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23 June 1848 - Father Pierre Rougeyron to Father Gabriel Mayet, Anatom

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2017

Based on the document sent, APM ONC Rougeyron.

Sheet of paper forming four written pages, Poupinel’s annotation being found at the top pf the first page.

[p.1, at the top of the page] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
The Reverend Father Rougeyron to Father Mayet.

Port Saint Joseph Anatom 23rd June 1848.

My Very Reverend Father,
The long and very interesting letter that you sent us gave everyone great pleasure; in it we felt the kindly solicitude of our Reverend Fathers Superior towards the missionaries living amongst the savages, we learned in detail about the benedictions that our dear Mother extends towards her young family; as well, we have been fully informed of what is happening at la Favorite, our dear noviciate. On reading the statements of piety and humility that you have cited, I, more than once, blushed for my half-heartedness, my cowardice and my other failures. Alas! I certainly have need of re-immersing myself, for several years, in a place such as the noviciate in Lyon; but I can no longer hope for such happiness. The time of my noviciate, although one year in length, was too short and above all not used fruitfully enough! Ah! my dear Father, pray that the Lord will help me with what I lack.
From far away, for a long time, we have tried to carry out a part of what we learned at the noviciate. We have organised a little set of rules that we follow conscientiously. In the morning we all get up at a quarter to five; at five o’clock we begin prayer and meditation until 5.30; then mass follows. At 6.00 work for the brothers until 8.00 when there is breakfast. During the meal there is a lecture. From 9.00 until 12.30, work. Then specific exams and a small meal, at 1.00 rest time till 2.00; at 2.00 work until nightfall. Then supper, then prayer, then a religious lecture with a subject for meditation. All these divers activities are marked by the ringing of a bell. The small community acts as a single man; at the moment, I only ask the Lord that this may continue. You see, my Reverend Father, that one can very well combine religious instruction with the duties of a missionary. The better religious person one is, the better missionary one will make; this is a certain fact. He who is impatient to leave the noviciate is assuredly falsely enthusiastic; he will rapidly become bored with the mission, as he did with the noviciate.
I am not telling you anything new about the mission, as I have written another letter to the Very Reverend Father Superior in which I inform him of everything. I will just say to you that yesterday we had a very touching ceremony, which brought tears to the eyes of more than one of those present. Yesterday was the celebration of Corpus Christi; an altar was set up in our house which has just been begun. Tall trees with dense foliage served as a roof for the house, covering it with their beautiful branches. Around the chapel were many different types of shrubs. In the centre of the shrubs native mats were spread out. The steps of the altar were decorated with vases of wild flowers. At the top of the altar was a niche of greenery where the King of Kings was placed. It was very simple, it was certainly not very artistic, just nature had provided the decorations. But God, who sees into the depths of hearts, knew very well that our desire was to please him. At nine o’clock a mass was solemnly sung and all the crew of the Arche d’Alliance were present. After the mass, the benediction was given, followed by a few words of farewell to the Arche d’Alliance, which was now on the eve of its departure. [1] The ceremony having been completed, an outdoor meal took place in the fresh air, under the beautiful azure arch of the sky. A mood of great happiness reigned all day long; never in my life, or at least never in a long time had I been so content and so happy. It was the first time I had heard a solemn mass sung in our mission and so with what happy memories my soul was filled. That simple ceremony recalled for me those beautiful formal occasions in Europe, the splendid altars of repose in the streets and in the public squares, which I witnessed in my childhood. It was in a faithless land, amongst a people who did not know God, that God was thus praised and glorified. Oh! Yes, wholeheartedly we sang the psalm Laudate dominum omnes gentes. [2] It was a year ago that we were in New Caledonia and there we were besieged by the savages. …
Since in your letter you expressed a desire to know something of Mr Marceau, I am going to tell you about a small matter and very willingly, as in speaking about it, I myself learn more and more. You tell us that he is a man who will one day appear on our altars; I am of the same opinion, we regard him as a saint. Besides, saintliness can be seen in his face. His conduct, while we were on board, covered us all with shame. At four in the morning, every day, he was out of bed. It was even this pious captain who came to wake me and brought a light to my cabin while I was on board. In Sydney, every day, without exception, he approached the holy table at daybreak, always also accompanied by the ship’s doctor. We would see both of them, at the door of the church, waiting for the doors to be opened and then they emerged after several hours of meditation. He astonished everyone to a remarkable degree. The Catholics of Sydney would have canonised him, even though still living. While I was still on board, he did the duties of the sexton, arranged the altar, served me mass, then served Father Grange, then Father Roudaire and he spent all this time on his knees. Going to see the captain, we would find him in a small cabin, occupied with writing, but most often reading spiritual texts or meditating. If he was promenading on the bridge, he could be seen passing the beads of his rosary between his fingers. If bad weather arrived or some inconvenience, there was always the same calm, the same evenness of spirit, it is God’s will, that was always his motto, why would we not wish it? It is right that things should be so, since God allows it.
But what strikes one with admiration, it is his love of the Holy Virgin. Every evening he goes in search of one person or another, so they can recite the rosary together. Having finished praying with one, he goes to pray with another. The first two with whom he recites the rosary are two Kanaks from Wallis and Tonga: the last two are the cook and his kitchen boy. His confidence in the Holy Virgin knows no boundaries: in port Saint Vincent, the Arche d’Alliance touched bottom, a small cracking sound was heard, everyone paled, only the captain remained calm and set about replying to those who were asking him what was to be done: leave it in the hands of the Holy Virgin, she will help us. Indeed, the ship began to refloat. When returning from Woodlark, a violent storm of almost unheard of fury struck; The Arche lost her tiller; who has ever seen a ship function without her tiller? What to do, what would happen; we were near to the coast. Mr Marceau said that there was nothing to fear, because there was an excellent pilot on the quarter deck: it was the statue of the Holy Virgin that he was referring to, a statue that can be found on the stern of the ship. A miraculous thing happened, the Arche sailed on very well for several days and in the right direction without a tiller. The mortification is continuous. At table he always wishes to serve himself last, so that it sometimes happens that there is nothing left in the dish. He holds back from asking for something else. He drinks only water.
[6] [on a slant in the margin]
He has so many holy virtues and good qualities that he has the affection and esteem not only of the crew, but also of all the missionaries and the savages, who regard him as their father. He also truly loves them as his children. If he did not return to Oceania, it would be a great loss to the missions. He could not be replaced. Everything through Jesus and Mary. Please be kind enough to share this meagre letter with the Very Reverend Father Provincial [3] who extends his kindly solicitude to our unfortunate missionaries in New Caledonia. And from our perspective we will not forget him.


  1. Cf. doc. 714.
  2. Ps 116 (117) which begins with the words: Nations, all praise the Lord.
  3. Benoît Lagniet was the provincial in 1848 (cf. Mayet, Memoires, 7, 743).

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