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1 September 1848 — Father Joseph-Xavier Vachon to Father Gabriel Mayet, Apia, Samoa

Based on the document sent, APM ON 208 (Samoa) Vachon.

Translated by Mary Williamson. July 2018

Sheet of paper forming four written pages, Poupinel’s annotation on the fourth page.

[p.4] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Archipelago of Samoa / Port of Apia 1st September 1848 / the Reverend Father Vachon to Father Mayet.

[in an unknown handwriting]
Letter from the Reverend Father Vachon 1848.

To the Reverend Father Mayet (SM)

My Reverend Father and very dear colleague,
I hesitate to rejoice in your infirmities, or even sympathise. The reason for such a strange hesitation, my Reverend Father, is this: You would perhaps never have thought, in a more fortunate state, of writing this excellent circular letter to your brothers in Oceania, a letter that a man of true Marist heart could never read without being encouraged to emulate his brothers, who are so fervent and so pious and whose fine sentiments you reveal to us.
For us, Oceanians, although we might be under the fires of a burning sky, the heart nevertheless loses its fire from time to time. Besides, a man is so easy to distract, he can so easily lose his former fervour; he is so distracted by exterior matters that he very easily forgets to watch over the minor strands of his affections and soon becomes, without noticing it, worldly like the objects with which he is continually surrounded.
The good part is taken away in the sharing out, my Reverend Father. I hope that it might never be taken away from you. So savour your privacy, nourish yourself at the feet of our Saviour and his holy Mother, with the favours that he showers on you in such great abundance.
For we others, children of Martha rather than of Mary, [1] the outside distractions trouble us and prevent us from savouring at leisure the tranquility and charm of an entirely internal life. In this new world of Oceania, everything is novel for us: habits, customs, language … and as well, if it is God’s will, one is alone; one must be cook, mason, carpenter, tailor … and … it is also necessary to study the languages, manage theology and medicine hand in hand, as well as preaching, instruction and schoolteaching and one must finally reply to the thousands and thousands of questions from the natives… and …
How, my dear colleague, could human nature not become somewhat troubled. You then, my Reverend Father, who in a religious and perpetual silence occupy the place of Mary, pray to the Lord to spare us the reproach that he formerly addressed to Martha.
I have seen, my Reverend Father, with the greatest of pleasure, that our dear and well-loved colleagues, whose pious striving towards perfection you retrace for us, had acquired a very special taste for humiliations, for vile and base actions and above all they willingly forced themselves to renounce, without a backward glance, their goodwill and their basic ideals.
May the Good Lord be blessed for it; it is the only true way of being able to do something constructive. So, may they come very soon, these dear and well-loved colleagues, divine providence has reserved for them some marvellous deeds to be carried out.
The struggle will not be finished for all that, they will still have battles, but if their virtues cross the seas without being shattered or wiped out, let them rejoice; Happiness, joy and contentment will be assured for them, for the remainder of their days.
It is the effects of the sea which are the most to be feared, for it has the same effect on the morale of men as it has on the state of wines, those that are good become even better from its influence, but those that are mediocre deteriorate, and may become completely ruined.
Thus it happens very often that there is a great need to undergo a second noviciate after only a few months of travel.
Oh! that I could still have the happiness of being in the embrace of the friendly solitude of la Favorite, [2] where the soul, delivered from all exterior stress, has only to think of its God and of the means of uniting itself more intimately with him; it seem to me that I would not sacrifice any scrap of such a great happiness. But unfortunately one must pass through famine in order to experience the full pleasure of such a generous abundance.
This letter, my Reverend Father, perhaps conveys a little of the deep emotion that I felt on reading yours.
But how could a Marist heart not beat with happiness and pleasure to hear recounted that noble fervour, that holiness which develops in the heart of our mother community.
It is indeed the true means of making spring up, in Oceania, some of those ardent stars who alone are capable, as elsewhere, of devouring the fields of thorns which the whole world is covered with these days.
I would have really liked to give you some details of my position and initiate you into these thousand and one circumstances that make a missionary’s life a life that always has something new. But I fear that I would exceed the limits of a letter that is already beginning to be too long .
Your very devoted servant and colleague in Jesus and Mary,
Joseph Xavier Vachon
Missionary apostolic, society of Mary
1st September 1848
Port of Apia
Vailele village, island of Upolu, archipelago of Samoa.


  1. Allusion to Luke 10.38-42.
  2. Noviciate of the Marists at the time.

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