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Fr Philippe Calinon to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Tonga, 20 July 1848

D’après l’expédition, APM OC 208 (Tonga) Calinon.

Clisby Letter 75. Girard doc. 726

Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS

CSG 1, 445-456)


Bataillon had already informed Colin of Attale’s death in his letter of 14 October 1847 (L 71). Why it took Calinon almost a year to pen his report, of which this is the edited version, is not clear. In a previous letter to Maitrepierre of 10 April 1847 he is clearly describing what were assumed to be the brother’s last days, although the writing of the original is so cramped as to be almost illegible.

Attale was buried in the Ha’atoka cemetery at Pea where his tomb now occupies a focal position at the foot of the cross raised in 1942 to commemorate the centenary of the Catholic mission there. In his eulogy Chevron revealed, among other things, that the thoughts and reflections the two had shared, especially during the retreat they had made by themselves in the beginning, before the feast of the Assumption in 1842, had made a great impression in him (Monfat, Les Tonga, p 306).

Text of the Letter

Very Reverend Father Superior General,
You must know by now of the death of good Brother Attale (Jean-Baptiste Grimaud), or at least supposed it from my last letter. It was on the 7th August last year that he entered into eternity, strengthened by all the helps of religion. Fr Chevron came the following day for the funeral. We were so poor we had no means for providing him with a coffin, but our faithful, who loved him very much, buried him themselves in a piece of tapa cloth, according to the custom of the country.
How many martyrs suffered a comparable death? The dear young man! For more than a year his days were one long agony. But what should endear his memory to your paternity and to all the members of the Society, is the resignation with which he supported his cruel sufferings to the end, his deep humility, his entire obedience, his spirit of poverty, his hope in God, his confidence in Mary, whom he always gave his best love and service, and lastly, the continuous devotedness which lead him to sacrifice himself daily for the success of the missionary work and the salvation of the people of Wallis and Futuna, ever since he arrived in Oceania almost eight years ago. So in his last moments his soul was filled with consolation. For the two or three hours he was unconscious, or at least unable to speak, you could see on his dying lips a serene smile which seemed to anticipate the joys of heaven. And that was how, towards the middle of the night, he rendered his soul to God. Moriatur anima mea morte justorum et fiat novissima mea horum similia (May my soul die the death of the just and may my last moments by similar to these).
Please accept … etc
Marist priest.

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