Yvert to Colin, Caen, 10 September 1839
Translation, Jessie Munro, 14 March 2005; checked Madeleine le Jeune and Marty Vreede, 6 Dec. 2006.
Very Reverend Father,
After going almost four hundred leagues in order to seek an interview with you with regard to your Mission in Oceania, I am taking the liberty of writing to you from Caen, my point of departure. You have already recognised the wretched man who, in spite of the obstacles confronting his projects, dares to aspire to an honour solely reserved to the most deserved worthiness. Ah! Father, I am doubtless most unworthy to become a member of such a holy Society; but the loving kindness of the venerable ecclesiastic who was representing you in your absence from Lyon left me with some hope, I’ll even say much hope. I am not being too previous when I think back over these words full of consolation which that man of God left with me: that we owed it to the Holy Virgin to be enlightened on this great project; and as for me, I believe it is this good Mother who is sending me in your direction.
There are two initial difficulties that arise: I am not young. But, Father, at forty-three years old in a state of health neither good nor bad and with a great amount of energy, one can be of some usefulness. Even were I to spend only a few years in these unfortunate islands where the devil is waging such great ravages, I would still have fulfilled a long career of service. Then comes the matter of my marriage. This point being perfectly familiar to you, far from causing my offers of service to be rejected, it will cause them to be accepted without the least difficulty as being a sure guarantee of a strong and tested vocation. The space of this letter does not permit me to repeat what I have already said in Lyon. But please only understand that for ten years I have been living alone, far from my family who are enjoying prosperity. I am therefore independent, and I cannot doubt but that the Holy Virgin, whom I can truly call my Mother, may grant to this generous sacrifice conversions I have been asking of her for so long. And, if we follow the effects resulting from Grace, do we not glimpse in the perhaps not too far distant future another sacrifice, which without breaking my links with the Society would at last open for me entry to the priesthood?
But let us not presume on the intentions of the faithful Virgin. I would consider myself so fortunate to spend my days in her service! The smallest position would seem to me of infinite value. I quite simply lay before you my desire, my steadfast wish and the statement of an unshakeable calling. If you, Father, cannot receive conditionally from me the three vows that your catechists take, vows that I have already been living for ten years, send me under your protection to follow in the footsteps of the missionaries of Mary; I will be their interpreter in the languages they do not know and above all their very lowly servant.
Ah! Father, this first example, for your great work in its infancy, of a sinner converted by Mary and consecrating himself unreservedly to his beloved Marist Mission after leaving wife, child and grandchild, will attract likeminded followers, and this mission of Peace, by not disdaining workers who present themselves at the eleventh hour, will be as fruitful and prosperous as its boundaries are farflung.
I will close by mentioning to you a friend who is already in minor orders, and who is firmly set upon following in my footsteps. The person in question is thirty-four years old, and has only one more step to take to enter the priesthood. His studies, which have been crowned with the most brilliant successes, would put him in a position of being of use to your dear Mission. His directors, knowing the scruples which have caused him on several occasions to leave the seminary, are postponing giving him their consent; but a holy priest in whom he has been confiding for four years and who believes he is well cured as to his mental health, is bringing him into close association with me and regrets very much that he did not make the journey to Lyon. He has been working for two years at a printer’s establishment in order to fill usefully the moments of leisure remaining from his little position of clerk-sacristan, and this would render him of great value for Oceania.
Please accept my highest appreciation, Reverend Father, and do not forget me in your dealings with your worthy colleague.
Your very devoted servant, Yvert
Caen, 10 September 1839
Here is my address: rue du Lycée, No 11.
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