From Marist Studies
29 September 1853— Father Pierre Michel to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Rewa, Fiji
Translated by Peter McConnell, July 2011
- [p. 4]
- [In the handwriting of Poupinel:] Reva (Witi) 29 September 1853 § Fr Michel § the desperate state of these islands
- [p. 1]
- Reva, 29 September 1853. Archipelago of Fiji in Central Oceania
- Very Reverend Father,
- Not being able to keep the post of Somosomo, Divine Providence has shifted us to the south of the mainland. So Father Mathieu has called me to be with him on the banks of the River Rewa on Viti Levu, which is the biggest, the most populous and the richest of all the islands in the Fijian archipelago. Two years ago we crossed its rivers, mountains and valleys; what are our successes and discoveries now? The same as in the north, the same as in Somosomo and wherever we went on Fijian soil, they will always be the same (unless heaven intervenes), that is to say nothing, utterly nothing, because the Fijians are all the same, everywhere they are the same, cor unum et anima una in vitio in Satana [=united in body and soul in the sin of Satan]; and if ever you meet one of them on your travels, you will be able to say immediately and accurately ab uno disce omnes [= learn what they are all like from one example]. You understand nothing from these Fijians, gentle as children and fierce as men; like enrabied dogs, always drawn by untamed feelings and always drawn to devouring their masters. Cicero said formerly: you can do nothing with a Phrygian except by the whip. Well, I think you have to say the same thing about the Fijian.
- I am all the more convinced of the truth which I heard from the horse’s moth. One day when I was discussing with the chiefs, in order to know precisely why they did not want to worship their creator, their true touranga, they answered me in one voice: You will do nothing with us unless Europe chastises us carefully. It is only the war club that we Fijians obey. So let France cause the thunder of battle to roll and we will fall on our knees. While waiting for that, you can expect from us all kinds of insults and disappointments.
- Indeed, they hunt us and chase us everywhere like wild beasts. Without mentioning the shots they fire at us from time to time, I can tell you that in the mountains as on the plain, on the banks of rivers as on the seashore, everywhere we are welcomed with the same scorn and the same disdain; everywhere the same defiance; everywhere the same antipathy, hatred and ignominy; everywhere shocking calumnies, deep prejudices everywhere. To sum up, the missionary here is like Jeremiah on the ruins of Jerusalem, he can’t do anything else but weep and repeat the words of the prophet: desolatione desolata est terra, quia nullus est qui ecogitet corde [= Desolation of desolation because nobody cares a damn]. The earth is completely desolate in the depth of darkness because nobody wants the light, made desolate in the stupidest ignorance that can be imagined; made desolate in a thousand ridiculous superstitions; made desolate in the darkest defiance; and the most naïve preventions; made desolate by sloth, deceit and the insults of pagan priests who swarm like ants; made desolate by the most shameful povery which ravenous hunger accompanies; made desolate by theft and pillage. It is their law to ruin all foreigners; made desolate by barbarity and by the most atrocious cannibalism; made desolate by continuous wars which make a vast cemetery of his archipelago; made desolate by the heresy of the Methodists who pour out everywhere their lies and most absurd calumnies like vomit; made desolate by the disgusting and jealous godlessness of foreign runaways; made desolate by polygamy and the most unrestrained debauchery; made desolate by the most brutalizing idolatry; they worship and want to worship only devils; made desolate finally by all hell which they want to see dominant here as the supreme master: here is really his own empire, another hell, and I think that under heaven there is no place so flourishing. I am mistaken, there is no place where his flames cause as much destruction; there is no place where there is so much burning--- If Satan lasts another century, I don’t know what will become of this wretched country: the thought of its future horrifies me!
- On a similar battle field too our great motto is indeed: Vaincre ou mourir![= conquer or die!] But what will be our fate? Shall we be triumphant one day? God knows; only judging from this land and the type of people our enemies are and according to the ordinary course of events, victory certainly awaits other warriors who are more numerous and more skilled; so will it always be necessary for them to be preceded by that resounding power which we spoke about at the beginning?
- But, you will tell me, maybe you will have the glory of shedding your blood for the noble cause which you are defending? God still knows; nevertheless all indications now are that unworthy of a such good fortune, we must resign ourselves to carrying our cross in all patience and humility until Our Lord wants to show us mercy. Pray for it, good and very Reverend Father, pray for it, please, have compassion on us because here we are like our sorrowful mother at the foot of the cross of her son Jesus; we live while dying without being able o die.
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Apostolic missionary.
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,