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Br Claude-Marie to Br Francois, Nelson, 1 November 1859

LO 83

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS


In a letter to Favre of 29 March 1859, Poupinel describes Claude-Marie as ‘a good enough religious, of an affectionate piety, but a poor cook… (who) continues to desire his return to the Hermitage’ (APM). Claude-Marie was becoming increasingly preoccupied with his health, as this letter reveals [7], as well as frustrated with work which seems to have been largely confined to housekeeping, gardening, and looking after the sacristy.

In writing to him to encourage him to stay (rf L 141), his confrere Emery has given him news of promising ventures in Sydney [5]. But either he has his facts wrong or Claude-Marie has misinterpreted them. Archdeacon John McEnroe had indeed gone to Europe to see if he could find religious teachers to open schools in Sydney, but his contacts were mainly with the Marist Fathers. In Lyon he approached Favre, offering to help the Society get Irish vocations for a proposed college in Sydney (Hosie 139). As a result of his negotiations with the Irish bishops, the Marists were able to open a house at Dundalk, a coastal town north of Dublin, that same year, 1859. In a letter to Rocher on 8 September, Poupinel mentioned that the papers were saying that McEnroe was returning with Marist Brothers (Hosie 142). But the archdeacon came back without any brothers and Sydney’s Benedictine administration wanted no college to compete with their own institution at Lyndhurst. It was not until 1872 that the Marist brothers opened a foundation in Sydney and 1875 that they opened their first secondary school there (Hosie 143; LL 213,223).

In the cahier in the AFM this letter can be found on pages 74 to 78.

Text of the Letter

Very honourable Brother Superior,
You cannot know the consolation and pleasure with which I received your esteemed and dear letters. So I can tell you that the 20th of September 1859 was a real feast-day for me because that was the day I had the good fortune to receive both your beautiful Circular dated 25 October 1858 and your dear, affectionate and edifying letter of 15 January 1859. I have read and reread them with a pleasure impossible to describe.
I thank you, very dear Brother, for the fatherly advice you have been so kind to give me. It is very appropriate to my situation, I assure you. I will try to conform my conduct accordingly as best I can. But for that, very dear Brother, I have need, very great need, of your good, fervent prayers and of those of all the dear members of the Society, because I am a poor wretch and live in very great fear for my eternal salvation. I dare not ask anything more. I will say nothing further on the subject of returning among you, in case I make too much of my own desires and go against the design divine Providence has for me. So I will wait, and wait patiently, until such time as it pleases the divine will to make itself clear for me in one way or another. May God’s holy will be done and not my own.
I have written a good number of letters to His Lordship and the Very Reverend Fr Poupinel, letting them know my difficulties and my desires. I can assure you all have been full of goodwill towards me, but especially very reverend Fr Poupinel, who showed me the warmest fatherly affection. I had the sweet consolation of seeing the good Father at Nelson last September, when important matters obliged him to make a trip to New Zealand. I was permitted then to have a personal interview with him, in the course of which I learned more than ever of his affection for your poor servant. I told him, among other things, that I was placing myself completely in his hands so he could do with me what he judged most appropriate for my poor soul. This good and gentle Father, who is wholly Marist, will certainly consider carefully what will be most useful for my spiritual as well as my physical well-being.
I read of your successful trip to the Eternal City with the greatest interest. I shared your joy at your honourable reception by their Lordships, Their Eminences, and even His Holiness, whom you were privileged to see in private audience 3 times. The benevolent reception from our Holy Father the Pope is certainly a good augury for the future of our dear Society. Blessed be the good God and the good Mary, our tender Mother. They know so well how to direct everything that I don’t have a moments doubt that all will be arranged according to your wishes, or, to put it better, that all has been carried out as you desired, since at the moment I am writing to you, you will already have savoured the fruit of your labours. The Very Reverenf Fr Superior General will have done everything to hasten this approbation so long desired. One thing, though, has caused me concern; I cannot conceal it. Is it true we form a separate Society from the Marist Fathers? I was proud, I held it a great honour, to belong to a body which counted priests, brothers, and sisters among its children, all working together in concert for the greater glory of God, first of all for our own sanctification and then with all our strength for the salvation of our neighbour, each in his own state and function. But your views and the intentions of those who direct affairs are much more comprehensive than mine. So it does not befit me to scutinise them, but to be content, satisfied with what my very reverend Superiors have done and are doing for the good of the Institute.
Dear Br Emery has written to me: Fr McEncroe [sic] has established a novitiate house in Ireland for the Marist Brothers. And this good priest proposes to bring back with him three of our Brothers on his return to Sydney to start classes there. It seems to me that it would be a good thing to have an establishment of that sort in Ireland. One would soon have a good number of novices and they could be sent out to the English colonies in Oceania to open schools. How happy we would be here in Nelson if we could have 3 good Brothers. What good they would do among these poor children.
You probably want some news about this country, but I know nothing at all that would interest you. People come and go here the same as in France seeking to make their fortunes and, alas, thinking little about the best fortune to make, that of eternal happiness. I like to think the dear Brothers of New Zealand are writing to you from time to time, so I will say nothing about them, except that they are still good and true Marists and are keeping well.
As for myself, I believe this present letter is the last I will have the honour of writing you. My physical health diminishes from day to day. Last year I was digging and working in the garden, - this year I can hardly do anything. Fortunately, we have some boarders big enough and I give them the hardest work, so in the end I can keep things going without much difficulty. So then, very reverend Brother Superior, have the charity to pray for me and recommend me to the fervent prayers of the Society in a very special way, for our needs are greater than you think. At one time I wanted very much to go and finish my days at the Hermitage so I would have the consolation of making a better preparation for this fearful passage. I am not making any request today. I leave everything in the hands of divine Providence, to do with me what it wills. But as for you, my very dear Brother, raise your hands in supplication to the refuge of sinners, to the consoler of the afflicted, to our tender and good Mary, our good Mother, so that she will deign to obtain mercy for me, a happy death, and a favourable verdict. Ah, very reverend Brother, make haste; who knows what will happen to me. And don’t stop until you are sure I am in heaven, the haven of happiness.
Goodbye, very reverend and dear Brother Superior. Pardon me my faults and imperfections, - they are numerous. Believe me to be always your very humble and submissive servant,
Br Claude-Marie

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