Br Luc Macé to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 12 February 1843
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS. Summary by Fr Brian Quin SM
Clisby Letter 34
Like Brother Emery (in the preceding letter), Brother Luc is fulfilling his duty to give Father Colin some account of his spiritual well-being. He thanks God for his call to missionary life in the Society of Mary. He says that one of his greatest joys is to share the poverty of those whom he has been called to evangelise, seeing this as a real way of sharing in the poverty of Jesus, “who had nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8. 20). Referring to the likely deaths in shipwreck about August 1842 of Father Michel Borjon and Brother Deodat, he notes that a missionary must expect death to be unexpected. Unlike Brother Emery, he doesn’t say much about his personal experiences, seeming to content himself with generalities.
Brother Luc (Luc Macé b 1813) was accepted into the novitiate of the brothers at Belley in 1840 and made perpetual profession there on the 25 September 1841. He was professed in the Society on the condition he should go to the missions at the earliest opportunity. It appears he spent some time working in the Father's house in Lyon after his novitiate. In joining the 6th group of Marists for the Pacific in November 1841 he became the first coadjutor in the Society professed as such to become a missionary. His first years in New Zealand were spent at the Procure in the Bay of Islands where he alternated between his trade of carpentry and joinery and working in the printery.
While his family name appears on the passenger list of the barque "London" which carried the missionaries from Gravesend on 17 November 1841, the entry in the Register of Coadjutors referring to his departure gives the date as 14 November 1844. This has led to some confusion and the substitution, in the FMS records at least, of another Luc for the Brother who came out with Br Deodat in Fr Forest's group. The other Luc (Antoine Noel Ardant), also born in 1813 and a carpenter by trade, was professed as a Brother of Mary at the Hermitage in October 1836 but worked with the Fathers from then on, mainly in the central house in Lyon. He was still there in 1843, according to references in the letters of the missionary Brothers. The error clearly lies in the date given in the Register, a miscopy of that provided in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (APFT 14 p l5l - but the entry does not include Luc's family name). But it has led to Luc Macé's letters being included in the volume of Lettres d'Oceanie in the AFM. He has no other connection with the Brothers of the Hermitage.
Text of the Letter
- Very dear Father,
- I bless divine Providence for not disdaining to choose me to accompany these holy missionaries. They are not afraid to go and announce the truths of our holy religion to the most distant nations, and to confront all the numerous dangers, whether from the world or from hell which groans at the very thought of a soul being snatched from its jaws. Very reverend Father, I must express my gratitude to you when I consider you have shown me such kindness as to receive me among your children in the Society of Mary, that good mother who watches over her children so carefully and is such a great source of joy and confidence for them when they think of her. They invoke her with confidence in their different needs. At the thought that Mary is our mother, that she is with them, all difficulties disappear, fears are dispelled, and nothing remains in the soul but the fear of not being worthy to suffer still more, for it is only in the cross that a true missionary ought to seek his rest and find happiness. If there are many crosses in the missions, there are also many consolations which render them not only bearable but even desirable. For me it is a greater happiness to sleep on a mat in a native dwelling among them than in a fine bedchamber. For it is there that one becomes more like our divine Master who had nowhere to lay his head. Moreover, it is easy to remember that one is poor and that it is not for the goods of this world that one has left everything, but rather to imitate Him who, possessing everything, first made Himself poor.
- A missionary must be prepared for death at any time so as not to be taken by surprise. This is probably the case with Fr Borgeon (sic) and Br Deodat, who have left us the last few months with the sorrowful conviction they have been swallowed up by the sea. Their course has been quickly terminated. If this is so, it seems the Lord has already found them worthy of enjoying the reward he has promised those who leave everything to follow him. As for myself, I have no other wish than that my body be ground into pure bread for heaven for the name of Jesus Christ. It is a grace I do not deserve but I will not cease asking for it until the Lord grants it to me. He has said himself, "Ask and you shall receive." Ask then this grace of the Lord for me, my very reverend Father, and ask it through Mary so he cannot refuse.
- I will leave to those who know more than me the details of life on the mission so as not to give any false impressions. I do not know much myself because I go out rarely, being always busy printing with M. Yvert. We need strong and intelligent brothers here to continue the printing, and many priests to go with the books to provide water for the crops, for if one plants and does not water, dryness soon weakens the plant and causes it to die, or at least wither.
- May the missionaries who come have hearts burning for the salvation of souls or they will achieve nothing. They will languish themselves, leaving others to die, and what will it serve them to have made such sacrifices? Please God this will serve me as a lesson too. Let them pass through the furnace before leaving so they warm us on arriving here, and let them note the road is long and there is plenty of time to grow cold.
- I claim the prayers of the Society as a right since I pray for all,and especially for my very reverend Father. My respects to the reverend Fathers Girard, Maitre-Pierre, Ducharme, Poupinel, etc. etc. as well as all the good Brothers.
- Please accept, my very reverend Father, the assurance of my deepest respect.
- Your very affectionate son in Jesus and Mary
- Marist Brother.
We are all in good health.
- A paraphrase of the famous verse from the Letter of St Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Rome when he was on his way to martyrdom there. The grace requested, then, was the grace of martyrdom.
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