From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

23 December 1847 − Deacon Isidore Grézel to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Futuna

Based on the document sent, APM OW 208 Grézel.

Translated by Mary Williamson, October 2014

Sheet of paper, forming four pages, three of which are written on, the fourth having only the address.

Mr Colin, priest, superior • of the Society of Mary, • Lyon • France • Rhone.

Futuna, 23rd December 1847.

My Very Reverend Father,
I am standing on the land that the blessed Father Chanel has soaked with his blood. Will I have the good fortune to meet the same fate? I do not know yet, though it would be better to say I do not have much hope of it as long as I stay here, for the good Father has traversed all the rugged pathways of the island. His life, which I have just transcribed to send to you, was very edifying and at the same time made me seriously think about myself, about what little progress I have made in my inner life and especially my paucity of apostolic virtues. I am going to ask of this good Father, everyday, that he grant me the grace to follow in his footsteps and become a man of God. I have personal confidence that he will intercede for me with God and, with his protection he will help me to uphold with joy, the difficult work of the ministry that I am about to undertake in a more personal manner.
You know already, my Reverend Father, that I am committed permanently to the holy army and that this step, which I feared so much, is taken forever. I have been a deacon for 15 months; my numerous duties at the printing works have not allowed me to advance any further; I have been tonsured and in minor orders for two years; it is simply obedience that has pushed me this far, Bishop Bataillon and Father Mathieu can verify this; I was not very worried about it, but in the end I made my sacrifice, which put an end to many anxieties. I very much dread the priesthood, as I am still so backward in virtue, so weak, so impotent, that I naturally have doubts about myself and fear this dignified position. Nevertheless, I hope that the Good Lord will have pity on me and that in his great mercy he will have compassion when I am troubled. I have already, several times, refused this elevation, but it seems that Bishop Bataillon no longer wants to listen to excuses and that shortly I will be obliged to bend my head under the yoke of the Lord; I will again renew my sacrifice and this will be, I like to think, on the place where Reverend Father Chanel was massacred; I will ask him then to grant me the grace to make a good apostle and to walk in his footsteps, whilst practising the virtues which were the embellishment of his life.
I have been on Futuna since 16th of this month; the Bishop brought me here with him, for a college that he hopes to erect; if some missionaries do not arrive soon, I will be obliged to carry out the ministry on this island, whilst living at the college. The day after my arrival, an old Fijian, who came to Futuna some time ago seeking some missionaries, came and sat down beside me at a kava ceremony and, having greeted me, said to me that I would leave with him for Somosomo [1] a Fijian island. I replied to him that it was the epikopo who decided that; then he replied to me, very well, I take it upon myself to gain his consent, because it seems this worthy man really wants to have my services; if it is to roast me once I am on his island, he will make a big mistake, as I am not very fat, the printing works having melted away my plumpness in a very effective way.
The press made me sweat a lot and tired me greatly; I printed several works for Wallis and Tonga and a small alphabet for Fortuna; overall I printed nearly sixty thousand sheets of paper, with the help of only four natives from Wallis, who I trained myself. Father Dubreuil, who has seen the works will have informed you about them, as well as the details about my position and our printing works, of which I have sent you a plan.
Twice in a row I nearly succumbed to fatigue, with two different illnesses; I suffer from rheumatism in both shoulders, which, in causing me great pain, sometimes almost paralysed both my arms. Also, I almost crippled myself with the effort I made to lift the printing works forms onto the press; I can still feel it and sooner or later, I fear I will have a prolapse; it seems to me that I have some symptoms, though I am not sure. I was working for God so I hope he will have pity on me, however I will submit myself in every way to his holy will if I am later weighed down by infirmities and there is certainly nothing easier to succumb to in this country. We have been waiting a long time for a printer; if he does not arrive soon I will perhaps be obliged to return to Wallis to again take up my work there; I left Brother Pascase in my place, but I very much doubt if he will manage as he does not have the knowledge required to carry out this work well, even though I gave him several lessons.
I am going to work on the new establishment that the Bishop has begun to construct on Futuna and that he hopes, if we are successful, will be a college. I think it will be difficult to engage the young Futunans because they are excessively protective of their freedom. The college on Wallis has opened; there were twelve children when I left, but I do not know if they will persevere.
It is a long time, my Reverend Father, since I sent you my news; you will not be surprised at this, when you look into my heart, which I am going to open up to you; it weeps with pain and bewilderment and will only be comfortable with you when I have received a few paternal words from you. I have learned that you were not happy with me and that you were seeming to find it difficult to see me as a member of the Society and that later I could perhaps be banished from it. - - - -etc. All these thoughts have worried me greatly, because I cannot see any reason for all that, if it is true. I have nevertheless resigned myself to it, maintaining complete silence and working to the best of my ability under the orders of the Bishop apostolic, Bishop Bataillon. I have resolved to discontinue all relationships and live cut off from other men, but I have once again recalled that you were a good Father and I have made up my mind to open my heart to you, to find out what it is all about; If I am a burden and am blighting the body of the congregation, I will accept my condemnation in resigning myself to God’s will, but always with the intention of earning God’s glory, by working here or elsewhere in the network of the Lord and for my salvation. Now I have decided to share my life with the Lord, I must work for His glory. I will, my Reverend Father, happily receive your advice and your decisions in whatever way you wish to communicate them, for I have resigned myself to everything in prostrating myself on the day of my ordination; I will partake, with God’s grace, of the chalice of tribulations right down to the dregs.
But if, my Reverend Father, you still regard me as one of your children, I will beg you of your goodwill, to grant me the powers that you hold, from Rome, for all your missionaries and also the title of missionary apostolic, which can only be given to me, I am told, by you. As well I need everything that you would consider necessary for the position in which I find myself. I will also need a chapel and some good books, as I have nothing and no one can give me any of their things, as they have only the basic necessities. I would also like the theology of Pérocheau [2] missionary in China and other books necessary for a missionary; small amounts and good quality, that is all that is necessary; a bit of everything. I leave all that to your paternal goodwill.
I am sending you, in a box of Brother Joseph Luzi’s a fine mat, that was given to me on Wallis at the time of my departure. This will be a simple souvenir of the latest of your children.
I will end here, as it is past midnight and I am dropping with fatigue.
I am, my Reverend Father, with sentiments of respect and submission,
Your very humble and devoted servant,
Isidore Grézel, deacon.


  1. See doc.332, § 3, and n.1; 433, § 18-20; 1057, § 1.
  2. Jacques-Léonard Pérocheau (1787 - 1861), vicar apostolic of Sseu-Tch’ouan (Sichuan) in central China, author of Theologia dogmatica et moralis (in two volumes) of which there is a review in The Friend of Religion, t.102 (18th July 1839) 113-114. Pérocheau wrote two letters, (not to mention this book) to Charles-François Langlois, superior at the seminary of Foreign Missions in Paris, in September, 1841, and these were edited in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (1844, t. 16, p. 333-337). Pérocheau was recognised as one of the rare prudent missionaries in China in his time (cf. Louis Wei Tsing-Sing, The missionary politics of France in China 1842-1856 [Paris: New Latin Editions, 1960], p. 155, 164).

Previous Letter List of 1847 Letters Next letter