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4 November 1848 — Father Pierre Trapenard to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Sydney

Translated by Mary Williamson, February 2019'


Based on the document sent, APM OP 458.2 Mission. trans. (1845 - 1869).


Sheet of paper forming four written pages, the name of the author, written by Poupinel is at the top of the first page.


[p.1, at the top of the page] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Father Trapenard


[p.1]


Sydney 4th November 1848



My Very Reverend Father,
[1]
The occasion is too favourable for me to not profit from it to remind you of me, as I know that all your children are constantly present in your thoughts and that you carry the names of each one of them imprinted on your heart and ceaselessly wish them all well before the altar; nor do I want to give you news and details of my current position and about the mission to which I am destined, since long letters are sent to you to bring you up to date about everything, but it is to satisfy the urgent recommendation that you gave us, before we left, to seize any chance we had to write to you.
[2]
It was on the 21st of the month of August that we left Samoa, after four months wait; we arrived in the port of Sydney on 29th September after a rather difficult passage. When we arrived in Sydney, I felt great satisfaction on learning from letters from Bishop Collomb that we had acted as he had intended, in deciding to come to Sydney. My satisfaction was even greater as I had experienced lively opposition from my colleague [1] who wanted to go to Woodlark - I do not know how. This good colleague complains a lot about me, saying that I have not always communicated to him what I wanted to do; he has good reason. If I have done that, I felt that prudence obliged me to; his ideas seemed to me rather fanatical. Besides, I have done nothing without submitting it to all my other colleagues, [2] and I only made decisions following their advice. Now that we are in Sydney I no longer worry about anything. I put everything in the hands of Father Rocher and I am firmly resolved to do all that they wish; the voice of Father Rocher is for me your own voice; I will leave when it is deemed suitable; I will willingly remain in Sydney as long as circumstances allow. I am busy brushing up on my theology, especially the dogmatic areas which seems to me an indispensable necessity for worthily carrying out the ministry in these isolated lands.
[3]
I would say to you, my Very Reverend Father, with the greatest of simplicity, that this long voyage was for me a favourable time to provide me with a special experience. All the difficulties that divine providence presented us with taught me to understand the complex and innumerable plans of he who governs everything with goodness, wisdom and weights and measures, who makes everything turn out well for those who love him. [3] The contacts with the sea have shown me an example of the heart of man, the depths of which are impenetrable. O my Very Reverend Father, how much virtue is needed to count oneself perfect! How much illumination is needed to know oneself! How much patience and resignation is needed to submit oneself to all things! I realise now, more than ever, that there are some men, some missionaries, who let themselves be carried away by the violent desires of their hearts, that there are some missionaries who, not repressing all the urges that the heart, this cesspit of filth, sent to the vault, but which rises easily to the head, is tormented by everything, irritated by everything, can find no one who can calm it; and from there causes men great unhappiness; for they find that at every step, there are stones that they stumble against.
[4]
As for myself, I would say to you that I am obliged to take my poor heart in both hands and very often it still escapes me; more than once I have surprised it making its escape; [4] this, no matter how much I growl, chastise it and promise to look after it better another time. As cunning as a naughty schoolboy, it always finds a means of getting away and where does it go? It follows the evil impulses of nature; it goes exploring for itself; when I can no longer see it, I only need to go into the realm of pride and I am sure of finding it busy working for the evil master of self love. Furious when one wishes to tear it away from its pleasant occupations, it is irritated, it gets angry, it looks for every way out so as not to abandon such an evil master; it holds onto its interests by every means possible. It is never wrong and in its wrongdoing, it imagines it has some rights. In everything else it is slow, it is lazy, it is without taste, without enthusiasm; but for everything that flatters its pride, it can always be seen hurrying, always vigilant, always ready; at all costs. Alas, my Very Reverend Father, on leaving France, I believed I would be able to remove all temptation from this poor heart and more easily reach a conclusion. I deprived it of everything that seemed the most pleasurable to it; I distanced it from the fleeting pleasures of this world, from the comforts of life, from everything most dear to it. Oh well! It willingly made this sacrifice, but searched to compensate itself elsewhere! I cannot see what would please it; nevertheless, I find it always at fault.
[5]
Yes, my Very Reverend Father, self-denial is the most essential virtue, the most indispensable, for a missionary; the Saviour of men who probes the body and the heart, who knows everything that we need, has made of it an important decree. A missionary should renounce his personal self and he will find happiness everywhere; everywhere he will find joy and contentment; everywhere he will see souls come to him and submit themselves to his teachings; order and peace will reign everywhere. The Superior will command with gentleness, he will regard himself as the most unworthy of men, the inferior person will submit himself to all orders and to the advice of he who God has placed above him. The inferior person will no longer wish to become superior; he will no longer annoy others by wishing to assert his way of seeing things. Everywhere his complaints will be seen to disappear as will his opinions which, far from advancing things, only confuse them more. Ah! How I now see the necessity of this virtue! To give yourself up. Oh! How difficult that is! What a labour! What pain!
[6]
My Very Reverend Father, please request this desirable virtue for me, as it is an indispensable necessity. I would ask of you, as the greatest of favours to request my colleagues to ask God for this blessing for the most miserable of their brothers. It is a very pressing need that obliges me to approach you, my Father, as well as my beloved colleagues. Yes, I left everything when I left France and no regret has come to burden me since I made that sacrifice, but I was carried away myself, beyond my loved ones and this other me causes all my torment today, all my unhappiness and all my pain and if he only tormented myself, but he also brings a cross to bear for all those who are obliged to live with me, who often complain about me. As for myself, I would tell you that I do not have anyone to complain about: because I find myself much more miserable than anyone else; and because I only have myself to look after and that responsibility is rather large.
[7]
At the time of my departure, you gave me the responsibility of the mission’s money. I can tell you that I have managed it very badly, and I was weak enough, on the word and the insistence of my colleagues in Samoa, to lend it to the Society’s agent of Oceania in Samoa, who found himself in great need; he wrote me some bills, for Sydney, but they have not been effective; [5] I know very well that this money will come back; but we must wait some time. Fortunately, the mission finds it has still got some money in Sydney, which consoles me a little; my colleague has scarcely spared me regarding this matter and I know he is quite right. This gives me the occasion to point out to you, my Father, as I have pointed out previously to the good Father Maîtrepierre, that I am good for nothing; my only desire is to carry out in every way the holy wishes of Jesus and Mary and to give up on myself, so as to go and receive in Heaven the place that is promised to me.
[8]
Please accept, my Very Reverend Father, my fondest wishes from he who wishes to be your child for ever,
Trapenard.
Sydney, 4th November 1848.

Notes

  1. Eugène Ducrettet ( cf.doc. 762, § 18, n. 11).
  2. In particular Fathers Joseph Mugniéry and Louis Padel, missionaries in Samoa (cf. doc. 762, § 14-15).
  3. Cf. Rm 8.28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
  4. Perhaps read: running off.
  5. Cf, doc. 762, § 14.