From Marist Studies
Fr Jean Lampila to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Heretaunga (Hawkes Bay), 1 March 1851
APM 208 1 March 1851
Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, June 2005
- Heretaunga, (Hawkes Bay), 1 March 1851
[Last eight pages of the letter, only extant. I have labelled them “a” to “h” – BQ]
- …then, fearing the bitterness of a reproach, they kept quiet in your presence, but soon, forgetting your reprimand, they continued in your absence their detestable conversation. Their language, a faithful expression of the cynical morals of the people, knows besides, none of those delicate expression of Christian languages. It makes no use of those turns of phrase, those circumlocutions demanded by decency, which hide, with modesty, the indecent idea under the veil of a felicitous and appropriate term which makes it known without naming it. Now add to this picture a thousand indecent postures (with) no care to cover oneself decently: if they are working together, if they are collecting food, if they are crossing a river, if they are going fishing or to bathe, most of them, always, are quite naked. This sight, presenting itself often to the eyes of innocence, sows the first seeds of disorder in its tender heart, where soon loose living will wreak its havoc, and will extinguish in it almost entirely any disposition favourable to truth and virtue.
- We know it, we to whom the source of this moral scourge, inaccessible to the sight of weak human beings, is sometimes revealed, [p “b”] we know how much holy religion exhausts itself in effort and solicitude, suffers in distressing struggles to root out evil from it and to bring to it the conserving salt which, in the future, must preserve it from corruption, and no one doubts that if some have been healed, they have been healed in the saving bath of confession: then it is that the spouse of J[esus] C[hrist], like a tender mother, plumbing all the depths of evil, redoubles her attention and care of the lost sheep, places it on her shoulders like a precious burden, bathes its stinking wounds, pours onto them wine and oil, and shrivels the evil in them to its very roots, lest voluntary obstacles on the part of the sinner, come and sadden his heart. Yes, we dare to repeat, no one has ever been snatched from this leprosy, if he had been deprived of this regenerative bath.
- Now judge from that, on what unstable sands Protestantism has built its superb edifice, quite proud as it is of it chimeric success. No doubt, if the successes obtained are judged purely in material terms, it cannot be denied that it has succeeded, from this point of view, in gathering under its standards some thousands of people; but if in the Church it has formed here one thinks about Christians, [p “c”] disciples of Jesus Christ, certainly it would be easy to frighten it from its solitude. However nothing has been able to restrain its joy at having made such a conquest for its Church. It would indeed be glorious for it to have succeeded better here than in all the other missions, if it had built on the firm rock. But as everyone knows, this heresy does not demand virtue: faith, and faith alone, that is all the patrimony it took away when it left the sheepfold of the Church, and, faithful to its mission, that is what still, today, constitutes the privilege of its followers, everywhere where this illegitimate daughter has set her pestilential foot. Anyway, it is quite a long time since circumstances have allowed us to make a considered judgment on its teaching and to sum it up in a precise and clear way.
- To distance from Catholicism the children it has seduced, to arouse in them against it a blind hatred, a savage fanaticism, a thousand calumnies against its ministers, a thousand efforts on its part to bid farewell to the teaching of the Church, and to distort it in a way unworthy of any honest and sincere man: there is one side of the medallion. We have given proofs of all that, and exposed its conduct towards us [p “d”] everywhere where it can dominate and exercise its intolerance without being disturbed.
- Nourishing its members, as you have seen, with some vague truths, purely ideal, purely speculative, lacking interior spirit; distributing to them a quantity of books to nourish their vanity and better mislead them, and, by the way, right there is one of these skilfully set traps which the gold of heresy has held out to this stupid people, to bind them to itself; because, at first, a book was an irresistible attraction for the Maori. Those here who were the pillars of the sect knew that well: and, as well, showed themselves generous in this matter. But their disciples, did they become, as a result, more informed, more Christian? Certainly not: it is certain that they have other things to think about and do now rather than read books; it was good formerly, when they had only this admirable thing to satisfy their curiosity, and while away some of their everlasting times of leisure; but now that the Europeans have displayed before them so many divine things,, their books have lost their attraction. Anyway, the supporters of error, unaware of the cause of this ardour, wishing to justify [p “e”] their prodigality in this respect, uttered cries of joy from every corner of New Zealand, affirming, according to the principles of Jurieu that it was the attraction that the Maori felt for the divine word which inclined him to read it. But today, as in the time of Jurieu, this unchanging word condemns all these stupidities, by the diverse and interminable metamorphoses which this inquisitive people subjects it to. This cry was truly worthy of the heresy which wished to attribute, immediately, an innate knowledge to a people the majority of whom do not yet know the a, b, c or d of religion; but as everyone knows, loves to create an illusion of itself and of its work.
- I am finishing this letter, very Reverend Father, with some observations which partly concern myself. Firstly I must tell you that I have been without a confrère for about eight years, and twice in this space of time I have even been deprived of a Brother, to make me more truly experience, no doubt, the tedium of solitude and the dangers inseparable from it. Being perfectly aware of your intentions on this matter, after having appealed to authority, I protested, with respect, against the wrongness of this arbitrary demand, but always with no result: I was always answered with kind words and nothing else. Knowing that Reverend Father Pézant is to arrive in Wellington I asked the Bishop for him, but without success – without, even, any reply to my letter. I will be told, no doubt, later on, that Reverend Fathers Reignier and Morcau, still in [p “f”] the diocese of Bishop Pompallier, are being awaited, so that I can be given one of them; because there is no one else to fall back on since your last letter; but when will they come? I know nothing about it. His Lordship [Bishop Viard - translator’s note] had promised to come and see us in our new station, two or three months after our departure, and it was on this condition that I agreed to go off again without a confrère, for the good of souls, but we are still waiting for him after nine months. We needed his presence for more than one reason: perhaps he could have impressed the Protestants, who have done us so much harm, and who, having seen absolutely no one else than myself in the seven years since I visited the East Coast, have been filled with boldness to oppress and molest us? As well, we still lack any security where we are, because the land belongs in part to the Protestants. Now the Bishop has not give us a cent to buy anything; but His Lordship told me when I left, to come to an agreement with the Maoris on a piece of land, (and) that he would be responsible for the titles which he would get from the government for its validity in the eyes of the law. When we got to Heretaunga, a place in Bishop Viard’s diocese, we made haste to buy a piece of land, so fulfilling our Bishop’s intentions, but my letter got a reply, not from the Bishop, to whom it was addressed, but from Father Petit-Jean, that this land had to be got for nothing: as if His Lordship knew of cases where Protestants gave (land) to Catholics. We are reduced therefore, if there is no improvement soon, to return to Wellington.
- As to what concerns the funds allocated to our mission by the [Society for the] Propagation of the Faith, we have all seen, with the greatest delight, the article of your circular, in which your Reverence makes clear to our Bishop your desire that he agree that a proportional part of these funds [p “g”] be assigned, independently of him, to the various members of the Society of Mary who serve this mission. Very Reverend Father, please come back to the charge over this article if His Lordship has other views on it than yours; you will thus bring to a halt a multitude of superfluous expenses, and you will render a signal service to your children who are paralysed in their secondary means, for lack of some resources through which they could formerly maintain, when the Maori could still become a Catholic, some zealous catechists, who devoted themselves for the good of the mission. Deprived of their help, because we had nothing to give them, we remained alone when we ought to have multiplied, in a mission so broken up and so difficult. Is it not the Protestant Maori catechists who have made, partly, their island heretical? It is on this matter that I earlier wrote to Bishop Viard, that I spoke to him about in another circumstance; but that has never entered his thoughts; he no doubt thought that we could, with 50 to 60 pounds, cover all these expenses, and even save from this modest sum, making from that an adequate house for the Father and the Brother. If now, you wish, very Reverend Superior, to know the state of our mission, I declare to you before the good God, that we are almost entirely losing sight of the reason for which we cam here, that is to say, the mission to the natives [p “h”], which still goes on fading from our hearts, in the presence of the Europeans who are absorbing men and funds. You will perhaps be astonished if I say that two-thirds of the Maoris of my former station have not been confirmed, because our two Bishops have never been to see them where they are, while the Anglican Bishop has travelled around New Zealand, without forgetting one single tribe. It is very possible that they will never be confirmed, with Bishop Pompallier, to whom they belong, being already worn out.
- A few words about myself, to open up to you, very Reverend Father, my interior life, how I see it and know it myself. I have to reproach myself for a little too much exterior dissipation, a little scandal-mongering at times, too frequent forgetfulness of the presence of God, sometimes too much hurry in the recitation both of the Divine Office, and various other exercises of piety. You will be kind, very Reverend Father, to give me a penance for all these failings.
- It now remains for me to thank you, after Jesus and Mary, for your fatherly kindness, which admitted me to the number of her children, and which allows me to remain among them in spite of my unworthiness. I recommend myself to your prayers [? Father ? - word illegible] Superior, as well as those of the Fathers and the various members of the Society. I embrace them all in the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
- I am, very Reverend Father,
- of your Reverence
- the very humble and very obedient servant
- Heretaunga (New Zealand) 1 March 1851
- J Lampila miss[ionary] ap[ostolic]
- [In margin of p “H”]
- If it pleases your Reverence to share with my parents an extract from this letter, you will give them real pleasure.
- font-ils une corvée
- Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713) was a French Calvinist theologian who wrote learned and polemically bitter works against Catholic critics of Protestantism, and the suppression of Protestantism by Louis XIV of France. He lived the last part of his life in the Netherlands - translator’s note
- resorts secondaires – secondary, because coming through the Bishop? - translator’s note