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8 Nov 1842 - Bishop Jean-Baptiste François Pompallier to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, February 2016

J(esus) M(arie), J(oseph)
Mission of the Immaculate Conception, Western Oceania
New Zealand, Bay of Islands, 8 November 1842

To the Reverend Father Colin, Superior-General of the Society of Mary in Lyons

Very Reverend and much beloved Father.
I received, with a deep feeling of sorrow, your last letter, of 22 October, 1841.[1] In view of the misunderstanding that the good God allowed you to make in reading my letter (May, 1841),[2] and considering your groaning and tears before the Lord, I was more moved by your sufferings than by my own affliction. So what do I have to do, dearest Father, to console you? If I tell you the whole truth, will that be enough? Well, neither the exact meaning of my letter, nor my mind, nor my heart wanted to say what you have understood. With heart and soul I dearly love you and the whole Society. My solemn commitment remains intact, I believe; and my trust in Mary, my love for this so powerful and loving Mother, this refuge of sinners, is for me, my whole strength and hope.
Secondly, my letter, May 1841, was composed with a heart which was no more than a cross of sorrow in sight of the evils affecting my mission and its complete and future ruin, if I did not make clear to the Holy See the present and future causes and effects which I experienced all together. Out of affection for you and devotion for the Society, I told you that alone, you quite alone, to arouse attention and to try to correct things if it were possible. And then, at the end, my excuses were very many. Was it necessary to leave souls, and the works of God to perish without saying anything? I couldn’t do it without compromising my salvation and theirs as well. I had to give an account of everything to God in reflection and prayer, and to his vicar on earth in the person of his Eminence the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide. I will not be consoled until I have received your forgiveness and signs of your paternal affection.
I am sending you here a little piece of evidence of my veneration for you. [Author’s note in margin: When we know what it is, it will be judged worthy of being placed in the Society’s museum, or, even better, framed in an oratory.] It is one of my wretched little brochures which I have often kissed with a heart flooded with consolations in the Lord. This little brochure, on its own, converted, taught and directed a whole tribe of New Zealanders on the banks of Lake Rotorua; and for more than a year. When I visited it in August 1841, I found all the people, numbering 150 souls, of whom more than a hundred were present for me. Never had I, nor any of our men, appeared there. These good and poor people had never seen anything, nor received from the Catholic Church anything but this little brochure which I had, in April 1840, given to a chief in the district, to whom I had sent several copies so that he could distribute them to his acquaintances and allies. I instructed him as much as one could, in a day. He gave all that he had received in the way of knowledge of the [true] religion to those of his relatives and friends who were in his own tribal district, and distributed my brochures. And, as you see, that grain of seed, sterile of itself, what fruit it bore! The tribe it converted is called Kongamatikino. I found its members all catechumens and in no way inferior to the others [Author’s note in margin: Rather, it was superior to all the others, because I had never seen any of them put on the little tour de force that that tribe had put on for me.] in the recitation of the morning and evening prayers and in everything (it is true that there was only the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the hymn about God, then a little summary of the truths necessary for salvation, and an alphabet. Now the people of the tribe, from the child who knew how to speak, to the old man well on in years, all recited to me together as one man and without making the smallest mistake and to the last syllable of the whole little book without stopping. At that, I wept tears of joy and indescribable consolation. Then, when they had finished, they asked me for a priest to stay with them, and they offered a house and a chapel for him and for them; they wanted me to make the arrangements for it to be done. And finally the leader of the whole gathering, who was a young and intelligent man, whom the others had chosen as their provisional pastor, brought me the missionary book, telling me, do you see, Bishop, do you see, Father, my book? This is the only one I have, it is quite worn out, it is even torn, my dirty hands have damaged it, be so kind as to give me a new one, please. As I had a certain number of them with me, I immediately looked around for Father Viard, who was accompanying me and who was rejoicing like me; I was looking for a little supply of these books so that each of the main families in the area could have one. Then the native immediately went on: What should be done with the old book? Give it to me, I replied. I certainly know what is to be done with it. He gave it back to me immediately and took all of those I offered him, while looking at them one after the other like a miser would look at diamonds and gold. It has to be noticed that this book was made more than three and a half years ago, at a time when the language of the New Zealanders was only, and could only truly be rather imperfect when coming from my pen, but grace sometimes loves to use rags and gibberish to triumph in a purer and less human way.
You will also find in this letter the first page of a book which I am getting printed and which I have written in the New Zealand language. It is a sample of a lightning strike against Protestantism, please God. It is a new fruit from your children for the nourishment of perhaps more than sixty thousand souls in the catechumenate of New Zealand. May Mary deign to bless it! May it be a powerful weapon of grace!
At the first safe opportunity, I will send you a long diary of the martyr, Father Peter Chanel. Right now I cannot tell you everything about this without tears and an indescribable happiness. Apart from that, you have already received all the details about this man, first chosen from this mission to join the ranks of the martyrs in heaven.
I have written to His Eminence about everything concerning the main features of the vicariates apostolic to be founded. I have suggested to him a priest from the tropics to become a bishop. His name is on the little note that I entrust to you under discretion. I am telling it to you alone. The matter is not yet decided.
I believe that Reverend Father Forest would carry out very well the functions of a provincial in my mission. Reverend Father Garin, with whom I am very satisfied, will become an excellent missionary; he truly has a strong calling to the apostolate. So, therefore, if you appoint Reverend Father Forest to be Provincial, I will be really pleased. Please accept, very dear Father, my real gratitude, and veneration for your person. Pray for me.
Your truly devoted and obedient servant
+ J (ean) B(aptis)te François, Bishop, Vic(ar)-Apost(olic)
PS Reverend Father, I beg you to see Father Épalle at Lyons, not as a fugitive but rather as a friend and pro-vicar of my mission. May he stay in Lyons for the good of this mission, he has experienced it at first hand. He is not very robust in health, but is active and full of good will. I would very much like him to be in Lyons. He knows me well. He doesn’t get upset by my scolding; if he doesn’t do well down there, or, rather, up there, I will scold him in my letters without upsetting him. But I don’t think that problem will occur. François


  1. Cf draft letter of 21 October 1841 from Colin to Pompallier (CS, doc 304 and 305)
  2. Cf doc 91