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21 November 1846 — Fr Joseph Mériais to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Samoa

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

Archipelago Samoa, Island Upolu, Port Apia
Mission of Our Lady of Victories 21 November 1846.
Very Reverend Father,
I am entrusting this letter to a schooner which is sailing to Tahiti. This letter is to inform you of the plans divine Providence has for me. Having learnt in Tahiti of the new settlement created by the bishop in the Islands of Samoa, Father Marceau decided to go there in the interests of his society before going to the Wallis Islands. We found in that archipelago in the middle of a large population Fathers Roudaire and Violette, each in a different settlement about fifteen leagues away from each other. It seems that circumstances demanded this separation so contrary to the wise counselling which you gave us so many times and still repeated with new insistence. In saying this I don’t want to approve or disapprove of the behaviour of the superior of the mission station; I have no information clear enough to do that; I want to explain to you in a few words only the fact of our landing (that is Father Padel and I) in this new mission station, keeping all other details for another more certain occasion that the arrival from the Wallis Islands of a ship belonging to the French Society will shortly give us.
Father Roudaire, the apostolic vicar of Bishop Bataillon for the mission work of Samoa, has charged us, in the name of the powers that he holds from His Lordship, to stay with him until the bishop comes here and settles affairs again. Reverend Father, I have had nothing to say in answer to such a behest made by a superior. Since then I have sacrificed everything possible to enjoy Wallis; I say so with all the sincerity of my heart. I was rather happy to find at the beginning of my apostolic career the total sacrifice of my tastes and of my will. Will things stay in that state? I don’t know; from day to day we are waiting for a ship bringing the bishop or bringing us at least some letters determining our fate.
Since 1 September we are both living with Father Roudaire; today I am preparing to go to the island of Savaii where Father Violette is. I want to do Our Lord’s will by going here. I am going to be in the middle of pagans and various heretical sects; I don’t know the language; I feel such a poor instrument, so weak. I am really frightened of spoiling, everywhere I go, the good that Our Lord wants to work in so many souls so far from the path to heaven. Mary will help me if she really wants to and if grace sustains me. That is what I will pray for. I will not be worried about the result; I will also draw every day on the treasure of the Society to sustain myself in the service of God, to occupy myself in every moment of my life in fighting the good fight for Jesus Christ. Pray, I beg you, for your child in the fear that his soul may languish and dry up. [---] our ability to do anything is quite weak in a population which is so full of prejudices against our holy religion and its ministers, I have to fear that I will become tepid and cold in my fervour. When one can’t do everything, when one has to be patient, human nature allows itself to be convinced without difficulty that one should do nothing.
Our voyage was rather long as you can imagine; still I was the first to get off the ship. For every missionary, a sea voyage is a trial, very much a trial for some. Yet, for my part I was not so wearied as by all the failings that I was able to commit during that time as the fact that I did them willingly. They will not surprise you and will not prevent you from still seeing me as your child attached to the heart of the Society of which you are the father. When I see the bishop, I will ask him permission to renew my vows in his hands; they will make me this time a true religious of the Marist Society.
Some of us have had a lot to suffer morally and physically: you have already heard about it.; people will speak to you more about it; for my part, Reverend Father, I think that you have pretty well foreseen everything, in view of the wisdom with which you have arranged matters.
I would like to prolong still the pleasure that I have in opening up my heart to you and chatting with you; but it is still necessary to make a sacrifice. Your wise counsel is always present in my memory; I try to put it into practice as much as my weak nature allows me to; I long for the time when I will have the happiness of receiving further counselling.
I am, very Reverend Father,
with the most profound respect,
your very humble and very obedient servant,
Joseph Mériais
Apostolic missionary of the Society of Mary.
PS. Fathers Roudaire and Padel ask me to send you their regards; we haven’t any brother right now; Brothers Jacques and Charles are with Father Violette; we are all in good health. Father Roudaire is writing to you at the moment, but he will be able to send his letters only on the next occasion which will occur shortly.