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Br Claude-Marie to Francis Redwood, Nelson, 2 May 1861



Francis Redwood had completed his secondary schooling at St Chamond and was now at the Marist scholasticate at Montbel, near Toulon. As a collegian he had been able to travel during the holidays and took advantage of this to visit England and Italy, as his letters testify. But this would have ended when he entered the novitiate of the Society. Having taken the vow of obedience, he was entitled to be addressed as ‘brother’, a title Claude-Marie is happy to share with him [2]. At Montbel he was beginning his studies for the priesthood, a course he completed so successfully that when he moved on to St Mary’s College in Dundalk, Ireland, to do theology, he was also appointed to the teaching staff as Professor of Latin and Greek. At this stage he was some four years away from ordination.

Claude-Marie refers to the troubles of the Church in France [3]. He is probably referring to the government campaign, initiated the previous year, of trying to discredit the religious teaching congregations by finding or manufacturing morals charges against their members, and to hasten the laicisation of the schools. This was to be a major worry of Br Louis-Marie during his generalship of the congregation (rf eg. His circular of 29 June 1863, CSG. 3. 162-7).

The brother gives an increase in his workload as one of the reasons he has been slow in replying to Redwood’s letters. This was probably due to changes of personnel in the Nelson parish. Moreau had been transferred to Wellington in 1859 where he acted as a roving pastor. He was replaced by Pons, newly arrived in Oceania, who stayed such a short time that Marist records do not hold his Christian name. Pierre Michel arrived from Fiji the following year worn out after a decade in those turbulent islands. The latest addition was Aime Martin (1830-1906), a member of the Society since 1856, who was also a recent arrival in New Zealand.

This is the last of the collection of letters from Claude-Marie to Redwood photocopied by Br Basil Ward from the originals in the archives of the Archdiocese of Wellington and now in the archives of the Marist Brothers in Auckland.

Text of the Letter

Very dear friend,
I have just received your last letter dated 11 February in which you apologise for having waited such a long time to reply. As to who should be making excuses, if anyone, I am the one who has entirely neglected to write to you, not because of any cooling towards you but slackly for lack of time, my occupations having become very numerous, and because of ignorance I write so badly that truly I have laid down my pen, ashamed of myself. I have however been coaxed out by seeing the goodness you have shown me in addressing me another beautiful letter to scribble you this one. Decipher it as you can.
I have learned from the Fathers that your good parents would have preferred me not to tell you that they were rich. According to them, I should have told you the opposite. How to do that, though, while seeing and hearing spoken of what they are doing: that would be to tell lies. Thus, I see your father and Tom going to Sydney, your father buys a watch costing 150 pounds, has fine carriages, beautiful houses. Can you say Mr Redwood is poor? No, certainly not, I can tell you he is certainly well-off, and don’t be afraid at all for any expenses you can run up for your education, far from it. I can even assure you that they are extremely happy to see your progress in the sciences you are studying. Your travels also, although expensive, afford them much pleasure, for they know that they are necessary after a year of study shut up in a college. And a year ago your mother being told that during your holidays you had the idea of going to Rome, she could not contain her joy and said, How lucky he is, what beautiful things he will see, how I would love to be in his place! So you see they do not look too closely when it is a question of your welfare. No, they love you too much, they are too proud of you.
But you wouldn’t believe the impression produced on them by the letter you sent them from Montbel. Your mother was so pleased she wept with joy. By a happy coincidence this letter was read at a family gathering, that is to say, that Messrs Ward and Goulter were then at your place and all found it impossible to find expressions capable of thanking God for the great grace he had given you in calling you into the beautiful Society of Mary. And so, my dear brother (allow me this name so sweet since you love it), and me especially, how pleased I was to learn such happy news! How sweet your lot, how fortunate you are to be under the protection of so good, so tender, so sweet a Mother, to live and die peacefully under her patronage as this good and holy priest whose obituary you have deigned to send me. This life, this death. That fervent religious spent his life in virtue, in love of God and Mary. He has been recompensed for his crown is her own. For a few days of trial an eternity of glory! We are here as good soldiers, we fight the enemies of the Lord, each according to his rank, happy like this good Father if we struggle to the finish.
Alas! The Church at this time is sorely tried and every month on the arrival of the steamships we learn from the papers ever-worsening news that makes the heart bleed. But we have seen worse in the history of the Church, we know that if there are very wicked people there are also in France eminently holy people in great numbers. Perhaps God will let himself be moved and we shall see the Church emerge from this crisis triumphant over her enemies as she sees them humiliated at her feet. That is our hope.
Our station of Nelson has been unfortunate for nearly three years now. You knew that Fr Moreau was replaced by Fr Pons. The latter soon returned to France and the good Fr Moreau returned and stayed until the arrival of Fr Michel, an old missionary from Fiji, very fervent, very zealous, but in such poor health that His Lordship has been forced to send the good Fr Martin to help assist Fr Garin in his apostolic work.
The very beautiful things you told me should be coming to us from France have reached us but Fr Garin had to bear the costs, and still we are far from having all we need. We are used to poverty, we will be satisfied with what we have until some pious person makes us a gift of something else.
I will stop there. I know that Fr Garin is writing you a long letter. It is no use then going into too much detail which might perhaps be repeated. I thank you therefore for the two beautiful letters you have been so kind to send me. The one about the soldier and the priest from which you brought out the similarity, was perfect, and the last also made us weep seeing that good priest suffering and putting up with his illness with such beautiful resignation. How lucky you were to have such inspiring examples before your eyes.
Farewell, dear friend, dear brother. Pray and have many prayers said for me, and believe me to be your poor
brother Claude-Marie

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