Br Charise to Fr Favre, Upolu, 19 December 1856
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
Colin resigned as superior general on 9 May 1854 and Julien Favre was elected the following day to succeed him. Colin was supposed to start work on a Rule for the fathers, but since he had not produced anything by late 1855, Favre set to work that December to draft a text. The manuscript was finished in January 1856, printed, and sent out to the houses of the Society. Despite Colin's complaint that it did not reflect the spirit of the 1842 Constitutions, this text was approved by the general chapter of 1858 and sent to Rome, where it was approved provisionally in 1860 (OM 4. 227).
Favre also decided, this time with Colin's approval, to resume sending men to the Pacific if Bataillon would agree to a formal rule regulating relationships between the bishop and the society. He sent a report to Propaganda in 1855 and, with the Holy See's approval, pressed this course on Bataillon. The latter's response was to send in his resignation, knowing it was hardly likely to be accepted, and he was then summoned to Rome (Hosie 110). He left for Europe in May 1856. At the end of that year, the second group of Marists sent out by Favre arrived in the Pacific. It included two priests for Samoa, Louis Elloy and Claude Marie Joly.
Charise was appointed to the newly established station at Amaile at the western end of Upolu in 1854. This was the first centre of the Aleipata parish. Two years later it was moved to Saleaaumua. Its first priest was Pierre Verne, assigned to Samoa following his return from Rotuma. In his memoirs, Charise lists his occupations there as 'catechist, doctor, teacher, cook, carpenter, mason, tailor, oven-builder, chicken and stock-raiser, maker of sundials, watchmaker, gardener, etc.' (Avit 3: 100). The area was a large one and both missionaries had to move about. Charise found a novel method of attracting people to his catechism classes: 'When I was catechising in remote villages, I was able to get only a few listeners. One day the idea came to me of playing my flute. A crowd came running, marvelling at the sound, and from then on I had plenty of hearers (Avit 3: 101).
The letter is translated from the original in the APM (ED 3. 164).
Text of the Letter
- Very Reverend Father,
- I have been waiting for a very long time now for an opportunity to write you a short letter and inform you of my state of health, spiritual as well as physical, and of my daily occupations. But the lack of opportunity and the disorganisation we have been experiencing for some time, with everyone worried and waiting for a constitution and a rule, all these things have lead me to delay doing so. For a long time each one has been tending to go his own way from a spirit of egoism, always desiring to reap for himself. Those who should be giving good example are often doing the opposite. We are losing our humility, our charity, spirit of mortification, and the good God is not blessing our work, especially in the Samoa islands. Your letters, very Reverend Father, are very precious to us. They are like maps where each can find the direction he should follow and for doing everything as his vocation requires. They give us encouragement and strength when we see we are not forgotten by our superiors in Europe.
- Although the people of Samoa may not yet appear ready to receive the word of God and we cannot harvest, still we can glean something at least. There is always some old person or infant to be baptised on their deathbed. While Fr Verne was away in Apia (the port of Upolu), where he had the joy to see two of our missionaries arrive, I also had the consolation of baptising an infant at the breast. It died two days later.
- As far as my health is concerned, it is not too good. I have never been very robust. And then the sufferings I endured on my African expeditions and the excessive sea-sickness and the extremely hot climate of these lands - all have in their turn contributed greatly to undermine my health even more. I have been getting rheumatic attacks for some years, and also a growth in the nose which completely blocks one nostril. I have done all I can to extract it with tweezers, burn it with silver nitrate, or dry it up using alum, but all these measures have failed. Several medical books I have consulted say that it easily degenerates into a cancer if it is not treated properly. Since it is continuing to grow, moreover, I am afraid it will finish by blocking the other nostril, or spread in the direction of the gullet where there are fewer obstacles. I believe it is a sluggish growth, it is not spreading very fast. It continually oozes mucus and often it smells bad. As it requires surgery, I don't think I could find someone to remove it for me except in Sydney. My rheumatism makes its presence known, so strongly at times that I have to walk all bent over, and the pain can be very acute. I am at times forced to stay in bed for a week or a fortnight. It has not given any trouble for nearly two months now, but will reappear at the first opportunity.
- My usual occupations are to do the cooking morning and evening, tend the fowls and other little domestic animals for our household, work as mason, tailor, carpenter, etc. I take catechism or classes for the little children, girls and boys together, and also for some women separately, several times a week. The class lasts an hour or two. I teach them to say their prayers properly, to read, to sing hymns, and to write. But I have no slates, no paper, nor table nor benches. Last year I didn't even have an alphabet chart. I had to make one for myself with a pen. With nothing to motivate them, these children wouldn't come if I were to do anything to annoy them, because they are accustomed to complete freedom. What gives me some consolation is that they know their prayers and hymns and the first three or four lessons of the catechism quite well. Of those who come regularly I have about 29 to 30, and 8 to 10 of the women.
- Very Reverend Father, to tell you a little about my spiritual life. I can tell you I am much more inclined to the spiritual than the temporal. If I wasn't sure I have been called to the missions where the Brothers are obviously obliged by Providence to turn their hands to all kinds of temporal work, I would have serious doubts that this was my vocation, for I have always preferred to follow a regular rule. This is the one I follow in Oceania. I go to confession every fortnight. I make my meditation as regularly as possible every day. I say my three rosaries, make my examen, often without a fixed time and amid many distractions. I do my adoration, and in the evening, my spiritual reading with Father. My daily ejaculatory prayers are: 'Take away from me, most sacred heart of Jesus', the 'Memorare', and the prayer to St Joseph. Since I have been with Fr Verne I have had neither chapter of faults nor direction. He told me he couldn't see any need for them while I was going to him for confession and was always with him. I am of a sanguine temperament, exuberant, easygoing, etc... and sometimes my mood doesn't fit in too well with Fr Verne's - he is choleric, gets carried away, and is a bit hasty. Still, I conform readily to what is expected of me. It is only the lack of order, of a rule, which causes me real trouble, and scorn and injustice.
- There, very Reverend Father, is all I think I ought to tell you in brief. You will be able to read some other little details in the letter I have written to a parish priest in my home district. I make bold to ask you to have it passed on to him when you have looked through it. It is attached to this one.
I am with profound respect, my very Reverend Father, in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
- Your very humble and obedient servant and unworthy son,
- Br Charise. cat.
- Your very humble and obedient servant and unworthy son,
- A person’s physical and mental qualities were believed to be governed or determined by the four fluids or humours of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, melancholy), hence temperaments might be classified as sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic. In this case, Charise and Verne were of contrasting temperaments (sanguine versus choleric).
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