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25 November 1846 — Father Charles-Eugène Mathieu to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Wallis

Translated by Peter McConnell, September 2010

Reverend Father,
I am writing to you this attached letter which the bishop asked me to write to Father Desgenettes concerning the conversion of the young chief Tuugahala. You will do with it what you consider prudent. We are recommending to him several other men from the vicariate because we are convinced that everything achieved here is the result of the prayers said for us in France. Yet, if you really want me to tell you my opinion, I think we shouldn’t be sounding trumpets in France nor painting too rosy a picture of our mission stations. I think it would be better to move more gently, more simply and more poorly rather than facing embarrassment and confusion in the future. There is of course good but there is still nothing substantial. To achieve that we must wait for at least another generation to pass and that the following generation will start to produce priests. Provided that prayers are said for us and that we are sent personnel; that’s essential. I make that remark after talking to priests who have recently arrived who told us that people in France were painting Wallis as a country flowing with milk and honey. It is true, there are good things but alas you know that there is still a very nasty Protestant “canker” which gnaws away at us whom only the Holy Virgin is able to cure us from. The bishop is about to leave and who knows what will occur in his absence. Since we have been here God in his goodness has always wanted to keep us in a state of uncertainty concerning the Islanders keeping to the faith. It is probably a result of his Providence and his will that we labour with a very great disregard for ourselves trusting in him absolutely.
Thanks, Reverend Father, for naming our provincial bishop. Besides his taking care of both our spiritual and temporal welfare, I think that this action will help enormously in keeping the peace, for the balanced and efficacious administration of the vicariate which has already been hindered by difficulties of communication and by the lack of personnel. I have made various recommendations to the priests and brothers whom you have asked me to contact and write letters to in France. The bishop does likewise when journeying around. I made an error addressing some detailed letters to my brother. I did not think they would be of interest to the Propaganda of the Faith. I was quite surprised to find one of them in the Annals. I had written them to establish contact with you again and to give some consolation to my relations. In future, if I have any detail to make, I will take the liberty of sending them to you personally or to Father Maîtrepierre who has had the kindness to write to me. This time there is nothing to say about Wallis and nothing in particular has occurred there since the last letters I have written.
We are in a state of truce which is scarcely better than in a state of war because of the danger of seduction, not so much for the faith as for morals. That little Protestant fort is shocking for its corruption and through it you can guess what temptation it has for the youth and for those who having done something bad, want to go and hide their shame and give themselves over unreservedly and without punishment to all those disorders. It is a trap the devil has laid in the middle of this island. Yet, thanks to the Holy Virgin few have been sucked in until now. Several have escaped. There has been compensation. The population keep a steady fervour in its approach the sacraments and in reciting the rosary, etc. I think you are going to have some interesting news from the Navigator Islands where the bishop is going to spend some months and where the mission station is giving hopeful signs. Father Roullot has now about a hundred people taking instruction in Fiji. We haven’t had any recent news from Tonga since Father Dubreul left.
As for us, peace and love are still maintained. I have not yet noticed any trace of division which could upset us in the future, between us and our superior. The priests whom you have sent us seem really top class. Mr Grézel is very well. He is busy with the printing press. The bishop has made him partial deacon and now full deacon last September. That is settled. Since then he has made remarkable progress because what took place formerly was only the result of a state of worry and indecision. On his future which he is naturally very mindful of, he still has some scruples concerning the vow of poverty. They prevent him from joining the Marist Society although he feels bound to it by a vow of obedience. I don’t thin k I should pressure him on that point, because it will all come about gradually and through him. Two brothers who came in the last batch, Gérard and Paschase, felt a little out of sorts during the passage but they have recovered well. It was probably seasickness and boredom of such a long journey which affected them. It is not at all surprising that those poor brothers were sometimes a little shaken by such a trial, but we must not be frightened of such things because the land has cured what the sea has caused.
We were pleased to learn the setting up of the French Society of Oceania. It is something good for the mission stations or at least it is less an evil which distances an even greater one from us. Basically it would be better were these people not to have any contact with the Europeans and were to retain in their simple way of life, but, as that is impossible, it is infinitely better that this society which appears favourable to us should take control of trade with these islands and through it keep away that crowd of small time merchants who are more or less hostile to what we do. If that Society is successful and should it still be run in the spirit of Commander Marceau, it is certain that it will accordingly give us real service.
The bishop is still very keen about his plans for a college. He labours away on it as much as he can with Father Mériez. Will he establish it here or in the Navigator Islands? That is what we don’t know so far. The bishop is going to spend some time in those islands to make a better choice. We are all convinced that it is a fundamental project for these mission stations. It will be successful, we hope, provided that you help it with your prayers and by sending personnel because I predict that the Navigator Islands are going to have plenty of people soon.
Excuse me, Reverend Father, the liberty I am taking in expressing to you in that way all my thoughts not in a strict order and rather carelessly. I feel that I have you still close by me as at the refectory at Pilata during the short visit I was there and we are chatting together about the mission station.
I am going to stay buy myself in Wallis with Father Junillon who does not yet speak the language very well. I am staying here quite willingly although I still have a strong desire as I have always had to go to another mission station. But finally I must submit to the will of God and I know how to do without what I am not worthy of. But I ask you to pray for me and for this poor little church which I have to take care of so that God in his goodness may bring back to confession sinners and keep us all there in the faith and in his grace. I offer my regards and my love to all the priests and brothers of the Marist Society.
I am with the deepest regard,
Reverend Father,
your very devoted
and obedient son in Jesus Christ,
Mathieu, missionary.