1 Nov 1843 - Brother Emery (Pierre Roudet) to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 1 Nov 1843
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, July 2005
APM Z 208 1 November 1843
A letter written in response to the mission rule, like that of Brother Luc above. Doc 274.
Says he is making little spiritual progress - laziness and wretchedness constant problems. But believes that prayer and faith in God will see him through.
Has difficulty with purity – but trusts in Our Lady, Queen of Virgins. Obedience a problem he believes - does what he is asked to do but sometimes reluctantly.
Charity – feels he is making progress, gets on better now with confrères than before, and the Maori too. Would like to learn Maori but it’s hard to do that at the mission house – so much to do.
As a trained tailor he longs to be able to make/repair soutanes etc, but tailoring not high in priority at this time. Feels a bit overwhelmed at the demands made on his time, often with work he’s not trained for/used to.
Text of the Letter
- Bay of Islands, 1 November 1843
- Reverend and very dear Father
- The Rule recommends us to write to you every six months. I am very far from carrying out this point, I have been here more than two years, and here is only the second letter I have sent you; but not having time and not knowing very well how to explain myself, here is what has most delayed me.
- Reverend Father, I am still very miserable. In spiritual matters, I always do nothing but evil, and little good, perhaps none at all: however I do not lack good will, but my weakness and my problems follow me everywhere. I thought when I was still in France that when I was on the mission, I would effortlessly fly to perfection, but I was mistaken; I had to pay for bringing my enemy – myself. Here, perfection is more difficult [to achieve?] than at the heart of the Society; however I am not in despair, I have, on the contrary, great confidence of achieving it by making a little effort, because the graces that God bestows on me are abundant.
- For some time now the good God has been enlightening me about my nothingness; especially since [the feast of] the Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin, I believe that this good Mother obtained great graces for me that day. Since I have been in religious life I have always had a great desire to acquire the great virtue of humility. It’s not that I have it because I am still well away from it, I am still very full of myself, but I feel inside myself very poor opinions of myself. I see my weaknesses, and they are very great; they often make me cry out for mercy, all my resolutions and my prayers are directed to asking God every day for the grace to know Him and to know myself. I see more clearly when I fail in this virtue, I see that all my faults are rooted in pride.
- As for the holy virtue of purity – alas! In this country we run so much risk of failing it, that I am in fear of succumbing, because I experience strong temptations, but however, I have great confidence in the Queen of Virgins. I have only to call on her and I always overcome. It is through prayer, through “your most holy virginity and your Immaculate Conception” etc  that I overcome [temptation]. Never has she refused me her help when I have offered her this prayer, and as well I often place this virtue into her hands so that she might preserve it in me.
- In the matter of obedience, I do not yet have obedience of faith, because I fail in it sometimes. It’s not that I do not do what I am asked to do, but I obey sometimes in a bad mood –sometimes murmuring, and I often feel a lot of reluctance inside myself.
- Concerning charity, if I am not mistaken, it seems to me that I am making a bit of progress in it. I am more at one with my confrères – I support them better. However I still fail in it sometimes – I believe that comes from self-love. I love the natives very much – I still would like to be among them; I very much want to learn the language so as to be able to speak to them a little, but if I always stay at the Mother House, I will not know it for a long time, because I am too busy, I cannot study it, and I cannot mix with the natives easily to talk with them – especially the brothers. I sometimes go with the Fathers when they visit the tribes; how happy I am then to be among them. There, I teach them how to make the sign of the Cross, to sing, to read; I lead the prayers and singing during the Mass when it is said, because I can read fairly well; everything I do, my actions and my sufferings I offer to God for their conversion, because it is not possible to be in this situation and see these poor souls in the state in which they are in, without burning with zeal.
- I also offer my Tuesday communion in a special way for their conversion, that of Thursday for the relief of the souls in Purgatory; Saturday’s to ask God to send many good missionaries to this mission, and Sunday’s to ask God for conformity to his holy will, and all the graces I need.
- Concerning my communions, sometimes I feel quite ardent beforehand, and afterwards am always without affection, always have great distractions, [and] I always make my thanksgiving with great difficulty.
- I always make my meditations on the Passion of our Divine Saviour, and on Saturdays on the sorrow of the Queen of Martyrs. I do not do it as I would like – I am very much tempted to sleep, I cannot keep myself awake; if not, while walking, I can hardly keep myself recollected, all the time my mind wants to wander off.
- I work mainly in printing. Since the printing press has been set up, I have been almost always working there, for usually it’s only dear Brother Luc and myself, I am forced to let the Fathers and Brothers go on with torn clothing. The other day two of our Fathers came by the House. Their soutanes were all torn and I regretted letting them go as they came. We need a tailor here who is [extropié], who can only sew, otherwise he will always be employed on other tasks. When, for example, I am not in the printing house, I am employed in other things, and then when I work outside and afterwards I have to sew, it always causes me to suffer a lot, it tires me in the chest, and I have no more liking for it, as I would if I worked at it continually. I believe heavy work is better for my health.
- If we had cloth, we would avoid a lot of expense, because clothing is very expensive here. I sew, therefore, when I can. I am also responsible for packing everything to be sent to the mission stations, which takes a considerable amount of my time. I am also responsible for washing the clothes and for keeping the Procure storeroom in order, but is more often in disorder than order, for lack of time. I have, as well, so many other little tasks that they would fill a page to name them all. I am always to overwhelmed with various tasks that they often test my little store of patience. I am sometimes tempted to ask for a move. I have had, especially in the month of August, strong temptations about that. They make me sad and depressed, but I have never complained because I saw that they came from the enemy of my salvation. When he does his work, this cunning serpent, it seems to me that he is stronger here than at the centre of the Society. Ah, very dear Father, please do not forget me in your prayers. I say this with tears in my eyes, you are obliged to commend me to Jesus and Mary. How many dangers I am exposed to every day! If I came to lose my soul, what sort of Hell would be appropriate for me? I often ask the good God to make me suffer every torment in the world and die, rather than offend him.
- Reverend Father, we need many Brothers, so many things are neglected for lack of numbers, so many things in disorder, for lack of workers [pas asses de bras]. It is unbelievable how much work there is [to do] in this mission. We always say [that] when we have done this, the work [left] will not be so urgent, but the situation always gets worse. We need Brothers who have many skills, because we are forced to do everything.
- Reverend Father, I am pointing out to you nothing about the mission because others will tell you about it better than I could. If you want to see something of myself, you will see [it] in two other letters, one to dear Brother François and the other to my parents.
- Excuse the scribble I have written to you, since I know no better; and then, what makes me so bold as to speak the way I do, is that I am writing to you as to my kind father who only wants my salvation.
- I am, Very Reverend Father, your very humble and obedient servant and spiritual son,
- Brother Emery, Marist
- Bay of Islands, 1st November 1843
- I am, Very Reverend Father, your very humble and obedient servant and spiritual son,
- quotation marks added - translator’s note
- The translator has difficulty in seeing the point of surtout les frères. Most likely he means the natives who are brothers in Catholic faith - translator’s note
- in 1842 - translator’s note
- who are involved, presumably - translator’s note
- The background to these remarks is that Brother Emery’s basic trade was tailoring, but obviously the demands of the mission situation had led his energy to be employed otherwise - translator’s note
- the word is not in the dictionary but appears in the context to mean set aside - translator’s note
- Gabriel Rivat – elected by Champagnat’s “Little Brothers of Mary” in October 1839 as Director General, to take over leadership of the Brothers in face of Champagnat’s developing illness – he died in June 1840 - translator’s note