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The spiritual director

To the parting missionaries Fr. Colin wrote a lengthy letter, similar to the one he had addressed to the first group (additions and changes in italics).[1]

May the grace and the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the powerful protection of Mary, our good and tender mother, be with you and accompany you everywhere.
These are the good wishes that my heart makes for each of you and that it will renew every time at the foot of the sacred altars, as it does every day for your brothers who have opened up the way to Oceania for you and who call you to come and share with them the labours and the merits of the apostolate. With the help of the grace and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the support that this divine Saviour never refuses to whoever dedicates himself without reserve to his service, with the powerful protection of Mary, you will be happy and safe of all danger, you will find everywhere a hundredfold of what you have left behind, your parents, your friends, your country, and, anyway, is not the whole world home to the apostle who is consumed by the zeal for the salvation of souls, and who burns only from the desire to make his God known and to extend his reign?
I said it to those who went ahead of you on the road you are going, and I cannot help repeating it, yes, it is not without a secret jealousy, I admit it, my well-beloved brothers, that I see you breaking with a holy courage all the bonds of flesh and blood in order to follow the voice that calls you, and carry the torch of the faith to the non-believing peoples of Oceania. Wish I could share your happiness, your pains and your labours. But I am not worthy of the grace of the apostolate and of martyrdom. Allow me at least to repeat some of the points of advice that, at their departure, I gave to your confreres whom you are about to rejoin. These points may be useful to you. At least they are a last proof of my concern and of my heart-felt love.
  1. Never rely on self - neither in adversity nor prosperity – but solely on Jesus and Mary. The more you distrust self and trust in God, the more you will attract the light and graces of heaven. The man of faith who places his confidence in God alone is unshakable in the midst of great dangers; he is neither rash nor fainthearted. His device is: ‘When I am weak, I can do all things in him who strengthens me’. Remember always that the measure of your faith and of your trust in God alone will be the measure of success of your mission.
  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. Yes, my brothers, let this insight of faith get into the depth of your mind: 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, I adjure you for your own happiness and security. See him 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 that you will need sorely at every moment.
  3. In persecution and in danger, in privations, in temptations and in illness, do not argue with yourself, do not 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. Without reasoning or inner reflection, turn your eyes and your thoughts immediately 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 the 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 very precious graces upon you.
  5. I do not want to speak of the confidence you must have in Mary, or of your zeal to make her known and honoured. You are her children; can you forget it? It is under her banner that you depart. See her always walking in front and in your midst. 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 and if you can, leave there a medal or a picture of this Queen of Heaven as a sign that the island belongs to her and that you consecrate it to her.
  6. “Woe the solitary”, says the Holy Spirit, and I will not hide it from you, my dear confreres, especially in Polynesia loneliness will be dangerous. I would surely fail in my duties, and leave out an essential point of my tender concern for all that touches upon your spiritual security, if I did not explicitly recommend you to avoid loneliness. Remember that only urgent need will allow you to go out or to be alone, especially in the beginning of your work. In all other situations be conscientious to the point of scrupulosity to be always at least two together, even if you visit a sick person or only go for a walk. This precaution will shelter you from many a danger.
  7. As much as you can and as circumstances permit, be unassuming, modest, poor, but clean in your clothing and you external attire. Nothing is more conform the spirit of our Society than modest simplicity and being unpretentious in outward appearance and behaviour.
  8. Be united, my dear confreres, and let there be no contention among you. You are members of one body and Jesus Christ is its Head. The joys, the troubles, the misery of your brothers are those of all of you.[2] It is this union that will show that you are humble of heart, apostles of a God who is all love, Deus caritas est, and truly children of Mary. Do not forget there is merit in following the advice of others, even against your own judgment, whenever God’s glory is not at stake.
  9. What shall I say of obedience, the virtue that, in the words of our Constitutions, leads by a straight road to heaven, quae recta via ducit ad coelum? If you are men of obedience, you will surely gain victories, it is the Holy Spirit that says so, and I do not hesitate to add that you will preserve your soul from all danger and that you will make sure of your salvation. When you reach Mgr. Pompallier, place yourselves under his paternal hands, so that he can give you your assignment according to Gods will. You will look upon him, not only as your Bishop but also as your superior. Until that moment, obey each other as brothers, do nothing without listening to each other, and ask each other permission so as not to deprive yourselves of the merits of obedience.
  10. Do not seek your own interests, but only those of Jesus Christ, be of a pure and right intention. Be always full of respect for other religious and other priests, look upon the good they do as if it was your own, be considerate to them in everything by your honesty, your modesty and your humility.
  11. Offer frequently the merits of the actions and virtues of Mary to Jesus Christ, and offer to God the Father the infinite merits of his divine Son. This practice will obtain you and your pagans manifold graces.
  12. Use every opportunity to give us news about you and interesting things for publication in the Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. Letters with this material will go unsealed directly to the superior general of the Society in Lyon. Personal letters for your parents or friends can also be enclosed in the parcel for the superior.
Colin sig.jpg
The Propagation of the Faith asks for the number of adult baptisms, children’s baptisms, catechumens, Easter communions, and the number of establishments. They like to get details on the way of life, the customs and the productive activities of the people to whom you are sent.
I finish how I began. I wish you peace, unity, the love of Jesus and Mary. Be courageous, do not let fear and unrest enter your hearts.
I have the honour to be, with the most tender love, my dear Fathers and Brothers, your very humble and obedient servant,

The superior appears to qualify here his former rule that all correspondence should pass through him.[3] He does not qualify what he had decided on Bishop Pompallier being the religious superior of the missionaries. The sending of the second group was a chance to review the situation, but whatever had been his original motives, nothing indicates that he even considered a change.

Compared to the letter of October 1836, the most striking difference lies in paragraph six[4], raising the question, what caused Colin to become even more anxious about missionaries being alone? The only thinkable reason is his contact with Fr. Caret, earlier that year. It cannot be a coincidence that in the only direct mention we have of this meeting (by Colin himself in 1846) he recalled: ‘Father Caret, the Picpus priest, said that for the priests the dangers come after the conversion of those people rather than before…’.[5] In other words, the topic had come up between them.


  1. cf. CS, doc. 48, above, p. 32.
  2. According to a text correction of Mayet, MM 5, p. 362.
  3. Pompallier had already allowed exceptions to the rule, LRO, doc. 17 [10].
  4. Claude Otto (Plutôt trois que deux, seuls jamais! FN, I, 3, September 1990, p. 280) ascribes the change to letters from the missions about missionaries being put alone. The appointment of Bataillon and Chanel on different islands, separated by 200 km of open ocean, could conceivably have triggered Colin’s increased concern, only Colin did not know about that when he wrote. He had not received any letters from the missions by then!
  5. MM, IV, 550.

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