From Marist Studies
13 June 1845 Jérôme Grange to Nicoud, parish priest of Saint Clair (Isère)
Translated by Peter McConnell, May 2010
- Tongatapu 13 Jun 1845
- Parish priest and dear friend,
- Your letter is the first that I have received since leaving France. It is impossible to tell you the pleasure it caused me. I leave it to your heart, which understands mine, to guess that pleasure.
- Among other things you tell me: perhaps you are well or unwell; perhaps you are experiencing consolations or wretched trials; Speaking frankly, I could tell you both; but let’s draw the curtain on what distresses us so as to speak only of those matters which console us, fearing that we might lose credit with he who alone is able to reward us.
- When the traveller, crossing the desert, tired and panting with heat and thirst, comes close to an oasis and where he is able to rest in the shade of trees and to quench his thirst beside a fountain, he forgets all the daylong weariness. In Tonga there are there are some arid and burning deserts, but in Tonga there are too cool and delightful oases. If there are some troubles the good God knows how to season them with consolations which make us forget them speedily. I do not know really how I am made, but things which seemed to others to be minor and of no concern touch me deeply and flood my soul with delight.
- One day I was on my way to visit a small tribe which lives on the coast of the island. After walking the whole day in considerable heat, I was reaching my goal when I heard near the sea a discordant voice which seemed to me to be chanting our hymns. Pricking up my ear, I drew closer and I noticed a man sitting on the beach, teaching his wife a hymn and teaching her how to say the rosary. He was the only Christian which we had in that tribe. My dear friend, I will tell you how the good God has seen fit to increase them.
- Another day I had visited all the families which make up this same tribe and I received everywhere only a very cold reception welcome, because the Protestants had left them with annoying impressions of us. I was on the point of exhaustion. The sun was beginning to disappear on the horizon and I went and sat down on a little rock which the sea was washing with its waves. For me that is relaxation; besides the sea encourages meditation. I was finishing compline when suddenly a little girl came up to me. Long black hair, a happy nature, and a face that was open yet modest, made her a very interesting person. She was better dressed than children of her age are. I would have willingly taken her for an angel, if I had not thought of my unworthiness. She asked me very modestly, calling me by my name, to visit her father, who was waiting for me to have a meal which he had prepared. I willingly accepted the offer which was given me. No sooner had our meal been finished that she asked her father permission to come and say prayers with me and the first convert, whom I spoke about before. That is she wanted to embrace our religion. The father consented. She brought to me on another trip two of her sisters and she is the one who won for us almost all the children of her tribe. The parents follow the example of their children so that we already have more than 60 catechumens in this same tribe. One day the first convert of this tribe said to me,” Jérôme, do you know who contributes the most to converting the children? It’s the rosary. The rosary are the hooks and nets with which the Virgin Mary takes the children. Bring us plenty of rosary beads and pretty ones, soon the devil will no longer have anyone here.”
- Let others seek their pleasures where they will! As far as I a concerned mine are here. I strongly doubt that anybody could find pleasures that would bring them truer joys. Yes, for me it is something delightful, when traveling in a canoe, paddled by natives, I hear hymns in honour of Jesus and Mary sung by mouths which only lately used the name of God whom they did not know in blasphemy ---
- Jérôme Grange, apostolic missionary