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6 August 1840. — Bishop Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier to Father Pierre Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, March-April 2012

To Reverend Father Colin senior / Superior of the novitiate of the priests of Mary, / No. 4 St Barthelémy Rise, / Lyon / France

J(esus) M(ary) J(oseph)

St Mary’s Mission, New Zealand, Bay of Islands

6 August 1840

Reverend and beloved Father
The peace of Christ be with you.
I only have time to write you a few lines in haste. But if I could write you only three lines, I would do so anyway. How often has your kind memory been present to me in prayer! I can only speak to him about you, but it is hard for me to speak to you about him and his works in these countries so far away. Even my correspondence about matters concerning necessities and administration is suffering. Alas! How overwhelming and yet consoling is the work here! I know not what is the heavier – the crosses or the consolations! You must have received a lot of news about this mission – that is what consoles me about my silence. I am sure as well that you pray a lot for all of us and our work, and that you get others to pray a lot. Yes, let us more and more become servants of Jesus and Mary, and without our writing very often, we will hear each other well, and we will tell each other many things which long letters could not contain! Pray, and get others to pray very much for me, who am overwhelmed by a burden of dignity and responsibility in the sight of our Lord and his holy Church, our mother.
Today I am writing to you so that you might discuss things with Reverend Father General, your brother, to whom I have often written, and who, I know, is very busy. Point out to the missionaries and catechists when they are about to go on board ships on their way to the missions, not to arouse controversies about religious matters while dining with passengers, not to get involved in or nourish these sorts of conversations which usually arouse pride among those present without any benefit for the faith. That’s not the place to discuss holy things; that’s the place for honesty, civility and good education. Observing their rules gives a much more beneficial impression than arguments. I know that Reverend Father Tripe wrote a letter to someone in the Society. I think, if I recall correctly, it was to Reverend Father Terraillon; he said in it that the decks of naval vessels are hostile to the religious spirit.
Yes, it is true that the worldly spirit is at least as bad at sea as on land. But take any vessel you wish, it will be at least the same as on naval vessels. Everywhere, with experience and savoir-faire, you can do a lot of good. Certainly for that to happen, priests and catechists need what a foreign mission demands: virtues not yet fully developed, but virtues that are strong, solid, with good judgment and strong union with God, and then very much commend to him the souls among whom he lives, so that if he cannot gain for them anything supernatural or their conversion to God, he can easily gain for them natural benefits, such as esteem, affection and honesty, if one can indeed achieve that. I am very keen that we always use naval vessels dispatching men to the mission; it’s a great favour, a great saving for the mission; and as well, on these shores, it gives us prompt attention, which for several years has not been the case.
A mistake which should be immediately corrected on naval vessels, one which has just been committed, for lack of experience: our catechist Brothers were sat with the priests at the table of the officers, who are fairly well informed young men who often belong to the most prominent French families – their education is of a high level. Our Brothers, who although because of their status as religious are high in the sight of God, are not in civilian terms equal in rank and education to them; they can sometimes even arouse criticism from the young men who are already fairly inclined to do that in everything concerning religion; it would be better if our Brothers did not dine with the priests and the others; if they dined at the following sitting, with the men assigned to crewing the vessel. On the one hand you have religious work in the eyes of God and of the Church, on the other, all the ranks of society and the ship’s company. Besides, for us humility is more precious than all the attitudes of this world. Beloved Father, there you have what I am confiding to you, so you can remedy the situation in future. My greetings in Our Lord and in his most holy Mother, to Reverend Fathers Girard, Déclas, Jallon, Champagnat[1], Terraillon etc etc. How many there are whose memory is very dear to me, either in the Society or beyond the Society! How mortified I am at not being able to reply to several people, being like a soldier on the battlefield, finding it impossible to pick up a pen to write with. May God scatter abundant blessings on you and on them. May our love for J(esus) C(hrist) and his beloved souls keep on growing more and more in our hearts. May his divine service and the work for his flock, may his love consume our strength, our hearts and all our being! May the Cross be our consolation and our life; may it be the weapon of victory on our hands, and that one day, when we fall from exhaustion in struggles for the Lord, it will hold up our drooping heads and receive our last breath… “I will spend and be spent”[2] etc, etc, etc.
With how much consolation did I learn that Father Teraillon had finally left his parish to definitively enter the dear Society which numbered him from the beginning among its first members! Make a point of conveying to him our congratulations. Might Oceania claim him as well, with you and happiness!
I have been informed that Father Cholleton, respectable and so dear Father Cholleton, always had not only his heart in the Society of Mary, but, as well, wanted to enter the ranks of its militia and share our works, after having so much favoured them. With what delight did I receive such news!
I have at last found out that the administration of the diocese of Lyons had, by authority of the Holy See, experienced a change, which replaced His Grace Archbishop de Pins, full of years and even more of merits and so worthy of the gratitude, respect and affection of the whole diocese of Lyons, by His grace Archbishop de Bonald, whom I have the honour to know only through a most distinguished reputation. I am certain that His Lordship will have the same fatherly attitude towards us and the whole Society of Mary as had His Grace Archbishop de Pins, and that this dear Society will continue to flourish under the protection of that illustrious Archbishop. I beg Father Superior-General or you, well beloved Father, to present my respectful homage to His Grace Archbishop de Bonald. Pray sincerely for us in J(esus) and M(ary).
Your affectionate and devoted
+ François, Bishop, vic(ar) ap(ostolic) of West(ern) Oc(eania)


  1. Father Champagnat had died, unknown to Pompallier, exactly two months earlier - translator’s note
  2. Cf Corinthians 12:15: “I am perfectly willing to spend what I have, and to be expended in the interests of your souls.”

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