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Br Lucien to Br Superior, Savai, Samoa, 19 March (St Joseph) 1862



Although Louis-Marie had been acting as superior general of the brothers since 1860 owing to the state of Francois’ health, it is undoubtedly to the latter that Lucien is writing this letter. From the opening words [2] it appears to be the first letter the brother has written to the superiors since 1846 (rf L 67). Lucien had been based at Lealatele since 1857 and from there traveled to the other stations on Savai’I as his services were required. His companions there in 1862 were the superior, Joseph Garnier, and Louis Belteau. Garnier (1826-1900), who joined the Society in 1850, was from Marlhes and probably a former student of the brothers. He had come to Samoa in 1858 and this was his last year at Lealatele. Belteau (1823-1885) joined the Marists in 1859 and came out to the Pacific shortly before ordination. This was his second year in Samoa. He returned to France for health reasons in 1874 and was chaplain to the brothers there for a number of years. Bataillon was constantly transferring his men, either for health reasons or to start new works, and this put a lot of pressure on the brothers, as Lucien complains [3-5]. It had taken its toll on the others in Upolu as well, and, in fact, Charise may well have been in Sydney by this time. Lucien would not have met Abraham until his return to Apia about 1866.

The translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM. The condition of the original has not made for a clear reproduction.

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Brother Superior,
Before having set foot on the soil of Oceania many write admirable letters filled with wonderful expectations, and then a few days later are ardently sighing for the onions of the old homeland. For myself, having been afraid of disappointment, I have fallen into the opposite fault. Still, all is not lost. In thanking you for having sent me to the missions, very Reverend Brother, I have real cause to do so. All unworthy as I believe myself of such a vocation, I am more and more convinced that it is for this that God has given me being and existence, and I ask for nothing more than to finish my days in the place where Providence and obedience send me.
Since we parted I have spent half the time on Rotuma and the other half in Samoa, where I am now. The time has been good, more or less. Difficulties are scarcely lacking. I must confess I have myself been the cause of my miseries. At present I am very well, but the only Brother on Savai. There are 4 priests with a number of stations. This year Monsignor has assigned me particularly to Lealatele with Fr Belteau and Fr Garnier from Marlhes. Since I have been here I have seen 8 priests follow on, one after the other, and at present I am awaiting yet another replacement.
When a Brother changes houses in France it is like passing from one room to the one next to it. It is nothing like that here. You have to change customs, ways of doing things, your way of life, pull apart what you have sometimes made months before with a lot of effort to put together again, at times in a more ridiculous or useless way, to undo again for whoever comes next. And as I am quite free with my complaints I often make a lot of trouble for the one I am with. But with the number of changes I find myself becoming more contrary, to the extent that those who knew me before find me quite different. And certainly, for one who has a mind inclined to judge even what is not my concern, I find myself going more and more to the bad, and unworthy of the graces which I have a continually growing need for.
My occupations are many and varied. However, the strong and robust health I enjoyed has been much diminished. Still, this year I am quite well.
Outside mealtimes I live here almost alone, occupied now with one task, now with another. The Brothers must know all trades, practicing one at one time, another at another, without giving preference to any one, according to the requirements of obedience. But you ask me, very reverend Brother, how one can practise a trade one has never learnt. It appears, very Reverend Br Superior, that when one crosses the equator one receives the grace of state to do anything when obedience demands it. That is what happened with the Father Superior of the station where I am. He had a problem with his legs and when he represented to Monsignor that the post was very hard on his legs, His Lordship replied, you have the stations and you will visit them. That is an order. And by accepting the challenge he received the grace of knowing how to ride a horse, even one that was difficult to handle.
I don’t see very much of my very dear confreres on Upolu. I haven’t yet made the acquaintance of dear Br Abraham. Br Charise is very often ill. Br Jacques is still strong and very fit for work but he is also getting on.
The mission continues to make new progress. Protestantism, after a long time in the ascendancy, is on the decline, and truth is triumphing over falsehood.
These are my spiritual exercises, very Reverend Brother Superior. I go to confession every 15 days, sometimes more frequently. I receive holy communion usually on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I have always recited my office of Lauds, although badly. In the evenings, after supper, I say 2 rosaries, the second of St Joseph. I make my examen in the evening in the church which is only a few steps away, and in spirit, as I can hardly see enough to read. On Sundays I spend most of my day in the church. I avoid as much as I can all contact with the natives who are very importunate. But the Samoans are alright in general, especially where I am. There are a great number of baptized. Everyday they come together from late afternoon to nightfall to pray in common in Samoan, and we finish with a spiritual reading.
For the rest, a Brother in Oceania is so busy and so often obliged to change or interrupt a task to do it, that he often massacres his exercises. In the mornings I get up at 4 o’clock. It is daylight at 5. And in the evenings I am usually in bed by 9. There is plenty of time for meditation, but I tell everyone I hardly ever succeed in making it in our wretched climate. As I sometimes say, the best cure would be a big bowl of coffee. I am usually so overcome by fatigue that to say a Pater or an Ave I am obliged two or three times to start again and then I no longer know where I am. And it’s the same every day of the year.
You see, Very Reverend Br Superior, how greatly I need you to recommend me to the fervent public prayers of all those whom the divine will has made submissive to your authority.
I am, with profound respect and entire submission, My very Reverend Brother Superior, your very humble and very obedient servant.
Brother Lucien

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