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Souvenirs 1








CHAPTER III: THE VOYAGE TO INDIA (28 March – 24 July 1842)

CHAPTER IV – V: A TYRO AT PONDICHERRY (July 1842 – February 1843)

CHAPTER VI: JOURNEY INTO INDIA (28 February – 30 April 1843)



CHAPTER IX: FIRST SYNOD OF PONDICHERRY (18 January – 5 February 1844)




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(1841 – 1845)

S.M.A. 1988

Cum Permissu superiorum

Patrick J.Harrington, S.M.A.,

Superior General,

Rome 6th January 1987.

French edition prepared by an S.M.A. team.

Put into present-day English by Bob Hales, S. M.A.

The present digital edition was prepared with the help of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (Srs. Fiat Maria, Kalaiselvi, Rita Mary, Selvi and Shanti)

(P 7)


(From the French” Avant-propos”)

Marion Brésillac wrote “Souvenirs de Douze Ans de Mission” in 1855, after he left India and just before he started founding the Society of African Missions. It was never published fully until 1987. (Printed in one big volume, 860 pages, by Médiaspaul, Paris).

In English, we will have two books: the present Volume I: “Missionary in India” and then Volume II: “Bishop in India”. We will keep the over-all title “Souvenirs from Twelve Years on the Missions” and use continuous pagination for the whole work.

This work gives by far the most complete view of the Founder’s personality, and his missionary motivations, thinking and plans. Of course “Mission Documents, Foundation Documents” (MDFD) and the small (blue) “Diary 1856-1859” should also be read.

The present book will introduce us to a richer and more detailed knowledge of the Founder as a young missionary. It will reveal the theological basis of his spiritual life – his unfailing attachment to the Church and especially to the Pope; his total commitment to the Missions … The humanity and the richness of his personality will appear, the frank, straight-forward temperament, the immediate and spontaneous response to people and places … the wide scope and interests of his questing mind, totally opposed to narrow and small-minded views … But also we will see his extreme sensitivity and vulnerability, his over-intensity, his inability to relax in morally complicated situations. (He saw, and noted, some of these weaknesses himself).

History? Here we get a partial. Very personal view of the missionary situation in mid-19th-century India. Sometimes we have a (p 8) ring-side seat at the scuffles. An intense drama is played out here. Obviously, here is a human (very human) life devoted to a great Cause, deeply and passionately involved – and uncompromisingly critical of other actors in the drama! Jesuits, Carmelites, Paris Foreign Missions … the French, the English, the Irish, the Portuguese … they all get the hammer from time to time. The writer is far too involved to be able to sit back and try to be coldly objective.

But when Marion Brésillac found himself back in a cooler climate, writing a book out of his Diary, he soon saw the need to be more scrupulously fair to them all. Here are the post-scripts he added to some of his chapters:

“In this Chapter (X) there are a lot of re-evaluations to be made. Certain passages about the Jesuits to be deleted. A few expressions about individuals to be amended”.

XIII: “Have to revise some evaluations, especially about the Jesuits”.

XVI: “The whole Chapter must be re-done. Too many personal remarks”.

So, one reason why the “Souvenirs” was not published for 132 years may have been that its author never passed it for publication. He intended to make it fairer and more impersonal. (But then it might have become boring!). He died, in 1859, before getting round to revising it as he wished. Here it is now, warts and all. More interesting and more revealing, I think, for that!

From the French “Avertissement” 1987

“Marion Brésillac’s style is sometimes a bit off-putting for a 20th century reader. It is very 19th century. Moreover the author, in his quest for scrupulous exactitude, often tries to include everything, all the ins-and-outs of his thinking, inside the same interminable sentence. He is completely fascinated by certain topics; and he sometimes flogs them to death. For example: Indian castes and customs, Native Clergy, the Jesuits … He repeats and repeats … “

The heroic team who deciphered the vast manuscript, and got it correctly typed, often had to contend with antiquated or difficult French (of which they give examples). In this translation I have made no attempt to reproduce these obsolete turns of neither phrase, nor (p 9) the long convoluted sentences, or the grammatical complexities. I merely tried to capture all the ideas, the emotions and the tone-of-voice. Then I ruthlessly turned it into 20th century English, trying to be about 96% accurate. (Anything higher would have to be incompatible with clarity, normality of tone and readability).

A lot of 19th century theology and spirituality looks fairly dismal today. Often it seems to make an absolute virtue of “sacrifices and suffering”, as if they were objectives. Marion Brésillac’s natural outlook was not devoid of cheerfulness and the joy of living, and he saw through some of this stuff. But he could not escape a lot of it; he frequently mentions “sadness” and “pain” as if they were positive achievements, pleasing to God.

Other vague 19th century assumptions: “All the pagans are on the road to hell. Traditional religions are nothing but devil worship. The white race is (providentially) superior in weaponry and intelligence”. These “axioms” were fairly universal; and it is not surprising that Marion Brésillac was affected by them. What is surprising is that he questioned many of them (the “political” ones, not so much the “theological”) and even attacked a few, giving his own opinion instead. When that happens, his views sound amazingly generous and Christian.

The word “avertissement” (above) contains a hint of “warning” in it. Having duly fore-warned the reader, I now wish to say that this translation has been a quite interesting and enjoyable task, not at all boring (as I had feared). Here I met a man who is attractive to talk to (though now and then a bit maddening). He has something forthright and worthwhile to say about Mission, Inculturation, Church Independence, Equality, Education, and many other things surprising for his day. He describes his varied adventures and experiences with energy and zest (and often with humour). If you do not enjoy most of his “Souvenirs” I have failed to get it right.

Bob Hales, translator.

(p 11)

Twelve Years:

The Beginning (1841) and the End (1853) 1

On the first of January 1841, I started my Missionary Diary 2, with these words: “Will I get to be a missionary? I still don’t know for sure. But, today, everything points that way. I can even say I am one already, in spirit. For I have the hope, at this moment, of becoming a missionary very soon. May Heaven bless the resolve I have made, of crossing the seas to work for the salvation of my brothers. God is our only Master. He holds sovereign dominion over our entire existence. It is for him to speak, for us to obey”. [Looking back now, in 1855]3, have I always been alert and[* (p *]12) exact at listening to your word, my God? Faithful in obeying You? After twelve long years in India, was it really to obey You that I left it – furling my sails and handing over the tiller to other hands, the ship You had confided to me? Or was it myself I was listening to? Afraid to struggle on against the storms? Did my courage fail? Was I shirking the weary labour and the early death?

It is You who will judge me, Lord; and I have plenty of reason to dread your justice. But I still have hope in your mercy. For I think it was not thus that I have sinned. And my faults due to ignorance, please do not remember them against me, O my God. And along with those, now, other faults come to mind, all too well known to me. Imprudence in certain writings of mine, and in certain speeches or talk. Too much frankness. (For in our relations with the saints on this earth, over-frankness is a fault, too!) Over eagerness for my desired objectives, too much vehemence …

But in the crucial act – my resignation – I believe I did obey the demands of my conscience. And unless I am mistaken, O my God, isn’t it better to sin like that, unwittingly and unwillingly, than to keep on trying to fight and ignore my moral conviction, i.e. that, in the state my Mission had got into, the work I was doing there was no longer Your Work!

No, it wasn’t fear – I think I can be sure of that – it was not fear that made me leave my Vicariate Apostolic. Or rather, the only fear I had was the fear of displeasing you, my God. If I had any other fear to overcome it was a natural fear that might have bent my conscientious [determination to resign]. It was the prospect of a dismal future (from the natural viewpoint), of a broken career, ruined in the prime of life, without any human hope of hitching my earthly existence (probably still quite long) to any work that I could put my heart into. The dismal future was dreaded all the more because of my heart-felt affection – still strongly felt – for the work of the foreign missions, for a way of life that had become second nature to me, for a people that I had sincerely adopted to be my people, for neophytes who liked me and whom I liked too, with all my heart, whom I still love and will love always. (p 13)

Lament for Coimbatore

May my tongue stick to my palate if ever I forget you, Coimbatore! You were for me a vision of perfection and of peace! And now you have become Rama, a place for sighs and tears. You have given me children, and now I know not if they are dead or alive!

Are you still there, my well-loved sons? Especially you, my young clerics, you whom I led by the hand, you who let me lead you to the very steps of the sanctuary? You were nearing the point where a life-commitment is to be made, but you had not yet taken the decisive step. Your engagement was not irrevocable. Did you step back after I left? Or rather, maintaining the same holy ardour that you had when I said goodbye (my tears you could not guess at) have you persevered in the service of the Lord’s altars? And how many since have followed your example? Angel of Coimbatore, send us news of them all. But don’t leave these young levites! Continue to support the happy dispositions of their hearts!

Coimbatore! You were my joy and my delight! Wasn’t it there with you I had my home which I had built for myself, and my tomb that I had dug? There, in advance, I had prayed for the repose of my soul, inside that very tomb which was going to be my last resting-place, and facing the black cross which I had traced on the white plaster that lines the inside like a white winding-sheet! Into the base of the inside wall I had placed some relics of the Saints, so that on the day they rise again glorious, they would be there to guide me to the feet of God, the God of justice and of mercy!

And in the meantime, until the slab covering this resting-place was lifted, hadn’t I my little garden there in Coimbatore, three times more spacious than I needed, with my sedentary habits? My rose-bushes were always in bloom, my jasmines ever green, my banana-plants bent down with their golden harvest, my graceful majestic coconut-palms, my flame-flowered pomegranate-trees, my balm-scented citron-trees! And the fragrant guava-tree and the hefty mango, the fragile paw-paw and the so many other wonderful plants of the tropics, whose climate was no (p 14) longer any bother to me!, All of them there, around a wide, deep well, each day drawn dry to water this Eden, but each day rising again to a level corresponding to the season, indicating the exact month, and almost the very date!

Ten minutes was enough to make the round of this domain, with slow and easy steps. But it was amply big enough for me – And for my faithful dog and my dainty mongoose, vigilant sentry against the poisonous snakes. – And for my cockatoo bird, envious of the mongoose’s caresses, envied in turn by the shy dove, ever on the look-out for the cockatoo’s wandering-off, in order to come herself and peck from inside the pocket of my big white soutane – but flying off as soon as she spotted the azure-necked peacock running up with beating wings to dispute his share of the rice or millet.

There I wasn’t rich, but there I lacked for nothing. Thanks to the admirable work of the “Propagation de la Foi”, missionaries today have enough to ward off real privations. Indeed they receive so much from the “Propagation” that they would be wrong to use it all on their own maintenance. That fault is avoided with scrupulous care by the Paris Foreign Missions. Even those who have their own personal money live frugally, so as to be able to use everything from the “Propagation” for their Christian community, adding their own savings as well. The rest live on the income from their communities and, when these do not suffice, they use some of the subsidy from the “Propagation”, very soberly but without imposing considerable privations on themselves. They reckon they have to keep up their strength for their work. So their condition is very like the one that the Wise Man asked of the Lord: to give him neither poverty nor riches (Proverbs 30:8). And indeed isn’t that the very state that brings the greatest amount of real happiness in this world? You can feel the truth of this without having had to reach any sublime degree of perfection. You feel it in every position of life, but especially when you have the happiness of being a missionary. You understand the value of money; you take it as it is; you use it for good, despising luxury; and so you are safe from its disadvantages.

So, I was as happy in Coimbatore as a man can be in any foreign country. For I do not pretend to deprive missionaries – (p 15) even those living in today’s peaceful India – of the glory of their daily hardships, even if these were nothing more than living outside one’s own fatherland. Indeed perpetual exile is the greatest (and no doubt the most meritorious) of the missionary’s crosses. But it is a voluntary one. We loved it at the start and we still love it. We embrace it with joy and we do not refuse to take it up again and carry it to the end of our days, if such is your Will, O Lord, and if You give us the grace of being faithful to all your commands.

He HAD to Leave 4

Why then abandon you, Coimbatore, with all your joys? Perhaps you refused me the inner joys of the heart and soul? It is true, my heart was often broken there, and my soul plunged in deepest sorrows. But through it all, the Indians loved me, because I loved them very much. My dear native people were perhaps too affectionate towards me, because my affection for them was boundless. Some of my co-workers were real friends to me, and among these friends were some real saints who maybe, one day, will be raised to the altar. Others thought they had to oppose me; but their heart was in the right place; it is only their opinions that were wrong. Each maintained them for a good cause; but to me they were the cause of immense harm on the missions, a perma-nent obstacle to true progress and to the solid establishment of Religion, not only in India but in many other countries all over the world, wherever apostolic workers share these mistaken views.

I would believe myself gravely culpable if I didn’t seriously examine my conscience to see if it wasn’t pride that made me so sure of the rightness of my own views, as against the convictions of so many venerable confreres. This examen I did make; and I renewed it many a time. [But I still came to the same conclusion]. There was nothing I could do. If I continued to fight on hopelessly (p 16) [for my views] it would become more dangerous and harmful than even the errors of my opponents (if they were errors). And if I went along with them, co-operating in the actions of a policy for lack of policy] which to me appears evidently wrong and disastrous, I would be acting against my conscience. I would be tolerating practices which we might [in the future] be able to cleanse of all sinfulness; but which, in the present circumstances, did not appear to me free from superstition.

So I was unable to escape from my convictions [and my dilemma]. But I was able to give up my post. And I did it. I did it as a sacrifice, against all my natural self-interests, and against the inclinations of my own heart. This is what gives me hope, O my God, that if I was wrong, 'twas a mistake of judgement, not of will. Even if my intellect went the wrong way, my heart was innocent. At least I hope so, O my God. And the peace of soul which You have deigned to maintain in me -even when my heart was broken like the grain under the millstone- increases my confidence about this.

These questions will necessarily come up in more detail later in the course of these memoirs. I will try to develop the argument without passing the bounds of moderation and without offending charity. But enough, now, of these sad memories! For it is supremely sad not to be able to share the opinions of men that you like, and often even venerate. Or not to have any hope of ever bringing them to share your own. And consequently have to separate. Meanwhile, on the truth of one or the other of these positions - daily acted upon - depends the salvation of many souls, and perhaps of many nations. Let us leave these painful memories, then, and go back to an earlier period when we did not even suspect or imagine that the work of the missions - like all man's work- could have its own share of contradiction and combat, even between men of goodwill. (p 17)

Early Missionary Vocation

I had passed my teens, almost, before I even heard of the missions. And yet I could recognise, later, that the more or less vague idea of the missions had been in my young mind as early as was the priesthood. And God, it seems to me, gave me the grace of thinking about the priesthood as soon as He gave me the full use of my reason. Living away in the country, where my virtuous and respected father was teaching his children himself, I had never heard of the work of the “Propagation de la Foi”; it made very little echo then in our villages. So I was thinking [consciously] only of responding to the attraction to the priesthood, an attraction which you placed in my heart, my God, from my youngest years. May I have been faithful to it!

Once my mind was made up about the clerical state, I obtained permission from my father to go and study rhetoric and philosophy at the minor seminary of Carcassonne, the capital of my diocese. There, new graces in plenty were waiting for me, my God, under the saintly direction of the superiors there, and later on in the edifying and enjoyable company of the professors. For I was given the opportunity of sharing in their teaching work and cares for some time, while following my theology courses at the major seminary. It was there, spontaneously, without any prompting from my spiritual directors, that I felt the growing desire of consecrating my life to the missions.

I confided in my directors. At first they opposed the idea. No doubt, it was to test my vocation, and also because my desire did not seem to them to have all the requisite characteristics of a real vocation [to the missions]. For your vocation is a serious matter. What great evils a person risks when he treats it less than seriously! This is true of all positions in life. There is no position, no job, no employment, which we can afford to be nonchalant about taking on or leaving. God is the Source and the final End of all things; and without his permission nothing happens in this world. He has created us to occupy a specific place in his over-all work. And since He has created man to live in society, He wills that each one should make his own contribution towards maintaining its (p 18) marvellous organisation, which is so easily and so cruelly disturbed when each man is not in his rightful place.

We have to agree, however, that there are some vocations which demand a much more serious examination than others, both because they are harder to identify and because the consequences of a mistake are so much more serious. Before taking them on, as being the expression of the Will of God, you will require long, sustained attention, backed up by prudent advice and prayer. This is required both by the person who believes he is called and by those whom he consults before making up his mind. A slight reason, for example, could decide a man to join the army rather than be a magistrate or a trader. Not so for someone trying to decide on marriage, religious life, or the priesthood. If someone is wise he will, before deciding, have recourse to all the lights of right reason and of good, wise counsellors, and especially the Light that comes from Heaven, conveyed to us in frank and fervent prayer.

What, then, must we say about these extraordinary vocations that will transport a man away out of his “natural” sphere for the rest of his days? Normally, such cases require as much prudence as generosity, as much wisdom as devotedness. For these vocations are dangerous even when they are real, since they demand a greater strength of will to correspond to powerful graces. [How much more dangerous] if these graces are lacking, because someone has rashly moved into a difficult path where God was not calling him! It is true that God’s boundless goodness will not abandon anyone who calls on him in time of need. Nevertheless He does not wish us to tempt his providence.

But if someone finds himself strongly pulled two ways -by powerful reasons affirming his extraordinary vocation and by other powerful reasons denying it- he finds himself placed between two equally dreadful dangers: resisting the call of God (if God is calling him) or risking the greatest dangers (if God is not calling him).

It is then, above all, that you have need of prayers and good counsel; you have to study yourself in silence and meditation. You have to call the experience of the saints to your help, and follow the wise advice and the rules they have left us for the discernment (p 19) of spirits. For the spirit of darkness now tries to disguise himself as the spirit of light; and he will use anything. So you must distrust everything. You have to impose silence on the voice of human nature. To the search-light of faith you have to subject even our noblest human sentiments, even the most lawful-seeming movements of our heart and soul. Everything – education, fortune, parents, friends, even our own superiors, even those who seem most animated by spirit of God, working only for his greater glory – everything can become an instrument for error under the influence of the prince of lies, used by him in order to confuse the plans of God.

There are cases where these [missionary] vocations, though quite extraordinary, leave no room at all for doubt. Sometimes there is an almost irresistible attraction, sometimes an inner light bringing instantaneous self-evidence to the mind, sometimes other clear signs chosen by the Lord, easily discerned by those who are accustomed to study God’s way of acting on souls. [Then their job is easy]. The Lord’s voice is clearly heard. It only remains to lead the hearer to a prompt and generous obedience, sustaining him in the spirit of prayer and humility. For he is still in need of more abundant graces. And he must be made to realise that a vocation is sometimes completely independent of the pre-sent holiness of the one called by God.

But, more often, things are not clear like that. God usually seems to wrap his Will in a cloud of mystery. He gives us the grace to clear it; but He wants us to have the merit of doing that ourselves. So, however pure our intentions and our heart, we nearly always have to exercise prudence, and to pray for the spirit of Counsel.

Pardon me, Lord, if I have not always acted with the level of prudence demanded by my missionary vocation. You have broken my missionary career. Could it not be because I displeased You by entering it [in the first place]? I have to fear that possibility, no doubt. And yet, it seems to me, I would have a lot more reason to fear if I had not obeyed your voice once it became clear enough to me. You have stricken me, Lord, but you have at least left me confident that I have obeyed you. You have not allowed any regrets to sprout in my mind. No, I do not regret what is past; (p 20) and I am ready to accept whatever it shall please you to ordain for me in the future.

For this same vocation was one that I could feel growing firmer in me from day to day. I did not yield to it immediately. Many years went by before I left home, even after the first outward steps that my spiritual director permitted me to take. I was not yet ordained a priest at the time: and I clearly expressed my plans [about the missions] to my ecclesiastical superiors, and to my father.

Opposition. Anti-Scruples Vaccination

First Special Retreat, Inconclusive.

Such a proposition could not be received other than coldly by Mgr de Gualy, then Bishop of Carcassonne. Certainly, bishops are obliged to support the action of grace on any members of their clergy called by God to a ministry different from the ordinary. But they are also obliged, even while so doing, to act with caution, especially when the person concerned does not show evident signs of such an extraordinary vocation. And indeed, how many young men let themselves be carried away by the heat of a wild imagination! They would inevitably get themselves lost, without the severe caution of their superiors. [Anyway I got no support from the Bishop].

Nor could I expect any more positive reaction from my parents. Poor dear parents! God imposes a painful sacrifice on them, and they do not always see that He simultaneously gives them the graces needed to bear its burdens. Still more rarely do they see that the sacrifice He is asking is also an immense and special blessing for them. Hence there is almost universal opposition from parents, even good Christians, when one of their children wants to embrace the perfection of the Gospel, leaving the dead bury their dead.

My mother, graced with a rare piety, shed some tears; but her response to my plans was mild and resigned. And although she later told me, more than once, that my first declaration [of my (p 21) missionary ideal] was a painful memory to her, nevertheless I could see that she was preparing herself to bear the sacrifice with faith if ever the Lord actually requited it. And indeed she was able for it when the time came: to take it, if not with complete joy, at least with complete resignation. Although my father was also a person of solid practical piety (of a kind unfortunately rare these days) still I could not expect the same strength of mind from him.

My father’s response, then, as I expected, was a complete and energetic refusal of consent. “The holidays are not far off”, he wrote. “I will let you know then what I think”. During those holidays I kept myself on the alert, ready to reply to his arguments, expecting a counter-attack any day. But it never came. We spent two months together in the country without the missions once coming up, no more than if I had never mentioned them to him.

Afterwards I returned to the seminary less sure than ever about my vocation. For the Lord had put me through some rough trials that summer, letting me be attacked by the cruel malady of scruples, especially about my breviary. The miserable state that I was reduced to by this illness was, no doubt one of the reasons why my father decided to leave me alone as regards my missions plans. And another man, my spiritual director, must also have been greatly disillusioned about my missionary vocation, by this same weakness of mine. He even assured me, once: “You’ll never be a missionary”. So all that remained with me was a very faint glimmer of hope. But it never left me entirely, even at moments when everything seemed to combine to make me abandon the idea.

Why did You permit those scruples, O my God? Theologians maintain there are various types of scruples. Some are punishments; others are trials; some are even graces. Perhaps You were punishing me, Lord, and maybe I deserved it only too well. But can I not also hope that You were giving me a special grace, a specific help for these later times? For this is what I now see: it is very difficult to recognise what scruples are [and are not] without having previously experienced them personally yourself.

Now, I have been accused of scrupulosity when I protested (p 22) against certain practices in our Indian missions. Perhaps it was even on the basis of my “scrupulosity” that some people rejected my conclusions. But I was not demanding that we should abolish what is tolerable in these practices, (On the contrary, I believe we ought to be more tolerant than we are. Our Faith permits it). I was simply demanding that we should regularise them, in such a way that our conduct might no longer be in contradiction with the declared decisions of the Holy See. These are being partly dodged, in my opinion. Specifically, customs should be regularised in such a way, especially, that (in spite of our tolerance) we might no longer have to blush in shame when we hear any passage of the Holy Gospel. [The point about scrupulosity is]: I can remember the real scruples that I endured after my sub-diaconate. I can remember the feel of them as it if were today. For such tortures cannot be erased from the memory. Well, then, I believe I can be very sure that, for a long time, [I haven’t had them]. That I am no longer scrupulous, So that now, I can indeed, make a mistake about the exact degree of my moral duties as regards Indian customs rites and ceremonies. I can be wrong about the scope and precise force of the Oath we have taken. [But one thing I can be sure of]: This wrongness, if there is wrongness, certainly does not come from scruples.

Meanwhile [in 1840] I seized the opportunity of following a Retreat at which I hoped I would find some light to discover the will of the Lord for me. It was being given for some clerics by a Jesuit Father, and I was enabled to join them. Here is his opinion at the end of the exercises: “I think”, he said “that you have the desire for a [missionary] vocation rather than the vocation itself. Only one thing seems certain to me: that your vocation is doubtful. In this doubt, keep your peace of mind. Wait for the action of the Lord. Beware of opposing God’s grace; just let it operate. If, later on, you still feel drawn to the missions, you should make a special retreat under the direction of a man skilled in discerning vocations”.

My resolutions from the retreat were in line with the Rev Father’s conclusions. And, shortly afterwards, I had the joy of being raised to the priesthood. I began my ministry, and the (p 23) Bishop appointed me a curate in the parish of St. Michel’s at Castelnaudary, my birth-place. I lived at my father’s house. My relations with the excellent priests in the parish were most satisfactory. Humanly speaking, I was happy. And I was happy in reality, for I was still in the right place for me. And in it, O Lord, You graciously gave me more than one spiritual consolation. But the greatest gift You gave me was that of not losing sight of the missions. Today, when my career seems shattered for ever, I still bless You for that grace. I always shall bless You, O my God. You have made me encounter heart pains instead of the pains of mar-tyrdom [which I hoped for]. But it was not for me to choose which kind. Maybe one kind is as good as the other. All I ask is not to be the culpable cause of being away from my dear missions!

So I spent over two years [1838 – 1840, as a curate] with only a long-distance vision of the foreign missions. But the desire to take part in them still continued.

Decisive Retreat. Foreign Missions Contacted.

Bishop’s Refusal.

Since the attraction persisted, I was bound, in faithfulness to my resolutions from the first retreat, to make another one, which should decide the matter once and for all. Meanwhile, as my desire for the missions kept getting stronger, I began to express it sometimes to people, enough for them to expect, generally, that I would end up by embracing that career.

I have often wondered if it would not have been better to have kept complete silence. True, I reckoned that, by not hiding my idea, I was thus preparing the minds of my parents, especially my father; for I knew he would be particularly shocked by my going away. But I must also admit that, if I did not keep my secret better, it was partly out of a weakness, out of my natural dislike for the cagey behaviour of those who like to wrap all their actions in a big cloud of secrecy and mystery. All the same, let us face it, the saints have generally been very reserved. My own failing -of over- frankness with everybody- has often been disastrous for (p 24) me. And perhaps it has been a source of real faults, for which I ask your pardon, O my God. Certainly, this out-spoken-ness of mine has spoilt a lot of opportunities for doing good, in the various positions I found myself engaged in. Do not demand a rigorous account of them, Lord, but deal with me in your mercy!

I went to consult the Jesuit Rev Father already mentioned. He was then at Toulouse, and he advised me to go and see the Novice Master of his Order, at Avignon. So to Avignon I went, and then on to Aix, for the man was there just then with his novices. Under his direction I made a 7-8 days’ retreat. And he decided that I ought to be a missionary.

In spite of all these precautions, could I have deceived myself? Isn’t my present sad state tailor-made for making me suspect just that? Well, the people I consulted were not of course, infallible. But they had experience. Their views were impartial. So, in practice, could I really have been deceiving myself in following then conclusions? Whatever be the future outcome, I have confidence that I was not culpable in that decision. Indeed, if I had acted otherwise, would I not have real cause to blame myself! For me, wasn’t their voice the Voice of our divine Saviour himself telling me to leave everything to follow him! So now, let’s have no regrets, but rather let us hope that God will take account of the obedience which He enabled us to follow then, and pardon the faults we committed since.

As soon as my decision was made, I took action and made the first moves. From the Jesuit house itself, I wrote to the Fr. Superior of the Paris Foreign Missions and to his Lordship the Bishop of Carcassonne.

Why did I opt for the Foreign Missions Society, out of so many other societies also engaged in the missions? I admit that, on this point, I may have been guilty of imprudence. I was equally ignorant of them all. And I felt no attraction for the kind of religious life that one is subjected to in almost all the congregations. The Foreign Missions Society seemed to go straight for the objective I had in mind. It must have been its name that attracted and decided me, rather than its constitutions, which I hardly knew at all. Morever, the Jesuit Father seemed to approve of the choice, (p 25) though there were no reasoned-out motivations for it, either from me or from himself.

On getting back to Castelnaudary I found a reply, poste restante, from Fr Langlois, the Superior of the Foreign Missions Seminary. It came roughly to this:

“All that you indicate gives me good reason to believe that you are really called to the foreign missions. It is important that you keep your plans from your parents. Meanwhile, it is necessary that I get some information from your superiors. If His Lordship of Carcassonne appears to put up some opposition, it will only be to test your vocation. Tell him faithfully all the steps you have taken to make sure of it. Pray, and ask others to pray for you. If he does not immediately give you permission to go, do not be discouraged. Repeat your request a few times, and continue to pray. I will add my prayers to yours. I shall make my first official enquiries once you have told me the result of your first approach to the Bishop.

His Lordship did not reply at all to my letter. I thought it was time to go and see him, and explain in person the reasons for my decision. He tried to refute my reasons. Finally he told me that, seeing the shortage of priests in the diocese, it was impossible for him to let me go. However, I should not neglect such a beautiful vocation; and he himself would beware of blocking it. Later on, if my vocation still lasted, and if he had enough priests, he would not hold me back. These words gave me such hope that I had to share it immediately with the Fr. Superior of the Foreign Missions Seminary. He replied more-or-less like this:

“I have reason to believe that His Lordship of Carcassonne is merely testing your vocation. I happen to know how favourably disposed he is towards the foreign missions. I praise your determination not to be put off. Return to the attack from time to time, without making a nuisance of yourself. When I have got things a bit better arranged, I can write about it myself to His Lordship. Pray a lot, and get people to pray. If God is calling you, and if you on your side do all that you should, the Lord will open the way for you. I am praying, on my side. Recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Angels, St Joseph, St Francis Xavier”.

I wrote again to Mgr de Gualy, without getting a reply. But a priest who often saw him, and who was a great friend of mine, assured me that he wasn’t far from giving his consent. Meanwhile, (p 26) after several letters each way, Fr Langlois wrote to me at the end of January 1841 that, following the information he had been given, I would be admitted into the Foreign Missions Seminary as soon as I had obtained the consent of my bishop. You know, O my God, how great was my joy at this news. It seems to me that at that time I wanted to be a very good missionary. Alas! why have I not responded to all your graces?

[* *]

[* *]

Bishop’s Alternative “mission”. Consent won.

Father’s Horror.

Towards the beginning of Lent [1841] I wrote a third time to Mgr de Gualy, and I put it in such a way that he would nearly have to reply! “The silence that Your Lordship has thought fit to maintain towards me” (I said among other things) “has keenly afflicted me. No doubt, it is not difficult for a son to interpret the silence of a tender, loving father in such a situation. Still it would have been very good, my Lord, to receive some word from you, even a word of refusal. How long, my Lord, will you be so cruel towards me? Would you want to afflict your son who cherishes you, even to the end?” I went on to set out the reasons that made it urgent for me to go. I concluded by requesting his consent in time to leave after the feasts of Easter.

The fatherly charity of the worthy and holy Bishop was too strongly beseiged for him to be able to keep up his silence. He replied quickly, still refusing, but leaving me great hope. He wanted to keep me, he said, to establish a house of diocesan missionaries. “I am going to Castelnaudary for confirmations soon”, he added. “There I will see you and share my plans with you. Perhaps you will agree to take part” .

I must say, the work of country missions would have been very attractive, but only on the hypothesis that my foreign missions plans became impossible. Anyway, this house of his was not yet started. And when would it start, with a Bishop of many admirable qualities but no apparent initiative? His Lordship did come, shortly afterwards, to the parish where I was a curate. And (p 27) when he did me the honour of offering me these home missions, I replied that they were not yet established, and that I could not wait indefinitely. Anyway, I would need new meditations, new prayers, new retreats. And at the end of the day, I really thought that my vocation would still come out solid for the foreign missions. So I begged him not to keep me back any longer, and to spare me having to make renewed requests about it. His refusal was accompanied by some remarks which gave me every hope that he would soon give his consent. And from that moment I no longer doubted the implementation of my plan.

That was towards the end of April … On the 3rd May I was to preach at the cathedral in Carcassonne, for the work of the “Propagation de la Foi”. I resolved to use this opportunity to score a resounding point, and try to win through at last. .. I had begged the Superior of the Major Seminary to give me his backing. He agreed. We planned together that, at the first favourable word from His Lordship, the two of us would stand up, and I would tell His Lordship I was taking that word as a true consent. I would express my thanks, ask his blessing and tell him I was going now to arrange everything for my departure.

It worked. After the sermon I went to pay a visit to His Grace, and everything went according to our plan … I wrote to Fr Langlois that I had at last got my Bishop’s consent and that I hoped to go to Paris about July. A few matters to wind up – and lack of money – made me delay my departure until that time. But now a delicate problem came to mind: Should I, or should I not, let my parents know of my irrevocable decision and its imminent execution?

I knew my mother would shed torrents of tears, but that, through her tears, she would tell me to go where the Lord was calling me. As for my poor father I knew that his opposition would be extreme, and he would make use of every possible thing to stop me. Prudence seemed to tell me to leave without saying anything and to let my father know of it only by a farewell letter. This was the opinion of several people whose advice I asked, and even of Fr Langlois. But these persons did not know my father well. He could take such a procedure as an insult. And I was confident that (p 28) his deep faith would finally triumph over his natural grief and hostility to the whole idea. I prayed. I consulted the Lord. And I decided, with the approval of certain sensible people who knew my family well, to disclose my plans to my parents some time before my departure.

With this in mind, I went to the country-house where my parents were staying at the time. I was determined to seize the first opportunity that came up, to speak openly to my father. I even prepared the way for this, in the letter informing him of my visit. “I will take the opportunity, during this brief stay, to speak of a certain matter which I have long wanted to discuss with you”. I duly arrived, and found my father sunk in gloom, as if he had been guessing what was up. One or two days went by with no word spoken. On the third day, as I was in my room preparing for Mass, in came my father and asked me what was this matter which I wanted so much to talk about. Then, O my God, You gave me the calmness and the peace I so badly needed in order to speak out the whole thing, simply, clearly, and with no visible emotion.

I will not try to reproduce all the heart-break here, all the exclamations of pain wrung from my tender loving father, whose heart had just recently been cruelly wounded, and who now abandoned himself to the very delirium of grief. Venerable old man, so often and so cruelly afflicted in his life-time, his pure and upright intentions so often misunderstood! God seemed to be keeping the happy days for the end of his life. He had educated his children by himself. They were his joy, his consolation, even (let us say it) his pride. (For a father’s pride is easily raised up). He is still mourning the recent death of one son, who chose a soldier’s career.5 And now another one is getting ready to leave him for ever! He still has one son left, and two daughters. But these are still children. And these he has not been able to teach all by himself, like the two eldest. .No. He cannot believe it! That I seriously intend to leave him like this? The thought of it overwhelms him. It is more than he can take. Tears. Words that land like stones on my heart. Even (p 29) gestures of condemnation and blame, which put the finishing touch on my distress! In that frightful situation, You helped me, O my God. You did not let me be shaken from my decision, not for one moment. I hardly uttered another word. But what little I said was only to confirm my decision, causing my poor father to redouble his groans and his wails. Often did I raise my eyes to Heaven and make the Sign of the Cross quietly on my heart with my right thumb. The terrible scene came to an end at last. I terminated it by telling my father I was now going to the altar, and that I would offer the Holy Mass to ask God for the spirit of sacrifice. For myself and for him.

I was expecting a lot more discussion on the subject. And indeed my mother spoke to me about it. I said something of it to my brother and sisters. But my father kept dead silence. I did not want needlessly to stir up his grief again. So, for the remaining three or four days at their country-house, I did my best to put on a normal, cheerful attitude. Anyway, I was expecting to come back at least once before my final departure. Indeed, I had promised my mother. But alas! It was not to be. I was never to see them again. The sequel will show why I had to go without that last visit. Let me only say here that God alone knows – and those who, like me, have been through it – how painful is the sacrifice of parents whom one cherishes and by whom one is tenderly loved. Still more painful must be the sacrifice that the parents themselves make, of their sons. O God, graciously make it up to them!

Counter-attack, to Help his Father

A few days after leaving my father, I got a letter from him, a very long letter setting out every possible argument that could be invented by the heart of a tender father to force a son to go back on a supremely afflicting decision. I could not read that letter without tears in my eyes. But the Lord gave me renewed strength. And as my father told me he was going to write to Bishop de Gualy, and do everything he could to get a refusal from His Lordship, a refusal of consent to my departure, I decided that his (p 30) moves must quickly be countered. For the Bishop might well concede something to a father’s feelings, and delay my departure still longer.

I immediately set out for Carcassonne, and went to see the Bishop. Without mentioning any letter from my father, I said: “According to the consent which you did me the honour of granting me a few days ago, My Lord, I wrote to the Foreign Missions Seminary telling them that now all objections from your side have been removed. And here is Fr Langlois’s letter informing me that I am accepted, and expected there. So I have come now, My Lord, to receive your final blessing”. His Lordship embraced me with the emotion of a loving father. He gave me his blessing. My own goodbye was said by tears, for I was unable to speak. I went out. Then, coming back in, I said: “It may be that my father will write to you. But I hope, My Lord, that you will not see anything in his words beyond the natural self-expression of an afflicted heart”. “Do not worry”, he replied. “I will understand. Especially as, in this cause, the two of us are one”.

When I got home I immediately replied to my father’s letter, as follows:

“My dearest father, Your letter arrived at meditation time, as I was kneeling before the image of the God who offered himself whole and entire as a sacrifice for us. Then your heart-rending letter was handed to me. I read it in the presence of this God of Love, begging him to accept my grief as the greatest sign of the love that I wanted to have for Him, too.

"How does it come to this, my dear, dear father, that I have become a cause of bitter sorrow to you, and that you yourself are causing me the greatest pain that could ever be - you whom I cherish with all the affection of a tender loving son, whom I esteem beyond anything on earth -me whom you love as only a father can love! Ha! I think I see it: Neither you nor I myself are the initiators of such a terrible situation. It is God. He is the one who is putting our faith and our love through this awful trial. He wants to see if we are truly his disciples. For He said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife, and his sons, and his brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple". He is holding out his cross to us, to carry. Shall we refuse it because it is so heavy? "He who will not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple". O yes indeed, I have seen how my news has hurt (p 31) you. And if I did try to maintain my usual cheerfulness then, it is not because I was insensitive to the blow that had struck you. I was trying to let you understand that it is with joy that we should shoulder the yoke of the Lord.

“I know well the obedience due from a son to his father, in whatever position or state in life he finds himself. I explain it to others every day. God forbid that I should neglect it myself. Here I examine my conscience; and I am satisfied and glad with the testimony it gives me: that I have never, gravely at least, to my knowledge, violated that sacred precept. If I have ever failed, through ignorance or otherwise, I ask your pardon: and I am sure I will receive it. But I also know well (and you are not unaware, dearest father) that this very obedience, far from destroying the obedience we owe to God, presupposes it. And yields to it in silence whenever there is the slightest contradiction between the two. To act differently would really be to lack obedience, since it would offend against the very first principle of obedience: towards God.

"This truth requires no proof; it is self-evident. Scripture confirms it in a thousand places. And the Saints -whom we should not only admire in this, but also imitate- give us plenty of examples of it. You have too much wisdom and good sense not to agree with me on these principles. And I am very sure that, if only the Will of God was clearly known to you, whatever it might be, you would not even dream of opposing it for one instant.

"To your eyes as to mine, it all comes down to knowing one thing: whether this is my vocation or not. For a vocation is nothing other than the Will of God for a given individual. And in vain would we try, here, to drag in a distinction between two vocations -to a state in life and to a specific state within that. Here there is only one issue: the Will of God. When it comes to the Will of God, every other will has to give way. If God wanted me to be a priest, and a parish priest, I would not be within my vocation as a priest in the cloister or in a preaching order. If he wanted me to be a priest in the cloister, I would disobey him by staying in charge of a parish; I would only be a false shepherd for it. The Will of God is not so vague or general as is commonly supposed. And on the day of general judgment and clarification, that will be a source of shame to many, because they did not bother enough to find out exactly where and how God wanted them to be.

“So it still comes back to this question: is this my vocation or not? You say No. But, dearest father, look at it yourself and ask: are you qualified to be the judge in this case? I asked you at Lasserre and I (p 32) ask you now with confidence: can you yourself judge such a ques-tion? Or, indeed, can I myself? The answer is easy: No more than yourself, I could never judge that “such-and-such is not my vocation”. Why not? Because I am too much involved in the question to be able to judge it. And indeed there were a thousand vested interests blind-folding me, to prevent me recognising in conscience that this is my vocation. First I had to tear them away. And my final judgment [against self-interest] should, I think, make some impression on your mind. Nevertheless it could still be erroneous. How? Through fanaticism or over-enthusiasm. That has to be looked at.

“Well, I have no fear or hesitation in assuring you that I have ruled out all that kind of self-delusion. The guarantee of it is this: the ever-increasing perseverance of my desire for the missions, over a period of five years; and the fact that I submitted my state of soul to the discernment of wise and enlightened persons. You seem to be completely discounting that five years of testing. “What were you, five years ago?”, you ask. Well, five years ago, I was over 22 years of age. At that time I was considered to be mature enough in judgement to take on the most serious state in life that any man can choose: the clerical state. Mature enough, resolute enough, to be able to bind myself for ever by the unbreakable bonds of a sacred vow. And I have no regrets. And during these last five years (unworthy as I was, I confess, unworthy as I still am) it was granted to me to take the mystic sword in hand, to immolate each day the Eternal Victim. It has been given to me to sit at the Tribunal of God’s Mercy, a minister of his clemency and his justice, to discern leprosy from leprosy, to remit sins or retain them. So now, could it be that ‘tis only when it comes to obeying God’s voice that I should be incapable of knowing and judging? And why? Because the Voice that is calling me is asking for sacrifices?

“God forbid that I should cast any suspicions on your intentions! They are too good, too pure. But in this particular matter, could you not be deluding yourself more than I? Could it not even be (do not take offense at what I’m going to say) that, without knowing it, you are serving the cause of him who always opposes the Will of God? Though comparisons are always a bit odious, they often contain a truth. So tell me honestly: If I was in the Army, and was chosen for a perilous mission, what would you tell me? You would be sad to see me set out on it, but not opposing me. Indeed you would encourage me all you could, recalling your own military career, and the fine examples of valour and devotion you have witnessed. Certainly you would not now be engaged in breaking my heart by showing (p 33) me your own heart-broken-ness. Well? Is the soldier of Jesus Christ the only one who should pull back from the gap of danger? Just because he has made a more generous oath of allegiance than any soldier, because he has promised to die to the world, to himself, to his family?

"But I fear I'm being carried away. Let's come back to that five years' testing: between the age of 22 and 27. What prevents a man's judgment from being lucid at such an age? The heat of imagination? Yes, when he is pursuing delightful fancies, pulled by the passions and going along with their current. But when the over-heated imagination is faced with quite contrary prospects -against the senses and the feelings and one's own future fortune - it quickly cools down. Here there is nothing to warm it: neither glory nor the prospect of riches or honour-so On the contrary, all kinds of difficulties repel it. So will you now tell me that [my trouble] is the "wild enthusiasm" of my state, the disproportionate desire to please God and to work for his glory, at the risk of every danger and every kind of sacrifice? And if it was so, would you have the courage or the nerve to condemn me for it?

So, I dare to state, a testing period of five years. in this kind of situation, is more than sufficient. And listen to this: two years’ noviciate are ruled sufficient (and it is the Church that so rules) to make up one’s mind, at the age of sixteen, to take on irrevocable bonds in the vows of a cloistered religious. So do you think that, after five years’ testing, I [at my age] ought to fear the slightest degree of rashness in my decision?

“Moreover, I took prudence even further. I consulted serious and enlightened men. Isn’t that what we ought to do in any grave and difficult matter? Consult a third party who has nothing to gain or lose in it? But I consulted on my own [you say]. Right. But it was against me alone that they were being asked to pronounce judgment. “They did not examine the whole situation”. If they didn’t, then they weren’t wise men. And if they aren’t wise, then there are no wise people left on the face of the earth.

“They are people who just like to stir up trouble, especially divisions in families”. (For that’s what I thought I heard you cry, at a time when grief was making you say things that you would never have maintained in cold blood). This “family trouble” anyway, what else is it but the trouble that Jesus Christ came to start on earth. “Do not think it is peace I have come to bring to the world. I have come to bring not peace but a sword. For I come to set a man against his father, and a son against his mother” … and so on. So (p 34) family trouble can sometimes be from God. Ah! don’t try to condemn those who are just trying to follow the foot-steps of Jesus Christ in all things. And do not be angry with them. For, as St Augustine says, it is not you being slighted; it is only God being preferred. Would you object to that? “Let the father not be angry; no-one but God is being put before him”.

“So, once my vocation was thus clarified, what was I supposed to do? You didn’t want to accept the example of St Francis Xavier. Well, here is one, more to the point: St Aloysius Gonzaga was only seventeen years old when he informed his parents of his plans to follow his vocation. His father got into a terrible rage, his biographers tell us, and threatened to punish him most severely. The saintly young man replied to these threats, quietly and modestly, that he would count himself lucky to have the opportunity to suffer something for the love of God. He later had many other trials to endure. They eventually consented to his becoming a priest, but not in the pious Company to which God was calling him. At last, with the assistance of grace, he prevailed. And at the age of twenty two he was taking his place among the Saints in Heaven. I could cite many other case like that.

“No, my dearest father, I do not want to struggle with you. I do not want to injure your rights, or the law, or right reason. Isn’t it the Law itself that commands me to obey God rather than man? And doesn’t Reason itself favour my decision? Since it obviously is not from human nature (which it discomforts in every kind of way) this decision must have a higher and a holier Source, the Spirit as against the protesting flesh. Must your rights not give way before the rights of God?

“You say it is not permissible for anyone to do an evil (or even to risk one) so that good may come of it. That is precisely why I am ob-liged, at whatever cost, to obey my conscience, to follow what I pru-dently believe to be my vocation. Because not to obey one’s voca-tion is an evil.

“It will be the death of me !,” you even say. That is the heaviest of my crosses, the real crux. That’s what draws the tears from my eyes. But that cross I cannot refuse, without being sacriligious.

“You do not object to my zeal” but you think “it is not enlightened enough”. O blessed words, wrung by the strength of Truth from an upright heart, all bewildered by grief. So, if you believed my zeal was enlightened, you would be congratulating me instead of blaming me? Very well; do me this favour: trust me, that I have taken the right means to clarify it, during five long years of (p 35) study, of meditation and prayers. And what a healing balm that will be, for your heart and mine!

"And look you, dearest father! You drag up painful memories again. You tell me I am re-opening all your wounds, that I am destroying the happiness of the family for ever, that the rest of your days will drag on in pain - bruised, shattered and slighted. And that I will have made it so. Etc., etc. Alas! Can I not reply that I can do nothing about all that, and that you can do everything! I am able to do nothing about it, absolutely nothing. For someone can't be "able" to do something about it, absolutely nothing. For someone can't be "able" to do something if the only way he can do it is by refusing to obey the Lord. Whereas, on the contrary, you can do everything here. Consolation, peace, the future happiness of the family -all are in your hands. With one word you have the power to make us all happy, and to make yourself happy too! That word -strange, powerful word!- is the word of a generous consent.

“Not to consent is to force me to over-ride your resistance. For it is the voice of God that is calling me. And from that flow all the other inevitable consequences! Consent, on the other hand, and you will immediately be at peace, in holy joy. I am not trying to pretend you won’t feel the blow. But that blow, however hard, is one that you will be able to take, to accept with joy from the hand of God. For He will soften it, not let it be more than you can bear.

“Consent, and instead of aggravating the grief of my mother, you will be lightening her burden, saying to her, like the holy Patriarch, “the Lord gave him to us, and the Lord has taken him away”, exclusively for His service. “Blessed be the name of the Lord”.

“Consent, and you will thereby be telling my brother and sisters that, by leaving them now to follow the Lord, I am teaching them, better than by any words of mine, how much they ought to love a God for whom their senior brother did not fear to sacrifice himself without reservation. “They have need of my counsels and good example”, you said. Could I ever give them a better? This one will be effective and continuous. If they don’t get the point of this, believe me, they would be very unimpressed by any other ones I might try to give them.

"Consent, finally, and I will depart with a kind of joy in me. For, even though flesh and blood clamour against going, even though my heart is heavy, even though human weakness is felt all over-yet, instead of being discouraged by the thought of my mourning, [resisting] father, I shall be thinking of his wonderful [ and soldierly] submission to God's orders. And then, in this crucial situation -as in (p 36) all the others in my life, up to this day- I will be able to take him as my model.

"But I haven't got the strength to consent", you will say. Dearest father, will you allow me to point out to you where you can get that strength? Listen to St James: "If anyone is in need of wisdom, let him ask it of God, who gives generously to all". And Our Lord himself: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink". O, father, I am sure that, if you pray to the Lord, meditating on the truths I have set out in this letter -and especially if you have recourse to the Bread of the Valiant, lavished on us by Jesus at his Table -just one Communion for that intention -I am certain, I say, that your consent will come, and will ensure the happiness of us all.

"You asked me to be frank, so I conclude: You do not approve of what I am doing; one day you will. You blame those who advised me; you will not blame them always, I hope. I am expecting your consent as soon as you have consulted the Lord. As for me, I am convinced that my vocation is just that. I have seriously thought it out. If I did not obey it, I would believe I was committing a crime. Once again: Your happiness and mine are in one thing: your consent. Whatever it may please the Lord to ordain, I accept its most terrible trials. I only pray him to grant me the grace always to do his holy Will-and to inspire those I cherish to want to do it too. I count on his all-powerful grace -for you, for my good mother, my brother and sisters, for myself. It is to obtain this grace that, in the name of you all, I now kiss the sacred image of the Cross, begging for the spirit of Sacrifice.

"A Dieu, dearest father -you that I love above all things on earth, you that I want to be happy all the days of your life- à Dieu, Sincere good wishes to everybody there. And in spite of my "disobedience" (which is nothing else but the real obedience I owe the Lord) allow me to say, embracing you with all the affection I have in me,

I am the most respectful and obedient of your children”.

I could not expect, just by this letter, to win my father’s immediate consent. All it could do would be to make it more and more clear to him that my mind was definitely made up. This was really hammering it, all right, at a time when I would have much preferred to soften the blow. But from this very “attack” I hoped for a good effect: bracing him for the actual blow of my departure when it came. For if it came on him sudden, out of the blue, it could be unbearable for him. (p 37)

Meanwhile I had begged a worthy neighbouring cure - a priest according to God's heart, in whom my father had much confidence - to pay a visit to my family and try to get into conversation about my imminent departure, and to prepare my father (especially) to accept the pain of it with faith; also to make it very clear to him, as gently as possible, that there was no hope whatever of keeping me back. The good cure carried out the task with a holy zealousness. He immediately let me know the result of his visit. I include here a good part of his letter, chiefly because it contains the highest praise of a certain Christian mother -which is much better coming from him than from me.

How his Mother took the News.

Appeal to his Father

“I was at the chateau of Lasserre yesterday, and carried out half of my sad task. For M. de Brésillac himself was just leaving for Vil-lefranche with M. X … He is quite confident that he has thoroughly refuted all your arguments and that his view will prevail. “And what if Fr de Brésillac were to do like so many others”, I asked, “and left without saying goodbye in person?” – “I don’t approve of that kind of procedure”, he roundly replied. Our talk soon ended. I promised to call again soon … What a tough situation!

“It was very different with Mme de Brésillac. She has a human heart also, but a soul filled with Faith. Feeling the heart-rending pain of this bereavement, she might well say, with Rebecca, “If this is the way of it, why conceive?”.

But a sublime degree of resignation soon helped her join her own sacrifice to that of the Mother of Sorrows. She saw herself as an in-strument which the Lord just has to break in accomplishing the work of salvation. Yes, she really does love you for yourself alone, [nothing possessive in it]. She doesn’t want her grief to worsen yours. Since your own is already quite enough, she’d like to keep hers from you. She’d like to do all her crying unseen, so that you’d never have to think, “Mama’s crying!”. What a mighty Christian woman! It ended up with her consoling me – and edifying! Truly, I was bewildered, to come across such noble sentiments!

“ … The death of a child”, said she, “is a forced sacrifice. Since (p 38) there is nothing you can do about it, resignation comes easier. But to look at a living child as if he’s dead already … and then hoping he’s alive over there, but fearing he must have died … thinking of him somewhere there, trying to survive in some awful climate or exposed to all kinds of dangers!. .. But my son would always be unhappy if he did not go where God is calling him. So I prefer to do the suffering myself, and let him be happy at any rate!”.

“Yes indeed, my dear friend, I’m telling you, almost with tears in my eyes: There aren’t many mothers like yours. Two hours I was with her, alone; but they went like a few minutes. More than once it came into my head, I’m talking with a Saint. Her sad thoughts will follow you wherever you go, but her prayers will be with you too. And they will bring down great blessings on your work there.

“Please spare me from having to take the farewell letters. But if there is no other easier way, I’m prepared to do the terrible job”.

All the same, do not think that my worthy father was not, at the time, a good Christian also. Then as now, he was a man of faith. Not just a notional faith, empty and dead, as St James puts it. No; a practical faith, openly professing his belief by his deeds. Shamelessly frequenting the Sacraments of the Church, which is so rare among men today, and even rarer 15 years ago. He just did not see the necessity, yet, of accepting such a big sacrifice. And who will not make allowances for a father already so bereaved? The admirable acceptance and resignation which he later showed are sufficient proof, anyway, that his energetic opposition was in no way intended to oppose the Will of God.

Meanwhile, this good father of mine wrote me a second letter, in which he pulled out all the stops, to play on my feelings. Especially, with his grief and his tender love, he tried everything to hold me back -making it very clear that he was refusing all consent. I replied to him as follows:

“It was with real joy, dearest father, that I received your letter of 25th May. The calmness that you show in it, after the disordered cries of your wounded heart, confirms me in the view, which I always had: that you are very far from opposing yourself to the Will of God; and that all you need is to recognise what it is. Still, I see I cannot flatter myself that I have succeeded in my aim: to convince you that my decision is dictated to me by conscience, that this is my duty, my unavoidable obligation. How can the reasons of the heart [in your letter] be refuted? In this complete lack of confidence in my (p 39) own eloquence, what can I do? All I can do is tell you again, with heart-felt pain, "'Tis my duty". I know well you will call this, my cry of conscience, mere "obstinacy", mere ill-timed "enthusiasm". Perhaps you will even pain me by calling it "stubborn disobedience". But, for my part, with this deep conviction that is in me, all I can see in it is obedience -obedience against all the clamours of nature, all the protests of flesh and blood.

"So I repeat, and I ask you on my knees: Do not make the cross that Jesus Christ is giving you heavier than it really is. Since I just cannot go along with your natural, legitimate, desires (so well attuned to the interests of my own heart, to my temporal welfare, etc., but so discordant with the ways of God) do not worsen my pain -and especially your own- by refusing me a consent which would be so, so dear to me!"

“You want to write to His Lordship the Bishop. But I believe I told you at Lasserre that he had already spoken, recognising my vocation. Look, dearest father, consider things a bit before God. His Lordship cannot now refuse me his consent, any more than I myself can refuse God, refuse to follow Him when He is calling me. What had His Lordship to do? Check on the means of discernment I had employed, scrutinise them in his deep wisdom, test my vocation. Having done that, he was no longer free. In conscience he had to tell me, “Go”. So write to him if you wish. But I am quite sure that he will not go back on a word which he did not pronounce except after mature reflection.

“And can I not draw from this very consent of His Lordship an ir-refutable argument for the rightness and prudence of my decision? He has examined all my moves; for a long time he pretended to say No. But in the end he could not but recognise the Will of God. After the clear manifestation of that Will, he could no longer detain me. He had to yield. And he has.

“Again I beg you, give me your consent, on which your own con-solation must so greatly depend. For I must tell you, dear father, it is mostly for your sake that I keep asking it. As for me, I can go away with the conscience and knowledge that I am doing my duty. For if I were to stay on, in spite of the voice of God calling me, I would be storing up endless reproaches for myself, continual remorse.

“And if you need another example, my very dear father, the strongest one of all, what say you to Abraham’s sacrifice? You will tell me, perhaps, that in the end, God did not demand the actual execution of that sacrifice. But did Abraham know that when he was climbing the mountain, his knife in his hand? And who can say, (p 40) now, that it isn’t the same kind of test that the Lord wants to put you through? Who can say that, after the probation at the Foreign Missions Seminary, God may not indicate that He does not want me for the missions, that He only wanted to sound our spirit of sacrifice and of faith?

“I am hoping, therefore, that your next letter will contain your consent or its equivalent, and that you will not continue to oppose this project, which was thought of in the first place only for God, and which will be carried out only for God alone.

“In the meantime, please accept this expression of my tenderest affection and love, with which I still say I am

Your humblest and most obedient child”.

His Farewell Letters

After all that, it was better get away as soon as possible; and I could hardly go back to the chateau to say goodbye in person to my parents. My father’s mind was not calm enough. And when I checked on my own strength of will, I felt it might not be unbendable. I immediately wound up all my affairs. I borrowed the money for the journey. And to Fr Taurines, my confrere and my friend, I entrusted the farewell letters transcribed below. I begged him to call on the good cure already mentioned and, along with him, to go and deliver the letters, quickly enough to be the first with the news of my departure.

To my father: “Dearest father, I cannot hide from myself what a terrible grief and shock it will be for you to learn, now, of my actual departure. Believe me, it took nothing less than the full authority of God himself to make me do it. What! Without the power of his sup-reme Will to move me, could I actually abandon a father whom I cherish, a mother whom I venerate, a brother I love so much, two sisters whom I carry together in my heart! Oh, never think it! But it was not for me to set up any bounds to the Will of the Lord.

“O my father, dearest of all fathers, trust me, that henceforth I shall love you still more than if I was near you. Every day you will be in my mind. Daily shall I raise my hands and eyes to Heaven for you. Every single day I shall pray for you at the altar. This sacrifice which the Lord has demanded from you shall make you all the (p 41) dearer to my heart as it will make you more like Jesus Christ, our Love. Since it will henceforward be impossible for me to press you to my heart, I shall embrace you with all the strength of my soul.

“Ah! do not begrudge me, for I love you too much. Do not begrudge me, for even your severity could not prevent me from loving you!

“A Dieu, not Goodbye for ever. For there is a Heaven, and there we will meet again without fail. A Dieu. Love me, as I love you”. P.S. Dare I offer you the little clock on the mantelpiece in my room? I hope you will be so kind as to accept it, as a small sign of my unbreakable attachment and my boundless love”.

To my mother: “My dear, dear mother, I have strength now only for a few words. I see your tears. I hear your sighs. I listen to your laments. But one thing I am sure of: they are not telling God that he is cruel. No doubt, the Lord is demanding a very great sacrifice. But you can read the sacred heart of Jesus, and there you have long ago seen that this is the way He treats those He loves most. I know the strength of you. I know your faith. It is the Lord who gave you both. Let us bless him together. Oh! never will I forget such a good mother’s example! Whatever place the Lord calls me to, I will cite her as a model to Christian mothers there. And we shall always remain united in spirit. Yes, dearest mother, united we shall always be, with the eyes of faith, ever and always united until we are together in the arms of God. A Dieu. Do love me a bit, still, for I love you very much indeed. Write to me soon, at Paris. Pray always to the good God for Your obedient and respectful son … “

P.S. I pray you, please accept, as a small sign of my unalterable love, the little statue of the Blessed Virgin that Hermine de Villeneuve gave me. No mother suffered like Mary. She will hear your sobs. She will console you, in Jesus Christ her divine Son.

To my brother: "My dear Henri, it would have been too much for my heart, and for yours, to say goodbye to each other -maybe for the last time- the day you called here. I wanted to spare you the heart-ache that I was then feeling myself, in silence. Please grant me that much, and don't go seeing any indifference in my behaviour. I couldn't do that to such a good brother. See it, on the contrary, as coming from my love for you, which is beyond anything I could tell you. Dear friend, even if the Lord wills us to live far away from each other, let us always be united in heart and in soul. Be my friend always, as l am yours. For, I assure, you won't ever have a better one on earth.

“Meanwhile, I have a big favour to ask of you. It is this, my good (p 42) friend, and always be faithful to it: Take my place with the good parents God gave us. The Lord entrusts you with a very noble and beautiful mission: to be their support in their old age, their joy and their consolation. God has shown me that He wants me exclusively for himself. But He has left you to them -to my poor father, my mother, my sisters. Be their mainstay in their declining years. Love them for me and for yourself. I can't ask you anything else today. My heart is too heavy, too full of this one desire.

“A Dieu. If we don’t meet again on this earth, let us live in such a way as not to fail to meet together in Heaven .I embrace you with all my heart. A Dieu. Your loving brother, ..

P.S. I want to leave you some souvenir but I can’t see anything worth giving among my things. But .anyway, please accept the little collection of medals that you sometimes noticed in my room. I wish it was more complete; but you can complete it later on. Once again, a Dieu.”

To my eldest sister: “My dear Bathilde if my heart wasn’t so heavy I’d be writing you a long letter now. But what can I find to say to you at such a painful time? You have never doubted my love for you; so don’t start doubting it today. Even though the Lord wills that we are to live far away from each other. we’ll be united in our hearts. Pray the good God for me; I need it. I will pray Him for you too. I’ll ask him to protect you, and to increase the many virtues He has put in your soul. Always be a consolation to our dear parents. I am causing them pain now; but the Lord knows well I don’t want to. I assure you, I love them more than ever. Console them a little. Love Felicie and Henri well. If you always love each other very much, there are many happy days before you. As for myself, I love you so much, I think ‘twould be impossible to love you more. A Dieu”.

P .S. What will I leave you as a souvenir? I have a little box of paints here, and I ask you to accept it. And, for something holy to go along with it, you will also take the little cross of reeds that you’ll find on my mantelpiece.”

To my youngest sister: “Dear Félicie, I’d like to say many things to you, but I can’t, now. You know how much I love you. Well, just know that I’ll always love you like that. Be good; be holy. That’s the way you shall be happy. No other way. Always keep up the lovely virtues the Lord has gifted you. Even, try to make them better. Be the consolation of all the family. Love Bathilde and Henri very much. What can be so beautiful as love between brothers and sisters! And me you can always include in, and always know that I am (p 43) loving you all, more than I can say. A Dieu. Tell my father and my mother that I love them very much. Say a little prayer every day for me. I shall be praying for you all, daily. A Dieu. I embrace you in the love of Jesus Christ.

“As a small sign of my friendship for you, I am giving you the mother.-of-pearl rosary you’ll find on my kneeler. Say it sometimes for my intention.”

Secret Departure before Dawn

Now, I had nothing more left to do. On the 2nd June [1841] before dawn, I left the house. I was accompanied by the excellent Fr Taurines who I hope has since received the reward of his charity in Heaven. Also by a faithful servant [Paul]6 whom I was to meet again, faithful as ever, fourteen years later.

When the front door closed behind me, I felt a shiver go through my limbs. I went to the Sisters of Charity for Mass. Very soon, along came the stag-coach. I climbed aboard lively enough, but not without emotion. Passing Villefranche, my heart gave a lurch, at the thought of being so near Lasserre, and of my parents -soon, in a short few hours' time, to be plunged into tears and bereavement. The thought of this haunted me throughout the journey. Most especially, at the hour when I reckoned my father must now be receiving the dreadful news, I could not hold back my sobs.

But the Lord was my strength that morning. [I had put my hands to the plough] and He gave me the strength not to look back. All I hope, now, is that the present dismal state I find myself in is not infidelity to the grace I was given, very certainly, that morning: to be a missionary. O God! If it is by my own fault that I am not on the missions now, please pardon me. And please, if it is for your glory, get me back to them.

On arrival in Paris, I went straight to the Foreign Missions Seminary. I seem to remember, O my God, that, when respectfully saluting the House, I begged You very sincerely to give me the grace, there, of becoming a missionary according to your heart, and of following in the footsteps of the saintly men who set out from that place to extend the reign of your Church. I vowed all my affection to the congregation of the Paris Foreign Missions. And still today, in 1855 as I write these lines, I love it as much as ever, though cut to the heart by the way the Directors of that establishment have thought fit to behave towards me. It is true that, in the matters to be disclosed later, I must have been lacking more than once in prudence; but in all honesty and sincerity, I feel that my heart has not changed: it beats, as always, only for the truth and for the good of the missions.

Friends’ Accounts of his Parents’ Reactions

Before going into what the Seminary and the Society of Foreign Missions was like and how organised, let me first relate what personal news was awaiting me now, i.e. what happened to my family when they learned of my departure. I was given a letter, and I was afraid to open it. My emotion was extreme. I was expecting anything. And I offered to God, in advance, whatever (p 46) awful blow it might contain. Then I went apart, to one of the long garden alleys, and tore open the seal. The signature was of l’abbé Taurines. Then, not without many tears interrupting me, I read the long letter, of which the following are only a few passages.

“My dear friend,

It is time I wrote to give you an account of the sad mission that your friendship confided to me … You will want to know how your family took the news of your departure. I am going to tell you it all, without fearing to worsen the emotions that have already broken your heart or to make them still more poignant. Because, I can tell you now: although their sorrow was great, their resignation was not found wanting in the face of this terrible trial.. .

"I set out [for your home] ... And soon the crisis was drawing near. When I turned the corner and saw the chateau of Lasserre looming up ahead of me -with its rather gloomy appearance- my mind went back to a very different occasion: my first visit there with you. That was a day of joy and relaxation. Now I was coming there without you, bringing your farewell letters. ..

"Your family in tears, under the deepest affliction -that was the first sight I met on alighting. M. and Mme. de Gaja had come early [with the news]. I leave you to imagine what that meeting was like, how bitter was the chalice! Especially for your poor father, who had not the slightest expectation of your going away like that. I heard that when he had seen M. de Gaja getting down from his carriage, he had come out to meet him with a cheerfuI welcome: "Good morning, Melchior. What good wind has blown you here?. So the news was a bolt from the blue. He was thunderstruck.

“And yet, my dear friend, do not imagine that he was driven to any hard or bitter words against yourself. Oh no! But I did see his tears and his sobs. When I handed him your farewell letter I saw him raise his eyes to heaven, to ask for strength to accept this terrible trial. First I had a very long conversation with him. He was very emotional. I tried not to argue with him about his opinion of your vocation. I came at it gently, with all the consideration due to the sorrow of such an afflicted father, speaking to him of the blessings which God has in store for those who carry His Son’s cross with resignation. I told him all the bitter pain your heart had felt on leaving your nearest and dearest. He was quite sure of that, I assure you; and from his eyes wet with tears I could see how much he loves you.

“They would not let me go away at all that evening. No need to tell you, supper was a mere matter of form. During the whole dismal meal, all I could think of was: I’m sitting in your chair. Leaving (p 47) the dining room, I was fortunate to get a long conversation with your father, and then with your poor mother. She wept much. But I saw in her, what power religion can have in a truly Christian soul. She had long been preparing herself for this huge sacrifice. Her heart was cruelly pained when she thought of the privations and sufferings awaiting you in the career you have embraced. But through all her sorrow she is resigned, and seems unwilling to complain, or talk of her own affliction, saying your trial is greater than hers … I told her you had written to her as well, and to your sisters and brother. That did her a lot of good. (I gave the letters to Mme de Gaja, asking her to deliver them at bed-time, so that each could read them at leisure and not be inhibited in face of the painful but so-tender sentiments expressed in them). Ah, my dear friend, the prayers of a mother like that will follow you wherever you go. They will bring down blessings on your apostolate and will draw many a gentle tear from your tender heart.

“Your father asked me many questions about the Foreign Missions Seminary. He would much prefer to see you going to the United States or the Islands of Oceania, where there is no persecution raging. I did not pretend to deny that perhaps you would be called to other lands; but I took care not to destroy the wishful thinking he was hanging on to, on this point. He spoke very intimately of his sorrows. Then (I hesitate to tell you) he let me hear these words which drew tears of respect and compassion from me: “I have been aged by troubles and disappointments. I can’t last much longer. Melchior could have waited!!!”

“Pardon me, dear friend. I am not sparing you anything. You must think me very cruel [telling you all this]. But you commanded me not to hide anything from you …

“Next morning, I took leave of him very early … Here are the poignant words he said as he embraced me: “I haven’t slept all night. I’ve had plenty of time to think about this poor boy. I shall not send my letter to My Lord of Carcassonne”. (He had stayed up late, writing to the Bishop, as Fr Taurines mentioned earlier). “I have always wanted nothing, but only my son to be happy. That would be opposing his happiness, since he believes he is called by God. I think he will soon write to me. I shall tell him how holy and admirable is his devotedness [to the missions]. I ought not to afflict him by telling him that I am not entirely convinced about his vocation!!

“I have carefully and faithfully kept these words, to transmit exactly to you. They tell you as well as anything how much you are (p 48) beloved, and how much strength and resource there is in the heart of a truly religious father…

“I haven’t said anything about your sisters and your brother, they can have read your touching letters only with tenderness. They were very sad. But I had hardly any time to talk with them. M. and Mme de Gaja stayed on at Lasserre until the Saturday. Your faithful servant Paul went there last Monday to spend a few days. I hope you will write immediately to your father. Your letter Will do him a lot of good … “

It is now fourteen years since that letter was written, and I still cannot copy it without tears, O my God! Be thou blessed for giving me such Christian parents. To the trials of those distant times, you have added new ones today, no less painful. But our hope is in you. None of it will be lost for Heaven.

A few moments after I had let my tears run freely, tears of gratitude to God at this consoling letter, I opened another: from my mother. In it was everything that could move the heart of a son. Her sorrow was beyond measure, but her submission to God was perfect. All I could do was to bless the Lord, and go and lay the renewed offering of myself at the foot of the altar, letting his presence calm down the emotion caused in me by these two letters.

A few days later I got confirmation of Fr. Taurines account by a letter from M. l’ Abbè Mazeroles, one of the most saintly priests I know, and one of my best friends. Here are some extracts:

“The Holy Spirit tells us that in His hand God has the hearts of kings, to move them as He wills. These same words have now been fulfilled, quite literally, in the heart of your father. I had the good fortune to meet him one evening. He was, no doubt, feeling the wound still bleeding in his fatherly heart. But he was so resigned that I was astonished. More than that! He was now even praising your generous action! Here are his exact words: “How much more time have I to live? Eight, ten, twelve years?. That’s all the time I could have kept him. And I would have, so to speak, wiped out the shining career that is opening up before him in the apostolate. So, he did well.”

“Yes in him and in all the family I could see a great submission to the Will of God. And in this, quite visibly, one has to recognise the finger of God himself, so great and so sudden is the change which (p 49) has been worked for you in the former sentiments of your father. This proves that what you have undertaken is really the work of God, and that it is God who is leading you … “

In my Diary this letter is commented upon by the following reflections: “That this is the work of God, I cannot doubt. And I can also hope that it is God who has led me up to here. And I pray him to continue leading me to the end of my course: to lead me and sustain me. For I would fall into the deepest abyss, O Lord, if your powerful hand left me for one moment. .. “And now, today [1855] O Lord, when all things seem to reject me, am I still being led by your hand? I hope so, O my God, although I admit that, very often, I must have been unfaithful to your grace.

Meanwhile, I could not cease from thanking the Lord, expressing my gratitude for all the marvels just worked in my favour, during this crucial situation. This sudden change of heart in a sadly oppressed father, what else was it if not the effect of the prayers addressed to Heaven by numerous friends, to obtain a grace which God never refuses to those who pray! Oh how I thank them for being so kind as to pray for me! Those closest to me are no longer on this earth. You, the model of country parish priests, saintly Tisseyre, and you the model of curates, angelic Taurines, and you the model of young priests ill and almost abandoned – gentle, patient Mazeroles – you are all doubtless already with God, enjoying the reward of your virtues. And myself, I am still in this low world, and no longer on the missions! Ah, if it is because of some fault of mine, obtain pardon for me. And if it is only a trial, obtain courage for me to bear it with profit for my salvation!

Father’s Consoling Letter

Yes indeed, my father’s heart was completely changed. Here is the authentic proof, in the following extracts from the letter he himself wrote to me as soon as he had received the first news from me at Paris. I only ask those who may read these pages not to place an entire faith in the praises which this good father gives me. You know how to take a father’s expressions about his own son, (p 50) especially one educated by himself!

“I hasten, dearest friend, to reply to your eagerly-awaited letter, so as to bring your soul the calm and peace you have so justly earned. You cannot enjoy these when your heart is battered and bruised by the glorious fight in which you were given victory over nature, over everything that usually dominates our human weakness in this lower world: the sollicitations of friendship, the warm and lively interest of your superiors [in Castelnaudary etc.]’ the applause of public opinion, the seductive prospect of a brilliant future… At least now you shall no longer have to suffer from the weakness of a tender father, especially one so dear to you. I was unable to grasp the immensity of your sacrifice, still less the great merit of your surrender to a heavenly inspiration. My heart, overwhelmed at the threatening blow, could not uncover the real Origin of your vocation, could not recognise its stern but holy demands.

"When your good aunt and uncle [de Gaja] came to tell me of your sudden departure, I was flattering myself that I could manage to convince you of the soundness of my objections. Never suspecting such energetic decisiveness sustained by such a deep conviction, I was busy replying to your latest letter. I was writing to Bishop de Gualy. Then came the stunning news. In vain did your good messengers plead your case, while weeping with me. In vain did they try to halt the outraged cries -alas quite disordered then- of my wounded heart. The arrival of good Fr Taurines with Frs Tisseyre and Rougagnon did not calm me either. I just could not see ... And so, after talking a long, time about you, we tried to go and get a bit of rest.

"I could not sleep, my dear friend. My head was on fire, my heart beating wildly; my blood was coursing too agitated for sleep. But in the silence of the night alone with this heart of mine, still reluctant to find you guilty of any wrong, even one excused by what I called your "exaltation" [or exaggerrated enthusiasm] I was able to recognise your tender care for me in the gathering of friends you had arranged to be there around me, to soften the force of the blow. And very soon I began to understand and compare the two sacrifices, yours and mine. On my side, what did I see? A few years without you, deprived of very sweet emotions. A lot of frustrated vanity, from my too-wordly hopes for you, perhaps; also maybe a cowardly terror of possible dangers -although I am the very one to have urged you on to glory if it had been under worldly banners, with the proud prospect of earthly honours! On your side I saw a whole lifetime sacrificed, starting from the prime of life. Oh then the huge difference (p 51) between our two sacrifices shone out: and your courage, so self-evidently sustained from On High, showed up my own weakness. If only I could have informed you immediately of this change in me, it would have so consoled you! But by that time you must have been in Bordeaux, and I had to wait for your letter [from Paris] to be able to tell you this: Go, my dear, dear son. Go where Heaven is calling you. I now recognise the Voice that summons you. May He protect you. Be happy. I submit!”.

This admirable submission of my excellent father has never wavered for an instant. From that day to this, we have kept up a most friendly correspondence. After fourteen years, I had the happiness of embracing him once again, last year. I know not how often I may be granted to see him on this earth. But I am fully confident, O my God, that his perfect submission to your holy Will shall merit for him the happiness of eternally enjoying your presence in Heaven. And I hope, O my God, that in spite of the faults I may have committed, you will grant me also the grace of contemplating you there along with him.

Unexpected Trial: Idleness, Uncertainty

So there was I, an Aspirant at the Foreign Missions Seminary. “Aspirants” they call those who are accepted into the Seminary to test their vocation before being sent out [as missionaries]. There was no other aspirant there when I arrived. The last ones had just set out. So I was on my own. I was expecting some fairly tough physical hardships. Some special studies. Exams, maybe. And I had braced myself to get through all those trials. But they didn’t present themselves. Another trial, which I didn’t expect at all, was awaiting me. All alone as I said, with nothing to do, under a rather vague rule, the devil found a way to sneak into my mind.

Astonishingly -and thanks be to God- during my last two Weeks at Castelnaudary as a curate, surrounded by endless expressions of regret, confidence, friendship -in a whirlwind of Compliments which are never lacking in such a situation- the devil never got the slightest chance at me. Not once did I dream of going back on my decision, of re-considering my vocation, or playing safe etc. I can't claim any victory there, for there was no (p 52) combat. But the start of my stay at the Paris Seminary was not so easy.

The welcome by the Directors couldn’t be friendlier. But the Superior’s reception made a painful impression on me. This was Fr Langlois. Later on, I learned to appreciate him greatly. He was an excellent man but had an austere appearance, unattractive manners, harsh language. His appearance inspired feelings of respect and veneration; but there was also something off-putting and intimidating about him. He shoved a dry synopsis of the Rule into my hands. It was far from satisfying my mind and my heart. This curtness gave the final touch to my stupid antipathy. From that moment I could not resist an unworthy sadness. My mind went into false subtle reasonings against my vocation. You gave me the grace, O my God, to get over that temptation fairly quickly. Because the better I got to know the Society of Foreign Missions, the more attached I became, the more I liked it.

[* *]

[* *]

The Paris Foreign Missions

But what is the Society of Foreign Missions? I will not undertake a history of it here. This may be found in “Letters to the Bishop of Langres” by Fr Luquet,7 now Bishop of Hesebon "in partibus". Suffice it here to give a glimpse of the Society as it now is. Then I will show what was the original Idea which gave birth to it and how it comes about that it has not been able (in my opinion) to respond perfectly to all that should apparently have been expected from it. Not in order to make bitter criticisms of the Society. God forbid! But so that you can better understand the difficulties I found myself involved in, later. Also, so that if someone more fortunate than me finds himself in a position to bring this well-beloved Society all the benefits I wanted for it- and got bro-ken for- he may be able to profit from my views (if they appear (p 53) just) and from my experiences and misfortunes. Thus he can avoid similar mishaps and act with more wisdom and prudence than I did!

The Society of Foreign Missions is an association of Bishops (Vicars Apostolic) and priests, for work on the missions, in the Vicariates Apostolic confided to them. When I entered the congregation, these Vicars Apostolic were less numerous than today. Not that any new territory has since been confided to the congregation. But some of the Vicariates have been sub-divided. There are now sixteen Vicars Apostolic: of Japan and Liu-Chu, Korea, Manchuria, Tibet (still not penetrated) Kwei-Chu, Su-Chwen, Yunan, Tong-King West, Tong-King South, Cochin-China East, Cochin-China West, Kingdom of Siam, Malaysia, Pondicherry, Mysore, Coimbatore. Apart from these, there is a Society House at Hong-Kong and a General College at Pinang. .

In this Society, hardly any candidates are admitted except priests from France and Savoy. To be accepted, one has to be admitted by the Directors of the Paris Seminary, as an aspirant. If already a priest, one stays there about a year. If not, one stays long enough to finish Theology. After that, one is sent by the Directors to one of the above-mentioned Missions, without any choice. Meanwhile, one is not definitively a member of the Association until after two years on the missions. While there, the missionaries must obey the Vicar Apostolic, more or less as priests in dioceses obey their bishops. For there are no religious vows.

The Superiors of the association are the Vicars Apostolic and the Administrative Bureau of the Paris Seminary. This bureau is composed of Permanent Directors (who can come from outside the missions) and Representatives that the missions have the right to send there. These also have the title, and the rights, of Directors. They act in council, by majority vote. When it comes to general affairs of the Society, their majority has only the value of one vote from a Vicar Apostolic.

So much for the material structure (if I may call it) of the Soc-iety. As to its activities, they are today confined to the apostolic ministry in the missions confided to it. There, as in the missions directed by other congregations, it devotes itself to Pastoral (p 54)ministration, according to the situation, or to the conversion of the pagans, or the education of the youth in schools, seminaries and colleges, or other works according to the needs of the time and place. As regards the specific spirit of the Society, its influence on mission work in general, and its potential influence (if its action were not so unfortunately impeded, as it is) we will also say a few words.

Qualities and Defects of Paris Foreign Missions

But before going into that, let us first of all freely recognise that, if there are miserable troubles on those missions, there is also a lot of good being done. And anyway, what place is without its troubles? I have seen several other missions belonging to various religious orders or congregations. And, all things considered, it has always seemed to me that, on the whole, ours were going at least as well as the others. If I had not had the misfortune to get personally involved in the difficulties to be described later -if instead of India (where I would have had in any case, perhaps, to struggle with the problems of caste) I had always been a simple missionary, say in China or Tong-King- I would have been the happiest man in the world all my life. Nothing is more charitable than our confrere-to-confrere relations; nothing more edifying than the zeal that everyone puts into the job confided to him; nothing so fatherly as the authority of our Vicars Apostolic. And what would be needed to make the whole thing perfect? Very little, I think. But that little is all the harder to obtain because it is closely related to the spirit of our first founding, from which we have (as if necessarily) deviated almost from the start, owing to the lack of a few essential points in our Constitution.

A serious material defect is obvious to all. You remedy it quickly or you perish. But when it is the mind that is ill, a man will drag on and on; he will gradually weaken; he will revolt against anyone trying to cure him; and if he’s still strong enough, he will drive him away. That is the misfortune that happened to me. When I say “misfortune” O my God, it is because I suppose some of it might be my own fault (when I undertook some reform, or (p 55) when I took not very prudent means to go about it). But if it is true (as I can hope, from the witness of my conscience about the purity of my intentions) that everything I did was the inevitable consequence of the various circumstances I found myself in -even if I sometimes sinned by mere imprudence, with no deliberate ill-will ... If, in a word, I have always kept to the right line of my duty, my God ... Should I now call the pains of mind and heart, the rejection and the humiliations, should I now call them a "misfortune,,? 8 No, no! Mental sufferings also have their value in your eyes. Perhaps they are even more meritorious, for I think they are even more cruel [than physical pain]. With the help of your grace, O my God, I would have been glad to undergo the pains of martyrdom. Give me the grace of bearing the pains of the mind with courage and with merit; and do not let me be overwhelmed by them.

The Founding Idea: A Native Clergy

All discussion aside, it seems to me beyond doubt that the Society of Foreign Missions owes its existence originally to the grief felt by a few generous souls as they stood by and watched some magnificent Christian communities perishing (and others weakening) all for the lack of a native clergy. They believed they could remedy this tragedy [in future] by trying to found the work of the missions on the [? native] episcopate.

But the various mission territories already had their apostolic workers. Almost all (if not all) found themselves within the boundaries of the vast “dioceses” under the patronage of the European powers [especially Portugal]. Even to start the idea within a very restricted, almost timid, circle, it was necessary to offend many vested interests. So only a few Vicars Apostolic were sent out (the originally proposed number had to be reduced) (p 56) along with a few priests who joined them. They were sent to missions already having fairly numerous Christians. The intention was that they should work above all at the formation of a local clergy.

This was a fertile idea because it was real apostolic thinking. To my mind, not until it is completely implemented can we expect to see the Church at last take root in certain countries, where all they have now is individual Christians. Unfortunately, the work for a native clergy is under all kinds of attacks and oppositions. It will later appear how much I personally had to endure for having tried strongly to uphold this fundamental principle, after seeing for myself that it is feasible in the missions of India, where I spent such a good part of my life.

His Resignation: How these Issues Interacted

But that was not the reason that made me resign definitively from my Vicariate. The determining reason (as we will explain later) was the problem of the caste system and my unwillingness to exercise the sacred ministry in the midst of the practical [moral] contradiction that it throws us into. In that situation, it seems to me that everybody ought to have supported my efforts; not efforts to make my own particular views prevail on the point, but just to obtain a clear and certain ruling from the Holy See, after having used all effective means to fully inform the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda about the real present state of things on our missions.9 Very sincerely would I have submitted to such a clearly expressed ruling, whatever it was. But the Sacred Congregation very wisely did not formulate one, after certain people managed to inspire serious doubts in the Sacred Congregation about the degree of confidence to be placed in me. But what had already turned certain of these influential apostolic workers so much against me -even many of my colleagues, even the Paris Seminary Directors- was my conviction on the practical necessity of a native (p 57) clergy. Also my efforts (imprudently made, perhaps, I admit) to get back their authority for the Vicars Apostolic -the authority that properly belongs to them in the congregation, the authority they need, to enable the congregation to fulfil the Aim for which it was instituted.

The Third Issue: Constitutional Defects

For the moment, let us leave the clergy question and explain what (in my way of seeing it) is preventing the Congregation of Foreign Missions from producing the fruits of salvation that it could (and probably should) be producing. Here I will no doubt have to complain about the Paris Seminary. But I will first sincerely recognise that, in all their regrettable treatment of me, there has been no malice on their part. They felt that their very existence as a moral body was under attack. As such, they must naturally have been quite unable to see that the reforms I was demanding were for the good of all. If I had any real complaint to make against them, it would be for not having understood the language [and tone of voice] of my heart. Maybe some badly-calculated words came out; but I am certain that all my words concerning the missions and the Society of Foreign Missions were dictated by love.

To my mind, our first Vicars Apostolic had excellent ideas. And their over-all strategy was good. But they did not take in the whole picture and its problems. It is usually true that, to set up a new work, you have to start by [limited] action and let time develop the seed you have sown. Nevertheless you must also be very careful, before starting, to make sure that this seed (however small) is existing in all its itegrity. Otherwise it will either perish barren, or it will develop only imperfectly and produce only a weak stalk, with no vigour in it.

So, our first Vicars Apostolic set out [for their missions]. Their personal merit is indisputable. Moreover, their good example greatly facilitated, later, the salutary establishment of Vicariates Apostolic in almost all the missions. Local bishops, I believe, (p 58) would have been much better, i.e. with ordinary jurisdiction, with the title not of a [forgotten] city but of their [real] region. The pretensions of the European powers, especially Portugal, already so hostile to the Vicar-Apostolic bishops, were soon absolutely opposed to them. But anyway nearly every Mission -even the Jesuits’- was eventually forced to have a bishop at its head'. And this has certainly had a good influence. Sooner or later, we must hope, it will lead to the creation of a native clergy.

Unfortunately, these venerable and zealous founders of our Society did not have the gift of establishing good structural relations to ensure progress and harmony between the different parts of their association, and to ensure its ongoing development and prosperity. So, painful misunderstandings made themselves felt almost from the beginning. To explain these misunderstandings there is no need to suppose any personal ill-will. They were just the inevitable results of a defective structure of organisation.

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Organisational Chaos: Three Possible Remedies

From what we have said above [about the Society’s system of government] it is easy to see, at the very first glance, that it is a body without a head, by the mere fact that the head is multiple and that the various “parts” of it have no way to come to a common decision or agreement. This in itself is quite enough to explain the malaise that has always affected the Society, bringing discouragement into the hearts of excellent apostolic workers. The Vicars Apostolic are thousands of miles away from each other and from the Paris Seminary. And yet they can get nothing done without the others when it comes to a matter concerning the whole body of the Society. When things are thus, how can we quickly seize on a new favourable opportunity, or make the modifications required by new circumstances or events, or changes required even by the very development of the work itself? Who can fail to see that, with distances of this magnitude, letters are useless for reaching agreements? Why, there are even some missions that cannot get letters at all, except with the greatest difficulty, some-times waiting more than a year! And yet, in every association, (p 59) there has to be unity and inter-dependence between the various parts. Whatever is done by the Vicars Apostolic, each in his own Vicariate -and especially by the Seminary in Paris- affects and concerns the whole body, in a greater or lesser degree. And how can it be possible, for the common good, to harmonise all these various actions, opinions, doubts (even faults) of the various members, unless there is unity in the head?

Either a Superior General (with councillors, assistants and the rest) ought to have been established; or else find some way of making the Superiors come together from time to time (every ten years for example) to rule the Society concilialiter; or else give each bishop his own independent life, reducing the Paris Seminary to a mere college of aspirants for them.

The first of these three ways is still regarded today by many of our missionaries as being the only one that could get us out of the deplorable state we are in. Myself, I would fear it might get us into big trouble and problems, like those which so plagued the religious-order missions. (For the S.C. of Propaganda generally has had to withdraw these missionaries from direct obedience to their General, to the great detriment of their spirit as religious). All the more so because these same problems also have troubled (and probably still trouble) many highly-respected religio-secular Societies of our time, whose zeal has extended them to the foreign missions.

The third solution seems to me obviously incapable of achieving the aim of our first Vicars Apostolic. It would deprive us entirely of the collective strength that we expect (and have the right to expect) from any Association.

The second solution presents some difficulties in implemen-tation, but it is not impracticable. Indeed it seems to me a necessary corollary of the original founding idea. Since the Vicars Apostolic were made “Superiors” it was surely in order that they might actually govern the Society. Now how could they govern without reaching agreement? And how could they agree without meeting? (Since it is obviously impossible for them to do so by correspondence, so distanced from each other).

I have no wish to deny that an Assembly of the Vicars Apostolic presents great difficulties. Nevertheless such meetings were (p 60) indispensable at least at the start of the Work, and up to the time when the Vicars Apostolic had managed to set up an "automatic" order of things in some harmony with the needs of all. In that way they have modified some of the legal dispositions made by our first Bishops, and so rendered these Assemblies less necessary. But as none was ever held again, everything just went on as it was in the beginning -apart from the illegal preponderance that the Paris Seminary has been (so to speak) forced to take on. If for nothing else but to legalise and regulate the position of authority taken over by the Paris Seminary, a general meeting of the Superiors would be necessary, even today. It seems to me that in its own interest (which is the interest of the whole Society) the Paris Administrative Bureau ought to desire such a meeting, and even to get it going. Unfortunately, it has always opposed the idea every way it could, and it still does not want to hear of it.

Failure to Change

From time to time, the Vicars Apostolic have tried to regain their place and their proper authority [in the Society]. Quite recently, only a short time before I entered the Association, several of them had tried to agree together for this purpose, by means of a special meeting (which was obviously necessary before anything could be started). The time seemed ripe. Everybody -even the Paris Seminary Directors- was demanding modifications which had become absolutely necessary in the general Rule. Was this not the time to get together and do something? But their efforts collapsed; and the Directors managed, through sheer exhaustion, to get a draft Rule adopted by each individual mission territory, although it satisfied nobody; and several of its articles have not been finalised, even yet.

How can it come about that the Seminary Directors –especially when they are sincerely devoted to the good of our missions, as were those I met at Paris on my arrival- constantly oppose the Vicars Apostolic getting back their authority? Whence comes the carelessness and apathy of some of the Vicars Apostolic themselves in responding to the efforts of their colleagues who stuck (p 61) their neck out, (at the risk of getting chopped), as I did? Whence comes it that they even personally join with the Seminary Directors in opposing their own colleagues?

This strange conduct of the Vicars Apostolic can be explained by the same [physical] impossibility of communicating. That’s what makes every remedy impossible (so to speak). You find yourself stuck in a vicious circle. They would all reach agreement if they could only get to see and hear each other. Meanwhile they cannot agree on the method [time and place] for seeing and hearing each other. I repeat: At thousands of miles, consensus is impossible through mere written communications. Every single letter is going to give rise to further comments and observations, especially when it does not emanate from higher authority. Time is wasted sending back rejoinders on mere details, asking and receiving clarifications about very secondary points. Months and years go by uselessly like that. Some of these bishops are already old, and they don’t want to hear of any “newfangled” ideas. Others are physically unable to leave their place. Usually, however, it would be quite easy for them to send a fully empowered representative. But they just do not take any real interest in something that does not touch them closely. Others do not feel any great need as far as their own territory is concerned; and they are in no position to appreciate the needs of other missions or the Society in general. Finally, they are all suspicious of the confrere who shoves his neck out. They don’t know him. And the Paris Messieurs are not going to write to encourage them to put any confidence in him. “An excellent prelate”, they will say, “but has rather high-flown ideas. Imprudent. Rash. A utopian fellow”. The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda (with whom these Messieurs are in direct and continual correspondence) will hear the same kind of thing from them. So the efforts of a poor Vicar Apostolic on his own are soon exhausted, without any success whatsoever.

On the side of the Directors, the cause [and the motive of their counter-moves] is none other than the natural instinct of self-preservation that every bureaucracy has: always to maintain itself and even to increase -quite blind to the good or bad effect of that kind of development. They would have to go against that (p 62) natural instinct and see, as if by a miracle of grace, that the real good of the work requires that they let go, leaving each Vicar Apostolic the free exercise of the power that was given him from the beginning. At least until such time as they are given legally what they are exercising in fact! Well, it is rare to find such objectivity in a man. Among several bound in to a group, it is almost impossible.

*The Directors and the Seminary *

At the time I arrived at the Seminary I was very far from wor-rying about all these matters. I was merely surprised at seeing so little of the missionary spirit in the place, especially (as I then figured) among the Directors. Also at seeing how little they had to do. What would it be like if their number was complete? Just imagine it: six permanent Directors, who have never been on the missions, only two or three aspirants to direct (only one half hour’s counselling session a week) probably about twelve letters to write to the missions per month. Add to that, six or seven more Directors who are Procurators for various missions, having no more than a few thousand francs worth of purchases to make every year. They had far too little to do, to be able to do it well.

Things have changed a bit since that time. An innovation has been brought in, which would be excellent if it had been done sys-tematically, (and which is praise-worthy even in its present state), i.e. admitting young clerics as aspirants. At the time I arrived, only priests (or at least clerics who had finished theology) were admitted. They were kept at the Seminary only for their year’s probation. But meanwhile, the numbers of missionaries in the various territories kept on increasing, since the “Propagation de la Foi” enabled this to be done; so our missions found themselves short of candidates. Moreover, many young men who felt called to the work of the missions did not want to wait until they were ordained priests, to join other congregations. So ours was decreasing instead of increasing, just at the time when it needed more missionaries than ever.

It has to be said, in praise of the Directors: instead of enjoying (p 63) their far niente10 they took the decision to admit young clerics and to take on all the problems of a big seminary. It is true that such a big change would be bound to greatly influence the state of the Society sooner or later. In order to have good results from every point of view, several secondary modifications would have been required in the general organisation, and even some in the basic structure of the Seminary itself. The way it was done is far from perfect. However, in itself, the change was a good thing, excellent even; it was approved by all the Vicars Apostolic. But it was not properly planned; and this can bring on new problems. Already it is preventing this good innovation from having all its desired effects.

The first thing to be looked into, it seems to me, should have been the different kind of direction to be given to the aspirants already priests and to those who still had their whole clerical education to do. Mixing up priests and non-priests is harmful to both. It seems that, some time after I left, this was perceived. They were even separated, for a time. But this must have turned out too troublesome for the Directors. And it must be admitted that there was nothing in the Rule that obliged them to do it. So why should they put up with it for long? That is one of many things that should be laid down by the Superiors of the Congregation if they could get together.

In spite of all these defects, our missions are still going fairly well. Indeed they are going a lot better than many others where (no doubt) there are other problems, unknown to us. The main reason for that is the excellent spirit that the aspirants to the Foreign Missions usually bring with them. Especially when we accepted only priests, most of whom were sacrificing good positions, we could be morally sure of having nothing but genuine vocations to the apostolate. Once on the missions, their zeal, their good-will, their piety were personally enough to make up for everything else. If some of them let out some complaints, it was rarely for themselves but for the good of the work, which they (p 64) thought could be greatly improved. And those who were lucky enough not to get stuck in administration and complications went along in their own little corner and were really doing all the good that depended on them individually. .

It is to be feared that things will not continue to go so well if the Vicars Apostolic do not take their own precautions to ensure the proper apostolic education of the younger aspirants, whose numbers keep on increasing. Up to now the good spirit of the Directors is more or less making up for the negative aspects of the regulations. This is all the easier because the young people coming forward are usually clerics of an uncommon perfection. But all you would need, to have all that collapse, would be two or three bad Directors. Against such, the authority of the Vicars Apostolic would be powerless. God preserve the Society from such a disaster!

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The Paris Personnel

At the time I came to the Seminary, the body of Directors was admirable: Fr Langlois Superior; Fr Dubois assistant; Frs Tesson, Albrand, Voisin, Barran; and Fr Jurines (since left the congregation). All or nearly all were representatives of some mission. I don’t know whether any of them had the title of Director for-life. But in fact they all were. All except Fr Barran had spent some of their life on the missions.

Fr Langlois was formerly in Tong-King.11 A very remarkable man, despite a repulsive exterior. As soon as I got to know him a bit I had a very high esteem for him. He knew the missions perfectly and was always occupied with them. His theology, unfortunately, was rather grim. And as a great number of missionaries have gone through his hands, his principles (which were widely taught in France anyway) must have helped to produce a certain type of rigorism which I have sometimes come across on the missions (p 65) with the same bad effects as elsewhere.

When a few other aspirants had arrived, Fr Langlois gave us what he called his “Decrees Course”. He had made a rather remarkable collection of various Decrees of the S.C. of Propaganda and he explained them to us. An excellent idea, if it had been more accurate and less summary, and also if it didn’t cause serious doubts: i.e. that the antecedents, the context, the subsequent decrees, the cases explained (etc.) would probably give a quite different slant to what the letter of the decrees were saying at first glance. Afterwards [in India] I did not meet any missionary who said he was happy with that superficial study. This branch of Canon Law (unfortunately very complicated, like all the others) ought to have been done very solidly by the missionaries. True, not everyone needs to excel in it; but superiors should have it perfectly.

Fr Dubois 12 was another venerable old man, with a presence as friendly as Fr Langlois was off-putting. So he was liked by everyone. Later on, I met none of our missionaries who didn’t remember Fr Dubois with pleasure. He was a very learned man and his conversation was most charming. He had spent most of his life in India and had a perfect knowledge of the languages spoken in the South. He is the author of several highly-esteemed works, especially the one entitled “Moeurs et Coutumes des Peuples de l’Inde”. Unfortunately, the title is a bit too wide. It is rigorously exact as to the facts he reports about the inhabitants of the former Kingdoms of Karnataka, Madurai, Tanjore and Mysore. But it leaves a lot to be desired concerning the peoples of the North and even some of those who live in the South, between the Ghat Mountains and the [West] Malabar Coast, in the same latitudes as the above-mentioned Kingdoms. .

Fr Tesson13represented the Indian mission (like Fr Dubois, (p 66) who had asked to be replaced, apparently because of his great age). He had spent only a short time on the Missions, always on the [East] Coromandel Coast; so he did not know them very well. Apart from that, he was a very distinguished man, very well educated; I took a real liking to him. I considered him a broadminded man. So [later on] when we were making protests against the Paris Seminary and standing up against the exaggerated position it had acquired, I was hoping that Fr Tesson would understand, i.e. that our protests were in no way directed against persons, and that our stand was for the good of the Society in general and the Seminary in particular. No way. He seems to have taken it all personally, like the others. He was so friendly to me all the time I was in Paris as an aspirant, and while I was on the missions! But he was anything but friendly on my return! His fault, or mine? I cannot but think he misunderstood me; and it was my fault not to have found the way to make myself understood. After my departure for India he got very interested in Gregorian Chant, and became a noted authority, both in the theory and the practice. This work has hardly got much of a connection with the work of the missions. But, as I said already, the Directors of the Paris Seminary have unfortunately very little to do with the Missions. If they happen to like work, they have plenty of time to give to other occupations.

Fr Albrand I hardly knew at all. [Later] when the young aspirants became numerous, he took special charge of directing them; and they all speak highly of his holiness. He has just recently been appointed Superior, on the death of Fr Barran, who succeeded Fr Langlois. I think neither of Fr Langlois’s two successors was able to fill his shoes. Fr Albrand is an excellent priest and has all the qualities of an ordinary professor. But I feel he is not the man for the position of Superior at the moment. Unfortunately, among the present Directors (apart from Fr Tesson, who would be lacking in several special qualities) there is no better choice available.

Fr Voisin, representing the China missions, is a likeable man; but apart from his piety, he has nothing special to offer the missions. He has given up the Chinese language class which he (p 67) used to give in my time, without any usefulness or profit. Paris is not the place for young missionaries to study the languages used in the countries they are going to. They can learn more in a month, on the spot, than during a year in the Seminary. Sometimes, even, seminary study is more of a hindrance than a help, because of the bad pronunciation they acquire at the start. This is not to say that some language study could not be very interesting and useful at the Foreign Missions Seminary. There is a whole new subject to be created there, and one that could be both useful and prestigious to our congregation, and to the Catholic religion itself. But in the present state of things it is not to be hoped for. what could be useful is the study, not of spoken languages, but of literary languages. Sanscrit for example, for missionaries going to India; Chinese characters (not bothering about pronunciation) for China. Also, in these times we are living in, it would be desirable that all aspirants study English; because this language is needed today in all the countries of the world outside Europe, just as (formerly) Portuguese was worth learning.

Fr Barran14was a man of deep holiness, and a good theologian; but he knew little of the missions. He had never been there. To pass the time, he gave us a little course on mystical theology and sacred scripture. Later on, when the aspirants were more numerous, he gave a regular course in theology. He died this very year, as Superior of the Seminary.

I hardly knew Fr Jurines at all. He resigned very soon from his title of Director and took on pastoral work outside the Congregation.

Do not imagine that being a Director at the Paris Seminary is an easy job. Well, nothing could be easier if you just let things run, and if you don’t bother to work out all that could be done for the good of the missions. But if you took it to heart to bring the Foreign Missions Society up to the high level it should have in the (p 68) work of the apostolate -if you wanted men who not only do not oppose but who work positively for that precious harmony between the different parts of the body of the Association- then you would need hand-picked missionaries, devoted and intelligent, strong enough to rise above all prejudices and routine, able to put their position to good use for the common good, able to utilize the immense advantages and countless resources of the centre of the world 15, men who had the courage to overcome the natural inclination we all have towards inactivity, when we find ourselves in an independent, comfortable position where it is so easy to feel sure that you have done everything that was strictly obligatory in your job.

New Classmates. The Meudon House.

Meanwhile, the number of aspirants was gradually increasing. A few months after me came Fr Triboulot16 who was later to be my travelling companion to India, Rev Luquet,17 a deacon, whom I will have many occasions to mention later, Frs Vachal and Barlier. Fr. Vachal has already given his life for the Faith and I have no doubt that today he is enjoying the glory of your Saints, O my God. Lucky Vachal! You were the favoured one out of us all. From the heights of Heaven (for I am sure your death was a real martyrdom) pray for your class – mate!18

Before I left Paris I also saw Rev Sohier, Legrand and Virot (deacons) arrive, Rev Huot (sub-deacon) and five young theologians, MM. Mauduit, Merle, Lacrampe, Ducotey and Dastugue, who were going to the Meudon house.

For it was during my time there that they bought that house and garden. It is now only a country holiday house for the summer (p 69) and days off. I was hoping then that it would completely separate the young aspirants from those already priests or nearly so. Indeed, it seems this was the first plan of the Directors. But it didn’t last long. I have often said how regrettable this was. Here’s what I wrote in my Diary at the time:

“This Meudon house gives me great hope for the future. The Paris Seminary is far too much of a seminary for the priest coming there after some years in the ministry; it is not enough of a seminary for the young levite who needs to train himself in holiness and all the duties of his state, and to give himself over to the study of scholasticism. The success of the Meudon house enables me to hope for the total separation of priests and non-priests, so that both may be treated suitably … I hope for even more in the future …At the moment it is quite a small house, with a suitable garden adjacent, in the Village of Meudon, near Paris. “Lord God Almighty, bless this house. In it may there be sanity of mind and body, chastity, victory, virtue, humility, goodness and kindness, the fulness of the Law, and thanksgiving to God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. And may this blessing always remain on this place and on all who dwell in it, now and for ever. Amen”.19

Meanwhile, time was moving on. And it went quickly; for the painful impressions of the start had completely faded out, and I was feeling more and more ardent for the missions. The companionship of Frs Triboulot, Virot and Luquet was very enjoyable and good for me. All three had a holiness that I was far from attaining. Luquet, especially, shared completely in my own ideas about the work of the missions. Above all I rejoiced in having being led by the hand of the Almighty into a Society in which one of the principal aims was the establishment of a local clergy. I looked forward with joy to the day of departure.

Not that I was completely satisfied with all that I saw and heard. But I took care not to make any judgments on them then (though later I felt free to do so). At the time, they were just misgivings, (p 70) which did not in any way diminish the ever-growing esteem that I had for the Society of Foreign Missions. The personal conduct of the Directors couldn’t be more edifying. This can be seen in what I wrote in my diary for the Golden Jubilee that the venerable Fr Langlois celebrated here:

Fr Langlois’s Jubilee. Fr Dubois’s Speech.

“This well-respected old man has let me share in the holy and devotional sentiments of his heart, after half a century spent in the ministration of things sacred. Just as if preparing to celebrate the redoubtable Mysteries for the very first time or the very last, he preceded this solemn action by a long retreat. Thus we were privileged to witness a sublime union: between the fervour of the young priest and the gravity of the old; and in between, the respect inspired in us by a whole life-time spent in all kinds of trials, difficulties, pains, fatigues and tribulations through the constant exercise of every good deed inspired by the most sublime zeal.

“Happy, a thousand times happy, is the minister of the Sanctuary who has not become over-familiar with the things of God, who after long years of ministry still trembles as he approaches the Tabernacle of the Lord, who still keeps in mind that he is unworthy to lay his hands on the Sacred Victim, and who has this fear in him not just as “the beginning of wisdom” but especially as the fruit of his ardent love – a love which the cold years have not deadened but always make more and more alive, the longer it abides in a heart aflame with charity.

“Such a man was the priest who edified us that day. Round him a few friends and those he could call his children; his brother, a few relatives, the aspirants, the Seminary Directors, and a few venerable ruins from the past generation, seemingly spared by Time for the instruction of the present age, which they have seen coming into being from the very beginning. Their wisdom spoke to our hearts all the stronger because they had come through the bad times of revolutions and the perilous trails of distant missions.

“Before beginning Holy Mass, Fr Langlois spoke to us, in a (p 71) stronger voice than you would expect at such an age, more or less in these words:

“Gentlemen: Today is the 50th anniversary of my priesthood.

Fifty years ago, on the feast of St Michael and the Holy Angels, I had the happiness, in spite of my unworthiness, of immolating the awesome Victim for the first time. This long succession of years tells me loud and clear that the time is not far off when the Lord will call me to his supreme judgment. How much I have to fear at the thought of the fearful account I will then have to render to the Lord!' So many graces, benefits and favours He has never ceased to pour on me during all that time! So today, gentlemen, it is to give thanks to God: to beg Him not to judge me according to the strictness of his justice -to ask pardon for the innumerable faults of my life - that I am now going to renew the sacrifice of our altars. All you who surround me at this moment -and who are giving me such a touching sign of your interest in me-- join your prayers to mine. And if I am permitted to raise my voice to heaven again, to ask new graces, I will pray Him to send down all his blessings on you, to watch over this House and make it prosper, for the good of the Church and for the glory of God; to watch over our Missions; to smooth the way of those who are preaching the truth to the pagans; to. put an end at last to the cruel persecution which is so long desolating the missions of Cochin-China and Tong-King. Let us not stop our prayers at that, gentlemen. Let our charity embrace if it can the whole world. Let us pray also for all those who are working for the missions, wherever they are living, whatever Society they belong to- so that it may please the Lord to destroy schisms and heresies, to enlighten those still in the darkness of paganism, to extend his kingdom in the universe. Finally, let us pray for the work of the. "Propagation de la Foi," so meritorious and so Catholic a work which the Lord is visibly protecting. Those are my desires today. Holy Angels who have guarded me from so many dangers, accom-panied me in all my ways, led me through so many perils, continue your care for me until the last breath of my life. I feel that moment is not far away. Lead me to the judgment seat of my supreme judge. And you, O Mary! After God, you are my hope. Obtain for me from the Lord the graces I need in order to reach my true homeland in peace. Obtain for me, and for all those around me a great zeal a great faith, a great love of God. Ah, gentlemen! Why can't we see Him loved as He deserves! The love of God! There is our true wealth: our real happiness. Everything else fades before that precious gift. That, gentlemen, is the grace I am going to ask today of (p 72) the Lord, for it includes all the others in itself! So that, having started to love God on the earth, we may love Him in heaven, and together may sing the eternal Alleluia.”

Fr Langlois was assisted at his Mass by Fr Dubois, who was just a few months older, his classmate at the Seminary, his companion in trouble during the Revolution, his confrere on the missions, his co-worker at the Foreign Missions Seminary – his friend. It was so good to see these two venerable old men at the altar, bowed by the weight of years: one bent by infirmities from his long labours in Tong-King; the other having worn out his robust constitution in the missions of India. The two of them were the two oldest in the Society, having had under their direction nearly every man now working in the missions confided to us. How they spoke to our hearts, those two old men, their faces radiant with the charity that filled their souls!

“One final sight, no less touching, was granted to us: a noble combat of gratitude and friendship (from one of them) against the deep humility (of the other). This was how: While all the invitees, after Mass, were at a simple but joyful lunch, Fr Dubois stood up after dessert. “Gentlemen”, said he … In vain was he threatened by a warning sign from Fr Langlois. In vain was he interrupted by vigorous objections from his friend. He refused to hear them, intent on making his point. He went on:

“Gentlemen: The day we are celebrating is a real feast-day for us all. Here is half a century that Fr Langlois has had the happiness of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries; fifty years of work, virtue and holiness. I have to say it, even if it offends his modesty: Fr Langlois has given 50 years continual service to the work of the missions, services beyond price. In the most difficult times, he was our support. His conduct has never belied [the name of missionary]. In all the different positions he was placed in, he has been a model to all those who had the good fortune to know him. Gentlemen: in my missions I came across a certain book of proverbs, and I remember this one: “When you have to be a hammer, be a hammer. When you have to be an an anvil, be an anvil”. Well, Fr Langlois did them both perfectly. When he had to be a hammer (i.e. when he had to act and to strike) he struck with force and perseverance. If he didn’t always succeed, ‘twas because the material wasn’t forgeable. When he had to suffer (an anvil) he endured the blows of his enemies with an invincible courage. So gentlemen, his whole life has been a succession (p 73) of action and endurance. To him indeed we can apply the words of the Wise Man in praise of valiant women: Panem otiosa non comedit.20 His brain, his pen, his words, his physical and mental powers - everything he had was continually employed for the work of God. It is now more than fifty years that I have had the honour of knowing him, and my testimony is true. Fifty years ago, I had the happiness of serving his first Mass; it was a great joy to me to assist him on that day. Heaven has willed that, after many years of separation, we again had the good fortune of living many years together here. So I have had plenty of time to know him and appreciate him. One thing I regret: not to have followed his good example more closely. I could say a lot more, but I want to spare his modesty. Only let me say this here -and I have no fear of being contradicted by my honoured friend, for we both feel the same about this: Both of us are soon going to leave this sad world of exile; please God we will be reunited in Heaven! But what consoles us, what rejoices our hearts, is this: that we will leave behind, in this House, a group of Directors, young, full of zeal and enlightenment, men who will maintain the honour of the house and do their best to extend the good which the Lord has the right to expect from it. Yes, gentlemen: right to the end you will march in the way of honour, i.e. in the blameless path of true doctrine. And with this assurance we shall end our career in peace."

“Everyone up, applauding and shouting ad multos annos. Note, however, that in these two stirring speeches on this memorable occasion, there is not a word about the first Vicars Apostolic or about the Society of Foreign Missions specifically or characteristically. Not a word about whole raison d’être of our Society: the work for a local clergy. Here were these two valiant missionaries, full of zeal and holiness. But, quite obviously, their lives have not been imbued with the spirit of our first missionaries. The fact is, the work for native clergy has long been treated as a very secondary thing in our missions, which have thus slipped down to the same level as the others. And so the Society has not completely met the special Aim for which it seems it was originally raised up by the Spirit of God. Since that time [of the jubilee celebration] things have changed a little. It is true that [in the process (p 74) Mgr Luquet got broken against the obstacles to be over-come. And myself, I lived to see the very people who ought to support me rising up against me. But may we not also hope, O my God, that our sacrifice of all that we held dearest in the world may yet contribute to the work of our first Vicars Apostolic? Yes, Lord, I do hope that, sooner or later, it will be recognised that I loved (and still love) the Society of Foreign Missions as much (and maybe more) than those who think fit to rejoice at this moment to see me rejected. The reforms I am looking for will one day be made. Or else (God forbid!) the Society will perish. Or else perhaps, the Church won’t need the Society any more, because God will have inspired bishops of the other societies working on the missions with the spirit of zeal and understanding for the solid establishment of a local clergy.

Appointed to India

Meanwhile the year had just ended and 1842 was beginning.More determined than ever to continue on my missionary course, I was waiting (with Perhaps a bit too much impatience) for them to fix my destination. I didn’t have to wait long. In mid-January Fr Langlois asked me and Fr Triboulot to come to his room. He informed us that the Council of Directors had appointed us both to the Indian missions. Really, I was impartial about the choice of mission. So I experienced neither disappointment nor pleasure at the news that it was to be India. But I felt an unmistakeable joy at the thought that, at last, I was able to dedicate myself forever to the work on the missions. That very day, I wrote in my diary:

“So it is no longer just a project, O my God! Here I am, soon to be a missionary, soon to have the happiness of being sent to India, to work there, extending your reign, still so weakly established in those lands. “My lot has fallen in excellent lands. My heritage is delightful to me”. But what prejudices to combat! What false ways to correct! What slowness to speed up! What difficulties (p 75) to conquer! Give me then, Lord, your grace, Mary your protection, Holy Angels your assistance! Give me, O God, the resolution of the Magi, the recollection of St Joseph, the zeal of St Paul, the wisdom of St Peter, the constancy of St Martin, the gentleness of St Vincent de Paul. And if it is needed for your glory, give me eloquence of speech to cut through obstacles like a two-edged sword. O God, what an abyss of nothingness [is here] compared to the mountain of grace that I am imploring! But aren’t the weakest instruments always the ones You prefer to choose? Can not your grace raise up children of Abraham out of these very stones? I am asking a lot, Lord, because You can give so much; and You know my extreme need. Holy Father! To you alone be all glory. Amen”

From that time until my departure I busied myself a bit studying the English language. But, apart from Fr Dubois, the Directors did not encourage me much to take on that study. Anyway, the time was short. Later on, I was to be very sorry that I had not seriously studied the language. My ignorance of it was to be one of the secondary causes of the difficulties stirred up against me by a few of my own missionaries -quite apart from the awkward position it placed me in, vis-a-vis the English authorities in Coimbatore.

Special Retreat before Departure

A ship was announced in the port of Nantes, to set sail in the first half of March. Places were booked and our departure date from Paris was fixed for the day after Easter. Fr Triboulot and I reckoned we could make no better preparation for the departure than some days of deep retreat. Although in general such special departure retreats are not made (the ordinary yearly retreats being considered sufficient) the Directors readily gave us permission. Here are the sentiments that the Lord inspired in me at the time.

“You know, O Lord, that I have need of help. Here, opening up before me, is an immense future – new, difficult, even perilous. (p 76) But in You alone I put my trust. “In te, Domine, speravi. Non confundar in aeternum”. I am entering on this retreat in the hope that in it You will give me, Lord, the first-fruits of the graces I am imploring. Without You, I could not take one step forward in the way that is opening before me. Yet I so want to start off on it with a firm and courageous step, supported by your all-powerful arm. All for You, O my God! It is Your work! Ah, why can’t I do something for your glory! Say but the word, Lord, and it shall be enough. Touch my heart! For who can resist your power? “Give what You command, and then command whatever You will.”

And on Easter Day, the day before our departure, I again wrote. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad”. It has been good, this precious time of retreat. The Lord, I do believe, poured down his blessings on us. “Confirm, O God, what You have worked in us”. O God, make me a missionary according to your heart. As from today I can really call myself by the name “missionary”. Alleluia! And indeed today is the feast of our Passover, the day of the crossing-over. We are going to pass over from Europe to Asia! God grant that it be for his glory!

Here are the special resolutions I made at the end of the retreat:

1. To be a missionary with all my heart.

2. To neglect nothing for the advancement of God’s work.

3. To seize every opportunity for preaching God’s word.

4. To use every means I have – all my strength, all my study and effort to contribute towards the formation of a native clergy. And it is there that I implore your blessing especially, O my God.

“ O God, have pity on our weakness. Miserere mei, Deus. And I end with the prayer that the Church addresses to You on this solemn day: “As You go before us to breathe life into us so follow us to help it on”. I stop here, because the Departure Ceremony is in a quarter of an hour. Holy Angels, ever blessed Mary, my patron Saints – be with us now” (p 77)

The Departure Ceremony

A few days later, I was recording my impressions of the Ceremony: “This is how the touching Departure Ceremony is done: On the eve, everyone goes to the oratory at the time for evening prayer. Along with the household are some friends, some outside priests, and some bishops (who lodge at the Seminary). Immediately after prayers, the new missionaries who are about to make an everlasting farewell to their homeland (and will probably never again see those now around them) line up before the altar, while a Director addresses a few vivid and eloquent words to them. It was the venerable Fr Dubois who did this for us, with an energy far beyond his advanced years. Please God we will never forget the wise advice and charitable instructions he gave us on that unforgettable occasion! To really understand the power of a speech drawn from the springs of pure charity, at such a solemn moment so well dramatised, I think you would have to go through that delightful, cruel ordeal yourself. For then the soul is in ecstasy.21 Your heart breaks when, the preacher’s final “adieu” being said, everyone rises [and comes forward] one by one to kiss the feet of the young missionary, saying: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings, telling good news.”22Everyone hugs him, shakes his hand and says a personal, quiet few words to him. O, the cruel moment! “A Dieu”, says a whitehaired bishop; “pray for my poor flock”. “A Dieu”, says a bishop-elect, not yet consecrated; “pray for me. How I envy your happiness”. “One heart and one soul”, says a zealous Director. And “teach all nations” or “in the love of Christ”. Such are the words, dictated by faith, the last words spoken by the holy congregation to the hearts of these young men that they are never to see again. (p 78) For my part, I could take no more. I longed only to be alone and to let my heart overflow freely in the heart of God, with bittersweet tears. This pious, touching ceremony contains a great and awesome message. What a solemn, binding pact you make with God at that moment, to stay faithful to your resolutions, never to swerve from the paths of the apostolate, to carry the holy standard of the Gospel as far forward as He shall command you. That pact, O my God, I have made. I renew it at this moment. Grant me to be faithful to it” …

[1855] O God! Has that prayer of mine been found unworthy to rise up to You? Is it by unfaithfulness to those same resolutions that I find myself, now, outside my chosen work? Indeed, I ought to fear it. But I hope that my faults have rather been mistakes coming from my imprudence. For You know, Lord, how I still love the missions. And if it was up to me, I would set out this very day for any place whatever on the earth, if you just let me know that your will is calling me there.

Leaving Paris. After – dinner Manifesto.

Meanwhile, there was one more day to spend in Paris. It was a day of joy, of calmness and of hope. This is what I wrote a few days later in my diary:

“Every parting has some sadness in it, especially when there is no hope of returning, even if it is motivated by love of one’s duty. Thus a feeling of involuntary sadness often accompanies the young missionary, at least as far as the carriage if not as far as the ship that is to tear him away from his homeland. He takes another last look at it, his heart moved with sadness, his eyes wet with tears, a last look at this land where he was born but where he is not to die. Nevertheless, it was not so with me, the day I left Paris. A profound peace, a real joy, took hold of me, as soon as sleep had erased the impression left by the cruel departure ceremony. Was the Lord giving me a foretaste of the happiness He often sheds over trials, over the lives of those who abandon themselves to (p 79) Him without reservation? Or rather was He being merciful to me, unable as I would have been to bear the brunt of a harder and more meritorious parting, like the ones He keeps for those who are stronger in the Faith than me? Whichever way it was, O my God, I give you thanks for treating me so, sparing my weakness.

"That whole last day was full of gentle gaiety. But this is what was special in it for me: I was determined that people should know well what my thoughts were, on setting out for the missions. And an opportunity came up for publicly manifesting them. Half-way through dinner, Fr Superior stopped the reading and called us -Fr Triboulot and me-- to each side of him. After the dessert Fr Dubois gave a "speech" with lots of praises and encouragements for us. I felt this was a good opportunity; so I asked the Superior for permission to reply. In that reply I made it very clear that I had two things nearest my heart: To see if I could not get involved more directly in the conversion of pagans. And to form a native clergy in a more active way. I promised to direct all my efforts to these two aims, to use every means in my power for these two ends, and to devote every moment of my life to them, until such time as I saw for myself that there was no further possible way to attain them more effectively than what has been done up to now.

This frank statement did not seem to displease the Directors; and I hope they will help me with their authority and their co-operation in an effort which is an integral part of the Aim of the Society I have henceforth the honour of belonging to, the Society I have joined with all my heart. But it seems to be dragging its feet a bit [nowadays], from what I could glimpse at the Paris Seminary. Probably that comes from a combination of circumstances beyond anyone’s control. But it may be also a little bit due to lack of energy. May Heaven grant me the zeal and courage which I ask – and at the same time give me the spirit of wisdom and prudence. Without them, instead of building up, you destroy” …

Alas! At the time, I did not know that what is lacking [in the Society] is not so much “energy” as a wise Rule. Also I have to admit that I was often lacking, myself, in the “wisdom” and “prudence” which I then asked of the Lord, and which I did not merit (p 80) to obtain.

Meanwhile, the hour of departure had come. Fr Tesson ac-companied us to the stage-coach, and we set out for Nantes. “Adieu, Angels of this city” [of Paris] I said within myself. Goodbye, you mighty monuments (as I saw them going by, through the carriage windows). Goodbye forever” … Little did I think that I was one day to come back to France. Or that by then I would be “outside” the Society to which I always gave myself without reservation, the Society towards which my real fault was: that I loved it [not wisely but] too well! Be that as it may, I still love it, and always shall.

In talking here about its defects, it is in order to remedy them; not in order to run it down. Thus may it grow and prosper. For it should be great and prosperous, so much good achievement is in store for it in the work of the missions.

We arrived at Nantes and stayed with the Misses du Guiny. As pious as they were royalist, these ladies always gave hospitality to our missionaries embarking at the port. It was at their house, not long before, that the Duchesse de Berry had been taken prisoner. She had to come out from hiding, behind a fire-place, when the soldiers lit a big fire there. While deploring the light-headed imprudence of the princess, we could not look unmoved at this last little hide-away, where she must have suffered so cruelly before she surrendered.

“To their great charity”, I wrote at the time, “these two ladies add an exquisite courtesy, something that gets more and more rare in our modern days, and something that always makes virtue so much more attractive! May God reward them for their generous hospitality! It is as disciples of Jesus Christ that they welcomed us. And our Master has said that he wouldn’t leave a glass of cold water given for his name’s sake go without its reward. Oh, why don’t delicate and polite manners always accompany piety? Indeed, why are the two so rarely seen together?”

This last reflection was prompted by the rather disobliging manners we came across from the clergy of Nantes. When leaving Paris, we were feeling sorry for ourselves that it was to the du Guiny ladies we were directed, rather than to the Seminary or some clerical establishment. But when we saw how coldly they (p 82) took the few visits we made, we thanked the Lord for having led us to his handmaids, and for consoling us, on leaving France, with this final impression of the courtesy that we like to praise our country for, though she has, perhaps, deserved it a lot more in the past than at present.

The Bishop of Nantes, however, received us very well. He showed us every goodwill, and edified us greatly by the piety of his conversation, and especially by the simplicity of his life. Moreover, everything we heard about him – the way he administers his diocese and the details of his private life – only confirmed the good impression he made during our first courtesy visit, and during a meal to which he later invited us.

An Exciting Excursion on the River

The ship which was to tear us away from our fatherland was at Paimboeuf. It had not yet finished taking on cargo. Moreover, the captain and the owners told us, the wind was not favourable a fairly common excuse when a ship is not ready. However, we could see for ourselves that the weather was not fine. Indeed it nearly brought our journey to a bad end before we even set out. Here is how:

MM. Fauchard, the ship-owners, were very courteous to us. So was Captain Saillant. He used to go to Paimboeuf almost every day, to supervise the stowing of cargo. One day he invited us to go along with him, to see the “Pauline” and to choose the cabins that best suited us. We gladly accepted. We set out on the river steamboat with him, planning to come back in the evening. The weather was foggy and the wind was strong. It rained at times, which spoilt our beautiful trip on the Loire. They expected the afternoon to turn out fine, but it only got worse. They were trying to decide whether the steam-boat could make it, or whether it wasn’t better turn round and go back to Nantes. By now it was a real storm. However, we were in sight of Paimboeuf harbour and we could already make out the quays, with crowds of people on them, anxi-ously watching the difficult manoeuvres that the steam-boat had (p 83) to make, trying to come alongside. Three different times, a strong wave came and swept us back, wiping out a whole hour’s tedious manoeuvring. Meanwhile, Captain Saillant explained the situation to me.. “We’re very near capsizing. I doubt if, in all your voyage to India, you’ll ever be in as big a danger as you are in right now”. At last they managed to just touch the edge of the quay. They threw out a cable. It broke. And we were swept out worse than ever. They saw it was useless to struggle any longer against the wave. So they decided to return to Nantes after having merely said “hallo and goodbye” to Paimboeuf. We did see our future little bark, [the Pauline], but only in the distance. She was pitching and tossing with the waves, but quite safely, right in the harbour. Meanwhile, everything was topsy-turvy on our poor steam-boat. Tables and chairs capsized, the galley in a shambles. The poor food-seller wept at the sight of his broken bottles. And now all the hungry travellers were turning to him in desperation. Anyway, once the attempt to land at Paimboeuf was abandoned the danger ceased. They just had to get over the disappointment. Which they did cheerfully enough; for it turned out that not all the bottles had been smashed! Captain Saillant very courteously invited us to a nice little supper. We got back safe and sound that evening to our worthy hostesses. We stayed on at Nantes another few days.

Letters from Home

While there, I received several letters. Those from my parents showed me that their religious attitude did not let them down when it finally came to my departure overseas. I trust that the all-powerful and all-loving God will reward them for the sacrifice which they made at that time, with such generosity; it was all the more meritorious for being so keenly felt. Here are some extracts from their letters of that period:

My father: “So here it is, alas, the moment of our separation, doubtless for life! For the motive taking you away leaves me no hope of your return before a very far-off time. And my 69th birth (p 84) day (28 November last) forbids me to pin any hopes on living to see that day. “Alas”, I said. But don’t be alarmed, dearest friend. A legitimate human sigh, at a time like this, does not affect one’s resignation or one’s submission to a higher Will. Why! Even our divine Saviour himself, in the midst of his agonies, did He not legitimise that sigh, which may even add to the merit of the submission! Not that I’m putting the two sacrifices on the same level, or trying to compare the infinite with the infinitely small! But the Saviour, knowing all the limitations of our human nature, even when showing us the way to Heaven and giving himself as the example, did not disdain to re-assure us by letting us see how far human feelings can be honestly expressed without them offending the Divine Will…

“When you are leaving the port, when we are parting for life, turn your eyes towards the Midi, the South of your country. Know that, down that way, there are hearts that are afflicted at your going, but without murmuring. There are tears, but Heaven takes no offense at them. Then let you call down blessings on those cherished hearts, all the divine blessings that can strengthen our courage and keep us in the right way. Wherever you may be, our prayers and our good wishes will never fail you; be sure of that. And yours will not fail us, either, I am convinced…

“It only remains for me, my tender loving friend, to give you this father’s blessing, with so much love in it, so many lawful good wishes which Heaven shall not reject, even if it does not permit them all to be fulfilled. From us Heaven hides its plans – always just and right, always wise – wanting us to pray our wishes, even if they are nearly always a bit of the earth, earthy. But these wishes are purified by our humble trust; and He knows how to turn them to his glory and to our good. Such are my wishes for you. And your maman, with no less fervour, joins me in this. And your brother and sisters too, with all the tender love you know they have for you. No, oh no! Heaven will not be deaf to our prayers. All your relatives and friends keep happy memories of you; don’t forget them, ever. .. “

And in another letter, close upon the first, my good father added:

“Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it, I find this chalice very bitter. But I just repeat, after our Saviour: “My God, not my will but yours be done”…

“Your sacrifice differs from mine only in being so much more meritorious. Offered in the prime of life, it offers your whole lifetime. Whereas mine is just a matter of a few years … O, my good (p 85) friend, pray for us, as we are praying for you. Let us storm Heaven. It is moving us away from each other, but It does not disunite our hearts. They will always understand each other, be in tune, from here to the ends of the earth, will still communicate by fervent prayers, by ardent good wishes which Heaven shall sanction. But furthermore, my friend, to this silent communication let us also add written correspondence, with all its delights … Such a legitimate enjoyment is not forbidden you, to receive or to give us. So I am counting on it, my dear, dear son…

"If when you are far from us, far, far away, you ever find yourself in any need, and if you can let us know how we can come to your help, be very certain that your mother and I -or, in our absence, your brother and sisters-- all of us will hurry to lavish everything we can on you. You are not unaware of all the tender love these hearts have for you, or how much their friendship laments your going away. Like me they say - and perhaps with more courage or more perfect submission: "My God, your Will be done". But, no less than me, they feel the breaking of the links - no, not the breaking, for they will always hold-the stretching of the links which Nature has made so delightful to us all, and which Heaven has always blessed ...

"I thought, when writing my last letter, that I could never hold you to my heart with more tenderness. But at this moment I know I was wrong: for I feel that, every day, you become dearer to my heart. A Dieu. Go, my dear friend. Run to where Heaven is calling you. And have the certainty and the satisfaction of knowing that my thoughts go with you - tenderness and good wishes more than I can express-- from the heart of your most loving father and best friend.

A Dieu, well beloved son, à Dieu!”

May I be forgiven these long quotations? I don’t know if I’m just imagining it; but even at fourteen years’ distance, I am so impressed on re-reading these letters! They seem to have something sublime about them, to be models of true feeling, holiness and submission. My mother, in spite of the pain it gave her to write, still wanted to send a few words from her own hand:

“Fr Taurines has just brought me your letter, dear friend … I asked him to send you my last farewells for me. But now, having got back some strength at the foot of the cross, from Jesus and from Mary, it occurred to me that a few lines from my own hand would mean a lot to you. Yes, my good friend, God is calling you to join in the noble work of propagating the Faith. And your own faith is so alive that He will not refuse you the graces you will need, in whatever (p 86) ever painful situation you find yourself. Yes, you have more sacrifices to make than we. God will accept them together, yours and ours, by the unitedness of our prayers. That is what task, and what I hope to obtain, from his goodness. I also need that God may sustain me in the various trials it may please him to send me, in order that I may fulfill the duties of my state and finish my course a good Christian …

A Dieu! A Dieu! I accept it all for the love of God …”

Trials?. O God! The most terrible trial, one I never expected then, is the trial I am in, right now [1855], far away from the Missions that have all my love. Ah! If it is by my fault that my course has stopped, forgive me for it, Lord, by the merit of the sacrifice and prayers then offered to You by such good parents. Great was their merit because deep was their grief, but generously accepted. Their holy, loving expressions are proof enough. And if there was need of other testimony, it is not lacking. Thus, for example, my excellent uncle, de Gaja, wrote to me about the same time:

“Your poor mother will write to you today. Her resignation to the will of God is wonderful, but her sorrow is great, as you can well imagine. Every now and then she gives expression to her grief and goes to friendly arms to weep. Rose [my uncle’s wife] is such a loving sister to her, and is glad to be able to be with her at this time. Your mother, too, feels she is very lucky to have such an understanding friend. Your father has not been strong enough to come out from his solitude at a time like this, which re-awakens all the cruel sorrows that rent his heart when you left home. And in spite of our being all prepared for news of an even farther separation, leaving very little hope of ever again seeing you, still the actual moment of fulfilling that sacrifice is no less painful to us now … “

One final testimony, to confirm all that. A testimony dictated, certainly, by great faith and by sincere friendship; from a man who, by now, has long been happy in your presence in Heaven, O my God – Fr Mazeroles. He lived such a short time and suffered so much!. ..

“Truly, yours is a real Christian mother. For in the painful sacrifice she is making to her God, you can see her struggling valiantly against the natural feelings of a mother, so that her sacrifice may be perfect. And it is, too, I assure you; for it is ennobled by the sublime (p 87) ideals of her Faith, her religion ... She even says, this model of mothers: "I ought to consider myself lucky ... " If you could only see her resignation, you would be able to look back and salute your receding fatherland with no regrets, saying farewell for ever to your France ... And as for myself, what can I say to you about this sad and painful separation? According to our natural feelings, you can understand how hard, bitter and afflicting this parting is to me. Long years of friendship and close relations are going to end now, apparently for life. The only other communications I can have with you are the few letters that get past the fury of the storms and the waves. But, to the eyes of Faith, our parting has lost its horror. Priests of the New Covenant, like Melchisedek, we have neither father nor mother nor genealogy. Our fatherland is the entire universe. Each day we shall meet again at the same altar. Each day our unity in prayers and sacrifices will bring us together, in spite of the differences of place ... May the Angel of the Lord go with you in all your journeys. My prayer - may it be able to rise to Heaven!-- will ac-company you all the days of my life, on sea and on land, wherever the good God calls you. My one regret is not to be able to follow you, winning souls for Jesus Christ. Ah! your lot is an enviable one. You have chosen the best part ... How can I leave you? I'd like to keep this communication going ad infinitum. But the paper takes flight from my reluctant hands, so I am obliged to say - what is very painful to my heart-- Goodbye, dear friend, dear confrere. A Dieu. Go with God, in Time, so that we may be with God together in Eternity. A Dieu.

Letter to Carcassonne Seminary

No doubt about it, correspondence from missionaries is of great benefit to the work of the Missions in general. But it often happens that, when writing on the spur of the moment to friends or relatives, or even to religious people, we do not give much exact information. And we do not have occasion to go into certain matters to which it would be good to draw the attention of Europeans. God having willed it so, it is Europe that has got the mission and the obligation of converting the majority of the peoples who are far away. And you could hardly believe how much the prevailing attitude in Europe towards evangelisation can influence (p 88) the actual practice of mission work on the ground.

I had the hope that, by starting up a sustained correspondence with a Seminary, I would be able to deal with some of these missionary issues - especially concerning the work for a native clergy-- which it is so important to make people aware of. Their attention has long been drawn, for example, to the direct conversion of the pagans. It is now being focused on the best means of ensuring the baptism of pagan children in danger of death. Well, I do not think, given the limited resources available to missionaries today, that it would be possible to do significantly more than what is being done, for these two objectives. Meanwhile, the work for a native clergy is being neglected. Not only do people generally not bother to think of it. They are even blocking it. Because, by not thinking it out, they fail to realise what is happening, i.e. that a whole lot of strategies used by the various institutions (very good ones in their day, originally established in order to help the Mis-sions) are now working against a native clergy, sometimes making it almost impossible. Yet I maintained (rather vaguely at that time; but today I am convinced) that without working seriously and effectively for a native clergy, we will never achieve any lasting good on the Missions. Just a short-lived achievement, more showy than solid. Never will we really convert even one single people.

So, while waiting at Nantes, I wrote a letter to the Seminary of Carcassonne. I got no reply then, and was disappointed. (Later on they replied, as we shall see. But the correspondence ended in nothing). This is what I wrote:

“Gentlemen and dear friends,

“As I am about to go aboard the ship which is to transport me, forever, far away from France, I cannot but cast a last look back to my dear fatherland and call to mind all the priceless memories I am leaving behind there. God forbid that, in so doing, I should draw down on myself our adorable Saviour’s just reproaches on those who are cowardly and timid in his service: “Nobody putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”.

No, it will not be like that, I hope. For, by God’s grace, by one of the outstanding actions of his goodness, whose praises I cannot proclaim highly enough, I feel myself now being strengthened more (p 89) than ever in the calling which the Lord has been pleased to give me. And my one desire is to go forward and respond to that grace.

“Among the precious memories on which my mind and heart love to dwell is the Carcassonne Seminary. O blessed home, so dear to my heart! Sacred refuge of virtues, nourished daily by pure charity, and by it preserved from the dangers of erudition. For “knowledge puffs up, but charity builds up”.

House of young athletes in training, to fight error and the passions – “Now therefore will we fight them!” – under masters whose merits and wisdom we shall not try to describe. House of God, Where my stay has been all too brief; but within your sheltering walls the Lord has been pleased to grant me precious consolations, as He enabled me to develop the seeds of the vocation which today makes all my joy.

“I tried to figure out, gentlemen, which of the young levites whom I got to know and appreciate are still there, at Carcassonne Seminary. A great number of them quickly came to mind. Then, as I sat down to write to them about my departure, and to ask for their prayers, an idea came to me. I shall express it frankly to you, gentlemen, leaving you to decide whether it is timely or not. I hope, anyway, that you will see in it a sign of my continuing affection for you, and of my desire to work as effectively as possible for the glory of our good Master.

"The personal interest shown me by so many of you -and the keen interest that all zealous ministers of religion usually have in hearing about the work of the foreign missions - have made me think that you would be glad to receive a common letter from me. And following up that idea, I said to myself; "Mightn't it become the start of a religious and edifying correspondence between the Seminary and myself, for our mutual encouragement?".

“Far from the land of my birth, the precious communications I would receive from you would certainly do my soul a lot of good. You would send me news – not profane and political news, but the progress and hopes, the consolations, the trials and disappointments of Religion in Our country, which will always be dear to me. And I would tell you of the trials and consolations of that same Religion in the places that are to be my new fatherland.

"Yes, gentlemen, I reckoned that your charity, which embraces the whole universe, would not be uninterested in knowing what the Justice and Mercy of God has in store for the peoples to whom I have been sent to preach the Gospel. I felt that the Cause of the Missions - so holy and so catholic-- would interest you by itself. So (p 90) my reports, however incomplete and defective, would still have something for you, to stir up your zeal and devotedness to the holy Cause of the Gospel- to warm your hearts (already so full of love) with that Charity which can never reach its limits, for the only limit it knows is God himself. "Deus caritas est".

"I know there are many obstacles to this correspondence. You will spot them very soon yourselves and you will be more nimble in getting over them than I. So I won’t speak of them. I will just mention the first one that comes to mind: The Seminary is always renewing its population; so it won't be long before there is nobody there who has known me. That is true. But still - look how I flatter myself-- I hope not beyond all proportion! - I believe that, precisely because I'm a missionary, I will always be beloved in the Seminary; and there will always be the same attitude, the same interest in me, Nay, more: You yourselves, gentlemen, will always be there, somehow, since the Seminary of a diocese is always "home" to the priests who were educated there. So it will be easy for you, in the common letter from the Seminary, to send me on your own ideas and remarks - quite apart from whatever each of you can write to me directly (if he wishes) with the confidence that I will always welcome with great joy whatever message comes to me .from priests who are animated by zeal for God's House and the desire to contribute to making the name of the Lord blessed beyond the seas.

“I would have liked to start off this correspondence by giving you some more exact information than usual about the foreign missions – about the various means by which each person can bring a large measure of co-operation to this work of God; especially about the Foreign Missions Seminary and the pious Society to which I have just been officially admitted, a Society which deserves to be much better known; and finally about a new House which we have Just established at Meudon, a village near Paris, into which young men who have not yet finished their theology course can be received. For, up to now, hardly anyone but ordained priests (or clerics very close to it) was received into the Paris Seminary. Whereas, at the Meudon Seminary, less advanced students will be received, provided that, as well as the signs of a probable vocation, they also show all the qualifications of intelligence and good conduct that can and should be demanded. So, there is a new door opened to your zeal.

However before going into detail on all these points, I want to know if my correspondence plan will suit you. If you agree to it, the subject just indicated would form the topic of my next letter. Let me (p 91) just say , now, that the “monster” that people make up, about the difficulties facing a missionary, is generally much less awful in reality. I’m not talking about the sacrifices imposed by a missionary vocation; that, I know well, is not what deters generous souls. I am talking about the danger to one’s soul’s salvation which people think they will have to face – e.g. the isolation, the influence of climate on morals, the bad example from corrupt peoples, and so forth. I do not know from experience; I can tell you later. But from what I could gather at the Foreign Missions Seminary, I think that our missionaries are a lot less exposed to losing God’s gifts than a poor priest in our country places.

But let’s leave all that for another occasion, gentlemen. At this solemn moment, let it suffice for me to warm my heart at your fire, and to exhort each other to that zeal for souls which is the making of a missionary – the zeal which consumed the prophet when he called on all the nations to Bless the Lord: “Magnify the Lord with me, and together let us exalt his holy Name”. The zeal so vigorously expressed by St Paul: “I could even wish to become anathema to Christ for the sake of my brothers”. And again: “Woe to me if I do not preach the good news”. The zeal which St Augustine saw to be inseparable from charity: “If you love God, you shall draw all men to His Love”. And to conclude with our divine Model himself, did He not say, about his own sublime mission: “I have come to put fire to the earth, and what do I long for but to have it burning?”.

To zeal for souls, let us add self-denial. Without that virtue, the whole thing gets paralysed. The stream of God's gifts is dammed up, and the waters spread out and ravage the land which they ought to be irrigating. Priceless self-denial! We do not always manage to acquire it, even in a pious seminary where everything is arranged to attract us to it. Our evil nature, our self-interest - sometimes even our apparently spiritual self-interest-- hinder us from letting go completely, although the ecclesiastical state we have chosen is one of total self-abandonment. We have sworn it at the very entrance to the clerical state: "The Lord is my portion and my inheritance". Let us always keep before our eyes this memorable saying of our Master: "If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself". And let us complete that sacred text, dear friends: "And let him take up his cross and follow me". For the spirit of self-denial cannot exist without the spirit of sacrifice, the only spirit that can get us over the obstacles which the senses and the ties of blood will not fail to put up against our generous resolutions.

“Let us never forget, gentlemen that a cleric has to leave everything (p 92) in order to follow Jesus Christ and work for the salvation of his brothers.”For we are God’s co-workers”. “On you their souls are depending”. “As the Father sent me, I also send you”, Let each one study his vocation with care – “Each has his own gift – and let him bestir himself to follow it through, regardless of everything that tries to set itself up against God’s Will. Remember, gentlemen – I say it with the frankness that comes with friendship – there are many who perish by not having discerned their vocation, and even more of them by not having obeyed the voice of God. “Behold I am taking my spirit away from you, because I called and you refused”. Let each of us look at our Father’s fields and see them ready for harvesting everywhere. “Lift up your eyes and see the countrysides; for they are already white for the harvest”. “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. Pray, therefore, to the Lord of the harvest, that He send labourers into the harvest”.

“Pardon me, gentlemen, if I have let my pen run on, in my urgency and conviction. Who am I, to talk to you like this?. To me, indeed, you might apply these other words Cited by our good Master: “Physician, heal thyself”. ‘Tis true, dear friends, very true. And I confess to you that I am scared when I look at the unworthiness of this new recruit whom the Lord wishes to employ in his service. Another reason, gentlemen, why I beg the assistance of your prayers and all your spiritual helps!

Now and then, in God’s presence, remember a certain poor mis-sionary who carries you in his heart. Remember him in your prayers, in your communions, at the foot of the altar, in the sanctuary of the sacred hearts of Jesus and of Mary. Pray for me lest, having preached to others, I be reproved myself. Pray, above all, that the holy Will of God may be accomplished in this unworthy servant. “Father, your will be done”. “Abba, Father”. “Not what I will but what You will”.

“That is what I ask of you today, gentlemen, facing two oceans to cross before my journey’s end, facing a huge challenge which will be totally new to me, but which I should start into without .fear because I place all my trust in the Lord. “My God is my helper; in him I shall place my hope”. And the Lord will not let me down! “For out of the ones you gave me, I did not lose anyone”.

“There I stop, dear friends, for my letter is already a long one: If I went according to my heart, I’d never finish. So I conclude, saying with the Apostle, “Greet each other with a holy kiss”. I will not mention any names, for I’d want to name you all. And if some of you seem to have rights to a special remembrance by me, based on (p 93) our longer exchange of friendship, let them be quite sure that I do remember all the proofs of goodwill they have given me. But at this moment I want to embrace you all together in my love, that charity which I hope, gentlemen, shall embrace us all in the adorable arms of Jesus Christ, our hope and our love.”

Setting Sail

Meanwhile, our captain sent us word that everything was ready for weighing anchor at the first favourable wind, and that we should proceed immediately to Paimboeuf. We took leave of our amiable hostesses and by the next day we were actually on board ship, after hardly a day spent waiting at Paimboeuf. During that short time we met the clergy of the little city, and they gave us a much better welcome than those at Nantes. After saying holy Mass and commending ourselves to the guidance of our good Angels, O God, we went on board the Pauline. She stayed in the harbour until evening. Then, about four O’ clock on the 12th April [1842] a fair wind blew up and we weighed anchor. My heart was beating faster than usual. I knelt down to recite my Journey Prayer. And I resolved to recite it every day of my life when travelling. I said this beautiful refrain, and kept repeating it: “Into the ways of peace and success may the almighty and merciful Lord direct us; and may the Angel Raphael be our companion on our way”. The rest I said also: “That we may come back home in peace, health and joy”. But I said it with my eyes turned to Heaven, for I did not want to have any fixed home on earth any more. Especially, I did not want to come back to my native land. Then, after “let us go forward in peace, in the Lord’s name, Amen” I added an Ave Maria and went up on deck to enjoy the departure scene.

The weather was magnificant. Soon we were out of the Loire estuary, and tossing on the sea. Night came on, and all we could see was the flashing of the light-house. One last farewell to France, and we went below to our cabins, our hearts deeply moved but full of tranquillity and joy. Next morning, almost before dawn, I was up on deck to try if the coasts of our belle France (p 94) could still be made out. All in vain! All gone! Nothing but the immensity of the sea all around us. “Mare magnum et spatiosum manibus”.

Conditions on Board

Our ship was a veritable Noah’s Ark. Her principal cargo consisted of horses and mules for Bourbon Island. She also carried a considerable number of hunting dogs. To all that, add cows and pigs and hens and ducks and geese and turkeys (all provisions for the voyage) and then cats – not to mention the rats that managed to escape them – and the cockroaches! Last but not least interesting, a big cage of canaries, the personal property and private enterprise of the ship’s cook. This was not a very pleasant cargo, especially because of the huge amounts of hay and fodder that had to be brought along, cluttering the decks and hindering movement. It is not uncommon to have serious accidents happening because of this kind of clutter. Fortunately the sea was better than expected, in the Bay of Biscay. Only there was a horrible roll, and many of the passengers suffered terribly from sea-sickness. Myself, I escaped with two or three days’ queasiness.

Gradually each passenger worked out a new routine for himself, made easier by the courtesy of the captain and his officers. Anyway, the food was excellent. Sea-faring today has a lot less hardship in it than before. Quite apart from the comfortable passenger steamers, even the sailing merchant ships don’t have a tenth of the hardship. As for food, the wonderful inventions for its preservation make the change to ship’s fare almost un-noticeable. There is fresh bread every day, and excellent water. Of course, your welfare will depend a lot on the captain, the shipowners, and the number of the passengers. When they are plenty, it is a lot easier to have a well-supplied table without much extra expense per person. We were quite numerous, and our captain seemed generous. (From Mauritius to Pondicherry, we were not at all so well nourished; and yet we could not blame the captain; it was just because we were the only two passengers then, as will be (p 95) explained later).

“The crowd of passengers were generally far from being religious. But they were courteous anyway, never in the least disag-reeable. It was the same with the officers. The crew was small and they had double work because of looking after the horses and mules. We saw very soon that there wouldn’t be much opportunity to do them any good spiritually – and the poor souls badly needed It. Fr Triboulot’s charitable spirit felt this a lot. Indeed it was his greatest trouble, for he put up with the physical hardships and privations of the voyage with heroic fortitude. From the very start, he made a Rule for himself, and he observed it right to the end, come wind come gales. All the passengers felt great admiration for him. He could not preach in words, but he preached by his example. Saints are like that. And indeed he was a holy priest; his soul must be crowned in glory, today, in Heaven.

So we got past the Bay of Biscay peacefully enough, with no great battering and with nothing very exciting to report. Apart from a few ships showing now and then on the horizon, ploughing the sea m various directions, there was absolutely nothing to look at but the ocean.

Men’s Behaviour in the Doldrums

After nothing but sea and sky for days on end, the least little thing will grab the attention of sea-farers. At the least shout of surprise, the smallest sign of something happening, everyone is up on deck, to see the new “event”. Enormous porpoises frolicked in the midst of the waves, challenging our sailors’ skill as they vainly threw harpoons’ at them. It made the passengers’ day. Next day, all eyes were glued for hours on a few rocks – the Porto Santo islands and the Deserted Isles – and then peering to make out the Madeiras, away on the far horizon like a small, dark smudge of cloud. [Map, page 124]

That was on the 19th April; so we had made good progress. Divine Providence had favoured us till then with delightful weather. Everyone was cheerful and satisfied. Things were about (p 96) to change. Not a storm but a calm – something even harder to take, perhaps, especially for sailors. On the evening of the 19th we were facing Madeira, and at last the sky was showing us the radiant sunlight of these climes. We rejoiced at this, for up to now the sun had kept hidden nearly all the time, behind thick clouds; and the choppy sea had been very tiring for the land-lubbers. Now the waves became peaceful and yet there was still a good breeze. We enjoyed watching the land skimming quietly by on our right. For us it was an evening of relaxation and enjoyment. We gave thanks to Heaven for such a happy beginning to our voyage, and we prayed Him to continue his blessings up to the destination of our voluntary exile. (We could feel it getting nearer already, by the temperature – which had stayed cold up to now – coming close to tropical). So with that prayer on our lips we went to bed, full of hope that we would arrive safe and sound to those lands that know no winter.

What a surprise, waking up next morning, to see the very same land-scape we had been admiring the evening before! No wind; not a breath of air. The mainsail, crumpled like a withered leaf, was flopping against the mast. The captain was anxiously pacing the deck, giving monosyllabic answers to the passengers’ questions, and quickly losing his temper (usually so peaceful) with the sailors. The sea looked as smooth as a mirror, and yet the ship was wobbling a lot, putting a strain on weak stomachs. At rare intervals a hot puff of wind came on, and they made use of it to move a bit away from the islands; but often it was in the wrong direction. Then the breeze would die out entirely … In short, we got nowhere. We went to bed that evening with the hope that we wouldn’t be looking at land next morning.

Up with me to the deck, very early. And there was Madeira still facing us. Well, this little set-back didn’t worry me very much; and I must confess I had to smile in spite of myself at the complaints and near-curses of the crew. “Whereas your missionaries, o my God” (I wrote in my diary) “are always content with whatever weather You send them; for them, the “best” kind of weather is the one You give them in your wisdom. We would be happier still if we could only see any way to make use of it for making You better loved by those around us, who appear, alas, to (p 97) have entirely forgotten You”. The whole day went the same as the previous one. In twice twenty-four hours, we hadn’t made ten miles.

The wind rises a bit, at last. Not strong, but it gives us some hope of getting away from the Madeira waters where we seem glued. Faces brightened up (for the gloom had got to the passengers also). Not for long. Down came the calm again, with all its dead monotony; and the boredom of those around us showed up, sometimes in ridiculous and childish, if not positively sinful, complaints. “And how could they do any better”, I thought; “how submit patiently to the decisions of your providence, O my God, when they cannot even raise their minds and hearts to you even at the imposing spectacle of the ocean. Effortless, you fill that majestic immensity. There, more than elsewhere, we can really feel that in you we live and move and are. And these poor blind travellers can’t see you! For who can say that it wasn’t your saving hand that stopped our ship just there, in order to avoid a storm in some other place? Be you blessed, both for the speed you lend to our ship later on and for the calm that is holding us here. You have done all things well, O God. Your hand has led us right”.

That “bad weather” – for that is what people called it, peevishly or even in anger – lasted until the 25th of April. They said it was worse than a gale. Oh that it had been turned into “good” weather by recourse to prayer and to invocation of the all powerful name of the Lord. They seemed, alas, not to know it is Him that the winds and the seas obey, or that His Spirit ever broods over the waters and makes them hear His mighty voice. “The voice of the Lord over the waters … the Lord over the wide seas”.

What to do in such weather, when you don’t know how to pray nor hardly how to occupy yourself in any way? You try to kill the time, which is boring you to death. Gamble – and unload your bad humour on to an unlucky card. Or sleep – and prepare a sleepless night for yourself by anticipating the right hour. Or drink – and get serious belly-aches from the heat of strong liquors. Poor people – self-inflicting punishment on themselves for their own lack of trust in God and lack of submission to his holy Will. (p 98)

However, a big sea-turtle afforded public diversion for several hours. Its huge shell was spotted floating far off, like a round table-top on the waters. A boat was quickly lowered. Cabin-boys and sailors went into action with ropes and grappling-irons. All eyes watched their progress. First, full speed ahead; but then quietly, not to disturb her beauty sleep. They are just getting ready to throw their contraptions when away she disappears to the bottom of the sea. Goodbye to the fine soup that the sailors were dreaming of. Our hunters came back empty-handed. It was easier to catch the feeble polyps we called “galleon-fish”, which these waters are full of. But it was mere idle curiosity, for they are good for nothing, and are even dangerous to touch. We wondered at how hideous they became when taken out of then native element, though so beautiful in the water the Creator made them for. The very image of the human soul, so beautiful to be, in the Heaven it is made for; outside of it, so horrible and disordered! Out of the water, these galères are just a revolting mess of cartilage, formless and discoloured; but in the sea, they come skimming along like little yachts of gold and azure, borne on a sail resplendent with all the colours of the rainbow.

Another day, ‘twas a different recreation. For a long time we had had another ship in sight. She must be very bored like us, sitting over there. We somehow managed to get near enough to exchange signals. Immediately, we started a conversation, with semaphore flags. We exchanged compliments etc. And we understood each other by this means of communication much better than if we had used the spoken word. For she was an English ship. And there was nobody on board (except perhaps a young lad among the passengers) who would have been able to carry on a conversation in that language. We would have got round to lowering boats and exchanging visits, I think, if the weather hadn’t shown signs of changing just then. (p 99)

The cook’s canaries. God’s Sky and Sea.

Across the Line. Sharks.

On the 25th April the wind came on favourably and we were happy to go forward on our voyage. We soon passed into the tropics, but we didn’t realise it; for we felt cold rather than hot. Even at 90 latitude, nobody felt like changing out of warm clothes; and the thermometer only just managed to get up to 210 centigrade. The sea was still good, and it was only about twice that we ran into the violent gusts which the sailors call “squalls”. Near the equator, however, the wind dropped again and we began to fear another dead calm. But we got by with some days of merely slower sailing. Everyone was now cheerful; and indeed the voyage, over-all, had been magnificent so far. We even began to think the smoothness a bit monotonous; and we sometimes jokingly told the captain we’d like to see a bit of action, a good storm, just enough to see what it felt like. He told us wait for the Cape of Good Hope!

Alas, some of our number were to get themselves drowned before that! I mean the cook’s beautiful canaries. One day, their cage was left open. The silly creatures thought this was their chance for freedom, so off they flew. But very soon, they realised that there were no trees or bushes around, to land on. They turned back towards the ship (they were no more than forty yards away) but their wings were not strong enough to make it. Soon they were tired out and in panic. One after the other, they fell into the waves, where they flapped around desperately. Before going down, each would raise its head and stare reproachfully at us for our callous indifference to its watery fate. And yet we were truly and sincerely sorry to see it go. We even tried to beg the captain for the birds. “Just stop a few minutes and we can save some of them, maybe all!”, But he was inexorable. “You don’t stop for canaries” was all he would say. And the cage stayed empty.

As you know, crossing the Line is usually marked by some ceremonies which are not very nice for the passengers, especially as the programme sometimes takes disrespectful liberties with the (p 100) ceremonies of baptism. The captain very considerately prevented all that, by warning the crew against any offensive horse-play. We crossed the Line by cheerfully drinking to each other’s health and congratulating each other on the good weather. It would have been perfect if some care had been taken, before it all, to give thanks to God; but there was hardly any thought of that. The crew also joined in the celebrations, with gifts and tips from the passengers, which was only right and proper. A small bit more of religious feeling, and the voyage would have been totally delightful.

By now, everybody had got used to this sea-faring way of life, even the ladies. The evenings were magnificent. We spent them on deck, never tiring of admiring the glorious sunsets in the clear tropical sky. We all wanted to be there at this awe-inspiring time of day. And even after the sun had totally disappeared, we still gazed on, delightedly identifying all kinds of meaningful shapes and silhouettes in the few clouds away on the horizon.

More than a hundred tropical sunrises and sunsets did I contemplate; and each time the magnificence of Nature gave me a completely new show. On land it is nothing, compared to what the open sea displays, even if the latitudes are the same. Think of a picture as wide as half the world, with every imaginable and unimaginable colour, in brilliant tints of every shade – contrasting, even incompatible (you would think) but blending marvellously in the vivid sky, with a harmony, a perfection that cannot even be described, much less imitated. Mustn’t these be the battlements of your eternal dwelling-place, O God, the gateway to the heavenly Jerusalem, all shining with sapphires and jasper and topaz, with emeralds encased in gold and with purest crystal! But why lavish such priceless art treasures on these remote wastes, O Lord? Why waste them on the farthest oceans, where not a thinking being is present, to contemplate them and adore your mighty power? Ha! Isn’t God rich enough not to have to worry or spare his treasures? And anyway, who can say that all these beauties are not being admired with thanks and adoration by the Angels and the Saints? And then, aren’t the seas made for man also? Are not the sea-lanes his safest routes between distant peoples, prepared by providence, with ever more and more ships moving on them? (p 101)And under the sails of these, are there not human minds and hearts to raise them up to God by contemplating these wonders? Even the least pious among them is obliged to stop and look. And how can he fail to read God’s name written all across the immense vault of the sky, and reflected in the vast sweep of the seas!

During those lovely nights I would gaze with keen interest at the changing stars. I loved to note, each time, how the Pole Star had gone down a bit lower on the horizon and how new stars kept appearing to my eyes, stars never seen in France. But the Southern Pole is relatively bare of constellations. And the interesting Southern Cross cannot compete with our two Bears. It’s not even a well-formed cross either. When someone tells you it’s a cross, you have to wait until it gets high in the sky before you can believe him. Then the make-believe comes easier, and you have to admit that the Southern Cross is a lot more easily recognizable than the Bear or Virgo or Gemini or any of our other northern-named constellations.

During the day we had a few other amusements. Sometimes a shoal of flying-fish takes off from one foaming wave-top to the next. Some of them can not avoid crashing into the ship -or on to it- to the great joy of those who catch them, to have them fried. Sometimes a "lady-fish" gets caught on a hook [but is released again] a grace it owes not to its graceful lines but to its uneatability. Sometimes our eyes follow a huge albatross -5 feet 6 inches in wing-span- or we "pursue" it with a shot-gun. When one of them is landed on the deck it immediately shows all the symptoms and movements of sea-sickness! It pays for its laughable incongruity with the death penalty; its feather-light down will end up replacing the wind-flag, in testimony that our ship has struggled and conquered the Cape of Storms.

Several sharks were caught; and the sailors had no qualms about eating them, even at the risk of thus dining on the substance of their own late colleagues. One day we caught a small one, using a hunk of bacon as bait on a strong hook. Another one, quite huge, was on its trail. The crew went all out to catch it, and all the passengers were fervently hoping they would succeed. They (p 102) promised the sailors they would pay well for the back-bone, since a very distinguished walking stick can be fashioned from it. But the captain refused to give them any more bacon for bait. "Very well", said a sailor, "let's see if the glutton won't swallow a piece of shark instead". They cut the small one in four and put one piece on a hook. No sooner had it hit the water than we saw the monster coming at it, as if still following his faithful but imprudent pilot. We could see every move. He quickly rolled sideways, opened his jaws, showing his four fearsome rows of teeth, and grabbed the perfidious bait. He was caught. He immediately began to thrash about, fighting the hook. They let out the line and gave him plenty to chance to tire himself out. Finally they hoisted him in with pulleys etc. But he still had plenty of fight and strength left in him. He was half out of the water, but it took several men all their time to restrain his wild struggles to escape. They got a strong noose around his tail; (one blow from it would be enough to strike a man dead on the spot). But eventually the weight of his body, during all this fight, tore the hook out of him, and he fell with a mighty splash, leaving nothing on the hook but the piece of his fellow-shark, which he hadn't had time to swallow. Great was the general disappointment! Still, they threw out the same hook again, with the same bait on it. May be this time lucky? Maybe an equally gluttonous shark would grab it? And, believe it or not, before a quarter of an hour, the same shark came at it again, undeterred by the dislocation of his jaws, and got caught of it. This time he was hooked more solidly. He was hoisted out -though not without a struggle- and was landed on to the deck, to expire amid the applause of the victors.

The Sea an endless Desert? Two attitudes.

In spite of all these exciting incidents, it must be said that a sea-farer’s life is rather depressing. Not only on this voyage but on all the subsequent ones, I think I could see that about the only contented people were the ordinary sailors, because usually they have got used to it from childhood and it has become like second nature to them. But, for a man who likes to use his head to think (p 103) to love, the sea is just a frightful empty desert. “Empty desert?” you say. “Can you put a name like that on the imposing, majestic ocean? Haven’t the greatest genuises always celebrated its magnificence! Has not the Royal Prophet sung that God is wonderful in its depths! “Mirabilis in altis Dominus”.

Yes, no doubt. The beauties of the sea are sublime, in themselves. The majestic swell of its waters; the mountainous up-rising of its waves; the infinity of which it is the visible image; the huge vault of heaven resting, whole and entire, all around, on top of the unbroken horizon; the symphony of the stars, whose staggering beauty shines all the clearer by being Nature’s only decoration to be seen there. Yes, indeed, ‘tis beautiful. But, let us face it, the beauty is monotonous. No pleasant visual surprises around the corner; no variation in landscape to charm the weary eye; no new combinations to multiply, diversify and differentiate nature. What you see the first day you see the next. And when you’ve seen them day after day, all these beauties – however real – have nothing more to say, nothing more to say to your blunted imagination.

And so, among the sailors – especially the officers – I’ve seen very few contented with their job. The only thing that makes them continue at it is the bait of gain or their military duty. Even though they might never say it out loud, you can see boredom and distaste written on their faces, sadness drawn in the lines on their foreheads. To give a smile seems a mighty effort for them. If they laugh, it comes out harsh. If they sing – which is rare – it’s always something bawdy or nostalgic. Anger is nearly always simmering in their hearts. Foul words continually soil their lips. The horrible blasphemies spewed out by their mouths are like a filthy stream polluting the purity of the seas.

No doubt there are exceptions, naval officers who are gentle, virtuous and chaste; and those on the “Pauline” were not the models for the portrait just sketched. But in general, what a depressing spectacle is the life of a sailor, almost entirely deprived of Christian feeling! For them indeed, the sea is just a frightful desert; for they do not feel there the presence of God, the unseen witness of their blasphemies and curses. Obedient to the point of slavery before a pitiless captain who treats them with all the (p 104) harshness of severe discipline, it is only towards God that they show neither obedience nor fear. They blaspheme against you without shame, O my God, You who are so good to those who serve You, who rule with such gentleness and love.

And yet what merits they would obtain if only they were sincerely Christian! For a sailor’s life is a life of privation, sacrifices and suffering. Sweet sleep is often snatched from him at night. What happens to him if a storm comes up, rain and hail slashing down amidst the howling gale? In every other job, people hurriedly take shelter. But, for the sailor, this is the very time he has to leave his cabin and face into the roughest of labours under the cruellest kinds of weather. Alas, these weary vigils are not offered to You, O my God. They pass with no merit. And more often than not, they are marred by cursing complaints, or by disordered yearnings after corruption. The night is in the middle of its course; the bell rings; it’s time to change the fourth watch. Some sailors rise up immediately, as prompt as monks in a cloister. But their hearts don’t rise up to God. They may merely be humming a bawdy tune to rouse their sleepy members. The others flop down, swearing, on to a filthy bunk, without thinking even once to thank the Lord for bringing them safely through their watch. If only they could exchange their impious songs for holy hymns, and could offer up to God the hardness of their resting-place and the long nights without sleep, they would be so precisely implementing our Good Master’s command: Watch and pray! Poor wretches! They live and die, sometimes, without a single prayer for years and years, without once having done vigil for the love of God.

These reflections have often come to me during a fine night at sea, alone on the prow, thinking of the hard life on the ocean wave. But, to [the sailors] who know and love You, O my God, You send down special graces to help them in this monotonous and weary life. True, they are deprived of many sweet consolations: sacred hymns to revive the sentiments of faith with harmonious melody; the touching ceremonies of the liturgy; the good example of the faithful hurrying to your holy places on the feast- days, crowding around your altars to make a happy exchange: their prayers for your blessings; or grouped around the pulpit of (p 105) truth to hear the explanation of your holy word, round the table of the altar to receive the bread of life. This privation is especially hard on them: they are starving for the bread of angels…23 It must sometimes seem to them that You have distanced yourself away from them, far off like the distant land, which their eyes can seek in vain for months on end. There they can only go in spirit, to join their fortunate brothers adoring you in the blessed tabernacles where you deign to dwell for their consolation. How they would love to converse nearer with you there and, in the ineffable outpourings of sacramental union, to tell you how they yearn to be united with you forever in Heaven! But meanwhile, they are not down-hearted. They know that you fill all things with your presence, and that You look and see everything that is happening under the skies. “Omnia quae sub caelo sunt respicit”. The noise of the waves does not prevent them hearing your voice in the depth of their soul. For you speak to the heart in its solitude; you have said it, Lord, yourself.

Yes, my God, in the solitude of the seas your voice resounds as clearly as in the cloister's cell. When the weary soul complains lovingly to you about being abandoned, you say but a word; and that word is like an arrow, going straight to the heart; and the heart understands you. Then is the sea no longer dumb; it echoes that precious word in its every tone. The movement of the sea proclaims your power, and every wave repeats your Name. Even the depths are less inexhaustible than the abundance of your Mercy, less deep than even the heart of man himself, which you alone can fathom. And the melancholy feeling of the sea's emptiness hints at the nothingness of everything that is not you. And then this empty feeling becomes a burning desire to possess you at last, to see you without a veil between, to love you without ever having to fear that love could cease. One look at the heavens will revive the [good sailor's] hope of being one day united with You in the real Heaven, of which this shining dome is only a feeble image -just as the shining phosphorescent wake of the ship through the dark night's hemisphere is the image of the "narrow (p 106) way of the Gospel, leading there through the darkness of this world. And so Faith can find you here with no difficulty, can recognise you, embrace you; follow you with a charity beyond all other loves.

Moral Problem: Mass on Board?

During this voyage we had the consolation of being able to say Mass a few times. But, I would almost prefer we didn't. First of all, it was not quite certain that we had permission. As there were two other priests on board, I had to accept their view that we had it, by custom at least. This word "custom" has always grated badly on my ears. Who can know what abuses it covers up -starting with the abuse of "custom" itself! Still, it appeared really probable that we had the right to say Mass. But in the actual circumstances we were in, I thought it would be more fitting not to make use of it.

When everything is well arranged so that sacred things can be treated sacredly, Mass on board ship can be very decently celebrated, with much benefit for the crew and the passengers. If there was a little chapel, I would see nothing wrong if priests celebrated even every day out of devotion. (Weather permitting, of course). Normally, no accidents need be feared. They can easily be forestalled, even in a heavy sea, especially when there are two priests there. Indeed, when the personnel are very well-disposed, it is certain that a Mass on board is of great consolation. And, provided it is legitimately authorised, I can see nothing against celebrating the Holy Sacrifice at least every Sunday, in a common-room temporarily re-arranged for the august Ceremony. But on a merchant ship, when the captain seems to make it a big deal to even allow you to say Mass, when nothing external is there to show the respect due to the Sacred Mysteries! Nonchalantly (if I can so express it) to bring the God of all-purity down into a place where, just before, abominations were being committed, or where curses and blasphemies can ring out any minute! Down among people whom we sometimes ought to hide our (p 107) mysteries from; because sometimes they quite literally do not know the difference between the Bread of Angels and common bread! I do not think all that can be pleasing to God. Nor can it be very edifying to those poor people with no faith. What kind of an idea can they get about the august and awesome Sacrifice, there, crammed up against the altar -from which their unworthiness ought to distance them respectfully- with the priest just about able to keep his balance and his dignity, wobbling on his legs, chopping the rubrics, forcibly distracted from quiet prayer, and thus giving such a poor example of recollection?

Nor could I think much better of another method used by missionaries in similar circumstances: locking themselves in a cabin and saying Mass just for themselves. People are almost bound to know they are celebrating Mass; and anyway I think it is not treating the Sacred Mysteries with sufficient respect. It is not to be compared with the pious and praiseworthy practice of mis-sionaries on land: celebrating Mass every day, wherever they find themselves in their mission territory, making wide use of their permission to say Mass underground, or in the open air, or in any decent place. The difference is this: the situation of the missionary on land is permanent; and without Mass he would be deprived of his principal source of spiritual strength. But sea-travelling is transitional (unless you were a chaplain; and then you’d have a chapel). So unless one can celebrate really decently on board, I think one should do without one’s own personal consolation for the sake of the dignity due to the awesome Sacrifice. [It may be objected that] a missionary can celebrate in any place. Yes, “provided the place be decent”. And what place could be more un-decent than a [merchant] ship, where nothing is well-disposed for celebrating the Sacred Mysteries? Maybe a pagan temple would be slightly more unsuitable; but that’s about the only place I can think of. Even if a missionary was for a very long time to be deprived of the happiness of saying Mass, I believe he would still have to abstain entirely if the only way he could do it was in the presence of pagans. Well, it seems to me that Christians who don’t even know what the adorable Eucharist is can hardly be considered much above the level of pagans. And yet they are let in right beside the altar, elbowing the priest who is holding up the (p 108) Sacred Victim.

On the “Pauline”, we were not quite that badly off. Our captain was not completely without religion. Only he did not order any external signs of respect for it. But he allowed us to celebrate Mass on Sundays in the principal salon. As for the passengers, they were, at the very least, polite. Those who were not assisting at the Mass would withdraw to the far deck, or to their cabins. Two of the ladies volunteered to decorate the altar. With white sheets and some kind of red cloth, they constructed a quite passable back-drop and surround for the altar. .. They also invented a rather elegant tabernacle, which we embellished with our [artificial] flower-garlands and the ladies’ bouquets. In short, the wardroom was instantly transformed into a fairly decent-looking oratory. Nevertheless, everything considered, I do not applaud myself for having said Mass there. And, later on in the voyage I de-cided to abstain.

Rounding the Stormy Cape.

Mauritius Ahead (but where?).

Anyway, this Sunday Mass became impossible once we got near the Cape of Good Hope. The sea was so rough that we could hardly keep our feet on the deck. Sometimes, hand-rails of rope had to be stretched there, so that you could hang on to them so as not to be pitched into the sea by the violence of the wind or by a sudden lurch of the ship. Still, this was not yet a real storm. The wind, though very strong, was steady. And our officers were de-lighted with our speed. But the waves were like mountains. At one moment the ship was on a summit. The next, she was sucked down into a steep valley into which it seemed she must surely bury herself under an avalanche of foaming sea pouring down on her from all sides -until, suddenly, she was rising again, to the crest of another mountain. 'Twas one of the most spectacular scenes you could ever see. But, to enjoy it, you needed a sound stomach. Although they had long ago got over their sea-sickness, most of the passengers were again troubled by it, rounding the Cape. Even (p 109) the officers were not entirely immune. Myself, I felt no trouble, and I was able to enjoy the whole mighty show at my ease. In the midst of the convulsions by the mountains and canyons, it was not easy to keep track of two whales playing and diving in this upheaval, which they seemed to think a nice peaceful day for their frolics. They came quite near, but I got only a passing glimpse of them. The previous evening we had a much better view of a fleet of whales, repeatedly giving their position away by a series of water-spouts shot into the sky.

Once we were round the Cape a bit, the seas became less mountainous, though the wind stayed very strong. Fortunately it also stayed favourable in direction. But now we hardly ever saw the sun. And by the time we got near Mauritius island (our first landing-place) we hadn’t had a glimpse of it for three whole days. Our position could be calculated only roughly, from the chronometer and the ship’s log. And yet it was vital to know our latitude exactly, lest we miss the island entirely. For it would be very hard to turn back towards it, against the wind. True, we had spotted certain birds24 which indicated that we were close to land. But what side was it on? Thick clouds covered the whole horizon; and fog, rising like steam, cut down visibility. We had reduced our speed somewhat, the evening before. At 3 in the morning, the night sky cleared a little and we were hoping to be able to calculate our latitude exactly by the moon over the meridian. (If that failed, the captain had made up his mind to stop, at least until noon next day, hoping to find the sun again). So we were up on the deck, sextant in hand (I had my own, and sometimes I used to work out our position, just for fun) trying desperately to get a line on the moon through the clouds. All of a sudden, up on the crow’s-nest, a cabin-boy shouted “land ho!” We all stood on tip-toes, trying to get a glimpse of this Promised Land. Soon after, it was confirmed: the Island of Mauritius. From that moment, we considered we had arrived. And soon the sun made a point of coming out, letting us fully enjoy the approaches to the island. (p 110) The whole day long, all eyes stayed fixed on it. Various facts and events about its history were passed around; and our French hearts felt down and out, to see the English flag flying over its forts. History’s memories were mingled with those of Romance; for how could you sail into the “Ile de France” without hearing the story of “Paul et Virginie”? By five in the evening we were drop-ping anchor at Port Louis.

Musings in the Harbour

Most of the passengers went ashore immediately. Fr Triboulot and I stayed on board. We had no acquaintances on the island, and had got no letters of introduction; for we thought we would be sailing direct to Bourbon25 to wait there for a ship going to Pondicherry. We just planned to go ashore next morning, to celebrate Mass. In the meantime we were quite content to stay where we were and give thanks to God for such a good voy-age up to here. In the evening, after enjoying the delightful sound of the Angelus bells, I wrote the following lines:

“So here it is, Lord: land; so long out of our sight. Not the same land, indeed; not France. But it’s still your land, your footstool, your dwelling-place. Your immensity fills the whole universe with your presence. And here also, no doubt, is built your Tabernacle where You dwell corporeally under the veil of the Sacred Mysteries, which we will go to celebrate tomorrow. We praise you, Lord; we bless you; for your hand has led us safe and sound through the dangers of the sea, into harbour. May it lead us also to the safe harbour of eternity! Oh, when will we come there, Lord, to that port of everlasting felicity which is none other than yourself! Whether sooner or later, Lord, let it be just as you shall will. May your holy will be done in all things! I do not ask to get there soon, but only sure. Perhaps I will still have to wander far and wide over this world of exile, or to work and suffer, my heart (p 111) bruised, or hurt or broken perhaps, my soul overwhelmed with sadness. Very well, my God. I accept them all-those journeyings, labours, sufferings, heart-breaks. I offer them to you. Make them fruitful for your love. Meanwhile, I am not yet at the destination of even this, my first voyage. There is another ocean still to cross, from Africa to Asia, to where your voice is calling me. May your hand lead me there, O my God, just as it has led me this far. Tomorrow we shall go to renew this prayer in your holy temple, at the foot of your sacred altar”.

Looking back, I do not know why I presumed that there was going to be "sadness of soul" and "heart-breaks". For I had as yet come across nothing to make me even think of such things. Possibly it was the over-all, vague presentiment I had got at the Foreign Missions Seminary. Or maybe some snatches of conversation from the passengers, giving me less than great expectations about the state of our holy Religion in the colonies. Whatever be their source, these sad forebodings came true only too much, O my God!. .. - No! I go too far! "Too much". That's the whine of nature. Rather: not enough, O my God! Not if it is your pleasure, to sanctify me by heart -aches!

Port-Louis. Catching a Quicker Ship.

About Local Clergy.

By five next mornings we were at the church door. But it was closed. After kneeling on the steps and saying a brief prayer, we stepped out from the town for a short walk, to stretch our legs and admire the vegetation, so new and strange to our eyes, so different from the fields of our birth-place. The town, however, first attracted our interest, by its novelty. The houses were small and low, but elegantly built and remarkably neat and clean outside. Nearly all had a little adjoining garden, of wonderful green-ness in the heart of winter. (For we were in the Southern hemisphere now, and our summer was their “winter”). The streets were straight and tree-shaded. But what struck us most was to see them full of men with black skins, or rather bronze. Some of them (p 112) (especially the Indians) had hardly any clothes on. “There are the people we are soon going to start evangelising” we said to each other … “Let’s go back and pray the Lord to bless our ministry”, chimed in Fr Triboulot. And so we went back to the church. There we met His Lordship the Vicar Apostolic, and he welcomed us with truly apostolic charity. Our missionary letters brought immediate permission to say Holy Mass. And he invited us to breakfast afterwards.

How good to find a church and priests after such a long absence of them! How delightful to find an altar and be able to draw strength for the rest of the voyage from the very Source of Life. “Get up and eat, for there is still a long way to go”. It felt like my first Mass since leaving France. (For I do not want to count the two times on board, as they gave me more conscience-pain than consolation). It was the Octave of Sts Peter and Paul. What joy to read in the Divine Office: “Behold, we have left all things and followed You. What therefore shall we have?”. And Jesus said to them: “ … Everyone who has left home, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall have everlasting life”. And also: “Their voice has gone out to the whole world, and their words to the ends of the earth”. Ah! Lord. This word has come true; it was so obvious there! For there we were, at one of the ends of the earth, ourselves. And among those present at the Mass were faces which reminded us how the power of your Cross was drawing all peoples to itself. Yet, how many lands there still are where your Name is hardly even known! How many where your holy Word is ignored or corrupted! With this in mind, I addressed this prayer to You that day, during my thanksgiving after Mass:

“Send me, O my God, send me, all unworthy as I am to share in the work of the Apostles. But give me your grace so that, following the Apostles, my voice may teach the nations, that they may embrace your holy law”.

And now, at this moment [1855] I address this same prayer to You, O my God. Let the Holy Father just say the word, to permit me -for today I need express permission- and I will immediately set out again for the missions, under the protection of your good Angel. (p 113)

At Mauritius the church workers asked us many questions. And one of them told us that, if we were bound for Pondicherry, we had no need to go on to Bourbon (and probably have to wait a long time there to get transport). For there was a ship here in Port Louis which was going to set sail [for Pondicherry] inside a few hours. I was vesting for Mass when I heard that. I thought fast. Indeed, this would save a lot of precious time! But how could we be ready in a few hours? We had a great amount of luggage on board, for ourselves and for Pondicherry Mission. To go, come, disembark, re-embark, get our passports etc. -all that would take a lot more than a few hours. All the same, I didn't want to have to reproach myself for neglecting such a golden opportunity. So, without unvesting, I immediately wrote a note to the captain of the ship concerned: If he could delay his departure until the next day, he would have two more passengers. After breakfast with the Bishop and his priests, we went to the shipping-office, spoke to the Captain direct, went to look at the ship and found it very suitable. Everything was satisfactorily arranged for the morrow. We went back to the "Pauline", but only to take off our luggage. We were not even able to see the captain. We'd have liked to thank him for all his kindness to us during the voyage. But only the second-in-command was on board. That same evening, we went to sleep on board our new ship.

“O admirable providence of my God”, went that evening’s entry. “You are full of kindness to us. Ah! Here I can spot the thoughtfulness of a good father, leading his children by the hand. Let others call it “chance”, this happy convergence of circumstances. Let them call it “luck” this great advantage given to us, of not losing a single day, although every natural indication was that we would be stuck in these parts for more than two months. As for me, Lord, I don’t want to call it anything but the pure effect of your merciful kindness to us. In it I see the finger of your hand, guiding us. And so I hope more and more to be within the path your holy will has traced out for me, since You are smoothing the route like this. Thus we shall arrive a lot earlier at our post. Grant, Lord, that thereby we shall start working sooner for your glory, for the salvation of those You are to save”.

(p 114) On the 5th [July] we again had the happiness of saying Holy Mass and meeting the worthy Bishop26 . As on the previous day, he shared with us the difficulties he had to overcome, trying to do some good on this island, from the Christian point of view a very wretched place. Communications between Mauritius and Bourbon are very frequent: whatever happens on one is quickly known on the other. So we also spoke of the state of religion on Bourbon, which isn't much more consoling -perhaps even worse. Slavery had not yet been abolished on Bourbon. Some blamed the French government for not having yet wiped out this scourge of mankind in its colonies. But others complained that on Mauritius, the blacks did not make very good use of their freedom. For my part, I could not refrain from praising the English government for the example it had given. Such a sudden social change must inevitably have some bad results. Stability would take some time. But could anything be worse than the state of degradation in which the greed of the colonists kept the slaves? If there were enough good clergy, the emancipation of the slaves would have been salutary for them in all respects. Anyway, what harm would self-deter-mination do to their souls? Had their masters ever had the slightest concern about their salvation?

Unfortunately, the colonial clergy has been very far from facing up to its mission. Nowadays, it seems, things are slightly better. At Mauritius the good bishop at that period was doing all he could to repair the scandals of the past. He was greatly helped, as regards the ministry to the blacks, by a holy priest of the Sacred Heart of Mary27 . Unfortunately he was very short of priests; and he had to be very cautious about some of the ones who offered to come and work in his vineyard! At Bourbon also, the establish-ment of a bishopric must also help to improve the religious situation. But as long as there are only missionaries as priests -as long as there is no local clergy- don't expect to see religion flourishing.

Unhappy the country which has no priests except missionaries. ( p 115) Either there are no Christians there (and what could be more unhappy than that?) or else they are just vegetating. A flock that their pastor can’t know exactly how to feed. For even if he distributes nothing but the best of food to them, he does not know how to cook and present it to their taste. And what if the pastor is not good! And it’s in the colonies, especially, that you’re likely to meet mercenary ones.

Nothing is so noble as the life of a true missionary. But he does not deserve the name unless his life is all devotedness. A priest leaving his country for distant lands - if he does it for any natural motives whatever - may indeed have the paper qualification "apostolic missionary". But he is very far from sharing in the work of the apostles. Now the set-up in the colonies, unfortunately, offered many priests whose vocations were very dubious a chance to follow their unclerical pursuits. The colonies were a kind of refuge for sinners. Others who were too incompetent to receive ordination in Europe got in there. Others again -let's face it - found the colonies good places for getting rich quick and for easy living. Could a clergy like that maintain the honour of religion? Could it win any respect for the holy morality of the Gospel? Especially among a people who, even more than others, needed to be preached to by example? This clerical situation had to produce scandal. It duly happened; and the harm went deep. The very extremity of the evil seems to have opened people's eyes at last; and the evil is now not so great as before. A salutary reform was already under way in Mauritius at the time I was there. The pious co-operation of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Mary must have borne abundant fruit, especially among the blacks. Since these Fathers have also taken on the direction of the Holy Ghost Seminary in Paris, it can be assumed that they will take gre-ater care than before in examining the qualifications of the "apos-tolic workers" (for so they were called) being sent to Bourbon. And the regular establishment of a Bishop for the island (with the agreement of the French government) is a further powerful hope for a salutary reform of the clergy. Nevertheless, do not imagine that perfection can ever be attained - I do not mean absolute perfection, for where can that be found? I mean the degree of perfection possible - it will never be attained until the bishops of these (p 116) places have their own clergy, for the most part born in the country, either from among long established families there, or (for coloured communities) from among the blacks.

I took the liberty of putting this view to the pious Bishop, our host. He gave a sigh and said: “Turn to ecclesiastical history and you will see this truth: God has always used foreigners to convert peoples, but never to bring religion to full fruition and stability among them”, I retained these words of his, for they were exactly in line with my own sentiments; also because they came from a pontiff who seemed to me deeply pious. His modesty had made a great impression on me; and he seemed painfully concerned about the dismal condition of his flock. And still I don’t think they have yet done anything along those lines on Mauritius, and probably not on Bourbon, either. My God, how it that almost everybody is notionally agreed on this point, and that almost everybody has in practice agreed to do nothing about it? May be You have enabled us, O my God, to discover some of the causes behind this deadly contradiction [between theory and practice]. We will point them out later on.

There is another sad problem for religion in these colonies. When the slaves were emancipated, the settlers had to bring in labourers, from India, China, Malaysia etc. Among these workers – especially among the Indians – there are many Christians; and no-one to look after them, no priests who know their language. Why are there no Indian priests? Some of them could be sent here to minister spiritually to their own people. For it would be very hard to expect the priests in these colonies to learn the languages of these diverse peoples. And yet there are not only Christians to be preserved from loss, but pagans to be converted. Probably more easily than in India itself, because here they are outside the domination of the Family, less tied up with Caste traditions.

[*Mauritius: Money. Buildings. An old Sea-dog. *]

These reflections were already with me, vaguely, when I stopped off at Mauritius. Later on, experience came, and it (p 117) confirmed them. I was sorry our new ship was leaving so soon. I’d have loved to spend four or five days on Mauritius, to get to know the island better, both geographically and morally speaking. I was also sorry we were not stopping off at Bourbon, especially as I had a strong invitation there from the Prefect Apostolic (then at Paris, staying at the Foreign Missions Seminary). He had even given me some messages to do there. But our duty commanded us to use the opportunity offered [by the unexpected ship]. We were only able to admire [Bourbon] in passing – or rather to admire, by contrast, how fortunate the English are, to have possession of the Ile de France [Mauritius]. There they have a magnificent harbour, whereas at Bourbon we have only a miserable jetty.

There were plenty of ships [at Mauritius] and trading was brisk. But there was a strange scarcity of coins in the place. I had never imagined what a problem the lack of minted money could cause in a country. More than twenty people came to us, begging us to change bank-notes, to give them the small sum of money we were about to pay in for our passage on the ship, in exchange for their bank-notes. We obliged a few of these people. The bank-notes had a severely limited negotiability on the island; but we could get rid of them immediately by paying them over to the shipping company.

Prices seemed exorbitant to us. We reckoned that the five-franc piastre was hardly worth more than twenty sous in France. Fortunately, we didn't have to stay at the hotel. That would have cost us at least 7 piastres a day: 2 for lunch, 3 for dinner, 2 for accommodation. To get back to the ship in the harbour, we had to give the boatman two (or even three) piastres. When things are like that, what's the use of having lots of money? Money has no real value except what it represents [in purchasing power]. Thus, you would suddenly become a lot less rich than you first appeared, if you went to England, or to any other place where money is very plentiful. There, the middle class -and especially the lowest classis in real trouble; a lot worse off than elsewhere. In India, before the English administration took over, a poor labourer, with his daily wage of four sous, was actually better off than a navvy in the Paris area, with his three or four francs a day.

The town of Port Louis had no really fine buildings, I (p 118) thought. The governor’s palace is not bad. The exterior seemed elegant, but not very imposing. The Catholic Church is all right outside. But inside, it’s an architectural mess. It is much too small for the population; and this has necessitated the construction of big side galleries, which completely ruin it. The priests were living with the Vicar Apostolic, in a rather cramped building near the church.

At Mauritius all the fruits of India can be grown; but the season was nearly over. We only got guavas and bananas. I thought guava tasted awful, and I have never managed to get to like it. I didn’t think much of bananas either; but later on I came to think they are excellent to eat.

But anyway, we had to leave. We called on the French consular agent. He had seen from our passports that we were bound for Pondicherry, and he said he would like to see us. He wanted to ask about Fr. Tesson. He had, as a ship’s captain, made his acquaintance at sea, and he remembered him with great admiration. He spoke warmly of his wide knowledge and culture. Such is the effect of a good clerical education on men of the world. Fr. Tesson, indeed, has a good knowledge of subjects outside the ken of most priests – mathematics, physics, and astronomy – and these would be likely to impress a sea-faring man. The old sea-dog liked to tell everyone he met: “Not all priests are imbeciles. Why, I had one on my ship, and he knew more than me!”

The “Caroline” Voyage. Her Funny Captain, etc.

We were a few hours out from Mauritius, and the island was no more than a speck on the horizon. Soon we had lost it entirely from view. Our new ship the “Caroline” was cutting along beautifully. She had no cargo on aboard, and the wind was most favourable. The captain, an excellent friendly chap, was a young scatterbrain. A very skilful sea-man, but his reckless imprudence was enough to scare the wits out of anyone not visibly under the special guiding hand of Providence, like us. Just two examples of his (p 119) style of navigation: Written in big letters on the ceiling of the ward-room I noticed the inscription WIND THE CHRONOMETER! I asked him what this strange notice was all about. “Oh, that?”, he nonchalantly replied. “That was put up there recently by a nervous windy passenger. Because every now and then (it happens every trip) I just happen to forget to wind the ship’s chronometer”. Again: He had never been to Pondicherry, and yet he never once bothered to read up the approaches and the mooring directions. One day I was reading them, just out of interest. “Ah! That’s good”, he said. “Now I won’t have to read all that stuff myself. You will be able to tell me what the land-marks are, and what things it says to avoid”. Would to God he was as good a Christian as he was a good fellow to get on with. Unfortu-nately, his religious indifference was bordering on the impious. This was the main reason why we could not say Mass on board. Not that he forbade us. We just did not ask him. For certainly neither he nor any of the crew would have attended. And we were the only European passengers.

. In fact the only other passengers were an old mulatto, living with the crew (we didn’t know if he was a Catholic) and two Indians and two Chinese. These had their own little household arrangements in the hold. We used to call to see them now and then. And Fr Triboulot, in his zeal, would try to discuss religion with them. Not by speech; just by sign language. God will reward him, no doubt, for his good-will; but there was never any indication that he managed to instil the slightest glimmer of interest in Christianity in them.

This voyage was just as lucky as the previous one. Near the Line [the equator] we were afraid of getting into calm. But a light breeze soon came up; and the sea-currents also helped us out. [We were well out from land all the time]. We barely caught a glimpse of the tips of a few coco-nut trees in the distance, rooted near the water on the low-lying Maldive Islands. We passed Ceylon too far out to see anything or even to smell the famous “perfumed air” from its aromatic plants which (they say) always informs the navigator’s nose that he is nearing that island –pure (p 120) poetic fiction or mistaken imagination. No great event came to break the monotony of the voyage (except that we caught an enormous porpoise, and [rescued] a poor madman who got hauled aboard by his hand, caught from the end of the mizzen mast.) In spite of the monotony, we were full of joy and hope. Each day, the ship’s estimated “run” kept telling us that we were rapidly getting nearer our destination. A few days before sighting it, I said to You, O my God: “Grant that, borne on your angels’ wings, we may soon arrive there, and that we may be there for your glory”.

Coming in to Pondicherry

Well, on the 24th July, daylight had barely appeared when a strange, unaccustomed sound came to my ears. I went up to see what it was -and we were near land! Our position was quickly checked. Yes, we were on the right road! Very soon we were making out the landmarks for Pondicherry. Before we could get in close, scores of boats of various kinds - catamarans, etc - were making for our ship, from all directions on the coast. We soon heard the piercing cries of the boatmen. And then we could see them clearly -not without some astonishment, for they were totally naked except for the tiniest possible concession to modesty. (Later on, our eyes were to get quite used to this nakedness, so common in India, and much less of a problem than you might think, probably because of the bronzed colour of the inhabitants' skin, which somehow gives the impression of a closely-fitting gar-ment). We could hardly see the city at all, hidden as it was behind the dense foliage of the trees lining the streets. But the lighthouse, the customs building, the governor's palace and the dome of the Mission church now stood out more distinctly, re-assuring us that, yes indeed, we were coming in to Pondicherry! Our hearts beat with joy. I wrote in my diary:

“God be praised! Here we are at last, in the harbour! In a few hours’ time, we will be embracing our confreres. So there you are, before my eyes, Pondicherry, goal of our ardent desires, capital of the Mission to which the Lord is calling us! What strange new (p 121) things catch our eyes here! This unbroken coastline with the surf roaring and crashing on the sand, all along, at the foot of those coconut-trees leaning their heads in over the waves! These count-less boats criss-crossing by us on every side! These double logs joined by a single tie-rod, and the reckless fishermen diving from them into the open sea! The men themselves, so utterly different from us in their colour and their ways! .. But this is not the time for stopping and staring. All these wonders we will have plenty of time to figure out and observe in detail later. For now our eyes are fixed unswerving on the city, to see where our confreres live, seeking above all to discover Your House, O Lord, and to adore You from here in your holy Temple. Where is it? Our Fathers in Paris told us the Mission Church dominates the city. Oh, there it is, isn’t it -that dome with the little tower near it, under construction! No doubt about it that must be your church, Lord. Accept our adoration, now, in union with our pious confreres and the Indian Christians, who are probably filling your House at this very hour, for it is Sunday.

But now they are dropping the anchor! Under the mantle of your Providence You have led us here, Lord, made our way easy, held back the storms, given wings to our sails commanded the winds and the waves! Accept the thanksgivings of your lowliest children. And you, holy Angels who accompanied and protected us in this entire long journey, accept our grateful homage too. And you, Angels of these lands, of our Mission, angels of our churches, angels in the skies over them, I greet you now. Be favourable to us. Draw down the blessings of the Eternal One. Obtain for us that, in this land of voluntary exile, we may be able to do something for His glory. Amen. Amen”.

We had hoped to get ashore in time for Mass, but it was nearly eleven when they dropped anchor. And, although a long-boat came immediately with customs officers, the formalities took so long that it was after twelve by the time we were able to set foot on the land. As none of our confreres could have been notified, there was nobody there to meet us. The port officer gave us a peon28 to lead us to the missionaries’ house. (p 122)

Lively Indian Welcome: Carriers, Children, Confreres

Immediately, we found ourselves surrounded by a mob of Indians, all shouting different things at us. We hardly understood a word, though several spoke a bit of French. One of them takes a trunk on his head, another parcel under his arm; another seizes an umbrella, another a book. And there they are, all loaded, heading for the Mission, like a line of ants changing domicile, and all beckoning us to follow. Meanwhile a swarm of children in short calico coats -a white cloth around the waist, the front of it almost down to their feet but the back hitched up above the calves, with turbans on their heads and Turkish slippers on their feet-surrounded us. They got out a few sentences in French. "Me Christian, mon père. Go mission school. You a priest, mon père? Come, mon père. That churches ours. Bishop will very happy. He in church now". While these went along conversing with us, other children, more fleet of foot and less handicapped by clothes (for theirs were reduced to their simplest mathematical expression) had gone running before us. They burst into the court-yard where our good confreres were peacefully taking their after-dinner recreation, and gleefully shouted "pudun samyar! Pudu samyar!" (Rough translation: new priests, or new missionaries). The Fathers couldn't believe it. They had just been talking about us, saying we must be at Bourbon about now, and maybe they might be seeing us in one or two months' time. At this point in the confusion, we arrived in, and they saw that they were not being misinformed after all.

No need to say we were warmly welcomed by our dear confreres. Bishop Bonnand, the Vicar Apostolic, was in their midst.29 (p 123) We hurriedly knelt for his blessing and were quickly in his arms, exchanging the kiss of peace. “With a holy kiss”. Then we embraced our dear confreres. Right away, we all went to the church to praise and bless the Lord. I was struck by the beauty of the church; it would be remarkable even in France. With what great emotion, Lord (I seem to recall) did we give thanks for the happy conclusion of our voyage. Then we all got together as comrades, and got down to a long conversation about the Paris Seminary, and how things were in France.

(p 124)

(p 125)

Our first few days we spent getting to know the place. No sooner had we landed than all the travel fatigue left us. (In actual fact, it was about nil). That very evening, we took part in Vespers, and were delighted by hearing them so perfectly chanted by the Indians. Afterwards, we met the students from the “Seminary” (if the miserable college of that time can be so called). With them we went out immediately to see the Christian community at Nellitope about two miles from Pondicherry. There we were pleasantly sur-prised to see the almost completed building of a magnificent new church. The road to Nellitope was absolutely beautiful. Wonderful tropical30 trees, with luxuriant foliage and lovely big yellow blossoms, lined the route (and also the city streets and suburbs). We drank coconut juice for the first time. It made me sick. (Later on I found it less awful. But, to tell the truth, it’s a fairly dismal drink at any time. The nut itself is better, especially if you get it at the right consistency, about the same as the white of a boiled egg).

(p 126) The following days, we visited the other outskirts of the city. Under the blazing sky, they were all beautifully shaded by the rich vegetation. Nature is wonderful! She has special trees for the hot countries; the burning heat of the sun seems only to make them greener. Most of them, it is true, require a lot of water. [But some are designed to do almost entirely without it]. There are numerous cactus-like plants -and even quite big trees- which seem to have no need at all of their roots except as supports -to fix them to the ground and resist the force of the winds. Their main nourishment is absorbed through pores and suckers, especially on the leaves.They never lose them all, but they shed masses of them in the rainy season [when they need them less]. Such, for example, is the famous "Indian Oak"(alamaram) 31 also called “Indian fig tree”. (There is a bit more sense in that name. But in fact it bears no resemblance either to the oak or the fig). Some of its roots hang down from the higher branches, like ropes, until they reach the ground. There they dig in, and give rise to a new trunk; and so on, until the same tree has extended itself over a huge area by its various new trunks.This “tree” gives excellent shade. It is often planted beside the roads, to shade the travellers. During the hottest and dryest months, it keeps all its verdant style on show. But when the rains come, it sheds nearly all its leaves. [It is a very solid job of multiple constructions]. The system’s roots spread out laterally, like its branches, which start very low above the ground. Sometimes – but only rarely – a very violent gust of wind will man-age to tear out some of it. Then a whole piece of the system will lift (p 127) out – roots, earth and all – like an enormous piece of cake. And it will stay up in the air like that for years, still alive, as long as some part of the system is still rooted in the ground.

In general, however, there is plenty of vegetation only where there is plenty of water. But the Indians have brought the art of irrigating the fields to a high degree of perfection. There is no river that is not made to irrigate a vaste expanse of countryside as well – sometimes entire kingdoms; no pond that is not utilised to moisten an area proportionate to the volume of water it can catch during the rains. Moreover, there are the wells, deep and wide; they can serve quite large fields. The Pondicherry area, almost all of it rice-paddies, is watered from a big swampy lake. Although this is in English Company territory, there is an agreement about the irrigation of the French possessions.

The fact is, the borders of France don’t stretch very far, out here. Half-an-hour’s walk in the direction of Madras will take you into “England”. In the other directions, you will hardly need more than an hour and a half, or two hours. When you think of the history of our possessions in India, and of all the valour that France (or rather the Frenchmen in the situation) deployed in fighting for them … When you think that all it needed was a small bit more practical common-sense by the French government at the time, in order to back up the men on the spot, fighting for the glory of France and her welfare … And when you think that she could now possess all the territory occupied by England – You cannot avoid a feeling of loss, salted by a certain amount of humiliation. For, by the time I got there and during all my time in India, France was very small fry indeed, compared to England, in the public opinion all over those vast territories. Perhaps, today, opinion has changed somewhat [in favour of France]. For European news can now be known all over India with the greatest of ease, down to the least details. So they know, for example, what is going on in the Crimea.

Political and Ecclesiastical Complications

The city of Pondicherry is divided into two very distinct and (p 128) different parts. The first, along the sea-front, is mainly inhabited by the Europeans and their descendants, more or less pure-blooded. It is called the “white town”. The second is principally inhabited by Indians; it is called the “black town” or the “Malabar” town.

(This word “Malabar” should, correctly, be used only about the West coast of South India. Pondicherry is on the Corormandel [East] coast. But Europeans frequently use “Malabar” to refer to all South India. Thus, by “Malabaris”, they often mean just “Indians” (especially castes other than pariahs). By “Malabar” languages, customs, rites, they often refer [wrongly] to languages, customs or rites which have nothing whatever to do with the real Malabar Coast inhabitants. Sheer force of habit will probably make ourselves use the word “Malabar” in the same way, with its commonly accepted [and inaccurate] meaning).

Pondicherry's white town is well built, spacious and airy. The houses are fine and comfortable, the streets well planned and lined with trees. A very beautiful promenade sweeps along the sea-front and. connects up with the fine roads (also tree-lined) going around the black town and branching off in various directions. Indeed, all these roads are beautiful promenades or avenues. The black town is one of the finest in India, much cleaner and better planned than what is usual in this country. As well as being shaded by trees, nearly every house has a peristyle [or verandah] facing the street. Under these structures, work -less Indians spend a great part of their day (and often the whole night). Usually, the colonnade is not very elegant. More often than not, it is just a line of poles rather poorly finished. Sometimes these are carved with some skill and style, although always in a crude manner. The taller and finer houses have remarkable peristyles; but that is not generally where Indian luxury shows itself off. Whether big or small, the houses are always square and they nearly always follow the same plan and lay-out of rooms: in the centre an interior courtyard open to the sky; from this comes all the light getting into the rooms (usually window-less). All the rooms are perfectly orientated. In the darkest corner of them you will hear the smallest children directing you "east, west, north, north-west" etc., where we would say "to the left", or "right" or just "over (p 129) there”. Especially because it would often be vary bad manners to say “left” or “right” in India. (We will see why, perhaps, when we come to speak about the castes). No need to say that, in the white town and in the black town, fire-places and chimneys are unheard of!

The spiritual jurisdiction of the white town is confided to the Prefect Apostolic of the colonial clergy. The Bishop (or Vicar Apostolic) in the black town has nothing to do with the Prefect’s affairs. And the Prefect has no jurisdiction over the black town or the territory of Pondicherry. A curious anomaly. It would be funny if it did not, unfortunately, give rise to continual and almost inevitable clashes.

Although the French government has no say in the appointment of the Vicar Apostolic (whose jurisdiction extends far out into English territory) it recognises his spiritual authority over the Indians; it helps him when necessary, though in an obliging rather than an official way. This situation has advantages, but it also has many snags attached. It requires extreme prudence on the part of the Vicar Apostolic. He has to keep up polite relations with the authorities. And thus he risks offending the Prefect or even (unwillingly) encroaching on his rights at times. For, in the eyes of the government, the Prefect is the supreme ecclesiastical authority. The Vicar Apostolic has to be very diplomatic with the Prefect in the “mixed” situations that come up almost every day, involving both jurisdictions. During the considerable periods that I spent in Pondicherry at various times, I never once saw perfect harmony existing between the missionaries and the Prefect. And yet the Prefect was a worthy man (he had his foibles, no doubt; but which of us, O my God, is without faults?) and a man of excellent qual-ities. And Bishop Bonnand is the last man in the world to bother about those silly pretensions which are the commonest causes of misunderstandings elsewhere. So the trouble was not in the persons concerned. Like many other evils, it results from a defective organisational structure, from the peculiar juxtaposition of two independent jurisdictions over Catholics of the same Rite in the same city. (p 130)

First Taste of Caste Problems

His Lordship took us to see the Governor, the Prefect Apostolic and some other notables of the white town. Others came to see us. For there are frequent contacts between the missionaries and the Europeans. However, the missionaries do not accept invitations to any meals from the Europeans, in order to spare the caste feelings of the Indians. One evening, before I heard about this [taboo], I was unexpectedly invited to table by a close friend of the missionaries. I accepted – and was promptly told off by His Lordship! There are times, however, when the Bishop himself cannot avoid accepting an invitation to dinner from the Governor. This happens no more than once a year on average. In spite of all our caution, whenever there is a “palaver” or a revolt of the Malabar Christians against the missionaries, they never fail to call us “pariahs”, simply because the Bishop sometimes goes to eat with the Governor; and the servants there are pariahs! Also because the Prefect, who has pariah servants too, is sometimes admitted to our table. Even because, every now and then, one of us will forget himself so far as to accept a glass of water at a European’s house; and they always have pariah servants! It must be admitted, all the same, that we are gradually inclined to ignore these Indian caste prejudices more and more. But by doing so, we are turning the higher-caste Indians more and more against our holy religion. The Christians are losing their affection for Catholicism because of the public humiliation that is thus brought down on their heads. And the pagans distance themselves more and more. That is the immediate result. The long-term result will be the same. This will be worsened by the progressive weakening of [Christian] religious sentiment if the Europeans one day leave India. How will it be if they hang on to it (which is probable)? God alone knows. Over the centuries, there will be radical modifications in the social set-up. But it will certainly take centuries. And, in the meantime what should our policy be? Can we – and should we – tolerate the caste system among our Catholics, with all the practical consequences thereof? Should we, in prudence? Can we in conscience? Later on it will become clear how grave this (p 131) doubt became in my mind; how, after I was made a Bishop, I felt duty bound to pursue the matter to the end, in order to find the solution. And not being able to find it, how this became the decisive reason why I had to give in my resignation as Vicar Apostolic.

His Original Attitude to the Customs and the Oath

When I first arrived at Pondicherry I hardly thought about all that. In my personal conviction that we had to make ourselves all things to all men in order to gain them all for Jesus Christ, my general idea was that we should conform as much as possible to the customs of the people we had come to evangelize. True, before the Vicar Apostolic gave us any faculties, he made us swear the Oath required by the Sovereign Pontiff from all those about to exercise the sacred ministry in those parts. By this Oath they bind themselves never to practice or tolerate those “rites” and “customs” condemned by the Holy See. I certainly swore that oath whole-heartedly – and I would swear it again – because everything that is thus condemned is certainly wrong. The mere condemnation by the Holy See is enough to put an end to the slightest doubt in the matter – even if one has never seen these abuses with one’s own eyes as I did. I also thought that, since Rome had long ago passed judgment, all doubts in applying the law must by now have been thoroughly cleared up. This, unfortunately, was not the case! Anyway, I thought, although the Oath was personal, yet in any practical doubt that might arise, all I would have to do was to follow the decision of my Vicar Apostolic, passing off the doubts from my own conscience on to his superior authority. And I would probably have continued doing the same all my life. But then I had the misfortune of being appointed a Vicar Apostolic myself! (“Misfortune” – can I call it that? Or was it not rather the inscrutable Will of the Lord? For I think and I trust that everything happened according to his holy Will). When I first arrived, then, I was content just to look, and to note the things that struck me most. I was content to act according to what I saw my seniors (p 132) in the Mission doing. Only, in my heart, I was disappointed at their attitude to Indian customs – at their belief that they should not or could not conform more to them. The first thing I noticed was that we never went to visit the Indians. A visit to their home would not be an honour to them. On the contrary, it would be a disgrace and a humiliation for them in the eyes of the public, for reasons similar to those mentioned above, concerning meals. With our leather shoes, as worn in Pondicherry, the pagans would not even let us enter their homes. The Christians would put up with us when they were in need of our ministrations. Outside of that a visit would cause them more embarrassment than pleasure. However, the Christians freely come to visit the Mission house. And externally at least, they have a lot of respect for us.

At the church in the white town, everything is done Euro-pean-style. The church is very unremarkable, not to say positively ugly. (Since my last trip to Pondicherry, I hear it has been replaced by a better building). In our own church, we by-passed certain Malabar sensitivities, a lot more than we did in the interior, without however ignoring them all. It is a beautiful church, with three naves, built in the shape of a cross. The pariahs have their own special place, in an arm of the cross and in one of the side—aisles, physically separated from the “Tamilians” (as caste people in Tamil-speaking areas are sometimes called). There is a little wall, 2 or 3 feet high, marking them off. On the dividing line are situated the confessionals and the baptismal font, so that the caste people and pariahs can enter, each from their own side. They also have distinct doors for entering the church … Never has a pariah been into the sanctuary or the sacristy.

Churches and “Convents”

Near Pondicherry are there big villages which contain a great number of Christians. We have already mentioned Nellitope, where a magnificent church has recently been built. There, the (p 133) Christians are separated from the pariahs by a railing. At Ulgaret (not so fine a church, but still big) all the pariahs are jammed into one arm of the cross, while the nave is sometimes almost empty. Ariankupam church, not so magnificent but rather graceful, is a kind of pilgrimage-place. It has three aisles also. Pariahs occupy one aisle and one of the arms of the cross. But there is no physical separation, only a moral one. This causes a lot of complaints and sometimes leads to rows. Apart from these three churches, there are some secondary churches [out-stations”] and some prayer chaples, especialy for the pariahs in Paricherry (parish town). The main church is a bit too far away, and they cannot come there easily. In these chapels they celebrate certain special feasts; but Mass is not said. In spite of the caste segregation, I was surprised to see that the pariahs are not unhappy, certainly a lot less so than is believed in Europe. But it was a long time before I formed any conclusions about all that. At the time I just looked and asked questions, without judging anything.

After these churches and chapels, we visited another place, which was even more surprising to me: the convent of the self-styled “Malabar Carmelite Sisters”. They were, quite literally dis-calced Carmelites, for they wore no shoes, not even sandals. Not out of mortification; on the contrary, it would have been very cruel and humiliating to make them wear any kind of footwear. They were much too noble for that! For there was nobody but noble-women in the convent. No pariah could enter it, no more than enter any other Malabar house. (There is another “Convent” totally separate, for pariah girls). These Carmelites did not observe a rigorous enclosure. They were dressed like other Indian women, but dark blue cloth. They did not know how to read, so they had no Divine Office. They said the Rosary Instead, In short there was nothing Carmelite about them except the name. To tell the truth their “convent”” was nothing else but a refuge for Widows, sheltering them from the frightful dangers that they face in the Indian world. For as you know, it is absolutely forbidden for any decent woman to re-marry after the death of her husband. Moreover, girls are married off very young; in earliest childhood, (p 134) among the pagans. In the upper castes it is a disgrace for a family not to have married off all its daughters before the age of puberty. Since the promulgation of the Bull of Benedict XIV, Christians are obliged to wait until 12 for girls and 14 for boys. But they don’t wait beyond that, unless they can’t find a partner for them or un-less they are very poor. This situation naturally results in a prop-ortionately great many young widows. And it is easy to imagine their danger in a population not exactly famous for chastity. Widows are condemned to a life-time alone and despised. Sometimes they have not even known their husbands. For, im-mediately after the marriage, the girl goes back to her parents until it is time for the spouses to be united.

The Mission ran a few small schools, not very flourishing. This was not due to lack of good intentions, but to lack of resources. Finally, there was the “Seminary”. But this deserved its name even less than did the “Carmelite Convent”.

Bishop and Missionaries 3

All that was not very impressive. But all the same there were seeds of possible future progress. And there was hope that they could be developed, through the more abundant resources which the “Propagation de la Foi” was beginning to send out, through the increasing number of missionaries, and especially through the zeal of the worthy Bishop. He had then been only a few years in charge. He was, as I said, Bishop Bonnand “of Dursipara”. God grant him many long years more! At the time I arrived, he was in the prime of life, full of energy, and of very sound health. It didn’t take me long to appreciate his eminent qualities of heart and soul. Though seemingly not very brilliant, he struck me as a man of wisdom, practicality and simplicity. His relations with the missionaries were really admirable – a real father among his sons. Completely devoid of pomposity and ceremony, his episcopal (p 135) character was no less respected, and he was all the more beloved by his men, who obeyed him without any fear in it. “How I like that episcopal simplicity of his!”, I wrote then. “Such, I think, must have been the bishops of the earliest times.”

The missionaries then at Pondicherry were: Frs. Dupuy, Lehodey and Leroux. The first is a man of great talent and has all the virtues of a good priest. God has permitted (for the greater good of the Mission assuredly) that Fr Dupuy became afflicted by the trial of scruples. This obliged him to leave Bangalore, where he was doing the greatest good, both among the Indians and among the Irish soldiers in the garrison. Amidst all his many occu-pations, he had found time to write a treatise against the Protes-tants, in Tamil. English ministers in Bangalore were spreading all sorts of [anti-Catholic] books around. He saw the necessity of making and printing an antidote to the poison. Just then, at Pondicherry, an old printing-press had been bought, and Fr Dupuy tried to become a printer. He succeeded perfectly. Ever since, he kept up the work of printing in Tamil – an indispensable work in the present state of things, especially in India, where the Protes-tant publications are doing immense damage. Thanks to the zeal and intelligence of this remarkable confrere, our printing works got off to a good start. All it needed was more development along the same lines. At that time I wrote: “It’s the only work, up to now, that I found in a really satisfactory condition. All the others seem to be just limping along; this one is working on a solid foundation. Apart from the further extension and development to be desired, it is already nearly everything that it could and should be, for a start. The only trouble is that it is still too dependent on one person. If by any misfortune Fr Dupuy was absent, what would become of the printing? Let us hope that the good God will not let such a fine enterprise fail”. Since that time, the work has expanded and consolidated.

Fr Lehodey seemed an angel of piety. Would to God that his mind was as big as his heart, his judgement as clear-sighted as his soul was pure and his intentions good! Not that he entirely lacked intelligence or good judgement. But it’s a pity he hadn’t more, because he had a great deal of influence on the mind of the Bishop. What was most admirable was his zeal in the sacred ministry (of (p 136) which he was principally in charge) and his charity towards his confreres as procurator (which he simultaneously did). Certainly, with these two achievements and the purity of his intentions, a good place awaits him in Heaven.

Fr Leroux was in charge of the “Seminary” if we can so call the mongrel establishment he ran. Anyway, that was the least of his jobs. Only two or three times a week, at the most, could he manage to teach the ten or twelve students there; and there weren’t three among them who had the slightest intention of en-tering the clerical state.

For he also had to do baptism and funerals, and sometimes had to travel quite far to administer the sacraments, in order to help out Fr Lehodey, who had more than he could cope with. For the rest, his “Seminary” was just an altar-boys’ school, more or less. The spirit of our congregation for the formation of a native clergy had become much weaker everywhere. In Pondicherry it had never even existed.

The Jesuits, the P.F.M., and the Jesuits

Our first Vicars Apostolic had no mission in that part of India. The-congregation merely had a Society house there. Later on, the General College [for Asia] was transferred temporarily to Pondicherry area. So our Fathers were well known there. They had sided more or less with the Capuchins in their quarrels with the Jesuits over the Malabar Rites. When the Jesuit Order was suppressed“32, the French Government approached the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary [P.F.M.] to get our congregation to take charge of Pondicherry Mission. This it did quite peacefully, in agreement with the members of the Company [the Jesuits] who were still in India at the time. Indeed many of them stayed on to (p137) work alongside us. They hoped to live and die there, where they had so long watered the land with their sweat and tears for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

The disaster that struck the Jesuits only served to bring out their merits all the more, especially in places like India, where they were certainly innocent of the things they were accused of in Europe. And, as missionaries, they had outstanding, undeniable achievements. When you understand the difficulty of the Indian missions, and you see all that they have got done, you can hardly believe it. And yet, have they always been right? As individuals they have been heroic; they achieved sublime, unbelievable feats. But they fell down on two or three fundamental principles. About these, individuals could do nothing; for the trouble was in the system adopted, which every individual member of the Company had to obey. They failed, especially, in the fundamental principle of a Native Clergy, and over the Malabar Rites. When the Supreme Pontiff spoke, they submitted. But only when they abso-lutely had to. And only just barely as far as was needed to avoid direct disobedience. Never have they corrected their errors [internally] on these points – if they were errors. (If indeed they did err, and are still erring. As I cannot avoid thinking).

Our confreres arrived [at Pondicherry etc.] full of admiration for the Jesuits, full of respect for those men who had opted to stay on as their co-workers. They were also obliged in prudence to “manage” the Christians, and not to shock them by any abrupt change. So they adopted the Jesuits’ system completely. We must also admit that our Society, lacking a strong internal organisation, was not able to act with cohesion or with esprit de corps. It was unable to form “Society men”. Each individual member felt very small and weak in front of the great men they were coming to replace. “Imitate the Jesuits. Do as they did” was the general idea among our confreres. “Could we do it any better than the Jesuits?”. It became a proverb. Alas, no; they could not do it better. They could not do as well, in many respects. They could not continue the learned literary labours which became such a power-ful lever for the conversion of the high castes. Nor could they suc-ceed like the Jesuits in the conversion of the pagans. But one thing they could do better: consolidate what the Jesuits had achieved, (p 138) instead of leaving it to continue eroding away. (For the erosion had started before our arrival). They could also have [straightened out the Malabar Rites confusion]. Reached an understanding with the Holy See and found a position they could stand up honestly in, vis-a-vis the rites and customs. Found a [right] way that could convince all the missionaries, being evidently and clearly in line with justice and the Gospel. Then could they all go forward in concord and consistency. To achieve this, all they needed was to imbue themselves with the mind and spirit of our first Vicars Apostolic. But, for that spirit to work, the Society of Foreign Missions would have needed unity. And we all know the deplorable defect of organisation that has made unity impossible up to now.

All the same, a few of our people would remember, every now and then, that they were missionaries of the Society of Foreign Missions. Such were Fr Magny and Fr Tesson. Fr Magny had been more or less pushed aside. He had made use of his demotion in order to train a few ecclesiastical students. But as he got no support, he was not able to achieve anything worth while. Fr Tesson had to leave India. If he had become a Bishop there, he would probably have ended up like Mgr Luquet and me [unemployed]. Since he wasn’t one, he was able to be employed as a Director at the Paris Seminary. There, he could not but lose a lot of his ardour [for a native clergy]. During his short time in India he had been able to give it only part-time attention. He was only able to train one of his students who, he believed, had excellent dispositions and remarkable signs of a priestly vocation. But he could not get him ordained. “He will have to persevere until he IS at least thirty years old”, they told him. In the meantime, Fr Tes-son left. It was not until Bishop Bonnand took over that the young man was ordained. He has been a model priest ever since.

Local Priests (3 1/2)

Out of Fr Magny’s students, only two had been ordained; and their conduct left room for improvement. This was used as an (p 139) argument to prove that “the time was not ripe” for trying to have Indian priests. But consider the way they were educated, and the way they were treated after ordination! Remember especially that, in this country, you would have to start fighting the plans of your parents to marry you off, at fourteen. It is very hard to expect a young man, for purely supernatural motives, to persevere towards a profession that will have no certainty about it until he is thirty! In the first place, I think it is unfair to take these few isolated examples as proofs.

A few priests, each left all alone in some vast District, having al-most no communication with the other missionaries, deprived of all the spiritual helps that could sustain them in their priestly state! is that much of a proof against the feasibility of a native clergy. – Especially if the proper effective means were taken to educate the young clerics with care, and to maintain them in the spirit of their vocation afterwards. Anyway, the conduct of those two priests was by no means scandalous! True, they clung to caste a lot more than is fitting for priests. But, in any case, it should not be forgotten that they were brought up in that mentality. One of them gave some headaches to the ecclesiastical authorities. But the other man, without being perfect, had precious personal qualities. And I do not know if, before the Supreme Judge, he won’t be found to have done a lot more good than many a missionary. Anyway, these three priests, plus one old sub-deacon about thirty years ordained – whose perseverance was probably due mainly to his lack of brains – formed the entire local clergy of the Vicariate Apostolic. And in the seminary there were no more than two students who gave any reasonable hope of a vocation.

Such was the situation when I arrived. But Fr Leroux thought the same as me about local clergy; so my arrival filled him with hope and joy. Before I arrived, he had resolved to do everything he could to make this work successful. So he was praising Heaven for putting him m charge of the seminary, however imperfect It was at the time. “That establishment” I wrote “is very far from being on a proper footing. Let us hope that minds will be opened and that things will improve. This is the hope of Fr Leroux; he loves the seminary. Not for what it is now, but for what it can one day become. His views are right and his intentions (p 140) excellent. But he is going to need a lot of courage if he is to persevere in this project, for he gets no support whatever”.

Tamil Language and Customs

Meanwhile, we had started studying the Tamil language. Thanks to the Jesuits in former times, there were remarkably good grammars and dictionaries available, as well as prayer books and all kinds of publications. Otherwise we would have had to use pagan books; and it would be very difficult to pick out the elements of the language from them, without method, by ourselves. An excellent Christian called Gnandicasamy came in every morning and evening to give us lessons. He spoke French well. He was a sensible man, a great friend of the missionaries. So we were able to learn a lot from him – a multitude of Indian customs; and also the public opinion of the Christians and the pagans about us. I then began to realise the gravity of the disputes about the Malabar Rites, and how tragic were the consequences. And I began to see how false our present position was, and how alienating from the people. Let us face it: they do not like the missionaries; and they cannot. The pagans have the utmost contempt for them. So do the lukewarm Christians. Those who still have the Faith put up with them, out of necessity; but their heart is not in it. This aversion of hearts explains a lot. Unfortunately, no remedy seems possible. For we cannot go against the condemnations [by Rome). And if we implement all the Holy See’s directives rigorously, it seems obvious that we are going to push the poor Christians over the edge and alienate them completely. Our present way of observing the decrees – enough to avoid obvious sin, but conceding as much as possible to local prejudices – seems to be about the nec plus ultra, [the outside limit) of all possible toleration. Meanwhile, nobody is happy about it. Many of the missionaries believe (rightly or wrongly) that the toleration has gone too far, and is unlawful. They go along with it extremely reluctantly; and it is impossible to keep the Indians unaware of their attitude. Some even openly (p 141) defy certain tolerated customs. And the authority of the Vicar Apostolic is not sufficient to bring them into line. Firstly because it could not abolish repugnance by decree; it always shows one way or the other. Secondly because each one of us has individually sworn the Oath [against specific customs]. And there are some who believe in conscience that they cannot tolerate customs which others of their confreres put up with.

But, at the time, I was very far from imagining that these moral difficulties could have the serious practical consequences which I realised later on. Since my firmly decided policy was to conform – to just simply obey my superiors, and leave the responsibility to them (passing the doubts from my own conscience on to theirs) I had no real problem. When I listened and asked questions, It was for information only. Only, the natural inclination of my heart was all in favour of tolerance for this poor people. Thus, after one of those discussions, I wrote one day:

“Why don’t our missionaries adapt more to Indian customs? I was astonished, on arriving here, to find that they are a lot more french than Indian. And yet we are in no way responsible for the French community. I hear that, in the interior, the missionaries make themselves more Indian. But I find it hard to believe this. Priests who land first at Pondicherry, and who get all their first impressions and ideas there, are not likely to change much, later. Especially since their natural inclination, anyway, is to keep to the customs of their native land. Can they easily submit, later on, to Indian customs, so different from ours? And yet, without doing so, is it possible to spread the Good News? Otherwise, isn’t one bound to repel the pagans and even alienate the Christians? “Father Beschi didn’t act [against us] like that”, I was told the other day. And didn’t Gnandicasamy once come right out and say: .“Father, I don’t understand. You have already made such big sacrifices – left your country, your father and mother. So why don’t you submit to just one more sacrifice, which would be so useful and important: adopt Indian customs in all things?”. What answer was there to that? All I could do was sigh and raise my eyes to Heaven”.

Today I know the causes of this malaise [and its cure]. It does not depend on the missionaries alone, still less on just our missionaries. (p 142) Many of these are certainly as ready as I was to take on every sacrifice [required for totally adapting to Indian customs]. But can they? The remedy necessarily has to come from the Holy See, sollicitously requested by [all] the Mission Superiors. Later it will be seen what I tried to do about that, and how I failed. Not through the fault of the Holy See, assuredly. But because I did not succeed in getting the agreement of the other Mission Superiors.


Pilgrims and Travellers

Let’s take a rest from those reflections, more depressing than consoling, and recall my impressions on experiencing my first big religious Feast as celebrated by our Indian Christians. I will just copy from my diary:

“The feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is celebrated in great style at a village near Pondicherry called Ariankupam. I spent the entire Octave in the village, and took part in the two solemn processions: from here [in Pondicherry] to the Ariankupam Church; and back. Here is an account of what principally struck me in this new, strange festival.

“The glorious Virgin is honoured everywhere with a devo-tion that is so popular and so cherished, so strong in attracting the hearts of the people to her divine Son. She is honoured in the church of Ariankupam under the title of Arokia-Mada, Mother of Health, and Salus Infirmorum. Indians come here on pilgrimage from far and wide. This year, the number of those who came, to bring Mary the loving witness of their prayers, their homage and their devotion, was up to ten thousand! It can be said that, during the whole nine days of the Solemnity, the church was never less than full. Candles never ceased burning on the Virgin’s altars. Our bronze-coloured brothers, who are also the Lord’s friends, crowded in serried ranks around the Sacred Table every morning, like young olive shoots around the tree that gives them life. “Filii tui sicut novellae olivarum in circuitu mensae tuae” .

“To understand how there can be such a huge concourse of people in a country with such a small percentage of Catholics, you (p 143) must know that Indians are mad for feasts and external ceremonies. They need things that speak to the senses – movement noise, shots, and fire-works; above all, the solemn progress of a huge Cart or Wagon. The catholics usually replace the latter with a float and baldachino bearing a statue of the Blessed Virgin or a saint.

. “The magnificence which the pagans put into decorating their colossal Carts (or thers) is unbelievable. They will travel more than sixty miles to a feast. Sometimes the crowd will be several hundred thousand. Well, the Catholics have the same tastes· and when they can, they go all out to show they are second to none. Also, they get a great boost from being together in great numbers at least sometime, and showing the pagans that they are something in this country.

. “You must also know that long journeys are nothing to an Indian. He can start off with his whole family on a journey of several days, at the drop of a hat. With his wife and children he can undertake a journey of two hundred miles, with hardly more concern than a French peasant would feel in going to the next towns fair. Luggage is soon packed. Sometimes it is almost zero; for the small children are completely naked; and a simple loin-cloth completes the man’s travelling outfit. The woman’s cloth is much larger, but usually no more than one. She can easily give it a rinse in a river if necessary. Thus, the luggage is usually reduced to a small sack of grain (for places where it would be hard to buy) and an earthenware pot (for places where they might not be able to get new pots; or ones not already used by the wrong caste). For table-ware, all they need is banana leaves; or else the men will sew small leaves together with bark fibre while walking along. They proceed on foot, in groups. Even the small children can do several miles without getting tired. When they are too young to walk (or the road gets too long for them) their parents will straddle them on their hips or shoulders and let them hang on to their cloth. Or they can hold mother’s long hair or father’s “kudumi” (a tuft which he always keeps, on top of his shaven head).

On all roads there are “savadys” at intervals, a sort of public rest-house, sometimes no more than a thatched shed. There, the group will halt about noon, to cook a bit of rice. The same in the (p 144) evening; and so to sleep. All that these good people need is a bit of shelter from the wind and rain. The ground is their bed and the cloth around the waist is their bed-clothes (or wrapper). The very small children, who might risk being smothered by the mother, are safely slung up in a cloth knotted to one of the rafters, which are never very high.

These savadys are built by charitable Indians, to help travellers. To the Indian mind, this is one of the best of all possible good works. And with their set-up, it must be said it is one of the most useful to the public. Only pariahs have no right to enter them, unless there is one built exclusively for them. Nowadays, however, there are several savadys (especially the ones erected and maintained by the English Company) that have a separate section for pariahs. Near a savady, there is always a pond or a big well. And what more could a traveller not seeking luxury require!

“When they arrive at the place of the Feast, they can sleep in the nearby savadys, or under big public shelters, or under a tree, or just simply in the courtyard that is usually found in front of churches. Some time during the day, each family boils its rice and pepper water; and that’s all these poor folk need.

The Feast of Ariankupam

“On the evening before the start of the preparatory Octave, the statue of the Blessed Virgin is solemnly carried in procession to Ariankupam. And on the evening of the Feast itself, it is taken back to Pondicherry with even greater pomp and ceremony. These two processions are the big external events.

“So, at noon, a flag is hoisted, to show that the celebration is just about to start. Cannon is fired off, and the bells begin to swing. When I say “cannon” I mean boxes of gunpowder; but when it comes to sheer noise, they are just as good as any cannon, they are so skilfully crammed. Now the noise is on; the Catholics are triumphant. And let’s make no mistakes about it, religion is truly and sincerely honoured by them in these demonstrations, so much enjoyed in the place. Maybe a bit more silence, modesty (p 145) and recollection would be better. But everything is relative; and I believe these Indian feasts are in reality a lot more respectful and devotional than uninformed Europeans give them credit for at first sight. Anyway, you cannot deprive a whole people of its own nature. Religion will not begin to modify it essentially until it prevails among the big majority. In the meantime you have to overlook some imperfections and be glad of all the good things that are found in their midst. For, when all is said and done, the Lord does reign in their hearts when they thus bring Him everything they have, even their extravaganzas, meant in all good faith as actions to celebrate His greatness and His power.

“By five in the evening, the crowd is already overflowing the church square. Then the Music starts up. I said “music” though many others might call it noise. Be that as it way, here was the great and mighty music of India. We will have more to say about it later. A troop of children with long bamboo poles in their hands arrived on the scene, and not silently, either. They brandished their weapons, all hung with multicolored banners and little bells. Then you see these three huge canopied Floats approaching, all elegantly embellished with flowers. At the church entrance they halt and are set down, for they are much too big to go inside. Then big flat-topped parasols appear around them, hanging with ornaments. These are traditional honorific symbols for great and noble personages. Today they are here for Mary’s statue, which will soon stand on the Float. And now a French drum-roll is heard: a company of Sepoys [Indian troops] sent by the Government to escort the procession.

“All things being now ready, the clergy proceeds to the church, and the Litany of Loreto is chanted. The crowd remains outside, in the square. Inside, near the altar, are only the priests, the chanters, the seminary students in turbans and ample white robes. At a given moment, two strong men lift the heavy, magnificent statue out of the church and on to its Float. We follow, singing. But at the door our singing is totally drowned by a wild “Hurrah” of joy from the crowd, to great the Blessed Virgin. Then it takes a whole ten minutes to steady the statue and re-arrange the bearers. At last comes the big moment. The statue is about to (p 146) move! The cannon roars, the drums beat, all sorts of musical instruments compete madly in volume and in discord; the bells are all ringing wildly, but you can just barely hear them. Everyone is yelling out his salutations to the Virgin. The chanters are drowned in noise and smothered in the smoke of gunpowder and incense. Now! The 70 or 80 bearers heave, and set the Floats in motion, borne onwards on their shoulders. First St Michael, then St Francis Xavier, last the Blessed Virgin. And here we go, all on the march for Ariankupam.

The Procession

“Nothing here to remind you of your French processions. No long files of girls in white, of widows veiled. No sweet melodious hymns. No silences or recollections to facilitate devotion. The motion of the Thers (for so they insist on calling the big floats) is the only orderly procession-like thing about this mob. Before and behind them, there swarms a lively, densely-packed crowd. Total chaos, but not the slightest hint of disrespect. All eyes are delightedly fixed on the Thers. And in truth they do not lack beauty. They are made of wood, perfectly gilded, delicately carved and gracefully decorated with garlands of flowers. On the first you see St Michael flattening the devil at his feet. On the second is St Francis Xavier, the Apostle of India. Over here, he receives a well-merited devotion from the people. And the third! The biggest, the greatest, the best-decorated – it takes no less than 25 strong men to carry it, and 50 more to act as frequent relays – the third is for the well-beloved Mother of all Christians, for Mary, Mother of God, Devamada. That is her simple name and title hereabouts.

“And, indeed, what a really beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin is this one, now being borne in triumph! It is a work of art from Manila. The craftsman seems to have caught the very thinking of Mary. Full of motherly compassion for the poor pagans (for they are here also, pushing and shoving around her) she seems to say: “Why do you still remain sunk in these absurdities? Why not (p 147) recognise Jesus my Son, the Saviour of all the world? If only you knew him! He would be your source of all justice and all happiness!”. But alas! They do not understand her.

“And so, at a slow, slow pace, we went on, across the whole city. The cantors and the clergy bravely kept up their litanies; but their voices often got lost in the shouts and acclamations of the multitude. At the end of the town the procession halted; and each person could continue the journey any way he liked. One man gets on his horse; another tackles his oxen to his cart. Most continue on foot, talking, laughing, enjoying the day out. For it is only at the entry to Ariankupam that the “procession” will reform.

“Meanwhile, the sun had gone to rest, and we still had a good three or four more miles to go. So it would be dark night when we got there. And that was just how it was all planned; because day-light processions are not up to much, for Indians. The real delight is the night-time – torchlights, rockets, fireworks. During this in-between journey, nothing worth reporting happened. Only that, in the towns we passed, the Christians had lamps lighting, as the Floats went by, to honour their good Mother. Every now and then, a bang of gunpowder went off. About seven o’clock a real salvo, more prolonged and ear-shattering, let us know we had got to the Ariankupam River.

The Crossing and the Entrance

“This river is only ten minutes from the village. It is wide but not deep. The Indians, with no shoes or trousers to worry about, had no problem crossing it. If the water reached up to the waist, they just held the loin-cloth over the head, and so got across “dry”. But the more “delicate” people – the Europeans and the priests and the red-trousered Sepoys – were ferried across by two flat-bottomed boats. Also the children, who join the procession mainly for the free ride on the ferry. (The public does not pay any fare during the Octave). The boats kept plying to and fro until (p 148) everyone was across. It was a strange, moving spectacle, that candle-light crossing on that dark but windless night. Few got across without a wetting, because of all the shoving, pushing and slipping. But that only added to the general gaiety of the scene. At most, all you risked was an involuntary bath, which is no great punishment in the tropics. (Unless the boat went down, right in the middle of the river, under the weight of people, as happened once during this Octave). But alas for the silken robes of our semiwhite ladies! Our Indian women don’t wear such, especially our Christians, who are generally the worst off.

“Meanwhile, many lights appeared on the other side and all along the road from the village to the church. These beacons were iron-work containers full of coco-nut husks on fire, the flames continually fed by sprinkling more oil on them. The signal for the next big advance was given by more explosions, by drum-rolls (the noise improved by having had the drum-skins tightened at big fires) and by the deafening sound of the famous Indian music, Fresh flowers now decorated the Floats. Rockets whistled up, leaving trails of beautiful lights in all directions. We advanced slowly, in a whirlwind of smoke and flame. (My throat was soon parched with the sulphurous fumes). The Indian cantors, for their part, never ceased the Litanies and the Te Deum, which they read by the flashing light of Bengal fire-works. But where were their voices? Totally lost in the explosions of gun-powder, in the rattle and boom of the drums, beaten madly by the pariahs, in the blare of the trumpets, huge copper pipes blown by professional musi-cians, all trying frantically to burst their lungs. And oh! The shouts of joy from the multitude and the children are shaking their bells and other people carrying the flambeaux, fiery furnaces regularly strewing out burning cinders, often singeing ebony skins. They never complained, but only shouted for oil. And the oil-man came running and soothed the affected spot with two or three fistfuls. Literally. For Indians have very few utensils as handy as the human hand for all types of operations.

With all this, it took more than an hour to get to the church. Apart from the slowness of the “procession” it had, moreover, to (p 149) stop completely every few minutes to let off a rocket, a fountain of stars or some other kind of fire-work in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. At long last we arrived; and the first day closed with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I must admit I had had quite enough for one day. Our only ambition now was to get to a sleeping mat. Down we flopped, and were quickly asleep, without having had time to notice the absence of a mattress.

Indian Devotion

“During the novena, the church was never empty. The stran-gers took up residence under the trees, in the church porches, and even out in the square. Moreover, the neighbouring savadys and the village houses were bursting at the seams. Fortunately for the pilgrims, all the space a family needs is about four metres by four. However, the Pondicherry people and their friends came and went every day, sometimes even twice. The devotions mainly consisted in hearing Mass, and taking part in the evening procession around the church or through the village. Also, for some, offering the little gifts they had promised to the Blessed Virgin. Or, in her honour, going all around the church on their knees. Or giving a meal to a specified number of poor people, or other works of mercy.

“I have to say that, more than once, I was greatly touched and edified by the simple but evidently sincere devotion of these poor Christians. No doubt, here as elsewhere (especially in the European-inhabited towns) there are people who serve the Lord very badly or not at all. But the great majority of Christians here seemed a lot more pious than in poor old France. What a vast number of people had come here, some from very far away, with filial trust in Arokiamada, Health of the Sick. Some came to implore her help and protection for a sick child, a father or a mother in pain. More than once, their prayer was definitely heard.

“Moreover, almost all these petitioners go to confession; many receive Holy Communion and do other-acts of piety. Each day, countless candles burn in front of Mary’s image; freshly renewed (p 150) flowers cover her altar. In their innocent simplicity, they often promise Mary a little figure of the benefit or favour they have received from her. And there, on the altar, you will see an eye or a little arm in silver, because they have obtained the healing of one of these members during the year, through her intercession. At the foot of the venerated statue another person will place a figure of a little baby (in silver or wax, asleep on a little bed of the same material) in gratitude for a happy new arrival in the family, heir to a little rice-field somewhere, now the pride and joy of a mother long barren. And here she comes now, with her offering, carrying her new-born glory in her arms. Up to this, she has lived despised and rejected. But now that she has her child – who is never left out of her sight – she need no longer fear the catty remarks of her mother-in-law…

All in all, these were nine days of great edification for me. I felt that a people like this were worthy to become completely Catholic. And you, O my God, You know how I yearn for the grace, all unworthy as I am, to be made one of the instruments of your mercy to them!

“Meanwhile, the cannon still roared very often. And the music! … I can still hear it reverberating inside my head, between the front of my brain and my forehead! It had to be endured nearly the whole time there. At the Angelus. Three times at every Mass (beginning, Elevation, ending). Then at any separate action whatsoever – distribution of alms, visit of important personage, during all processions … But since this Music keeps coming back, let me say something about it33……

“To conclude about the music, let’s say a few words about Malabar hymns. We certainly had our bellyful of them, for they never once stopped during all the low Masses throughout the novena. Now don’t go thinking this was some trained choir giving out harmonious strains. No; it was a continuous solo; and what a solo! Suddenly a voice, usually raucous, would take off, away up in the highest pitch, like a lark – but without the sweetness –– trilling (p 151) on the same three or four notes in a minor key, always ending on a final syllable dragged out nasally for several long beats. The least horrible tunes are a bit like our street-criers and hawkers. It never stops. After one chanter has gone on for about thirty verses and is played out, another takes over, using almost the same mincing, affected mode. For if they have different tunes, they are all so alike, to me, that I could never pick out any difference. But enough! Let us skip the remaining details and get on to the last day, the greatest, the finest of all, the most solemn: the Feast it-self, the 8th of December.

The Grand Finale

“By a series of coincidences there were (for India) a great number of priests at Ariankupam that day: our three Malabar priests, an English missionary from Madras, two of our confreres visiting, our three Pondicherry men, and Fr Triboulot and myself. So Masses went on, contniually from 5 in the morning until the Pontifical High Mass, which did not end until almost mid-day. The crowds were enormous. I will not even try to describe the hubbub of life and movement, nor the noise (inevitable with so many women and children, poor people, strangers) nor the fam-ous MUSIC again, nor the “artillery” (about 20 shots every half-hour). At ten o’clock we went in procession to welcome the Bishop. The venerable prelate proceeded slowly through the crowds, blessing them, while the women in the front rows pushed forward to touch his feet, afterwards kissing their hands respectfully. All along his route they had laid cloths. Most of them were cheap and many were torn. But anyway, it was a great mark of re-spect. And all the while, the Music played and the Cannon roared, needless to say!

“It is rare that the Indians outside of Pondicherry, Madras and a few other big cities get to see a Bishop. Rarer still to see him thus surrounded by all this pomp and circumstance. The visiting Christians were in ecstasies. It is good now and then to have an occasion like that, to let them understand the admirable dignity of (p 152) the Church’s hierarchy. Verbal explanations are much less understood than the striking spectacle witnessed by them that day, tel-ling them, much better than any words, how much higher is a bishop than a simple priest; for they saw us all serving him with respect and veneration, using all the ceremony possible in such a small church.

“The Pontifical Mass more or less concluded the liturgical part of the Feast. But there was still the final Feast of Noise to come, in the evening; everything took place as at the start of the novena (setting out from the city). Only, most of the crowds had now gone ahead, to get a good position for the return of the Floats to town; so there were not so many at the village for the departure. After the river had been safely and peacably crossed, the people went back on their own as far as the entrance to Pondicherry. The entire route was like a pleasant path-way through thickly shaded trees; and it made a delightful series of pictures, with the crowds dotting it all along the way, in a colourful diversity of costumes. Christians and gentiles from various Provinces – Turks Topas (or mulattoes) and pure-blooded Europeans – all jumbled together on the road, all even more richly dressed (or more spectacular) than on the opening day. We arrived about seven o’clock, by the light of a slender slice of moon, and by the glare of some “balls of fire” suspended up in the air at intervals, [local-style street lighting]. For these good people do not bother or torture their minds trying to invent gas or street lamps. A ball of cotton-seed soaked in oil and hung from a wire – that was then simple system here, as in the villages we passed through.

“By a quarter past seven the crowds had re-assembled and the procession got moving again. It was a really touching and solemn moment. Apart from the already described spectacular show, more than 3000 lights were turning the night into day, brilliant but not cloudless; for the smoke of oil street-lights and gunpowder drifted far and wide like a dense fog. The Cars, more flower-bedecked than ever, advanced majestically amidst a forest of torches, and of candles carried aloft by the members of the Sacred Heart and the Rosary Confraternities. The statue of the Blessed (p 153) Virgin came on, surrounded by all the insignia of royalty, dating from a time when kings were really something in India: colossal figures of birds and other objects depicted rather artistically on gilded or painted wood, decorated with flowers and precious cloth … There were also immense parasols of flowers, elegantly constructed, called “putcherakudey”. The noise did not quite drown the singers in the immediate vicinity of the clergy; they seemed utterly tireless. But we hadn’t gone four steps when a blaze of extra-special fireworks halted us in astonishment: two warships attacking each other in the sky, firing mutual broadsides of squibs and bangers. Unfortunately, they used up all their ammunition at the first encounter; so that, when they crossed each other several times again, they were rather too peaceful towards each other. Four more steps forward and “whoosh” went a high, graceful sheaf of fire. Four more and some white Roman Candles thudded off, whirling suns. Then came a rain of fire, which burned nobody, except that a few over-large sparks landed on the naked skin of the fire-workers. These just made like people swiping away persistent wasps, and quickly hurried to let off a new rocket. The fireworks never stopped. Some zoomed up in a regular curve, others galloped like rats, and others swam like fish, others Swirled and made little crowns of light. So [with all this to gaze at] you can easily figure how long it took us to get a quarter-mile! And that wasn’t the only thing slowing us down. At frequent intervals stood “pandals” (a kind of altar-of-repose) and under each the Statue had to be stationed for a minute. They were usually erected on four columns, and the procession had to pass beneath. Some were slapdash affairs, but others were very elegant. Mostly, the good and the bad taste clashed together. Such is the way of the Indians; they concentrate on getting one point perfect, but don’t bother about the rest of it. So, a really charming basket of flowers will be mounted on a botched job of wood-work, two or three feet out of plumb. A rather well-arranged altar will let a third of its under-scaffolding show through the beautiful cloths. Or its bamboo skeleton will stick out on all sides (or only one) irregularly. It would never occur to anyone to saw off the projecting parts. All the same, some of these pandals were beautiful to see. Once the statue stopped underneath, the procession halted, the chanting (p 154) ceased. Nothing could be heard but the dull background noise of the crowd and, now and then, the piercing sing-song of the cake and toy sellers. A young Indian comes forward from the Car, goes up a few steps, makes a big Sign of the Cross in chant, salutes Mary, and intones a hymn in her honour. Sometimes, two singers do it, in dialogue form. As for me, I could not understand a word of their poetry. Anyway their voices, though clear and highpitched, were not strong enough to dominate the crowd. And people paid very little attention to their words; they were occupied above all in admiring the pandal. Their eyes would follow the swinging basket of flowers suspended from the roof, continually showering petals at the feet of the statue. Or else they would stand amazed at the little angels (poorly carved) ascending and descending by means of a simple pulley. The first time I saw this contraption of puppets, I found it almost impossible to keep a straight face.

“For three mortal hours we were on our feet, inside this triumphal march, in which the beautiful and the grotesque often collided together. I was dog tired, for the cope I was wearing greatly helped to concentrate the heat of the atmosphere, artificially increased by all the fires around us. Even so, many edifying sights caught my eye, signs of our Christians’ faith and zeal. Quite apart from all the aforementioned communal splendour, each in-dividual Christian’s house was lit up, one way or another. Sometimes more than fifty lamps glowed in front of a poor thatched house. Richer houses were often magnificently lit up, and “personal” fireworks were let off in front of them. One particular illumination I must mention: a huge cross of lamps, giving out a subdued and gentle light through inter-posed gauze. And a clever architectural construction of small mirrors sending out dazzling flashes by means of Bengal flares continually going off at just the right point. The last Fireworks Pattern was something quite re-markable; it was like a summing-up bouquet for the whole Feast. This went up as we were entering the church door-way (at long last!) about half-past ten, in the midst of a clamour which would not have let a thunder-clap be noticed.

“The Bishop was awaiting us inside. He gave Benediction, (p 155) and thus all was concluded. To the greater glory of God, no doubt, and to the great satisfaction of the Christians. And good reason they had to be satisfied at the zeal and magnificence they had put into this celebrated Feast.

“.A few figures, to sum up: During this novena, without counting the “private” illuminations, more than 50,000 lights or fires were lit. More than 600 litres of oil burned. More than 650 boxes of gunpowder fired off. At least 6000 candles offered to Mary. God be praised!”.

Problems of the Mission

“But the conversations I was able to have with confreres from the interior during this Octave were not equally encouraging. I felt there must be an unbelievable malaise in those missions. I was still too young to speak out, and too new in India to make any real judgment. But I seemed to observe already that there were two kinds of difficulties: some were insurmountable; others it was up to us to conquer, or at least to reduce. There was a shortage of priests. There was a lack of organised inter-relation between the missionaries and the Vicar Apostolic, and also between the missionaries themselves. Finally, there was a lack of consensus among them about how to deal with the customs of the people. The venerable Vicar Apostolic could see all this, and was really trying to remedy the situation. But he should, perhaps, have looked wider and tried to get to the root of the trouble.

For the first problem [shortage of priests] the only remedy he could envisage was to keep appealing for more missionaries, as many as possible. For the two others, he was planning a general Meeting of his missionaries, soon. Good remedies, but inadequate. They bypassed the real causes why [the Catholic] religion has been so weak in India for centuries. At that moment in time, a man of genius could have renewed the religious face of India. Or rather, the best moment had already been let pass, a few years before, precisely when Mgr Bonnand took over. At that (p 156) time there were only few missionaries. But the “Propagation de la Foi” was coming up, powerful and generous, promising the means to bring in the numbers required. If only His Lordship had remembered that he had 250,000 Christians under his crozier, and seen the opportunity of forming a magnificent local clergy! If only he had used his position (than so independent) to insist on getting clear-cut guidelines from the Holy See about all the outstanding dilemmas concerning the Malabar rites and customs. Yes, at that particular time, a holy bishop endowed with superior intelligence could have won a place among the great Apostles of India. Well, the good Bishop is holy all right. But a man of genius he is not.

Thinking about all this, I wrote on 10th October [1842]: “Do you wish, then, to abandon your holy religion in India, O my God! “Why hast Thou forsaken us?”. O God, I cannot stop hoping in your mercy for this people. To come back to you, all they need I believe is to be better understood and better led. Oh! When will a man of God appear who really understands India! Lord sends us the one you are to send. “Mitte quem missurus es”. Look on this poor people, and convert us all to you! “Lord God of Hosts turns us round. Show your face to us and we shall be saved”.

The Jesuits. Divergent Policies

Meanwhile, everyone was delighted at the recent arrival of the Jesuits34. Mgr Bonnand himself had called them back to their former Mission of Madurai, then under his jurisdiction. At first the Rev Fathers were full of respectful gratitude. But things were soon to change. The Bishop was beginning to get the message. During the visitation he had just completed in the areas he had confided to the Jesuits, they made him feel that he was now Vicar Apostolic only in name. Not long after, he had to take strong measures to block the moves of the Rev Fathers (as he saw it) to (p 157) take over from the Foreign Missions. I will skip a lot of the ensuing miserable [palavers] during the next three or four years. But I cannot but be very sorry that either one thing or the other wasn’t done: Either not to bring back the Jesuits to this theatre of operations at all; or else to give them back all their former missions including Pondicherry city. For if they were here on their own they would have achieved just as much, and probably a lot more: than is being done now. And there would be consistency, within the Jesuit system. If they had not come at all, Mgr Luquet would still be in India today. And myself too, I think. And, with the conversion that took place about native clergy in the mind of Bishop Bonnand and most of our missionaries, by now there would be over 200 Malabar [diocesan] priests and clerics within his former [larger] jurisdiction. Whereas now, in the Jesuits’ area, there is not a single one, although they have over 150,000 Christians. In the rest of the jurisdiction there are 80 to 100 [priests etc.].

Divisions among our own missionaries about native clergy would have never taken place. For, here as elsewhere, there are some who are all enthusiasm for the Jesuits and who therefore for no other reason, are determined not to have Indian [diocesan] priests (since the Jesuits are dead set against it). And here as elsewhere, perhaps, there are missionaries (and this would be even worse) who are so anti-Jesuit that they have to oppose them every time, on everything. Not so much, I found, on the issue of native clergy as on the Malabar rites and customs. And this last issue has become all the more difficult, dangerous, urgent and unavoidable because the Jesuits are here, and because European mssionanes are becoming more and more numerous.

How little I thought then, O my God, that this state of affairs – and states of mind – was getting ready to produce the crosses that you had waiting for me in India! On becoming a missionary, I was ready for any physical sufferings, bodily privations, hard work or fatigue. Ready, also, for mental stress caused by pagans and neophytes. But what I actually had to suffer most was mental pain caused by venerated confreres and religious. And yet I love them with all my heart. I admire their competence and zeal. I respect their good intentions. But I have never been able to change my (p 158) own conviction: that the work for a native clergy is fundamental. On the contrary, I had to recognise, more and more, that it is both necessary and feasible in India. And, later on, when I was a bishop, and was obliged to take responsibility for our dealings with the Malabar rites and customs – to take it on board my own conscience – I was not able to tell myself honestly that our policy and conduct was free from superstition. O God, grant that I did not offend you in any of the written and spoken controversies that I then had to get into, over all these issues! [If so, good]. All the heart-break and soul-pain will perhaps turn out useful for my sanctification. Be you blessed for it, O Lord, and praised!

First Conversations about Native Clergy

In our conversations I could see that my confreres didn’t even think of the Clergy question. ‘Twas morally impossible. [Finish.] That, to their minds, was the obvious fact, generally recognised, beyond discussion. All the same, I met with a more favourable attitude in Fr Roger,35 a lively mind and a heart of gold. He loved the Indians not only as a duty, but from the heart -something extremely rare in a European, missionary or not. He had gathered a little group of children around him. He was teaching them himself and was hoping to make at least catechists of them. And Fr Leroux with his stubborn Breton head, persisted, in spite of the surrounding opposition, in trying to get the seminary re-formed. And God seemed to be working on people's minds in various ways. For example a Christian from (I think) Babylon wrote just then to his brothers in India expressing his astonishment that they had no clergy of their own, and reproaching them for their failure. The Indian newspapers published this letter.

One evening we were talking about various special missions that would be worth trying, and about what kinds of things would (p 159) be likely to attract and impress the pagans. One of the missionaries (not at all favourable, usually) exclaimed: “Yes, but [for that] you’d also need Indian priests, speaking their language properly”. Strongly supporting him, I added: “If we ordain a lot of Indian priests, we must be careful not to think – or expect – that they should all be missionaries. There may be a few; but normally it will be quite enough if they are good priests, looking after a small parish … “ At this he shot me down, as if I had propounded a heresy.

A Difficult Language

Rarely will you meet a European able to speak an Indian language well. Many “know” them perfectly. But it is one thing to be able to read – even write – a language; quite another thing to speak it. During my time in India, I got to know more than 100 missionaries, directly or indirectly – our own men, Jesuits, Carmelites, Capuchins. And I know only one who was able to say whatever he wanted to say in a way that everyone hearing him could understand, including pagans.

One day I was talking to a very well-educated Malabari who spoke Latin a little and French very well.

“When Fr X is preaching”, he said, “it is very unlikely that the poor women can understand a word of what he is saying, for I find it quite hard to get it, myself”.

“And what about Fr Y?”

“He knows the language perfectly”, he replied, “but he doesn’t pronounce it well enough to be widely understood”.

“And the Malabar priests?”

“Oh, them? People understand them perfectly”.

This opinion may appear a bit suspect, since it was a Malabari speaking. But here are two other little incidents to confirm it. An old missionary (admittedly he was never much good at Tamil) sent for a pagan workman to do some repairs in the mission. He explained the job long and carefully. The workman (p 160) turned to the catechist and said, “Explain it to me yourself, for I don’t know a word of English”! It was the missionary himself who told me that one.

Fr Roger, on the contrary, is (relatively) very good at Tamil. Moreover, he is one of those who have the least scruples about participating in scores of Malabar customs. Which makes it easier for him to gradually build up a lot of contacts with the pagans. Now on one occasion he was able to make a big impression on a [pagan] village. They decided to give a big reception for him and for his little troop of disciples. These were all of noble caste, and he went out of his way to stress how well-born they were. The good confrere resolved to use this golden opportunity to preach Jesus Christ in the village. Everything was announced and prepared beforehand by the village heads. He proceded in some style to the place. Immediately he was surrounded by a big crowd. He began to address them. But he soon became aware that they didn’t understand what he was saying. “Listen”, he cried. “I am going to get one of my disciples to read out a book to you, about the truths of the religion of the one and only God. Listen well. Afterwards I will just give some explanations myself”. The young disciple, with a clear voice and a very good pronunciation, read out a chapter from a seemingly very simple book, which we owe to the zeal and talent of Fr Dupuy. But as soon as he finished, they all began to shout: “Swami (Father) we understand even less now. Tell us yourself”. Fr Roger started again, himself; but he was very sure that, without a rare miracle of grace, these poor people were not going to be converted by his eloquence.

The trouble is that – quite apart from the extreme difficulty of pronunciation – the Tamil language is not one language but two: the written language and the spoken language. Written Tamil is hardly used at all except by the learned. It is very poetic and can hardly be written except in verse. Thus, all the Indian books – even medicine, history, mathematics – are written in verse. The qualified reader will have to follow up each verse (or even each word) with an oral explanation suited to the level of his hearers. It is only since the coming of the Europeans that they have barely (p 161) started to write straight prose. But as it is completely against the native genius of the language, this prose is usually just a string of linguistic atrocities. Our religious books are nearly all in that “style””, for the main objective was to be understandable by hook or by crook. Still, in order not to down-grade Christianity, they had to use the learned language for most of the technical terms; they did not exist, anyway, in the spoken language. Hence the huge difficulty, for the ordinary pagan, in trying to understand our books. To add to the problem, it is rare to find an exact Tamil equivalent for the idea you are trying to express. For example, they have more than 100 words for “heaven” and for “hell”. But each gives a slightly different slant to the Christian dogma of Heaven and Hell. So the reading of these books has to be continually corrected by a commentary. And this is not helped by the fact that abstract ideas, spiritual and supernatural concepts, are not at all developed among the ordinary people. They consider them a monopoly of the Brahmin caste.

It is, however, fairly easy to learn enough ordinary Tamil for everyday things, and even to learn enough to carry out the duties of the sacred ministry among our Christians. For they are used to our horrible jargon, and they have acquired, from childhood, some understanding of the Words used to express our holy mysteries. This language study was my sole occupation during my first months at Pondicherry. Unfortunately, the frequent availability of French conversation, and the frequent opportunities for being busy at something else, made me waste this precious time – for which I shall certainly have to render an account to the Lord. Yes indeed. For under various pretexts, and under the delusion that, once in the interior, I would quickly “pick up Malabar”, I was guilty of not giving enough time and attention to the language at the start. And this has always been a handicap to me. I would have needed three or four years in the interior, in pastoral work. And circumstances dictated that I was only to have less than a year, as we shall see later. Until it was too late to make up for lost time. For after the first four years, you have got about as far as you are going to get, in the spoken language. Unless you have a gift for languages; and I had not. Or unless you go in for a deep study of (p 162) the learned language, in which case someone can keep making progress for the rest of his life.

Pondicherry Tyro replies Carcassonne Seminarians

Towards the middle of October I received a reply to my first letter from the seminarians at Carcassonne. I will not quote it here, because it was all praise. In spite of this defect, it was a great pleasure to receive it; and I replied immediately. I will just quote one passage from them, about the pariahs. A typical European misunderstanding. How wrong are ideas about that caste will, I hope, become clear in the course of these memoirs?

“Among those peoples”, they wrote, “The first to benefit from your zeal, there is one caste which has always moved us to pity. You will easily recognise it by the contempt, the hatred, the horror that the others have for it. They all unite in driving this caste outside of human society. It seems doomed to universal condemnation. The pariah, as they call him, lives all alone, isolated, rejected by everyone. It is principally on this unhappy caste that we would like to see you lavishing your care. The Christian religion, so well able to bring men to resignation and self-denial, would be a great conso-lation to this submerged race. It would help them to forget the insults of their enemies and enable them to love them. For the Christian loves his enemies no less than his friends. Jesus Christ has commanded him: “And I say to you: love your enemies and bless those who hate you”. So we will be very happy if, in your next letter, you can inform us that you have allotted a portion of your time to the conversion of that caste. And as we desire this so ardently, we promise you we will help you with our prayers …”

I replied to their letter as follows:

“Gentlemen and dear friends,

By a happy accident, your welcomed letter reached me much sooner than you expected. Instead of going round the Cape of Good Hope - and not getting here until I don't know when - it was sent by steamer via Suez. And so it met me, to cheer and edify me, not in the midst of the Christian com -munities in the interior , but still here in my humble cell at Pondicherry, where I will be for the next two or three months, learning the Malabar language, before (p 163) launching into my apostolic duties.

“I cannot express the great joy I had in reading your words, dic-tated by piety and containing far more than just the seeds of priestly virtues, which will soon edify whatever church, is lucky enough to get you. Happy the land where flourish such establishments as yours, in which virtue is developed along with sound doctrine! True nurseries and seed-beds [seminarii] of future good priests, fulfilling the dream of the holy Council of Trent: “that this college may be a perpetual seed-bed of new ministers of God”. Ah! If only we could have seminaries like that in India! Pray the Lord, gentlemen, and maybe this happiness will not always be denied us.

“What a pleasure, dear friends, to read your well-thought-out ideas about the foreign missions! Don’t think people everywhere are so enlightened about them. And please excuse me! For in my first letter I forgot that, being educated by the Lazarists, you would automatically be better informed than others about the real situation of the apostolic ministry. For these Fathers have long been in charge of missions in several parts of the world. So they, more than others, know the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and the dangers. They are in a better position to give you sound explanations and to animate your zeal and courage. These worthy directors will not fail to tell you how the work of the missions is your work also, and the work of every priest; how each can actively contribute to its success and share in its merits, even though not everyone is called to the happiness of being a missionary himself. So do not be disappointed if I seem now to be breaking my promise of soon telling you about the foreign missions under various headings. You are at far too good a school for me to want to mix in my voice with your masters’. They will instruct you much better than I could do.

“I’d like to be able to fill this letter with interesting details gleaned in my apostolic journeys. Because it would also give me some hope that I had actually done something for the Lord. But alas! I have to confine myself, today, to telling you that I’ve done nothing up to now. Since my arrival, I have been digging away at the hard, barren soil of Indian languages. To the weight of this heavy toll you can add the weight of the soul’s heavy envelope, [the poor body]. It always creaks in protest at too much strain; and you have to concede something to its weakness lest it collapse entirely on you. Especially when you drag it around in 11° latitude, whereas it was formerly accustomed to cavort between 43° and 49°. From all this, you will readily understand that I haven’t yet got enough (p 164) Malabari for confessions or preaching. It will still be a few months before I can hope to start teaching catechism or hearing a few confessions. After that I will be thrown into a District where the only sounds I hear will be Indian talk. Then my ears will just have to adapt to these un-European signals.

So what can I give you today, gentlemen? Maybe you will like to read my description of a Feast which has just taken place here, at a village near Pondicherry? It will give you some idea of our Indian Christians. But first let me reply to some points in your letter.

Forward-looking Vision of French Church

“You will perhaps be surprised, gentlemen, that I do not agree with you at all about what fruits a priest in France can expect from his ministry. Believe me, all is not lost, my good friends. As well as all the evil (you mention] there is a lot of good in France. There is a lot, especially, to be hoped for in the future. I have only just left that dear country, and I can still speak of it with inside knowledge. Yes! I say. The priest in France has a very fine mission before him. And I do not pity anyone who is called to work there, and who is now preparing so as to be able to respond to all that the Church expects from him, for a fruitful vocation.

“Without going into the special Providence with which the Lord seems to be watching over France – which, to the eyes of faith, is easy to see in the striking events of the last few years – how could you lose hope when you see so many new works of charity, increasing daily in number, showing that there is still life under the seemingly dead social crust, apparently dead to Jesus Christ! Look at the great work of the “Propagation de la Foi”, and the ever-growing enthusiasm of the younger clergy for the missions! And the work of St Vincent de Paul, with its pious conferences already established in almost every French city, attracting scores of young people highly distinguished in the world! And the crowds of people hastening around the pulpits of truth, and the upsurging zeal and fervour in honouring our Blessed Mother, the gentle Virgin Mary! And the impressive body of Bishops, giving the world a magnificent witness by spotless purity and all the pastoral virtues! And the clergy as a whole (too numerous not to have a few false brothers in it to deplore now and then) so well conducted; so that the unfortunate faults of a few individuals can be attributed to nobody but themselves. (p 165) Neither heresy nor atheism can pretend that these faults belong to “the clergy” … How not be full of hope?

“And then the whole general movement of the world isn’t it such as to buoy us up with the hope of better days to come? Look at that crowd of people, avid for knowledge and learning. See them in our public libraries. Follow closely how minds are moving, even in our irreligious publications, and you will recognise that there is a widespread [critical] attitude there, which cannot but be favourable to us in the end. No longer will people mindlessly follow the banner of some imposter spouting blasphemies under the cover of a brilliant but deceptive show of erudition or wit. People nowadays are not satisfied by historical falsehoods, vague “facts”, hazy “dis-coveries”, unproven philosophical “systems”. They want to judge things for themselves, with full knowledge of the situation.

“True, they often go too far in their criticism, and rush into the opposite extreme of rationalism. But their general attitude cannot but favour a religion which is essentially true, based on the most irrefutable evidence, which has no cause to fear the light, which can adopt (or rather, already implicity contains) every truth, natural and supernatural; which rejects nothing except falsehood. No doubt, human passions and prejudices will always be there, to prevent men from accepting and practicing what they are almost forced to see. But the mind will eventually recognise the Truth, even if some wicked hearts refuse to welcome it. And many will welcome it with both heart and mind. And these will console the Church for the losses inflicted by a long century of indifference.

“However, gentlemen, this movement of minds will need guidance. And that will be the duty of the French priest, his vocation. And a great and a beautiful one it is. Do not imagine, either, that in order to contribute to that general guidance, you have to be at the centre of the movement, or possess the talents and eloquence of a Ravignan, captivating the distinguished people who crowd around his pulpit of Catholic philosophy, silent and attentive to his every word. No; the priests in France will need only one thing: with their deep study of theology to join a serious study of the century they are living in, the men they are called to live among – in a word, the milieu they are to exercise their zeal in, a zeal which, more than ever before, must always be prudent and enlightened. With this the parish priest in his homilies and instructions, his catechism classes and visitation – the preacher in his sermons, the writer in his books, the youth leader in the way he encourages young and generous hearts – with this the priests of France will regenerate the whole (p 166) country. So don’t have such gloomy ideas, dear friends. Arm yourselves with courage, with knowledge, with piety. And be sure that Religion can expect great things from your efforts.

“Let each one of you diligently seek to know his own vocation, as I said in my first letter, and bestir him to follow it. This is the only message I could have for you. And when you have done that, I can tell you straight: Yes! I believe that the priest in France can be confident and happy in his work – as happy as a priest in India or China or anywhere else. I say more: he would not be happy if he found himself transplanted into one of these far countries if not led there by the hand of God. I have met priests in almost every possi-ble kind of situation and observed them in widely differing condi-tions. And, my dear friends, I have found ever one of them happy in his work when he was really within his proper vocation. But on the other hand not one of them was able to escape a certain ill-atlease depression whenever he was not in his rightful place, even with the best of intentions. I am not talking of men who had left then sublime vocation altogether having strayed from the right way. These, indeed, are unhappy. But, fortunately, they are rare. It is up to each of us to avoid that unhappiness, with the grace of God. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear”.

One day when I was very young – I had not yet made my First Communion – I happened to be in a roomful of priests. They were asking each other how long they were ordained, etc. Some Just said:“Ten (or 15 or 20) years”. Others raised their eyes and said .with sincere respect: “It is now (so-many) years that I have the happiness of offering the awe-inspiring sacrifice”, or other words to that effect. Then came the turn of another man, whom I will not name. He gave a petulant sigh: ‘’‘Tis nearly twenty years I’ve been at this drudgery”. At these words my eyes opened wide with shock, but they quickly turned away from that face. Though just a kid, I was ashamed of him. “A priest calling his profession “drudgery?” … “And a horrible thought crossed my mind, to be instantly rejected. For I could not then imagine that there might be such a thing as a bad priest. But his words hit me so hard that, to this day, I could point out the very chair he was sitting on. I can still hear the exact tone of his blasphemy. Sure enough, not long afterwards, there was a big public scandal about a certain priest. It was him.

“All the same, my dear friends, I am certainly not going to contradict the pious conclusion of your passage: “Nowadays [in France] a priest cannot but be a man of sorrowas”. I have no wish to deprive him of that honour, especially that “resemblance to his Divine Master” as you put it. If your one-sided description [of France] (p 167) were the whole truth, it would be more than anough to tear him apart. But do you really think, gentlemen, that things are all that easier overseas? Just in India alone, what causes for sorrow you see wherever you look!

India’s Depressing Plurality of Religions

“You in France, gentlemen, suppose you go up to a high mountain of holy solitude, for calm meditation and earnest prayer and cast your minds’ eyes on your cities, as the Prophet of old looked on Nineveh – what do you see? Many sinners, indeed, are hurrying towards perdition. Lukewarmness and indifference choking the Christian spirit of many others. Some have lost the Faith … But the priest in India, what does he meet?

. “To his right a notorious temple is open day and night, welcoming huge, noisy, impious crowds. The smoke of incense rises up burnt in honour of the devil, amid thousands of lights dedicated to the glory of the prince of darkness. At the entrance an imposing mass of grotesque sculpture flaunts, in broad daylight, the hideous images of monstrous and obscene divinities; and it preaches, in mute but eloquent stone, the infamies they stand for. And such temples must be counted in their thousands! You can’t take twenty paces without stumbling upon idols. They have millions of worship-pers, with the mark of the Beast on their forehead.

“When he averts his horror-struck eyes, they may quite easily fall on a neighbouring building – nothing else but a mosque – in which the sons of the false Prophet are making vows against the adorers of Christ.

. “Further on and there is a modest-sized temple, clean and tidy. Its ancient pointed arches proclaim the cold clear planning of Northern Europe. From inside, there issues a word that is sweet to the ear of a missionary: the holy name of “Jesus”. So he stops and listens … The sacred authority of the Gospel is now being proclaimed. He enters … But now he cannot find the image of Him who died for all. No altar here, for Him to renew His adorable Sacrifice each day. It’s a minister of heresy here, misusing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to tear apart the Church He founded! O what a scandal! He is now abusing the Catholic priests, attacking their good name, distributing pamphlets full of lies, giving out this own slanted (p 168) translation of the Bible. Thus he is blocking our efforts, paralysing any good we might hope to achieve, giving the pagans and our poor neophytes the dismal example of Division among Christians. Heart-broken, the missionary goes away…

“Then, at last, he discovers the Cross of Redemption, over the door of another little church. Now his sorrows are ended for a while. He enters. He kneels in happy adoration. For he notices the sanctuary lamp, witnessing the Presence of our Sacred Mysteries. And indeed he is edified to see the awesome Sacrifice of our altars celebrated according to all the rites of the Holy Roman Church. But now, what does he hear, when this priest starts preaching to his little flock? What crazy extreme of Gallicanism is making this man deny the power of the Pope? He says it is limited by the authority of the King of Portugal! And this in a place long conquered by the British! And what’s he saying, now, about the priests loyal to the Holy See? He is calling them “Propagandists”. Great God! Isn’t Protestantism enough? Must we have Schism as well, in this pagan country, with its divisive claws, tearing at the little flock of neophytes which our predecessors had so much trouble and pain in gathering into the Good Shepard’s fold!

“Well now, my dear friends, do you still think that a priest in India has no opportunities to be a man of sorrows? I will not go into all the daily heartbreaks resulting from all this religious confusion. Bad Christians, false brethren, apostates – individual tragedies that don’t leave the priest a moment’s rest. Pray therefore, dear friends, that the Lord may give us strength in proportion to our difficulties. I must say, I have great need of it. Although I am new in India, more than once my heart fails me at the sight of the state of things here; and I have to go out of my way to find reasons of Faith to revive my courage.

“But enough of this sadness. I want to give my remaining paper (and time) to our big Feast of Ariankupam. [See above). I shall not forget the charitable message you asked me to pass on to the people I will have the happiness of preaching Jesus Christ to. I will tell them of your prayers and good wishes, your alms and your efforts of every kind for their salvation. (p 169)

Conclusion of his Letter

“Your concern about the “poor pariah” is most praise-worthy. But you have, perhaps, rather inexact ideas about this caste, and about many other Indian customs – ideas all too common in Europe. What you said about them seemed to show a lack of precise knowledge (quite excusable in your own circumnstances) which is all too widespread. You cannot imagine, my dear friends, how much these European misconceptions have damaged the progress of Religion in India. But I won’t go into that particular disgression just now…

.“In your charity you will be glad to hear that, by the grace of God things have greatly improved. To such a point that, today, it is just an easy to let the pariahs share in the benefits of our holy religion as it is to invite the higher castes. So pariahs are not in the least “abandoned, and they are numerous in the Church. Indeed in many missions, they form the great majority of the faithful. So, in a way, I can already meet your concern about this, by telling you that, in the rare liturgical functions I have been able to exercise to date (a few Infant baptisms) the beneficiaries have been pariah children more than once.

. “The title of friend, which you have bestowed on me, is too precious for me to want any other from you, ever. And believe me when I take the liberty of calling you the same, it is no empty formula, but the real expression of the sentiments of my heart.

“I stop here, gentlemen, for I see I have been very long-winded though I had nothing to report. May you continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ? Your next letter will find me, I hope, in the midst of pagan territory. Pray God my dear friends that I may then be able to inform you that a great number have been converted to the Lord

“In unity of prayers and tender embraces of charity,

I have the honour to be … “ (p 170)


Thunder-storms in India turned out to be much less violent than what I expected. I still find this puzzling. And the thunder itself, certainly, was very rarely as spectacular as the ferocious bangs and detonations produced by our storms around Toulouse and Carcassonne almost every day between mid-June and mid July. Hailstones are hardly ever seen in India. Just once, in all those twelve years, there came a storm (everyone said it was abnormal) featuring the phenomena admired with such fear and horror in the Midi [South of France]. A few hailstones fell that time -and caused general astonishment. The old people tried to recall when and where they had ever seen the like. Several of the oldest had never seen it. For not only are hail-showers extremely rare; the local area where they fall is usually very restricted.

Admittedly, twelve years is a very short time, in weather observation especially when it is not done scientifically. But a stronger proof than these vague observations is the fact that the people have no fear whatsoever of thunder. I have never seen a woman scared of lightning. Once, indeed, It killed a man near my house. But they spoke of this event like a very misfortunate, once-off, accident. Now, if fatalities from lightning were as recurrent as they are in France, people would definitely be scared of it some-times.

I have often tried to figure out a reason for this natural phenomenon [the almost harmless lightning], I think one reason is the great amount of water which must continually be in the atmosphere. For the whole fertility of the Indian soil is dependent on the considerable quantities lying not far below the surface, as can be known by the countless wells used for irrigation. These are drawn dry every day, and yet they always rise again daily to a certain level. From all this underground water there must be strong continual (p 171) evaporation, even during the long months without a drop of ram. From this evaporation, in turn, comes the survival of those plants whose roots can reach no moisture but whose leaves are designed to breathe in the humidity from the atmosphere. From this same humidity, I concluded, comes the inability of the electricity to concentrate itself very strongly inside anyone cloud. It does reach certain intensity; but it is not sufficiently insulated to continue charging itself higher. It leaks from cloud to cloud, or dis-charges itself before it is “ready”. Hence, also, the inability of the cooling droplets to stay suspended long enough to harden into hailstones.

In “compensation” hurricanes are frequent, with a violence rarely seen in Europe. They most commonly occur with the changes of season (monsoon). Every year you can be prepared to endure a windstorm of varying violence. And, in any 10-12 year period, you can expect at least one disastrous hurricane. On 24th October 1842 I witnessed this terrible phenomenon myself.

The morning had been rainy, but calm. One of our confreres was due to embark for Karikal that day, on one of the five ships harboured in Pondicherry just then. But the North wind began to blow wildly. Fortunately, he was not allowed on board and had to come back. It was providential… For, very soon, the wind veered North-west, with extreme violence. The ships were signalled, ordering them out to sea for safety. But it was too late. Three of them perished in the gale. The other two were several times within inches of going under. Their masts were broken and they were very severely damaged.

“I still don’t know how we survived”, said one of the captains to me, a few days after. “We were finished. The crew had given up, in despair. But I opened a keg of spirits for them, and it gave them some energy. I’d say that’s what saved us”. Much more likely, it was the prayers of a good mother, a devoted sister, imploring the God of mercies for him at the time. The barrel which he made out to be his salvation might just as easily have led to his destruction, if the crew had misused his “eau-de-vie”. Ultimately, anyway, it was to God he owed his deliverance. But he could not see it. How those poor people are to be pitied, O my God! (p 172)

About 3 o’clock, the storm was at the height of its fury …Through the window, we could see the rain coming down in sheets, the whole compound transformed into a lake. We heard branches snapping and whole trees come crashing down. It was like a scene from the Flood. The violence went on until 6 o’clock. Then the cawing of crows told us we could now put our heads out. I hurried up to the flat roof and grabbed on to the parapet, for the wind was still very strong. There I could see that the damage was enormous.

For the first time, I saw the whole city laid bare. For all the trees were uprooted, or smashed, or shorn of their branches. The livid sea gave out frightful moanings. The city’s flag-staff had snapped like a match-stick. One crowded quarter of pariah hovels was just a big lake. It was a heart-rending sight. Very soon, after a lull of only a quarter of an hour, I had to get down again. The wind swung south; and, for the next hour, we had to endure the horror of the storm once more. Though probably less violent than before, it still caused terrible damage in the end, because it finished off the already-shaken houses and trees. The colossal Cross on top of the church facade came down with a terrifying crash. Fortunately, the crowds of Indians, flooded out of their huts and now sheltering in the Mission, had already gone well into the church or into the corridors. For all their own houses were more or less destroyed. The poorer mud houses were totally flattened. The poor people also sought shelter in some nearby solider houses, leaving their few bits and pieces of household possessions to the mercy of the hurricane – or to the Thieves who, here as elsewhere, were quick to profit from troubled times in order to exercise their criminal trade.

It was not until midnight or after that the rain stopped; and the poor souls were able to come out of their shelters and go home to count their losses. All through the night, their confused lamentations rang out. They were dying with the cold; and they lit many big fires at various points in the town, to try and restore their perishing limbs, and to dry the single piece of cloth that was now their only worldly possession. It was many days before the streets were cleared sufficiently for wheeled traffic, so choked up were they with fallen trees and tumbled walls. (p 173)


This furious gale was only the prelude to a long stretch of miserable weather, which turned into a complete calamity with the ensuing cholera epidemic. Rains in plenty were not surprising; they are normal for the season, along the Coromandel Coast. But these rains were far more abundant than was needed, and they went on much too long. The month of January (usually dry) was just one long series of downpours. The rice harvest (the mainstay of the region) was terribly affected. Food was dear. The people suffered. The poor people’s dwellings, ruined in the hurricane, could only be temporarily patched up during the bad weather. The resulting cold and damp predisposed the people for the terrible effects of the epidemic. So when it came, it raged with atrocious intensity.

Cholera is something new to India, as to Europe. It is not mentioned in the ancient Indian books; and their physicians have no more fixed traditions about its treatment than have doctors elsewhere. But by now it has become naturalised [endemic] in India, and it causes much more havock there than in Europe. There is no time of the year when someone, somewhere, isn’t dying of cholera. But it becomes really frightening when it builds up to a crisis. Capricious as always, it sometimes attacks one village – or street – and leaves the next one. Or one house is wiped out; the next is untouched.

It usually starts with vomiting, diarrhea, cramps. Eyes become dull and sunken. When these symptoms are all present simultaneously, especially at the start of an invasion, you can be sure that the patient will be dead within a few hours. The Indians have no single word for “cholera”. They term it “vandhi-bedhi” (vomit-and-shit). But they rarely pronounce the term; they are so scared of it. By a respectful figure-of-speech, they just call it “illness”. (p174) For more than a month we were continually in the midst of the dying and the dead. It was really pitiable, on an evening, to do the funeral of a man you had seen’ in perfect health that same morning. For bodies are buried very quickly here, a few hours after death. So a person could be attacked, dead and buried before you even heard he was ill. Maybe you were chatting with him a few hours before. In a situation like this, O my God, how close and literal your Word becomes, that the day of your coming will be just like it was in the days of Noah or of Lot. People ate and drank; they bought and sold; they married and celebrated the wedding. Then the Flood came and swallowed them up. Then Fire came and suddenly burnt down Sodom and Gomorra. At 11 a.m, a girl was out buying her wedding things. In the evening they came to tell us she was dead. Her wedding Mass had been fixed for the next day; she was there for her Requiem! Rarely does just one person die in a house. The entire family is often wiped out.

The first few days of the epidemic are the worst. Very rarely does anyone survive an attack then. Later on, many recover. I have seen all kinds of remedies tried, usually in vain. It seems, however, that ether and laudanum have some success. Forty drops in a glass of water. (Less for children). If the patient vomits the medicine, give it again. Also, try every possible means (mas-sage, etc.) to warm the extremities of the limbs.

Is cholera contagious? Generally, people say no. The fact is that no missionary can be in India very long without ministering to hundreds of cholera patients. And we take no special precautions. They would be well-nigh impossible in an Indian house, anyway. The patient is on a mat, on the ground. You have nearly to get down there with him, to hear his confession and give the last sacraments. Once, when I was attending a cholera patient like that, he shot up several times and fired off liquid salvoes [at both ends] adequately is drenching me. So, if cholera was really contagious, it should get us all very quick. However, it must be admitted, a huge proportion of missionaries die of cholera, if you compare them with other Europeans. But that must’ be because these have much less to do with cholera patients than we have. And another (p 175) reason could be our food and our way of life, which are much more Indian In style than theirs.

Temperature is Relative!

I mentioned “the cold” at 11° latitude. This may have come as a surprise. It is nevertheless true. The people suffer greatly from the drop in temperature that accompanies the rains and the mists. After a few years in India, Europeans begin to feel it too. During my first “winter” there, I could know it was cold only by reason and by faith – faith in the statements of those around me which I couldn’t very well disbelieve. ‘

I assumed at first that there would be no word in Tamil for “cold”. But (even before the winter) I knew better. Our Tamil teacher (dictionary in hand at that) assured me that there was. Let us love God with all the coolness of our hearts”, [said the Tamil prayer-book we were studying]. In good French this would have to be translated “all the ardour of our hearts”, he explained. Puzzled, I asked him a whole lot of questions about coolness and cold In India. “Just wait and see”, he said. “This winter, you will have poor people coming to you, asking for a piece of cloth to protect them from the cold”. And so it was. In India too, we have to clothe the members of Jesus Christ because they are naked, and suffering from the cold. – “Why didn’t you come this morning?”” I asked my Mass-server. “Oh, mon père, it was too cold”.

. Thus it is that you balance things, O my God! Man can make dissertations and construct systems about the possibility and the impossibility of human habitation in various parts of the globe. But, on the same planet, for men of the same human nature all descended from a common father, You give cold and heat in succession -no matter whether they are being blackened by the blazing tropics or contemplating the midnight sun as it circles the horizon over the polar ice. (p 176)

Luquet is coming! “But be Careful!”

His Lordship of Drusipara [Bishop Bonnand] was away from Pondicherry for several months, on pastoral visitation … I was hoping that, by the time he returned, I would know enough Malabar [Tamil] to be sent [to the interior]. I was eager and impatient to get out and see what our Christians outside the European influence of the city were like.

Meanwhile, I got some great news: Fr Luquet was appointed to India! I really felt that the Lord must have answered our poor prayers at last, and that, in His mercy; He was sending us the one He was to send, for the religious regeneration of .these lands. I knew that Fr Luquet thought the same as me, especially about native clergy, which I continued to regard as both feasible and indispensable. I told this to Fr Leroux, and he felt greatly revived and encouraged. However, our joy was not unmixed. Fr Luquet wrote a letter from which I could see that we were in for some opposition, even from the Paris Seminary. I had been counting on their support; for the objective we were aiming at was none other than the Aim of the Society which the Lord had given me the grace of entering. Here are some passages from Fr Luquet’s letter:

“You know that I am appointed there to Pondicherry with you. To be perfectly honest, I was not hoping for that. However, when I thought about it before God, I could see quite clearly that Pondicherry is the place where I can do the greatest good for that all-Important fundamental work to which the Lord has been pleased to call us [i.e. native clergy]. All the same, I have something to tell you now; and I hope you will permit me to give you this advice and fore warning which may come in useful in the future: You and I are sent to India [as a punishment] for our out-spoken-ness, which did not go down so well in certain quarters. I assure you, .this is true! Though there is no need for you to go trying to pin-point what person or persons have taken umbrage at what they feel is our too “free-and-easy” attitude.

“I can tell you, also, that your [farewell] speech at table has made an impression. Some people have welcomed it, and they bring it up now and then, when we are discussing these issues, to me of capital (p 177) importance. Others, however, suspecting a tendency out of line with their own personal policies, seem to have been more or less shocked by the speech.

“Your letter to Fr Tesson – which I whole-heartedly support, especially the central idea – has added to that unfavourable impression of theirs. I think I have spotted a significant sourness about it in one place. I am telling you all this to show you the way forward, and let you see what prudence we should have, even when expressing the truest of opinions, and the most in conformity with the fundamental aim of our Society’s institution …

“[Your point of view) has become well known. And this was how. What you wrote about Mass on board ship was so much to the Superior’s liking that he told us, one day in a conference, that he would like us all to see that letter. One of our classes took the opportunity of asking for it, and got it. It went around; and we had time to copy out the important part. And I hope it has borne fruit.

Still on the subject, I want to tell you about another event that you will be glad to hear of; for it has a direct bearing on putting our ideas on native clergy into practice. I mean the publication of the book I was working on when you left. Today I got the first copy from the publisher. To recount all the circumstances that helped to bring its publication to a successful conclusion would require a long disgression. I must say, it all increases my faith. For it must have taken a very special protection from Our Lord to get this far – to get a work of this kind published here, without the House being aware of it, even today. Fr X (a Director) managed the first steps. Fr Y (another Director) got me the necessary support to finish the job. In such a way that, through it all, I felt I was in the order of God. In a few months’ time I hope I will be able to give you this new proof myself, this indication of what can be achieved, with confidence in the grace of God and a bit of perseverance. Not that my book is anything of extreme importance in itself. But I think that, given the position I was in, it means things have already come a long way”.

Having read this letter I exclaimed: “O my God! I do not ask You to spare us trouble and contradictions, but only to grant that we may manage to overcome all the obstacles, for your glory, and for the salvation of the sheep without a shepherd”. (p 178)

The Caste System Explained

During this time, our lives were rather monotous. Still unable to exercise the sacred ministry, we were continually engaged in the study of Tamil. We hardly ever saw our confreres except during recreation after meals. We profited from our conversations with them to learn something of the quite extraordinary customs of the people, and the difficulties met in a country so diffe-rent from our own.

Everyone knows how tenaciously the Indians cling to Caste and its customs. There are four principal castes: the Brahmins, the Warriors, the Merchants and the Servants (or Craftsmen). They all came out of Brahma: the first from his head, the second from his shoulders, the third from his belly, and the fourth from his feet. These castes are sub-divided into an infinity of others. Not only is marriage impossible between different castes; a lawful union can be made only within the same exact sub-caste. Family honour requires that the union be made between relatives, and done in exact conformity with the rules of their caste. The greatest punishment possible is to be driven out of one’s caste. You are then outside of society, without a place to lay your head. No hope, even, of being received into a lower caste, ever.

Apparently, this is the origin of the pariahs; they are, strictly speaking, caste-less people, out-castes. However, in actual fact, having now become very numerous, they have their own caste customs, their own divisions and sub-divisions. And they cling to them as tightly as do the upper castes. Moreover, the pariahs rate themselves higher on the social ladder than certain bottom rungs of the 4th caste, such as the “sakili” or shoemakers, the “vannar” or washermen, the “thotti” or night-sail-men and street-sweep-ers. Nevertheless, a pariah can never enter the house of a Malabari (caste Indian). When he meets one, he must keep a respectful distance. If he touched him, the caste Indian would be defiled. If a Malabari were to enter a pariah’s house, or eat something prepared by him, or drink water drawn by him – or even from a well dug for him – this would be quite enough to have him driven out of his caste! (p 179)

. But in all this very strange set-up, the most extraordinary thing of all is this: everybody is satisfied with it! Each is content with his own lot, and has no desire to move up out of it. He feels no envy of the higher-caste man, for it never enters his head that he himself could ever, possibly, be anything else than what he is. Without ever thinking about it, or ever saying a word, they all seem to be interiorly convinced that the different castes are like so many different natures, which it would be patently absurd to try to change ‘. Thus, for example, we can admire the Angels, without ever being able, seriously, to envy them; their nature is nobler, but it is so utterly different from ours! Similarly, they can all admire .the supreme caste – the Brahmins – without ever dreaming of envying them; because they are utterly convinced that such a thing is impossible in itself.

“Since the Europeans came, they have, by dint of bemoaning the sad fate of the pariahs, begun to make the pariahs notice that they are unfortunate. Apparently, they never felt that way before. Apart from some individuals, personal victims of special cruelty, the pariahs, as a caste, were probably just as content with their lot as were those of nobler birth. And these, for their part had problems of their own, undreamt of by the pariahs. Even today, pariahs who do not have frequent contacts with Europeans never complain about the caste system. And certainly, the greatest favour we could do for the whole Indian population (including the pariahs) would be to let them alone free to live out their lives in perfect obedience to the caste laws. This is hard to believe, without seeing it for yourself. True, there is no legislation on the world more tyrannical than caste laws, big and small. Well, everyone is happy to submit to their demands.

He may complain about his sufferings, but never about the Caste system which is their cause. If someone offered to save him from the suffering by breaking free of his caste obligations, he would rather die first! Even a pariah!

Apart from Caste, which segregates humanity into diverse categories, the Indian’s life is one complex net-work of superstitions. Every action of his day is regulated by religious laws laid (p 180) down by caste – just one continuous series of religio-social acts. It is easy to see how difficult this must make evangelisation. St Francis Xavier himself could get nowhere with it. Tradition says that, one day, he was (miraculously?) transported into the interior. He came back quick, saying that those people were not yet ripe for the Gospel! In fact, he had to keep to the coasts, working especially with Europeans and their more-or-less legitimate descendants with the Saint Thomas Christians etc. – except on the Fisheries Coast, and there with one caste only: the Paravas. And the missionaries who came after him could do no better. A few went inland, to look after some half-Portuguese Christian comunities. But the Indians there would not listen to them, nor even come near them. For in Indian eyes they were nothing but pariahs, since they communicated with that class.

De Nobili.37 Madurai. Roman Condemnations.

Things rested so, until Robert de Nobili decided to make himself a Brahmin. He changed his origin, adopted Brahmin dress customs and food (absolutely vegetarian). And he began to make converts! Not without grave objections from his superiors about the lawfulness of his policy. We must believe that he found some way of avoiding anything that might be a participation in idolatry. Especially since his example was followed by many other [Jesuits]. Following in his footsteps and developing his system, they achieved the magnificent Mission of Madurai. One thing is sure: if they were wrong, it was in good faith. They freely and heroically submitted themselves to a way of life that, to a European, is the ultimate in suffering and mortification ‘. Nevertheless, it now appears indisputable that – at least in later times – their to-leration of Indian customs went beyond the bounds of what is pos-sible morally. Terrible disputes broke out between the Jesuits and (p 181) Capuchins on the subject. Eventually, the Holy See pronounced Judgment. [Somewhat against the Jesuits]. But it was not com-pletely implemented until after the promulgation [1744] of the Bull “Omnium Sollicitudinum” of Benedict XIV.

At this point, very many Christians apostasised. And since that time, any mass conversions have become impossible. European domination has, in some ways, consolidated the [Christian] religion in the country. But among the real Indian population it has remained barely static ever since. Indeed, if anything, our upper-caste Christians have been decreasing rather than increasing – In spite of the enormous concessions made to them about customs not obviously and explicitly condemned by the Holy See. And there are missionaries who consider certain of these concessions not very orthodox. Some even go so far as to maintain that the whole caste system is something much more sinister than a mere legislation of social class distinctions – which it is essentially against Natural Law, or directly against the Gospel at any rate.

Simply Follow the Official Mission Coutumier

During my first stay in Pondicherry, I hardly bothered at all about these tangled issues. As I said, my heart was on the side of the Indians, and it inclined me to give every possible benefit of the doubt to their customs. And I still think it is the only way – provided you can be quite sure, in all honesty, that you are not going beyond what is possible. And I can see no way to be sure of that without a decision from the Holy See. Others, however, see no need for new decisions from Rome; they believe they can be quite sure themselves, of the lawfulness of their concessions. I respect their personal conviction; it is in no way due to bad intentions. But, when a bishop, I just could not see my way to taking responsibility for it.

But during my first stay there, it was not for me to judge [the policy of] my Bishop. I knew his great faith and his holiness. So I resolved, purely and simply, to proceed according to whatever directives he might give me, and follow the customs and regulations (p 182) of the Mission exactly – the official Coutumier he had drawn up a few years before. (By that time, the Europeans had become more widespread in the country. And this was forcing, or influencing, the missionaries to be less and less tolerant towards the poor Indians). Here are a few of the more “exotic” parts of the Coutumier:

Dress, Travelling, etc.

“A missionary leaving Pondicherry for the interior shall put off his black soutane and don a white habit, as being somehow more fitting to Indian ideas than the European outfit. His new costume consists of an angi (a sort of long gown) with a salvei (a big scarf) thrown over his shoulders. A red biretta. Then papatchi (Indian sandals) for horse-back. But padakuradu (wooden shoes held on by a wooden or ivory big-toe-hold) for house or church. Also a long (shoulder-high) malacca cane or staff, compulsory when walking. A white belt or sash. (Light yellow would also do, and would suit In-dian taste quite well). This is the complete outfit for all dealings with Indians. One can wear a white French-style soutane for visits to Europeans in the interior.

“Normally a missionary will take along a disciple, a cook, and a groom for his horse. When he has “coolies” (load-carriers) for the journey, he should get them to walk in front of him, or very close behind, with his disciple or his cook in charge. Otherwise he may find himself without the necessities of life when he halts on the journey. Or he may have to wait a long time before going on again.

“If he is travelling with coolies, the missionary must:

1° move only at a very slow walking pace; 2° not over-load them; 3° call a rest-halt when requested, once or twice every stage (for about 15 minutes).

“During the morning trek, he must let the coolies stop to take their pazhaya soru (cold rice) when they ask him. Also, Indians are accustomed to answer the “call of nature” at a fixed time every morning; there should be due considera-tion, and a short stop, for this.

“The missionary must beware of the urge to walk for overlong stretches. If the coolies get too tired, they will not be (p 183) able to carry their loads at all on the next stretch. So instead of making more headway, he will fall back…

Caste Customs to Observe

“On the journey, the missionary must begin to observe the asaram of the country (the rules of decency and civility) as much as possible. At every halting-place, he must get away from prying eyes, at least by making a screen of cloths if there is no natural retiring-place. Above all, he must never eat in view of the passers-by. However, if he stops off at an English “bungalow” or rest-house (their answer to the Indian savady) it is not a good idea to make himself conspicuous by observing Indian asaram, especially if there are gentlemen about. If there are none, he can observe or not, as circumstances suggest. But in every case he must take good care not to use the water-pots or jugs he will find in the bungalow, or drink the water there. For these vessels and that water are deemed defiled by the hands of the sakili. And in reality the missionary should be loath to drink water or touch vessels served by such hands”.

(Here I just have to point out something: In reality, that water is perfectly clean. The English and the European ladies who use it are at least as choosy as any missionaries. And something else: Quite often, Instead of that cool, Clearwater, we have to turn round and drink horrible filthy stuff which is nevertheless deemed to be “pure”, because it was brought by Malabaris in their own vessels – not sakili or pariah vessels! Whatever about the lawfulness of observing and going along with such nonsense, one thing is obvious: this kind of wording and “reasoning” is tailor-made for throwing trouble and confusion into the mind of many a missionary. For on many such occasions they know they have no honest, expressable reasons for observing such customs).

Ceremonial Arrival. Taboos etc.

. “On getting near the mission, he must send someone on ahead to Inform the Christians. For generally they will want to come to meet (p 184) the missionary, to escort him in style, usually to the sound of music. By now he must have his salvei over his head, and the complete out-fit correct. He must let them escort him, very slowly, to the church, making sure to stay on his horse. Before the church, he takes off his [riding] shoes; he takes his walking-stick; and – so as not to be barefoot – he puts on his wooden clogs before entering. He kneels before the altar, biretta on head, salvei correctly thrown over one shoulder, Indian-style. The Christians chant the Salve Regina in Malabar. This concluded, he makes any necessary announcements. Then he goes to his room. He says a few parting words to the head Christians, who have gone there with him. He must make sure to show great interest and kindness – without, however, doing or saying anything that might be beneath the dignity and gravity of a guru (priest).

“In places where the Christians have the custom of washing the priest’s feet when he dismounts (or before he enters his room) he should let them do it. (It is still practiced in the Telegu missions). This service is performed always by men. But they would never do it for a missionary who wears his [travelling] shoes into the church…

“This ceremonial reception has almost entirely died out in the places dominated by Europeans. You have to know the local cus-tom (mamul) and follow it, in each place.

“The missionary must observe his own due decorum; never enter the church with papatchi shoes on. Always with parakuradu clogs. Never spit, either inside or at the door (at least when there are people present). Never blow your nose audibly, like some Europeans. To spit in the sanctuary, even into your handkerchief, would be downright indecent. Mass must be said bare-foot. Before Mass, it is fitting to wash your feet, or rather have the disciple do it. Your mouth also, if not washed already. Then you proceed to the church, wearing your wooden clogs and your red biretta (or else your culla – a sort of red hood, antiquated but still sometimes allowed instead).

On ordinary working days when there are no crowds, the missionary can go to the church with a mottai culla on his head (a big white skull-cap) especially if he is staying near by. The big culla (or biretta) and clogs are acceptable anywhere. But on Sundays and fairly big feasts, he must put on the salvei over the biretta etc.

“Before and after meals, if he is following Indian custom, he must wash mouth and hands. To wash the mouth after dinner is absolutely essential; no exception. He must eat with the right hand only _ that goes without saying! He must not let a drinking vessel (p 185) (etc …38) touch his lips. He must never even mention eating beef, cow or frogs. Never sit on a seat (etc.) of tanned leather; they have a horror of such leather. But tiger-skins, deer-skins etc., with the hair still on them, are greatly respected and gladly used.

“For major operations, there must always be water readily available, and it must be applied by the left hand only. For minor operations, to leak standing up is indecent to the Indian mind. 39

“A missionary must not let anybody inside his room except essential personnel. When eating, only his disciples and the catechist can be admitted. He must never talk about what he eats, especially not to pagans. Never let them inside the kitchen.

“It is worth noting, however, that where Europeans have become common, the Christians do not demand the same old exactitude from missionaries about all these asaram. The old-time missionaries in the interior were not known to be Europeans. Nowadays everybody, even in the furthest interior, knows where we are from. Nevertheless, they still have much more respect for a missionary who keeps to the asaram. These “noble” manners of his seem to indicate that he is from a higher-class background. And we still have to be careful, everywhere, not to shock Indians by a blatant violation of their manners. They know we are Europeans, but they do not regard us as being the same as the others.

“Conversing with Indians, you have to avoid mentioning many European customs that are incompatible with their ideas. You don’t go into detail about the kinds of meat eaten there. Better to dodge all questions they ask about this, or about your family; for these questions could become endless”.

“Talking to the Christians, the missionary will normally not use the honorific “you” etc. This is used ‘only for high dignitaries, or superiors. (Unless one of the Christians had a very high-up job). In general, a Christian will not sit down in the presence of a priest. … A missionary must never touch children, whether boys or girls. It would often be badly misinterpreted. (p 186) “When a missionary has to travel out, to the sick or for other reasons, he must always be in full correct outfit. And always accompanied by someone. He must never gallop his horse within view of a town or village. That would belie the gravity of a guru. I.t would also make him look like an Englishman to the ordinary Indian.

“The custom is for missionaries to wear a beard, and their hair cut short. It suits his status and the ideas of the country: It also serves to draw a strong line of demarcation between the priest and the Protestant minister.

“He must not let any of his people sleep in his room. That could give rise to suspicions very injurious to his reputation. (Unless in a case of serious illness, when he needed someone to look after him).

Palavers, Marriage Cases and Other Matters

“He must be very cautious about [getting involved in] judging any important case (e.g. about caste, or feuds between parties). For if the priest decides against one side, they are quite capable of leaving the Church “en masse”. But sometimes [involvement in] marriage cases and disputes are unavoidable. And [sometimes] there will be people who refuse to listen to the missionary’’s decision or that of the head Christians, to the great scandal [of the community]. In such a situation, after repeated warnings to the hard-liners, the missionary may be obliged to pronounce a public sabam on them – a curse or exclusion from the sabey (assembly, church or caste). The Indians greatly fear a sabam. If they have any bit of faith or loyalty in them, they will shun a person so condemned as if he were sol-emnly excommunicated.

“In marriage preparations, you have to be very much on your guard. For many have hardly any scruple in lying about impediments or about the girl’s age. (They marry off daughters very young). And there is even a proverb which says “a successful marriage deal requires a thousand lies”. A marriage IS of the utmost Importance to the Indians. You must demand, whenever possible, that the parties make their First Communion before the marriage, If they have not already done so. Whenever possible, the tali should be tied at the church. (The wedding symbol tied by the groom around the bride’s neck) …

“Indians are mad for processions … always at night. By day a procession (p 187) lacks gusto. The day-time is too hot. And the fire-works (a very important feature) would be pointless in the daylight. In places with a big number of Europeans, you have to try to minimise processions. For even the Catholic Europeans dislike them; many even find them a stumbling-block to their faith. Southern-European Catholics are much less set against them than the Northerners (e.g. the French and the English), the reason being ‘that, in the South of Europe, the customs are much nearer the Indians’ own.

“Begging is no disgrace in India as in Europe. Many old or infirm people make an honourable profession out of it. Often a poor Christian will come to the priest to get a written Permission to Beg. They look on this authorisation as a title and a right to alms, and a mark of respectability”. (The rest in Appendix) … 40

“Christians like to put on religious plays. They must first get per-mission from the missionary. It is always by night, usually in the open. They just erect a kind of stage, of coconut branches. The subject is always religious – the martyrdom of a Saint etc. This is never meant as a laugh, but always seriously, to stir up the religious sentiments of the spectators. But you still have to watch out! Many of the vathiar (playwrights, or school-teachers) take it upon themselves to improve the play by adding in sexy characters and songs.

“In these countries, widows are universally despised. It is even a favourite insult to call a married woman or a small girl a “widow”. Even in the no-account castes, a widow can never re-marry. Even in the very lowest, like the pariahs, re-marriage is rare, and then only unofficially, on the sly, with no ceremony.

“At funerals, fasting is the custom up to the actual burial. All the family and relatives must fast from the time someone dies. This custom, plus the hot climate, ensures that the dead are very promptly buried. So you have to look out, or you might be burying dead-looking people who are not quite dead.”

Feasts: St Francis Xavier, Christmas, New Year.

“The feast of St Francis Xavier is heart-warming to a missionary. Still more so in the land-where his feet actually trod. Xavier (p 188) did not work long on the Coromandel Coast. But he did go to San Thome, near Madras, to venerate the tomb of [Thomas] the Apostle. So he probably also came through. Pondicherry. Anyway, his feast is very popular there, and I saw it celebrated in great style. One zealous Christian man paid all the expenses for the fine procession in which the glorious missionary’s statue was borne in triumph. O God! How is it that we have not yet found the way to consolidate the good he did in India! Why have the Christian comunities here not yet become [self-supporting] Churches? Did not Xavier himself point the way, by his personal sollicitude for the native seminary of the Holy Faith [at Goa]. .

“Great Saint”, I said then, “you have marked out the right path, and walked it yourself as an example to us. Pray for us now, that we may be able to follow you, both in your apostolic career and even unto the abode where you dwell in glory”.

Then came the Feasts of Christmas and New Year. As everywhere, Christmas is a joyful and popular feast. The liturgy takes place at night, with great solemnity. The noise of gunpowder announced the birthday anniversary when a Son is born to us” for the salvation of all the peoples. No need to say, there was a Crib in our church, and that the women in the assembly were full of joy. They gently clapped their hands, pulled their ears and patted their cheeks, at the sight of the Kulandai Sarubam (the Baby’s statue). And everyone greeted Him .with songs of rejoicing.

What is special here in Pondicherry is that nearly every Christian home renews this celebration. The rich people go to great expense to have a really beautiful Crib. This year I went around to nearly all the “special” ones; and some were really tastefully decorated, radiating faith and devotion. I have to admit however that some also had burlesque touches mixed m with the serious: Nearly all had some incongruous or childish details. Displayed around were all sorts of dolls; little earthenware or cardboard men; paper monkeys, cats, dogs and birds; waxwork fruits and flowers. And – strangest of all – nearly every crib had Napoleon in some shape or form!

After a Pater and Ave to greet Mary and Jesus, you sat down. Then the hymns started, long and monotonous solos, accompanied (p 189) by “interior” music, much quieter than the previously mentioned kind, but not much sweeter (at least to my ears). No wind instruments here; saliva is impure. No pariah drums or instruments; no barber or “vannar” (washermen) specialities. A few tuneless tambourines, some little bells and cymbals, a huge pot or vase beaten with some bit of rhythm – such were the usual instruments. The women took no part in the singing. Indeed they do not even appear if there is a stranger present. In the big houses they were listening behind a curtain-veil.

These visits to Cribs went on until the Epiphany. Unfortunately, nowadays, they are subject to misuse. Already, in certain houses, the Crib is nothing but an opportunity for showing off wealth and luxury. And the parties (for there it is a party, not a religious evening) go on into the small hours: so the devil can use the darkness to catch some prey. So far, however, I do not think the abuses are enough to make this custom bad; for in itself it is harm-less and even praiseworthy.

New Year’s Day has no traditional Indian celebration to coincide with. It is not the Christians’ day for going visiting. This they do on the Epiphany, which they celebrate (quite rightly) as the mystery of the Manifestation of the Saviour of mankind to the Gentiles. We, however, as Europeans (or rather as Frenchmen; for the other Europeanised towns do their courtesy calls at Christmas) we in the Mission had to play our part in the usual New Year greetings and good wishes. Many visitors arrived, principally in order to collect their New Year presents. But they all brought something too. For it is a proverb in India that a visitor cannot arrive with one hand as long as the other.

Indians always bring something with them for the big men that they are visiting or going to greet. Usually it is just a little bouquet of yellow flowers, or a yellow or gilded lemon. Our richer visitors brought the Bishop quantities of rice, sugar-cane, coconut, bananas etc. Some of them also delivered speeches – more or less ponderous compliments in French or Tamil – always with imperturbable aplomb. When they ventured into French, the style usually got bombastic, sometimes comically so. Especially when the orator accompanied his phrases with rhetorical (p 190) gestures that meant the opposite of what he was saying! But what-ever about the style and the actions, the words were always respectful. And I am convinced they came from the heart, which is more than a lot of people give them credit for.

“The Indians have no heart [no real feeling] in them”, I heard. No doubt, they do not feel things in identically the same way as we do. But in my opinion it is a calumny to deny them the qualities common to all human hearts. For my own part, I have always been touched by their sincere appreciation of any little good I was able to do them. Indeed I can say they have been a lot more grateful to me than some other people whom I thought I could count on. On that New Year’s Day I wrote:

“These good people present their little gifts with respect, sometimes on their knees. Often they kiss the priest’s hand. Always they ask for his blessing. Yes indeed, may the Lord bless them! And He alone knows all the good things I would like to call down on India, if only my prayer could do it”.

End of Tyro

Bishop Bonnand was now back from his pastoral visitation a few days; and I was hoping he would soon send me to the interior, which I greatly desired to know, to see how it compared with Pondicherry, especially as regards religion. About the beginning of February, at a nearby village church, I tried to launch into Malabari, and managed to stammer out a few words. I also risked hearing a few confessions of a few people who were unlikely to find anyone better. It was all a dismal performance. But I was convinced that once I was out of an environment where I heard French spoken every day, I would make a lot more progress. And in a place where there would be no other priest available anyway, I could administer the Sacraments without misgivings. For an absolution given after a not very integral confession is certainly better than none at all. The Bishop informed me that I would soon be leaving Pondicherry, and I thanked the Lord for this good news. (p 191) There was nothing very remarkable to report, up to my departure; and I could finish this chapter here. But I want to include a few yarns picked up from my confreres after meals. (We had another Feast on the 8th September, at Ulgaret, a sort of minor Ariankupam. But it was sorely affected by the cholera epidemic raging at the time).

[* Pre- Ecumenical Yarns and Ministers *]

Generally, it can be said, Protestant ministers do not have much prestige here, even with their co-religionists. They get huge salaries. But they seem to consider them strictly personal, not at all to be used for the needs of their church or community.

One of our missionaries was in a place where he was getting 18 rupees a month from the Mission (about 46 francs). There was an English garrison there, and consequently a minister. He needed a wall around the Protestant cemetery. So he started a special subscription. But his co-religionists did not respond. Nothing came in, and nothing was done about the wall.

Sometime later, our confrere found him faced with the same necessity [of building a wall]. He duly started a subscription, and included the Colonel. Although a Protestant, he put his name down for 20 rupees, and sent the circular around to his officers. They brought it up to 100 rupees. Than the catechist, figuring that the officers should not be the only generous people in the camp, decided to approach the ordinary soldiers. Very soon, it shot up to 300 rupees, which was more than enough [for the wall].

One of our missionaries had put up a rather fine church.

- “What’s that?” asked a rich English official on tour in the area.

“It’s a Catholic church”, they told him.

“Who put it up?”

“The missionary in this district”.

“And what’s his salary?”.

“Eighteen rupees a month”.

“Eighteen rupees! Why, the lowest of my employees gets more! (p 192) How’d he do it? And our own lot, with all the stacks of gold we give them, can’t put up a shed!”

The man just did not know that God multiplies the poor man’s halfpennies when they come from His members; and He blights the treasure from the rich man living outside His law.

This does not mean that the Protestant temples are inferior to our churches. Generally quite the opposite, in sad fact. But these temples are built at the expense of the Government or the Bible Societies. Whereas our own missionaries often have to go without the bare minimum in order to put up a decent altar, with the help of the Christians who, for the most part, can only contribute a few days free labour.

By a strange twist of Providence, an English Catholic doctor happened to be stationed at a place where the Protestant minister was exceptionally zealous – madly jealous, rather, of the true adorers of Jesus Christ. The doctor did all he could to counter the minister’s propaganda; and he suceeded in foiling it. He helped set up a Catholic school, and it flourished under his patronage. This was much too much for the minister. The better to vent his spleen, he got out a vicious pamphlet, accusing us of idolatry, employing the usual dishonest tactics characteristic of the instructors of our unfortunate Reformed brethren. He gave free rein to his anger against our homage for the Saints, especially the cult of our Blessed Mother, the heavenly Immaculate Virgin Mary.

How could any man who pretended to be half-way honest go so far! What shameless blasphemy he published! The blessed name of “Mary” is usually translated in Tamil as “Mariammal”. And the pagans happen to have a particularly infamous goddess whom they greatly honour; her name (?) is “Marrivalliamoy”. She belongs to the low-caste pariahs, and they worship her with the most revolting acts – animal blood, prostitution etc. To this obscene goddess girls are offered, to be debauched and prosti-tuted afterwards.

Well, it was by comparing the two names (not all that similar, really) that he had the unbelievable temerity to compare our chaste Mother to that abominable goddess! He likened that hellish worship to the pure and tender love which we profess for the (p 193) fairest of creatures, whom the angels love to venerate and whom all the heavens bless. God soon vindicated his mother, by a punishment often meted out to Mary’s defamers. Not more than a few months later, the tongue that uttered the obscenity, and the hand that wrote the sacrilege, was paralysed for life!

Hopes and Prayers for his First Mission

. The Bishop informed me I was to go to the District of Salem. This covered a whole Province, and Fr Fricaud was there all alone. I was being sent to help him, especially as he was not well. I received the news with great joy. Fr Triboulot was going to the Nilghir Hills in Coimbatore District, and then looked after by Fr Pacreau. Nilghiri is in the same direction as Salem, towards the West Coast. So we would have the pleasure of travelling together again, as far as Salem town. I was very glad, because of the edifi-cation and encouragement this excellent priest always gave me. It was just about a year since we had received our [Indian] appointment in Paris. So I wrote:

“God be praised for all He has done for me during the past year, probably one of the most important in my whole life. All the family oppositions removed, all difficulties smoothed out· and here I am, at the ends of the earth, O my God, as I so often prayed for. So here am I, at last, a missionary, as I so strongly desired! And yet I have done nothing, so far, for your glory, Lord. Please, enlighten my understanding and guide my steps, so that at last I may actually work for the extension of your Kingdom, the reign of your Love in men’s hearts.

. Yes, the Lord has put this hope in my heart, of doing something for his glory. Today He seems to be intensifying that hope, lett.mg me see the means we ought to take, in order to make our action more efficacious for the salvation of this people, now my people. For their good I want to spend myself without reserve. But what use are all my hopes, O my God, if your grace does not make them fruitful? Let it come down Lord like a gentle dew Obtain it for me, O Mary, and all you holy Patrons, and you, holy

(p 194) Angels who have been appointed to keep watch over these people and over my actions. Then will I have hope that all these hopes of mine will not be in vain; and that to God alone shall be the honour and the glory. Amen”.

Three Requirements for Progress

This hope was not unmixed with fears, however. Three things seemed indispensable, to get the Mission moving again, out of the torpor I perceived it to be in, and to give our action the power to produce real religious progress in India: in a proper local clergy; 2° widespread education; 3° a concerted policy towards Indian customs.

1 ° Get down seriously to establishing a local clergy. Yet nobody with any influence in the Mission was even thinking about it. Fr Leroux was far from being an authority. Fr Roger had no clear-cut ideas. And all the others were either against their aims, or were just smiling in pity at their impossible utopias.

2° Give solid education, as widely as possible. Yet we all seemed convinced that education was useless, even dangerous. Everything has its own dangers, no doubt; but isn’t ignorance more dangerous than everything? No doubt you could indeed fear that introducing Indians indiscriminately to European culture could lead them on to imbibe lies and impieties instead of wisdom and truth – especially in a century where bad books proliferate. People were afraid, not without reason, that reading our [French] authors, so sadly un-Christian, would only introduce these poor people to European vices and atheistic aberrations – while their caste system would prevent them from adopting the counterbalancing good things in our ideas, manners and customs. I thought these fears well-founded; we should be on our guard about the method of education we adopted here. But fear should not stop us. Education, in the scheme of Providence, is a natural first step for the grace of conversion, especially the conversion of a people as a people. Anyhow, there was no way to block the disadvantages [of “civilisation”]. By now the Europeans are opening (p 195) schools all over India. And they are run either by heretics or by atheists.

This evil, I suppose, could not be prevented. But was it not high time to do something about it, by having our own schools? We could teach all the subjects taught in the others and a [Catholic] education proportionate to them. And this education could be at different levels, suitable for caste Christians, or pariah Christians, or pagans. Some would be offered a complete knowledge of the Gospel, others a more indirect preparation.

The actual fact was that, at this period, the students at the so called seminary were forbidden to study any European language. This did not stop them, after they left (at the age of 15 or 16), from learning enough French for some job or other. Nor from reading the books of Voltaire and company; Pondicherry was crawling with them. They hardly ever studied their own language. That was for primary school. They hadn’t the faintest clue about history or geography. If some odd fellow happened to persevere in the “seminary” to the age of 28 or 30, he might be admitted to tonsure, and he might be taught a few words of Latin. (There were one or two like that there at the time). Then he would be given a few bits of theology. That was quite enough; they felt, for Indian priests! They were never going to be numerous, never going to be anything more than auxiliaries (sometimes possibly useful) for the missionaries.

3° Finally, I felt, we needed much more agreement among ourselves about which Indian customs we should, and should not, observe. (For the various confreres from the interior let me see that there was almost no agreement whatsoever about this). At that time, it is true, all I could see was that we should all conform more to the customs, especially in Pondicherry itself. I just could not understand the policy here. Pondicherry was the Vicar Apos-tolic’s usual residence. Here the missionaries from the interior had to come, from time to time. Here the new missionaries arriving from Europe received their first, indelible, impressions. And here was the only real explanation (I thought) why they were now so reluctant to submit to Indian customs, even in the interior. For (p 196) here was the very place where the customs were observed the least of all!

Failed Attempt to Dialogue with Bishop

"I was not without hope for the future, however. Bishop Bonnand was a man of great zeal and perfect goodwill. He had a rare ability to listen kindly to those who thought differently, and a genuine readiness to adopt their view if it was a shown to be a better one than his own. I must say, this Virtue of his won my heart m a remarkable way. I felt a real filial, personal love for him. And from that time I have always loved him - and still do -like a father; although God permitted us [later] to become separated, first geographically and then mentally, over very grave issues. But never divided, I hope, in our hearts. My own, at any rate will always cherish the attachment. I also pinned great hopes, [at that time] on the coming of Fr Luquet. For I knew he had the same sentiments as myself about the working of the missions. And a lot more talent for getting something done about them!

Pulled by fears and hopes like that, I decided one day to disclose them all to His Lordship. And here is what I wrote down in my diary, only a few minutes after the attempt. .

“I have just been trying to tell our venerable Bishop all I think and feel, about what is closest to my heart. But I didn’t get very far, for I soon saw I wasn’t making myself understood. O my God! You know what goes on in my heart; you know why it is often deeply hurt. May your holy name be praised in all things! When will it be granted me, Lord, to do something for your Church? O God, can it be all in vain that you have put so many desires for that into my heart? But yet, just where I can see no way forward because of my weakness, blocked by all kinds of obstacles on every side, there your almighty power will raise up avenues of hope. And even if it pleases you to leave my ardent desires ineffective, may your holy will be done in all things, anyway. Then, Lord leave the desire still there with me, so that in the secret of my heart I can at least still show You the good-will of it, which I (p 197)am unable to express outside, by action. Be that my cross if you so wish it, O my God, the continuous cause of my pains and sacrifice”.

*Sound Advice from his Father *

Let me wind up this chapter by giving thanks to Heaven for the good sentiments which God, who can sound every heart, continued to inspire in my tender, excellent father, when he wrote to me:

“My dear son,

How impatiently we were longing for some news of you! Then Providence, who works things out so much better than we ever could, was pleased to cut short our weary waiting. Not the only thing we have to thank Him for, either, in this tough situation. He speeds you on, in your eagerness to get quickly to your destination. He takes you through a long, far voyage without danger. And He is continuing … Ah! If up to the time of writing [how can I know?] God has kindly heard our prayers for you, prayers to comfort our own loneliness (which I don’t hesitate to admit, for I feel it has no murmuring against God in it) … then I have no doubt but that He is continuing to protect you and keep you, entirely happy, here below and on the other side! I have no doubt but He will continue to give us that great consolation, our first and most ardent wish amongst our other, more wordly concerns (for we cannot even try to separate ourselves entirely from the world).

“I can see that you are already eager and impatient to start into the country, into the actual work of the missions. I know – and I thank God – that there I don’t have to be afraid of the dangers you would have to face, among other peoples less gentle and kindly than the Indians. That the climate is the worst thing you have to beware of. I do hope that, as you promised, you will take all necessary precautions about that. I beg you; don’t be over-confident in your robust temperament and constitution. I won’t say “spare your strength” or “be cautious” to the point of neglecting your obligations, or of hesitating before a necessary exertion. No. I would never want you to be a molly-coddle much less a coward.

“But I will earnestly advise you not to let your zeal go as far as recklessness. Prudence is something we are commanded to have. (p 198) Not false, worldly prudence, ever on the look-out for its own advantage; but true prudence, the kind that knows what action is befitting. It doesn’t let obstacles block it; nor does it try to burst through them by presumptuous over-confidence. This virtue, which is commanded to us, cannot be attained by reasoning alone. It has to be asked for, from the proper Authority. We will all aid you with our prayers for it; and Heaven will bestow it on you … A Dieu…. May Heaven bless you, and accompany your steps, wherever He wishes you to journey”.

(p 199)

First-class Travel; too Dear for us

The only easy way to travel in India is by palankeen [a sort of deck-chair carried on poles]. The Indians have always used them. But the Europeans have modified them, to be as comfortable as possible. The English excel at this kind of thing – anything that improves well-being in this life. They have simplified the palankeen to an oblong adjustable litter. You can stretch out completely on it, or just sit. However, “the horizontal position is the most natural one for this country”, say the English.

A palankeen is slung from two long shafts resting on the shoulders of six men, three in front and three behind. They move so fast that an average horse could not keep up with them for long. There are always six others as well, ready to relieve them at frequent intervals. These keep running at the sides; and they take over, not all at once, but according as one or other of the carriers becomes tired. At night there must be two more, holding up big torches, to show the way. Thus a team of carriers is fourteen men. That is the legal number, when they are provided at an English Company post. But, for short journeys, you can make a private deal with only eight or even six men.

(p 200) With a proper team of carriers you can travel for more than a month, making two journeys every day, of 10 to 15 miles each. You set out about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning; and fairly soon after sunrise you will get to your first bungalow. There you stay all day, until about 4 or 5 in the evening. Then you set out again, and get to the second bungalow about 7 or 8 p.m. If more speed is needed, and if money is no obstacle, you can make previous arrangements with the station masters. Fresh carriers will be provided at each bungalow; and you can continue on your way, making 5 or 6 good miles every hour.

But our missionaries use this “de luxe” transport very rarely. It is very expensive. For although each carrier does not earn very much, the numbers make it costly. Moreover only one passenger – and almost no luggage – can go on one palankeen. So, extra carriers have to be hired for the loads. The Vicar Apostolic was the only one using palankeens, for his pastoral visitation. Missionaries went by bullock-cart or on horse-back, by shortstages. And that was how Fr Triboulot and myself were to make our first journey.

No Disciple. Marie-Xavery given Instead.

Once the day of our departure was fixed at last, we got down to our preparations. We began our Retreat on Sexagesima Sunday, so as to prepare for our first front-line action by prayer, and to call down the Lord’s blessing on our work. We were to leave on the Tuesday after Quinquagesima [Shrove Tuesday] the 28th February. But, by Monday, we still had not found any volunteer to go with us. For the climate at Salem is not without danger to new-comers. The water is not good, and cholera is endemic. Rarely do people going there escape a few fever attacks, before getting acclimatised. So the people who might be going with me got scared. One day they promised, but the next day they went back on it. Even up to a few hours before departure, I still did not know whether I was going to have a disciple, or any reliable person to help me on the journey. And it was going to be a very difficult (p 201) one, completely new to me. Moreover, I did not know enough Tamil to get me out of any problem or crisis that might arise.

“It was then, O Lord, that You began to give me the worries and anxieties of travel”, I wrote in my diary (which I will continue to follow from now on). “But it was only right that some snag or contradiction should come, to quieten down the joy and excitement J was feeling. At the wonderful thought that now, at long last, I was going to start actually working on the missions! And all the same, You came to my help too, O my God. Out of my distress You brought something much better for me, as is usually the way in your fatherly Providence.

"And now indeed, our confreres at Pondicherry - and Bishop Bonnand first of all- saw my great need. They decided to give me Marie-Xavery as a disciple - an excellent student at the seminary, m fact the only one there who gave serious signs of a vocation to the clerical state. And they certainly wouldn't have given him if the situation were less desperate! As well as his perseverance in the desire to consecrate him to the service of the altars, Marie-Xavery had a great many special, local qualities. He was well used to long, tough journeys. He was of a very good caste. But - given his age the kind of upbringing he had received - he was remarkably free from caste prejudices etc. Finally, he knew enough Latin to be my interpreter. (And indeed he turned out to be a great help in many ways). I am giving him a sort of Latin class every day, for he still has much need to Improve. And he is giving me lessons in Tamil. So both of us are master and disciple to each other. Bless this two-way study, O my God, for your unique glory.

Convoy before Dawn. Temple Carts.

“On the 28th February we were up long before dawn. We laid aside the soutane and put on the angi, exchanged shoes for papachi. On our heads we put our big red skull-caps, the famous culla (since replaced by the red biretta). We hit the road at 4 a.m., (p 202) having received the Bishop’s blessing, and the kiss of peace from our dear confreres.

The convoy was numerous. There were three of us setting out together. Fr Roger was going back to his station, and would be with us for the first two days. And a missionary, poor and all as he is, can hardly ever travel without at least three vital men: a cook, a groom (usually pariah) for his horse, and a “disciple”. This man is usually not at all like his name. Often he is a trusted person, acting as a personal adviser, envoy and sacristan. Or he may, indeed, be a young man, being trained by the missionary in the hope of making him a catechist or a seminarian. Some missionaries may even have several “disciples” of this kind. Such was the case with Fr Roger. And I hope to do the same myself, later on, if I can: test out a number of young people and send some on to the seminary. Our luggage was on two bullockcarts driven by pagans.

Guided by two lanterns, the caravan moved out, a little sad andjoyful troop. For thus have you made the human heart, O my God. We still get attached to those around us, no matter how often we resolve to cling to You alone. Hence all partings have some sorrow in them. And I was not unmoved as I saw the Bishop’s hand raised in blessing, nor when I pressed my confreres’ hands to say goodbye. We had been together more than nine months, and I had come to appreciate their outstanding qualities; so I was sorry to be leaving them.

“We advanced slowly, in silence, each at his prayers and meditation, until we came to the beautiful temple of Villenore41 in the white light of dawn. Villenore is a big town, still under the French. Its temple is the finest in Pondicherry territory. I could have admired it more wholeheartedly if only the curious architecture of its towers were not covered with abominable figures and if inside its walls infamous mysteries were not celebrated every day. Passing by, we saw the enormous Carts which are the (p 203) centrepiece of pagan festivals. These are huge structures of roughly carved wood, rather elegantly designed in pyramid shape. The carvings sometimes represent subjects of revolting filthiness, Nevertheless, that’s the story of their gods [and goddesses]. Fortunately the wood is so blackened by [years of] libation oil poured over it, and the carvings themselves are so crude in the first place, that the details are not easily distinguishable.

. “During the feasts, these Carts are decorated most splendidly. But m ordmary times they are just left bare, near the pagodas, under a palmleaf shelter. Some of them, when fully decorated, are over twenty feet high. They have four or six wheels solid, massive, more or less round, turning on huge wooden axles: Not an easy vehicle to move, pulled only by manpower in heavy chains! The pullers, they say, must be counted in their thousands, devoted slaves who consider it an honour (or an unavoidable burden) to drag these ponderous masses along.

Boundary Puddle Muddle

. “Not long after, at the edge of French territory, we came to a little stream which had turned into a big open cesspit, right in the middle of the road. “Whoa!” shouted Fr Roger, who was leading. But his horse was already into it, up to the belly. Mine tried to jump it, .but I could. feel his hind legs sinking in. I got my feet out of the stirrups and jumped forward, while he slowly settled into the sludge. I got off with a few spatters, which made a striking pattern on my dazzling white angi.

“By now our carts were up to the axles in mud, and the bullocks were trying to lie down in it. The confusion, the shouts of our men, as they “pushed” the oxen by the tail, as they heaved and shoved the carts, would not be easy to describe. Fr Triboulot had got over without accident; and now the three of us were anxiously watching their efforts which we didn’t think a bit funny when a file of donkeys arrived, to add to the complications. At which point we just had to laugh. The donkeys were all loaded (p 204) with soapy clay, belonging to poor “vannars42” who were well behind. The leading donkey dived enthusiastically into the lovely cool mud, followed by the second, and the next.and so on, until the owners arrived. Shouts and lamentations! Into the puddle with them, naked, pushing and groping in the muck, donning complete tightfitting pantaloons of it, up to the navel. Finally they all managed to get out, men and animals all accounted for. But several of these interesting quadrupeds had by now put on a shiny new disguise of mud right up to the ears! Others, like La Fontaine’s fabled donkey, were harmoniously trumpeting their glee at having got rid of their load in the puddle, or at least considerably lightening it, for it was now half melted away!

“After getting over this mishap, we cheerfully resumed our march. It wasn’t long before we all came to the conclusion that my little horse definitely was not worth a penny more than what was paid for him 21 rupees or 50F,50, including bridle and saddle! Soon we came to the English customs post. More fuss and trouble. More waste of time. The sun was getting hot by the time we got through.

Real India, Gentle India

“Here we were at last, outside of everything that was even slightly European. We could now enjoy the real India and observe her people in all their gentle, natural simplicity. O why is this people not Your people, O my God! What wonderful Christians they would be, if only their eyes would open to the Gospel. It was proclaimed for them too! The gentleness of their character would save them, would make up for the deadly influence of the climate on their morals. They might be less chaste than some (p 205) others; but they would also be less violent, less angry, less cruel!

“The gentleness of the Indians is proverbial. They extend it as far as the animals, which they never avoidably hurt, and hardly ever use for food. Perhaps, indeed, this very abstinence from meat contributes naturally to their mildness. Brahmins will never eat anything that ever had life in it. The noble castes never eat meat. The middle castes very rarely, and only on the sly. The lowest will eat up any dead animals, but will rarely kill any for their own use.

Thus, almost all kinds of animals are without shyness fear or anxiety, in any place where the Indians are left to themselves. Look! Obviously, no sudden and treacherous gunshots have ever disturbed the sweet repose of that turtledove cooing just beside us on a roadside branch. And that green pigeon (its flesh is delicious!) would have moved away faster if it knew we were coming! That flock of quail in front of us doesn’t even want to get out of our way! Later, we were to come across whole clouds of waterfowl and flocks of domestic and halfwild animals, all friends of man, totally unafraid. Why must we come, with our cruelty, to intensity the “natural” nervousness which original sin has put between the animals and men, to make the wilder beasts vicious by showing them our own viciousness! Alas, our own convoy was contributing to that new disharmony in Nature. A wretched gun, fired by one of Fr Roger’s disciples, brought down several of those innocent creatures, to participate in our next little picnic!

Picnic. The Last Wine.

“The sun was climbing high, and the heat becoming unbearable, when we got to the “tope” that was to be our first haltingplace. A tope is a grove of trees, natural or planted, found at interval.s a, long roads, for the convenience of travellers. To plant a tope is almost as good an Indian work of charity as building a savady. At this tope our caravan halted. We each gave our steed to the “cudiraicaran”, our horsewallah or groom. He tied the (p 206) horse to a tree and proceeded, with his special implement, to scrape or cut some grass for it, while waiting for the “collu” to boil (the kind of lentils that they give to horses, instead of oats). We ourselves, meanwhile, spread our mats under a symmetrical tamarind tree, and got into conversation about … What? France, no doubt, and probably the various crazinesses being done there now, on this Carnival Day [Shrove Tuesday). During this time our cooks and disciples are working on our lunch. One of them gathers firewood; another set up the riceput upon three stones. On a similar fireplace another installs his fryingpot, a flatter vessel. Meanwhile another has gone far afield looking for water that is guaranteed to be untouched by pariahs. And flying in the wind, now are the poor feathers of the turtledove and the cuckoo murdered by our barbarism. At the sight of this atrocity, our pagan bullockdrivers turn away their heads. They are busy boiling their own pots, in the shade of the carts. For they would not eat our food (even without the meat) even if they were dying of starvation. Because, in the eyes of pagans, a “Christian” and a “pariah” are pretty well synonymous.

“In less than two hours, our lunch was ready: boiled rice, pepperstew, some fried bringals43 plus our two game birds. On our mats we had placed our travellingcushions; so we ate reclining, like the patriarchs of old. Fr Roger, having forgotten his cutlery, showed how skilful he was at eating Indian style. (Indians never use such implements. For saliva is the most “impure” of all bodily secretions; and they cannot imagine how any decent man could keep putting such a polluted object as a fork into his mouth again and again! They eat with the right hand; and they have the knack of popping the food in, without ever actually touching the mouth). So we had a cheerful Mardi Gras [Shrove Tuesday). We even had bread, and two bottles of Bordeaux (given to me by a Pondicherian). And even if the word “Carnival” comes from (p 207)“carnevale” [meat, goodbye] we concluded ours in style by emptying a flagon of ChateauLafite.

Our goodbye to meat was only an “au revoir” for forty days. But the bread and the wine were going to be our last. In India our missionaries drink nothing but water, and often bad water at that. Bread can be bought easily enough where there are English, but not anywhere else. In my district, this means bread is available at Salem town only; and I won’t often be there. Wine could be obtained, but it is too expensive for us. Anyway, it would be something shocking to the pagans, and even the Christians, if we used it habitually. This is one of the biggest privations for a missionary. You can get used to having no bread. But wine! Especially as the water is usually unhealthy and eviltasting. Rice cooked simply in water, but exactly right, as the Indians can do so well can gradually become a perfect substitute for bread. Nothing can take the place of wine. But wouldn’t it be strange if, after embracing a way of life whose chief advantage was supposed to be its mortifications, we then had nothing to put up with! Let it not be so, O my God! Wherever we go, give us mortifications and sufferings. Otherwise, what advantage would we have in being missionaries?

Stumbling in the Night. Fireflies. Midnight Rice.

“We set out again about 3 p.m., for we still had a long way to go if we were to get to Vijapuram bungalow by nightfall. It was already night when we passed through Kolanur village, by the light of many fires burning for some diabolical procession and feast. Then we pushed on into total darkness, for our lanterns were behind, with the carts.

“And now I saw a magnificent phenomenon: a cloud of fireflies, playing among the bushes and even up in the high trees, beside a riceirrigation canal. I had seen a few before, moving in the air like little twinkling stars (on and off according as the phosphorescent part was turned towards you or not). But I had never seen such millions of them, transforming a whole tree into a Burning Bush.

(p 208)

“By eight o’clock we were still far short of our objective, and getting very tired, when Fr Triboulot had a fall. How? I don t know; for it was pitch dark. All I remember is the surprisingly pious exclamations that immediately came from his lips, thanking the Lord for saving him from injury. So his fall and his elevation of the heart to God made up for some of our night prayers. These were not long, for we got to the bungalow very late. As soon as we finished the Rosary we slumped down on the rattan beds, without mat or cushion. Eventually, the carts arrived. But it wasn’t until after midnight that we were able to get a bit of boiled rice to eat.

The Lone Cross. Indian Tolerance and Respect.

[Day 2] “We still had to move out very early next morning.Not because the day’s journey was to be all that long; but because the crossing of the Puniaru River might delay us. So before dawn we were on the move again. Suddenly, in the middle of a field, was a stone cross! Just as I was ending my meditation, it caught my eye. Since Ulgaret church, near Pondicherry, we hadn’t come across a single sign of Christianity. “What can that cross be?”, I asked. They told me that a Christian had died at the place, and the cross was put up over his grave.

Great God! How that little cross spoke to my heart! It seemed to be telling me it was there as a silent proclamation, and especially as a marker and a waitingstone, for a church that, one day, You will have built there, Lord, in the middle of this landscape entirely given over to the demon of idolatry. May the day soon come, O my God, when there will no longer be just one abandoned cross, but thousands of crosses shining on top of all the countless temples around us!

“Here again, I had to admire the religious tolerance of the Indians working that field. Year after year they must have dug it, without ever digging away that little mound of earth or the cross on top of it. It wasn’t that the cross meant anything sacred to them. But the mortal remains of a fellow human being were under here, and this was the sign of his religion. That was enough; they (p 209) respected it. For unless they are worked up by some outside influence, the Indians leave each person free to express his own beliefs provided he does not try to impose them on themselves, or insult their own caste in any way.

Across the River, into Fr Roger’s “Parish”


“On we went in perfect weather, almost cool until the sun appeared. The Pooniaru riverbed is more than a mile wide; but in this season the water was low. We forded our way across. But our carts took much longer; their wheels kept sinking in the sand. We went on ahead of them, and so we arrived quite early in the morning at Enadimangalam village, our first haltingstation.

“We were only passing the first few houses when a woman in mourning came running towards us, all in tears, her hair dishevelled. She threw herself down at the feet of Fr Roger (whom she recognised) telling him something very important, but with such rapidity and eloquence that all I could make out was “Swamy, Swamy”.44 Later I was told what she said: “Swamy! What a misfortune! He’s dead. The cholera has taken him away from us. I tried and tried to get a priest for him. I went everywhere. Oh! Why didn’t you come a few days earlier! He has only just died. His grave is still fresh. You would have opened the way to Heaven for him, Swamy!”. Fr Roger tried his best to console her. He told her to come to the bungalow with all the family. Alas!’.. Out of 100 Christians in the interior, there are not two who can get a priest’s absolution at the hour of death! O God! When will You give this flock their own pastors? In the meantime, deign to increase the number of missionaries here.

“The poor woman came back soon after, with her family. Among her children there was one who had not yet received baptism from the hands of a priest. And generally, in this country, we (p 210) can hardly rely on the other people giving baptism; so we nor-mally give baptism again, conditionally. Fr Roger asked me to do the ceremony: and I performed it with great joy.

“Fr Roger was now in his own district, and he recognised some of his flock in this family, the only Christian one in the village. We were to separate this very day, and we were sorry. At four o’clock we said goodbye and recommended each other to our guardian Angels’ protection. He took the road to Attikapam, his central station, and we continued on our own way, towards Tiruvalenur bungalow. O God, when will we reach that happy home where friends don’t have to part, because they are all in your Presence for ever! Hasten that day, Lord, and give us the joy of resting in your unchanging Love!

“We arrived in good time at Tiruvalenur. There our eyes were dazzled and spattered by a pagan procession in honour of that infamous goddess Marivalliamay, who was being specially invoked against the cholera epidemic. Poor, blind people! No matter how much noise they create, their gods can’t hear them! O when will they turn to You, Lord, to You who listen to the prayer of the poor man and the wretched! To You who change even our afflictions into spiritual consolations! For, though You sometimes strike us, it is only in order to awaken us from our drowsiness, and to bestow a blessing on us! The noise went on and on. But it did not keep us from going early to bed; for we had a long way to go tomorrow.

Early Start, under the Stars. The Dawn Chorus. Local Beauty and Monstrosities.

[Day 3] “It was my job, that morning, to wake up the camp [at 2 a.m.], an hour before departure time. No small task! Indians do not worry about being caught out travelling in the noonday sun [so an early start is not important to them]. Moreover, they like sleep. There they were, on the bungalow verandah, all piled like sardines, without mattress or mat or cushion, swaddled in his (p 211) own cloth and snoring beatifically. I picked my way through these mummies shouting “Pierre, Jean, Guillaume, Louis!”. No reply. I gave them a few taps with a switch. They just gave a sigh and turned over. Stalemate. But now my disciple woke up. Once he was on his feet, I handed over the resurrection operation to him. They lit a fire, each smoking his cheroot. Fr Triboulot and myself took a cup of coffee. Then, as usual, they gave the horses and bullocks their “collu”. And, lanterns in front, they all moved out.

“It wasn’t yet 3 a.m. We had a very long nonstop stretch before Uludupet bungalow; it was indeed a long, tough morning. But what variety! What wonders of Nature! And plenty of time to stand and stare. At first, of course, all was dark, but calm and serene. Not a sound to be heard but the calls of certain nightbirds, and then of various insects which seemed preset to go off at fixed times, to mark the watches of the night or to signal somany hours to go before dawn. The firmament, inlaid with the brilliant stars of two hemispheres, invited us to meditation on the Power and Immensity of Him who cast those millions of spheres into Space, and who still holds them in the hollow of His hand.

What specially caught our attention was the simultaneous presence of all the usuallyvisible planets, in a rare configuration, all together on the Eastern horizon. Mars came first, some hours before the rest. Then Saturn, Then Venus, outshining them all. Jupiter was beside her. And last of all, about an hour before dawn, Mercury appeared, so rarely seen in Europe. (And then only with a telescope, for a few days every two months, in perfect weather), Then came the dawn. Aurora appeared, resplendent in all her glories, until the Sun gradually extinguished them all with his own fire.

“Here, as in all places, the sunrise is Nature’s joy and delight. The singing of myriads of birds, the squeak and shriek of millions of insects, the calls of animals moving about somewhere near or far all came together in one melodious symphony in honour of Him who spoke, saying: “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of animals”. And it was so! And we humans let us try to give the Author of all these wonders a homage not less perfect than these mindlessly obedient creatures. For, with all their beauty, they still lack Reason to (p 212) recognise and Heart to love the One who created them.

“The road was easy, and very varied: here, open plains, there wild scrubland; then cultivated fields and charming “topes”. Towns and big villages we passed, shining lakes and streams. Nothing was missing in this beautiful landscape. If I was a painter, I’d put in a lovely village just here on the page or rather, a lovely situation, one of the finest imaginable. For the village itself, like all the other villages we had passed, was just a haphazard collection of mud huts, small and low, thatched with straw or palmleaves. But we had hardly left it when a big shallow lake, several miles round, stretched off to our right. It was dammed by a strong causeway, over which we travelled. It had watergates at intervals, to irrigate vast ricefields stretching away [to our left] as far as the eye could see.

“The monotony of the ricefields was broken here and there by vigorous vegetation sugarcane plantations and coconut groves and tamarinds. On the other side, across the lake, was a line of low hills, picturesquely cutting the horizon. Thousands of birds with raucous voices indeed, but competitively spectacular in their plumage, seemed to have called a general meeting on the bushy treetops of the plain. And, on the lake, numerous files of ducks, squadrons of waterfowl and snowwhite herons, swooped and skidded and dived in front of us, flying off only when a mischevious fellowtraveller threw stones at them and so shattered their innocent peacefulness.

“The heat was getting cruel, and our progress very slow. One of our shambling bullocks was just about finished. He fell down, stumbled, leaned back, whenever we came to a sandy place, and thus held up the whole convoy. Fr Triboulot and I were usually a mile or so ahead, waiting for them in the shade of a big tree till they came up to us. About eleven o’clock we were sitting in the thick shade of a dozen or so tamarinds nourished by the waters of a little reservoir which they in turn were protecting from the desicating heat of the sun. We went down into the water to paddle. Thus refreshed, we lay on the grass, revived by a slight trickle of air circulating between the treetrunks. And we would have been gently drawn into meditation or sweet daydreams if it wasn’t for a remarkably ugly idol occupying the place of honour in this (p 213) grove, doubtless consecrated to the devil. It was the hideous Pulleyar, who was unable to get anyone to marry her (says the tradition) because of her outstanding ugliness and deformity. And yet she is the very one who is always invoked for the success of a marriage! Rare is the village gateway that hasn’t some kind of rep-resentation of her, well libated with oil, honoured with fresh flowers every morning.

“Oh, how stupid can men get, once they have turned off from the path of truth! Thus it is that everything beautiful in this land is degraded and polluted by superstition. They seem to want to dispossess You of your own creation, Lord, You the Author of it all, and leave it to the devil, who always usurps the government of men’s hearts when they do not recognise you. On the top of every hill, inside the groves, at the crossroads, near the lakes and pools everywhere you will see the image of some idol or other. Each place has its own special divinity, each house its own Penates, each fountain its own nymphs. Usually they are just crudelysculpted stones, with burlesque details. For the devil does not seem to have the knack of making himself look beautiful. Sometimes it’s a monstruous monkey or a fearsome snake or a weird combination of human and animal limbs, or maybe just a brute stone, recognisable as a “god” only by the messy remains of the oil which the devotees have been pouring over it in libation.

“We were still lamenting this strange blindness of the peoples of India when we were joined by two big fat monkeys who had also decided to take cover from the now almost vertical rays of the sun. Their presence quickly changed us from sad indignation to cheerful smiles, prompted by their curious grins and grimaces at us. Meanwhile our carts had come up, and had even overtaken us. We followed them, and got to the bungalow about noon. (p 214)

“Robbers!” Lame Ox. Riding Shotgun. The Comet.

Barefoot through the Dark Swamps

“We were now in one of the wildest parts of Southern India far away from any city, from any English control, even from any useful Malabari authority. The English have not yet laid down their roads here (which they have done in most places). And now we were told there was a gang of robbers about, which scared our people greatly. (I did not know, then, how timid Indians are about robbers, nor how harmless these same robbers are, at least to Europeans. A few years later, such rumours would not have stopped me from sleeping sound, with all the doors and windows of the bungalow wide open for a breeze). Even at the time, we were freed from terror by our trust in our guardian Angels and the Blessed Virgin. But we did think it wiser to close the doors and windows, and so condemned ourselves to sweating all night.

“One of our oxen was unable to pull, and I asked the “peons” to get us another one. (Peons are police employees; here, bungalow servants). But maybe they were unfriendly, or maybe unimpressed by our costume (obviously we weren’t English gentlemen)45 or they were too scared of the robbers; or maybe our request was just not possible. Anyway, no bullock could be found. I tried getting angry with these employees, who are supposed to look after the needs of travellers; I threatened to report them if they didn’t do their job. All in vain … What to do? To set out with that poor beast was hardly sensible. To wait, not knowing how long, did not appeal to us either. I encouraged the oxdriver to try his best, telling him we would cut tomorrow’s stretch into two days. At last he agreed to push on. So, after a short night’s rest, we started off again, very early.

[Day 4 ]“And now the convoy moved in very close formation, for fear of the robbers. I made them go in front while I patrolled behind (p 215) them like an armed guard. I had given my “cudiraicaran” a musket which we were bringing along for a confrere at Coimbatore mission. But ad neither powder nor shot for it. Anyway I forbade them to load it [even if they got some]. “If the robbers attack us””, I said to myself, “I’ll try to bluff my way out of it like a Gascon ‘

I’ll put the gun to my shoulder and shout: “Hey, fellow! Just take four more steps and I’ll fire”. And what if he does advance four steps? Then I’ll shout an order: “Hold your fire”. And I’ll tell the robbers that I wouldn’t want to kill a man over a mere trifle”. That was the contingency plan. But nothing happened; we didn’t hear a mouse stirring. At last a distant cock announced the coming of the day, and we intoned the hymn at Lauds:

“Gallo canente, spes redit Aegris salus refunditur

Mucro latronis conditur Lapsis fides revertitur”. 46

But the whole days was to be one of crushing hardship. According to our plan, we should have got to (?) Counguirépaléam bungalow between 10 and 11 a.m. But by 6 p.m. we were still far short of it. Sheer boredom and weariness, I suppose, rather than any pious fervour, raised my eyes frequently to heaven. And so the suddenly glimpsed a wisp of light, something like a tiny cloud over there in the west, just after sunset. But it was quite distinc-tive, and in a surprisingly different direction from the few streaks of vapour that were then floating on the other horizon. I stared long at it, struck by its compactness and steadiness, and then by its definite, conical shape. I said to Fr Triboulot that this could quite well turn out to be the end of a comet’s tail. (And so indeed it proved, next evening. For we saw it clearer then, bigger and more splendid, rising in the west and climbing quickly up the sky and to the East, where It set. It was the magnificent 1843 Comet. It was visible in the North, but shone in all its glory over India. I think I must have been the very first to sight it. Certainly, there weren’t many in India who saw it before I did, with the naked eye. For it was still too near the sun for its nucleus to show separately on the horizon, until a few days later. And on that first evening, it would (p 216) have been difficult if not impossible to distinguish its vapoury tailend. Anyway, I learnt later, that was the evening it was sighted by the observatories.).

Meanwhile down on earth, the moon had left us in the lurch, and we were going forward in the dark. The faint tropical twilight went out with Taurus. You couldn’t see your hand. The tracks were not clearly marked, and we soon got lost. We had to stop and beg some shepherds, pasturing their flocks in that wilderness, to put us on the right path again. Our horses, on their last legs, stumbled at every hump and hole. We decided we had better get off. Our papachis were extremely awkward for walking, so we went barefoot, through the/swamps and quagmires which abounded on our route. At long last, after many painful, weary miles, we eventually came to Counguirépaléam bungalow, long after all the shops were shut. So we had to wait still longer before the necessities of life could be bought, for us and our animals. Fortunately, the peons here were honest and diligent. They even managed to find us a spare bullock, which gave us good hopes of going on m future without undue delays.

Poison Berry. The Shepherds’ Hot Wilderness.

[Day5] “We were to start out at 2 in the morning, but nobody woke. I wasn’t up myself until 4, and it was at least 5 by the time we got moving. We were now travelling through flat, bare country. On the way, I did something very foolish which very nearly cost me dear. Passing under some bushes, I unthinkingly reached out and plucked a berry, and tasted it. My mouth instantly filled with foam. Fortunately I had not swallowed a drop. It was poison. It is impossible to exaggerate how careful you should be, never to taste a tropical fruit or plant that you do not know. Some of them are so potent, they can kill almost instantly. Others, even in the smallest quantity, can leave you ill for life. No known cure. A similar mistake to mine nearly cost the life of a confrere, a few years ago. He was saved only by the prompt action (p 217) of a Muslim doctor who administered a powerful counterpoison at the next bungalow.

“These areas were full of shepherds, men exclusively employed in caring for flocks of animals. We passed several big droves of buffalo, sheep and goats. They must have a hard time surviving in these empty plains, almost completely dried up in this season. They were continually on the move. Maybe the grass would be greener on the other side. I reckoned that these high savannahs, impossible to cultivate because impossible to irrigate, must have been long ago abandoned entirely to shepherds. And they manage, somehow or other, to raise numerous flocks on them. For a moment I thought I was back in the days of Abraham and Isaac, whose main wealth was their flocks, or back in Jacob’s campingplace the day he sent Joseph out to his brothers. And seeing these poor, halfstarved animals on those empty plains, and their anxious shepherds talking together as they leant on their long sticks, and trying to imagine what they must be saying to each other about their poor weak lambs, I thought I could hear again: “Let us go over to Dothain”. Eamus in Dothain…

“The heat was outrageous, the trail without tree or shade. We had plenty of time to repent of our late start. Our horses could hardly move. Indeed I was surprised they had lasted out so long, having eaten so little in the night and then travelled for seven mortal hours. Our big, heavy parasols, held open over our heads, tired our hands and arms, without giving much protection from the flame of the sun, and none at all from the glare reflected off the whitish, sandy soil, really scorching us. At last we got to Sin-nasalam, about one in the afternoon. I had a frightful headache, and was feeling so faint that I couldn’t help being a bit scared. But You protected me from any illeffects, O my God. Accept my heartfelt thanks. (p 218)

On to English Roads. Mass in a Nice Bungalow.

[Day 6] “Next day was Sunday. We had only a few miles be-fore Talaivassel, where we planned to say Holy Mass and spend the whole day: On the way there, we saw the end of the horrible “road” we had been on for the last three days. We were entering the Province of Salem, with its English roads, excellent and well maintained even with numbered milestones, like in Europe! Year by year the English are extending the main roads across India in every direction, greatly facilitating travel between the big towns and cities. And even railways should not be ruled out!

“The bungalow was extremely clean and tidy. And as we had it all to ourselves, there was no reason why we could not make use of our permission to say Mass in our room. We soon had an altar up. And we had the consolation of drawing strength from the mystic chalice, and muchneeded courage to continue on our journey, by the grace of God. Of course that place was not exactly fitting for your sacred majesty, O my God; but we knew that it is purity of heart, above all, that You ask for.

And we did try, I think, to make ours less unworthy of your Presence. Certainly, the heart of my good companion was in love, completely taken by Your Love. For his sake, O my God, You will have overlooked my own weaknesses!

Vannar half-Catholics, Hungry for Blessings

[Day 7] “Most of our worries now were over. Like getting lost. Breaking an axle in a stony ravine. Steep hillsides. Squelching bogs and markless deserts where I couldn’t have found my way alone without using a compass … It was so good to be on a highway again, able to read the smooth miles to the next bungalow! It made the road seem so much shorter! This road was lined on both sides with tall trees, often meeting over the middle, making an arcade to save us from the sun. No need to hold up our tiring parasols. Easily and early, we came to the village of Attur and its bustling hinterland.

(p 219) “There were some Vannar Christians there (washermen). A few of them saw us coming, and came running out to us on the road, to get our blessing. Others came to see us in the bungalow, with a child for baptism. Poor lone Christians lost in an entirely pagan population and almost abandoned by the missionaries! (All the central missions are very far away). I found they had incurred the guilt of many a fault, by participating in the various paganisms of the place. And nearly all the vannars, unfortunately, are in the same boat; which makes sacramental ministration to them extremely difficult. Moreover, their ignorance is crass. Their poverty is extreme; and they are .pushed into cooperation with idolatry by the fact that they would lose their customers and livelihood if they refused to help in decorating the temples. And in certain bloodsacrifices, they are the ones expected to cut the head off the sheep. (The head then goes to them).

“Such was their way of living. And yet they came running to us, respectfully kneeling at our feet; for they were “proper Christians”. Many had a medal of the Blessed Virgin hanging round the neck. My disciple knew their style, and demanded indignantly why they didn’t leave off their diabolical practices. “How for do?”, they replied. “We have to live”. So, apart from baptism and matrimony, they hardly even know the other sacraments. Oh, how I pitied their situation! If only they could have a priest of their own, a priest who could get right into the complicated details of their social life, a priest who could instruct, exhort and, yes, help them according as they required! Wouldn’t they be much more likely to persevere in the good resolutions that we (sometimes) manage to drag out of them? O God, increase the number of Your priests in this unfortunate country. And judge not these poor blind people with the full rigour of Your justice. For they know not the full evil of what they do.

“That same evening, we were to sleep at Vazhaipetti bungalow. On the way we came across Christians every now and then, working the near or distant fields. As soon as they spotted us, even far off, they ran to us for “assirvadam” (blessing). It brought tears to my eyes to see them, hurriedly leaving flock or hoe, to come running allout in front of our horses’ hooves. (We had to (p 220) rein in energetically to save them). At once they fell flat on the ground calling out “Sarva sura nuku tostiram” which is the ordinary. Christian greeting. It means “honour and glory be to God”. The priest replies: “Assirvadam”. This means (or rather, they take it to mean) “God bless you!”.

“Nothing else special to report that evening, apart from the amusing entertainment put on for us by the monkeys, swarming on the roadside trees.

Sacred and Amusing Monkeys. Into SALEM.

[Day 8] “It was only another day’s march to Salem, my central mission. (But my orders were to stay there only briefly, and to go on to Fr Fricaud at Coviloor, near Darapuram. We set out at 4 a.m., and the monkeys travelled with us, sometimes crossing the road in front of us, and grinning at us, not even bothering to get out of our way. In the villages we saw them strolling respectably in the street, tail in the air, going from door to door for a few grams of rice. The monkey is one of the most sacred animals. Woe to us if we had the misfortune of hurting a monkey in a pagan village! The Indians would have quickly forgotten their peacefulness, and avenged their monkey-god.47

(On a different occasion, I came across a gang of monkeys destroying a tamarind orchard, knocking down all the stillgreen fruit. The owner was there, almost in tears, waving his hands and begging them to please stop. “Swamy, Swamy! (Sir, Sir!). What have I done to offend you what sin have I committed to make you treat me like this?”. And the monkeys just continued ravaging his crop, swinging from one branch to the next).

Thus accompanied, we arrived at Calaipatti bungalow before the worst heat came on. There we met some Christians who keep the Gospel much better than our poor Vannars. They have a (p 221) fairly nice church in their village, but of course no priest. They have Mass there only when the missionary comes round on visitation. If I had known, I would probably have arranged to celebrate Mass there for them that day. But we were not fasting, for one thing. And, for the moment, there were no sick to visit or children to baptise. Although they are several miles from Salem, they always go there for Mass when the missionary is present. Otherwise, they say their Mass prayers together. And every day they have morning and evening prayers in community at their own chapel. I learnt that they are one of the most consoling little communities in the District. They belong to a fairly good caste of Workers. But there are very few of their castes who are Christians. Which causes big problems when it comes to marriage? They are scrupulous observers of caste rules. And however good they are as Christians, it would not do to shock them about these. Still, they do not take their observances too far, or beyond what the missionaries at present consider permissible. A few of them stayed with us, and escorted us in the evening as far as Salem.

“The sun had just set when we saw the towers of its numerous temples; and soon the whole city spread out before us. My eyes searched around for the Cross over the Catholic Church but failed to locate it. “But where is the church?” I asked the growing crowd of Christians around us. “Oh, Father, it is far. Away out at the end of the town”. My heart sank. “What, Lord? In this great city, district and provincial capital, You have only a little church in the outskirts!”. But I hid my disappointment and put a good face on it for the Christians. As soon as they spotted us they came out from the pagan masses to do us homage, “tostiram”. They complained that they had not been informed of our coming, so as to escort us in with music, in style. Meanwhile, the pariahs were ringing their own chapel bell, near the entry to the city. Their prayerhouse looked disgustingly dirty, at least on the out-side. Thence they came in crowds to meet us. And, thus escorted, we traversed the centre and the bazaar (marketplace). Then we took the avenue leading to the outskirts in actual fact, a big separate village. We left the good road and turned into a warren of dirty, narrow streets. After many turns to left and right, we heard (p 222) a rather cracked bell ringing from a huge tamarind tree. This was the belltower; but we still could not make out the church in the halfdark; for it was lower than the surrounding trees.

“The Best Church in the Province”. Pariahs’ Palaver.

My joy at reaching my central mission was considerably modified when I saw this miserable church. And the inside was no more handsome than the outside. And, to console me, my disciple informed me that this was the finest church in the Province! The door was soon opened and the Christians crowded in along with us. A few lamps were lit, placed on square pieces of wood, stuck on with cowdung. Also, two candles or, to be exact, two strings of black wax wound around nails on two painted wooden candlesticks. The altar was bare. (Even, it wasn’t an altar; there was no altar stone). The only ornament was a big crucifix and a few statuettes of the Blessed Virgin, St Anthony, St George and St Francis Xavier. We recited some prayers. They were quite brief; for my heart had some trouble raising itself up to You, O my God! The Christians recited the “Salve Regina” in loud Tamil, We gave them holy water and went to the priest’s house. It was just as miserable, for a human habitation, as the church was disas-trous for a temple of the Lord.

The head Malabari Christians followed us in, and the head pariahs stayed outside. However, stationed under the “tavaram” (verandah) we were in a position to talk to both. They were very keen to hear my first words to them. But, unfortunately, I was still unable to talk to them directly. I just spoke a few words through my disciple, and we dismissed them.

“The catechist immediately informed me that there was a split among the pariah Christians; and we should be very careful not to say or do anything to exasperate either side. Within a few hours, they came with their presents for the visitors. A few bananas, a little sugar, betelleaves and areca nuts (palm almonds). And two loaves of bread! For there is bread in Salem, since the English (p 223) have made it the official residence for a Collector or Provincial Head.

“I didn’t refuse their gifts, which would have conveyed very great displeasure. But I let them know that, while accepting, I was not praising them. For I had heard that they were quarrelling among themselves. And that Fr Fricaud, whom I had come to work under, was not at all pleased with them. I hoped they would humbly submit to the decisions of that worthy missionary. So that, later on, I would be able to give them some praise, which they did not appear to deserve just now. [Before I had finished] an excellent Malabari Christian woman, mother of a fairly highup civil servant, sent us plenty of rice, eggs, milk, cakes, bread, sugar, bananas … And so ended this long day, during which the Lord had favoured me with many joys and many disappointments.

Mass at Salem. Fr Triboulot’s Goodbye. Women’s Rights.

“Next day, we had the joy of saying Holy Mass for a big congregation, especially considering the small number actually living in Salem itself. They came from miles around, and the church was almost full. The pariahs are separated from the Malabaris by a little wall, as in Pondicherry. In Europe, the church would accomodate no more than 200-250. But here, by including the “pandal” (tent of branches) outside the door, I think that more than 1000 could hear Mass.

“To see the Indians at Mass only, you would think they are all Saints. All the pariahs were there, in spite of their quarrel, so bitter that the Father had thought it better not to admit them to the sacraments during his last visit. And now, to see how they thumped their chests at the Confiteor, and raised their eyes and arms to heaven at the Elevation, and pronounced so reverently the end of the “Our Father”, you would think they were quite ready to forgive those who trespassed against them, and henceforth to love their neighbours really as themselves! Quarrels, disputes and even walkouts happen much quicker here than in (p 224)Europe. But real hatred is rare, and enmities go much less deep. Much more on the surface than in the heart. And group divisions rather than personal spite. God will probably judge them a lot less severely than we, with our European assumptions.

“The rest of the day was spent, rather sadly, preparing for Fr Triboulot’s departure. He was going South towards Fr Pacreau, in Coimbatore district. I was to turn North, to Fr Fricaud. We had been together all the way from Paris. Grant, O Lord, that this parting was only for a moment! May we soon have the Joy of meeting again, never to part, in the company of Your saints! So, on the 9th March, this good and holy comrade left me, having thrice placed himself in God’s hands, saluted his Guardian Angel and asked for the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom he was so devoted. At last, with a brotherly embrace, we said goodbye.

“I stayed at Salem myself for another day. In spite of my .inexperience [I started work]. I heard the confessions of some sick people, giving Extreme Unction to one. I baptised several infants. Moreover, the house was never without some Christians waiting to see their new “swamy”. Some even wanted to discuss their important matters with me. In vain I told them I did not understand their language enough for these; and anyway I would decide nothing without Fr Fricaud. They still insisted on expounding the whole case, and my disciple would then summarise it.. .

“For example, a young man of about twenty wanted his wife handed over to him. He was accompanied by his father, who seemed to be quite indifferent about it all, and was just going through the motions of arguing the case. The young man had been married at 14 to a girl of 12 or 13, as their unfortunate custom is. He had never lived with her. For (custom again) she went back to her parents immediately after the wedding, until the right time. Well the time had come, more than a year ago; and his fatherinlaw still did not want to hand over his better half to him! No doubt the young man, on his side, had failed to fulfil some condition of the contract, or to observe some caste requirement or other. But I was hearing only his side of the story; and anyway I was not (p 225) going to start being a judge in these cases yet a job which seems to take up most of a missionary’s time, in the present state of affairs in this here country!

“That last evening, I had a visit from the alreadymentioned good Christian woman who was the first lady of the community. Her son had a government post with a salary of six or seven thousand francs. For an Indian, here, that is a fortune. And his social position, by caste as well as function, was of the highest. Nevertheless, this woman [because she was a mere woman] would not even dare to enter the house, or to sit down in my presence. Humbly prostrating, she begged my blessing. Then she made a few commonplace but pious remarks.

“Christianity has not yet acquired enough influence in this country to give women their proper rights and dignity even Christian women like her. Of course we try to impress on husbands and children the basic respect they should have for wives and mothers. But women will not obtain their full social rights until society itself has been steeped in the purifying waters of truth, until public opinion has been really modified by the spirit of the Gospel.

“Oh, how ungrateful and senseless are modern European women who are against the religion of Jesus Christ! It is Religion alone that has lifted them up out of their once despised and shameful situation, and has since maintained them in the proper respect due to women. Everywhere outside Christ’s ruling influence, women are nothing but slaves and drudges. Everywhere, according as the Gospel becomes better known and practiced, their freedom and respect become better assured. And everywhere, as Faith weakens, the gentle and legitimate influence of women is reduced. They themselves reduce it, as they [subconsciously] recognise their own inability and unfittedness to wield it, in proportion as they lose their authority of modesty and other Christian virtues. Beware, you learned women philosophers who misuse the advantages that Religion has won for you (sometimes causing It to almost regret its own chivalry towards Woman). You are busy forging new chains for yourselves. If Faith ever disappears from the land, then will your enslavement (p 226) recommence!

This good Indian woman especially begged me to stay on a bit longer in Salem, so that she could have the consolation of Holy Mass. I had to explain that this was not possible. She tearfully resigned herself. Then, going flat out on the ground, she asked for my “assirvadam” for herself and her family. As she got up, still weeping, I caught the words “We only had two days of happiness”!

Imperial Collector uses Malicious Red Tape

“It was forty miles to Coviloor. I was determined to do twothirds of it on the Friday (10th) so as to get there on Saturday in good time for Sunday Mass. A Salem Catholic went on ahead to inform Coviloor and neighbouring communities. (Fr Fricaud was away just then, I was told). I duly arrived at the first bungalow about 8 a.m. on Friday. And the English Collector was there before me, with all his Court!48

“Because of their partobservance of Malabari customs, Catholic missionaries look ridiculous to Europeans. And when they are wearing the kind of “Indian” outfit which I then had on, they become especially ludicrous, beneath contempt. When to all that general attitude you add personal antiCatholic prejudice, then relations with English authorities can get very difficult, and sometimes downright humiliating. Well, it so happened that the Salem Collector was particularly antimissionary.

“All the same, I went in. They gave me a room. (They couldn’t very well refuse; because, under my outfit, I had a white skin on). The Collector did not even deign to appear. He remained (p 227) gravely enclosed in his imperial dignity, surrounded by a countless multitude of servants, peons, and village heads who had come in with their taxes and tributemoney (i.e. most of the net income of the poor farmers).

“A mile from the bungalow and quite near the road there was a Christian village called Settipatty. The head Christians came to see me and begged me to go there. That might mean arriving at Coviloor very late on the Saturday. Nevertheless I wanted to oblige them. Also (it must be said) I was very glad of the opportunity to get away from King Collector, so discourteous with his peculiar ideas about civilisation”, So I yielded to their pleading.

“Next to the King’s magnificent Persian horses, his gleaming palankeens and all the other royal accoutrements for a Collector is a little king in his province I approached and straddled my scrawny Vingtetun (for so I called my 21franc pony) and set out for the poor village. Behind his venetian blinds, the Collector must have smiled maliciously [and sent to find out my destination].

“There weren’t more than thirty mud huts in the poor village. The church was to be my domicile there. It was just another mud shack, but 10 the shape of a cross. In the middle was a square lump of white.washed mud with a little cross on top. This was the altar. No ceiling: Just the rafters, open to wind and weather [on the sides]. But it was the finest building in the village; it was roofed with tiles! I camped in one of the arms of the cross. The only furniture was my mat, and a rice mortar (a hollowedout piece of wood about 2 feet high, now serving as my throne. In fact, this church was a fair sample of all the others I was to meet later in the little villages). But I was contented there. I enjoyed the happiness of the poor villagers [at having the priest among them]. The day went quickly by. That evening, my bed was soon made up. All I had to do was spread my mat so that the step of the “altar” could serve, as a pillow. I went to sleep, completely Indianstyle.

But meanwhile, the Collector’s special devil was not sleeping. I do not know if It was he that piled up the stormclouds, and (p 228) set the thunder growling and the gale blowing! It shook the big blue cloth (probably the mortuary sheet) which they had put up to block a gap and protect the nightlight which it didn’t. But it was certainly the Collector’s devil that sent his “peons” out, through the darkness and the tumult of the elements, to knock loudly and repeatedly at the church door. “What’s that?” cried the Christians in the church as they stopped snoring and jumped up in terror. Then I heard them parleying a long time with the emissaries outside. I woke up my disciple and told him to find out what was going on. “It’s the Collector’s peons”, he said. “He is telling you to send your passport, or else go to him yourself if you haven’t got one”. I replied that my passport was in order, and I would go there in the daytime and present it.

So, an early start for Coviloor became impossible. Instead of continuing peacefully on my journey, I had to go to the bungalow, and then come back to the church. I was not free to start my own journey until 9 o’clock, i.e. when the worst heat was beginning. No way to get to Coviloor that day, not without risking sunstroke! And to get there in time for Sunday morning Mass, I would have to travel a mountain gorge by night, additionally dangerous because of the tigers living there.

Night March. Triumphal Entry.

“However, many Christians from Settipatty volunteered to accompany us. They took along a few drums and torches. “With these”, they explained, “no need to fear tigers”. In fact it was night when we arrived at the bungalow in the middle of the mountains. We set out again at 1 a.m. The evening before, the Coviloor Christians had come out a long way to meet me, never thinking I could be delayed like that; they went back home mortified. But now, in the morning, by the first light of dawn on their hillsides, they spotted my blazing red headgear through the distant trees. The signal was quickly given. Word soon had gone round the whole village! (And to the many Christians from neighbouring villages who had also come there, in the hope of hearing Mass). (p 229) Quickly the gunpowder boxes were loaded, the music assembled. They were all on the road to meet me! I saw the bustle and the movement from afar. More and more groups of men joined in [like tributaries] as the crowd came on. Successive waves arrived and bowed to the earth with the customary “Sarva sura nuku tostiram”. The crowd kept growing as I made my triumphal entry to the village.

“Certainly, it didn’t look like a capital city. Its mud houses were low and ramshackle structures, all of them lower than the cactus hedge that surrounded the town. Even the little church in the centre was not high enough to show in the distance. Looking from outside the defensive hedge, I would never have suspected any human habitations behind it. But the hundreds of women and children, pushing out through the hedge, assured me that there must be. First you saw a nose, then a head, then a whole person. Then they jumped the encircling ditch and stood across from us like a human wall. They all bowed down on the ground, shouted their greeting together, got up and ran to the church. I proceeded there myself, not without emotion, in the midst of an indescribable hullabuloo and brouhaha. Mass began as soon as my disciple could unpack the Massbox.

“So this is the way You have willed that I should enter my first village, O my God the first place where I am to start [officially] exercising my apostolic ministry! Very like the way You entered Jerusalem yourself, O good Jesus, a few days before your sorrowful Passion. If indeed my own passion is close, O my God, grant that I may accept it with joy, as I joyfully accepted that day of village rejoicing in memory of your joyful and sorrowful mysteries. Grant, O good Jesus, that I may live for You and die for You and as far as possible, like You. And in all things may your holy Will be done. Amen”.

(p 230) Carter and Disciple Sick. Fricaud sends him Farther.

“As I said, Fr Fricaud was away visiting other villages; but he was expected back shortly. I heard, however, that he was extremely ill. So I was planning to go to him, when God permitted that some of my own people got sick. The pagan carter who had transported my personal effects all the way from Pondicherry was now seriously attacked by cholera. Charity obliged me to have him cared for as well as possible. All the more so because, in his conversations with the servants, he had seemed to be showing some vague desire to become a Christian. “We’ll see”, he used to say “Maybe before I die”.

Among pagans who have frequent contact with Christians, in Pondicherry , for example, or Nellitope (this man’s home town) you meet quite a few who want to receive baptism at the hour of death. This halfdisposition can be, for some, a real preparation for grace. More often, alas, these pagans are like some of our cowardly Christians who say they will repent later on, but never do.

During the carter’s illness, my disciple tried to fan the feeble flame of this vague desire of his. But he deluded himself that he was going to be all right, and gave no real sign of sincere conversion. Next day he was dying. The local doctors told me he had only a few moments to live. I reckoned then that the man could be baptised, just as you can chance an absolution for some poor fellow who, without apparently repenting, still has not definitely refused the ministrations of the priest before losing consciousness. But our man did not die. He recovered consciousness next day. When he was told he was baptised, he did not seem annoyed. But I heard later on that he did not persevere as a Christian, although he promised us, when leaving, to receive instruction as soon as he got back to Pondicherry.

The carter had hardly recovered his senses when my own disciple fell ill. Not of cholera but of fever, and other pains and complications. I was not very well myself. I had a fierce pain in the bowels. All this, with the trouble I had in trying to express myself (p 231) in Tamil, added up to quite a trial. Nothing unbearable indeed; but my weakness felt it as great. A few days later, everything was on the way back to normal. And the arrival of Fr Fricaud restored us to cheerfulness. I would like to stay two or three months with him, to see how he did things and learn from him. But he thought otherwise. He wanted to go to Salem for a while, to rest and to get treatment from the English doctor there. And Salem visitation had already been done, he said. I would be just marking time. He would prefer me to go on to Tirupatur (or rather the Catholic community near it) for the end of Lent and the feasts of Easter. He made out my itinerary for a few more villages after that. So we had hardly been together for five days when I set out again, for Tirupatur.

Noisy Savady. Another Marathon. Rice after Midnight.

“Two more long, tough days it took to get there. I had no cart now, to carry my loads, but only “coolies”. And these were not professional carriers, so we made very poor headway. The fire in my bowels was getting steadily fiercer. I felt so hot that it was very hard to keep from jumping into every stream we came across.

The first night, we had to stop at an Indian savady. This experience made it very clear to me why the English had to build bungalows for themselves all along the main roads. I was lucky even to be let in, and to get a corner in the shed at all. It was allowed only because all my servants were of good caste, apart from the cudiraicaran [horsetender] who kept his distance and lay down under a tree. (He wasn’t the only one there, either). I couldn’t close an eye all night. Travellers kept arriving at all hours, and weren’t much concerned about avoiding noise. Each of them started cooking his rice, conversing loudly or whistling monotonously. This kind of thing went on until 10 or 11 o’clock. Meanwhile several people were sleeping away rolled up in their wrappers, completely undisturbed by the racket.

Finally, all the fires were quenched, and I was hoping for a (p 232) bit of peace and quiet. But up starts one of my sleeping companions and bursts into raucous song! It went on for a whole hour, and nobody thought it the slightest bit odd. When he ran out of steam, another chap took over. And there was hardly two hours of silence before the cocks blasted it with piercing crowing, announcing the dawn. Everybody got up then, stretching and shaking himself; and the noise of loud departures began. We were among the first out, anyway, for we had a long journey ahead of us. I wanted to avoid the strongest rays of the sun. But I didn’t succeed. I just had to put up with it when it came.

It was nearly 10 p.m. when we arrived at Tirupatur bungalow. I was completely finished. I had hardly anything to eat at on and now we had nothing at all with us. As it was only three miles to the church we were heading for, I said to my disciple:“Look; we are all completely flattened. I think the best thing to do is to try and sleep a bit now, empty belly or no empty belly. Then to start off very early and get to the Christian village. There we can get some rice boiled”. But this did not suit my people at all. When Indians definitely have nothing to eat, they can eat by sleeping. But when there is a chance of getting some food, they prefer to rest by struggling to eat, and by eating no matter how tired they are. They were all of the opinion that the right thing to do was to organize Food wake up the sellers, buy rice, pots, firewood; make a fire, and boil the Rice. And then to sleep, if there was time! As for me, I just lay down and let them at It. Around 1 or 2 a.m. they brought me some nee; but I hardly ate any. Next morning, at 7 or 8, we were at the church in the village. They were not expecting us.

Pilgrimages. Holy Week Illness. Deaf Confessions and Dumb Sermons. Leaky Baptisms.

Holy Week was coming up. But it was never celebrated in this church, as there was never a priest there at that time. Many of the Christians asked permission to leave, either for Pondicherry (p 233) or to Idapaddy, where there are Passion Plays. I gladly let them go, admiring their courage in travelling so far for one act of devotion. (Of course there would also be the sheer excitement and good humour of going on pilgrimage, and the festive noise).

Pilgrimage may be just a natural movement; but that does not mean it is bad. It has its dangers and abuses; but has it not also some very good effects? Who can say how much the spread of Christianity in Europe owed to pilgrimages? They cemented solidarity between the various peoples they placed in contact. Maybe, in Europe, the Church no longer needs this kind of devotional manifestation; and maybe that is why pilgrimages have fallen so much into oblivion and even discredit. But is not this excessive caution to be regretted? Anyway in spite of all the real or imaginary abuses that [presentday critics] always love to pick out I still think a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of some wellloved Madonna would be a great deal better than organizing trainloads of mere pleasureseekers, or competitions to [entice hypocondriacs to] various Spas. In nonChristian countries, I believe a positive effort should be made to facilitate the natural human attraction towards pilgrimages.

However, my own coming to Tirupatur prevented the mass exodus of its Christians to the Holy Week pilgrimage centres. Our own ceremonies were very smallscale, no doubt; but not without devotion. Unhappily, I was very ill. As you know, internal pains bring on sadness and melancholy; and I had great difficulty shaking these off. I also had great difficulty in speaking Tamil, and in hearing the confessions of those wishing to approach the sacraments. I was still unable to address the congregation. All this greatly reduced the joy of Easter for me. Thus influenced, my pen traced the following:

“Why so sad, O my soul? You should be rejoicing in the Lord! And how would I be anything but sad, O my God, when this great Feast is going by so mournfully [for the people]? If only I could speak and show them the glories of your holy Mysteries! But I am deaf and dumb in the presence of this people hungering for the Good News. How terrible, O my God! Oh, I did hear a few confessions. Many have come to the Table of the Lord. That is a (p 234) cause for rejoicing, surely. But the joy can’t be without some misgivings; for certainly I made a right mess of the confessions. You must be triply merciful, O my God once for the penitent and two times more for the confessor! But anyway, Lord, if I hadn’t been counting on your mercy, I would never have put a foot on the rough road of the missions. Pardon me if I am presuming too much on your compassion for sinners; but I know it has no bounds”.

I fixed a time for neighbouring villagers to bring their children for conditional baptism. There were over thirty. Many were [strong little mites] over six months old, all fists and kicks and naked as well so it was sometimes a real wrestling match to hold them long enough for the anointings and similar ceremonies. Often they were all bawling at the same time what a racket! and it was necessarily a long, wet session. No nappies; so the sleeves of the surplice were frequently irrigated. I admit I found it very hard at times, to keep a serious face on me. After the concluding prayers of the Ritual, I could not refrain from adding, silently: May God in his goodness bless them all, and make them grow up in the Faith they have just received; for the country certainly needs it!”.

Testimonial to English Doctors. Fr Roger’s Timely Visit.

By this time I was totally played out. I could just barely stay on my legs. The fire of fever was coming on, to add to the fire eating away my insides. I decided to send an express [messenger] to Vellore, the nearest Europeaninhabited place, in order to get a few loaves of bread and to have someone ask the English doctor there for some medicine. I addressed my request to the good confrere in Vellore; and he put all his efforts and charity into getting what I asked. The messenger came back in two or three days. And the English doctor’s pills did me a lot of good.

Every Collector’s residence has an English doctor. They are there only for the Government’s European employees. So we (p 235) have no right whatever to their care. But when we approach them, they are usually quite willing to help with medicines. And if you are in the same station, they will even come to see you in an emergency. Some of them help us a bit reluctantly, because of our [half-Indian) way of life and (maybe in some cases) because we are “Catholic missionaries”. It must be said, however, that these [bigots] are exceptional. In general, English doctors deserve this testimonial: they behave with humanity, and even generosity. For they give their medicines free. (They could hardly be hoping for any fee. And our poverty would not be able to give even a decent present. What could we give, with our 1820 rupees a month, to a doctor with a monthly income of 2000 or over!).

. . A great boost was added to the doctor’s pills by the welcome visit of Fr Roger. He happened to be on my side of his district, and he heard that I was only a day’s journey away. He arrived with his five disciples (for he had taken on new recruits since). Myself, I had adopted the catechist’s son at Tirupatur, so I now had two. “Here’s some reinforcements for the seminary”, we said to ourselves. I told him that, with his gift for training young people, I would love to see him in charge of the seminary. But he didn’t agree. He felt they wouldn’t leave him free enough to work openly for a more numerous clergy. However, his hopes were increasing, along with mine. Other confreres seemed to be coming round to our way of thinking. And I assured him that Fr Luquet was going to use all his energy and talents for the triumph of the Cause.

We spent three or four days together, and we often spoke about the work for the clergy. I explained my own ideas; and he assured me: from his long experience, that they were quite feasible and realistic. One thing he strongly insisted on: we must oblige ourselves to observe the caste customs much better. I was strongly inclined to think the same. I was beginning to perceive that if we are to achieve any widespread progress in India even among the pariahs we must first of all show that we are definitely not pariahs ourselves. But at the same time it is impossible to do anything that goes against the Oath we have taken. Fr Roger interpreted this oath, in practice, as widely as the most liberal of his (p 236) confreres and maybe a bit wider. I must admit now, especially after being to Rome, that I would not like to have done some of the things he thought permissible, However he did think, like me,. that we should approach the Holy See, when the time was ripe, and obtain [a new ruling] from its infallible wisdom some way (if at all possible) of being more tolerant to Indian customs, while still safeguarding the fundamental principles of Faith and Charity.

Bishop’s Caring and Wine. Fr Jarrige’s Repice.

Before Fr Roger left (I was still quite weak) he brought me to climb a nearby hill, to enjoy the delightful view. I went with him on horseback to the foot, and climbed up with a great effort. On the way down I tripped and fell (almost nothing) and hurt my foot a little. I felt sick. He quickly revived me with a drop of his elixir. But he could see that I needed to be very careful. Maybe he wrote to Pondicherry about this. For I soon received letters from the Bishop, ordering me to take great care of my health. His fatherly concern usually sent such orders in the company of a dozen bottles of wine a heavenly gift denied (like so many others) to poor India. (But He has given her other gifts, unknown in Europe)!

(All bias aside, the temperate countries are a lot better off than the tropics, in the shareout of natural gifts. Especially when you consider the interaction of Nature with fallen Man. If there were no original sin, concupiscence or related vices, the hot countries would probably come out better than our own. But the present state of man, ours certainly come off better).

To the Bishop’s advice Fr Jarrige49 the ProVicar added his own recipe for health: “Follow the oldtimers”, he wrote:.” … Frequent baths. Rhubarb tea (enclosing a packet). Hot spicy food. Smoke tobacco”. I obeyed him. I felt the better of it.

(p 237)Smoking is almost universal in India. It helps to regularise bowel movements, a very important’ thing in that country. (The Indians have customary regulated times for it). Missionaries, especially the French, try to abstain as much as possible from tobacco. Nevertheless it has become almost general among them too. I took a long time learning it; but after a year I began to find some enjoyment in this mephitic inhalation. After that, I would find it very hard to do without. When I came back to Europe I decided to give it up gradually. I succeeded easily, after two months’ weaning.

Obstacles to Evangelisation:

Indian Conservatism and Missionary Disarray

By the time Fr Roger left, I was feeling a bit better, and was planning to set out soon for the next villages. I had often asked my dear zealous confrere what were the biggest obstacles he met with, in trying to convert pagans. “Caste complications”, he said, “and the aversion caused in them by the widespread idea that our holy Faith is just a pariah religion. (This idea sterns from the fact that Christian charity obliges us to have contact with pariahs in ways forbidden by caste rules). After that, the worst obstacle is the mindless respect the Indians have for everything and anything done by their ancestors. “What! Could we be wiser than our forefathers? Our seniors did like that. Like that we must also do”.

Certainly, respect for tradition is a good thing; but they take It much too far. Nearly every Indian custom and institution started from a good reason, right and true, sometimes profoundly wise. But they sin by excess. One day Fr Roger was reasoning with a pagan woman who agreed to listen for a long session.

“So now”, he asked, “do you see how nonsensical your gods are?”

“I do, Father”.

“Do you see what a bad end your nonsense is leading you into?”.

“I see ‘em, Father”.

(p 238)

“Are you going to stay on the road to hell, and be unhappy for all eternity?”.

“I have to, Father”.

“Eh? And why?”

“My ancestors are there”.

“What? Just because your ancestors did something stupid, do you have to do the same?”

“I do, Father”.

“Look. If your ancestors jumped down a well, would you have to jump in after them?”

“Oh yes, Father”.

And she gave the same kind of answer to everything. There was no way to get anything different out of her.

It has to be said that, for quite a long time now, we ourselves have not been able to concentrate on bringing the Gospel to the pagans. The movement of conversions stopped at the time of the promulgation of the Holy See’s ruling about Malabar Rites and Customs. Then came the suppression of the Jesuits. And, ever since then, the absence of a native clergy has forced the missionaries to concentrate almost entirely on the pastoral care of the Christians. Only by accident, at rare intervals, are there a few conversions of pagans. Maybe, when [missionary] priests become more numerous, something will be done? We must hope so; but I don’t think we will get very far. Not if we still have failed to agree on our policy towards Caste and its related customs. The big obstacle to success with the pagans is right there.

I did not see the full extent of the problem at the time. I was just vaguely living in hopes that the future would be better, both as regards the conversion of pagans and as regards the work for a local clergy. I could see that all my confreres longed for the day when they would be able to concentrate on the pagans. And this enthusiasm, I thought, should [logically] make them all support the work for a native clergy. For these would be put mainly in charge of looking after the Christians (under our direction, at least for a time) while we would concentrate on extending the reign of Christ among the pagans.

“Meanwhile (I read in a letter from the Bishop) “we must not (p 239) forget to seek out ways and means to extend the reign of Jesus Christ among the pagans. I earnestly desire that this will not be postponed any, longer”. Reading this I exclaimed: “O my God! Listen to our longings. Inflame our hearts. Give us what it takes. And bless our work!”.

Alas! Today more than ever, I have reason to fear that it will be centuries before India is a Christian country. Very probably, we will continue to neglect the caste customs more and more: (Maybe we will even be obliged in conscience to do so). After that the most we can hope to achieve is to keep the existing Christians. The only increase will be from Europeans and their descendants. As for the Indians themselves, they will have to wait until a long period of European domination has radically altered their way of life, and has somehow undermined the caste system. But it still remains to be seen if Caste, which has resisted all kinds of invasions up to now, will not also succeed in resisting European civilisation. My nephews’ nephews will see.

A Long-distance Sick Call. Diaspora.

I had only a few more days left [at Tirupatur] when people came to tell me that, 15 miles away, there was a dying Christian. The Mission regulations do not oblige us to travel so far for a sick call. But when a missionary has any time or strength available how could rest easy, knowing that a poor Christian is dying and urgently calling for a priest? (Maybe the person has not been to confession for years; and maybe through no fault of his own) So I went there, and came back the same day. He was a pariah living with a few families of his own caste at the edge of a big pagan village, which would not have allowed me in.

So it goes. As time goes on, our Christians are gradually being scattered all over India. And this does not result in spreading the Faith, as in other countries. Here again, it is Caste that (p 240) prevents [good contagion] … 50 Formerly the Christians stayed at home, grouped around their home churches. Nowadays they are all over the country, especially pariahs, in the employment of the English. The other Christians, too, are dispersing, more or less, for various reasons. And this weakens them in every way, as well as making it almost impossible to look after them.


Living in a Mud Chapel, too Small for Segregation.

Holy Communion to Pariahs Outside

A few days later, I set out with my two disciples to minister to a little village called Nellimattampatty. The Christians there are of good caste. The village is hardly much more than a single family. The headman is fairly rich (for the country). In spite of this, the church was small and dirty; the strawthatched roof had plenty of holes in it, letting in the air from all quarters. The holes were not entirely a disadvantage, for it was stifling inside it. There were no windows; just a little entrance door. But soon we had two or three days of continuous rain. The water poured in everywhere.

One day, during Mass, there [nearly] was a fearful accident. There was a sudden violent gust of wind. I had to put the paten, upsidedown, on the edge of the Host, lest It be carried away. I could have good reason to get very annoyed with the headman, for it was his duty to see that the church was properly roofed if he wasn’t just then on the point of having a new one built (he said). [Quite possible]. To erect a basilica like this, about 30 rupees would suffice.

Something that was very painful to me came up while I was there and it is something which unfortunately is still happening, (p 242) all too often. Many of these little churches have no special place for pariahs. Or else, in completely pariah villages, no place re-served for Malabaris. In the latter case, the Malabaris Just dispense themselves from coming to Mass there: Not so the pariahs; they are quite willing to come to a Malabri church. They then hear Mass outside the door, under the ‘pandal’. This is not a humiliation for them. Indeed, they feel greatly honoured. For, in a pagan building they could not come even this near. On the contrary, it is the Malabari Christians who are being humiliatedl, and greatly so, by having to put up with this [contagion]. And it is this kind of “close” contact [between different castes] that makes our holy Faith to be considered a “pariah religion” in this country and makes everyone embracing Catholicism “a pariah”. And meanwhile we are commanded by the Holy See to allow all Christians into the churches, whatever be their caste!

In big centres, this ruling is obeyed by giving pariahs a separate area in the church. Even in smaller churches, the same solution is tried; they are built in the shape of a cross, and a separate door is made in one of the arms, reserved for pariahs only. For Malabaris, it would be a very terrible degradation to have pariahs actually entering by the same door as themselves! But there are still smaller churches like the one I was in just now which have no place for pariahs. Up to now, the missionaries have reckoned that the pariahs could legitimately be kept outside these [huts] under the pandal. Their reasoning is that these shanty chapels are not “churches” properly so called. They are just private oratories. For, in actual fact, they are nearly always the private property of a headman or the village chiefs. Etc, etc.

I leave this reasoning for what it is worth. But what do you do when pariahs [unexpectedly] present themselves for Holy Communion? As has happened. In some chapels there is a little “window” near the altar, about one foot square, for giving them Communion outside. But here [at Nellimattampatty] this little loophole did not even exist. To do any differently from previous missionaries would be very dangerous. It could rock the whole community, and maybe the whole district. Anyway it would be going against the formal regulations of the Vicariate: Never deviate from recognised procedure, even if a moral doubt arises (p 243) (and there is no chance to consult superiors immediately about it). So I did what had always been done (and is still being done, as far as I know, in many places; although even these tiny churches are gradually being rebuilt in cruciform shape also!). I went down through the Malabaris and brought the Blessed Sacrament outside [to the pariahs] under the pandal. It is one of those things which, today, I would dearly wish not to have done. Lord, if I was mistaken, I hope in your mercy. For I certainly did not do it in order to slight the sacred commandment of brotherly love. Nor had I any intention of contravening the orders of the Holy See. I just reckoned it was not for me to contradict the practical interpretation given to the law by my seniors.

This miserable “church” was also my one and only dwellingplace. After Mass, we folded the altarcloths and took away the altarstone. Then the lump of whitewashed mud had become my breakfast table. My furniture was a ricemorter. My confessional was a cloth hung in the doorway. I would sit inside, on my mortar, and the penitent knelt on the threshold outside. That was the system in all those chapels. I stayed at the village five or six days. That was enough for hearing all the confessions and baptising whatever few children needed it. From there I went on to the pariahs, at Singirikottai.

Two more Outstations. Bundled “Home”

Nothing much to report about that little community. The Lord was pleased to give me some consolations there. From there, through some delightful valleys, I went on to Pallipatty community, also pariah. There I was living in spacious style, in a dwelling distinct from the church. It wasn’t very big or very fine; but it was a little nook to be “at home” in. Four mud walls, no windows. Four feet high. Crowned with a pyramid of straw. Such was this palace. But the Christians were delighted, and I enjoyed their happiness. Seated on my mat, on the ground, my diary open on a onefoothigh table, I wrote:

(p 244)“The church is not two hundred yards from here. Nevertheless it took me more than a quarter of an hour to get back to this little cabin today (Sunday) after Mass. These good pariahs put on a special demonstration of their skill for me. From the church door the crowd escorted me, with the noise of music and of firecrackers. But progress was very slow; for a combat of harmless, woodensworded gladiators was going on simultaneously. Thus, when the priest comes to one of these villages, ‘tis a festival, a real public holiday, a feast of joy and happiness. Oh, if only all of India was Catholic! Will that beautiful day ever come, O my God? I adore your impenetrable decrees, and I beg You to shorten the days of your wrath”.

By now I was only a day’s march from Coviloor Church, the “big church” of this area (as I was beginning to call it, like everyone else). I had announced that I would be there for Pentecost. But in order to make it in a day (and avoid a long detour of several days) you had to climb over a mountain range by almost perpendicular paths. Nothing very difficult only I had wounded my foot and was totally unable to walk! I figured out [a sort of bush palankeen] a seat slung from bamboo poles. We made it and tested it. The Indians (who never see any problem) assured me it would be “perfect”. I had not learned, by then, that you have to distinguish carefully between their different kinds of “Yes”. If a superior asks them something, they will quickly read his eyes and invariably come out with the answer they think will please him best. Now I had designed and constructed this machine. They reckoned I would be very sad if they told me it was useless.

When we got to the foot of the mountain and I looked up at the steep, rugged, stony path we would have to climb, I saw immediately that my plan could never work here. Inevitably, my carriers would stumble on the rough rocks or slip down with the loose stones. A fall was very likely, and it would be a bad fall. What to do? Go back? But we were nearly there. It was only three miles of this bad track, and then one or two more miles to Coviloor. And the Christians would be waiting for us at the other side of the mountain. We put our fifteen heads together, and the best we could come up with was this: They tied my night coverlet (p 245) into a bundle by the four corners. I got into it. Then, slung from a single bamboo pole, I was carried up by two men, very carefully, as if I was made of glass.

At the foot of the mountain [on the other side] I got on my horse again. (He had chipped his hooves more than once, for he had no shoes on them for a long time). The Christians soon met us with the famous Music. Just as we got to the church compound, my horse shied at something or other, swerved suddenly, and threw me off, right in the middle of the crowd. The noise stopped. All the women screamed “Swamy!”… But no harm was done. I got up and entered the church. While they were chanting the Salve Regina, I was going through my examen. It let me know that I had neglected to say my Itinerary (Journey Prayer) before setting out. So this toss was coming to me! No, I didn’t believe it was exactly a punishment for my negligence. But it certainly served as a reminder to me to be more faithful to my resolutions in future!

I was in home country now. The priest’s house looked like a palace. I had a table, two chairs, a rattan bed, a little bookshelf, a portable lamp. No longer would I have to transport the wooden mortar to the wall, in order to read my breviary by the feeble light of a traditional lamp51 in the triangular niche there, immobilised by its lump of cow-dung.

“So there’s my first campaign done”, I wrote that evening. “Now I have had a sample of what the life of an itinerant missionary in India is like. God grant that it may be just the start of greater and more fruitful labours”.

Culture an Obstacle to Friendship

While there I got several letters, and they helped to refresh me in no small way. You have no idea what a joy it is to open a packet of letters, after living for several months without any social (p 246) intercourse except with people who are so different that it is impossible to have full empathy with them. Europeans can love In-dians in two ways but it is impossible to be really familiar with them, and almost impossible to have a real, close friendship with them. Their customs, their manners, their ways of acting and thinking, their sense of values everything sets up an insurmountable barrier. So, in a town of 30,000 souls, a European is living almost in isolation if he has no other Europeans with him. He has no relations with the Indians except those required by his work or his state in life.

I said you could love Indians “in two ways”. First insofar as Christian charity commands us to do so. All missionaries have this kind of love. Indeed they often carry it to an extraordinarydegree of perfection. But that kind of love comes more from the head than from the heart. And although the heart must always play some part in any real love, that kind is usually more rational than affective. Affection [the second way] is much rarer here. I might almost say it is extremely rare. For love [here] has to be perfectly disinterested [oneway] since it is next to impossible to get reciprocity. The heart of an Indian does not respond in tune to ours. It has another tune and rhythm. It doesn’t beat in time with ours. From this divergence, Europeans conclude that the Indians “have no heart”. I believe this is very false. It is just that our different hearts do not instinctively understand each other. But from this it does follow that there are no deep friendships between them and us. For friendship implies mutuality. [It is a twoway traffic].

[But I have met exceptions: my seminarians]. If I had not experienced real friendship towards them, and if some of them had not given sure and certain signs of the same friendship towards me, I might be agreeing now with the conclusion of the others. I would never say “the Indians have no heart”; but I might say that real friendship with one of them is impossible. My personal experience has shown me that even this statement is too sweeping. However, it still remains true to say [in this context] that such friendship or even affectionis extremely rare and difficult.

When you think well about it, you see that this lack of warmth and affection is one of the major obstacles to the propagation of the Holy Gospel among a people that has no other ministers(p 247)of the said Gospel excepts. And it is also probably the principal deepdown cause impeding the establishment of a native clergy, i.e. that we would not be able to feel natural empathy with them.

. “We celebrated the Feast of Pentecost with joy at Coviloor asking the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom we need in order to lead this poor people into the possession of truth. That day, the Christians had come from fifteen miles around. So our little “big church was overflowing. I wanted to say a few words to them directly. But my eloquence was neither abundant nor touching. How cruel it is to feel your tongue tied like that! It must be that missionaries are still bearing a big part of the punishment meted out to the children of Noah at Babel. But they will also have the merit of overcoming this extra difficulty. A few days later, I went on to Salem, where I was supposed to stay until the end of July.

Fr Luquet and his new Book. Jesuits and Clergy

Fr Luquet had just arrived at Pondicherry. He let me know in a letter, from which the following passages are transcribed:

“We are brothers, my dear friend, in more ways than one. And now in this: I arrived here with a terrible inflammation of my insides, which gave me a lot of suffering on board and is still fairly severe. But what other wealth is left to us, anyway, but the cross? And when it comes thus, so direct from the hand of God, must we not say, with the greathearted Apostle, “the sufferings of this life are not worth … “?

“I am sending you the book I already mentioned. From what I hear by letter, I believe it has caused somewhat of a sensation in France. Notably the idea of a Native Clergy. I bring it out sufficiently clearly, I think, without pushing as far as I might have done. I felt that, by this moderation, the idea would go down better. Anyway, the Lord willing, we can make use, later, of the much stronger material I have collected I have the notes here especially with the help of my confreres’ practical experience. If so, what we have published now will just be the preface. But maybe circumstances (p 248) will prevent a followup? No matter! The One we are working for is the Master.

“I have been here only a short time; but I have seen for myself what good memories and opinions they have of you. May it all turn to the glory of God; that’s all I ask of Him. The future is great, If only we be faithful … When we meet I will tell you how much you are liked and esteemed in Paris … “

Forgive me for quoting all this praise. I thought it useful, to show what my confreres then thought of me. Well, I haven’t changed. What I wanted then, what I thought and desired, the same thing I desire and think today. With this difference: today I have seen its possibility more clearly in practice. And instead of being satisfied with talk, I have done something about it.

From another side Fr Tesson, Director of the Paris Seminary, wrote to me on 5th April; he said that Fr Luquet’s “Lettres à Mgr l’Eveque de Langres” had been very well received by “everybody”. I suppose he meant everybody on the staff of the Foreign Missions Seminary. I think, however, there were a few exceptions there. “It’s a great service to our Congregation”, he added. Would to God they had remembered it! He went on to speak of “certain things on the mission which often discourage distinguished members”, and he feared their possible effect on Fr Luquet. Finally he invited me to work along with him to shake up the missions in India out of their sleepiness.

At Pondicherry, it seems, they were charmed with the “Lettres’‘. Fr Lehodey wrote to me, very enthusiastic, about the book. The post soon brought my own copy, and I read it with great pleasure. Nevertheless, couldn’t he have left out certain quotations which are bound to annoy the Jesuits greatly? Not that it is easy to write in support of a Native Clergy without treading on Jesuit corns somewhere.

Certainly, I am no enemy of the Jesuits myself. But I am morally certain that they have decided I am an adversary of their Society, just because I do not agree with them on the Clergy issue. And very probably, about 99 per cent of the mental sufferings that have tormented me and brought me to this present fix have come, directly or indirectly, from the Jesuits. A few of them, as (p 249) individuals, may have wronged me. [That is not the point]; I for-give them very sincerely. But as a body they must have concluded that it was legitimate to discredit and disarm us, in order to maintain and defend their own policy, their way of seeing and acting. And they armed our own confreres against us. I am not condemning them. They were right, if their cause was right. And they thought it was right. But I still think it was deplorable mere consistency in an old mistake.

“O great Saint Ignatius, why don’t your sons take the cause of a .native clergy to their hearts? Did you not cherish it yourself, as did the great Francis Xavier, with his interest and care for the College of Santa Fe a real seminary; whereas the socalled “seminaries” directed by your successors are nothing but colleges. Out of these, no priests would or could emerge.

After my first reading of Luquet’s look I wrote:

“Thanks be to You, Lord, for the great spirit you have given this new worker in your vineyard. His skilful hand, I hope, will shake up the fertile soil of India, now so covered with briars and thorns. On to the wild vinestock now overgrowing your heritage, may he be able to graft the noble stock of the New Covenant, sprouted on Calvary those true vines which adorn the Church like a delightful garden! Fr Luquet’s new book cannot fail to revive our Congregation with the spirit that first gave it life. That life is languishing at the moment; and so it has not the strength to communicate itself, much less to produce a native clergy even though it still has a special mission to form them. Let us hope that by your grace, You will bring about a new creation here. “Send forth your spirit, Lord, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth”. Let us pray that our apparent and notional acceptance of the truth our duty to work for the formation of a local clergy may prove to be but the forerunner of a practical truth: that everywhere (or nearly everywhere) and especially in India (which I have now begun to know for myself) it is possible to establish such a Clergy: to make good and numerous priests. And that, afterwards, even bishops can be made here, well able to bear the awesome burden of the episcopate.

“Lord, You have granted a black priest to be appointed (p 250) Vicar Apostolic of the island of Ceylon.52 Pour out your spirt on him in abundance, Lord, so that he may bear himself in such a way as to prove to them, in fact, that a black priest can be a worthy bishop. O Mary, come to our aid in the battles we will have to sustain for this Cause, for the unique glory of your Son; for what we want is to see his reign extended and perpetuated among the nations. Holy Angels, inspire us with right thinking. And you, Saints Thomas and Xavier, apostles of this India, pray for us, so that we may go forward in your footsteps. Pray for the poor Christians, that they may persevere right to the end, sustained in their faith by the virtue of their priests. Pray also for the many, many pagans, so that they may one day have a normal, regular Church to see and so be attracted into the one Church where salvation is to be found. “Change us, Lord and we shall be converted”. Draw us all to You into the ocean of the pure fire of living Love”.

Some time later I heard that the bishop just mentioned was consecrated by Mgr Bonnand at Pondicherry. Everyone praised his personality. Later on I was to meet him, during my journey to Ceylon; and I will probably have more to say about him then. Suffice it here to say that he continued to win our respect. Oh, there was some room for improvement, no doubt; but where are you going to get absolute perfection? Anyway I believe that, in India, it is possible to form a clergy that is much superior to that of Goa, which was the main clergy then in Ceylon. And indeed the Goa clergy itself does not at all deserve all the negative remarks made by missionaries. These exaggerations do not come from bad faith, but rather from the selfdeceptions produced by European prejudices and their natural lack of empathy with coloured people.

(p 251)

Education, and Indian Clergy, Opposed by Two Mentalities.

His Future Struggle against These. Result.

A letter from Fr Roger and another from Fr Leroux soon after, brought some encouragement. They showed that our thinking on seminary reform was gaining ground. An actual beginning had even been made. Fr Roger told me they were thinking of putting himself in charge of the place something I thought would be very good, given his special talent for winning young Indians and for training them. Fr Leroux thought and I strongly agreedthat we should try to take over the education of all the Christian youth in Pondicherry. This we could do by offering them French, Geography and Mathematics in our school, and anything else they needed in order to qualify for Government posts (their principal aim in life). In this way we could pick and choose from the best; and thus we could begin to form a real seminary and facilitate budding vocations.

The Vicariate administration was extremely hostile to such an idea a complete reversal of their policy towards the Indian youth, and especially towards wouldbe clerics. “What!”, cried one of them. “You want to teach Indian clerics French, European mathematics, geography and Physics, no less! You are going to make proud, stuckup brats of them, and nothing can be done with them afterwards”. I must say, I could not see the logical connection between the first part and the conclusion!

Today, after twelve years closely supervising the training of Indian clerics, I have no hesitation in saying this: The best way to guarantee Pride is Ignorance. Even at that time it could be seen. For, as I said, there were only three Indian priests. And only one of them was worthy of all praise. And he knew French and was generally fairly well educated. Today there are about twelve priests in Pondicherry, and more than thirty clerics in minor orders between Pondicherry and Coimbatore. Well, without any doubt whatever, the most pious and the most zealous of these are precisely the ones who have the most education or those who responded the best to the schooling given them in proportion to (p 252) their abilities. No. Education will never be a bad thing. It can be abused like all God’s gifts. But education is a good; ignorance is an evil. It is one of the bad results of original sin. And sin is something we have to fight, in its roots and in its branches.

The real cause underlying the hostility of the older missionaries to education etc. and unfortunately some of the younger missionaries have caught it too is fear of change: the unavoidable necessity of changing our relationship with the Indian clergy if they were to become numerous and well educated. And the consequent necessity of changing our relationship to the Christians as well. Nowadays any ordinary missionary of 24 thinks he must unquestionably be superior to any black priest in all things. And how does he make that out? Talk about Pride! Where is it now? I am not trying to say that the mass of our missionaries are guilty of outandout pride. And yet they would be extremely reluctant to have black priests above them or even equal. Some of the missionaries may suffer a bit from pride; but certainly the generality is not infected.

So where can their resistance [to education, equality etc.]come from? From two causes. One of these is natural and misfortunate. The other is based on reasoning. This demands that zeal for a native clergy should go hand and hand with prudence: careful and wise implementation of a consistent policy [of gradual Indianisation I based on the real facts of life in notyetChristian countries, still in need of help from European priests. That prudence, carried too far, is what lies behind the lukewarmness of so many wellintentioned and sensible missionaries about a native clergy. This explains how sometimes without even daring to question themselves why they are not more wholehearted they continue to brake it, to impede it from being what it could become. They either starve it of the requisite dose of education which it could absorb; or they hinder it in some other ways.

Some vague, indefinable fear tells them that the right policy is just not possible in the present situation. If one Vicar Apostolic, with generous heart and farsighted vision, were to put it into practice, they fear this would last only for a time and would end up as a mere isolated, personal achievement. His neighbours would (p 253) not move in line with him. Even during his lifetime there would be troubles and contradictions. And his successors would not persevere in his policy. [Its discontinuation in the future would be] all the more likely because let us face it the number of priests eligible for Vicar Apostolic is very small; and this often results in the appointment of a very mediocre man.

There, I think, lies the explanation [for this paradox that] there is no zealous and sensible priest who does not yearn and pray for the triumph of the cause of the native clergy. And yet this enthusiasm very quickly cools, for many, once they have breathed the air of the missions. To that explanation you must add the [first, obvious and misfortunate] natural cause: the antipathy of the white man for the black man, which is only very rarely resisted successfully.

I never deluded myself about the size of these huge difficulties. But It was so Important for the sheer salvation of the Chris-tians on the missions, for the conversion of the pagans, and for the definitive founding of the Church in that country to have a clergy, .and a numerous clergy (even if only a relative degree of perfection could be attained) that I have never hesitated to struggle against the obstacles (even at the risk of being broken against them). And I am confident now that, by doing so, I have been of some service to the Church in India. It will probably bear fruit in the future. No; I do not think I have to repent of my temerity [in sticking my neck out].

To overcome the first of these two obstacles, it was necessary to go ahead and make priests, and thus to prove, by deeds and facts, that a local clergy is feasible. [I think I have done that]. In my restricted field of action possibly the most unpromising mission in the world (because of Caste) apart from completely savage regions [I tried it out]. And the results surpassed all my hopes. Without complete and. castiron prejudice, it is now impossible for anyone to go on maintaining that “the creation of good priests is not feasible m India” provided we take the trouble of giving them a real clerical education. (p 254) As for the second [more complicated] obstacle, it could not be overcome without the active support of the Holy See. For that reason it was indispensable to win Its confidence to a more than ordinary degree. For we needed Its support against numerous and influential adversaries. In all good faith they continually argue against this work, often without realising their own selfcontradiction. They may sometimes even imagine and affirm that they want native clergy just as much as we do, while in actual fact they are the ones who are making it impossible in practice. And they, too have a right to be heard by the Holy See, which owes them much consideration because of their virtue. So, if we were succeed, we needed to have the Holy See trust us enough, so as to remain convinced [that we were on the right path] that we wanted nothing but what the Holy See itself has always wanted, what It still expressly wants. And that all we were doing was to demonstrate that this is possible in practice.

[This was a tall order]. We could not expect to achieve it by ourselves. But our hope was in the grace and help of the Lord. He seemed to be arranging events for the triumph of the Cause. True, He did not crown our efforts with complete success. But our time was not all wasted either. Something will remain, I hope, out of what has been done. And other men, more prudent, more pious, more holy, will finish the work that we just barely started.

A Step Forward: the College/Seminary

[Meanwhile at Pondicherry] things were falling into place, in a way that might give our action a chance of sustained momentum.

“The Pondicherry seminary is not reformed ”, wrote Fr Luquet. “The last reform falls a lot short of what is required. It is all a rather miserable and temporary patchup job. Yes, but it was a step in the right direction. And it did not stop t ere, as we will see later.

In the meantime Fr Leroux wrote:

“It is all being done behind my back, with a slowness and apathy (p 255) that would depress the most dauntless and enthusiastic. All faces are cold and icy towards me, or so at least they appear. (Please God it is only appearances). Ah, my dear friend, if I ever have any suc-cess in this place, it can surely and certainly be said: “The finger of God is here”. [For it will be a miracle].

Some time later, he informed me that the seminary was going to be turned into a CollegeSeminary. They were going to bring in lay teachers for French. But it was only with extreme re-luctance that they had agreed to this.

“Don’t think I am going to give up or lose heart”, he wrote. “No way. Thanks be to God I still have hope in the One I am fighting for. “I can do all things in Him”. Our new College is to start on the 17th of this month; and they still haven’t given me the definite names of my teachers; so I cannot arrange about classes with them”.

On the very opening day, he again wrote to me:

“Today, the 17th of July 1843, our new College is at last taking off. This morning, we had the Mass of the Holy Spirit, preceded by the “Veni Creator”. The Bishop was here, and all the missionaries, and a great number of children along with their parents. They all seemed very happy, and this was a great joy to me, as you can well imagine. It was only yesterday that I was able to meet the teachers and definitively organise things with them. As you see, it was all very rushed in the end. Only yesterday afternoon were the Christians informed, officially, that the College was starting today. The principal Catholics immediately rushed to enrol their children. By this morning there were twenty youngsters on the list. His Lordship met them”.

After reading these letters, I wrote in my diary: “In spite of winds and weather, good Fr Leroux’s “little efforts” have obtained a success that nobody could have expected to see so quickly. Of course, if things are going to stop at that, this new establishment won’t be much use. But maybe, by the grace of God, it will open people’s minds [to what can be achieved], and so lead on to better things. If so, the seminary now the “College” can be of very great service to Pondicherry and to the Mission.

“May the Lord bless the efforts of those who are working in this good enterprise. Why can’t we have educational establishments on a level that is really worthy of the mission confided to us by God? Wouldn’t that be the best means of attracting young (p 256) people, getting to know them, imbuing their hearts with Faith, encouraging them to work for It no matter what career they enter and, finally, nurturing the seeds of ecclesiastical vocations discerned in a few of them, in order to form an educated and numerous native clergy from which alone, after the grace of God, we can hope for the regeneration of India!”

[* *]

[* *]

Luquet Sends Ammunition for the coming Debate.

Dialogue with his Letter.

The Bishop had long been contemplating a general Meeting of the Vicariate; and now it was beginning to take shape. Fr Luquet, who had “taken” very well at Pondicherry even the Bishop already showed great confidence in him was pushing it strongly. To keep me informed, he wrote the following letter, and also enclosed a resume of facts that could be useful in countering many of the usual objections to a native clergy. These facts he had come across while researching “Lettres”; but he had thought it wiser to keep them out of the book. After a preamble given over to our friendship, he went on:

“At the time you left us at Paris, my thoughts on the missions had not yet clarified. But a study of the past was enough to do it, soon after. New enlightenment came to me when the precious documents in the Seminary Archives became available to me. I then saw clearly what was the cause of the lack of progress in our Asian missions over the last three centuries. But first I want you to know that the issue of native clergy had no great appeal for me when I first met it, indicated as “the primary Aim” of our Congregation. What I wanted was to suffer and die for the salvation of souls. But to work quietly in a seminary and look after the ecclesiastical education of youngsters that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do among the heathen! To work quietly for the future, for the foundation of the Church, was not at all what I felt called to. Even in my desire to do good, there was an awful lot of me”.

(In passing, let us note that it is only very rarely you will find a young man coming forward to dedicate himself to the missions without some element of merely natural dispositions still lurking (p 257) in the back of his mind, Fantasies of martyrdom attract him pagan children dramatically baptised in danger of death etc. The basic motivation is supernatural, no doubt but it is accompanied in the bottom of the mind by a certain glamour and selfsatisfaction incompatible with perfect selfdenial which is the real touchstone for a good missionary. A man can set out for the missions highflown ideas like this and then find that, all his life he is going to be just engaged in looking after some peaceful Christian communities with nothing much more spectacular to do than any poor country parish priest. Or he may just be teaching in a college. Or he may have to keep hidden and do almost nothing[* *]at all, and yet Without any dramatic or imminent danger. At this point, he will get very disappointed and discouraged, and will be lucky if he doesn’t lose his vocation altogether.

The Paris Seminary ought to be a real noviciate [to cope with this kind of thing]. Starting with the good and generous attitudes of the young men coming in, it should initiate them or rather develop and perfect them in the spirit that is so precious everywhere but so essential on the missions: the spirit of perfect selfdenial Unfortunately, the present Paris Seminary is almost totally incapable of doing the Society this allimport ant service the principal one that ought to be expected from it. Certainly, it had nothing of that kind to offer when I entered. And when I went back there I could see no change. May heaven show the Vicars Apostolic the right way to get together to reform it. It could have such precious results!

Fr Luquet continued]: “By calm reflection, Our Lord brought about some improvement in me. I don’t think I am being presump-tious, but today I think I can say without fear; If I am ever to bring about any good m this world, I believe it will be by propagating and by trying, myself, to implement this longforgotten doctrine: Without native priests and bishops, no country can ever have the Church established in it53.It’s all there, the whole of my thinking. On this sound foundation we can base all our common efforts, all our striving to attain this Aim…

(p 258)“About your outspoken temperament, and the warnings I took the liberty of giving you about it, it all boils down to this: When we are trying to tell people some home truths, we have to pick the right time as well as the right words. You should be able to appreciate these two points better than most. . .

“Yes indeed, I have met our excellent Fr Roger. His ideas are fairly well advanced. But we’ll still have to tell him what we want to hear repeated … If you get a chance to give him some counsel, you should perhaps advise him to be less impetuous, not to let his heart rush ahead of his head so much. Calm reflection, in the grace and spirit of Jesus Christ, is necessary always, and especially in our Mission, where patience and plenty of time will probably be needed more than elsewhere … “.

[* *]

[* *]

Things Hotting Up in Pondicherry

It was rumoured that I was going to be appointed to the seminary.

“I wish it was more likely”, wrote Fr Luquet. “but I don’t think there is anything to it, at least not for the moment. As certain people here put it, you have too much “native clergimania ”in you .

“You will be glad to hear that Fr Lehodey, for some time now, is completely in favour of a native clergy. We have recently had several proofs of his [change of heart], including this one: To prepare for the Meeting I mentioned, it was agreed that, along with the Convocation each missionary should be given an Agenda of the main questions to be dealt with, so that he can reflect on them in advance.

“Well to obtain fuller documentation, the Bishop asked all the missionaries at Pondicherry even including Fr Virot54 and me to prepare a Note about the most relevant questions. Fr Jarrige was the first in with his; it didn’t include a Single word about native clergy. Fr Leroux’s included nothing else but it; so his paper was rejected on various grounds. But next day, along comes Fr Lehodey, with a paper just as explicit as Fr Leroux’s and in the same tenor. Fr Dupuis (p 259) was the same … Fr Godelle 55 is completely of our opinion. So, if they send out a Circular giving the Agenda, Native Clergy will inevitably have to figure on it. It’s a great step forward! What is more, as a result of Fr Lehodey’s shift, the Bishop himself is strongly influenced. If we do not force things too much or jump ahead of grace, we will end up with a consensus to get down seriously to the proper ways of obtaining candidates for a native clergy …

“When I arrived at Pondicherry I seemed to see [a building site in a shambles], a crowd of enthusiastic and disorganised workers fran-tically piling up materials fit for[_ _]a fine building. But since they had no common plan or idea, nothing got built. All you could see all around, was heaps of rubble”.. ‘

I was going to leave that bit out. But I decided to keep it in, because it seems to me a perfectly accurate description of the kind of thing I have observed in every Mission I have seen, apart from the Jesuit missions. All of them Carmelite, Oblate, Franciscan English missions, French ones that was where they were at. On the contrary, at the Jesuit missions, there is order; there is plan. Would to God a native clergy was part of their plan! Unfortunately, their esprit de corps [their solidarity and clannishness] which they take much too far, does not leave room for any other workers but Jesuits in the missions they are in charge of. Now and then they will make a few native priests, but no [real, diocesan] cle.rgy. God goes along with this, no doubt, because [they are doing such a good Job] and there just can’t be anything perfect in this world.

Luquet’s History of Far East Native Clergy

“And now I come to the principal reason for this letter”, [continued Fr Luquet] … “It’s an authentic summary of the difficulties and oppositions encountered by our early Vicars Apostolic in trying (p 260) to form a Chinese and Annamite clergy. When you think about it, you will see that it provides plenty of good replies and to spare to the objections usually made against the Indian clergy. I summarised it from the Paris Archives, and I have either a copy or a reference for all my quotations … The more I think about it, the more I admire our first missionaries for the constancy and courage it required, then, to attempt and successfully implement such a policy, in the face of the unanimous opinion of the religious Orders, who kept declaring it was “impossible”.

Why are the Regulars generally more opposed than the Seculars to the formation of a native clergy? Many reasons could be adduced. But I believe the main reason is the legal anomaly [or structural confusion] that would ensue, as soon as there existed a numerous body of priests not belonging to their Order, in a territory for which they have the sale administrative responsibility “in foro externo”.

[Luquet again]: “The defects which people usually try to pin on the Malabaris can, I think, be boiled down to four: unreliability of character; insufficient moral stamina to be put in charge of churches; a tendency to pride; and to incontinence. (Formerly, I think, they used to include “incompetence”. But numerous examples have disproved that one). So these four are all they can put forward, to show the socalled “impossibility” of training good priests from among them. Well [in my summary] you will see, over and over again, that all these objections were put up against the work of our early missionaries; and they overcame them all, as well as a lot of other ones that do not exist here in India.

“And here is one general observation that must be made first and foremost. It is of the greatest importance for our subject: At the period when our missionaries were founding their College and their Seminary in Siam, there was not a single precedent in favour of native clergy in all the many missions then existing in the whole world!”.

Possibly the writer should have made an exception in the case of a few Spanish and Portuguese missions. True, they hardly made any priests either, except in the actual capitals of bishoprics which were then no longer “missions” properly so called. But there they ordained them so profusely and so carelessly that the resulting scandal became one of the favourite objections put forward to prove the “impossibility” of native clergy everywhere else.

(p 261)

Many good men have quite sincerely been taken in by that argument. They do not stop to think that the trouble, there, was lack of vocation and the absence of a proper clerical education. Nor did these priests deserve all that was said against them. It was all unwittingly exaggerated by the usual blackwhite antipathy. Moreover, as we shall show later on, it is a lot better for a country to have plenty of its own nationals priests, even if many turn out bad, than to have none at allor even to have nobody but foreign missionaries as their priests.

[Luquet]:56” … All the religious Orders were against our Seminary in Slam, all loudly proclaiming that the thing couldn’t work. We today, on the contrary, have a guarantee of success: the example of China, Tongking and Cochinchina [Vietnam]. For more than 150 years, these priests “who could never be taught the minimum knowledge and virtue required for their high calling” (as they said) – these same priests are sustaining and extending the local churches, in peace time and in persecution time. They have shown the courage to back up the truth of the message they preach by sealing it with their blood”.

My subsequent correspondence with these Far East missions has made me conclude that they have greatly slowed down from the early zeal of our Vicars Apostolic. Within the realm of possibility, there is a lot more that could be done there than is being done today.

“Fr Luquet then quoted a [startling] passage from Bishop Pallu57 and commented: “His 30 years’ experience [in the Far East] had given him very great authority. Moreover, he was writing in an official Report to Propaganda [when he complained of that scandalous affair]”. Luquet did not include it in his book, he said, “because one should not publish anything that might provide ammunition for the enemies of Religion. And, in a work that is going to be released to the public, the charity of Jesus Christ imposes the greatest caution”.

These same considerations prevent me from quoting the said passage now, in case these Memoirs should be read by men who are not able to understand that legitimate complaints [are one (p 262) thing and abusive invective quite another. Accusations can sometimes be] made by a man who thinks it is only right to protest against certain abuses or neglect of duty, or even against some individual members of a widelyrespected Order. And these accusations need not be an invective attack on the whole Order, much less proceed from hatred against it. What? Just because we keenly regret the Jesuits’ refusal to set up a local clergy in their missions just because we believe that, in specific cases, a few Jesuit Fathers have [gone out of their way to sabotage and] block the zeal of those who thought different (i.e. that this work ought to be seriously undertaken) just because we may even think we have probable reason to complain against certain manoeuvres against us does that mean we are enemies of the Jesuits? God forbid! But, in the world, that is the general opinion. We protest against that wrong interpretation. If we do point out something that we think regrettable, it is only in order to invite seriousthinking men to correct it if they can, for the greater glory of God but without spite against any person, without for one moment ceasing to venerate what the whole Church venerates [in the Jesuit Order], to approve what she approves, to loves what she loves.

[Luquet]: “But here I feel it necessary [to quote the passage] since it is a question of recognising important events in the past in order to direct our practical action better in the present and in the future …

“[As well as the Orders] our missionaries in Siam etc. had many other difficulties to overcome. The Report already quoted, and a Note from the same Bishop Pallu about the Siam College and Seminary, will give us abundant proof of these difficulties. The first was persecution; it forced the students to leave their own country and go to foreign establishments specially founded for their education. Most of the parents found it exceedingly difficult to consent to this. Their reluctance is easily explained by parental love, as well as the other causes mentioned by Bishop Laneau.58 He thought, however, that these objections would partly disappear once [some of the students returned ordained and] the parents could see a certain (p 263) number of native priests living in an honoured position in their midst. Anyway, seminaries on the spot were thought to be unworkable at that time. It was feared that, staying so near their parents, the seminarians would eventually lose their vocations, either by constant bad advice or by the inevitable matchmaking on their behalf as soon as they reached marriageable age. (These fears were confirmed by the experience of a recent failure in China, where a certain Dominican had made a really zealous attempt to form a native clergy, in spite of his confreres’ opposition).”

Similarly, I made the acquaintance of a Jesuit in Madurai who was just as convinced as myself about the necessity and feasibility of forming Indian priests. But what could he achieve against the fixed and determined will of the Mission Superiors? The admirable order which reigns among the Jesuit missions, and which gives such strength and cohesion to the countless good enterprises they have established this very same order is an immovable obstacle against any individual who is trying to promote or implement an opinion that is against his Superiors’ policy. He would first have to convince them all of the value of his plan. And in this particular case it would be wellnigh impossible; for the unworkability of a native clergy is an axiom too deeply rooted in the tradition of the Order. Indeed I believe it is, unfortunately, even a logical and inevitable consequence of the general strategy of the Jesuits on the missions.

[Luquet]: “All these difficulties, plus the dangers from persecution, made it impossible to even think of implementing the [local seminary] project so happily achieved later on. The consent of the parents was eventually obtained, with great difficulty and trouble, for some of the young people to go to the [foreign] seminary. But now the people opposing our Vicars Apostolic did everything in their power to prevent these children from leaving their country … Finally, by great efforts, our missionaries managed to get them to Siam …. But some, finding themselves so far removed from their parents, gave way to such homesickness that they had to be brought back almost immediately. Others had no vocation, or no brains for the necessary studies. Others had enough piety and instruction to be worthy of ordination; but many of these, weakened by the climate of Siam, died, just when they were going to be able to help the Mission. (p 264)

The Latin Language Barrier and Beyond it

“Another difficulty (long ago disappeared) was at first bad enough to wear down the determination of any missionaries less devoted to God’s work. It came from the difficulty encountered m teaching the students Latin. Because of the complete absence of any relation between Latin and their languages, they could get nowhere even after ten years of mighty efforts by both teachers and pupils! During that time, several missionaries had used up all their strength, and even their lives. But m spite of the lack of any success whatsoever, they kept at it.

“All the same, this kind of failure could not go on for ever. They hit on a plan entirely outside ordinary teaching methods. They picked out a group of students who all had different languages (and put them living together]. They had no common language in which to communicate with each other; so they just had to invent one. The Latin words for the most ordinary necessities of daily life were supplied to them, and they got on with it. Their Latin was very bad at first, but they gradually improved, ending up by speaking Latin so fluently that the new missionaries arriving from Europe were as-tounded. But what caused the students the greatest joy of all was that having first despaired of ever being able to communicate with each other, they got on wonderfully within a few months! Going beyond all that, the missionaries went allout to adapt everything to their kind of mind, and to profit from the knowledge and skills acquired (in this experiment]. They composed a special grammar for them, a special philosophy and theology, much more useful than the books generally used in Europe. Thus, after all the trouble and drudgery, a way was found to bring them the required education very easily.

[* *]

[* *]

Finding a Way through the Usual Objections

“There were 80 students in the College at that time. A few years before, according to another Report, there were 59, from 20 different nations. (By now an important part of clerical education had been successfully imparted]. But that was still the least difficult part for the natives, according to what the oldtime missionares Said (The real crunch was still to come]. They still had to be trained in (p 265) the basic virtues of a priest’s life. And that was impossible, they all said then. 1. These natives could not keep chaste, they said. 2. Their pride was so bad that, once ordained they just would not obey superiors. 3. They were hopelessly greedy for money etc.

“Bishop Laneau did not pretend to deny whatever bit of truth there might be in these sweeping accusations; but he vehemently rejected the alleged “impossibility”. He saw that, if the views of the Order men were to be accepted (there were only two equally disastrous possibilities]: Either to give up entirely trying to form a native clergy, “which would obviously lead to the complete ruination of Religion in the country since, without a native clergy, Religion could never be sufficiently diffused, nor ever have any permanence”. Or else to ordain priests who were “immoral, ignorant, undisciplined and avaricious, like many of the IndoLusitanian priests who go about India”, he added. (He meant the priests from Goa. At that time they were being ordained with a truly scandalous speed. And instead of being cured with time, this evil has increased, especially since the opposition of the Goa clergy to Rome; supported by the Portuguese Government, it has even gone as far as schism).

“Between these two equally deadly extremes, there was a way between; and Bishop Laneau chose it. He explains the extra pre-cautions he was taking, to protect pure morals and priestly spirit among the native priests … This done, he has no hesitation in saying that he was certain to have a clergy quite fit to take over, if necessary, from the European priests. “I am all the more confident of this”, he went on, “because, among the men already ordained, there are several good priests”.

The rest of Luquet’s letter concentrated on the Goa clergy and their disorders. He said Bishop Laneau deplored these, but asked Propaganda not to let them bias It against a truly native clergy. The Goa priests were not Indians properly so called. For the most part, they were descendants of European men and Indian women (what we call “topas”). Moreover, they had received no proper clerical education … I will not quote all that long portion of the letter. For, since the same disorders still exist today, and we have come across them ourselves, we will probably have occasion to speak of all that later on anyway. Fr Luquet concluded as follows:

“Finally, Bishop Laneau informed the Sacred Congregation that, in spite of all the aforementioned obstacles and oppositions, there (p 266) were already about 40 native priests. ordained by our Vicars Apostoplic in their various mission countries. This was a huge fait accompli Later on the Dominicans, the Lazarists and other Congregations followed this example, and are still doing so. But the Jesuits never budged Thanks to the native priests of Tongking and CochinChina, the Church there is weathering the storm of persecution. The Church in Japan is dead. In India we can succeed, with the grace of Him who gives all true success.

[* Marie -Xavery Promoted. A Village Miracle *]

Meanwhile I was extremely pleased with my disciple MarieXavery. Every day I gave him a Latin lesson ‘. But since he was already a man and since he had completely missed out on his ealier studies, I soon realised that his Latin had got about as far as it would ever go. He could more or less follow the breviary. He could interpret into Latin whenever I didn’’t get what people were saying to me in Tamil. Basically, it was enough. He had many good qualities. Great piety. Plenty of intelligence. And most remarkable of all a complete contempt for the absurdities of Caste. Externally he observed all the restriction that we ourselves had to observe, in accordance with traditional missionary tolerance. But he had given me several sure hints that, m his heart, he did not hold with them at all. . . .,

I wrote to Bishop Bonnand about all this, I said. that, If he intended me to continue with this young man’s education, my opinion was that the next step should be to give him some clues about philosophy and get on to theology as soon as possible ‘. Also, m order to reinforce his position m resisting planned marriages (he had already refused some) it would be a good idea to give him Tonsure. His Lordship rephed positively another sign that the Administration was changing its mind in favour of the salutary progress we were longing and praying for. Encouraged by all the good news I was getting ready for my second tour of outstations. But first let me record an event which I heard of at Salem. It proves that the merciful hand of the Lord is also extended in bles-sing over our own poor Indians. (p 267)

A fervent catechumen had just received baptism from our dear confrere Fr Fricaud. Only a few months later, he had died. The Lord, as I like to think, had called him to glory before he could have the misfortune to tarnish his baptismal innocence. Nevertheless, this sudden death was a cause of murmurings and blasphemies in his village. “Look”, they said quite openly, “It’s because he became a Christian that our gods became angry and put an end to him”. One man, alone, refused to go along with this wicked talk. This was the village head. He had had some conversations about religion with our lamented brother, and had been so moved that he decided to learn the Christian prayers in secret. Then, one day as he was praying along with his wife (the Rosary I think) they were both surrounded by a radiant light. It was more beautiful than sunlight or moonlight, they said; but it did not dazzle the eyes. They stood up immediately and began to shout:“Jesus’ religion is the true religion”. Their conversion was total; and, very soon after, they received baptism. Fr Fricaud, who told me all this, was hopeful that the influence of this headman would bring the whole village to ask for baptism.

Second Trek: Idapaddy, a Splintered Community

A day’s journey from Salem, near the big village of Idapaddy, there is a famous Christian community. Formerly quite numerous, it is now declining day by day, because of continual divisions among those poor Christians. The chronicle for the place tells the sad tale: One day a certain missionary lost all patience and all hope of ever getting anywhere with the hardliners. He went out, put on his “papatchis” at the church door, and proceeded to the holy water pot inside. He smashed it with a welldirected kick of a papatchi, and told them they were not even fit to have holy water in their church. Then he left.

Since that day of terrible “sabam” or curse, the village has never been able to get up again. Whatever about the curse, the fact is that the Christians there are always quarrelling between spiteful cliques, and their numbers and authority are constantly (p 268) being reduced. Formerly they had a certain prestige among the Christians of the District, because of their charming old church, and because people came there from far and wide to their Passion Plays. It was, indeed the first church I saw since Pondicherry that even looked a bit like a church. Those at Salem, Coviloor and Tirupatur were merely slightly bigger shacks than the other houses. Here the priest’s house, also, was a real Europeanstyle dwelling. It was built, I think, by the oldtime Jesuits, before the suppression. The church’s compound and garden were vast. It must have been a delightful residence in olden times. Today it is all crumbling into ruins, as if under the weight of the malediction.

Fr Fricaud was there. He told me that a new flareup of hatred made it impossible to give them the sacraments at this time. As he was still suffering from his illness, he went back to Salem. He told me to come round again to Idapaddy at the end of my tour. Maybe by that time they would have calmed down a bit. I set out for a new Christian community called Caniampatty.

New Out-station in Tiger Country

This is only a few miles from Idapaddy. It was started by one of the most troublesome of the Idapaddy people. But with all his faults, the man had a kind of proselytising spirit in him. He had big “topes” of palmtrees near Caniampatty and so got to know many of the inhabitants of this wild place, jutting up into the mountains where the tigers and elephants roam. Our man succeeded in converting a few of the locals. He built a church for them. And everything indicated then that there would soon be more conversions. But I had to be content with ministering to the alreadyexisting Christians. Many of the pagans in the place had never seen a Catholic priest before, and they came round to see what kind of a strange animal I might be. That was all. They would, of course, have asked, first thing, what caste I belonged to. I don’t know what answer they were given. But my white skin must have made them very suspicious that I was some sort of (p 269) pariah in spite of the extreme trouble my people went to, so as to give the impression that I never ate meat, eggs or fish! For which purpose I spotted some of my men sneaking off to a place about a mile away a hen under the cook’s cloth in order to pluck it well outside the village.

As I said, the pagans came to see me, but only out of curios-ity. They could make nothing of the few religious sentences I tried to address to them, by myself and through my disciple. “The mo-ment of grace has not yet struck for the conversion of the pagans here”, I wrote after leaving their village. “God grant that it is not because of the unworthiness of his servant. Alas, Lord, a holier priest than myself, more worthy of being an instrument of your grace, might have done some good. Yet I implore You, Lord, do not punish my sins by bringing sterility on my ministry. Rather, punish myself, smite me, overwhelm me with the blows of your merciful vengeance. But do not, because of me, punish a people who would love You so well if only they had the happiness of knowing You! a Mary, bring this prayer, made at your feet, to the ear of your glorious Son, under the protection of the Angels of this mountain”.

In that area I saw a special kind of tigertrap. It is a pit co-vered with a trapdoor, designed to let the tiger in but not out again, the door locking on him. The tiger is invited in by a goat-kid tied to the bottom ofthe pit as bait, broadcasting his presence unwisely by bleating all night.

Another, more extraordinary, thing: A certain bad Christian was denounced to me for having the ability to stop a tiger in his tracks, simply by staring at him and making the right gestures. But, for this to work (he explained) he needed to have on his per-son certain little magic stones which he got blessed in a temple. This semipagan was [_not _]one of the new converts. These, on the contrary, gave me a lot of consolation. Afterwards I wrote in my diary about them:

“At Caniampatty my residence was just a long, narrow mud

As I said, the pagans came to see me, but only out of curiosity. They could make nothing of the few religious sentences I tried to address to them, by myself and through my disciple. “The moment of grace has not yet struck for the conversion of the pagans here”, I wrote after leaving their village. “God grant that it is not because of the unworthiness of his servant. Alas, Lord, a holier priest than myself, more worthy of being an instrument of your grace, might have done some good. Yet I implore You, Lord, do not punish my sins by bringing sterility on my ministry. Rather, punish myself, smite me, overwhelm me with the blows of your merciful vengeance. But do not, because of me, punish a people who would love You so well if only they had the happiness of knowing You! a Mary, bring this prayer, made at your feet, to the ear of your glorious Son, under the protection of the Angels of this mountain”.

In that area I saw a special kind of tigertrap. It is a pit covered with a trapdoor, designed to let the tiger in but not out again, the door locking on him. The tiger is invited in by a goatkid tied to the bottom of the pit as bait, broadcasting his presence unwisely by bleating all night.

Another, more extraordinary, thing: A certain bad Christian was denounced to me for having the ability to stop a tiger in his tracks, simply by staring at him and making the right gestures. But, for this to work (he explained) he needed to have on his person certain little magic stones which he got blessed in a temple. This semipagan was not one of the new converts. These, on the contrary, gave me a lot of consolation. Afterwards I wrote in my diary about them:

“At Caniampatty my residence was just a long, narrow mud (p 270) leanto, up against the church, about 30 feet by 4, roofed with palm leaves.

The roof, sloping out from the church wall, was about 7 feet high on the inside and 3 on the outside. No need for Windows. Daylight streamed in through the seams m the roofing mats, and through the hole in the far wall which was the doorway. (Closed at night with a loose screen or hurdle). There I was as happy as could be. It is not pleasures or palaces that make your servants joyful, O my God. I was happy because these new. Christians seemed to love the Lord with all their hearts. Morning and evening, they came together for prayer. With one voice I could hear them daily asking for their daily bread. A little bell called them to early morning prayer, and they were there for not less than an hour. Yet it was all over by sunrise. Then I said Mass, and nearly all assisted. In the evening they came about 7 o’clock and prayed until 8.30. All that time, their houses were locked and empty. The mothers brought their babies, and the fathers led the toddlers by the hand. These innocent creatures, lying on a small square of cloth, slept peacefully, while the prayer of those who gave them life was rising up to heaven. Keep it up, my new brothers and Sister! The Lord will bless you. God will be glorified in this place.

Across the Cavery in a Basket

From there I went on to Coulavourampatty, beyond the Cavery River, one of the great Rivers in India. At certain seasons, it can be forded. But now it was running wide and full. After getting over some tough, rugged hills, we came to the river plain, here a narrow green ribbon of ricefield. The Christians were waiting for us on the other bank, with their Music. But I could see neither bridge nor ferry nor boat. So how were we going to cross?

But soon, out from the standing ranks of the women and children, I saw the leading men setting off up along the other bank, the music at their head, and then getting into little round, black affairs four or five into each. The flotilla came down across towards ‘us in a diagonal line. I saw several of these tubs doing a (p 271) complete rightaboutturn more than once, before they arrived. I received their “Sarva sura nuku tostiram” and gave them my “Assirvadam ,and then had a good look at their “boats” They were just bamboo baskets covered on the outside with buffalo hides! I quickly got into one, along with my disciple and two or three of the Christians, The head men entered another. The musicians had their own. The carriers, with the loads, got bigger ones. And the “cudiraicaran”” being a pariah, got one all to himself ! Well al-most; for he had to tow my horse by a rope as it swam along behind him, often jibbing and forcing him off course; so he hadn’t the easiest of crossings. This wonderful adventure made me forget all my travelweariness. Moreover, the church was very near the other bank. And, compared with the one I had just left, it was beautiful. But it was also the only residence for the priest.

. This peculiar method of crossing rivers is very common; and I think I can also say, very easy and safe. Later I saw much bigger parrisals (as the things are called) able to carry more than 30 people, and even fullyloaded carts. Usually, one man is enough to row them, With a paddle which he works leftandright with admirable skill. At other crossingpoints they use inflated skins, and even big earthenware pots with some kind of raft or frame fixed on them. But the English police are gradually abolishing the more dangerous methods, especially the pots.

Wild and “Biblical” Territory

Coulavourampatty is a fairly big Christian station with a central church where several villages gather when the missionary comes round. Although some of these Christians are of good caste, I have never seen such miserable dwellings. Some were round huts, covered with a straw hood reaching down almost to the ground; they looked just like stacks of sheaves. Some were no more than 7 feet in diameter inside; and this was all the space they had to live in father, mother and three or four children.

The church is built up against a huge rock which is part of the mountainside. The sun beats on the roof tiles (an unfortunate (p 272) “improvement”) and ricochets off the rock in a very effective way, making it like an airless oven between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. At night you can hardly get a wink of sleep, the place is so stuffy. The only opening is the door. Moreover, from the first night there, I was covered all over with little swellings, unbearably painful. Nothing for it. I had to sleep outside, in the open.

Anywhere else, it would be no great hardship. In India you can sleep very well in the open air, provided you take precautions against snakes. But here there were tigers to be considered. Some time before, two Vannar Christians (washermen) decided to spend the night outside the “door” ofthis very church. There they were, side by side, each wrapped from top to toe in his cloth. At cockcrow, one of them woke up. He called his comrade. No answer. He wasn’t there! He got up, called repeatedly. Still no answer. A tiger had come in the night and taken him off, without a sound being heard. This was confirmed after a few hours search. His mangled remains were found at some distance, in the mountain. This recent example was not very encouraging. But there were no tigers near by at the moment, the shepherds said; and they are usually very well informed about their movements. Also [since the accident] the people had surrounded the church with a palisade which did not look too easy to get past.

At the moment, in fact, they were more afraid of elephants than of tigers. The wild elephant is easily annoyed. And then, when he meets a man, he charges at him, grabs him with his trunk, and crushes him. He is most dangerous when he is on his own. Back with his herd, he becomes much less irritable. But, on these mountains, elephants have become rather scarce. So they are often all alone, and are greatly feared in consequence. A few days before, I was told, a villager had been stamped to death by one of these lone monsters. However, there was no fear near a house. They keep well away from houses.

“Anyway, we are under your special protection, O my God”, I wrote just then. “Your Angel will watch over us, over the people with us, among whom there is more than one faithful lover of your Law” .

(p 273)

If it could be managed safely, I would dearly love to see these animals moving free. I had only seen their likes through the prison bars of a cage. But up to now I have had to be content with seeing the tiger’s “mousetrap” and the watchtower trees where they keep a lookout for elephants (to guard their crops from being devoured, rather than to kill the big anirnals). Up a tall tree near the planted fields, they will erect a little cabin of reeds and straw. There, the sentries are posted. As soon as they see an elephant coming, they start yelling and throwing stones. He usually retreats without doing any damage. Tigers, however, are very difficult to spot. Indeed, they say, once you see a tiger, you are all right; he himself gets scared, and takes flight. If you become his dinner, it’s because he was able, unseen, to pounce on you at one bound, out of the thick bush where he was hiding.

As well as sacraments to administer here, I got many palavers to settle. One of these cases reminded me of Jacob’s bargain with Laban. A young man (I forget his caste) had married his wife on the condition that he would spend seven years working with his fatherinlaw. But now, before the time was up, he wanted to get out and start his own separate house. His fatherinlaw (Antoni Gouvunden) would not agree four years early to let go of his daughter, his grandchildren, and his soninlaw’s free labour. I was very surprised to hear of such a contract, so I called in the caste leaders. These, in the young man’s presence, confirmed the pact; and he did not deny it. Indeed, they said, this was the normal custom of this caste in this place. The young man put forward certain reasons why he should be free to leave earlier than stipulated. It only remained to be seen whether these reasons were valid or not. I called a special “jury” together to consider this question. They considered the reasons insufficient. So I ruled that he would have to stay and complete his term as originally agreed.

Biblical customs, indeed, are very common in India. No matter how rich she is, the daughter or wife of a shepherdcaste man will have no problem going out and pasturing the family’s flocks herself. At the hour for drawing water at the well, you will see the noblest Brahmin women coming, waterpitchers on their heads (p 274) (or, more often, held on the hip) all wearing their jewellery, wide bracelets, ear pendants, and very heavy arm and ankle trinkets.

I once started a study59 which could be very useful and interesting if done by someone more qualified. It was a threecolumn transcription of Bible passages where because of the customs peculiar to the Hebrews the literal meaning is difficult to understand, or even imagine: 1. in France but not in India; 2. in India but not in France; 3. in both countries. Well! N° 1 came out a lot longer than N° 2! To make it really useful and interesting, the relation between the actual words or phrases used in the three languages would have to be spelled out.

Nomadic Mountain Trails

Now I was moving into wilder and wilder country. As I was to come back the same way, I postponed part of my ministrations in Coulavourampatty, especially the marriages, and went on towards Nayambady. The church here and my little house were built high up on the bank of the Cavery, which was very wide at this point, and almost at its highest annual level. The view was magnificent. To right and left rose high mountains, which I would have to climb and cross over in a few days’ time, to get to a little Christian community called Mattally, lost in the gorges beyond them. (The few Christians then remaining have since dispersed).

So, after about a week ministering at Nayambady, I set out into the mountains, up into the most spectacular (but also the most severe) journey I ever did in India. I started at 4 a.m., hoping to make it in one day. All went well until we came to the first deep valley in the mountains. There, my people refused to go a step further until it was fully daylight. They were afraid of meeting an elephant in some narrow canyon. Nothing for it but to lie down and wait for the sunrise. (p 275)

With the day came the heat; it was overpowering. Moreover I could not stay long on horseback because the track often be-came too rugged; and I couldn’t walk properly with my useless papatchis; and I couldn’t easily go barefoot because of the stones strewing the pathway. [The killing thing was that] my people, even those of good caste, were nearly all wearing [comfortable leather] sandals! Having zigzagged up and back and forth along the same mountainside about seventeen times, and crossed the same mountain torrent about six or seven more, we were still not anywhere near halfway. It was 10 a.m. by now, and we decided we would stop and cook rice, and rest here until evening. After that, we would only try to reach a very rough savady in the mountains.

While I was resting there, I got a glimpse of the mountain people and their high stage of civilisation. Five or six shepherds came down to see what was going on. They were struck with awe and admiration at our tin lantern. They walked round and round it, exclaiming at the genius behind this brilliant invention. One of them reverently took it in his hands, looked at it closely, and respectfully placed it back exactly where it had been. Just give them time, and they would start worshipping it as some kind of god!

Then along came a big clan of nomads. These live a life of continual wandering, a life completely distinct from Indian society. They move from region to region, through desert places and over high escarpments, doing a tiny trade in salt and grain, never camping more than two or three days in the same place. Men, women, children, old grandfathers and grandmothers, all agesthere must have been over 200 of them. They had a few donkeys and 1200 to 1500 cattle, most of them so skinny that they could barely walk. Some of the men were carrying the oldest ones pickaback, or carrying some poor woman holding a fewhoursold baby wrapped in her cloth. Our people watched them, without a word, halfafraid of them, as they passed by. They themselves never say a word to anybody. They have their own special language; and anyway the only communication they have with outsiders is for barter. They are reputed to be thieves; and mothers fear the baleful effect of their eyes on small children.

(p 276) This fear of the evil eye is very widespread in India. You will hardly see a single garden or seeded plot without its own whitewashed upsidedown pot on a stake [This acts like an eyeconductor]. Venimous eyes are instantly drawn to this conspicuous object, so they discharge their poison on to it first.

These nomads are supposed (like the Muslims in certain areas) to have the secret power of attracting children after themselves (by staring or by a certain magic powder) and then getting them into such a state of hallucination or dizziness that the children inevitably have to follow them away, like helpless animals fascinated by a snake. There may be some basis of truth in all the wildly exaggerated stories about this.

Natural (and diabolical) mysticism has certainly not had the last word written about it, even after Gorries.60.

About 4 p. m. we arrived at the mountain savady, beautifully situated but very poorly fitted to accommodate travellers. Nowhere to sleep but under a ramshackle shed, open to the four winds. The air was cold and the belly almost empty, for we had not a great deal of provisions with us. We were able to get some milk, however, from the shepherds maintained there by the government of the English Company to look after one of its herds of cattle. Before the sun went down, I took time off to explore this enchanting landscape a little. But I didn’t go too far from our camp, because we could hear the screams of wild peacocks; some of them came quite near, admiring themselves as usual. My people said this was a sure sign to beware of tigers, for tigers and peacocks often move together. (Not that there are tigers always near them, for tigers are much scarcer).

I saw no tiger there; but my eyes were offended by the sight of Pulleyar and Hanuman, sculpted colossally on a huge rock. Hanuman is another god, half man, half monkey, on “padakuradus” , lifting his tail (with a bell on its tip) over his head in a fairly obscene posture. His right hand is raised, decorated with numerous rings and bracelets. His left holds a waterlily. How ridiculous, petty and contemptible Man makes himself when (p 277) he forgets the truth! You have made him only a little less than the angels, O my God. But when he abandons worshipping You in favour of wood and stone, he really puts himself below the level of the animals, for he begins to adore their grotesque images.

Ultimate Out-Station

I arrived at Mattally early next day. But what a place! Usually, the village church shows itself a bit better than the houses by being a bit bigger, or roofed with tiles. Here, too, it was better by having walls of mud! For the other buildings were only clay and wattle. But far more disappointing than the church was the crass ignorance of the Christians in it. Many of them did not even know how to make the sign of the cross. They certainly were purely nominal. There were some women there who had never before seen a priest; for missionaries were so scarce, they could hardly ever get round to visiting this outpost. The locals went to Nayambady or some other place for the sacraments; but not everyone could do that. So, several didn’t know a single prayer, nor even the most elementary truths of the Faith.

What really makes you wonder about such people is: why do they remain Christians at all? Why not drop it altogether? I think it’s because of caste instinct. (So it’s good for something, at least). Even when a group of Christians are of the same identical caste as the other villagers, they quickly form a new subcaste of their own. And then it becomes as unthinkable to leave Christianity as it would be to leave one’s own caste. “My father was a Christian. Therefore, I must be a Christian”. This is castiron Indian logic.

But the poor people here seemed good and honest. So I decided to stay with them a few days longer than planned; and to spend the first three or four days in intensive instruction. During the whole time, nothing could be heard in the whole village but the singsong of catechism, coming from groups near the church and in the shade of a huge tamarind. The men were one group, the women another, the children another. One was conducted by the (p 278) old catechist from Coulavourampatty, the other by his son (whom I had “adopted” as a disciple), the third by the other disciple or by MarieXavery. In the evening they all came together in the church, and I tried to teach them myself, and through MarieXavery, in a mighty effort to get the basic principles of the Faith into their heads.

As I said, these poor Christians are now scattered far and wide. Not that they have apostasised at least I can hope so. But these dispersals of communities are usually disastrous. If an Indian priest had been there, it is very likely that they would have stayed together as a community. And not only that; the Christian community would have increased by conversions from among these good, simple mountain people.

A Near Thing with Tigers; 2 little Pigs etc.

This was real tiger country. I can’t boast that I saw any. But, like the Gascon, “if I didn’t see ‘em, I certainly smelt ‘em”.

One evening about 9 p.m., when all the village was silent, I was strolling up and down near the church shack, and then saying the Rosary with my disciples. Two little pigs, meanwhile, were busy rooting about in the same place, very near the church wall. After the Rosary we went into the church and lay down. We weren’t yet asleep when heavy steps (or something) were heard outside. MarieXavery thought it must be an elephant.

Next minute, we heard shouts and screams in the village. MarieXavery got up andopened the door (tied only with a piece of string) and went to see. He soon deciphered the shouts: “Tiger! Tiger!”. But the tiger had already gone, having grabbed one of the little pigs rooting outside our “dormitory” walls. Ten minutes earlier, and he would have met us there as well, and could have preferred one of us for his evening meal. Next morning, the remains of the pig were found, about onethird eaten and nearly all the blood drunk. I saw these mangled remains myself and also another heap of tiger meat mutton. It had been bought very cheap near by, because a tiger had ravaged a flock there also. The village made a great feast out of it.

(p 279) Two days later, I was hearing confessions at the same church, seated on a mortar inside the bamboo “grille” ofthe door, a penitent kneeling outside. I heard some shouts, looked through the trelliswork, and saw a bullock come running panting and moaning into the village; then another; then a third bullock. I went out and saw a whole herd of them galloping madly down the mountain, flatout, tails in the air, lowing desperately. The tiger had struck again. He had pounced on the fattest bullock, but it managed to run away. It arrived among the last bunch, with a shoulder deeply clawed and bleeding.

On our way home, we had to sleep in the forest, not far from the haltingplace where our tin bushlamp had made such a big impression. It will come as no surprise to hear that the residences of the mountain men there were not very luxurious. Most of them are shepherds, and all they usually have is an instant shelter of straw and reeds erected on a high tree overlooking the place where their flocks happen to be that night. They were kind enough to offer me one of these “cabins”, capable of holding two of us. I went up by a parrotladder and looked down over the scene: the cattle and the buffaloes resting, and the others of my company tending a big fire which they kept going all night, to keep wild animals away.

Returning. News from Korea. “Meeting” Agenda

We went back by Nayambady and Coulavourampatty. There I stopped for a few days, to celebrate some marriages. About that time, also, I received big news from Pondicherry, and a welcome letter from Fr Luquet. He had been appointed to (?) Cuddalore.

The first was a letter informing me of the probable martyrdom of Bishop Imbert 61II and the last two missionaries left in the (p 280) in terior of Korea. (There were no native priests there). "O God" , I exclaimed, "how inscrutable are your designs, how terrible your judgments, how hidden your ways! Who, now, will go again, to shed his blood, or else be a witness (at last!) to the merciful victory of your divine grace over the rage of tyrants and of hell? Ah, Lord, why can't I go myself, fly to these lands deprived of pastors! Say but the word, Lord, and your servant will hear, and obey". I immediately wrote accordingly to the Paris Fathers, volunteering for that Mission. But I also had a feeling that my sins would prevent it, and that God would not grant me the grace of going into that martyr -making country.

Then came a long Circular from Bishop Bonnand, officially announcing a Meeting of all missionaries for midJanuary 1844. He enumerated the reasons for this gathering and gave the Agenda, inviting us to send in any other points we thought useful. He would then decide, with his Council, whether to include them. The points already on the Agenda and he asked us to reflect on them, so as to be able to deal with them in a well-informed way-were as follows:

“Do we need a Catechetical Centre? What should be the age and qualifications of candidates? What Rule should be followed in the Centre? What should be taught, and by what method? Where should the Centre be established? In what way should catechists be appointed? Should they be married or single? Should they be given a special uniform? Should they be taught a brand of popular medicine? What should their salary be?”.

These questions had been drafted at a preparatory meeting of His Lordship and a few of the missionaries, about a year before. At that time, all they had in mind was merely to improve the functioning of catechists. These are certainly very useful when they are properly used. But they are a menace and the better they are the worse the danger when there is a system of having them and depending on them instead of a local clergy. This can easily lead to the idea and the selfdelusion that Indian priests are not necessary. One of the biggest disasters in the Jesuit missions is the very success and the wonderful ability they developed in the training of excellent catechists. This may seem a paradox, after all the admirable writings by the Jesuits about Catechists. (p 281) Nevertheless, I am certain that they have made a very big mistake there, a deplorable selfdelusion. The high degree of perfection recognised by them in these Catechists is a further proof that the Indians, given good training, are quite capable of acquiring priestly virtues, (And this was even more obvious in the early times of the Jesuit missions, before the fallingoff of the good Christian castes).

The new questions, put on the Agenda by the Bishop and the council (all the priests actually resident in Pondicherry) were as follows:

“What means should be adopted for more successful work in the conversion of the pagans? What about special missions given by several missionaries together? Would these also be useful for renewing the Christians?

“Any suggestions for ensuring more baptisms of pagan children at the point of death?

“Which particular points in the Bull of Benedict XIV are still being most commonly violated? Which pagan customs are being practiced in the various Districts? Each missionary shall inform himself (from pagans as well as Christians) about all marriage and mourning customs, so that it can be decided which ones are permissible and which are forbidden. He shall take precise note of them especially those still being practiced by the Christians in his area. Exact information, also, about the various “pottu” (marks of various shape and colour put on foreheads) and related signs, so as to decide which ones are against the Bull and which not.

“Should missionaries’ costumes be uniform? Which one should they adopt?

“Means to be taken by each missionary to discover and develop vocations to the clerical state in his mission.

“Books: which ones should be printed first? Each missionary should study the Malabar publications in his mission and be able to give an opinion about each at the Meeting.

“Feasts of obligation: should we request that some of them be abolished? (p 282)

Seminaries: Concern for Paris; Hope for Pondicherry.

Indian Bishops?

A few of these questions must have been prompted by Fr Luquet, who had by now completely won the confidence of the Bishop and most of the Pondicherry confreres. Not so, perhaps, in the interior· the Jesuits had some hot supporters among us. They were very shocked by Luquet’s “Lettres”, so it is quite possible that they thought, even then, that they had better start some counterpropaganda against him. Anyway, this is what he wrote to me at this point:

“ … I am not sure, however, that both of us will be there (at the Meeting) together. Somebody has to be sent to X … Possibly, they will think of you. Or maybe me. I just don’t know. Anyway, the simplest thing to do, and the most pleasing to God, is to leave it all to Him, and not worry too much about the future, or about ways and means for the success of His work. After you have done all you can for it, He is well able to come up with much more effective ways that you never even thought of. What I have to tell you about Pondicherry seminary is a good example of this.

“Before that however let’s finish about Paris and Fr Tesson’s letter. It seems Meudon has been closed, at least for the time being. The 17 aspirants who were in the two houses are now being put together. The tenants on the ground floor [in Paris] have been evicted, and a special chapel is being made there. It seems they have decided to give a bit more attention than before to the aspirants at Paris. Let us pray to Our Lord and his blessed Mother that this new effort will be successful. The lack of continuity, however, does not seem to give it much better chance of success than the various useless changes being tried when we were there, only two years ago. Fr Tesson does not approve of this latest change. And, here at Pondicherry, Bishop Bonnand is very disgusted to hear that these gentlemen have now, for the second time running, made such important changes in the Paris Seminary without consulting anybody” .

Remember what I said about the Vicars Apostolic being totally unable to take any active part in the general running of the Congregation, even though they are its “Superiors”. Also about the authority which the Paris Gentlemen have been almost obliged to usurp, without there being anything in the Rule to ensure that they are under the effective control of anyone whatsoever.

(p 283)

The Vicars Apostolic can never be happy about this until they have all been brought together to modify the Rule. The Meudon noviciate for nonpriest aspirants was an excellent thing. But it was bound to have very serious consequences for the whole Congregation, by bringing in a great number of young students, instead of having an intake made up almost exclusively of priests. This change is one which should, indeed, have been made but only with the consent of the Vicars Apostolic, and only after a properly thoughtout change in the Rule.

And now-while maintaining the policy of admitting young students, some not even tonsured these gentlemen take it upon themselves to close the separate noviciate at Meudon and to lump all the aspirants [priests and students] together again in the Paris Seminary. They did not want the trouble of keeping the Meudon establishment going. Very regrettable. But can you blame them? Where does it say, in the Rule, that they must do this extra work? As long as the Vicars Apostolic fail to meet and decide, they will just have to put up with being at the mercy of these gentlemen. And according to their individual zeal (or less ‘zeal) things will continue to go well (or less well). And that is why, with all our excellent material, we build so little.

[Luquet]: “What really puzzles me is why they decided to abolish that really promising Meudon noviciate before even giving it a fair chance to succeed. (Fr X was the only man really working there) … Maybe it’s because the Congregation’s situation and future prospects look so rosy that our Paris gentlemen are a bit dazzled by it all; so they think their job is being adequately done if they just keep on with what they were doing up to now. But they are still very far from fulfilling their task. We must not cease from praying that the blood of our martyrs is not being shed in vain …

“If only the aim and scope of our Founding Idea was properly communicated! Then would native priests be trained, and well trained! Then would there soon be mitres on Tamil heads, whatever some people might say about it! Perhaps the day is not so far away as they imagine. You know that Bishop Rosario, Vicar Apostolic of Ceylon, was an Indian. (True, these Goa priests in Ceylon received a European upbringing, and follow European customs. But their families have no European blood in them). You know that his successor, Bishop Cajetano , recently consecrated at Pondicherry, is also pure Indian. Leave it to God; these examples will prove contagious (p 284) If we make priests who are worthy and competent, bishops will soon come. (But let us have no halfbaked priests, like those in China or Tongking, who are perpetually kept in an inferior state. This mayor may not be necessary there, but I cannot make myself like the idea). I am convinced that, if we are faithful to our ideal, not rushing things too much but pursuing a vigorous and steady policy (the gentle constancy which the Saints always put into their work) then, in ten years’ time, we will be leading all the Missions and Vicariates in our Society, in this and in many other ways.”.

I am not going to start an argument about my dear confrere’s remarks on the priests in Ceylon or their “pure blood”. The trouble is, they are hardly much better than the other Goa priests. But surprisingly, in this bad Goa clergy (their disorders can be easily explained, as I said before, without any prejudice to the idea of a native clergy) you will always find a number of excellent priests among them. Bishop Cajetano, who is known to me, was certainly one. Up to a certain point, he was worthy of his position. Perhaps he left something to be desired, in his dealings with Europeans (so many are now living in Colombo and Kandy). He would have been perfectly placed in a Vicariate where he had nobody but Indians to deal with.

Anyway Fr Luquet was being a bit overoptimistic about the early feasibility of an Indian episcopate. I don’t think he went so far as to maintain that some European bishops and even a certain number of missionaries could be done without in those countries, for a long time to come. Nevertheless, in this passage, he was going away beyond the bounds of reasonable expectations. Experience would have brought him ‘more realism if the missions had had the good fortune of keeping him longer.

A [completely] native episcopate becomes possible only when the Christian spirit has soaked into a nation. For centuries, the episcopate in Gaul was composed of Romans. Though mostly born in France, they were none the less from Roman families there. (No doubt, there were a few exceptions too). Similarly, in China, India and many other places, there could, by way of exception, be some prelates from these nations themselves. But until such time as these countries are Christian, the bulk of the episcopate will have to be European either from Europe or from long-established European families. The essential thing would be to (p 285) have no systematic policy against native bishops. The example of the early Church is often quoted [in favour of having local bishops almost immediately]. And indeed it is worthy of serious consideration; for the early Church shows, in germ, what ought to be aimed at by the Church in all ages. But we should not think that everything the Apostles did is feasible in all times and places. They were in an exceptional situation.

[Luquet]: “The seminarycollege of Pondicherry is going well. Only, at the Meeting, we must try to get two more missionaries appointed there. In an earlier age, when our whole Congregation had no more than 30 members, as you know, they did not hesitate to appoint a surprising number of them to this work surprising only to those who are not fully conscious of the Aim of our Institute!

It would also be good to envisage the possibility or rather the necessity of admitting pagans to the College. If we keep to the pre-sent policy we will be able to influence only a very small number of Christians, since only the higher castes are being admitted. This is to tie our hands, and to put ourselves at the mercy of a small clique of Christians. They would be able to impose their choice of teachers on us, their curriculum. For, making up the whole College as they do, they could easily threaten to withdraw the whole school population, if a few ringleaders were to talk them into that.

“Furthermore, we should include a plan of studies which could, naturally and without affectation, bring the pagan students to un-derstand and admire the eternal beauty of our Faith. By this, we could hope to lead a few of them, later, to Jesus Christ. Finally, the whole education should be based on solid and fervent piety among the clerical students and a deep and wellinformed Faith among the others. In this way, could we not hope to see more and more vocations springing up, such as those few which gladden us today, even with the seminary the way it is! For (you will be glad to hear) among the best, the most senior and the most competent of the dayboys, several are asking to be admitted as clerical boarders. Two have already been accepted; and the hope of receiving the grace of Tonsure, like MarieXavery, gives them great courage and new enthusiasm. In short and nobody denies this a new and unprecedented movement for education and clerical vocations is beginning to show; and it is very promising indeed. Let us follow up on these signs from God let us cooperate with the designs of his Providence and our good Master will not let us down.

(p 286)

Indian Heroes. Fr Tesson’s Testimonial.

“There is another important question I would like to have your opinion about, i.e. the multiplication of bishops. We should be ready, fairly soon, to prepare a positionpaper advocating it in India. Please try to put together as much information as you can gather about [Indians] who were outstanding for courage, and for other virtues which these peoples are now supposed not to have. This collection would be useful for gaining their confidence, and for raising their own image of themselves, one day.

“Nothing further to report, except that, on every side, minds are beginning to move our way. “The finger of God is here … This is the Lord’s doing”.

Let us follow up these quotations with one from Fr Tesson, taken straight from my diary [with this introductory comment]:

“In a letter from our dear confrere Fr Tesson in Paris, I find the following passage. I am transcribing it verbatim in spite of its being, probably, much too flattering to myself, because later on it may turn out to be important not to have lost the witness of good men who could think straight (in my opinion) about what is needed for the regeneration of the Asian Missions. And Fr Tesson is such a man; I have great confidence in his thinking. He is a man with plenty of talent and very sound judgment. May I only be able to live up to the great confidence he shows in me!

“We want nothing but only Your glory; You know that, O my God. If the thoughts of our hearts are true, deign to make them prevail, for your Name’s sake and for the salvation of so many thousands of souls. But if they stray from the truth, make them fail; abort them and make them barren. Permit not that we should try to contribute, even unwittingly, to any work that is not pleasing to You.

“But I am not going to copy in my reply to Fr Tesson. I gave him the raw and naked truth (at least as I saw it) and if someone were to read it in this diary, he might be shocked. For the truth can’t always be told straight out, not even to men of God. However pious we are however excusable our mistakes, however inculpable we are rarely so perfect that we can remain unruffled when we see what other people had to say or write about us. Anyway, here is Fr Tesson:

(P287) “If I wanted to state my own position exactly, I would just simply copy your letter. Our views are identical. But I still persist in saying to you: “Let us run forward with patience”. Continue to weigh up the needs and the resources. I am confident, and almost certain that, sooner or later, your opinions will be supported. I can tell you now: When I saw (much to my surprise) that you were being appointed to India, I considered it providential for that Mission. For I knew your sound judgment and your other qualities (needless to mention here). You will have to suffer in silence for a time, seeing things not going as quickly or as well as you would like. But (once again) Patience! Your voice will not carry any weight until after two or three years’ ministry there. It will take at least that long to have those Indian oldtimers get over their mistrust of all “newcomers” with their “ideas fresh from Europe”.

I beg you, use all your influence with Fr Luquet to convince him he must take time, be patient. If the two of you are in agreement, the good will be done. And, believe me, you are not the only ones to think as you do. Other confreres have written to me in exactly the same vein.”

Wit and Euphoria in Second (and last) Reply to Carcassonne Seminary

About this time, also, I received anotherletterfrom the Car-cassonne Seminary. Even two; for the young clerics who had been my pupils at the Minor Seminary were so friendly as to write their own. I will not quote these highly “sentimental” letters. Like the previous ones, they have much too much praise in them. This is what I replied, a few months later:

“Gentlemen and Dear Friends,

Your two letters came very timely, I assure you, for restoring me after my first round of apostolic journeyings and giving me renewed courage for the next one. I will not go into all the interesting things in your two charming epistles. How I appreciated and enjoyed the thoughtfulness of my former pupils in writing specially to me! Maybe I should object to all the compliments. But I prefer to just simply thank you. Exaggerations like yours have long ago been given the prescriptive rights of custom, in such letters! Good people make use of this tradition without any scruple about lies. And (p 288) maybe they are right. For it is just a nice sugarcoating put on by Charity, praising us for what we should be, rather than describing what we actually are. It is mostly in this sense that I am acceptmg your salutary compliments (or advice!) without reservation, and I cordially thank you for it.

… Unless I am greatly mistaken, a new era is now beginning for the missions, in India and probably in all of Asia. The future looks full of hope to me. Things have been dragging a bit for about 200 years; but now I am convinced that we have just put our finger on the cause ofthe trouble. Men whoare strong and enlightened and, more important, full of courage and the love of God are ready to struggle for His Cause. .

The cart was really stuck in the mud; but it is beginning to stir. We are getting some good horses. And we are raising others on .the spot. When these grow up a bit, they will be able to.pull their weight too. Later on, they will be able to pull the whole thing on their own, at their ease. Already, priestly stoles grace black shoulders; and a mitre gleams on one black head. Just wait a bit. Soon it will no longer be “impossible” for Religion to take root in India (as has too long been said). Then, at last, we will have Indian Churches where, up to now, we have only had disconnected missions and communities.

The devil must be sizzling with rage on his redhot coals when he sees the upandcoming reality of the Native Clergy, which he has hitherto been so successful in paralysing in spite of the efforts of so many great men, in spite of the exhortations of the Sovereign Pon-tiffs, in spite of their solemn decrees and the institutions they have set up in order to further this precious, allimportant Aim! .. B~t I had better stop. This is not the time or place to make a dIssertatIOn on such a serious matter. Later, perhaps. Today, I will just relax in your company, and tell you how I have been living and working, these last few months …

“When I am on the march, my whole house goes along with me: furniture, library, kitchen utensils, wardrobe everything required for Mass and the Sacraments everything in the literal sense. (In the “bigger” churches, however, the heavy furniture is permanent usually a bed, 2 chairs and a few books; but these can quite easily be found eaten by ants in the meantime).

Now don’t go thinking of a huge waggon of luggage on the move. In this here school you soon learn to be content with the bare essentials and you also learn that not many things are really essential to (p 289) Man. Three or four carriers are enough for all my “house” and “sacristy”. As well as these, I have three Disciples (one day they’ll be good priests, I hope) and a Horse (who is privileged, because he carries no loads, only his master; he doesn’t even carry his own oats for his halfway snack). No hotels or restaurants on the route, of course. Sometimes you can get roasted com to buy; it tastes very much like our roasted beans. Or maybe rice, swollen in water and then toasted in hot sand; if you can recall, as children, toasting grains of millet on the ancestral hob until they went off with a pop or a bang that’s how it tastes …

But, on the remote mountains where I sometimes have to travel, between one village and the next, even this last resort is rarely to be found. So you must always bring along something for the pot and even the pot as well. I always bring an earthenware one (round, without handles or spout) for boiling rice on the road or at the village. So a missionary needs a Cook also or rather a licensed poisoner so entitled, even if he can’t boil an egg (like mine for example) nor even make curry right. However, he has recently learnt how to make a reasonable omelet, even if the pepper water is still beyond him.

“Furthermore, for the noble charger, another fulltime servant is de rigueur, 1° because it’s the Custom, the primary Law of India; 2° because hay is even scarcer than manfood; so the Cudiraicaran (that’s his title) must be there fulltime, to provide some horsefood. If by any chance he fails to dig up some grass, the horse just won’t eat today. Nothing for it then, except to exercise Patience, the dominant Virtue of all animals and people in this country.

“So there I go, escorted by 3 disciples, 1 cook, 1 cudiraicaran, 3 or 4 carriers and usually 1 catechist, starting at 3 a.m. if possible here I go, out through the bushes and the thorntrees, over the rocks and the ravines, led by a big tin lantern if there’s no moon. I have plenty of time to meditate and to recite my breviary; for the noisy, cheerful conversation of my entourage is largely incomprehensible to me [and therefore no distraction]. If I ask some question or other, they reply with a big “Yes” or a respectful “No”; for their manners forbid anything much more specific than that.

“Now, would you like to know how we get over obstacles on the way? Rivers, for example. Distinguo: rivers with water in them, or without water? The latter are more common; so, no problem from the start. But sometimes, these rivers take it into their heads to actually flow. Then they become reckless torrents, frantically swirling (p 290) mud and rolling stones along. If you happen to meet a river in that state of nervous crisis, why then you just apply the aforementioned great Indian virtue, Patience. You just sit down quietly on the riverbank and wait until this unusual water has passed by. Normally it takes only a few hours. Then, when the water is only up to your knees, you just walk across, and go cheerfully on your way.

As regards the first type of rivers (those with water in them) one of them is very important: the Cavery, a Sacred River (even God Himself). I have had the honour of crossing him three or four times in the last few months. Here again, I have to distinguish. Either it was at a season when even the Sacred Rivers have very little water in them; then you ford across. Or else there is a lot of water; then you get into a basket and away you go! What! A basket? But it’s a true fact, I assure you. A real basket, with seethrough weaving; that’s the only craft available. Explain, please. Well, an ordinary round basket, made of bamboo. It just happens to be covered with a buffaloskin on the outside; that’s the trick. Five or six passengers can get in, each with his small luggage. And one man, in the “front”, armed with a simple paddle, will get you safely across by a diagonal course (the precise length depending on the speed of the current). He will then hoist his boat on his head and walk upriver, to the point where he will take on his next passengers. Much easier and more expeditious than trying to row up against the current.

“In the little villages, the church is also the presbytery. For how could they be expected to put up separate buildings, costing up to 50 francs, even! It would be away beyond the financial resources of most communities. And the priest with 30 or 40 stations to look after couldn’t attempt it either. Those poor churches! Ah, if you could see one, how your hearts would sink! Four mud walls enclose a space of no more than 20 square metres. Palm leaves, or more commonly straw, for the roof. No window. Just a doorway, sometimes closed with a bamboo hurdle. No statue or picture. Just a crucifix and maybe 2 or 3 ghastly statuettes. Such is the place where we live, eat, sleep, hear confessions, celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. The rafters are so low that, putting on the amice, I often have to be very careful not to knock down the crossbeam. To see this dismal state of our churches has been one of my keenest sorrows during the last three months. One consolation: such as they are, they’re still the finest buildings in the villages. The pagans have some temples that are no grander in architecture; so it’s no great scandal to the people, as it would be to us. Anyway, the ever increasing (p 291) help from the “Propagation de la Foi” is enabling us, gradually, to remedy this depressing situation. And anyway too, wasn’t Our Lord himself born in a stable; so He is probably a lot less shocked by this shocking poverty than we are.

“What matters is not the splendour of the church but the purity of the people in it. Would to God all their hearts were pure! But many a prayer goes up, pleasing to the Lord. If you could see the earnestness and sincerity of these poor Indians, you would be greatly edified. During the missionary’s short stay in each village, the church is always full at Mass times. On Sundays the neighbouring communities come in, sometimes from ten or twelve miles away. Women as well as men; even nursing mothers do not dispense themselves from the pilgrimage. Usually they carry their darling inside their cloth, or sometimes in a little basket, and let them sleep beside them during Mass or prayers, whatever hour of the day or night it may be. Sometimes (before leaving etc.) I say Mass at 2 or 3 a.m. And I have often seen twomonthsold babies sleeping peacefully there, in a rag. At that time of night (unlike the daytime) they seldom distract me with their innocent wailing. The noise is disagreeable, no doubt, to a priest trying to celebrate Mass; but I’m sure it rejoices the loving heart of Jesus to see them there.

During the priest’s visit, the smallest, sleepiest village becomes a lively centre of religious activity for a few days. And it’s no small thing, for a monotonous and silent place, to have all this unwonted excitement going on. There’s nearly always a crowd around the mis-sionary, wanting to settle some matter or other, to go to confession, etc. For everyone must be heard on this occasion; nobody makes an exception of himself. To such an extent that you have to be careful lest you be swindled by some hardened public sinner. (There are al-ways a few, everywhere, who unfortunately want to confess but never to reform). Up to the confessor to spot him. Not easy when you don’t even know the language well, like yours truly. But there’s such a thing as graces of state!

“All the same, I will admit it’s scary, coming into a new village and being surrounded by a mob that you will have to sort out within six or eight days, in confession etc. Pray the Lord for me, not to take count of all the mistakes I made during that awesome ministry. He knows that I want only his Love. If I slipped up, it was while trying to work for His glory that’s what consoles me and gives me peace of mind and soul, in spite of all the faults in me.

(p 292) “Picture for yourselves a poor, limited priest hearing confessions right, left and centre; baptising 30 or 40 babies at a time crying, wailing, punching and kicking (for they’re often over a year old) and leaking (for they’ve no nappies). Also trying to explain the catechism a bit to the older children, who have been chanting it verbatim all day, under a tree near the church or under some shelter. Then trying to disentanlge various marriage impediments, sometimes having to natter and argue for hours on end, to make sure that the bride is over 12! But now they are calling him into one side or another of a quarrel that has got to be aired. After that he has to go and restore peace in a divided household, or to reconcile some sworn enemies in the village. Finally, when it’s all wrapped up, he just has to move on to the next place, and start all over again.

“That’s been my life, dear friends, for some time now. So you can see that I’ll be needing your prayers. So I’m counting on them, without fail. Don’t let me down.”

P .S. (Here I told them about Fr Luquet’s book and asked them to please accept the copy I was sending them, through Fr Tesson).

There our correspondence ended. No reply; and no further letter from me. Why the sudden silence? Were the Lazarist Fathers afraid of their students getting into the localclergy debate? I don’t know.

(p 293)

His Views on Pastoral Corporal Punishment

The oldtime missionaries thought they could lawfully use “the stick” in ministering to the Indian Christians. And no doubt the Church has the right to use corporal correction for the spiritual good of her children. “Which do you want?” asked Paul of the Corinthians (I.4,25). “Shall I come with a stick, or in a spirit of love and gentleness?”. Nevertheless, it is easy to see that if every priest (even if he is an “apostolic missionary”) is going to go around armed with a “fiveheaded rope” (as the instrument for slapping on the hand (like the cane for schoolchildren) is called in India) many missionaries are going to be misled, quite easily, into real abuses of power. Later on, I was to witness some deplorable examples of these abuses of corporal punishment.

To be fair, it must be acknowledged that such correction, applied with moderation and prudence, does produce good results in India; and I believe that, in other places too, it would help to forestall worse punishments and prevent many a crime. Whatever about that, it is important to note that the Indian Christians are in no way surprised or shocked by corporal punishment in itself. And the most sensible among them are always arguing that this “good custom” should not be dropped. The underlying fact is that, in India more than other places, the priest is truly the Father of his Christians. They come to him for every little thing. They (p 294) want him to be their judge, master, director, in every matter. The most ordinary family quarrels are brought to him. It is not at all rare to have a wife coming to ask him to make her husband more gentle or more faithful. And often the husband will come, to demand his help and authority in bringing the wife to her senses and making her more obedient. So the priest goes and gives her some good advice. But that won’t do! “Father”, says the husband, “if you don’t have her beaten she will still be a demon”. Usually, both of them are a bit to blame. So you make the two of them kneel down they do it anyway, without being made; no need for force. You order 7 or 8 strokes of the aforementioned rope on their hands. And the marriage is recemented for several years to come! If you just give them advice, or impose any other penance on them, it won’t work. The quarrelling will start up again next day. The same goes for a son who has disobeyed his father, or a member who has given bad example to the community. The best remedy for them all is: the rope. The old catechists, who witnessed the rough beatings dished out by missionaries in the “good old days” for every little thing, are continually saying that the Christian communities are going to the dogs nowadays, simply because we don’t beat them enough!

But my own opinion is that we should not beat them at all. Or else have the use of corporal punishment so well restricted by superiors that there would be no chance for any abuses. For when all is said and done, our ministry should be a ministry of peace, gentleness and mercy, before all else. And it is all too easy to forget gentleness in a country where the climate and other hardships tend to make foreigners irritable, not to say violently angry. In India like everywhere else, severity from a minister of the Good News should be something very exceptional indeed. How dare we frighten away a single one ofthe Lord’s flock by our harshness! Even if a few were to be lost because of our overgen-tleness, I still think our accounting will be a lot less severe than if we drove some away with our big stick.

One day I was told about a poor, miserable Christian woman who was living an irregular life for over thirty years. They had (p 295)never managed to persuade her to come to the priest to have her marriage regularised. “He would flog me”, she said. In vain did I send to tell her she would not be beaten, and that all I wanted to hear was her sincere promise to reform. “No, no!”, said she. “I don’t know my prayers, and I can’t learn them. He would beat me”. That was her only tune, her husband told me, after he had tried to get her to come and remedy their situation. He made several journeys to see me while I was at Coulavourampatty. On my last evening there, he came again. I had to try something for them. “Look”, I said. “Tomorrow, I’m going to Muninshavady. Try to get her on that road, for something or other. I’ll marry the two of you by the roadside”. He went off delighted. But that same evening, after sunset, along he comes again, and with him was this poor woman. She came forward timidly, trembling. She made fervent promises of sincere conversion. I heard her confession there and then. Next morning, before leaving, I married them. God grant she has always been a good Christian. May the kind God whom we serve accept her repentance.

[* *]

[* *]

The Motionless Tiger. Divinisation. Iron-works.

We were still moving in tiger and elephant country. They were talking about still another man who had been crushed by an elephant. In one place I told a woman that I wanted to see her husband. “Alas!” she said, “the tiger ate him”. This statement had no great emotional effect on my entourage. It happens every year, and they end up by taking almost no notice. Just one of those things unless it gets out of hand. That is what happened some years later, in those same parts. One tiger, alone, killed over thirty people in a fairly short space of time! It got so bad that people did not dare to travel in “his territory” except in big con-voys with drums beating. I was bishop at the time. One of my mis-sionaries was to travel that way. He left with a big escort, drums and all, and a good rifle within reach.

After some hours’ march, one of the leaders shouted, pointing: “Tiger!”. They all froze in terror. Fr Pajean, being a prudent (p 296), wouldn’t risk such a long shot. No move from the tiger. “Is he dead or what?” they wondered. They banged drums and made a racket. ‘Motionless. They threw stones at him. Same position. As it turned out, he was dead, but only just, and still warm. He had several wounds, although the hunters were by now nowhere to be seen. Fr Pajean had him skinned on the spot. He sent me the tigerskin. In was over eight feet from nose-tip to tail.

The pagans think it a great honour to be killed by a tiger. It’s a kind of apotheosis or divinisation. They make sure to raise a big cairn of stones over the remains of the victim, so that passersby may render proper divine honours to him. How crazy can people get!

This high honour had just been earned by one poor villager just before I got to Massalayampalayam. The church there was completely isolated from the village, but was encircled by a strong palisade, which gave us good protection. Nevertheless, my cook had the shivers, and my horseminder was near passing out with fear. Next morning, I saw a delegation of the leading pagans approaching. They greeted me very respectfully and said: “Swamy, we have just heard that you have come here, and that the Christians are obliged to stay near by. We come to ask you not to insist on them coming to you today. Permit them to join us in the search for one of our members. The tiger has taken him. We need to be plenty, in order to make the animal fear, if he is still around. When such a thing happens to the Christians, we always help them. Is it not right that they should help us now?” I replied that it was indeed just and right. But they must not make the Christians take part in any of their pagan rites. They promised; and the Christians assured me that there was no question of that. So off they all went, to the sound of numerous drums. All they found was a thighbone and a halfchewed head. There were tracks of a tiger and two cubs.

These mountains were rich in iron. I went to see how the In-dians smelt it. Not far from the church a mud chimney, about 3 feet high, rose out of a little furnace, cubic, about l’hfeet a side. Two men flapped two goatskins in lieu of a bellows. That was the (p 297) whole works and personnel of this cheap factory. (Oh, I forgot the little shed or pandal of straw that they were squatting under, out of the sun and the rain; it was just a straw hood on four bamboos). Twice a day, they draw out a little lump of crude iron. They don’t bother to forge it into anything. That is not their affair, for they do not belong to the blacksmiths’ caste. Each lump is worth about fivepence. That’s their whole daily income about tenpence. And they have to pay for the fuel out of that and subtract the time they spend looking for lumps of ore, on the surface of the mountain. Don’t try telling them how they could easily produce a lot more in less time and with more profit. They will just reply, “It’s not the Custom”. They are doing it the right way, the way their fathers did it and probably the way Tubalcain did it, the first metalworker in Genesis! And that’s how they will still be doing it for a long, long time to come unless the English have a sudden need for great quantities of local iron. then they will soon teach them how to produce it faster.

[*Mini-bees. School-children’s Cultural Shows. *]

From there I had to go to Irodu,62 via the town of Bhavani, where there are no Catholics. I was told I could do it all in one day. But rain prevented an early start, so I got to Bhavani only very late, and jaded tired. For it is much harder going, on wet ground, than on dry. Five or six hours we had slogged along in the mud. I was convinced that Bhavani must be continually shifting away in front of us, and that we’d never get there. Everyone we met, I asked: “How far to Bhavani?” “Oh, it’s quite near”, they would say, every time; “only 4 or 5 najigais” (about a mile). An hour farther, same reply. Just like our peasants in the Midi of France. Always “just a few miles down the road, sir”.

That morning, as I was at my frugal breakfast, under a big old alamaram tree, I saw the famous midget bees for the first (p 298) time. In the tree, above me, I heard a buzzing like a hive. I looked up and there in a cleft was a centre of great and organised activity, as crowds of little bees arrived at their base, laden with wax. They seemed to be behaving exactly like our French bees, but each was no bigger than a pinhead. They have no sting, I had heard, so I was able to catch several and study them at my leisure. The head seemed disproportionately big for the body, and so did the “mon-strous” load of wax that each was carrying. “How wonderful You are, O my God, even in the least of your creations! “Magnus in magnis, maximus in minimis63’.

The Indians do not cultivate bees. But they still have plenty of honey and beeswax. They just collect it, from holes in the rocks. Indian bees produce so much that the English who turn everything into money try to make a monopoly of it in some places. Many of these are dangerous, and there have been fatal accidents. For these intelligent little animals often seem to choose the steepest cliffs in the area for their business premises.

But the territory we were travelling now was a rich plain, with many towns and big villages. It was school vacation time, and we saw many little processions of scholars in the towns, going from house to house, giving literary and operatic entertainments. During the holidays (they last only a month) the school children are always celebrating. Beautifully dressed, with long slender sticks in their hands, decorated with streamers and gilt paper or else holding colourful parasols they go in processions, their Vathiar (teacher) at the head, to make solemn visits to their relatives. There they recite chants in honour of the gods, and songs specially composed by the master, in praise of the listeners. They accompany these chanted recitals with two little sticks which each child beats in time while dancing with a wonderful complexity of gestures, formations, interlacing patterns, each prettier than the last. The relatives always give a tip to the Master, and usually some sweets or other dainties to the children. Nothing could be more graceful than these little entertainments.

(p 299)

But why must all their songs be in praise of Brahma, Siva and Vishnu, and their infamous incarnations? That’s why I had to refuse to let a group sing and pray for me at Bhavani bungalow. (They thought I was an Englishman and would give a good tip). O my God, when will we have numerous schools in India, colleges for serious studies and simple schools like these in the villages, continuing the local customs but teaching the true God whom all men should know and love, instead of all those false myths and shameful divinities!

It was too late to continue any further; and anyway I was very glad to rest for a while in a bungalow. It was more than six months since I had been able to enjoy fresh air inside a dwelling. The Bhavani bungalow was admirably planned, quite different from the usual type along the main roads. It was raised up more than thirty steps above the ground, with a beautiful stairway leading up to the verandah. There you looked out over two wide, rich plains, of the Bhavani and of the Caveri. Their waters irrigate whole kingdoms. The bungalow is actually inside the grounds of a huge temple, built at the confluence of the two Rivers naturally one of the most sacred of all the sacred banks of the sacred Cavery. I got permission to visit the Temple and to groan inwardly at the obscene representations of Indian mythological follies. Anyway, the only really beautiful thing there is the gateway, and perhaps the stepway of cut stone leading down into the water, where you can purify yourself in both the Cavery and Bhavany simultaneously, by choosing the right place. The compound is full of little temples in carved stone, without order or symmetry, each shrine containing some cult object Lingam, Pulleyar etc.

Temples. French and English Rule Compared.

However, a lot of the temples are falling into ruin; for the English are increasingly diverting revenues out of them. It may be that this policy of the English will, in the course of time, deeply undermine paganism. Who knows? Maybe that’s why God allowed (p 300) the English to take over a country that Providence seemed to be handing to France on a plate! During the French Revolution, very probably, we would have been protecting the temples while knocking down the churches here! And up to this day, we would be running a government department to look after the temples (as we now have for the old cathedrals in France). This precisely was being done for Villenore Temple, the only important one in Pondicherry territory, up to this very year, when Bishop Bonnand managed to make the Napoleon III government put a stop to the scandal. True, the English are not above this kind of thing either. But they dishonour their Christian name only when there is Money to be gained out of it, and it can’t be got out in any other way. And they have so many other clever ways of extracting money from temples as from everybody that they rarely have to descend to actively supporting idolatry. Indeed, as I said, their policy happens to be undermining it year by year.

If the French were running things, the policy would be sheer antireligion, governmentsponsored atheism, pretending that “all cults are equal before the law”. This is the diabolical principle in France; and if it does not produce all the evils which it potentially contains, ‘tis because the majority of the French people has remained Catholic; and this greatly curtails the Government’s wrongdoing. But if they had India where the government is everything the effect of the French goverment (since they have ceased to be honestly Christian) would be a lot worse than the English. Well, not exactly “worse” for what could be worse than the English worship of Money? But more blatantly scandalous and harmful to the small number of his elect that God has in this country.

We stayed at Bhavany until next morning, and I slept easy there, though without a bed, for all the furniture in my room had been taken away to help an Englishman who was ill. They did bring me a chair and a table which was more than I had for many a month. And by now I was expert at sleeping without a mattress, either on a hard rattan bed or on a mat on the ground.

At Bhavany we got onto a main road again, with the shade of its magnificent trees and the free entertainment of the monkeys fighting over the red fruits.

(p 301)

Ultimatum to the Pariahs. Off to the Feast.

Thus we arrived early at Irodu, a fairly important town. But the only Catholics in the area were some pariahs, segregated off in their pariah Village. I have already tried to convey the misery of the small churches where I was ministering during this tour. Some of them seemed positively indecent. But this one neat Irodu beat all. And unfortunately its delapidation was only a fair reflection of the moral disorder that reigned among these poor Christians. The fence was falling down and the compound overgrown with thorny weeds and strewn with the worst abominations possible in India bones and horns of cows, eaten by the pariahs after a natural death. The mere sight of these mortal remains was enough to instantly nauseate my disciples and my cook, all nonpariahs. The church roof itself was half fallenin, the walls revoltingly dirty, the door unable to close, so that filthy animals wandered in and out at will.

My sole habitation was a nook 4 paces by 3, including the “kitchen” area. No place for my disciples to sleep. No shelter for my horse. We would have been better off under the roadside trees. What to do in such a dump? Impossible to celebrate Mass there. I sent for the head Christians. They came, very quiet and sheepish, obviously ashamed of the condition of the place. But divisions among them had deprived them of all authority with the people. I informed them that I was going to stay three or four days there, but doing nothing, not even saying Mass for them. During that time they would clear the compound and repair the church. At the end of that time, I would either start my ministration or else (if they hadn’t done the work) I would pack my bags and leave, without even an “assirvadam”. They promised, fairly flabbily, to do their best. This (the catechist said) was because I failed to reinforce my ultimatum with a few lashes of “the rope” and a promise of the same again if they didn’t get to work quick. But I thought it would suffice if I put on a good show of anger at them. So I got very angry indeed. Inside, the anger wasn’t so much. A little? Well, maybe. Certainly, there was a lot of emotion, mostly sadness. To let it simmer down, I fay on my mat and tried to sleep, after invoking that holy man Job.

(p 302)

Just as I was getting drowsy, I heard an old woman at the door. “Samy! Samy!” I sent Marie-Xavery to find out what she wanted.

“It’s a poor woman”, he said, “coming to ask permission to go to the Feast”.

“What Feast?” – “Karumattampatty”.

“And what’s Karumattampatty?”

“It’s the principal community in Coimbatore District”.

“And what’s the Feast?”

“The Holy Rosary, next Sunday. Very big feast. Bishop was there last year, and I was with him. Many missionaries came. This year, also, many will come. Everyone who can. It is the finest Christian Feast in all these towns. Even, they have Thers like in Pondicherry! “

I suppose he was trying to talk me into going. Not a bad idea, either. “In that case”, I said, “we could go there too, instead of staying here, and maybe not being able to say Mass”.

“Oh yes, Father! Nothing easier. Good road all the way and good bungalows. Four of them, here to there. Today is Thursday; so, two tomorrow and two Saturday”.

Immediately, I agreed. Joy on all faces! I informed the locals that I was going, and that they had better have the church decent when I came back, for the Sacraments. I reckoned that Karumattampatty would have all the requirements for Mass, so I left most of my things behind. And before 4 p.m., there we were, on the road for Karumattampatty. Little did I think that, in a few short years, I would be consecrated a bishop there, or that there I would live the happiest days of my life in India, and the saddest.

About Confession. Dangerous Bed. Karumattampatty Joy.

As this trip was altogether unforeseen, I had not thought to ask the Bishop for any permission to leave my District. But I presumed it, especially as it was over two months since I had been to confession. (No priest). It was the first time I had been away so long. But I had no worry about it, for it was not my fault. Still I (p 303) was glad to be soon meeting a priest. For daily faults accumulate, and who can say that no big one sneaked in? Not that I think that a missionary is endangering his salvation more than other priests when, to carry out his work for God and the Gospel, he has to be a long time away from any confrere. God will sustain him in his isolation. And if he falls into any fault by weakness, God in his mercy will not abandon him. Nevertheless, he can count on that mercy only if he makes use of any unforeseen opportunity that Providence works for him, to go to the Sacrament without too much difficulty, and there to obtain pardon for his daily faults, as well as the strength to avoid sin in the hour of temptation.

We were good and tired, that first day, when we got to the second bungalow, for this is a lot more than half-way to Karumattampatty. So my night’s sleep there was excellent. But my waking-up was very nearly disastrous. The trouble was, I had a bed in that bungalow; and it certainly contributed to the soundness of my sleep. But, over the last several months, I had forgotten how to “use” a bed. So, on awakening, I naturally assumed that I was on the ground as usual. It was still very dark when I heard the cock crowing. I promptly stood up on my “mat” and stepped smartly forward, to wake my people and get them moving in time. Instead, I took a flat-out dive over the bed-end, which marked and skinned my legs. My chin struck the floor first. But all I got was a big bruise on it. My luxuriant beard must have partly cushioned the impact. All the same, I was well stunned by the blow. Still on the ground, I called out for my disciple. He went and got a light; and we concluded that no great harm was done. But it was my Angel that saved me from instant death. Another inch and my head would have struck the sharp corner of a trunk, and I would have stayed there on the floor without any doubt at all. Thus, once again, O my God, You protected me from danger. Thanks be to You!

The wound was not deep; but the horse’s movement jarred on it all that day. However, we arrived in good time, for we had no more than 18 or 20 miles to do that day, in two stages. About 5 p.m. we spotted the tower of Karumattampatty church in the distance. (p 304) A steeple! A pointed steeple! I hadn’t seen the likes since France. It wasn’t very high, nor very elegant, but there it was – a steeple. Without a bell, indeed, but surmounted by a cock! It was a recent achievement by Fr Pacreau, then in charge of Coimba-tore District. At this wonderful sight, I felt no more pain in my jaw. But how much greater was my delight when we got nearer and I saw a huge crowd of Christians coming towards us in real festive mood.

As soon as they spotted my red head-gear, they had started running. The Music struck up. They were so happy, clapping their hands and hurrying like hares to tell each other: "Here comes another Swamy. That makes five!" I had expected nothing like this joyful reunion. And there, at the church door, was Fr Pacreau, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Pondicherry. And Fr Beaudair, wrapped in a big yellow shawl, against the cold - at 38° centigrade! Excellent Fr Triboulot I hugged like a long-lost brother. And Fr Métral, who was later to be the friend of my heart, the man I could confide all my troubles to; but I did not know him then. If I had, I would not have just greeted him; I'd have venerated him. And indeed (I quickly saw, even then) he was venerated by all- good Christians, bad Christians, all his confreres. (In spite of the fact that, in his own eyes, he was the least of all- or maybe because of that).

Meanwhile, I was led into the church. To me it looked a cathedral, compared to my architecture since leaving Pondicherry. Then we went into the house – an actual house, with three rooms and a little garden and a kitchen and a stable! All built of mud, indeed, but very clean and comfortable. Around the church were big sheds, long, low and narrow, under which the strangers coming to the Feast were lodging, more than a thousand of them. I couldn’t get over it all. It felt a thousand miles from Irodu, Coulavourampatty and Mattaly.

“And so, O my God” (I wrote then) “You had all this ready and waiting for me, a wonderful pleasure, all the more enjoyable for being so unexpected, not even dreamt of three days ago! Grant, O good Jesus, that this gathering of your five missionaries around the altars of your glorious Mother (and ours) may, before (p 305) all else, contribute to the edification of the people, the honour of Mary, and the glory of your Name. Amen”.

Festival and District Meeting.

A Bad Gallop. Juju and Church Politics.

Next day, with great pomp and ceremony, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary. There were Christians there from 50 or 60 miles around. Amidst the noise and the tumult inseparable from such a feast, many a touching sign could be seen of the religious spirit reigning in this joyful mob. The church was packed all morning and, as it could not contain the crowds, a huge “pandal” had been constructed outside the doors, where over 500 people continually knelt and prayed. Then came the night Procession, just like the ones at Pondicherry and Ariankupam (though these are bigger and more magnificent because of the greater numbers and wealth of the Christians). Nevertheless this procession, with its many rockets, crackers and streamers, was followed by a separate fire-works display which was very pretty indeed.

As you know, the Indians had gunpowder long before the Europeans. They can put on very beautiful fireworks, though nothing as perfect as the present-day Europeans, who always reach for perfection in all the arts. Their speciality is not invention. In everything, for every purpose, they just continue what their fathers did before them. But they are very good imitators and, in this as in many other things, they can repeat the works of Europeans, especially when working under their direction. But as soon as they are left on their own, they revert to their own style of doing things, less perfect indeed, but much more in line with their own over-all social set-up.

Bishop Bonnand knew I was on tour at the Coimbatore end of my mission, so he was half-expecting me to turn up at the Feast. He wrote about it to a few confreres, and he sent us a common letter urging us to consult together and see if we had any proposals for the Meeting in mid-January. So we held a little council. I had (p 306) hardly any voice in it, as I was too new. It was mainly our three veterans who decided on the following list of questions:

“Would it not be good to ask for a dispensation from Saturday ab-stinence? Would it not be useful if we had power to permit the reading of heretical books? What fasts are obligatory on the descendants of Europeans? How to multiply and keep up schools? How to ensure proper training of young missionaries in actual mission work? Would uniformity about Mass stipends not be good? What policy to adopt towards the Vannars? Would it not be good if no church were to be built without first presenting a plan and getting permission from the proper ecclesiastical authority?”

The drafting of these questions – and especially the vague discussions that preceded them – painfully showed up a sad state of mental confusion in the minds of various conferes. The three senior Fathers were expressing their own views, but also those of several other absent confreres well known to them. Some wanted to go along as far as possible with European ideas, especially English. Others maintained that we should keep even more closely to Indian ideas, caste and customs. They complained about everything. Nothing was normal any more. We heard that Fr Charbonnaux was appointed Coadjutor to Bishop Bonnand. This was generally welcomed. I did not know him myself.

Two days after the Feast, everything became very quiet again at Karumattampatty. Its church is mostly a central church for a great number of little communities all around, each having also its own church, Fr Pacreau, with his warm-hearted hospitality, had made this get-together a really enjoyable, relaxing occasion in every way. Now he wanted me and another confrere to go and visit the nearest villages. We got on our horses. Fr Pacreau’s was mad for the road. He galloped off. We followed. My 21 franc horse was worth not a penny more; and now the bridle was too big for him, so it was very hard to hold him back with it. At the height of our gallop he suddenly stopped, put his head down and his backside in the air and neatly tossed me off in front of him. I did a complete somersault and landed head first. When I came to I was lying on my back. (The horse had jumped over me without touching me, they said). I was wearing a tall “shako” riding cap; and this is what saved my life, I think. The cap was crushed flat. But I (p 307) escaped with a fairly bad wound on the forehead, and a sprained neck. The crowd of Christians who were near gathered round me immediately in a tight, stifling circle. I was just about to be sick when Fr Pacreau came back. He got me some space to breathe, and we returned clip-clop at a slow walking pace to the mission, where I was hurriedly given first aid.

“To you, my good Angel”. I wrote soon after, “I owe my escape. And maybe this is a lesson from you that a missionary should not gallop wildly like that, when a quiet and modest pace is more befitting his state. Be You praised for all these graces, Lord. May we be able to use the harm that comes to us, as well as all the good, in order to grow in your Love”.

That same day I saw that Fr Pacreau was not without some local enemies. (Indeed rare is the community without some helpers of the devil in it, some bad Christians more implacably hostile to the servants of Jesus Christ than any pagan). One of these wretches was there among the worried crowd watching our lame return. Instead of joining in the sympathy of the rest, he shouted out how glad he was, even claiming that it was he himself who engineered the fall, by his powerful spells. In view of Indian superstition, it was important not to let him get away with this bluff. Moreover Fr Pacreau needed all his prestige and reputation intact, in trying to re-unite that local community, split into two big factions: the supporters of their former administrators (the black priests from the [West] Malabar Coast) and the supporters of the present ones (the missionaries from Pondicherry). We had supplanted them, for good reasons no doubt. But these reasons weren’t quite as good, perhaps, as we thought ourselves. They certainly didn’t convince everybody there.

So we now informed the Christians that my wound was a thing of nothing. Also that, tomorow, we were going right back to the same village – and by the same route. This was an open challenge to superstition. For if an Indian has an accident or something, he takes very good care not to pass that particular way again, especially if it’s on the same errand. (He will, of course, completely avoid the accident in the first place, by carefully turning back from any bad omen that crosses the road – like a snake, a (p 308) cat, a jackal or a widow!).

We duly went to the village, and came back safe, untroubled by the man’s magical operations. My wound had already closed, thanks to the “bitter medicine” made at Pondicherry mission, a wonderful remedy for all wounds. (Also an almost infallible help in difficult child-births, except in cases where surgery is indispensable – an exceedingly rare thing in India). Indeed I was sufficiently recovered to return on the day planned; and so I was back again at Irodu on the Saturday.

Returning to that miserable community, my first concern was to see if they had done anything at the church. Alas! It was still about as disgusting and unbefitting as it could possibly be, by any standards. Even for India, it was far from being decent. But they had put on a door. They had repaired the worst holes in the roof, and slapped some white-wash on the inside walls. To demand any more just then would not have been realistic. I’m not sure about what kind of a job of ministration I did there. Anyway, other things being equal, the pariahs are generally not as good Christians as the other Indians. And when they are bad, they are the dregs of the faithful.

I was threatened by a serious illness while there; so I cut my stay in that unsalubrious and depressing dump as short as possible. I wanted to go quickly back to Idapaddy, to rest for a while there, and have a try at reconciling the Christians. But I still had one more community to visit first: [Cattery]. I set out at 1 p.m. about 10th October. It would take three or four hours to get there, they said; and we needed a few hours to spare in case we were delayed at the Cavery River.

Eejits out All Night64

If I was an Indian, I’d have turned back before the first mile, that afternoon. For we had a mishap which was quite enough to (p 309) foretell a very bad journey. One of the carriers fell, and his load rolled into the ditch. And that was the load containing the last bottle of Mass wine that I had left. It was broken, and we looked on helpless as the precious liquid leaked out, without which Mass was going to be impossible for days! Quick! Open the trunk! We were able to save half the bottle! All right. Relax now. Let’s go …

At that particular crossing point, a certain Brahmin was in charge of the numerous “parissals” ferrying people across, going continually; for it is very busy here. Europeans usually get across first. But this man didn’t recognise me as a European. Or else he was one of those who feel there’s no need to be afraid of a mere Catholic missionary. I was just a Christian guru, or rather a pariah guru, for those people helping with my loads were obviously pariahs. He knew what village they were from; and while staying there, I must have contracted countless defilement. So, instead of favouritism, we met with victimisation. Or at least with strictest justice. He made us wait and wait, until numerous carts and bullocks had been ferried across before us. My disciple, being a noble, went up to him several times, to tell him we were in a hurry. But the man loftily ignored him, not letting him any nearer to his sacred person than a Brahmin would let a pariah.

It was 5 p.m. when we got out at the other bank, near a tree where a fervent penitent was imploring the mercy of the God Cavery, with many iron rings stuck into the calves of his legs. Our progress was particularly slow today, because my carriers, not being professional coolies, were very useless at carrying loads on their heads.

Night was coming on. At a village about 4 miles (we thought) from our destination, I ordered the lantern to be lit. But it wasn’t much use to us after we left the village. We were into a hopeless maze of little paths in the middle of bushes and briars and stony fields, getting thoroughly lost. We were not long out of the village when the last vestige of a road disappeared entirely. I called one of my local “guides”.

“Hang it all! This is not the road”.

“Oh yes, Father. Not to worry. This is our direction”.

(p 310) But do you know this road?”

“No, Father. But the others do”. I called the rest.

“Do you know the road?

“No, Father. But the others know it”.

And so said every one of them! Each was depending on all the others! At that point in time, if I could only have the Irodu headman there, I would certainly have given him a few good lashes of the “five-headed rope” for giving me a lot of guides like this lot, and not one of them knowing where we were going! But they all cried out: “Take patience, everybody. You will see. We are in the right direction. We can’t miss it. Soon we will arrive”. I did not at all share in their confidence. For by this time I knew that Indians never worry or doubt about any problem until it is much too late … We kept going. The night was pitching dark, and a storm was growling away on the horizon. We went on like that for another hour almost. At last we found ourselves in the middle of a desert completely unknown to anybody. No way out. We didn’t even know the way we got in! What to do? Lie down on the sand until morning? But the storm was threatening nearer and nearer. Down came the rain. Happily, it didn’t last long.

“Help” from Shepherds. “Water” from Villagers.

I had got down from my horse, and two of my own people had gone exploring the place with the lantern, to see if they couldn’t find some human habitation or other. They succeeded in finding a cabin with some shepherds in it, and begged them to give us a guide to get us out of this hole. We could hear their highpitched negotiations in the distance; but it just went on and on … At last, two or three of the shepherds came nearer. They squatted on their heels at a safe distance, lest they be contaminated by the breath of the pariahs. From there, they informed us that we were totally astray. [As if we didn’t know!] To all requests and questions, they gave the same consoling answer: “Impossible”. Impossible to go forward in such thick darkness. Impossible to stay here, for fear of robbers. (Maybe we were robbers?). Impossible (p 311) to make for a nearby isolated savady, for the same reason. And, most completely of all, impossible for one of them to come and show us the way out.

In vain did we play the trump card which usually makes the impossible become possible? No, they didn’t want our money. They left. As for myself, I was quite ready to spend the night there. But those with me were now scared senseless of “the robbers”. Why, you may ask, should people who have nothing with them but the clothes they stand up in – and almost naked anyway – be worried about robbers? But these will take even the simple cloth that represents a poor man’s whole wardrobe. And it appears that they add unnecessary brutality to their other professional depredations. Moreover, there is no Indian without some ring or bracelet on his fingers or arms or legs, some ear pendant or other. (These are usually copper, but the robbers would hope they might be gold). They tear off everything just like that, without any concern for human members, snatching away pieces of ears or fingers along with the jewellery. Inside Indian houses, robbers inflict horrific tortures on the family, to make them tell where their treasures are hidden. (Indians, having almost no furniture, hide their money in the ground, or in one of the numerous pots where they keep grain. To save time, the robbers will apply a burning torch to the soles of the feet or under the head-man’s armpits, to make him talk).

To get back to our predicament: I advised that we should put our heads together and try to get back to the path that brought us in here, so as to make our way back to the village where we lit the lantern a few hours ago. “Maybe we’ll meet with more humanity there”, I added. In one way, it worked. We managed to find the village again. And, after much persuasion and many promises, we managed to get two men to accompany us with torches to Cattery.

But first, we had to put up with one of those peculiarly Indian humiliations which usually you carefully avoid, by never asking people for anything to eat or drink if the house is not well known to you. But now, my disciples were absolutely parched with thirst, and they risked asking for a drink of water. At this outrageous suggestion the surrounding crowd gasped in horror and took a (p 312) scandalized step backwards. (They had come around us as soon as we re-entered the village; they had observed us passing a few hours before). They agreed, all the same, to give the young men some water – by throwing it at them with the two hands together, as is the prescribed method for giving it to pariahs! They wouldn’t accept it at that price. They tried to prove that they were of very good caste. But the villagers were not convinced. “Maybe they are pariahs”, they said. And that “maybe” was enough to rule them out from even touching the special water-vessel used for drinking-by-pouring. (Indians can never drink by touching their lips to a vessel). For a pariah to touch that vessel, even with a finger, would immediately render it impure. Anyway these young men were with a European, one who is by definition a man of no caste. And for any properly-educated Indian, serving him was automatically sharing in his ignominy. Finally, these young men were Christians, and consequently pariahs more or less, and definitely more or less impure in the eyes of any scrupulous devotees of the “pure” divinities of India. Even worse, they were in the service of a Christian guru; and these are even worse than ordinary Christians, because of the actual contact they have to make with despised classes!

Poor people! And yet there is almost no malice or ill-will in it all. It is just the irresistible force of an all-encompassing prejudice. There is no sin in continuing on with an invincible error. And for many, no doubt, it is invincible. Our Christians, too, are stuck with this error. For they continue to practice Caste – and are permitted to practice it – with its most wide-spread logical consequences.

The practical conclusion here was: we had to do without water, and be content with a rest under the verandah of a devil’s house which had to serve as our shelter. We paid for the torches, and paid half the agreed salary of our two guides. And so we were on the road again. It was 10 o’clock in the night.

(p 313)

Wrong Again. But what a Sleep at Last!

The storm had by now completely disappeared, and it was one of those beautiful tropical nights. The moon had risen about 9, shining like the clearest crystal, so bright that we could easily have done without our torches. In a different situation, how I would have enjoyed that walk in the pure air and the freshness of the night! But just now, I was so tired that I wanted only one thing to get to Cattery as soon as I possibly could, and sleep and sleep … But we were moving like snails. It took us nearly two mortal hours to reach the village.

By that time, we were totally finished. Our first move, on arrival at the village, was to lie out on the ground, waiting while a man went and woke up somebody to show us where the church was. He knocked at the first door.

“Who’s there?”

“We are Christians. We don’t know where our church is.

Can you please show us?”


“Yes. Please do a good deed and direct us to our church”. A door half-opens and a man, half-asleep, appears, wrapped in his big white sheet.

“What are you looking for?”

“Where is the church of the Catholics?”

“Church of Catholics?” “Yes. The church of Mother-of-God”. (Nearly all our churches in India are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The Christians usually call her Mother-of-God; and many pagans know no other name for our churches).

“You want the Mother-of-God church?” “Yes, please,”

“No such church here. In this village, never were Christians, nor any church of Christians”.

“What?” I put in; “isn’t this village Cattery?”

“Oh yes. But no single Christian in Cattery. Some in next village, called Sadayampalayam”. (The fact is, that a Christian community in a small village is often called by the name of the nearest (p 314) town. And thus I had the name “Cattery” in my notebook, in-stead of Sadayampalayam).

“So where is that village?”

“Where you coming from?”. I told him.

“Oh well, you have passed just by it. It is very near here. Just a few miles. Go back the way you came”. And he closed the door.

To try to describe our disappointment would be a useless exercise. Another three or four miles! And we could have avoided maybe eight miles if only we had known! Nothing for it, though. We just had to get going again. One of my poor carriers was so dog-tired that tears were silently running down his face as he trudged along under his load. ‘Twas the first time I ever saw an Indian crying unofficially, outside a prescribed time and without any proper customary signal. My poor horse kept refusing to put one leg in front of another. Myself, I was totally flattened. This last “few miles” felt more like ten!

Eventually, walking and staggering along, we ended up at this little village. It was completely hidden under dense palmtrees. So we couldn’t have noticed it when coming that way first. The whole place was asleep. We woke up the “pandaram” (sort of sacristan) and he opened the church for us. A tiny low mud building, with nothing in it but a time-eroded statue of the Blessed Virgin. But it was a blessed, homely little place, and many a good prayer had gone up from there. A few chosen Indians had long been gathering there, in the middle of a vast pagan population, to praise the one true God, whom they alone had the happiness of knowing. To me it was like home, as these thoughts consoled me. I made a very short little night prayer, in union with the much better prayers that one poor woman and her innocent child were praying just before that – much more fervent than mine, though I have received so many more favours than they! Then I quickly spread my mat near the “altar”. And soon the only remaining effect from that long day’s journeys was a deep and gentle sleep.

(p 315)

Depressant from Paris Seminary Superior

Around this time, I got a letter from Fr Barran in Paris – a man I always esteemed for his piety, but one who seemed very far removed from the founding spirit of our Society. Rather a good theologian, he’d have made a first-class director of any seminary, except one for the Foreign Missions. He knew the missions hardly at all, and his studies didn’t leave him much time to find out any more about them. He was extraordinarily fond of his room, hardly ever moving out of it. He was never seen enjoying recreation with the students, nor with the other Directors. Once his lecture was over, he was off to his room, and stayed there. You could go and see him there, and talk with him. He would always receive you with extreme politeness, and a mildness which won people’s esteem, but not their affection. It was far too obvious that he was making a great effort, and that you were a nuisance.

After Fr Langlois’s death, Fr Barran was appointed Superior of the Seminary. All right for the Seminary, but disastrous for the missions. For the Seminary Superior has a big de facto influence on the missions. He shouldn’t have; but it’s inevitable as long as the Vicars Apostolic haven’t found the way to make their authority stick, as the true Superiors of the Society. Fr Langlois had looked after the missions with energy and understanding. I am convinced that, if he had lived in better days, or had been a bit younger in our own times, he would have done a lot to implement the regenerating principles that we were trying to uphold. And if the time was now becoming ripe and hopeful for a new push forward, it was Fr Langlois who had prepared the way.

Unfortunately, towards the end of his life, he had lost some of the high estemm he had always held at Propaganda. They thought he was much too stubborn in maintaining some opinion opposed by the heads of the Sacred Congregation. Fr Barran’s extreme meekness was a pleasant change for them. He had great influence at Rome; and I cannot help thinking that he made great use of it to block the efforts of Bishop Luquet and myself, later. Certainly, in all that, he was acting for the best according to his own lights; I am sorry only that they were so dim. He was acting (p 316) for the best; but he still managed to prevent a whole lot of good being done.

Those lines about him, now, won’t in any way diminish his joy in Heaven. Even if he was very mistaken – as I believe he was God will overlook our involuntary errors. At the time (1843) that Fr Barran wrote the following, he was only a Director.

“Now that you are “Asiatised” over there, I hope it will be for many a long year. Thus you will be able to follow some real progress in your time, and no doubt God will enable you to have some hand in it yourself.

But allow me to tell you, dear confrere, that more than once you will have to check your Carcassonne impetuosity. You can’t rush things in Asia. So go easy. Clear the ground (if necessary). Prune. Cultivate. Help to fruition. Wait for the right season always. Such is the ordinary communal work that the Master is expecting from you.

For the big things (the moves that will eventually change the colour of India) just try to prepare the various components. But, first of all, check carefully whether they are any use. Then you must aim at combining them together – in such a way that, afterwards, they will work by themselves, like perpetual motion.

But I greatly fear, dearest confrere, that your efforts will not come up to your expectations, and that soon you will be sunk in dis-couragement, and in despair of ever finding the right materials on Indian soil. Moreover, as self-delusion is easy when theorising, I fear that (if you ever get as far as trying it out) the machine you construct will not start for you, and may break down altogether under your hands. Your prudence will not permit you to undertake anything without orders from above. You will wait for those orders, and will strive to obey them, whatever they may be”.

“Just wait and see, dear confrere. Long after you are dead, and already a great saint in Heaven, things will still be the same in India, as regards native churches – almost exactly at the same point where you find them now. Patience, then. And don’t put all your hopes and all your efforts exclusively into that aim [native clergy] so difficult to attain”.

Well! I certainly hope his prediction will come true, as far as getting to Heaven is concerned! Apparently, it is also going to come true for all the rest as well. But by whose fault? Certainly, it’s not all the fault of the peoples of Asia. We have tried it out. [And we have shown that] feasibility is no longer questionable (p 317) from the side of the Indians. From the side of the missionaries that’s another matter! It is not “the machine” that broke down. We have been broken down, by our own people.

“Let the Indian be an Indian“65

“That letter really depressed me.”Happily”, I said to myself, they aren’t all like him. Even at the Paris Seminary there are people who think very differently from our dear confrere Fr Barran. Lord, you have given far different lights and inspirations to Fr Tesson, the worthy representative of this Indian Mission at Paris, and to so many other missionaries who are working only for your glory. Far from us, indeed, be all moves prompted by impetuosity! I know, O my God, that all your works are done gently, step by step, with calm and moderation – but always done in the same forward direction, with the help of your grace. And what more do we ask for? Nothing, except not to stand in the way against the normal progress of events, not to turn away the grace of vocation and priesthood from so many peoples, to whom that grace is being given in order to confirm them in the Faith!

“To change the Indian colour”, says he. Great God! Why should we want to change it? I can well imagine, indeed, if that’s the kind of change they are expecting, that nothing will happen for centuries. Is that what they expect our zeal to produce – modifications so great that they alter the very “colour” of a people? What a wonderful ruling idea! What a father and mother for future mistakes and blunders! They want to wait until they transform these peoples into something else entirely – into Frenchmen or Englishmen, Italians or Portuguese – before they will even allow them to be fully Christians – before they will honestly initiate (p 318) them into everything that our holy Religion implies, everything that It has in its divine institutions for fertility and self-propagation! Look. Let the Indian be an Indian, and the Chinaman a Chinese. Just make them children of God and of His Church. If there are deep evils and injustices in their social institutions, it is the Church – the spirit of Catholicism – that will abolish them, gradually, as it did in our own countries. Not all at once but gradually, with time, was Europe cleansed of so many shameful and inhuman practices, deriving from paganism but long forgotten in our own days.

“But, in order to bring about such good effects, Religion must first of all take hold of a people where it is at. And for Religion to take hold, a people need a priesthood that is almost entirely native to it. This priesthood must [also] be steadily led towards perfect emancipation and self-government. This can take centuries, perhaps, I admit. Perhaps, indeed, there will always be a few Bishops sent from the Source of the Apostolate by the sollicitude of Peter.

Why not look deeper into history? Ask how we were treated during the infancy of our Faith, we the rough and violent Gauls! Then, perhaps, we would not be so strict in demanding from others what was never demanded of us in the days of our own spiritual weakness. [Gaulish priests were ordained without such fussiness. And naturally so]. For aren’t there many different shades and sub-divisions, even within the one European “colour”. Would the French put up with a Spanish clergy? Would the Italians adapt to a French clergy? Certainly not! And yet we think it is very bad when the Indian communities do not adapt themselves to us. We take it as an insult. We say they are ungrateful people. Is that fair? While thanking us for our zeal, haven’t they every right to ask us this awkward question: Why don’t the Apostolic Bishops here put into practice what the great Apostle himself told Bishop Titus his disciple to do: establish priests in every town!66 (p 319)

And if some “Indian colour“always remains, what’s the problem in that? Your admirable religion, Lord, modifies societies, perfects, civilises them. But it does not change the essential character [and culture]67 of a people. It does not need to. Being Catholic in the full meaning of the word, the Church has been made for all places as well as for all men. It can be at home anywhere, totally unlike those false religions which have a purely local character incompatible with the social custom [culture] of certain other peoples. So let us just stop trying to change “Indian colour”, and then the “elements” needed for really establishing the Catholic Church here will suddenly become a lot easier to find than some people think.

“In spite of the problems posed by Caste, it is to my mind certain that we can make priests in India, Of course, in order to move forward steadily and securely, it would be most important to have a perfectly clear and agreed policy about the exact degree of our co-operation with the caste customs, and proceed in a uniform manner on that path, which is an exception [in the Catholic Church].

Let us get down to that, while still training our young clerics in the normal spirit of the Gospel – and it will be quite easy, afterwards, to co-ordinate, employ, direct and sustain [the resulting clergy, which is] the indispensable element in any Church. And I am sure, Lord, that you have some special unforeseen blessings ready for them. So why should we not expect, in our own life-time, to see them working independently, on their own, at least in some spheres?

Preserve us, Lord, from “discouragement” and from “despair of ever finding the right materials on Indian soil” I believe they are there, all around us, in plenty. Enliven them with your Spirit. Set them in motion yourself, using our ministry to give the impulsion. Do not let “the machine break down” on us, by our (p 320) own clumsiness in operating it. And finally, I beg you; give us the “prudence” which our dear confrere so strongly recommends to me. May we never have the temerity to undertake anything without your orders! But should we not recognise that your orders always are: to enter as fully as possible into the spirit that inspired the Founders of the pious Society that you gave us the grace of joining!

Finally, Lord, give us the grace to follow your orders whatever they are. And if it is your pleasure to call me to You before I can see my dearest wishes on this earth come to pass, may your Will be done, Lord. I know you will raise up other men who, having more virtue than me, will have greater wisdom and zeal. And then, one day, it will exist – the completely native Church, or at least mainly native.

“I do hope for this in your mercy, O my God, your mercy towards India. You will have pity on so many peoples walking in the shadow of death, so many children falling into hell before they are even able to know their right hand from their left, so many Christians, even, dying without a priest, without the help of the Sacraments which You have established in order to lift up the weak from their falls. O Mary, intercede for all those poor sinners!”

Such were my sentiments, at Cattery in 1843. And today [1855] I do not really see any reason to modify a single one of them – but only to thank God for the little bit we were allowed to do, in the meantime, for the work of local clergy, and to beg Him to make it grow, the seed we planted then.

Taking it Easy at Idapaddy. Correspondence with Vietnam.

When I had finished my ministrations at Cattery I went back to Idapaddy. I wanted to stay there a while and rest at the nice mission house, and also to try and make peace in that unfortunate community. I had heard that they were in a better mood than before. (p 321) But a new “palaver” about a marriage which I had blessed at Cattery (they came to me there, and I was tricked) had put the fat in the fire again. I resolved to spend a few days doing nothing whatsoever about them, just studying the style of those troublemakers. Anyway, I had to rest a bit. My intestines were still making war on me.

However, I got the children together, to teach them catechism. I was delighted with them; their intelligence seemed to me phenomenal, compared with the mountain shepherds. ‘Twas another people altogether! The situation of a place, the way of life, the food, the trade, the work – all these factors make man’s natural intelligence less or more. In India, you have to add another factor: caste. Thus, the Brahmin caste is unquestionably more intelligent than the others, and naturally superior in all aspects. Among the middle castes, the weavers are generally roguish, cheerful and witty. There are several branches of weavers. And the Idapaddians belong to the wittiest of them. I wanted to take a few of those children along, to be my disciples and maybe enter the seminary later. I wrote to Bishop Bonnand, but he told me that the caste was not “noble” enough to be made priests. (Things have changed a bit since; today I think they would be accepted).

During those days of calm and quiet, I wrote some letters, and received a few which did my heart good. In the” Annales de la Propagation de la Foi” I had just read a letter from Bishop Retord. In Annam [Vietnam]. This worthy prelate strongly supported the principle of a native clergy. Indeed he is in a better position than most, to see the immense services that the Annamite priests give to the Church there. Without them, that Church would have completely disappeared, like the Church in Japan. His Lordship admits this; and nearly everyone is in agreement on the point.

Nevertheless, from what I could gather by written information, we are still very far from doing all that we could and should be doing, even in Annam. So I got the idea of writing to Bishop Retord, very respectfully, not going into the issue, but just asking to enter into a correspondence with His Lordship, in the sincere desire of profiting from his insights and experience. (p 322)

Not to have to come back to this later, I will just record here that His Lordship replied very kindly to me. He told me to drop some of the deference and just write to him as a confrere. Very praiseworthy humility on his part. It is good that there should be a certain free-and -easy style between Vicars Apostolic and missionaries in the same Society. But it shouldn't be taken as far as over-familiarity, which has become only too common. Familiarity does breed contempt, to the great detriment of authority.

Thus, for several years, we kept up a sustained correspondence (sustained, that is, for two Missions that can hardly get letters to each other more than once in a year!). I regret to say I did not find this prelate as enlightened as I expected, about native clergy. Of all our bishops, he is the one who has ordained the most priests. But he did not seem to take in the wider implications of that work. His long episcopate in a continually persecuted Mission, with the daily-renewed offering of his life, exposed to be sacrificed from one hour to the next, will have earned him far greater merits for Heaven.

“Irish” Church. Tiny Widow. Sick Call to a Child.

I said the Vannars were generally very bad Christians. There were exceptions, however. Beyond the mountains, to the South of Idapaddy, on the Salem-Coimbatore road, was a town called Singuilidourongour.68 In a previous time, when the English hadn’t everything their own way in the country, they had a garrison in this fortified place. The Catholic Church built for the Irish soldiers by the government can still be seen. It is one of the best in the whole District – or would be if it wasn’t falling into ruin. For the only Christians left in the town or the area now is a few heroic [Vannar] farmers. For it takes nothing less than heroism, for an Indian to leave the “proper” trade of his caste and take on a different livelihood, e.g. agriculture.

(p 323) One of these farmers was gravely ill. They sent for me, saying he wanted to receive the Sacraments. Although the place was not very far, it meant crossing over the mountain range – a whole day to go and come back. I went in the afternoon, and slept that night in the charming old church there. I said Mass, took Communion to the poor invalid, and returned the next evening. Oh! How many, many Christians have to die in India without a chance to receive the Sacraments! Just a little bit more distance, and I would not have been able to go and meet the dying request of that poor man.

Another good Vannar family came to me, accompanied by the caste heads. It looked a complicated business; that was all I could see. For, after long and eloquent explanations, they still got nowhere near unravelling its complexities, for they all kept talking at the same time. At first I understood it was a marriage to be done, plus a baby whose future education they were disputing. The fiancee was there, and the child, about a year old. After letting them at it for a long time, without understanding anything clearly in their torrents of words, I said: “Listen. Let’s start with the business of the marriage. Then we’ll see about the other matter. Bring the couple”. The bridegroom came forward, as straight as a ruler, loaded down with silver bracelets, his dress impeccable, a red turban with a golden filament on his head. He looked about 18 or 20. There was only a fourth-degree impediment. Nothing to speak of, in a country where almost no marriage is done without a dispensation from consanguinity, very often to the second degree. For the sake of form, I asked if he was of age. They all proclaimed that he was away beyond it. So, no problem there. Then came the fiancée. She looked very small, about 10. All wrapped up in her cloth, as is the custom on these occasions; just her eyes and nose showing. She seemed a mere child. To test her voice, I spoke to her; and she sounded nowhere near 12.

“But she’s just a child”, I told the parents. She is not of age to marry”. They all silently covered a smile with a hand.

“Tell me straight”, I said to the spokesman. “What age is she?”

“Well, Father”, he replied, “that baby there is hers. She is a widow, and that is why we are dragging the matter: that, on marrying (p 324) again, she still wants to keep the baby. Whereas in fact it be-longs to us, the family of the late husband”.

I got them to allow her to keep the baby, notwithstanding the second marriage, at least as long as it needed its mother. Marriages by widows are very rare; but there are a few, especially among Christians, in the lower castes like the Vannars.

Children hardly ever went to confession before the age of First Communion. This, also, was due to the near-absence of priests. As I had only small communities to look after, I had been able to hear the young children’s confessions more easily than other missionaries. But I missed many because of the parents’ negligence. I had told the people about their duty to bring children of 6-7 years and upwards toconfession, and also to let me know if any of them were ill. I had insisted on this so much that, now, one Sunday as I was going to start Mass, they came to tell me that a child near Nayambady (more than 12 miles away) was at the point of death; and the poor child had not been there for confession with the others when I was at their village. This, especially, made me feel compassion. I told them I would go after Mass. One man went ahead, to have a “parissal” ready for me at the Cavery, which I had to cross. Alas! When I got to the village, the child had just died.

“O God, if he had the misfortune, at that tender age, to have gravely offended you, will not your mercy have taken the scarcity of priests into account and directly given him the grace of perfect contrition! Let us hope so. And let us also tremble, if it is our fault that there are not enough priests!”

I came back immediately. It was after midnight by the time I got to Idapaddy. This time, I didn’t have to wait two or three hours more before I could eat. The cook was ready with my almost daily dish – rice and chicken. It’s the easiest meat to get, and it certainly is not dear. Sometimes, in the interior, you can get a dozen or so chickens for six pence, with a few eggs thrown in for luck. A few days before, my cook had paid only II cash as (about 2 pence) for a fine big fowl and 7 eggs (4 already laid and 3 inside, almost as big). (p 325)

The Treaty of Idapaddy

Meanwhile, some kind of a reconciliation was brought about among the Christians at Idapaddy. Here, almost word for word, is how I wrote it up in my diary:

“The main obstacles to giving the Sacraments seem to have been overcome. Grant, O my God, that the promises and good resolutions of these poor Christians may not be confused again by the wicked angel of Discord, who seems to have some extra special power in this place!

“This is how things worked out: They were very keen on having Confessions in the village. For that’s the Custom; and not to have the Sacraments is always a downright disgrace for a community in the interior. So they quickly suppressed a new quarrel that was starting up, over a certain unfortunate marriage. However, I was not going to grant them the Sacraments unless they did some outward act as a symbol of explicit renunciation of their disobedience towards Fr Fricaud and their divisions among themselves; and also as a pledge of their future good behaviour. I had written to Fr Fricaud for his advice, and to Bishop Bonnand to intervene in the affair. But neither of them decided anything for me. His Lordship just urged me to be prudent, not to push them over the edge. He said the Protestant minister at Salem had his eye on them, waiting for a chance to fish in troubled waters.

“While awaiting these two replies and pretending that I would be going away without ministering at all to the adults, lorganised the children’s First Communion with a bit more style than usual. This greatly helped to get the parents on my side. For, in India as in Europe, the way you treat their children has a big influence on the hearts of the fathers and mothers. These let me know that they were now well disposed to obey my “katalai” (orders and conditions). Then I sent for the head-men and, having prayed for light from the Lord, I told them my mind was made up: I would not continue my mission in this village unless they were ready to obey my decisions. (I was morally certain, by this time that they would obey, or at least pretend to. That’s why I came out so strong). “We will obey, Father; we will obey” was the unanimous (p 326) response. I then demanded that they must:

1 ° nominate a “maniacaren” or village head;

2° employ a full-time catechist and pay the proper salary according to the “mamul” (established custom) plus a year’s arrears and a house;

3° show general reconciliation by a Feast of peace and a big Meal for all the Christians in the village without exception;

4° put it in writing that they are obliging themselves to keep these promises; a copy of this to be sent to His Lordship, so that he may be a witness against them if they fail to keep faith.

“On my own side I promised to restore their honour among the Christians of the District (if they continued to do well) by coming to celebrate next Easter with them, and by allowing them to put on their Passion Plays again. (These had been banned for some years). All my proposals were carried out. They chose as head a man who appeared to be trustworthy. He had resigned from that same position many years before, saying he “couldn’t do anything with those messers”. Now he agreed to try again.

“Next day, they signed the Treaty. It has no great legal force, indeed; but it has a certain amount of psychological pressure or bluff. The next Thursday was fixed for the liturgical Feast and the community Meal. I gave them a sheep as my contribution, and everybody dipped into his pocket for the general expenses. Wednesday evening, a delegation came to inform me that everything was proceeding according to plan. Several sheep were already cropping the mission garden; the rice was deposited in the church. There was some small snag however, they said. I remedied that by a concession on my side.

So, on Thursday at 5 a.m., explosions announced the Day of General Reconciliation. All morning, nothing but drumming, bell-ringing and bangs could be heard. Before the Mass, they mutually and respectfully saluted each other, bowing deeply according to the custom. (Unfortunately, I have reason to think that their hearts were not quite as flexible as their backs). At 9, Mass (p 327) began. Nobody was missing. In the middle of the church I had set up the statue of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded with candles and flowers. After the Mass I said a few words about their obligation to obey the maniacaren, the catechist and the missionary. Then I invited them all to come and kiss the feet of Mary’s statue as a sign of their promise to obey. Not one failed to do this. Thus, the soul feast being now concluded, we proceeded to the belly feast. Only now were the bleating animals slain…

“A group of women brought pots to the church compound, another group hauled firewood, another fetched water. The church was kitchen, reception hall and refectory. The men waited patiently until the cooking was completed, nonchalantly reclining under the church sheds or in the shade of the mission tamarinds, contemplating the capacity of their bellies, carefully empty since morning. Meanwhile, on the brick-work of a long trench fireplace, there steamed a battallion of earthenware pots, boiling the rice; while the meat, chick-peas and other vegetables were stewing away in another serried array of flatter vessels on three-stone stands. The complex preparations for this historic Banquet went on until 4.30, with everyone still fasting in anticipation. At last they came to inform me that all was now ready, and that I should please come to bless the food. I proceeded to the scene with great pomp and ceremony, to the sound of drums and bangs, accompanied by a big basket of betel and areca in token of my satisfaction with their conduct so far. I then blessed everything and re-tired, leaving them to eat and eat until well into the night. And so the matter ended. Will it last? O Mary, take this community into your special protection. It certainly needs your help!

When Bishop Bonnand received the report of the whole affair, he was very generous with his congratulations. The “peria virundu” (great feast) will go down in history, he said. But he did not approve of the ceremony before the statue of the Blessed Virgin. “They will think it was an oath”, he said, “and they will still break it”. His Lordship wasn’t far out. Things went all right for a while; but the demon of Discord was not really expelled. A few (p 328) years later, division reigned supreme again. And the community today is wretched.

Rain. Lay Apostolate and other Methods:

A Two-tier clergy? Media etc.

By now the rainy season had started. I had wound up all the Idapaddy affairs and was on my way to Sinnapenpatty when I was caught out in one of the downpours. In one hour more rain fell than on Paris in two whole months. All the dried-up little rivers suddenly became raging torrents. The Christians saw us coming, and they all rushed to the edge of the village “stream” to warn us not to try crossing it. ‘Twas now drizzling coldly after the downpour, and we had to stay a long, long time waiting under it. As soon as it was possible to swim across, the Christians came to us with a big plank. I got onto it and they pushed me across. By that time, all my clothes were drenched, not only the ones I was wearing but those inside my fragile suitcase. All I could do now was to wrap myself in some cloth or other. Happily, the Christians in this village always have plenty of new ones, for they are weavers.

In that place, I think, you could get somewhere with the pagans – if you could stay long enough – by using ways of person-toperson communication adapted to the real situation in India, and to the kind of contacts that the pagans find permissible with Christians. This is what I wrote at the time [though first mentioning a previous village].

“What I saw in the new community of Caniampaty proves that some influence on the pagans is possible, indirectly, through the Christians. These would need to be stirred up and motivated, and trained in argumentation. The new catechumens in this place owe their conversion to the zeal of one man. Animated with the spirit of proselytism, he was spontaneously prepared to sacrifice part of his fortune, as well as his time, in this good work.

(p 329)

“It is very difficult if not impossible for us, ourselves, to get near enough to a high-caste pagan to discuss religion with him. Today, even if you wanted to, it is impossible to dress up and pass yourself off as a Brahmin. Everybody can spot a European; and they know how vilely Europeans eat and live. In vain do we leave off our European shoes and put on our useless papatachis. In vain do we drape ourselves in a big white robe and cover our head with a red “shako”. Today all that is a nonsense and a counter-sign. The Europeans laugh at it, and the Malabaris despise us not one bit less for it.

“Christianity no longer has any novelty interest for the pagans. They know about it already. Not that they know what it is in itself, or enough to appreciate its divine beauty. But they know it is there. They see Christians; they see churches. So they are no longer to be attracted by curiosity or novelty. (Anyway, that kind of curiosity is much weaker in India). The most “important” thing they know is that, in Christianity, pariahs are more or less lumped together with caste Indians. They know that low-grade Europeans are “Christians”; and that the Catholic priests actually enter pariah houses at certain times! That’s enough! So the father tells his son: “Christians are pariahs”. And the son grows up and tells his son. After that, it is just unthinkable to have anything to do with Christianity.

“Still, you have to distinguish. True, Christians in general are considered to have fallen out of their caste; and very scrupulous Indians consider them to be no better than pariahs. Yet most pagans make a distinction between a Christian who is a pariah and a Christian who is not. When the latter rigorously observes as much of the caste customs as we consider permissible, he will not be treated as an out-caste. Thus an Indian priest – especially if he were able to avoid entering a pariah house even for Extreme Unction – would be incomparably better respected than us. For, as well as entering pariah houses, we are considered to be complete followers of the European way of life, even unto the eating of cow meat!

So, if we had plenty of Indian priests we could, perhaps, have two categories: one exclusively for caste people and the other (p 330) exclusively for pariahs. Benedict XIV was prepared to tolerate this in the case of missionaries. But the shortage of missionaries made it unworkable, and still does. How could it work, in a big District with only one priest and several different castes? If a pariah was at the point of death, could any priest dispense himself from going to hear his confession, just because he himself was a caste specialist? Or, if a priest was a pariah specialist, could a dying Malabari [caste Indian] be dispensed from requesting the Last Sacraments from such a priest? The thing is unacceptable. But if there were plenty of priests – pariah priests from among the pariahs and Malabari priests from among the Malabaris – could we not have recourse to this tolerance of Benedict XIV for the sake of the pagans? It’s a serious question; and later on we may have to examine it in a practical way.

However that may be, it is certain that, at the moment, we missionaries can get almost nowhere with pagans of good caste. But we could bring a few of them over by the intermediary of caste Christians. True, the pagans would never admit these into their families; but they do, on rare occasions, eat with some of them and let them into their houses, not considering them absolutely unclean. In short, they do not consider them to be out-castes, but only down-castes.

While we were at Sinnapenpatty my disciple Marie-Xavery asked me to let him go into the pagan quarter, to sound out the attitude of the people a bit. “We’ll go together”, I said, “and we’ll see”. We went through their streets, and nobody paid any attention to us. We went on, outside the village; a few pagans followed us. I said a few polite, meaningless words, and they replied willingly enough, but kept their distance. And when I stopped walking, to let them come closer, they stopped as well, to avoid contamination and defilement. I don’t remember that they gave me any chance to mention religion. All I remember is that, after a few minutes, there was suddenly nobody around except my disciple and another Christian.

“They’re all gone”, they said. “They think you’re a pariah”. “If you’d let me come on my own”, said Marie-Xavery, “I (p 331) could have studied their dispositions better”.

“You mean they wouldn’t have fled away if I wasn’t here?” “They wouldn’t, Father. I could have talked a long time with them about various things; and then we’d have got on to religion”.

Another reason why I think we should really concentrate on promoting the spirit of proselytism in ordinary Christians is this: the fantastic amount of time it takes to get an Indian to change anything whatsoever in his life-style, even after he begins to think it might be a good idea. Big words, rhetoric, abstractions are just a complete waste of time. It is by going very very easy that you may finally manage to convince him – giving him a word today, another tomorrow; one hint to start him thinking about the stupidity of a certain observance, another remark questioning one of his songs or hymns, another crack about the various bodymarks, referring to their shameful origins. Then something about the admirable beauty of our dogmas, or the holy purity of our morality. But all this without the least suggestion of any hurry in the) world – just a meandering, friendly conversation – spending three, four, five hours together squatting on your heels, talking away about nothing in particular. And this not just once, please, but over and over again. A missionary would be totally incompetent at that kind of thing.

Certain missionaries imagine that, by going all out, giving huge public Missions – several men working together, with lots of equipment – we could bring about mass conversions. I don’t think so at all. Such Missions, however, might produce some fruit, and I wouldn’t want to oppose them if they ever become possible. But we should not expect any immediate spectacular conversions from them. At the most, they might start a few people thinking. But after that, these would still have to be approached individually, with long and gentle patience.

“Anyway, in the present situation in India, I believe that no single method can produce a religious movement among the pagan population. It is only by trying all possible methods simul-taneously that we may hope to attract a few individuals here and there. These, later on, might be united to from a new force capa-ble of producing some movement. Then we would need a few really (p 332) learned men, steeped in Indian philosophy and theology, able to discuss seriously with the Brahmins. It's easy to make jokes about them, but not so easy to discover the real root of their errors - and help them see it for themseves, We would also need pariah catechists and even pariah priests, to dialogue with the pagans of that class. And we would need others in the middle -like our present catechists and our few priests - for the people in between the two extremes. Along with all that, I would want us to preach in the streets and on the roof-tops, and in small discussion groups under the "tavarams" (verandahs in front of houses), in the churches and under the trees, by popular plays and in quiet, serious conversations, by lectures, books, pictures and tableaux "in season and out of season".

In a country where we still have freedom of action, all that activity would be feasible, if we had the men, and sufficient money and resources. These would be forthcoming, I believe. And the men would not be lacking, either, if we trained good and numerous priests, and also plenty of good catechists or other laymen (whatever be their title) to help us in our efforts. But if all we can think about is more missionaries, we are never going to get very far. Even if we were ten times more numerous than we are now, we would barely suffice to look after and keep the already existing Catholics. And, even then, more than half of them would not even have a priest at the hour of death, to give them the Last Sacraments!”.

Since that was written, the number of missionaries has, indeed, increased ten-fold, or nearly so, in the old Vicariate of Pondicherry (i.e. in the present four Vicariates of Pondicherry, Madurai, Mysore and Coimbatore) and still not the slightest sign of movement has been achieved among the pagan population. Let us hope that better results will come from the other methods which have been started – though with much less energy than would be desirable – and the methods that would be attainable, too, if there was more cohesion among the apostolic workers. But I still greatly fear that, as long as there is no effective move for an agreed common policy towards Caste, nothing important or lasting will ever be achieved in India. (p 333)

Indian Fatalism. Person-to-person Conversion.

Marie-Xavery’s Legion Written Report.

“In one locality Fr Roger had the consolation of receiving some pagans into the Church. It was my dear confrere himself who told me that he had done almost nothing in the situation, but that the grace of God had made use of Christian Malabaris to bring these people, little by little, to the truth. He only came into it at the end. I’m sure that this zealous confrere was not so entirely undeserving of merit in the eyes of the Lord. God made use of his ministry in this good work, and most especially in inspiring him to stir up the zeal of the Christians, without whom His Word would never have come to the ears – and certainly not to the hearts – of those fortunate converts.

“In a country where Imagination seems to have played such a fantastic part in religious history, it is surprising to see how little the people are affected by the colourful and energetic expression of the great Truths. Could it be that their receptivity has become blase, surfeited by the fantastic wonders in their own learned poetry and popular songs? Or is their personal apathy and indifference about their eternal salvation merely the natural result of the Fatalism that seems to have captured the whole nation, along with a vague and wooly pantheism?

“What about it? All is God”, coldly replies an old woman who certainly did not ever do philosophy or theology.

“Don’t you know that there is a Heaven for the good and a Hell for the wicked?” you may try to tell her.

“Yes, Father. Certainly there is”.

“Well then, are you wanting to go to Hell?”

“Swamy sittam” (Whatever God wills).

And so she remains, wrapped in her false peace. This “Swamy sittam” is all you will ever get out of her; and it really makes you de-spair, pronounced as it is, with a total apathy which lets you know, beyond any possible doubt whatever that all your eloquence has been a complete and perfect waste of time. Even the Christians are not entirely immune from this nation-wide fatalism. Even at their death-beds, you will rarely see any sign of that holy fear that (p 334) not even the Saints were exempt from. Whether the patient has had a long life of crime or has apparently very few faults to be sorry for, the “Swamy sittam” will be said in exactly the same tone of voice. If you didn’t have to fear that their peace was a false peace, you would really be edified by the tranquil way in which the Indians die. And so, nothing is easier than to get a sick person to receive the Last Sacraments. He will usually ask for them himself, and will always receive them with joy. You may tell him that death is not certain now, and that he still has a good hope of recovery; he will calmly reply: “Swamy sittam”. And if you tell him this is it; he’s going to die – the “Swamy sittam” will be exactly the same; neither less nor more reaction.

“While he is still fully conscious, the relatives will loudly discuss his forthcoming death, right beside him. They will even start making the funeral arrangements in his presence, without any fear of worrying or troubling him, or without any sign of protest about “such talk” coming from him. A long Christian education, however, does modify these attitudes and procedures a bit.

“To get back to the pagans, this kind of apathy means that even the strongest reasons will move them very little, and that much weaker reasons will keep them tied to paganism, even when they seem convinced of Christianity. Someone will say: “It’s true. You are right”. But he will do nothing about it. Why? “Because my fathers were pagan”, or “Are we more intelligent than those who went before us?” or “My caste would expel me” or “My relatives would not like it” or “I’d just be like a pariah”. That’s the kind of thing that holds them back. That’s the inertia that has to be overcome, little by little, in long familiar discussions, squatting together, swopping a few betel-leaves now and then, poking the little iron pot that goes everywhere with a man, to knock out some fine fresh lime-powder to season the leaves, and accompanying them with an areca nut. A missionary can’t do that. It takes an Indian.

“All I can try, so far, is a few feeble attempts at conversions. [I can’t launch out into the deep]. I act like a pilot who does not really know the coast yet, going forward tentatively, sounding the (p 335) water continually. Later on, O my God, if You leave me long enough on this earth, we will try to put into practice whatever methods You will have taught us to be the right ones – and by your grace we will drop whatever ones You indicate as being mistaken”.

As a trial run, I sent Marie-Xavery, along with a Christian “maniacaren” (head-man) to a certain pagan village, in order to work a little while according to the techniques I had told him. I’d have liked it better if he could stay on two or three months there, coming back only now and then to revive his zeal and his piety. But this was not possible, because I was still on tour. I could leave him only a few days there. And yet, in a way, it was enough. I was satisfied that the method could indeed work, and that it offers much hope if it is done properly. Anyway, here is the letter that this dear disciple wrote me, the evening before coming back from the village. I give it verbatim, in his bad Latin. 69

“Reverendissime Pater,

I received your epistle with great joy, today. (Probably my letter telling him to come back). I am very well, thanks to God and your prayers.

“While I was just going to the village, we found a pagan on the road. Me and the prefectus (head-man) exhorted him that he be converted. No sign of any conversion seen. He went another road. We arrived to evening time … We found two men near the town. We exhorted them. One of them like to enter our religion, but he said: “I want to. But my wife condemns me. Big row. What do?”. I was hoping he will come after some days. But although we exhort him again, he does not want to join. These way five men say. Nobody wants to join now, because they fear wife or parents or relatives or big men of town.

“Next day we went to principal town and spoke with the pagan head-man and other men of the town. They said: “All these are true”. But they will not convert. Same way, we went to other towns. One old man (he had 60 years) said to me: “I will leave all things immediately, even this small cloth,70 … And I will come with you. Just (p 336) lead me to the God you talk about”. He asked me some stupid ques-tions, and I answered them all. But he did not want to join.

“When they come to me, I begin by talking about human things, then about creation of world. And they listen with attention. When I talk albout God they immediately flee. If I say, “Why are you going?” they reply: “We have work to do now; we must go”. I found no fruit. Fruits are not ripe. It seems to me four or five fruits coming after some years. If God gave me fruits immediately, perhaps I will have pride. This is why He did not give me. Let us pray almighty God that He send many priests and give them much mercy. I want to travel tomorrow morning. Most kind Father, pray for me, that I may be good and holy. I beg you to give me your blessing.

Your servant and son – S.A.M.X.

Marion Bresillac’s Paper for the Synod

I went to rejoin Fr Fricaud at Salem. There I heard that things were moving well at Pondicherry, giving us great hope that the near-approaching Meeting of the missionaries could do a lot of good. Bishop Bonnand had put his trust in Fr Luquet, who is a very good organizer. He got it accepted that the Meeting should take the form – and the name – of a SYNOD. The Bishop had previously seemed to have some fears about it, but now he was all confidence and hope. He had already urged us repeatedly to put our thoughts about the main subjects into writing. And now he wrote again:

“I urgently remind you of my request for a written dissertation on the matters to be treated at the Meeting – henceforth to be called the Synod. You must come treatise in hand. The same goes for dear Fr Fricaud”.

And in a letter to that confrere, His Lordship said:

“This is not just a meeting. It is a Synod – that’s its name from now on – and a Synod followed by a Retreat in common. We want it to make history – in our Vicariate and in the Foreign Missions. I really have great hope that, with the help of God and the protection of Mary, this Synod will have a good effect”.

Noting down the two passages, I added my own:“Lord, hear (p 337) the prayers of this worthy and holy pontiff. Mary, bring them to the feet of your Son”.

I had avoided writing anything for the Synod because of the shortness of my missionary experience. But now, as the Bishop was insisting, I wrote the following:

“His Lordship has urged us so often to put our thoughts in writing, about the various questions coming up at the Synod that I could not very well refuse to put a few lines together at least. Anything less would be lacking in proper respect and co-operation. Some of these questions, however, I can write nothing about, because I am too new to the ministry in India. On the Catechetical Centre, for example, I am completely unable to give an informed opinion, especially in matters of detail. The only thing that I see and know is the incompetence, laziness and ignorance of the present catechists. If it can train better ones, then it is obvious that we do need a Centre.

“About the conversion of the pagans, I will not shy away from giving my opinion. At first I used to think that the “conversion of the heathen” should be our “number one priority”. But now I see that this work must depend very much on the existence and help of a native clergy. So much so that, if the two objectives could not be pursued simultaneously, I would not hesitate to drop the work of the pagans for a time, in order to concentrate entirely on the clergy. But I cannot see why the two could not go forward hand in hand. One thing I am sure of: Our influence on the pagans will become more and more active in proportion as we have more and more native evangelical workers – until the day comes when, at the head of a great army of Levites born in this country, we can make a head-on assault on the serried ranks of paganism.

“There was mention of big “Missions” with lots of equipment. I do not think that kind of preaching will win many people. Much less will it noticeably improve the Christians. However, if we have men and resources to spare, I think we should not neglect it. My main reason in all this is: The pagans already have some idea about the Christian religion. [The novelty value is over]. So, no single method can produce any spectacular result. The best thing is to combine several different methods.

“Let us make priests. And let us simultaneously undermine the ramparts of paganism by widespread education … The day will come when we will see that formidable citadel crumbling piece by piece. Even if we ourselves do not live long enough to enjoy that (p 338) spectacle here below, at least we will have provided the instruments for victory to those who will be there to see it. So I would like us to use all possible methods at the same time – and especially not to neglect the methods nearest to the simple Gospel preaching of the Apostles, not to abandon the holy folly of the Cross. If two or three missionaries are appointed to big-time “Missions” I would also like to see a few going around the pagan towns, like Francis Xavier, just simply proclaiming the Good News and sanctifying their preaching by the exercise of prayer and mortification. Also, that we make use of the co-operation of the laity in smoothing the way and preparing the minds of the people. And let us not be afraid that, by putting big numbers of missionaries into these various efforts, we are neglecting the already-existing Christians. Even if we were three times more numerous, we still could not prevent our present Christians from gradually deteriorating, weakening in Faith, and getting corrupt. The only thing that can really save and revive our old communities is the conversion of numerous pagans.

“I can contribute nothing, either, to the question of the baptisms of pagan infants, or the Bull of Benedict XIV, or supersitions or “pottu” or missionaries’ uniform … But I will gladly come to vocations and the ways of discovering them. Above all, I will say that, when we are seeking out those whom God is calling, we must not confine our search to just one small corner of the Christian people. We must search it all, i.e. all castes, without exception. Is it for us to set bounds and regulations to the Spirit of God? To accept those who suit our policy and reject others to whom God is giving His vocation? Even though the realities of Caste cannot be ignored, it is our job to work out some way of combining their crazy prejudices with the Will of God. And when this becomes impossible [we just have to choose]. Better, a thousand times, to offend all the castes put together, than to oppose the Work of God. How can we say for sure that God has not some future pariah priest in mind, to convert the whole of India? Aren’t all instruments potentially victorious, in God’s hand? Hasn’t He even a tendency to use what is least in the eyes of the world, what is most despised by men, in order to work the miracles of His mercy! If we have to, let us make a pariah seminary, a middlecaste seminary and a noble seminary. Such distinctions would not be directly against the Faith. But let us not put up regulations and limits against the working of Grace. Let us make priests from all ranks.”

(Two years later, thinking these statements over, I wrote:“The principles still seem to me indisputable; but their application (p 339) requires a lot of prudence … Some people, I fear, want to go at it too fast; while others are completely opposed to their efforts. These contradictory attitudes stem from divergent views about the degree of notice we should take of Caste. And unfortunately, these divergences have got worse.71 As long as we have not succeeded in achieving complete consensus on the Caste issue, it will be utterly impossible to have Pariah priests. But once agreement has been reached – whether it is for scrupulous toleration of the principal caste customs, or whether it is an order to ignore them entirely – priests from all ranks will become possible.

In the case of a decision to ignore Caste, we would take candidates indiscrimately from among all the Christians (who would bitterly resent the dangerous innovation). In the case of definite toleration, the clergy would just put up with caste divisions – as the Christians now do – until such time as the spirit of Christianity has penetrated deeper into Indian society and greatly weakened the power of Caste).

“Once these principles are accepted, we would then have to figure out the ways of recruiting numerous candidates. At the moment I can see only two: 1° Missionaries themselves should seek out children in their Districts who seem to show promise. They should take them on for a few months to see how they behave, and then direct some of them to the seminaries. 2° Establish several good primary schools under the missionaries’ supervision … These should have a rule and a programme designed to combine piety and sound education … Later, the missionaries would choose out the best-behaved and most talented, and send them to higher schools. For, after all, it is only by giving the youth a good education (open and sound, wide and generous) that Truth will be able to take root in the country … We have the Truth on our side. Why should we fear the light?

“In order to be in a position to put all that into practice later on, we should now start preparations to be able to offer the Indian people a complete range of text-books in the arts and sciences, beginning with those most easily understandable. And we should help to make them understood, by organizing both formal and informal (p 340) classes in them, giving good solid instruction.

“The classical books necessary for our schools should be translated and published. This will take time. In the meantime, a missionary with a good knowledge of the language should be appointed, and a good new printing-press, independent of the present one, be placed at his disposal, along with all the other helps and equipment he would need, both for translating and for printing.

“Finally, a word about our little meeting at Karumattampatty. According to His Lorship’s wishes, we sent him some questions. It seems to me that, without too much effort, we could make the liturgy a lot more decent and fitting. For example, isn’t it extremely unbecoming to have to go out to the church door in order to give Holy Communion to the pariahs at churches where there is no special place set aside for them? And yet we cannot make them enter these churches. Should we not demand that all churches have a place for pariahs? And why not also demand a baptismal font and a register while we are at it? I am asking the ecclesiastical authority to make exact enquiries into how things are done in each church, and then to issue regulations – and totally forbid Mass inside any building where these regulations are impossible to fulfil. This would be one way to make missionaries more vigilant. And it would also save them from being attacked by certain Christians who would object to their rightful decisions, on the grounds that “it is not the Custom”. In such cases, the missionary would only have to remind them that, failing such and such physical conditions, he just has no permission to say Mass there” .

Alas for my innocence! I didn’t know then how harassed the Bishop himself is, by the forced compromises he has to make with Caste because of his own missionaries’ diverse opinions!

A Hero and a Heroine of the Faith

Good Fr Fricaud was still unwell. Still, as there was nothing special to do at Salem, he made me go on to Coviloor for the Christmas. After the feasts I was to leave for Pondicherry. Before I left him he told me about these two edifying people:

A certain good-caste Christian was outstanding for his sincere (p 341) loyalty to the missionary. There was some misfortunate “palaver” and the Christians rebelled against the Father – an all too-common happening, usually over Caste. This man, all alone in the village, remained firm in his loyalty. The rest threatened all sorts of ill-treatment on him. Even his own son turned against him. But he wouldn’t budge. “Very well”, they said. “If you don’t side with us you’ll be driven out of the church”. (In the absence of the missionary, the Christians sometimes take it upon themselves to drive out evil-doers – or, in riotous moments, people they just don’t like).

“How could you drive me?” he retorted. “You have not the right. Anyway, I will come back in again. You can’t do anything about it. I’ll just come back in. That’s my home. My soul’s house”.

“Yes, but if you came in again after our prohibition, we’d drive you from the caste!” (Of all punishments, that one is the most feared by a Malabari).

“Go ahead. Drive me. What is caste compared to my soul? When I am dead, what will Caste do for me? Do what you like, I will still come into the church” .

“After you die, we won’t give you a funeral”

“All right. Throw me in the street. Leave me there outside my door. Do what you think fit? You won’t be able to close or open the gates of Heaven!”.

They tried many other persecutions on him, finally refusing ‘him all food for several days. But he was an old man; so they even-tually let him alone; for they saw that nothing was going to shake his resolution. This valiant Christian, Gnanapragassam, was a great consolation to Fr Fricaud, whom so many others in that poor community were tormenting by their behaviour.

A Vannar woman also gave great proofs of faith and spiritual strength – surprisingly, for they are usually very bad Christians. Her wretched parents had gone over to paganism, and they were forcing her to do the same. She energetically refused. This only redoubled their infernal fanaticism. They could not make her apostasies. But they told her they would make sure that she’d never be able to contact the priest ever again. She escaped, however, (p 342) and came to confession. They ended by tying her up whenever they heard the missionary was coming around! But she nearly always managed to outwit them somehow or other, at least once a year. Then she would run all the way to the church. And, renewed once again by the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion, she was ready to endure whatever humiliations or ill-treatments they could think up, for the love of Jesus Christ.

I had been only three days at Coviloor when I got word that Fr Fricaud was extremely ill. It was already night when I got the news. I decided to start out at I a.m., hoping thus to be able to arrive next evening at Salem, a distance of about 40 miles. My people were afraid of only one thing – the tigers in the mountains we would have to pass through. I told them to bring a lighted lantern, and extra torches, to be lit only when we got to the danger area. We got there about 4 a.m. But while they were trying to light the torches, the lamp was blown out. And none of them had thought of bringing the flint and the “panchu” (specially prepared cotton husk). So we had to pass through the ravine in the dark. The tigers, very considerately, let us through without incident.

It was day when we got to a certain Tree which they invoke like a Divinity – probably for protection from the tigers. As a sign of respect, every traveller going that way ties another rag on to it. We kept going, non-stop for 30 miles, and came to Settipatty about 11 a.m. The Christians prepared something for us to eat. Since I had not bothered to bring my knife and fork etc., I ate it entirely Indian-style, with my fingers, off a big leaf. Towards 4 p.m. we started off again. We were nearly there – only about two more miles to go – when we saw a Christian running towards us, as fast as his legs could carry him.

“Look”, said I to my people, “here’s a messenger to tell me either that Fr Fricaud has died, or else that he’s out of danger”. Happily, the second alternative was the correct one. The dear man, thinking I couldn’t have started out until the next day, was sending me a note to say he was out of danger now, and to spare me the trouble of coming so far. He was very surprised to see me arriving, half-an-hour later. I stayed a few days with him, and (p 343) went back to Coviloor.72 He got ready to go early to Pondicherry.

The Indians can stand up very well to long treks. I saw a further proof of their toughness on this occasion. The old catechist from Tirupatur was with me when I got the news of Fr Fricaud’s illness. He had only just arrived, having come 45 miles on foot in a day and a half. But he was very attached to Fr Fricaud, and he now asked to go with me. I was not in favour of it, because of his great age and his long journey just completed. But he insisted, so I finally agreed. He did those 40 miles very sturdily, with only one stumble. And when we arrived, he looked a lot less tired than me, with my horse and all!

Implications of Korea. Bishop Suspicious of Him.

A few days before Christmas I received several letters. Some of them made me very happy, redoubling my hope. Others contributed a bitter touch. First came a letter from Bishop Bonnand giving some facts about the persecution in Korea, and the death of our confreres there:

“Yesterday I received letters from Manchuria, official confirmation of the martyrdom of our venerable confreres in Korea. Bishop Verolles, Vicar Apostolic of Manchuria and Bishop-elect Ferréol, Vicar Apostolic of Korea, wrote to me, but gave no details. They referred me to the Report to the Central Councils of the “Propagation de la Foi” … This is the gist of their letters: Bishop Imbert and his two missionaries were beheaded on the 21st September 1839. Some heroic virgins have obtained the double palm, of chastity and of martyrdom. Heaven protected them by prodigies. Exposed to the brutalities of human swine, they were given sudden strength to knock down seven or eight of them at a blow. They were victorious. Then their bones were crushed, and their backs pierced with a red- (p 344) hot awl. By next day, they had all been healed! In the end they were beheaded. Some boys of 12 also suffered martyrdom, with saintly fearlessness … The Christians have sent envoys to beg for new missionaries. Bishop Ferréol and Fr Maistre are waiting for the first favourable opportunity to go in.”

This letter inspired the following reflections:

“Lucky the man who’s going to be appointed to work in that land, sprinkled with the blood of new-made martyrs! Ah, Lord! Why not tell me to go to those orphaned peoples! Useless wishes, sterile desires! I am just not worthy, not worthy of so great a favour, O my God. So, punish me, Lord, for my lack of faith, by leaving me here, here where we need have no fear from men as far as bodily safety goes. But have pity on Korea. Send it priests who have the establishment of a native clergy at heart!

“What? In a country where young maidens gain the victory by their undefeatable courage – where 12 year old boys can gaily carry off the palm of martyrdom – where the Christians are ready to suffer even more, since they send for more missionaries, knowing full well that this will probably expose them again to the tyrants’ cruelty – in a country like that, to say there are no men worthy of priestly ordination! Oh, how much more respectfully would I venerate that glorious martyr Bishop Imbert if only before bending his own head for the axe – he had first anointed the head of a Korean bishop chosen from the best of his Christians, and had thus ensured the continuity of the priesthood in the country! Then those Christians would not be deprived of all their pastors, as they now are. But it is Your grace alone, O my God, that can do such a thing, by hinting it to your missionaries. Give it to Bishop Ferréol, to Fr Maistre, and to all those who will have the good fortune to go and share their labours and their merits”.

Another letter from Bishop Bonnand, a circular, ordered special prayers to be said for the happy outcome of the Synod. Success seemed more and more certain, he said. But he was not without some misgivings too. And he had some doubts about me personally, I learnt later. I should have suspected it at the time, from another of his letters, which I could make nothing of when I (p 345) read it.

I had been planning to go to Pondicherry, not as the crow flies, but via Vellore. I had three or four perfectly sensible reasons for that. But His Lordship now wrote to me not to go that way, but to come directly, across the Tirupatur Mountains. And he gave some reasons which obviously didn’t hold water. The real reason, I learnt later on, was to stop me from meeting Fr Roger and Fr Chevalier and doing the journey with them. He feared that we were likely [or I was likely] to be stubborn about native clergy and education.

The Bishop ought to have known me better. I am very stubborn about my right to express my opinion freely. But I am always ready, in practice, to yield it to orders from a higher authority. I respect authority, even where I consider it to be mistaken. And I would never have allowed authority to be disrespected in my presence. But His Lordship did not know me very well then. And I suppose my choice of language, sometimes not the wisest, gave him some legitimate cause for worrying. Thus, for example, in a letter to Fr Chevalier, I had written the words: “I am looking forward to meeting you, for I hear that you belong to the New Wave in France too”. Somebody must have picked out that remark, misinterpreted it, and passed it on to His Lordship. All these mysteries came out later.

Lament for a Fallen Leader – Luquet.

In a moment of outgoing, open-ness and great hope, I had written to Fr Luquet, saying how I often prayed to the Lord that at last He might send India the one who was to save her. “Send the one you are to send”. (Mitte quem missurus es).

“So, be faithful to grace; and who knows? [Maybe you could be the one]. Maybe the Lord will deign to make use of you”. I then communicated a secret fear that was very close to my heart. I was afraid that, when it came to it, our Society would just not be capable of measuring up to the demands of the new situation. (p 346)

[There were a lot of shortcomings]:

“Lack of unity and cohesion. Lack of nerve, to appoint reluctant missionaries into the new kinds of [educational] enterprises that will be required, so different from the average missionary’s favourite work: pastoral ministry (which normally ought to be the role of the native clergy). Our lack of good relations with the English government now dominating India; and yet we will necessarily have to work with them [for education etc.]. The indispensable necessity that will arise [for better influence with the Holy See]; for we will have to demonstrate to them it is possible to put their decrees and recommendations [about native clergy] into actual practice; and it will be absolutely essential to have their active support in this Cause which, anyway, is nothing other than the implementation of their own stated policy … All these higher-up problems can be vaguely foreseen even now. In the future, some positive action will have to be attempted about them. What that action ought to be is not at all clear in my mind. But it is at Rome, Paris, and London that the salvation of the Indians will one day have to be fought for”.73

Fr Luquet replied with a letter which is probably one of the most remarkable things he ever wrote, expressing the whole sweep of his far-reaching ideas and all the burning apostolic charity that was in him. And when you think that a man like that has been pushed aside and dumped by the very people who ought to have been supporting and defending him! They too are trying to do good; but they are blinded by power, or rendered forgetful or insensitive by office. Other opponents were just people with more luck than brains. Others again were touchy and were offended, and so behaved unjustly or stupidly against him. When you think of the outcome, all you can do, really, is put your two hands over your eyes, uncomprehending, before the impenetrable plans of Providence for men and for nations.

You may say that Mgr Luquet made mistakes, that there were a lot of things that were impractical in his thinking and a lot of others that were badly timed. I grant all that. But, I can assure you; these mistakes were not voluntarily or stubbornly held. All (p 347) that a superior authority had to do was point them out, and Luquet would be the first man to drop them. And where is there a man who acts [instead of safely doing nothing] and doesn’t make mistakes now and again? All right, it was impossible to put all his ideas into practice all at once, all the things that his great heart wanted to attempt. Is that a good reason for condemning him to doing nothing for the rest of his life? And indeed, did he himself want it all to be done at one and the same time?

Men like Mgr Luquet could do with a higher authority [to protect and control their brilliant initiative]. To give them freedom of action within clearly defined limits. To oblige them to declare and explain their whole thinking for approval before making it all public. But to tie the hands of such men, condemning them to vegetate, is stupid. It means depriving oneself of powerful insights, and exposing oneself to huge mistakes of policy. And who can fail to see how fragile is the most powerful intellect – and how strong and potentially subversive is any power that is repressed and compressed! My dear confrere’s profound holiness will, I hope, keep him safe from any deviation. All they’ll have done is to render him useless. And he will probably gain a lot more for himself, in a life of interior mortification and humility. But the Foreign Missions Society, and the missions in general, have lost a great deal in the transaction – as much as an army has lost when falls the great captain who was to lead them all to victory.

He Shares Luquet’s Vision:

An International Missionary Society

I am sorry I cannot include the whole of Fr Luquet’s long letter here. It is too intimate. I quote only the following:

“Myself too, my dear friend, I often repeat that same prayer to our divine Master: “Send the one you are to send”. My heart has always been praying it, but especially since it came up again recently, in an Advent Mass. I can also assure you, however, that I do not cast myself in that role. It is not to that high mission that I aspire. Not because of humility. No. Just because there is not the remotest chance (p 348) of it. Because that’s the way things are. Let Our Lord only grant me the grace of living to see that man with these eyes, of spending the last years of my life in the lowliest of jobs near that angel of peace and salvation “who is to come”, and I will die contented. Let me only live to see his day, and I will cheerfully go away afterwards, to rest with God…

“But I must also tell you … I am more strongly and unavoidably committed than ever, more determined to work with all my might to at least prepare the way for “the one who is to come”. For that purpose, I always try to be ready to deny myself and give up my own plans, even the seemingly best and most useful of them, ready to give way to every creature – but without for a single moment losing sight of my ultimate objective. It is only by crucifying one’s own self-will, by moderating the impatience for one’s own chosen enterprise, that one can make any headway. Although I often fail to keep to that kind of slow and irresistible advance, I can see clearer and clearer every day that it is the only way forward.

“In order to let you see where I am at, as regards our Work, I still have to tell you one more thing: how the Idea grew in me, up to now, and how hopeful the Future now appears to me, not just for one Mission but for the whole world. Almost as soon as I had entered the Foreign Missions at Paris, I began to notice how small and restricted was their vision of the Society’s work, how utterly opposed to the wide, creative thinking of our first and greatest Vicar Apostolic. The thought and concern of this great man (truly “superior”) did not take in just one Mission, nor just several big Missions, but the whole world in a certain sense. I saw him shaking up Rome and Paris to defend his missions against the powerful opposition of Portugal, and against another even more powerful foe. He opened the eyes of Rome to the dismal condition of the Catholic religion in Asia (which he had travelled far and wide). He showed them what kind of future Russia was facing. He met the great Minister of Louis XIV, Colbert, and gave him sound ideas for setting up a French East India Company, so as to make it later into a powerful instrument for the Gospel preaching. The man was everywhere, watching every important development in the world of his time, so to put it.”

[A Founder is one who points the future way]. When God raises up a man to found a new Work that is really useful to the Church, He usually makes that man become a sort of complete summary of the way that Work should develop in the future. If (p 349) our Society had steadfastly developed along those lines, it should, by its nature, have tried to maintain an influence on all the levers of power in this world. It should have become the active and mobile diplomatic corps of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda. But, to achieve that, our Society needed an effective unifying link between its scattered members, to direct them all in the same mind and spirit. That link was missing; or it was too vague and indeterminate to be of any use. Just find that link, even today, and the Society of Foreign Missions – which has some powerful elements in it, but all well scattered – will do wonders.

[Luquet]: “Apart from that, in the Founders’ successors, past and present – i.e. in those directing the Society – I could see a general outlook so out of tune with the Founding Idea that it was inexplicable. I couldn’t get over it. [I saw that we had become too parochial, too exclusively French]. A single admissions House for young missionaries, in Paris, was not enough. We must open wide our arms, make ourselves known in nations other than France – go to them, set up there, have a presence there – in order to call them in, to come and take part in the glorious struggles that the Lord is opening up before us”.

[Marion Brésillac]: It seems to me that it was our Society’s failure, almost from the beginning, to agree among themselves to maintain the true traditions of our Founders that led them into that [small-minded] mistake. They mistook a historical accident for a fundamental principle. So they soon introduced a regulation that only Frenchmen could be members of the Society. No doubt, that was the de facto situation at the beginning, since they were depending on the support of the French government. But, later on, all the nations of Christendom ought to have been invited to take part in this truly apostolic work. For our formula seems to have been incomparably better than anything the other Societies could offer, for the missions. There would have been no need, when going international, to renounce any real or moral support from any government. On the contrary: We could have worked it in such a way that the missionaries of each nation could enjoy the protection of their own government. And we could still maintain a spiritual unity between the various national houses, thus preserving our founding principles. (p 350)

[Luquet]: “However, I had no special mission or job to reform or regulate the Society in any way. So I soon stopped that line of thinking as if it were a temptation. When I stopped, I had got only as far as Savoy and Belgium. Oh, I forget! I had also been very much struck by something else: how the Bishop of Heliopolis had cleverly picked out the most important centres in Asia, and the places with the speediest communications, to establish his missionaries in them, whenever possible. In doing this he had an over-all strategy in mind … By the time I was leaving France, I was of the opinion that this strategic plan should perhaps – even probably – be resurrected one day … I went further in my speculations. I began to think of Rome [as our head-quarters]. Paris is no longer central enough. Since arriving here, my thinking has got much wider, especially these last weeks. That thinking, my dear friend, is what I want to set out before you now … This is how I see the situation since beginning to reflect on the condition of these poor peoples:

“Ignorance, I think, is one of the principal causes keeping the pagans stuck in their darkness. On the other hand, knowledge as dispensed by anti-religious hands is an equally fearsome disaster. Given these two facts, I asked myself what the Lord is asking of us in this present situation, at this moment in history when Europe is invading Asia more and more, subjugating her peoples and propagating European knowledge and doctrines everywhere. Is it not our duty to pre-empt the moves of Satan and his powers of darkness? Then we, the servants of the God of all light, should stand out in the midst of these peoples like flaming torches, showing them simultaneously the way to human knowledge and the way to Divine Truth which is so much more important!

I am not like those [churchmen] who are obsessed with the evil caused by false lights, and are intent only on quenching them – and putting nothing in their place! Since we have the truth, we should not be afraid of the light. On the contrary, we should spread light everywhere, but spread it in God’s way – wisely, powerfully and completely, “suaviter et fortiter” – as we should do every work of our apostolic life.

“Oh, my dear friend, how their hunger touches me, those orphan children! India calls them Brahmins or [gurus]74 China Mandarins or bonzes; proud Europe calls them philosophers or artists, poets or (p 351) historians! They ask in vain for bread to feed their hunger, because they have not recognized the Hand that freely distributes it to all men. They reject that generous Hand which daily showers its lavish gifts upon us all. And yet there actually exists a Class of men who could effectively succour that vast hunger of theirs. These men are ourselves, missionaries, the apostles of the nations. United and working together for a common agreed objective, we could do it, give the peoples of the world that timely food, made doubly necessary now, by the swift march of time.

Luquet’s Christian UNESCO

“Here, roughly, is my idea. (Later we will try to see what it would take to accomplish it). It would need an ecclesiastical Congregation – old or new, religious or secular, I don’t know yet. This Congregation, made up of men who are holy (that’s the most important) and learned, would consider itself an instrument of God for the founding of educational Centers among the pagans – Centers of science and of holiness, schools that are superior to anything existing in these parts today …

“In these Centers, the immediate aim would be to give the youth of all the nations that divine Fire of Knowledge and virtue, light and love, the Fire that Our Saviour came to bring into the world … Then, there would be deep and inter-related studies of the beliefs, traditions, languages and customs of all peoples. Their knowledge would be translated into European languages – all their ancient books of science, philosophy and especially history – those remaining gleams of a lost light that would show our grateful Faith the actual traces of human unity fragmented long ago by idol-worship …

Then, in our European capitals of learning, Centers of foreign studies would be set up, with the help of the most distinguished foreigners. These Centers would be no less valuable for Europe than the other Centers are for the rest of the world. In them, indeed, a great synthesis would be constructed out of the distinctive contributions from the various international specialists. With the help of native informants, every language written or spoken in the entire world could be studied.

“Rome would be the head of this world-wide organisation. The arms and legs would Paris, London, Berlin, St.Petersburg, and Constantinople – as well as at Jerusalem, Ispahan, Calcutta, Peking, (p 352) and the flourishing cities of the New World and ignorant Au-stralia and the distant Islands … Then would the glory of God shine out among the nations, to enlighten or put down the atheists and the pagans! If that’s the objective “to be fought for at Rome or Paris or London” as you wrote, then do just one thing. Work a miracle. Sanctify me. And I’m your man! Here or there, one place or the other, I don’t mind. “The spirit blows where it wills”.

Not that I want to take a single step outside of my present vocation. It’s just that, for some time now, I have been struck by the coincidences that seem to be aligning themselves for some great work like the one I have just described. Just look at what has been happening, to my knowledge, in these last few years. Let’s start at the bottom.

“Just at the time when my “Lettres a Mgr de Langres” was giving a bit of publicity to the idea of a native clergy, wasn’t a Director at Nantes Seminary preparing a work in the very same direction! He was especially encouraged to undertake it by the saintly Bishop Flaget of America.75 At the same time, you yourself were setting out for India, with the conviction that working for that Objective was the only way to really advance and found any Church. And you were to meet Fr Leroux there, a man placed there by Providence to prepare the way for others, and to absorb the blows of the first and most violent opposition to the Idea. Meanwhile, at the Paris Seminary, the same idea was making new progress from day to day, both among the Directors and among the young missionaries.

“From another side, Providence introduced us to some priests outside our particular line, and let us know that they too had an extremely positive attitude to our ideas … Then again, the Rev Father Abbot of the Solesmes Benedictines,76 now stationed: at Paris, placed the writers and the prayers of his Community at our disposal for that same Work. Thus also did the founder of a new religious Order, highly esteemed in Italy, the celebrated Rosmini.77 He wrote to us a few months ago, to express his support for the work of a native clergy, and his strong desire to get his congregation involved (p 353) effectively in it. ..

“I must not forget Fr Eugene Bore,78 one of the most distinguished, pious and learned among all the Catholic Youth of France. We met him at the Paris Foreign Missions. He has ideas for setting up schools of all levels among the pagans, and for learned Societies at the very scene of great historical events, and at the cross-roads of all civilisations. These ideas have a lot in common with the over-all Idea that I have just told you about. But (note this) it is only now that I can see the resemblances, after Our Lord has been encouraging that kind of thinking in me. For when I met Fr Bore in Paris, I wasn’t at all near where I am at now.

“It is this array of “coincidences”, I repeat, that I find striking – and, in spite of myself, reassuring. For, quite often, I want to reject the whole lot as a delusion or a temptation … Found a new Society, or make use of the old ones? I find a new Society extremely repugnant. But do the old Societies – including our own – offer any realistic chance of implementing the Idea?

Luquet on the Immediate Future

"Whatever about all that, to get down to practicality - while awaiting the manifestation of God's Will - could we not strongly urges our Paris Fathers to start working, as from now, towards that objective? For example, to start admitting good and well- educated priests, to be future teachers in the schools for pagans? .. Anyway, that very idea is going to be put unceasingly before the eyes of those Paris gentlemen. Here's how:

“Fr Féret, a very distinguished Sulpician, was a professor at Nantes Seminary when Fr Leroux was doing his theology. When Fr Leroux was leaving for the missions, he strongly urged him to do something for native clergy there. Recently, Fr Féret wrote him a long letter on the subject. Fr Leroux wrote a reply which is very interesting: he talked of forming a new Society, to concentrate on the education of the youth in pagan countries. He showed me the letter before sending it. I felt that this particular passage could be prejudicial (p 354) to our Society; this was not the time to attempt such a new en-terprise. I urged him to modify his thinking and to speak, rather, of a special Noviciate, like the one I mentioned just now, for the Foreign Missions. Fr Leroux took my advice. Then he showed the Bishop Fr Feret’s letter and his own reply. Fr Féret’s “new Society” rattled the Bishop, but he liked Fr Leroux’s reply. He urged Fr Leroux to send it via Paris, and let our Fathers there see it.

“To tell you the truth, I can see no chance of success in that proposal to start up a very serious new enterprise. But I’m very glad to have them get used to the idea in advance. It will be less strange to them if, afterwards, we ever have to do it.

“No need to tell you how completely and enthusiastically I support what you had to say about our great Idea (native clergy). One thing, however: On this subject, allow me to make one remark. You are probably aware of it already, yourself. It is this: You have to learn to tone down your language at times, while still keeping the reality. Words shock people; realities can often be swallowed without annoying anybody, if the formulation is sufficiently sweetened.

“Your wish about Pondicherry College may be coming true, I think, a lot sooner than you might have thought. There are many other possibilities to be looked into, for that very promising establishment. For example, should the “left hand” castes be admitted, as of now? (There are two big levels of castes: “right hand” and “left hand”). They are asking to be admitted as day students. Myself, I think it is essential. Should pagans also be admitted, under certain conditions? Probably equally useful. ..

“Like you I believe there should be several seminaries in the Vicariate. But a seminary is not [legally?] possible without a Bishop at the place. But I believe I told you that Rome is thinking of increasing the number of bishops in India.

About Korea: just say, “Lord, I am not worthy”.

[Marion Brésillac]: That some of those ideas of Fr Luquet were over-imaginative, I whole-heartedly agree. Nevertheless several of them were later actualised, even within the narrow circle of Pondicherry Vicariate. The College was extended. A separate Seminary was started; and it has produced excellent priests. The French Colony put the “European College” under our management. The printing press was developed … From all these moves, great good has resulted. All this was feasible in Pondicherry; so why not in Madras, Madurai and other places? (To confine ourselves to India and only to this part of it). And what about the (p 355) other countries where our Society is working, where they have no caste problem to hold them back? No such visible progress in them, in the last ten years. I have no hesitation in saying that most of the improvements made in India are due to the push given by Luquet. And they would have happened in all our Society if, by our miserable squabbling, we had not broken that instrument of renewal and progress. And the same progress would have affected the world-wide missions, if only God had enabled us all to appreciate His servant!

Enter Trouble: Charbonnaux

But, along with all the gleams of hope [in 1843] a small dark cloud was rising in the sky, which was soon to become remarkably disastrous for our activities: A certain missionary [Fr Charbonnaux] was named Co-adjutor to Bishop Bonnand. An excellent man in many ways, but not at all sharing the Bishop’s positive attitude to Native Clergy. True, he has shifted a bit since his consecration. But he must still retain some of the prejudices that he used to show before. He has been Vicar Apostolic now for ten years, and I don’t think he has ordained a single priest born in his Vicariate. I am sure, however, that he has no absolute policy against such an ordination. And, for that reason, I would leave out the following quotation about him. But I still think it relevant, as showing what we were up against in 1844; for he was not the only One to think like that. The quotation is from a letter I received from Fr Roger about that time:

“Have you heard what Fr [Charbonnaux] thinks about the formation of a native clergy? It is written in a letter to Fr X: “Never will I impose hands on a black man”, says he! O tempora, O mores! Ubinam gentium vivimus?79 When I think that a man with ideas like that is going to share in the episcopate, I get profoundly depressed.

(p 356) “The Indians”, says he, “are incapable of genuine virtues”. And again: “The Indian is nothing but a cheat. Totus in malitia positus est.,,80

[Roger]: “Even if these drastic condemnations could be realistically made about the population in general, shall it be said that even God cannot pick out a few here and there who haven’t bent the knee to Baal! But anyway, isn’t it against the Nature of Things to say that, in all India, there isn’t a single man worthy of the priesthood – or rather a great number of them! I believe there are plenty, myself. And plenty of other missionaries think the same. Let us even hope that “the tough little Breton” will have acquired a better outlook before he even gets to Pondicherry. Anyway, here I am at Vellore, to meet him. I’m going to make him see some things with his own two eyes. He’s going to see something he has probably never seen before: Indian clerical students. He’ll see them; he can study them. He will have to recognize their simplicity, gentleness, modesty – all the clerical virtues. And yes, I have some hope that he will change his attitude for the better.81

The Cold. Christmas Joy and Unworthy Upset.

The wet season was wetter than usual. A big lake (or swamp) near my dwelling [at Coviloor] was now full up and even overflowing, which does not happen every year. This nearness to a big expanse of water increased the coolness of the evenings, and especially the mornings, because of the thick dew covering the ground. I began to realise that when the Indians say “I’m cold” they’re not saying a word of a lie. I’d have liked a fire sometimes, myself, at times when the thermometer was only saying 13° Reamur. And I saw my disciples shivering as if it was minus 13°!

After a particularly severe rain-storm, one of my poorest women parishioners came to see me. She just mentioned, without much surprise, that the bad weather had just flattened her house. She asked for some help in putting it up again. I sent for the village (p 357) head-man, to find out what would be necessary for this good work. :‘Father”, he replied, “it will take a whole rupee”. And he gave his estimate: a quarter of a rupee for the straw a half for the timber, a quarter for workmanship. The Christians’ would do the rest, for free: pound the earth and put up the walls. Obviously, it wouldn’t be the palace of the Louvre. And lots of dwellings are even cheaper than that. Some cost no more than a swallow’s nest· made of mud like the nest, but not so well made. So, whenever it rains a bit more than normal, dozens of them start crumbling down.

Then came Christmas. The feasts were celebrated amidst a great gathering of people, and with all the pomp and style that could be got together in this fairly wild place. Midnight Mass, wherever you are, is always something special, touching and devotional. Here the overture was noisy: the solemn installation of the Baby Jesus in his leafy cradle. About 11.30 p.m. the people came to meet me at the mission house, with the noise of music and the lights of numerous torches. From there we went in tumultuous procession to the church and all around it. But the tumult was very far from being disrespectful; it was the simple and naive expression of the universal joy among the people, eager to salute the Child who was born to us. His little statue was solemnly placed on a canopied Float, while rockets went up all around, and crackers and streamers of fire lined His route. Torches and Bengal flares lit up the way for the procession.

At the Midnight Mass the church was crammed. A 5 a.m. they were all there again, for the Mass at Dawn. Then, many of the people from nearby villages now went home, to let those who had been minding the house come to the 10 o’clock Christmas Day Mass. At this Mass the church was far too small to hold them all.

“And yet (I confided to my diary) my soul was troubled in the midst of all that joy. The evening before, I had met with a severe humiliation and a strong rejection. When, O Lord, will I have enough virtue in me to be able to take a humiliation without getting all upset? Ah, Lord! If humiliations are required in order to teach me humility, send me some more. Don’’t spare me (p 358)

The prayer was probably answered – at least one part of it. For, since then, there’s been no scarcity at all of humiliations. But each one was followed by prolonged upset. So the other part – the humility – is still to come!

Thoughts and Prayers for the New Year – and the Synod

The year 1843 was drawing to a close – the first whole year I had spent in India. I lined up my thoughts and, on the last day of January 1844, I wrote in my diary:

“The years are flowing by, O my God, hurrying after each other at great speed. They pass, and we with them, to go to you. Ah! How happy will be that last New Year, the one of our reunion with your eternal Being. Will it be this year, or next: or must several more years be piled on top of the 30 I already owe to your mercy? You alone know, O my God; and I accept the decrees of your eternal, lovable Providence, whatever they may be. Only, If You are leaving me a long time more on this earth, Lord, please grant me, I beg You, to do something for your glory, to live only for love of You and for the advancement of the missions, the work that You gave me the grace to engage in.

“When I was leaving Paris for India, two things above all claimed my attention. Following the vague ideas I had then acquired about the missions, I felt that a push ahead could be made on two fronts: the conversion of pagans and the work for a local clergy. But I did not see things half as clearly then. What was then only a vague idea has today become almost an absolute conviction. But what huge difficulties there are, then undreamt of! Especially those difficulties coming from disuni.ty, and from the paralysing diversity of views among the apostohc workers. They are all seeking the good, the conversion of the country. Yes, but what disagreement about the right means, what debilitating disunity!

“As for me, I believe, more clearly than at Paris, that [now there is only one priority]. No lasting, worthwhile or general (p 359) movement will ever happen until there is a numerous local clergy. I am so sure of this that I think I would have no hesitation in more or less neglecting all the other mission activities for some years in order to concentrate on the Clergy; for with it, everything else would become possible afterwards. And I am not the only one to think like this. The past year has not gone by uselessly. The work of God (for that is what I like to call the local clergy) is on the move; and I hope it will not stop. Fr Luquet has declared for it; and his virtues and abilities will draw others to the flag. Fr Roger still thinks the same as us; and the Lord has endowed him with a powerful grace of zeal which will not remain without its fruit. Fr Leroux has shown great courage and steadfastness; his devotion to the Cause has worn down powerful obstacles. He has given factual proof that great things can be done for the education of young Indians, if only we take the right means to attract them. The seminary has progressed a bit; and if it gets the right support, it can become a powerful instrument in achieving our objectives. I hear that several other confreres share these views. I don’t know them personally; but very soon, this very month, we will all be meeting. Let’s hope that, coming to know each other better, we will give a better chance to apostolic Charity to weld us all together, and to unite all our efforts for the common Aim.

“May God bless this Meeting. May He give the new missionaries prudence, and give the old ones an open mind, the wisdom not to despise anything good and true that He himself will inspire in the young ones. For, let’s face it, ‘tis the old-timers I am worried about. They have heard it said so often by their predecessors “a local clergy is impossible” that they have all learnt the same tune, and finally they believe it, without ever trying it out.

However, Bishop Bonnand is a fair-minded man. By himself he will take no initiative; but he knows how to listen; and he is big enough to change his policy once he sees that it has been based on preconceived ideas, and not on the truth. But he is still suspicious of this “new talk” so different from what he has been accustomed to hear. Certainly, he’d be right to suspect us if what we are putting forward was really an innovation. But I hope he will get round to seeing that our aim is the oldest Aim in our Society, that (p 360) our ideas are the creative founding ideas of our company, its very reason for existing – and that consequently they should be the ongoing inspiration of its daily life, the normal pre-condition for any good that we hope to achieve in the Church of God. Let us pray the Lord to bless this Meeting, and good will come out of it.

“I admit I was worried about the Meeting at first; I felt that peoples’ minds were not prepared for it. About a year back, there seemed to be a kind of psychological irritability rampant among the missionaries of this Vicariate, caused by its condition of flabby inaction – weary, enervated, fed-up. Bishop Bonnand was not unaware of the malaise. He did everything he could to keep the missionaries happy; but they wanted a meeting to be called, so that they could pool their ideas and see if there wasn’t some way forward out of this depression. His Lordship certainly was not against bringing’ his co-workers together and being helped by their advice; but he was afraid of the harm which certain disgruntled elements might cause. I must say I shared those fears. Meetings of this kind, when there is no long [democratic] tradition to keep them within reasonable bounds, can do more harm than good. Let us hope that the Synodal organisation, as well as the blessing of the Lord, will ensure that this one produces only good. Anyway, it seems that attitudes have got much calmer, and that the greatest possible number of confreres intend to take part.

“As for me, all I can do there is listening, and try to learn from my confreres’ speeches and examples. Being almost the youngest, my voice (even if it was the absolute mouth-piece of wisdom and truth) is not going to have much influence. If there is a favourable opportunity I will just try to slip in my two ideas: education of the youth, and local clergy. Later on, if the Lord deigns to appoint me to some practical work for these, I beg Him to give me sound judgment, and never to let me fight for anything but what is right and true. My present job seems to be about as far away as possible from being able to work for my principal Objective. But it is good for me to have got to know the real India at first hand. So, under that heading, the past year has probably not been a complete loss.

“Anyway, the Lord has allowed me [to do something directly for the Cause]. I have had a young seminarian with me, and I have (p 361) tried to sustain him in his vocation. I have great hopes for him. He is not without his faults; but none of these is in the heart or the will. They are just the results of the education he was given. How could he be expected to know what he was never taught – maybe sometimes even forbidden to learn! How could he be good at Latin, when all he got was a few odd classes a week? But his personal virtues are an indication of what can be hoped for in other young men like him. They are a native, spontaneous product of his [culture]82 and they show that ‘tis good, fertile soil. With more careful cultivation, the fruit might be even better, more perfect. For the rest, he is still young enough to be able to acquire the priestly virtues to a high degree. Also, this year, I have managed to take on two other disciples. Not without a lot of trouble which has shown me how difficult it is to get the right material when we are restricted to the higher castes only. If I could take candidates from all castes, I could have accepted more than ten youngsters, each more promising than those two.

“All this past year, my work has been just pastoral ministry to long-converted Christians (or rather, it was their parents or grand-parents that were converted, more than a century ago). And it’s the same in other Districts, I know. This work certainly is not without its consolations; but it is not enough for the heart of a missionary. Moreover, many factors are coming together to undermine those old communities. Unless some salutary movement can be started fairly soon, they will deteriorate so much that in the end, there won’t be any Malabari [caste] Christians left in India.. The endless caste sub-divisions, the lack of proportion [equality, sufficiently wide choice?] in marriage, the dispersal of the poorer Christians, the inroads of Protestantism – all these and several other reasons are tending to erode our pure-blooded communities, dragging us down towards a future where there will be nothing in India but a few European Christians and the despised (p 362) dregs of mixed-up peoples. Let us hope that something will come out of the Synod discussions – some new insight into the right policy for these times – both to keep what we have and to extend the reign of Jesus Christ among the pagans. O Mary, obtain the blessing of Heaven on this Meeting, so that we may be enlightened and guided by the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding. Amen”.

Let Down by a Disciple. But not discouraged.

A few days later, as I was getting things ready for my departure to Pondicherry, one of my new disciples suddenly told me he was leaving, and not very respectfully at that. It was only fair that I should have some taste of the kind of things that discourage several confreres here. First of all, they say, it’s difficult to get disciples. Then, most of them are going to let you down once they are a bit older; and so it all begins to seem a total waste of time and effort. This kind of disappointment, joined to all the other problems, makes the formation of a clergy “impossible”. But that’s a big, illogical jump: from a problem, or even a whole series of difficulties, to an impossibility! I know it’s difficult to get the parents’ consent for their children to go with us; it’s difficult to protect the children from the offers of marriage made to them as soon as they’re 14; it’s difficult to teach them clerical virtues … I grant all that.

But to say that it is “impossible” to train some young men, by the grace of God, up to a sufficient level of education, and even up to a great perfection – my common-sense immediately refused to accept that! The catholic nature of the Catholic Church made me refuse to accept it. And since then, numerous examples have proved to me that, in fact, the “impossibility” is definitely and obviously not true. At that time I had Marie-Xavery with me, a model of what a clerical student should be. It would have been good to give him Tonsure before then, to give him some support against his parents’ marriage proposals. Not that he succumbed; but human weakness has to be recognised, and helped. The disciple situation merely showed me that we need to have a big (p 363) number of students to choose from, instead of pretending that the few odd ones we happen to meet ourselves are the only vocations around.

“This [sudden departure of the disciple] is one of those things that must have repeatedly disappointed and finally disheartened many missionaries here. Don’t let it be so with me, O my God! Even if I have taken the trouble to collect, care for, and train a hundred boys, and only two live up to my expectations, I would still think it was well worth the trouble and the sacrifices. But if we are ever going to have big numbers of boys to choose from, we must not be restricted to a few small castes. When will the day come when we can take anybody you may have called to serve your altars, O my God, regardless of his caste or his birth? In the whole District I am now working in – a hundred miles each way, with more than 6000 Christians in it – I have been able to get only two boys this year. One has just left me. The other seems more promising; but he’s only 12 or 13 and gives only slight and uncertain signs of a vocation. If I could recruit among all my Christians – or even leave out only the pariahs – I could easily have taken ten or twelve students; and surely not all of them would turn out unfaithful to grace”.

I include these 1844 reflections here because I believe they are still true. However, it must be added that, if we are to have low-caste priests as well, we will first have to fix things with the Holy See, and obtain permission for a very different policy towards Caste than what we have today.

Journey to Pondicherry.

Locked Mosque. Bandits’ Desert. Christmas Stable.

On the 8th January 1844 I left for Pondicherry. As I assumed I would be returning immediately after the Synod, I left all my things behind, just bringing the absolute minimum for the journey. I had two disciples with me, the cook, the horse-minder, and two (p 364) coolies. But as people rarely travel straight over the mountains, none of them knew the way very well; and this was to make the journey very troublesome. True, we were going “as the crow flies”, taking only six days, instead of the ten that would be required – at our speed – if we went the normal way, by Salem or Vellore.

The first day was most wearing. At nightfall, we were entering a pagan and Muslim village. We could hardly go on any further, and yet we could see no sign of a savady, nor do any shelter whatever to spend the night in. Like our good Master, I could indeed say: “The fox’s haves holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. If only I could love Poverty as well as so many of the Saints did, inspired by these words!. Outside the village, however, there was a little mosque which was apparently arranged for accomodating travellers. But it was closed.

I sent for the village head-man, saying I was a European (which nowadays equals “Englishman”, especially in remote places like this village, outside the normal range of foreigners). At the mere sound of “English” every local authority trembles and obeys – provided one requires nothing that is against the customs of the country; and the English are very careful not to require that. The “maniacaren” arrives and is very eager to do all he can. But he is not in charge of this building. He sends for the man with the key. Along comes a grave-looking Muslim with a fine long white beard. He does a big “salaam” but declares it is impossible to let me into this sacred place, just recently purified in preparation for an approaching feast. If the “doure” (prince, lord, as the English have themselves called by everybody) were to enter (he tells my people) all the purifications laid down by Law would have to be done all over again. “And I have neither the time nor the means”, he added. (These purifications according to the Law of the Prophet would probably have to be supplemented by the further superstitions of Shiva and Vishnu as well; for the Muslims in India have amalgamated many pagan customs with the Koran).

So the only thing left for us to do was to sleep out of doors, in the cold and damp and the heavy dew – which would endanger my(p 365) health and my people’s – or else do another ten miles at least, hop-ing to reach an uncertain savady, whose exact position we did not know. We decided to move on. Only, I still let the villagers go on thinking I was an Englishman, refraining from saying a word of Tamil but always speaking through my disciple as interpreter. I demanded two men from the maniacaren, to escort me, and torches also; for almost every village has a few in readiness, for unforeseen public needs. All these demands were immediately granted, and we got on the trail again, an hour after sunset, with no other inconvenience but extreme fatigue; but this in turn forced us to delay our next morning’s departure.

So, the next day, we were unable to cover much distance. We only made 10 najigai (about 4 miles). Theoretically, we could have done an afternoon trek as well; but it would have meant crossing a wilderness which was notoriously dangerous, infested with bandits; they had just committed another murder there, only a few days before. At the last savady before the desert, we found a company of “peons”, detailed off to accompany travellers through this desert and through the mountain defiles. They told us the situation; and we decided to await their next convoy, in the morning at dawn.

At cock-crow we arose and joined the other travellers, and set out, escorted by the armed peons. They didn’t fail to point out the exact spot where two men died recently, victims of their illjudged resistance to the bandits. After that, when we had reached the plain, they left us, after receiving our tip. Now we were safe again. After a snack and a midday rest, we were feeling strong and courageous. We pushed on regardless, not worrying too much where we were going to sleep that night. Alas! We went too far, and not far enough.

We could have spent the night under a temple’s pandal near a village, a safe and not too uncomfortable refuge. We passed it by. Then, at night-fall, we were coming to a big village where we could see no savady. We were told that, 3 najigai farther on, we would find a very roomy one. (And it was true). But I had so often been misled by their “mileages” that I thought it would not be sensible to start off into the night again, into unknown country, and (p 366) probably end up having to go ten najigai instead of three.

So I decided to spend the night at this village. We camped near a magnificent reservoir, under gigantic trees. These served as a shelter for several iron-workers, busily hammering their metal on huge stones which served as anvils. The cook set up his fire under a big tree, and the rice began to bubble. After a while, my disciple came back from the village, followed by several Brahmins. I had sent him to spy out the place and see if we could get somewhere to spend the night. All he could find was heartless men, and houses full of pagan filth but also full of pride in their legal purity.

However, the Brahmins had come to check us out, to see if it was true that I wasn’t a pariah. They decided that I was visibly and obviously a European; so I could not be allowed into their village. Apparently it was very noble; many Brahmins lived there. My disciple and my people – apart from the horse-minder – could enter, and sleep under the outside verandah of some Malabari house. But I myself was far too suspect. They seemed sorry to have to be so severe, especially as Marie-Xavery deployed all his eloquence to prove that I was not like unto other Europeans: I had no pariah house servants; I never ate beef, etc…

Finally, the leader agreed to let me use a little cow stable, a mere shed of straw sloping from a wall and held up by three or four poles, with a floor of big stones and cow-dung. It would never have occurred to him to remove this latter amenity; for the excreta of the Cow are so pure in the eyes of the Indians that cow-dung is the principal cure [and soap] for all legal defilements! Nobody considers it as dirt; your hands will be perfectly clean holding it. It is left lying there in the cleanest rooms. Indeed, a coating of this precious substance is obligatory, to be applied to the floor of any building, if you want to prepare for a distinguished gathering. In the richest mansion the ladies, still resplendent in their bangles and jewellery (which they never leave off, day or night) will perform this household polishing every morning.

So I could go to the said stable to sleep; but not through the street of the Brahmins. I had to go around by the back alleys. And I have to admit that the basic pride still remaining in my fallen nature (p 367) found this carry-on very insulting. But they had no intention at all to humiliate or wound me. They merely wanted to avoid being degraded themselves, and maybe being expelled from their caste. But obviously, God did not intend to leave my remaining roots of pride to go unpunished!

What was I to do, O good Jesus, on such a night, still within the Christmas season, when the Church is recalling the adorable events of your humble Infancy! What else but to accept with joy this well-timed opportunity to spend the night in a place so very like your stable at Bethlehem, [smells and all]83 For You also were homeless, rejected by the big people; there was no room for You in David’s city. We were celebrating the Magi just then; to that very kind of place they must have come, to adore You. If only I had gone with joy to that stable that night – glad to be associated with the Kings from the East, and to do homage to You while there – You yourself would have come right into my heart, to fill me with love. But, instead, I went there with reluctance and disc gust – even within that Octave of the Epiphany. So it was only right that You should leave me to face it alone. And later on that night, when I tried to re-awaken a better attitude, it was too late. Jesus wasn’t there any more. I had to stay there all night alone.

Beggar-woman’s Temple.

Festival of Cows in the Villages.

At long last the cock crew. And we didn’t wait a second more before moving out of that place. Then, by a most beautiful morning, we arrived at Tirumalai. Here there is a magnificent Temple. The big surrounding wall is a perfect square. There are four great door-ways, surmounted by four beautiful towers. These, they say, were paid for by a poor woman who spent her whole life begging from house to house to raise this monument of piety. And to (p 368) make a name for herself. For how can piety be pure and disin-terested in a pagan heart? Granted, a more or less excusable blindness would have prevented her from noticing that she was working for the devil. But de facto, it was he that was inciting her on. And, as well as getting this misleading stone put up for himself he also had to entwine the soul of his servant by pride or vanity or some other bad passion.

For the rest, the whole countryside seems to have been dedicated to the devil in a special way. The mountain-top here, like almost every height in India, is consecrated by a temple of idols; and other idols dominate every other possible site. There are only a few Christian families here, out on the edge. And all they have, alas, is a pitiable little mud church.

A few of these local Christians came along with us the next day, a long and painful slog through deserts, bushes and rice-paddies. In the evening we came to a big pariah community of Christians. Their church is quite big and, for India, quite beautiful. There is a mission house here too, roomy and comfortable. The church is pariah, but has one part exclusively for Malabaris; so my people were very much at home there. We’d have liked to spend two or three days in the place, if we weren’t in such a hurry to get to Pondicherry, where we hoped to arrive next evening, by pushing things a bit.

We went through several villages, all pagan. There was a Feast going on in all of them: crowds of people at a special ceremony involving rice boiled in milk, and omens to be drawn from it. Then the cattle, especially the Cows, had to be given divine honours. I heard that each individual throws incense on a fire and then prostrates before these venerated quadrupeds. Then the people paint the horns in glorious colours, and put garlands of sugar-cane and special rice-pastries round their necks. Finally the Cows are let free, to roam wherever they like, everybody taking good care not to dare turn them away from planted fields if they should deign to want to eat the crops. I think, however, that I saw people keeping them plentifully supplied with hay or grass all morning, so that they would eat less, and do less damage, when (p 369) they were let loose. At noon the Cows are given their bath and washed with great care, their horns are painted as I have said, and then they are ceremoniously set free, to the sound of fifes and drums and crackers. Crowds of excited children run after them, singing and shouting at the top of their voices, to make the Cows run faster, so that more bits of sugar and pastries will be shaken off their necks or horns and picked up.

Going through the villages in the early morning I saw that the fronts of the houses had been brushed and scrubbed with great care. Moreover, in front of the doors there were various chalk designs and, here and there, a carefully moulded pedestal of cowdung on which a pumpkin-flower reposed gracefully. I learnt that this is a general practice, especially during November and December. It is a terrible disgrace on the women of a house if they have not finished all this decorating before sunrise. I was unable to find out exactly how much superstition there is in all this. Later, I found that, in certain places, it is very difficult to get our Christians to drop this practice, because of the disgrace on the women; they couldn’t even go out without having to endure the jeers and wise-cracks of their neighbours. Very likely there is some bit of devilry behind it all, as in most Indian customs, but joined to some other reason that was more or less good and sensible in the beginning. Thus, some reliable people have told me, the main reason of this custom was to get the women up early in the morning, at a season when the temperature induces laziness.84

Meanwhile we pushed on towards Pondicherry. But the sun went down, and we were still ten miles from it. Happily, at the English customs post there was Catholic employee; he got me a little place to stay in. We slept there. Next day, I arrived in good time, and joyfully embraced my dear confreres. There were nineteen of us there by the evening.

“Everything seems to be going well”, I wrote. “They all seem happy [about the Synod] and certainly they are full of good intentions. (p 370) Grant, Lord, that from this solemn Assembly something good will come out, for Your glory and for the salvation of these peoples. Amen”.

(p 371)

What Might have Been. Luquet’s Contribution

The 1844 Synod could have been a major turning-point for the Missions. By now the “Propagation de la Foi” was providing enough funds to maintain plenty of missionaries. Vocations were not lacking either. The older congregations were doubling, even tripling, the number of men they had in the field. New congregations were starting up. Everywhere, genuine zeal and devotion to duty. But what was lacking to all these dedicated workers was: a sure and farsighted policy which could safeguard them from the disastrous mistakes of the past and keep them on the right road forward, indicated by the ordinances, recommendations and counsels of the Holy See. [In South India] these ordinances etc. had come to be regarded as “impossible” to implement exactly. Their guiding force had long been undermined by countless unfortunate concessions, compromises, dispensations and re-interpretations. What was sorely required, now, was to see at one Mission, big enough to make a real impression, standing courageously and returning frankly and sincerely to all the principles of the apostolic ministry. (p 372)

Well, Pondicherry Vicariate was extensive enough, anyway. The virtues of Bishop Bonnand were known far and wide. His missionaries were numerous, and were animated with the right spirit: devoted to the Holy See and free from all nationalistic prejudices and Gallican errors. For although the city of Pondicherry belonged to France, the Mission was in no way “French”. We were looking after the Indians only. And anyway the French territory of Pondicherry was only a speck in the vast jurisdiction of Bishop Bonnand. We worked mostly in the English possessions, but outside the big centres where English influence was strongest (Madras, Calcutta etc.). Only Bangalore had numerous English inhabitants; and it could possibly influence only one or two missionaries, and not very strongly at that. For they, too, had to know the Indian languages; and they had a lot more to do with Indians than with English people.

Now was there need for a Society that had never accepted wrong principles. And I am still convinced that ours was free from them. Many of our men, indeed, may have neglected the right principles now and then; but the Society has always kept the sacred flame alight. It has never, heretofore, aimed to get along without a native clergy, or planned to have a system of Catechists instead. Furthermore, however apathetic we may have become, at times, about the fundamental work for a Native Clergy, the obligation to work at it has always been clearly maintained in the Rule. And even at Pondicherry – in spite of the unfortunate Jesuit tradition on this point – we had always been making a few Indian priests. At this particular time, we had three. True, the Catechist system was now threatening to jeopardise our Clergy policy, especially since the Jesuits’ return to Madurai. Indeed, it was principally in order to push Bishop Bonnand [in that direction] that most of the missionaries had pressurised him into calling a “meeting“in the first place. If it had been held in 1843, catechists would have been the only item on the agenda. But during the year 1843 a remarkable change in ideas had taken place.

Fr Luquet’s book had been producing a quiet revolution in our thinking. Unfortunately, he had attacked the Jesuit policy in it; and they were reacting. Not only were they defending themselves; (p 373) it looked like they were preparing a counter-attack. They felt they had to, for the common good; because, according to their system, there must be no native priests in countries like India, at least not yet. So there was great need for cohesion among us, for a clear consensus, a well thought-out plan. And that is where we were weak. Then Providence had sent us Fr Luquet and had enabled him to win the confidence of the Bishop. Quietly, Luquet was directing every-thing. And Providence, later, sent him to Rome, to get official backing for the excellent principles laid down at the Synod. So the Synod did bear fruit. It is the principal source of the present development going on in Pondicherry Vicariate. And Mgr Luquet, no doubt, will receive his reward in Heaven for the good work now being done there, without taking anything away from those who are actually carrying it out. Just as a scandal-giving sinner is responsible for the ongoing bad results of his original actions, so a good man who initiates a whole new path to salvation will enjoy the consequences flowing from his good deeds.

Unhappily, God also permitted a great storm to follow, which wrecked many of our hopes; but it did not wipe out everything. It prevented the spread of the good that Luquet achieved; but, at least within the limits of Pondicherry Vicariate, that good continued to grow. And please God, it will spread out later on, and bear fruit, by the sheer force of good example. But, for the moment, let’s get back to the Synod, and the day-by-day notes I then took.

*Delayed Start *

“15 January 1844: The opening date of the Synod had long ago been solemnly announced for the 16th January. By the 15th, twenty of us were present, missionaries and local priests. Six were still expected. Now the Bishop called us all together and proposed that we should delay the opening a few days, to wait for the latecomers – and also in order to have more time to study the questions to be dealt with. Many confreres objected:

1. We already had a quorum.

2. To keep to the official, solemnly-announced date would (p 374) gain more respect for the convening Bishop. And for the Synod itself.

3. It would also avoid a bad precedent for the future”.

These reasons did not prevail. The Bishop did. But when it came to fixing a new date, there was also disagreement. There was even an about-face; those against any delay had a majority. But only now did we begin to plan the Opening Ceremony. The “Pontificale” was read. Its rubrics were not clearly understood. Confusion. Arguments … Communion by the clergy, for example: was it obligatory or optional? This point took a lot of time. And now they began to say again, “We can’t be ready by tomorrow”. More voting. It’s definitely postponed until the 18th. In the meantime, we will be having preparatory meetings.

"Thus ended our first session - or rather, first preparatory rigmarole-- with lots of vagueness and not much order.

“Things have not been properly organised in advance by the authorities”, I wrote. “Nobody has been appointed to study up the methodology of a Synod. This is a deficiency that can lead to undesirable results. Our only strength is the good attitude of the participants. They all seem full of good intentions. Some are even perfect. The good character of all these dear confreres promises unity and concord. And I can hope that the diversity of views among us, which will necessarily have to surface at times, will not be such as to affect the unity of hearts and minds. May God protect us from the dangers that must always be present in any numerous assemblies!

Procedure. “What’s HE doing Here?”. The Jesuits

“16 January: We met this morning to see to the procedure that the Synod will follow. The participants were divided into 3 Groups. Topics will first be discussed in these, and only then presented in Plenary Session. All questions must go through each Group, we decided. And group discussion will not rule out further discussion in the Plenary Session.

“It was agreed that a simple majority will not suffice to settle a matter. Two-thirds of the vote will be required. If a proposal does not win two-thirds the first time round, a commission of nine (p 375) (3 from each Group) will re-study it. The commission will make a new Report, to be discussed and voted in plenary session. If it still fails to get two-thirds, the question will be adjourned indefinitely. However, the Bishop (or indeed any missionary) can request the Synod to come back to it later, but only at the end, when all other questions have been treated.

“Then a rather sensitive and stormy issue came up: Jesuit participation. Their Madurai Mission by now has nothing to do with us. They administer it entirely themselves. And although Bishop Bonnand is nominally the Vicar Apostolic of all South India, he has absolutely no say there. Nevertheless Fr Bertrand SJ, Superior of Madurai, has demanded to be present at the Synod.85 Not only is he uninvited; the Bishop and his Council have definitely disinvited him, twice it seems. But, on the third request, they did not have the nerve to say “No”.

In my opinion, the admission of Rev Fr Bertrand was wrong. A great mistake. [Looking back], it was certainly one cause of many subsequent contradictions and obstacles to the progress of our work. Clearly, the Jesuit policy is too diametrically opposed to the original spirit of our Congregation, for them to be able to stand idly by and see us getting together to activate and maintain our charism [native clergy]. If we were farther away, they might have left us alone. But at Pondicherry, in one of their own former most outstanding Missions (which they apparently were hoping to get back altogether one day)! Right next to Madurai. Why, even there, they might one day be forced to abandon their own system, if we now succeeded in carrying forward the cause of Native Clergy! Out of the question! They had to do something about this. So if Fr Bertrand was so insistent on being present, it was obviously to be assumed that 'twas for one purpose only: to get a firsthand knowledge of our position - our strong and weak places-- so that they might know later on where to line their artillery! The subsequent outcome has only confirmed all our suspicions. Their (p 376) lamentable proceedings towards Bishop Bonnand - whom they first praised to the clouds ... Fr Bertrand's special trip to Europe, and his writings there (for those who can see what lay behind them) ... It all adds up too well. Finally, I don't think I am going too far when I say: to the Jesuits we personally - Mgr Luquet and myself-- owe our being discredited with the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, even though all we did was try and implement the Congregation's own guide-lines. However, I never set out to fight the Jesuits. I knew I would be sure to come out second best. They are too powerful, too able. But, for all that, I wasn't going to change my opinion to suit them, when I believed theirs was wrong.

The Reverend Jesuit’s presence was risky, also, because in the atmosphere then prevailing, there was every chance that someone could let out some imprudent and regrettable remark. And there was no possibility whatever that he might come round to our way of thinking, or deviate one inch from the immutable principles of the Company. All these fears came true, and only too true. The diary goes on:

"A few - very few - openly showed their displeasure at the Rev Father's presence. Many said - and I think with good sense--that it would be quite easy to decently refuse him admission. For even the Prefect Apostolic of Pondicherry and his Council--right here in the same city-- had not been invited. Nor had Bishop Courvesy (of Siam etc.) a member of our own Congregation, who was actually here, visiting, at the very time, along with one of his missionaries ... But at this point Bishop Bonnand informed us that he had already granted Fr Bertrand's request; so there was no point in dragging the matter any further.

“But now the debate took a new turn: Would he have deliberative voice? Could he vote? After lots of palavering it was decided that he would have deliberative voice, but could vote only on things that he was committing himself to get observed in his own Mission.

“Obviously, the Jesuits could not ignore a Meeting that might modify our whole policy in missions so close to them, and so identical in nature. It was vitally important for them, therefore, to know what was going on, and what was being said, at the Meeting.

(p 377) ‘‘Indeed it was only right and fair, from one point of view. And if they were anything other than Jesuits I would have been delighted to have them there. Both sides would stand to gain from free communication of ideas. But in this particular case, such progress was not to be hoped for, least of all on the question that I regard as the pivotal one: Native Clergy. The Jesuits will not budge an inch about that. And they will be able, either to block us, or slow us down. So, for my part, I am very sorry Fr Bertrand is here. But anyway, since God has brought us together here, may He grant us the grace to live in brotherly charity. It exists so far, but we couldn’t be too careful in maintaining it.

“For that purpose, it seems to me, we must avoid all types of arguments. Let them keep to Madurai, acting as they think best, before God. And let us keep doing, here; what we believe will help the Church, without interfering with them. At a safe distance, we can keep the peace; but if we start arguing, one of two things must happen: either we must give way completely to their outlook and policy; or we must soon see the present good relations getting distinctly cool. Even today itself, some fellow made a most unfortunate wise-crack which could be very objectionable to those worthy religious if they had heard it. God grant that this kind of nonsense does not repeat itself! If we have to argue against them, let it be done with all due seriousness, and as briefly as possible: Gravity and respect are the least we owe to a Society so illustrious. The greatest self-restraint is called for, even for the sake of our own convictions!

. “At the end of this session we asked: What degree of obligation will the. Synod decisions have? The conclusion was: they will be mainly directive, not binding under mortal sin. In the evening we met again, to finalise the agenda and the sequence. Digressions proliferated, in a way that does not bode well for due calmness and orderly progress.



(p 378)

Vietnamese Clergy, an Example for Us.

“17 January: Today’s two sessions would all have been pretty useless and boring throughout, only for the Bishop reading out a communique from Bishop Retord [of Tong-king, now III Vietnam]. Otherwise it was just a long series of pointless palavers, ending with a marathon on tomorrow’s opening ceremony. Here is the most important passage from the Tong-king letter, and my reactions to it:

“In spite of the persecution, we are making priests here, and some rather good ones at that. … But what really surprises me is that you have so few native priests, in a country where you have complete freedom of action. Which makes me sort of suspect that, with all our troubles; we have more real consolations than you. For isn’t it consoling that, out of the 19 priests in our West Tong-king who fell into the hands of the torturers, there was only one apostate!

"Here, each Annamite priest is bringing up 15-20 young lads, teaching them to serve Mass, write European characters, some Christian doctrine etc. Among these 15-20 there is usually one who has done his Latin and is giving elementary lessons to those who show aptitude. Every year, the priest presents one or two of his pupils to the Bishop, having thus roughly shaped them for College. From all these recruits the Bishop forms a probation class, lasting 6- 7 months. After that he sends back a few, and definitively accepts the others into the College. After they have finished their 6-7 years of grammar school, they are sent out to help the missionaries. They have to learn by heart a book against local superstinons, and another on the Sacraments and Commandments. Then the Bishop, on the missionary's recommendation, gives them a Catechist's Diporna. Then, after a few years' work, they go back for theology. Finally, at the age of 38, or 40 at most, they are ordained priests. Thus, every one of our native priests has been a Catechist. He has worked closely with a missionary or a local priest for several years. Hence, if he is not very book-learned, he is really expert in practical work, and in the customs, habits and various peculiarities of the country ... "

On hearing this letter, nearly everyone cried wonderful!” This spontaneous reaction encouraged me very much. It shows how far we have come, how far minds have progressed. A few (p 379) years ago, they would probably have just shrugged and said:“This kind of thing may be all very fines for Tong-king, but it wouldn’t do at all here”.

However, I do not fully share the enthusiasm of those who seem mostly to admire the training system, and who think it should be applied verbatim here. Whether, even in Tong-king, it is the best possible system, is open to doubt. Against it is the huge discrepancy with the normal priestly education in the universal Church. Whatever be the special situation of the Church in Tongking, I find it hard to believe that it is necessary – or even useful-to wait until nearly 40 before ordaining a priest. But it is not for me to judge the problems and solutions in that Kingdom, so long groaning under persecution. What the Report really does is to confirm me even more in the certainty that a local clergy can be formed anywhere.

I can see that it would be both difficult and undesirable to form a French-style clergy in India, with French training, customs and attitudes. I can also see that the kind of clergy possible here might not be quite right for Tong-king. And, by the same reasoning, I don’t want us to jump to the conclusion that we ought to slavishly imitate their complicated and peculiar system. All those hurdles, those changes of career, those truncated studies! Wouldn’t proper studies, steadily pursued in an atmosphere of prayer, recollection and solid piety, be a lot better?

I won’t be dogmatic about it, but I’d like to see it tried out. And I cannot help suspecting that, by 25 or 26 years, we would have better and more numerous priests than they have at 38 or 40. The only relevant conclusion, however, from all that letter, is that in Tong-king it is possible to make plenty of good priests. Isn’t it the same everywhere, O my God? Yes, everywhere. To me, that is beginning to be a strictly demonstrable truth. (p 380)

Solemn Opening and Day One

“18 January: Since yesterday evening the bells have been calling the faithful to this day’s impressive Ceremony. At 8.a.m. we all went in procession to the Bishop’s room, to escort him to the Church. He celebrated Pontifical High Mass of the Holy Spirit. The church was full and all the priests, in the sanctuary, received Communion from His Lordship. The prayers from the “Pontificale” were chanted. Recollection was perfect. Everyone seemed deeply aware that, without the help of the Holy Spirit, we can achieve nothing. And that, in the present circumstances, we have great need of special and more abundant graces. The heartfelt piety of my dear confreres radiated modestly on then faces, and this could not but edify the faithful and win the help of the Angels of this church to intercede for us with the One whose glory alone we are all working for. There was no sermon. After the short Latin “allocution” from the Pontificale, the Bishop gave his solemn blessing, and we went in procession back to his house.

A few hours later, we were all assembled in plenary session in the place specially prepared for it. The Bishop addressed us. This is only a resume: He is greatly consoled at the sight of this numerous gathering of his co-workers. No effort has been spared in order to make the attendance as complete as possible; and now he is really touched by the generous response. All have understood that vital matters are coming up, and that no Journey, no obstacle or difficulty, should deter them from being present. Nothing but very important reasons could leave so many large Districts without priests for such a long time – or persuaded himself to agree to it. But it had to be so; and we did not hesitate, faced by that necessity. Let us now make full use of this historic opportunity. It has never occurred before, and it won’.t easily happen again. We are working for the future. We are working for wider horizons than our own Vicariate. Every Vicar Apostolic, every missionary in our Society, has his eyes on us. Those who come after us will look to the Acts of our Synod for guide-lines. They are all closely concerned, and they lift up their hands in prayer for our success, to ask for abundant graces here. Let us redouble our efforts and (p 381) our prayers, to beg these needed graces from the Holy Spirit. Each one should include the Collect of the Holy Spirit in his Mass.

“He then listed the main items on the Synod’s agenda. He pointed out that, in most other Synods, the problems would have already been studied by theologians, and ordinances and decrees pre-formulated; so a few short sessions would then be sufficient, for the clergy to give its assent, or make a few amendments. But here; we were facing completely uncharted questions, peculiar to this country, almost untreated by the theologians, really difficult problems, demanding all our attention and co-operation. Rome would not allow these matters to be dealt with by just a few people. So we must all get down to them, and not spare ourselves. He concluded by telling us he was afraid he would not be able, as he had hoped, to close the Synod on a high note, with the consecration of his new Coadjutor. Fr Charbonnaux had decided he had to write to Rome before accepting. Finally His Lordship announced that certain solemn liturgies would take place during the Synod: for the Propagation of the Faith, for Deceased Mis-sionaries, etc. After the address, the Bishop assigned each of us to his particular working Group. Then he indicated the first items. They all had to do with the education of Indian youth, and with the Seminary.

“This evening, we worked in our respective Groups, after having first briefly assembled in the main hall to hear the principal Articles of the Rule of the House. The Bishop put in a word urging us all to maintain good order and recollection during the whole period of the Synod.

“So ended this first day, which will not, I hope, be without some glory given to God. Amen.”

Day 2: Messy; but Progress on Education

19 January: Yesterday evening and this morning, we worked in the Groups. This evening, Plenary Session. I wish I could state that the discussion was always calm, orderly and clear, (p 382) allowing everyone to follow the reasoning of his confreres and to vote according to his resulting convictions. Unfortunately, we proceeded in the midst of chaos, several talking at the same time, so that the only one to be heard by all was the man with the most powerful lungs and the most overbearing character. No logical connections; just sentences thrown around. The Bishop himself kept on butting in, arguing with whoever he had heard last, through the noise. So there was no real discussion at all. Fortunately, in this particular area, almost everyone was in basic agreement anyway. All three Groups voted for the education of youth, and plenty more of it.

Eventually, Fr Charbonnaux managed to get a bit of silence, and he said some very striking things on the topic. Bishop Bonnand, though making what we thought was “some slight progress” every day, was extremely cautious, dragged forward rather than personally convinced. His future Coadjutor, however, fully shares our views on this matter of education. He is keenly aware of the power for good it would put in our hands. I am sorry he had not a chance to develop his complete thinking about it. All we could do was try to catch his drift from the energetic flashes of light he threw around, and his hurried arguments from weighty authorities who (he implied) made it obligatory on us not to dare neglect this mighty means of enlightening the nations. He went on about the present situation in India, and the Protestant ministers trying to sell their errors wrapped up in education. He concluded by declaring that, now more than ever, we must consider the education of youth to be an essential part of our vocation. This sweeping statement scared the Bishop. All he wanted was to concen-trate our minds on the Seminary-College in Pondicherry, and how far to expand it.

“I doubt if the Bishop would have put the motion to a vote at all if Fr Bertrand SJ had not pointed out to him that this appeared to be the general view, and that he could see no good reason for not voting on it. The effect of this intervention was very immediate, clearly showing the strength of the Rev Father’s influence with His Lordship. (I pray it will always be for a good result!). For up to this point – in spite of Bishop Bonnand’s goodness and his genuine willingness to give everyone freedom of (p 383) speech-- he was unable to hide his irritation at each counter-argument to his attempted refutations. But as soon as Fr Bertrand spoke, he quietened down and immediately put it to a vote. The motion on Education got a huge majority.

“This result gives me great hope. It would have been perfect if it had come from real personal conviction in every case, and not just the movement of an unstoppable bandwagon. Without this kind of personal conviction, must we not fear that, later on, when it comes to the crunch, they will try to dodge the decisions of the Synod? But whatever happens, this first victory will not be entirely lost. It is God that did it, and already it has surpassed our wildest hopes. Who can say what other graces He has in store?

“All three Groups agreed that the Seminary-College should be re-organised on new lines. This really only meant approving what had already been started, during the year. But they also requested that, in due time, there should be a Major Seminary, separate from the Minor, for the clerics studying Theology. This meant: they sincerely wanted a Native Clergy.

“They then got bogged down in minute and boring detail about the curriculum, supervision, spiritual exercises etc. A few good points were made. But all these details will necessarily have to depend on the stage of development the institution is at, and on 1001 unforeseen circumstances of place and time. The session ended very late, and will have to continue tomorrow, because the Groups have not finished their work. But, over-all, I think it was a good day’s work, the Lord be praised!

Victory for the College-Seminary

20 January: Today’s first session dragged on and on, over a swarm of details which I thought were pretty useless. Not everyone seems contented with what is happening. Some are grousing quietly about Rev Fr Bertrand. “He is voting away just like everyone else, without any indication whether, back in Madurai, he is prepared to put into practice what he is voting for (p 384) (or against) here. Or rather, it is quite certain that he is not undertaking anything of the kind. In fact he couldn’t”. It looks like the Bishop has not told him what we decided in the preparatory sessions (about not voting). Many are very annoyed about this. But nothing is said in public.

“Several hours went uselessly by. Then came the question: Should another missionary be appointed to the Seminary? All three Groups concluded in the affirmative. Two went further: As well as two missionaries, there should also be a Malabari priest. One Group went so far as to name him: Fr Lazare.86 The Bishop (and others) strongly objected to naming names. His Lordship pointed out, with much reason on his side, that he was giving them every right to indicate the number and qualification of staff; but the actual choice must be left to the Bishop. Everyone approved. The Group admitted their mistake. They amended it: two missionaries and one Malabari priest. His Lordship was (naturally) very reluctant to accept these figures. How could he afford three priests in the Seminary when there were so many communities without a priest?

“And now began a really serious and dignified debate. And, I am glad to say, it was completely free and orderly. Everyone could express himself without being interrupted or shouted down.

“Fr Charbonnaux, following up on what he had said about education in general, spoke with vigour, and even with some eloquence, on the necessity of setting up an institution that would offer every chance of succeeding in its aims. Hence, two missionaries at least. But also a Malabari priest, for the proper supervision of the students. Impossible for foreigners. They can never know the language sufficiently well to be able to follow the countless expressions, hints and gestures by which youngsters inter-act. Other speakers pointed out that the only way to gain respect for the Seminary-College and win the confidence of the parents is to appoint an impressive staff. And it can be hoped that the Paris (p 385) Seminary will send us many more confreres according as they see our educational establishments expanding.

“Finally, Fr Luquet took the floor. He quoted some complimentary and encouraging messages from Rome to our Congregation, and especially His Holiness Gregory XVI now gloriously reigning. “And we will continue to deserve such praise if we maintain the original spirit of our Congregation which is, above all, to form a Native Clergy on the Missions wherever there is a notable number of Christians. And how can we form a worthy clergy without a proper educational base?”. Then he went back to the early years of our history: The shortage of missionaries was probably a lot worse then than it is today. But we were still in our first fervour for the wishes of the Holy See. So, in Siam, we established a College with five missionaries in it, and a Seminary with three other confreres full-time!

“The debate concluded. It was time to vote. But, before the vote, Fr Charbonnaux got up again. He recalled that the proposal, as formulated, in no way prevented the College priests from helping out in the communities of Pondicherry and neighbourhood – especially when the number of students was not great, and new confreres had not yet arrived. This last-minute intervention greatly diminished the objections of several members. And the proposal was passed 21-2.

Joy on all faces, as if they had just won a great victory! Even the Bishop gamely smiled at his defeat. And we saw then that he too desires to take all possible measures to advance the SeminaryCollege. If he was resisting the three-priest proposal, it is only because he is under constant pressure from all sides to fill vacancies in his Mission. I think this vote is a great step forward, and will have very happy consequences.

“Afterwards, it was decided that the College-Seminary will still be kept in Pondicherry itself. The number of boarders will be allowed to increase. The buildings will be extended as required. Finally, pagans will be admitted; but only as day pupils, not boarders.

“Thus ended this third day, which will not be lost, I hope, for the glory of our good Master” .

(p 386)

Recruiting and Probation. Which Castes?

Our Secrecy Mania.

“21, 22, 23 January: The next Plenary Session was not until three days later. Before that, Bishop Bonnand assembled us all, to hear the draft of a Joint Letter to the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary, urging the Directors to send us out more men. Everyone supported the draft.

“Already we had discussed the conclusion, by one Group, that married pagan lads now be admitted to the College. (Boys sometimes marry very young. And if we bar married boys, most of the pagans will be unable to benefit from our schooling). Nevertheless, the disadvantages in the proposal were so great that it lost by a big majority.

“Then another proposal came up: every seminarian must spend a certain time working with a missionary before being promoted to Tonsure, so as to get practice in difficult mission work, and also to test his vocation. I was against making it obligatory. Or at least to have it only after sub-diaconate. I cannot see what is to be gained by exposing a youngster to all kinds of temptations on trek; for the missionary will be far too busy to keep an eye on him. After sub-diaconate would not be so bad. He will be mature, bound and supported by his vows. He will be able to busy himself with his theological studies, and to understand problem cases that come up. Indeed, he will be of some real help to the missionary. Unfortunately, there was not enough discussion on this point. I fear it was unduly influenced by the aforesaid letter from Tongking a few days ago. Moreover, they said, because of the mentality of the country, the missionary would be obliged to treat any cleric, dressed in our robes, with as much respect as if he was a priest already – which would be a thorough nuisance rather than a help. So it was decided, in the end, that each minor seminarian, before Tonsure, must spend some time with a missionary as a “disciple”. At what age should he receive Tonsure, and Minor Orders? This was left to the discretion of the Seminary directors and the Bishop’s final decision.

“Each missionary was urged to seek out young lads who (p 387) might be showing some signs of a vocation. He should take them with him for some time, testing them as disciples before sending them on to the Seminary. It was voted that, if a mission had several, there should be a special allocation for their maintenance.

“And now a very important question arose: From what castes can a missionary take disciples, to be later sent on to the Seminary? It was unanimously decided that, for the moment anyway, only the upper castes (those who, in civil life, can eat together) may be taken. For only these can be admitted into the Seminary, or even as College boarders.

“As day-boys we can admit everyone except the pariahs and the other despised castes, barred from Malabari houses. It is evi-dently impossible, at the moment, to act otherwise. But must we not hope and pray that a day will come when we can admit pariahs – even to the priesthood? Isn’t it a disgrace that we have to choose the future clergy from only among the upper castes, thus excluding more than three-quarters of the Christian population, which is small enough already in the country! Several confreres expressed their reluctance in going along with this blatant discrimination, and their determination to see it changed at the first available opportunity. ‘

“As for the half-castes, it was observed that we could not even consider admitting them. We would try to establish schools for them later, when our resources permitted.

“Up to now, our three Malabari priests had not been admitted in to our sessions, on the pretext that we would have to go into detail about conditions in the Seminary (heretofore their home) and they might be embarrassed. Nothing like that really came up at all. Furthermore, they were mortified at being kept outside, while the most junior missionaries were given precedence before them. Moreover, the Pondicherry Christians (who always suspect anything done unknown to them) began to see this Synod with a very jaundiced eye. We must be up to something against Caste and its customs! Otherwise, why would we be so secretive? And indeed certain confreres, strongly opposed to our toleration of such peculiar customs, only increased the Christians’ fears by (p 388) some very thoughtless remarks (and even behaviour, some say) outside the Synod. This is very bad. For the Christians are in no way prepared to listen to reason when it comes to Caste. May God keep us in peace and give us sense!

“23rd: In the evening we went to the Prize-giving at the College-Seminary. It was the first public occasion there since Fr Leroux’s reforms. A great day for him, especially since the Synod was now so strongly re-affirming his work, and giving such great hopes for its future progress and expansion. Otherwise it wasn’t much of a show. But a start had been made, anyway, in the right direction. Fr Dupuis was authorised to inform the assembled parents about the Synod’s decisions for the better education of their boys. It fell a bit flat. They mistrusted us. And unfortunately their mistrust was only reinforced by the apparent mystery and secrecy surrounding our meetings. I believe we would have done a lot better if we had acted more openly and straightforwardly .

Girls’ Education? Printing. Tamil Bible etc.

“24, 25, 26 January: After all our earlier decisions, it was only to be expected that we’d vote for village schools. Many suggestions were made on how to start and maintain them. Several members, however, were skeptical if they would ever get off the ground. Even the Protestants, who are school-crazy, haven’t yet found a satisfactory system. True, they don’t have the grace of God with them, to bless their efforts, in this or anything else. But also, the Indian mentality is so bizarre (they say) that any systems, which might work perfectly somewhere else, are bound to fail here. So, the missionaries were urged to study the problem, primarily by trying something out in practice.

“Then we asked: Isn’t it time we did something for girls’ education? It’s a big problem. In India a lady should not be seen reading, or sewing, or doing anything other than pound rice, cook, and polish floors with cow-dung. Reading is particularly disgraceful. Nobody but a dancing-girl, a temple prostitute, would read (or dance (p 389) or play music). However, the Christian women are recently becoming a bit less allergic to books. A few of our Malabari nuns can read perfectly; and several can hold a book without blushing too much. Still, it would be better (we decided) not to risk shocking and displeasing the Christians by publishing too loud that we want to teach their daughters reading, writing and handicrafts. Little by little, we can get them used to the idea. This decision made it pointless, just now, to consider inviting Sisters specically from Europe, or asking the Sisters of St Joseph (who are running schools m the “white” town) to extend their zeal into the Mission. Later on we will see, after we have succeeded in starting a few primary schools.

“Then came Printing. After prayer-books (already in the press) the need was expressed for a clear Summary of Christian Doctrine, and for Lives of the Saints. Among these, the most relevant to Indian life and needs should be first. However, the standard text-books are needed immediately in the College-Seminary. The discussion got a bit tangled when it got on to Dictionaries. Fr Dupuis has prepared a huge dictionary, very useful no doubt, but intimidating, especially as regards the cost and the time element. It is Tamil-French-English-Latin! Fr Dupuis, in a written Report and a question-and-answer session, managed to prove the usefulness and feasability (even facility) of the production. He guaranteed a reasonably perfect job within a time-limit only one-third longer than for a smaller, less complete dictionary. He tried to show that his Dictionary would be of interest to the general .Indian public, not just to Pondicherry College – which would give good hopes of getting our money back fairly soon. It was decided that the Dictionary should be printed in due time, after the cheaper books and the standard text-books.

“These discussions do not, perhaps, deserve so much space, here. But they do show the forward-looking attitude of the Synod, and its seriousness about getting down, at long last, to proper efforts for the education of the youth, not being deterred by any sacrifice.

“Printing Sacred Scripture in Tamil was a much more daunt-ing and sensitive issue. All the old reasons of the Church for extreme (p 390) caution in this matter were trotted out again. The scandals and sacrileges flowing from the Protestants' deplorable proliferation of "bibles" were again pointed out. But all these objections gave way before the imperative necessity (nearly all my confrere’s say) of giving the Scriptures to the people in a correct edition - If only to prevent these very scandals and reduce the sacrilege-- and to remove a stumbling-block from before the feet of almost every literate Catholic. It is the Protestants who have created the confusion in the first place; so it is not us that the Lord will accuse of circulating the Holy Bible out of due time - even if some people do misuse the Scriptures we print. The blame will fall on our unfortunate straying brothers. We, for our part, will be only trying to remedy the evil.

“In fact the Protestant Bibles are everywhere. Whatever we do, nearly every educated or semi-educated Catholic has some edition or other in his home. They cannot be made to understand that it is a “forbidden book”. The Protestants usually forewarn them that we will try to make them hand over their Bibles “because we want to prevent them from knowing the Word of God”. If we get severe with them, it will only confirm the lie, maybe causing them renewed scandal as well. Whereas, by giving them an exact translation, with short, clear notes on the places misused by the Protestants against the Truth, we could be doing a lot of good, and certainly preventing a lot of harm. .

Another reason for printing the Bible: The celebrated writer Fr Beschi as soon as Protestantism showed up in India, published his “Vedavulacam”, a master-piece in Tamil which we are hoping to reprint. This book of controversy (as well as other later ones) cites Scripture all the time; but even more often they just give chapter-and-verse. So the Catholics naturally want to see the text itself – sometimes even when their aim is to defend the Faith. And where can they find it except in the Protestant Bible?

“But all these considerations were still not enough for some members; their delicate conscience feared that the Holy See would not be at all pleased to see us translating the Bible! So voting was very close in the Groups. But in the Plenary Session the Bishop informed us that he had authorisation to translate the Scriptures if ever he judged fit. At this we voted, almost unammously, (p 391) to do it as soon as possible.

“We should start with the New Testament. The style should be simple, clear, and easy to understand. Therefore, in everyday Tamil; but a bit refined, as in the “Vedavulacam” so as not to “cheapen” the sacred Text.

“Then came other matters, of no great interest, about the day-to-day running of the Vicariate.

“Then each missionary was urged to examine the old handwritten books in his mission, and give a description of their contents to the confrere in charge of the printing-press.

“Those who have received the gift of languages should undertake a serious study of spoken Tamil, and even High Tamil and Sanscrit.

It was decided that a second confrere should be appointed to the press, and see to the circulation of good books.

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Deployment of Missionaries.

Problems concerning Baptism.

“27, 28, 29 January: We discussed the best way of distributing evangel ising workers. The men in the Districts complain how impossible it is to look after their numerous communities, especially the far-flung ones. They ask for help. It is certain that we have not enough men. (And we never will have, as long as we have not a good number of Indian priests!). So, in spite of many people keenly desiring to devote a few confreres full-time to preaching “Missions” it was considered to be impossible just now. Still less could we put any missionaries full-time on trying to convert pagans. But it was suggested that, once His Lordship’s Coadjutor was consecrated, something could be done. One or other of the two Bishops would be “on tour” at almost any given time. Along with the confrere travelling with him, he could preach “Missions” to the Christians, and try to get to the pagans, wherever there was an opening. (p 392)

“It was noted that we must be very cautious with the Euro-pean officials, who are now almost everywhere. They are a lot more suspicious of us than were the Indian rulers. In the externally-visible aspects of pastoral care (corporal punishment, for example, and settling local cases) we must be more prudent than ever. Indeed, missionaries were strongly advised to keep out of all cases involving castes or powerful vested interests.

"About Baptism: Most of the members held that, outside of the central station, there was no obligation to use baptismal water. (I am sorry that this matter was skipped over so quickly, without really weighing the gravity of the obligation). Missionaries were urged to use every possible means to counter the Christians' negligence in bringing their babies for baptism quickly. The main cause is that, often, the mother has to come along herself, to be feeding her baby. When the place is far away, this is a real problem; but now it has become a universal excuse! A few confreres have got over it by getting people to bring the baby on the first or second day, when the baby is not yet on mother's milk. (Until the third day, the baby is kept going on oil and honey; they say this is the general custom). After the fourth day, the baby is at all times on the mother's breast. But she is usually up and about by then, or even earlier. So the meeting concluded that the old regulation - to bring the baby for baptism within ten days, if the distance was not very great-- was not too severe.

“Then we talked a lot about certain Articles of Benedict XIV’s Bull, and our obligation to teach adult catechumens about these, before baptism. How much detail? Must we go through the whole lot, for everyone – man, woman, Malabari, pariah? We failed completely to reach a consensus about this – and about several other matters arising therefrom. We concluded that a few questions must be formulated and submitted to the Holy See’s decision.

“30 January: We’re getting tired. Losing proportion: marathons on trivia and sprints over important matters.

“Today, on the Ritual, many words but little substance. (p 393) Catechists were forbidden to give baptism at home when the priest is near by and the child is not sick.

“In India, Protestants should always be re-baptised conditionally. Not because the baptism was done by “a heretic”, but because their doctrines are so varied, even about the necessity or otherwise of baptism. And we hear some queer reports about certain ministers’ methods of baptising. So you cannot be sure whether a Protestant was ever baptised, or whether the baptism was valid. Similarly, we decided, one must always conditionally re-baptise children baptised by catechists.” (This last ruling was later amended by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda).

“Unborn children in a dead mother’s womb? This was discussed, but all we could do was to deplore the moral impossibility of baptising such children. There is a double improbability: against a caesarean operation being allowed; and against finding someone able to perform it skilfully enough. In actual fact, the child is always taken out before the mother is buried. But this is done roughly and carelessly, without any thought that the baby might still be alive. And only because of superstition: otherwise, the dead woman might bring down some natural disaster or other, notably drought. Christians are not always strong enough to laugh at this superstition. The “operation” is done by the local barber, with wild razor slashes, and just before the actual burial. All were urged to try, with prudent catechists’ advice, to find some way of ensuring the salvation of some of these little victims of our first parents’ sin.

“About certain difficulties regarding adults’ baptism, we were also unable to agree on a solution – only that Rome must be consulted. Finally, we were equally vague about other problems, of no great importance. Things definitely are dragging!


Sick Calls. Registers. Meeting Fatigue Increases.

“31 January: Indulgences which we have special faculties to grant: some questions about these were also referred to Rome.

“First Communions: A vague exhortation to do them in big (p 394) groups, and with proper celebratory style, wherever possible.

“Sick calls: What distance is a missionary obliged to travel? A missionary’s conscience is often troubled if this is left entirely up to his own discretion. He will be the first to accuse himself of laziness or neglect in omitting such a duty when it is not certainly ruled out. The old mission log-books and decisions of Superiors were consulted, and a general conclusion was reached about their opinion: if you could not be there and back by noon, there was no obligation. To get it a bit more precise, we stated: two hours each way. Viaticum: obligatory only in the central station and very close villages … It goes without saying that these rulings do not forbid doing more. A missionary will always be worthy of praise when, for the glory of God and the salvation of his brother, he goes beyond these limits.

“Baptism and Marriage Registers: desirable to be kept every-where. This is becoming easier as the number of missionaries increases. Baptism registers should be as accurate as possible. They can be very useful afterwards, when the baby comes for marriage. We are always in danger of being tricked into marrying couples under the minimum age (12 and 14). Some bits of good advice were then formulated for avoiding being cheated in marriage enquiries.

“By now everyone is showing the strain. People begin to announce various reasons why they could not possibly stay on much longer. Some of these reasons are quite real and important.

“For example, the Goa87 dissidents are on the move, spreading a rumour in the Districts that the missionaries are gone for good, and that the Archbishop of Goa will soon be sending them his own priests! Moreover, even worse, we hear from Bombay that there is now no hope whatever that the new Archbishop is going to wind up the schism of the Portuguese-speaking clergy. Indeed it seems our former hopes are going to turn into sore regret that the man was ever appointed. In spite of all his promises to submit to the Holy See’s decisions (by which all areas no longer (p 395) under Portugal are removed from Goa’s jurisdiction) it now seems the Archbishop has totally ignored the Papal Brief “Multa Praeclare” ever since arriving in Bombay; and has been openly exercising acts of jurisdiction there.

“Let us beg the Lord to drive scandal far away, and to guard the flock himself.

Ist February: Discussion has speeded up. Indeed, we’re no longer really discussing; we’re sprinting, flying. Everyone in a big hurry home. Questions are not even being properly sized up, for importance. Today’s questions were extremely serious. The whole future of India could depend on some of them. And we voted almost non-stop. On the agenda were a whole swarm of customs on the borderline of superstition:

1) The “santipu” is a donation to the priest before a marriage, involving a customarily fixed sum of money – as well as fruits, rice, etc., given freely by the couple. Could it (and should it) be considered a Mass stipend?

2) If the couple do not give a distinct Mass stipend, is the “missa de sponso et sponsae” obligatory?

3) Which points of Benedict XIV’s Bull are still being violated most commonly?

4) Which pagan customs are still being practiced by Christians in the various Districts? How can they be countered?

5) Which kinds of “pottu” (various-coloured foreheadmarks) can be tolerated if necessary? Which other body-marks?

6) Is there anything against sandalwood-powdering?

7) What measures should be taken to root out all superstition from marriages?

8) How prevent Christians from following days of good and bad omen?

9) Can funeral baths be tolerated?

10) Can we tolerate “cabris” and other masquerades at Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany?

11) The “vannar” caste and other castes professionally involved in pagan rituals: What should be our policy? (p 396)

12) What should our attitude be to the frequent “diabolical” possessions in the country? What of the laymen who give exorcisms, blessings and mysterious written talismans against them?

13) What about “Marigradammanais”?

14) Our faculties to dispense from vows: Do they include oaths? Then came some further questions (theological, really) and then THIS:

Q. Would it be opportune to request the Holy See for a dispensation from taking the Oath attached to the Bull of Benedict XIV?

“All these grave and complicated questions were rushed through in a few hours, without even going through the motions of Group discussion (at least after Q 6) inclusive).

“Even from the mere listing of them, it is obvious that these are very practical questions, special to India, and therefore especially within the competence of the Synod. Yet we had spent hours and hours dragging other matters which could easily have been solved by looking up the proper theological authorities. (Obviously this Synod is not going to add much weight to any universal theological opinion, by our authority’) … But when it comes to pagan customs peculiar to our missions, our Synod’s authority could have been very great – if we had treated these matters with all the depth they deserved. After the votes on the Seminary and the Schools, these matters ought to have been the principal business of the Synod. And we just chatted vaguely about them. No serious discussion. The final result is that there are still many extremely difficult questions unresolved, and many huge divergences of opinion among the missionaries. When will we have a better opportunity of really tackling these problems? When will we have such a meeting of competent people together again? Three Indian priests of mature age, and 25 apostolic missionaries – apostolic in deed and not just in name – 25 men of zeal and dedication, living among the people, sincerely loving the Indians, and also sincerely respecting the Holy See. Many of them totally expert in the language and customs of the people. But no! We were tired, and in a hurry to be done with it. (p 397)

“It would be well-nigh impossible to give accurate minutes of that long session, so vague and indecisive were the conclusions. Several questions were left hanging in mid-air, postponed indefinitely for “further study”. However:

1) The money offered (and more or less demanded) at marriages was not a Mass stipend. The Christians did not intend it as such. And it is given even where there is not Mass.

2) No decision on the obligation to say “Miss a de sponso”.

3), 4), 5) (pagan customs): No result, after endless vague conversations and countless anecdotes. A few tried to speculate on the reasons behind these customs. A few others tried to really address the matter by revealing all they knew about the customs still being practiced by their own Christians. Some confreres severely accused the Christians of superstition in certain practices. Others partially excused them. The main thing was that no two people were in agreement. I won’t even try to record all that was said on the matter, or to sum up the revolting and countless varieties of devilry from the pagan ritual. All sides agreed that it was impossible to find a way through this dark maze. A special Commission must be set up, to study the matter. But the commission was not nominated. Will it be, before the end of the Synod? Or after? I just do not know.

6) We seemed very tolerant about sandalwood powder.

7),8) About marriage superstitions and “bad days”: more vagueness and generalities.

9) Funeral baths got a little more attention. It seems they are not definitely superstitions.

10) Masquerades: no real paganism in them, we decided.But we should not tolerate them inside the Church. And we should try to abolish them gradually by educating the Christians in sermons etc.

11) The “vannar” caste: It seems the only thing Christian about them is that they are baptised. But there are some honourable exceptions. Some general advice was given out; in practice, every individual case is up to the individual missionary. What we should have been looking for is some other livelihoods to show them, other than working for pagan temples. For their main motive for participating in idolatry is to avoid dying of starvation. (p 398)

12) Possession: In pagan countries, the devil certainly has more power than in countries where the saving doctrine of Christ has become deep-rooted. So, possessions and obsessions should logically be more prevalent here than in Europe. But the general consensus seemed to be that, very often, ignorance and superstition mistake mere natural afflictions for possession etc., especially if they are a bit out of the ordinary. The conclusion was: prudent skepticism. And no layman should be allowed to perform any exorcism or any ecclesistical ceremony whatsoever. But we did not want to condemn the protective blessings sometimes given by the poor, nor the prayers they recite over the sick.

13) The “Marigraddammanai” prayer is thought by some to be addressed to St Margaret; but I would think it is a devotion to Maria d’ Agreda. By reading it out, people try to discover the presence or non-presence of a demon. This was judged superstitious and condemned..

14) Etc: Dispensation from oaths. Nothing but vagueness about these questions. Even more confusion when it came to Benedict XIV’s Oath, and whether we should ask for a dispensation or not. Every-one clearly agreed that such a request would not imply permission to tolerate anything explicitly judged superstitious by Rome. We voted that the dispensation should be requested.

Then we got on, again, to merely theological questions; and it went on and on. We dispersed with the painful feeling that very serious questions, vital for the future, had been treated very poorly or not at all. Most of them had been referred to an unspecified "Commission". We had only vagueness and uncertainty in our minds, and the awareness that our actual decisions - few enough in all truth-- are devoid of authority. (p 399)

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Feasts and Abstinence. Clerical Dress:

How Antique Robes became an Antic Outfit

Disdained by the English.

But Bishop still wants it. Two Stormy Sessions.

2nd February. Feast of the Purification. Although it is a holiday of obligation here, we had two plenary sessions today, without any preparatory Group work for them.

Reducing the number of Feasts: nothing decided.

Madras dispensation from Saturday abstinence: Much talk about the scandal caused by this new discrepancy in law between neighbouring jurisdictions. The Christians do not easily understand how our religion can be the same if its disciplinary laws are different III Madras and Pondicherry. We all seemed agreed on one thing: the Saturday dispensation will cause more harm than good among the native Christians. This abstinence was not causing them any hardship, since they hardly ever eat meat anyway. And the more severe the Church is about meat, the more they respect her.

“But lo and behold! The clergy at Madras have now obtained a dispensation for Saturday. And now we are different from them. So, won’t our Christians, in frequent contact with Madras, be scandalised – even more scandalised by the difference than by the dispensation itself. Members gave out about the Madras [Irish] clergy. They care only about the Europeans, they said, and were less concerned about the Indians. How could a brand-new Vicariate, without a single missionary fluent in Tamil (most of them being occupied full-time with the English) have the nerve to request a dispensation like that, without consulting the Vicariate Apostolic of Pondicherry, its neighbour and its senior, without even informing us! So we not only voted against requesting the dispensation here. We expressed our desire to see this stupid dispensation abolished in Madras, at least as regards the Indians.

“We then gallopped through a whole forest of other questions, fixing nothing and saying nothing worth while.

“We shot down this one: “What measures would best ensure (p 400) unity and cordiality among the missionaries?”. An insult! Useless anyway, considering the perfect harmony that reigns among us! True enough, thank God. Any new rules about this are completely unnecessary today. Never, probably, was there such a big meeting so harmonious, nobody seeking anything for himself, but only the progress of the work of God. Still, would such rules always be so unnecessary and useless? Isn’t prevention better than cure? Don’t we see other missions, alas, where the demon of discord has been wreaking havock!..

And just now, among ourselves, came a sudden squall, after the long, peaceful calm. Clerical Dress came up. Our present outfit seems to please nobody. But the Bishop is afraid to modify it in the least.

Before going into that debate, it might be good to indicate the various clerical outfits in this Vicariate. In Pondicherry city, black soutane and shoes. But no hat; that is the most despicable article of European dress! In the interior, much of the ancient costume invented by the Jesuits is retained. (Francis Xavier almost certainly never departed from his European soutane etc. But he hardly worked at all in the Indian heart-land, only along the coasts, especially the Portuguese towns. It is even said that he tried once to penetrate the interior – but soon came back, saying:“Nothing doing. The hour of grace has not yet struck for these peoples”. The first Jesuits who tried again in the interior couldn’t make a single pure-blooded Indian convert. They were seen to be Europeans, vile and despicable out-castes. (Europeans were even less respected than they are today). The Jesuits thought again. They dumped the black soutane etc., and togged themselves out in Indian style, according to the genius of the country. They passed themselves off as “Brahmins from the North” and submitted themselves to keeping the caste rules. They were an immediate success; and many other successes followed soon after. The rapid progress that Christianity made in India in those days is well known. In a very short time, it reached its peak – which it has never surpassed since. Indeed we ourselves have the sorrow of seeing it steadily declining (for many reasons, too numerous to go into here). From that glorious moment until now, missionaries in (p 401) Madurai, Thanjuvar and Mysore have kept to the ancient cos-tume, which is as follows: …”

(I omit the description, which is already given above).

“Then came the English. They became the absolute masters of these lands; and they spread everywhere, establishing great communication roads between the main cities of India. Along these roads they built bungalows [for English travellers]. Although they did not introduce many English settlers, there are now English to be seen in every city and big town in the interior. And their habitual style of ruling foreign countries is such that, even in India, they have gained respect and liking, up to a point – even though they are systematically getting hold of all the money in the country – and even though they do not sacrifice a single detail of their English way of life to suit the Indians. To such an extent do they succeed that we often wonder if they aren’t being a lot more clever than the missionaries!

“Well, it wouldn’t be very surprising; for it is only too true that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. But the English have physical force going for them, and the power that goes with wealth. Moreover, they have no need to mingle with the people, as we do. In fact their strategy is quite the opposite: keep themselves in splendid isolation. An Englishman, even though a “grand seigneur” would not dream of entering the richest Brahmin house. And what does it matter if he can’t – when he has found a sure system for extracting every bit of its treasure without going in!

“Meanwhile, our bizarre ancient costume now appears to be bordering on the ridiculous – not only to the English but sometimes to the Natives as well; for they are not a bit deceived, now, about our European origin. Hence several of our dear confreres have already started modifying the said outfit, some more, some less. A red (or white) biretta instead of the big cylindrical “culla”. A white soutane instead of the flowing “angi”. Shoes of coloured canvas instead of the wooden clogs. (Few, however, dare to wear shoes inside the church, or other dignified places).

“Now, at the Synod, confreres were strongly insisting on making these changes legal. Others wanted the European soutane etc. to be adopted pure and simple. “You are just wasting (p 402) Your efforts", they said, "with your Indian fancy dress. You will still not be allowed into any high-caste house. They all know you are Europeans. Whereas, with European clerical dress, you will still be accepted in Christian houses. (They have decided to put up with much worse humiliations than that). And -very important-you will no longer be a shocking or amusing spectacle to the English. For we have to try and get along with them, since they now have the temporal power in the country, after all. There have been incidents where certain District Collectors have refused to admit missionaries - and where others have grossly insulted our confreres-- merely because they turned up in this outlandish costume".

"The majority at the meeting maintained that the shape of our outfit - provided it wasn't black, and provided we were cautious about using shoes-- had become pretty well irrelevant for the Indians. This opinion looked so popular that we would probably have adopted the white soutane almost unanimously. (A red (or white) biretta had already been voted, instead of the big "culla"). But now the Bishop insisted that the Indian priests be exempted; they should be free to continue with the afore-mentioned ancient costume. Also, the priests in Pondicherry should not have to abandon the black soutane, accepted from time immemorial--at least outside the house etc. So the only question remaining was: the outfit for the missionaries in the interior. These nearly all seemed to be thoroughly fed up with the "angi". But still the Bishop seemed to be all for retaining it. Reluctantly, the meeting voted (just barely) for the "angi". There was a lot of discontent with this result.

“And now a painful argument arose: Did the Malabari Priests (who had been declared exempt from the new rules) have the right to vote an outfit for the rest of us? A few cried No! They maintained that the vote was now invalid. It must be done again. Some unfortunate remarks came out, due to momentary irritation rather than ill-will. But they showed how discontented were many of the confreres with the procedure. I think it will all come up for debate again tomorrow. I pray the Lord not to allow the demon, over such a small thing as cloth, to sow discord and division (p 403) among us!”.

“3rd February : And indeed, today's session turned out stormy, when we came back to yesterday evening's question. One of the most "anti-angi" men was absent yesterday, being ill. He now demonstrated mathematically that his vote would have reversed yesterday's decision. And added some extra reasons. Others maintain that we haven't given it enough thought, and that the debate was not serious enough. The Bishop (who seems dead set on retaining the "angi") insists that there can be no going back. Others are so thick that they again object to the Malabari priests’ havmg any vote on this question (which will not affect them). The Indians are warmly - too hotly-- defended by other speakers. "They are involved. His Lordship has (temporarily, perhaps) exempted them. But they will still be under the rule, in principle. He could withdraw the exemption at any time. Anyway, aren't they at least as well qualified as ourselves, to judge on what costume is fitting for a European priest in their country! If we had Indian priests in Europe wouldn't it be up to us (as well as them) to figure out what they should wear there?". Another said: "They know a lot better than you what is good for their country!". This rattled a lot of people. And the row went on for a long time, with less calm and order than would be desirable. Some speakers proposed that the whole matter be referred back to the Groups for further study. The Bishop reluctantly consented. The "pro-angis" are highly annoyed, all the more so because they are in a hurry to be done with it and go. The Groups met this evening. We won't know the result of their work until the day after tomorrow."

Sudden Transfer to Seminary. Delay Refused.

That same evening, before we joined the Groups, the Bishop unexpectedly sent for me. He told me he had appointed me Superior of the Seminary-College. This news was singularly as-tonishing, and even scary. I was glad, in one way, that peoples’ ideas had progressed so far that they were no longer suspicious of (p 404) me because of my opinions on Native Clergy. It was even because of my well-known enthusiasm for this objective that I was chosen for the job. But I was too young - or rather too new on the missions-- to take on the post without fearing to jeopardise the whole Cause. My main worry was my poor knowledge of the Tamil language. I pointed this out to His Lordship. He said he would think it over, and consult his councillors again.

Next day (Sunday) I was sent out to Cuddalore for Mass. When I got back, I went to see the Bishop. He persisted in his choice. The Council had maintained its view, in spite of what I had said on Saturday. I begged His Lordship to give me a little while to put my fears and objections in writing, and to be so kind as to pass them on to these Fathers. They might re-consider their advice, if this was appropriate.

A few days later, I handed my expose to His Lordship, roughly as follows:

“My Lord,

Sometimes a person can express himself better in writing than in speech. So I am asking you to please consider my reasons, set out here, and to submit them to your Council, to examine what substance may be in them.

"First of all, My Lord, let me tell you, as regards the difficulty I find in taking on the job you have done me the honour of giving me: In no way is it due to lack of interest in the Seminary-College - that vital work-- or to any reluctance to help directly in making it produce all the good we can get from it. I say more: it is the very desire I have, of one day being employed in education, that makes me ask Your Lordship not to put me in charge just now. That ardent wish of mine - which goes against my natural inclination for pastoral work-- stems from my unswerving dedication to the cause of Native Clergy. And it will be strengthened (as I sincerely hope, from God's goodness) by what has just come to pass. For I no longer have to look about for some possible opportunity to help that Cause; I have only to try to make the best of that opportunity ,which today has already been given me, and which I appreciate for what it is.

“It is therefore with great joy that I look forward to the post which Your Lordship is giving me. But the very ardour of my desire to participate in this great Work is what gives me pause, lest I start by proving a hindrance rather than a help to it, and lest I render myself thereafter unfit for the job. For I feel a great attraction to it, an (p 405) attraction which I like to think is a real grace from God. That is why I am so strongly opposed to taking over the reins immediately. The success of such an institution depends very greatly on the Superior. If he is Superior In name only - or if he is not up to the mark-- he will soon see the establishment he should be supporting crumble like a house of cards. And, at the present moment, I have all too much reason to fear these two "ifs"; so much so that I cannot but tremble. I would not like playing when the stakes are so high. "

(I then stressed the necessity of having a real Superior, with all the normal powers and functions of a Superior, and not one who was at the beck and call of the senior missionaries in Pondicherry, as previous Seminary Superiors had always been. I intended to be in charge at the Seminary, just as any confrere is in charge in his District).

“From this very comparison, it should be clear that I have no intention whatever of avoiding the normal obligation of every good priest and missionary: to work with the consent and agreement of the superior authority in all important matters. Much less have I any idea of going against his clearly manifested orders.

(Nevertheless I intended to be Superior in fact, not just in name).

“For such a demanding programme, it should surprise nobody that I feel unprepared. I have to fear that, in the course of a mere one-and-a-half years I have not yet earned enough confidence to be given complete liberty of action in the job … My being so junior to the others on the staff, will that not be another problem? True, Fr Leroux seems to be taking it very well; but will that last? I do not know if Fr Lazare is going to be the third member; so I could not sound him out.

“I will also have to deal with the senior students, in the higher classes. How can I manage that without a proper knowledge of their language? Is not my lack of Tamil a really dangerous problem? In the running of the house, in dealings with those outside, especially with the parents, I will have to communicate in Tamil, both orally and in writing. [I will surely make some hilarious mistakes]. That’s all you need, sometimes, to undermine a Superior’s authority and moral influence – if only by jokes and wisecracks …

"The present complicated situation - as regards the Christians; as regards the Government, as regards the status of the Seminary itself-- is so delicate that even the most competent and experienced Superior would have to be at a loss. What would I be, when I don't know the students, nor the parents, nor the current problems? I (p 406) would just have to be led around by the nose … And this would have a very bad effect … Or else [I would have to try and steer, myself, and] risk running aground right at the start. If so, you may say, I will be quickly replaced. Someone else will take over. I will just have to humbly offer up the humiliation to God. Well, I would reply, I am quite prepared to accept the personal cross of the failure. But I would be less indifferent about the damage done to the Seminary. If I go down, that first trial will be followed by another effort, maybe equally disastrous. From which I conclude: My going to the Seminary at this time is a real gamble. Maybe I will succeed. Maybe I won’t. Indeed, it’s worse than that. It’s about 60-40 against. Again, I don’t like gambling for such high stakes.

“And now let’s come to one way which, I think, could reconcile all the objectives. (I am not trying to meddle in the wider running of the Vicariate). You will tell me, My Lord, that, while recognising all those shortcomings of mine, you still have to go ahead and ignore them, given all the vacancies and needs of the Mission.

“I can see Your Lordship’s difficulty in trying to reconcile the wishes of the Synod with the needs of the Districts. But, after all, many different combinations and permutations are possible. And I hope you will not take it amiss if I indicate another one which may not have occurred to you: The Synod has expressed the wish to have a missionary full-time in charge of the Pondicherry Church, to be its pastor. [Obviously, he will need to be a competent man]. But, no matter how competent, he also will need some time to prepare himself for a completely new order. Most likely, he will be a senior confrere. So, he will possess the qualities that I am now lacking, for the Seminary. Well, could he not go to the Seminary now, and get ready for the cathedral, while I went back to my District and prepared myself for becoming Superior of the Seminary? Since he would understand the reason, he would not be put out by a temporary appointment. He would try his best during his short stay, knowing that it could be very important for the future. The whole future of the Seminary could depend on it, on the new direction he gives it. That would be his contribution, done in a short time. And he would be as glad leaving it as when he started in. And I myself would then gladly come in and continue his work there.

“You want me at the Seminary; I do not refuse to go there. You want me to be in charge. I do not refuse. I only beg you to postpone it a little while. That delay will reconcile several real needs. If you wish, you can announce the appointment now. Say that I have been appointed Superior … but that, not expecting any transfer, I have (p 407) some important loose ends to tie up at Salem. Meanwhile, I will take along a man who is very good at French and Tamil. I will pay him well; he will come. I will get down to the language with him -preach in his presence and let him note my mistakes. At the same time, I will study up my future job, try and get my act together. In short, prepare. If the preparation cannot be as long and thorough as I would like, at least it will be sufficient, meanwhile, at the Seminary, things will be taking a new direction, will begin to move. When the movement has been started, I will arrive. I can then keep it going, easily enough. Then, quietly, gradually, without noise or jolting, I can introduce the reforms and improvements that are required ...

“Our Christians at Salem will also gain from this arrangement. Fr Fricaud has told Your Lordship about the state of the District. I do not know if he is going back there or not. Either way, it would be important that I go back to them. The good of a whole District (especially when compatible with the common good) is no small thing, I feel. My return there would stop some tongue-waggers, and Fr Fricaud would maintain the authority and influence he needs, so as to continue the good work he has been doing in that part of India.”

(Some disgruntled Christians were saying that Fr Fricaud did not want any other missionary with him. He wanted to collar all the offerings for himself, they said! For this reason, he drove off every new missionary that the Bishop sent him!).

“I pray you, My Lord, to kindly submit these considerations to your Rev. Councillors. I am declaring that I have great misgivings at taking over the Seminary so suddenly. But, whatever is decided, God grant that I may never be occupied except in accordance with his holy Will. In the hands of Mary I place these three sheets of explanation. May she get me just six months of preparation time! But, having now frankly said it all to Your Lordship, there is nothing else for me to do than to leave myself entirely in the hands of Divine Providence which, I trust, will not let me become an obstacle to the great hopes that the future is promising us all”.

As will be seen, this effort turned out useless. The Bishop wanted me at the Seminary immediately. I have always had cause to regret this hurry, especially for not having had a bit more time to practice Tamil. I had to use French in my dealings with the students (p 408) (all too easy in Pondicherry). And the numerous occupations which came along deprived me of a precious, irreplaceable, time for the language. For unless you have a special talent for lan-guages (and I have not) you get to a certain plateau in speaking during the first few years, and never get any higher after. So I never got any better at Tamil than I was then or not much anyway. Unfortunately, my plateau was not very high!

The Costume Row (contd). Catechists.

Closing Retreat etc.

“5th February: The first session began with more about the “angi”. [It was a shambles]. Not only were the Group conclusions contradictory; within each Group, opinions were so diverse that you could make out no single position that a majority might possibly go for. So the final result was: the thing is unresolved. Each missionary must try to see what is best for his own District and decide accordingly on his own costume, with the advice and authorization of the Vicar Apostolic!

“There are still many very important questions to be examined, notably about the Catechist Centre. Originally, this had been the only matter requiring a “general meeting” of the missionaries. Up to now we had hardly mentioned it. We had expressed a general desire to see such a Centre, but had specified hardly anything more. We must finish quick! Time IS pressing! The Goa schismatics are out, very active. Worst of all, we hear that the Schism is definitely going to continue. The Archbishop of Goa, just arrived from Europe, is going to back it to the hilt, instead of ending it as we had been hoping. The Christians of Pondicherry and environs are also getting restless, alarmed by this long secret Synod. We must be conspiring against Caste and its customs! Unfortunately, their idea was reinforced by the careless remarks of certain confreres outside the meeting.

“The concluding Retreat has been fixed to start tomorrow evening. So now we have time only for hurried chats instead of (p 409) serious debates. It would be impossible to record all the ensuing series of rigmaroles. Nothing was decided – except maybe this, about pariah servants: The time has not yet come for employing them [inside the house]. We were even severely warned about the “cudiraicaran” (horse-minder) usually a pariah: Under no circumstances should he be allowed to put his nose inside a mission house!

“That same evening, we had a plenary session, more specifically on the Catechist Centre and related matters. This would have needed three or four days, instead of a half-session. We li-mited ourselves just to voting for the future existence of a Centre leaving it up to the Superiors to find the right ways and means for recruiting good catechists, and to decide when to start laying the foundations. We expressed a wish to call in the Brothers of Christian Doctrine, to run the Centre and/or Primary Schools.

Then came the Procurator, who gave a rapid review of the year’s Income and Expenditure. The Bishop wanted to show by this how difficult it will be to implement all the wishes of the Synod, and to suggest Patience to those who will have to wait. For, here as elsewhere, you can’t do things without money. I don’t know if the Bishop succeeded in this ploy, or whether the recital has merely depressed some confreres. Certainly, nobody questions the integrity of the men he has entrusted with the Mission’s resources. But every-one is preaching for his own “parish” and feels his own particular work is getting a raw deal.

“We finally broke up, in candle-light, having fixed the start of the Retreat for after Evening Prayer tomorrow. May the Lord confirm with His grace whatever good has been started and founded during the Synod. Amen.”…

“18th February: The Retreat is over. It was very edifying. His Lordship read out the meditation material, which had been specially prepared in advance.88 Everyone was delighted with it. (p 410) “This morning we had the closing of the Retreat (which also brought the Synod to a close). The Bishop celebrated High Mass of the Holy Spirit, with a prayer of thanksgiving. All the priests received Communion from his hands, and knelt to renew their clerical promises. This impressive ceremony was followed by a prayer consecrating the Synod to the Blessed Virgin, and a Te Deum in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Then we all accompanied His Lordship to his quarters. There Fr Charbonnaux, Coadjutor-elect (but he has not yet accepted) made a long and complimentary vote of thanks to His Lordship in the name of the Synod; and we dispersed in high spirits. We came together very soon after, to sign the Acts of the Synod. It seems the missionaries had actually no right whatever to append their signa-tures; so this was irregular. If so, it was probably the least of the irregularities which took place, and which can throw a lot of doubt on the validity of the Acts, defective as they also are on several other important points.”

An amended resume of the Acts of the Synod was later drawn up (as we will probably mention). It was translated into Latin and sent to Rome. There, with a few amendmepts, it was approved. This modified Summary is the only part of the Synod now considered to have the force of law, following amendment and approval by the Vicar Apostolic and the Holy See.

“Unfortunately, complete and perfect harmony did not reign during that final gathering. Some ill-chosen words were spoken about the policy of Native Clergy – both for and against. I my-self, unhappily, let fly with a few hasty expressions which I sincerely regret, for they could be hurtful to some confreres who do not feel obliged to share my convictions; and they did no good to the Work, either.

“Grant, O my God, that this imprudence of mine may not have bad results. Let us still rejoice because (as I feel) your work has made progress here. Good principles and guide-lines have been set. Peoples’ ideas have been broadened. All this gives real hope for the greater glory of God and for some benefit to this country, henceforth our country, our permanent home.

“May the Lord be blessed, the single object of all our love! May his Name be made known throughout all the earth! And may (p 411) I, O Lord, be so lucky as to contribute something to making You known and loved!

“Everyone immediately started getting ready to leave. But I alas, had to stay! I think tomorrow’s sun will not have set before most of our confreres have left. And some of them, it may be, we will not see again in this world. May we meet, O Lord, in Heaven! Amen.”

(p 413) Nothing else for it; I just had to go and take over at the Seminary. The beginnings were hard and painful, even dangerous and critical at times. A struggle on two fronts: the caste prejudices of the Indians; and the deep-rooted, out-dated ideas of many confreres. Often, moreover, my hands were tied. For, in spite of my strong declaration to the Bishop (that I intended to be a real Superior there) I was very much under other people, in practice. My position, as well as being difficult, sometimes felt downright disgusting and pointless. More than once, the weakness of my character brought me to the verge of despair, to the point of deciding to throw the whole thing up. “That’s just a temptation”, I was told (by those I confided in). “It’s not just you that would find it so. Anyone else (no matter who) would be up against the same problems there; and he probably would not have the same personal committment to Native Clergy. So, if you resigned, the work would definitely suffer”. This was the main consideration that kept me at it.

The College-Seminary re-opened on the 15th February. Day-pupils applied in great numbers. For the Seminary as such, we received several “disciples” from Fr Roger. They were already fairly advanced in their studies. And they gave more real signs of (p 414) a clerical vocation than any of the lot already in the Seminary for years – apart from my own Marie-Xavery, who went back there with me.

My co-workers: Fr Leroux had been in charge, and had led the reform there. Yet he seemed quite happy, now, to be only in second place. Fr Lazare was one of our three Indian priests – the only one that could be considered remotely capable of this kind of work. The other two dated from a previous era, when a Clergy was considered “impossible”. So the missionaries did not bother their heads giving a proper clerical education to the odd few young men who (by some kind of accident) eventually got as far as Holy Orders. The natural result was that these few priests were nowhere near the standard to be expected. And they greatly helped to reinforce the negative attitude of missionaries. Fairly recently, a fourth had been ordained. A likeable young man, but brainless; and much too influenced by the older two. So he, too, left a lot to be desired. Indeed, it would have been much better not to have any of these just now. For the example and the prece-dent they had started – especially as regards Caste – were not helpful. They were responsible for many later troubles, contradictions and (I think) even defections. Many young men left, who ought to have persevered in their vocations. The sequence will explain.

Apart from my two colleagues (Fr Leroux and Fr Lazare) I had three Malabari lay teachers, one for Scripture and two for French. A fourth came in, two or three times a week, for High Tamil.

By the beginning of March, we had 89 students. At the same time last year, there were only seven or eight. The first reform had brought them up to forty. And now we had nearly a hundred – in spite of much chopping and changing by the Mission, and suspicion and mistrust by the Christians. I say “by the Christians” because the Mission had not yet decided it was safe to admit pagans. It would have annoyed the Christians, for many reasons. It would also have meant getting involved in certain Caste issues (indirectly) and this was not the right time. The Malabari public was very tense about such issues just then. They were still convinced that the Synod had secretly decreed some anti-caste measures. (p 415) The two older priests probably felt the same; and they probably reinforced the suspicions of the Christians. (“So that’s why they had been kept out of the first Sessions!”). But the Seminary-College was making progress, anyway. This calmed things down a bit. It also greatly encouraged the Bishop and the confreres.

Printing started on a Tamil-Latin grammar, and also a Tamil-French one. In the meantime, we had to get along with whatever hand-written books we could manage to obtain. I started a system of compositions, grading, marks for good conduct, and other little competitive gimmicks. It all went down marvellously well. Parents (etc) began to see that we were really and honestly determined to give the boys all the education they could absorb. So, at least out of self-interest, they began to back the College.

But, for all that, they were still very worried that we might start something against caste customs. I myself was a prime target for their surveillance; I was continually surrounded by spies. Malabari priests, students, teachers, servants – they all kept a watchful eye on me. At the first false move, I could expect a universal upheaval and an empty College.

And yet all I really thought about customs at the time was this: I considered all the hitherto-tolerated ones to be morally neutral; my confreres and Superiors said they were not contrary to Benedict XIV’s Oath, which we had all sworn. This conviction of mine was not a direct one, of course, but based on an indirect reasoning: “Such was the conviction of our venerable predecessors. It is still the conviction of most of my present confreres. It is the considered position of the proper ecclesiastical authorities; and they would not allow me to do anything public contrary to their normal church policies, based on this same conviction”. True, during the Synod, I had perceived that there was something distincly fishy about certain pastoral practices. But they had not been dealt with there; they had been referred to a “commission”. In the meantime, the long-established tradition prevailed. I went along with it. For, personally, I was entirely unable to make up my own mind and conscience about these difficult and complicated matters. (p 416)

And, anyway, one thing was clear to me: to openly contradict any of these customs would be to risk capsizing the whole Mission. So, about this I was quite determined: Never to offend the tolerated taboos. Never to ask my ordinary students to do so. But I thought that the students who were preparing for the priesthood would have to free their minds and hearts, gradually, from these vain observances, so that once they were priests, they might not go on observing them (except maybe externally, like us). For the only reason we tolerated them now was: that we could not do otherwise. This was my line of teaching to Marie-Xavery over the last year or so; and also, now, to three or four of Fr Roger’s most advanced disciples, in the Seminary.

It would have been a great help if the Synod had had time to treat all those moral problems of caste customs in depth, and if the Holy See had approved the resulting decisions (or amended them where necessary). What a lot of misery that would have saved us in the future! What a lot of shifts in policy, even about Native Clergy! By referring these problems to a non-existent “Commission” the Synod had only increased the divisions of opinion among us. More and more missionaries began to act out of line, with disastrous consequences. How much more easy, sure and steady could progress in the Work of Native Clergy have been, if only the Synod had done its work!

Anyway, things went along fairly well at the Seminary-College up to the end of Lent. This was the first time I saw the

Passion Plays, Indian style.

They start them off, in a small way, ‘on the very first Sunday of Lent. Every Sunday evening, after Vespers, a “pandal” is prepared, in front of the Church, sheltering a representation (with statues and figures) of a scene from our Saviour’s Passion. A high pulpit is also brought out, for open-air preaching. The spectators come in vast numbers. Europeans as well as Indians, – pagans even, and Muslims – all crowd around. There is a special place reserved (p 417) for pariahs. Anyway, as people are not under one roof here, caste scruples are less binding. And by the end of Lent when the square is overflowing, they seem to be entirely forgot ten. No doubt, the more serious devotees of legal purity stay away – or else they hurry home afterwards, to take a bath to purify themselves!

The sermon is usually based on the Scene under the pandal, which is veiled. But towards the grand finale, the curtain falls and reveals the Scene. At this the Christians fall on their knees; women wail and beat their chests, slap their faces, pull their ears; and the preacher concludes in an uproar that makes most of his words completely inaudible. Gestures now come into their own. If his eloquent movements can now chime in well with the mood of the crowd - if his facial expressions and gestures are sufficiently melodramatic -especially when he gives himself a few good, well-timed, resounding belts of a discipline-whip--- then will you hear a rising roar of emotion, a tidal wave of repentance and pity! No doubt, it is theatrical, not at all in keeping with our correct ideas in modern France. But it sure is effective!

On this First Sunday, we have Our Lord praying in the Garden. An Angel is holding out a chalice to Him. The three disciples are asleep a little way off. They are all life-sized statues. An art critic might not be very impressed by them. But sometimes they convey a simple, honest feeling that many a more artistically executed sculpture fails to give.

On the Second Sunday, the betrayal of our good Master by the unspeakable Judas … And so on, with the Story of the Passion …

Then comes Palm Sunday, a much bigger Day. Thousands of faraway Christians have already come in for Holy Week; and they make sure to get here for Palm Sunday evening’s Procession. On a huge Float, lifted by bearers, here is Our Lord carrying his Cross. He goes all around the tree-shaded Church courtyard, escorted by Indians in “Roman” costume, with helmets and red mantles, led by a banner with the famous device SPQR. Another figure on the Float is rather intriguing: a boy who is supposed to be Simon of Cyrene. But Simon would find it hard to recognise (p 418) him! His red-and-gold "culla" is gloriously plumed in white. His ample trousers are of yellow- and-red silk. He has a "sattai" of embroidered muslin, and a white "salvei" with borders and fringes of gold. Very happy he looks in this eye-catching role; but he manages not to smile. Instead, however, of helping to carry the Cross, he drapes himself elegantly on it during the whole snail's-pace procession.

But now comes the Big Moment – the real crowd-puller – Jesus Meets his Mother. Her statue arrives from another direction, also borne on a heavy float. On yet another is St John, the beloved disciple. As soon as she is reckoned to be able to see her Son, she begins to wave her arms about, toss her head etc. (all by means of hidden strings and gadgets). She approaches Jesus, embraces Him, kneels for his blessing. Jesus stretches out his arm to bless her, and bless St John too. And the procession resumes: first Our Lord, then the Blessed Virgin, then the Apostle. At the end, all three are placed under the pandal – a bigger and better one. There a choir sings Tamil hymns and special songs until 11 p.m. or midnight, in adoration before the Cross.

During weekdays in Lent, there is nothing very special. The Indians fast only on Fridays. But then it is total. Even the children join in, and get a great kick out of it, this fasting until midday. In reality the Indians find it very easy. And it is even a kind of affirmation for them, to see that the Catholic religion orders fasts, and even “pure food”, i.e. vegetarian diet … And then comes the evening: they have prepared all kinds of sweets and pastries, which they call “collations”; these they ceremoniously present to each other. This custom (fast and feast) goes down very well with the children!

Similarly, nothing very exciting during the start of Holy Week. Only, you can see that the crowds camping in the Church courtyard and tree-grove are getting bigger day by day. Many go to confession, so as to receive Holy Communion on Holy Thursday; but these are not the majority. (Their “Easter Duty” will usually be done whenever the missionary comes round to their own village. The time for this obligation is greatly extended, even in Pondicherry). On Wednesday evening the Office is chanted in the Church; but the people take hardly any part in it. (p 419)

But now comes Thursday Morning Office. The Church is packed. After the consecration of the Holy Oils, the Blessed Sacrament is carried, with the greatest pomp and ceremony, to the Altar of Repose, which is made as impressive as in any cathedral. All day, and all through the night, there are numerous adorers, sometimes praying with subdued voices in a plaintive chant (which is also the tone for the readings and songs in Malabari) by relays of chanters.

Meanwhile, out in the courtyard, six “pandals” are being prepared. (These have contained the smaller “scenes” during Lenten Sundays). At the back, a huge pandal is being raised, for the next Day. It is already hung with black cloth. To this the Bishop is now transported, for the Washing of the Feet of twelve poor people.

I was surprised to see how little interest the Indians showed in this ceremony, which I thought should be very attractive to them. Still, it does make an impression on the most devout, as it is quite in their style and temperament. They even like to drink the dish-water after the washing of the feet! But it must be said that this “devotion” is more and more fading out, in proportion as we are more and more ignoring the caste laws. Long ago, they used to drink the water that washed the missionaries’ feet. No way would they do it now; for now we are wearing shoes! And still less would they do it in Pondicherry, where we wear leather shoes, even in the Church!

The dish-water is abhorred, not because the twelve poor peoples’ feet might be dirty. (That is nothing, provided they are of good caste). No; it’s because the priest’s hands are not pure (how-ever well he may have scrubbed them) because he himself doesn’t keep the caste rules! Poor people! And yet they intend no insult to him by this. It’s just simply a fact of life. There may have been some sinful pride at the origin of all these caste segregations. But nowadays, in the ongoing nation-wide observance of the absurdities, there is none.

Another thing that reduced the crowd at the Church ceremony was the fact that several rich Christians (I was told) now do it at home. They invite many poor people, wash their feet, and serve them a good meal. (p 420)

Meanwhile, Holy Thursday night, the Church is all lit up, and so are the “pandals” outside. People are going around them – reciting prayers, singing Passiontide songs, and doing the Stations of the Cross – some on foot, some on their knees, nearly all praying out loud. But, for all that, there is no hint of confusion or irreverence.

On Good Friday, for the Adoration of the Cross, the crowds are big. But, at the evening’s special Service, they are just overwhelming. Now the Soul will be strongly addressed through the Senses. At about six, open-air “preaching” starts, much as on the Lenten Sundays. The subject now is: Jesus Dies on the Cross. And now the church-grounds can’t even contain the throng. Most of the “hearers” are still crowded outside the railings, trying to get in. It was estimated that 10,000 people – Christians and pagans attended the “sermon” in 1844. Obviously, the preacher could not make himself heard by all these. But it is not the actual spoken sermon that matters. It’s the whole thing, the really touching Ceremony of Jesus on the Cross.

When the curtain falls, a Cross is revealed, 15 feet high, with a life-size Christ on it, dying but not yet dead. All fall on their knees. And I must admit I could not hold back my own tears on hearing the heart-broken sobs of the multitude. Meanwhile, the preacher gives out a few vivid phrases – broken sentences only – but now his voice is drowned by a dull rumbling sound: breasts and chests being thumped in sorrow and pity. And now this rumble redoubles because (by means of puppet-strings) Christ’s dying Body begins to move gently in a death agony. Almost imperceptible it is; but everyone can see, for all eyes are fixed on the Figure. Then, after four or five minutes, he lifts his eyes to heaven, shudders slightly, bows his head, and dies! A kind of awesome gasp goes through the whole assembly. Real, wet tears flow down their cheeks. It is truly a touching and an educational experience, and would be so anywhere. But the follow-up is admired only by the Indians.

After the death of Jesus, and the “consummatum est” commented by the preacher, along come the disciples, dressed as Jews. They fall prostrate before their dead Master. Then they embrace each other, with the gestures of Indians who have just lost a (p 421) parent, relative or dear friend. The Roman soldiers around the Cross make threatening gestures – all in mime.

Then the disciples go off to Pilate, to ask permission to bury their Master. The crowd waits silently for their return. They come back soon, flourishing a document which they triumphantly show the centurion. The officer makes some objections. He carefully examines the cross, and makes sure that Jesus is dead. Finally he waves his sabre as a sign of permission. The disciples quickly put a ladder up against the cross and proceed to detach the body. First, they ever so gently remove the Crown of Thorns. This is brought to the Preacher – who uses it as a visual aid for another touching Passion-time sermon. Claw-hammers and pincers are used in order to pull out the nails – another short allocution. Finally the body is lifted down, and laid in state, to the sound of Indian funeral music. Then the slow funeral march begins, with the same instruments, plus drums muffled in black crepe. This takes an hour, all along the Palm Sunday route. Then back to the pandal, where the bier is placed, surrounded by countless torches and lamps. Here they sing until 11 p.m. or midnight.

Easter Joy, Indian Style

On Saturday morning, there is hardly anyone at the long, dreary ceremonies before Mass. By the time Mass begins, however, the Church is full. The altar is all veiled. But at the Gloria, the veil is drawn, and splendid decoration shines out. The crowd manifests its joy by a universal gasp of satisfaction, and by the patter of little cheek-slaps of admiration by the women. Nothing much takes place on Saturday evening. All retire early, to be ready for the Resurrection.

About 2 a.m. on Saturday night, crowds begin to assemble in the courtyard. By 4, there isn’t even standing room. The Preacher climbs the pulpit. His sermon is short but energetic. The curtain drops at the right time. A new Scene is revealed, at the panda): white drapes and a mountain – of flowers and lights! Absolute silence. Then, from behind the “mountain” the Resurrection (p 422) Statue rises up.

Everyone shouts: “Alleluia! Alleluia!” then the Statue goes round in slow, majestic procession, to the sound of fire-works and music and shouts of joy. Very slowly it goes, so as to get back to the pandal just as the first rays of the Sun appear. Then, at the same pandal, a priest says a Low Mass; and all is done. Everyone heads for home; the strangers leave; the rest of the day is just a Sunday.

These external celebrations – and the holy plays and tragedies (even comedies) about lives of saints and martyrs – were a great force for good in earlier times. For then our holy Religion was respected by the pagans, and not written off as a “pariah religion”. Many conversions started with the Plays. Unfortunately, plays are open to abuses; and these sometimes became more noticeable than the good. So, we have had to curtail them, or even stop them altogether at times. The Passion Plays have continued long after the others have been banned – for example, the Adoration of the Magi which was formerly done in magnificent style at Pondicherry. Something had to be cut every year. Since 1850 it is hardly performed at all.

No Korean Martyrdom. A Win in the Refectory.

Shortly after Easter, I was informed that my offers to go and replace the martyrs in Korea had been turned down. Really, I wasn’t expecting anything else, humanly speaking. My proposal was out of line with our Society’s usual way of doing things. So it could hardly have been accepted unless by a direct intervention of God. And there were too many imperfections in my poor old soul, for me to have any serious expectations of that. So I had to be satisfied with compliments instead of permission. “We greatly admire your zeal and dedication” etc., etc. A lot of flowery language that you would have to be very naive to take seriously. Sugar coating on the pill of a refusal. The real reason was: the Lord did not find me worthy of this outpost of honour, where the (p 423) shining possibility of martyrdom is always before one’s eyes. “Just say: Domine non sum dignus”, wrote Fr Luquet, more simply and to the point.

Meanwhile, in the College, I remained a faithful observer of caste rules. But, in my relations with the seminarians, I was aiming to by-pass certain observances which are sensitive but not directly against Caste - unless they consider us to be literal pariahs. And we should not put up with that from any clerical student! So I was on the look-out for a favourable opportunity, but very cautiously. A lot of prudence was required, and maybe I haven't always exercised that virtue -although it was a frequent subject for my meditations.

Well, one big day-out, after carefully sizing up the situation, I decided to risk taking a snack with the seminarians. Up to then, no Rector or professor ever darkened the door of their dining-room during meals. For Indians are extremely particular about this: no “inferior” should ever observe them eating. This ban covers not only pariahs etc., but anyone from a caste even the slightest degree lower than their own. And yet, in the interior, a missionary’s disciples will eat unconcerned in his presence. “And you are my disciples; you are my children”, I said to them, “so why couldn’t you do the same?” The seminarians had begun to know and to like me. (At least, those who had the kind of spirit that I wanted in the house; for the Seminary spirit was still only being created). So they were not at all reluctant at the idea. They seemed even delighted at my proposal. I was very glad at this bit of progress towards a better future. For if we were ever going to have a real Seminary, it was essential that our supervision should extend to the refectory as well.

But the Pondicherry Christians (who, ever since the Synod, had been spying desperately on everything) seemed to be shocked by the innovation. (It could be serious. If this was an injury to Caste, It would mortify the whole caste concerned, not just the immediate seminarians. For a man’s caste rights are inalienable; he cannot renounce any of them, even for himself. If he is in-sulted, the insult falls on the whole caste. So he himself will be the first to be blamed; he will immediately have to make honorable (p 424) reparation to his caste for the injury done to it). However, they did not dare to make an issue out of this affair. But they must have added another big, bad mark against my name. This showed up, a few months later, when I repeated the same "offence", but now with a serious "aggravating circumstance" in addition -an apparently utterly irrelevant addition, done in complete inadvertence by me...

Jesuit Manoeuvres against the Synod

Worry Bishop Bonnand and Co.

On a wider front, the Jesuits were working to pre-empt the “bad” consequences of the Synod in our area. A whole series of really hurtful actions against Bishop Bonnand now began, leaving no room for doubt. This looked like ingratitude indeed; for he was the one who had brought them back to Madurai and had treated them so generously after. His Lordship was deeply dis-tressed by the whole business.

I was also very disappointed about the Jesuits’ behaviour myself. But now, having had plenty of time to think it over, I am no longer surprised at it. Indeed I can hardly blame them. For, when all is said and done, personal considerations count for very little when it comes to Duty and a whole Work. They have one system; we have another. [The two are not compatible]. I, indeed, am deeply convinced that ours is the wiser policy – and indisputably it is more in conformity with the countless decrees of the Holy See over the centuries, as can be seen from Fr Luquet’s writings. But they have a different perception. And when it comes to the decrees of the Holy See, they are always able to re-arrange things in such a way as to leave their conscience intact – and even to obtain from the same Holy See whatever authorizations are necessary in order not to have to apply these same decrees in certain areas, which they can demonstrate (and believe) to be “exceptional”.

And don’t say, “So what? Can’t they do their own thing in (p 425) their territory, and let us free to do ours?” That might work all right for two distinct and different peoples. But Pondicherry and Madurai are too uniform, and too near, to safely have policies other than identical. The Christians continually move and communicate between the two areas; so, divergent systems and policies must be a real problem.

In my view, it should have been either one thing or the other: Either leave the Jesuits out and not recall them. Or else give them back the whole of South India. And very likely, when they returned and set foot again in Madurai, they reckoned: this is only the first stepping-stone; the rest will soon follow! But now they saw that we were putting down roots – reaching out to the Youth and starting a Local Clergy! Whereas they had definitely decided, long ago, that this ought not to be an objective!

That divergence is shown up quite clearly by today’s figures: 30-0. In Pondicherry (etc) side: thirty priests and major seminarians. In Madurai (etc) side: not one [diocesan]. And this in spite of the modifications that we will explain later. And in spite of the fact that one of their Fathers has been consecrated a Bishop. And the fact that they have far more Christians than we have, and of higher caste [and therefore far more potential candidates for the priesthood]. Yes indeed; we could have worked in complete independence of each other [and in peaceful co-existence] if we were in North India or [Kerala]. But inside the same [Tamilian] area Coromandel Coast, Mysore, Thanjuvar, Madurai – to have two Societies with a spirit and policy so divergent – impossible! It has been a disaster, whose sad consequences are probably not all finished yet.

I think there was one way to sort it out: bring the Jesuits round to doing it our way, instead of us submitting to theirs. For if we were to adopt theirs, we could forget about Native Clergy. And we could be very sure that, once we let the Jesuits prevail, we would soon be entirely dominated by them, and soon invited to go and exercise our zeal somewhere else!

Bishop Bonnand and his Council saw the crisis. They did not believe they should haul down the flag and surrender their principles, (p 426) on which the future salvation of India might well depend. Moreover, they believed that the Jesuit system would be clearly disastrous in its long-term results. I must say, I was very strongly of their opinion too. Obviously, to try to bring the Jesuits round to our way of doing things would be no easy task. Still, the Bishop thought he must try, because (as I said) the divergence was disastrous. For this purpose, with the help of Fr Luquet, he worked out a whole Plan of Action which, I think – if it had been implemented in its entirely – could have put new life into these nations. (Of course, the work of Local Clergy would also have to be adopted openly and unreservedly, and all its requirements and obstacles tackled with courage, at the same time).

The first step must be: to obtain the approval of the Holy See on the Acts of the Synod. Then, the Vicariate would promptly have to be subdivided by Rome, as had long been mooted; and all upgraded to be normal Dioceses, instead of Vicariates Apostolic. Meanwhile, the encroachments by the Jesuits would have to be resisted, charitably but firmly. They had already collared the best parts of Bishop Bonnand’s jurisdiction. They were now working on the Kingdom of Thanjuvar, and trying to get a foot in the door at Pondicherry itself – or else into Karaikal or Tranquebar – under the pretext of starting a new College. This state of affairs, and the Council’s counter-measures, made me write in my diary as follows:

Encroachments by the Jesuits (and the Irish).

Fr Luquet sent to Rome to fight them.

“Some very serious decisions have been made these last few days. God Almighty grant that they may work only for His greater glory! Fr Luquet was persuaded that a special journey to Paris and Rome was imperative, for several reasons. The latest reason is the danger of being caught in a pincers movement by the Jesuits from the South and the Irish from Madras (even though the Irish mission system seems diametrically opposed to the Jesuit system, and much more dangerous to the native Christians). The Jesuits are (p 427) powerful in themselves, the Irish in being much better in with the English Company Government than we are. And the vast majority of our missions are in English territory.

“For my own part, I had formerly told my dear confrere Luquet how often my eyes were lifted up unto the mountains, the hills of Rome, the centre of the world, from where alone our true help could come – towards Rome, for ever dear to our hearts, centre of all Truth, fountain of all true apostolic spirit – Rome whose principles we were trying to uphold, by applying them out here in all their purity and honesty, without any clever re-interpretations, but only the interpretation that Rome herself might approve.

“But we both thought it would be a long, long time, that happy day when one or other of us could go and fall down at the feet of the Vicar of Christ. For we had faithfully promised each other to do nothing hasty, nothing to push our own ideas, but only to wait with patience for the moment that the Will of the Holy Spirit for us would manifest itself. But by now the persistent behaviour of the Jesuits has got to Bishop Bonnand. Now he is afraid he has been much too trustful towards them. Now he understands why Fr Bertrand was so insistent on being at the Synod. And he is beginning to taste the bitter fruit of his over-kindness.

“God forbid that I should join the anti-Catholics in speaking ill of the Jesuits. All I say is, they are human, and not above mis-takes. You can deplore some of these without thereby lacking re-spect for the great Company to which the Church owes so much. They have, indeed, shown wonderful zeal and heroic virtues on the missions. And even today, in many respects, they are away ahead of all the others. But they are still determined to hang on to their ancient System, their main obvious weakness in the past, i.e. they are still determined to get along without a local clergy. Our own Society was founded in order to remedy that weakness. And now the Jesuits see that, after dragging our heels for a long, long time, we are now making an effort to get back to our original Aim. Well, they can’t now think we are right and they are wrong – any more than they thought so in the past. They are as loud as us in proclaiming the principle [of Native Clergy] formulated by the Holy See. But, just as before, they say it is “impossible” or “inopportune” (p 428) in these particular Missions. And in that position. they dig in. (Perhaps it is all due to an exaggerated respect for their .ancestral Fathers). Their acts of resistance, now, are only the logical consequences of their long-standing conviction in the matter. And if some of these acts take a regrettable form, that’s the fault of the individual, not the Society of Jesus.

But should we now give up our convictions for them? Should we act against the spirit of our Society? This whole Mission was entrusted to us by the Holy See. It is only a few years ago that we ourselves invited the Jesuits back to a portion of it. Must we now abandon our policy, which is nothing else but a simple and straight-forward attempt to implement the wishes of the Holy See! These wishes have often been dodged by the Jesuits on other issues. Today it is certain that they were wrong about those Issues, in spite of their good faith at the time: So, might them not be.wrong now about Native Clergy - whether it is possible, whether It is indispensable! (They were wrong on Indian rites and customs before the Bull "Omnium Sollicitudinum" was published). So wouldn't it be far better to follow the instructions of the Holy See - even blindly, even if they are not expressed in the imperative mood- than blindly to follow the Jesuit system? Especially when, in Cochin-China and many other places, the facts are demolishing their theoretical objections to Native Clergy!.. .

Yes, it’s a pity if we have to get into another big dispuite with the Jesuits. But if it cannot be avoided, we must still not let it deter us from doing all we can to implement the Synod decisions. We leave the outcome up to God. And we implore Him not to let us be driven aside, for one moment, from the paths of true charity.

“Well, the Synod was hardly concluded when Fr Bertrand began to manoeuver and to place his guns. It is a near certainty that he was edging into Pondicherry, that he made a very attractive offer to the French colonial government, to persuade them to hand over the running of the Pondicherry “Royal College” to him. But at that particular moment, the Jesuits were under out-rageous attacks in the Paris Chamber of Deputies. M. Thiers was venting all his hatred and calumny on them. So that the Governor must have been afraid to bring in the Jesuits to the Royal College (p 429) just then. I sincerely deplore that it was such a mean and spiteful reason that kept them out of Pondicherry. Nevertheless, it is still pretty certain that, if they had got in there, to the "white" town, the Foreign Missions Society would soon be on their way out of the "black" town! Or there would have been an even worse tragedy -an all-out open clash between us.

“The Jesuits then tried at Karaikal; but the same reasons must have blocked them there. They finally decided to set up a College, at their own expense, in Tranquebar, which Denmark had just recently ceded to the English.

“At this point Bishop Bonnand could no longer delude himself about what the Jesuits were up to. At the same time, they had been petitioning the S.C. of Propaganda to place their Mission entirely outside His Lordship’s jurisdiction. The Bishop didn’t mind that. But he was shocked at their persistent efforts to take away as much territory as possible in the process – when they already had all the best parts of his Vicariate – and to infiltrate into his remaining territory under cover of setting up a College. And various other bits of news, picked up here and there, made it more and more probable that their ultimate objective was: to get us out of India.

“A long, painful correspondence now ensued, about a new College, between the Superiors at Madurai and Bishop Bonnand. It was difficult and sometimes a bit maddening. All that the Bishop could obtain from them was a slight change: they would establish the College at Nagapattanam, which was still outside their present territory but would come within it after the official division of the Vicariate. But by now the Bishop clearly knew that he had a fight on his hands. His eyes had been opened for him.

“And he also found out that our work was endangered on another front: the Irish. Their pretext was that chaplains from their nation were urgently needed in the English garrison towns [in our jurisdiction]. 89Already the situation was annoying enough: (p 430) our confreres doing duty as army chaplains could obtain their salaries from the Government only through the Vicar Apostolic of Madras. For he is the only Catholic Bishop that the English Company will recognise!

“To crown it all, the behaviour of the Archbishop of Goa is giving us reason to fear that the schismatics are planning something really bad. So all these threats, taken together, have forced Bishop Bonnand to take action: to send someone especially to Rome. There he will have to get the Acts of the Synod approved, and will take other measures also, in order to fortify our position and get official recognition for our Work [of Native Clergy etc.] if it really is – as we think it is – in perfect conformity with the views of the Holy See.

“His Lordship called an extra-ordinary Council of all his missionaries then present in Pondicherry. They voted, unanimously, that one of our number be sent to Paris and Rome, as our official delegate. And they chose Fr Luquet, also unanimously, to be the one. The Bishop, however, wanted to consult the other missionaries as well, and get their signatures on the official document of delegation or proxy. He sent along a covering letter about it all, a fairly long one. But, considering the sensitive and explosive nature of some of the issues involved, he could not spell out all the important angles which it would have been useful to let everybody know about.

“Meanwhile, time was running out. New indications reached us daily, telling us this was no time for messing about. It was decided that Fr Luquet must sail this very month, on the next steam-ship from Madras. The signatures from all the missionaries could not be gathered by then; but the majority was. And that would be enough for Propaganda. Before leaving, Fr Luquet drew up a Report, to be presented to the Sacred Congregation in the name of Bishop Bonnand. On the evening of the 16th May 1844, he set out for Madras. Yesterday (21st) he set sail.

“May the Angels escort him, Mary protects him, the Holy Spirit inspires him, and Jesus fills him with His love! And you, glorious Apostles of India, Thomas and Xavier, watch over his mission, and turn it to the greater glory of our good Master. Amen.” (p 431)

“The news of Fr Luquet’s embarcation did not go down at all well with the Jesuits. And I think their bitter reaction, unfortunately, was shared by a few of our own confreres who were always automatically pro-Jesuit. These confreres were also highly indignant that Fr Luquet had left before the Bishop had received replies to his circular letter from all our missionaries. So, from that moment on, Fr Luquet had some severe critics, even inside our own family.”

Marie-Xavery Helps to

Puncture Inflated Clerical Privilege. But…

For a long time, the Bishop had been promising me to give Tonsure to Marie-Xavery, whose conduct continued to be exemplary. He was now called to the Ceremony for Trinity Sunday. So also was Fr Roger’s senior “disciple”, who was now advanced enough in “Latin” studies. He had been very exact in keeping the Seminary rules since the beginning of the year. But he did not come forward now. He was a young man not lacking in talent and good qualities. But he had been, perhaps, too much of a favourite with Fr Roger, maybe a bit spoilt. Also, perhaps, he had not been strong enough in resisting the insinuations of the local Christians, uneasy as usual about alleged “violations” of caste customs. So Marie-Xavery was the only one admitted into the clerical state that day … Still, things seemed to be going along fairly well at the Seminary – when suddenly a storm blew up, which seemed on the point of wrecking everything. How? The following entry from my diary will explain:

“The month of May – Our Lady’s month – had been successfully celebrated in great style at the Seminary, to my great satisfaction. I wanted to reward the students with a big holiday. True enough, I had noticed a kind of surliness for some time back, among the seniors, and some signs of displeasure and annoyance from the Christians, and even the teachers. I was partly aware of the cause [explained below] but I believed that a short time would be enough for them to see that my policy was the right one. In the (p 432) meantime, I just pretended not to notice their bad attitude. And now let’s come to the remote cause of this simmering resentment against me.

“When Marie-Xavery had received Tonsure, I thought to myself.90 “I have great influence with this young man, and he has always gladly followed my lead. So here’s a good opportunity to put an end to a piece of nonsense that is completely opposed to the spirit of the clerical education we are trying to give”. This meant going against certain customs. Not Indian customs at all, nor caste rules; but some “seminary” customs that had somehow just crept in here, at a period when a real, thorough clerical education used to be considered “impossible”.

"According to these customs, a tonsured clerical student immediately gets the same honours and deference as a priest. (Of course he would not be just a youngster when he received Ton-sure). He must no longer associate on the same level with the other students. He has his own table (or rather, place) in the refectory, and gets superior food and special treatment. Lay people can not sit in his august presence. He never enters the Church except high-stepping on his platform shoes -his noble "padakuradus", Needless to say, he never dirties his hands with house-work, or by doing another student any little service or other. Most amazing of all, he never serves at the altar, or ever does acolyte or thurifer. .. All that kind of thing is done by mere young lay-people, in turban. So, instead of practicing humility and other clerical virtues, the poor exalted cleric is cut off from all the normal church and seminary life, and even encouraged to go against all his life's most basic principles!

“Whatever amount of tolerance we should try to have towards Caste, it was impossible to put up with that particular nonsense (p 433) and I had to start now, with Marie-Xavery, or the remedy would be even harder later on. But I went softly. Every now and then (only) I would let him soil his hands by holding a thurible. I didn’t stop people bowing and scraping to him, but I told him to dodge or waive these honours now and again. He even went on going to class with his inferiors. And the teacher of French – much to his discontent – was told to stay sitting down in his presence! These irrelevant trifles, and others equally trivial (but extremely important here, for the future education of priests) were remarkably annoying to the local Christians, the students, and even the two (or three) Malabari priests belonging to the ancien régime. In fact, the only one who wasn’t annoyed was Marie-Xavery. He was quite happy with the whole thing, and I was proud of him. But re-sentment was simmering away inside them, waiting only for a good occasion to blow the lid off. And the occasion came on that big holiday after May. Here’s how:

The Pine-apple Catastrophe

“The day-out had gone rather well; and we reckoned – Fr Leroux and myself – that this would be a good time for a repeat of what we had tried out about two months before, to the great de-light of the seminarians: to go and eat with them at the special holiday feast. The students seemed very happy about the idea. They themselves gaily prepared and decorated the table for us, in an atmosphere of rejoicing. Unfortunately, there happened to be one Catechist present; and he, probably, wasn’t rejoicing at all. Anyway, it was he who, later, published the crime that I was now on the point of committing. Oh, a ghastly crime! Hanging (by the neck until I was dead) would not be half good enough for it!

“What was this crime? A pine-apple. Yes, a pine-apple. For, at the end of the meal, they brought a pine-apple for Fr Leroux and me. [A fine, big one]. The students didn’t get any. I figured it would be nice to give them some too. Reckless, imprudent wretch, I took up the big fruit myself, in my impure, semi-pariah hands, and cut off some slices with a knife – also impure, since it (p 434) was used at our table! Then – the crowning abomination – I put the slices on to a European plate91. This was spotlessly clean, to tell the truth. But who knows what hands had been touching it in the past? Clearly, it ought long ago have been smashed in pieces, or at least given away to the pariahs! All these successive crimes had certainly been done without malice afore-thought. For it had not even entered my mind that any of them might be (“objectively”) against Caste.

“But now I perceived a sudden deadly silence among the revellers, a sort of embarrasment and shame. Each one took his slice without spoken objection, but with obvious reluctance and distaste. And now it was that I made my real mistake (and maybe a real sin, too!) On seeing their embarrassment, I ought to have stopped distributing the slices, made a joke about my abysmal ignorance of these complicated caste customs, and told them that all they had to do was leave it, if ‘twas in any way against Caste. They would probably all have laughed and eaten it anyway; for we had all been one big happy family together, that evening (except for the aforementioned unfortunate Catechist).

But, instead of playing it right, I now proceeded to get very indignant – just like any ordinary European suddenly confronted by this peculiar type of nonsense. I said nothing. But I kept on regardless, cutting more slices and sending them round. Apparently, the seniors had signalled the juniors not to dare touch it. (These boys probably wouldn’t have been quite so scrupulous on their own). The fact, anyway, is that, apart from one or two, nobody put a slice to his lips. One of them slid it swiftly under his remaining rice, another to the far edge of his banana-leaf; another was quietly squashing it. But I spotted them all; and my tight-lipped face gave away my anger.

“Fr Leroux hadn’t noticed a thing. It was only on the way out from the refectory that I told him “look at that” – a complete slice (p 435) of pine-apple thrown away with the banana-leaves. And I shared my impressions with him. The rest of the evening-off was rather gloomy. I did my best to appear cheerful and unconcerned; but I didn’t succeed very well. Many of the students were painfully aware that I had been offended. But some others – notably 5 or 6 seniors, chronic seminarians whose only vocation was free rice (or whose vocation had been eroded by the hopeless “education” they had been receiving over the years) must have been inwardly delighted at this opportunity to register a protest against my Innovations”. Their one concern now was: how to get word out quickly. Probably they added a few more atrocitites to the story. (The Catechist, of course, was there to confirm them). Very soon, they had turned the mole-hill into an ever-swelling mountain. The most absurd – and contradictory – rumours began to fly around outside. The most frightful plots and designs were attributed to me.

“They didn’t have the courage, however, to make an all-out public issue of it. For the parents were now on the side of the College. It was going well, and they didn’t want to see it closed down over this. The more sensible people, anyway, did not believe that there was any deliberate insult to Caste in it – although many did swallow the exaggerations that were still spreading and “improving”. When it comes to Caste, an Indian will believe anything, however evil, outrageous or impossible. Even the “soundest” men are not immune from prejudice. And their prejudice is terrible. It hypnotises them, blinds them entirely to the facts. They can no longer look clearly at events, at time sequences, or places, or persons.

“Thus, it was widely held that, now, because of this incident, I had refused Tonsure to the second seminarian (who was very popular). And that Marie-Xavery alone had received Tonsure because he alone had made himself into such a slave as to eat food from my table! Although the ordination had obviously taken place several days previously, they all seemed to believe this “reconstruction”. Even poor Fr Lazare, with all his good qualities, forgot everything but his caste, and more or less supported the suspected student ring-leaders. As for the two older priests, they were totally against us. One of them was convinced that our ultimate (p 436) secret aim was to “paria-lize” the young clergy. He put it quite succinctly: “When they lick spit, they will make priests of them. When they eat shit, they will make them bishops“92

By the grace of God, I managed to keep cool. I never even mentioned the affair, either to the students or to the Christians. When some of the seminarians left, or became day-boys only, I just let them go, without showing either disappointment or satisfaction. Interiorly, indeed, I was glad to see them go, rather than sad. For, when you are trying to start something new, it is a lot better to have new materials to work with. I even edged out a few others myself - especially one student whom I thought the most dangerous of all- but on another issue. Finally, after a few days, peace returned to our house."

But another painful crisis soon followed, in which the Jesuits now figured again, much to my distress.

Jesuit Fishing in Troubled Seminary.

What are they trying to Prove? Isn’t the World Big Enough?

No sooner had Fr Luquet sailed than the Jesuits decided that they had to send someone to Rome too. None other than Fr Bertrand himself would do. And now he put it out that he was going to take a few young Indians along with him to Europe. And this brilliant prospect must have been behind the brilliant idea that some of our students now got into their heads: of volunteering to go with him. They were also motivated by their resentment against me, and by the advice of some disgruntled local Christian leaders. It even seems that some high-up Catholics, quite good Christians, also encouraged them in this move. Maybe they hoped it would be advantageous for the young men. Or maybe they, too, resented us. Which would be only too likely, because of (p 437) their irrational suspicions about what was supposed to have been secretly decided at the Synod. The “bad” Christians, however, were the most vigorous instigators. “They will see the Pope”, they said” and they will tell him the truth – about all that the missionaries are doing here, oppressing the Christians!”

“Poor people! They meant, no doubt, our strictness in trying to get the Holy See’s own decrees observed – the official condemnations of certain Malabar Rites and Customs! But we weren’t even in India when these condemnations were handed down. They bind the Jesuits just as much as they bind us; and the Jesuits are observing them just like we are, ever since the promulgation of the Bull of Benedict XIV. And we, no less than the Jesuits, tolerate, even now, whatever customs we can possibly square with minimum obedience to the Holy See. (And indeed our toleration is probably a lot wider than what the Holy See would allow, if it really knew what was going on!)

Anyway, Fr Bertrand gave a favourable reply to these students of ours. One of them soon began getting ready to travel. One or two others had signed a formal letter of application to join Fr Bertrand; and out of these, one was still even a boarder with us. But when they were offerred actual reservations on the ship, they got scared. And they soon dropped the whole idea. It is no small thing for an Indian to go overseas, to a place where he will have to violate caste customs! (This reluctance has lessened somewhat in recent times, since the English have begun transporting great numbers of Indians to Mauritius, and the French to Bourbon. When some of these came back to India, people managed to close their eyes to the big transgressions they must have perpetrated against Caste while away).

One of our day-students kept firmly to his course. He had left the boarding-house for some time. And now he was trying to entice away our best students by holding up the rosy prospects overseas. But nobody joined him, although a few seemed to nibble, at the beginning. When he was ready to travel, he came to tell me he was going away. ,

“Well”, says I, “I think I must congratulate you. If you’re going to France in order to become a great doctor (or a learned (p 438) lawyer or a successful business – man) I can only praise your initiative. You have the ability. You can succeed”.

“No”, says he, “I’m going there to be a priest”.

“Well, in that case, allow me to tell you, you are on the wrong road, it seems to me, not a godly road at all. If this move of yours was motivated by a spirit of zeal and dedication – after long reflection and prayer, guided by the directors of your conscience – after frequent Communions to ask God to let you know His will – I would be congratulating you whole-heartedly. It would be just like my own way of thinking. For I long to see the day when some holy, well-educated clerics from this country will be able to go to Paris or Rome, to complete their education. But you are setting out now, in a mood of spitefulness, urged on by disgruntled elements in Pondicherry, after leaving the seminary for reasons that won’t bear much examining, without the approval of your normal Superiors. So go ahead. I don’t think that heaven is blessing you”.

I must say, however, I didn’t think he was going to go through with it – or that Fr Bertrand was actually going to take one of our students without saying a word to us, without asking for any information about him, without even informing the Bishop! But that’s just what did happen. And, to tell the truth, the conduct of the Rev Fathers distressed me a lot more than the conduct of that young twit. He duly set out for Nagapattanam, where Rev Fr Bertrand was getting ready to leave for Europe.

As I said, he didn’t ask any information about the young man, either from me or from the Bishop. The only thing he said was in a letter to Fr Dupuis in September about something en-tirely different. He added, like by the way: “I am taking along two young Indians, and also Dairanaden93 (our man) from Pondicherry”. It was, he said, an “experiment”.

“Well!” I wrote. “If an experiment is to be made, how do you go about it? Who do you start with? The young man has brains, true enough, and a desire for education. But although he is already fairly old, he has given hardly any signs of a vocation to the clerical (p 439) state before this. At the beginning of the year, he was a boarder. Then on some flimsy excuse (it was before the Ariankupam palaver) he worked a transfer to the day-boys. Meanwhile, he continued on at the classes he had been taking. He managed to get frequent bad marks for conduct. So bad that, at one point, I very nearly told him not to appear in the College again. He then improved, but eventually got very unsatisfactory. (All the same, to be fair, I never had any reason to complain about his morals). I was so dissatisfied with his conduct that, one day, I consulted the Bishop about him: wouldn’t it be better to request him to stay at home? The Bishop replied: “We are in a crisis situation just now. So put up with him. Later on, we will see”.

“And just after that, the Jesuits snatched him. What a lovely specimen of the Pondicherry youth to show around in Europe! I could point out ten that were better, and three or four that were incomparably superior – even though it is only six months since we started here – taken the ways and means to have a real Seminary. They want to make an experiment, a trial. Why don’t they try in their own place – make an effort to have a real seminary in Madurai! They have as many Christians as we have, probably a lot, more.

Later on, maybe, they will come back and tell us the experiment was a failure. Dairanaden did not succeed. Therefore the creation of a Native clergy is not possible. What can that kind of an experiment prove? Maybe they will say that Indian priests can never acquire the necessary virtues, because poor Dairanaden turned out badly (which God forbid!) If so, what would that prove? Truly, this latest stunt of the Jesuits is utterly incomprehensible. I must say, it really gets me down. I begin to fear we will not be able to work peacefully alongside them. Why are they acting like this towards us? Why come at our new-born seminary and stir up such confusion? Are we going to be forced into an allout quarrel with them? God forbid!

“Isn’t the world big enough, O my God? Why can’t your servants work to extend your reign, without having to clash? Aren’t there enough pagan peoples for them – in Africa, in Central Asia, in the islands of the Pacific – enough and too many to satisfy the zeal that You inspire in us! Ah, don’t let us stay, O Lord, in a (p 440) country where scandal would be the first obvious consequence of a real open confrontation! God of peace, give us the grace to be your faithful followers, and not to be obliged to stand up against these brothers of ours, whom we basically like and respect”.

In August, we had the mid-year [oral] examinations at the College-Seminary. In spite of our upsets and mishaps, we could be satisfied with the students’ progress. His Lordship graced the occasion, as did all the confreres in Pondicherry. And the idea came to me: why not have a big end-of-year Prizegiving Day and Educational Entertainment? The parents will be able to see for themselves what good progress their boys are making here, and so will become keen supporters of the College, at least out of self-interest if nothing else. Already, the principal Catholics were beginning to see the light. Hence, during the pine-apple flare-up, they had tried their best not to be too openly offensive towards me. Only two or three had complained directly, and then only very briefly and mildly. Anyway, they knew by now that I had no am-bition whatsoever to attack Caste. (For I then assumed that the Holy See knew of our extra tolerations, and did not disapprove).

And so life went on at the Seminary; and every day brought its own little step forward. The new style of life for the seminarians was holding. Marie-Xavery continued to play his part nobly, undermining the ancient privileges he “should” have been enjoying. A different, contrary, custom was steadily being established. And, in India, once you have “custom” on your side, you have it made. Once you can say “this is the custom” objections wither away. The spirit in the house was notably better. Everything pointed to a rapid and brill ant success just ahead – when God permitted very serious disturbances to break out among the Christian community. And these affected the Seminary very badly indeed. (p 441)

The Nellitope Wall Palaver. Caste.

For the cause of the disturbances which threatened the peace of Pondicherry community for so long, I turn to my diary for August 1844:

“The usual Novena and Feast did not take place at Nellitope for the Assumption. An enormous row has blown up, against Bishop Bonnand himself. This is how it started:

“A magnificent church was nearing completion at Nellitope. But the “normal” dividing wall between the central nave and the pariahs’ side-aisle had not yet been put up. The Bishop planned to use railings instead. Maybe they might look slightly less obscene. But the locals were determined to have a proper wall, just like the Church in Pondicherry. Without consulting anyone, they put it up themselves. When he heard about it, the Bishop promptly had it knocked down.

“Such is the apparent cause of the trouble that then ensued. The real cause is the resentment against us which is constantly simmering away, and the fact that the Christians do not really like us. Why not? Because they believe that our real, pre-determined intention is to “confound the castes” [the ultimate crime in India] and eventually to allow no distinction whatever between Sudras and Pariahs! That is what they think we are up to, whenever we try anything new, even the most irrelevant change. And, I must say, a few of our confreres have done things which, perhaps, were not very prudent in this regard.

Caste customs are, to us, so outlandish and absurd, so contrary to our “liberty, fraternity and equality”! What is more, they seem so far removed from the true spirit of the Gospel! So you have to be doubly or triply convinced of the absolute necessity of putting up with the nonsense. You have to be certain that the only way to avoid an even greater evil is to submit to caste rules yourself, at least partially. You have to watch and restrain yourself continually in order not to appear to be slighting or despising some custom or other – which in reality deserves nothing but contempt anyway. It’s a painful posture to maintain, the real cross of (p 442) the missionaries here!

“Indeed it’s a long, long way in the future, the day when we can even think of de-segregating the castes! Having once allowed the original Christians here to keep to their various castes, we just have to continue. To try to “confuse the castes” would be a recipe for mass apostasy. At the very least, it would alienate them so badly that they would all keep well away from us. We would then see our best communities wither away, and die before our eyes. We have had some lamentable examples of this at Madras. There, the Irish priests (really concerned only about their own soldiers) reckoned they could afford to ignore all these Indian hang-ups, and behave as if they were in Europe. [With disastrous results].

"Now, as more and more new missionaries are coming out to join us, it is becoming more and more difficult to get them all to keep to the "correct" observance of these caste rules. Some of them find it morally repugnant to keep to that narrow line, worked out by our predecessors. Others -let's face it - just find it a continual bore and a painful constraint. Finally, the successive modifications that have been made by us are always in one direction: away from caste customs and towards European style of life.

“In the interior we are more careful. We keep to the “Indian” robe. No shoes, at least on the altar. No pariah servants, only Sudras.94 But even there, many of us are now wearing shoes (of canvas). Our biretta is evolving into a hat. We sometimes employ pariah carriers, out of necessity – even for the table-ware box! These little deviations make us odious to the people. For, when it comes to caste, they don’t reason.

“They see us making those changes – and any change is always abominable. They themselves never change. No matter how Iowa man may be on the social ladder , he desperately and rigor-ously observes the rules that keep him there. He clings to his customs (p 443) immovably – in spite of history, in spite of wars and revolutions, in spite of all the successive foreign governments that come to oppress him. With all their power and might, these cannot move him an inch.

“In Pondicherry city, we are much “worse” than our confreres in the interior for breaking caste customs. We reason that, here, the daily contacts with Europeans must necessarily make European customs seem less outrageous to the Indians. Also, we say, we must not shock the Europeans too much – even though these have nothing to do with us, since they have their own church and clergy, who have no official links with us. By now, our clerical dress has become almost exactly European.

“True, the Indians put up with this. But they do not like us for it. They always recall the good old days, the time their ancestors were converted; then we “respected their customs and were really tolerant”. The more educated Christians distinguish: They know we cannot tolerate, today, any customs that have been definitely condemned by the Holy See. But there are other customs which missionaries formerly reckoned they could tolerate – even after that condemnation. Today, we are more and more disrespecting these customs too; and they are not happy about it. The more ignorant – or malicious – Christians make no distinctions, and take no account of history or anything else; they put no limit to their accusations against us, nor to the expression of their demands.

The Wall Crisis Spreads. Bishop Yields.

But let’s get back to the present crisis. The Nellitope Christians were highly indignant at the demolition of their wall. Nobody wanted to hear about grilles or railings – even though ‘twould have been a much more effective separation than their four-foot wall. His Lordship tried to reason with them. But they flared up into a raging mob. They declared that they would never set foot in the church again until that wall was put back. Or else the whole three (p 444) aisles must be given to the Sudras, and the pariahs must be relegated to the two arms of the cross. Furthermore, the two side doors in the facade must be totally bricked up, leaving only the big main door for the Sudras. As for the pariahs, two little doors can be made, at the ends of the two cross-arms. The Bishop refused. At that, the poor Christians proceeded to excommunicate themselves en masse from the Church. Not a single Sudra came, not even on Sundays. It was solemnly forbidden to them, in the name of Caste; so everybody trembled and obeyed – down to the smallest child. The children were threatened with corporal punishment, moreover, and the women with mistreatment. But the ultimate success of the revolt depended on getting the support of the Pondicherry Christians. These were very sympathetic; but they did not come out with them. They saw they didn’t have a watertight case; for they were being offered a grille. And they had put themselves in the wrong from the start, with their wall, in a church built almost entirely at Mission expense.

“However, the extremist group in Pondicherry urged on the Nellitopians, supported them and encouraged them. There were secret meetings nearly every night in certain big houses; and it seems some really bad plots were hatched. It would be too long and too painful to go into them all. Suffice it here to say that some terrible letters were sent to His Lordship by the alleged ring-leader, not even drawing the line at threatening Schism or Protestantism. We heard they had also written a long letter to Rome, saying that, while awaiting a reply, they would make do with reciting the Mass prayers in private houses!

“Poor people! Have pity on them, Lord. For in all this, there’s a lot more ignorance and prejudice than real malice”.

“Yes, they did write to Rome. A long string of accusations against us, transgressions of all kinds, each more grevious than the last. Here is a sample: We were oppressing and humiliating their caste, even to the point of having only one ciborium at Mass, instead of two different Holy Communions: one for the Sudras and one for the pariahs! So you can see what sort of a letter it was!

“Things came to such a pitch that, at one particular point, it looked as if the Catholic Community in Pondicherry was going to issue a proclamation banning everyone from entering the Church. (p 445) They said they would do so “if the Nellitope Christians were not given fair play” – especially if the two side doors in the facade were not bricked up. Already the caste chiefs were sending out runners with sealed instructions for action. Anything could happen. The Bishop decided he had to give way. In the compromise, he got his grille, but he had to concede a small “foundation wall” instead of a mere base for the iron-work.

Obviously, the rebels had won. I felt sad about it, and fearful about what it boded for the future. “I had concluded that we could safely stand firm”, I wrote at the time, “because the extremists could not go to the lengths that some of us were fearing. Their only real option was to call in the Mylapore schismatics. And the Government would have prevented that, I think. Their threat of going over to Protestantism was mere bluff. There is not a single Protestant temple in the whole area.

What is more, the Catholics know very well that, on the question of caste, the Protestants are a lot more severe than we are. They do not tolerate any separation of Sudras and pariahs in their churches. (As a result, they have hardly anybody in them but pariahs, and a few very highly-paid Government (etc) employees. These do it for the money. They can afford to over-ride their caste rules on a Sunday, and then just hurry home from the preaching and take a ritual bath to wash away the stains of pariah contagion).

“So there was no really serious danger in this crisis just now. Later on, things would probably have sorted themselves out gradually, as happens in nearly all these kinds of revolts. Then, in a calmer atmosphere, we could even grant a few concessions. But, by appearing to concede them under threat of a riot, we are, I believe, jeopardising the future. God grant that this “peace” may not do more harm than good!” (p 446)

Why we should have held Firm.

The Strategic Factors. Texeira’s Visit.

So, again this time, it was Caste that had very nearly wrecked the fine Christian Community of Pondicherry and environs. It came very near to a total split down the middle. In fact, if it was anywhere else but in this French colony, schism could have been the end result of standing firm. More than likely, the majority of the Christians could have gone over to the Goa Schism, at least for a while. Not that the French Government would do anything to help us. But the fact of being in a French Colony held back the Christians from the edge.

There was also the fact that, if they had gone over, they would have had to build a new church for themselves (For the Government would have had to maintain our legal ownership of our churches etc.). A new church would take a lot of time and money. Money they had (or might have). There was talk of sev-eral thousand rupees available for a big new site. However, the talkers would certainly have to think twice before spending all that money. And time passed, and made them think yet again. They began to see that, in the end, schism would get them no-where. For the Goan priests – brought up on Portuguese ideas – openly disrespect Caste rules (I wish that was their only fault!). At Goa and along the West coast, Christians have never been allowed to follow caste separations. But our own Christians, converted after the famous Jesuit break-through at Madurai, have retained many caste customs. So, for them, this caste “flaw” in the Goan priests was a major deficiency (indeed, the only one). So, Texeira’s spying visit to schism-threatened Pondicherry did not have the disastrous effect we had feared.

Texeira? He was a priest from Mylapore, “nominated” a bishop by Portugal. They still claim the right to appoint Bishops to Mylapore, Cranganore (and possibly a few other places) even though these cities no longer belong to Portugal. In fact Cranganore doesn’t even exist any more; all you can see is a few ruins where it used to be; but a Portuguese is still “Bishop of Cranganore” (p 447) and lives somewhere near by!

At Mylapore, right next to Madras, Portuguese priests are still hanging on to the ancient cathedral. Among them is this Texeira; and the Portuguese Government named him as the next “Bishop of Mylapore”. He was not consecrated, because the Holy See would in no way recognise him. But he was openly exercising episcopal jurisdiction, maintaining he had received it from the Archbishop of Goa. He was going round on “visitation” of the churches “under” him, and giving Confirmation. He had no church in Pondicherry; but he reckoned it would be a good idea to do a reconnaissance. He came as a “tourist”, and looked around a bit in the city, and then came to our church as a “sight-seer”.

Accompanied by his chaplain, he entered about 8 a.m., just when the Community Mass for the Seminary was about to commence. Immediately, the priest left the altar and went back to the sacristy. The seminarians filed out of the church, in silence. This was probably an over-reaction, for he had not yet been formally declared a schismatic (as a few priests were, later). However, his acts of jurisdiction were definitely schismatic, since the promulgation of the Papal Brief “Multa Praeclare”. Whatever all that may be, this firm snub had a good effect. Obviously, it did nothing to mollify the irritation of the extremists. But it did not push them into schism, as we feared. Rather, it gave them pause.

Unfortunately, Texeira had a lot more success in the outlying areas of the Vicariate. There, he was able to encourage the deadly division. It is still rampant.

The Ariankupam Bamboo Palaver

Hardly a week after the Nellitope crisis ended, it looked like the Bishop would have a new tug-war to face. His Lordship went to Ariankupam for Mass. On entering the church, what does he see but a new bamboo partition between the big nave and the pariahs’ place? (As I said before, there is no physical barrier in this church. The Sudras put up with this shocking deficiency because the church is inside a big garden and orchard, well away from the (p 448) eyes of the pagans. And by now, it had become “the custom”). Blazing with holy indignation, His Lordship had the flimsy construction knocked down on the spot. The local Christians left the church en masse, leaving only the pariahs and a few strangers behind. It was Nellitope all over again, it seemed.

Fortunately, this time, the rebels got no support whatever from Pondicherry. Certainly, the Catholics would dearly love to see a proper partition in Ariankupam too. But this was not a good time to start a rumpus. It was now the end of August; and the fabulous Nativity of Our Lady (8 September) was coming up. They didn’t want anything to stop that Feast (as the Assumption had just been missed at Nellitope). What a shame that would be, in full view of the pagans! These had needled the Catholics especially this year, by an idol-parade of unprecedented splendour, for which they had stolen several good ideas from the Catholic processions!

And indeed, the Feast duly started, on the 30th August, from the Church in Pondicherry to Ariankupam church, where it was welcomed with greater pomp and ceremony than ever. The pagans had been threatening to make some demonstration or other. But everything passed off peacefully. And the triumphant Return duly took place on the 8th September, in the reverberat-ing style I have already described, to the great joy and satisfaction of everybody.

On the Caste front, we now had a fairly long period of peace and quiet. And at the Seminary in particular, everything was going well. The students were increasing in number. The Bishop’s Council voted for a new Seminary Building, in the Missions’s big garden.

[* *]

[* *]

Fr Langlois (Superior) writes from Paris:

Caste and Future Indian Bishops

During the Ariankupam Octave, I received a letter from Fr Langlois, still Superior of the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary. I (p 449) will transcribe it almost entirely because of the light it can throw on Native Clergy and on Caste.

“Dear Confrere,

… I haven’t received any further letters from you; but I’ve just read a long one of yours, .written to Fr Tesson, setting out your plans and projects and desires for the progress of our Pondicherry Mission (and all the other missions m India). In every line, it is obvious that you have nothing else in view but the greater glory of God and the advance of Religion m India. But I have noticed, among your ideas, a. few things that are just not feasible at the moment, things that will not be possible until there is a huge change in the mentality of the Indians. And the present efforts of our missionaries should be aimed at achieving that mental revolution at least among the Christians.

I mean, of course, the prejudices and customs of Caste. This seems to me the single biggest obstacle to creating any successful Christian institution among them. Especially, it is an obstacle to having native Bishops. How can we even think of elevating an Indian to the episcopate – how make him the leader and pastor of all the flock – when neither he, nor his priests, nor his faithful, have freed themselves from the antipathies of caste-against-caste? These caste prejudices, and the related antipathies, must produce divisions,. Quarrels, contempt, mutual hatred, and other things which are directly contrary to Charity – the essence of Christianity, the peace-maker between men of all kinds and conditions.

“Charity, indeed, does not abolish social distinctions. What it does do is to establish unity, concord and harmony between superiors and inferiors. Now to your Indian Bishop: if he was from a low caste, what respect or credibility would he have with the higher ones? But let’s say he is from an upper caste: Then either he will behave like his peers, and look down on the lower castes thus acting against Charity and the duties of his state. Or he will treat all his priests and people the same, regardless of their caste, thus earning the contempt of his peers. True, one Indian has been made a Bishop in Ceylon. But, there, the castes have long been abolished. And anyway, we will soon see whether it was such a good idea to make him a Bishop.

“In China, towards the end of the17th century, Bishop Pallu had a Chinese man consecrated Bishop.95 But the choice was not a happy (p 450) one. He was a man of piety and virtue; but he had not enough knowledge and learning. He was notably lacking in strength of character, and let himself be unduly influenced. Since that time, Propaganda has never again tried a Chinese Bishop. About 1700, a halfcaste priest (father from Manila, mother Siamese) was made Bishop, and Vicar Apostolic of Cochin-China.96 He was a good priest, but he didn’t have what it takes to be a bishop. So Bishop Lanneau of Siam hesitated a lot before imposing hands on him. “He’s a good priest, but will make a bad bishop”, he reckoned. The forecast came true. His personal morals were always correct; but he let himself be manipulated by the enemies of our Society. When raising him to the episcopate, Propaganda gave him a Coadjutor, a French missionary of our Congregation, a very sound man, with instructions to do nothing without his advice. But he did not follow the line intended by Propaganda. He ignored his Coadjutor’s advice and preferred the advice of the enemies (or rivals) of our Society. They led him by the nose whenever they wanted.

“The time will come, indeed, when we can have Indian Bishops. But it can only be done when we have already got a numerous, well organised Indian Clergy to choose from – a big group where you can find plenty of competent candidates to be placed on the throne (not just one here and there, by way of exception) men whose heads will not be swelled or turned by rank. Now, that situation will not be achieved in a short time. So what we have to do, now, is to organise the training of the Indian Clergy in such a way that we will have plenty of holy, well-educated men later on.

“You believe we ought to sub-divide, and to have many more Vicariates Apostolic. It is a good idea, for it would mean more seminaries. But I do not think it opportune, now, to have quite as many sub-divisions as you are suggesting.

“I would like to see all the seminarians (minor as well as major) become boarders, especially in a place like Pondicherry. Indeed, if we could get a suitable site out in the country, I would like to transfer the whole Minor Seminary there. Especially if the University is going to be a nuisance. Even for the Major Seminary, I would like the same – only that it should not be too far away from the Bishop. I am very pleased that you are all taking serious steps to ensure the formation of a Native Clergy. But the most important means at (p 451) your disposal is to make Christian virtues attractive to the young lads you are teaching. At the same time, not to demand too high a standard, either of knowledge or behaviour, from them; not more than they are able for. It will also be good not to ordain them too young. Experience will probably make you modify a few of your views in all this … “

What a truly apostolic letter, showing the real, warm interest that Fr Langlois has in all our missions – compared with the cold, laconic tone of his successor! Fr Barran’s knowledge of the missions seemed to be confined to maps and geography books. He seemed hardly to know what we were talking about in our letters!

But, to be fair, this is to the exceptional praise of Fr Langlois, that great old man; it is not casting any positive discredit on his successor. For the missions are not his jobs. The Superior of the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary is not the Superior of our Congregation. So he is in no way obliged to go into the details of anything outside the walls of his Seminary. It is just a bonus when the Seminary has the good fortune to possess a Director who can use the de facto authority of his position in order to further the good of the Society on the missions! You might not always agree with Fr Langlois’s opinions. But you always respected them. And where your own view differed, you took another good look at it. You thought again. And so I wrote in my diary:

“It was a great pleasure to receive this letter from the venerable Fr Langlois. Rarely do I meet with such well thought-out positions about our Work. People usually just give a confident Yes or a definite No, without any reasoning behind it. Moreover, Fr Langlois is a real authority on everything to do with the missions.

“Well, he seems to be entirely on our side. Indeed, he supports every essential part of our strategy. He sees the difficulties, and is not over-confident about our success. But neither are we ourselves without some fears.

“As well as the difficulties posed by the very nature of these peoples, and their mentality, there is another one which Fr L.anglois does not seem to notice, or only very indirectly, i.e. the divergent views of the missionaries. Maybe that’s what he means by the “adversaries of our Society”. Note well: the two Asian (p 452) bishops cited in his letter still remained good priests, chaste and pious. What had Fr Langlois against them? Lack of firmness; being led by “the enemies or rivals of our Society”. Who were these? Other missionaries, no doubt. Well, what could these poor Bishops do, when they saw their so-called guides squabbling among themselves! …

Yes indeed, the difficulties are enormous. But should they prevent us from working to have Indian priests – and later, Bishops? Should we just go on with this present system of Inertia, building nothing up, and watching the slow collapse of all that our predecessors put up in a hurry, without a good foundation – the solid foundation of a Local Clergy! Fr Langlois’s letter, taken as a whole, says No!

"About Caste, Fr Langlois seems to be confusing two different things: contempt for a caste; and contempt for the persons in it. True, the pariah caste is a low and despised caste. But, at least among the Christians, there is no obligation to despise John Smith just because he happens to be a pariah. True, if you are from a higher caste, you must refuse Smith the social amenities that his caste does not carry with it. But haven't we similar "contempts" in our own Western society? (I know; comparisons are seldom identical!). We definitely look down on convicts, as a class. But we can have a lot of pity for the poor devil in jail- especially if we know he is sorry for his crime. True enough, he had it coming to him. But what about his children? They share in his disgrace, without having done anything to deserve it. I am not trying to defend Caste. It is a sinful exaggeration (like much another Indian institution). But is it certain that it is essentially opposed to charity? Our predecessors did not think so; for they tolerated it. And today, it would be utterly impossible to make our Christians give it up. No doubt, it is an enormous additional obstacle to forming a Native Clergy (already difficult enough). But should it make us abandon that Work? I do not think so. And neither does Fr Langlois. Our only apparent difference, really, is: He does not want Indian Bishops immediately. Well- even if we succeed beyond our wil-dest hopes - it isn't today or tomorrow we expect to see an Indian hierarchy in charge" (p 453)

His Reply: Seminary Site, Sub-divisions etc…

Here is my reply to Fr Langlois, a few days later:

“Dear Fr Superior,

“The .three new confreres have just arrived, and brought me your good, kind letter of the 12th April…

“I had feared that your many important cares would not leave you time to think of one of the least and most junior missionaries in our Society. But God, who showers so many graces on you, has also given you the grace (for us) of not forgetting anyone. May his Name be praised!

“Another thing that greatly encouraged me was to see that you share fully in the Ideas which motivate a few of us here – principles that are becoming clearer to us every day, more obviously true and more conducive to salvation, Our dearest hope is to see these aims of ours blessed by the Lord and supported by those in a position to make them bear fruit; for otherwise our aspirations would remain just that – vain hopes and aspirations hidden in our hearts. It is true; you perceive great difficulties in the way. But, believe me; we have no illusions about the obstacles either. We see them. They are the same. Only” they do not appear to us insurmountable, with the help of God (Without which we can achieve nothing here below) and also with the powerful support of those who control the resources of the Missions (who thus become the instruments of Grace on which all our confidence is based). ‘

“Nevertheless, the Work we have in view – and which seems to us nothing else but the fulfilment of the Society’s Founding Idea, and the thinking of our first Vicars Apostolic, of precious memory – is not the Work of one day, or one life-time. If only, before we die, we can move it forward enough to make sure it will be successful in the future! Well, to achieve that, we believe we must start right now, :-without worrying about some imperfections in the beginning. That is why we want to see a start made in the sub-division of dioceses – the only way to lay the foundations for gradually setting up a proper Indian hierarchy. For without that, it seems to us, no mission progress can ever be really solid, really founded. If you look again at our over-all scheme, dear Fr Superior, perhaps you will recognise that the “many dioceses” we are advocating are not too many – and that they should even be more, later on, if God crowns our efforts with some success. Anyway, we are not claiming that all this should be done today or tomorrow. You approve of sub-division in principle; (p 454) that’s enough for us now. The future will show whether or not the principle should be taken further.

"As for the question of castes, we do not deny how contrary they are to the spirit of Christianity, and what a hindrance they must always be to the perfect establishment of the Church. But all this question is much too complex to discuss properly here. First of all, we should not imagine that Caste can ever be abolished by Cristianity until such time as the majority of people are Catholics. We have embarked on this policy of "tolerating" Caste; no way can we go back on it. Whether our predecessors were right or wrong about it in the past is a difficult question to answer. Now we must just put up with the situation, and make the best of it. And I believe a great deal of harm was done, is being done, and will be done, by the reckless behaviour of some missionaries in their hostility to Caste. Certainly, great harm is being done by contradictory policies towards Caste, both by individuals and by Societies. Maybe that's the real obstacle to India becoming Catholic! We have to take the country where it is at - Caste and all- and try to establish the Church in it; not start by trying to undermine Caste. In the meantime, Bishops could be chosen from the higher castes. There are men in these who - by education or by their own generous ideas - are away above these absurd prejudices, men who despise them in their hearts, and detest their terrible practical consequences.

“Yet these same men are foremost in observing all the caste laws externally because, more than others, they are loyal to their social and family ties. These bind them inevitably to caste practices, under pain of being rejected by their own, expelled even from their families, barred from their homes and relatives’ houses, even at weddings and other great occasions in life. These are men of deep Christian piety. And if so, I do not see why such men could not be made bishops. They merely observe the normal rules of politeness and “noblesse oblige” in their country. They do not despise their inferiors. They would minister to them just as well – and often better _ than the present priests. (And these, it must be said, will also courageously ignore caste if they are called to help a dying pariah).

Finally, as regards the basis for caste distinction: When it is not “theological” but merely social (as it is with the Christians at least) I can assure you: it seems to me a lot less offensive than Slavery. And Christianity did not set out to destroy that social institution from the start. It just gradually softened it, modified it, utterly changed it, over the centuries, until finally Slavery just withered away and disappeared, almost everywhere.” (p 455)

(At that time, out of respect for my predecessors and for the opinion (then unanimous) of my confreres, I believed that Caste was merely a social arrangement. Today I am not so sure. I begin to fear it is essentially anti-Christian (because anti-charity) a d that therefore it is not morally tolerable. The sequel will show how I was forced to think again, how my views changed, and how I formulated my moral doubts).

“When Christianity becomes dominant in India, castes will wither away. But let nobody think he must start, now, by attacking Caste.

“Your examples of two Asian Bishops – who turned out to be not so wonderful after all – are not such as to discourage me. Perhaps the choice was not wise. Perhaps too much was demanded of them that’s another reason for smaller dioceses, and many of them. That way, an Indian hierarchy could start in a small way, and gradually grow up, along with the ordinary clergy.

“Maybe you imagine, dear Fr Superior, that we are thinking of dumping Our dearly beloved and highly respected Bishop Bonnand, and replacing him by a Tamilian Bishop? Well, let me tell you, that is not at all our idea! This Vicariate – already too big for anyone man – IS twenty times too big for a native Bishop. But suppose that Pondicherry (or Madras or Calcutta) were made to be the seat of a Primate or Patriarch (regardless of his nationality). Suppose each of the other big centres had an Archbishop, with authority over several suffragan bishops. And suppose each of these was in charge of a diocese proportionate to his competence? I think it could work. Native priests would not be excluded a priori from any post. But they would be promoted only in proportion to their performance … Well, that’s a very big canvas; and enough about it for the moment. Fr Luquet will explain it a lot better, and with more sagacity … Moreover, all these plans are adjustable; we will easily change them when called on to do so, by good reasons or by proper authority.

“About the Seminary: Many missionaries here think the same as yourself. And I would be inclined to their opinion too (that the Seminary would gain by being placed in the countryside). But I think it is just not possible at the moment. ..

. “Today it is absolutely necessary to have a College at Pondicherry, for good solid education of the youth. This need is reinforced by the Protestants; they are getting ready to start a school here. They are going to build a church immediately. If we are not here to stop them, with our College, they will take over education in (p 456) the city. That would be the end. Our Seminary is also our College (which explains why it can’t be completely boarding, a deficiency which I also deplore, because of known cases of budding vocations destroyed). So I do think we should aim at setting up another educational establishment later on, out in the country. It would suit us better. Maybe the future Catechists’ Centre would meet our needs? But we should not abandon Pondicherry College now. A seminary out there would also be better for attracting plenty of candidates from the interior. Some of them would never go as far as Pondicherry. It is the end of the world for them.

“There is only one serious objection (I think) to this plan: the enormous expense … At the moment, here, we have 25 boarders; and 20 of them are (in fact or in name) reckoned to be “ecclesiastical students” and therefore on Mission account… Apart from food and maintenance of boarders, we have to pay salaries to our teachers. We have quite a number of them. And already we need more. Finally, our present building has become too small.

“So there we are, dear and honoured confrere (allow me to call you that, in spite of the deference I owe you – and give you). That’s our situation at the very start of the enterprise – for it’s only barely started! Where do we go from here? I must admit, I sometimes close my eyes in fright when I look at the difficulties and dangers ahead, and all the rocks looming up before us, to wreck us. But all my trust is in the Lord.

“If we just stay where we are, Religion will not advance a foot; it will even fall back. A Native Clergy is feasible. Nobody any longer denies that it is possible – even easy – to have plenty of Indian priests. Vocations are not lacking. Even, considering the limited number of Christians, they abound … The only thing people now doubt is our ability to inculcate all the clerical virtues.

“My own opinion is that we can train them well, and that we can have a very good clergy (relatively speaking) if only we are given the tools for the job. In spite of the new enthusiasm and the new consensus, we are still left without the most necessary requirements in our efforts to train and nourish the spirit. No books; no chapel; no religious instruction at the level of the students, etc., etc. The teaching is getting better; but it still leaves plenty of room for Im-provement. The senior students, dating from the era of neglect, are very weak. But still I’m full of hope. Things are progressing every day. Thanks be to Providence, I can see light ahead..

“But I don’t hide the future problems. We are going to have a numerous Clergy. But what are they going to live on? What various (p 457) careers are there, for them to follow, according to each one’s personal vocation? What means can we devise, to keep a helpful eye on them, and encourage each of them to do better than the next? Etc., etc. There’s a whole new system of work to be created, as from now, and to be quietly introduced. Without trouble or commotion, later on. I think the establishment of several new dioceses would be a big help in future, if confided to outstanding men with some sort of a common understanding between them. But can we even hope for that understanding among leaders? Don’t leadership-qualities and getting-on-well-with-people nearly always exclude each other? So, finally, I am brought back to this: I fall down once again before the infinite mercy of God, hoping against hope – trusting also in the help of your prayers …”

Luquet’s Greatness will be Seen … in Heaven!

Fr Luquet was sailing on, full of hope. He wrote to me from Malta, on 20th July. His letter was a bit over-enthusiastic, no doubt; but it revealed all the greatness of his soul, all his fervour for the work of evangelisation. And this is the man that, very soon after, they were to throw aside, making him useless to the Church! Just because he wasn’t prudent and diplomatic enough. Just because he wasn’t careful enough to keep certain people in a good humour. Also, perhaps (let’s face it) he made some serious blunders; but they were not sins of the heart. For these he was written off. Such is the blindness and prejudice of even well-intentioned people! Because many of the people who helped to crush and annihilate my poor confrere were good men, sincere people…

Or maybe it is just the Will of God that, sometimes, great souls have to be prevented from fulfilling all the vision He grants them. Otherwise, the worlds become too perfect too soon! For where is the century when the Church did not have great men, devoted servants outstanding in intelligence and goodwill? God’s grace gave them everything it takes to become great leaders (even in the eyes of men). But, more often than not, this greatness re-mains mostly a hidden treasure. Sometimes – when the world has (p 458) to be treated with special Mercy - God arranges things in such a way that a great soul will shine out before the people, and the hidden seeds of Salvation will multiply, and bear wide-spread fruit. But at other times - when Justice has to take its course, and the world has to be left to run on its usual wobbly course of good and evil- the same souls are kept back. They are like wondrous fruits, capable of reproducing their special kind of goodness ad infinitum in the world outside; but they are kept back, only to add delight to the King's Table.

It is only at the Eternal Banquet that we will really be able to see and enjoy all the good deeds of the Saints. Their primary source and shape remains hidden in the sinless Heart of the Lamb. Most of these good deeds never show effectively in this world. But then they will be no less beautiful than the deeds actually achieved outside; for they have already been achieved where it matters, in the heart. And the One who knows all things – including the outward achievements that might have been – will then show forth all the beautiful and glorious deeds that remained locked in the heart of a Saint. His will was right and generous; but he lived in a world that was just not capable of receiving his lifegiving contribution. Yet the infinite knowledge of God can also see into the Future Conditional! May He only give my saintly friend the grace of patience and perseverance! Then he will be as great in Heaven as he was reviled and rejected on earth!

Allow me to quote just a few passages from his letter.

Luquet’s Letter from Malta

“May the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit fill your heart and mind, dear friend? May we all be filled with Him; for that’s the only way we can ever achieve what our Good Master expects of us in this world. As you can see, I am still at Fort Manuel, a prisoner, under quarantine with some of the other passengers. Right inside one of the great citadels built into and on to the rock of Malta by the military genius of the Grand Commanders of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The English flag now flies over the ancient Palace once garrisoned by the heroes of the (p 459) Catholic Faith, once marked (for a brief period) by revolutionary France. Anyway, glory be to God at all times and places! Let us adore His mighty plans; Let us bow humbly and obey His voice in the changing centuries!

“Since I left Pondicherry, the work of the missions and the task entrusted to us by our sublime vocation, to which the Lord has deigned to call us, are taking on greater universal importance in my eyes day by day. On the one side – in the peoples of Asia whom we are trying to evangelize – I see ignorance or hatred, expressed in contempt for us and often in persecution; our blood is fecundating the soil which our sweat is not enough to render fertile. On the other side – the Christian peoples of Europe who should be our powerful support – I see abysmal ignorance about the vast scope of our Mission; sometimes even spitefulness and contempt. They don’t put up scaffolds in Europe to kill us; but there are deadlier methods for frustrating our efforts…

“I would dearly love to work, with effectiveness as well as devotedness, to tear away at least a corner of that veil of European ignorance, blinding millions to the grandeur of our missionary posi-tion. And, as you know, this is how I see that position of ours…

“Among the pagans, our duty is to labour and die announcing the Faith and educating the nations. Such is the apostolate of all missions in every age, the work of every missionary. But educating the nations is not just Christian Doctrine, not just bringing them (in private and in public dialogue) to see the emptiness of their idols and the shamefulness of their worship. There’s more to it than that; and this is the part which the penury of the missionaries has made them neglect so woefully, almost everywhere, up to now. We have to enter into the secrets of their Asian dogmas, their Literature – their moralists, poets, and philosophers. We must seek out the secret behind the seductive beauties of their mythologies (and they are beautiful, everywhere) behind the fairy-tales that accompanied their childhood lullabies, their boyhood dreams and their adolescent passions … And find the mysterious key, which by divine Grace we can then use to help us in our efforts to enlighten them, and to counter the wiles of the devil with some hope of success.

“In a word: We need Xaviers to convert peoples by dint of virtues and miracles. But we also need Augustines, to conquer pagan learning by publishing the wisdom of Jesus Christ. We need martyrs. But we also need apologists. In the modern mission-fields we have plenty of martyrs; no need to envy the great days of old, the early Church. But we do lack our present-day Justins and Augustines ;(p 460) let them now rise up, and confound the learned idolatries of India and China with new Apologias and new Cities of God! That thought has been with me, ever since my first look at the Indian people, their culture, and the requirements of their situation. That view was confirmed in my long conversation with the learned Tambusamy Mudaliar – especially when he explained the charm and fascination which the “Ramayana” exercises over the peoples of India.

“I don’t think I was just day-dreaming when I glimpsed, inside the secret heart of Indian literature, that there was a magnificent work waiting to be tackled there. I had decided to give up every other scientific research and to concentrate on that great work – when Providence sent me to Europe. Do you think I willingly dropped my language studies – the key to further investigations in order to get to my objective! And more beyond! What a great boon to the missions would an Indian-style “City of God” be – or a Chinese one, etc! I think it is necessary to do something about it at this point in history.

“But, apart from the missions, there is another reason: As apostles of Jesus Christ, we must imitate the generosity of our Master, and of the wonderful followers who took Him as their model. We must consider ourselves debtors, under an obligation to all creation. We owe this obligation of mind and heart – to spread the Light and to further the knowledge and whatever other gifts have been entrusted to us. The world, the whole world, must be loved by us. Our charity must be alert for any opportunity, near or far, to advance the great family of the human race.

“And what do we see, today, all over the world? We see men of science courageously facing hardships and sacrifices, sometimes as great as our own. For what? In order to do scientific research, geog-raphical observations, discoveries etc. For what purpose? To be formulated according to their different branches and offered up on the altars of Science, which is now the new international idol. And what religious spirit is driving them on? Religious indifference, usu-ally; sometimes downright hatred of the Christian Faith. So, if you read their books – geography, astronomy, physics, philosophy, history – what do you find about the science of Religion? What do you see about that divine Science which is, strictly speaking, the only Science that matters, since it contains all Truth! You know the answer better than me: Nothing. Religion just isn’t there. Or if it is mentioned, ‘tis only to be sneered at.

“And we, Catholic priests, what are we doing about it? What are we doing, all this time, in order to claim our rightful place in all this (p 461) research? Nothing or something absolutely useless. Because it is nothing, it is mere waste of time, to be continually on the defensive, attacking “bad books”. Everyone is going to read them anyway. And only the already-converted are going to read ours. This is no time to hide behind a shield. It is time to take up the two-edged sword of Truth and go out and fight them on their own ground _ fight both the idols of the pagans and the new false idol of modern Science. We have to stop these traitorous children from stabbing their own Mother with weapons sought inside hostile traditions. The Christian Faith, now for more than a century ridiculed and humiliated by these rationalists, must regain her former standing, even on this point. It is only our own hopeless inferiority in certain sciences that allows these gentlemen to be so smart and supercilious…

“Now, among Catholic priests, who are the best placed to know the laws, customs, traditions, literature and science of the foreign nations (the cultures that our attackers come and dig, in order to find new ammunition against us?) Who but the missionaries? So the time has come when we must dedicate some hours each day – some of the many hours that God has given us, for His glory – to this great work of scientific reparation (or repair) for the defense and for the advancement of the Church. Truth is not afraid of the light. She calls out for more of it with all her heart!”

Fr Triboulot is dead!

Just before that time, I lost a real, good friend. With tears still in my eyes, I wrote this passage in my diary, for him:

“How inscrutable are Your judgments, O Lord! Be You blessed for everything that comes to us, for everything that is still to come! But be not offended, O my God, at the pain and sorrow in my heart, ever since hearing the news of the premature death of Your faithful servant, our dear confrere, my special friend, the saintly Fr Triboulot!

“Young missionary, are you gone so soon! No! Happy missionary; lucky man! So quick to receive the crown of your sacrifices and your many virtues! For I cannot doubt that this dear friend of mine has quickly entered the heavenly Kingdom. If he (p 462) had to go by way of Purgatory, he wasn’t there long. His soul was so beautiful, his intentions so pure, his piety so tender and steady! I think I already mentioned a word in praise of him, from someone who had no friendly axe to grind, a junior officer travelling with us on the “Pauline” to Bourbon. Looking at the sort of Carthusian life that Fr Triboulot lived on board – his strict observance of his severe rule of life – his calmness in the worst of times – his moderation, candour, easy relations with everyone on board – this officer said to me, one evening as we walked the deck: “A pity someone doesn’t write the Life of Fr Triboulot. ‘Twould be beautiful”.

Indeed, there wouldn’t be anything very spectacular in that Life. But it would still be outstanding for the habitual perfection of every least act of his – always done for supernatural motives, out of love for God. Continual co-operation with Grace in little things – the makings of a great Saint. The regularity of his life, the scrupulous fidelity to every little devotion, the skilful mortification in ordinary situations – all these were kept up just as perfectly on our second ship. Once at Pondicherry, he got down to Tamil studies with a steady perseverance. No great enthusiasm – it wasn’t his style. Or anyway, it never showed up, about anything, at least on the outside. But his calmness was not achieved without a struggle. He had great natural vivacity. At moments of contradiction or stress, I have seen him sort of wince for a moment. But it never showed on his face beyond that, still less in his voice or words. He was longing to leave the tyrocinium and go on the mission. But he waited patiently, preparing for the actual ministry by redoubled piety and sustained study of Tamil.

On the mission, he soon began to have some chest trouble, and this was causing some worry. But he seemed to be getting over it fairly well. The doctor said the air of the Nilghiri Hills would do him good. He was sent to look after the small Catholic community on the mountains.

He had left Pondicherry with me on the 28th February 1843, and I had the consolation of doing the journey along with his Guardian Angel, who was in complete charge of his progress! We were together as far as Salem, and there we said goodbye. But he wrote to me often from his mountain station. There, he had a miserable (p 463) church and a few pariah Christians. Though only just built, it was falling down already. And this was a place where the English, I hear, are building a magnificent Rest and Recreation station (for the air is like in Europe). His Catholic heart must have suffered at the contrast. For they have also completed a superb Protestant church there.

On the Nilghiris, his health recovered completely. Soon he was able to come down again to the plains, and help his neighbouring confreres. So I had the pleasant surprise of meeting him again last year, at Karumattampatty.

“At the Synod, we met again. He was still the same, always interiorly recollected, always punctual in his duties, exact in every little work for God. Although he is above average intelligence, he sometimes failed to see things aright. And he could get very stubborn arguing with contrary opinions. This defect took away from his influence, even when he happened to be right! This’same kind of obstinacy led him into a great many successive little palavers with his Christians. He kept writing to the Bishop to complain them. Perhaps this is why he was not properly appreciated in Pondicherry. Certainly, it made life very painful for himself. I learnt all this from his neighbour Fr Pacreau, whom he often consulted.

“But he always obeyed the least order from his Superiors, seeing everything in the presence of God, every event as Provi-dential. Thus, a few days before his death, he was writing to me about the new cholera epidemic in his community. He reckoned it was sent by God. He was then at Kodiveli. Apparently, several insoluble disputes settled themselves very quickly in the face of the cholera disaster, having long resisted all advice and all reconciliation attempts. But the good priest did not seem to foresee all the designs of Providence there. If God’s Mercy was smiting the sinners to save them, it must have been his terrible Justice that took away their shepherd and friend from these poor Christians, apparently unworthy of having so good a priest among them! But, for Fr Triboulot, ‘twas all a saving Providence. The cholera epidemic was to open Heaven to him.

On the 1st November, after Mass, he himself was struck down by this cruel illness. Three men were quickly sent to Fr Pacreau, (p 464) about 30 miles distant. Fr Pacreau was ill himself. But he was just setting out, on an old palankeen borne by six carriers, when another messenger came running, to tell him his confrere had already breathed his last. Fr Pacreau wanted to go on, anyway, and pay his last respects. But the carriers, in terror, took off in all directions. They did not want to go near any cholera funeral! And so, this saintly man didn’t even have someone to throw holy water on his body.

“May the Angels have done it for him – and done more than any mortal priest can do! May his grave, unblessed by any prayers, be blessed by his own mortal remains! And may his soul, flying to Heaven all unaccompanied – because it had become a lone worker for our Master’s glory – now remember us in his happiness!”

Seminary Progress. Confreres’ Support.

“Everything was now peaceful in the Seminary, and things were progressing smoothly. The numbers were going up. The new seniors were giving me a lot of cause for consolation. Fr Dupuis was working zealously, composing and printing a Tamil Grammar for Latin, and another for French. We were already using the proof-sheets. The Bishop seemed to have some confidence in me, and was quite friendly. And I myself had more esteem and veneration for him. The foundations for a new Seminary-College building were being laid. I was disappointed that my complete plan was not being followed. The reductions were a pity. But the disap-pointment was not such as really hurts. (Later on, they reduced it again, drastically, and made it completely inadequate for its purpose).

The Pondicherry confreres were friendly, and supported my work nearly as much as I could expect. The confreres from the interior were not against me. A few of them were a bit cool with me, because of my known friendship with Fr Luquet. Against him a storm was gathering. I don’t think it would be unfair to put most of it down to a few confreres’ blind attachment to the Jesuits, who (p 465) felt their policy was now at risk because of our progress. And yet how I longed to be able to live peacefully with the Jesuits! How I’d have loved to be able to go along with their policy, and even that we might help each other! Even if they still didn’t want to have Indian priests in their place, maybe they would now leave us alone, to get on with it? For our jurisdictions were now completely separate.

In general I was happy in my work. And the Paris Fathers seemed to be satisfied with what we were doing. So I was hoping for their support – which was extremely important in the present situation of the Society. After Fr Langlois’s letter, here’s one from Fr Tesson, about my appointment as Superior of the Seminary:

“I didn’t say a word to anyone ; but I was strongly hoping they would make that move. Nobody could do it better than you – I nearly said “as well as” – from every point of view. Your outspokenness is no problem. Indeed, people like it. Because your advice is good; your views are right. Your presence at Pondicherry cannot but be beneficial, even on that count.”

Excuse these laudatory quotations. But maybe they will show why I was so utterly surprised, later on, when they turned against me. Why I felt there must be some misunderstanding. Fr Barran (one of the least understanding later) now wrote to express his support and affection, and his hopes that Heaven would bless our efforts. But I could see that he was not quite “one of us”.

“Here in Paris”, he said, “there’s no danger you’ll be forgotten, dear confrere – especially when you are now at the head of the revolutionary party in India.” Me? a revolutionary? So he also had taken literally what I wrote (tongue-in-cheek, a year earlier) to Fr Chevalier: “They say that you also belong to the New Wave in France”.

Luquet Runs into Opposition in Paris

All the same, the end of 1844 was not without some painful disappointments First of all, Fr Luquet met with a rebuff from the Directors at the Paris Seminary. I wrote in my diary:

“Myself, I was not very surprised. But Bishop Bonnand was (p 466) sadly disillusioned. True, these gentlemen have no say in the ad-ministration of the missions. They have just one vote, between them, just like one Vicar Apostolic, in anything concerning the whole Society. But in fact their influence is powerful. Our Bishop’s would be very much less, especially with Propaganda. With time, with perseverance, we will obtain everything the Bishop is asking for. At least I hope so. Because it is all clearly for the good of the missions. But it won’t be got without trouble or contradications, or without having to go back again and again.

“These last days, Bishop was discussing it with me. I said he’d be very lucky if he got it in ten years, i.e. the authority of an Ordinary Bishop. It was precisely on that point that his Report was most strongly opposed by the Directors. They have .sent no written reply yet. Only, in a long letter, Fr Luquet explains that, in order not to turn the Directors completely against the Bishop, Luquet has had to agree to a modification in the Bishop’s Report to Propaganda. He analyses the amended Report. It makes no mention of bishoprics. Then, in a letter to me, date-lined Paris, he says:

“From my letter to His Lordship you will have seen what I had to agree to here. I managed to swallow it, though ‘twas a bitter pill … But I think the essential point – on which all the others hang – will gain by it, instead of losing.” I commented:

“It seems our dear confrere is also being blocked by our Paris Gentlemen on the matter of the Brothers of Christian Doctrine. (Fr Luquet had been asked to invite them here). Finally, it ap-pears that the Jesuits are getting ready for an all-out opposition to him, and even that they have already begun. Our dear deputy doesn’t seem to be in the least bit discouraged by all these obsta-cles. Neither should we. If the work of Local Clergy is from God, He will bless our efforts, provided we are faithful.”

Since I wrote these lines, more than ten years have gone by. The work for Clergy has gone forward during all that time – though a lot slower than it might have done without all these storms blowing against it.

Moreover, it still does not seem unstoppable, even now, even in Pondicherry Vicariate itself, where its greatest progress has been made. But at least it has been kept going all the time. Let’s hope that its growth continues, and that it will be backed up sufficiently to be able to grow in peace and good order. But how (p 467) difficult to co-ordinate it with that other indispensable require-ment: still more missionaries!

The Jesuits Again. Self-evident Truths.

At the end of the year, there ‘were more disputes with the Jesuits – painful ones. I will leave out all my jottings about these exchanges in my diary; for they are just too depressing. How sad, indeed, to be at loggerheads with brothers-in-arms, fellow-missionaries! We like them. We respect them. But we just cannot go along with them in everything. And we have to be very cautious whenever we don’t act and think as they do!

Fr Bertrand duly set out for Europe, along with the aforementioned Dairanaden. He came to Pondicherry to embark, bringing this young man, to lodge at the Seminary. Dairanaden’s presence there could not be regarded as an unmixed blessing, because of the way he had left it. However, the least we could do was to be charitable, and not tell him again what we thought of him. Even, to encourage the boy. For if there was any fault, it wasn’t mainly his.

In any other form or circumstances, I would be delighted to see a young man like him set out. One of my favorite ideas (I have never been able to get enough backing for it) is that it would be good to send a few young men, from all our Missions, to finish their studies in Europe, especially Rome. It was even part of our General Plan – a plan that was subsequently cut down, cut to ribbons, almost cut out altogether. And I cannot prevent myself from thinking, even now, that the idea was good.

In every country, there is need for native priests. They must become more numerous than the missionaries, once a stage is reached where there are some thousands of Christians in a country. They must be qualified in every branch of education – both theological and profane. There must be native Bishops in every land where the Christians have freed themselves from any savage customs – without expecting them to leave their own type of civilisation and adopt the European type. All that effort has to be (p 468) guided and directed, for a time, by missionaries (from Europe or elsewhere) sent by the Holy See.

All the above propositions seem to me self-evident. And all of them are possible. I am sure of that.

Charbonnaux’s “English” Ideas.

His Consecration delayed by Politicians.

But what troubled me most of all, at the end of the year, was my fear that Bishop Bonnand’s future Coadjutor had totally opposite ideas about Native Clergy. I had been very favourably im-pressed by his progressive speeches during the Synod, about the necessity of promoting the education of Indian youth, etc. Now I began to see that his ideas of progress were inspired much more by the English than by the spirit of our Society and of our first Vicars Apostolic. He had met a great many English in his time; he spoke their language perfectly; he admired them for their many good points. And rightly so, perhaps. But I only wish that he was more on his guard about their general attitudes – including the spirit of the English (and Irish) Catholics, and their evangelisation policy in India. The only thing they can envisage is more schools, more orphanages, books, newspapers … Nothing about Native Clergy; no more than the Jesuits. And much less than the Jesuits when it comes to seeing the need to learn the Tamil lan-guage thoroughly, and to adopt the customs of the peoples they wish to evangelize.

Fr Charbonnaux had, indeed, somewhat modified his totally negative attitude to Native Clergy. But some of his old opposition to the idea still remained; and maybe a lot of it. And he seemed to have very little time for Fr Luquet. ..

After hesitating a long time before accepting the post of Coadjutor in Pondicherry, Fr Charbonnaux finally consented. He came to Pondicherry for his Consecration, to take place on the 8th December. But our Governor thought that France would be impressed if he opposed this ceremony a bit. (p 469)

“In the Government Archives he found an old letter” (I then wrote). “In it Bishop Bonnand’s predecessor had written (or had someone write) to the Ministry in France, asking for the King’s approval. The Minister had replied to the then Governor: he had had the archives searched, and had found no such request in the past. The Foreign Missions Society was already approved by the King, and had always chosen its own Bishops. However, now that the request had been made, it was welcomed. It would make a good precedent for the future!

“So now, our Governor, on being informed of the forthcoming Consecration, let it be known that he would not permit it on French soil before receiving the formal approval of the Minister in Paris. We could have gone to Bangalore instead, or even to Cuddilore (at the edg