Br Francois to Br Claude-Marie, St Genis Laval, 17 January 1859
LFF 2: 329-330
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
On his visit to Nelson in 1858, Poupinel had obviously brought Garin and Claude-Marie up to date on the situation of the missions and the negotiations between the Society and Rome which had resulted in the 1857 ruling and his own appointment as visitor general. Although this ruling had been more specifically directed at Bataillon, it did have consequences for the other Marist vicariates and dioceses, apart from allowing the flow of personnel and resources to the missions to recommence (rf Hosie 111-12). The missionaries in the field had indeed, as Claude-Marie informs Francois in his letter , reason to rejoice. For his part, Francois finds encouragement in the fact that the Marists have such a patron and champion in Rome as Cardinal Barnabo. The latter was very familiar with the Society from his work in Propaganda since 1847, first as secretary and then as prefect. Francois lists five brothers as having left for Oceania since the agreement had come into effect . 22 priests and 9 coadjutors had left France since the Society had started sending men out to the missions again in 1855. 
But if Claude-Marie was happy with the new situation in general, it appears he was less so with his own. Although we no longer possess the letter he wrote in 1858, we may infer from Francois’ reply that, like the one of the following November, it expressed the brother’s reservations about his health and his desire to return to the Hermitage (rf L 146).
Text of the Letter
- Dear Brother,
- You are right to rejoice and bless divine Providence in view of all that has been done lately in favour of the Missions of Oceania. The position and relations of the missionaries are fixed and regulated by the Ruling which Rev Fr Favre, in concert with the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda, has made for the missions, and the nomination of the good Fr Poupinel as Visitor General gives one side and the other a means of communication as agreeable as it is easy and beneficial.
- You will see in the Circular I am sending you how much I had to congratulate myself on my relations with His Excellency Cardinal Barnabo, who loves the Marists so much, and particularly Father Superior General, and always showed me so much affection and interest. It is a powerful motive for encouragement to find oneself thus the object of the fatherly solicitude of a prince of the Church, occupying so distinguished a rank and having ready and frequent access to the Sovereign Pontiff, the Head of the universal Church, whose kindness and tenderness we equally experienced in such an impressive manner.
- You have had, my dear Brother, to put up with many difficulties, renunciations, and vexations, but you need not be surprised or afflicted. You know that God has the custom of testing souls in this way in order to purify them and render them more suitable for the plans he has for them. If it is necessary to pass through the flames of purgatory to be purified and made worthy to enjoy God, on earth pass through the way of purgation by ardent love. Eh! How many faults and imperfections haven’t you got to be purified. There are those you are aware of and a much larger number only God knows, and which he alone knows how to purify by the remedies he applies and he recognizes suitable and proper for your malady.
- Oh! How happy the humble soul, resigned, submissive to God, is in its ills. And how it should esteem its good fortune to see thus the Lord himself become its physician to cure all its impurities and defects. In this way, the divine Surgeon cuts the evil at its root and he does you hurt once in order to make you enjoy from then on perfect health and an intimate and constant love. This way of doing things is harsh and painful to nature but it is very salutary and very efficacious. Happy, says Saint James, the one who suffers temptation, for when he has endured this trial, he will receive the crown of life [cf James 1: 12], and he will enjoy it not only in heaven but on earth in living with a pure and holy love which unites him to the Lord with whom he lives. [It] is a perfect bliss in the depths of his heart.
- Be always very faithful, therefore, and submissive to the orders and direction of divine Providence, my dear Brother, never give in to dejection or discouragement, but in whatever state and position you find yourself, always go to God with completely filial confidence, expose to him your worries and your problems, as to your soul’s faithful friend and the absolute Master of all into whose hands you have abandoned yourself entirely and forever. After which, be at peace, leaving to his goodness and power the time and the means of your deliverance, in the manner which he desires and when it pleases him. You are in God’s hands. You are labouring at his work, and whatever your employment may be, if you perform it well, he will give you the reward of the good and faithful servant who has been conscientious and vigilant in his master’s house [cf Lk 12: 35-7, 43-4]. There is the true means of being happy and content in everything and everywhere, the secret of spending good years in the peace and joy of the Lord, and of living days serene and always full of merits and good works. Oh! How agreeable to God is a Brother who lives so, how useful to his neighbour and precious for the Society!
- I hope, my dear Brother, that in accordance with your wishes, the Lord will multiply more and more the number of workers destined to cultivate his vineyard confided to the Society of Mary in Oceania. Already some time ago, five of our Brothers have set out with the Fathers. They are Brothers Emeri [sic], Augule, Germanique, Abraham, Ptolemee, and many others are still asking to go.
- I embrace you very affectionately in the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary,
- Yours truly…. F.F.
- There were 96 men working in the Marist mission fields in 1859. 25 had died and others had returned to France or left the religious life or priesthood (Hosie 119).
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