Br Elie-Regis to the Brothers of the Hermitage, Wakatane, 30 June 1846
Writing in response to the letter of his confreres at the Hermitage (Jan 1845), Elie-Regis begins with a summary of his career in New Zealand up to this date. He had some close calls, including the occasion when, as he was travelling back from his first station, Hokianga, to the Bay of Islands in July 1839, the mission schooner had nearly capsized while rounding North Cape  (rf Pomp 58). He had not found his work on the mission as frustrating as some of his confreres (rf eg L 31). As at Wangaroa (L 28) he had plenty of opportunity for catechising.
On his visit to the Whakatane area in 1844, Pompallier fulfilled a promise he had made the chief Tautari in 1840 to give him a missionary by leaving him Lampila. Elie-Regis joined him a few months after building the priest's house at Opotiki. The first station was probably not at Whakatane itself, up the coast from Opotiki, but at Pupuaruhe, some five miles away. Pompallier confirmed 63 candidates there in June 1844, which suggests it was already a flourishing Catholic centre (Simmons 91). Lampila preferred a roving ministry, moving from village to village, covering an area from Matata to Hawkes Bay. In 1846 baptised Catholics numbered about 600. By 1850, whole tribes were on their way to converting, the Tuhoe, in particular being almost all Catholic. Elie-Regis also did his share of travelling, mainly pastoral but also occasionally social, visiting his nearest confreres at Tauranga and Rotorua. Chouvet, who visited the Rotorua area from Opotiki and describes its geography in his account of his travels, also mentions Euloge's accident ( Chouvet op. cit. 87-8)
Almost two thirds of this letter [7 ff] is devoted to an account of a debate with the CMS missionary in this area, the Rev J.A. Wilson. John Alexander Wilson was head of the Anglican mission from 1839 to 1852. He was based at Houkitaia where he had a farm of 2000 acres. Chouvet has a whole chapter on his relations with the Protestant missionaries and especially his correspondence and dealings with Wilson (54-75). He and Lampila have been accused of being too aggressive and polemical in their attitude towards the Protestants (cf eg Simmons 91), but in this case at least it would appear Wilson was the guilty party. He may have thought the brother was not equipped to meet such a challenge. It did not take him long to realise his error. Chouvet also refers to this encounter (67): "One of my catechists, Brother Elie, coming upon him with a tribe where he was repeating his blasphemies, attacked and confounded him. The Anglican then hurried towards other villages, but his terrible adversary followed him and inflicted the same humiliation on him."
A copy of this letter is in the AFM Cahier (pp 167-185). Francois refers to it in the personal note he addresses Elie-Regis in his letter to the missionaries of January 1857.
Text of the Letter
- My very dear Brothers,
- We have received the circular letters you had the kindness to write us. I assure you I have read them with great pleasure, as much because they have come such a distance and taken so long coming as because they have shown me how much God looks after the Society, and recalled to mind the good Brothers who compose it, especially those I was privileged to know when I was still with you.
- Very dear Brs Apollinaire, Jubin, and Victor, I thank you in particular since you are the ones who have been kind enough to write us these lines. I recall, very dear Br Apollinaire, and I remind you of those days we cut hay together at La Grangepaire (sic) - that was a relaxation for us. Where have they gone, those days? Time carries everything with it and separates everyone. I was very pleased to hear dear Br Colomb returned to you in good health. And now dear Br Pierre-Marie is also off to rejoin you. If only I could see you again myself and express to you face to face my feelings of respect for you. I will have them always. It is certainly not that I am sorry for having come to the mission. I have been only too privileged to be able to cooperate in the Lord's work. But it seems to me that when I am no longer of use here, it would be a great consolation to me to be able to end my days in our cherished retreat at Our Lady of the Hermitage where I spent such idyllic days during my novitiate. I was very much afflicted to learn of the death of our Father Champagnat as well as the recent deaths of our very dear Brothers whom I particularly knew. What consoles me is that now they are interceding for us before God. Very dear Brothers, you are like Moses on the mountain. Stretch out your hands in supplication to the Lord while we are fighting on the plain (ie in the world). Don't forget me in you prayers, I beg you; for my part, I don't forget you and never will. But what can the prayers of a poor sinner do?
- You will perhaps be interested to hear about the establishment I am in and about my occupations. At first, I was assigned to Hokianga with Fr Baty. A few days after arriving I was bitten on the right leg by a pig. The wound was not properly attended to and took a long time to heal. Then Fr Epalle, now Bishop of Sion, came to Hokianga on the mission schooner to take me back to the Bay to build a house there. Although I am only a poor carpenter, I was the best the mission had at that time. I did what I could, despite the pain from my unhealed leg. We only just escaped disaster on the voyage from Hokianga to Kororareka. Another time, Monsignor recalled me from Wangaroa where I had spent four and a half years. I set out in the boat (the little barque belonging to the Wangaroa mission) to sail to Kororareka. There were three of us, a French European and a native. We had a good wind at first, then it dropped, and after that a dreadful wind blew off the land and pushed us out to sea. Although we rowed with all our strength we could make no headway; the wind was driving us out to sea - ie into the open sea. The sea quickly turned threatening, the waves kept coming over us, and instead of going forward we were going backward. We were disheartened at not being able to do any better, because we were rowing with all the strength we possessed. To make things worse, I became seasick, vomiting up all I had in my stomach, so I had no strength for rowing. The seasickness passed, however, I picked up my oar and I steered the native who was not rowing very strongly. We both rowed together with the European. He was saying we would have to throw our luggage into the sea, that life was the most important thing. He was right about that, but I didn't lose hope. I considered that the One who once commanded the wind and the sea was still living and would certainly come to our aid. I also had confidence in our good Mother. I said to our native, a baptised youth, "Let us pray." We began to pray and a moment later the wind slackened and the sea began to calm down. We reached land eventually in the afternoon. I said the Te Deum in thanksgiving. We also narrowly escaped disaster in the Fiji islands on the way to New Zealand. That was the third time I have been so close to death. May God's holy will be done in all things and in all places.
- You may have perhaps been told that the Brothers here are only cooks. For myself, I can say that if that has been the case with some it is not so for everyone or for all the time - that depends on the needs of the mission. I certainly put my hand to it occasionally, but I have never done it continually because we have almost always had a native to do it. I am at present with Fr Lampila, and he very often takes pleasure in doing it, especially when I am busy with other things. He sees that the native makes a good job of it. We have a big garden which provides me with a regular occupation. I am also busy right now building a chapel. We have built a little house in pisé where we are now living. It is not bad, plastered outside and in with lime made from shells. Dear Brothers of the Hermitage, I ask you to share our little tribulations, because they are very far from those the missionaries in Cochin China have had to endure. But the happiness promised to those who persevere, the joy of seeing new Christians, their fervour in saying their prayers - these things certainly make our hardships easier to bear. This place is not like Europe where you hardly dare make the sign of the cross in public. Here there is no human respect, just as in religious life. The one who does best is the most respected.
- I can let you know I have always been a catechist, or at least I have performed the functions of a catechist. At Wangaroa, where I was for four and a half years, I always took prayers and catechism with the natives. Moreover, the needs of the mission forced Monsignor to take away Fr Petit-Jean after two years. So I was compelled to live by myself, except that occasionally I had a convert to keep me company and cook for me. I also had a European, a French sailor, for some time. During the whole of that time, I filled in for the absent priest as best I could. He came to visit the mission every two months and to encourage me and strengthen me with the bread of the strong. At last, Fr Rozet was assigned to that station and I was with him for a year. He is still there. Wangaroa is in the north of New Zealand. Wakatane, where I have been for two years, is not far from the centre of the north island, on the east coast. Our establishment is an hour from the sea, on a plain, and on the edge of a river. Consequently, it is colder than Wangaroa, because the further south one goes, the colder it becomes. In winter we have only heavy white frosts, we never see snow. On the other hand, the summer is not as warm as in France. It is very windy during the day and this cools things down. The nights are very cold. But European plants do very well - only grapes will have trouble ripening here. They ripened very well at Wangaroa. I planted vines there but once I was moved I made the sacrifice and left them behind. There are only a few ferns here, for Fr Lampila and I were the first here. Only he spent 4 months with a French European he had met at Hokianga since I was then at Opotiki building the presbytery. But for that I would not perhaps be here. The one at Tauranga was built by dear Br Luc. Both are of wood, like most of the others built here in the colony. He has built another since at Hokianga but in pisé! They moved in too soon, so he and Fr Petit are both suffering from rheumatics.
- Almost every day here I have the opportunity of taking catechism. The priest regularly makes trips of two weeks or even a month to visit the more distant tribes. While he is away I take his place for prayer and instruction, not to mention the neighbouring tribes I regularly visit for prayers and for catechism. I also go out on trips to catechise and baptise the sick. One trip I made lasted two weeks, and another the same, though the main reason for the latter was to visit dear Br Justin who is at Tauranga, and dear Br Euloge, who was then at Rotorua with Fr Reignier. He is now at Auckland for his health, because he has been ill. The climate at Rotorua is partly polluted by the steam which comes from the volcanoes all around. But a strange thing is that, instead of the flames and rocks which issue from some volcanoes, the ones here give off boiling water, and this, after it has run a good distance, provides a good bath. I have used them myself, and dear Br Euloge too, in a basin nature herself has formed and which the cleverest of men could not equal. It is about 15 feet long, 10 to 12 feet wide, and 5 feet deep, but the water is only 4 to 4½ feet deep. It is almost circular, but longer on the side where the hot water emerges, sometimes gushing to the height of a man. The walls of the basin are of a type of white cement formed by the water which is as hard as marble and almost of a piece. But the water appears to return to the place from which it emerges, because I have not seen any trace of it outside the basin. It is not so with others. Their waters flow into a big lake and part of this is warm. The village is well sited on the volcano among the springs so that even the houses are heated. Sometimes the springs find new outlets and the hot water gushes up in the houses themselves, so they are forced to move to another location. They do nearly all their cooking in these boiling springs. I have myself eaten potatoes cooked there; they weren't bad, but they tasted a bit of sulphur. You notice that all the natives who eat food cooked in the hot water here have yellow teeth. This is not the case elsewhere, for New Zealanders have very white teeth. Where there is no boiling water and only warm earth, they dig a little hole and put in the food, cover it, and it cooks very well. But all these advantages have their dangerous side too. I saw a man who, on going out one night, fell into one of these pits of boiling water and had his legs and thighs badly scalded. He was in great pain but is healed now. I was very afraid of falling into one, for it takes two days from Tauranga to Rotorua, and as it was mid-winter we could not arrive there until after nightfall, So we walked, my native and I, as if on the edge of a precipice; we could hear the water bubbling on either side. Suddenly he found he was walking in warm water and had to retrace his steps. He was very embarrassed but suffered no hurt because the source was a bit of a distance away. Eventually we reached the priest's house without any further mishap. About a year ago, dear Br Euloge fell into a pit of boiling water. He had both legs scalded and was in considerable pain. Our house faces a little island quite a way out to sea which is uninhabited. Thick smoke rises from it continually and when there is no wind to dissipate it, it hangs like a cloud in the sky. What is so strange is that a fire like that could keep going in the middle of the sea.
- Here is something you might find of interest. Although it is rather lengthy I will try to give you the whole thing, not to commend myself, but always for the greater glory of God. One day, when the priest was away, I had occasion to defend the Church of Jesus Christ against the infernal powers which thought to take advantage of the shepherd's absence to ravage the flock. The Protestant missionary, named Mr Wailson (sic), who lives at Opotiki about 8 leagues away, arrived in Wakatane on Sunday evening. He spread some falsehoods among our converts, the main ones being: 1. we adore a piece of bread, 2. the pope is a wicked man. He chose the most ignorant, but they called on one of our Christians, Francis by name, who is well instructed and a catechist. He replied and would have shown up his falsehood and deceit but Wilson was dismissive, saying he was only a native and so could not instruct a European. Francis replied: "Certainly I am a native but I am a man just like you." They are all like that. If they have an argument with our converts and they find themselves worsted on some point, they always bring up the excuse they are pakeha ie foreigners, and that a native has no right to instruct them, seeing that the truths of religion have been confided to the foreigners and not to the natives of New Zealand. All this happened about three quarters of an hour from our residence. Finally the native came to find me that evening and told me what Mr Wilson had said against our holy religion. He asked me to have a meeting with him so as to put an end to his calumnies against the main truths of our holy religion. I told him I would think about it and that next day, which was Monday, I would let him know if I was going to challenge him or not, because I never had dealings with such people. I had a real fear of failing on some point. However, I found a New Testament which the Protestants had translated into Maori and looked for the text concerning the real presence. I discovered the passage was in perfect conformity with the (Latin) Bible. I told myself, with God's grace, I cannot fail to win, seeing I am going to make him trip with his own book.
- So I wrote him a letter first thing in the morning inviting him to a meeting, designating the place and the time, to ascertain whether what he had said, from the report of the natives, was really true. A native took it to him. In reply he told the bearer he would be wasting his time having a meeting with me; he was sick, he added, and might not be able to come. These were only excuses so he could avoid the meeting. He kept me waiting until midday. Since the Catholic natives were constantly going there and calling him a liar, a coward, a sneak, etc he finally came. On entering the house where I was with our Christians he greeted me and shook my hand, as is the English custom. For a moment I was afraid he had the advantage. But I said deep down in my heart, Lord, it's a question of your glory. Please look after your interests. Holy Virgin, don't allow your enemies to triumph but rather let them be bested and humiliated. I place myself under your protection. In the end, God, who is content to use the weakest instruments for his work so that all the glory is his alone, gave me a success I never anticipated. He has certainly been glorified since, for since that day Wilson has not uttered any similar calumnies against our holy Church, and a large number of natives who were Protestants have turned to the Catholic Church. Nor do we hear anything from the Protestant natives though they used to heap calumnies without end on the Church of Jesus Christ, following the instructions of their head. Little by little their prejudice is disappearing. I think that, with the grace of God and the help of your good prayers, they will eventually find the truth.
- Back to our subject. After we had exchanged greetings, I asked him if what the natives had reported he had said was true, namely that we adored a piece of bread, and that the pope was a wicked man. At first, he tried to excuse himself by accusing the natives of making a mistake. He had said that before the consecration it was only bread but after it was the body of Our Lord. But when our native, Francis, who had heard him himself, accused him of lying, and he found himself caught out, he looked for another way out. He asked, for example, if it was the same body born of Mary, if it was his veins and bones, how could it be in many different places at the same time. I replied: Don't you know Jesus Christ is God and that God is all powerful? The same Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead after four days, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, cured the sick without being present by a single word, multiplied 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, worked so many miracles - doesn't his power exist any more? No. No more evasions and pointless speculation; let's come to the proof. Then I took the Latin Bible I had brought with me and explained to him in Maori the passage about the real presence: This is my body. This is my blood. I asked him also for his own translation in Maori which he gave me. I looked up the text about the real presence which was, on this point, in perfect conformity with ours. I read it out to him twice, so the natives heard. As for him, he said that in the Eucharist it was only the likeness of Jesus Christ - in Maori: "toua ahuatanga". He also said it was a parable ("kupu wakarite" in Maori), as with Jesus' words, "I am the true vine." Then I referred to St John, Chapter 6 v 16, where it said (in Latin): "My flesh is really food and my blood is really drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him ..." This was too clear for him to evade. I began to shout at the top of my voice to the Protestant natives present, "You must be very foolish to listen to such a false man whom his own book contradicts. His book says one thing and he says another. If you had an ounce of common sense you would reject the one or the other. You would buy the book and refuse his instruction or listen to him and refuse his book. If we gave the books to our natives and they read them and then we taught them something quite different from the book, they would certainly know what to say to us." Wilson was beaten and he had no comeback on this point. As for his other statement that the popes were wicked men, he offered the excuse that he had not said all the popes were wicked but that there had been some wicked ones. I asked him to name them but he could not name a single one. Then I told him, you are making it up; what you have put forward is not true. I had a copy of a book listing all the Catholics Henry VIII had put to death. I read it out to him in front of them all. In retaliation he replied that Henry VIII belonged to our Church. I said: "You dare to disown the king of your own nation?" He had nothing more to say. I drew for him the tree of the true vine, then I drew a withered branch. To distract the natives he pretended not to understand and asked if it was a tree for building canoes. I couldn't explain what I wanted because he didn't want to stay and look at it. As he was opening the door on his way out, I quickly quoted to him the passage from the Bible about the powers Our Lord gave to Peter. He wanted no more of it and went away.
- The next day someone told me he was going to Te Matata, a Catholic tribe about 4 or 5 leagues from here. Our Catholics told me to go off in pursuit; I should go there myself and if I didn't he would try to lead the tribe astray. Eventually I went with Francis, the catechist I have mentioned already. We reached the Catholic village in the evening and learned he had not passed that way but was 10 minutes away among a tribe called Otomarora. They were all Protestants at that time, but now there are some Catholics among them. I took the evening prayer and then catechism as usual. We slept at Te Matata. In the morning I took the prayers again with all the natives assembled, followed by the catechism on the chapter of the true Church. After reading it out, I explained it to them. Once we had finished we went to Otomarora where we found a good number of Catholic natives from Matata, because their plantation was very close by. As they had been at work all night fishing for eels they had slept very late that day and so had not yet said their prayers. So I took them for prayers, followed by catechism on the true Church, for the seducer was still in the neighbourhood. I endeavoured to convince them that there was no salvation outside the true Church by showing them the marks of the true Church. After that we had breakfast. Then Francis, my guide, told them I had come to have a meeting with Wilson. I was led to a neat little marae in front of the village and told to stay there. They went off to find Wilson. It was the chief of Matata, Rangitakina, who went in search of him, using "wakapoti", that is, flattering him, and not letting him know why he was being called, for otherwise he might not have come. So he came, followed by a child, and sat down about a dozen paces from me. All the natives gathered around us, Catholics and Protestants, more than 200 of them in a large circle. Our natives are fascinated by the "komite" ie the meetings, because they can better distinguish the true from the false through them. As the Protestant missionary had arrived after me and I was talking with my converts, I waited for him to speak first. I waited for well over a quarter of an hour. Then he said to me, "So you have come this far in pursuit of me?" I replied, "I am not pursuing you. I am about my work. I have come to visit our converts." "No, you have come in pursuit of me, " he said. Then I replied, "Yes. That's true. I am afraid the wolf will devour the sheep. That's why I came, to guard them." "And am I the wolf?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "you are the one!" Then he told me, "I agree to this meeting. But don't behave like you did yesterday. Let me speak when it is my turn." To that I replied, "If I cut you off, it was because you were saying stupid things and contradicting your book. Speak like your book, and I will not interrupt." He did not reply. So I began: "After Adam the first man sinned, God promised him, him and his descendants, a redeemer. In time God, faithful to his promise, sent the redeemer, but after 4000 years had passed. He has now come in 1845. Who is this redeemer? It is Jesus Christ, the son of God, who took a body like ours in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit.
- He confirmed his mission with a very great number of miracles. He chose the apostles, 12 in number, and very many disciples. He chose Simon as head of his Church and gave him the name of Peter. Here is what he said to him: 'Simon, you will be called Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.' But as for you where is your "take" ie where is your trunk? You don't have one. You have no other "take" ie you have no other leader, than Luther who left the mother Church to gratify his passions. He was a priest of our Church and, as Catholic priests are not permitted to have wives, he separated himself from the Church and took as wife a nun he had seduced. He was excommunicated by Pope Leo X, whether for that or because of his errors. Other men of the same sort such as Calvin gathered around him. So he formed your so-called Church. You claim it comes from Jesus Christ, but it is nothing more than the confraternity of an adulterer, a sect which started 1500 years after Christ. It has only been in existence for 300 years, so it is nonsense for you to say your Church comes from Karaiti ie from Jesus Christ. Since you are so remote from it, he could never hear you. He has promised his assistance to his Church but not to others. There is only one God and there is only one true Church, and there will never be more than one. So outside the true Church there is no salvation. As in the time of the Flood, those in the ark were saved while the rest were drowned in the water." Here I sat down, and as it had been agreed we should speak in turn, he took up the discussion. He replied that Martin Luther was married and therefore he had not committed adultery. My response was that he had indeed married but only after having lived with his intended. His first child was born not long after his marriage and therefore he had committed adultery. Wilson made no response to this. I rose and he sat down. I continued: Now that I have proved to you that our Church comes from Jesus Christ and the apostles, I will explain to you its characteristics, which do not apply to yours at all. First, it is one, in that it has only one faith and it has always had the same faith. This cannot apply to yours since some time after Luther one could count 34 different sects, all Protestant, in revolt against the Catholic Church, their mother. Second, it is holy because it comes from Jesus Christ, holiness itself and the source of all holiness. How could this apply to your sect, since it was started by an adulterer, a man who consecrated himself to God and then broke his vows? You are descended from Calvin, a man who caused another's death by wanting to work a miracle. Knowing miracles get people's admiration, he thought he would perform one, and this is how he did it. A poor woman asked him for charity and he promised to give it to her if she did what he asked. She was to tell her husband to act as if he were sick and then dying. Once he was dead she was to send for him. Then he would come, call on the "dead" man, who would rise up, and people would believe in him. This is what happened. Calvin came and called on the man; "Dead man, in the name of Jesus Christ, arise!" But the man who was feigning death was in fact dead as a punishment from God. Then the woman cried out against Calvin. He got out of it as best he could, saying she was mad, and he had her driven out. Such is the power and sanctity of your famous founders, or reformers of the Church. Third, our Church is Catholic because it is universal and always has been. But that does not fit yours since it has only been in existence for a short time and is confined to England and some of the islands of Oceania. Fourth, it is apostolic because it comes from the apostles, and Roman because St Peter, the head of the apostles, established his seat in Rome. How could you claim yours is apostolic when 1500 years separate you from the apostles? Then I picked a bush and plucked off a branch. I placed the branch at a little distance from the trunk and made this comparison: Our Church is like a great tree with many immense branches. If one is cut off, two grow in its place. Now you, you are this branch cut off and situated far from the trunk which is Jesus Christ. So it is impossible for you to bear fruit for eternal life just as it is for this branch I have taken off to bear leaves and fruit. This is a comparison the natives understood very well. I now let him have his turn, convinced I had spoken truly because he had not taken me up. He did not try to refute what I had said, but he riposted by saying: "Ka karakia koutou ki nga wakapakoko", ie "you pray to images", or rather, "you adore images or statues." This is a calumny against the Catholic Church which is the main thing they teach new converts. I replied: "You are a liar" - in Maori: "he tangata teka koe." We adore God and we honour the images. We pray to God to grant us his graces and we pray to the saints to intercede for us with him. God has never forbidden the making of images as reminders, but he has forbidden the making of other gods. It was God himself, for example, who told Moses to raise the bronze serpent in the desert so that those bitten by real serpents were cured simply by looking at the serpent in bronze - which was a figure of Jesus Christ. As in times past those bitten by serpents were cured by looking upon a serpent of bronze, so sinners are healed of their sins by looking upon Christ on the cross. And it was God himself who commanded the two gold cherubim to be made. He said to me, "That's all very well, but you pray to Mary, a decomposed woman, "wahine pirau". "I took up this satanic expression. The holy Virgin Mary is not decomposed, as you say; she is gone up to heaven body and soul, and as she is the mother of Jesus Christ, she has all influence with him. Have you ever come across the case where the king's mother was a slave? Then to show him the influence she has with Jesus Christ I read to him the miracle he worked at Cana at Mary's request.
- He had nothing to say to that but passed on to another topic. He asked me why we confessed our sins to a man, ie to priests, as if he had the power to remit them. He said; "Can you remit a man's sins?" I replied: "Only bishops and priests have the power." And to take him down a little, I added, "You can't either. You are not a minister of your Church. You are only a catechist like me." He answered: "E pa, kia pai tou korero - Friend, speak politely. Don't insult me." He is no more than a self-styled catechist but he is more cunning than many of the ministers of their Church. He has been a long time at Opotiki and has had disputations with Fr Rozet, Fr Comte, and with Fr Chouvet. He is skilled at dealing with the natives and has a very pleasing voice, which suits his deceitful flattery very well. He has a good grasp of the language of the country, and that is why he likes to pass for a minister among the natives. But to return to our subject - I have strayed a bit without thinking. I said to him: "Yes, certainly priests have the power to remit sins. They don't have it of themselves but they have received it from Jesus Christ. That is what we call the sacrament of Penance, because it was instituted by Jesus Christ for the remission of sins committed after baptism. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted 7 sacraments and you have got rid of 5 - you have kept only baptism and the supper. Who gave you the authority to undo what God has done? Then I took the Bible and showed him the passage where it is said: "All you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; all you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." He did not want to look and turned away remarking: "Will the natives understand a foreign language?" I told them I would explain it to them and asked him to look at the passage for himself. When he refused I cried out to everyone: "He doesn't want to look because he is ignorant. He doesn't know this ancient language which is the language of the Church of Jesus Christ." He had a look in the end, more I suspect so as not to appear ignorant than for any other reason, because I don't know if he had any understanding of Latin. Finally, not reaching any conclusion on this point, I thought to defeat him on the one they hold most firmly. For example, you say this sacrament is meaningless. And the baptism you have kept, is that also without meaning? If the former is, so is the latter. If the latter is true, so is the former, because it was Jesus Christ who established them all. So if he has made the one efficacious he has made the other likewise. He had nothing further to say, so I told them how unfortunate they were to have thrown away the sole remedy Our Redeemer left us to remit sins after baptism.
- Then he showed me his Bible and asked me: "Whose book is this?" "The paper and cover are yours," I replied, "because it is your work. But the truths it contains are ours - you stole them from us." Almost in a whisper, he asked me, "You say we stole this book from you?" "Certainly," I told him. "If Luther hadn't kept the Holy Scriptures when he left the Catholic Church you wouldn't have any. The Gospel was not entrusted to you, since you are 1500 years removed from the Evangelists. And the Old Testament was not confided to you either, since you didn't exist then." He had no reply for that either but looked for something on the absurdities he had uttered the previous night at Pupuaruhe which I knew were not in the Bible. I asked him for it so as to read it out to everyone and show them he was at variance with his own Bible. But remembering how he had been beaten that night with the Bible itself he did not want to give it to me, which condemned him still more. At length, to crown it all, he told me Jesus Christ and the apostles did not come from the Jews. "Where did Jesus come from then?" I asked, laughing at him, or rather at the foolishness of his statement, and looking round the natives to encourage them to do the same: "The Americans? The French? The English, perhaps?" Then I said to Francis, my companion, to whom I had given some paper: "Give me some paper so I can get him to sign what he has just claimed." I wrote down these words: "Ka mea te Wirihono kahore ano kia puta a Hehu Kerito i unga Huwe, e haro ia te tama o Rawiri" - "Mr Wilson says Jesus Christ did not come from the Jews and he is not the son of David." I asked him to put his signature on the piece of paper, with the words: "Tuhia tou ingoa ki raro nei o taku tuhituhi kia tono a kau tenei wahi pukapuka ki tou pihopa kia kite ia i tou pouheke." His reply was "Kahore, no"; "Tuhia", "Kahore." Word for word this reads: Put your name here below my writing, so I can send these few words to your bishop, so he can see your errors." He said no. I repeated: Write your name. He replied again: Kahore, no. The more he refused, the more I pressed him to write his name at the bottom of the paper, so as to show him up in front of the natives. Then he said to me, "He mea ni kau taku" - "What I said was only a question" - as if the teacher can be excused for not knowing the fundamentals of his teachings. I said, "Kua taka rawa a te Wirihono." Mr Wilson has certainly had a fall, and why? Because he does not have the truth on his side. If I am victorious it is because I have truth on my side. He has denied the main teachings of the faith, and he has even denied the author of this holy faith. He has been reduced to atheism. He sat down in his place, ashamed and confounded, and I sat down in mine with my converts. The meeting was over.
- We discussed Mr Wilson's defeat. I said: "Ana e wakamate rawa i a ia" - "It is not necessary to finish him off." David, one of our catechists from Matata said to me laughing: "No. We should have no pity on him. We must finish him completely." As we were speaking together in this way and I was sitting with my back to him, we noticed he was back on his feet again and talking to the natives. I turned, and promptly stood up, saying mockingly: "Kahore ano kia mate rawa koe? Ke mea ahou kia mate rawa koe. Tena korero? Korero? Kahore ano kia po noa." - Literally: "So you aren't dead yet? I thought you were dead (ie completely routed and didn't want to talk any further). More talk? Talk? It's not night yet." Everyone burst out laughing seeing how I was leading him on. Confused and ashamed he sat down again without saying a thing to me, and he remained there a long time. He was probably waiting for me to go so he could continue to broadcast his fantasies to the natives. But many of our Christians waited with me until he left so that he could not say he had the last word. At last we went away a certain distance and they served me a meal. After eating I went apart by myself and said the Te Deum in thanksgiving. I also thanked our Good Mother to whom I had recommended myself in a special way. The meeting had gone from 10 o'clock in the morning to 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I hope, my very dear Brothers, you have found this little story interesting.
- My respects to Fr Matricon and the parish priest of Tarentaise.
- Your friend and brother in Jesus and Mary,
- Br Elie-Regis.
- One of the kingdoms of Indo-China or Vietnam, though the term here is probably meant to include the whole region where numerous French missionaries and Vietnamese priests and laity died in fierce persecutions in the 1830s and 1840s.
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