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7 March 1841 —Father Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean to Mr Auguste Paillasson, his brother-in law, Whangaroa

Translated by Mary Williamson, July 2019 See an alternate translation here

Based on the document sent, APM Z 208.

Four sheets of paper sewn together to form sixteen written pages. In the same dossier APM, there is also a shortened copy prepared for the Count of Detours; according to this copy, the recipient would be the author’s brother-in-law, Auguste Paillasson, whose full name would be found in his letter of 11th December 1841 (cf. doc. 118, § 42). Some extracts from this letter have been published in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, 14 (1842), 205f.

For Mr Paillasson notary.
New Zealand, Wangaroa, [1] mission of the Epiphany, 7th March 1841.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.

My dear brother,
I have received the letters, the first that have been addressed to me in New Zealand; two from you, my dear brother, one dated 21st September 1839, the other 10th December of the same year. Fathers Pezan and Tripe brought them; one from my sister Antoinette dated 5th January 1840; one from our Carmelite dated 6th January. These letters roused in me all the emotions that I felt on leaving France, I believed I could once again see and have to leave my family; when these letters were given to me I did not open them immediately, but I deferred the reading of them so as to do it in a chapel in private at the foot of a modest altar dedicated to Saint François Xavier. I wanted to be alone with God to expose myself to all the impressions of his soul, I wanted to be like Joseph retiring to his apartment to weep for his brothers. [2] I will admit to you, I have often wiped away my tears and these tears were the expression of a very gentle sentiment, when I thought about little Angèle praying for her sick mother so as to bring down on this mother the attention of Mary, who would thus grant the first fruits of her poor heart and her lips, poor little child, please believe thus in the devotion of Mary, all the days of your life, do not cease to pray for your Uncle who is in New Zealand. When I was reading all the various details concerning the death and funeral arrangements of your father, my very dear relative, I felt my heart beating violently and I did not tire of repeating to myself these words which are like a refrain for the death of the just: Pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum ejus, [3] Truly my friend, what an example your father leaves to us and to all those who have known him; it is, my brother, a very united witness to the immense crowd of happy people that Saint Paul represents to us gliding, so to speak, above us and crying out to us to march in their footsteps towards the homeland.
I have only addressed two letters to France, one to yourself and the other to Mr Page, one of your friends, both dated 11th March 1840. Please forgive, my brother, please forgive with your usual kindness, the delay, which you might at first qualify as forgetfulness. Here we are overwhelmed with occupations and as if continually distracted. How fast this year has flown past for me! I would be happy if it had been as fruitful as it has been speedy in flowing by and that this first year could be envisaged as beginnings, destined to sanctify the years or moments that remain for me to pass in New Zealand. I have addressed this letter to you, rather even than to my dear and venerable Superior, to console you, or rather to console all of us together, amidst the pain and crosses that heaven has sent you. My dear brother, amidst all these troubles, with myself also surrounded with difficulties and trials, what salutary lesson to extract for our instruction? The following, that we have to pass through a thousand tribulations to reach the kingdom of Heaven. Here, it is true, we do not have the death of a single colleague to lament; the Lord conserves our lives and our health in an admirable manner. Ours are the sufferings of another kind. We never cease to be the but of slander; we have had published against our Bishop and his missionaries things quite devoid of the truth, yet these things have gained ground amongst a people who are childlike and attribute a certain degree of trust to their masters. It is said that we have come to take the lands of the natives; that they will receive the price for it in advance with distributions of clothing and other objects; that our religion or our nation (for our enemies confuse the two things) is quarrelsome, turbulent, eager to spread blood; that we are worshipers of idols, worshiping images made by man; that previously we had three young men thrown into the fire for having refused to offer divine honours to a statue (this is about the story in the old testament of three children being thrown into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar ). [4] In one tribe the Bishop was called upon to sign himself as antichrist, because that tribe only knew him as yet by this name. Here, my brother, the angelic virtue of the clergy is dragged in the mud. I heard with my own ears a New Zealander say to me coldly; you do not have wives, do you, you are eunuchs and as he did not know the meaning of the word, he used the comparison that had been used to persuade him that that was what we were: You are, he said to me, like our neutered pigs. When I said that the virtue of chastity is dragged in the mud, was I exaggerating? We will not mention a thousand other hurtful conversations, for instance that we hand back to the natives their sins for the price of their money, this being a reference to alms that the priests, in the exercising of the most sublime of ministries, sometimes impose on penitents for the appeasement of their sins. Now to wish to demand from these poor New Zealanders, who are a people of beggars par excellence, the least of alms, is the most ridiculous and the most offensive thing in the world for them. Whilst our conscience and our works provide our slanderers with the most formal of denials, we suffer, we tire of refuting, but the slanders do not slow down; they are ingenious to finding something new. I wanted to shut the mouth of one of these Protestant ministers. I demanded an explanation from him for some incorrect statements that he had uttered, against my country and the holy church, my mother. I wrote to him; for fear of compromising myself, he let my porters leave without any response. He came to see me when there was no one at home. Solicited by the natives on both sides, I went to the minister’s home accompanied by some of the highest ranking chiefs. At first he refused to speak to the gathering that awaited him, seated on the shore. Forced to stand up for himself and to speak, even though he tried to excuse himself on the grounds of his wife’s illness, he paled and even flatly denied everything that an assembled tribe had heard come from his own mouth and it is from this statement that I resolved to write to this gentleman, believing that he would thus have to rectify such a great scandal. That interview became a veritable conference of which I hoped the success would have some salutary consequences.
The district in which I carry out the holy ministry is to the North-East [5] and stretches from this bay to the river called Orourou [6] which you will see written on the charts as Odoudou, which is a mistake, the New Zealanders not having a sound that relates to our D. When marking the distance from the Bay of Islands to Wangaroa, the main site of my residence, I made a mistake, exaggerating it by more than half. You can see on the chart the distance that I have to cover to give some tribes instruction, who are, it is true, few in number, well spread out and often moving about. On the ground, we generally have only muddy footpaths, steep, very narrow and often buried beneath the ferns. It has happened that I end up in the evening, after a fairly long tramp, at some empty huts; in such a case it is not difficult to find a bed but one has to put up with hunger. Sometimes there are fast-flowing streams with very slippery rocks to cross; I have seen tribes evangelised by our other brothers obstinately refuse me the crossing of a very narrow river in their canoe; is this the charity that their masters teach them? The day of Saint Scholastic [7] 1841, towards 10 o’clock at night, I was climbing some steep rocks, searching for a path; I had below me a raging sea, it only needed one false step to fall. I climb with courage, I struggle against the ferns and bushes, I proceed against all hope, I am burning with thirst. I sing a hymn at this time: I place my confidence, holy Virgin, in your help and hardly had I uttered these words than I saw the path open up before me. Certainly these are not miracles to be repeated; but I can attest that on this occasion and others, having found myself very anxious and perplexed, then having said my prayer to Mary, I have been saved from my suffering and I have felt in the depths of my heart a lively sense of joy and gratitude towards the august protector of our mission.
The risks of our voyages by sea, I can say, are not without danger. They are made in light small craft or in the canoes of the natives. When the wind is strong, there is a risk of being submerged. One day, I was crossing a river about half a league wide in a canoe in poor condition; whilst the others paddled, my job was to bail out water with a boot, so that we would not capsize with the force of the water that the wind constantly pushed against us. Here I could recount some very touching things about one of our Fathers, the Reverend Father Servant, saved from death by the very special protection of Mary. I know that he had been more than a day in a canoe without food, carried out almost into the open sea, amidst rocks and with two men who were tired of rowing and who were discouraged and losing hope. The craft that had transported one of our Fathers, the reverend Chevron, to the tropics, had run such a risk of being smashed against the rocks of an island that the natives of that island expected that at any moment it would run aground and they would seize their prey. This boat had been between salvation and being shipwrecked for such a long time, the crisis so prolonged, that they were prepared for death, the priest administered the sacrament of penitence yet nevertheless today, on these islands, this same Father peacefully presents the gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh the fatherly providence of Jesus for those that he sends. Just as our ministry is a participation in the apostolic ministry, so the remarkable protection that heaven accords us is an extension of the singular privileges of the power with which Jesus protects his apostles in letting them know the signs that should accompany their progress, Signa autem eos qui crediderint hac sequentur. [8] An observation made by the natives themselves is that the Catholic tribes are protected in life, even their bodies, in quite a special manner, the cases of death are very rare among them in comparison with the heretic tribes. So it is this same providence that covers both the pastors and their flock. Ah! my brother, turn our eyes, damp with tears, towards this Tonkking, this Cochin China so dreadfully persecuted, [9] here are some atheists to whom one can apply everything that Saint Paul said, referring to those who have been highly ranked for their works for the faith. My dear brother read chapter XI of the epistle to the Hebrews. [10] And that indefatigable Bishop in Africa, His Lordship Dupucch [11] in whom Augustin and his most courageous colleagues seemed to live again. Truly his letters are so animated; they resemble reports made by an army general after an expedition. I have nothing to regret with my dear colleagues and our venerable bishop who radiates the most perfect devotion.
My sister asks me many questions, how is my bed, how is my food, etc. I am going to try and find an answer to some of them.
For my sleeping arrangements, I have a webbing bed with the same mattress that I used during the voyage. That is for inside. When I am out on a campaign, I have the bed of a soldier of Jesus Christ, the ground softened up a little with some ferns or some marsh plants; on this I rest peacefully in my clothes, wrapped in a blanket or my overcoat. Rather than sleep in the huts where there are women, I go outside and sleep under the stars. Sometimes I have slept quite comfortably on the sand by the sea. One suffers greatly from the insects; apart from those that smell bad, all is well. My everyday food is pork and potatoes, one day pork and potatoes and the next day potatoes and pork. Since the Sunday of the Quinquagesima [12] my salt pork supply is finished. I am endlessly eating potatoes. I was almost afraid that no one would bring me any to buy, as in previous years; they are very scarce in my canton. Pigs are very dear; a 200 pound pig will cost you at least 2 pounds, or 50 francs. For my desert I cheerfully spear a few grains of corn cooked in water. One day, finding myself in the home of an honest Protestant and chatting with him in a friendly fashion, he listed for me all his provisions: You have plenty of rice and flour? Oh no, I said to him, my provisions are very low, I have very little rice and I don’t eat bread. I added: You can see that I am poor, but we find this poverty honourable. It is the same poverty that the apostles suffered. The main portion of the charitable donations that come to us from France is destined for good works, to the advancement of God’s work. The Protestant missionaries function very differently; they think of themselves first, they lack for nothing and the surplus is for the mission and as well they make a profit out of their books, bibles and other things.
In the bottom of a jar I have the remains of some very rancid fat that I preciously guard in case I have to receive some stranger or a high chief. In this case, our good Brother [13] will quickly manage to produce some fritters. Wine is not an essential item. I have just enough for holy mass. Tea is the common drink for the white people but I can willingly give it up and find more pleasure in drinking water. Later on we will be much better situated; our dear Brother, named Brother Elie, by the simple use of his hands, is cultivating an area of soil; he congratulated himself on the success of his first year; he now has some melons and a few vegetable plants. In his garden he is beginning to have a farmyard with quite a few animals. Elsewhere, amongst the tribes, my food consists of ordinary potatoes or sweet potatoes, called koumara, and sometimes fish. Still, our natives do not have a great amount of this produce; they sell most of their harvest of potatoes to obtain clothes. They have never served me pork. With these people the earth serves as table and chairs; they rarely eat inside their huts. One has to watch our for the approach of pigs and dogs. Sometimes they have put a small stick in my hand; thus with one hand I took some food, the other was continually on the alert to keep away troublesome marauders. The dishes or plates are small baskets or simply leaves. The house I live in Whangaroa is built of wood. The walls are made of course pieces of wood (what we call “ecoins”), joined together then raised up together. It is I who have helped cut down the trees that serve as beams. I even carried them on my shoulders. Half of this house, which is about 30 feet by 15, is finished with planks inside and this part I have destined to be a temporary chapel. For the moment this work has been suspended as the mission finds itself in great need; planks sell for up to 25 shillings for 100 feet. Although my habitation may be poor, I like it and I foresee I will have to make a sacrifice when my superiors call me to other places. So much the better, this will be an asset for the future. So, my dear brother, the apostolic life and the religious life joined together deprive man at every moment and teach him to accept death when the final hour sounds and the eternal Father calls him to be judged. My kitchen is a roof of thatch or swamp plants held up by 4 posts. My poor chapel has been, up till now, a simple thatched cottage and nevertheless Jesus comes down often, at the sound of the voices of his priests and this reminds him, this loving Jesus, of the image of his dear Bethlehem. My relaxation after my meal is running a school that I have for people of the tribe in whose midst I find myself. Here, how the tasks for a priest multiply, the temporal care of the house, the care of personal clothing, that of the sacristy and above all the care of souls. There is not much to expect of the New Zealanders, interesting though they may be. Oh! When will a greater number of Brothers come to us from France! What a wonderful help some good Brothers would be to the mission, what a relief for a priest. A continual suffering in my heart is to have to continually brush aside the demands of the New Zealanders without being able to satisfy them. Nevertheless, it seems to me that after all the sacrifices that we have made, I would tear out my two eyes for the salvation of these poor people. If I was able to accompany my spiritual visits with a few benefits, such as taking a little sugar or flour for their sick people, I would much more easily have the key to their hearts. But anyhow, let us console ourselves, cast ourselves into God’s hands; the mission finds itself in such great difficulties uniquely because it seems that it is the hand of God that sustains it. Three months ago, an English warship resolved to support the missionaries of their nation who were not being sufficiently listened to or perhaps whose rights had been infringed upon in Tonga Tapu. [14]. The fact was that this ship, called la Favorite, suffered a defeat and lost her captain. The newspapers named the rebels the devil’s party.
The area that I frequent most of the time after Whangaroa is Mangonui, [15] and our religious affairs are more advanced there than in Whangaroa, at least among the Europeans. Full of confidence in God, who is in charge of hearts, and with confidence in the authority that the legitimacy of our ministry gives us, I presented to the inhabitants of this bay, of whom most are Protestants, a list for subscriptions for a Catholic church to be built in the bay. I went around the houses and up till now, almost in one single day, I gathered 53 pounds (₤ sterling) and there are 15 - 20 subscribers on my list. Here are people whose generosity I praise. It must be said, my dear brother, the English in such undertakings are very honourable. I must add, for the glory of God in his legitimate ministers, that the Protestant ministers had attempted the same manoeuvre but without any success. To carry out the pious scheme of a church at Mangonui, it would be suitable and even necessary for the Bishop to contribute and at the moment I know that we are extremely short of money. Now, my brother, to give you an idea of my apostolic excursions, here are some excerpts of a diary of a voyage that I wrote a while ago and that are already well out of date.
On Thursday 26 November I went down the Whangaroa river to visit a poor unwell woman. I had taken some provisions: Some salted pork, some corn cobs, no potatoes, they were too scarce then. I had travelling in my craft, besides my two boys, three natives with whom I would also have to share my provisions which were, nevertheless, so essential for me and would later be in short supply. That is not surprising. Another time, when about to depart and when I was having a modest breakfast, along came a chief who demanded his share, without considering that on my trip my small boys and myself would perhaps suffer greatly from hunger. One must have for these people, otherwise so interesting, the same attitude as for children. The family of this ill woman who I was having to visit were so destitute or so lazy that they did not have the tiniest shelter to offer me to spend the night. The first night I wiped off the rain; the second, I constructed for myself a small tent with the sail of my craft. A similar construction seen in France would have been regarded as a coffin covered with a sheet. I prepared this woman for death as best I could. I also had the consolation of baptising an infant who I called Marc. It is a real consolation to give to my newborns some family name and to thus produce around me fond images of my relatives and friends. The name of Auguste has not yet been given. A choice of names for these people is very difficult and it often happens that a name transposed into their language loses its beauty because the Maori language never has two consonants that follow each other in the same word.
On Saturday morning the 28th [16] with the sky promising a fine day, I resolved, following my plan, to set out by sea to take myself to Mangonui; The wind was favourable except towards the evening, when we had to row against the tide, which was against us. I used an oar energetically myself; following my example and my verbal encouragement, I urged on my boys. Finally, with courage, we rounded a rocky point and found ourselves in shelter in the total calm of evening. It was night when I reached the small tribe called Wai Awa in Mangonui, amongst whom I had planned to find lodgings so as to proceed from there, as my hub, to visit the numerous tribes scattered around the large bay of Mangonui. The fires of the natives served me as a compass. I called out; they knew my voice. Epikopo, someone called out, it is the epikopo (that is what they called the Bishop from the Latin episcopo; by extension they had given this name to priests, even though their proper name was ariki. More commonly, even our faithful were for a long time known by this name; nevertheless, the name of the apostolic Roman Catholic church is beginning to take over.) I took possession of my little shelter. I said a prayer for the natives. I prepared something to eat. My children were overcome with sleep. Remembering to which master I belonged, who I had come to serve, I called them and served them. When I was alone, I gathered myself together for a few moments to thank God for the hospitable roof that his goodness had prepared for me by the hands of a pious Catholic. I offered up to God my works in this part of our mission. In our weary state and in the heat of the day, we had been at sea without a supply of fresh water. Eating salt pork, fresh water was in itself of great benefit for my burning limbs. A peaceful sleep managed to rebuild my strength. On 29th, I went to the home of a European Catholic to celebrate the blessed mysteries and to give to the Catholics of the area the advantage of sharing in the holy mass and towards evening, despite the urging of the European, I returned to my humble hut. Freedom and the wish to be amongst my natives, the fear of overstaying with this excellent European, everything pushed me to take this step. Also I had another fear. Passing the night in the home of a white person a few weeks previously, the drunkenness of the master of the house made me take flight at 11 0’clock at night and I was left wandering in the woods looking for a safe haven. It is horrible to see an excess of drunkenness; these orgies, this state of abasement sometimes lasts 8 days, 2,3 weeks in a row during which time one wonders from time to time if such a person is ever sober. On Monday, I went again to the home of the European to beg for an old chest that I had spotted, wishing to make a throne for the King of Kings; and on Tuesday 30th, [17] I began my visits amongst the tribes, most of them generally Protestants in these areas. Koou Marou to the East of Mangonui was the first place I visited; having met three native Catholics there, I was overjoyed within myself, remarking that even in our little district the great church of Rome has its own place. To this tribe as with the others, I wished to show them the priest at the altar and generally they were impressed and stood in a respectful silence. When I had completed the noble sacrifice, these people asked me to show them my priestly garments again, I admired their simplicity when seeing an old vestment decorated on both sides, on one side with white braiding and on the other with very ordinary and very dull gold. They said on one side it is silver and on the other gold and as they did not know silver or gold except in cash, they said, here are shillings and here are pounds, his garment is all covered with money. In many circumstances I am annoyed to find myself without another person who could, with me, admire the simplicity and ingenuity of the simple folk. In this same tribe, I had the occasion to see two natives arguing in the way of their countrymen; the two opponents were each in front of their own house making threatening movements, coming and going within a certain space, striking their thighs from time to time. They were separated by a river. The chief carried out the function of a justice of the peace and I heard him say to the younger man, E koro kia iti iti to ou korero. Young man, keep your oratory brief, brief. I would need many pages to describe these very interesting scenes, the spectacle would be well paid-for in Europe. On Thursday 3rd, [18] I went back up the Orourou river. I did not stay long in this settlement, the natives were away working their gardens somewhere else. From there, going back down this same river, I arrived at Tahipa [19] where I found a large group of the natives who had been absent from Orourou. There I baptised the infant of a white person with the agreement of the parents that he would be raised in the Catholic religion. I saw the chief who I had been looking for at Oruru. [20] His wife and several other people said that they were Catholics, he himself seemed to me very indifferent. His people are Protestants. It was something to see, in particular these poor young people speaking a lot about the bible (they had in their hands the new testament translated by some missionaries, Anglican, Methodists or other). They thought they could find everything in there, even the invention of firearms - which they attributed to Jesus Christ. Poor young people, yet again they were ignorant of the primary truths of Christianity, even the most educated were strangers to this idea: One single God, with three people in God. Jesus Christ is the son of God made man; and yet their masters have been in New Zealand for more than twenty years. I would have left there in a hurry, if it were not for a poor ill woman whose salvation I had at heart. But what more could I do to enlighten this soul? I was not able to approach the sick woman. If I did that, they would shout at me. How I suffered. Finally, after having seen her two or three times on the sly, so to speak, and trying to gain her confidence with small services and having repeated to her the essential truths alone, without witnesses, I poured onto her forehead a few drops of holy water and uttered the words of baptism without her being aware and left immediately, recommending her soul to God. These people have the habit of abandoning their sick people. Sometimes they refuse them food * [Note added by the author at the bottom of the page] when they think that they must certainly die of this illness.] on the pretext that they are stranded without resources; all that they do is to make their bed reasonably comfortable; after that, that is all. They believe that their god is eating away their sick person. This way to speaking is so familiar to them that they sort out in this way the types of death of different people. This one, they say, died during a war from a shot, the other one was eaten away by our god. That means that he died of a natural death.
On Saturday morning, I hastened on foot to an establishment called Parapara. Then I returned to my craft and set out to cross the large bay of Mangonui to arrive by sunset to see a tribe named Wai hari. It was a crossing of about three leagues. As the wind was very violent and the waves very high for our small craft that three people can easily drag along the shore, and as we could not easily see our landing place between two rocks, we let ourselves be carried along towards a coastline where we could see some natives. On seeing them I was comforted. A priest’s home territory is wherever there are some men to be converted, as long as he is legitimately sent there. I have noticed that my voyages never follow a straight line following my plans, but that the winds or other circumstances always disrupt my plans, even when I am aboard a small ship where I have been welcomed, so true is it that God directs everything and controls everything so as to carry out his grand designs for the consummation of his chosen ones. Quickly back to my subject: Here is our craft arrived on the sandy shore. Without hesitating I jump into the water to help my boys pull our boat out of the water. We were busy with this difficult task when I see a crowd of natives coming towards us; they are shouting. Then they get to work on us. Our boat was not yet on dry land, waves were still breaking against my legs and these people are demanding a reward. I beg them to wait; my tobacco is at the bottom of my trunk; my feet are in the water. Right now, they say to me; they insist; they almost menace me. Without fearing anything of their threats and thinking that a gentle expression was not suitable and only hearing my blood boiling in my veins: Are you going to cut my throat, I said to one of them. Here is my head. Strike if you wish, I am ready. Nothing more was needed to calm them down. They worked in their turn to calm me down. Leave me alone, I said to them, leave me in peace on this shore. Then I went towards the edge of a wood. Do not approach this place. It is a place that is tapu; here rest the bones of our fathers. At the same time they showed me another place; their hearts were becoming more and more adjusted to me. They showed themselves tending towards being obliging towards me. I distributed a few plugs of tobacco. However, I asked them to withdraw, promising to go and see them later. No, they said, we want to hear you, stay with you. In such circumstances my travelling companions do nothing for me, they do not dare to, they hide their heads under their blankets. I get a spark from my lighter, the fire lights up, then I move away a little to say my prayers on this shore which had been beaten by waves for so long before the arrival of priests. After having recited a part of my breviary, I rejoined my people. The chief of the area arrives. He asks to take my hand. His face was very open. He was listless. We went into the church. I showed them the true vine where Jesus Christ is depicted as the trunk and living permanently on earth in the person of his noble vicars the pontiffs of Rome. My speech made an impression on the chief and when, later on, I took leave of him: Listen, he said to me, I would willingly join with you if I had not already joined the missionaries that you know. He had some potatoes brought to me. I accepted them with gratitude towards him and especially towards God, our heavenly Father, who provides so well for the needs of his own. This first exchange having ended, I was led towards a small shelter where I spent the night. In this same place I made the acquaintance of a poor woman who said to me: My son and I, we have embraced your faith, I hope that the God of the Bishop will protect me better than all the others, for up till now I have had many misfortunes. In her face there was something good, simple, innocent. The same expressions distinguish our Catholics; in contrast, a wild, harsh, expression betrays those of other teachings. This is remarked on by strangers who as well, generally like much better dealing with the Catholic tribes than with others. The next day I set up a rustic altar to sanctify this land with the presence of Jesus Christ and immediately after a meal of potatoes, I reembarked for Wai Hari with a chief of that tribe who had come to find me. His expression was sad, because his searching eyes had not seen any clothing in my trunk. He was hoping no doubt to receive many gifts, and he was further away than the Samaritan of the scriptures [21] from knowing and desiring the faith of Jesus Christ and his holy love.
There, as everywhere else, I had many requests I had to brush away. One showed me his clothes is tatters; another his empty pipe. All these requests only made me sad, as alas, my resources do not correspond with the wishes of my heart. Some of them went as far as to threaten to change to the Protestant church. * [ Note from the author at the bottom of the page] These threats are only made to test us and are not sincere. It is their great hardship that makes them use every means possible to be able to obtain what they are asking for] Then I tried to show myself independent of them; I told them that I had no need of them and that they needed me to know and follow the truths that are the road to happiness. And nevertheless one must try not to extinguish the light that is still smouldering. My stay amongst these people was only for four days, during which I gathered together the children, teaching them some of the truths of the catechism. I promised to come back as soon as possible. They also promised me that they would respect my instructions. When I came to leave, I could not find my little axe, a tool necessary for chopping wood for the fire. You should have seen all these alarmed expressions, hurriedly searching for my axe, as if they feared being suspected of theft. They are extremely sensitive about this. Returning from Mangonui to Wai Awa, I sorted out some little matters and strengthened my people’s doctrines. The chief of this interesting tribe is very attached to us. He lives on the land of a European who is a Catholic. [22] Sooner or later, when greater numbers of white people arrive, he will be forced to withdraw into the interior, like many others. But at last I have reached my goal. Long before the arrival of the Bishop in New Zealand, noticing the large number of tribes that turned to the missionaries, he came to find the land owner who I have just spoken about, a man firmly attached to the Catholic faith and said to him, addressing him by his baptismal name: Thomas, you see everyone attracted to the missionaries and you do not join them. It is not my mission, said the European. Where is your mission then, asked the chief. In Europe, replied the Irish European. Later, when the Bishop came to New Zealand, he even came up to Mangonui: There, said the Irishman to the chief, there is my mission. That is very true, said the chief and immediately presented his children to the Bishop who baptised them. Having left this tribe, I went straight to my post in Whangaroa, where I arrived happily on Sunday evening, the 20th December.
Writing with little order to it and so as not to leave any empty pages, I am going to finish with one or two lines that will be able to describe things to you and enlighten you perhaps. Our natives have the habit of attributing to Satan everything that seems bad to them, even though it seems to happen fortuitously. One day a New Zealander was rowing in my craft; by accident, when pulling on his oars he fell over backwards. What he regretted most was not that he had hurt himself, but that he had involuntarily behaved indecently, having only a blouse on without pants, so everybody started to laugh and said to him seriously: It is the work of Satan. No hatana tenei of Satan this. On day I wished to introduce a lesson on the virtue of humility. A chief who I saw almost naked, both he and his children, said to me that he wished to earn some money to buy a horse and a small craft, that the tribes that did not have these two items would deserve to be accused of being slaves. Not knowing how to describe the virtue of humility which is of course necessary for salvation, I said to him that to be a perfect disciple of Jesus Christ, it was not necessary to aim thus for glory, for vain distinctions, but to proceed little by little. Straight away he exclaimed: It is God, he said, who proceeds slowly, who crawls along. That touched my heart, my thoughts turning to Jesus Christ, the most humble of children of man and the rest…. They describe as gods the little lizards which are the only reptiles that are seen in New Zealand and it is this god that the chief wished to signify. One day they wanted to set me right about my route, but did not know how to address me. They shouted: E mea! Epikopo! E Hehu Kerito! ma konei. O What’s his name! Bishop! Jesus Christ, that way. One day a group of natives were amusing themselves talking about an Englishman who was bald; they disliked it very much. This bald area, said one of them, is like a plate on his head, or a place ready to receive a plate, Kote takotoranga pereti tenei. But here, my brother, is something touching: These people were in the habit and many of them maintain it still, of cutting themselves with sea shells to make blood flow to mix it with their tears when someone of their own dies and I said to a woman: You should not disfigure yourself like that, you are covered in blood. What should I do then? Weep, I said to her, grieve like the foreigners. Ah, she said to me, tears are not enough for a loved one. Aoue! te tangi te eroimata kahore heoiano mo te aroha e ngari te toto. Alas, cries and tears are not enough for a loved one only blood. Ah, it is not enough to cry out and weep, One must spill blood to show real love. These words were fruitful to thoughts in the depths of my heart. It is there that they are written, not on paper.
The newspapers will inform you sufficiently about the arrival of the French in the South Island. Rumours of war between France and England have reached as far as our ears, in the antipodes. God be praised, may his will be done and not ours. You will see I hope, that the venerable Bishop of Sydney, Bishop Polding will be going to Lyon. I did not have the pleasure of seeing him, having been away from the Bay of Islands when he came. I do not know who will be the bearer of this letter. Perhaps one of our priests travelling to Europe in the interests of our mission. I have been more than faithful to the request that you made of me, to pray for the repose of your father’s soul, with my first mass after I received your letter. Comfort your sister Jenny on my behalf. Hug little Angele, Adelaide and Caroline. All living I think. What about Eleanore. And your poor cousin who drowned and who we loved so much. Open your heart and mine to him as well as to cousin Besson and Mr and Mrs Court. Would it be possible to forget them? All my relatives and the curate of Mornant. [23] If you have the chance, the gentlemen of Perreux. So as to see that this letter arrives safely, I am putting it in the protection of Mary, conceived without sin. I ask for the prayers of my friends, my parents and all good souls, finding myself in desperate need of help from on high and not praying enough myself. Please do not forget me, especially in connection with our good lady of Fourvières.
My dear brother, I embrace you with all my heart.
Your affectionate brother, Jean Baptiste Petit-Jean,
Marist priest, missionary apostolic.
I think before God of all my relatives and friends.


  1. Whangaroa
  2. Cf. Gn 42.24: Then he turned away from them and wept, then he returned to them and spoke with them.
  3. Ps. 115 (116). 15: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful.
  4. Cf. Dn 3.1-30.)
  5. the author has written ‘North-East’, although the district that he describes is to the North-West of the Bay of Islands.
  6. the river Oruru, which flows into Doubtless Bay.
  7. 10th February; in 1841, a Wednesday.
  8. Mc 16.17: Signa autem eos qui crediderint, haec sequentur: In nomine meo daemonia eiicient: linguis loquentur novis (And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they caste out devils; they shall speak with new tongues)
  9. see the article “new persecution in Tong-King” in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, tome 12, no 70 (May 1840), 380-399.
  10. The epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11, names several witnesses to the faith in the era before Jesus Christ.
  11. Antoine-Adolphe Dupuch, first bishop of Algiers, consecrated bishop on 28 October 1838; he resigned on 16 March 1846 and died on 11 July 1856. His letters appeared in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith , volume 11, no. 65 (July 1839), 446-454; no. 66 (September 1839), 567-571; no. 67 (November 1839), 642-652; volume 12, no. 68 (January 1840), 104-109; no. 70 (May 1840), 589-599.
  12. the 21 February, date of the Quinquagesima in 1841.
  13. Brother Elie-Régis (Etienne Marin) has been with Petit-Jean in Whangaroa since January 1840 (cf. doc. 192, § 2).
  14. About the attack of 24 June 1840 led by Captain Walter Croker, of the English vessel Favorite, against the fort at Pea, see doc. 153, § 21, n. 8; 264, § 19; 406, § 42, n. 8.
  15. Mangonui. Petit-Jean writes it sometimes as Mongonui, sometimes Mangonui. The village of Mangonui is situated on the “large bay of Mangonui” (infra, § 10) in the South-East corner of Doubtless Bay.
  16. That is to say the last Saturday of the month of November 1840, two days after Thursday 26 November which is mentioned in the preceding paragraph.
  17. Here there is a mixup of dates: Petit-Jean has already spoken of Thursday 26 November, of Saturday 28 and of 29 (evidently a sunday when he celebrated mass for the Catholics of the area); Tuesday is the 1 December 1840.)
  18. Thursday 3 December 1840
  19. Read: Taipa, a village situated where the Oruru river flows into Doubtless Bay.
  20. The letters “ou” had been added above the two “u” either to indicate the pronunciation, or to modify the written form.
  21. Cf. Jn 4.5-30, story in which Jesus meets a samaritan woman.
  22. Thomas Poynton (cf. doc. 24, § 13, n. 19); The rest of the paragraph speaks of this same Mr Poynton.
  23. Abbot Joseph-Marie Venet (cf. doc. 53, § 8, n. 7).