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Br Aristide to Br Louis-Marie, Conception, 1 February 1868



This is the only one of three letters Aristide wrote to St Genis-Laval between February 1867 and February 1868 to have survived. It is presumably the one Louis-Marie mentions in his letter to Poupinel of the following January (L 195). Since, from various reports, the brother was unable to write, it may be assumed the letter was written on his behalf.

From his arrival in New Caledonia in March 1860, Aristide was more or less permanently stationed at La Conception near Port-de-France, where he worked at his tailoring and was in charge of the house. But his health was not good – he suffered badly from rheumatism – and he found the lack of a confrere in community hard to bear. It is probable that Germanique might have joined him had he come back to the mission, but he had gone back to France instead (rf L 166). According to Poupinel, Aristide had been thinking of returning to France himself as early as 1864, but this letter reveals that he was now hoping for a transfer to a community in a more congenial climate, such as the one newly established at the Cape of Good Hope [3].

Apart from his personal trials, Aristide also shared the concerns of the other Marists for their beleaguered mission. In 1864 the administration had charged Forestier with selling weapons to the Christian natives, with Rougeyron and Aristide as accomplices. At the trial in Port-de-France, the charge of possession was dismissed, but they were found guilty of complicity in sales and given a hefty fine. Poupinel advised them to pay, expecting a refund from the government once the facts were known. He dispatched Forestier back to France to put the case for the mission, and the following year Governor Guillain was forced to refund them and return the confiscated weapons (Delbos 51). But he continued to make life very difficult for the Marists and their converts until his return to France in March 1870.

Aristide must have received a reassuring reply from his superior general since Rougeyron reports the following year that he was more settled. But it was not until 1875 that he was able to transfer to a community of his own brothers at Paita.

This translation was made from the original, or a copy, in the correspondence from the New Caledonia file in the APM. Louis-Marie must have communicated it to Favre or Yardin.

Text of the Letter

Very dear Brother,
It is a year since I wrote to you to let you know all my little problems and place myself at the disposal of our superiors to post me elsewhere if they judged it useful for the salvation of my soul. Whether my letter did not reach you or your occupations prevented you from replying, I have received no news from you since.
I am coming again, therefore, to share with you my inmost thoughts. It is not the little hardships we have here which cause me worry. These hardships are the same everywhere and I would be annoyed to be delivered from something I am reconciled to. I find that one is happy when judged by God worthy of wearing part of his crown of thorns. What depresses me is the almost total lack of any spiritual help. I am, so to speak, reduced to my own resources. My isolation is such that, apart from the Fathers, I have no one to whom I can confide my inmost thoughts. Brothers Bertrand, Therese, and I are so far from one another that we scarcely see one another once every 3 or 4 years. If the spirit of community could be lost, it would infallibly be lost. But if not lost, it becomes weak, and this is my experience. Up until now I had hopes of seeing the other teaching brother of our community come here, but I see I must give up that idea. Things are going very badly and there is such great opposition to the mission that things can only go from bad to worse.
So, my dear Brother, I have recourse to you to ask you to give me a change. All the same, I feel I cannot return to France. I have become used to hot countries and could not live anywhere else. But you can very well send me to the Cape or elsewhere, provided it has a hot climate.
I have spoken of all this to the Provicar. I told him everything I was thinking. He replied that if you were to write giving me a change of posting, whatever it may be, he would go along with it. On the strength of the letter, which should be addressed to me and which I would then communicate to him, he would send me, at the mission’s expense, it is understood, wherever you wish. Thus, my very dear Brother, all depends on you now. The matter is in your hands. I hope that your devotedness to us all will not be lacking in my regard. While waiting, I will certainly pray that God will give you light and me the strength to persevere to the end.
Accept, my dear Brother, my very affectionate respect.
(PS.) Apart from the letter I told you about at the beginning, I have written you one other since. I fear you have not received it.

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