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10 December 1846 — Brother Lucien (Jean-François-Régis Manhaudier) to Brother François (Gabriel Rivat), Superior General of the Little Brothers of Mary

Translated by Peter McConnell, October 2010

See Clisby067 for Br Ted Clisby's translation of the same letter.

Futuna 10 December 1846

Jesus Mary Joseph
Dear Brother Superior General,
After 15 months sailing here I am ready to disembark on soil which must serve as my new country. This island, to which you have send me so far away to find, is Rotuma which the natives, who are compared with Tahitians because of the gentleness and other traits, call their island the beautiful Rotuma or Lotuma, which is pronounced the same way. We have been eagerly waited for. Knowing this, the devil has already sent here his distributors of lies, which had already had some success with the son of the king who rules part of the island, under the king who is an absolute monarch. Those sent by the Protestant minister, seeing that he was hindering their activities, dared to threaten him with a cruel war, but this chief or dauphin raised in cannibalism and who had not obtained supreme power on Rotuma where he was at first a stranger, gallantly cared little for those threats. He enjoined them to leave his island and go and get reinforcements, saying that as far as he was concerned he was quite willing to fight them even until death. That was the situation when Fathers Verne (l’Ain) and Villien (Savoy) and I came to take possession of this island in the name of Christ. His enemy and ours will not slumber. Pray and get others to pray for this worthy race who are still in the shadow of death to see the light and become our brothers in Jesus and Mary! So, I don’t doubt, they will give us back abundantly what we have given them. None of us speaks the language, but we have taken to Wallis two natives: one will be a great help to us because he knows the language of Wallis as well as that of Futuna and a little English and French; six keen Catholics living in Futuna will follow us here for the same purpose but we don’t understand them.
Very dear brother, I am going to tell you in a few words that Brother Paschas, who has shifted from religious house to religious house and never having been happy, can’t take it any more; also he has caused us considerable trouble, but in a more delicate way and a more cunning way than Brother Gérard’s method. It makes him behave as he pleases. The latter suffered terribly from seasickness which developed entirely into a shocking earache combined with regretting having left his gentle parents who adored him and whom he should have gone back to when he was saying his farewells. A priest and his uncle did their best to challenge his vocation and he promised them to leave the Marist Order; I believe that would have been for the best. He had seen only two settlements where everything was compatible to him; the two worthy priests left him to make up his own mind given that he was well. But the first problems discouraged him. I would think that at sea he was so out of his comfort zone that you could say that he had lost his mind. In addition he suffered the longest and most cruel martyrdom and made the others suffer hell, in particular the one who was in charge of our behaviour, who in his case did not always know how to deal with matters as they have been. If this news makes you sad, very dear brother, don’t be angry having sent us; a few days on land will settle us down. Brother Paschas will still be unhappy; he is addicted to it but he knows how to pull himself out of it. I don’t think he will persevere in his vocation. He could do well as he has already done in so many other houses where he was not able to remain. Restless members of the Society are not suited to travelling through the islands. I think that he did not make you fully aware of his background. He is a good tailor, yet he wouldn’t so much as make a stitch for himself or for the others; when others have a go, they wear rags. Moreover, he has been faithful to his religious duties, having had like me only a little or no seasickness whereas Brother Optal had it before we weighed anchor, but he has always been and shows himself to be the worthy child of Mary. He has been chosen to help Bishop Epalle, Brother Paschas for Uvea and Brother Gérard for Upolu or New Caledonia. As he is a little bit fickle, he does not know really where to turn. We have seen Savai’i, one of the islands in the Samoan archipelago. He had been there for only a year and already he had a rather fine wooden house, like all the others throughout Oceania, the walls are made of reeds, the roof of pandanus leaves, a church made of timber, a beautiful altar made by his own hands. At Uvea we found Brothers Joseph and Augustin who were quite well, being helped in their work by a group of young men who were devoted to the mission station. At the moment, I am writing on the same table with Brother Marie-Nizier. They would have liked to receive a letter from you. That would be a great help to us. I know that people are leaving for the holidays and so you are overwhelmed with work, but in the course of the year you can have a spare moment. Do remember us and if you can write a personal one, you will find that many brothers can make copies of a single letter; all you have to do is to sign them. If the letter were made 9, 10, 11 months in advance they would not be less precious no less useful. Very dear brother, I will end my letter praying you to recommend me in your prayers and in those of all our colleagues. Send me your blessing; I really need it. I am on my knees to receive it. Farewell, very esteemed Brother Superior until we see each other again beside Jesus and Mary,
Brother Lucien
P.S. Brother Marie asks me to be remembered to you. I think he is going to write to you himself. On my own account I add that he really likes books: a hymnal, a grammar book or anything else would be a great prize for him. At the Hermitage you have discarded classical Latin and Greek books in the library, at the entrance to the dormitory. They would be really precious in the islands, especially at Wallis and at Futuna where the children are beginning Latin without a book.