Br Joseph-Xavier to Fr Poupinel, Villa Maria, 25 February 1872
At the beginning of 1872 Bataillon was still in Sydney. Louis Padel who had accompanied him on the voyage from Wallis was returning there, while Isidore Grezel was going back to France with the bishop for reasons of health. The party would also include Louis-Francois Sentis, the French consul, who lived in the Hunters Hill area and had been a good friend of the Marists (Hosie 131). Bataillon must have been staying at St Patrick’s while awaiting his ship, as this was where he welcomed the school brothers when they landed on February 26. Brothers Ludovic, Jarlath, Peter, and Augustinus had travelled from London with three Marist priests. Two of them, both Irish, had sailed from Melbourne to New Zealand, while the third, a Frenchman, Joseph Le Forestier, was destined for Sydney, though he later left the Society.
News from France and Rome was uniformly bad at this time. France had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Prussia; the emperor had been taken prisoner and a republic declared. Paris had suffered two dreadful sieges, one from the Prussians, and the other from a national army seeking to end the Paris Commune. In its last stages, in May 1871, the extremists among the Communards had shot a number of hostages, including the archbishop and many priests, and set fire to part of the city. In July, King Victor Emmanuel had set himself up in the papal palace on the Quirinal in Rome, and introduced into the rest of Italy measures against the Church already in force in his kingdom of Piedmont. With anti-clerical governments in power in both France and a united Italy, French Catholics had little to rejoice about. The situation was, of course, interpreted by many as divine punishment for sin, and numerous warnings and prophecies of disaster were associated with a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in France, the latest being those at Pontmain in the Midwest which had taken place on 17 January 1871, only five days after the defeat of Mons. Louis-Marie was to devote three circulars between June 1874 and January 1876 to themes arising from the Pontmain apparitions (rf CSG 5: 5-188).
Changes were taking place at Villa Maria too. Joseph makes reference in this letter  to the ‘old Villa Maria.’ This was the original foundation on Tarban Creek in 1847. The place had not been sold when the procure moved to its current site in 1864, and was thus available as a residence for the first Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions when they came to Sydney in 1867. After they departed in 1870, it became the home of Marie de la Merci and her two Futunians.
This translation was made from a photocopy of the original in the APM (OP 418.1).
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- I don’t need to give you any news. His Lordship the bishop of Enos and Father Grezel will tell you everything you might be interested in. Mgr consecrated 30 altar stones for us this morning. The ceremony was a long one. You will hear that Mr Sentis is also leaving with the mail boat. It is likely that you will be seeing him again during the year. Father Padel is very happy to be returning to Wallis and he will finish his beautiful church.
- I have received everything that Father Yardin was generous enough to send me. I thank him for all the trouble that this has caused him and I thank you also yourself for what you have done for me. I am annoyed that they forgot the [….] for 4 candle stocks. If you can send them as soon as possible so they can be used at Corpus Christi. I am very happy with the candlesticks. But it is vexing that one of them is broken. It would be good to replace it with another.
- We expect the brothers tomorrow. They arrived in Melbourne 4 or 5 days ago. The priest will come later. We are still awaiting news from France and Rome. No one knows how it will all end up. According to the prophecies, there will be great disasters. May the good God soften the blow.
- Everyone is well at the procure except for Brother Emery who is worn out. It is the same at the old Villa Maria. The Sister has just remarked that she prefers the other seasons to Lent. Many would be of the same opinion. Still, one does not get sick from too much fasting. You know what the fast is like at Villa Maria.
- I would like to have been able to send you 2 or 3 mats. But as our travelers didn’t want to be responsible for them, I am putting them aside for later. It will be when I send a box of various curiosities to my sister.
- Continue, my rev Father, to pray to the good God for me. I am always in need of it, and I still desire your return to Sydney. Let me know if you have seen my sister, and if you see the doctor, tell him to think about his salvation, that if death comes to surprise him as it did his brother-in-law, he would find himself well trapped.
Goodbye, my Reverend Father, and believe me to be always your very devoted and obedient servant,
- Luzy Br J.X.
- I am not writing to Marboz. I haven’t the energy and I have nothing to tell them.
- Joseph has here the word ‘resors’ which does not feature in any dictionary. It is probably a transliteration, but it is impossible to find a word which fits the context.
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