Fr Jean-Baptiste Petit-Jean to Fr Jean Forest, Auckland, 8 Feb 1844
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, August 2005
APM Z 208 8 February 1844
JMJ, Auckland, 8 February 1844
I have just now received a letter from Father Chouvet for you. I will enclose it with this letter, with a note for Reverend Father Séon.
I am still struggling with myself, to put an appropriate order into my conduct, and I am not succeeding. I certainly put roughly the necessary time into my spiritual exercises, but I find I get little fruit from them because of a great lack of renunciation and mortification. Thanks be to God my usual diet keeps me in good health.
The Bishop’s visit was for me and my flock a wonderful blessing for which I thank the good God. Our good Bishop, always full of concern and trust, tried to reawaken me in relation to my duties to the natives. I have resolved to set out one day a week to look for some sheep outside [my flock?]. I am acting on that.
What Father Séon was asking me concerning the rioting of the Maoris is something which aroused more fuss than it deserved. It is something of the mountain in labour. The origin of the riot [émeute] was a New Zealander who escaped from the hands of justice through the efforts of his tribe. He was persuaded to come and place himself again in custody. The Governor will see to all that. All the more so, if Britannic majesty is not insulted by this restless, bold and sometimes insolent people.
If I may now come to [p2] another subject. I liked to think that you had all been happy and content at the Bay of Islands, but during a week when His Lordship was in Auckland I found myself so torn apart, [and] snatched out of myself, that my ideas on your own happiness have changed. It is true, as I am only too aware, that my character is confrontational, however it seems to me that peace [repos] is impossible for those who live with the Bishop. His intentions are pure, who could doubt it? But without wanting to, he embroils himself and others in continual agony. I went shopping only rarely, mainly for the Fathers; he reproved me for this in a satirical way. “They act like children, these missionaries,” he would say, “(they) are a real flock of sheep.” What could help make the Bishop unhappy is that in truth, apart from the spiritual side of pastoral visits, people have paid almost no attention to His Lordship. With the exception of the authorities who hastened to see him after he had advised them, no more than four or five people in all have come to see him. Even Mr and Mrs Outhwaite have not come. It is true, their home is a bit distant from the town: they have left their former house. Anyway, after (receiving) a letter which this lady wrote to me, I took the Bishop there. She excused herself on account of her sore legs. Mr Outhwaite, though I had advised him of the time of the visit, did not appear. He was in town at his office. What has concerned me most is that our trustees have totally failed in their duty. Neither Mr O’Brien nor Mr Conry [sic – Conroy] has come to offer their [p3] respects to their pastor, alas. You know them. His Lordship, who does not know them, gave himself up to a thousand conjectures: could there be some jealousy involved? some sensitiveness based on nationality, etc?
If I am not deceiving myself, I have done what I could to appropriately honour him who represented in my sight the sacred person of Jesus Christ himself, and however I am sorry that I have not satisfied himself in everything, as was shown on one occasion. There was really a terrible storm. On the very day before Confirmation day, I was in the chapel, busy preparing the children who were beginning to gather for an instruction and for confession – “The Bishop wishes to see you” – I took about a minute and a half to tell the children to stay quiet during my short absence – I saw the Bishop opening the door between the visiting room and the chapel and beckoning to me. I went to him. What was my surprise when I found myself in the presence of a man who overwhelmed me with reproaches – that I was disobedient – that I was arousing opposition to my Bishop – but all this not quietly, on the contrary with the greatest commotion, with the most unbecoming level of voice, and such that everywhere else it would be likely to bring the police. Alas! What could those poor children be thinking of the Bishop and the priest? In the visiting room I tried to stop this torrent by earnestly asking him what he wanted; no, my Bishop did not moderate his manner, or he was doing it expressly to humiliate me, so to say, in front of my people. I am informing you of the fact without adding any reflection on it. When this was finished, I allowed myself to say that in spite of the respect in which I held His Lordship, this treatment which he subjected me to in such a scandalous way would force me to take steps of a certain sort with the appropriate authority, and these steps would be to ask my spiritual Superiors what I had to do to reconcile, on occasions, like this, the deference which I owed my Vicar Apostolic with the respect I owed myself as a priest, and as a priest in a religious order. Finally, what was the whole thing about? It involved knowing how two or three errands I had entrusted to Mr Henessy – about wine, I think, and then a razor [p4] I had voluntarily sent to one of my parishioners to be sharpened.
The Bishop has promised the authorities of the town and other people to come back through Auckland on his return to the Bay, especially, it seems, to greet the Governor and to have some useful conversation with His Excellency.
I am persuaded that through the concern of Father O’Reily, and the influence of Messrs Petre, Clifford and other gentlemen and also for certain interests, His Lordship will be more honoured in Nicholson than in Auckland. I hope it is so if it is for the glory of God.
- I am, with profound respect, Reverend Father,
- Your very humble and ob[edient] serv[ant]
- J[ean] Bap]tiste] Petit-Jean
- M[arist] priest, m[issionary ap[ostolic].
Here the Bishop has given Confirmation to more people.
His Lordship left me roughly 50 pounds and wanted me to lend this sum to Mr Henessy for a business matter where the latter seemed to have a firmly based hope of making a profit. I thought it necessary to reply that I could not take responsibility for that, that I could not lend this sum from my allocation. In the event the Bishop gave me only 15 pounds for which I gave him a receipt for the year 1844, and Mr Henessy had 45 pounds from him, with the promise of five pounds more on his return.
- J Bap P
- The MAW translation has the letter as addressed to Fr Colin
- and bringing forth a mouse - translator’s note
- a Maori, at that time - translator’s note
- of his presence? - translator’s note
- Thomas Outhwaite, an Englishman (1805-1879) was registrar of the Supreme Court in Auckland at this time. He had practised as a solicitor in Paris before coming to New Zealand in 1841, and his wife (who may have been French?) was later a good friend of Suzanne Aubert - translator’s note
- Governor Robert Fitzroy had arrived in Auckland on 23 December 1843 to take over immediately from acting Governor Willoughby Shortland, who had occupied the position since Hobson’s death in September 1842 - translator’s note