Br Marie-Nizier to the Brothers of the Hermitage, Island of Futuna, 10 October 1839
CSG 1. 298-300
This letter appears to have been intended to accompany and complement the one to Champagnat, who, in the ordinary course of events, would have shared his with the Brothers. The fact that it is included in the Volume of Circulars whereas Champagnat's is not may indicate both letters did not reach the Hermitage until after the Founder's death in June 1840 (there is also, of course, the length of the latter). But both were certainly extensively used in compiling a report on the mission of Futuna which appeared in the Annales de la Propagation de la Foi in September 1841 in the form of a letter from Chanel to Fr Convers dated May 1840 (and which was also later published, in the same form, in the Society's own Annales des Missions d'Oceanie in 1895). Long listed among Chanel's writings, this document was often quoted in the Process for his Beatification and Canonisation and used as the basis for biographies of the martyr. It has since been recognized as the editorial work of Fr Poupinel, Colin's secretary, who was especially responsible for matters dealing with the missions of Oceania. (rf Rozier EC 29lff)
Text of the Letter
- Very dear Brothers,
- I cannot tell you just how grateful I am for all the good things you tell us about in your letter, for your fond memories of us. All I can do is offer you my sincere and generous return. When you are on the other side of the world, separated by an ocean, living on a little island - how heartwarming it is to get news of those you love.
- I would like to have satisfied your wish for news of me sooner, but in the space of nearly 2 years only one opportunity has offered.
- The island I am living on is no more than 9 or 10 leagues around. Geographers call it Aloufatou or Horn and the islanders Futuna (Foutuna). There is an even smaller island next to it called Alofi; both are very fertile. Unfortunately, frequent wars on both have so depopulated them that most of the valleys are uninhabited.
- Even in the middle of the Ocean I have a good share in your labours. But I am not so fortunate as you in that I haven't yet had the privilege of being able to teach the truths of religion. I am not yet fluent enough in the language of the island.
- I was so pleased to learn that so many of you have expressed a keen desire to come and share in our labours. But if you were familiar with all the follies to which most of the islanders of Oceania have been reduced by idolatry, you would be that much keener to come! From a thousand examples I could cite you to give you an idea of such follies on Futuna I have chosen one which took place in quite remarkable circumstances. Not long ago, they performed a pagan ceremony lasting two whole days to obtain rain. For this they carried to the top of a mountain raw bananas, taro, fish, etc to win the goodwill of one of their gods. They spent a night there, most of them in the open. The second night was to be the one when their prayers would be answered. They were so convinced of it they talked about bathing in rainwater on the summit. A young man who shows favourable dispositions and has already renounced his false gods prophesied that none of their gods would bring them rain, but only Jehovah. But all his adversaries stubbornly maintained they would be answered that very night. Despite the fact that all appearances were in their favour, the prediction came true almost to the letter. The next day not a single one dared to make a remark against him, so humiliated were they. I don't know everything they had to say among themselves about it, only they complained one of their gods had let them down. You can see how great their ignorance is. Please pray then, especially to the good God for their conversion. Already there are some whose eyes appear to be opening to the truth.
- Goodbye, my very dear Brothers. I recommend myself in a special way to your prayers ... etc ...
- Br Marie-Nizier
- A league equals 2.5 miles or 4 kilometres.
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