Br Emery (Pierre Rondet) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Bay of Islands, 5 July 1845
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, November 2005
APM Z 208 5 July 1845
J M J
Bay of Islands 5 July 1845
Very Reverend Father
I am as lazy in writing to you as I am in working for my salvation; I have become quite lazy. I made a retreat at the [time of the] Assumption in 1844; during it I made some strong resolutions for my improvement, but I have not kept them for a long time, little by little I have fallen into a great tepidity. While I had Reverend Father Forest near me, things went fairly well, because he often gave us instructions, and then I went to direction from time to time, he reminded me of my duties as a religious. Now he is a bit far away, and I am too lazy to write to him. In this poor mission there is nothing which directs one to virtue, and on the contrary everything is found here that is needed to lead to vice. The only example is that of these poor savages who are still subject to their passions.
I have no virtue, no patience, here where so much of it is needed. With these poor Maoris very little is needed to annoy me. Sometimes my impatience with the Maoris becomes very obvious. I think that I have no more of it than when I entered the novitiate. In the matter of humility, I am full of self-love, I am afraid of humiliation, I like to seem to be more than I am, in the sight of the Maoris. And I do not know how to make an act of humility. Concerning obedience: I often obey in a bad mood, and not in a spirit of faith. Concerning the angelic virtue, Oh Reverend Father, how I fear for this virtue, because it is indeed at risk here, where sometimes I am surrounded by people of both sexes, [and] sometimes I get angry in getting them to leave. My flesh makes war upon me strongly; I feel tempted to dally with the opposite sex. I sometimes allow them to be too close to me: I do not mortify my senses enough. I believe that passions still is in me. I have sometimes commended myself strongly to our [p2] good Mother, but not often enough - I still experience in myself, I believe, an attraction for persons of the opposite sex. I believe that that comes from my lack of mortification, in going to bed, in sleeping, in eating, especially in what I looked at and other little things, I felt urged to virtues, to devotion, to recollection, but since I have given up these little mortifications, I have fallen into laxity.
I receive Holy Communion four times a week including Sundays, but how do I receive it, like other things with lukewarmness? I certainly told Reverend Father Forest that I felt like not receiving Holy Communion so often, since I was still so wicked. He told me I should not give it up, and then I have never felt the least sensible devotion in my communion. Concerning meditation, I can not only not recollect myself, [but] I feel no affection. Even when I read it I am distracted. Meditations on the Passion which formerly moved me so much that they brought me tears of love in abundance, now no longer move me emotionally; however I almost never neglect to do my meditation on the love of our Divine Saviour.
I am quite superficial. I can not only not recollect myself interiorly [but] I almost never think of God during the day. My devotion to our good Mother has become cold, like everything else, and then these worldly habits I have do not remind me at all that I am a religious. Oh, Very Reverend Father, where have I got to? I don’t think I will ever reach perfection in my situation, because now I have had six years in religious life, and am very little different from what I was on entering it. I often enough groan over my state, but I do not get out of it; I still remain in my sloth. Formerly I was not afraid of death, I looked forward to it; but now I am afraid of it. If I was still at the Hermitage, perhaps I would be a better religious than I am here, in the middle of this hostile country where only thorns grow, but may God’s holy will be done, and not mine, because that is what I desire.
[p3] For four or five months now I have been in total tepidity – formerly I was not completely so. Again, today, as I am writing to you, a woman has come into the house where I am working. I caressed her to the point of trembling. I am amongst a Maori tribe, living with them, where we have brought our effects since the sacking of Kororareka, where there was a danger of being pillaged. I am with Reverend Father Petit-Jean and am often alone in the house, and I am very much at risk there, because these poor savages are like children – they lie on the ground on top of each other.
Very Reverend Father, I beg you with all my heart, not to forget me in your fervent prayers, commend me as well to the prayers of your beloved Society. I am certain that if you pray for me, and ask others to pray for me, I will come out of the state of languidness which I am in, and will grow in virtue.
We are among a very stubborn people. If I only told you what I see every day you would not believe it. Among themselves they refer to the priests they have living among them as “our foreigner”. They are attached to them because something can be got out of them. They do not know what giving means. If sometimes they bring some things, saying, “There is a gift”, it is so as to get back more, and if we delay in giving the repayment, they ask for it before leaving, and if they are not satisfied, they say we are hard, that we do not love them. In my situation, I have lowered a little the price of the things which I buy from them, because not having a town any more in the Bay of Islands, goods are scarcer. They continually tell each other, “This foreigner is evil, he is hard, he is a man who gets angry. And the Father: the chiefs have several times told him to go away. There is one among them who got into a great unjust fury: he pushed the Father in an angry way while telling him, “Go away, go away, I will etc etc…” Finally they do not know how to do a small service [for you], you cannot get them to do the least little thing without them asking a price for it. They are happy when they see you needing some things. When Father Petit-Jean and I were thinking about how they treated their priests, [a way] that could not be tolerated, I did not yet know them well, but since I have been among them, I have seen what they were like. Quite simply they treat us as if we were their enemies. I do not want to speak about the Protestants, but about our first Catholics. I would tell you everything I would like to about them, but I could never describe them as they are, as I see them. There is, presently, reason for discouragement. We should not be surprised if this mission costs the [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith so much, and then we should not be surprised either if the good God does not send them more priests. Poor people that they are, and so to be pitied. They are powerful only in wars: there, they are one against five British, and they beat them. They are great warriors – they have no fear of death.
- Your most humble and submissive, and your unworthy child
- Brother Emery (paper torn off) religious
Bay of Islands 5 July 1845
- chastity - translator’s note
- the house of formation for his Brothers built 1825-29 by St Marcellin Champagnat - translator’s note
- cf Luke 22:42
- je l’est caresser – sic] with words and even with touches, and I was tempted with bad [pense? – thoughts
- ils flanque dessus les personnes – sic
- les marchandises sont plus rares. Taken literally, this statement seems to defy the law of supply and demand, but presumably the sack of Kororareka in March would have significantly diminished the market for Maori produce. Maybe at that time marchandise could mean market, a meaning it seems to have lost today - translator’s note