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17 December 1847 – Father Xavier Montrouzier to Father Jean-Baptiste Jacquet, Woodlark

Translated by Mary Williamson, June 2014

Based on the document sent, APM OMM 208

Sheet of paper, comprising four written pages, Poupinel’s annotation and the note signed by the recipient at the top of the first page.

[p.1] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Woodlark, 17th October 1847• Father Montrouzier
[in Jacquet’s handwriting]
I would ask Mr Champion to kindly return this letter to Mr Lagniet, according to the request that was made on his retirement. Jacquet.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.
Everything through Mary.

To the Reverend Father Jacquet of the Society of Mary

My very dear colleague,
I am even more obliged to you, for having been so kind as to think of writing to me, as the indolence, where letter writing is concerned, is as widespread in France as it is in Oceania and our dear Fathers Padel and Vachon, although having had the leisure of a long sea voyage, have even so, not found the time to send me even a brief message. Anyhow, I must tell you I would have liked to receive a few more details, not about worldly affairs, but about any progress made, the new regulations of the Society and especially about anything regarding religion. It is in that field that I find one of my greatest consolations; do not deprive me of this and, another time, be so kind as to give me lots of this kind of news, which gladdens the heart of a priest and a Marist. As it is, I am going to make the first move and try to provide you with some subject matter to satisfy the curiosity of the people with whom your new duties put you in contact.[1].
Perhaps you are waiting, my dear friend, for me to describe lengthy courses of instruction, at the end of which there is always a baptism and you think that, after two years of missionary work, we should have at least a small core of Christians. Alas, souls are not won over so easily and today, as in earlier ages, there has to be bloodshed to bring forth a band of Christians from the heart of populations debased by lack of faith. You know that, from the beginning of our curacy, we have spread the word very widely. It seems that more is necessary to bring the grace of God to our savages. In one single attack, the Reverend Fathers Paget and Jacquet and our dear Brother Hyacinthe were felled by the axes and spears of the natives.[2].
This deplorable event took place on 20th April 1847. What was the cause of it? You would find it hard to believe, but it was because one day, after having put out our old clothes to air them, we asked some natives, who we knew to be chronic thieves, not to come near, as we suspected they were only there to steal something. It seems that they then resolved to massacre us at the first opportunity and unfortunately that occasion presented itself shortly after. Our dear colleagues were out and about, the savages surrounded them and felled them with spears and axes. They then carried off the bodies, cut them up and the next day had a hideous feast. They did not stop there in their quest. As they saw that we were staying put in our house, without withdrawing at all, they made up their minds to come and attack and one day, very close to our establishment, we saw arrows falling, which fortunately did not reach anyone. We redoubled our precautions, but the natives did not give up and one evening, just as we were about to begin our spiritual readings, we noticed fire on the roof of the house. We could not bring ourselves to be burned and, at the risk of being struck by the spears of the natives, whom we assumed were hidden nearby, we went out to put out the fire. Our time had not come and we got back inside, safe and sound, having put out the fire.
We then, finally, understood that the natives were our implacable enemies and we felt obliged, so as not to be imprudent, to keep watch day and night.. So we divided up our time and took alternate turns at mounting guard. Oh! How long were the hours, especially in the first few days, when we often took a falling leaf or a bird who rustled in the bushes for the enemy! From time to time our everyday fears were added to with new threats. We heard that several tribes had joined forces and were going to attack us all at once. God forbid that their evil plans be put into action, but we were nevertheless in a continuous state of fear for several months; I can even confess to you, my dear colleague, I am never going to have a moment’s peace until I renew my act of contrition and I have even recited the prayers for the dying. Nevertheless, I can assure you that, in the midst of all these dangers, it was an infinite comfort to me to know that God alone was my strength and to throw myself lovingly into his arms.
It goes without saying that we then redoubled our prayers, each person repeating his vows and as well there is much reflection. Reverend Father Frémont committed us to saying our rosary every day; and he himself was very conscientious in reciting a thousand Ave Marias. Oh! How clearly the spirit could then see the pointlessness not only of this world’s goods, but also of the minor affections which, without making one lose one’s charity, put a damper on it and often prevent the religious workers from achieving perfection!
Finally, on 29th August, day of the sacred Heart of Mary, [3] we see the ship carrying our Bishop, our vicar apostolic, arrive. Faces beam, gentle tears fall, we thank the Holy Mother who has deigned to caste a pitying glance on her children and we go to welcome his Lordship. On seeing the gaps in our ranks, our good Bishop could not hide his pain, we mingled our tears and embraced each other, with that feeling of brotherhood that comes with misfortune. Besides the loss of the dear colleagues, whose deaths I have told you about, we had to inform him of that of Father Crey, who, a month after his arrival succumbed to the fever.
After the first moments given over to pouring out our hearts, we had to think about a plan of action. We prayed, we discussed in council and after serious deliberation we decided we would have to leave San Cristobal. The danger was too great and as well the fever was sapping our strength. So apart from our sufferings, we found ourselves in much the same position as when we left France. May God always be praised !
You can see, my dear friend, that is far from the idea that you probably have of our mission and of its current state. But this should not discourage anyone. We will be killed. Oh! well, is it not a great satisfaction and a great glory to die for God and to spill one’s blood for the salvation of one’s brothers. − They will eat us. Oh! what matter. Will our bodies be less whole when resurrected? Will they, because of this, be deprived of the light which is promised to those of the just or of the crown of martyrdom − We will perhaps not make progress for a long time, not make any conversions. But is it not progress to accomplish God’s will, to suffer for him and to pray in a land which, up till now has been occupied by infidels? Besides, is it not essential that someone leads the way and that he who lays the foundations, which may not be noticeable, does he do less than the person who lays the last stone? So, I would ask you to say to any young people who, in your travels, you find disposed to come on missionary work, but who are frightened by the fruitlessness of our ministry, that the chance of martyrdom and the glory of being the first apostles in a country are well worth the effort of giving up, at least for a time, the satisfaction of profiting from the word of God? Tell them that if they are really zealous, they should come to our territory, precisely because the people are not easy to deal with, whereas the more peaceful people will more easily attract missionaries. And tell them that, if they are so keen to see the fruits of their ministry, at least, in coming to one of these islands, already steeped in the blood of our brothers, they will be able, as on Futuna, to harvest with joy that which others have sown with their tears. [4].
As well, my dear friend, preach at both suitable and unsuitable times[5] so as to win us some recruits, some resources and above all some prayers. Our needs are immense and I confess to you that in France, where, during several years I dreamed only of the missions, I really had very little idea. So, first of all, concerning recruits, I did not think we would need so many, for the simple reason that I did not expect to find a population so widely scattered, nor with so many different languages, often in the same area. As far as resources are concerned, I would never have imagined that the expenses for a missionary would be so huge. Nevertheless, it is very true that if he wants to celebrate Holy Mass, he will have to pay 1 shilling for a bottle of wine, that is to say almost half the cost of a subscription for an associate of the Propagation of the Faith. Now if he wishes to travel or, rather is obliged to, 1500 fr. to 2000 fr. will disappear each month and the months flow by very easily at sea, where flat calms are very frequent and the presence of innumerable reefs oblige the most intrepid of captains to furl part of the sails every night and, consequently to slow down the progress of their ship. −
Finally, as for prayers, I will tell you frankly that it is only them that can sustain us in our difficult and perilous ministry. For ourselves, deprived of the blessings that only fervent and continual prayers can bring, we are not capable of having the necessary patience to reply, without ever showing ill humour, to the crowd of savages who continually surround us and tire us with their troublesome demands; this closeness with God, so easy to lose in the midst of the cries and questions of our natives, who speak to us when the fancy takes them, without considering whether we are praying or carrying out some act of piety. Finally, and above all, there is the gift of advising, of prudence, of which we feel the need every moment and without which, with the best of intentions in the world, one can, twenty times a day compromise the mission.
At the moment we are at Woodlark; it is a step nearer to New Guinea. Will I one day see this land? I hope so. Whatever may be, our present position, apart from the fever, is quite good. The inhabitants seem quite friendly; but I am cautious about hastening to speak highly of them.
The fever forces me to cut short my letter, which I wished to make longer, but I still have the time to embrace you with all my heart and to recommend myself to your prayers.
Your devoted colleague,
Xavier Montrouzier,
Missionary apostolic of the Society of Mary.
Please remember me to Fathers Favié [6], Maîtrepierre, Colin the elder, Cholleton, Eymard, Mayet, etc. etc.
[p.4, on an angle in the margin] [14]
Post Script. Despite your request, I will not pray to the Holy Virgin to fire you with zeal for the missions, because I would make you commit a grave sin in giving you the opportunity to resist.
Woodlark, 17th December 1847.


  1. the recipient of the letter, Jean-Baptiste Jacquet, worked with the Association for the Propagation of the Faith from 1845 to 1847; at the beginning of 1847 he was named Superior of the seminary of the Mills, a position he retained till 1850; following this he was director of the Third-Order of Mary, then Secretary General and finally Assistant General.
  2. Fathers Claude Jacquet and Jean- Marie Paget and Brother Hyacinthe (Joseph Châtelet) were part, with Epalle of the eleventh group of missionaries, who embarked in London on 2nd February 1845, to arrive on 2nd December 1845 on the island of San Christobal (Makira) in the Solomons (Cf. doc. 470, ∫ 8; 488, ∫ 8; on their deaths: cf. doc. 667, ∫ 1-2; 674, ∫ 5-10 )
  3. Cf. doc. 674, ∫ 11 and n. 8.
  4. Cf. Ps 125 (126) 5: They that sow in tears will reap in joy.
  5. Cf 2Tm 4.2: Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season.
  6. No doubt Claude Favier (born 1796 ordained 1841); Jean-Victor Favier was already in Oceania on Futuna island

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