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3 March 1862 – Fr Jean Pezant to Fr Victor Poupinel, Wanganui

Transcribed and translated by Elizabeth Charlton, September 2022. French transcription on the talk page. Original document sent in the Marist General Archives, Rome APM 2405-14508 Villa Maria NZ 1862

Wanganui, 3rd March 1862

To Rev. Fr Poupinel, Visitor-General of the Missions of the Society of Mary in Oceania

My Reverend Father,
I had the honour of writing to you by the last land post to Wellington where I still hope my letter may find you.
In this letter I have replied to part of your letter dated Wellington 13 February. I will try to answer the second and most important part of this letter, I mean the part about the Maori books.
You ask me
1. if I know the Maori translation of the Royaumont Bible by Revd Fr Rozet. I answer: Not at all; I have neither seen nor known it. I have only an extremely confused memory of the work itself in French, from my early childhood. The idea that has remained with me is that this Bible is overloaded with remarks by the Holy Fathers on biblical facts as far as the eye can see and with history, and that in Maori even more than in French it would make a large volume, the publication of which would absorb far more than the funds available. At the beginning, Fr. Rozet was not known for speaking well, less well than others of the same time for that matter. He was a tireless copyist, but was he an author? It is doubtful. Did he even have a talent for languages? I think it is very doubtful. I think that in his translations he was of the kind that rigidly adheres to the letter, whether possible or not (this was the fault of Fr. Baty and Fr. Petit-Jean), whereas with a people like the New Zealanders one should often put oneself completely at ease, not be troubled when the genius of the language is too different from the text, and render rather the point of the thought than the letter, and consequently often be more of an author than a translator. I will leave out the translation of the holy books.
But, for several years, we were very far apart, Fr. Rozet and I, and he may in the meantime have made great progress and changed his style. I therefore end where I began: I do not know his strength or his work at all: I am only indicating the idea that the confreres, I believe, had of him and of the turn of his mind.
What possible practical observation could you make on this manuscript?
R. Abbreviate the reflections by a lot, without abbreviating the facts.
What format should you adopt?
R. I vote strongly for the in-12 format. - Small type should be avoided.
Could we choose a compact text, to save money?
R. Let us be fed only with potatoes, still rationed, for a certain necessary time, and cut me off from sugar entirely, if necessary (this is not to say), but make the necessary expenditure to print these books as they should be, with the necessary indentations and divisions, rather too much than too little rest: let it be a beautiful print; let Fr. Rozet supervise the proofs well and not leave a mistake. I would even like the leaves to be sprinkled with some fragrance. All this is not irrelevant with developing peoples. I suppose it is decided that this Bible is the most necessary and most urgent work; I would be tempted to question it.
The binding?
R. Good and strong leather. There is no use of brochures.
2. Did not Fr. Rozet also take with him a small catechism in manuscript?
R. I do not know. However, I have a confused memory of hearing that he had taken a catechism with him, long or short, I do not know.
Was it a completely new catechism?
R. I do not know.
Wouldn't it be better if this little catechism were taken from the large one already printed, already taught, and learned by the faithful?
R. It does not matter where this catechism is drawn from, as long as it is good and as short as possible: it should not even be a translation of a good catechism; in many things it should be made for the people here; more or less extensive on certain subjects than the good European model catechism, according to the turn of mind and other particular needs of the people here. The large catechism already printed, except for some of the first lessons, has never been taught or learned anywhere: this has been impossible because of its length.
Besides the main catechism, which should be short and with short questions and answers, it would be necessary to make an abridged version, sufficient nevertheless, for the examinations of Baptisms, etc.
Was there anything attached to this catechism, such as morning and evening prayers, acts, (p.3) canticles?
R. I do not know.
3. What would be the most necessary book to be printed after the catechism and the Bible? The New Testament has not been translated in its entirety, as far as I know.
R. This is a very important and at the same time a very awkward question, because we have nothing good except hymns and Vespers, and everything would be needed at the same time. However, since you want an answer, after thinking about it, I believe that the most urgent thing is not even the Royaumont Bible, nor the New Testament, but a prayer book, a real Prayer book, which would contain the catechism, the morning and evening prayers and the other little daily pious practices, a method of Mass composed of prayers and songs, a special method for Masses for the dead, devotions for Baptism (to prepare for it for a certain time and to thank God for it afterwards, ditto for Confirmation, ditto for Confession, and Communion, ditto for Marriage, Extreme Unction and in general for the sick with a method for catechists to prepare the sick for Baptism and to baptize them and to dispose the baptized for death, the Rosary (a beautiful and somewhat poetic Rosary), the Way of the Cross (sentimental and poetic), the Vespers corrected for style and completed, the Hymns increased in number, and finally the ceremonial of funerals for adults and children (for catechists). Some of these things were felt by all to be the greatest need of the Mission, e.g. a good method of Mass with songs for Sundays and Feasts. (I have one ready with some revision) the method of preparing catechumens for Baptism and for baptism (for catechists) and baptism at death (very important), perhaps the institution of a regular catechumenate with practices and prayers; a method of punishing wisely and beneficially and then publicly reconciling scandalous preachers (a thing of extreme importance), with an ad hoc rite, which would be approved in Rome, if necessary. The morning and evening prayers, the acts before and after communion, should be very pretty and very affectionate, even mixed with hymns for the large communions. All of us, who were not from Lyon, disapproved very much of the Lyons prayers, as being too didactic and dry as tinder: but, our Bishops and all our Superiors up to now, being from Lyon, how to make them understand that? So we had all sorts of difficulties to overcome. However, Fr. Epalle (who died Bishop of Sion) understood this well. It would have been nice if he had lived, had stayed in New Zealand and had been elected to replace Bishop Pompallier: he understood well, felt well the necessity and the importance of printing beautiful things to attract these people! Fr. Comte also and Fr. Séon, and then yours truly: all the other confreres little or much less. And how easy it would have been to do beautiful things in our beautiful and poetic and holy Catholic Church! It would also have required an external cult, somewhat pompous processions, with a picture of the Blessed Virgin, carried by the girls, banners by the boys, statues carried on stretchers, and all this in spite of the Protestantism's shouting which we should not have worried about. It would have taken a little geography and civility on a few simple and easy points, just to shape them. The English government would have been pleased to see this. All this would have produced all the better effect as the Protestants had done nothing for these people, I mean, to train them in honesty, cleanliness, or not in the good manners. All they had done was to give them the New Testament and make them argumentative, quarrelsome, proud, arrogant, insolent, angry fanatics.
All this bound in an in-12 volume (without geography and civility, of course) would make a large volume and would absorb all available funds for some time. If it were not too large, and a refutation by enquiry and answer of the principal disputed points could be inserted, in the style of Sheffmacher [Johann Jakob Scheffmacher 1668-1733], this devotional book would be quite complete and would answer for a long time all the principal needs of these peoples. The New Zealanders are crazy about works of enquiry and reply: this feeling should be increased by making them piquant and sometimes caustic; they would devour such a work. If, in order not to make the prayer book too large, it were necessary to make a separate publication, this would need to be accepted. But it would be better in one volume, and that is why I would like the in-12 format. The Naturals, too, would prefer it, unless they have changed a great deal: for in the past they continually complained about the smallness of our books and gave us no rest or respite from asking for a large and important book. In short, then, and in summary: I vote first for a prayer book containing the catechism with its abridgment, then, if it is possible, the catechism of controversy, then the prayers and other things mentioned above.
Secondly, and still before the Bible, I vote for a Table of Religion or Sacred History from Adam to Jesus Christ, and, from J.C., a Table of Religion or History of the Church up to and including Pius IX. The ancient part should contain the names, in a line and each in its proper place, of Adam and all the Patriarchs up to Noah, and, from the Deluge, up to Moses and Aaron, the Judges and of the kings of Israel and Judah up to Our Lord and, on another column, all the high priests from Aaron up to Caiaphas (all this is found in Feller's 1st volume [Francois Xavier de Feller, 1735-1802]), and opposite the characters, the principal facts and corresponding events. Then, on the same line as Caiaphas, but next to him, St Peter and then the whole list of Popes up to Pius IX, with the texts in the margin and longitudinally: Tu es Patrus, Ego rogati prote, .... Pasce oves meas.... Ecce ego vobiscum sum ...., and opposite, opposite, all the main facts and events. This speaks to all eyes, to all minds: it is a great and magnificent spectacle which strikes everyone. The apostolic and even patriarchal succession! One religion since Adam! This was my main resource and my last conferences with the heretics in the North: the effect was always visible on everyone. The Religion of the Apostles and patriarchs, and the heretics isolated and alone to grace outside this magnificent line. I had each character marked by the planting of a small stick; the whole courtyard was full of sticks; it took two hours to plant them. But also
[along the side]
And then we asked where the letter to the Anglicans was? Where the one to the Wesleyans? Where to the Presbyterians? Why then the one to the Romans, if the Church of Rome is not the Church of the Apostles?
3. If one could also include this table of Religion in the prayer book, one would have everything in one volume.
Fr. Petit-Jean did the second part, that of the History of the Church, and I am not sure that he did not do the first, that of the Old Testament, but, if he did it, it is not as complete as I propose, and the style of his work needs correction. Only if he gave it to Fr. Rozet when he left for France ten years ago. If not, I would gladly take on this revision and its completion; but I do not want to interfere.
4. The above being more than enough to absorb the funds available and also the time needed to compose or correct it and complete it, I think we should leave it at that for a while. Then, when we have had time to compose other things and have gathered the necessary funds to publish it, I would vote for the printing of the Kingdom Bible and perhaps (if we could afford it and see the need, for the publication of the New Testament). Fr Bernard (go get him now, he and his manuscript) a Gospel; Fr. Reignier something else; Fr. Lampila the same; I, the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, etc. etc. but all this would be in immense need of revision. And how can we get together to review it together? But by the part I have done I have seen that with prayer, study, the help of Carrières and especially of Menochius, without forgetting the Protestant translation, we can translate the New Testament as well and often better than the Protestants. If I had been consulted 20, or even 10 years ago, I would have put the New Testament not in the first line, because the prayer book is necessary above all, but certainly in the second line: but now, at the end of time...
This is what I think about this subject of the Maori books. This matter comes too late by 20 or 24 years; yet God forbid that you should be discouraged! Better late than never. A few hundred Naturals are well worth the expense of 4 or 500 pounds; besides, our books will, by the strength of things, go well in the Northern Diocese, and Bishop P. will have to let them in, like it or not.
As for the house provided [for the Maoris] the same as the horse. If the wood were not already on the spot or if I had a shelter to keep it in; but, as the wood is there, in order not to let it rot, I believe that this building must be built: we have agreed with Fr. Pertuis that it would only be 20 feet long and 12 wide. However, in spite of this, it will still cost enough, be sure; and, to know what I will do and where I will be, I will not start work until you have told me the sum you can allocate me; and I will start late enough in the season that I will not ask you for the second half of the sum before the 1st of July. So don't worry. It occurs to me now that there is no hurry to start this Maori house; in the meantime, the question of peace or war will perhaps be resolved, and the tribe that comes here most often on Sundays will perhaps migrate, if there is peace, to the top of the river or somewhere else, and then this house will be even less pressing. I say this to show you how much I want to avoid overloading you this year.
On reflection, I presently accept the money you offer me, and I will draw on you soon not for £12, but for £10 only, leaving 2 pounds to pay for the Maori books from Auckland that Mgr Viard sent us. Bro. Euloge has the most pressing need of shirts, and so do I almost: I therefore accept as of now.
The more I see already, the more I am certain that Fr. Pertuis will take more pleasure in the European ministry than in the Maori ministry: this disposition is apparent everywhere. To officiate with the cope, to spend time practising the harmonium, to go from house to house to learn English, he says, that is his work and his happiness. Either he does not care for the Maoris, or he does so only rarely and for the sake of form in general: you can see that his heart is not in it. This is, I think, all the more reason not to hurry to spend money on a horse.
I have the honour to be [with a deep] respect and a profound gratitude,
My reverend father
Your most humble and obedient servant
J-Et. Pezant
Apostolic Miss, S.M. priest
P.S. I feel very well from my Retreat: it has invigorated and restored me.
Please ask for my perseverance and progress.