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19th July 1847. - Father Xavier Montrouzier to his brother, Henri Montrouzier, SJ

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Montrouzier (to his family).

Translated by Mary Williamson, November 2010

Three sheafs of paper, comprising twelve written pages, the address carried forward to the twelfth page.

To Reverend Father/ Reverend Father Montrouzier of the Company of Jesus / in Avignon.

Jesus Mary Joseph
Everything through Mary

My dear Henry,
Your letter gave me so much pleasure. That you poured out your heart to me was so consoling that I want to repay you in the same manner. As you express it so well, letters are, at the moment, the only way in which we can exchange our thoughts, our emotions and our most intimate feelings. Let us profit from it and since we are not able to see each other at the moment, let us write to each other at length and always with open hearts.
The news that you sent me did me so much good! The example of the heroic Mother Makréna and her worthy girls, the progress of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, to which we both owe so much, the admittance of our dear Auguste Rouet to Saint Lazare, there are plenty of subjects to interest us and to thank God for. The blessings that the Lord extends to our family and in particular to our worthy parents are certainly strong grounds for committing ourselves to our other Father who is so merciful. Another side of the coin, as you say, is that one misses France less when one sees her spiritual beauty, formerly so radiant, tarnished as it is by the current loss of faith. When one considers the youth of today, left in the hands of the Libris, Quinets, Michelets and their like, one sees a stormy future ahead and already signs of turbulence are evident. You in your exile [1] and me amongst my savages, we must not be upset at seeing our faith endlessly attacked be the ungodly.
You tell me and it is another cheering piece of news for me, that you have been assigned to Japan and that already several of your Reverend Fathers have set out for this destination. Oh! How dearly I wish that their efforts might be crowned with success and that that beautiful kingdom, sanctified by the labours of Saint Francois Xavier and the blood of so many martyrs might again come under the yoke of Jesus Christ! But I will not hide from you the fact that I think they will encounter huge obstacles and that they should be prepared for fierce conflict. The Dutch are there and I understand from Bishop Fornari, nuncio of the Pope in Paris [2] that a missionary can expect nothing from them but opposition and harassment. It is not just towards Catholics that they behave in this way, which would be understandable up to a certain point, because Protestantism is dominant; but they are no less opposed to their own ministers and that is because they imagine that once these idolatrous people are converted to Christianity they will get to know their rights and be less willing to be servants. Poor people! They wish to keep Him away from their lands for fear of losing their authority and, for temporal advantages, they are not afraid of losing their souls. But this should not discourage anyone. The apostles, going out into the world to convert people, easily foresaw that there would be resistance and that they would be faced with endless difficulties. They were not unaware that scorn, whips and even death awaited them. Were these fears able to stop them? Could they not be seen to face up, with pleasure, to all these sufferings? This same spirit should still motivate the missionaries, because I can assure you, if you take away the humiliations and sufferings from the missions there is not much else left.
You were also kind enough to tell me that your good Fathers were generous enough to pray for me and that Reverend Father Ogerdins sometimes also says a Holy Mass for me. That was very consoling and I really needed it, as I will not hide from you the fact that in thinking about the magnitude of my vocation and the scope of my obligations I feel overwhelmed and only the thought of devoted souls helping me, through their prayers, will be able to sustain me. Thank these good Fathers for me, tell them that I am very grateful for their kindness and would ask them to continue this generosity and in exchange I offer to God, on their behalf, not my humble prayers, which are hardly worthy, but the body and blood of the sacrificed Christ. Tell Brother Philippe de Carriéres that I will do my best to reciprocate his goodness to me. Tell him that whatever esteem he has for foreign missionaries, he will value them even more when he is actively involved and sees close up the hardships suffered by the infidels. If God calls him to the apostolate, I congratulate him, as I have already been able, despite my cowardice, to appreciate the great honour that the Lord has been gracious enough to grant me.
And now, my dear Henry, it is my turn to give you a few details, which I am sure will interest you. First I will tell you about the Arche d’Alliance. No doubt you are aware of the aims of the French Society of Oceania, of which the Arche d’Alliance is their first ship. Here is how she carries out her mission. Everything is Christian, everything is Catholic on the Arche d’Alliance. On the prow there is a figurehead of the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows, at the rear of the cabin there is a picture of Our Lady of Hope and on the ship’s flag the cross! And what discipline, what composure amongst the crew. Whereas on other ships one had to have eyes but not see, ears but not hear, on the Arche d’Alliance one sees nothing unpleasant, no disputes, no swearing, not even any commotion, manoeuvres are carried out calmly and one is as peaceful in one’s cabin as in a convent cell. And what can I say about the worthy Captain Marceau? Every day he attends Holy Mass and takes communion. He meditates twice every day and whether the weather is favourable for navigation or not he is always calm and affable. If he has a spare moment you can see him passing the beads of his rosary between his fingers. If you wish to give him pleasure you need only direct the conversation towards the subject of piety. The doctor is hardly less admirable and several members of the crew are also very well informed. Let me tell you a bit about the route taken by the Arche d’Alliance. Leaving from Havre, she should have sailed via Cape Horn, but the captain wanted to pass through the Straits of Magellan to see the people who live on the shores there and who have not yet been visited by missionaries. The passage was difficult, but nothing could stop Mr Marceau who does not give in to anything, such is his confidence in God. So we entered the straits, chanting litanies of the Holy Virgin. Several times the ship touched bottom, but finally, with God’s help, we were freed of our anxieties. We found a poor, miserable population, who nevertheless seemed gentle and easy to convert. We solemnly raised a cross, which the captain wished to help carry and we accompanied the cross whilst chanting these two words, which were repeated by the savages: Jesus, Mary!
The Arche d’Alliance then sailed into the Pacific Ocean, where she was to successively visit all our missions. She had on board several Marist Fathers and Brothers amongst whom was Father Colomb. The latter had left France as coadjutor, named as the future successor to Bishop Epalle, but the matter was kept very secret because the bulls had not yet come through; he would not receive them till he arrived in Sydney and only then could he be consecrated by Bishop Epalle, whose death they were not yet aware of. Arriving in Tahiti, Father Colomb heard of this disaster from the Isabelle and so found himself responsible for the Melanesian mission. He wrote to me in New Caledonia, where I was stationed at the time and told me to get ready to follow him to San Cristobal.
However the Arche d’Alliance visited Wallis, Futuna and Samoa and it was only at the end of January that she arrived in the port of Balade. Eight days later I boarded the ship to at last be taken to my mission. Then, my dear brother, I began to enjoy pleasures that, aboard English ships, it would have been hard for me to imagine. I saw with my own eyes the civilised ways aboard the Arche d’Alliance, of which I have already spoken; it was then that I learned from personal experience that out on the open ocean one can lead as organised a life as in a community. Here then is how we passed our days. You will judge for yourself whether we enjoyed as much freedom as during our novitiate, to carry out our devotions. We got up at around five o’clock. We had our prayers, our meditation and at six o’clock we said Holy Mass. There were two each day, except for Sundays, when there were three and on the days when the sea was too rough there was only one. On the subject of rough seas, the captain had the consideration to furl the sails so that the priest was less disturbed by the pitching of the ship. After the Holy Sacrifice and thanksgiving we recited our morning prayers and studied the Holy Scriptures until half past seven. Then it was time for communal prayers, which all the crew attended along with us and the captain himself recited them. After prayers we exchanged the usual morning greetings and then we usually discussed some spiritual subject with Mr Marceau. Breakfast was at half past eight. One of the fathers recited the prayers and everyone responded. Then we had time to work until four o’clock, when it was dinnertime. After dinner there was recreation time, matins and lauds were recited if this had not already been done and at six o’clock everyone gathered for prayers. After prayers one of us presented a familiar teaching which lasted half an hour. Then everyone withdrew and we went up onto the poop deck. Father Crey took with him several children and had them sing a rosary. Mr Marceau had taken these children on board from Wallis intending to train them in seamanship. Father Colomb and I sought out some other young people to recite the rosary to them. When we had all finished we chanted the litany of the Holy Virgin and finished up with the Ave Maris Stella. It is impossible dear Henry, to explain my feelings at the time or to say how impatiently I awaited the evening. Nevertheless, you will understand how reassuring it is, even for the most cold-hearted, to hear the name of their Holy Mother being praised out on the high seas, when, up till now, all they have heard is blasphemies from ungodly people or heretics. Or perhaps they have heard a timid prayer from a Catholic priest but have never heard such solemn hymns ringing out. In the evenings we enjoyed general conversation or reading. And how did we spend Sunday? The same as in a vibrant parish. We had two low masses, one high mass, Benediction of the Holy Sacrament, sung vespers and a sermon. What were we missing? Nothing whatsoever. We were at sea on the day of the presentation and purification. We wanted to have a dignified service and I accompanied the choir with my bass voice. I doubt if many missionaries have enjoyed such an experience.
My dear Henry, please pray for the success of the French Society of Oceania. I am sure it is destined to be of great benefit to our missions as indeed it already has been. It has given us credence in Samoa, where we were looked upon as opportunists because of the insinuations of the Protestants. The recognition that the Society accorded us changed the preconceptions held by the natives; the expenses for our travel and provisions were reduced and the Society will be doing more for us in the future. I dare say it is up to Catholic honour to maintain this work which for several years has been supported by the Protestants. And on this subject, a little item which will reveal to you the honesty of our opposite brothers. An Irish captain told me that he visited the John Williams, which is their society’s ship and as he could not see canons or rifles on the bridge he expressed his surprise to the captain, asking him if he was not afraid to travel around these uncivilised islands without arms. …But why have arms, he replied, we have total confidence in God. He is our source of protection. As he was saying this, the ship rolled and a door flew open, revealing a cabin very well stocked with rifles, pistols, sabres etc. So you see that not all the Pharisees lived in the time of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We arrived at last at San Cristobal on 15th February. Before we landed numerous natives came on board to greet us. Pero morori, pero morori they shouted and I asked them if all our missionaries were still alive. They replied yes and from the bottom of my heart I thanked God, for I was fearful, in fact very fearful. A moment later Father Paget arrived and I embraced him affectionately, finding him very changed. I imagined it was general fatigue; I later learned that it was vestiges of illness.
That evening we went ashore and even in the dark we embraced our dear Fathers and Brothers; then, as you can imagine we talked for hours. That was when we found out the sufferings that these worthy missionaries had endured, that they had all suffered from fever, that at times they had almost all been confined to bed and to top off their misfortunes they were short of morphine. But what greatly impressed me and gave me real pleasure was that this did not prevent them from carrying out all the Society’s practices. Meditation, special studies, spiritual readings, rosaries, prayers and when possible repentance and a month’s retreat, everything was as well organised as in the mother house in Lyon, so that, even though the mission was not fully functional we had the consolation of finding the organisation in good shape. Pray God that this spirit of order continues for us, because our sanctification depends on it, as you will understand and the success of our ministry depends on our sanctification. The next day Father Colomb gathered us together and told us that he had been called to replace Bishop Epalle, which made Reverend Father Fremont’s face light up as he realised he would be relieved of the weight of the mission. Then Father Colomb spoke about his voyage to Sydney and suggested we relax whilst waiting for him to return, so that we would be stronger and be able to go and found a new establishment. He gave us to hope that he would not be away more than four months. Five months have already passed and there is no sign of anything on the horizon. He left on the 18th February.
A word about the state in which we found the mission. There was very little progress to be seen, at least on the exterior. Five or six adults baptised, that was all that had been achieved. But to the thoughtful observer the work already achieved could not fail to be seen as considerable. Indeed there had been huge difficulties to overcome and they had achieved their goal. Arriving without an interpreter, or having had one for only a few days it would have been easy to do something which would alienate the natives, such as cutting down some trees that were precious to them, or contravening some of their customs. Up till now they have successfully managed these challenges and are living on good terms with the natives. As foreigners, they could have engendered fear amongst these local people who are often not very happy with the ships that, if they need timber or other goods, respect neither local customs nor ownership and sometimes respond with gunfire to the objections of the natives; at this point our missionaries had gained their confidence. The local people knew that they were not evil, that they did not kill, that they respected other people’s territory and that they even gave gifts of iron tools, fabrics, bottles etc. They now understood a little of the language, which had presented endless difficulties occasioned by trying to communicate only by signs. That was an enormous step forward, as you cannot imagine how difficult it is to extract words from the savages once one has used up those that apply to material objects. So although we have been here nearly two years, we have not yet been able to learn the word for “love”. – We have cleared quite a large area of land, we have finally taught the catechism to some children and the children of Ioné, the nearest village to our residence have learned all the principle mysteries of religion. Above all they had suffered and from this point of view much had been achieved, as on a mission one must never lose sight of these words of our Divine Master: “Nisi granum frumenti cadens in terram mortuum fuerit, ipsum solum manet; si autem mortuum fuerit, multum fructum affert”. [3]
When Father Colomb had left we thought about the advice of the doctor on the Arche d’Alliance, who thought our fevers were caused by the position of our house, which was surrounded by bush. Father Fremont wanted to go and see if the air would be healthier in another area. Accompanied by Father Crey and two Brothers, he installed himself with the Pia, a tribe living about two leagues from our place. The Pia were sworn enemies of the Ioné, who were greatly upset by this situation. They could not countenance the fact that they had gone to live with their enemies who would then have, like themselves iron tools, fishhooks, fabrics, bottles, pieces of glass, which were the latest fashion in razors, etc. etc. They made it obvious in these circumstances that the friendship they showed towards us was only based on personal interest. We put on a good face and made it obvious we were not going to buckle under and soon the rumblings settled.
Then began a series of trials for us, which I must tell you about. A month after having installed themselves with the Pia, Father Crey succumbed to an illness of which he died within a few days. On Thursday Father Jacquet and I had gone to the new establishment to take a few vegetables from our garden; he seemed tired but we did not think there was any hint of danger. He expressed the wish to return to Makira. So as not to tire him we tried to return by sea, but quarter of an hour out from shore, we were caught in a storm that obliged us to turn back and soaked us to the skin. This left him more unwell. On Monday, Father Frémont wrote to us asking us to go and administer the last rights to our dear colleague. We hurriedly set out, overwhelmed by this blow that we certainly had not anticipated. The Pia did not want to allow Father Crey to be buried in their village; the reason they gave was that his “ataro”, (spirit) having never killed anyone during his life, would inevitably kill many people after his death. So we carried the body to Makira and in the evening we conducted the funeral with church prayers. Several days later we placed a cross and some flowers on his grave, which we protected with a little fence. Father Crey had not had more than one month at the mission. He was still very young and had looked forward to a long career. God had required of him only some of his aspirations. He did not wish him to help us bear the burden of evangelism. May His goodness be forever blessed. But I must say it is a very harsh blow to a missionary when he sees one on his colleagues, who are already too few, carried off so rapidly and he feels himself surrounded by so much need spread amongst so many islands that, for lack of disciples, languish in faithlessness and savagery. Let us pray, my dear brother that the number of those called to the foreign missions multiplies. With the wars that ravage our numerous islands I am afraid to say that each hour of the day another soul descends into hell and these wars would quickly disappear with the arrival of religion. But there have to be ministers to preach the gospel… Father Thomassin has gone to replace Father Crey amongst the Pia.
Meanwhile the fever has given me my introduction into missionary work. Still being not very acclimatised, I had it recurring every eight days and lasting three days. The rest of the time I was so weak it was impossible for me to undertake long walks. As well, I knew almost nothing of the language. We were uncertain as to whether Bishop Colomb would stay in San Cristobal and he had suggested to us that we conserve our strength for new ventures, so this prevented us from undertaking anything too demanding. We confined ourselves to some simple catechisms and then we organised the various belongings of the mission, the ornaments, the linen and all the things that are attacked by the humidity. For these, it is essential to expose them to the fresh air. This was a unique chance for thieves to practice their skills. We had to stand guard and when even that was not sufficient, we forbade the Toros or hill dwellers to come too close. The Toros are the most savage of our islanders; safe in their bush where they knew perfectly well that a ship could not harm them, they have always been the most daring in stealing from us and we have had reason to distrust them. Our security measures annoyed them and they were resolved to do no less than massacre us as soon as a suitable chance presented itself; it was not long in coming.
The natives often spoke to us of a point called Ouango; [4] situated on the other side of the island, where we would find everything we needed for a new settlement. We thought it would be a good idea to visit it, so that when Bishop Colomb arrived we could tell him about it. We would have to pass through Toros territory, but that was not going to stop us, because we were not aware of their plan and besides, we had been threatened many times so as to frighten us, without anything happening. On 20th April, early in the morning, Reverend Fathers Paget and Jacquet, accompanied by Brother Hyacinthe set out. A few hours later I received news of their deaths. They had been massacred by the Toros, who had surrounded them, without displaying any evil intent and then suddenly attacked them with spears and axes!
A missionary gets used to anything; although I was deeply distressed, I was not incapacitated by this blow and without becoming too anxious, I quickly set about blocking up some openings in the house and closed up everything so that we could provide the best possible resistance in case of an attack, which I felt was imminent. Then I wrote to Father Frémont who arrived that very evening. The news of the sad event had only just been delivered when a crowd of Ioné people arrived; but I was not at all reassured by their presence. I did not know if we could count on them and in fact, before the arrival of our colleagues from the Pia village, it would have been easy to ransack the house and get rid of us. So I must say that I have never recited so many Memorare…
I was soon told all the details of the attack. Father Paget had been struck in the chest with a spear, Father Jacquet struck with a blow from an axe to his neck and Brother Hyacinthe had first been struck with a spear then finished off by having his head chopped off. As for the bodies, they had been dismembered and taken off to be roasted and eaten. I could not go and search for them, as this would have meant inviting certain death; the only possible way to retrieve them would have been to enlist the natives to do it. I promised them lots of iron tools, but could not convince them. They were willing to undertake the expedition, but wanted me to accompany them with a rifle. So it was at great cost to myself that I had to abandon the idea of offering the last rites to these saintly remains, bodies that would perhaps one day be venerated. I had to content myself with the hope that I would meet them again one glorious day in Heaven.
For several days we hardly dared to go out; we felt as though there was an enemy, hiding in ambush, behind every tree and strangely enough during this time, the Toros too expected to see us arrive in their village armed with rifles and ready to kill them all. It would have been a very happy circumstance if, on both sides, this state of distrust had continued, but that was not the case. Seeing that nothing was happening we became daring about going out and the Toros became more audacious about attacking. One day, not far from the house, they fired two arrows at our dear gardening Brother who fortunately avoided both. This revived our fears for a while. All around the house and further out than an arrow could fly we cut down all the greenery and for fifteen days they left us in peace.
But then new hostilities began. One evening just as we were about to start our devotional readings, the savages set fire to our roof. The dogs immediately started barking and warned us of the danger. But this presented a new danger. Were the Toros not hidden all around us, ready to strike as soon as we went out to extinguish the fire? We certainly feared so; nevertheless, we decided to risk the danger and were lucky enough to put out the fire without being attacked. It seems that the rogues had thought out their plan differently. They had lain in wait down by the sea, thinking that we would have to go and fetch water, not realising that we had some in the house and thinking that, like them, we would only keep a little drinking water there.
Our time had not yet come and God thwarted their wicked scheme. They thought we were doomed that time, but to their great surprise, they saw us deal with the fire in a few minutes. This was another example of the providence which watches over our missionaries and which should make it clear that there is nothing to fear from man’s evildoing as long as God is on our side: [5] Since this attack we have been blockaded in our house, wishing with all our hearts for the arrival of the ship carrying Bishop Colomb and at the same time keeping watch every night and resting during the day. You will wonder perhaps why we keep watch, because if they attacked we would have no means of defence. The reason is that it is not the way of our savages to openly attack. Their main tactic is surprise, but if they find their scheme uncovered, it is a case of who can run away fastest. So if they decided to pay us a visit, we would only need to make some noise, or fire a few rifle shots in the air to put them to flight. At least that is our theory.
Was I wrong, my dear Henry, to say to you at the beginning of my letter that the apostolic life is a series of trials? Well, I have to admit, human nature does not gain anything from enduring all these tribulations that I have described to you. But at the same time, how fortified the soul is, how purified by the blemishes of this world here below. I think I recall that in one of his letters the Reverend Father de Smet said that a foray into the desert was as worthwhile as a good retreat, as he was constantly faced with death. I can say the same to you about the crisis that God has seen fit to have us endure and which we are still dealing with. The constant presence of danger has caused me to reflect deeply on the egotism of life here on earth and the necessity of accumulating some good works to be presented to the Judge who will sound out our hearts and our endurance. What is more, I assure you that, except for the first few days, during which I was greatly struck by God’s exceptional blessings, I find myself resigned to whatever He wishes and I even feel joy at thus having the chance to expiate, perhaps by the spilling of my blood, my numerous sins. In this way I recognise the truth of the words of our good Master, who promised his disciples to always be with them, to sustain them in their weakest moments and console them in their afflictions. After all, would a single hair fall from my head without God’s permission and should I not be convinced that if He allows my enemies to wrest my life from me it can only be for my own good and will prevent me from continuing, any longer, to offend him? Certainly, after all the gestures of affection that I have received from this kindly Father, I would be very ungrateful if, through unjustified lack of trust, I was going to sadden His heart and if I did not say to him from the depth of my soul, like David: [6] The thing that distresses me most is that the mission is not progressing, but I console myself with the thought that our sufferings, willingly endured because of God’s love and prayers, which we now have plenty of leisure to offer, will perhaps have more effect than all our preaching. When our Lord began preaching, he had already been suffering for thirty years and the blood of the apostles probably had more effect than all their oratory.

Now I am going to tell you a little about the various missions for which we are responsible and about which I am probably more up to date than you. What I will be telling you is not very recent but I think it will be new to you. First I will bring you up to date with the news of Tongatapu, about which I had the chance to learn a great deal, having spent several months in New Caledonia with Father Grange, who has been there for several years. This island was amongst those that the Protestants felt confident of having converted; they had been there for fifteen years when the Fathers arrived. They had difficulty in gaining a foothold but today, thanks be to God and Mary, there is a solid little core of enthusiastic Catholics and very recently a medication successfully given to an influential chief by Father Chevron resulted in several conversions. Poor Thomas, [7] the Wesleyan minister who arrived there first, finds himself overburdened and in his old age bitterness in overwhelming him. His influence is diminishing day by day and in many respects he can no longer be compared with our missionaries. It is true that one does not need a great depth of knowledge to surpass him, as you will be able to judge from a few examples that I am going to give you of how cultivated his mind is. Father Grange, finding himself with him, in the company of several natives, thought he might start a discussion and asked for some concrete evidence of his religion. Very embarrassed by the question, the worthy man replied that his doctrine was the true one because: 1. He was grey haired and at his age one did not lie. 2. He had made many conversions. 3. He had made great sacrifices to come and preach his doctrine. He had scarcely finished uttering these three stupidities when Father overwhelmed him by reworking them in this way: 1. You say that your religion is good because your grey hair is a guarantee of your truthfulness, but here is a man whose hair is not just grey but completely white and you would not want to embrace his beliefs; and he pointed out an old man who was there and who was still an infidel. 2. You present as proof of your preaching skills the success you have achieved, but is it your words that have converted people or perhaps rifle shots? And he cited the places where the word had been preached and where those not conforming were threatened with death, which all the natives present knew perfectly well. 3. Finally you speak of the sacrifices you have made: but what have you left behind? A forge where you hammered iron night and day, exhausting yourself to earn a little bread, whereas here, without doing anything, you live perfectly well. This last statement confused Thomas, who had never admitted to being a blacksmith and had always passed himself off as a gentleman. – Another time Father told the natives that in a few days there would be an eclipse of the moon. Wishing to test the scientific knowledge of the Protestant minister, they then went to ask him when this phenomenon would take place. The poor man was obliged to admit his ignorance of astronomical matters and the natives came back to tell the missionary, who replied, laughing: “If you had told me that you were consulting Thomas, I would have saved you the trouble, because I know perfectly well he would not be able to reply. In our country blacksmiths do not learn astronomy.” This amused them greatly. Just another little item about the unfortunate minister to show you what sort of people the biblical societies of America choose to evangelise in Oceania. His weakest point of argument, his final word, is the objection so often dragged up: You will not make graven images, by which he claims we are guilty of idolatry, or else that Protestant maxim, “Nothing but the Bible”. Well here is how we answered him, in a way that would silence him. As first challenge we asked him what our Lord Jesus Christ had done when his taxes were demanded. He replied that he had sent Peter to throw out his fishhook and that he had caught a fish in whose mouth there was a coin stamped with the effigy of Caesar. And who had made that coin? Who had stamped it with the effigy of the prince? Was it not Jesus Christ? So Thomas forbids us to do what the Saviour has done? That was the conclusion. For the saying “Nothing but the Bible”, Father Grange was no less pleased with his response. “Thomas”, he said, “churns out in eight days more words than can be found in the Epistles of Paul. Now, it must be believed that the great apostle had as much zeal as he did, that during his long years of preaching he had said much, much more than what is found in his writings and one cannot suppose that all these long speeches were useless words that one should not believe”. - You can see that in matters of debate we are not dealing with very clever theologians. They are no stronger in moral matters. Thomas allows successive polygamy in the case of an unfaithful first wife. On the other hand, he is very strict in other matters, forbidding smoking and inserting in God’s commandments the two following items: You will not hold cockfights - You will not sell to the missionaries at too high a price nor bargain with them ……. What have you got to say about that inventiveness? And is that not an example, pure and simple of apostolic disinterest? ….. Tongatapu offers great opportunities, which we hope will bear fruit, because it is an island with a large population and a strong influence on the rest of the archipelago. But there is still a struggle ahead, as the Protestants have made a political issue of religion and France is not well enough known as a powerful nation by the natives.
And in Samoa, where the chiefs, incited by the Protestants, had sworn not to let in any papists, where are they up to? Not much progress has been made, but the important step is taken, we have got a foothold, we are known and the natives are fully convinced that the missionaries have not got horns and tails as they had been led to believe. Coming ashore was difficult, we had to give up the idea of using the regular channel and try our luck across the coral. A captain, even if he was not timid, would have paled at the thought of the danger, but it must be said Captain Rabalan, who was escorting Father Roudaire, was worthy of the challenge. He waited for the highest tide then he thrust forward across and over the reef. The ship was scraping on both sides but then he was through, he was near to the coast and we did not think it would be necessary to offload the passengers. There are two settlements in this archipelago, one at Upolu, the other at Savaii and three fellow workers of the novitiate service these two stations. A short comment on one of them, which will give you an idea of their lifestyle. When the Arche d’ Alliance visited this group of islands Mr Marceau went overland to Savaii, where Father Violette lives, about three hours from the moorings. He found him in a hut similar to those of the natives, but with a surrounding fence of stakes. He accepted the meal that the Father offered him. It was very frugal, consisting of a simple soup. I expected you eight days ago Father Violette said to him and I had some bread made; it has become very hard since then. If you like we will eat it in with the soup. The dishes were on a similar level to the food supplies, there were two plates, two glasses, everything in twos. If the number of guests increased the Father used a coconut shell, which served him as both cup and plate. Mr Marceau was very impressed with this simplicity. He has since spoken to me about it with great compassion. When leaving he asked a young Scottish protestant, who was accompanying him along the way how he found the type of lifestyle that the Catholic missionaries were leading: “I very much doubt”, he replied, shaking his head, “that our ministers would wish to emulate it”. In Samoa the English consul at the moment is the renowned Pritchard. Our Fathers have nothing but praise for his graciousness, but they do not trust him.
I do not have anything to tell you about Fiji or Rotuma. All I know is that Fathers Rouleaux and Bréhéret suffered greatly from hunger in Fiji and that Father Verne has left for Rotuma. As for Wallis and Futuna, everything is going wonderfully and Bishop Bataillon is about to establish a college.
This is a very long letter my dear brother and yet I feel that if I was in France, near to you, I would still have lots of things to tell you, but one must know how to limit oneself. Nevertheless, I still want to discuss some of my feelings with you and open my heart as you have done. How happy I am dear Henry, even in the midst of my sufferings! I would not change my situation for a throne, because every day God makes me understand even more the beauty of my calling and the price of the sufferings which go with it. Yes, this thought never leaves my mind. There is nothing as wonderful as the priesthood being practiced in the midst of the infidels. Even today, though I do not carry out any instruction or baptisms, though I am completely inactive, I count myself lucky to be able to lift my heart to God, recite the Holy Office, and offer the glorious Sacrifice in a land where, up until now, Satan has been the only one to be worshipped. I want to be able to say: I am expanding the boundaries of the Roman Catholic church. If God does not call you to an overseas mission listen to His voice with acceptance, submit to His will and do not try to go against it. There is a lot of good work to be done in Europe and it is important to maintain the spring which allows its excess water to flow away for other people, but if God has the good grace to call you to Mad[….]: in China or to Japan, Oh! Thank Him because that vocation is majestic. Unfortunately I fall short of the required level of virtues that such a pious ministry requires. Therefore I beg and entreat you to ask the Heavens to allow me some of that spirit which created the apostles, the spirit of humility, charity, self-denial, patience and oratory that animated the Clavers and the Spinolas and made their preaching fruitful. [8]. I do not ask you to seek Mary’s love for me, that goes without saying, because especially here in Oceania Mary must carry all the responsibility of the mission which is especially consecrated to her. Those who do not have, for this kindly Mother, the love and confidence of a child, should not come here, or so it seems to me. But above all ask for humility for me. Pride can cross the oceans without difficulty and no matter how hard you try to hide yourself from it, it can always find its target.

Will you soon be a priest? Oh! Profit from my example. Prepare yourself so that, at the moment when you approach the alter, you will not bemoan the fact that you have only an earthly heart to offer. When you do it, do not forget me in your votive offerings. God knows that I often speak to you in mine, to ask Him that you might be a worthy son of Saint Ignace and a faithful follower of Saint Louis de Gonzague and Stanislas Kostka.
Goodbye my dear Henry, goodbye. May we always love each other in God and in a way that will lead us to virtue. Those are the only lasting affections; those based on human nature do not endure. Let us pray for each other so that we will meet again in Heaven, each of us leading a group of souls that we have saved through our own efforts.
I embrace you fondly in the blessed hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Your devoted brother,
Xavier Montrouzier,
Missionary apostolic.
Post script. Remember me to Reverend Father Ogerdins and ask him to include me in his prayers. Let me know what has become of Father Boland who instructed me in the practice of retreat and Father Audouard who I knew in Lyon. Goodbye.
San Cristobal, 19th July, the day of Saint Vincent de Paul, 1847.


  1. [Author’s note on an angle in the margin] I am told that you have been driven out of France. Recently this rumour has been denied. Whatever has happened, hold firm to your vocation.
  2. Raffaele Fornari, apostolic nuncio in Paris (cf. Notizie 1847, p.327
  3. Cf. Jn 12.24: If a grain of wheat, which falls into the ground does not die, it remains a solitary grain; but if on the contrary it dies, it bears a rich harvest.
  4. Probably Wango, the name of a bay on the northern coast of San Cristobal, as well as of a stream that flows into it. (cf. Pacific Islands, vol.3, p.690)
  5. Ps 26 (27).3: Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum. Si exsurgat adversum me proelium in hoc ego sperabo. (If an army comes and sets up camp against me, my heart has no fear. Even if we engage in battle, I remain confident.)
  6. Ps 30 (31).2: Ps 70 (71).1: In te Domine speravi; non confundar in aeternum. (Ps 30 (31). 2: Lord, I have made you my refuge, may I never be disappointed! Ps 70 (71). 1: Lord, you are my refuge; may I never again be humiliated!)
  7. John Thomas, Methodist (Wesleyan) missionary in Tonga (cf. doc. 22, ∫ 3, n.3; 217, ∫ 6, n. 14).
  8. Saint Peter Claver and the blessed Carlo Spinola were Jesuit missionaries. Claver, Spanish in origin, arrived in Cartagena in Colombia in 1610, where he spent 54 years helping the black slaves. Not being able to abolish slavery, he did his best to comfort the victims of it. (cf. Internet: [1]). He trained catechism teachers; he baptised and taught more than three hundred thousand black people. Spinola, an Italian, left in 1596 for Japan; after a series of misadventures he arrived in Nagasaki, where he founded a school of catechists and succeeded in converting and baptising around five thousand Japanese. During the persecution, which erupted in 1614, he continued his clandestine mission work, but was finally arrested and imprisoned. In 1622, with a large number of other Catholics, he was put to death. (cf. Internet [2]).

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