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Father Champagnat to Monsignor Pompallier. Paris. 27 May 1838

(Sl 391-4)


Champagnat's congregation was now 21 years old. Already ailing, the Founder's main ambition was to have it given official authorisation by the government. He had spent almost three months in Paris at the beginning of the year on this errand, and now he was back again hoping he would see the affair through to a successful conclusion. Despite the strident anti-clericalism of part of the press, relations between Church and State seemed to be improving. He stayed as usual at the Seminary of the Foreign Missions in Rue de Bac while he made the endless round of government departments and offices, seeing, among others, JeanClaude Fulchiron, Counsellor-General for the Rhone, and the Minister of Education, Antoine De Salvandy. In the hope of winning over the latter, he even promised to open a foundation in the far north of France. This did eventuate, but similar foundations mentioned for Var and Montpellier did not. For the rest, the Institute was in a flourishing condition and a juniorate had been started at La Grange-Payre in Izieux to cater for postulants under the age of 13 (S2 574). Champagnat's other great interest at this stage was the missions. He was always impressed by what his friend Dubois was doing at the seminary, where he and Pompallier had stayed together in August 1836. He was himself getting ready to send another group of Brothers out to Pompallier. It was the closest he could come to the missions himself, and the possibility of martyrdom, the declared hope of many of the missionaries. In fact he had his own martyrdom to undergo. He had to return to the Hermitage in mid July without anything to show for his efforts, under continuing pressure of work, and in failing health.

The letter carries no postal address for forwarding. It was possibly intended originally to be sent via the Picpus Fathers from Paris, but, no opportunity presenting itself, was taken back by the writer to the Hermitage where the postscript was added. It was probably then confided to the next group of Marists who left for Oceania only a month or so later. The original, the only one of Champagnat's letters to any of the missionaries to have survived, was discovered among Pompallier's papers in the archives of the Diocese of Auckland, New Zealand, and presented to the Brothers. It now rests in the provincial house of the Brothers in Sydney. Pompallier's letter has not survived.

Text of the Letter

My Lord,
It is with real pleasure and an eagerness out of the ordinary that I take advantage of this time I have free to reply to your gracious letter.
I have been in and out of Paris , as you can see, since the 18th of January pursuing the authorisation of the Brothers. I do not have it yet but I am more and more hopeful of obtaining it. Everything appears in order, but one never seems to be able to complete the formalities satisfactorily. How many trips I have made in Paris, how many visits! It is difficult to give you an idea. I have made all my visits and excursions in soutane without anyone insulting me, and no one has called me a Jesuit!
Paris couldn't be quieter, business goes on pretty much as usual. There is more religion among the people of the capital than one might think. You might have the impression time drags for me here, being so far away from my duties. Actually, with all the problems I have in Paris, I am feeling better than at the Hermitage.
Fr Dubois often speaks of you and your mission. Very few days pass without his saying to me: "Don't forget that mission." What a holy man he is. If only we could have more of his kind and obtain for him a long life. At present France is supplying missionaries for all the countries that need them. During my stay I have seen six from the seminary of the Foreign Missions set out and there are others getting ready. I find so much to edify me in this house! Religion in France is in no danger of dying yet, it has too many resources to draw on. The work of propagation sees new developments daily.
Fr Mioland has become Bishop of ____ and took possession of his see yesterday. The Chartreux Fathers have named a new superior. I'm annoyed with myself I've forgotten his name.
We are still receiving many novices. There are actually two hundred and twenty-five or twenty-six of us. We have thirty-eight or thirty-nine establishments, and seventy localities asking for us. We are experiencing a real persecution by those who want to have our Brothers; they are employing any means to get them from us. Those who haven't enough influence themselves work through other people we can't possibly refuse. We are on the verge of establishing a second mother house [novitiate]. It's possible we may set it up in the Var department.
Fr Matricon is still with me. I am very pleased with him, he is liked by the Brothers and is a man of excellent judgement. I also have Fr Besson who always shows himself in everything to be a good fellow. Br Francois is my right arm; he runs the house in my absence as if I were still there. Everyone submits to him without demur. Mary shows in a very obvious way how she looks after the Hermitage. How powerful the holy name of Mary! How happy we are to be able to boast it! People would have stopped talking of our society a long time ago if it had not been for this holy name, this miraculous name. Mary - there you have the whole resource of our society.
We have finished our chapel. It is very pretty. It is infinitely dear to us, having been blessed by the first missionary and first bishop of the society. I hope a third title will follow as a natural consequence: the first ... who ... [1]
Fr Terraillon is still parish priest at St Chamond. I don't think though he will be there much longer. The archbishop has been kinder to us than ever, and so has the bishop of Belley.
We started the establishment at Grange-Payre this year. It is beginning to prosper - there are already a fair number of students. Mary, yes Mary alone, is our prosperity; without Mary we are nothing and with Mary we have everything because she always has her adorable son either in her arms or in her heart.
It is also through Mary, as you no doubt realise, my Lord, that I can count on obtaining the ordinance I seek. May God’s most holy will be done. I can hear you saying: Amen. May all those with our Lordship, I mean my brothers and confreres, say the same and pray for me. I recommend myself in a very special way to their worthy prayers and yours in particular, my Lord. For my part, I never approach the holy altar without thinking of our cherished mission and of those who are sent there. Please show yourself as much a father to those we are sending you as you do to those you have already.
Please accept the assurance of my sincere devotion and the truly affectionate sentiments with which, My Lord, I have the honour of being, with respect, your very humble servant,

I have just got back to the Hermitage without completing my business in Paris. Mr Fulchiron, whom I have just seen on his return from Paris, tells me my papers have finally passed out of the hands of the University to go to the Council of State, with a favourable recommendation from the Minister.
We are going to open an establishment at St Pol (Pas de Calais) as the Minister requested. It seems they would like a novitiate. One has also been asked for Montpelier and another for Var with all the expenses covered. We are under siege by the numerous requests coming in daily. I would certainly like to find someone to replace me. Pray for me, I really need it. I am convinced your prayers are pleasing to the good God.


  1. ie ..the first martyr ... ; the words are written in the same handwriting over the original text (rf note 2. Sl 393)
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