From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

11 November 1846 — Fr Xavier Montrouzier to his brother, Fr Gabriel Montrouzier, Port Balade, New Caledonia

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Jesus Mary Joseph
All through Mary!

Dear Gabriel,
God’s work everywhere is done with difficulty and in Oceania as in Europe; the weapons which we are fortunate enough to snatch from the devil can really be called Bénoni[1], children of sorrow. We were starting, if not to gather, at least to have some hope. The small number of Christians whom we have is going well. The enemy has come and sown darnel. The same ship which took us to San Christoval came to New Caledonia to get some sandal wood and in order to get some put rifles into the hands of the natives, and then gave them the example of most shameful waywardness and as if that was not enough left a Protestant minister, a good cook, who not having any reasons for it does not miss an opportunity to utter a thousand and one calumnies against us. One thing that is scarcely known in France is that all the English are blatant enemies against Catholicism. Be they Anglicans, Methodists, independents or of any other sect, they rally together against us and I am not frightened to say it, that is the trouble the mission station has in dealing with them. Also I don’t hide from you that I attach the greatest importance to the work done by Father Marziou and that I hope to see our work succeed only when it will have completely destroyed that spirit of anglomania which is not less opposed, in my view, to the spirit of Catholicism than to that of French patriotism. I beg you then not to let any opportunity go by without supporting this holy enterprise. It is a crusade not against the infidels but against the heretics who are of lesser value, and the popes have taught us by their example to encourage religious wars. Then people in France have hardly an inkling of that struggle. It is as desperate as it can be. As is the case in the Navigator Islands, this is such an island where the Protestants are masters and where they forbid their natives even speaking to a Frenchman or to a Catholic (because, in their minds, it is one and the same thing). There are others here who represent us as not being human beings, having horns and a tail. On this island they make the chiefs swear never to allow us settling among them. There as in Futuna they aim the barrel of their rifles against the chest of the Catholic missionary who is saved only by the converted who form a rampart of protection with their own bodies. Will I tell you that a captain came to New Caledonia. His sailors were acting stupidly even in our garden and when I went out to confine them to their boat, the captain took their side against me? May all that not make you think that any of us is frightened or disheartened! My thought is to point out the attacks which Hell makes against us, but at the same time I don’t doubt the truth of those words: ego vobiscm sum---confidite, ego vici mundum [= I am with you - be confident, I have conquered the world]. Moreover I must tell you, everything is not a bed of roses for the Protestants. First of all our cook-minister here has done nothing yet. As he is very wretched and as he has no presents, he is little to be feared at the moment. In the Hebrides, when a convert was killed by his mistake, the two ministers abandoned their post. At Togatabou (Tonga Tapu) the famous Thomas recently found his pulpit splashed with filth. That made him doubly a pulpit of filth. In Fiji the calumnies of our opponents fall on us as the following facts will prove to you. Some time ago a submarine volcano broke out and raised a small island in the Vavao group. Lava came falling a long way away on the shores of Lakemba where one of our colleagues lives; the natives who did not know what it was went and asked Father Roulleau who answered them simply: it is lava thrown out here by a volcano. That answer was reported back to the Protestant minister who got into a rage against the natives that they dared even to ask a papist and to believe all his lies. If you believe him, he said, he will tell you a lot of other lies. He will teach you that the statues are gods etc. But unfortunately for him, in the meantime a ship from the Protestant mission stations arrived and before he went on board the natives asked what the significance of the stones which they saw on the beach were. They were told that it was because of a volcano in Vavao. So the priest was right, they cried out, and immediately went to the minister who claimed that such explanations were dishonourable.
For us to counter the attempts of the cook-minister, we are going to found a settlement near him at Hienghène about 15 leagues from Baïaou on the shore in the east. I have plans for that settlement. It is a new language to learn and a lot of difficulties to swallow. But may God be praised! Here are great expectations. The population numbers 4000 souls. It is a healthy young tribe. The chief is a famous cannibal and in addition he has four wives. But he promises to make amends and he awaits us impatiently He is intelligent and I am confident that he will understand very quickly, if not for himself, at least for his people, the usefulness of civilization and welfare which religion brings. Pray a lot so our work will not fall on barren ground! Alas had we converted all New Caledonia, how many people still to snatch from the devil. I have to admit to you that sometimes seeing so many troubles, life is a burden and without the thought of heaven we would not carry on. At the feet of Mary, let’s ask every day for the blessings from on high for us and for our people.
I embrace you affectionately in cordibus [= in the hearts of]
Jesus and Mary
Your good brother
Xavier Montrouzier
Apostolic missionary.
New Caledonia Port Balade 11 November 1846


  1. Cf. Gn 35.18: Ben-Oni — that is to say Children-of-the-Devil