End of 1841 — Father Antoine Garin to Father Jean-Claude Colin
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2014
Based on the document sent, APM Z 208.
A letter without date nor signature, but in Garin’s hand.’ According to the contents of the letter, the author is a man who must watch over the religious spirit of the Marists, the ‘Provincial’ who is none other than Garin. This letter was begun about 31 October, (3 weeks before the Presentation of Mary, (Cf ) and continued after the retreat from 14-21 November 1841, described in great detail, and ended after 8 December 1841 (Cf )
- Very Reverend Father
- No doubt you will be pleased to get news of a first retreat made in New Zealand by the Fathers and Brothers involved in the works of this mission. For a long time we had been looking for the most favourable time to make it. Each week had its difficulties; next week the Fathers will not be able to gather; the following week, work in the garden could not be delayed, the planting season is going by; in 3 weeks, there will not be enough time for the Fathers to be back in their mission before having to leave them immediately etc etc. In this way we saw ourselves pushed from one week to another without being able to decide on one. Finally we decided on a feastday in October, but then an unforeseen circumstance came and upset our plans. A public debate between Catholics and Protestants was suggested; we had to prepare for combat, sharpen our weapons, gather food, write to Father Servant to get him to the meeting place, go and get Father Petit-Jean. In the end the many preparations involved in this desperate dispute took us a good month. Then we began again to talk over the retreat, but we have to wait for the Bishop, it was said – the retreat will be done better. However, seeing the problem of being forced to defer it much longer than we wanted to, I took my Ordo, saw the feast of the Presentation – it was still 3 weeks away, eh, well, there is the time, I said to Father Épalle, besides, the Bishop would not fail to turn up, since already several weeks had passed since he should have been back, according to his original plans, and by acting otherwise we were risking delaying the retreat far too much. Oh well – that was it. So I told Father Servant to warn Father Roulleaux. I wrote to Father Petit that the retreat would begin on 14th November, Sunday evening, and would end on the 21st, the feastday of the Presentation on Sunday evening.
- Father Épalle tells me you want to know those men who have made their vows here. For a start, he made his vows in Lyons, but as he had not done a year of novitiate there, he made them again (according to your advice in his particular case) at Valparaiso, and to be even more sure, at the hands of Bishop Pompallier, who received them. However, as the Bishop has said that he has neither documents or titles which authorise him to receive vows, but only a delegation [of powers], he still doubts whether they are valid, and he wrote to you a year ago about that. Please tell us clearly what are the documents and titles which the Bishop or I need to receive the vows of religious and send us all the necessary faculties along with the titles. Father Petit-Jean made his vows here, for November 1839, in the hands of the Bishop. Father Viard made them later, but as he is not here right now, if I found out that he has not made them, I would tell you. Father Épalle tells me that he cannot have failed to make them. I cannot speak about the others – they are not here, and perhaps the Bishop has with him the declarations which certify to that.
- The arranged day came and with it Fathers Servant and Roulleaux, Father Petit stood us up, Father Petit-Jean has been at the house for some time, so that we, the Fathers, were five in number here. Father Épalle, Fathers Servant, Petit-Jean, Roulleaux and I: the five Brothers, Pierre-Marie, Augustin, Basile, Colomb and Emery; 2 novices, Messrs Perret and Yvert – twelve in all whole performed the exercises. A young Englishman who has been teaching the children for more than a year, and who is now studying Latin, also made a retreat in private, directed by Father Épalle.
- However, one thing frustrated us: some works that could not be delayed occurred precisely in this week. The foundations of the printing-house having been begun, a quarry having been opened near the house of a neighbour, lime being burnt, a first momentum having been given to the work, 2 workers whose work would have been really slowed up without help, and the extreme need for a press, a need much greater at this time that the need for priests, given the importance that the natives attach to it and the greater ease it gives for teaching doctrine; all those things combined gave sufficient reason to allow our good Brothers to devote themselves to their tasks during the retreat. Nevertheless, all things taken into account, the devil, through this obstacle which he seemed to put in our way, perhaps lost more than he gained, as you will see in the looking at the plan of our retreat.
- I offered Father Épalle the opportunity to give conferences on the way the missionaries should act in the missions, whether in regard to the natives, or to the Europeans, or to each other. He accepted, at first, but he saw that that would take up too much of his time, and that this matter could not be dealt with yet because, to tell the truth, fixed or even approximate rules could not be given about this, the tribes often differing in character, customs and attitudes to the faith; and the real way of succeeding among the natives not being well known, or known only by each man individually according to the observations he has gathered from his own experience. All the Fathers were of this mind, so it was agreed that the subject of talks would be the vows. And Father Petit-Jean was made responsible for this. I then suggested to Father Épalle that he might lead at least one meditation each day; he was not able to take on this responsibility because of his occupations and his having to be available to the people of the town who came to speak to him. So I was made responsible for giving the 3 subjects for meditation and leading the particular examen.
- The order of the exercises was the same as at Belley or Meximieux. Only there was a difference for the Brothers who had to work. Rising was as usual – at 4.30am. After an hour’s meditation and holy Mass, the Brothers each went to their tasks, some to the walls of the foundations, others to making mortar, others to the stones etc etc. They were present for the particular examen. In the evening at 6.45pm, they came together to hear the subject of meditation and to meditate until 7.30pm. After the prayer for the day, they recited Vespers and Compline and the rosary.
- To make up for the exercises of piety, the Brothers had to keep a strict silence, be aware of the presence of God and think of making their works holy. It was to help them nourish themselves with these thoughts, that during the day I went sometimes to the Brother joiner to remind him how St Joseph used the plane and hammer, how Our Lord gathered up the shavings to go and light the fire; sometimes to the Brother cook, to ask him if he knew how to wash the dishes as well as the Blessed Virgin, to tidy his kitchen and to offer some prayers to God while the soup was cooking; sometimes to the Brother mason to ask him what these stones and mortar signified; what thoughts he should have when using the hammer to break the stones, to make them well-shaped, while placing each stone in a special place and binding them together with mortar. That is the way in which I tried to teach them to work like the Jews building the Temple in Jerusalem, holding a trowel in one hand and in the other the sword to repel their enemies. These thoughts so reinforced their courage that one day Brother Basile, chopping wood while I spoke to him like this, struck blows so strong and sure that you would have imagined him to be a woodcutter who had spent his life in the forests. Now, even though the retreat has finished, I still, sometimes, make a spiritual review while Fr. Perret does a material review, and I realise that this retreat has not been without fruit for them, and that the habit, through which they have been urged to sanctify their work, now helps to nourish them with good thoughts from time to time.
- I chose as subjects for meditation those that Father Maitrepierre gave us in the 1839 retreat at Belley, while adding to those what seemed appropriate for the situation of the retreatants.
- The subjects of the particular examen were prayer, and the particular and general examen in the evening. I wrote a summary and had written out for each person the method of St Ignatius for these 3 exercises because I know that they are practised, or at least, that it is your intention that they be practised in the Society. The other subjects were mortification, confession, contrition, the way each one should work on the duties of his state: the Brothers in manual work, the Fathers in teaching.
- We finished this retreat with the renewal of religious vows. On this matter, the question arose – of knowing whether this renewal could be made after having made it twice, at the times indicated by the rule. Father Épalle opposed it for reasons certainly approved by everyone, that is to say, because of the danger of innovating and publicly setting up things that are not contained in the rule. For myself, I relied on what I had seen done at the end of retreats done at Belley, I had seen them ended with this ceremony. It remained to find out whether in the Society this renewal had not been done at the two times indicated by the rule; no one was able to give us any exact ideas on that apart from Father Roulleaux who told us that he had not seen them renewed in Lyons on the feast of the Assumption in1840, which led us to think that that ceremony had been put back to the major retreat. However, as I saw that most of the Fathers thought that that could be done, and that there were three voices against one, I also decided for the affirmative by declaring that we were not making that ceremony a permanent thing at the end of retreats, or rather that we would not carry it out at the Assumption so as to be able to do it after the retreat, and, if we had foreseen that at the Assumption, we would have reserved it for the retreat, and finally, I thought it consistent with the spirit of the Society by having it done at the end of a retreat, in view of the beliefs people had at that time. All were happy with the way the vows were renewed. Father Épalle himself who, however, to keep exactly to the rule, fought against his own desires, imposed as a condition that consultation would occur and it would be written about to Lyons. And it was after having been renewed in fervour in the love of the Blessed Virgin and in fidelity to our vows by Father Épalle that we made this renewal, on Sunday at 9 o’clock in the evening, on the day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin (a consoling time for me because it was the anniversary of my first vows at Puylata and the eve of my departure from Lyons to definitively leave my homeland). And we finished by praying for you and for all the members of the Society, living or dead.
- I would like to know: 1° if summer soutanes are prohibited; if that were the case, I believe that the poor missionaries will risk collapse wearing the winter habit in certain islands.
- 2° if silence must rigorously be observed by the Brothers while they are working. I myself keep [silence] as much as I can. Father Épalle observed to me that it was not required so strictly in France. I think that here it is very useful because, our Brothers not having the habit which could remind them that they are religious, at least silence will remind them of it. (See a note on this matter in the margin of the preceding page)
-  [In the margin and crosswise]
- Father Épalle believes I have not properly grasped his thought. This is what he said: he thinks that if the Superiors in France were aware of the situation of the Brothers here, they would not demand the same strictness of silence as in France; they must be kept from boredom; we are forced to ask them to do work that they are doing for the first time, and which, often enough, they dislike.
- It is important, Reverend Father, to send here none but already formed religious, and not men still needing formation; religious Brothers who are ready and suitable to go from being a shoe-repairer to being a gardener, from being a tailor to being a mason, or, at least, that they be men who know how to cope wherever they are sent; so we have Brother Euloge who is good only around his forge; take him away from it and he doesn’t know how to do anything, and in fact he has not yet been able to be given [blacksmith’s] work at the forge. But above all they must be formed in the virtues.
- Fr Perret, warned too late about the ship’s departure, asks you to tell his parents that he is well, and that he is surprised at not receiving news from them.
- As I had given the retreat to the others, I hadn’t been able to take part in it, in its entirety. That is why I made one of eight days. I finished it on the day of the Immaculate Conception [8 December]. Please, very Reverend Father, commend me to the prayers of the Society and especially those of Father Maitrepierre, whom I hope to see soon, because I think that he will come to see us and give me very much needed instruction, because I am still an ignoramus.
- Fathers who are not fundamentally attached to the Society would be very much tempted by the hope of making their fortune, as are some white men in these colonies. We have an example of this in the 2 Brothers you have already heard of.
- il n’y dura pas assez de temps que les pères seront rentrès dans leurs missions pour qu’ils les quitteront aussitôt
- of the Blessed Virgin Mary - translator’s note
- “faux-bon” – read as faux bond
- Henry Garnett
- of the printery building - translator’s note
- Cf. Nehemiah 4:11-12: “Those who were building the wall and those who carried and were loaded with burdens worked with one hand and held a weapon in the other. As for those who were building, each man built with a sword bound to his waist.”
- 21st November, the feastday of the Presentation of Mary, the last day of the 1841 retreat in New Zealand (Cf. above ), Garin’s day of religious profession in 1840.
- il se trove qu’on n’a pas pu encore le metre à la forge.
- Brothers Michel (Antoine Colombon) (Cf. Doc 55 [6, 6], 72 , 101 ) and Amon (Claude Duperron (Cf. Doc 76 , 82 , 102 ) had left religious life after their arrival in New Zealand.