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Br Francois to Br Abraham, St Genis Laval, 17 January 1859

LFF 2: 321

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


Br Abraham (Claude Marquet 1825-1870) was from Valfleury, famous for its ancient shrine of Our Lady, near St Chamond. He entered the Hermitage in 1843. After some years teaching, he left France in October 1858 as a catechist for the missions. They had not reached Sydney when this letter was written but since they did not set sail again for the islands until June, it may have reached Villa Maria by then. By the end of the year Abraham was in Samoa. He describes the voyage out from France in two letters (Nos 138 and 145 in this presentation).

In this introductory letter, as in the ones which follow, Francois makes much use of scripture. He had used his time in Rome to make a more particular study of the Bible – particularly the Old Testament, though Paul he was familiar with since youth through his Christian Manual (Michel 260). It will be seen that he uses some composite quotations and is often more concerned with expressing the sense than with reproducing the actual words.

And if, as appears, he is more specific in his remarks and directions in these letters than he was in the earlier ones of January 1857, it is because he has the reports made by Poupinel on his visitations before him.

This is letter 1653 in Francois’ draft book.

Text of the Letter

Dear Brother,
When you came to see me in my room, before your departure, to go and say goodbye to your family, I thought I would perhaps once more have the consolation of seeing you again and embracing you once more before your departure for Oceania. Providence decided otherwise; it is a sacrifice added to many others, but in such circumstances, we can say with the apostle Saint Paul: ‘I know the one I have recommended myself to, I know the one for whom I have done all that, and I am convinced that he is sufficiently powerful to support me, to compensate me, and to recompense me abundantly.’ So, the same apostle adds, I sacrifice everything most willingly and I am ready to sacrifice myself for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. [ cf. 2 Cor. 12: 15]
You know, my dear Brother, that I have always loved you tenderly. I saw that the Lord had given you very precious gifts, that you have had the good fortune to respond to them, and that they have been in a way crowned by this beautiful vocation to the apostolic life you are beginning, after having asked with such insistence. Never forget it, and strive to strengthen your vocation more and more, and the choice God has made of you, by the faithful and constant practice of all the virtues of your state, and especially the beautiful virtues of humility, simplicity, modesty, self-denial, etc. so that you may say with the apostle: ‘I have made myself the servant of everyone in order to gain a greater number. I have made myself all for all in order to save all.’ [1 Cor. 9: 19, 22]
Although you may now be very far from us in body, we are so to speak always together in spirit and in heart, and we live thus in a holy and intimate union. The divine Jesus and Mary his Mother are always at our head, and our first Superiors; it is under their standards that we fight and it is in their divine hearts that we are reunited. It is there that we find the energy, the support, the courage which we need and which we will see as often and as long as we desire it. It is there also that you can take refuge in the trials of all kinds to which you might be exposed, in work and fatigue, in hunger and thirst, in heat and cold, and animated with the holy ardour and the divine fire which inflames you, you will exclaim with Saint Paul: ‘I experience joy in my weakness, in outrages, in want, in the afflictions I endure for the love of Jesus’(and Mary).
You have been told, my dear Brother, and you are well convinced, that the best means of being useful to others and of working efficaciously for their sanctification, is to sanctify oneself first by practicing the virtues, for in this it is like the different states or professions: a good teacher, a good worker forms others; the same as a saint makes other saints.
Let us seek then to render virtue attractive and easy by our words and our actions, and according to Saint Paul’s recommendation to his dear disciple Titus, let us show ourselves always and in all things a model of good works [ Titus 2: 7] in our way of instructing, in purity of morals, in gravity of conduct, etc. being always in expectation of the happiness we hope for and of the glorious coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ who loved us and delivered himself up to redeem us from all iniquity [2: 13-14], and to make of us a Society especially consecrated to his service and fervent in good works, under the protection of his very holy Mother and ours, in the love of whom I am, with very cordial affection,
your entirely devoted,
F(rere) F(rancois)

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