Br Joseph-Xavier (Jean-Marie Luzy) to Fr Jean-Claude Colin, Futuna, 5 May 1850
D’après l’expédition, APM OW 208 Luzy
Clisby Letter 85. Girard doc. 894
Introduction and translation by Br Edward Clisby FMS
Mathieu and Augustin brought with them to the Hermitage at Kolopelu a small group of boys from Wallis. This increased the number in training to 25, which also included a Tongan, a Samoan, and a Fijian, according to Servant (AM 631). Servant had been invited to preach the retreat there at the beginning of the year. At its close a statue of the Blessed Virgin was installed in the temporary chapel. It was the first on Futuna and the envy of the people but, in Servant’s opinion, “it was fitting that it belonged to these worthy youth who professed to be leaving the world and devoting themselves exclusively to Mary’s service.” (ES 254). The young consumptive to whom Joseph-Xavier devotes a long paragraph (3) was one of the original members of this community. The account of his illness and his death, also provided by Servant (ES 254-5), allows us a glimpse of the fine spirit which animated the little community at this time. The boy was the first to be buried on the hill behind the Hermitage (AM 632).
This event took place, according to the brother, at about the same time as the arrival of 6 boys from New Caledonia , ie at the end of April. They were part of a group of 21 converts brought to Futuna from the Isle of Pines by Frs Rougeyron and Gagniere after Douarre had been forced for a second time to abandon the mission on the New Caledonian mainland. It was from the priests that that Joseph and Servant heard the details of the mission’s troubled history, which the latter recorded at some length (ES 261-272). Pierre Rougeyron (1807–1902), professed in March 1843, was ordained in April, the same month he left for Oceania with Douarre. A founding member of the New Caledonia mission, he was now pro-vicar. So pleased was he with the reception of his converts on Futuna that he came back in September with another 43 from the former stations of Pouebo and Balade, where Br Blaise had been killed (rf L 72).
On Wallis, hostilities between Catholics and Protestants continued through 1850 and early 1851. But after a revival of fervour among the Catholics in Lent 1851, the Wesleyan chief Pooi and his followers left Wallis for good.
Text of the Letter
- Reverend Father,
- If I have missed an occasion to send some news of myself, it’s not my fault. God is the one to complain to; he is the cause, and this is how. When I was going to write you some letters, he sent me my puke (puke is the name for the sickness which causes swollen limbs, a type of elephantiasis). When it takes me I am obliged to take to my bed and stay there several days, not knowing whether I am to live or die. Please, reverend Father, never forget me in your prayers, so I may obtain patience in my little sufferings and pardon for my negligence.
- I am still on Futuna in the new establishment which continues to prosper and grows more and more. His Lordship should have come to spend some time here according to the promise he made us on leaving, but his occupations have not allowed him to hold to his promise. He has sent Fr Mathieu with dear Br Augustin and 8 young people from Wallis, which has increased our little community to 25. All is going well on our mountain, that is to say, at Our Lady of the Hermitage. Frs Mathieu and Dubrieuille (sic) have been very pleased with it. Our cherished little band of good children has just been augmented by 6 little Caledonians. The Fathers will inform you of what has happened in their country, and you will praise the zeal of its poor converts. They have been well received on Futuna. Fr Rougeron (sic) is going back for a larger group to form a nursery of good Christians for the time when the good God wants them to return to that big land and chase out the devil who rules there. The martyrdom of the saintly Br Blaisse (sic) will not have been of no avail to them.
- We have also, Reverend Father, just lost one of our dearest and fervent young men. He died of consumption. He was from Wallis. His death was the most beautiful one could die. His beautiful soul flew away to heaven with such an affecting peace and with so cheerful and joyous an appearance that all our young people who were around him were in envy of it. Several of the older ones said they had never seen a death like it. Fr Mathieu, who officiated at his deathbed, kept a lighted candle in the hands of the dying boy, to the admiration of those present. His agony lasted less that 5 minutes. If I could tell you all about his life, reverend Father, you would not be able to stop weeping for joy. The young man was between 20 and 25 years old and one of the greatest in Futuna. He was also their model, whether in work or in his piety in church. His appearance, his modesty, his virtue proclaimed his faith. His illness was a long one, but he never complained. Someone made the remark to him: if you die, you will certainly be sorry. Why should I be sorry, if the good God will it? But wouldn’t you like to see your mother and your sister again? I don’t even think of it; the good God will look after them. Three or four days before he died, he told me: “I am not very sick, I am only tired. I could still get better. But if I recover, I will never leave you, and wherever you send me, with a Father or one of you, I will go. – But in Fiji they would eat you. – Well, I would be a martyr. That’s all I want. ”When he said that I could scarcely hold back my tears. I often used to joke with him and talk to him. Often he would say to me: When you are praying to God, I say nothing to you, but as for you, you keep on talking to me. He did not stop praying himself. The morning he died he had been to prayers and Mass as usual. He died about 9 in the morning.
- There is nothing newsworthy about Futuna. All is going well. The good God does not neglect us. Last year he spared us a big cyclone which laid waste Wallis, Tonga, Samoa, and other nearby islands. It did us no damage. This year one knocked down perhaps 100 banana trees, but that’s nothing. We are very well fed on Futuna. It would be nice if all the missions were the same. Wallis is overwhelmed with misery at present. The Protestants are doing much mischief, the Devil must be with them. That is what has prevented Monsignor from coming to Futuna.
- I won’t tell you about my exercises of piety, reverend father. They are still pretty much the same. Since the arrival of Br Augustin I haven’t been so tired and my prayers are longer. I can think of nothing much to ask you for. However, if it is in accord with your generosity and the will of God to send me some book of piety such as Troncon for my particular examen, and other books of meditation, the Office of the Blessed Virgin, the meditations of Sister Hemariche (sic) , her life, the story of La Salette,  and any other pious book.
- Farewell, my reverend father, pray for me and for the youngsters of Our Lady of the Hermitage. They would like to see you and send their greetings with all their hearts. Pray also for the good Catholics of Wallis that God will keep them so.
- Your very devoted and obedient child,
- Br Joseph Xavier Luzy.
- The visionary Sister Catherine Emmerich; Meditations on the Grievous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Champagnat presented a benefactor with a copy of this work in October 1838 (rf S1 408).
- An apparition of the Blessed Virgin to two children is said to have taken place on the mountain slopes above the village of La Salette in south-east France in September 1846.
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