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Father Garin to Marists on New Zealand mission, 12 October 1842

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, June 2005

APM Z208 12 October 1842

(A circular letter)

AMDG et DGH[1]
Kororareka, 12 October 182
To the Reverend Fathers
Very dear and Reverend Fathers
It is always a new source of delight for me when I have the chance to communicate with you, because these conversations take me back to the times when, gathered around Mary’s altars, we tasted, in the retreat, the sweetness of virtue and the consolations of religious life. Then we had delight in repeating these words of the holy King: O quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum.[2] The union of hearts made of all the members one sole family, in the bosom of which it would have been sweet and consoling for us to give up our last breath. But zeal for the salvation of souls, the glory of God, the honour of Mary made you give up, very dear and Reverend Fathers, all these joys and consolations. Neither the bonds which attached you to this spiritual family, nor the voice of flesh and blood could turn you aside from this noble calling; you saw in advance the dangers of a long voyage over the ocean, the privations, the hunger, the thirst, the sleeping rough, the refusal, the obstinacy of people, the annoyances of all sorts, your body in the hands of a savage ready to us on it every cruelty, all Hell, at last, let loose against you to stop you from snatching from it souls which had for so long belonged to it; you saw all that, you made an offering of it to God, and even all you could not foresee, and your sacrifice was pleasing to Him. Your expectations have been realised in part; already you have been able to gather many merits from the midst of your sufferings, from your works and your privations of every sort – already you could have a crown which would be envied by many. So be brave! Some more struggles and you will see it on your head, that beautiful crown which nothing will be able to make fade.
You are suffering, Reverend Fathers, you are deprived of many things, and we also suffer at seeing that we cannot provide you with everything which could put you in a proper situation to do good. We have however made efforts to help you to survive some more months of distress. Please accept with good will this little amount we can send you; let us hope that one day blessed Providence will let fall from its hand some favours for the salvation of these poor souls which must be so dear to us. Would you allow me, in speaking about these dear souls, to turn your attention to some advice which I believe I have to give to all the Fathers by this same letter, of which I am sending a copy to each station, not intending to address reproaches to anyone in particular, but only wanting to suggest some salutary reflections to those who could recognise themselves in them, and to protect those who believe themselves innocent. What concerns me is not simply hearsay, but, and I say with sorrow, it is things which I have seen, also, repeated in the little time I have been on the mission,[3] and which lead me to form a view, to a certain point, of everything I have heard said. If am far from wanting to attribute that to a great number and even to want to judge even one among you on appearances,[4] as it is said, but what I want from the bottom of my heart and for the greater glory of God, is that those who recognise themselves from this letter to be a little distant from principles, seriously consider again before the Good God whether they do not have just reproaches to make to themselves, and whether they should no leave behind certain impressions which [p2] are often received in circumstances in which our poor nature repels everything that can humiliate it. Since I have been here and have had the opportunity to see two-thirds of the Fathers at different times, I have witnessed several things, I have heard words with my own ears, I have seen how things are done, and in the light of the understanding which I have the right to expect from the Good god so that I can provide for your salvation and fulfil all the functions which he has given me in spite of my great unworthiness, I have irresistibly come to believe that some members of the Society have been imprudent, not submissive enough, holding a bit too much to their own way of seeing things, and not overcoming enough the repugnance they experienced in following certain advice. Even more, the right each person has to his reputation and the esteem of others has sometimes been violated for no reason. So allow me to recall to you what you have already often heard said: Posuit episcopos regere Ecclesiam Dei.[5] If it is for the Bishops to govern the Church of God, it is for us who are their subjects to let ourselves be governed; and isn’t it we, on the contrary, who want to take over this government when we want to follow our inclinations, our ideas in the exercise of our ministry, or prefer them to the ideas and advice of our Bishop? That is clear, and that reason alone would suffice to submit ourselves blindly to the will of him whom God has appointed to govern his church. This word blindly could frighten us, but it is commended so much in religious communities[6] that he who does not conform to it is seen as an imperfect religious. Well then! We constitute one community with our Bishop: he is the head, we are the members, so that if there is not an intimate bond between the head and the members, the whole body is sick. Would you argue that there are faults, even failures, in the person of your Bishop? But let me suppose that you are the director of someone who makes these objections. See what you would tell him in reply: “A Superior has, in order to govern, understandings[7] which his subjects have no need of, and a subject would be mistaken in obeying his Superior (if he thought) that God would not impute to him as sinful what he did through obedience; on the contrary, He will bless his work[8] while he will render useless[9] works not done in that spirit. The faults of a Superior and his failures do not destroy his authority nor the duty of the subject (to obey), let us understand that clearly. Further, to judge whether one’s Bishop’s conduct is right or not, one has to be sure of having understandings not only equal to, but even superior to his, and who has so much pride as to want to say that he knows he has more understanding than the person he is judging, because this person is vexed by some understandings,[10] and he who judges has no right to the same understandings. Will it be said that he hasn’t the graces for any matter which is not spiritual, but that the subject has them better than his Superior? Let it be supposed again[11] that we had sufficient understanding to judge our Superior, ought we do it without having heard him beforehand?
I myself have seen, however, some Fathers condemning the Bishop over undertakings before having known the motives and the circumstances which determined him to them, and that is neither just nor charitable, and even very pernicious. Finally, I really wish we might have sufficient understanding to judge, and that we might come to a right judgment, (but?) is it allowable, theologically speaking, for any of us to go and find a confrère and tell him about the matter? Is it allowable for any of us to treat the author of this action in a way such as would take away from him all the confidence and esteem to which he has a right? Is it allowable to go and tell a priest newly arrived, (that) our Bishop is this and our Bishop is that? Why thrust this motive[12] for discouragement into a heart still on fire with zeal for the salvation of souls and full of respect and obedience towards his Superior?
Why add a new obstacle to the conversion of souls? We read [p3] however, and we are familiar with this passage: Corripe[13] eum inter te et ipsum solum.[14] Would it have happened that people wrote to France before doing what that text suggests, if they believed they should have in conscience acted in that (Scriptural) way?[15] Post primam et secundam correctionem, si te non audierit, die Ecclesia.[16] It is for that (reason) that I sent a note supplementary to the Rule[17] in which I said that he who believed himself obliged in conscience to write about it to France, should first write to me about the matter as the representative of the General, and he will have satisfied his duty in conscience. For my part, I will examine the matter before God, and I will act according to the understanding that He will be pleased to give me. The aim of this letter is therefore to recommend you not to forget the principles which must guide your actions so that acting in union with authority, your work may be blessed. The Bishop has published notes, a catechism, suggested ways (of acting): let them be held to exactly; the more we distance ourselves from them, the more we distance ourselves from the Spirit of J[esus] C[hrist}. You know the meaning of these words: Ecce ego vobiscum sum.[18] I am with you teaching, instructing… So if J[esus] C[hrist} is with the authority he has established, every time you deviate from it, you distance yourselves from J[esus] C[hrist]. So let us be very careful not to condemn the actions of the one in authority and criticise them; I urgently recommend following the notes and advice given by the one in authority on the method of teaching.
I say with conviction: it is the liberty of speaking against the one in authority which has sown discontentment among the Fathers; if there was severity or brusqueness on the part of the one in authority, which is not my business to decide, there was also a lack of submission; we could have and should have profited from the humiliation we received; but we forgot we were religious. Let us beware: Deus superbis resistit, humilibus autem dat gratiam.[19] Suppose that the Bishop had made mistakes in administration, ought we not respect his intentions? And if you find yourselves in difficult situations, new in new matters, in a new country, could you assure yourselves of not making mistakes, and of being able, even, to support yourselves? Let us be afraid that through a way of acting that has little religious about it, we may draw down on the mission evils of which we are perhaps already the cause, and for which God may ask satisfaction.
Oh! I beg you, I beseech you, I throw myself at your feet, Reverend Fathers, to commit yourselves to again look into the depths of your conscience, before God; let us put right the past if we see ourselves to be blameworthy; let us expiate our mistakes by penitence and repentance; if we see ourselves as innocent, let us pray for those who have been guilty. Let us groan in the presence of God for our errors so that He may be appeased, so that He may convert the people entrusted to our care. In order to obtain these graces, from the date of receiving this letter each Father will recite, for a month, the Domine non secundum peccata nostra[20] and the Memorare[21] in the morning, and the Miserere[22] or, if one does not have time, an act of contrition, in the evening (and) during this month let everyone apply themselves in a special way, to not talking against the administration and really putting into practice the (pastoral) notes given by the Bishop.
A part of the Māori book will soon appear perhaps.[23] It is particularly on this occasion that you must be careful of your behaviour, because if an author who writes in his own language quickly finds numerous critics, what will be the experience of an author who writes in a foreign language that he has been speaking only a few years (although in fact he has the help of one of the most expert priests in this language, and of two intelligent natives), but there are so many aspects which lend (themselves) [p4] to criticism in a work: the plan of the work, the choice, the arrangement of the contents, the ideas more or less clearly expressed etc etc. So this book should be seen as coming from the authority,[24] as coming from God Himself. Let us make it the guide[25] of our way of teaching; believe, even, that the particular expressions found in this book will bear more fruit for salvation than those we would want to substitute for them. Who will alter[?][26] St Paul’s epistles? Anyway, he himself admits that he is not skilful in the language. Nam etsi imperitus sermone.[27] However what fruit do the faithful not gain from the teaching they contain? Let us become accustomed, Reverend Fathers, to seeing in the person of our Bishop the representative of J[esus] C[hrist]. Qui non est mecum, contra me est, et qui non colligit mecum spargit.[28] So whether you communicate the Bishop’s directives to the natives by word of mouth, or whether you give them his writings or his book, embrace the matter as if it were your own, and put into it the conviction that you put into things that emanate from yourselves.
I end by recommending you to renew in yourselves devotion to Mary and to the good guardian angels; let us be afraid to grieve our Mother’s heart; let us be afraid to lose her protection, for without her, what will we be able to do? Here we do not have, as in France, special shrines in her honour, statues or other things suitable for recalling her devotion to us; so we are in danger of seeing her insensibly diminish and perhaps be lost. Let us love Mary, let us invoke her (intercession), let us beg her to direct us, to enlighten us, and to offer our works to God, and, if we are poor in merits, let us frequently offer to God, as Reverend Father Superior [General] recommends us, the merits of Mary and of her Divine Son.
Let the Brothers [the Brothers associated with several of the missionary priests - translator’s note] write to me, or preferably to Father Forest.[29] Please recommend him to him, and take good care of his soul – it is the first entrusted to you.
I am, with sincerest affection, very dear Fathers,
Your very humble and devoted servant
Prov[incial], miss[ionary] ap[ostolic]


  1. To the greater glory of God and the honour of the Mother of God
  2. Ps 133:1 – How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live in unity.
  3. He had arrived in New Zealand in June 1841 - translator’s note
  4. ? sur de simples
  5. He appointed bishops to rule the Church of God – Acts 20:28. Paul here is speaking the elders of the church at Ephesus, and refers to them as overseers – episkopoi in Greek. At this early stage in church history the distinction between episcopos and presbyter seems to have been not everywhere yet clear - translator’s note
  6. dans les maisons de communauté
  7. lumières
  8. et un inférieur se tromperait – il en obéissant àun superieur *1 que Dieu *2 ne lui imputerait pas à péché ce qu’il avait fait par obéissance; au contraire il bénira son travail. *1. It seems that Garin imples “If he thought” before “God would not impute to him…” for sense to be made of this passage. *2. The use of the negative “could not impute as sinful” seems to imply that by acting under obedience a man’s act would not only not be seen as sinful, but au contraire – God would bless it - translator’s note
  9. stériles
  10. cette personne a dépit à des lumières
  11. A supposer encore
  12. trait
  13. sic – corrige?
  14. Have it out with him alone, between your two selves – Matthew 18:15
  15. si on a cru devoir en conscience employer ce moyen?
  16. After the first and second attempt at correction, if he does not listen to you, bring it to the attention of the church – Matt 18:17
  17. Presumably the Rule governing Marist conduct on the New Zealand mission - translator’s note
  18. Behold, I am with you – Matt 28:20
  19. God resists the proud , and gives gifts to the lowly – Luke 1:51, 52
  20. Lord, not according to our sins… - Ps 102:10ff ?
  21. Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary – prayer of St Bernard
  22. Psalm 50/51
  23. This Māori Book was a compilation of a short catechism and prayers in Māori - translator’s note
  24. Pompallier himself was substantially the author - translator’s note
  25. règlei
  26. oûtiquera ?
  27. For though unskilled in speaking… - 2 Cor 11:6
  28. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters – Matt 12:30
  29. Forest was the official Visitor to the missions - translator’s note