrick Bearsley, Father Colin on Spirit of Faith, Spirit of Prayer, Humility and Self-denial, FN, vol. IV, nr. 2, pp. 185 – 209. Where possible the present translation follows Bearsley’s article.
  5. E.g. Fr. Servant. LRO, doc. 31 [23].
  6. CS, doc. 5.
  7. LRO, doc. 7 [18].

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