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10 August 1841 — Father Joseph-François Roulleaux to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Korareka

Translated by Mary Williamson, December 2020


Based on the document sent, APM Z 208.


Sheet of paper forming four pages, three of which are written on.

[p.4][Address]
To the Very Reverend Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary, Lyon / (France)


[in Poupinel’s handwriting]
New Zealand / Kororareka 10 August 1841 / Father Roulleaux.


[p.1]
( Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us, who call upon you!)
New Zealand, Bay of Islands, Kororareka, 10 August 1841.


My Very Reverend Father,
[1]
After such a long voyage and the changes the receiving of holy orders are having on my position,[1] I feel the need to open my heart to you and reveal the state of my soul. To begin then with the virtue of obedience, I confess that I have felt quite a strong resentment on certain occasions. I will explain the worst one: When we arrived at the Cape, I harassed Father Séon to let me go ashore with the first group, which was not his plan, and I practically forced him to give me permission. This first fault led to an even worse one: They wanted to give me the position that Mr Perret had filled,[2] and take away that of sacristan, which I wanted to keep; I defended my right as much as I could; and, my ideas not finding favour with the three Fathers, I gave in with ill feeling and the worst possible grace in the world and I remained in a state of semi-revolt for 8-10 days, avoiding the Fathers during recreation time and giving the impression of being discontented, hoping that I would be given back my previous position. Finally a retreat day arrived, I made my confession and after prayers and of my own free will, I publicly asked, on my knees, for pardon for the trouble that I had caused. I did it, thanks to God, with a full heart and without planning it and I restored happiness in the hearts of all our Fathers. I went even further: It had been noticed that I was too attached to my books, that I demanded too much care from those who made use of them; and in the preceding days of discontent, I had created problems with handing over, for the use of the mission, a Discussion Amicale which had been given to me as a gift out in the ordinary world. I gave it to the Society of Mary, but particularly to avoid seeming vain, so that the devil was not a winner in this great temptation that he had presented. On the contrary, I have been more careful since this episode and obedience has been less costly for me.


[2]
I have maintained holy virtue, as I had done in Lyon; and since I arrived, I have not let the semi-nakedness of the natives become a source of temptation for me, whilst I have maintained a suitable modesty. Nevertheless, there are certain unintentional difficulties that I have spoken to you about, which always make me shudder. I have offered many prayers asking to be delivered of these, but in vain. I think that God is leaving me with this humiliating weakness to punish me for a residue of vanity that still remains in me.
[3]
I have not been irreproachable where brotherly charity is concerned. Apart from a certain dislike of Brother Pierre-Marie, which has been obviously shown, I also have to reproach myself for a short burst of anger against Mr Perret. He took an authoritarian tone which was, I think, out of place; I was humiliated, I did not hide the fact, which was my fault no doubt, but I was rather provoked. We apologised almost immediately and in all sincerity, I think. During the trip, I was humiliated by Mr Roset, especially one time, in front of Mr Dausse and Mr Perret, who seemed to me to be amused by it; I was very hurt and I made it very obvious to the Father by seeming, for a long time, to avoid his company, but all that passed; and by the end of the voyage we were comfortable with each other.
[4]
There have been frequent trials: I was discontented; then, looking back on the past, I had thoughts of pulling out, of returning to France and giving up everything there. These ideas were very pressing, especially in London, at the Cape and in Sydney; they made me sometimes even miss the sacraments and at one time for three weeks. But the devil was defeated in the end and things came right again and I was more devoted than ever. It is in that especially that I admired the goodness of God and the maternal protection of Mary.
[5]
But without doubt, the trial that was the most difficult for me, was that I experienced, during such a long voyage, the problem of finding it morally impossible to open my heart to someone. The Bishop pitied me greatly when I told him this: “Poor child, he said to me, how I pity your situation!” Here is the reason: Father Séon became a little prejudiced against me at the beginning of the voyage, as he admitted to me once, at the end of the crossing, so that he was rather unpleasant to me, even sometimes in confession, to the extent that one day I emerged from it very discouraged. He treated me rather like a student and seemed to have a poor opinion of me. I admit that I was extremely humiliated by this. Father Borjeon, although more kind, had no doubt formed his opinion of me from that of Father Séon; and besides he was too controversial for me and above all too young. All my life I have had a loathing of the young priests and your knowledge of my inner feelings no doubt gives you the reasons. Also, I have always addressed myself to mature men. There remained Mr Yvert, old friend and confidante of my troubles over many years and to whom you have authorised me to open my heart and who besides, was charged with encouraging me; but by a particular quirk of fate, he was even more harsh than Father Séon and far from giving me strength, only had reproaches and accusations that I did not like at all, that I did not always even find just and which ended up with me completely separating myself off from him; and this friendship, which it seemed would last forever, changed to antipathy, especially since our arrival here, and my ordination; so the situation has become a source of great stress between us. I shared all this with the Bishop, who replied that it was not necessary to like someone, all that was needed was to get along through our understanding of the faith, that that was, more than anything, the true Christian friendship; and he thought that the reason for which, during the voyage, I did not receive Séon’s attention was that, having other Superiors with him, he did not feel in a position to advise me. It is perhaps also possible that God might have allowed that situation, to purify the aspect of our attachment that, although based on good intentions could perhaps seem to have aspects that were too human or too natural. Whatever the reason, the resulting trial for me, during the crossing made me form an attachment only with God, who is the friend who never changes and to only put a lesser confidence in men. The Good Lord and the Holy Virgin did not abandon me either during this time; and although all this might have made me make many mistakes, they always pitied me and always rebuilt my confidence. I do not like a regime of fear and I must say that if my only acquaintance with the Society had been on this voyage, I could have been disgusted; but I had time, during the four and a half months that I spent in Lyon, to admire the spirit of kindness, gentleness, leniency, mellowness and holy charity that characterise the Fathers of the Society of Mary and who won my heart when I was there. I was also given to understand that the Bishop was a harsh man; I could not believe it and I have had many proofs, since my arrival, of the goodness and kindness that dominate his character.
[6]
I should say now, so as not to leave anything out, that I have often wronged Father Séon and Mr Yvert, and have shown myself unwilling and even sometimes dishonest, when my pride was too wounded, especially by Mr Yvert’s comments. I am therefore firmly convinced that neither the one nor the other was lacking in goodwill. I should not have thought it of the Reverend Father Séon who, during the whole crossing showed the most sincere kindness to everyone and was more interested in others than himself and this should be acknowledged, nor of Mr Yvert whose past history where I am concerned does not allow for even the least suspicion of ill will, which was not at all in evidence and he gave every service imaginable to the mission during the voyage. I confess that they were more virtuous than I was and that the wrongs were probably usually caused by me; but I also believe, before God, that the Father was a bit harsh sometimes and Mr Yvert somewhat severe. It is kindness that wins hearts. After all this, I leave everything to the judgement of God, who sees into all hearts and I await your opinion, your reprimands and even a penitence, if you judge it necessary, my Very Reverend Father; everything from you will be well received. The good Virgin has obviously led me to you, so that you might help me to save myself; she has made you the recipient of her affection for a poor miserable soul who she has protected from the devil for a long time and she has given me a filial confidence in you and an attachment to the Society that nothing could weaken. So kindly, my very good Father, support me with your wise counsel and your prayers on the pathway to Heaven. Here I am, a priest, in the happy obligation of celebrating it each day, as much as it is possible; one of these days I will even leave for a post where I will do what I can with Father Servant, in revising my theology; all that will demand great virtue and I have so little of it; but my hope is in the Good Lord and the Holy Virgin, who I hope will sustain me. I very much long for the moment when I will be joined irrevocably to the Society. [3] This will probably be before I have the pleasure of receiving your reply. Please pray to Saint Joseph for me. I ask, on my knees, for your blessing and express my profound respect for you, my Very Reverend Father,
Your submissive and obedient servant, Joseph François Roulleaux,
Priest of the Society of Mary.

Notes

  1. Roulleaux was ordained a priest on 2 July 1841 at Kororareka by Bishop Pompallier (cf. doc. 102, § 1).
  2. Louis Perret and Benjamin Dausse, both unwell when they arrived at the Cape on 22 February 1841, needed to stay there (cf. APM OG 031, 5th departure, unpublished letters of 24 February 1841 from Séon to Collin, p. 10; and of 3 March - 20 May 1841 from Séon to Colin, p. 1). From there Dausse returned to France, but Perret continued his voyage on 6 May 1841 and arrived in New Zealand on 13 September of the same year (cf. APM OG 031, 5th departure, unpublished letter of 3 August from Louis Perret to Colin, p. 1; doc. 163, § 1). When the missionary ship left on 27 February, someone else had to fill the role that had been Perret’s up till then.
  3. Roulleaux will make his profession on 1 April 1842.