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Souvenirs 2

Contents

Title

Copyright

12 OUTCRY AGAINST ROME NEWS (June – November 1845)

12 (Cont) DECISION: NO! ON TO OTHERSCRISES (end of 1845)

13 NEIGHBOURS. NEW DECISION HAS TO BE ‘YES’. (January to September 1846)

14 MY CONSECRATION AS BISHOP (Holy Rosary Sunday, 4 October 1846)

15 BASED AT KARUMATTAMPATTY VILLAGE (October 1846 – May 1847)

16 JOURNEY TO VERAPOLY (May – June 1847)

17 BASED AT COIMBATORE (July-December 1847)

18 PONDICHERRY CASTE-AND-CUSTOMS REVOLT. (1847 – 1848)

19 VISITATION OF PALGHAT DISTRICT (January 1848)

20 MY PEACE ASSAILED FROM NEAR AND FAR (February-October 1848)

21 TO PONDICHERRY FOR SYNOD AGENDA AND RETREAT (October – December 1848)

Appendix: Fr Dupuis’s Report.

Postface

Guide to Chapters and Sections

Notes

MARION BRÉSILLAC

SOUVENIRS

(MEMORIES FROM TWELVE YEARS ON THE MISSIONS)

VOLUME 2

BISHOP IN INDIA (1845 – 1848)

S.M.A. 1989

1849-1854 in Volume 3, Missionary’s Journal

Cum permissu superiorum

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

Rome 6th January 1989.

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 kind assistance of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary (Srs. Fiat Maria, Rita Mary, Selvi and Shanti)

(p 519)

What can be in it?

Reflections on Modern (1845) Media

That evening [29 June 1845] we had finished supper but were still at table, when a big packet of mail, post-marked Rome, was brought up to Bishop Bonnand. [Everyone sat up]. The arrival of the post from Europe is still a big event in Pondicherry. Not so long ago, the mail was very rare and uncertain; obviously, its safe arrival must have been a very exciting event in those days. But in our own time it was no less of an event; maybe even more so. For [in olden times] the mail brought very stale news (four or five months out of date) or replies to letters written 12 or 13 months before; and it came unexpectedly [so there was no gradual buildup of excitement]. Whereas nowadays, since the invention of the steamship and the inauguration of regular English mailboats via the Red Sea, you can know (anywhere in India) almost the exact date when the letters and newspapers from Europe are due to arrive. All that day, you will be on the look-out… And then how quickly the envelopes and wrappings will be torn open!

(Since 1845, the post has improved [even] further. Then the mailboat arrived only once a month; so your letters would be at best a month old. Now it’s at least twice a month; and telegraphed news takes barely a fortnight to arrive! Electrical telegraphs and railways will further shrink time and space; soon all the principal points on the globe will be linked by under-sea cables (the plan has already been started). Then we will be able to “converse”

(p 520) from one end of the world to the other, almost instantaneously! How magnificent are the secrets hidden in your creation, O my God! You like to let man discover them one after the other! Otherwise he might get tired of admiring the infinity of your Power. By gradually widening the scope of man’s intellect in this way, Yu doubtless intend him to use his increasing domination of nature in order to raise himself up more energetically to you, towards the spiritual, immaterial Beauty of your sovereign Wisdom.

But alas! Just as our first father misused the Tree of Knowledge, we now see the majority of the human race fixing their minds entirely on material things, according as they find out more about them, and as they see even further mysteries ahead. A real aberration of mind and heart!

Nevertheless, not all your children are s blind. Some of them (many perhaps) become better people, more believing, at the sight of the inexhaustible marvels discovered about your Work. And why should we not use these new discoveries for the triumph of Truth, even while others are abusing them merely as new material energies to be applied and exploited for gross and short-term self-interest (or even for the propagation of “philosophical” lies and errors)!

Why can’t steam and electricity become new wings to carry the Good News afar, leaving no man uninformed of it (bringing it at least once to vibrate in every soul) without in any way removing that astonishing privilege which your Providence wishes to remain inviolable: the liberty to say Yes or No to your Gospel. And how many there are who would not resist that gentle Light! How many hearts would willingly let themselves be won over by your Love!

Perhaps we ourselves ought to become more active and more skilful in the use of these new opportunities offered by recent natural discoveries and inventions, as means [ media] for the propagation of supernatural truths, for the spread of the Faith. Not that your all-powerful grace has need of such, O my God! But you do like to make use of us men, and of material things, to bring salvation to other men. All these inventions, are they not new branches on the same Tree of Knowledge? Some people use (p 521) them for evil; your elect can use them for good. But indeed, it is only too true: the children of this world are wiser than the children of light. Do not let them have it all to themselves; let us also use that new science, in order to sustain and extend the Kingdom of Truth.

To get back to that big packet from Rome: everyone sat up at the sight of it. The Bishop soon went off with it to his room. He showed up again, at the end of evening recreation. But (unusually) he told us nothing. So we all retired very puzzled.

Death of a Saintly Friend: Fr Taurines

I was handed a personal letter [that evening]. It brought very sad news: the death of a good and excellent friend, M. l’abbé Taurines. I had been his co-worker and fellow-curate at Saint Michel’s in Castelnaudary. He was one of the very few who had not (in practice) forgotten me. For there are very few who still remember the poor foreign missionary, except by some empty greetings now and then. Apart from father and mother (and maybe brothers and sisters) the missionary must not cunt n human affection lasting indefinitely. [Out of sight is out of mind]. Fr Taurines (and a few others) was an exception. Our friendship had been well cemented, by a special mutual help, in those early days. We sincerely respected each other; and we agreed to tell each other, straight, what we thought about each other’s preaching (for example) or other pastoral efforts.

I will always remember a certain occasion when his criticism was particularly lively and to the pint. I had been reading Manzoni’s “The Betrothed”. Under the spell of his poetic prose, I started preparing next Sunday’s homily. Driven on by the demon of Romanticism, I produced a right sentimental hash. No sooner was I back in my room after the sermon than Fr Taurines started knocking vigorously. He burst in, not stopping to say “Good-day”.

“You were ludicrous!” he cried. “Drop all that kind of stuff. (p 522) It doesn’t suit you at all. Anyway, it is not safe to use in the pulpit of Truth”.

He immediately apologised for being so rough and abrupt. (Indeed he must have been truly shocked by my sermon, to talk so differently from his usual gentle courtesy). “Not at all”, I said. “I sincerely thank you. It’s a real sign of a true friend”. We were all the closer for it after. And I have already described what a great personal service he did me, the time I was leaving home for good.

“Such was the friend I have lost now”, I wrote at the time. “How inscrutable are the designs of God! So good a priest, to die so young! And me, such a useless servant [still here]! O God, You are ineffable in your judgments. May he rest in peace! And indeed, I am firmly confident that he is already enjoying the eternal Peace that I wish him.

“God gave him some cruel mental trials in his last days. He wrote often about them, these last few times, with an accent of grief in his letters, but also with a spirit of calm resignation such as Faith alone can inspire. And yet, Lord “when even the just man can hardly be secure?”1 save his soul, in your great Mercy!

“According to the details I received, he died as he had lived, i.e. like a saint. He breathed out his soul on 12 April, at his uncle’s in Castelnaudary. He had been brought there from Saint-Papoul, his last parish. Next day was Sunday, and his obsequies were transferred to Monday 14th. The public were so keen to see him that the doors of the house had to be left open all that Sunday. More than four thousand people came to pray beside his mortal remains! Pieces of his soutane were stolen away; everyone wanted to have something of his. They prayed for him and to him at the same time! So, really, he is not the one we have to be sorry for!

“Good Taurines, if you are already among the ranks of the saintly Priests up there, don’t forget your best friend! (p 523)

Letter bomb: appointed Bishop!

Normally, I was in on all the Bishop’s private discussions. But, the day after the post, His Lordship got together with two or three of his Council, without ever sending for me. He also talked a lot with the Council, without ever sending for me. He also talked a lot with the Bishop of Madras2 before he left, about 2 p.m. There was a mysterious air of gloom or embarrassment around. Grave news from Rome, they said nothing more.

Another whole day went by like this, in silence and preoccupation. I was told nothing until that evening, about eight. Then the Bishop called me, alone, and (rather drily) handed me a letter from the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, as well as two Papal Briefs. They hereby appointed me Bishop of Prusa “in partibus infidelium“3 and gave me the title of Pro-Vicar Administrator of the future Vicariate Apostolic of Coimbatore!

So Rome was going ahead with a new dividing-up of the Indian Vicariates Apostolic. Calcutta was being divided into two vicariates, Madras into three, Pondicherry into four (if you counted the part already delegated to the Jesuits; they already had exclusive jurisdiction there). Verapoly: three vicariates; Ceylon two. Bombay was unchanged … So far so good. Fr Luquet had merely speeded up what everybody had been wanting (in general).

But there was a whole lot of snags, greatly perturbing Bishop Bonnand and others. For example, the appointments of the new bishops without any apparent consultations of the Vicars Apostolic. Then Vizagapattinam, one of the new Vicariates cut out from Madras, was suddenly being entrusted to the new Annecy Missionaries; their departure [from Europe] was already announced. Meanwhile Rome now appointed one of our confreres [Fr Gailhot] to take over there as “Pro-Vicar” (without episcopal character). They were also asking Bishop Bonnand to release two more confreres (Savoyards) to go with him, and or to help initiate (p 524) the Annecy missionaries to the customs of the country. This [Madras] move was an acute embarrassment to Bishop Bonnand; it made it look like “he” was meddling in other people’s vicariates, through his “representative” [Luquet]. It particularly annoyed the Bishop of Madras; he didn’t want any “foreigners” (i.e. non-Irish) in his territory!

Fr Gailhot himself4 thought it very extraordinary that “Luquet” (they didn’t say “the Sacred Congregation”; they always said “Luquet”) had disposed of him so casually. I will leave out the rest of the many minor “outrages” and “monstrosities” found in the Roman letters. But the one that shocked them most of all way my appointment. The Paris Fathers did not seem to have been told about it, even yet. They did know about Fr Gailhot and the two confreres; and they did not seem to like it.

“What’s going to come of all this?” I wrote. ‘It’s all in the hands of God. People seem to be very annoyed with Fr Luquet, and there is talk of withdrawing his credentials and powers. In general, the steps taken by the Holy See appear to be excellent moves, in themselves. If there are a few mistakes of detail, these can be remedied, provided people keep cool. We should not jump so swiftly to conclusions. But no matter what happens, one thing is certain: my own appointment cannot but produce a disastrous change in the attitude of my confreres towards me. How did I get thrown into this awful situation? It was the last thing I expected. And what am I to do about it? At the moment, I haven’t a clue.

“Enlighten us, O Lord, lest we decide on anything but what is for your glory! I think I can honestly say that I never wanted to be a bishop. And I am positive that I never did anything to try to get it. Should I refuse? Should I accept? Let me know, O my God. May your Will alone be done!”

After that prayer, I went to bed. And it was probably the very first night in my life that I went entirely without sleep (despite all the other terrible emotional trials that my soul had been (p 525) through). A few more such nights, however, should now be added.

Stormy Session; Luquet Sunk

Next day, Bishop Bonnand convened a meeting of all the missionaries then present in Pondicherry. The session was most stormy. I will not try to describe all the complaints and accusations made against Fr Luquet. The Bishop himself had really turned against him. And he told us how angry Bishop Fennelly was; he felt he should not implement Propaganda’s decisions without a protest.

As for me, I said very little. Even if I tried to defend Fr Luquet, I’d only have stirred new storms. When someone slyly asked what I was going to do myself, I kept my guard up: I just said (which was the truth) that I didn’t know yet.

It seemed quite certain that my dear confrere Luquet had gone beyond his instructions (at least as written) or anyway, that he had used them to the outside limit. Personally I was quite certain that he had used them only for good. Not only that; his judgment about the good was in fact correct. (Apart from my own appointment; he certainly had a hand in that).

Not for all the world was I going to do anything that would help in paralysing the new territorial re-organisation; in spite of a few accidental flaws (probably inevitable) it seemed to me progressive and salutary. And I had reason to fear that a refusal by me could do just that: paralyse the whole thing. On the other hand, my acceptance could also turn out bad, if all my confreres were against me. So I thought I should adopt a “wait and see” policy.

Fr Gailhot did not seem at all keen on his “pro-vicariate” at Vizagapattinam. All the same, he was less adamant than the day before. (In fact, a few days later, he accepted). The end result of the awful session was: the Bishop was definitely not going to release the other two confreres designated by the Sacred Congregation. He was going to write to the S.C. protesting against their transfer. (p 526) And they were not going to leave Pondicherry unless the S.C.insisted.

But much worse: They now decided to withdraw Fr Luquet’s powers; to take effect two months after receipt of this notification, which was to be sent to him by the next mailboat. This was duly done; the Bishop wrote to Rome and Paris. I never saw the actual letters; but I know, indirectly, that they were most violent. The good Bishop, I believe, later repented of this, more than once. But too late; the harm was done. The “furia francese” had done its worst by then.5 Later on, other events came out, and increased the general indignation against Luquet. (Rightly or wrongly, God alone knows)

Just after this, who arrived but some Benedictine Fathers, sent to Ceylon by the S.C.? These had been recruited by Fr Luquet in Rome. When they left there, he was still the object of universal admiration. They praised him enthusiastically; so much so that even his worst and most dug-in adversaries could not but be impressed. Poor weak Fr Lehodey (who knew well what had just been written to Rome abut Luquet) said to me: “If only these good Fathers had arrived a few days earlier, I am sure the Bishop would have greatly modified his style”. They also brought letters, from Fr Luquet and from Propaganda. The Bishop did not communicate anything of them to us.

Luquet’s “Mémoire” towards Indian Independence

Meanwhile, back in Rome, how was Fr Luquet doing? Here are some extracts from a letter of his, posted 13 May, arrived end of July:

  • *“I will start off, dear friend, by blessing the Lord for the little humiliations He has arranged for me among our confreres in India.6 I sincerely thank you for letting me know of them. My won chalice (p 527) should not be without some bitter ingredient; I would almost feel abandoned by our Lord if there wasn’t that touch of bitterness inside, a bit from all directions. Thank God it is not absent; nor are consolations. In all this, I admire the ways of Divine Providence more and more. It gives me just enough encouragement to keep the Work progressing; but It also adds in what I need personally (a keenly felt need) the precious element of mortification. Pray that I be faithful to it.

“No need to tell you how delighted I am to read the latest details which you (or any confrere) send me, about the present state of the Seminary. Several times already, I have insisted with Bishop Bonnand how essential it is to convene a Synod of the Vicars Apostolic at Pondicherry. Each new development merely underlines its necessity. I think its importance will be felt more strongly after my expose of the main Questions; this was submitted to the Sacred Congregation for its next meeting, to be held on the 19th of this month, about my “Mémoire” on the Acts of last year’s [Pondicherry] Synod. This document, simply entitled “Eclaircissements sur le Synode de Pondichéry”,7 actually takes in all the most serious questions facing the Apostolate all over the world. You can see this from my covering letter to the Cardinals, explaining the reasons behind my book. (Unfortunately, postal costs do not allow me to send it all on directly to Bishop Bonnand). Here is the relevant passage:

"At first sight [Native Clergy] may seem just a special policy adopted by one particular Vicariate Apostolic. In reality, the principle is universal; it applies to the work of the apostolate all over the world. What [Your Eminences] have to do is to pronounce on the only effective way to give 400 million idolators, spread out over the globe, the benefits of our holy Religion. Fr if we continue with the policy being followed today in far too many places --if we do not get down seriously to forming native clergies-- never will these places be Christian (apart from a most spectacular miracle). This is not inflated theorizing; it is a fact. The figures can prove it as rigorously as a mathematical demonstration".

The “Mémoire” just develops this leading idea … From the “Mémoire” the Secretary, following their usual procedure, has formulated (p 528) several key Questions, to be tackled by the Meeting. I translate them here:

1. Should the Acts of the [Pondicherry] Synod be approved; and with what corrections and changes, if any?

2. If so, should they be promulgated by a Pontifical Approval or by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation?

3. Following the consistent policy of the Church, bearing in mind the ongoing needs of the peoples, the dangers of persecution, the difficulty (sometimes the absolute impossibility) of maintaining and extending the Catholic Religion in pagan countries without a Native Clergy: should we now reiterate the prescriptions formerly made to the Vicars Apostolic and other Mission Superiors by the Holy See, namely their moral obligation to work for the formation of such a Clergy?

4. Given the usefulness (even necessity) of multiplying centres of episcopal actin in the vast Missions, should the same Vicars Apostolic (etc.) be now directed to establish new Bishops by sub-dividing their Vicariates?

5. In order to conform to the expressed desires of the Holy See, should the same Vicars Apostolic (etc.) be exhorted to give the (future] Native Clergy a proper education, sufficiently complete to make them competent, one day, to govern the Missions themselves, instead of staying forever in a subordinate, merely auxiliary position?

6. The Church has always regarded the Native Episcopate to be essential before Religion can be considered fully established among a People. Should not the said Vicars (etc.) therefore set up a rising scale of responsible posts, so as to enable the Native Clergy, step by step, to arrive at self-government?

7. Consequently instead of following the usual custom of always keeping the native priests in a rank inferior to Europeans, would it not be better to regulate rank simply by seniority of service in the Mission?

8. In places where the Native Clergy already exists, would it be good to propose to the Vicars Apostolic (etc.) to start implementing the Plan worked out by the SC. in 1678 for the selectin of Native Bishops, so as to see whether an immediate start can be made on this objective?

9. The Vicar Apostolic and missionaries of Pondicherry, following the spirit of their Society and the desires of the Holy See, have begun to work with great zeal for the formation of a Native Clergy. Should we now express the satisfaction of the Holy See at their efforts, (P 529) and encourage the excellent Bishop of Drusipara [Bonnand] and the members of his Synod to continue and perfect the work they have so well begun, praising especially Frs Leroux, Roger, de Bresillac and Gailhot for the happy reform or creation of Seminaries?

10. Should we now call the attention of the same Vicars Apostolic (and other prelates) to the Reflections of Fr Luquet about the work of Prayer and Penance, Charity, Teaching, and Striving towards a more complete Evangelization of a Mission?

11. Should a response be now given to the questionings of missionaries (the painful diversity of their opinions) about the scope and status of the Constitution of Benedict XIV on the Malabar Rites? If so, what response?

12. Should a ruling be given, to ensure uniform conduct by missionaries abut observing this Constitution?

13. Should instructions be given to missionaries about the training of Catechists? What instructions?

(This last Question is based on the written observations you sent me. I am sorry I had not a complete copy).

There is another matter, now, about which I very much want your advice: the conversation of pagans.

P.S. Now, at last, dear friend, I can do it without fear of any new obstacle, i.e. kiss your hand as a future Bishop! The Briefs are going out today. Give me your blessing, Bishop of Prusa!”

[* My Reaction to Luquet’s Performance: Mixed to my Appointment: undecided.*]

I was eagerly and impatiently awaiting the outcome of this very serious move [made in the above Questions addressed to the Meeting of Propaganda]. What decisions would the Sacred Congregation make? As we shall see later, the decisions turned out to be in line with my own way of thinking, apart from the last two [abut caste customs).8 I would not want them to be put in that way; and Fr Luquet had no mandate to put them at all. According to the wishes of the Synod, he was simply to ask for one thing:

(p 530) namely that, in future, missionaries be dispensed from having to take the relevant oath [against customs]. Obviously, he would have been refused. But his instructions from the Synod were to ask for just that (but not to push it in his Report if he personally judged it to be untimely). The way he presented the problem gave the S.C. no other option but to reply as It did; and this reply exposed the Mission to considerable disturbances [or even riots, if it got around]. Moreover it killed any hopes we might have had (vain hopes probably; but many of us had them) of arriving at some [other] solution to the Caste problems, some way that would be less alienating for the Indians. While waiting I wrote the following in my Diary:

“Here we are, back at our ordinary routine. Our confreres have all set out again for their various communities in the interior. Bishop Charbonnaux is away on tour. The Benedictine Fathers have just left for Jaffna. But in a few more days we will be a big company again. A ship has been announced, bringing 18 missionaries: four for us, and the rest for Madurai and the new Mission of Vizagapattinam. Minds have calmed down a bit; but the soreness caused by the news from Rome has not gone away, especially among the older men. As for Fr Gailhot, when he left he was quite determined to take on the Mission entrusted to him by the Holy See, once the Annecy missionaries arrive.

“As for me, I still say or show nothing on the outside [about my attitude to my appointment]. But with the consent (and even the positive approval) of Bishop Bonnand, I have written to Fr Luquet: Without absolutely refusing, I do not think I should just simply accept, unless something happens that could remedy the sort of irregularity in procedure which my confreres, quite rightly, tend to suspect. The closeness between the two of us can easily give them the impression that it is the only reason for my promotion. Now my only fear is: because of the present hostility of our confreres to Luquet, any delay [by me] could jeopardise the Work he has so well begun.

“May the Lord dispose all these events to His greater glory” (p 531)

[* What is a real Apostle? Supra-racial Thinking.*]

Next month’s mailboat brought letters from Fr Luquet, and a copy of his famous “Mémoire”. Famous in more ways than one; for, today more than at that time, I regard it as a masterpiece. Rereading it now, after ten years, I could not avoid a surge of admiration: how could that young missionary have grasped the situation so clearly, the whole tangle of difficulties blocking the real progress of the missions!

For unfortunately it is extremely rare to find a missionary capable of understanding such things, especially with a practical understanding. If you talk about far-off Missions, having nothing to do with themselves, they will easily see the point, and will instantly agree on the abstract principles. But when it comes down to applying these same principles themselves, in their won Mission, that's something else! The real local difficulties --as well as natural mental laziness, European prejudices, "esprit-de-corps", anti-black (or anti-coloured) complexes-- will then and there become "insurmountable"obstacles. It is even quite probable that our men will continue for a long time (if not for ever) with this half-way approach to the evangelization of the coloured peoples, until these races finally disappear entirely, under the homicidal domination of European governments!

Of course there will always be zealous missionaries. They will make heroic efforts. When these are applied only to the conversion or improvement of the people around them, they will do wonders; they will save many souls. If God permits local circumstances to favour their work, allowing them to extend it, they will even succeed in forming Christian communities which are quite big and, up to a certain point, very flourishing. Later, these communities will scatter or get bastardized. Then another apostle will appear and … Sorry! NOT another apostle! An apostle is not just someone who preaches and baptises. He’s a man who founds local Churches. [And they stay founded].

Real apostles are very scarce on the ground, indeed, of History. After the original Twelve, all I can see is Saint Augustine in England, Saint Boniface in Germany, and very few others. Not trying to take away the glorious title” Apostle of India” from St.Francis Xavier; (p 532) but he did not, in fact, found any real Churches. His apostolic zeal certainly went far beyond that of the ordinary missionary; and his great concern for the [Seminary] College of Santa Fe is further proof that the spirit of the [founding] Apostles was in him.

“ … Then anther apostle will appear”, I was saying … and will convert them all over again, will gather the scattered sheep, will even bring in more, into this half-fenced sheep-fold. But will this new missionary be an Apostle? Will his zeal (or the situation) lead him n beyond that, to tackle the fundamental [funding] principles which alone can beget Black Churches? If so, one thing is sure: he will be misunderstood by the Whites; their natural touchiness will necessarily be shocked by his [egalitarian] principles. If they could only see, they would quickly blame themselves, for blocking his wonderful Work, out of mere defensiveness or [race] prejudice. But prejudice is like a vague invisible cloud; it silently mists the vision of Reason, and especially the vision of the Heart. The only man who can see through it will be the man who is completely dead to his own ego.

Now men like that will always be extremely rare, even among missionaries. Such a degree of virtue and objectivity may possibly be expected from a few rare individuals; but to expect it from a whole body of men is far too much. First of all, there is natural individual self-interest; you can’t expect them all to be perfectly free of that. And even if they were, they would nearly all [sublimate] their own self-interests into the vested interests of their pious Society, their religious order, or their Country.

Ah! Isn’t it a deep mystery, our Saviour’s decision: to have only twelve men to go and found Churches all over the whole universe! Even as far as India. There, St Thomas has been the only real Apostle, the only man to found local Churches which are still going strong today. They have always had their own priests and bishops (unfortunately falling into Nestorianism later on). And I think the Portuguese would have done much better if they had left those St Thomas Christians alone, and maintained them in their own local form, after their conversion from heresy. Instead, they tried to absorb them into their new [Latin] and ephemeral Churches. (p 533) Ephemeral because made by and for Europeans, with no roots among the people. And yet we have to admit that, among the Europeans, the Portuguese have been the wisest (or the least stupid). As a people, they have been the most zealous for extending the Kingdom of Christ among the peoples conquered by their arms. (Or maybe we should rate the Spaniards above them? In spite of certain faults (relentlessly publicised and maliciously exaggerated by the atheists) they did found real Churches in quite a few places!).

Given the closed minds of so many missionaries in India]9 Fr Luquet’s “Mémoire” quite naturally was not understood there. But it was well understood at Rome; there it stirred up a brief moment of enthusiasm for my dear confrere [and his ideas]. This soon had to give way, however, before the vigorous and almost unanimous protests coming from our poor confreres. (Sorry for them; that’s why I say “poor confreres”).

  • Luquet’s Triumphant Letter*

Luquet himself never expected that he was soon going to earn such high praise, or such low condemnation, when he was writing to me [in great form] on the 12th June:

“My Lord Bishop, and my ever dearer friend,

“Let us rejoice, and let us take courage in Him who strengthens us with all the graces He bestows on us”. ‘Tis not in vain that these words are still proclaimed aloud at the foot of the Apostolic Chair, these brave words so well understood and shared by [our first Vicars Apostolic] those great men who funded our own little flock, our ever glorious Society. These words that give life to new Churches; these noble words too long forgotten in recent years! I hope that the “Instruction” just prepared by Propaganda will say it all again, much better than my won weak voice.10 (p 534)“Jesus and Mary be praised! Rome has already said it all. In spite of all the contrary intrigues and oppositions (more or less direct) the Sovereign Pontiff himself has approved the new Resolutions of the Sacred Congregation [abut Native Clergy etc.]. That same day, Rome was celebrating the beautiful Feast of the Holy Heart of Mary. At the very time of that all-important Act of Approval, I was at the foot of the altar where that Feast, so attractive to us poor sinners, was established, as well as the Feast of our Lady of Victories. I was assisting Bishop Brady of Perth (a new diocese in Australia). This Bishop completely shares our views. He has set them out most precisely in a Mémoire addressed to the Cardinals and the Sovereign Pontiff (just a short time before my own “Eclaircissements” on the Pondicherry Synod). As you can well imagine, he had to face the same kind of obstacles as ourselves, before he succeeded. Yu will be glad to hear that I was able to give him some timely support and encouragement.

As regards Coimbatore, entrusted to you by the S.C. (and they intend to make it a separate Vicariate as soon as possible): it is important to get it working immediately as a distinct jurisdiction. According to what Bishop Bonnand wrote to me (abut Bishop X …) it is becoming more and more urgent that you g and take possession of your Coimbatore. The Province (of Coimbatore) should be immediately set up like a separate Vicariate.”

Why I pleaded to Rome for Indian Customs.

Why I went too Far.

Well, as I was saying, I can appreciate and admire Luquet's "Mémoire" much better now (ten years later) than I did at the time. The few mistakes of detail in it (unavoidable perhaps) looked very big then; but they have become irrelevant with the passage of time. Eight more years in India have reinforced my conviction about the rightness of all his conclusions. I now see what an immense advantage they would have given us if only we had effectively backed them up --if all the decisions then made by the Holy See had been implemented in a systematic and straightforward way, instead of being totally frustrated and (p 535) blocked (in certain areas) or effectively slowed down (in all the others).

I still disagree with the part of the Mémoire dealing (at least indirectly) with Caste and Customs; but this is only because of the way they were introduced, and because the time was not ripe. At that time (1845) I had the same view as most of the senior and respected confreres in India: not only could we continue to tolerate all the customs then being tolerated; we should. And it should also be possible to find a different solution than that laid down by Cardinal de Tournon,11 to find some other way of safeguarding the Christians from all participation in idolatry, while allowing us to be much more tolerant of their customs than we have been, ever since the Bull of Benedict XIV. Now if this was ever to become possible, it was up to us to research the solution thoroughly, to demonstrate [that it was all right]. We could not just go ahead and put it into practice by ourselves; it could only be decided by the Holy See, after It had recognised the solution to be well founded on solid reasoning, free from harmful elements, and in no way contradictory to the rulings and ordinances of any previous Pontiffs. We were ready to accept, without any hedging or re-interpreting, that any custom already condemned by the Popes was condemnable, bad, and unacceptable, in the then circumstances. But we held that some of those customs could now be rendered harmless and tolerable, i.e. the ones most closely connected with the civil life of the Indians. We felt that, once such customs were freed (where possible) from the danger of superstition, we could get Rome to authorise them, or at least to tolerate them in practice.

Today, however, I have to be much more wary of that opinion of ours. It may already be pre-condemned in Benedict XIV’s Constitution. True, Rome has never explicitly condemned it; but that may be only because it has never been explicitly put forward. But it caused such allergy in Rome when I tried to stammer out (p 536) the notion! So much so that I now regret some similar expressions in a certain Letter of mine and in a later Document.12 I think these remarks have turned the S.C. of Propaganda against me.

If in all that matter I was mistaken (and I certainly was mistaken in my choice of some of the wording) I ask pardon of you in the first place, O my God. For it could be that I was formally sinful in giving to much free rein to my own personal ideas. But you will not condemn me, God, if I trust all the same in your boundless Mercy. Fr it seems to me that really it was neither pride nor presumption that got me involved in that difficult question of Customs. It was concern for the millions of pagans I saw around me; I was just hoping to pen a new pathway to salvation for them, through the Holy See. I also saw thousands of Christians becoming .instinctively hostile to the Holy See [because of Its rulings against their customs] and I was hoping that there was a way for It to win them over without any danger to the Faith. In short, I had pity for this People. It that pity took me too far, You, Lord, will excuse my weakness.

Luquet’s Caste Blunder.

A Bishop? He should NOT come back Now!

I also read Luquet’s “Eclaircissements” (or “Mémoire”).The impression it made on me then is recorded in my Diary and in a long letter that I wrote to him. I copy both here, along with a few further [1855] remarks of mine about it all.

“The last mailboat has brought us some very serious news; much of it is good, but a lot of it is bad. In order to get the Synod approved, Fr Luquet presented a “Mémoire” to the Cardinals. We have just received a copy. The Bishop is very annoyed at it. I have just read it myself, and I am sorry our dear confrere was not (p 537) a bit more diplomatic with the feelings of ordinary mortals.

“But that’s not what shocks me the most. Maybe his forthright talk was necessary if he was to sustain the Cause of Native Clergy, which he has done in a sublime manner. The really unfortunate thing is that he has strayed, unnecessarily, into the dangerous and complicated question of the Malabar Rites. What he wrote is going to make a very painful impression in Europe, and an extremely dangerous one here.

“The occasion [of his blunder] was the unfortunate letter which the Nellitope members wrote to Rome during their revolt. No doubt they were wrong. But if they are now going to be punished by making us become even stricter n Caste Customs, it won’t cure them; it will only push them over the edge. So the Bishop (and all of us) are extremely worried in case that part of Luquet’s “Mémoire” gets around in this country. It would be enough to turn all the Christians, without exception, against the Mission. The repercussions could be disastrous. God preserve Religion from such a trial!

“Moreover, we have just heard that the Sacred Congregation, in its admiration for the dear confrere, has got the notion of making him a bishop and sending him back to India to put his ideas into practice! (The notion may even be implemented already). Well, if he comes back here with such ideas about Caste, it could cause the ruination of our Christian communities! Moreover, all the missionaries are now going to be totally against him. I believe it would be a great misfortune if he came back here now as a bishop.

“O my God! Why did you let him touch that issue? It was not at all on the programme given him by the Mission. It he was to push any of his own ideas, why didn’t he keep to native Clergy! It came naturally under the umbrella of what he was asked to present, in the name of the Synod. Why? Could it be some secret judgement of yours on the poor Indians? Were you permitting the blundering introduction of extraneous questions like this, to block, some of the good that the Work of Native Clergy must (p 538) surely bring them?13 Adorable justice of my God please gives way to His adorable Mercy!

“As a confrere, and above all as a friend, I felt I had to write quickly to Fr Luquet. Note well: today I do not hold to all the ideas in that letter, nor in the preceding passage from my Diary. I must also explain that, before sending the letter, I showed it to a few serious-minded confreres. I can’t be absolutely sure (my memory could be wrong) but I think the Bishop also saw it. If he did, he approved it. Because if he had disapproved, I wouldn’t have sent it. However, neither His Lordship nor my confreres (any more than myself) would still maintain some of the [far out] ideas in that letter, if they could see the utter distaste I met in Rome, at the mere mention of such ideas. Anyway, here is the letter.14

High Praise to Luquet’s “Mémoire”; but a few Flaws.

“My very dear friend,

I have read, and re-read, and meditated your long and magnificent “Mémoire”. You will be awaiting my reaction, my complete thinking on such an important document, with all the frankness you know me for. I owe it to you to, because of the sincere friendship I have with you; and I owe it to our Work. Because do not think, dear friend, that this letter is going to be all praise. O why should I have to be (maybe) the first negative critic you have to hear? Don’t take it badly. See it for what it is: a sign of the unbreakable attachment I have; second to none, I am sure.

“Yes, dear friend, your Mémoire is very, very good. It would be absolutely wonderful if only you had not rushed recklessly into [Caste] a thing which you cannot possibly know in depth, and which you have got yourself thoroughly lost in. How my heart was pierced (p 539) with pain when I saw the practical [political] implications of what you have written. Your beautiful Mémoire could be so dangerous over here! I do not hesitate to say: if it became public (or even leaked out locally) it would become the cause15 of the total ruination of the Catholic Religion in these countries.

“Let’s get down to detail. Your thesis n Native Clergy is beyond all praise. It sweeps the reader along; it is irresistible. But I do not know why you had to identify two Bishops in India when quoting their deplorable remarks … Didn’t it occur to you that you might be offending against charity? And why make enemies for yourself when there is no absolute need to do so? [In anther quotation] you were both too precise and also to dangerously imprecise. You said you had met a certain Bishop “in Paris”. Not everybody here will know it was Bishop X … I fear many confreres will think it is Bishop Charbonnaux you are hitting at. If you had said “a certain bishop” (could be anywhere in the two hemispheres) the logical effect would have been just as strong.

“Moreover, was it necessary to insist so strongly on the “bad administration” of Bishop Hebert?16And it seems to me you could also have refrained from exhibiting other little items of our family’s dirty washing before the Cardinals. On this, however, I will let you off easier. Before saying what is wrong with others, we must have the courage to recognize our won faults and admit them.

“Having said all that, I still say: I just have to admire you; and I have even felt tears of joy when following the sweep of your irrefutable argument: your rock-solid principles and their equally unassailable conclusions.

Your Colossal Mistake at the end: Going

into Customs.

“But how totally wrong you are (excuse the abrupt change) when you go into the practical details of the Mission.17 And how (p 540) utterly reckless you were, how dangerous you became to us all, when you touched on that highly explosive issue, the Malabar Rites and the Bull of benedict XIV! What a massive blunder, to drag in the unfortunate “palavers” of Nellitope and Pondicherry, which ought to have been treated with the scorn and total oblivion they deserve! How far from what I expected f you! And I’m still expecting something now: some sort of a disavowal by you, asking Rome to hold its fire, to take on action now, to impose n new obligations here. Not even impose “an exact observance” of the Bull; for it has already been modified by later decrees and permissions from Rome. Nothing until there is a new order. Nothing based on your Mémoire alone.18

(I believed then that certain [later] decrees and decisions of the Sacred Congregation were “modifications” of the Bull. They were not. But the actual toleration of a host of Malabar Customs [condemned by the Bull], don’t these add up to a modification in practice? Can we honestly say that the Bull is being exactly observed? I doubt it; much more so now than at that time. And if it is not being obeyed, good faith is the only possible excuse).

“Make no mistake about it, dear friend: if Rome is going to pile on new obligations on us, in the line suggested by your Mémoire [it will be a disaster]. Not only can we forget about converting pagans in this country; we will also have to get ready to see a good portion of our Christians going over to Schism or even Protestantism. Or maybe even a mass return to paganism!”

(These fears may have been exaggerated; but they were very real. Yet, [if it came to the crunch] would it not be better to impose a new strictness like that on us, rather than let us continue on a [morally] wrong path, if our tolerance is actually unlawful? And if our tolerance is basically lawful, would it not be better that the Holy See declare it so, and put an end to the divisions that are confusing our minds, into a split which is leading to disastrous [public] actions, such as we will see later on).

“Whereas if Rome reverses its policy19 we can expect the most (p 541) wonderful results --and still keep Faith secure, and Morals unaffected. May my tongue cleave to my palate, may my right hand wither, if ever I dare to propose the smallest change against the integrity of faith or morals! But there is a plan, there is a way forward, the only way that (I think) would be capable of settling the whole [customs] problem at this point in time. 20 And I am not the only missionary to think so. Fr Lehodey (and you know his angelic piety and his long practical experience) says: “It’s the only way forward!” Fr Dupuis, whose wide knowledge, Malabar understanding and deep holiness you appreciate, thinks the same. Many other missionaries here (their authority may be less weighty, but they are numerous, zealous and enlightened) think so to. [This plan may seem to you academically unsound]. So, before telling you my Plan let me make a few [historical] observations.

Which people were always the most fanatical against Indian customs? Those who knew the least about them, those who did the least amount of pastoral work among the people. For example the Capuchins, fighting against the Jesuits. Now, the Capuchins ministered only to the Europeans.21 They had all the “normal” European prejudices; and those prejudices did a lot more harm in India than the Indian ones ever did.22

“Today, will you find a single experienced missionary (seriously engaged in caring for the Indian Christians and trying to extend Christianity among the people) who would be in favour of totally ignoring Indian customs? Not one.”

(Certainly, there was none in 1845, in our Mission or in Madurai. But not so sure in 1855. Today there are certainly some missionaries who have serious doubts about the lawfulness of certain Indian observances. They do not want to tolerate these, or practice them; the only way they could do it would be to put the whole responsibility on to their Superiors; for these order them, in this moral doubt, to proceed as they have always been doing.)

“The newly arrived missionaries (unlike their seniors) are often revolted by some of those customs; and as long as they have (p 542) few dealings with the Indians, they continue to have no empathy with them [or their way of life]. You will see some of the missionaries who work mostly with the English (etc.) just shrugging their shoulders [at Caste etc.] But those who try to make themselves true Fathers to their Indian flock will never permit themselves such a dismissive attitude. You cite the [success of] the Irish [in your book]. But would you not be more to the point if you cited them to prove the opposite! Haven’t they ruined their Indian communities, shocking them by eating beef, etc.?23 They are successful with the English; finish!

“Saint Paul knew that a certain class f meat was good to eat. Yet he declared that if, by eating it, he could be a scandal to his weaker brothers, he would never touch it.”

(I think we have often misused this Scripture passage [to justify our abstention from beef, etc.]. If Paul had to preach the Gospel in a place [like India] where beef is deemed “impure” [he would probably go out of his way to eat it]. He would see that his abstinence was a scandal to his brothers, because it was confirming them in their superstitious error. So he would eat beef in order not to scandalize them. The key question here is: Do the Indians connect a superstitious idea with their total abstinence from beef?)

“You have fallen into a [cultural] trap, dear friend. I can well imagine they are praising you for it in Europe; that would make sense. But let me tell you: the more you are applauded there on this point [of ignoring Indian customs] the more harm you are doing us here. Your final pages on this [condemning the whole Caste system] cut me to the heart. If they are true [it’s the end of the missions here].

(But maybe they are true. If so, we must just face the consequences, and put our trust in Divine Providence. only, before deciding on [such a drastic change] the hierarchy in India must first make every effort to inform the Holy See completely and honestly about the real present situation in India, and then let the Holy See give its considered ruling about it.) (p 543)

“If [your views on Caste] are approved, if they are published, then there is no further point in making me a Bishop. And let us also close down our Seminary [before it is closed for us], before we have to swallow the shame and the grief of seeing it deserted en masse by all the castes (including the lower castes, which you say you are trying to raise up).” .

(There is one general consideration which greatly weakens my argument, which was based on the “greater tolerance” of the senior missionaries engaged in pastoral work among the Indians. This is not always because they “know the real situation better”. Many of them tolerate customs merely because there is nothing else they can do. They found it impossible to work out a clear conscientious position for themselves in the beginning; so, out of respect for authority, they just followed the well-trodden path of those who had gone before them. And they now persevere in that path merely out of habit, and out of the same respect for authority.

I have seen one outstanding example of this [blind obedience]: one of our most senior and admired missionaries, a strong supporter of all the normally tolerated customs. After 30 years on the missions [he began to think things out) and now he has become one of the most doubtful and insecure about the morality of our policies. And yet his brain is just as strong as ever it was. So, if this man had died immediately after those 30 years, he could now be cited as a powerful authority for the customs. But now, when his years of experience have passed 32, he will become an even more powerful authority to be quoted AGAINST them (if his words are noted and handed down).

I myself would most probably have stayed always in the same [pro-customs] position from which I wrote that [very tough} letter to Fr Luquet in 1845. But then came some enlightening events (which will appear later on). Moreover, as a Bishop, I was forced to think it all out for myself. [So today I think very differently]. I would never say we should ignore or trample upon Indian customs. But I think some of the ones we are tolerating are very, very dubious indeed. And I believe there are serious moral doubts about some of our won practices and policies towards them. (p 544)

“Rome on the Wrong Track since De Tournon”

(1845 View, re-considered in 1855)

As for the next part of my 1845 letter to Luquet, I would take very good care, today in 1855, not to write such [far out, controversial] statements. And I would not be copying them in here at all, only that I have good reason to fear that “they” have a copy of my letter and are prepared to use it against me. And I hereby retract anything in it that might seem to be lacking in respect for the Holy See or for its rulings. 24.

“Another point. [And don’t get me wrong]. Far be it from me to start passing judgement on the very worthy and ever memorable Cardinal de Tournon … (I stopped there just now, not wanting to go. any further: seeing his pure zeal, his great faith, his right intentions] … But did he have to bring in such violent laws? (Skip that!) Let us rather say, with tears, that it was a great pity he felt obliged to decree them.

[He was caught between the Jesuits and the Capuchins] in that most unfortunate confrontation. And I cannot say which of the two sides did the most harm. The Jesuits with their excessive tolerance (for they went much too far; I admit it). Or the Capuchins with their fanatical determination to get so many practices condemned, practices which could at least have been “managed””,25 if the issue hadn’t been turned into an all-out war against the Jesuits. I believe the illustrious Cardinal was obliged to make those Decrees then and there, not because of the customs themselves, but because of the bitter and destructive confrontation going on here between two great orders.

“What a disaster, now, if this is all going to start up again! For, this time, we are surrounded by Schism and Protestantism, our position weakened by the weak faith of our Christians and by their deep alienation (caused by centuries of strife over Customs). This time, I say, it could be the end pf us, the end of all Catholicism in these regions. From this kind of dispute [which you have re-opened] (p 545) what can we expect to achieve? All sorts of harm and not one single good, not even the good you are directly seeking [a clear-cut final decision from Rome]. For on these sorts of questions even a Roman judgment would be insufficient, quite incapable of cutting away the root of the trouble. Roman judgments on these Customs will be useless unless they are based on solid premisses. Rome has to ask: “Are they giving us exact information? Is their explanation of that custom natural and true-to-life? Is that fact truly reported? Etc.” And it will always be impossible to be absolutely sure of the right answers to such [local] questions. Consequently the force of Rome’s conclusions will be weakened, the condemnations contested, re-interpreted, explained away; only partially recognised or totally dodged. [And so it will go on] even if you obtain ten new Oaths, each clearer and more explicit than the one we have now; even if you have ten Benedict XIVs formulating Bulls, each more impressive than Omnium Sollicitudinum. And, in actual fact, ever since that famous Bull came out, haven’t we been having repeated re-interpretations and “concessions” about it (for want of a better word) even from Rome itself!26

“About the “pottu” marks, for example. Concessions and interpretations followed each other endlessly, nearly all of them hanging on an IF. For example: “If such-and-such a body-mark of such-and-such a shape and colour is not a piece of paganism … (etc)”. Applying this on the ground, some of the missionaries concluded “positively pagan”, others “negative”; and they are still undecided about it to this very day, after all that has been written and said by the venerable Pontiffs f happy memory Clement XI, Innocent XIII, Benedict XIII, Clement XII and Benedict XIV!27 It’s just a hopeless maze; and it will always stay hopeless as long as they keep on trying to sort it out piece-meal, by the same [nit-picking] method of specific condemnations, Bulls and Decrees from Rome.28 And your Mémoire has merely pushed us farther into that maze, without any good reason, without any hope of doing us any good whatsoever.

“[The uselessness of those Roman condemnations] is all the (p 546) more obvious [when you examine specific customs]. It is not at all difficult to show that, in almost every case, the “proofs” cited to condemn the custom are full of holes somewhere or other. When I say “not difficult to show” I mean not difficult for those who really understand these peoples, having lived a long time among them. Above all I mean: not difficult for the Indians themselves to disprove. Not a single one of them, believe me, is convinced that our reasons for these condemnations are water-tight. Hence their constant [and justified] complaint against us, of ignorance. Ignorance of the nature and origins of their castes and customs; ignorance of their nuances, and the meanings behind them. But how prove this ignorance to a European? All he can see, in all these customs, is “nonsense”; that’s his favourite word. He is instinctively revolted by them, just because they are so different from his own. You cited an example of a “revolting” incident that happened to you in Ulgaret. Do you think that particular example can make any impression on us who live here? It may appear striking in Rome; but here it is strikingly against your thesis. And it will be against Rome’s too, if Rome bases any new condemnation on that wonderful “example“of yours.29

“With all due respect to Rome, and fully recognizing the infallibility of the Pope, I have to tell you now: if Rome issues a condemnation of that particular custom, we will ignore it. For we will say: “Rome, in such judgments, always implies a pre-condition, i.e. “provided the reports we have received about this are correct”. And, in this case, even your best friends will not hesitate to reject the authenticity of your report. We will merely say, “Luquet got it wrong”; others will say, “He’s a liar”. All of us will say, “He did wrong, to go into such questions at all; he is not qualified”.30

(Here I should point out something, about the infallibility of the Pope. Personally, I have never doubted it, in the full Ultramontane sense. I have always abhorred the subtle “distinctions” of the Gallicans. Those were my sentiments at the time of writing that letter (though I certainly slipped into some very strange expressions which might make you think-otherwise). (p 547)

Your ridiculous “Case” of the Gardener and the Catechist is a typical Bureaucratic “fact”

Anyway, the “example” you cite is full of holes, dear friend; in fact it is well-nigh impossible. [You report how, one day, a young lad told you what the gardener and the catechists were discussing: how to “purify” earthenware “jug” by fire, just because you had poured milk from it].31 Now: 1. the urchin could hardly have heard them very clearly; they would be whispering. 2. You could hardly be absolutely sure of what he said; he would not be very good at French. 3. He was very likely pulling your leg; not a rare occurrence in this country. These little rascals get a great kick out of the ignorance and gullibility of new missionaries. They know the new-comers are very curious about customs etc. They like to have a laugh at them; it's great fun. So they frequently invent yarns to shock or impress them --if only to get a holy picture or a medal. Yes; It must have been 1, 2, or 3; certainly not your "fact" as reported by you.

“Anyway, your gardener and catechist either regarded your jug as “polluted” or they did not. If they did, they would want to follow the correct custom of the country, to deal with it. Now it is impossible that they should think of “purifying” such a cheap vessel “by fire”. It is only copper or metal vessels (which are never used for milk) that can be thus purified. Earthenware vessels just have to be smashed; no other way. Look: that “jug” of yours cost about a tenth of a penny, new! So the gardener or catechist could easily replace it, if their superstitions meant so much to them as you suggest. So this “example”, this “telling fact” of yours was greeted, here, with volleys of guffaws. Apart from that, it inspires nothing but mistrust [in the condemnations issued by Rome]. What they so rightly say about you, they will also say about the other [bureaucrats]. And with good reason.32

As long as we fail to get out of [that procedural mess of condemnations] our consciences will continue to be puzzled and disturbed. (p 548) Our Christians will still be angry, shocked, sullen, and insubordinate. Their faith will stagger still; because they will judge all Roman decisions by the ones they know about in their own daily lives [and know to be incorrect]. It will be impossible for us to show any [Roman] decision to be prudent, or wise, or well-informed. And very sadly, we will still see ourselves incapacitated [by such regulations] from ever getting to the pagans. [What is worse, we will be a disaster to the Christians as well]. We will be the cause of thousands of [subjective] formal mortal sins every day, in situations where [objectively] there sometimes isn’t even the most venial fault. I could quote many concrete examples to show this; but it would take too long.”

(I repeat: this whole letter contains many, many things which I now heartily disavow. Notably that last part. How could I have written such stuff? I must have been a bit dazed by the surrounding heat, generated by the universal indignation against Fr Luquet).

You are all wrong about Pariahs etc.

“A third observation, about pariahs. I myself have also lamented their [customary] position. But wasn’t Slavery even more atrocious, more inhuman, more barbarous (even more anti-Christian)33 than the present state of the pariahs (at least among our Christians, and even generally, all around here)? And yet Christianity did not start off by attacking Slavery head on. It “managed along” with it for many a long century. Nevertheless it was Christianity that finally destroyed it; because it was essentially34 against the Gospel, to have a man owning a brother as if he was a horse. But Christianity did not start with that. .. No need to recall here how Christian Charity went about it; how it gradually almost wiped this shameful eye-sore off the face of the earth. (For, even in 1845 sadly, we still have to say “almost”). (p 549)“It will be the same here [with untouchability] if we act like Saint Paul, if we tell the pariah: “Be faithful to your duties. Honour and respect those whom Providence has placed above you. ‘Tis from God that distinctions in rank come”. And at the same time, tell the Mudaliar and the Pillai [higher castes]: “Don’t forget that this pariah is your brother. Treat him with kindness and respect. Providence may have given you birth into a higher rank; do not be proud because of that. In the church you are allotted a more honourable place; because the Church is wise and gives every man his due, even civil rights and due honours. (In Europe she has thrones in the churches for the Kings, special seats for the magistrates, pews for the upper class, etc.). But don’t g thinking your prayers are any better than the pariah’s for all that. And we will not tear out the page where God preferred the humble publican to the proud Pharisee”.

(All very well and good. But Saint Paul could beg Philemon to be kind to Paul’s dear neophyte slave, Onesimus; under the caste system he couldn’t be kind to him!)

“In the meantime this gradual approach [to customs] will allow us to extend Christianity and to train priests, even from the lowest castes, IF we go softly and do not jolt and smash everything right at the start. We can convert pagans too [with this policy]. And eventually equality will come about all by itself, naturally and inevitably, protected by Christianity but not imposed on the very first day.

“That’s all I have wanted to say to you; or rather: that’s just a summary of all the countless thoughts that have been coming at me in swarms, ever since reading your unfortunate Mémoire. 35

“What a crying shame! You have knocked down with one hand what you had so nobly built up with the other, as good Fr Leroux said. Just a few pages less, and your Mémoire would be a masterpiece. It could be published far and wide, and would do nothing but good. But now I tremble at the thought that any of our Christians might get hold of it. Dayirayam is at Rome; wont’! he be writing to them about it? There is not one Christian here who could tolerate or put up with it. Not even Fr Lazare; much less Tambusamy Mudaliar. Make no mistake about that.

“Another thing you should have kept well away from: comparing (p 550) the West Coast of India [Kerala etc.] with this side. They are as different as chalk and cheese. 36

My PLAN about Customs

37

“Now that I have got all that off my heart, and maybe wounded yours, dear friend (but without wishing you the slightest hurt; have no doubt on that score) let’s come to the “plan” I mentioned. But I’ll have to be short. This is already eight long pages!

“I can safely say that I have been mulling over this “plan” ever since I arrived in India, and started looking around.

“I saw that many of our worst problems are actually due to the ceaseless efforts of devoted missionaries!

“I saw that all the Roman decrees, Bulls, rulings etc. (so many, you could not know the half of them) have not even started to bring uniformity into the conduct and attitudes of missionaries; not even inside one Vicariate, not to mention the whole of India.

"I saw that the key questions (those which gave rise to so many reams of writing and so many scandals) are still problematic and debatable for the missionaries --men who are aflame with the love of God, who would die, ten times over, rather than cooperate in one venial sin of superstition; men who ask themselves, in all honesty, "why can't we permit such-and-such a custom?" and "why couldn't we just ignore so-and-so practice?". 38 But they can’t. The Bull [and its Oath] is there, to bind their consciences.

“I saw that, in spite of the vigorous language of the Oath, there is great divergence in actual practice. Some missionaries quite happily do things which others would be extremely reluctant to even consider.

“I saw that even our best and most sensible Christians are absolutely (p 551) astounded that we can see any immorality whatsoever in certain customs. It seems to me that public conscience (or common sense) is totally out of line with our imported scruples. And public conscience is a testimony to moral truth.39

“I saw, after all, that [Rome] has condemned a whole lot of customs but has let a whole lot of others through. These others are just as easy to “prove” to be superstitious as the first, though in actual fact they aren’t (not in the way and understanding in which our Christians do them).40

“Finally I saw (and I confirmed it more and more by my observations and reflections) that nearly all Indian practices have “two” origins, two aims. The first is: usefulness for the common good. This aim can be seen more clearly if you go back to the time when the custom was established. (And for the Indians, that time has not yet receded far away, by change, as with us). The principle behind the original establishing of the practice is often very wise and deeply philosophical; and this good aim is nearly always the main element in the custom. The second “aim” is superstitious; and it is nearly always very secondary.

“The primary aim of the custom, then, is something that we can call Public Charity, flowing from the wise philosophical principles mentioned before. The secondary element is a sort of Theogony [like translating cold philosophy into a warm myth or legend] in order to motivate the people, using superstition, into faithfully carrying out the said custom, which was judged useful or necessary; for they were not very good at doing things out of pure abstract reasoning.

“Then I asked myself: Instead of trying to combat the evil [of the superstition] with imported foreign weapons, would it not be much better to go back to the authentic Indian origins, before the deplorable superstition was grafted on [and tries to separate it out]? Instead of trying to destroy and abolish the whole custom, try to preserve as much of it as possible while effectively cutting out the bad part. Instead of uprooting the whole tree, gently cut away the parasitic creeper that is killing it. Once the tree has thoroughly freed itself, it can then begin to produce genuine native fruits, much (p 552) better than the exotic plant which you were trying to bring in artificially and to put in its place.

“Yes; but is the separating operation possible? Not only possible; today many missionaries think it would be easy.41 With our printing press, with our facilities for diffusing books, we could easily do it. First make a book giving a clear, straightforward account of the Christian religion, along with a thorough refutation of paganism. It should show, especially, that when the “first people” became Christians, they were only going back to the true Custom of their ancestors; for these believed in Christianity-to-come, because they believed in the coming Messiah, the promised Liberator of the human race, the Christ. We would then show the Indians how many their own ancestors’ great wisdom, profound knowledge, high philosophy, is appreciated and admired all over the world. Then how the Great Truths they taught have become adulterated, by ignorance and other causes. The principal superstitions would then be brought into the book, as later corruptions of their principal ancient Truths. You know yourself how great the people’s respect for their ancestors is. They will be pleased by our recognition, our drawing nearer to them; and they will move a bit nearer to us.

Then, going into detail, we will show the good side of each custom (beneficial, reasonable or harmless) and we will also show the rotten or superstitious side. Then we will solemnly declare that we accept the good side, and only that; for we abhor the bad side, the superstition later added on by ignorance, malice or corruption. We would show them how our own external behavior (which the Christians are well aware of) is a continuous and obvious challenge to all those superstitions.

Then [once that re-education was achieved] what a host of Indian customs we could permit! What a host of related superstitions we could gently get rid of, which our people now hang on to desperately, all the more tenaciously the more harshly we condemn them. (Otherwise, indeed, they might already have been gradually dying out, owing to European influence and the example of the more perfect native Christians ignoring or despising the superstitions). And what a lot of good customs we could save, with n danger of idolatry; for it would be a great pity to see them disappear.”

(Such, roughly, was the Plan I wanted to put forward in Rome, so that they could either say, “All right; go ahead” or else (p 553) “No way; out of the question”. In the first case, we could get down to work in the Plan, and get all the necessary elements ready. (We would not actually start it without clear approval from the Holy See, both for the principle and for the detailed scheme). But the coldness, not to say horror, which I met at the first mention of this Plan in Rome made me drop it completely, making me conclude that “it must be utterly incompatible with the purity of the Gospel”.)

“I would like to go into more detail here, but I would get to long-winded. What reams I would want to write on Abstinence from Beef, on Ashes, on Pottu, on Respect for Birds of Prey…

For example if those [scavenging] Birds ever disappeared (the crows, the vultures etc.) India would become uninhabitable; plagues and diseases would ravage the country…

Pottu marks: they are caste distinguishing signs, much more so than superstitious vows (or at least as much so)…42

Ashes: they are very healthy and useful [to put on the body] especially for people who have no underclothes (to absorb sweat, for example). Also they actually promote cleanliness, by necessitating frequent baths! (As you know, a “bath” is simply a washing of the body; not a European “bath”). And if someone is ill, they do not put him in a bed, with a soft mattress and with three or four blankets on top of him; they put him on a simple mat powdered with ashes; which is a lot more beneficial in this climate…

“Abstinence from Beef: It was essentially wise and philosophical in this country (where the cow and the ox are the only resources of the countryman, the ploughman, the carter, the travelling merchant, and many others) to preserve those vital animals and highly cherish them. Agriculture in India, with no progress or encouragement, cannot produce like Europe, which can have 10 or 20 times more cereals or cattle per acre.43 Hence the severe law here, never to kill and eat those essential animals. But no waste either; when the cows die they are given to the lowest castes to eat up. This double law suits everybody very well. (Each to his taste!). It gives an almost innate horror of beef to the non-pariahs. They cannot even imagine how any decent (or well-born) man could even touch beef (p 554[*) *]to his lips; to them it is more revolting than is dog’s or cat’s meat in Europe.

“What would you think of the intelligence of a missionary coming to Egypt form Tong-king who, seeing the quasi-divine honours given to cats and dogs in Egypt, decided to command his “converts” to eat dog, just as “normal” people do (in Tong-king)! “Tis out of pure superstition”, he would tell them, “that you people never eat dog. I happen to know, from personal experience, that it is delicious”!

“Let us try to see things form the Indians’ point of view, and not continue to think like European [tourists] in India! Above all, let us stop expecting or demanding that the Indians change into Europeans. That mentality is what’s killing us. If we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the Indians, then we will understand their reasoning on many things.

We will speak out our Faith and the Gospel way of life. We will live it, write it, publish it, and proclaim it everywhere. [But it will no longer sound foreign, because we will think and say things like this]

“No, we don’t eat beef, simply because, in this country, it’s not the done thing. In fact, we don’t like beef now … We put up those [inverted] white-washed pots in our gardens and fields, because we need them, to protect our poor crops from the swarming birds … Certainly, we polish our floors (etc) with fresh cow-dung; because that’s the most sanitary substance available; and it keeps away the millions of insects, which would otherwise devour us. You Europeans [!] find it somewhat lacking in style and perfume, maybe; we think it a beautiful green, and delightfully fresh-smelling! The sense of colour and smell I and sound etc] are not mathematically identical everywhere, you see.”

“The French [we seem to remember] favour black soutanes etc; we find them horribly depressing … Frenchwomen put on rouge to beautify themselves; we find it hard to stop laughing when we see one here. But we think that a coating of yellow powder makes an Indian woman look very chic! You Europeans pity them? Well, we pity yours. So we’re quits!”

[If only we could liberate ourselves light-heartedly, like that, from our European fixed ideas], a lot of “scandals” would suddenly disappear. The freedom of the Gospel would take over. [And we would leave it to Indian Christianity to sort out all those puzzling matters in its own good time], to weed out what is absurd, not so good, improper (but no longer a sin). All these reforms would follow, gradually, gently, naturally. Not by smashing and condemning (p 555) everything to start with!

“This book I was talking about, published in all sorts of editions all over the country, would be enough to gradually open the doors of pagan houses to us. It would conciliate our Indian Christians. We, the missionaries, would continue to proceed as we have been doing, i.e. submitting ourselves as usual to any customs that cannot be broken without disgusting the people, but keeping also to our won more Christian line of standards. We would not impose these on anybody; but we would constantly be preaching them by example.

“And this book, my friend, who could write it? You yourself, dear friend, could do it admirably, after a bit more time in India. After your efforts [there in Rome] for the general progress of the Missions, this would be the very best thing you could tackle, for the particular good of this country. Otherwise, you are going to see the future always getting worse than the past; no progress! May the good God take pity on India! May He not allow our sins be the cause of her ruin!

“I will stop here. May you be able to rethink your principles on this subject [of customs]. May your good luck continue, i.e. may your Mémoire never become widely known in this country!

[Yours sincerely]… “

  • His Inculturation Plan Shot down by Paris*

I repeat (for the third time): this letter contains a whole lot of statements which I now disown. Some of them I could never even think of writing only for the bitter reaction (from all quarters) against Fr Luquet’s book. But other statements were just the logical conclusions from my own personal conviction at the time, i.e. that the long-established practical toleration of Indian customs (which we arrived into on arriving here) was quite lawful and legitimate in itself. There was also the hope (which I shared with even the most senior and serious of my confreres) that we would soon be enabled to practice even more tolerance, with the approval of the Holy See. To us this seemed to be obviously and indisputably a good thing, to be desired if at all possible. For it would greatly facilitate the conversion of pagans, and strongly (p 556) confirm the Christians in the Faith.

I will relate later on how [I came to a quite different position] and why I am now obliged to fear that all this [great dream of ours] was based on nothing but illusions. I hope and trust that the Lord will in great part excuse that wishful thinking of ours, because of the motive that inspired it: to bring this People to Christianity.

So now, today, I am not a bit surprised at the shock felt by the Paris Seminary Directors when they read that letter. (I had sent it to Fr Luquet, through them, open).44 Not to have to go back to this particular affair again, let me now (before narrating the events in Pondicherry at the time) include here what the greatly-respected Fr Langlois wrote about it to Bishop Bonnand:

“I must also talk to Your Lordship about a letter written by Fr de Bresillac. It contains some excellent ideas; but there are also some things which greatly astonished and pained me. What shocked and saddened me most of all was the free-and-easy attitude four dear confrere towards the Bulls and other decisions of the Sovereign Pontiffs, and the very low authority he gives to their decrees about the Malabar Rites and customs. He regards them as mere “conditional” decisions, their validity depending on the degree of factual accuracy in the Reports made to the Holy See.

“This attitude might be tenable about the decisions handed down by a Sacred Congregation (like the Holy office or Propaganda) about a single question put to them by some individual (without sufficient proof that things really are what the questioner reported). But when it comes to a Bull issued only after long and mature deliberations, after the pros and cons had been presented and argued by both sides for 40 or 50 years! … how could anyone regard that decision as being “merely conditional” or “depending on the truthfulness of the reports”!

“Fr de Bresillac seems to think that, in the original confrontation over the Malabar Rites, it was only the Capuchins who were properly heard, that only their complaints against the Jesuits were listened to. But are the Jesuits the kind of men to quietly let they be condemned, without putting forward their own case and bringing out the whole strength of their reasons? During his stay in India, Cardinal de Tournon was accompanied everywhere by two (p 557) Jesuits; these would hardly have kept mute about the issues. Anyway there is no reason to suspect the Cardinal of giving serious attention to only one side and practically ignoring the arguments of the other; such partiality would have been inexcusable.

“Furthermore, there was a period of 30 years after De Tournon left India (1704) up t Clement XII’s Bull (1734) and ten more years up to the Bull “Omnium Sollicitudinum”. Had the defenders of the Malabar Rites not enough time, then, to put their own case? And did they neglect it? [Certainly not!]

“In this affair, then, Rome did not give sentence after a mere “report” by ne side; it decided only after nearly a half century f in-depth examination, weighing the arguments of both sides. Without that [kind of certainty] the Holy See would never have imposed an oath on the missionaries, an oath of obedience to the Decisions made by it, and approved by the Pope himself. When you look at the vigorous terms in which Clement XII and Benedict XIV demand an ongoing account of how their Bulls are being implemented … when you see the penalties imposed on missionaries who break their Oath … how could you pretend that these two Popes might look on the regulations in these Bulls as “not very binding”!

“So I am convinced that, if the Sacred Congregation was to come to know the manner in which Fr de Bresillac expresses himself about this, it would become an extra reason for it not to budge on the issue of the Oath demanded f missionaries.

“As for Fr de Brésillac’s scheme for bringing the Indians (pagans as well as Christians) to give up their superstitious practices, I do not think it could ever have the success he seems to expect. (I have no time to go into that). But anyway, the introduction of such a scheme for the education of the Indians would not dispense us from obeying the Bulls in the meantime. It could only be an extra means for obtaining that obedience.

“Missionaries can try to inform the Indians about the origins of their customs; but the Indians can very well reply: “We know them better than you; you are foreigners”. Anyway the [moral] question is not “What meaning did the people of 300 or 400 years ago attach to their customs?” It is “What do present-day people think?” Moreover, the intentions of the Christians about these condemned practices do not matter; it is the pagans’ intentions that count.45

(p 558)Why so? The Christians in India are only an insignificant percentage; the pagans form the decisive mass of the population. And when the majority attaches a superstitious meaning and intention to a certain custom (indifferent in itself) the minority individuals must be deemed to have the same intention whenever they do that custom in the same manner and circumstances, even if, in the secret of their souls, they do not share the pagans’ intentions and beliefs. Anyway, to re-open the whole Malabar Rites question, now, would have some very bad repercussions. The best way to avoid these is to faithfully implement the Bulls.

“I am not condemning Fr de Brésillac scheme for liberating the minds of the Indians. But let nobody think it can let him off his obedience to the Bulls of the Sovereign Pontiffs in the meantime. Bishop Verlles46 and all the confreres here (except ne) disapprove of Fr de Brésillac principles”.

My Reply to the Disapprovers

Bishop Bonnand showed me the letter. Afterwards I wrote in my Diary:

“I think the respected Fr Langlois has got me wrong”. (In fact he understood me fairly well; I had badly expressed myself). “But the time is not yet right for an in-depth discussion on this matter. Thousands and thousands of pagans will still fall into hell before we can get round to offering them any effective help. So I will not now try to excuse or defend or explain myself to the Paris Directors. I will merely write to let them know that it is in no way my intention to undermine the validity of the Roman decisions.

“I am not asking for a re-trial of the Malabar Rites. What I am looking for is a way to take certain indifferent customs (neutral in themselves) and make them non-superstitious; for many of them have been made superstitious unnecessarily, by grafting on a superstition.47 Certainly, among the condemned customs (p 559) (and probably many there customs too, not expressly condemned but not declared innocent either) there are some which are evil “in se”. For these nothing can be done. But these are not the customs the Indian Christians cling to the most. I am just looking for a way (and I believe it exists)48 to get over the many moral difficulties which still remain, in spite of the Bulls and Decrees, in spite of their wisdom and their exact wording. A way that would [ultimately] remedy the whole customs problem and would thus (so to speak) render all those Bulls and condemnations unnecessary and obsolete, because of the [healing] nature of the remedy itself. These Roman decisions would still be there of curse, as landmarks to fix the limits of Doctrine and Morals, as long as these practices remained flawed (as they are today) by superstition and paganism. Rome has judged, and judged rightly. But is it impossible to modify certain customs [not the rules] in such a way that Rome could then permit them [conditionally] where formerly she made an unqualified prohibition? S, I am not casting any doubt n Rome’s decisions. On the contrary, it is precisely from Rome that I am looking for help and rescue. Let us pray God!”

A few days later, I wrote to the Rev Directors:

“Messieurs et bien respect abies confrères:

“Bishop Bonnand has shown me a letter from Rev Fr Superior. It says: “Bishop Verlles and all the confreres here (except one) disapprove of Fr de Brésillac principles”. I am not standing up today to argue against that disapproval. It is based on a misinterpretation of certain passages in a letter of mine. My inadequate wording laid me pen t such a misreading. Today I am only asking you to believe me: if I was lacking in due respect towards the Bulls and Decrees from Rome, it was only in the formulation and completely contrary to my intention. In the depths of my soul, I would be heartbroken if I did or said anything that might be displeasing to the Holy See. Hence, like you, I condemn and withdraw every inexact expression in that letter which I may have let fly in the heat of a long and very hurried session of writing.

“As to the central idea itself, I believe that, properly expressed (p 560) it would be seen [very differently].

It would in no way jepardize the respect we owe to the past decisions and judgments. Far from weakening the authority of Rome, it would remedy the estrangement from the Holy See in the minds and hearts of both Christians and pagans here. Their present attitudes are s hostile that [we can do nothing for them]. All actin for the pagans is ruled out. And we cannot be at all sure of maintaining the integrity of the long-enduring faith of the Christians, in the face of the present scandal of Schism. Finally [if this plan could be implemented] it would save us, ourselves, from any culpable participation in acts of idolatry and superstition. Towards this [great advantage] a Way is now offering itself, an approach impossible fifty years ago. In my opinion (and the opinion of many well respected confreres) this Way is not even difficult.49

“But, unfortunately, this is a Way that will be very hard to envisage or understand in Europe. Moreover, it will be promptly contradicted by the English [and Irish priests] here, because they are nothing but European chaplains anyway. So I greatly fear that the future will be just “more of the same”; no progress. Meanwhile the devil will continue to reign unchallenged in these unfortunate countries for many more centuries to come. Souls are falling into hell in thousands, every day; and we cannot even hold out a useful hand to try and save them. What a cruel situation! I pray the Lord to enlighten our minds, and never let us stray from the right way. And at the same time, to open His merciful arms wider towards this People, doubly afflicted.50 Please join your prayers t ours.”

Down with Irish Imperialism!

[Yes, I greatly admired Fr Luquet’s Mémoire; but I was shocked and amazed at the narrow “European” attitude displayed in the last part, abut Indian customs].51 But this was not (p 561) the only part that provoked an outcry all over India. And in some places they were highly indignant at the latest moves by the Sacred Congregation.

“The Vicar Apostolic of Madras” (I wrote at the time) “has just made a strong protest to Rome against the decisions about Vizagapattinam and also (they say) against the appointment of the new Bishop of Hyderabad. Consequently he has refused, without a new explicit order, to hand over any powers of jurisdiction to Fr Gailhot, enabling him to take over his new Pro-Vicariate.

“Apart from the continuing bad reaction to the Mémoire from our confreres (according as they get to read it or hear about it) the book can also sow discord between us and the Irish missionaries. For these blame everything they don’t like on “Bishop Bonnand’s representative in Rome”. Some remarks by His Lordship of Madras are making the rounds; they are terrible.

“Meanwhile, it seems, he has not even seen the Mémoire himself, much less read it; so he has no solid grounds for being so annoyed at it. So it seems to me that his complaints and protests are quite extraordinary and inexplicable at this stage. But they are also very significant in the circumstances; they indicate that the Irish are beginning to see themselves as the spiritual overlords in the country. By what title? By virtue of the English domination; because the English have been cunning enough and strong enough to lay hold of most of the poor Indians’ rupees. So the Irish, because of their connection with England, should [naturally] become the supreme managers [and paymasters] of the Churches in India!52

“Tis the same thing all over again, the same insult and injury (p 562) to India, the same nationalistic pretensions which Jed to the [Portuguese] Schism of Goa and are now greatly to blame for the difficulties the Church meets in her efforts to establish herself with the people in spite of their oppression by various European governments. Portugal, at least, had some bit of zeal for propagating the Gospel; her “patronage” was effective for many a long year. In actual fact, the great majority of Indian Christians (apart from the glorious St Thomas Christians) have been made children of Jesus Christ by missionaries protected by Portugal.

“But England! What has England ever done for the Christians here? What has she ever done that might possibly justify those (more-or-less) English priests in claiming any rights (or even any special notice) in the management of these Churches? And have they even got the kind of temperament needed for evangelization in these countries? Maybe the most inappropriate kind of all! Really, can you be happy with the results of the Irishmen’s apostolic efforts in India? Isn’t it heart-breaking to see the way they treat the poor black Christians? They are very good at publishing newspapers in English, preaching in English, establishing English schools and orphanages for the Irish soldiers’ [children]. But what are they doing for the black people? They don’t even know the language. I do not know yet what the Savoy missionaries coming to Vizagapattinam will be like. But I don’t think I will be far out if I expect them to do a lot more good than the Irish!

“All right; this country is not yet Christian, and it cannot yet be self-sufficient in its own clergy. So of course the Holy See should be free to accept apostolic workers from any place It chooses. Of course It must be diplomatic with any Government that is favouring missionary activity. God having so permitted it [I don’t know why] the temporal powers can be of immense help to the spiritual power of the Church. So we have to “manage” them, for the greater glory of God. But the Portuguese experience ought to teach us that any [concessions] to a Government should be kept within very careful limits. If this is true of Catholic nations with overseas possessions, how much more so when it comes to heterodox [Protestant] governments!

So I would like to tell the Irish: Don’t be so eager to dress (p 563) yourselves up as “English subjects”. Study the local languages. Mix with the people. Don’t shock their customs all the time. Write books in Tamil and the other languages. Open seminaries. Then we won’t be rejoicing when we hear that other missionaries are coming to replace you [as in Vizagapattinam]53

But if we are going to rejoice whole-heartedly at the arrival of the Annecy missionaries (for we hear they are arriving soon) they will need to arrive in peace, and be welcomed in peace.

“So bring peace into our hearts, O my God! And convert all of us apostolic missionaries (since we have the honour of that title). Make us have no other ambition [e.g. territorial] other than to see the holy teaching of your Gospel spread and take root!”

Caught in the vicious Cross-fire at Luquet.

But he has good Supporters too!

The now general antipathy against Fr Luquet was bound to turn against me also, and against my appointment to Coimbatore. What could I do in the midst of all the [turmoil]? Just wait and see, and then wait some more…

“And then, Lord, let me know what is your Will. And do not let me take any step that is contrary to your great designs”.

The following letter from Fr Leroux, and then another item from my own Diary at that time, will give an idea of the general attitude to Fr Luquet, and consequently the very tricky situation I was in myself. Fr Leroux wrote:

“My dear friend,

Your position looks very difficult indeed. The good of Religion in this country is going to require great prudence from you, and (p 564) even greater sacrifices. Things look really fouled up. But with a bit of patience, it will all sort itself out eventually. [Don’t rush things]. That would only make it all worse. Fr Luquet has created a right royal mess. Please God he will see his mistakes.

“I am not writing this to tell you to refuse the episcopate. Far from it! I am only telling you: do not let the present hassle and harassment worry you too much. It will all blow over; better weather will return. Let us pray now. Let us just wait it out. And let us make sure we can always honestly say: “Not my will but yours be done!”

And now my diary:

“29 August [1845]: It is now a whole month since we received the Mémoire addressed to the S. C. of Propaganda by Fr Luquet. And two months since my appointment to Coimbatore became public. After the first big explosion there came a lull (but not a complete ceasefire)

“What is it going to be like in a few days time, when it gets out that Fr Luquet himself has been appointed Bishop? In any normal situation I would be delighted; I would rejoice in the Lord. But now, isn’t it going to be another new and very badly timed foul-up? Everyone that read his Mémoire was deeply pained and disappointed by it. They all still feel that way about him. Only very few, however, were so unfair as to see nothing in it but bad. Most, on the contrary, agree that it contains some excellent ideas. And several silly remarks. And one huge blunder!

“True, among those who didn’t even bother to read it, there were a few who did not hesitate to express their opinion.”A [protestant-style] pamphlet… A sensation-monger. .. a show-off” … and other pretty compliments of the same kind. Happily, those violent extremists are very few. All the above quotations came from only one “critic”.

“However, I have just been shown a letter by another: it contains this dismal passage:

“If a complete atheist were to set out to thoroughly discredit all European missionaries, he couldn’t have done a better job on them than Luquet does, in some parts of his book”…

(Note well that it is not a “book” since it was not meant for publication; a Mémoire, by its very nature, is not that. (But assuredly, I think this one could be published later on, with no (p 565) danger for the missions, and even with great usefulness --leaving out the part about Castes etc. The bits about certain very touchy people were harmful only to them and only for a time).

“This book could well be described as a mass (a tissue, an assemblage, a mixum-gatherum) of knowledge and ignorance, of eulogies and insults, of praises and calumnies, of truths and lies, of fairness and injustice, of sound reasonings and flimsy sophistries, of apparent humility and genuine pride, of exhortation to good and inclination to evil; of gigantic Projects, Castles in Spain, beautiful speculations and mere day-dreams. Tis a murderous weapon, a firebrand of discord. Tis the work of a man who thinks too much and never looks before him. He thinks he knows, but he knows nothing. In short, this is a work to be put into the fire, not the printingpress. “

The dislike caused by the Mémoire was greatly intensified when it became known that the Sacred Congregation was thinking of making Fr Luquet a Coadjutor, in Pondicherry! Some of the reactions were extreme. Given the weakness and imperfection of human nature, some of the confreres’ remarks could be passed off as mere mistakes, instead of recklessly unfair attacks. Nevertheless, there are limits; and certainly these limits would seem to have been well and truly surpassed by the intemperate language and. the vitriolic bitterness [displayed by one confrere against Fr Luquet]:

“This beardless pontiff who sits himself down on a Bishop’s throne, without ever having done a single honest day’s work to deserve it. This pickpocket, this mitre-stealer in the Roman bureaucracy! Not content with indecently procuring an appointment for his friend, whose only qualification for the job is … (and so forth …)”.

“That one came from the same source as the [literary criticism] quoted above. Unhappily, his blood-thirsty attack was only an echo of another more deadly assault, more decently dressed up but in no way less corrosive. It hurt even worse, because the man who put it out is much more respected.

“It is somewhat painful, writing all that sort of stuff down here. But I think it is necessary, if we are going to be realistic about the gravity of the difficulties surrounding us, which will have to be taken into account in making decisions? We may have (p 566) need, in the future, to keep those peoples’ attitudes in mind. Anyway, even those excesses are excusable, up to a point, in the situation. Normally those confreres are so good, even so worthy of respect and admiration! They cannot be deliberately sinning against justice and charity. It is the bewildering circumstances and changes that are blinding them. And apart from those two, I don’t know of any other missionaries who have expressed themselves (at least in writing) in such a vicious and hurtful way.

And, to balance all that, there are others who seem very happy at my appointment. There is Fr Leroux. And Fr Mousset has never changed since the day he congratulated me on first hearing the news. Fr Lehodey seems more happy about it than otherwise (though with some reservations, and keeping a watchful eye out for what the Bishop will say). Fr Barot seems delighted; but he has not much authority, being so new. The highly respected Fr Godelle has written to me twice, in a tone of perfect amity and satisfaction. Fr Virot, that good and holy confrere, goes still further with the friendly warmth of his expressions. Finally Fr Chevalier wrote just recently, saying how glad he was, with a frankness and openness which were surpassed only by the spirit of Faith radiating from his letter. But better still was a letter from Fr Fricaud, because this dear confrere is the most senior of the three missionaries at present in the planned Pro-Vicariate of Coimbatore.

“I have just received a letter from His Lordship bringing me very good news of various kinds. But the most thrilling of all was the one about you. Ah! my good assistant!54 How I look forward to the day when I can make you a “grandissimo sashtangam” (profoundest salutation) and receive your blessing, at the head of ten thousand souls! Come! Come quickly! I really believe, this time anyway, the mercy of God has come down on India! My prayers have been answered!”

(p 567) So, patience and prayer [is what is still needed]. There is still for and against. May the Lord kindly enlighten us and turn it all to His glory!”

[*Flash-back: Luquet chosen unanimously by Cardinals *]

and Pope.

Myself Approved in Paris. (Only, procedure …)

Meanwhile, at Paris and Rome, what did they think of Fr Luquet? At Rome they approved the Synod of Pondicherry with only a few modifications (all in our tendency) once they had studied his admirable supporting document (the Mermoire which made such a noise in India). Not only that: they also sent out a remarkable "Instruction" to all the Vicars Apostolic in the world, stressing their obligation to work for the establishment of a Native Clergy; to take all necessary means to ensure that this Clergy be well educated, worthy, respected; so that, at a given time, priests from this Clergy can be appointed Bishops! Praises for my dear confrere kept coming in --for his zeal, his intelligence, his piety, his great learning. And the Cardinals of Propaganda, unanimously, proposed him for Bishop. Allow me to illustrate all this by quoting (almost in its entirety) a letter from Fr Tesson dated 9th June [1845]:

“Fr Luquet has sent us a voluminous Mémoire on the Synod. A certain American Bishop wrote us, today, that this Mémoire is making a great stir [in Rome]. He sure wishes he had Fr Luquet’s energy and talent for pushing things so persistently and successfully.

“The Jesuit General is scared stiff of the Mémoire. He put in a complaint to the Cardinal Prefect; but the “minutante” at Propaganda backed up Fr Luquet so eloquently that the Cardinal gave no reply at all to the Jesuits. This same minutante writes to us that Luquet is working “like a horse”; in six months he has got more done than another man could do in fifty years. Luquet enjoys the highest esteem at Rome. Our Society is honoured in having such a representative there”.

And in another letter of the 25th June: (p 568)

“I could add a lot more to what I have already told you, most encouraging news. But I will leave it to Bishop Bonnand, to tell you it all when he thinks fit. I will just say here that it’s beyond all your wildest dreams. And that now the Pope and the Cardinals “unica voce” are counting on Fr Luquet and all of you there, to renew the face of India. The zeal, the prudence and the deep piety of Fr Luquet have worked wonders. He himself does not yet know about one of his victories: all the Cardinals have solemnly approved his Mémoire. I am sending you a copy.

From Ceylon we heard there was big trouble. The Goa priests (but these are normal non-schismatic Catholic Priests, obeying their black Vicar Apostolic) refused to accept the newly appointed Fr Bettachini as Coadjutor. He is Italian. At first (I think) he was appointed Coadjutor in Colombo; then, in the new arrangements, he was designated to the new Vicariate of Jaffna. Protests against him became very fiery. And now, says Bishop Bonnand, it’s an out-and-out conflagration. Although we have very little to do with Ceylon, these grave reports add new confusion to our already confused minds.

And now came a worse confusion, much nearer home. On the 8th September, on the same ship, there arrived a big number of new missionaries. Four for us, eight Jesuits for Madurai --and four Annecy priests and two brothers for the new Pro-Vicariate of Vizagapattinam. The Annecy group immediately wrote to Fr Gailhot, their designated Pro-Vicar (at least for the time being). They also wrote to the Bishop at Madras (since their future Mission had been up to now in his jurisdiction). Fr Gailhot could not go there as their head until the Bishop gave him faculties etc. His Lordship gave them no reply. He merely wrote to Bishop Bonnand saying he had nothing to do with those people without a new explicit order from Rome. He had made a very strong protest there, and would have to wait for a reply. The rest of His Lordship's letter indicated that His Lordship was very offended [by this unwarranted intrusion into "his" territory].

But what was even more deplorable was this: he informed the British government at Madras about Rome’s arrangements for Vizagapattinam, in the hope (no doubt) that the Government (p 569) would do something to block their implementation! We were only too well aware of his desire to see all the ecclesiastical administration in India gradually being managed by Irishmen (at least all the places where there are officially recognized chaplains for the Irish soldiers). I like to think that the Bishop (a remarkable man in many ways) quickly repented of that move [with the Government]. But it just goes to show that men are the same everywhere, capable of any aberration, however crazy. All we humans need is the right circumstances and we ourselves will promptly fall into the same outrageous mistakes that we blame other people for, if the all-powerful hand of God is not there, to pull us back from the edge. [There but for the grace of God go we].

Even you, Schism of Goa! You are inexcusable; but you are not incomprehensible. “Our Mission … our jurisdiction … our congregation … our country … our King … our government!” What a dismal series of evils have been caused on the missions by such catch-words and the all-too-human ideas and emotions they stir up! In this Madras case the thing was made even more outrageous by the fact that the British Government is Protestant, the born enemy of Catholicism and of Rome. (But, we hasten to say now; the Bishop did not persevere in his error).

(p 571)

Many Confreres Confused or Hostile; Fricaud.

My Refusal and Resignation.

Meanwhile, all these confusing events and situations were turning my confreres more and more against me. Some pretty strong letters must have been going around, about Fr Luquet and myself. For example Fr Fricaud (who had written me such a friendly, enthusiastic welcome) suddenly changed completely. He went so far as to write to Bishop Bonnand asking for a transfer out of Coimbatore, expressing himself in a most violent manner against me. Things went from bad to worse. Finally they reached such a pitch, I decided to announce that, faced with ongoing hostility from many of my confreres, I felt I ought not to accept the episcopate. And indeed how could I expect to achieve anything [without their support] especially in a country where the authority of a Vicar Apostolic is so limited? It is only by the friendship and willing cooperation of his co-workers that he can expect to implement anything, even the bare minimum that his conscience commands him to do.

And now Bishop Charbonnaux came back from his first tour of visitation. He was to set out soon again for Mysore, and probably would not be returning. So now, while the two Bishops were at Pondicherry, I decided to write to them together: (p 572)

“My Lords,

Three months ago I received the Briefs of my appointment to the Pro-Vicariate of Coimbatore. I did not try to delude myself about the reaction of my confreres; it was very negative, and it hurt me deeply. I asked myself then before God: “Should I not refuse immediately?” I did not think so. For I knew for sure that I was innocent of the intentions and ambitions that they obviously suspected in me. My conscience was clear as far as I was concerned. Moreover I was also sure of the complete integrity and deep holiness of our worthy confrere Fr Luquet; just as sure of him as I was of myself. I am certain that, if he pushed my nomination, it had nothing to do with friendship or favouritism, absolutely nothing. He believed, in his heart and conscience, that he ought to press for my promotion (rather than that of someone else) purely and simply for the good of the Missions, especially for Native Clergy. In so doing, I admit, he may have made a big mistake; but he did not commit any fault. So I was at peace, perfectly tranquil, about the lawfulness of my selection. I still had to consider, of course, whether my unworthiness did not make it obligatory for me to refuse. But I quickly saw that I myself could not be a judge in that matter. Nor is it now befitting that I should make a parade of sham humility about it.

“Another thing: I saw that Divine Providence might well have had a hand in this nomination, it was so unexpected and extraordinary. And I could reasonably hope to be of more service to the cause of the missions, especially Native Clergy, as a Bishop than as an ordinary missionary. So, if there had been no outside interference, I would have accepted with tranquillity, and even with some joy. I wouldn’t even have waited a day longer than the three months before being consecrated; not to depart from the spirit and intention of the holy Council of Trent, and not to delay the progress intended for Coimbatore by the Holy See in the reorganization of Vicariates; no, not for one day, not by any fault of mine.

“But meanwhile there came another signal for me, a second voice from Providence: the discontent of my confreres. This demanded prudence and suspension of judgment, at the very least. I had to give them time, at least, to realize the truthfulness and honesty of my position, and the right intentions of Fr Luquet. Time also, I hoped, for Rome and Paris to “rectify” the presentation procedure; people were saying it was out of line with the “custom” in our Society. Then (I thought) after a proper confirmation of my appointment, I could go forward in peace; if not with universal support and satisfaction, at least with the general recognition by all my (p 573) Confreres that I had not been up to anything against conscience or against honour.

"But now comes a new twist: Fr Luquet has had the misfortune of being too able and too virtuous! While we, his confreres here, were condemning him with rare severity (wildly exaggerating the few mistakes he made during his very difficult negotiations in Rome, and giving him almost no credit for his enormous labours) the Cardinals in Propaganda "unica voce", the Paris Seminary, the Sovereign Pontiff himself (amazed at his work, edified by his virtues, won over by the force of his logic) had been vying with each other in praising him to the heights. They have all come together to raise him to the episcopate --something that has never happened before (I think) to any Bishop in the history of our Society since the time of our first and ever memorable Vicars Apostolic; and Fr Luquet himself did not even know what they were about to do!

“Ever since that, Luquet has been seen, by many of our confreres, as nothing but “an ambitious schemer for himself and his friend” (I am quoting only the mildest of their remarks) and I myself have been honoured with the role of his “accomplice”! Many of these confreres have used language that is shattering to a priest or a man of honour. But they may be excused out of inculpable ignorance of the facts; they were not able to see the whole correspondence from Paris and Rome. I hereby declare that they have not in any way lost my affection for them. But the fact of the situation is no less real for all that; nor any less grave. It puts us under the public accusation of one of the biggest crimes that any priest could commit; and it is an attack on our honour.

“As soon as I heard of the Sacred Congregation’s [episcopacy] plans for Fr Luquet, I could easily foresee the inevitable reaction here: an intensification of the suspicions and the hostility of our confreres. I hastened to write to him, urging him to refuse. [We in] India were not yet worthy to have him! [But there was no need for me to write]. His own outstanding intelligence (or rather, the Spirit of God, whom he consults every day) showed him, long before me, what he had to do. He will not be a bishop.55

“Meanwhile, what about myself? Fr Luquet had written to me: “You must not refuse the episcopate”. This word from him had more effect on me than all the daily humiliations from my confreres. But now I feel that things have got so bad that Luquet (p 574) himself would change his advice. If he was here now, he would be the first to tell me: “Since that’s the way things are, don’t accept”. Therefore I have the honour of informing You Lordships that, because of the persistent opposition of my most important confreres (and no other reason) I hereby renounce the dignity of the episcopate which the Sacred Congregation has offered me. I am writing to the S.C. also, to inform them. I am asking them to appoint someone else in my place, some priest who deserves the support and confidence of his confreres more than I do, and who is also not without some zeal for Native Clergy. I have the honour to enclose a copy of that letter.

“There is another problem, My Lords, which causes me no less pain. It has made up my mind to ask you to please accept my resignation as Superior of the Seminary. For there, too, because of our zeal for Native Clergy and our plans for that great objective, we are under great suspicion. These plans, and that admirable strategy (presented and defended by Fr Luquet in his Mernoire, in so noble, so Catholic a way) have not been graciously received by all his confreres. Some are afraid of it, scared of seeing such a [radical] theory being put into practice. Well, I am telling you straight: on this point I believe precisely the same as Fr Luquet; and all I want to do with his [wild] theory is to put it to work, right now.

“But this, like all the rest, I do not want unless God wills it, and insofar as He wills it. Certainly not by controversial and suspected means, or in ways that cause division with my confreres. These are not the normal ways of Providence. I cannot see any way to modify my manner of thinking and acting, about the Work for Native Clergy; even less so now, when the Sacred Congregation has just strengthened and re-affirmed our position about it. But I can take myself out of the way, seeing that I will not be allowed to do that Work in peace.

“Moreover [in spite of my refusal] the fact of my selection for Bishop, which has now failed because of my confreres’ opposition [is not going to go away]. No matter what I say or do to assure them that I bear them no less affection than before (no resentment, no bitterness) there will still be a sort of coldness or awkwardness between us, as long as I am in a post that is even slightly elevated. And this would have a very deadly effect on [the support for] the Seminary. We have already experienced some of the bad repercussions.

“If the work of the Seminary, the Work for Native Clergy, is the work of God, and if God wills that this work of His should be carried out now among this People, I am not pretentious enough to (p 575) think that the Work has need of me in order to be accomplished. But I do know that I myself have need of peace; and I would not be able to live in a continual state of mutual suspicion, [an unending storm]. If I am the cause of the storm, take me and throw me overboard. The Lord is also the God of the seas and the depths; if He still wants me and my ministry, He will know how to lift me out. But give me back my peace of mind; it has been grievously disturbed during these last [months]. I am not looking for anything, any post whatsoever, in this world. So let me just go away to the lowliest corner [or out-station] in either of your jurisdictions. Do not grieve me by refusing this favour.

“It only remains for me, My Lords, to recommend myself to your prayers, and ask you to let all my confreres know of this decision of mine, assuring them that I am still their devoted and affectionate servant, and Your Lordships’ also,

Your humble and obedient servant, and your son …”

To this letter the Bishops replied individually, in a friendly manner, true enough; but they were also rather severe, especially about Fr Luquet. They were sorry to see me in this fix “because of his friendship”. But, over all, they let me gather that, in these circumstances, I was quite right to refuse the episcopate.56

Encouraging Letters, after the Funeral

In general, my confreres hardly ever spoke directly to me about my appointment. They blamed Fr Luquet and kept silent about me. But their silence on the subject was fairly eloquent, especially as I knew indirectly what they were thinking. For the most part, it must be said, they were not against the selection itself, not so much as against the way it was done. Hence many of them broke their silence about it after I refused, and expressed their regrets.

At that very time I wrote beforehand: “We’ll soon see now: I’ll be treated just like a man who has recently died. While he was[* *](p 576) alive they didn’t think much of him; they didn’t talk much about him. But then, as soon as they hear he is dead: “What a great loss! How sad! He was such a good man! Very decent chap! “; and so on and so forth. When my appointment was first announced, a few, indeed, protested, with hurtful words; but the majority just kept a sort of gloomy silence, which was quite enough to let me know their discontent. Now that I am dead, let’s hear what they will have to say. I don’t mean those I see here every day (I know perfectly well what they think). I mean especially the men in the interior”.

Fr Mathian and Fr Richon happened to be here the day I sent in my letter to the two Bishops. As soon as they heard about it, they hurried to express their compliments and their sympathy. They were really sad about my decision, etc., etc.

Then Fr Jarrige:

“I am not going to comment at all on your refusal of the episcopate. Certainly you would not have taken such a grave decision without first consulting God in prayer or without getting the advice of some wise persons”

He doesn’t give much away there, does he? Especially considering he is one of the biggest opponents of Fr Luquet!

Fr de Kérizouet:

“Is it true what they say, or is it just one of those sensational rumours which people think up in order to enliven the daily monotony of our Indian apostolate? ..

“Please, I beg you, ignore those empty protests, whatever they are supposed to be based on … Remember, the future of a whole Vicariate is at stake, and indirectly the whole of India, because of the example that you can give in Coimbatore, you better than anyone else, the example of the Native Clergy you can set up there …

“Are you afraid, now, that you will have no missionaries in your Vicariate? You will have at least as many as you could possibly want. As I already said, I will be the first to volunteer. ..

(The rest of his letter is in the same tone).

Fr. Fages:

“I was delighted to hear that Rome’s choice for the new Vicariate of Coimbatore was yourself. … Your refusal [now] seems very inappropriate. It is obstructing the march of religious progress in India, after Fr Luquet, by dint of his labours, his zeal and his (p 577) concern had given it such a wonderful boost. Your hesitation about this seems to me a serious fault. Please pardon my frankness.”

Fr Godelle:

“I can tell you straight, your decision to refuse the episcopate has really disappointed me … The way I see it, your refusal is very much to be regretted; and I am praying the Lord that the Sacred Congregation will just ignore it.”

This confrere, however (a serious and worthy man) was not among my extreme opponents. True, he had never written to congratulate me; but he seemed to take my nomination rather well. In several “business” letters, he had addressed me (somewhat prematurely) as “My Lord” every time.

“But the biggest surprise of all was Bishop Charbonnaux.

He, assuredly, was one of the people most exasperated against Fr Luquet. He, too, had so often felt obliged to contradict and to block me [in the Seminary during the last year]. And he, especially, was one of the main reasons why I decided [to refuse the episcopate]. He was soon going to leave for Bangalore, where he plans to set up residence. So I sent him a little note along with a small parting gift. It was only four or five lines of greeting. A friendly note, true enough; precisely because we have hardly ever managed to get along, or to understand each other, I had tried to be as friendly and charitable as possible, before God, when writing it. Well, here are a few passages from his reply:

“Your letter [of refusal] was a heart-break to me. Oh, how you deserved to be better understood and appreciated! [You have had a great deal to endure, these last months]… But, dear dear confrere, look at all the disappointments, all the unjust opposition, that St Basil and his friend Gregory and others had to face! But take courage! Adversity is a very useful school. There may have been faults and mistakes on both sides. Your opponents will recover from their prejudices when they see … (etc.).”

That’s enough to give the tone of it. The rest of his letter was, if anything, even warmer. But I feel it would not be fair to put it all in here, to broadcast all the praise that he wrote down on the spur of the moment, out of the goodness of his heart. Because the heart was always good; God forbid that I should ever accuse it! Indeed, if anything, he is too good. If anyone ever reads these (p 578) pages, remember: exaggerated praise means nothing; no more than exaggerated blame. Moreover, don’t forget: I’m dead. And even the lowliest character will have some good things said about him at his funeral.”

Luquet still coming back as a Bishop!?!

His exciting (but obsolete) News.

The October mail boat brought the news that Fr Luquet was already consecrated Bishop! I must say this news, coming at this particular time, was a painful shock to me. How much better it would be for India if our confreres had been spared such unnecessary jolts by his ill-timed actions at that time! How, in the atmosphere prevailing, could he even come back to Pondicherry? Nevertheless Bishop Bonnand said he was expecting him next month. “He’s gone beyond all decent bounds”, people said; “totally ignores everything we wrote to him in the last two months!” The facts of the matter were quite different. The Pondicherry letters [of dismissal etc.] had been sent via Paris, so that the Fathers there could be made aware of them. So Luquet was not alerted to the extreme opposition in Pondicherry until it was too late; preparations for his consecration had by then reached almost the point of no return. Absolutely speaking, he could have stopped everything when he got the word, via Paris. But he may easily have taken the first rumbles of the discontent as a mere passing reaction [a storm in a teacup], a momentary shock which would soon pass away, once they all had time to think. They would see, surely, that it was the Sacred Congregation [not himself] that was choosing him as Bishop. He had obtained the sub-division of the Vicariates for them, and the approval of the Acts of their Synod (two of their principal objectives in sending him to Rome). So [naturally] when he wrote to me on 30th July, he was far from thinking that their opposition could become so permanent.

“How incomprehensible are His ways! So now, in less than forty days’ time, I will be a Bishop! Like you, my dear friend. Like those great missionaries who have gone before us, whose footsteps (p 579) we are trying to follow from afar. How did the Lord work it? He alone knows. And that’s what gives me so much courage, and so restores my peace of mind. For the news took it all away at first.

“In your own case, you already know how it was with you. You never looked for the episcopate, never wanted it… Nevertheless you have been chosen. And by now, by the time of writing this, I hope you have become resigned to the Will of God and are preparing to receive the Anointing of Pontiffs, if it has not been done already. It is of the utmost importance [not to delay] in order to ensure the successful implementation of our over-all project, so well understood and accepted by Bishop Bonnand.57

“Accept promptly and take over your Vicariate as soon as possible … If you hesitate and waste time, you will be jeopardizing the success of all the sweeping measures, already foreseen and now being worked out for the future … And I am hoping that the [consecration etc.] will go very well, to the satisfaction of all concerned.

“Now, to come back to myself. By the time you get this letter you will probably have read my Mernoire, “Eclaircissements sur le Synode”. I have no doubt but you were absolutely delighted with it.58 Never before have our principles been explained so comprehensively, or presented so openly to the scrutiny of the Holy See. Never before have these same principles received higher or more solemn Approval. You will see that more clearly, in the Letter that is being sent to the Bishop of Pondicherry and the Instruction, now being prepared, to all Bishops and all Heads of Catholic Missions all over the world. You will then see what a powerful impression the Grace of Our Lord caused this Mernoire to produce [on the Cardinals etc.]. It was totally unexpected; it was providential. And that is not all. Without anyone asking him, or even thinking of asking (least of all myself) Cardinal Mai, the “Rapporteur” (the Cardinal appointed to look after the Indian business) made a totally surprising proposal: to do something definite and spectacular, to put the final seal on the Cardinals’ approval. And he declared that the best way to achieve this would be to make me a bishop and Coadjutor to Bishop Bonnand in the new Vicariate of Pondicherry! And why? (p 580) “Because of the services I rendered in the handling of the important business entrusted to me”, as my letter of appointment states. Certainly this testimonial is very flattering to the ego. So, in a way, I should just forget it. Even more so, I should avoid letting others know of it. But it is too great an encouragement, too wonderful an affirmation, too positive an approval of our views [on Native Clergy] for me to keep it from you. I want you to share my rejoicing about it in the Lord.

“The Cardinals unanimously approved Cardinal Mai’s proposal. The Sovereign Pontiff agreed to it without hesitation. He fully understood the scope and significance of the move; he expressed it very clearly to Mgr Brunelli.59 Before implementing their decision, Propaganda thought it proper to first inform our Paris Fathers. Their astonishment was as complete in Paris as it will be in India (and as it was here in Rome). They had quite different plans for me, as you know.60 Paris replied in a way that removed any possible doubts [about me]. Soon afterwards I was informed that the Sovereign Pontiff had made it definite.

“I must say, thiss news worried me for quite a long while. My own first thoughts were that I should refuse … I asked for a space to reflect, consult, pray. All the advice came to this: I must accept. Today I am still vaguely anxious about it from time to time; but on the whole I am resigned. I am putting my head down and pushing ahead … I will be consecrated on the 8th September, that great day of Mary’s Motherhood, which you will be celebrating over there with so much style in dear old Ariankupam church. My acceptance, far from causing you to refuse your appointment (if your consent hasn’t yet arrived by then) should be a further reason for accepting. It will put both of us in a much better position to effectively support the efforts of the venerable Bishops already in the Vicariates there; they, always, must be our leaders and our models.”(p 581)

Towards establishing a Local Hierarchy.

Comparing various Missionaries (Nations and Societies).

“To achieve the desired result (on all fronts) we must try to reduce the obstacles to progress. We must base our action on the Hierarchical principle [the proposed hierarchical structure] advocated by the British missionaries. We will have to close our eyes a bit to certain basic mistakes in their missionary policy, I agree; but a good structure or constitution of Churches (real genuine local Churches) will correct all those mistakes, with time.”

(The respect for “legality” in England is probably one of the reasons why the British missionaries understand (better than others) what a huge benefit is conferred on a country by a regular Hierarchy. I still think it only fair to say that the continental missionaries (French, Italian, Savoyard, Swiss, Spanish) are all preferable to the British (Irish, English, Scottish) at least for the Indian peoples. But the British are the only ones who never waver from the clear and consistent manifestation of their objective: to see the holy and invaluable Catholic Hierarchy properly established here. If they were the only missionaries here, they would probably have succeeded by now. And that fundamental success would probably make up for all their shortcomings.

On the other hand, the most important group of missionaries operating independently of any episcopacy (properly so called) are the Jesuits. They are the best adapted, the most skilful in making themselves “all things to all men, to gain them all for Jesus Christ”. If anything, they take it too far at times. Not that you can ever take Charity too far. Only, their zeal sometimes takes them out beyond the bound of [moral] possibility, and away out beyond certain unchangeable principles [of morality] e.g. in the Chinese and Malabar Rites situation.

But, of all the missionaries, the Jesuits are the most allergic to [Bishops or to] the setting up of a [normal] hierarchy. They even find a Vicar Apostolic hard to take! Who can count all the harm this attitude has caused in their missions! Ah! what wonderful progress could be achieved by a real Bishop with Jesuit helpers! But where can we get anything exactly right in this imperfect world?). (p 582)

[Luquet]: “Setting up normal local Dioceses (fairly plentiful) with Ecclesiastical Provincial Councils (as in England or Australia) that’s what we should be keeping especially in our sights just now … Once we have achieved that, we will certainly get to all the other objectives with time, by being solidly united with each other. Build up the Church on the kind of foundations given her by Our Lord himself; that’s the remedy which will get to the root of all the Missions’ problems!”

And so, while the remedies and the instruments for future health and progress were being made ready at Rome, we in India were busy working ourselves up to wreck them and make them useless. “What is going to come of it all?” I wrote then. “As for me, I am very glad I have already sent in my refusal. Our confreres are going to be extremely mad when they hear of Luquet’s actual consecration. And some of it is necessarily going to ricochet on to me”.

Terrible News about Henri

Meanwhile, a new pain for my heart was in store that year. Remember my two sisters and my brother Henri? A blundering friend was writing to me from home,61 to congratulate me; he had heard of my promotion. Then [just by the way] he gave me to understand that my brother was dead, very suddenly, in some awful accident, without ever regaining consciousness!

“[ … ]62 I heard from Fr X … about poor Henri your brother … Is it true? Do you know anything about it? Oh, your poor mother and father! And you too, dear friend! What a shock to your heart! heart of a brother, heart of a priest, maybe even heart of a Bishop! Great God, what trials! Why couldn’t I have been near that great and good lady! Some years ago she, as well as her beloved son, shared with me the tender affections of her excellent soul! O God

(p 583) of all consolation, you who console us in all our tribulations, I implore You! Open the bowels of your mercy and compassion …”

What unbelievable and blundering carelessness, to write like that without being absolutely sure of your facts! “Is it true?” says he. “Do you know anything about it?” Writing to a poor brother about 8,000 miles from home! His melodramatic expressions made me almost certain that something really awful had happened, something worse than a death, than a natural and Christian death!

For death, O my God, when it is You who send it, is part of your Providence, even part of your Grace, especially when one of your servants dies in the arms of your holy Religion. A brother’s heart, of course, will be sorely afflicted; but a priestly heart will be consoled, peacefully offering up the Sacred Victim for the repose of the one he weeps after.

My anxiety was made worse by the non-arrival of the usual letters from home that month. It made the shattering news all the more likely. “This cruel silence (I wrote then) makes me fear everything, because I know nothing. My heart is being ground under the heavy mill-stone of sorrow, O my God! Accept this offering of the pain it brings. For the love that You bear your gentle Mother, O good Jesus, have pity on my mother; have pity on my father. All their glory has been in serving You. Have pity on a family that takes it as an honour to be Christian. And have pity on me too, a great sinner; but I also want to love You. Lord, may your holy will be done in all things! Give us the strength to bear the blows of your Justice and your Mercy. For You still love those whom You strike, O my God!

And a month later I had to write again: “I cannot even describe the extent to which my heart is grief-stricken and my soul overwhelmed with this affliction. For a month now, I feel as if my heart is being crushed between two mill-stones. My chest feels constricted; and a dull headache never leaves me alone, day or night. If only this suffering was for You, O my God! True enough; the sad problems of your holy Religion in this poor unfortunate country are among the real causes of my sorrow. These, O Lord, are one part; I do not ask You to deliver me from them except by coming to the rescue of your people here; for they are Your (p 584) people too, this Indian people that You have created. Ah, do not let me ever become unconcerned about their misfortunes; your glory and their salvation are at stake there. But there is another thing which is paining me just now; and probably this sorrow is less pure, more earthly, too natural, showing a lack of complete submission to your Will, and to whatever it pleases You to decree. [So take that sorrow away]. Give me the grace to wait patiently for the real news, and the courage to bear whatever has actually happened, to accept it with calmness and resignation when it comes”.

So, all that time, the daily expectation of receiving confirmation of the heart-rending news wore me down; it didn’t give me a moment’s rest. I tried to prepare myself for the worst, guessing it and offering it up to God in advance. I had written, immediately, to my uncle De Gaja, begging him to reply by return of post. But that would take three months, at the very least. In the meantime I was hoping to get some letters from home. The November mailboat was late; the prolonged suspense was painful indeed. “For five days now”, I wrote, “I am on the look-out. Every hour of the day, every minute, every person who comes into the compound, I think: “This must be the post”. I wait, I hope, I fear. But still no news. The bells are always tolling these days [for the victims of another epidemic] and their mournful sound is resounding in my heart and terrorizing it. I say to myself: “Maybe it tolls for Henri”.

At long last, the mail arrives. A letter from my father! I look; I turn it over. No sign of mourning on the outside. Before I open it I offer it up to God, whatever it may contain. Then I make the Sign of the Cross and break the seal … The opening lines are quite all right. .. Quickly, I run my eyes down over the rest. Nothing there but words of contentment and good cheer. “Glory be to God!” I cried, ‘’‘tis not true!” … Afterwards I was able to read it with attention and in due order. As usual, it was a long epistle from my father, full of interesting remarks and details, amusing, delightful. Not a word in it to sadden the heart. I felt a huge weight lifting from my chest and head. It had been weighing down on me for a month now; and I didn’t even try to alleviate it by sharing my grief with others.

(p 585)“Thanks be to You, O my God” went my prayer. “You have been the only one to see my affliction, the only one to bear me up, and all this long month! And now, how You console me! You treat your servants always with kindness. “Tu Domine adjuvisti me et consolatus es me”.

It was two months later that I received my uncle’s reply, long after all my fears had evaporated.

Bishop Luquet is not Dismayed

Mgr Luquet received the awful news [about the total hostility at Pondicherry] just a few moments before he was consecrated Bishop of Esbo [on Sunday 7th September 1845]. He wrote to me about it, very calm, with his usual complete confidence in the Lord. That confidence has let us down, O my God, according to the natural way of looking at things. No! Far from us be such blasphemy! You have your hidden plans, Lord; we just do not know what they are. All we know is that they are wonderful, adorable. One day, we will see how no single good work has gone waste. For every one of them, something has been achieved, something beautiful for your glory.

“United with you in spirit, before God (he wrote) on this your Feast of the Holy Angels, I am going to reply to your last two letters, dear friend. You did not spare me, and quite right too; you sent me some very useful warnings and advice.

“By the time you read this, the Mernoire (or Eclaircissements) will surely have reached you. And you will have seen some of its present good results coming true. I won’t speak now of the future consequences; they are vast. However, I will cheer your heart by mentioning just one: the new General Instruction to all Catholic Missionaries throughout the world, prepared by Propaganda. It has been approved by the Sacred Congregation and is now in the hands of the Sovereign Pontiff. It will doubtless be approved by his supreme authority within a few more days. The aim of this Instruction is to put all the Eclaircissement’s principles into practice!

“I agree entirely: we can expect no steady progress in India until the Bishops reach a consensus about the priorities and the policy. (p 586)That is why I so much want to see our idea of Ecclesiastical Provinces [or Regional Episcopal Councils] implemented. And now I am certain that it will be. 63Yes! The local Indian Church is going to rise out of its present non-existence; or else we are going to prove very unfaithful to God’s graces. Courage, then! Above all, patience! No hasty judgments about [the slowness of Rome’s] actions; they are all aimed at the Future. They will have to be enforced cautiously and gradually, if we want to arrive safely and surely at their ultimate objectives. A French heart [for drive] and an Italian head [for coolness] are two good instruments, to be used by Grace for achieving great things, if they can be put together in one man. Let us beg Our Lord to give both of us that great boon…

“The [Pondicherry] discontent you told me about: it doesn’t surprise me; it doesn’t depress me; it doesn’t discourage me. I was expecting something like that to happen. After all, I was in a very exposed position here, having to make very serious decisions immediately, on the spot, without being able to consult anyone. Paris … were not at all open with me when I was there; and Pondicherry was too far. In that very difficult situation (they now complain) I acted too boldly. They should be thanking the Lord that [I had the nerve to do it]. It was He that gave me the courage, the freedom from all self-interrest, the readiness to risk all my own future (all my popularity, my high standing with my Bishop) for the sake of the real and fundamental interests of our Work and the Church in India … I managed to place all my trust in God, forgetting about men’s favour, and just to act each time for the best, the way I would like to have acted the very last day of my life. So I went forward regardless, without fear or hesitation. Our Lord has blessed the courage He gave me then. Everything I asked for, I obtained.

“And today, when all those great affairs are already in the past tense, I return and descend to the centre of my own soul; I examine myself in the presence of God. And I can find nothing, absolutely nothing, to make me fear I acted otherwise than in the Faith. So I am quite tranquil about it all, fully reassured about my moves, and about their consequences. I only ask Our Lord to please pardon the less deliberate faults and mistakes I may have made in the hectic situation…

[* *](p 587) “I am going to Paris in November, to arrange with those Fathers how I am to wind up my remaining Indian business here, by November. After that I am going back to the Missions, as Bishop Bonnand indicated in his last letter. .. “

Note that last sentence well. It refutes the latest fashionable accusation against Bishop Luquet: that he accepted the episcopate with the designation of “Coadjutor in Pondicherry” without having the slightest intention of ever coming back to the missions! We slam the door in his face (by our awful behaviour towards him) and then we blame him for not coming back in! I say “we” because I myself shared in the disgust and disappointment at the last section of his Mémoire [about Caste etc.]. But instead of shouting and hurling condemnations against him [we could have taken it up as a golden opportunity to get something done]. We could have enabled him to get the whole thing [dealt with at the highest level] and made the Roman Congregations do an in-depth treatment of all the outstanding moral problems, all the remaining moral doubts: about Caste and its customs and practices; and about the right way to implement the Bulls. It would even have been a perfect logical follow-up to the Pondicherry Synod. For, seeing that all those grave and dangerously complicated questions could not be decided in such a short time, the Synod had in fact asked that a special Commission be set up, to go into them. The said Commission has never even come into existence. But if Bishop Luquet, with the help and support of his confreres, had only got those questions clearly decided by Rome [what a blessing that would be!]. Who can tell all the good consequences, for the missionaries and for the Indians!

I must admit, however, that this thought never even occurred to me at the time. Anyway, my opinion no longer carried any weight whatever in the Council of Bishop Bonnand. How could it even be heard, amidst the roars of reprobation and condemnation that now came from our strongest pairs of lungs at the news of the actual consecration of the Bishop of Hésébon! 64 (p 588)

How to Sabotage a new Coadjutor

Not only shouts of protest; lamentable writings were concocted and sent around to our poor confreres. One man, who did not agree with these letters, wrote to me:

“That morning, before I left Puratacudi, I got a look at a letter from Fr N … 65which was really scandalous. When I arrived at X … I got to hear of one or two other ones. All in the same style, almost as scandalous as the first. So I have reason to suspect that “they” are not just trying to influence one or two confreres but several; maybe all. I have no doubt at all that; if Bishop Bonnand knew about this un-Christian carry-on, he would quickly let that gentleman know what he thought of him”.

But there were some correspondents who were not in the least inhibited, not even towards the Bishop himself. One of our most serious and senior confreres (in a heated and exasperated moment no doubt) did not hesitate to write him these lines: “Bishop Luquet is going at it full steam ahead, against wind and storm. Obviously he reckons Your Lordship is not doing enough for Native Clergy …”

It has already been seen, from Bishop Luquet’s own letters, that he reckoned no such thing. He believed, on the contrary, that Bishop Bonnand was fully behind us, moving in the right way (as we saw it). I myself, in the Seminary, could have nothing but praise for him now, as regards the work for the Clergy. Would to God I could say the same about all my other senior confreres! The venerable Bishop (I liked him so well; and will like him all my life) never did anything we could seriously complain about, at least not when he was allowed to listen to us in peace and freedom; but it was not the same when he was surrounded and “advised” by the people who had decided they ought to be our adversaries.

[The anti-Luquet letter continued]: “O yes, he will come back; but he will do [his own thing] everything according to his own fixed ideas. As long as Your Lordship thinks like he does, everything will go fairly smoothly. But as soon as you start thinking differently, (p 589) [what will he do?] He will say nothing; but he will be writing to Rome about you all the time.

“When he gets here, Your Lordship must act quickly. Send him into the interior immediately, with express orders to stay there; not to come out from the places assigned to him; and this by formal command, in virtue of your authority as Vicar Apostolic. No half measures with him. You must put him into a position where he will have to bend or break (i.e. disobey openly). Then, after a formal act of disobedience, we will see what to do with him.”

In my diary I followed up that wonderful passage with this remark: “I truly believe that these lines will be disapproved later on, by the very man who wrote them. They must nearly have written themselves automatically, with an angry pen, out of sudden irritation rather than considered opinion. For Fr N.N…. , though completely opposed to Luquet’s ideas, is still a decent man, not lacking in holiness. Anyway, Bishop Bonnand is too wise, too courteous, to follow such “advice”.

But now Bishop Bonnand sent out a Circular, a very regrettable one in my opinion. No doubt, it kept within the bounds of courtesy; but what effect would it have on certain people who ignored those bounds? One confrere (already quoted above) wrote tome:

“I read His Lordship’s circular [about Luquet etc.] with keen interest. But (not to be too vague or wooly about my opinion) I am afraid of it. I fear that, after this circular, X … and Y … (etc.) will. Think it gives them a licence [for character assassination] more than ever, they will proced to disfigure their consciences by sowing further hatred and division amongst us. They will try-to raise a hurricane against our dear confrere.”

To crown it all, Bishop Charbonnaux fired off a diatribe (“un philippique” was his own description) and sent it to Bishop Luquet.

“So that’s what we have come to, in this poor Society!” I exclaimed. “Ah! how hard it is to get anything good done in it! When the right hand starts to build something up, must the left hand always has to knock it down? Isn’t that just what we are doing, at the moment? Bishop Luquet made a few blunders, I admit; but is that all he did? If only, instead of knocking him, flattening (p 590) him, we tried to back up his efforts, encouraged him, what a wonderful new road to progress he could have opened up for us! Anyway, he has enough virtue and common sense to recognise his blunders and repair them, if they are pointed out to him with ordinary courtesy. If only, instead of lashing out at him (and making it impossible for him to identify his mistakes) we had talked to him as to a confrere and a friend! And were his mistakes so awful as they make out? Apart from his ill-timed digression against Caste and customs (which will have no bad effect provided Indians do not see his Mémoire) all the other mistakes were mere details.

“As for his promotion, how can they be so sure that he was to blame for it? I am certain myself that he was not. But, even granting that some people could have some doubts about it, wouldn’t you think they might [suspend judgment and] not use such extreme language? Is it by tearing at a sore that you can heal it? Is it by lashing your own members that you acquire strength? Poor Society of Foreign Missions! How great is your vocation! How noble is your Work! But how badly you are being served!”

I felt it my duty to write [to warn] Bishop Luquet.

Madras Catholics Revolt against Bishop Fennelly

But, before going on to that, let me say a word about a very sad business which was then splintering the Catholic community in Madras. It also had some dangerous repercussions in Pondicherry.

“The disturbances among the native Community in Madras (I wrote in my Diary) can lead to terrible consequences. It’s all just another example or proof of the “normal” White-Black antipathy. [And an ill-judged attempt to use “force”]. Well, force is not on our side in Madras. In theory, government force, well used, can be an instrument of salvation for the peoples, in the hands of the servants of God. But God has not yet willed to put that instrument at the service of His (p 591) people. And even if we had the might of all the governments in the world behind us (and their first duty certainly should be to support the efforts of the Gospel ministers) that would not dispense us from using all our strength to win their affection, anyway. We are supposed to reign over souls; and to do that, we first have to win their hearts. But when we don’t have government support, how much more seriously should we try to spare the people’s feelings!

Now it is impossible for the Indians, in the present set-up [about customs, caste etc.] to really like us. From morning to night we shock their customs, habits and tastes. The pagans won’t let us enter their homes; the Christians put up with us there; but they do not like us. So what would it take, to make them throw off our yoke entirely (and with it the sweet and gentle yoke of Holy Church, which we should be trying to make attractive to them)? A mere nothing would suffice. And if we happen to be in the wrong ourselves (and we can makes mistakes too; “no man can be relied on”)66 then of course they will be doubly angry. And in the heat of that anger, where will they stop? Especially a mob, a whole community, or even a whole section of it?

This is what has happened at Madras. One of the head Catholics, Savarimuthu Mudaliar, died. He was of good caste, had great influence, a high position in the Government. In short, he was very rich and powerful. Far from being hostile to religion, he had rendered us many big services. He was our go-between [for government business] at Madras; and he did it all without looking for recompense. Generally, in the big cities frequented by Europeans, you will unfortunately find some bad Christians, Voltaireans and out-and-out non-sacramentarians. Savarimuthu was not one of them. Certainly he was not irreligious, nor even indifferent. Quite recently, he came to Pondicherry and visited Bishop Bonnand. He came to see the Seminary and showed great interest in it. Still, it seems, he had been away from the Sacraments for some time; probably because he was just fed up with (p 592) the English [and Irish] priests, like most of the Indian Catholics there.

When he fell seriously ill a priest was sent for. As Savarimuthu understood English perfectly, Fr Fennelly (the Bishop’s brother) was able to go. When he came in, the sick man made some wild movements which the priest interpreted as a definite refusal of the Sacraments. The Christians say that Savarimuthu was in a kind of fit, and that his automatic jerks meant nothing at all. What is the fact of the matter? Very hard to know. Fr Fennelly, having no Tamil, could easily have misread the situation. On the other hand, the Christians’ theory could easily be based [on wishful thinking] on mere anger and wounded pride. A terrible public argument now arose, between the Catholics and the Bishop, with printed accusations and counteraccusations on both sides! Unfortunately, over all, the Christians, in fact, seem to be right (or at least not as wrong as they are made out to be). This is how it looks to us; how much more so to the Indians! The Bishop seems to have jumped to a wrong conclusion on hearing his brother’s reading of the event. His judgment was very severe indeed; he refused Christian burial to the deceased!

Immediately the whole caste rose up. It seems that first they tried to bend the Bishop from his drastic ruling; but he would not hear of it. Then, in desperation, they turned to Texeira. 67He did not miss his chance. He quickly made the caste heads come and sign a promise to leave Bishop Fennelly and his church. Then, dressed as a bishop, he proceeds with his clergy to Savarimuthu’s funeral.

“At the time of writing, the whole Sudra community has gone over to the Goa Schism, except for four families. Two thousand Catholics gone at a blow, and probably the most influential ones in India! At their head is Savarimuthu’s brother. For a long time previously, the native Christians of Madras had been demanding a church of their own, seeing that, in the existing churches, everything is being done English-style. Bishop Fennelly had finally given them permission to make a start. A site was (p 593) bought. Now, this very site has become the meeting-place for the rebel Catholics. Texeira sends his priests there. A big pandal [or shed] has been put up; and there the Sacred Mysteries are celebrated (and profaned). What makes matters worse is that the trouble is being exarcerbated every day by the Press. Bishop Fennelly has been so unwise (according to us) as to ridicule them in his own newspaper, daring the rebels (if they can) to build a new church on their own, etc. Unfortunately also, Fr Michel, the Capuchin, has just died; he was the only priest there who knew any Tamil, and whom the people liked a bit. He was in charge at Royapuram; and the community there might have remained faithful, and made up a bit for the [schism]. But since they have only an Irish priest there now, they are expected to follow Madras.

Now our own Pondicherry Christians have very close family links with both of those communities. They are the same castes. The important families are all inter-married. New marriages between the cities are being made almost every day. So all we need, here, is a mere spark, anything, to detonate the situation, and we will find ourselves, tomorrow, in the same kind of uprising as Madras.

Those of our confreres who know the people best are convinced that, if only the Bishop of Madras was neighbourly enough to ask for help, a Pondicherry man could have gone there easily, and sorted out the whole unhappy affair, and stopped the damage. But Bishop Bonnand could not even think of sending one [uninvited]. Even to suggest it would only succeed in irritating the Irish priests, they are so much against us. So we just stand idly by, like people watching a ship-wreck going on, unable to go and help. And all because of European-to-European touchiness! And then we blame the Indians for being so touchy! Wouldn’t it make you weep! Poor India! Just when we seemed to be getting out of our benumbed condition, getting ready to spread our wings a bit. Alas! (p 594)

Do your best at Rome. Block the English.

Don’t come back here Yet.

Here, now, is my letter to Bishop Luquet:

“My Lord, and my very dear friend,

“So now you are a Bishop! First of all, let me kiss your sacred ring and ask for your blessing.

“Then let us get right down to business; for I have many things to tell you, and unfortunately they are not the kind of things my heart would prefer me to be writing. No doubt, God has permitted everything that has just happened. His Omnipotence can turn it all to good; but maybe it is his Justice that has allowed it, for India’s misfortune. Our duty, now, is to join action and prayer, in an effort to ward off the blows which can, quite literally, destroy the Catholic religion in India from top to bottom.

“I won’t repeat what I said already about the very bad effect produced on all the missionaries (without exception) by your Mernoire to the Sacred Congregation. I have already pointed out the dangers I see in it. But what has now brought their indignation to the highest pitch is your promotion. There are some of them who won’t listen to any defense, even of your honesty and good intentions! What a humiliation for you, dear friend! But what merits it can gain for you in heaven! The episcopal grace you have just received will give you the necessary strength to bear it. Maybe the grace we are imploring for this poor land is going to come about through your heart-crucifixion, rather than by all your great work for the Missions. So let us pray.

“Meanwhile, what great prudence you need in that situation! And your courage and strength will be needed too, more than ever. Bishop Charbonnaux is at Mysore. It’s to him you sent the news of your consecration; which made it even worse. For Bishop Bonnand would at least have tried to calm down the reaction here (not easy to do, I admit). But at least he would no have broadcasted your whole letter to the confreres, as will happen at Bangalore. 68

“The present happenings at Madras are contributing in no small way to the extreme danger and difficulty of our own situation. In other circumstances this misfortune might have led to some good result. But today, when everything is so fouled up, I can only (p 595) shudder at what is going on, and at what can happen in the future? Here is a short account of the events… 69

“The fine Christian communities to the North of us (formerly administered by Bishops Bonnand and Charbonnaux) are now languishing and dividing. They will end up by returning to idolatry if the Oblate Fathers are going to leave them (as is almost certain; they have already begun to move out).

“As I said above, in other circumstances, this [Madras] disaster, terrible as it it, could at least have led to something good: for it helps in no uncertain way to show the need for a proper inter-diocesan hierarchical structure, which we both desire so much.

“Another thing: You know that England has bought Tranquebar from Denmark. Now she is thinking of buying Pondicherry! With the present [flabby] attitude of the French Government, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deal concluded within two years. Meanwhile, the English are aiming to get all “foreign” administrations out of India, ecclesiastical ones as well. Their intentions are obvious; and they are being aided and abetted in this by the Irish Vicars Apostolic, as is clearly shown by the deplorable efforts of Bishop Fennelly to block the new Vizagapattinam mission; also by what Bishop Carew himself said about Ceylon: that “an Irish Bishop ought to be put there now”. But let Rome not forget this: as soon as the Irish are in sole charge of the Church in India, it’s the end of native Christian communities in this poor country. That’s why I was so glad at Propaganda’s decision about Vizagapattinam … But now, what’s going to be done there? One sentence in your letter to Bishop Charbonnaux worries me a lot. Those good [Savoy] priests could, indeed, go there without Fr Gailhot, if that would annoy the English a bit less (by sending no Frenchman along with them).

“So there it is, dear friend, a plain unexaggerated picture of our situation here. Only six months ago, a dawn of hope was rising, brilliant and magnificent. Now it’s a hurricane that threatens, ready to bury us. And yet, let us recognize it, the Indians are unchanged in all this; they are just reacting as they naturally must, to a halting and jolting administration, shocking and hurting them at every turn. And in the future, too, they will be just what we make them be, by our conduct. ..

[* *](p 596) “Do not be discouraged; but listen, with maybe a bit more confidence, to those who are struggling (like yourself) for the eternal Cause, especially when they think as you do yourself, differing by only a few inessentials. Above all, let us pray much. Let us try to enlighten each other without fear or inhibition. So doing, we can still have hope.

“But you may ask me: “Well then, what should be done now, in practical terms?”. I can tell you only a few thoughts that occur to me: If Propaganda gives way, everything will be lost again. If they stand firm, and if God in his goodness gives yourself the grace of right and prudent action in your own special area, I am not without hope that some good will eventually come out of all this ill wind.

“I think the Sacred Congregation should write a letter to the Vicariates which have not yet fully implemented its decisions of the 12th May [erecting new Vicariates]. The letter should be a bit stiff, but not too angry. It could point out that, in these particularly difficult cases, it can judge it necessary to bypass certain precedents; these are not binding where a Church is not yet properly founded (and therefore not yet covered by Common Law). It is in these very circumstances that zealous missionaries and godly priests should be ready to obey the Sacred Congregation and its decisions all the more promptly; for It has the care of all the Missions and the sollicitude for all the common good. We are preventing that good by our resistance, however respectfully conveyed. The Sacred Congregation, therefore, has no doubt that what still remains to be done will be done, immediately. Also, if possible, in this letter, they could establish the following principle: Until such time as a local Church is properly founded, on a native clergy, [foreign domination should at least be resisted]. It is not practical, it is not good, to accommodate foreign governments, occupying vast overseas regions, by giving those regions priests from the particular governments.”

(This “principle” is too sweeping by far. If a Christian government is favouring evangelization, the Holy See can do its best to accommodate it. Even if a government is useless, or hostile, it may still be good to go easy on it, lest it be provoked into doing its worst. But never, I maintain, to the extent of conceding that only its own nationals can be bishops in its overseas possessions).

“Yourself: do not come back until things have calmed down here. Above all, reach an understanding with Bishop Bonnand. He is really annoyed. But he is such a good man that …” (p 597)

Jesuit Doctor who talked too much.

Bertrand vs Luquet: War?

During all this stormy period, what was the Jesuits’ line?

Very dismal, in my opinion; but I won’t go into that. Nailing them continually in specific local situations or events, you begin to look like a general enemy of the Society of Jesus itself (which God forbid!). And there are anti-clericals who sometimes figure that complaints about some actions of certain individual religious could give themselves the right to attack all Religion. I will merely record that one of their emissaries (for they always send someone along from time to time (on one pretext or another) to see what is going on hereabouts) inspired the following item in my Diary:

“Fr Daugnac left for Madurai only today. 70 He stayed several days in Pondicherry. I do not know what he was doing here. I did not see much of him, because he was very guarded with me in particular. He did not come near the Seminary. Although he dined with us twice, all I could exchange with him was polite, meaningless words. (For example, his father was a fellow-officer with my uncle De Bresillac, in the gendarmerie). About the missions, not a word was said. Obviously they told him to beware of me. And yet my greatest wish would be to serve the Company of Jesus as well as any other branch of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. But should this desire make me want to share in their traditional allergy to Native Clergy? I think not.

They seem very annoyed, just now, at losing their chance of getting into Pondicherry itself, in the “white college” here: for it looks more and more likely that our Mission will take it on. But why can’t they be better neighbours? Certainly, if they were, and if we could like them without that touch of fear [about their plots] I would be the first to propose that this College should be in their hands. But make no mistake about it: once the Jesuits got into the “white town”, the “black town” would soon be theirs as well, and (p 598) then the whole Vicariate. And, after that, no hope of a local clergy here, ever.

Fr Daugnac had some long chats with the Bishop, and he let out a lot of peculiar things, it seems. His Fathers are extremely angry with Bishop Luquet. They know how well liked and respected he is at Rome, and they greatly fear his return to India. They even fear he might one day be appointed Apostolic Visitor for the whole country. But Rev Fr General has arranged things very well, in order to have immediate information about everything Luquet does in Rome. Daugnac also said a few other interesting things, about their policy (which we know well enough; but they never actually talk about it, at least not to us). It seems he said that obviously their Society cannot possibly work for a Native Clergy. Under an “outside” bishop, they could no longer be masters in their own house, which is essential for progress. But why couldn’t they have Bishops/Vicars Apostolic from among their own Fathers? That would hardly be in line with their tradition. And anyway, what use is a bishop? All you might need him for would be to ordain a few native clerics. For everything else, they get on fine without him.

“Anyway”, says he [as I was told] “what could we make of those clerics? Jesuits? We’d be denounced [to Rome]. Seculars? How could we control them if they were not part of our Order?” He then seems to have disclosed that it is purely for the sake of appearances that they are training a few more-or-less clerical students in Madurai.

Finally, it now appears there is much more going on, between Fr Bertrand and Bishop Luquet, than we knew about. We knew that Bertrand has written a counter-attack on Luquet’s Mémoire, in which he does not pull any punches. 71Now it seems he is working on a book [for publication] to refute Luquet’s principles.

(1855: Fr Bertrand has since, in fact, published several (p 599) works, all with the aim of combatting our views on the missions, directly or indirectly)72.

“Is Bishop Luquet going to reply? We don’t know here; but I desperately hope not. Ah, my God! Save us from those public controversies! They nearly always cause some scandal to the weak. Fr Daugnac considers the latest events in Rome (between Bishop Luquet and Fr Bertrand) to be the opening shots in a war between our Society and the Company of Jesus.

“I hope it will be nothing of the kind, O my God. A serious debate on the fundamental principles, that is possible. But, by Your grace, it will be a fair and charitable discussion, not a spiteful wrangle. Preserve both sides from all excesses. Protect your people from all scandal. Otherwise I may yet have to say, like good Fr Daugnac, that “I’m very sorry I was ever sent to India!”

“O saints Patrons de l’Inde, et vous divine Marie, priez pour nous!”.

“White College” negotiated successfully

In spite of the Paris Fathers’ opposition, Bishop Bonnand felt he had to pursue the matter of the “white college”. The whole city, as well as the Karaikal French community, wanted to see it under our management. So the Governor made the necessary requests to the French Government. In the end of November he informed us of their favourable reply. The Bishop had put me in charge of this business, so we went together to see the Governor. We soon saw that the only matter remaining to be settled was the exact remuneration to be paid by the colonial government to the Mission. All the other conditions were generously met, and we could. Only (p 600) rejoices at the cooperation and good-will shown from all sides. The whole matter was not finalized until the next year. I was no longer at Pondicherry when the Mission actually took over the College. But I had the pleasure, before leaving, of seeing all the terms and conditions mutually fixed and agreed.

Before we came in, the College had been costing the Colony 70 or 80 thousand francs [a year] apart from scholarships to some disadvantaged students. There were about 20 of these; and no more than 10 other (fee-paying) students. As for studies and education, it was just a crying public disgrace. Not that the teachers were useless; they just could not see any point in having come to India merely to spend their whole time explaining a few pages of Cicero to the three or four students in their classes. So one of them became a practicing lawyer, another a trader; and the College muddled along as best it could.

We, on the other hand, reckoned that, with a bit of effort, we could bring the College up again, and soon have a hundred or so students (fee-paying and Government scholars). The Colony undertook to leave us the compound and all the buildings, maintain them, supply all equipment, and give the Mission a reimbursement of 40,000 francs [a year]. For them it was a saving of 30,000 francs. For us it was a considerable financial advantage. This big benefit to the Mission was a necessary factor for us, in order to persuade our confreres to agree to devote themselves to a job which did not come directly within their obvious [missionary] functions. And in actual fact, how many churches have been built, in the whole Vicariate, how many good works accomplished, since then, which would not have been possible without that help! Moreover, under every heading, the move has surpassed all our expectations. The Paris gentlemen gradually recovered from their suspicions. Several confreres took the work to heart. Fr Fages, the first Principal, alas, died very young. But he had already made a fine harvest of distinguished merit, and had put the College on a very good footing. It was still going from strength to strength when I left India -India where I had wished and hoped to live and die! (p 601)

Seminary Progress. Encouragement from Tong-king.

Native Clergy defended against Charbonnaux.

To get back to the end of 1845: the last few months brought nothing very new. The Seminary-College was going fairly well, although you could feel the tension among our Catholics, influenced by the Madras community, now sinking deeper and deeper into revolt. There was no end-of-year Prizegiving, because the holidays fell on unsuitable dates. I decided to modify the school calendar and have the big Day at the start of the long vacation. From time to time I had some students promoted to clerical tonsure. The best of them were starting Theology; and they gave me great consolation in many ways, in their studies and especially in their good conduct. I managed, by the private guidance I gave them, to set them free from the caste prejudices of their nation. They continued, like ourselves, to outwardly observe all the taboos then reckoned “tolerable”; but if they did, it was only for the common good. For I had now so much influence over them that, if! wanted, I could even have got them all to eat beef! But of course that would have blown the whole Vicariate sky-high.

By now, I felt, it was proved beyond any shadow of doubt that a Native Clergy is feasible here. India is certainly (because of Caste) one of the least favourable countries for this Work; yet it can be done even in India, even in the parts where the Christians are allowed to keep to Caste. Everything will depend on the kind of education given to the clerical students, and the kind of policy followed by the Administration for their employment after ordination. There is a problem there, I admit, and a big one. But it comes from the European missionaries, not from the Indians.

Still it was nice, every now and again, to have my personal conviction confirmed by someone in authority. For example, in December, I received a remarkable letter from Bishop Retard of West Tong-king:

“ … Formerly our [clerical] students were dispersed; our priests were decimated; no way could we hope to replace them. But now, in eight colleges,73 we have more than 250 [minor] seminarians, and (p 602) more than 25 theologians. The ordinations I conferred during the last four years have not only made up for our losses but have brought the number of priests up higher than before the persecution. Yesterday I ordained four more. Our native clergy is now up to 85 priests (10 more than before). Four of these are in prison; some others are old and infirm. In spite of that, we have enough now to defy all the persecutors for many a long year to come. We would still need about 20 more priests. But that will come, with patience and perseverance.

“Meanwhile I have to express the satisfaction I felt in reading that you have the same conviction there as ourselves, about the necessity of a Native Clergy for the consolidation and progress of the missions. Certainly, without our own native clergy, the tyrant Minh-Mang might finally succeed in wiping out the Christian religion in his states, like another Japan. But it is not only in times of persecution that native priests are such a wonderful help. In peace time too, they are most useful. Where could we now find enough European missionaries to come and look after the 200,000 Christians here in West Tong-king, not to mention the 80,000 in Cochin China?”

(The Jesuits might reply that they can handle even bigger numbers, on their own. Yes, but how well? (For you can’t judge the real state of a Mission solely by letters written and published for the edification of the simple faithful). Moreover, how do they stand up to a sudden persecution, or even to a mere political change in a country?).

“The native priests can go anywhere among the pagans. They alone can visit certain mixed villages. They continually break new ground by going to preach among the infidels … Everywhere they go to look after the sick.

“They are not very well educated, but they know and understand enough for the country. They speak the language better…

“Ordained only at 38-40 years old (as is the custom here) they are usually of sound character and piety …

“So there’s a few-words to encourage you to work zealously and to help Bishop Bonnand to form a native clergy in your Mission …”

“May the Lord bless this saintly Bishop, this confessor of the Faith, this soldier of Jesus in the front lines for so many long, tough years? May He give him continuing courage in that bloody strife?”(p 603)

But his letter had some things I did not like; for example their invariable rule about 38-40 years. I cannot see how it can be wise or practical. That, in some individual cases, you may have to advance or delay the age for ordination fixed by the universal Church, because of special local circumstances, I can imagine. But to make it a general rule, in a country that has already 500, 000 Christians, I fail to comprehend; I cannot but think it is a mere automatic continuation of a policy which, at most, may have been useful at the start.

“They are not very well educated”. Why not? Because they are not capable of it? If so, no comment. But if their ignorance comes (as I have too much reason to believe) from discrimination (i.e. that they “should not” be educated up to the level of European priests) then I can not approve it.”

Unfortunately, Bishop Charbonnaux was not showing the same zeal for Native Clergy as Bishop Retord. About this very time he wrote to Bishop Bonnand, commenting on the troubles in the Ceylon Church: “The way those priests behaved shows you very clearly what a numerous native clergy would be like [here]”.

Always the same! Give a dog a bad name, and you can use any stick to beat him with! 74First of all, the Ceylon priests are not native priests; none of them was born there. They are black priests, yes, but from the Western coast [of India]; and we know how scandalously priests were mass-produced at certain points on that side! (The opposite mistake to our own Vicariates). And anyway, what’s so extraordinary about their behaviour? (We will probably have occasion to talk about Ceylon later; now I want to make just one point). In this present case, they put up some opposition to a new bishop. But they actually finished by accepting him; and now they are obeying him.

During that same period, the Bishop of Madras and his Irish priests made some opposition of their own [against Rome] which can have much worse consequences [than Ceylon].And what (p 604) about ourselves? Do we never make trouble? And what about the wretched Archbishop of Goa and his priests, and their endless series of mutinies against the decisions of the Holy See? From all these acts of disobedience [mostly by Europeans] should we now conclude that there should be no European clergy in India?

If you are going to require that a Native Clergy should always be completely correct and without fault, then clearly you should never create one. There is no single individual or group, on the face of this earth, that does not commit some faults. (You can except only the Holy Catholic Church as such, because Christ is with her, sustaining her by his continual and wonderful assistance).

Let us not be unfair to the Indian priests, nor to the Europeans. They will be needed here for a long time to come (if not for ever) in order to train and guide the Native Clergy. But never will they be able to do the whole Work of God on their own. As soon as a place has a hundred Christians, then if the missionaries don’t give them a priest of their own, they have not fulfilled their whole mission.

Bishop Fennelly obeys Rome and does something Decent

Near the end of 1845 I received a very kind and benevolent letter from Propaganda. (My refusal had not yet reached them). This letter contained another one, for Fr Gailhot. I sent it to him immediately, and we soon learnt that it brought good news: Rome was standing firm about Vizagapattinam. Fr Gailhot wrote to the Annecy Fathers [here] to be ready to travel any time from now. He planned to come to Pondicherry early in January and bring them on immediately to the new Pro-Vicariate. They were delighted to hear it. They had been hanging around in Pondicherry for more than three months, without even knowing if the gates to their Mission would ever be opened to them, or whether they would just have to go back to Europe. During that difficult time, they tried to make themselves of some use to us. But most of all they edified us by their good character, their patience and their cheerfulness. Everyone expected them to do very well in the new (p 605) part of India assigned to them; and they haven’t let us down. Up to the time I left, progress there was continual. And they even managed to form Christian communities in places where the holy name of Jesus Christ had never been proclaimed.

Let’s wind up this chapter with these words of praise and satisfaction in my diary [for a change], about the conduct of the Bishop of Madras: “Fair play to Bishop Fennelly. As soon as he received the final decision from Rome, he immediately complied. He even showed unexpected generosity and kindness to Fr Gailhot by lending him two priests who could be of great help at the start.

“Thanks be to the God of all Light and the Source of every good gift! It is good to be able to note this generous response of Bishop Fennelly. The facts have sometimes forced us to write sometimes forced us to write some painful lines about him. How happy when they allow us confide his actions of merit and virtue to this Diary!”

[_ _](p 607)

Prayer for the New Year and Reflections on the Old.

Fr Gailhot and Annecy priests take off.

My diary started 1846 with this prayer to the Lord:

“By your all-powerful grace, O my God, the year just ended saw some of our dearest hopes surpassed. Our principles have been recognized by the Holy See itself, publicly recognized as being the same as those the Church has always held, ever since She received the first mandate to “go and teach all nations”, the same as those She wanted to put into renewed practice through our Society, the day the Sacred Congregation gave its blessing to the policy of our first Vicars Apostolic. Salutary decisions have been made [at Rome this past year] to ensure that, in all Missions, zeal for [Native Clergy] is intensified. And yet what serious opposition there is here, to Bishop Luquet, the man to whom (under God) we owe this wonderful regenerating progress! And against myself also a storm has arisen, mainly because I tried to support that holy, zealous and intelligent confrere. Be you blessed, Lord, for it all! Those opposing us are not doing it out of malice; just like us, they seek your greater glory. Only, it seems more and more obvious that they are mistaken, and that they are (unwittingly) preventing the progress of the Catholic Church in these lands.

“O God, do not stint your mercy, which we implore for the poor Indians you want to save. Make your Truth shine out again (p 608) before all people. And if we are wrong on some points, make us; see our error; for You know that our hearts, our wills, are not in it. Meanwhile, give us the strength to follow up and complete what we have to do. Bishop Luquet has need of the full power of your Grace, to consolidate what he has started. Give him, more than ever, the gifts of your Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, strength and holiness. And give us, O my God, the gifts of humility, patience, obedience and charity.”

At long last the Annecy priests were preparing to set out for their Vizagapattinam Mission. Fr Gailhot came to Pondicherry to lead them into battle. An active confrere, enterprising and resourceful, he is the kind of man to succeed in anything he undertakes. .So, although he is generally not at all keen on Bishop Luquet or me, I wished him all the best in his new career. He had not shown much empathy for the Blacks, and greatly disliked Indian customs. But now he was entering a “new” country (from the evangelization point of view) and could safely adopt a different policy from the traditional Jesuit policy in Madurai, if he so desired. In spite of automatically blaming “Luquet” for all the recent decisions of the Sacred Congregation, he still could not help feeling rather flattered that “Luquet” had thought of him to be in charge of the new Mission, with the further expectation of becoming Vicar Apostolic and Bishop there! So he became somewhat less unfriendly towards me. As for the Savoy priests, they were friendly and edifying right to the end. They seemed to have fully adopted the [Luquet] policy, to which they owed the honour and the confidence shown them by the Holy See, in entrusting their Annecy Society with this new Mission in India.

On the 16th January we all gave them a brotherly send-off; and I wrote: “At last our dear confrere Fr Gailhot has set out for his Pro-Vicariate of Vizagapattinam. He is taking along four young English students whom he has been training for some time now; he hopes to raise them to the clerical state later on. He has, moreover, sent several half-caste girls to the Visitation Convent. (In the “white town”) hoping to employ them, later on also, in the establishments he is planning to set up in his Mission. All that is not exactly “native” but it’s a step in the right direction; and (p 609) maybe. It’s about as much as you could reasonably expect at the moment, in a Mission which has yet no real native Christian communities; the holy Name of Jesus is unknown there, except by a few pariahs (vagabonds or servants of the English) and a few “topas’75left behind as souvenirs by Europeans. May God bless the zeal and activity of our beloved confrere!

Fr Gailhot is definitely the right man for the job of starting a difficult Mission like this; but I would fear two things: lack of consideration for the Indians, and lack of tact for the Annecy priests under him. His abrupt style is not well adapted for leadership; at the moment he does not appear to have all the qualities required in a Superior. I fear he may try to order his men around, as he used to do the Irish soldiers at Bangalore. But most probably, with the new position and responsibility entrusted to him, he will make an effort to acquire the supplementary virtues he needs. It will not be difficult, if he tries to know himself better, making use of the excellent common sense and the basic goodness given him by God. Let us pray God to make him an instrument of salvation and mercy to the people. Our two temperaments never harmonized well; but our Aim is the same. My prayers and good wishes follow him; and every success of his will bring me joy and gladness.

Letter to Tong-king, too Blunt and anti-Colonial

Bishop Retord, as I implied, is a Foreign Missions confrere whom I greatly admire, one of the least distant from our original [charism]. About this time I replied to his letter. I think this reply of mine greatly astonished him, either because he did not fully share our principles [on Native Clergy] or because lover-stated them (as unfortunately happens me sometimes.) After giving him, (p 610) my analysis of last year’s events in Rome and Pondicherry, I went on:

“I want to congratulate Your Lordship on your outstanding success with Native Clergy, and also to ask you to permit me to make a few reflections, suggested by your good letter.

“ …There are two things in it which I find difficult to consider either necessary or useful. What is more, I considers them positively dangerous, because they are based on inexact principles. [And that can be very destructive]. A single isolated mistake can, of course, be very lamentable at times; but its consequences are limited; a mistake in policy or principles is the most dangerous kind of all. It may be advantageous for a time; but sooner or later it will inevitably lead to incalculable and often irreparable damage.

“We ourselves are now suffering in India from many wrong policies adopted 300 years ago (slightly less, to be exact) policies based on very right-seeming reasons at the time. (The men who come after us will also probably have reason to deplore some of our mistakes, if we don’t look out).

“Now it seems to me that to have a fixed policy of never ordaining a priest in Tong-king before the age of 38 or 40 is to deviate seriously from the true principles long ago adopted by the universal Church. That a few exceptional cases could be postponed until that age, I accept. But to make it the ordinary rule in a country, I can never admit. I know all the reasons put forward to excuse this policy; but I reply that those peculiar problems are inevitable; the only safe way to avoid them is to have no native clergy. For in any country’s clergy you are going to find the same situation: a few very good priests, a lot of middling priests, and a few bad priests.

“If you are aiming at a Clergy in which all the members (or even the great majority) are perfect, you are not looking for a Clergy; you are looking for the impossible. With a policy like that, you can make a few native priests here and there, but never a Clergy.

“I also think that we must avoid the notion that it is sufficient to educate the native priests “well enough for the country” on the pretext that the European clergy will always be there to guide them. The native clergy must be given an education enabling them to maintain and defend the Church on their own, without us. This means that they should be taught everything required. Rome has just confirmed this in a letter to us here, from the Sacred Congregation, containing the Approval of our Synod and congratulations to its members. “But that will give them big ideas”, people may say; (p 611) “Later on, they will despise us; they will think they should be higher than us!” Well. I don’t need to deny the possibility. What is more important, I don’t think they will be totally wrong if they do think so. For after all, it’s their country; we are only foreigners, and always will be”.

(I was not agreeing, there, to the kind of total contempt which one nation (mutually) often has for another. That kind of “despising” is a disaster, sub-human, un-Christian. Christianity is gradually erasing it, drawing nations and individuals closer together day by day. But it will never wipe this thing out entirely; not until it has wiped out all the little nuances of character difference which really separate nations, much more effectively than any mountain range, or great river, or any conventional boundary. And anyway, would it be such a great advantage to mankind if all these “differences” and “nuances” were abolished? I doubt it. Indeed the Catholic religion (even if it became the religion of every state in the world) will never erase them completely. Hence, along with these indelible differences in character, language and even colour, something of that mutual “contempt” will always exist. It is founded, really, not on pride but on the natural and almost “reasonable” preference which each man must have for his own nation and for its self-government (because, relatively speaking, its own nationals should be better at governing a people than any foreigners).

“Contempt” is not the right word, really. I should have said “distance”, “coolness” or perhaps “unconscious antipathy”. Then, I think, you will agree that these will always be there, as long as different nations continue to exist; that they are “natural” divisions, and even “reasonable” up to a point. Anyway, at least, they are inevitable. And therefore it would be absurd [to ignore them, or] to expect that any nation could be well governed (even spiritually and in the guidance of conscience) by a foreign clergy. 76Would France adapt itself to a Spanish clergy? Would Italy put up with a French clergy? Most certainly not.)

[_ _](p 612) “Indeed [the local clergy] must be enabled to get ‘on entirely without us.”

(This is true, but only at a given stage; and that time may be very far away, among certain peoples; others may never get there. Bishop Luquet and myself ought to have insisted a lot less loudly on that point. It is not immediately practical at the moment; and its constant repetition came as an unnecessary shock to many missionaries. Since it was so far away, they failed to recognise its ultimate truth. And some latent pride, perhaps [in our being indispensable able] is always inherent in our fallen nature, even when we confidently preach humility to others, and reproach the Blacks for “selfishness and conceit”!)

“But (people will say) the [hand-over] will be accompanied by many scandals”. It will indeed; and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. Otherwise, the country will never be Catholic. Of two disasters, you have to avoid the greater. We should not direct all our efforts into merely avoiding mistakes and scandals. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself said “there must be scandals”. 77Our effort should be to foresee the probable scandals and take measures to make them less harmful, where possible. And I think that, if we study the situation fairly (without prejudice and without illusions) we can hope to make the eventual scandal much less deadly; certainly not as bad as many famous ones in history, given by bishops and priests in other times and continents.”

(The “scandals” I was referring to are not at all as offensive as might be conveyed to some readers of this rather carelessly worded letter. I only meant the unfortunate rows that can occur during a change of government in a Church, or even during a modification of jurisdictions. Such conflicts are inevitable from time to time, given the stupidity of human weakness, wherever vested interests are affected (interests of different nations or religious Orders etc.). These interests sometimes get confused with “the interests of Holy Church” herself. And it is obvious that the interests of the native clergy in a country will not always be identical with the interests of the missionaries (and especially with the (p 613) interests of their various missionary Societies or Orders). So you just have to have either one policy or the other: either form no local clergy at all, or else be prepared for some of those conflicts of interest. But I am convinced that, with a bit of foresight, you can avoid the worst effects. Especially if you set out to be just and fair with the coloured priests; which unfortunately is rather difficult for us!

The British are against us, and Fennelly helps them.

Down with all Collaboration with Colonialism!

Fr Gailhot and the Annecy priests had been hoping to meet with some brotherly openness, now, at Madras. For by now the Vicar Apostolic had submitted to the decisions of the Sacred Congregation; he had done his duty. But he would not give an inch beyond it. The accounts which the Annecy priests sent us about the Christians in Madras and its hinterland only confirmed our worst fears and regrets. The defection of the Tamilians [caste Christians] was almost total; but the Irish clergy seemed less concerned about them. The newspapers (including the Catholic ones) were busy poisoning the wound, instead of trying to heal it. In general, it appeared that those Irish “apostolic missionaries” thought they had amply fulfilled all their apostolic obligations by zealously looking after the European colonials (and sharing in their lofty disdain for “the natives”).

We also learnt, with sorrow, how dangerous to us Bishop Fennelly’s co-operation with the English Company Government might yet become. “It seems (I wrote in my diary) that the Government is now going to be even more hostile to missionaries from countries other than England or Ireland. For a long time now, the Government’s attitude towards us [in practical matters] looks very suspicious. We informed them, several months ago, that we were changing the chaplains at Arani and Cuddalore. No reply yet from the Government. The Chaplains in those two places receive a government salary for their pastoral care of the Catholic soldiers. But they have to be officially recognized by the Government; (p 614) and this can be done only through the Vicar Apostolic of Madras. In Bangalore also, Bishop Charbonnaux has not been able to get the new Chaplain recognized. Obviously the Company wants only “British subjects” in all the army posts. This is only natural; and indeed it would be only fair, if those “chaplains” were exclusively occupied with the English soldiers. But in the present religious situation in India, they have to be missionaries [to the people] before all else.

“That the Government should ignore all these [missionary] considerations is understandable. That, in order to arrive at their own objective, they pay almost double to chaplains of their own nation, that also (I suppose) is what you might expect from the mean ideas of a nation of traders. But that the Irish clergy should support this policy of the British Government is very sad and very dangerous for the future. Bishop Bonnand still has enough influence to stave off the danger; but has he the necessary determination to fight them? Hasn’t he already conceded too much, by agreeing that his priests can be accepted as Chaplains only if presented by the Vicar Apostolic of Madras, the only man recognized by the Government as a Catholic Bishop in the whole Presidency of Madras!78 And I fear he will make further concessions to them as well, especially as he is not likely to get any support against them from the Jesuits. They are rather indifferent to all those [financial] matters, since they are well cushioned against any eventuality. They always have a few English and Irish priests among their Fathers; and these can be extremely useful to them in many ways. And Bishop Bonnand will not get much support, either, from Bishop Charbonnaux, who is so pro-English. In fact I hear he is actually thinking of asking Bishop Fennelly to send him some Irish priests to look after those chaplaincies in his area! This kind of cooperation [with the British] could turn out very dangerous.

Another danger is that the Sacred Congregation may favour (p 615) the [importation of more] Irish Bishops (a very defective policy in my opinion) merely in order to finish off the Goa Schism. For indeed, if the Holy See agreed to put India under the over-all direction of Irish bishops, these might be able to obtain direct Government intervention and thereby take over all the church buildings now occupied by schismatic priests. It would be a great benefit indeed; but obtainable only at the expense of the sacred rights of the Indians and the future of the Missions among them.

Of course it is desirable that governments (even non-Catholic ones) should favour the material interests of Religion. For the sake of the resulting good, some concessions could (and sometimes should) be made to them, some sacrifices tolerated; but always with great caution. What! If Catholic governments like Portugal have abused their privileges and their rights of “patronage” so blatantly, what could you expect from a heterodox Government as hostile as England to the Holy Roman Catholic Church!

“O God, save us from the consequences (still remote fortunately) which could naturally flow from the regrettable policies of Bishop Fennelly and (I suppose) of his Irish confreres. Like us, they are aiming at your greater glory. Let them realise their mistake, if it is as real as we see it to be. And if it is ourselves who are mistaken, let no self-interest blind us to the truth, to your divine light. “

“The Irish NEED their Native Priests”

.

Fierce attack on Cultural Domination.

A few days after that, I was reading the “Catholic Expositor” Bishop Fennelly’s “own” paper (nearly all of it written by himself). It reported that his Lordship had recalled the priest in charge of Vizagapattinam, a man that Fr Gailhot hoped to keep for some time. A small matter indeed, if Bishop Fennelly had not gone out of his way to publish the letter he wrote to the priest, including his objections [to the new Mission] and his efforts to get the Government to block it! To print this in a Catholic paper seemed to me, and to my Pondicherry confreres, to be a very (p 616) grave mistake indeed. I have no doubt but the Bishop later repented of it.

“The Madras Government (I commented) seems to be delighted to hurry along on the way so imprudently opened up for them by the Bishop. They will now be even more ready to hinder the ministry of all non-British priests.

“Another curious thing: the Bishop seems quite unable to notice the glaring contradiction between his marked opposition to Native Clergy [for the Indians] and his strenuous demands and “remonstrances” to obtain the same right for the Irish soldiers!

“I thought it a great hardship for the Irish soldiers … to be deprived of the advantages of having clergy of their own nation, and I accordingly sent a remonstrance to the Holy See on the subject”, he explained.79

“What! You recognize that it must be hard for the Irish soldiers to be depending on priests who are foreign to their nation, even though the Irish are educated and civilized people, good Christians, whose ancestors have been Catholic for centuries! Even though they have only a short period of military service here, and should therefore find it easier to put up with temporary “foreign” chaplains. And anyway, those priests are not really very foreign to them; they are Europeans (French, Italians, etc.) with basically the same customs and manners as the Irish.

“And then at the same time you are surprised that the Indians find it hard to have nobody but [totally foreign] European priests that they dislike being looked after by the Irish! (They dislike them even more than they do the French and Italians because these, at least, have some bit of consideration for their weaknesses). You expect the Indians to like us, to be loyal and affectionate towards us, when we just walk on their customs, and never make the slightest effort to change a single bit of our own manner to suit them! When we aim to be the only people allowed to direct them in the way of salvation!

“You never think (or rather, you are completely opposed to the idea) (p 617) of giving them their own priests, men of their own colour and nation, knowing their own language and the way to their hearts. You seem astonished that the pagans utterly reject us and that even the Christians are reluctant to have anything to do with us, allergic to a religion which has been given a foreign face by us. You complain about their weird customs and behaviour; but don’t we have some customs that are just as weird to them, and some behaviour that is much more disgusting!

“But you are right about the soldiers. The Irish and the other European soldiers who come down upon these peoples, to prey on them, must naturally prefer to have priests from their own country. Things must be well arranged, to protect their [morale and] their self-esteem. What would it be like if they had to kneel down in the presence of a coloured priest and had to ask forgiveness from the acts of rapine they committed against his fellow-Indians? ..

[* *]But let us try to have some consideration for the feelings of the Indians; let us not do anything to give them the impression that we, the servants of the God of all justice and peace, are conspiring with their oppressors, subjugating the people spiritually while our governments are dominating them physically and economically. Let us prove to the Indians, by deeds and not just by words, that we are here for no other purpose but to teach them the true Faith, the only thing that can lighten the yoke that is crushing them. Let us show them that we have no other links with the ruling Europeans except in order to try to moderate their greed and arrogance, and to bring them to make reparation for their injustices. [We can indeed cooperate with them and] with their priests, in order to provide the ordinary means for eternal salvation. But also in order to maintain the human dignity of the people, the honour of their nation, the free exercise of their customs (except where these contradict the gentle Law of the Saviour of all men). And that Law did not demand that the Ethiopian change his colour [before being baptised] nor does it demand that the Indian change his culture. 80 (p 618)

Messing with my Refusal letters in Paris.

Bishop Bonnand worried (a bit late) about Jesuits in Coimbatore.

About February [1846] I learned (just by chance, in a letter to Fr Dupuis) that Fr Langlois, in Paris, had delayed my letter of refusal to the Sacred Congregation. This was somewhat annoying; it made me quite fed up with our Paris gentlemen. “I fail to understand (I then wrote) how the Foreign Missions Seminary could have the nerve to stop a letter like that, without the consent of the writer. This delaying tactic can have very bad consequences for Coimbatore. Another bishop could have been nominated there immediately. Whereas, now, this delay may give the Jesuits time to work a change in the Holy See’s allocation of territory. Who can say they won’t be able to annex Coimbatore to Madurai? And then all hope will evaporate, all hope of working for a local clergy in a place where it has never been tried before (being so far from the coasts). This is all the more likely because Bishop Luquet will inevitably have lost a lot of his influence at Rome, because of our deplorable and stupid way of acting towards him!”

A few days later, these fears became very real; even Bishop Bonnand got worried. I could see, at this point, that His Lordship himself had something to do with blocking my letters in Paris. The good man wanted me to become a bishop; but not necessarily in Coimbatore. ‘Twas the same thing all over again: give us the appearance and we’ll do without the substance; give us the detail and the main point won’t matter. The same wooly thinking was now fouling up this affair, like so many others before it. Meanwhile, he had some other plan [up his sleeve] but he did not disclose it. All I could see (in his embarrassment now) was the fear that the Jesuits would collar the Province of Coimbatore. As for me, I couldn’t care less only that their exclusive “religious” domination over this “new” part of India was now going to reduce our hopes for a Native Clergy even further.

“So there it is”, I said. “Six months ago, the Bishop did not want to believe what I told him: that our own lack of policy was giving the Jesuits a chance to out-flank us in Coimbatore. At that time, of course, the thing was not so likely; but it was possible; (p 619) and we should have paid some attention to it. And now, today, the latest letters from Rome show that my guess was not so far out. Humanly speaking, things are going from bad to worse. Let us pray God that all this “bad” will be turned to His greater glory. It may, indeed, be true that my refusal of the episcopate was harmful to Coimbatore and to the Work for Native Clergy. Still I hope that He will not demand a strict account of that from me.”

  • The “Expositor” a Scandal of Disunity among Bishop*

. Meanwhile, according to Fr Gailhot’s reports, the Savoy priests were welcomed enthusiastically at Vizagapattinam, in spite of the very inappropriate (not to say scandalous) articles printed about them in the Madras “Catholic Expositor”.

And yet this newspaper is paid for, if you please, by funds from the Propagation de la Foi”, and is supposed to be upholding the catholic cause in the whole Presidency of Madras. In actual fact it is nothing else but the personal mouthpiece for Bishop Fennelly s own ideas. He sometimes even uses it to snipe at our own venerable Bishop Bonnand and at other Bishops in the same Presidency!

“O God, when will we see the day when the Bishops in India will be at least united enough to have a common policy, apart from each man’s personal temperament and national origin? Church of India, will you ever exist! In the meantime what further scandals are in store for these poor peoples? Because open contradictions between Bishops (even on points that do not affect the Faith directly) are surely a scandal. How can the Faith shine out clearly to the pagans when we are busy covering it with our miserable clouds? And how can the Christians themselves avoid being confused by them? A few are educated enough to see that the Faith is one thing and the personal ideas and actions of individual missionaries quite another. But the vast majority is not always able to make that distinction; and so their Faith is weakened [by this kind of disunity]. (p 620)

Mutual spiritual Support and frank Debate with Bishop Luquet

*about his “Inculturation” plan and on his Refusal *

Soon after this I learnt (again indirectly but quite certainly) that not only my letters of refusal but even my appointment Bulls were still being held back at Paris. “I have no idea any more what they are trying to do (I wrote) and no idea how all this confusion will end. If those of my confreres who have some influence wanted me to become a bishop, why on earth did they not frankly and openly take my part from the start? If they don’t want it, why are they now trying to block my refusal?”

“It’s all in your hands, O my God. Please watch over your Work, and over your servant here, who is looking for nothing (it seems to me) but only the glorification of your holy Name”.

Our Paris Fathers had not yet begun to share in the general indignation of our Pondicherry confreres against Bishop Luquet. The memory of his zeal and ability was still too fresh in their minds, and the S.C’s continuing congratulations were too strong, for them to return immediately to their usual impassive attitude. So, on realising that he probably could not return to India, and that his episcopal character ruled out a job at the Paris Seminary, they figured that they could best employ his talents by nominating him as Rome Representative for all our Missions. But they could only nominate him to all our Vicars Apostolic, for their approval. That took time; and (as we will see later) the Far East Vicars Apostolic, in the meantime, heard of our Pondicherry confreres’ opposition to Luquet, without being able to study the reasons for themselves. So naturally they also began to suspect him. And when his Swiss failure came 81they all abandoned him. Such is the way of the world with the unlucky, even when they ran into their bad luck only because they tried to do something for the common good.

(p 621) So Bishop Luquet now had plenty of tribulations and contradictions. But up to now there was no sign that the Foreign Missions Society might [be as stupid as to] deprive itself of a member who was such an honour to it, and who fought with such zeal and talent for its dearest interests. We could still have hope that he would continue to serve the Society and the missions, if not in India then in some other post. I myself would much prefer to see him back in Pondicherry, after time had-cooled down the confreres. I also expected (then) that the Sacred Congregation would continue imperturbably to support the great Principles they had so clearly reiterated in 1845. “If India lost Bishop Luquet (I often said) it would be like a curse from God.” Was I so wrong? Was it not, indeed, a disaster for India to lose this man of goodwill, intelligence and swift action? You alone know, O my God; and here I hope in your Justice, and especially your Mercy. Bishop Luquet himself seemed to think his presence would be more beneficial in Rome than in India, for our Indian Missions, for all the Society’s Missions, and for many others as well.

Anyway, he was still full of optimism and courage when he wrote to me [on the 21st December 1845]:

“I will begin this letter, dear friend, by thanking you sincerely and affectionately for the frankness and Christian freedom of your comments to me, about the recent events. It was by that, especially, that I recognised what a true, faithful and most excellent friend you are. May Our Lord pour His graces on you abundantly for the deep joy I felt. .. and for the good you have done me…

“I can assure you, all the noise that has been assaulting my ears these months, all the accusations made to my face or behind my back, have all passed safely over my heart without leaving any discouragement or bitterness there. Yes I know; certain confreres did not spare me; but I feel no hostility to them. They were just a bit too quick with their judgment, that’s all.

“Just in the same way as the time when I was getting nothing here in Rome but praises and marks of kindness and high esteem (so great as almost to humiliate me) so now today, when I hear the roars of disapproval coming at me from India, I feel undaunted. This strange courage does not come from myself; it comes entirely from the complete self-abandonment which Our Lord has been so good as to inspire in me, a complete trust in the divine Providence of his Father.

(p 622) “So, in the words of the Prophet King, though whole armies should rise up against me, fear shall not come near my heart. …

“To God alone be glory; to us humiliations and trouble. But courage and confidence as well! For more than one aspect of all this [muddle] then, I rejoice. (Happy contradictions, how rich you are in meaning … about the ways of the Lord! I find a lot of good in it all: useful warnings for the present and future, past mistakes recognised, and a good remedy against the day-dreams of vanity) Yes! It is good for me, Lord, that You have brought me down.

“All this opposition and contrariness from Pondicherry is (I think) going to put me (very unexpectedly) into a position which I reckon to be very important indeed. The Paris Fathers, on considering the Indian happenings and considering, also, the necessity of having a Society Representative here at Rome (at least from time to time) now want to entrust me with that work (which I consider the most important of all). Since I first came to understand the Missions, I have always felt that at Rome my action can be more effective than anywhere else …

“As for yourself: whatever you say or do, I still can only believe that the Will of God for you is purely and simply to accept the episcopate offered to you … Before finishing this letter, I will ask Paris to send me the [refusal] letter you wrote to the Sacred Congregation; then I will know better how to advise you.

“Meanwhile, I will take this opportunity to write you some reflections on your remarkable letter about Indian Customs.

“I completely approve the Plan you put forward there, in order to eventually abolish everything inside those customs which is essentially opposed to the spirit of the Gospel and which consequently must always be a great obstacle to spreading the Faith in India. But I do not agree with you about the “wrong decisions” made by Cardinal de Tournon. 82What he did was necessary then, in order to put an end to some very strange [missionary] aberrations. (We still see more than a trace of them around; no need to cite them here). I will just reply to the way you [ridiculed] my Ulgaret incident. 83

(p 623) Certainly, if this was an isolated case, you would be quite right to refute me. But it is not so; far from it. Your Ariankupam story, other observations made by myself, some Salem incidents reported by Fr Fricaud (and others even stronger) are there, to prove to me that the substance of what I reported [in my Mémoire] is true; it is perfectly in line with the general behaviour of our Christians. That’s all I wanted to show.84

“In general, before judging whether I was wrong or right to speak out like that in Rome against Caste abuses, you would need to know what [the Jesuits] were up to, both in China and in India: a complete return to their ancient tolerance of Customs. And then, what immense pressure could be placed on us, from the [envious] complaints of our Christians!”

(I was not at all unaware of the hopes and researches of the Madurai Jesuit Fathers in the direction here indicated by Bishop Luquet. But I was with them there, up to a certain point. It is self-evident to me that, if only we could, in conscience, be more tolerant towards Caste and its customs, we should be more tolerant. It seemed a very useful exercise, to re-study those moral questions prudently, as far as respect for Rome’s judgments85 could allow it. Provided, also, that in the meantime you didn’t jeopardize the future by putting out publications irritating to the Indians.

I will always remember the energy and enthusiasm with which Fr Bertrand urged me to get together with them on this. Certainly I couldn’t ask for better; but I did not want the native clergy [issue] kept out of it. On the contrary, I wanted the two issues [Clergy and Customs] to support each other in the movement).

“As regards the basic issue of Customs, I’m not yet ready to say “mea culpa” [or change my mind]. I was considering it when your letter arrived.

“I can fully assure you that, when writing about castes, I never had any intention of “capsizing everything” in India. But at that (p 624) particular time in Rome it was necessary to write like that, in order to counter certain bad results which would otherwise be all too certain to prevail. In India, your “plan” (to identify and destroy the superstitious and anti-Christian element in certain customs) can be used without shocking anybody. But you have to work at it [research it carefully] and not just applaud every custom [good, bad or indifferent] as some people have tried to persuade us to do in the past.

“You will have heard, no doubt, what [Propaganda] replied to the Vicar Apostolic of Madras: “You can be certain of one thing: we will not back down”. [That clarified the situation].

[So now let you, too, get things clarified, about Coimbatore].Make sure that you have definite things to endure (and I with you) instead of this cruel uncertainty you have been thrown into. For you as for me, the best thing to do, in every thing that befalls us, in India, is [to accept it] and silently bring it to the feet of Jesus crucified, and leave it to Him to do the rest.

“The very first day I was brought to school, at the Freres des Ecoles Chrétiennes, I saw this sentence on a door: DO WHAT IS RIGHT AND LET THEM TALK. That’s thirty years ago now, and I have not forgotten it. I try to practice it as best I can. Ask Our Lord to help me at it.

“As for the future, I am never tempted to despair. I prefer to baptize this Russian proverb (which would be perfect if only it came from Faith): “If it’s possible we’ll do it; if it’s impossible we’ll try our best”. Patience! patience! With that you are strong. “You can wait.

“Your refusal of the episcopate, as I see it, is neither useful nor obligatory. I am sure Bishop Bonnand is thinking of you for his Coadjutor if I don’t go back to India. He got Fr Dupuis to write to Paris to hold your [refusal] letter. It has been held. I have spoken [with Propaganda] about your refusal; they would be very sorry to receive it; it would seriously harm their plans for India. Think about it. They believe you will not persist after their second letter.”

Those last lines cleared up many puzzles about the rather mystifying way Bishop Bonnand was behaving towards me, and the surprising way the Paris Fathers had blocked my letters. But those lines also put an end to my peace of mind. For by now I thought I had shaken off all my worries when I sent in my definitive refusal.[_ _](p 625)

*College Expansion limited by Muddled Architecture *

and muddled Policy (about Pagan students etc.)

Thus, each [monthly] mailboat from Europe brought me some new emotional shock or other. In between, my life was rather flat, keeping a little light shining in our College-Seminary. Relatively speaking it was doing well enough; but it was very far from tackling the huge needs of the population we were hoping to enlighten. The Synod had agreed in principle that we could admit pagans. But in practice a lot of difficulties arose. To admit pagans on a big scale would have required a lot more political will on the part of most of my confreres. Especially, it would have required a very thoroughly worked-out consensus about countless practical adaptations between the caste system and our own precise conduct towards Christians and towards pagans. First, we would have to “manage” the feelings and expectations of certain cliques of Christians in Pondicherry who wanted education to be exclusively for their own children. For education opened various careers in the government service to them; and they were afraid of the competition if the pagans were now going to be educated as well; they could never compete with the pagans in anything else, e.g. trade or agriculture. The pagans now wanted education; but they were very reluctant to mix with the Christians, whom they still considered somewhat polluted, in spite of the fact that we had only “good caste” boys, and that we even provided distinct drinking vessels for the different social levels (those who could share housing but not food and drink). The main problem for the pagans was that anyway our students were Christians, still despicable anyway, because they actually entered the very same building as the pariahs (even if in separate compartments) to worship together at the ceremonies of a “pariah religion”!

Nevertheless a few pagans presented themselves to join the school. For there are ways and means to get around caste rules; a simple “bath” will wipe away any minor legal defilements of contact; and this is no great problem because Indians normally bathe several times a day anyway. We held a meeting to decide what we would require from the pagans. Omitting the details, we were first of all unanimous in ruling out any outward ceremony or prayer in (p 626) honour of Ari86 or any other pagan divinity, before class or study. We would not make them take part in Christian prayers with the other students. They need not be present at any religious exercise unless they voluntarily asked to receive religious instruction. However, we would require them to learn Bible History and the other class textbooks on religion.

When it came to customs, we were not quite so unanimous. The final decision was that, in the school, we would tolerate only the same customs we tolerate among the Christians outside. We would merely allow the pagans to have their own drinking vessels, separate from the Christians, just as we allow Tamilians [caste Christians] to have theirs separate from Kammalar Christians. Inside the college they must refrain from “pottu” marks on the forehead (and other red or yellow body marks).

At this they all baulked. They seemed ready to accept the other conditions; but to erase those marks (signs of civil status, probably, as much as superstitions) would immediately lay them open to public derision; they could never consent. Only one, a charming and intelligent boy, very keen on education, broke through the “what will the neighbours say?” barrier. He lasted only a few days, however, against his family. Moreover, every day, he had to go to and fro, through several streets; it was just a continual barrage of insults, wise-cracks and abuse. He was probably threatened, seriously, with being driven out of the caste. He did not appear in school again.

With the passage of time, I believe, a few individuals will successfully defy this fear (especially in the European dominated cities) but the masses will not succeed. We will have a few pagan students in our schools, but not the youth of the city in general. It is only by trying to change public opinion now that we can ever hope for any significant success through our schools, allowing the truths of Faith to gradually filter through to the next generations and thus remotely prepare the way for Grace. But, to achieve this, how far can we go in toleration? What should our policy be? To the end of my days I will always regret that I was not allowed (p 627) to discuss these questions, calmly and at length, with the Sacred. Congregation.

Anyway, the practical result in Pondicherry was that we could have nobody in our Malabar College but Christians, and Christians of good caste at that. We were able to tackle only half our work, or indeed less than a quarter; and that much only with a lot of fuss and obstacles. Nevertheless we made some progress day by day. The new building was almost completed (a half-measure indeed, and totally inadequate for necessary future development) and we moved into it on 19th May 1846.

Bishop Bonnand blessed the buildings, with quite a lot of ceremony. “His Lordship (says my diary) had invited the principal people of the “black town”. Their attendance was satisfactory, but there wasn’t much enthusiasm to be seen among them. The Christians were sulking because there is talk of admitting pagan children, the pagans because our entry conditions are too demanding. The pagans actually stayed away; but even so there wasn’t much joy shining in the assembly. At best, apathy. Then Fr Dupuis made a speech, which was badly interpreted, and so turned the apathy into something like resentment. The Bishop distributed “betal” at the end, a traditional act of Indian politeness which seems to have been appreciated.

Nevertheless this solemn Opening was preceded, accompanied and followed by a sort of glumness which does not bode well for the progress of the College, the Seminary, and even the Clergy.

My heart was saddened by this apathy, and also by the spectacle of this expensive monument, marred by contradictions in planning and by very poor execution. There goes almost 9000 rupees spent already (an enormous sum in this country) 87and for what? A very inconvenient building, very inappropriate for an educational establishment in India, especially if it is meant, later on, to accommodate both pagans and low-caste children without shocking the customs of the country too much. For the same (p 628) money (roughly) I think we could have done something much better. But in order to achieve it, we would need to have kept a clear uncompromising vision of what the Future required; then to have made a definite over-all site plan which could be built as the needs expanded, without chopping and changing at every momentary “crisis”. This was my tune before the foundation stone was laid, repeated ad nauseam during the [ensuing months] and never listened to. However, even such as it is, the new College is a remarkable monument for Pondicherry. Although I think it can never be made right, it will still be one of the best of its kind … provided they don’t mess up the original plan any further when making future additions. But there is no way that we can bring all the castes into this building. Can it be done in any college, anywhere? I greatly fear it won’t be for a long, long time, or maybe never.”

(Since that time it has, in fact, been necessary, more than once, to extend the building. And each time, it was done according to a different plan. It all just goes to show how hard it is for several men to agree and cooperate about one right path, even towards an agreed objective).

  • A Great Ambassador inspects the Students *

It was about this period that M. de Lagrene stopped off at Pondicherry. He graciously honoured us with a visit to the Seminary. He seemed very pleased indeed with our students; and he impressed them with his distinguished bearing and his truly Christian words of advice. It is, alas, not very common for high-up Europeans to give good example to the Indians, especially under the disastrous regime of Louis-Philippe. As you know, M. de Lagrene had been sent to China as special Ambassador from the King of the French. He had obtained from the Celestial Empire a commercial Treaty (which I will not comment on) and also some worth-while Guarantees for our holy Religion in those vast territories. It was not quite Freedom of Religion, but it was still a great advantage, probably the utmost that could have been (p 629) achieved by this well-intentioned diplomat, within the restricted situation he had to work in, with regard to our Paris mandarins, who at that time were probably just as un-Christian as the Chinese ones.

M. de Lagrene impressed us as a real honest man. Towards our Indian Christians his conduct was edifying and worthy of the best French tradition. As I said, he was delighted with the way we were training our students, and astonished at their intelligence and their witty replies. He did not hesitate to say they were the very best he had seen, not excepting our famous Pulo-Pinang College. As he said all this to the Director (me) the compliment may not have been literally true. Nevertheless I don’t think he was a liar either; for in China there was quite a lot of room for improvement, in the same direction that we were trying to take in India.

Anyway, I will always remember M. de Lagrene’s amazement at the sight of a little Indian boy calmly and intelligently translating the [Latin] fable of the Lamb and the Wolf into French, and then into Tamil. The boy had not been doing Latin very long; yet he never stumbled in his interpretation, in his grammatical analysis afterwards, or in answering questions about the author’s expressions. The top students gave fairly decent replies to the Ambassador’s questions about Logic and Mathematics. Two of them, Arulnathan and Packianathan, had submitted fairly good routine essays that morning. After they had answered various questions from the Ambassador, I had Arulnathan’s composition read out, just as it was. M. de Lagrene wanted to take it with him and that of Packianathan as well, with all the scratched amendments and mistakes which guaranteed its authenticity!

When I was back in Paris, I ought to have gone to see M. de Lagrene. I heard he had not forgotten his impressions of our Seminary-College, and that he had complained in a friendly way about me not calling. My only reason was my reluctance to start socializing with the great people (or the ex-great) of this world.

(p 630)

  • Fr Lazare seeks a Mediator for Madras*

The Madras community was still in a bad way. We had to be extremely cautious ourselves, because of their influence on our own people. And this extreme prudence (which is always painful to have to maintain) was not even sufficient at times. Certainly Bishop Bonnand has plenty of this sort of diplomacy; but he still wasn’t safe from all repercussions; and he had to endure the growing pride of the Schism inside his own Vicariate, puffed up by its successes in Mylapore [quarter of Madras].

His Lordship had to be cagey not only with the Indians but also with the Irish clergy, which was still more depressing. He could not even think of offering to mediate between Bishop Fennelly and the rebels. It seemed obvious to our confreres that Bishop Bonnand could easily settle the whole palaver; but we never said a word out loud. It must have been the sheer obviousness of the idea that brought it to the notice of some well-intentioned Indians, especially Fr Lazare. He sat down and wrote a letter to Bishop Bonnand. Written in bad French, it contained the noblest sentiments. It was a joy to read, and at the same time heart-breaking, to see this excellent black priest lamenting the misfortunes of the Madras Catholics in so human, so priestly, so Catholic a way. The joy was to see this vivid testimony of Faith from an Indian priest; the bitterness was to wonder if our people, who are so constantly pushed away from the priesthood, are not often a lot better men than the people who look down so loftily on them. I am not trying to compare Fr Lazare with Bishop Fennelly. Certainly the Bishop has much more intelligence and competence; but he is not alone in this business, surrounded as he is by his Irish priests, who are very negative towards native clergy, even though some of themselves are not half as good as Fr Lazare in many respects.

In his letter he clearly (though very respectfully) pointed out the foolish and self-contradictory policy of the Madras clergy. He complained (gently and affectionately) about their extraordinary behaviour towards the Christians there, many of them his own relatives. He pointed out that the remedy was as simple as it was easy, if Madras would only agree to employ the mediation of a (p 631) Pondicherry missionary, preferably Bishop Bonnand himself. And he begged His Lordship to go to the rescue of his blinded relatives and save their souls.

Alas, Bishop Bonnand still believes he should not “interfere” even indirectly, so great is the suspicion of the Irish clergy. Of course it would still be the same attitude if our neighbours were exclusively of any nationality, Order or even pious Society! As long as the Catholic Hierarchy is still so abnormal in this poor country, as long as you have to give first consideration to esprit de corps 88before considering the people or the situation, a great deal of harm will still be done before neighbour can run to help neighbour. A normal Hierarchy would probably bring some new snags of its own. But, snag for snag, I believe that the calm harmony and normality of Your Church’s structure, O my God, would make up for them all.

Dark Night: Jesuit intrigues on Seminary not Resisted.

*No fair Provision being made for his Future Priests. *

(Luquet still working successfully, for Oregon)

Still more sadness! Eh, my God! This place of exile is so rightly called “this valley of tears”. The violent and ever-deplorable opposition of our confreres to Bishop Luquet now began to bear some fruits; and they were bitter, both here and elsewhere. Here it brought division instead of unity (which is strength) and showed up our weakness. In Rome it began to make the Sacred Congregation begin to suspect Luquet, and to waver in the admirable decisions taken last year.

But Bishop Luquet was still far from losing all his influence at Rome. About this time he was working with the Vicar Apostolic of Oregon89 for the same progress which we had so foolishly (p 632) forbidden him to get for us: he was busy obtaining normal Dioceses for that part of America.

Later on [1855] when Bishop Luquet had fallen into disfavour, it seems the Sacred Congregation regretted having granted the Dioceses. At least I remember hearing the present Secretary [Mgr Barnabo] say: “Luquet made us do a stupid thing there”. But as this was just his opinion, I feel I can persist in maintaining that, if so, it was a lucky stupidity for Oregon; and I can only wish they had done some equally stupid things in India! I was not the only one to regret that [our Paris Fathers] had stopped Luquet on that road forward. Bishop Bonnand has always maintained that it was very important, for the progress of Religion in India, to establish the sacred Hierarchy. Many other Vicars Apostolic are of the same opinion, in India, in China, and elsewhere.

At this time [1846] Bishop Luquet still had the support of the majority of the Paris Seminary Directors. His position was still fairly strong, and it enabled him to brave the hurricane here, up to a point. His character, anyway, was not exactly pliant. Not for him those diplomatic formulae (sometimes useful) which, without being downright lies, are still able to soft-soap the sick minds of some opponents by meaningless concessions which they will then take to be the main issue at stake. Not a proud man, he is a bit too unbending at times; and he then looks positively stubborn. Thus certain expressions in his letters to people at this period seemed to me unfortunate; they certainly were no help or remedy at all in the situation. My own personal concerns in it all seemed to be getting more and more entangled and fouled up with other issues. Relations with some of my confreres and with the Madurai Jesuits brought me a lot of hurt, and reduced me to a state of indescribable sadness.

In my diary for this period I came across an item written in a moment of extreme depression. I will not include it here, lest any readers should generalize too much, and turn the faults of a few into the faults of all, taking a locally excessive esprit de corps to be the esprit or spirit of the whole Jesuit Order, so well respected and admired by Holy Church. I will just say that, at that point, the (p 633) Madurai Jesuits behaved in a way that caused us much pain. It seemed obvious to us that they were working to replace us in India. They were all the more desperate in this because they feared that our view on the present feasibility of a Native Clergy was about to prevail. And, incredible as it seems, they [conducted their campaign] in such a way that an outsider might easily believe that they were just as keen on this Work as we were, if not more so! Meanwhile, they lobbed some red-hot cannon-balls into our Seminary; or rather, it was mostly by undermining that they hoped to blow it up!

A letter from an excellent young man who had gone to Mauritius [island] and who wrote after Rev Fr Bertrand and Dairanaden had been there, revealed the whole scheme. Now we understood where all our student defections had been coming from! And a lot of other miserable troubles too painful to record. I recognise it; the Jesuits, convinced that there must not yet be native priests in India, were doing it all for a “good” purpose. But then why not come out openly and argue their position at the Holy See? Why not submit it fairly to public opinion? Why must they always be condemned to carry their caution too far, their tradition of “doing good in secret” which I am pleased to recognise in them! Let the Holy See inform me, just once (I used to say then) that it is not yet time to make priests in India, and I’ll close down my Seminary the same day! After all, is it so nice and easy to spend your whole time educating young people whose manners and customs are so completely different to our own?

Bishop Bonnand, and indeed many of my confreres, saw [what the Jesuits were up to] and were deeply hurt by it. Yet they continued [to take it lying down] thus increasing the danger. They certainly did not do so willingly, but only weakly, because of the weak organisation of our excellent Society, so unfortunate on this one point. They [made matters worse] by showing signs of weakness, or even (dare I say it?) timidity or cowardice! The work of the Seminary and the Work of the Clergy (which all of us wanted then) were under threat. Since they had put me in charge of it, I naturally needed to promote it with energy and take it firmly into my hands, in order to make it triumph. Instead of help to do that, all I got was an endless series of petty contradictions, and a total (p 634) lack of provision for a future [native clergy] which was beginning to get quite near. For we could see already that we would soon have several new priests; and on their employment and conduct would depend the future of the Work for a century to come. The way we had treated their few predecessors up to now would be disastrous in the future; in fact, with a numerous clergy, it would just be impossible.

“If we are going to continue [native clergy] on that footing (I used to say) we will soon be forced to stop it altogether; and this [unsuccessful effort] will just become a disastrous precedent, irremediable in a country where “the custom” is everything. At that time I had eight or ten major seminarians (or near to it), all about the age of twenty, very intelligent and willing; they were like wax in my hands. But at that age you had to look out for a change in character, and to beware of any abrupt change in the way of directing them, if I had to leave. Another man could have done the job better than myself, I admit, if he had been with them from the start. But to change at the moment would certainly be harmful to them.

“And now, before they were ordained, it was essential to make plans for the time when they would go out and start working as priests. Everything should be ready for them, so that all they had to do would be to put into practice what they had clearly understood and made their own in the Seminary. [This general preparation outside] was all the more necessary because we would have to introduce some delicate new points [or regulations] which would seem obnoxious if they were introduced hurriedly by a mere individual. These were methods of moral supervision, definite precautions against laziness or under-employment. Also, and most urgently, we needed to make provision for the maintenance of these new priests, rather than being dangerously dependent on funds from the Propagation de la Foi, as was the case up to now. Time was running out, for doing something about all those problems; and nobody seemed to be listening.

“They are just drifting along from day to day; and I do not think, O my God, that this is the way to exercise trust in your Providence. This is a Work that is not spontaneous or automatically (p 635) successful. It has a beginning, a follow-up, and an objective; and those three must be effectively linked together by the means and resources provided by your Providence, i.e. our own experience and foresight.

Thus I saw these few major seminarians around me, soon to be ordained; but no sign whatever of a proper organisation for Indian Clergy being prepared [in the Vicariate] for them. Here I was, busy sculpting the stones for a future cathedral; but its foundations had not yet been even marked out. “They haven’t finalized the plans yet”, I exclaimed, “nor even decided on the size or proportions of the building. And don’t let them reply by saying: “the plans are there, since the time of the Apostles. You just train good priests and the rest will follow automatically”. There is such a thing as local conditions of construction; these are essential to any realistic planning. If you neglect them, the whole structure will soon come tumbling down on you. One of these conditions is the peculiar condition of Vicars Apostolic; it requires an almost essential modification in the relationship of the Vicar with his clergy.

Although I am sorry the divinely instituted Hierarchy is not yet in force eveywhere, and that all we have is Vicar-Apostolic Bishops, yet I am far from denying that this “exceptional” organisation had a lot of good in it, and still has, in a few places. [So we should plan accordingly].90

“And what about the relationship between the Indian priests and the missionaries? These have to be clearly defined as well, in such a way that neither group feels cheated or humiliated. The Indians are easily offended; and we have our own susceptibilities too. They have their nationalism, and we have ours. They are one group; we are another. From all this, anyone can easily foresee plenty of clashes. The normal humility and charity of good priests will not be enough to deal with them. [There must be just and clear-cut structures as well].

(p 636) Not to go searching in distant history or geography for examples [of this kind of group tension] let us just look at our nearest neighbours. Who will deny that our southern neighbours, the Jesuits, or our northern neighbours, the Irish, are good priests? And yet what mental blocks to progress there are in [this part of] India, for lack of proper organization and good communication between the three missionary groups! Maybe a better organizational structure is impossible to envisage in this particular case. Maybe indeed; but it has not yet been proved [because it has’t even been tried]. But in the case of the native clergy, I am certain there is a good organization which is still possible, waiting to be created, for relating them fairly to the missionaries in the present circumstances in India. Otherwise we are gambling with the future, risking clashes and chaos, ending up in disgust and disillusion with the whole Work for Native Clergy. And this could all happen before we have even twenty native priests in a Vicariate like Pondicherry, which could [safely] absorb a hundred [if it was all rationally organized]. .

Bishop Bonnand, personally, listened favourably to this thesis. But he never got round to doing anything about it. As for myself, I had neither the drive nor the influence to get over all the obstacles in the way. So I gradually came to the conclusion that [by staying in charge at the Seminary] I was achieving only a temporary progress [for Native Clergy] a very problematic advance which could turn dangerous in the future. [Whatever influence I had was disappearing] especially since the hostility of my confreres against Bishop Luquet had, to a significant extent, been transferred also on to me. How many times was I tempted. because of all that, to leave the Seminary to other hands and withdraw into some District in the interior!

“You know me, O my God (I wrote), how my heart is overwhelmed with sadness. I don’t know what to think; I don’t know what to do. Here we are again; in all appearances down lower than we ever were! Must we still drag along in the same old rut, now worn and dangerous, after our weak efforts to advance (joined to the strong courageous efforts of Bishop Luquet) seemed to have jerked us out of the rut at last! All the miserable (p 637) knocking and discouragement that is going on around here would not matter, if only the great heart and the fearless intelligence of Bishop Luquet had still been allowed to come and act freely on the situation. But now they have tied his hands; and what can I do alone, O my God, for this Work which is so difficult and so surrounded by terrifying questions for the future? Why stay on at the helm of a Seminary that I am unable to steer according to [my map]? Maybe I am just jeopardizing its future, because of my confreres’ distrust of me. But how can I quit the Seminary without it looking like mere whim or caprice? How get out naturally and gently without breaking away from the normal ways of patience and obedience?

“Several times I have proposed resigning to Bishop Bonnand; but he always refused to grant my request. Should I now make a new request (probably with the same result) or should I just go into holy indifference (which is usually pleasing to You, I hear) and stay on here in the midst of a policy which I cannot honestly share, but which I seem to be supporting by staying on? Stay on in a Seminary exclusively for higher-caste boys (a rule which will not be changed for a long time or never): in a kind of Seminary which, at the most, can produce only about a dozen priests in the next twenty years? A dozen priests who are going to be scattered around and treated [stupidly] like their few predecessors up to now, priests who will get discouraged or lost, or who will revolt against us! No; if things go on like this, it will be impossible for me to be actively involved (at least as Superior) in the Work for the Clergy [in this Vicariate]. Anyway, isn’t my title of “Superior” of the Seminary a mere empty illusion? Is it only Bishop Bonnand I have to render an account to? Doesn’t everyone interfere in decisions here? And here I myself begin to feel the dead weight of disorganization in our dear Society, right down on my neck.

“And yet if I leave the Seminary, where will they put me? In the “white college” most probably. I must admit I wouldn’t like that at all. My whole missionary life to go by, teaching a few lay European students bits of Cicero and Maths! Will they let me go into some District in the interior? That’s what my soul cries out for at the moment. To be a missionary and nothing but a missionary, (p 638) that’s all I ever wanted. To be there, with a little community in the interior far from all debates, alone in the midst of a numerous population (alone because they are almost a different nature from us) trying in that solitude to draw nearer and nearer to You, O my God, exercising interior prayer to You and exterior charity to a few poor brothers, for their salvation.

“True, ever since I got to know our Indian missions, and began to sound the depths of our problems here, my heart was inflamed with a great desire [to do something about them]; and You seemed to be supporting that desire, O my God, with powerful signs of hope. The horizon seemed to open out wider than to be just a missionary in the bush. Was it a mirage? Was it merely pride? Or was it indeed a ray from your Spirit, a movement of your Grace, to which I proved unfaithful? Should I just forget it, that good ambition to try and obtain a fundamental lasting benefit for all our Work? O God, you who sound the depths of our hearts, purify and clarify my intentions, and move me along by the breath of your Spirit, the Spirit of calmness and gentleness, enemy of all trouble, disturbance and violence, though not excluding Anxiety, daughter of Ignorance and good Desire.

Rome reiterates my Appointment.

[* A new Stalemate: Bishop Bonnand’s “plan” to “Swop”!*]

During all those trials of mind (and sometimes of heart) God graciously kept my inmost soul in peace. I may have committed some faults (and I certainly was wrong in some of my expressions and some lack of prudence) but basically it was always, and solely, the desire to serve the Church on the missions that made me speak out, act and think. The only thing that really rattled me was my appointment to be bishop; and that had lasted only for a fairly short time. But now that big trouble returned to shake me again, somewhat, with the news brought by the April mailboat. Bishop Bonnand received a letter from Fr Langlois. It included this:

“I am sending on a letter to Your Lordship from the Sacred (p 639) Congregation. They persist in wanting Fr de Brésillac to be consecrated bishop. We have just sent Bishop Luquet the Briefs appointing Fr de Brésillac bishop, asking him [Luquet] to send them back to Pondicherry or to send an authentic copy by the Red Sea …”

Bishop Bonnand showed me this letter, and also the Sacred Congregation’s own. It went [in Latin] like this:

“As regards the administration of the Missions themselves, we have nothing to add except this: we again confirm, through Your Lordship to Fr de Brésillac: he should not refuse the responsibility entrusted to him nor [delay] his episcopal ordination …”

“So here we are again (I wrote in my diary) thrown into renewed trouble; because some people’s minds are not a bit better disposed towards me now, being even more exasperated than ever with Bishop Luquet. The intensification of their anger was shown after the receipt of some recent letters from Luquet, in which he was a bit too inconsiderate towards ordinary human reactions [among the confreres]. The Paris Fathers were rather stupid in choosing him to send back my Bulls! The confreres here are going to have something to say about that! This was the great fear of Bishop Bonnand. And it would be mine also, if I was not rather more in the mood to send those much-travelled Bulls back on a fourth sea voyage, along with the parchment with my wonderful title of “Bishop of Prusa in partibus”!

But now comes a new foul-up [to prevent me giving a definite negative answer]. Bishop Bonnand’s mystifying designs have now begun to come clear. A few days ago His Lordship sent off a bright new idea to the Sacred Congregation, though he never once spoke straight about it to me, not until he was showing me their letter (quoted above). This wonderful plan is nothing else but a completely upside-down version of what has been decided by Rome. 91It shows high regard for me; but it does not please me one bit, because I do not think it can be for the good of India. That (p 640) common good absolutely requires Bishop Bonnand to stay on at his post now. I certainly hope that the S.C will pay no heed to his request. It can only be inspired by his (very understandable) disgust at the whole series of foul-ups, or else by a humility which (though very praiseworthy in itself) is not in my opinion very wise. That’s all I want to say about that “plan” of his. It will be dead on arrival, I hope.

That day, Fr Lehodey, Fr Dupuis and myself (the only people let into the secret) had a long discussion with His Lordship. We got him to agree that if the S.C. made any objections (as It is bound to do) he would immediately drop the plan. But the Bishop wants me to do nothing in the meantime that would render the [swap] impossible, e.g. not to accept Coimbatore; and not to formally refuse [to be any kind of bishop]. So I just have to stay in this new limbo of indecision until we get a reply from the S.C. to this latest idea of Bishop Bonnand’s. How long will that take? Where will it lead us? I can only hope that the end result will be to definitely lift this episcopacy load off my neck, once and for all!

“Why, Lord, did you let them think of me for that load, always heavy anywhere but especially heavy at this time and place! Probably just for my sins. Ah, if it is so, please let me be the only one punished; not my confreres, not the Mission, not the Church in India. It is wobbly enough as it is; it so needs to be handled with care! O Mary, be gracious to us! Pray for the poor Indians; they are so devoted to you!”

Wheels within Wheels.

Luquet wants me at Pondicherry; reasons against.

Meanwhile Bishop Luquet (whose influence still held at Rome) was fighting on the side of those who did not want [India and her Customs] treated with special care (so hurried were their judgments, and so sweeping); and fighting also for the Cause of Native Clergy, trying to block the Jesuits taking over Coimbatore (p 641) while we were squabbling.

“According to the latest letter from Rome to Bishop Bonnand [he wrote to me on 19th March 1846] you will surely have seen that now you must definitely submit to the consecration so long delayed [by you] probably for the greater good of our dear Indian Missions. I do not know whether Bishop Bonnand has given any consideration to my suggestion of 12th January, i.e. to choose you as his Coadjutor in Pondicherry in place of me, and to present three candidates again for Coimbatore. In any event, you will first have to be consecrated, with the (provisional) title of Coimbatore, since that’s what is on your Brief. Then Bishop Bonnand would have to present the request suggested by me (if he has not already done so by the time you receive this). Then I would send in my resignation as Pondicherry Coadjutor. For, I repeat, I will not be returning to India. I would have too much of a credibility problem to be able to do anything…

“Those Paris gentlemen had sent me your Briefs before they received Propaganda’s latest letter [reconfirming you]. Instead of having to return them to Propaganda, I was now obliged (much to my delight) to return them to you. Please let me know soon that, this time, they have had their full effect [i.e. that you are now consecrated or about to be]. That will be a real consolation to me, in the midst of all the contrariness (happy contradictions!) stirred up as a result of Rome’s great and for ever happy Decisions of last year, in support of our fundamental principles. They are already bearing fruit in several places on the Catholic mission fields. Even India (in spite of all the oppositions and stupidities there) is beginning to reap the benefit. This consoles me abundantly for all the bitterness and insults I have to endure.

“It seems that Bishop Bonnand is not going to put me in charge here (directly anyway) of looking after the interests of the Missions entrusted to his care. I am not offended by this (no more than by all the rest). But tell him from me: he is busy cutting off his nose to spite his face. The discussions about the new boundaries of Pondicherry could have turned out disastrous and still can. Just thank the Lord that I was here at the time. And if you are at all interested in keeping Coimbatore [for the Foreign Missions Society] let them consecrate the Pro-Vicar real quick!”

The Bulls arrived back again [on the 13th April] accompanied by a long letter from Bishop Luquet. This is just an extract: (p 642)

“Endure and go forward”. That’s a very noble and extremely practical motto, my dear friend. How glad I am, now, of my little efforts to apply it, with the help of Our Lord Jesus Christ! After all the noise and the roars of disapproval over there, it looks as if a bit of calm will now finally prevail. Already Madras and Ceylon are implementing last year’s Decisions; they are even saying “the moves are very appropriate” and are now at the stage of excuses and apologies for their delaying tactics and stubborn behaviour. It will be the same with all the rest.

“Fr Tesson wrote again yesterday, to reiterate his opinion about you: he believes (as I do) that it is vital for the good of the Mission that you stay at Pondicherry (as Coadjutor) instead of going to Coimbatore; there you can easily be replaced by any of the three names to be presented by Bishop Bonnand (as I have already told the Bishop and yourself). Thus you will be able to complete the important re-arrangements which will lead to the erection of Mysore and Coimbatore as full-blown Vicariates.

“Thanks to a new (and quite visible) help from Our Lord, Coimbatore is now definitely going to stay with us, and also the contested area of Vettar (between Pondicherry and Madurai). Definitely also, they have erected Madurai itself into a distinct Vicariate, under a Jesuit bishop, with some special conditions which you will see later. It’s a great step forward. I think the Jesuits are happy about it. And we should be, too. All we wanted was the principle of the thing; no clique or group rivalry in it. .. “

(He then goes on to describe the work he has been doing for Mgr Blanchet, Vicar Apostolic and now Archbishop of Oregon. Luquet prepared a special Mémoire which Blanchet then presented in his own name).

“You can imagine, dear friend, how I enjoyed writing that Mémoire, which came in so handy to confirm our principles. When sending me a printed copy, Bishop Blanchet wrote that he was “very happy to be following in my footsteps”. But I was even happier, to see those faint footsteps of mine getting clearer and more solidly outlined every day. Let us give glory to Our Lord; he did it all. And let us bow down humbly at our own weakness; it is still holding up so many good things! …

“About two weeks ago, I got your letter of the 8th January. Mine of the 21st December must have reached you after that; and you will have seen from it that your friendship need have no fear in speaking out with the openness long agreed between us. In the close (p 643)

unity of that precious friendship in God, please accept. .. Etc…

Yours sincerely, as (I hope, soon)

a brother bishop”.

That idea of keeping me at Pondicherry (as Coadjutor, to take over the Vicariate afterwards) did not suit Bishop Bonnand at all badly. It was indirectly in harmony with his own “plan” secretly communicated to a few of us some days before. Later, when Bishop Luquet actually resigned [as Coadjutor] the plan came up again; but it could not overcome my misgivings.

By its position, Pondicherry is a strategic post where you could do a great deal of good; it has influence on all South India. Unfortunately this advantage is counter-balanced by some huge drawbacks which would make it morally impossible for me to do that good there. Like all the coastal trading cities, it has both the advantages and disadvantages of [“civilization”] or European influence. Moreover, there are the two ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the city; the “white town” has its own (colonial) clergy; but we still have to intervene in a whole lot of things that should apparently be their concern alone. (This ridiculous dual situation would long ago have been abolished if our Society’s administration was not so useless). A great many petty clashes have arisen from the legal anomaly in the past; and even more of them are inevitable in the future, with the Jesuits.

If the Jesuits did not refrain from offending Bishop Bonnand (to whom they owe their return to Madurai) what will they be like when Pondicherry has a bishop to whom they personally owe nothing? And what would it be like if the said bishop was someone they had a grievance against (like me) for openly pushing a principle [Native Clergy] which they were doing their best to elude and escape? A man who did his level best (but only inside ecclesiastical circles) to keep them out of the “white college”!

So, until such time as all our problems were sorted out, it was vital that Bishop Bonnand should keep all his authority, and should use it. I felt he would actually use it in favour of Bishop Luquet’s principles (which were also mine) 92apart from some points which would not make a major difference to the future.(p 644) So I was absolutely opposed to becoming Coadjutor there with right of succession. Moreover, that would kill any remaining hope of Bishop Luquet’s return to India. True, he could hardly come back now and it looked like he never could. But time is a great healer; I put my hope in that, and in God. Finally, I did not want to become any kind of Bishop just then.

Decision Imperative. Special Council says YES.

But it “must be Secret”. Gregory XVI dead.

More Complications.

Bishop Bonnand was getting no reply at all to the secret “plan” he had proposed to Rome [the “swop”]. And he was soon going to leave on a prolonged pastoral visitation. My position was now getting critical; and I did not want to leave it all up to me. So I asked Bishop Bonnand to convene an extraordinary Council of all the missionaries then present at Pondicherry (himself and Frs Dupuis, Lehodey, Mousset, Pouplin, Richon, Leroux, Godet and me). When they came together, I presented them with this statement of the question:

“In view of the whole present situation and past events.(which are known to you all) can I now (in conscience and without harm to our Missions) proceed with my own unchanged personal inclination in all this, i.e. send back my Bulls and refuse the episcopate?”

I then withdrew, to leave room for complete freedom of discussion. I never got to know how that discussion actually went. But the end result was clear: that there was nothing I could do but accept the episcopacy. That was the considered opinion of all of them, with one abstention (I don’t know who).

“This is the Council’s conclusion (I then wrote). But when all is said and done, am I obliged to follow it? Must I now regard it as the expression of Your Will, O my God? Enlighten me, Lord. (p 645) O Mary comes to my aid, so that the holy Will of God, and that Will alone, may be accomplished.”

Before Bishop Bonnand set out, he had obtained my promise: I would accept. He more or less fixed the date and place of consecration: Holy

Rosary Sunday, at Karumattampatty, the principal mission in Coimbatore Province.

It was, of course, impossible to keep all this secret: but Bishop Bonnand still insisted that it should not be officially announced; for he still had some hopes that his unfortunate “plan” might be approved at Rome.

Meanwhile we learnt that Rev Fr Canoz SJ had been appointed Bishop/vicar Apostolic of Madurai, henceforth to be a distinct Vicariate. 93There was talk that Rev Fr Bertrand was coming back soon.

Then some very sad news came to our ears: the death of a Pope who had become very dear to us, the venerable Gregory XVI, who had done so much for the Missions.

My painful situation in the midst of all these happenings was set out in my diary:

“Everybody now knows that my Bulls have come back here, and many know something about my acceptance. Even the date of my consecration has been leaked. And still Bishop Bonnand does not want it mentioned in public, because of his famous secret proposal to Rome. The public, knowing nothing about that, is fairly astonished at the strange, artificial way His Lordship and my confreres now treat me. This ludicrous humiliation might be very good for me, if it did not resemble the same old dismal opposition towards me and Luquet. Many conclude from it that Bishop Bonnand is still against my appointment, and that we are hardly on speaking terms! It seems to me that they could [have dropped all the nonsensical secrecy and thus] have avoided this (p 646) harmful artificial atmosphere (much more harmful to the general morale of our work than to me personally). How hard it is to achieve common mutual understanding, even in trying to do good together!

“But now along come some more little puzzles, which could turn out very serious. A Jesuit Father has been appointed Bishop [their first ever here]. An excellent thing in itself; but it could mean trouble for us if we don’t look out, when it comes to fixing the official boundary between Madurai and Pondicherry. Rev Fr Bertrand is coming back to India; and it is well known that he doesn’t make any move without a good ulterior motive. There’s nothing (not even an illness or an indisposition) that he won’t know how to turn into profit for his plans. Clever; not necessarily wrong. But if those plans of his still happen to include “our” Missions, we had better watch out! The death of the Pope could give a new turn to many things. Note how the Rev Fathers are still pushing for a ridiculous boundary change on the banks of the Vettar, a territorial claim which would be incredible (even from the Jesuits) if it wasn’t intended to make Rome go back to the drawing-board and maybe re-draw the already decided boundaries. This is the kind of hassle that always occurs in long drawn-out affairs when we neglect to foresee the probable and possible snags, and to take action in time.94

“I wrote about all that to Bishop Bonnand; but he did not take it at all well. And yet everything I told him was supported by the opinion of all my Pondicherry confreres. This negative reaction showed me that the Bishop has not quite got over all his suspicions of me; and it is only too obvious that he is still very annoyed at Bishop Luquet. Certainly, his intentions are the best; but I do not hesitate to say that his half-and-half attitude towards me is one of the worst things I have to put up with just now. God forbid that I should resent this in any way. But it is not very encouraging to foresee myself having to exercise the episcopate in this kind of (p 647) atmosphere and be deprived of this great consolation: the friendly and fatherly support of Bishop Bonnand, and the frank and trusting discussion of all my problems and ideas with him.

. “In that letter (and another was written the same day to the Bishop by Fr Lehodey on the advice of Fr Dupuis and other confreres) I said it would be good and useful if Bishop Bonnand agreed to consecrate me and Mgr Canoz together at Trichinopoly. It would save us much time, trouble, expense and travelling. The Jesuit Fathers would be pleased rather than otherwise with this arrangement. It would suit us from every point of view. If I am consecrated at Karumattampatty I can not decently avoid inviting their Bishop (or bishop-elect), and we know from sad experience that, whenever the Madurai Jesuits come among us, there may be some new embarrassing incidents. Finally, the imposing ceremony at Trichy (where the Jesuits have such a splendid church and Christian community) would impress all South India and rattle the Goa Schism, our common enemy and the enemy of Holy Church. But Bishop Bonnand rejected the whole idea. I don’t know why.

(Anyway, by a combination of unforeseen circumstances it became impossible. It seems that the death of Gregory XVI held up Mgr Canoz’s Bulls, and he was not consecrated until several months later).

  • Sombre Denunciation of Madurai French Jesuits’ Infiltrations*

[* Were the Tragedies meant to warn them?*]

During that time the business of the “white college” was concluded. The Mission took it over, on the conditions already indicated; and now we were only waiting for a few new missionaries, and the start of the school year, before moving in. It seems that the Paris Fathers eventually got the message: if we wanted to keep the Indian Missions, retained when handing back Madurai to the Jesuits, it was absolutely necessary to keep the Jesuits out of Pondicherry.

(p 648) The Rev Fathers never forgave myself for the active part I played in that affair. But they weren’t beaten yet. And I am convinced that even now [1855] they have not given up all hope of eventually replacing the Foreign Missions in all of South India.

They needed some College or other [in our area] to draw the French into their orbit. They tried at Tranquebar and failed. Then they laid the foundations of a magnificent establishment at Nagapattinam, near Karaikal [a French enclave] well connected with Pondicherry. However, their progress there was held up by some cruel tribulations. In the mood I was in, I even thought these might possibly be considered as a “warning from heaven”! In my diary at the time I find an item which is probably unworthy of approval in all respects; but it very accurately conveys what we all felt at the time, about the Fathers’ carry-on. I say “we all” because I distinctly remember that this item was written under the influence of a thought that came to many of us at the time.

“God forbid that in writing this I should claim to be able to see into the admirable designs of Providence, still less that I should scoff at the tragedies of others. The Jesuits have just lost a surprising number of men, one after the other. 95We mourn with them; we pray for their dead. For, even if it was permissible to suspect that this tragic series of events might be a warning from heaven, that warning would be for the whole Jesuit clan in Madurai, and not for those members; assuredly they died in the Grace of Our Lord. This speculation of ours is no insult to our dead brothers, nor any attempt to judge other people. God is the only Judge. But Our Divine Saviour assures us that not even a hair falls from our head without His permission.

And when we see, in that context, the underhand tricks of the Jesuits against us, isn’t it permissible to wonder, Lord, if you yourself are not taking a hand, taking the side of fair play against [territorial] ambition, of simplicity against cunning, of honest work for Your Church against a

.most peculiar way of [planning and] acting. The only motivation they can have for it all is a most (p 649) lamentable corporate pride, whose results can sometimes be even worse than those of individual arrogance.

“For truly, although I feel the greatest hesitation in writing such rough language, I do not believe it is too severe for the Madurai Jesuits after three or four years, now, of petty quarrels, slippery dodges, unworthy procedures! And why? Obviously in order to take over all our Indian Missions again, and to implement all the ancient policy of their Fathers to the former outside limits. They seem to forget that, if those Fathers of the Old Company worked wonders in India (which we are the first to recognize and admire) they also fell into some remarkable aberrations. These have been written down, not by the anticlerical enemies of the Jesuits, but in the [official] history of the Malabar and Chinese Rites and Customs and in the Bulls of Benedict XIV.

“Do they ever stop and think that, if they continue like this, their imitation of their predecessors may become too complete, taking in their errors as well as their goodness! [To put the clock back to that period is their aim] in trying to block the [renewed policy and] action of the Foreign Missions Society, forcing Luquet and several of his confreres to fight back at them on certain issues, even though all we wanted with all our heart was to be in peace and union with them.

“At first they were all flattery for Bishop Bonnand. Then they carved out an independent jurisdiction for themselves (first de facto, then de iure). Today it’s just one chicanery or dirty trick after another (no other word for them) in order to establish a bridgehead inside his remaining territory, or to encroach as far in as possible from the parts already taken. They are not content with the best part of his former jurisdiction. Certainly, if it was a mere question of territory, I would be very willing to yield it to them. I said it before and I say it again: Isn’t the world big enough, aren’t the pagan lands still plentiful enough, to go and preach the Kingdom of Christ in? If you insist on taking the country on the left hand, dear Fathers, we will take the right. If you prefer the right, we will take the left. But please, let’s have no quarrels, for we are brothers.

“But there’s more to it than that. It is first and foremost a question of fundamental principle: Native Clergy or not. Then (p 650) there is the “principle” of the sort of “ownership” which unfortunately we all (but most of all the Jesuits) tend to assume over the places we first evangelized. So, is a Mission a property? Just because some religious Order (or pious Society) evangelized some area for a long time, does that area (and the Christian communities in it) therefore belong to that group? Ah, my God! if we think and talk like that, and try to manoeuvre accordingly, when will these [communities and] peoples belong to You? When will the [local, independent autonomous] Church take root in those countries?

“That there may be good reasons of convenience for leaving the same Order or Society in charge of the Missions it is working, as long as the circumstances remain the same, I freely admit. But as soon as the common good requires that it give way to others, should it hesitate one moment? The property on the Mission can never be allowed to become the property of the Order; disorder will be the consequence, in my opinion.

“Whatever about all that, the present intention of the Madurai Jesuits is no longer in any doubt. Having been called back here by us, they must now push us out entirely, and recapture all their former Missions here. Everything must be sacrificed to that Aim.

“But then, in 1843, when they were most strongly reinforced, when victory seemed assured by the sheer numbers and distinguished talents of their task force, God permitted cholera to snatch away several of their principal Fathers one after the other. Just then, too, when they had the greatest need for astuteness; because He sent Luquet to the Foreign Missions; Luquet knew them and he blew the whistle on them. He had nothing against them: and he did nothing either. He only kept sentry watch, and alerted his unbelieving confreres against the danger. They just laughed; they almost accused him of calumny. But soon the facts began to open their eyes, and to give some weight to his warnings. Bishop Bonnand began to see; even his unwise councillors began to have some suspicions [of what they were up against]. And although they continued to give opportunities to their enemies, by endless waffling and cowardly compromises, still the Jesuits did (p 651) not have it all their own way any more; some of their best plots were foiled. Their magnificent plan to take over three-quarters of our Mission collapsed. They now could expect only partial success; for the moment at least, they must be satisfied with Madurai proper.

“Nevertheless, they do not despair for the future. In India, in France, in Rome, everything is being deployed to finish off Mgr Luquet. And in this they have a very good chance of success. Fr Bertrand went off to Europe on that special mission. There he will stay or here he will return, according ‘as tactics require. He has a convenient slight illness (not diplomatic; it is quite real) to cover his going and staying. Already, it has allowed him to stay on here plausibly after the Synod, long enough to lay his mines. Fortunately, most of them failed to explode.

“Meanwhile, it is so vitally important for them to circumvent us that they have partly pulled out from some of their interior missions in order to concentrate their Fathers on the Northern frontier. From there, by swift sorties of all kinds and by well-directed letters, and by pointless but significant visits, they try to win minds and hearts, and to isolate the enemy, so that later on they can push forward to their objective. All these subversive moves are covered up by a charming, good natured bonhomie and an admirable pious decorum. It’s so good that anyone who says, “look out! see underneath!”96 will almost automatically be condemned as an atheist.

“The most astonishing example of their [expansionist strategy] at the moment is their new College at Nagapattinam. They “must” have a College for French in their Vicariate – even though there isn’t a single French-speaking inhabitant in that area! Meanwhile they are hurriedly moving their Fathers in there, so that [French] classes can start before we reopen the “white college”!

“The cruel losses they sustained in 1843 were easily “explained” by “the poor care” they took of their health. True (p 652) enough, the life of a missionary in India (especially when he is a real missionary, like the Jesuits and the Foreign Missions) is hard indeed; and it does contribute to the early death of quite a few. But it is not as bad as certain exaggerated reports make it out to be, or as might be suggested by the exceptional lives of a few great Saints. In Europe as well, there were Saints who conceded nothing to the needs of human nature; and I do not criticize their superiors for ordering them to look after their health. And it is not to criticize the Jesuits, either, that I now quote a remark of Bishop Bonnand, who wrote to me recently after spending some time with a few of them: “The Jesuits now look after their temporal wellbeing in a superior manner”. I just want to say that it was not as a result of too many mortifications or too little care that the latest tragedies struck them. One of them (Fr Daugnac) is a doctor, specially appointed to look after his confreres’ health. And yet, all of a sudden, in spite of all his precautions, two Fathers were swept away by the terrible cholera. Another died at about the same time, in a mission in the interior. One of their most important men. A fourth has just died on arrival at the Nagapattinam College. (All the students immediately deserted it).

“Once again, God forbid that I should even try to scrutinize the inscrutable designs of Providence. If it wants to strike ourselves it won’t be short of good reasons. Only, it seems to me that it is not against the spirit of Faith, it is not uncharitable, to think that those tragedies could well be a warning from heaven. The Jesuits, no doubt, taken as a whole, believe that what they are doing to us is good, because their group solidarity or esprit de corps, which they have developed to the highest degree, is blinding them [to the wrong they are doing]. Individually, they are nearly all totally innocent; theirs not to reason why, or to question their [overseas] superiors. Even these are not to blame, often, because they do not see things close up. They have to depend on reports; and these reports are written with esprit de corps and interpreted by it.

“But it is just because of that [perfectly closed and sometimes vicious circle] that Heaven might have to intervene [to let in some light], to take the side of truth (which seems quite clear to outsiders (p 653) outsiders) against involuntary error. The personal virtues of those good Fathers (we mourn for them; today I said Mass for them) will no doubt already have opened the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem to them. May they join the great Saints which the Company of Jesus has produced, to be our glorious Protectors! For these are the Saints I mostly pray to, in all my problems here in India. I invoke especially the immortal Saint Francis Xavier. He would certainly be on our side in the Native Clergy dispute; he showed that clearly in the affair of the College (or rather Seminary) of Santa Fe. He was against his confreres on that issue.

. “For already, at that early period, they probably had something of that unfortunate germ [of clannishness] which has since taken hold in their great Company. In general, religious Orders begin to show their mettle right at the start: in a few great Saints they show the virtues the Order was providentially founded to bring out; and m a few of their less perfect members they show the special defects which will always be inherent in the Order so that nothing perfect may ever last in the world, but only the Word made Flesh, and His Church.

“Do not be offended, O Xavier, with what I have just written. I imagine you would think the same, you the energetic supporter of everything truly apostolic. And wouldn’t it be a great service to your illustrious Society to let them see the reality, i.e. that their excessive esprit de corps is doing them grevious harm (even while their exemplary humility is saving their individual members). Anathema on the impiety of those who invent scandals against the Jesuits! But we have to admit that the Jesuits themselves often supply them with good ammunition, by their unwise prudence. So pray for us all, Ignatius and Xavier; pray for us and our poor [confused] missions in India!

[* Bishop Bonnand says: go Public. Prayer.*]

About the beginning of August, Bishop Bonnand at last received a reply from Rome: his too-humble “plan” did not impress.97 (p 654) He was still out on pastoral visitation at the time. He wrote to me immediately: seeing the latest reactions from Rome and Paris, he was not going to continue stubbornly with the “plan”; he saw it was being resisted on all sides. Consequently he asked me to [come out of hiding], to publicly take on the rank of Bishop-elect, and to start preparations for the consecration. He himself agreed to do it (as I had requested). It would be at Karumattampatty, on the 4th October, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, the big day in that area. Immediately all the confreres then in Pondicherry come to pay me a courtesy call. The Seminary also came in a body, to congratulate me, and to express their regrets that I was leaving. Routine compliments, mostly. But what a few of my dear seminarians had to say was very real. The Indians are not always as “ungrateful” as they are accused of being. For my own part, they were about the only people in Pondicherry that I was sorry to be leaving. No turning back, now.

“This is it (I wrote) O my God, the moment after which I cannot decline the heavy burden of the episcopacy. Lord, hear this one prayer at least, which comes from the bottom of my heart: May my work as Bishop be pleasing to You, and of some use to the Church and the missions: the Indian Missions and especially the new Mission presided over by the Angel of Coimbatore! Never let me turn aside from the path of Justice and Faith. Lead me yourself, Lord, by the breath of your Spirit. And oh, if I were ever going to be unfaithful to You, my God, I ask You now, on my knees I beg You: send me the Angel of your merciful anger, send me the Angel of Death, now, to cut short my days before I could be consecrated Bishop for my damnation and disaster!”

[* Luquet’s Fighting Words (on Paris Fathers, Jesuits)…*]

  • Vicars Apostolic now Obsolete.*

Now everything seemed to be going smoothly. Even the most suspicious confreres seemed to have forgotten all their discontent. (p 655) Nobody gave me the cold shoulder. I wish to God they had also recovered from their disastrous prejudices against Bishop Luquet! He wrote me, dated 13th June:

“I don’t know when it will please the Lord to put an end to the pestering annoyances for which I have become the target, over the last ten months, from my confreres in India and from elsewhere. They started off by getting everything wrong; and they continue by consistently misinterpreting everything I do or say. Having acted in the beginning according to my conscience and in the way that seemed most appropriate to the situation, I cannot now reasonably say anything except that, in the same circumstances, I would do the same again. This is what they are reproaching me for maintaining. Just recently they wrote again from Paris; they seemed to think it was damnable obstinacy on my part. What’s obstinate about a man saying that, having carefully examined his conscience, he still can’t find anything wrong with certain moves that he made, the moves demanded by the circumstances! I fail to see any obstinacy there, and I wrote back to tell our gentlemen just that. Oh, I also told them that I had no intention to do any further Society business on their behalf until I had come to a clear understanding with them. What more could they want?

“In the meantime, Our Lord’s Providence will have to foil our adversaries’ plots, every day, if we are to hang on to our gains in the midst of all this in-fighting. Would you believe it, their moves to get Coimbatore are hardly ended, even today? I greatly fear now that, with the new Pope, they are going to try again, if we give them the slightest opportunity or hope of success. I have written to Bishop Bonnand to make use of the conclave period in order to take effective possession of all his rights in Coimbatore and on his Southern frontier. If he comes up against any resistance, he must act “like one having authority.” Because, until the new Briefs (making Madurai a distinct Vicariate] he is the Superior, in fact and in law, over the Madurai missionaries, just as well as over all the rest of his jurisdiction …

“If you act with firmness in all cases of obstruction to Propaganda’s orders, you can be sure you will be supported by Rome, no matter who is the next Pope … I hope therefore that your next letter will be signed “Bishop, and Pro-Vicar to Bishop Bonnand” (whether in Coimbatore or Pondicherry) while awaiting better (for him and for you).”

(This “better” was, no doubt (in his ideas) the title of ordinary Bishop.(p 656) For Bishop Bonnand continued to think the same as us on that point, as also did the Irish Bishops (at least in Madras and Calcutta). About this time, I think, Bishop Carew wrote to Bishop Bonnand, insisting strongly that the time was right for erecting residential episcopal sees in India. I was shown that letter, and I was struck by the similarity between its main arguments and those developed in Bishop Blanchet’s Mémoire, which Luquet had summarized for me. So true is it that the fundamental needs of the two countries are almost identical; and indeed the needs of all countries not yet Catholic, but having Christianity present and known for a long time, ought to be the same. Vicars Apostolic, queer beings almost unheard-of in the early Church (at least in their present form) can only be a temporary expedient; and it should be no great surprise to anyone that they become obsolete, outside the exact temporary situation which required their setting up.

Generally, this idea does not go down at all well with the people [in Europe] looking after the Missions, for so few of them have a complete grasp of the Work. And when a man like Luquet (able to think big) goes there, such short-sighted people [freeze] and become a much bigger obstacle to progress than all the local obstacles on the ground. Those people will put a stop to his gallop very quickly; by their sheer numerical superiority they wear he down (as unfortunately happens here also, only too often).

[* Short-sighted Directors, e.g. Fr Albrand.*]

[* An Indian’s [1855] Lament.*]

Such [i.e. short-sighted] must the majority of our poor Paris Directors be, in the nature of things. Most of them are ordinary missionaries chosen at random to be Procurators for their respective Missions; not to be planners making wise use of their (equally random) de facto authority. (Not even collectively wise). The following extract [in a letter from Fr Albrand, 28 July 1846] betrays this myopia. It also [indirectly] reveals many other truths (and I will take the liberty of drawing them out at some length). Evidently (p 657) this confrere had partially modified his earlier ideas when he wrote:

“..; India, I believe, has never been carefully worked and cultivated according to the true principles of Catholicism. We have done a lot of good there (as evidenced by the considerable number of Christians still in the country) but we have neglected the most efficacious principle of conservation and propagation, in neglecting to train native clergy. “

(Would he say that four years ago? Would he have allowed anyone to criticize the Jesuits or even our own Foreign Missions predecessors in India?)

“This is a truth which nobody now can deny …”

(Let us rejoice, at least, in this consoling admission. Nobody can deny it now; but a few years ago you could. Yes, you could deny it; but only by using false but plausible reasons. You had to deny it. For you had to pretend that we have always “done our best” for Native Clergy. It would have been “reckless” to maintain that we could have done a great deal more).

“I even think it is now embarrassing to want to over-prove it …”

(That it could be embarrassing for some of us, I can well believe. And their embarrassment shows that, in fact, there are plenty of people who don’t want to hear too much talk of Native Clergy. Because they are yet to be really converted, if not in theory, then in practice. If you were writing to prove the existence of God, would you be worried or “embarrassed” if a whole lot of other people came forward, on all sides, wanting to affirm and “over-prove” it? If you wrote a new treatise on the Sacraments, would anyone be against your writing about them, except heretics? [Are you worried that the truth might feel embarrassed by over-exposure?] We might risk getting trampled in the fight for Truth; but the only risk Truth has to worry about is the risk of being forgotten.

God grant that, even at the expense of our repose (or indeed our life) we may at least manage to guarantee the survival of this truth [native clergy, in the memory of mankind] even by “overproving” it a bit, i.e. by proving it more than is necessary for notional, theoretical assent but not more than is needed for real conviction (p 658) and action! For if you merely prove it “enough” the Work of Native Clergy is going to be either neglected or left half-done. This has all too often happened to it before, in most of the Missions.

“I believe it is more prudent to prove it by deeds rather than by arguments, just as a man might prove forward-movement by actually walking …”

(Yes, but… he would need space. What if his hands and legs were tied? Would his opponents be sufficiently convinced by mere head and shoulder wriggling? So, please give us some space and freedom of movement. The Work of Clergy needs quite a lot of space, because it reaches out into nearly every aspect of Church administration. Even inside the small area you allowed us, hemmed in by several restrictions on our movements, we have already proved the following by deeds: it is possible to form excellent clerics in India, and good priests as well. These priests were perfectly and exactly what they ought to be; before they came out; then they collided with the sharp angles of your badly defective administrative structure. (And, even after the shock, they were not as badly bruised by it as one might expect). You have since knocked some of the dangerous edges off, and for this I congratulate you; but there are still some bad ones remaining.

Maybe, after it all, we will be able to die with the hope that, by our constant [and boring] repetitions of unquestionable truths (which unfortunately need something more than mere academic “proof” to be really accepted) we will have contributed a little to the ultimate triumph of Native Clergy, a Work which alone (when it is generally accepted in all its ramifications) can ensure the continuity of the Faith, even in the countries where the Gospel has long been preached.)

“If you have read Fr Bertrand’s Mernoire and the other tracts on Native Clergy, you will have seen that nobody (not even the Jesuits) puts the principle of Native Clergy into doubt”.

(What does it matter to us that they don’t put it into doubt, when they still don’t put it into practice!)

“They merely want to show that they are free of blame for not implementing it on a big scale. Because (they say) they had very sound reasons for not doing so”.

(p 659) (Always the same. And they will always have similarly sound reasons for refusing. Because this is a Work that will always be a threat to any missionary group that has a strong esprit de corps; and most obviously of all to the Jesuits, because theirs is the strongest esprit of them all (or the most negative towards outsiders). So, if you ever want Native Clergy to win, you just have to keep on insisting, with a sort of dogged obstinacy, to show that they are to blame; not only the Jesuits but several other groups who have failed to apply the principle widely enough. “To blame”; don’t get us wrong. We are not attacking the honesty or the personal virtues of any of those famous missionaries. We are merely saying (and I hope proving) that they have been on a wrong track, collectively, blinded by their own group loyalty and misled by an unfortunate “system”. Please recognize: it is not for the mere pleasure of attacking our brothers (living or dead) that we keep this investigation going. And do not be too annoyed at us. You yourself can see that their “reasons” for neglecting this fundamental Work are not of much value. For you add:

“Those reasons, God knows what they are worth!”

So now, recognize also that your next conclusion is unacceptable:

“Obviously, since nobody denies the principle [of Native Clergy] it is now pointless and even dangerous to keep on hammering it too much, in my opinion. The past is past. Let us think for the future and get down to work”.

(I’d be glad to agree, if we were getting down to work. But since we aren’t (or anyway not enough) the really dangerous thing to do now would be to keep silent and let them quietly jeopardize the whole future again, by letting the present be just like the past. In. spite of all their fine words, have the Jesuits done a single [diocesan] ordination in Madurai (apart from a few incorporated, according the old “system” into their Order)? Have they even the shadow of a Seminary (even though they have labelled a section of their Nagapattinam College “the Seminary”)? Have they ceased from boosting, applying and propagating their Catechist System, which is radically incompatible with Native Clergy?

You may say to me: “Just get down to work on it yourself, and let the Jesuits do their own thing”. Can’t you see that, on such (p 660) a fundamental point as this, all the Missions (and especially Missions as close as ours) are interdependent, and are inevitably bound to sink or swim together!

And what if you yourselves are hemming us in, preventing our work and free movement in the little bit of space left to us! Because that is just what is happening as a result of your incredible conduct towards us.)

“And indeed [you all] did get down working [in the Seminary etc]. But soon I was grieved to see that, immediately after the proclamation of the policy [of Native Clergy, your energies were dispersed] your moral and physical forces were weakened, your finances and personnel were divided, by the sudden erection of two new Vicariates Apostolic”.

(Right. And that was precisely the first preliminary move that had to be made. Normal Dioceses would have been much better; but anyway this was a step in the right direction. And we’d have got to the Dioceses too, if it wasn’t for the mindless opposition of [you] our confreres [in Paris]. But happily the new Vicariates happen to suit other interests apart from Native Clergy; so their timeliness is generally recognized by all missionaries here, except the Jesuits, who really don’t need any bishops in their missions. As long as the Jesuits are allowed to carryon in their own fashion, all they need is to have some bishop or other at a safe distance (say 500 miles) for the ordination (very rare) of a few native Jesuits. For all the rest, they can do very fine without one. In fact the appointment of one of their own Fathers to be Bishop is an embarrassment to them.

Just look at events in Madurai since Rev Fr Canoz was consecrated bishop. What is he there now but a spare wheel? Even if he personally wanted his episcopate to work normally, could he do it? Among the Jesuits there are a few who [might support him because they] think the same way as us. But in practice these men are obliged to behave differently from what they think. Certainly I do not blame them. Obedience is the muscles and sinews of any organization. It’s because the Jesuits observe it so perfectly that they are so strong, and do so much good. So, if the Jesuits as a group do push in a certain wrong direction, the individual Jesuit is nearly always innocent. I knew one in Madurai, and he shared (p 661) nearly every single one of our views about Native Clergy; he was just as convinced as us that, in Madurai as well as in Pondicherry, there could and should be a decent and decent-sized Clergy. This Father had more than one good discussion with me; and I could see how deeply and sincerely he felt about all this. Well, he gave me to understand (for he had to be very cautious) that Bishop Canoz was in favour of Native Clergy himself; he would like to change the so-called Seminary at Nagapattinam into something real, to actually produce a few secular priests. But he was never able to get any action from his members, even though he is supposed to be their Superior. In actual fact they have a different Superior, one more in line with the tradition and [unwritten] rules of the Company …).

[You have also weakened yourselves] by taking on the College Royal. It will bring some benefit of course, but only a secondary and a local one. It will use up a lot of your best “brains”.

(Even already, I’d say, Fr Albrand was about the only one to still think so [negatively] about it in Paris. No need to go into all my reasons for supporting the move. It had more to do with Native Clergy than he might guess. Because nearly everything in a Mission is linked to that all-important factor).

“Around the central practical issue of Native Clergy you have grouped several petty touchy issues, like spikes on to a wheel…”

(Who is being touchy? We had to go into those delicate issues; and we thought they [in Paris] would be big enough not to get touchy about them).

“[You dragged in the question of episcopal] titular rank.”

(Short-sighted man! Can’t you see that ordinary episcopal power is closely linked with Native Clergy? Can’t you see that the lack of it by the Vicars Apostolic has been disastrous for more than a century!

Here I have to “drag in” a quotation from a recent [1855] letter by an excellent Indian Priest:

“We had been thinking that now, at long last, the example of the great Apostle was going to be followed: The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organized there and (p 662) appoint priests98in every town, in the way that I told you”. But now what a disappointment! What a sad disaster!99 When Rome originally established the new Society of Foreign Missions at Paris, she intended (they say) to make Vicars Apostolic and to send them into far countries to ordain native priests and thus convert those peoples. Has the plan been changed? For now I see each Mission receiving more European priests than it even needs for itself. The old residential bishops have been far better at this [ordination] plan of Rome’s than are the present Vicars Apostolic (who were supposed to be sent here for that very purpose). They ordained more men in a year than the Vicars Apostolic in a lifetime. “

(He means the Portuguese bishops in [17-18 c.] India. They committed the opposite mistake from the fewness we now deplore. The flaws in the Indo-Portuguese clergy were serious, although the descriptions of them have often been highly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the deplorable consequences of having no native clergy at all are much worse).

“Coimbatore Seminary is now an orphan. At Mysore the seminary doesn’t even exist; it’s now going to be an isolation ward, an orphanage, or a school for creole girls. The only thing we hear about nowadays is Catechist centres and more Catechist Centres. They say these are “to complement” the work of Native Clergy. I don’t understand how that could be [with no native clergy to complement].

“The next Instruction [which they have strongly sollicited from Rome, and now obtained at last] is going to put everything back to square one.100

Back to Fr Albrand [in 1846]:

“[On to the issue of Native Clergy, people now attach other irrelevant (p 663) miserable questions like] replying to “insults” against our dead predecessors etc.101I call those questions “miserable” not because they are unworthy of all attention but because they are irrelevant at this time. What is relevant now will be a good practical proof of the training in your seminaries, before worrying our heads about such matters”.

(Anything to avoid a comprehensive vision of the whole Work. The work of Native Clergy is not just seminaries. “Such matters” (and a host of others) have to be faced if you really and effectively want to make a good clergy possible. Bishop Luquet saw it all at a glance, and he treated (or at least sketched out) all the requirements with a sure hand. Let us forgive him a few unavoidable mistakes of detail; but the more we progress the more we admire how right he was, in his views and reasonings on those difficult matters.

[* Second (and Last) Prizegiving Address:*]

  • Work now for Equality. Details of Progress. A Dieu.*

So now I was getting ready to leave Pondicherry, to say farewell to my dear Seminary. It was the end of the school year; for we had transferred the long vacation to August – September… As I had done a year and a half ago, I now sent out invitations to the principal “white town” authorities and the principal Malabaris, to come to the public School Exercises and Prizegiving. They all came very graciously. Seeing that the Mission was soon about to start running the “White College”, the Europeans were very interested to see how our Indian students had fared in the meantime. I think they were quite satisfied with them. Apart from French, Tamil and Latin, the students were quizzed on History, Geography and Mathematics. The top students worked out problems in Algebra and Geometry. They talked through (p 664) some experiments in Physics and wound up with a Latin debate on a point in Metaphysics!

The session was presided over by His Excellency the Governor, in the absence of Bishop Bonnand. The City Manager, the President of the High Court and several Councillors were also present, with a considerable crowd of other notables from the two “towns”. At the end I gave the following address:

“Gentlemen:

“It is now more than a year since I had the honour of addressing you, on the motives for hope shown by IndianYouth in the context of the perfect education we now seem to be in a position to offer them. We are happy to be able to confirm, today, that those hopes have become a reality, a deep conviction in us, certitude irrefutably proved. No, I have no fear of being proved wrong in the future; the Indians have the ability for mastering a complete education, such as Christianity alone can give.

“In the meantime, gentlemen, may we now, from afar, salute the happy day when this kind of education will bring forth all its inherent fruits of social regeneration and developed civilization! But here I have to stop short, not daring to promise or to prophesy anything. Because, however “possible” something may be, it still needs (in order to become real) to be effectively willed. And (since we are made like this) in order to will it, man has to have something to gain from it. Of course there is the supernatural reward to be had from any kind of Truth; but this is too far above ordinary thinking (especially pagan) to be able to make any practical impression on a people.

“We have the hope, indeed, that God, master of Nature as well as Grace, will predispose minds and hearts to receive the fullness of His revelation by first giving them the natural benefits of a wise, solid and enlightened Education. But it is not for us to fix the moment of His mercy; ours only to prepare the way by developing the intelligence of the youth and by interesting it in all that is true; because whatever is true is in some way a participation in pure Truth, which is God.

“Thus, among Indians distinguished for their superior intellect, I think I can see a firm and growing determination to allow their youth to enjoy the benefits of Education. But, let us face it, this enlightened attitude is not widespread enough. Moreover, it is not being encouraged enough by those who hold the reins of government; not enough to let the nation see what great benefits can be (p 665) gained from Education. “What use is it?” asks the man in the street, quite unable to imagine the beneficial influence that a true Idea can have on the future of a whole People.

“The true friends of India will be those who can find a way to interest the people in the love of Knowledge, in cultivating truth of all kinds. Not necessarily Truth for its own sake. For, as I said, very few people anywhere can follow that. So some other way is needed, to make the people will an activity they are hardly able to even wish today, unless some “practical” human aim attracts them to it.

“I think it is a fair interpretation of the best feelings of the European nations (especially France) to state that their dearest wish would be to initiate all the peoples of the earth into the secrets of European power and glory – if these peoples arc ready to come into harmony with the spirit of Europe. Am I claiming too much for [us missionaries] when I say that, as well as the mandate we have from the Holy Sec to preach the Gospel, we also have a mission to introduce our faithful to the magnificent new cultures that can grow in the sunlight of the Faith! This “second” mission we are now trying to begin to fulfil here in an appropriate way, without encroaching on Caesar. We do it, for example. by not refusing the honour of our priesthood to the elite of Indian society, our best educated and most virtuous Christian youth. This will give you an idea. Indian Gentlemen, of the shining path which the earthly [European] powers must one day open up to you, once you have proved equal to sharing in their labours and their glory.

“Know therefore, dear Indians that you can be whatever you want, provided you only want to be all that you can achieve. You do not lack the intelligence. Nor any quality needed to go forward in equality with any other nation. All they have above you is the [temporary] advantage of better knowledge and education. You especially, Christians; with the Faith, you already possess the seeds of all other knowledge. Just put some energy into educating yourselves: come and take part in the intellectual riches of the European nations. They themselves will open the treasure-house to you, and invite you in, to draw on it. All they want is your eager consent, and they will then share it all with you, all this fountain of prosperity, power and greatness. And when you have acquired it, they will treat you as friends and brothers.

That is all I want to say to you today. For this is not a lecture. I have neither the strength nor the courage to make a long speech, obliged as I am to leave you, probably for ever. I would conclude here, gentlemen, if I was not also obliged, by my very departure, to give an account of what we have been working at, this past year, in order to give young Indians a chance to share in the benefits of Education.

(p 666) I know it is always dangerous to give any kind of testimonial to oneself. So I would be very reluctant to talk about the amount of energy put into the development of this College-Seminary, if all the work was mine. But far from it, Although I have had the consolation of adding my own little efforts, whatever good we have tried to achieve here has been mainly done by those excellent and zealous colleagues of mine [over there] and above all by the worthy and ever to be respected Bishop whose zeal for the souls confided to his care has deprived us of his presence here today. It has been the work of the Society of Foreign Missions which we have the honour to belong to, and which has received a mandate from the Holy See to enlighten the peoples still deprived of the light of Knowledge as well as of the Light of Faith. It is the work of the Church our Mother; for she works unceasingly to destroy Error and Lies (those twin enemies of God. of men, of societies) in whatever shape or form they present themselves, in whatever country they try to disfigure human beings. Error and Lies! Father and children of all the injustices and dis-orders plaguing the Earth, making it unworthy of its Creator!

So let us dare to say it now: we have done all that depended on us. In the small area given to us to work, for the education of Indian youth. If we had some success here, to God alone be the glory; and to you, young Indians, be the gain. For ourselves we want only one thing: the future reward for our obedience to the mission we were sent on. Dear Indians, we have spared nothing (neither time nor labour nor expense) to lay these foundations for a sound educational establishment. As of now, you have it; it is yours, this precious institution. The difficulties opposing its establishment have been overcome. Henceforward it depends on you to make its success be ever greater.

“Your children have been the continual focus of our care, and the daily witnesses of our sollicitude. You yourselves have only to open your eyes and look around, to see how great have been the sacrifices of the Mission for this work. Last year I told you “there will be a new building”. Today you see it standing there, at the service of this generation and the next, and the next. .. May this building be blessed by God! May it shelter your children from contagious diseases, which are fostered by the bad air of narrow and unventilated rooms?

“Last year we were glad to have a proper Latin-Tamil grammar. This year we have seen a French-Tamil grammar coming out from our Press, and another [purely] Tamil grammar, and the first copies of a Latin-French dictionary, which will soon be followed by a Tamil French one. All these books are a great advantage to us, but very tedious and difficult to produce. We owe them to our good and competent confrere Fr Dupuis … (p 667) Meanwhile we have got a good collection of French and Latin books, to be the nucleus of our Library, a precious gift and resource for our students. Later on, the shelves of this library will lengthen; and in this arsenal of the mind, the studious youth of Pondicherry will find samples of all kinds and branches of human knowledge. The basic instruments of Physics are now available to the young students, who have begun to investigate the secrets of Nature in this science which so attractively appeals to the eye as well as to the mind … I will not talk about the geographical maps and globes which you can sec exhibited on that table and on the walls around you. Finally, the number of the teachers has increased, along with the students and the classes.

“That. Gentlemen, is what we have been doing since. Can we also add that the success has corresponded to all those expenses and advances’! I don’t think I will he too far wrong in saying. Yes it has. Of course we would like to have many more successes. Our impatient zeal and our desire for the good of the country would certainly like more cooperation and encouragement from the Indian population, the recipient of all the fruit of our efforts. Nevertheless, the progress of all the students who followed our courses with care and application has been steady; progress also for those parents who did not favour their sons’ natural laziness and did not let them neglect the opportunities offered them. Isn’t that enough for us, enough to fill us with consolation and with hope!

“I will conclude, dear friends, by repeating: the Future is yours if you really want to seize it. I leave it there, in your hands and in the hands of God. I leave it; that’s the word. Because, as I said, I won’t be here with you, to work with you to make the future brighter. A higher will has called me away to a different duty; I must obey. God alone knows the cost of that obedience to me. But what consoles me in it all is this assurance that I can give you: the College will not be any less well run: nothing will be spared in order to make it prosper. The fatherly care of our respected Bishop and the tireless zeal of our well-beloved confreres are a sure guarantee of that to you. So banish every fear and redouble your goodwill for the College, as you hear me say: “Adieu”.

Let that be my last word to you, fathers of families, whose dearest interests I have been working for. Adieu! And you, dear students; you have been, for nearly three years now, the object of my continual care and my purest joy: Adieu! But this ‘adieu’ dear child, accept it with its real and original meaning: à Dieu: to God. It’s to God that I am leaving you. To God I recommend you; to God I entrust you. Never forget that it is from Him that all goodness comes; it is in Him alone that you will find true happiness. (p 668) He has been treating you as a tender father: be grateful: conduct yourselves in such a way as to merit his blessings. Always be faithful to Him. Especially you who in the midst of a still idolatrous people have been chosen to receive the precious gift of Faith. And God will add new benefits to the benefits already showered on you; for His treasures are infinite and his Mercy everlasting.”

  • Death of a Patient missionary leads to Prayer *

Bishop Bonnand was on his way back to Pondicherry and (in consultation with him) I was putting the finishing touches to the preparations for my episcopal ordination. Just then a saintly confrere (who was devoted to me) died in his arms. On the Bishop’s own testimony, he died as he had lived, a saint. His outstanding virtue was patience, a virtue which seems to be especially difficult to missionaries in India! I think I already mentioned the effect of the climate [on European nerves] and also why they have been led (by this same factor perhaps) to conclude too quickly that “a good show of anger” is an effective way to govern Indians! This strange notion (true or not) allows them to let-fly without too many scruples. And someone can end up very far from the gentleness which is surely a sign of true holiness.

Later on, when I was about to leave for Rome, I met a very good Jesuit. He said: “I beg you, try and find some new remedy that can make missionaries patient! Our people need it as much as yours!” Well, excellent Fr Virot practiced this virtue to perfection.102

“May the Lord quickly open the gates of his thrice-holy Tabernacle to him in the Land of Peace? (I exclaimed in my diary). The Work for Native Clergy will now have another Protector in heaven; for he defended it with all his might while here on earth. He came to India with Fr Luquet, as I did with Fr Triboulot. (p 669) And now the two of our companions are dead, or rather alive in the Home of Life, for they were full of wisdom and holiness. And the two of us still here are bishops, here to fight on for the Cause that they will be patrons of in heaven, by their intercession. How impenetrable are your ways, O my God! Does it not seem obvious that the interests of your Church would be much better off in their hands? Fr Virot did not seem, it is true, to combine all the qualities usually required in a bishop; but doesn’t holiness contain all of them, anyway, to an eminent degree? Let us adore, and tremble for the judgment that will be passed on us one day! Not by men (for what does it matter what men say about us?) but by God, who sounds the heart and the loins. O God, even if we are not given the grace to bear the yoke of the episcopate with the angelic holiness of those two confreres, at least make us persevere in your service with unbeatable courage!”

*A Riverside Baptism and a Happy Ending. *

Let’s finish this chapter with a true story told to me by the man it happened to, one of our most respected confreres. It shows how the mercy of God is endless, and that it extends also to the people of India; and that they too will have their own good number among his chosen ones.

“On my way to Bangalore I came to a river swollen by the rains. A man was lying on the bank waiting (as the custom is) for the river to go down enough to cross it safely. I had to do the same, and “take patience” for a few more hours. Meanwhile the Catechist with me went over to the man, who appeared to be very weak and sick. In fact he was covered with sores, and the insects were actually devouring him. “Poor man”, I sighed; “he’s only got a few days to live; and then he will be in hell for ever, for he’s a pagan. Let’s see if I can get any desire for baptism out of him”.

“With this in mind I went up to him. After a few words of introduction I began to speak of our holy Religion. But he had nothing to reply to me but nonsense. I persisted. From nonsense (p 670) he moved on to insults and blasphemies. Not at all discouraged, I pressed on, and almost made him talk a bit of sense. The difficulty of communication was increased by a language problem; for he spoke Telugu, and neither myself nor the Catechist was much good at that. The moment when I would have to leave him, there, to his condemned fate, was visibly approaching; for his life could not be very much longer; and the water was going down. Very soon I and my people (and all the people waiting on both sides of the river) would start wading into the now slowing torrent. I made a supreme effort, and pressed him so urgently that I almost made him consent.

“What to do now? Obviously I was not likely to see him ever again in this world. There were no Christians in the area, to confide him to. I had a long way to go, and his condition would not allow him to follow me. Give him baptism? His attitude was too recent and too uncertain. I hesitated…

“Listen, I said; “I don’t want to force you in any way. Your consent has to be free and perfectly voluntary. So tell me plainly and without pressure: do you want baptism or don’t you? If you really do, I will baptize you. If you don’t, just tell us and we’ll leave you alone”. He reiterated his firm desire to be a Christian; and I baptised him then and there.

“Already the people were moving into the water. I got a carter to take the man across on his cart. Myself, I got on my old nag and went on my way, not knowing what was going to happen to my neophyte. As soon as he was out of sight behind me, I began to feel really bad about him. “That was certainly a profanation of baptism”, I thought to myself. And for a long time afterwards I repented my hurried decision about him.

“Five years later (and I had never even heard of the man again) a young man from the “attar” caste, a pagan, came to see me, at Bangalore. He came to ask for baptism; in spite of the violent opposition of his relatives, he was quite determined to be a Christian. His dispositions seemed excellent, for he had many other difficulties to surmount as well. So I admitted him into the catechism class. When he was sufficiently instructed, he received. Baptism, with great joy. I shared in his happiness, and after the (p 671) ceremony I congratulated him. Then he said:

“Father, do you remember a sick man that you baptised on the bank of a river’?”. I had to search my memory a bit.

“Yes. About five or six years ago?” – “Yes, Father.” “Well, what became of him? Do you know him’?”

“Swamy, that man was my father. He died a good Christian.

And he entrusted me to a Christian woman. It was she that made me want baptism. And now I’ve received it!”

At these words I was struck with amazement. I adored the Lord, whose ways are sometimes so surprising.

Author’s post-script: “Some of the evaluations have to be revised, especially about the Jesuits.”

(p 673) So now I had to prepare for my consecration, that august and ever fearful ceremony. Today, when nine years have gone by since I was looking forward to it as an approaching Event. .. today when I look back on so many disappointments and pains of mind and heart… today when I see my episcopacy broken and shattered, probably for the rest of my life … have I not reason to fear, Lord, that there must have been some hidden flaw in this candidate, and that You did not want him for one of Your bishops? Certainly, this thought must often recur to my mind; and my inability to solve it or clarify it out entirely must deeply humiliate me. Yes Lord, I humiliate myself in Your presence; for in face of You the Angels themselves are not without some imperfections. I bow down and I tremble for the Day of your rigorous Justice. And yet I have hope also, in your infinite Mercy. For it still seems to me that I accepted the episcopate (as I accepted all the other different stages in my apostolic life) first of all for your greater glory and the greater good of our dear missions (although with a lot of natural imperfections thrown in as well).

Do it proper: three Bishops. My Retreat and Resolutions.

Karumattampatty, where my consecration was to take place, was the principal Christian centre in the province of Coimbatore.

(p 674) (2 maps)

(p 675) Nevertheless, there wasn’t much there; just a church (not very wonderful) and a mission house (able to decently accommodate one or two missionaries at the most). Yet I was determined to have three Bishops there. On the missions the Holy See normally grants a dispensation to have only one. But I thought (and still think) that this concession should not be used unnecessarily. Concessions or privileges can be useful at times. But their over-use tends to turn them into apparent “normality”, to the great weakening of Church discipline, which is so admirable in beauty and so rich in grace when it is kept at its full strength.

In the Church situation in South India I did not see any good reason why I could not have three bishops at my consecration, provided none of them failed to honour my invitation. In a warm country, where bishops still can have the good fortune of not becoming fragile grands seigneurs or delicate noble lords, it seemed to me that the shortcomings of the place were not a real problem. And I was not wrong about that. As will later appear, my consecration took place according to all the liturgical rules of Holy Church, to the great satisfaction of all Fr Virot died at Vadugerpatti on 3rd August 1846. Bishop Bonnand wrote on 5th August. those invited. Also, no doubt, to the edification of the local people. These were supporters (not without reason) of the Goa priests, who at that time were tending more and more towards a dangerous Schism. But the poor people were hardly in a position to understand what all that was about.

So I invited Archbishop Martini, Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly103 and Bishop Charbonnaux, Pro-Vicar of Mysore, to be the Assistant Bishops. Archbishop Martini promptly accepted. Bishop Charbonnaux said he “could probably make it”. Bishop Bonnand had graciously agreed to be the Consecrating Bishop.

Now I had to arrange everything for a last-minute arrival of the invitees. For […] 104 the church and the house at Karumattampatty (p 676) are far away from any big town; and I could not have them all camping out there for long, in the middle of nowhere.

That is also why I decided to make my preparatory Retreat before leaving Pondicherry. For this purpose I retired to Ariankupam village, near the charming and devotional church of Arokia-Mada. There, O my God, I tried to commune in prayer with your Spirit. Did the Angel of Coimbatore hover over my head and bring my prayers up to You and your blessings down to me? Or did he veil his face, sad and silent, ashamed of my imperfect offering, having nothing from You to bring me? Oh God! Hindsight now frightens me; I can’t imagine You satisfied with your unworthy servant’s later performance. Nevertheless, as I remember my inmost dispositions at that time, my hope revives. And I will always hope in your Grace even if worse events should come, to make me fear your just Anger all the more. For isn’t even your Anger always merciful, O my God, as long as we still keep struggling on, in this world of exile!

So what were the thoughts of my heart at that crucial time of preparation? I rediscover them in this item from my diary, written at Ariankupam just after my Retreat:

“Here I am Lord, almost at the point of receiving the imposition of hands and the consecration of pontiffs. I have made the offering of myself; will You please accept it, O my God? As far as the dim prevision of men can foretell anything in advance, this august Ceremony is fixed for the 4th of October. Please spread your blessing in advance, O my God, over that solemn and awesome Act. I wish I had more calmness and more interior peace during this Retreat. For more than one useless regret came to cut across my resolutions for the salvation of the poor peoples confided to me, and for the welfare and progress of our Indian Missions, particularly Coimbatore, Now I wed her, always to be faithful. I know, Lord, that I have only the title of a lost and distant Diocese; I have only a delegated jurisdiction over the Vicariate. Yet, as far as my own personal obligations go, I will always consider myself the real shepherd and bishop of all those people without a shepherd. This Retreat has not been very good (to judge by feelings). So I was not able to reach or formulate all the Resolutions (p 677) that I would like to have, as good foundations for a truly episcopal way of life. This is just what I have been able to indicate at the moment:

“I had hoped in this Retreat to make detailed Resolutions on the new kind of life I will have to live. But as the Lord has let this time of recollection be not very calm, since anxiety of mind and heart cluttered up many of the hours I wanted to give entirely to the closest union with God [I did not formulate them all]. I feared that any Resolutions arrived at in such an unquiet state of mind might be somewhat defective. I am hoping that the Lord will soon manage a few days of complete quiet for me. Then, in his Presence, may I be able to finish what I was able only to sketch out today. I ask this grace from Him by the merits of Jesus Christ our divine Model, from Mary the Queen of Pastors and Apostles, through the intercession of my Guardian Angel, the Angel of Coimbatore, our holy Patrons, the Saints most honoured in that Province, and those to whom I myself have a particular devotion: Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri and the others”.

“For the moment I have to limit myself to the following General Resolutions:

To consecrate all my time, all my faculties, all my being, more effectively than before, to the glory of God, the propagation of the Good News, the extension and exaltation of the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, in whose communion I aim to live, to act and to die.

To desire nothing, say nothing, write nothing except what has, as its immediate or less immediate aim, this one and only Aim of all my actions and thoughts.

To move as quickly and directly as possible towards the Objective that Holy Church had in view, when sending foreign bishops as missionaries into this country. If ordinary missionaries who are worthy of their vocation merit the title “apostolic” surely their bishops must conduct their lives in such a way as to share one day in the glory of the Apostles themselves! “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Good News”.

(p 678)Therefore I will often imagine the Holy Father (the direct successor of [the head of] the Apostles) telling me (like Saint Paul told Bishop Titus): “The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to get everything organised there and appoint [priests] in every town, in the way that I told you”.

Resolution: to pursue this Work with an invincible constancy without letting myself be discouraged or beaten by any obstacles (whatever they may be) hoping always against hope in the Mercy of God for these peoples.

In my dealings with the Indians (and with the missionaries) always to use gentleness in preference to force. Without weakness, however, and without swerving from the energy the Lord has put into my character, especially when it comes to anything that is part of Christian and Catholic principle, according to my convictions acquired in the presence of God and meditation on the Gospel.

Always and everywhere to beware of trusting too much in my own strength or opinions, but rather to trust completely in God and submit the success of my enterprises entirely to divine Providence, under the direction of the Holy See. When in doubt, always to act on Its decisions, never leaving It uninformed about anything significant being done in India; always ready to submit my own judgment about such to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, the infallible Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.105

Finally, I shall often make this prayer to God, a prayer that has always been my strength and consolation: Make my enterprises succeed and my opinions prevail if they really are for the greater glory of our good Master, and really true; but make them fail if they are not in conformity with His eternal Wisdom. “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriarm’‘.106

After God, I shall place all my confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary, my Mother and my Patron. To merit her protection I (p 679) hereby confirm my custom of reciting her Little Office once a week. After her, I place my confidence in the Holy Angels, especially the Archangel Michael, my Guardian Angel, and the Angels God has placed in charge of these lands. I shall pray particularly to the Saints who sanctified themselves on these missions, especially Saint Thomas the Apostle and Saint Francis Xavier.

May Heaven bless these Resolutions in the meantime, until I am able to work them out in more detail. Amen”.

That is what I wrote at Ariankupam on the 15th September 1846. I then made my Will, so that everything I possessed in India in the name of the Mission might go to the Mission without any obstacle or contest. And I was ready to travel.

And I wrote this paraphrase of the Itinerary (Travel Prayer) into my diary: “May your Spirit guide us, Lord; may your grace protect us. May your Love give us courage and be the only motivating force of all our future steps. Put us under your wings, divine Providence, to be our shelter in the tempest, our support in all danger, our safety in sudden perils. Be our shade in the heat of the sunlight, our torch in the darkness of night. Muzzle the wild beast, stun the poisonous serpent, and paralyse the arm of the assassin. Lead us safely on to the end of our road, for your glory, Lord. I do not ask you to bring me “safely back home”; for it is over there in Coimbatore that my proper home on earth must henceforth be. Coimbatore, be thou also the gateway towards my eternal home in heaven. Amen.”

  • Request for One Seminarian. Refused.*

But Pondicherry was not going to let me off so easy; I still had a few more bad scenes to endure there. One final contradiction was waiting for me; and it was bitter. I very much wanted to bring along one or two seminarians with me, the most advanced in their studies and (more importantly) in their spiritual life, to be the nucleus of a new Seminary in Coimbatore and get it off to a (p 680) good start especially as regards customs and principles. Moreover Arulnathan and Packianathan had themselves volunteered to come; they were very attached to me.

These two young men, whom I had brought up like chosen saplings in an orchard precious to me, had come to understand perfectly (I think) what the trouble was in India, and its causes (partly European, partly Indian). Moreover, they had the real ecclesiastical spirit in them to a high degree, and therefore the true spirit of self-sacrifice. I had tested that spirit more than once. I had got those two (and Gnanapragassam from Karaikal) to do things which seemed incredible (to anyone who understood Indians brought up on caste prejudices). Just one example: I encouraged (but did not force) them to nurse a poor leper, covered all over with sores; they washed and tended him with their own hands for months on end. But these lads were still young, and they needed to be directed in the same way for years to come, if they were not to be defeated again by the surrounding prejudices.

Apart from the huge help they would be to me in Coimbatore, I must also admit that I had another reason: fear for their future perseverance. “What will become of them? (I wrote). For I don’t see anyone here who can properly understand the way to guide our young clerics. And yet here are 5 or 6 students approaching priesthood, with a complete intellectual and practical understanding of the Gospel message, as well as of the personal sacrifices and devotion required by the Work of Native Clergy! What a fantastic benefit they can bestow on that Work, for the present and for the future!”

Still, I could hardly expect them to give me all three clerics just like that. For that would require Bishop Bonnand to be able to understand the Work of Native Clergy in all its completeness (the way I thought I did) and also be able to see that, with a [major] Seminary in Coimbatore, I’d be working as much for him as for myself (and maybe more). It would also require a wider esprit de corps in our dear Society, to seize on an opportunity (which might never happen again) to take a great leap forward towards our main founding Aim. So I asked for only one; and he was refused. They did offer another instead; he was not without good qualities, (p 681) but his character was not very solid; he had not acquired enough basic education or virtues to allow me to accept him without misgivings.

“So I’ll be leaving alone”, I said, “a lot more alone than when I first left Pondicherry as an ordinary missionary [for my first journey into the interior]. For then I had the excellent Marie-Xavery who was a first-class disciple. And now I really need a perfect cleric, one of those whom I formed myself, with the help of God’s grace (or rather whom Grace itself formed, through my unworthy ministry). And they refuse me!”

“O God, may Your will be done, not mine! Be thou alone my help and my rescuer!”

  • Gregory XVI a big Loss to India. Bust. Requiem.*

A few days before my departure, we heard of the death of the venerable and much beloved Gregory XVI, and then the enthronement of Pius IX. The news came separately. In the interval we celebrated a solemn Requiem for Gregory XVI, who did such a lot for the missions, especially India. And still today, how we miss his personal interest and zeal for this precious aspect of the universal apostolic ministry of the Roman Pontiffs! Rome is, and always will be, the Centre of all truth and all apostolate. Whoever be the Pope governing the whole Church, it is through him that the Holy Spirit will order all the good that will be done on earth. Apart from him, all wisdom is but folly, all zeal is but extravagance; private lights change into mere darkness or misleading flickers.

This is not to say that the Bishop of Rome has a monopoly of light and zeal. But the army of God’s children always marches under the impulsion of this supreme Head; and each soldier, united to him, fights for the holy Cause according to the degree of light and good-will he has received from heaven. Only, the central action-station of all their goodwill, the central focus of all their light, is the Roman Pontiff. Happy the whole Church when the Head (apart from not letting the gates of hell prevail) is himself (p 682) positively on fire with Charity. For the Pope is only a man; and Jesus did not promise him personal perfection. Less or more perfect, he can (like all the other ministers of Our Lord) serve the Church less or more perfectly. And as he is in charge of all aspects of Church life, his personal action can give a remarkable boost to the particular Works that is the special object of his interest.

History will relate all the virtues of Gregory XVI. Here I am only concerned with his zeal for the missions. Before being Pope, he was actively involved in them, when he was Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda [1826-1831]. So when the Indian business took Luquet to Rome, the Pope very quickly saw what it was all about; and the S.C. of Propaganda, under his inspiration, took swift action (as we saw), the first action required (in my opinion) for the regeneration of the Indian Missions. It was, admittedly, only the first step. So what a pity Gregory XVI did not live longer, to finish what he had barely started! But God has his own designs. He had left this worthy Pontiff on the throne of Peter for fifteen years, for the progress of many Churches. In his last year he traced out the main lines of a Plan which was meant to let the Faith at long last take root in the long-established missions of India. God will have rewarded his zeal and the merits of the guide-lines he laid down; but at the same time, in the impenetrable decrees of his Providence, He will have permitted that a time of trouble, or uneasiness, of blocked progress (and maybe of regression) was to succeed, under Pius IX (as regards India) after the great boost given by Gregory XVI.

He had read Luquet’s remarkable Mémoire, “Eclaircissements sur le Synode de Pondichery” from cover to cover. And his personal wish must have greatly influenced Luquet’s promotion, and mine as well. As a sign of his lively satisfaction with Pondichery Mission (which he knew above all by the Acts of our first Synod) the Pope had made us a gift of a colossal bronze statue of himself. It was to have been placed in front of the Church, in the big courtyard. Unfortunately, it was not suitable for the Indians. Though huge, it was only a bust. Unaccustomed to mentally completing an incomplete image, many of them would have howled with laughter (especially the pagans) at this head-and-shoulders only Pope. On the advice of Bishop Bonnand the bust was not (p 683) sent on from Rome, where it was almost (or entirely) completed. We were hoping that the Pope would replace his gift by a more suitable statue, when we heard that death had snatched away our father and benefactor.

It was only our duty to hold some solemn service for the dead Pope. But the grateful filial piety of Bishop Bonnand (and all of us) wanted [in this case] to make it as solemn and impressive as it could possibly be. In spite of the usual religious cowardice of the Louis-Philippe government, the administrative and judicial dignitaries of the “White Town” came and honoured our invitation, this time. They also conceded a Company of Sepoys [Indian troops]. The Bishop wanted a few volleys after the Absolution. They allowed it; but we had to pay for the gun-powder! The same meanness prevented the Government itself from putting on any other outward signs of mourning.

The church was magnificently draped in black, and an immense mourning “pandal” extended from the courtyard gates to the main church door. A big catafalque dominated the centre of the church, surmounted by the papal arms and surrounded by numerous candles, etc. Bishop Bonnand officiated pontifically in the presence of an enormous crowd of Christians, and even pagans. These told each other: “That’s how they are doing all over the world, for the head man of all the Christian priests”.

  • Desert Site for a Proper Consecration.*

[* Dry-eyed leaving Pondicherry, after Tears at Last Mass.*]

The day for leaving Pondicherry was drawing near. I had received an assurance that Bishop Martini of Verapoly would be at Karumattampatty for the consecration. Rev Fr Canoz, the Jesuit Superior in Madurai (himself also a Bishop-elect) graciously accepted my invitation. Bishop Charbonnaux would set out from Bangalore in time to meet up with us at Salem.

“Just like that (I wrote) away out in the wilderness, in a miserable church hardly worthy of the name, with no other accommodation (p 684) for the bishops but a houseen with three rooms of about 12 feet square, and none for the priests but “kottahai” (stakes interwoven and roofed with palm branches) sand-covered earth for a floor, and a mat and a cushion to sleep on. But there, very soon, one of the most remarkable ceremonies ever seen in India will take place; for it is probably unheard-of that an episcopal consecration was ever done in the country with the regulation three bishops! I went out of my way to have it like that, O my God, so that this unfortunate country may get used to the idea of following the universal rules of your Church, so often disastrously neglected under the empty excuse of a few local difficulties.

“May this ceremony, O God, be a happy sign that; out of this least servant, You will make an instrument of your merciful Grace! May this gathering of bishops be but the prelude to future synodal meetings, which we hope to see fairly soon; for I feel they are indispensable if we are to profit from the new breath of life directed on the Indian Church by Your pontiff [Gregory XVI] an inspiration already blown cold or lukewarm by recent events here, even though it must call for all our industrious efforts to maintain its promising glow and enthusiasm. May the ceremony go well, for Your greater glory, O my God, and for the greater good of the Indians; in their service I want to live and to die.”

Bishop Bonnand and I left Pondicherry on the 19th September 1846, very early in the morning. My feelings during that departure are recorded in my diary for that evening, written in Vujapuram bungalow:

“I must admit, I left [the Seminary] fairly painlessly, a post where I had a great deal to put up with, and no chance to achieve anything really satisfactory. Granted that, during the last three years, the general tendency in the Mission and the Indian Church has taken a turn for the better; granted that God in his goodness has permitted me to contribute a little to that saving movement started in Pondicherry; granted that it was given to me, in a certain way to be the one to revive and advance the Work for Native Clergy (by disproving many prejudices and previous false starts) … Nevertheless, it is all so little compared to what it could have been, compared to what it could quite feasibly have become (p 685) if only Mgr Luquet and myself had got consistent support! Our action for progress was so painfully limited and hindered by our own Pondicherry confreres that I could hardly be feeling sorry to be leaving the place, where I suffered so much for so little result.

“God forbid that I should question the good intentions or the priestly life of those confreres! On that side they have been a great example to me; my respect for them goes as far as veneration. But piety is one thing; intelligence is another; particularly when it comes to understanding the Work entrusted to us. It requires more than holiness; it requires much wider views than what I’ve been accustomed to meet with in Pondicherry.

“What I met was a meticulous, over-scrupulous spirit, sometimes even narrow-minded; procedures and methods completely unsuited to our present needs and situation; awkward and blundering actions, even self-contradictory ones at times, actions which were sometimes positively harmful in their effects, but which more usually just blocked a priceless opportunity for progress. Isn’t their stubborn refusal to give me a clerical student a perfect example of that small-minded mentality, a young man who could be such a help in starting off the Work for Native Clergy in Coimbatore, such as we had at last managed to put into motion in Pondicherry! What is worse, I cannot avoid seeing a bit of spite in their refusal, caused by their hostility to Bishop Luquet. One of them came straight out and told me so. I must admit that, when I heard this, my heart was pierced with pain, and also with something very like indignation!

“And so, when I was leaving them, my heart was moved indeed, but my eyes were dry. Maybe too much so, O my God. Maybe my charity was somewhat affected by all this? And yet I bear no grudge; I don’t think I dislike any of them; the only thing I dislike in them is their totally wrong attitude and policy towards us. I dislike it, too, because it’s a sure sign that we will get no help from them in the future. We cannot count on the very people who should normally be our greatest support, towards the huge progress which still remains to be achieved, and which could be achieved, by the Grace of God, if only they stopped opposing us, and helped us even a little, instead.

“It is all in Your hands, O my God. You know that we are (p 686) looking for nothing in this world except Your glory and the salvation of the Indians”.

“But if I was dry-eyed at the thought of leaving my Pondicherry confreres, it was not the same when it came to actually leaving the Seminary. Not that I would miss most of the students themselves. Apart from four or five who were a great consolation and satisfaction to me, the others did not really win my heart by their general behaviour. But now I saw the little bit of progress I was able to achieve there being put into great danger by my departure. And the thought of this did bring the tears to my eyes.

“I wanted to make my last appearance at the Seminary by saying Mass in the presence of all the students. But if I foresaw what was coming, I would have omitted that pious compensation. For, as soon as I started the “Confiteor” my sobs interrupted me. In spite of all my efforts, tears kept coming, until after Communion. At one point, just before the Gospel, I thought I would not be able to continue, and would just have to leave the altar. During all the Mass (which lasted three quarters of an hour) three thoughts filled my mind, and I could not shake them off; every phrase of the liturgy brought an allusion which made them stronger. Each time, my heart overflowed; tears filled my eyes; I just had to stop and let them flow.

“I thought: how little we have done so far, for the Clergy Work! How much we could have done, with a bit more unity, a bit more sense! And especially with a little more confidence in Mgr Luquet! Above all: what a priceless opportunity we are now missing, to give the Work a giant push forward!

[* Why Tears? The Plan blocked by their Meanness.*]

“The wonderful opportunity, of course, is my departure for Coimbatore. If Bishop Bonnand and my Pondicherry confreres were only a shade more advanced in their thinking about Native Clergy, they would not have refused me Arulnathan or Packianathan when I asked for one of them. They would have said: (p 687) “take both of them with you. And (maybe) take Marie Xavery and Gnanapragassam from Karaikal as well”. They would immediately have seen the opportunity for separating these students from the juniors (as they will probably have to do in Pondicherry itself anyway) and the chance to start the nucleus of a Major Seminary by confiding them to me (a Seminary with nothing in it but clerical students and way of life, something which inevitably suffers in the College-Seminary [with its mixed regime] as dictated by its past and present situation).

“The College-Seminary itself would hardly miss those students’ leadership, for it is now solidly founded and has four other young clerics (or nearly so) to carry on the improvements established [by me]. And several further improvements, desired by all, are impossible in Pondicherry, but would be relatively easy for me in Coimbatore; and from there they could be extended to all our Indian Missions.

Since I was starting in “new” country, I could have had a free hand there, as regards the training of Native Clergy. Although Coimbatore may have seen a few West Coast priests (and even a few Tamil priests from time to time) it has never had locally-born priests. So, right from the start, with the help of those four perfectly-disposed clerics and my deep knowledge of their characters (aided by their real affection for me) I could have established a real seminary tradition in harmony with universal Church regulations, without ever coming up against Caste or publicly offending it.

Later, these young men could go back (all or some) to Pondicherry, and bring in their improved customs. They could practise these without any danger [of protests or trouble] and continue them without serious hostility, because these customs would then be regarded as personal to them. Whereas now, by staying always at Pondicherry (or near it) they will never get away with any serious deviation from the established custom of [Indian] priests there. So these young men and myself, together, could have made [a break-through] a significant contribution to the progress of all our Indian Missions. They would also be doing myself a great service, by helping me to found a Seminary in Coimbatore, a Seminary that offered great hope, because it would start with young (p 688) men that I could depend on, gifted with an excellent spirit.

Alas, such an opportunity (which Bishop Bonnand should have seized with enthusiasm and affection) will probably never happen again. The golden opportunity of doing this great service to Pondicherry (and Mysore and maybe Madurai as well) will probably be gone for ever, after a few days from now. Why? On my first arrival in Coimbatore territory, I would be supposed to be completely ignorant of the precise degree of Caste touchiness in those parts. (In actual fact they say it is not half as bad as in Pondicherry). [So I would get away with a lot]. Moreover, all the noise and excitement of the Feast would cover a multitude of [caste] offenses. And it’s the first steps that count [in establishing a new custom].

Later on [when things settle down] it won’t be the same. The slightest offence against the caste Christians in the running of my seminary will make them suspicious of me (as in Pondicherry at first). I will no longer be free to do what I believe in; or else I can get there only after endless delays and compromises. .

If I had Arulnathan with me (for example) I would immediately have made him my secretary. (He knows French and Tamil writing perfectly). My own problems in trying to write Tamil would serve as a good reason for his appointment, and would soothe the prejudices of the missionaries (which have to be feared as much as any Indian hang-ups).

My “secretary” would have lived near me, and eaten at my table. The others would eat separately at first, in order not to annoy the local Christians (who would have some children in the seminary) and also to distinguish the position of clerics (because their job is nearer the Bishop’s). Meanwhile, the idea would gradually become acceptable that all clerics (especially after ordination) would occasionally eat with us, whenever they were invited.

In that way we could gradually have convinced the people that we are not pariahs; for even at meals we would observe caste customs insofar as they are normal etiquette in the country, and insofar as they are not contrary to the Gospel. And, further ahead on the road, another victory beckoned for Native Clergy, a victory over one of the biggest local obstacles: establishing [in the minds of the Christians] (p 689) that there is no such thing as caste separation between ministers of Jesus Christ, once they have completely renounced the world, i.e. once they have made a permanent committment to celibacy at sub-diaconate, and can no longer marry. These four major seminarians, these four friends (for they deserve that name from me) were of a mind and spirit to work steadily with me for that victory. But what will become of them now? How will their clerical education be continued?

“O God, what painful consequences their refusal can lead to! Why couldn’t they give me at least one or two for Coimbatore?”

“Within a year at the most, Marie-Xavery would have been ordained a priest, and his excellent example would have been there to support the plan. Even his weakness in studies (amply compensated by his excellent conduct and sincere committment) would have helped, indirectly. For I would have taken the opportunity from it, to establish the precedent of continuing examinations for some years after ordination. The others would have continued to progress from stage to stage. I would have employed them in various pastoral functions (without compulsoraly making missionaries of them). Meanwhile, other young lads would be following up in their footsteps in my future seminary. (I don’t know them yet, but they must exist in Coimbatore as well as in Pondicherry, as I have proved). And in this way a good solid foundation would have been laid for a real local clergy (if God ever permits one to exist in this country).

“And this simple project was so easy to start implementing just now, and so difficult (or so impossible) for anyone trying it later on! For I myself had formed and fashioned the minds of those four seminarians; they would do anything for me. The wonderful plan kept unfolding before my eyes during the whole Mass. And I was obliged to push it away as if it was an empty day-dream. And why? Because I was distrusted. Not by the Indians but by my own confreres! I was therefore going to be prevented entirely from putting it into action. I could not even try a part of it, or even propose any of it at all. Because when I asked for one [suitable] student. He was mercilessly refused. Oh! It was awful! It made my tears flow uncontrollably: and in spite of all my efforts, sobs kept (p 690) interrupting the liturgy.

“After the Mass I had a chance to say a few words about the project to certain confreres. I didn’t go too much into details, because I don’t think there is a single confrere in Pondicherry at the moment who might be able see the point, see it whole … I merely tried to get one point across: if we really want a Native Clergy, there is one thing we must never do: sacrifice the general progress of the Work for the sake of some short-term local advantage. What I had been hoping to achieve with the help of these seminarians (whom they “couldn’t” entrust to me) was not just a local advantage for Coimbatore; it was a benefit for the whole Work’ and Pondicherry would be the very first to benefit from it later on.’

“The Pondicherry seminary would be the loser”, someone pointed out. I greatly doubt it. Its survival, anyway, would certainly not be endangered. At the moment it is founded a lot more solidly than when I started bringing it up. It has several model students to continue the good tradition now established. That the presence of these [four] seminarians would be useful to Pondicherry I do not deny. But they would be a lot more useful to the Work in general by coming with me to Coimbatore. Here we had an opportunity that would probably never occur again, to introduce certain indispensable reforms [in seminary training]. They could never be started in Pondicherry; and in a few years time they couldn’t even be started in Coimbatore either. Another point about the Work of Native Clergy I tried to get across: we should never rush anything, nor risk or force anything; but equally we should never let a single opportunity go by, if it showed up naturally and by itself. For in this Work, such opportunities are extremely rare; and usually they don’t come round again.

“Will my reasoning produce any effect on them, even for the future? I very much doubt it. True enough, today all my confreres in Pondicherry Vicariate (thank God) are generally in favour of Native Clergy. What is more, most of them are now beginning to think it is feasible to have a good Indian clergy here. But I think it is still obvious that not one of them really understands all the [practical requirements for] the Work.

(p 691)

“You have already wrought many changes in their minds about this important Work, O my God. Complete your action, for your glory. And if my sins do not make me too odious, please grant me the favour of working for it with all my strength, in spite of all obstacles, to the end of my days. Amen.”

[* 1846 Diary a bit Unfair on Pondicherry confreres: *]

  • e.g. “Thank you for nothing, Bishop Bonnand and Co.”*

[Now I was travelling into India again, on a palanquin this time], lazily lying down, swaying along as on a gentle swing, to the monotonous chant of the bearers. What was there to do, having said your Office, prayed, meditated, read for a while, said the Rosary? What, else but to look back, look forward, think, and reflect. And then what, in the next bungalow (usually out all alone in the country, far away from other habititations ) especially when you already know the place and you are just resting in the night or in the hottest part of the day? What else but write down your reflections? And that was one of my pastimes on this journey.

One day, swaying along, I asked myself: what precise debt of gratitude did I really owe to my Pondicherry confreres? My heart and mind still troubled and fed up with all the recent disappointments, I came to an all too easy conclusion: none, zero. But today [1855] collecting my souvenirs, my memories, I find I was unfair. For at least owe them this: they put up with my faults; and, in all the usual day to day relations, they treated me as a real brother. So, if I had remained an ordinary missionary, and had not got involved (God permitting) in all the controversies then exercising the [South India] missions, I would have spent all my days contentedly and enjoyably with my confreres. I can see now that I was not entirely fair to them in the following item, written in Kogiraipalayam bungalow. I transcribe it here only because it brings back some other interesting details:

“My confreres’ behaviour towards me, since my appointment (p 692) to Coimbatore up to my leaving Pondicherry, is well designed to reduce my obligation of gratitude to them. I won’t go into their dismal behaviour last year. Then [this year] when my Bulls came back here again from Rome, they saw that I couldn’t very well send them there all over again; and they clearly declared that I had to accept the episcopate. But their attitude was still so cool towards me that I could take no initiative whatever. God in his goodness let me see this; and I managed to avoid any further disagreements with them. But only by remaining completely inert all the time.

“It was not until the 9th August that they openly recognized me as Bishop-elect. Since then, I must admit, I can have no complaint about my one-to-one relations with each of them. But have they done a single positive thing to help or support me, or to show any interest, other than by polite words? Absolutely nothing. They even refused my first and only request: to bring a seminarian of my choice along with me, someone who could really help. As for requesting a confrere whom I could rely on, and get on well with, that was out of the question. There is more than one man in the interior who (I think) would be very glad to come, and whom I would be very thankful to have with me. True [Fr Pacreau] is coming; and he can be very useful; for he knows the area perfectly, the new country God is calling me to. He is good at Tamil and many other things. But he is not at all easy to get on with. He has been a headache to the Pondicherry authorities more than once; and I think they were very glad to get rid of him by giving him to me! As for the missionaries now in Coimbatore, I know them very little; and I still don’t know which ones will be staying on. Thus I can in no way count on ordinary human support in this new challenge I am entering into. In You alone is my hope, O my God!

“However, it seems there are two things I should be thankful for: the funds handed over to the new Mission of Coimbatore (several thousand francs) and the trouble Bishop Bonnand is taking in coming so far for my consecration. About the funds, I must admit that the Bishop’s treatment of Coimbatore (and Mysore) has been most praiseworthy, like a good father looking after his (p 693) two new sons. No doubt he had to do something for them; but he could easily have been less generous. Nevertheless, if we get down to the details that concern me personally, my debt of gratitude will rapidly shrink.

Pondicherry Vicariate has fairly considerable funds. More than a year ago, Bishop Bonnand proposed to his Council that a portion should be given over to the two new Missions cut off from his own, to enable them to set themselves up. This was at the time when I had refused the episcopate by sending my Bulls back to Rome, and when Bishop Charbonnaux was about to leave Pondicherry to go to Mysore for good. .

“A certain sum was set aside, to be divided between Mysore and Coimbatore. The Bishop convened his Council to help fix the proportion between them. Coimbatore was not represented there at all. For I pointed out to those gentlemen that I could hardly represent that Mission after formally refusing it. Bishop Charbonnaux put up a very strong case for Mysore; and I don’t blame him for that. But the result was that Mysore was greatly favoured in the final division, on the pretext that Bishop Charbonnaux was taking over immediately, and therefore had more urgent needs than the future bishop of Coimbatore [whoever he might be]. This kind of reasoning would be all right for a yearly or recurrent distribution (like that of the Propagation de la Foi annual fund). But in this foundation allocation it was all wrong. At Bangalore, Bishop Charbonnaux had a fine church and a reasonably good house to set up in, and several other suitable churches and houses in other stations. He also had two (or maybe three) posts where the missionaries received a salary from the English Company as chaplains to the Irish soldiers. Whereas at Coimbatore there was nothing like that. So this year I am starting off, like Bishop Charbonnaux last year; but with much less money, although I have a lot more expenses to face. What is more, all his consecration expenses were paid by Pondicherry, because he was consecrated there (as Coadjutor to Bishop Bonnand) before the division of the territory. In such an imbalance, it seemed at least natural to expect that I would be given a bigger share of this year’s subsidy from the Propagation de la Foi, sent in a lump sum for the three of us to Bishop Bonnand. Not at all. This (they say) was in order (p 694) not to vex Bishop Charbonnaux. He was so unfriendly towards me that he gave only an evasive first reply to my invitation to my consecration. Indeed I could say it is not my invitation he is honouring, but the reiterated urging of Bishop Bonnand.

And since we are on the subject of invitations: Bishop Bonnand admittedly replied promptly to mine, to come and consecrate me at Karumattampatty. He could easily have said: “Come to me at Pondicherry, and do not make me undertake such a long journey”. I can see all that, and I admit he deserves some credit for it. But don’t let us get carried away. His reason for coming is not at all in order to do me a favour. [For Pondicherry was out, anyway]. The French colonial governor would have made the same difficulties now as he did on the occasion of Bishop Charbonnaux’s consecration. And it is very doubtful if Bishop Bonnand wanted to try out any more of that kind of bureacratic disagreeableness and delaying tactics.

“Moreover, a whole lot of other considerations, notably the [advance of] the Goa Schism in India, seemed to demand (everyone agreed) that my consecration should be done at one of the stations in my new Vicariate, i.e. Karumattampatty, which is the only one that has a church worthy of the name (though it is still pretty miserable). So if Bishop Bonnand refused me, he would be sacrificing the general good of Religion to mere personal antipathy, something that he could never do. For, let me say it loud and clear, Bishop Bonnand is too holy for that kind of thing. He may have become a bit estranged from me (though much less than some other confreres) and very annoyed at Bishop Luquet, because His Lordship failed to understand us. He was influenced by small-minded and short-sighted councillors. But to fail to carry out his known duty, never!

Anyway, to consecrate me at Karumattampatty was his own idea. I could even say it was me agreeing with him, rather than the other way round. Or that our two ideas fortunately happened to meet there. So much so that, a month earlier, when I proposed another idea (which also seemed better to several confreres) to consecrate me and Fr Canoz together at Trichinopoly, I got back a very rough and hurtful letter from Bishop Bonnand.

“Finally, in the letter announcing that he was publicly recognizing (p 695) my appointment and asking me to take on the visible rank of Bishop-elect, Bishop Bonnand said I was “free to invite anyone I wanted”. But I was careful not to take those words at their face value. I took good care not to invite anyone except the people he would want to invite himself. If I were really free I would also have invited several more Bishops, notably bishop Bettachini of Jaffna. And I would then have taken the opportunity of that imposing gathering of bishops to try and get a consensus and propose some suggestions to the S.C. of Propaganda which could advance the general cause of Religion in India. I would also have invited several confreres who are my best friends, instead of just Fr Gouyon, the young missionary coming with Bishop Bonnand, whom I hardly know at all. Fr. Roger was eager to come. I only said I would be delighted to have him. He hurried to ask permission. He was refused.

So, to sum up: the future Vicariate of Coimbatore, and myself as its head, certainly owe some filial respect to Bishop Bonnand; for we were born under his authority. But personally my debt of gratitude is not great, towards my confreres in the Pondicherry administration. Not that I hold anything against them; God forbid! I bear no resentment to anyone, even those who did me harm. Anyhow, they have not done me harm; they have merely failed to do the good that I was daring to expect from their charity. I am not even saying they were wrong there. I had done nothing to earn their goodwill; and they could judge me only by appearances anyway. I merely conclude that, if they have any rights to something from me, it is not exactly gratitude.”

  • The English do not stop the Rain.*

  • But their Economic System still causes Famine*

Next day I wrote the following, in Chinnasalam bungalow:“Nothing very remarkable so far, on our journey. Bishop Bonnand and Fr A … (the missionary accompanying him; you will see later on why I don’t give his full name) are well used to journeys (p 696) in the interior of India. I have travelled this road many times myself. And although we don’t have the full comfort of the English style, we still are not half as badly off as a poor missionary travelling alone, with his very limited transport funds. So we are going along very smoothly; we hardly feel tired at all. As to the scenery, it’s the same as 1843; things don’t change much in this country. Only, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new church (pariah) at Vujapuram, due to Fr Roger’s zeal.

“It seems that for many years now, the rains have been irregular. Either they don’t come at the required time, or they are not abundant enough. This means that (for the country) food is very dear; and it is (so to speak) astronomic in the area we are going through just now. The people grumble a lot; they attribute the lack of rain to European domination. Going through certain villages, we heard some good energetic curses directed at us. Not that we have anything physical to fear. English control is complete in the area, and the police are wonderfully efficient, even in. the smallest village. But it is truly painful to see the people suffering like this where Nature is usually so bountiful. With a caring government, they could easily withstand several years of drought. Still more painful is it to hear the poor people superstitiously attributing their troubles to imaginary causes. Certainly it is not the English who are stopping the rain! However, it is only too probable that their administration is indeed contributing to the public suffering hereabouts. Vae victis! [Woe to the conquered].

“Anyway, where will you find a colonial government that does not put its own interests far above the people it is administering? Even at home, the new socio-economic “progress” of over industrialization is usually prejudicial to our own poorer classes. How much worse in India, where the whole population (apart from a few people in the big commercial cities) is reduced to a state of sheer poverty by the greed of a foreign Trading Company! Just one example: who can count the number of famine victims resulting from the single fact of the cotton “revolution”? The raw cotton is now exported to England, to be spun and woven there. Then it is re-imported in machine-made textiles, often better and cheaper than the cloths hand-made in India. All at the expense (p 697) and the ruination of numerous castes of weavers!

“Thus you could go on, and list a whole series of artificial causes which are daily impoverishing these poor peoples of India, and even diminishing their food resources, all for nothing except for the better enrichment of the English. But these ramifications of colonialism are not the ones the common people can easily notice. The intellectuals can see it all right; but they will never be in a position to do anything about it, to obtain justice, as long as they are divided by Caste, which prevents the formation of any nation-wide political organization. Even if they shake off the English yoke they will just come under another one; Muslim or Maratha or Tartar. Always, they will be the losers. A non-European domination would be harsher, indeed. But perhaps it would also be somewhat less “dissolvent” [of their society. However, nothing is capable of dissolving Caste] or of opening the eyes of the Indians to its absurdities.

  • Skilful Nomadic Hunters. Surprising Vannars.*

“Yesterday we watched a small caste of “Pagoni” [Bhachuvani?] nomads in action. They live in the forests, the steppes and the deserts, feeding exclusively on wild game. One of their favourite feasts (people say) is jackal! They are very skilful in trapping all sorts of wild animals, in nets or trenches, fooling them into them by sounding perfect imitations of their mating calls etc. For a few pennies, these nomads put on a spectacular demonstration of their professional skills. The deception was complete and astounding, as they imitated the various mating calls (and the various other functional calls) of the wild game so perfectly: tigers, jackals, peacocks, quail, turtle-doves, etc., according as they were male or female, in heat or not, congregating for a journey, or doing any of their other natural activites. They sold us some quails and partridges: four quails for 6 farthings and ten partridge for 9 pence.

In a village near Kogiraipalayam we came across two houses (p 698) of Vannars [washermen). Neither Bishop Bonnand nor Fr A had any inkling of their existence here (although they had often travelled this road before). They brought a child for baptism. Christian Vannars can be found in the most surprising places, even where there is not a single Christian of any other caste. Their trade forces them to participate in all sorts of pagan rituals; yet they never abandon Christianity. How were they converted in the first place? After their conversion they remained almost as much pagan as Christian. They hardly ever receive any Sacraments, and almost never see a priest. When they do, all they usually get from him is scolding and reproaches. So why do they continue? Why not simply drop Christianity entirely and just live as pagans? To me it’s a kind of an insoluble enigma. But I am convinced that we should treat them a lot more gently than we usually do. Who can know what designs Providence has for them, for those feeble seeds thrown almost at random into those vast sterile fields, and growing up so stunted from the very beginning!

  • Remembering Fr Triboulot. Palanquin and Carriers. *

“I find it pleasant to be revisiting these scenes of a few years ago. That first time, I was with Fr Triboulot. Alas, he has gone so quickly, while we remain behind, not half as good as he was! And what a joy it would be, now, to find him still there, in my new Mission! What a great help his friendship would be!

“You have disposed things otherwise, Lord. You do all things well, and we submit without complaint to your impenetrable decrees. Maybe he is meant instead to be a powerful protector in heaven for that new Mission, where he laboured and sweated for such a brief moment, and where he finished his holy life. All the same, at every striking scene I passed, at every change of landscape noted on that former journey, I could not help recalling my dear confrere. “We arrived here (I’d say to myself) at such-and such an hour that day, with Fr Triboulot. Here we did so-and-so. Along here we were discussing such a subject”. Grant, O my God that these “souvenirs” are not for nothing. If his noble soul is (p 699) now in your glory, may the memory of his edifying friendship help us with You, by the mediation of his prayers. Or if he is still in the prisons of your justice (which I can hardly believe) may these poor prayers and remembrances by his friend be for him a source of some ease and refreshment.

“I am doing this journey by palanquin, which is used for travel in India by everyone who can afford it. Up to now, the missionaries of our dear Society, being the poorest (I think) of all the apostolic workers here (apart from a few personal exception have hardly ever been able to avail of it. Bishops alone (out respect for convention) have to use it now and then; but always with reduced “style” and luxury, which puts them far below even the lowest English employee. It must be said that it is a very practical and comfortable way to travel.

The palanquin itself, as modified by the Europeans is small coach-body, about six feet long (inside) two and a half feet wide and three feet high. Two big shafts, high up along its length, allow it to be carried on men’s shoulders. For a short trip, five men can suffice, four carrying and one relieving. For real journeys, more carriers are needed, depending on your funds, and how fast you have to travel. You can hardly get away with less than twelve if you apply to the official palanquin station. But in a private deal, they can sometimes be got to agree to a lesser number.

“Bishop Bonnand and I had eight each, on this journey six carrying and two relievers. In spite of the weight of the palanquin (sometimes up to 150 kilos without the passenger) the bearers keep on trotting at full speed, usually for about two and a half hours (for a stretch of ten English miles). Fr A., on horseback, arrives half an hour after us; and the carts with our loads two hours later (when the stages are 15-16 miles).

“The palanquin is varnished and polished on the outside, like a carriage. It has two large sliding doors with windows and blinds, and a glass windscreen in front. The interior is neatly decorated and upholstered (less or more richly). It is designed in such a way that the traveller can sit, or lounge, or lie down completey. You can sleep perfectly, read, even eat your supper, and spend (p 700) the night in it if necessary. You rarely feel the heat in the day because, with the sliding doors and window-blinds, you can keep the sun out, and still let in a breeze all the time (created by the motion at least). In short, you are much better off than in a good carriage.

“All the same, it does feel uncomfortable to be carried along like that, by fellow human beings: and their continual plaintive chant makes you feel bad about it at first. But you soon put up with it all, when you see how easy it comes to them. After 20 or 30 miles, they show almost no sign of fatigue at the end of the day. And you also stop feeling sorry for their “humiliation”. For although they are wearing nothing but half a yard of cheap cloth, they consider themselves infinitely superior to the low-grade passenger they are carrying, even if he were clad in gold braid from head to toe. For we are nothing but pariahs to them. Far better to spend your life trotting away under a huge palanquin (but in a high-caste skin) than to be carried in one (but inside the skin of a pariah)!

“And now [in the evening] these men who have been carrying us all day on their shoulders would never condescend to eat our stew [however hungry they might be]. They wouldn’t even touch it; for it was cooked in one of our pots, by our servants. Even the pot itself they could not touch, without being defiled. This very morning they abandoned one of their own pots in the bungalow yard, merely because one of our people happened to touch it. That servant is of good caste; but he is a Christian; and therefore, in the eyes of those poor pagans, he shares in our de-gradation. But having said all that [about their caste pride] they are very gentle, obedient and faithful; they take scolding without resentment; they walk, stop, run, just as we require. They will easily go on farther, twice as far as planned, if necessary. What a people!

Swim Blunders. Well met at Salem.

First Mass in his New Vicariate.

The journey was smooth and peacefully monotonous up to (p 701) Salem. Except for a few blunders. One day, when the heat was particularly overpowering, Fr A and myself had to go for a swim in a nice little lake, about noon. The sun was half-hidden by steamy clouds, and we thought it would be quite safe. But after barely fifteen minutes in the water (only my head keeping above it) I began to feel suddenly very weak and dizzy, and decided to get out quick. Fr A stayed in longer. Both of us got sun-stroke, which very nearly prevented us from travelling any farther. Fr A especially, was in great pain all that evening; he was extremely red. Fortunately, an abundant sloshing with cold water made him feel a bit better, next morning, before we set out again.

At another stage on this journey there was a similar blunder.This time, it was almost nightfall, and so we had no reason to worry about the sun. And what other harm could we have to fear, in a peaceful little lake about a quarter of an hour from the bungalow? After what we had been through all that day, all the heat and the dust, a dip was well-nigh indispensable. So off we went. As soon as I got in, I found that the bottom was all mud; and little bubbles of hydrogen gas began to rise abundantly. Funny at first; but soon I began to feel the bites! I reached down unthinking and pulled off clusters of blood-sucking leeches, already stuck to my skin! Horrified, I jumped out, closely followed by Fr A. We formed a very sincere resolution never to venture into any unknown lake or pond again!

On the appointed day, we arrived at Salem, where Fr Gouyon was expecting us. As the priest’s house there was only tiny, he had procured a big tent for us. We were very comfortable under it. We were to stay a whole day, to rest a bit, and also to await Bishop Charbonnaux, who was to meet us there. Everything went according to plan. He arrived the next day, and we all set out again the day after. And that morning I had the consolation of celebrating Holy Mass in the church where I first greeted the Angel of Salem, my very first mission. Only now it was in an even worse condition than three years ago. In fact it was so far gone that it was in real danger of collapse. (Soon afterwards, I heard that it had become completely unusable. It had to be (p 702) knocked down, and a new “church” built instead). Build fast and cheap; live to see your own building crumbling down: that’s the architectural history of many Mission churches. Oh when will the Faith be rooted deep enough in these lands to encourage us to build for centuries, not years! Could there be a hidden connection between the strength of the Faith and the solidity of the buildings put up by the faithful?

Bishop Charbonnaux was accompanied by Fr de Kerizouet, who had always been very friendly with me. His Lordship, also, was most amiable, for all the rest of the journey. To see us moving together, you would not think we had ever had the slightest difference of opinion! So the remaining four stages were more like a picnic or an outing than a journey. The morning of the second day out of Salem, we crossed the River Caveri near Erode. Once we were on its right bank, I was inside my new jurisdiction. Although we have nothing at Erode but an ugly little pariah church, I was very happy to celebrate my arrival in my territory by offering the Holy Sacrifice there. So I left the company and went aside to the little chapel, along with Fr Gouyon, and celebrated Mass.

I seem to recall, O my God, that I prayed my heart out for the future of that new Mission, already so dear to me; for I expected never to leave it. My prayers must not have been fit to rise up to Your heavenly Throne; because now, that dear Mission is no longer mine; and the blessings I implored for it do not seem to have come. O my God, if part of the fault is mine, punish me personally; but do not lean your powerful arm on the people. Ungrateful they may be, and of little faith; but their blindness will be an excuse for them before your infinite Mercy.

Karumattampatty Welcome

Another day’s travel and we were only nine miles from Karumattampatty. We camped for the night, and sent an “express” message to say we would be there by eight in the morning.

The Holy Rosary Novena had already commenced. Christians (p 703) from the surrounding areas had gathered in great numbers. The next day had barely dawned when crowds of them came hurrying out to meet us. All along the route we met them, running and racing to be the first to get our blessings. The “schedars’‘ or weavers won, for they are lively characters. The “thotakarar” or market gardeners came last, being more serious chaps, walking along in a slow and dignified fashion. The weavers, moreover, have always been very enthusiastic for the [MEP] Pondicherry missionaries, whereas the gardeners were very displeased at their first coming, and they still barely tolerate them.

By now the crowds surrounding us and following the palinquins at a gallop (and by no means in silence) were quite large. Then we heard an explosion of gunpowder ahead, and saw our confreres riding out to meet us, accompanied by the “maniyacarans” or village heads. When we met, we stopped the palanquins and got down (and so did they) and we embraced. (Or, to be quite accurate, we greeted each other with all possible signs of affection short of an actual hug, out of deference for the prejudices of the country). From then on, there was never an interruption to the continual din of drums, bangs and whistling rockets, until we got to the door of the church. Bishop Bonnand chanted a Pontifical High Mass. Towards noon, we entered the modest and very cramped little mission house, small indeed, but now chock full of friends.

[* Distinguished (and unutilized) Gathering*]

That was Thursday. Between then and Sunday (the day of the consecration) Bishop Martini arrived from Verapoly (along with one of his priests). Also Rev Fr Canoz SJ, bishop-elect for Madurai (but the Bulls have not yet come) escorted by another Jesuit Father. So, inside the little house or in the garden around it (under roof or under coconut leaves) there were already fifteen priests. Never had such a priestly gathering been seen in this area before. And not since a very long time (probably never) had three Bishops and two Bishops-elect been gathered together in one (p 704) place in India.

How I wished we could use the opportunity to get down to the needs of the people all together. Unfortunately, their minds were not ready for anything like that. As far as courtesy and even personal friendship went, it was perfect. But when it came to policies and vested interests, between Carmelites, Jesuits, Foreign Missions, white and black (represented by the Verapoly priest) there was just too little mutual knowledge and understanding. Charity unaided could not unite what was “by nature” divided. Charity’s gentle influence would have needed the added decisive push of Authority.

Still, we were meeting each other, and so getting to know and esteem each other better. So I had some hope that this informal meeting might prepare the way for a future Assembly where Authority (from the Holy See) would preside over a Synod of these Bishops, in order to complete and crown the work begun by the happy sub-division of the Vicariates. But I also had some fears that, out of sheer opposition to Bishop Luquet, they might kill the initiative and spirit behind all that planning. Still I put my hopes for the future in the continuing energetic leadership of the Sacred Congregation itself. I never even suspected how weak (I might even say how disorganized) Propaganda would become, under Pius IX. At least that was the impression I got later from meeting the Prefect, Cardinal Fransoni (a saintly man but much too old) and from dealing with Mgr Barnabo its Secretary, the actual administrator of the Congregation, a man who seems to me very different from what the progress of Religion in three-quarters of the globe would require for its successful promotion.

  • The Ceremony and Santhippu. Hindsight Evaluation.*

The consecration ceremony (considering the circumstances) was carried out with very great pomp and amidst great communal joy, which was a sure sign of the affection which the Christians of Coimbatore already had for me (and have never ceased to have).

“And so, O my God”, I wrote that same evening, “in spite of all my unworthiness, (p 705) mediocrity and sinfulness, here I am, a pontiff for ever! O Mary, pray for me! Come to my aid, to help me carry the heavy burden just now placed upon my shoulders.

Everything went well. The people seemed happy. God grant that today’s great ceremony may lead them on to greater love of God and a closer attachment to the holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church!”

In spite of the widespread hardship caused by the scarcity and costliness of food, the Christians had managed to come in from all parts of the Provicariate. They would have been even more numerous no doubt if the times were a bit easier. But even as it was, there were people from every single Christian community; and after the ceremony, I was able to make the acquaintance of a considerable number of my flock. For they all came to see me, and to present their “santhippu”. This means “visit” and also “gift”. For you cannot make an official visit without bringing something along as well!

At this point in the programme, some inter-village rivalries blew up, and nearly marred the whole occasion, until then so peaceful and joyful. It had been agreed that the village heads would all gather themselves together, into three groups only, the three main Districts of the Provicariate: Karumattampatty, Kodiveli and Palghat. They should put all their offerings together, and present them in that order, not more than three groups. But one of the Palghat head-men would have none of it. He had to come up by himself, personally, at the head of his own Christians, to present his “santhippu”. This was to cost him plenty of trouble and palaver afterwards.

All those poor people had spent everything they had, in order to make their offering as fine and as impressive as possible. There were colourful masses of fruits, rice, sugar, betal leaves, coconuts, and even some lengths of cloth. They were brought forward with the greatest pomp and solemnity, to the sound of “artillery” and of massed drums, in great big baskets freshly garlanded with flowers. Each time, when the principal head-man had deposited the baskets at my feet, he went flat out on the ground in a complete “sashtangam” or prostration; and the entire group did the (p 706) same, asking for my blessing.”

And so ended the 4th October 1846, with the [festive Indian] ceremonies concluding my consecration as "Bishop of Prusa in partibus" and Pro- Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore (pending its canonical erection into a full Vicariate Apostolic).

Have I not reason to fear, today, that all that great show was not really for the greater glory of God? What, Lord? In all that pomp and circumstance, was I myself nothing but an instrument of your wrath? The very thought of it makes me tremble. Certainly, later events were enough to make me entertain some fear of it. But the purity of my intentions then (insofar as I can judge them myself) reassures me. And I cannot avoid thinking that [it was not all my fault]. It was not that God failed to show me some of the good which urgently needed to be done in that part of India (and all India). It was that He did not enable all those persons who ought to have cooperated together, for that good, to see it clearly at the time. Poor people of India! When will God bring that new dawn of salvation to you? Hasten the day, O my God, for your greater glory. Amen!

Author’s Note: “This whole chapter must be re-done. Far too many personal remarks.”

(p 707)

Alone with his Four Men

Before the end of the week, all my guests had departed; all the Christians had gone back to their villages. After the brouhaha and excitement of the Feast, complete silence now reigned around the Karumattampatty church. It is just a centre for the surrounding communities; the only Christian house near it is the mission house, so recently promoted to be my episcopal palace.

Archbishop Martini was the first to leave, then Bishop Bonnand and Bishop Charbonnaux, with their accompanying missionaries; and I was left alone with the four that Bishop Bonnand had given me. I was hoping that Fr Jarrige would stay on for a while, at least long enough to show me the ropes. (He had been Acting Provicar of Coimbatore for more than a year). But no; he thought fit to go off immediately; which really hurt and disappointed me. It was my first wound at my new outpost. There were to be plenty of others. May they all have some merit for heaven!

So there I was, with my four missionaries. And these would soon be leaving for their respective Districts. I will not give all their names. Because, unfortunately, I will have more than one painful memory to recall, about some of them. And as they were so few, it would be difficult to avoid identifying the culprits if I named them, (p 708) now or elsewhere in these pages. So I will just use initials, and not always consistently!107

  • The English Collector*

I felt it was essential to make a courtesy call on the Collector of Coimbatore without further delay. The Collector is the principal English authority in a Province. On his goodwill (or the opposite) the welfare of the missionaries greatly depends. For, although the Company’s administrative rules appear to leave very little room for arbitrary decisions by its officials, the facts are quite different. In the interior, especially, the actual power of the Collector is enormous.

A “collector” would seem to mean nothing more than a “tax gatherer”. In reality he is the ruler of a vast expanse of territory. Nations (like individuals) sometimes give the game away by the strange choice of language they employ. For indeed the fact is that the main aim of the Company is nothing else but to amass money. All the rest is secondary. Hence the name “Collector” for the chief administrator of a Province!

Coimbatore is 16 English miles from Karumattampatty. At that time we had neither church nor house there, nor any Christian community properly so called. We had only a few scattered (p 709) pariah families and a few other bad Christians of higher caste, half-Catholic half-Protestant, among the Government employees.

I went to Coimbatore, then, to visit the Collector. He was said to be an honest man, and even to have been a bit benevolent to missionaries now and then. I don’t know whether he was shocked by my new title of “Bishop of Coimbatore”; anyway he gave us a very bad reception. (Fr Pacreau was with me). He even made stupid niggling difficulties about our passports. I could see from the start that the local English authorities were not going to be friendly. And my fears were borne out afterwards. Not that I was ever directly harassed or persecuted by them. But never, in the course of eight years, did I get help or support of any kind.

[* Three Problem Men and Fr Mètral*]

Before my missionaries left for their stations, I wanted to hold a little Council with them, to lay down some guidelines for my pastoral administration, I soon saw that the small detachment of men seconded to me was not going to make up in quality for what they lacked in quantity. There was one exception; and him I will name. Indeed, his name will come up often later on; and my gratitude could never permit me to leave him nameless. He is Fr Mètral, the most saintly and therefore the most human man I have ever known. At that time I did not know his true value. (Indeed Bishop Bonnand mustn’t have known it either!). He is an extremely humble man (but without any affectation, which is an additional perfection). No exceptional ability; nothing very remarkable on the outside; he would be unlikely to impress superiors. For a long time now, he had been in charge of Palghat, at the extreme West of the old Pondicherry Vicariate. They knew he was doing all right there, but they had no idea of his real worth. However, his outstanding holiness could not be hidden from his immediate confreres; they called him “the Holy Father”. A joke, no doubt; but not a gibe. And even jokes sometimes have their significance, from the causes that give rise to them.(p 710)

Anyway, apart from Fr Mètral (who immediately struck me as a man of sound sense and solid piety) the other three did not impress. One [Pacreau] was flighty, paradoxical and hell-bent on opposition. The other [Barot] was a logician, usually arguing against the grain of common sense. The third [Laugier] was boyish and light-headed. Such was my foundation personnel. Not very encouraging. And I had no idea when I would get reinforcements from France. So I wrote at the time:

“O my God, it was in the midst of sorrows and trials that you achieved the salvation of the world. Give me your grace, not only to calmly bear the disappointments You have sent me in your mercy, but even to welcome them with joy and to love them.”

After the “council” Fr Mètral and Fr Barot went to Palghat. Fr Laugier was put in charge of Karumattampatty; he was also supposed to look after a few children that Fr Jarrige had gathered together some time before; I was hoping they could be made the nucleus of my future seminary. Fr Pacreau left a few days later to take charge of Saveriarpalayam community and the few Christians at Coimbatore. He was also to look out for suitable land for a Mission. For all indications were that the Mission centre ought to be in that big city, even though it was still completely pagan.

  • Tamil.Luquet on the Way Out.*

Circumstances (and partly my own laziness, no doubt) had left me little time for the Tamil language. By now I could understand nearly everything people said to me; but I had great difficulty in speaking to them. Especially in the pulpit and in the confessional, I was often stuck. So I made the study of Tamil my principal daily occupation for the next few months.

During this period I received the” Acts of the First Synod of Pondicherry”, printed at Propaganda from a summary prepared by bishop Luquet. These Acts had been approved by Propaganda, (p 711) with only a few amendments, all of which were in line with my own views. Along with them I received a Report by Mgr Luquet on the Resulting Actions taken by Rome after the Synod.108 His style and his presentation of these were most unfortunate. Indeed the holy and zealous bishop nearly always manages to get his formulation wrong, and thus to alienate people by his manner, a lot more than by his actual ideas. I could see it all coming: redoubled indignation against him from his confreres. And I was unfortunately proved only too right, when a pile of letters arrived from all sides, showing the disastrous impression created by his latest writings. Everything now pointed towards his complete annihilation. He still had some hot supporters, in India and in Europe. But God did not enable him to see clearly the right way forward, if he was to continue to give powerful services to the Church, or if he was to help ensure the implementation of the great Mission Principles which he had so vigorously revived and for which he had so successfully obtained the renewed approval of the Holy See.

In my opinion, it was not absolutely impossible for him to come back to India, up to now. Bishop Bonnand, in spite of occasional snubs, was still remarkably friendly towards me. He was still sorry not to have me with him as Coadjutor in Pondicherry. He had reluctantly let me go to Coimbatore; but he had not given up hopes of having me back with him later on. Because of recent events in Pondicherry, I was reluctant to be a Bishop there. But if Luquet had come back and taken over Coimbatore, I would probably have accepted. Unfortunately, Luquet had become so thoroughly disgusted with his confreres’ unfair harassment and bickering that he had now firmly resolved never to come back to India. He would have liked the job offered by our Paris Seminary:

(p 712) to be the representative for all our Missions at Rome. But my bet was that he was not going to get it. He would not be acceptable to the Vicars Apostolic of the Far East, after what they had heard about him from India. So his position was fairly hopeless. Moreover, his adversaries were after him, in Rome itself.

Finally, the new turn taken by politics under Pius IX had attracted his interest. He felt he could best serve the Church in a different career: politics. And that was to be the end of him. We will see later how he failed, and how this led to his complete eclipse. Sadly, a letter from Fr Tesson confirmed my fears for Luquet. (It also kept me up to date about the ongoing dissension between the Paris Seminary and a certain Vicar Apostolic. At that time [I was surprised]. I did not know that this sort of thing must often be inevitable, given the poor structure governing relations between the Seminary and the various Missions. (Later on, I was to learn this from my own experience). To get back to Bishop Luquet, this is what Fr Tesson had to say, on the 25th August 1846:

“Bishop Luquet’s position is becoming hopeless. The Jesuits have started an all-out operation to get him out of Rome. We have reason to believe that they were behind Cardinal Fransoni’s letter two months ago; asking us to please let him know which Mission in India would be most suitable for Bishop Luquet. .. But it is more likely, I’m afraid, that he is going to leave our Society altogether … Even three months ago [Bishop Murad], Maronite Archbishop of Laodicea, was telling us that, if and when Bishop Luquet left us, he would get him appointed Apostolic Delegate to [Lebanon]. I would regard his departure as a great loss to our Society”.109

Obviously, Luquet ought to have come back to India at that time, as Vicar Apostolic of Coimbatore. Or, if he was still wary of being too painfully near the people who had opposed him so fiercely, he could have accepted the Maronite Archbishop’s offer. Anything rather than jumping into politics.

Meanwhile, on 12th July, he was writing to me himself, urging me to get myself consecrated as soon as possible. But it was at (p 713) Karumattampatty, after my consecration, that I received his letter, along with Fr Tesson’s. About Bishop Bonnand’s famous [swop] plan, which we had all rejected, he [Luquet] had this to say:

“Here at Rome, and at Paris, we are unanimously in agreement with you against the project to transfer Bishop Bonnand to Coimbatore. And I feel sure that he himself, once he has read the letters from Propaganda, will have no further doubt about where his duty lies, namely to stay on at Pondicherry, for the good of our work and our over-all encouragement. ..

“For the rest, if those people do not do something quite unexpected and outrageous to sabotage the original plans of Propaganda, I think the Sacred Congregation will hold firm and implement them. Patience and perseverance are two qualities that are particularly admired in Rome … They say the new Pope has plenty of both, as well as great gentleness and moderation. A happy omen in these troubled times. I really cannot tell you anything more about Pius IX. Up to now he has been sizing things up, before doing anything. He hasn’t shown his policy at all yet. Anyway, he is a man of great virtue; and that’s no small thing …”

The policy chosen by Pius IX soon after this is already well known to all. God forbid that I should be so rash as to pass judgment on him. Many magnificent actions have ennobled his pontificate. He is still gloriously reigning; may God in his goodness guard him and keep him, a long time to come, for the good of Holy Church! Only, we can still regret, perhaps, that his immense labours [nearer home] are preventing him from attending to the Missions as personally as his predecessor did. As a result, Propaganda seems to be tiring, and to be quite unable to respond to the present needs of many of the Missions.

[* Fr Lazare’s “Society”. Rules.*]

I have already spoken of the good qualities of the Indian priest Fr Lazare. I wish we had four or five hundred like him. And we should have, given the present development of the Indian Christian communities. It is by no means an unrealistic number, (p 714) if only the minds of the missionaries were concentrated better on the fundamental objective of Local Clergy. Or, if they lack personal enthusiasm for that work (which does not appear to suit present European attitudes) why couldn’t Propaganda command it, and effectively oblige them to get down to it seriously?

Fr Lazare was only newly ordained (but quite mature in years) when the saving movement for Local Clergy was started in Pondicherry [1843]. He shared our views completely, especially by his desire to raise the standards of the clergy; and he himself has always given the example. True, on one occasion, when he was with me at the Seminary, he may have bent a little [about caste]. This made him leave the Staff. Nevertheless he always remained very friendly, and trusted me a lot. When he heard I was leaving Pondicherry, he urgently requested to come and talk with me. We had two or three long discussions. I could see he had made good progress in his determination to work for the greater glory of God.

He was hoping to get two or three fervent seminarians together (and perhaps a few like-minded missionaries) to form a Society devoted to improving the apostolic ministry. In the circumstances, all I could do was to encourage him vaguely to persevere in this good ambition until such time as Providence gave him the right opportunity to start. In the meantime, Fr Leroux and [Fr Godet], a young missionary whose angelic holiness gave great promise, seem to have quickly accepted his ideas. Each wrote to me, independently, asking my advice.

I had to be very prudent, not to appear to be interfering in the internal affairs of Pondicherry. True, these dear friends reckoned that their project should be of interest to us all; and they were right. But it was Pondicherry men who had got the idea first, and it was at Pondicherry that it would have to start, if the plan was to have any effect. So I must keep out of it. Moreover, I did not think the time was yet ripe. And even if it was, the plan, as it emerged spontaneously from the mind and heart of Fr Lazare, was greatly in need of modifications. Given these, and a sufficient number of Indian priests, something like his plan could become very relevant. In Kerala, for example, if the Carmelite missionaries (p 715) had been able to cultivate a good priestly spirit, there certainly ought to be some Pious Associations of priests. And they would have done a great deal of good. They might even have rescued the numerous clergy there (both Latin and Syro-chaldaean) from their disgraceful laziness and ignorance

Fr Lazare’s plan, then, was neither perfect nor timely. Nevertheless I will quote part of it here. It shows that a black priest, too, can have the spirit of sacrifice, devotedness and charity; in short, the spirit of the Gospel. I copy verbatim, grammar and all:

“Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.“110

1. The conversion of sinners and of pagans cannot be done except by truly virtuous men, leading a purely apostolic life.

2. To form such men, we need:

a) a Rule of Apostolic Living;

b) practice of it ourselves, to see if it is practical; and to give a good example to others.

3. We must make a vow to keep the Rule for five years, and then be free to renew it or leave it, according to circumstances.

4. The Rule will consist of Chastity, poverty, humility and obedience.

5. Chastity: Vow not only to do no carnal act, but also never to look fixedly at a person of opposite sex; and not to speak to such person except through another man. Never to touch such a person or let oneself be touched.

6. Always hear women’s confession in man’s presence.

7. Poverty: possess no property in money, land or goods.

8. Lend nothing to anybody.

9. Give nothing to parents and relatives.

10. Never get mixed in a law-suit.

11. Never make law on anybody.

12. Never strike anybody, or insult, or speak bad.

13. Have only one pair of soutanes, singlets etc., and all of cheap cloth.

14. For Mass, an altar-stone.

15. Ten pious books only.

October 1846, 2F8 P103.

(p 716)

16. Receive only a small sum from Superior, for simple living. If some surplus remains, must give it back.

17. Any stipends or alms must be given to Superior.

18. Every month, an account to Superior about spending of the pension.

19. Humility: Always walk on foot. No horse or vehicle.

20. Always sleep on the floor, with simple mat and wooden pillow only. (This may seem exaggerated. But the vast majority of Indians always sleep like that. --M.B.)

21. Eat anything touched by anybody.

(This hits the caste system, which forbids eating anything touched by pariahs or other lower castes or by “left-hand” castes if you are “right-hand”. A few of the missionaries were beginning to react strongly against the whole caste system. It is worth noting that Fr Lazare belonged to a very good caste himself).

22. Go to all Pondicherry villages; celebrate Mass in the small

chapels and huts when necessary.

23. No meat except Sundays and Feasts; and then only once.

24. Never wine, smoking, snuffing, betal-chewing.

25. Never sit at table with lay people.

26. Never shave…

33. Wherever they are, they must always observe the common Rule…

36. Obedience: At home they must exactly obey Superior. ..

39. Armed with those virtues, when the Superior wishes, they will go out two by two to evangelize.

40. In administering Sacraments, in ceremonies, in Feasts etc., they must always observe the Roman Ritual and rubrics…

42. The pariahs and the “pallar” seem better disposed to receive the Word of Truth. We can start with them…

44. First, we must try to convert the Christians well, and convince them that the sublimest virtue a Christian can do is to convert a pagan.

45. Thus, if every Christian was convinced of this truth, and was determined to convert a pagan before dying, soon we would see conversions multiplying…

47. Finally, it is by our charities and humilities that we can win people, and dispose them to listen to our words.111

(p 717)

  • The Locals. Schismatic Elements.*

  • The People liked me because I was Odd Man Out.*

I was on my own in Karumattampatty, apart from Fr Laugier, who was trying to teach our few school-children. I could see many good points in them. They were much more simple than the Pondicherry urchins. And, provided you did not do something that was blatantly against Caste, you had a lot more freedom with them. The Christians here were not so touchy either, about Caste. They were still unsuspicious of us, unlike the East Coast Catholics. Unfortunately, their open attitude soon changed, after our missionaries became more numerous, and after some of them did stupid things.

Even now, however, I noticed that some of the Christians, especially in certain villages, were somewhat cool towards me, in contrast to the near-enthusiasm of other villages. I soon found out that there was still a dangerous element of discord, dating from the first coming of the Pondicherry missionaries to this area.

There was still some tension between those who had plotted to bring in the MEP and those who had wanted to stay under the traditional jurisdiction of the West Coast (black) priests. These people had never wholeheartedly accepted our missionaries. And unfortunately, since that time, the West Coast priests had been drawn into the Goa Schism. Ignoring all that, their lay supporters (who were hardly experts in Canon Law, and who considered the Schism to be a mere dispute between rival groups of priests) would even now be ready to call them back. But they could not hope to obtain enough numerical support in the District. So the danger did not seem very great; but it was always there, and it required careful handling.

Happily, God in his goodness gave me the gift of being well liked by the Christians, from the start. My temperament seemed to suit them. Moreover, they could see that I liked them sincerely. And, whatever they say about the “ingratitude” of the Indians, I am convinced that they always like those who like them (which is rare). Yes, I have said it before, and could not repeat it too often: [There is a difference between love and liking]. When the Whites (p 718) have charity (and nearly all missionaries have that) they do love the Blacks [but they do not necessarily like them]. They love them “in God” as they are duty bound to do. But they love them without liking them, without human affection, without fellow-feeling for them. And that big lacuna explains a great deal of things on the missions. By second nature, the Whites tend to rebuff the Blacks, much more than the other way round. For a white man to empathize with a black man, he must be a sort of odd man out, or exception, as I was; or else (through a special grace which he hardly ever thinks of specially asking for) he must be given the strength to conquer his own inbuilt dislike.

[* Fr. Pacreau. Land. A well-timed Wall.*]

Fr Pacreau was a great help to me in the beginning. He was in charge of the Karumattampatty outstations [including Coimbatore] so I was in constant touch with him, often by writing. In fact I never did anything without consulting him. Unfortunately, his rough and unyielding temperament soon came to the fore. I tried everything in order to keep him in good humour; but he would still take everything as a slight. This troubled me a lot because, as well as everything else, I liked the man, for his many good qualities; and I had nobody else I could count on. I did not yet really know Fr Métral; and the other two were not of the type to inspire confidence. When Fr Pacreau came back from visiting his outstations, we managed to spend two good months together. I made every possible concession to suit him, and he showed none of his normal bad humour. We studied Tamil together; and we had two whole months of peaceful calm.

He was still looking around for a house in Coimbatore. He had found a good one, but it would cost 6000 rupees.112This was a lot more than what we had. Meanwhile, in the short term, we needed more space (p 719) at Karumattampatty. And we would still need it, even after settling in Coimbatore.

Beyond our little garden was a big empty space belonging de facto to nobody. It was vaguely meant for the use of the church; the Christians usually held their big annual Procession there. To secure it clearly, we would strictly speaking have to ask the Collector’s permission. But he had been so hostile the day we called; so we did not want to risk a refusal, which would then become quite irreversible. We thought it better to try a bit of fait accompli. So we called in the ‘ottars’113 to put up a dry-stone wall around the piece of land. We gave them a good “advance” and promised a very good bonus if they had it up by a certain date.

It worked. When the wall was half finished, a certain fairly influential pagan, out of pure jealousy at the advantage to the church, told us he was going to report us. Fr Pacreau knew him, and his various little activities.

“All right” he told him. “But just one squeak out of you, and I will tell them all about such-and-such”.

The man kept quiet; and the job was finished before the Colector knew anything about it. Some time later, his Thasildhar saw the wall. He said nothing. He must certainly have reported it to the Collector; but he said nothing either. Not even when we started digging foundations for my future seminary. Nobody else objected.

  • Towards Ooty. The runaway Bride. Mettupalayam.*

On the Nilgiri Mountains114 at Ootacumund, there is a new town being built by the English as a place to go for fresh air, or (p 720) European climate. Little by little, a small Catholic community has been started, one of the most promising in the Vicariate. At this particular time, there was no priest there; and Christmas was coming, a Feast which is very special there. Some priest had to go there for it. Otherwise the Goa schismatics were likely to start something. I decided to go there myself, with Fr Pacreau, and to stay a month or so.

On the 17th December, at 2 in the morning, we set out, Fr Pacreau on horseback and myself in a palanquin. We had ten men carrying our luggage, including our mountain clothes, covering, etc.; for we heard it would be “freezing”. [… 115] Each man carried only a small load, because of the steep road ahead. And, to reduce the palanquin team, I had promised to walk (or climb) the worst parts myself. Nevertheless, including the “disciples”, the cook and the “condireicaran”, we were 29 in all.

On our first day’s march we made a bee-line through fields and bushes, cutting out 20 miles, compared to going via Coimbatore and the main road. We did about 30 miles in the heat of the day, through a semi-desert. Nothing interrupted this monotonous trek until mid-day. [ … ]116

We were then resting, in the shade of a huge tamarind tree, waiting for provisions to arrive from the nearest village. Along came my “pion“117 leading a poor girl (she was no more than 13 or 14, and certainly she was more to be pitied than blamed). For the pion said he knew her, and knew she had recently disappeared from her husband’s village, leaving no trace. People said her husband had beaten her brutally and she had run away. Now, to his great surprise, my pion had spotted her, along with a pagan man, at the local village market, when he was buying provisions for us there. And he now brought her before us, her head bowed in shame.

(p 721)

“Métranié”, he said to me, “here is a woman who left her village four or five days ago. Just as I was buying rice I spotted her, along with one pagan who had stolen her. I called her, but she didn’t want to come. Then I told her the “swamis” were here and she must come and explain herself. To this she agreed. The pagan who stole her is a professional woman-stealer. He had several with him. This one is too young, so he made no great resistance when I began to take her away; because she is not nubile yet.

“All her ear-rings, silver bracelets and nose-brooch she gave to that hobo; everything except her “srubham” (medal). She would not part with that.

“You must throw that thing away and bow down to my gods”, he told her.

“No way:’ she replied. “I will do anything else; but I will not worship your Idols, and I will not let go of my medal.”

“But at least”, says the pagan, “you will not keep wearing it round your neck like that!”

“All right, I’ll take it off. But I’ll keep it in my clothes.”

During all this long narration by the pion (with lots of other details which she had told him on the way) the girl remained kneeling, head down, without a word. But when he came to the srubham part, she reached into her dirty and ragged cloth, and drew out a medal of Our Lady, to show to us. Fr Pacreau now took over:

“Why did you leave your home?”

“My husband used to flog me.” And she showed us the weals still visible on her shoulders.

Why didn’t you come and complain to us, instead of running away like that? And how did you come to do such a wicked thing as to join up with that pagan?”

“I don’t know why. It was “mayam” (confusion of mind). When I was on the road I met that man, and he saw me crying. He told me to follow him, and he would give me food and look after me well. I had this “mayam” so I just followed him.”

“And what did he give you?”

“Nothing but a handful of cold rice. But he did not do anything to me, (p 722) because I am still only a small girl. Even, he was going to send me back home with a “sakkiliar”.

“When did that mayam leave you?” “Just now, when the pion called me.”

Was she stupid, or did this pagan really give her some potion or other? It seems certain that such “medicines” exist, and that kidnappers (especially Muslims, they say) are able to use them to confuse the mind of their victims, and make them follow almost (if not completely) automatically.

“All right”, we told her. “Go now and eat with our people. Afterwards we will see what is to be done.”

But we were really in a dilemma about that. We just could not go away and leave her. And in this particular area there was not a single Christian family to care for her. At Mettupalayam, which we were supposed to reach that evening, there were a few Christian houses. But those were pariahs; and to leave her with them would be a worse “disgrace” than anything that had happened to her so far. After we had all finished eating, I sent for the pion.

“What can we do about her?”

“If you permit, she can come along with us, as far as Ooty. I have mentioned it to her already, and she agrees. Afterwards, she can go back home with coolies from her own village or near by. I know the head coolie; he is a serious somebody and a good Christian. We can count on him to bring her back safe to her family.”

“Right. That will do.”

And the poor girl, who was then only half a day from her village, readily agreed to walk three more days to Ooty with our people, and four days back, all alone, into a winter that must be very severe for Indians, without any other protection than the cotton rags she had on. And this with no hesitation whatever, as if it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. Probably very happy to be guaranteed six or seven days with as much food as she could possibly want.

We continued our journey, in the extreme heat of the plain. [ … ] It was night when we got to the bungalow at Mettupalayam. (p 723) Here there is a small and particularly miserable Christian community, of pariahs. The men are hardly ever at home, nearly always away on coolie work for English travellers to the fresh air of the Nilgiri Hills, or out on trading trips farther away, into Kerala, to buy pigs to sell at Ooty. To crown all, their little mud-and-straw church had just been burnt down, that same year.

None of them came to see me on this occasion. Either it was too late, or they had not received word of our coming, or they were just beyond caring about religion. A few crosses on tombs outside the village were the only signs of Christianity I saw.

Situated near the foot of the Western Ghats Mountains, Mettupalayam gets a cool breeze down from them, especially in December and January. The night was almost cold; and the sky was perfectly clear. I stood admiring the stars, so much bigger and brighter than is usual in India.

  • The Enchanting Forest*

Next morning at five, we set out again. Soon we would have to start climbing. But the first four miles are almost level; we even went down a bit. The road leads through a luxuriant forest, for the valley is a network of streams from the mountain. The morning was beautiful and the temperature mild. So we could walk along at our ease, enjoying the enchanting spectacle which Nature everywhere puts on as she awakens in the early morning. But especially here, where the sounds of multitudinous streams are orchestrated to the varied notes of infinity of birds, each of dazzling plumage, singing amid the wonderfully fresh green branches of the magnificent trees. There was not one of those choristers that didn’t have a beautiful voice. The endless variety of the warbling, the plumage, the verdant foliage, all made it something completely charming and captivating.

We would have set out even earlier but for the dangers of trying to traverse this forest in the dark; for it is sometimes visited by elephants, tigers and other wild animals. This danger, however, is diminishing every day, because of the recent increase in traffic. (p 724) And the English have taken the precaution of clearing all the trees a certain distance back from the road, and regularly burning the secondary bush and bamboos.

I cannot express the dream-like delight which possessed my soul at all this sudden beauty, the first of its kind since my arrival in India [four years ago]. No more of the endless sterile and boring plains. No more flat rice-fields, beautifully green, indeed, for six months of the year, but even then monotonous, and squelchy under the traveller’s feet. Nor even those sudden hillocks which I often had to cross over, nothing on them but rocks and stones, with hardly a scrawny shrub able to grow in their crevices. Here I gazed in wonder at a real Mountain.

The imposing roar of waterfalls crashing down with white foam on the impregnable rocks. The gentle prattling of smaller streams across sloping meadows. Limpid rivulets twinkling drop by drop, or rippling half-seen through thick banks of moss. Soaring trees still in the prime of life, and others bowed a bit by the weight of centuries bravely survived. A few were nothing more than great standing skeletons of trees; but the creepers, often of immeasureable length, had come to enfold them in their thick coils, as if to adorn their stark nudity. And others like huge marble columns with great white branches (all stripped clean) stood out dramatically above the new green jungle growing (several feet a year) up out of their fallen ruins, flourishing wildly amid this vast natural green-house, ever pushing upwards on the generously watered and heated slopes.

As I said, this type of natural beauty could not be seen (or dreamt of) in any region I had yet known in India. My students at Pondicherry, or even the most educated people there, could not begin to imagine it. When I spoke to them of other climates in India (or when they read of them in books) it all seemed to them a fairy tale or an abstraction; just like a volcano, or frost, or snow.

About 8 o’clock we breakfasted near a sparkling waterfall. Then we started into the long, steep climb of seven or eight miles, up to Coonoor. If I were to do this in my palanquin I would have needed to engage a second team of carriers at Mettupalayam. But then I would have missed a lot of the fantastic mountain scenery. (p 725) Anyway, I wanted to save the extra expense, quite considerable for a missionary bishop.

So I climbed up on foot, along with Fr. Pacreau. His horse, though handsome and dignified, was elderly; and definitely not a mountaineer. [ … ] Half way up, we halted for a few hours in a “savady” built for “the natives” and we took our frugal mid-day meal.

  • The great Ghat Road, a wonder of English Engineering*

Quite often, a thick mist can come down over these slopes. But this day the sky was wonderfully clear, and we could enjoy the scenery at our ease. We could stop and stare at the endless charms of Nature, and also admire the wonderful practical intelligence of European Man. Ten thousand miles from home; he peacefully reigns over millions of peoples who are by no means primitive. And here, merely for his comfort and recreation, just to have some place with cooler air to breathe, above the plains, he succeeded in building a really good road, up over granite cliffs and through dense forests, up through terrain which the natives had always considered utterly inaccessible.

Certainly, there are greater and more artistic works of construction and architecture to be seen in Europe. But for sheer competence in planning and execution, there are few to equal the English engineers who planned this Mountain Road, and built it and cut it into the rock, using the natural contours to the best possible advantage to produce the cheapest possible result: a road not too steep for pedestrians or beasts of burden, and yet not too long or winding, a route not requiring too many cuttings or embankments or over-expensive bridges.

New visitors to mountains in Europe love to stop and contemplate the delicious horrors around the next bend: huge cliffs overhanging frightful precipices, while a hidden river groans and rumbles down below, giving a touch of solemn background music to the impressive and awe-inspiring scenery. Yet even these magnificent (p 726) horrors must fade, in comparison with the sheer majestic size of the great Mountain Ranges, like the Pyrenees or the Alps. But the Nilgiris have something else again, incomparable (though I saw it surpassed a few years later, in Ceylon) i.e. the sheer beauty, richness and luxuriance of the vegetation rising, still magnificent and grandiose, reaching almost to the very summits of these mountains.

[* Castles in the Air: farming Monasteries*]

What varied thoughts and reflexions, some cheerful, some tinged with sadness, did we share, good Fr Pacreau and myself, during that delightful day’s climb!

“Oh, look at those valleys, those magnificent sloping meadows, all uncultivated! Just a few strong arms to clear the bush; fell a few trees, and what brilliant harvests would soon cover them! How many thousands are dying of hunger in the world, while so many empty stretches of good land lie untilled! If they could only come here, each armed with a cutlass and a hoe and a few handfuls of grain, in six months they would have enough to feed the whole family. India, for sure, has plenty of people; and they are intelligent rice farmers. And yet, even in India itself, what vast tracts of uncared wilderness there are! These would be certain to flourish if only the enterprise of the Europeans would lend a paternal hand to the good routine of the Indians. If so many millions are going hungry, it is not the fault of Nature. Providence has given Man the whole round earth, to inhabit and to cultivate. But, if we look at the planet as a whole, we will see that most of it is empty of people, while in a few special places they all crowd crazily together and devour each other!

“Will mankind ever be able to invent a rational system of migration, to look after all of humanity without harming the communities on the spot, by directing the overflow population towards the empty lands, opening up the treasures hidden in the soil, to produce a hundred-fold through well-planned development?”

(p 727) Some people say the end of the world is near. I don’t believe them. They base their guesses on the “spread” of the Christian religion “everywhere”. [I know better]. But apart from these “theological” reasons, isn’t it obvious that the earth has not yet been properly possessed or “subdued” by man, its master. There are a few places where the land is tired out and over-worked. But there are so many others where the soil has not yet produced anything for Man.

“Here in India, why couldn’t we have some settlements of monastic agriculturists, such as those who once transformed the wilderness and the forests of ancient Gaul and Europe into our rich provinces of France, England, and Germany etc? How perfectly situated would be a community of Trappists in that valley down there! Wouldn’t it be possible to invite them?”

We discussed ways and means; and our plans began to seem less and less unrealistic. We then proceeded to construct numerous fine castles in the air, and to cheer our imagination with bright visions of the future. From the hard work of those brothers, and their shining example of evangelical living, we felt sure, there would soon spring up a new Christian civilisation, amid a people long fossilized into social prejudices and idolatry. Their silent preaching could prove a lot more effective than the spoken kind. For their way of life is exactly the sort to win the admiration of the Indians.

The constant example of patience, simple living, mortification and prayer would be a real “sanyassi” religious life, an example such as the present missionary Orders are so far from showing; and it would surely bear abundant fruit in conversions.

But, once in India, would the monks keep up the exact observance of their ancient Rule? Or would they do like the other Orders, and find some good plausible reasons for changing it? So, once again, the Indians would be deprived of even the notion of what our contemplative and anchorite Saints must have been like! Everything good imported from Europe seems to fade and weaken in the Indian climate, like exotic plants which wither and fail to produce good fruit.

How much better and more hopeful it would be if a man of (p 728) God established a proper new religious Order here in India itself, adapted to the nature and character of the Indians! His monks could be just as real “sanyassi” as the pagan ones; and even more so, because they would have purity of intention and the Christian sources of perfection. But can we ever hope to see such a wonderful thing come to pass? Why, even our own zealous efforts for an even more essential and fundamental work, the Local Clergy, seems destined to get nowhere! The work for Indian Monks would come up against the same stubborn oppositions as the work for Indian priests.

Poor old India! Are you going to be pagan to the end of time?

  • Up, up into boyhood Languedoc.*

*The Daisies and the Furze Bushes and the Lark *

in the Clear Air.

About 3 p.m. we resumed our climb, in brilliant sunshine (but now it began to feel almost right; not too hot for us) amidst the varied evensong of thousands of birds, yellow, blue, green, red and black; and some of them sang even better than in the morning. Their concert was sometimes broken into by the raucous wood-cock and the squeaking bush-fowl. One of Fr Pacreau’s disciples had a shotgun, and he murdered a few of those innocents, some to go with our evening rice, others merely in order to take a closer look at their rich and brilliant plumage. Really, that was pure barbarism on our part. I would have been less sorry if it was one of the big black monkeys who seemed to be always trying to block us, jeering and gibbering as we passed. And indeed they ought to have been more careful; for they were not of the “sacred” kind, and we could easily have shot a few of them without starting a riot. Moreover, their blood is supposed to be an excellent medicine for asthma! Our hunter fired at them; but the apes were luckier than the innocent pretty birds. There were also some big wild deer that stood and bayed defiance at his buck-shot.

The air was becoming keener and lighter. With chest expanded, (p 729) we were delighted to drink it in. The rays of the sun were still strong, but they no longer oppressed us with heat; and where a mountain slope interposed, or a dense wood shaded those rays, we actually felt cold on our shoulders and arms. The water from the rocks was not merely cool; it seemed ice-cold.

Gradually, the vegetation changed. The palm-tree, the banana, the coconut, the tamarind gave way to other trees; the Indians with us did not even know their names; for they were now in a foreign country. The birds diminished in numbers and brightness; but their singing was sweeter.

Suddenly I stopped. I could not believe my ears. Wasn’t that the song of the lark, up in the sky? And there she was, indeed, soaring and singing, just as wholehearted as in my belle France. The whole sky seemed alive with the sweet trill of her voice … At this rate, just another bit up the road, and the nightingale will start! But Fr Pacreau, who knew this country well, said “not a chance”. These mountains have never echoed with her strains.

Instead, I heard the twittering of countless swallows, zigzagging above a verdant slope, a green stretch broken here and there by clumps of yellow … What yellow bush is that? It can’t be … Furze! Whins! How I ran to clutch the first sprigs of it that came within my reach!

Now in truth we were in a land like Europe. The road-side hedges were no longer of crude “cally” or cactus, but blackberry briars, raspberry bushes and yellow acacia. The Lawns were strewn with daisies, wild-strawberry flowers … Near by we saw some wild roses, thyme and sage … and scores of other old acquaintances whose names I could not remember. [Now what is that one called?] It took a whole quarter of an hour before it came back to me and with it all the lovely landscape of Languedoc, where I spent the best years of my life.

(p 730)

  • Coonoor. The “English” Plateau.*

  • Delightful Walk up to Ooty.*

Night caught up with us an hour before Coonoor bungalow. Now we were on a level plateau for the next two miles. I did these in the palanquin. We had to hurry. For as soon as the sun went down, it got really cold. How our poor coolies, servants and disciples shivered and huddled, benumbed by the climate! What did those crazy Europeans want, coming up to this awful place?

Fr Pacreau knew from past experience how much the sudden change of temperature was going to affect the efficiency of the Indians. So he had told them at noon to prepare the evening rice as well. Lucky he did; for without this precaution, we would surely have gone to bed empty. A thick fog came down immediately after sunset, making the cold even more piercing. My pion, a fairly elderly man, seemed to be the worst hit. I was giving him some instructions for tomorrow. “Alas”, he replied; “today we’re still alive; but will we see tomorrow?” Afterwards he brought us some drinking water. (By that time we had a fire going in the room). “Heat the water”, he told us. “Otherwise your teeth will fall out.” That got a laugh. And when he saw that we actually liked this cold, cold water, he just could not get over it. (It was the first water we had tasted for years).

The bungalow had no more furniture or bed-clothes in it than those in the plain. But every room had a fire-place. Luckily, we had brought along mattresses and blankets. The usual missionary sleeping-mat and cotton sheet would have been very useless for that cold night. For (apart from the usual huge temperature difference all the year round) we were now in the coldest month of the year.

In the morning, our people were far too numb to be called for an early start. Anyway there was no reason now to forestall [that giant] the midday Sun; for here his fires were greatly reduced. He eventually got up, and began scattering the light night mist. As soon as he was half a foot above the horizon, I could see our people making for any corner lit by his stray darts, to try and (p 731) revive themselves a bit. Half an hour later, we were on the road for Ootacamund.

Coonoor is one of the favourite plateau sites chosen by the English from the start, to be a rest and recreation centre, and a sort of sanitorium for invalids. Ootacamund is the principal plateau, however. Soon, no doubt, they will occupy the whole mountain top. At that time there was talk of a very big project, to build some sort of Military Hospital for all European troops, at Jakatala, between Coonoor and Ooty. All these points are already linked by magnificent roads. (In fact the project is now [1855] nearing completion).

We still had to climb much higher. But now the road rose very gently, being designed for carriage traffic. However, I still did most of this part on foot, so as not to miss any of the delightful scenery. Not so majestic as the previous day, but to me it was even more interesting. Those bare hills, but sometimes all covered with thick grass; those sudden crest, with streams running down to water the meadows below. Here and there, some odd fields of wheat or barley or rye being tried out, and other European crops as well. Everywhere there was something, if only the tiniest flower, to remind me of home. Here a yellow immortelle, a violet, marigolds, and more daisies; there honeysuckle, and there (surrounding an English bungalow) vivid beds of geraniums and roses, of wonderful variety. Further on, in their tended gardens, I saw nearly every flower and shrub of Europe.

  • Sudden Change. Joachin and the Schism. *

The morning was fine, but about noon a cold, thick mist came down. When we were near Ootacamund I could see the magnificent protestant temple, and even had to endure passing right in front of it. There are plenty of Protestants here, and so rich!

I looked around for our church. They carefully pointed out a small and miserable shack in the distance, with a cross stuck on (p 732) top. It was the humble dwelling of the Lord in this place. Near by, a poor cabin. It was the missionary’s rest-house; for he spent only a few months a year there.

The Catholics had not received the letter announcing our coming. So we made our way into Ooty without any noise. Not a trumpet, not a single drum was heard, not a bang was banged, not a ceremony performed. This was a great relief to us, but a keen disappointment to our supporters. And they had already got bad news that day (which also saddened ourselves). This was the arrival, only a few hours before us, of a schismatic priest.

There was a certain Joachin in Ooty, of partly Portuguese origin (though others say he is only a pariah dressed up). A former “butler”, he had made a considerable fortune in building. Probably quite honestly too, because he was one of the first to build comfortable bungalows in Ooty; these he rented out very profitably to the English visitors, who were beginning to flock to the Nilgiris for summer. Joachin was now a pillar of the schismatic church in Ooty.

But not so long ago, he was the right-hand man of our first confrere to visit the place. He had built a little church for the Father, next to his own bungalow. It was there that the missionary used to stay, and there the first sacraments were celebrated for our few Catholics. They were very few at first, just a few servants who came up with the English.

Then, one day, Joachin took offense at some decision of the missionary, who in turn was annoyed by Joachin’s “pretensions”. There was a row. Probably there were faults on both sides; for unfortunately it is only too common for missionaries to think there is no great need to avoid hurting the feelings of a black man. Well, this black man happened to have quite a lot of influence with the local Christians (nearly all pariahs). Moreover, he was well off. The missionary eventually managed to detach most of the Catholics from Joachin. He obtained another site, and got permission from the English authorities to build a church. He built it, and withdrew to that position. Joachin kept his own church, along with the affection of a certain number of the Catholics; and he used to send for a West Coast priest to come up and look after them now and then. (p 733)

At that time, it must be said, the Goa affair was not yet an out-and-out schism. These were still Catholic priests; but they ought to have asked permission, at least, from the Vicar Apostolic of the place. Still, they did have some sort of valid faculties themselves. Anyway, ever since the quarrel, Joachin would have nothing whatsoever to do with the “Pondicherry missionaries”. Even after the Bull “Multa Praeclare” he stayed on the side of Goa and the schismatic priests. Whether this was in good faith or in bad, I do not know.

In the meantime, his wealth had greatly decreased, and he could no longer afford a regular priest. His church was usually closed, and his adherents were gradually coming back to us. But now he had to make a supreme effort; because now there was a new “Propagandist” bishop in Coimbatore (me) and the Goa party was in danger of complete extinction. We had heard nothing of those secret moves of his; but they now worried us, especially as they were likely to win the support of several other communities all over the Vicariate.

Later on, we will see all the trouble this Schism caused me. It is still going on in India. But it seemed thoroughly defeated in my own Vicariate by the time I was leaving. With the help of a few Indian priests I was sure it could be finished off within two more years. And the same could be done in all of India.

Certainly, I deplore the error of the Indian Goa priests. I am disgusted by the cynicism of the Portuguese Government in stirring up this Schism. Still more do I condemn the meddling by the priests and bishops from Portugal. Without their culpable aiding and abetting, the Goa priests could get nowhere.

I sympathize with the Vicars Apostolic, and I admire their proven courage and devotedness to the Holy See. But I cannot help deploring their obtuseness; for there is one very effective way to end the Schism, and to deprive it of all credibility in the eyes of the Indians, by removing all its raison d’ étre; that is, to depend more on local clergy, instead of depending entirely on importing more European missionaries.

(p 734)

More Trouble: the Fr D Scandal

Another grief was a waiting my arrival in Ootacamund: a letter from Karumattampatty containing a terrible accusation against Fr D118 which unfortunately turned out to be only too true. I gave him the benefit of the doubt at first, of course. But if this was true, it was bound to become public if he stayed on at Karumattampatty.

“O God”. I then wrote, “this is all I need now, a good big scandal, to completely undermine my position. Will You do that to us, Lord?”

The letter was from a most respected Indian. It completely floored me. For, although Fr [Laugier] was only a young man, he was reckoned to be very holy; and I thought he was one man (out of my four) that I could count on for the future. Now, if he was a black man, they would all have said, immediately, “It just goes to show that you can never rely on an Indian priest!”

At that time and place, it had to be “innocent until proved guilty”. But a few months later, the evidence sadly became too strong to be ignored. One had to face it and accept the facts; and to say (as might come to be said of anyone) “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.

Meanwhile, I now consulted Fr Pacreau; and we concluded that, in the present doubtful situation, we should not leave Fr Laugier in Karumattampatty. We should not expose the Christians there to any shock now, nor to the scandal that might follow if the accusation later proved true. So I sent a letter by express messenger to Fr Laugier. I merely said that, since a schismatic priest had just arrived in Ooty, I wanted to put on a full High Mass for Christmas, to impress the faithful. So I asked him to come up, immediately he got this letter, and to bring dalmatics, making sure to arrive by the evening of the 24th.

(p 735) At the same time I wrote to Fr Barot: having instructed Fr Laugier to come up to Ooty, I am hereby sending you immediately to take his place at Karumattampatty for the Christmas celebrations.

Fr Laugier came promptly. I do not know if he suspected anything. Anyway, he obeyed my orders. As for Fr Barot, he is unfortunately the type of man who always has to know “the why and the wherefore” of every little thing, before going and doing it. Accordingly, he did not go to Karumattampatty. This caused quite a lot of confusion and vexation among the people. But these were a great deal easier to deal with than the scandal that might have ensued there if Fr Laugier had not left.

He duly arrived, at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, cheerful and lively as usual. There was no sign of any uneasiness. And I took good care not to give the slightest hint of the real reason for bringing him up here. We celebrated Christmas in as great a style as possible. I can tell you, I was pretty sad all the time. But the presence of the schismatic priest overshadowed everything, and explained my depression nicely.

Not to have to come back later to that miserable affair, I will conclude it now. Instead of letting Fr Laugier return immediately after Christmas, I told him to stay on. Some time later, I told him about the accusation against him. “I like to think it is completely false; but I think you had better stay up here for a while. In any case, the presence of the schismatic priest requires that someone should stay here; so nobody will suspect anything peculiar in that.” His apparent humility on receiving these orders might have made me think he must be innocent. But the few words he mumbled gave him away.

So he stayed on. But, not long after, he seems to have given up all idea of trying to control his passions. He wrote to me himself, saying he could not possibly stay in India. Some sort of vertigo must have taken possession of him; for he even asked me to request the Holy See for a dispensation from the vow of chastity. I refused to do any such thing. (It would have been quite useless). He wrote to Rome himself. I don’t know what kind of a reply he got back. Most probably, something on the same lines as Gregory [*(p 736) *]XVI’s famous reply, in the case of a sub-deacon: “Oret, jejunet, aut pereat119.

Meanwhile, Fr Laugier asked to change places with a certain Pondicherry missionary. I informed Bishop Bonnand about this request, not hiding the fact that, sadly, I had some grave reasons for wanting Fr Laugier out of the country. Bishop Bonnard’s charity must have led him to hope he might be able to convert him. And the Bishop was fairly fed up, anyway, with his Fr E, as I will henceforth call him (not on any moral grounds but for other reasons). So he agreed to the swop. Fr Laugier left and Fr E [Pajean] came to take his place.

Later on poor Fr Laugier misconducted himself again, and was liable for expulsion. He didn’t wait for that, however. He left on his own accord and got himself lost on some island of the Indian Ocean, where he dropped every notion of being a priest. According to the latest news about him, however, he may have repented and been converted. God grant it!

We should not be too astonished at such a tragedy happening to a missionary. Among the first Twelve there was a traitor. Thanks be to God, such defections are extremely rare, at least among the missionaries of our Society. But they do remind us to be always on our guard, to watch and to pray.

[*New Year (1847) Reflections and Prayer. *]

[*Badly Drifting apart: Luquet, Bonnand, Myself. *]

New Year found me stilI at Ootacamund. I wrote in mv diary: “0 God, the year just ended has been marked for me by many gifts and graces bestowed on your unworthy servant, who was sometimes almost up to the sky, sometimes down in the darkest depths. Some people wrote me letters of high praise; and others treated me ignominiously. You yourself, Lord, broke my heart with the weight of tribulation; and then You filled it with (p 737)delight. You heaped troubles on me, and precious consolations. There were tears of joy and tears of sadness. And all these happenings, I gladly recognize, were graces from You. So, in spite of my many infidelities, I think I have come to love You better, better than yesterday or the day before. Grant, 0 my God, that my love for You may still grow, along with your continued graces to me! May my gratitude not limit itself to mere ordinary courtesy? Indeed it ought to be boundless, for your graces to me have been truly extraordinary.

“Pardon my numerous faults against the work of your grace, my failure to completely forget and deny myself, in the various events of the past year. Pardon me if I did not always maintain proper charity in my words and behavior towards people who opposed my views and plans. Pardon my failure to keep my soul in calm and in peace, and to moderate the wishes of my heart (even my best and most seemly desires) as did the Saints. And if any read these lines, may they pardon me too. For believe me, even if I used some fairly strong expressions in my diary, about the conduct and policy of some people (whom I certainly stilI respect) I have never meant to question or attack their honesty or good intentions.

“Lord the future is in Your hands; and I know not to what shores the prevailing winds are wafting me. Whatever befalls me, Lord, be Thou the one and only motivation of my actions, the single End of all my efforts and undertakings, the one Object of all my desires. Turn us into docile instruments of your Mercy towards less fortunate peoples. To this end, give me understanding and strength, detachment and mortification, humility and zeal; and every virtue which a missionary bishop should decently have. With these we will triumph over the greatest obstacles. Or at least we will have put everything we have into fighting the good fight; and that’s really all You ask of us. Ah, Lord! What a long, hard way to travel yet! How much still remaining to be done!

“In human terms, the heart should falter at the task ahead (and mine does feel dismayed at times). Since this time last year, we seem to have even lost ground. Minds have become more and more [stubborn] confused and irritable.

(p 738)“Bishop Luquet “sees no good reason” to retract or modify a single word he has written or a single decision he has made. So he still has most of his principal confreres in India solidly lined up against him. He has turned them even more against him by his recent defensive writings. Those pamphlets of his are of no great use or significance in themselves. They are merely [irritating and] imprudent repetitions. Basically, the man is right. But he shouldn’t be saying it himself, so often or so loud. This new defiant stance of his has become a serious obstacle to all that we have been working for.

“Worse still is the way Bishop Bonnand continues to treat my dear confrere, and his consequent extreme reserve towards myself. All our best hopes are now shattered. Bishop Bonnand has a great heart, as I have said, an angelic soul; but a rather small and narrow mind. He did not see all the practical implications of his strange new stance, and even now he cannot see them. Ever since [1845] he began to keep me partly in the dark, and to keep some of his planned writings secret from me. A lot of deplorable circulars have since come out. [He has very poor advisers]. Fr Lehodey is an angel in many ways; but his ideas are cramped. Fr Dupuis has an outstanding mind, but no courage. The two of them have often tried in vain to stop the Bishop from promulgating such stuff; but they have sometimes encouraged him into lamentable decisions. And what is the result? This prelate, worthy of a better place in history, is now so busy hampering our progress that he is actually harming himself and weakening his own work [cutting off his nose to spite his face]. For after all, our work is essentially the same; all three of us want the same thing. His greatest glory is the goodness of his heart. That is enough to make someone personally a Saint; but not necessarily a great leader.

“Luquet began by devoloping the general principles, which Bishop Bonnand then seemed to have laid down once and for all, at the Synod of Pondicherry (and seemed to have totally adopted them as his own). Developing and publicizing these missionary principles in the name of the Bishop of Pondicherry, Luquet brought their implementation a great step nearer actuality, and at (p 739) the same time greatly enhanced the reputation of his venerable master. He was somewhat like a general winning glorious victories by his own sweat and blood, and leaving the honour and glory for it to his king.”

[* On the Mountain -top but in a real Hole *]

“My own position at the moment is rather grave, to say the very least; and I cannot see how it will all turn out, even in the short term. One of my four missionaries is under a grave suspicion. Another has just started off a flaming row at Karumattampatty by his bloody-minded disobedience (or is it merely his blundering awkwardness?). A third has constantly to be humoured by extreme concessions. All this has me in a condition of depression or deep distress.

“In addition to all that, the schismatics can come down into the Vicariate at any moment, and sow confusion and dissension among our people. Right here and now, a rebel priest has set up an opposition altar, under my very nose. Grumblings and rumblings of discontent can already be heard here and there. And the traditional anti-Pondicherry elements are beginning to show new hopes of bringing back the West Coast priests. Or course they could not care less whether these are technically schismatic or not.

“If they try something on, what cards have I in my hand, against their ploy? Not the English Government; it will almost certainly back them up; for the local Collector (at least) is obviously hostile to us. [Probably because a new autonomous Vicariate of Coimbatore does not suit British plans]. Or is this (apparently new) attitude of the English authorities another consequence of the reckless protests made by the Vicar Apostolic of Madras against the sub-division of the Vicariates? That huge blunder is bound to keep on producing bitter [political] fruit for years to come.

“I had set my hopes on our little school at Karumattampatty. Soon I might be able to find a few good students in it, to become (p 740) the nucleus of a seminary there. Now they are all going to be disbanded, scattered. Who is going to teach them? Fr Laugier was the only one who seemed to have some flair for that work.

“O God, come to our aid! Lord, save us; we perish!”

  • Mean Responses from two Bishops. Foolish Outburst.*

The general situation did not permit me to stay much longer at Ooty. I made a few attempts to get the schismatic priest to recognize the authority of the Vicars Apostolic; but all in vain. Then I went down again, leaving Fr Laugier there, and quickly returned to Karumattampatty. There I met Fr Barot. He had come there, after Christmas, and was making some sort of an effort to teach the children. But the people were still highly annoyed at him.

At Karumattampatty I made enquiries into the case against Fr Laugier. I found it was only too convincing, not to say proved beyond a shadow of doubt. Did the story leak out to any of the people? I’ll never know for sure.

In this near-desperate situation [as regards personnel] I appealed for help from my two episcopal colleagues in the neighbouring Vicariates. They sent back total refusals, based on their inability (real or imagined) to help me. The pain and disappointment of this has never quite been erased from my heart. It was all the more painful because several ordinary missionaries would gladly have come to my aid if they were allowed.

I could name quite a few; but I will just cite Fr Chevalier. He would love to go into seminary work. He wrote to tell me what a joy it would be, to come and lay the foundations of mine. So I wrote to Bishop Charbonnaux, to please release him. In his place I would give one of the new missionaries soon coming to me from France. “Impossible!” Fr. Chevalier insistently repeated his offer; I wrote again. Still “impossible”.

In fact this second refusal was conveyed in a very nasty letter from Bishop Charbonnaux, accusing me of intrigue! …

“I am not quite sure if that is the right word for my correspondence”, (p 741)[* ]I remarked at the time; “but this is how it happened: Good Fr[ *]Chevalier wrote to me, saying he would soon be leaving Bangalore. He was being sent to a “parish”. He was quite content with that, of course. But he was sorry he could not go and do seminaries work. He felt specially attracted to that work; he liked teaching; and he was keenly interested in Native Clergy. I immediately replied: if, while maintaining all due proprieties, he could obtain permission to come, I was now offering him the job of creating and directing my new seminary. He responded immediately to this offer, saying he was now even more eager to come and join my Vicariate.

“At that time I was in the deep distress or depression just mentioned [about personnel]. Bishop Bonnand had-persisted in his “inability” to send me the help I was still asking, by every possible medium: one good solid young cleric from Pondicherry Seminary. I told all this to Fr Chevalier and asked him to think about it, before God: could he ask Bishop Charbonnaux again for permission to come to Karumattampatty? And I enclosed a letter from myself to the Bishop, to be taken to him if Fr Chevalier felt he ought to renew his request. It was to this letter that Bishop Charbonnaux has just now replied. His tone is very angry. To a painful refusal a nasty innuendo was subtly attached. I must say, this letter really hurt and irritated me. But where does irritation get you?

“Nearly every time, it just makes you commit a further blunder yourself. Therefore, instead of remedying the cause of the pain, it generally adds on another trouble. And that is just what happened to me. I made the blunder of replying at once. I made it quite clear to him how I felt about the complete lack of interest shown by himself and Bishop Bonnand in the desperate position I was facing.

[* Elementary Teacher and High-level Correspondent (with Tesson, Luquet, even Pius IX)*]

My presence at Karumattampatty calmed the people down a bit. They seemed to recognize the deep affection I had for them; (p 742) and so they did not give me any signs of their “usual ingratitude”.

This famous accusation of ingratitude is, in my opinion, nothing else but the poor people’s natural annoyance when they see their own deepest concerns ignored or insulted, or when foreigners openly defy the customs or prejudices which (rightly or wrongly) they hold most dear. Anyway, I quickly won the confidence and affection of the school children; and some of them were beginning to give me great hopes. But I had to teach them all by myself.

“Yes, this is what I am reduced to now”, I wrote, “teaching primary school; for this is not yet even the most minor seminary. The more advanced pupils can just about puzzle out the short “Bible History”. The rest cannot even read yet. So half my time is spent drilling “qui, quae, quod” or even” A, B, C”.

“To you, 0 God, I offer up this crushing drudgery, and the pain and humiliation I sometimes feel at it. Please accept my poor offering, for the good of my soul and for the future advancement of the Cause, the sacred Work of Native Clergy”.

A few months went by, peacefully enough, in this [ridiculous] way. At least there was peace in my heart. I received a few letters; I replied to them during break, and after my Tamil studies. For I was determined to be able to hear confessions properly during Lent, and to preach in Tamil at Easter.

Here are a few extracts from a letter of Fr Tesson’s. It gave me the impression that Bishop Bonnand was still hoping to get me back to Pondicherry at some future time; and that this idea was having some repercussions [and support] in Paris.

“I have just been given your letter of 10th August and three printed Programmes of the Prize-giving Day at the (Pondicherry) Seminary”.

“I adore the designs of Providence which have taken you to Coimbatore. You will do well there, nobody can doubt it. But I still think you were in a position to do much more good at Pondicherry … According to our unanimous opinion here. Bishop Bonnand ought to have done everything he possibly could, in order to retain you as Coadjutor there. He should have put his case energetically to Rome. I do not know what will be decided eventually. But I beg you, if they do reconsider, and recall you to Pondicherry, do (p 743) not oppose it. Put aside all personal considerations, and simply obey. Perhaps it is all in the designs of Providence, in order to let you come to know the Indians better: sending you first into the interior on pastoral administration, after which you will then be better qualified to direct them all effectively towards a Native Clergy. That is how I see your transfer to Coimbatore; and I cannot shake off the thought that it is only temporary.”

Fr Voisin, another Paris Director, wrote by the same post:

“You blame Bishop Luquet for getting you appointed to Coimbatore. For my part, My Lord, I thank him. On the Feast of the Holy Rosary we all prayed for you here. And we rejoiced that Coimbatore is now going to have its own Pastor, to see to its special needs and to spread the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. You can count on the Paris Seminary to help you in all your projects. I believe bishop Bonnand was wrong in [neglecting]…

“I congratulate Your Lordship on something else. You are lucky to be out of Pondicherry and all that foul-up. Henceforth you will be free from all that, free to concentrate on the work of renewal and restoration, which will absorb all your attention.

“I cannot conclude without telling you the latest news of Bishop Luquet. He is being attacked and accused from many sides, for the most frivolous reasons. Today our adversaries 120 have got their advocates inside our own camp.”

Bishop Luquet had by this time resolved never to come back to India. He thought he would stay on at Rome (as the Paris Directors then wanted) in order to be the official representative of all our Missions. He wrote:

“India won’t be seeing me again; at least that is how I see it, more and more inevitably. I won’t talk again about the Madras affair. .. To tell you the truth, I can still see no good way out of that very bad business. It must be tackled seriously when the Portuguese Schism comes up again for action. But with the way things are now, in that misfortunate Kingdom, when will Rome be able to tackle that one? Meanwhile, India is going from bad to worse.

“I quite agree. You should write to the Holy Father, informing him of your recent consecration and also suggesting, for the sake of the urgent needs of the Faith in India, that he should convene a (p 744) Meeting of all the Vicars Apostolic on the sub-continent, to discuss certain vital matters. And you could indicate some of the principal points to His Holiness. In your request, you should avoid mentioning directly the establishment of the Hierarchy in India. But under the heading of “means to counter the Schism” you could include “the creation of Ecclesiastical Provinces”, thus implying (but not mentioning) residential Bishops and Archbishops. All that could be discussed later, in the actual Meeting. Perhaps Propaganda could get it on to the Agenda for you, in an indirect way at least.”

I did write that letter121 but I don’t know if it ever really came to the Pope’s personal attention. At that time, Pius IX was beginning to be swamped with one political crisis after another, to the great detriment of our Missions. They must all have suffered from the inability of the Pope to take much personal interest in them, especially at the beginning of his reign.

Soon after, Luquet wrote to me again, after receiving the news of my consecration.

“ … Blessed be our Divine Master for the happy Event I have so long awaited. So now you are a Bishop! May Our Lord give you the courage and the constancy needed for the embattled post He has entrusted to you. I rejoice with you in your happy meeting with the Archbishop of Verapoly. It will come in very useful later on, when it comes to informing Propaganda in detail about the real state of things in India. I often think of the great urgency and importance of doing this.

“I am now requesting you to suggest a few good tough questions for Propaganda to put to the Vicars Apostolic, questions that they cannot get around, in order to bring out the true position of things …

I want to remain part of the Society of Foreign Missions, for its work means more to me than any other. But I am more and more convinced that, if I am to be of any significant use at all, it is here. The Holy Father is very gracious to me….”

(p 745)

*Affectionate Letters from Indian Seminarians *

I received plenty of letters of congratulations; but there would be no point in quoting from most of them, for they have little or nothing to do with the missions. But one letter I cannot omit, from my former students at Pondicherry Seminary, in reply to mine, conveying my first episcopal blessings to them. Young men who can write like that are indeed capable of becoming good priests. And the style is obviously their own.

“Illustrissime Domine nec non dilectissime Pater in C.J .D.N. How great was our joy. My Lord, when we received the letter which you were so good as to write to us. With sentiments of filial love we received your episcopal blessing. If Your Lordship was able to think of us, for bountiful gifts heaped on us, how much more do we remember Your Lordship, and all his care and sacrifices for us, all his vigils and insomnias, and all his kindnesses and labours for our welfare. O venerable father, how ungrateful we would be if we did not remember you, if we did not love you! But our heart assures us that we will indeed remember you always. As a pledge of our love, we addressed our fervent prayer to the Lord God. May He deign to pour out his most abundant graces and his choicest blessings on you!

“You say the venerable Archbishop of Verapoly is fortunate to have a native clergy. But a thousand times more fortunate you shall be, Your Lordship, on the day that yourself will succeed (in spite of all the huge obstacles) in forming your own native clergy, by the grace of God. This is our most ardent prayer for you.

“As for us, My Lord, we fondly and thankfully recall all you did for us. We will never forget your virtues, which leave us such dear memories of you. Not so long ago, we had the happiness of your presence among us. Today we pine with useless sighs. Today we envy the happiness of the people at Coimbatore. Heaven has willed it so, My Lord. You were the first of us to resign yourself to His holy Will. Our only consolation now is to follow your example.

“A Dieu, My Lord; a Dieu, our venerated and well beloved father. We all ask you, on our knees, for your blessing, and we beg you to remember your children in your prayers.

“With love and veneration, we remain …”

And here is another, from [Packianathan] written immediately after his ordination to one of the minor orders. He is one of my best loved students, one of those I had hoped to bring (p 746) with me to Coimbatore. And he would have been so delighted to come!

“My Lord, my father,

“ … After the ordination we paid a visit to our dear Fathers, the missionaries. But in none of the rooms in the mission could I see or meet my own respected and beloved father, Monseigneur. Where is he, then? Oh, I know where he is. Why don’t I go and see him? They will say it is because the place is too far. But I will not say that. I will say the truth: it is because my superiors do not allow me.

“Why am I so attached to you? At first glance it might seem to be an affection taken too far and therefore “inordinate” (as they say). But if they considered it thoroughly, they would see that it is the most “ordinate” and reasonable affection in the world, because it is only what is right and just.

“But anyway, the said permission cannot be obtained just now; and I still feel indispensably obliged to pay you that visit. So permit me, My Lord, to supply by letter what I am unable to do by my presence.

“I am really obliged to you for the benefits Providence has given me through you. I will say no more on that point now, nor on my other sentiments (which are all quite right and just) towards you. Read them yourself, written on my heart. For you know it well, and you can easily read them there, much better than on paper.

“I now dare to ask you, since God so wills it, to regard me as a member of the future Native Clergy to be directed by you, and as your obedient and well beloved son in the Lord …”

And another [from Arulnathan] on 1st January 1847:

“My Lord and very venerable father in Jesus Christ.

Although I wrote to Your Lordship not long ago, I cannot refrain from writing again. Will you vex at this, My Lord? Ah, no (I think to myself). For you love us so much; you are so kind; you wish us so much good. So now, what New Year wishes will I wish for such a good father? For here is a whole New Year opening up before us. People usually make wishes and send them to those they love. And I do not want to be left out of it.

“What will be the Wish suitable to Your Lordship? Shall I wish him good health, long life, no trouble, prosperities? All these would not interest you at all, I know. Only one thing interests you: the glory of God; and with it the salvation of souls. All the rest is a stranger for you. For that Glory you never spare your health, (p 747) which is so fragile too.122 For that you suffer, with a constant and outstanding spirit. You suffer troubles and wearinesses and painful apostolic labours; discomforts and privations. And that is all you desire, provided you can snatch away some souls from the slavery and tyranny of the Devil, souls made in the image of God and redeemed at the cost of the Blood of a Man-God.

“And so, Monseigneur, we are giving thanks every day to the Lord for giving us such a good shepherd as yourself. May the great God bless you, My Lord, and bless your work. May he enrich you with his grace, compared to which everything in this world is nothing. May the divine Infant Jesus smile at you and console you in the midst of all your trials. Finally, may He himself be your reward …””

And a few months later, he wrote me another. I will include it in this place, and then write no more of my cherished memories of those dear students. To my great relief and satisfaction, Bishop Bonnand had put Fr Godelle in charge of the Pondicherry Seminary. Certainly he was one of our most highly respected confreres. And in my opinion, he was the best possible choice for continuing my work there. Young Arulnathan wrote:

“My Lord,

So many times I wanted to write, but put it off until tomorrow … Your Lordship asked where we are at in our studies. We thank you for your constant interest in us. We are revising ethics (in philosophy). After a rapid look at Physics, Geometry, Chemistry, Trigonometry, Mechanics, we are now trying to get some notions about Astronomy. There were a few astronomical terms in your letter that I didn’t quite understand, 123even after Fr Mousset’s explanation. But now I’m beginning to be clearer about them.

“What a beautiful science, Astronomy! All those vast objects spinning in the skies! It is mind-boggling. And how would it be if Man could see all of God’s wonders? Ah, how great is the God of glory! How magnificent in His works! The heavens announce His power and majesty to me. Be he for ever blessed.

(p 748) “So that is where we are at in our studies, My Lord. Fr Mousset is also showing us, for fun, how to make sundials of various types. Spherical geometry will soon be tackled. As for the Studies needed in order to form us in piety, in the spirit of the Gospel and the priestly life, do not fear; we are not neglecting them. Two classes of Sacred Scripture a week, and two of Church History. Our Superior, Rev Fr Godelle, always gives us excellent advices to help us advance in holiness. How many fine means for our sanctification we have! Woe to us if we do not avail of them!

“That’s enough, now, about our studies, My Lord. I will now give you some news of our Seminary, which you will surely be very happy to hear. Nearly all the boarders have become very competitive and keen on their studies. There are many who spend all their recreation discussing the rules of grammar, or geography and history, even arithmetic etc. What do you think of that, My Lord?

“Another news which you will be glad to hear is this: Fr Leroux is now taking his meals with us seminarians. 124For my own part, I am very pleased. You might think that this move must cause some stir in the Seminary? Not at all; nobody said anything. It was the talk of the town for a while; but now there is almost nothing heard about it. 125 I wish all the other obstacles to a good native clergy could all be broken down so easily! … The Lord will help us. He will have mercy on us and be touched with pity for our Missions. Blessed be His holy Name”…

“Adieu, My Lord; a Dieu my venerable father. Please give me leave. I am now going to start a philosophy composition just given to us by Fr Godelle. I am longing to hear the news of your Vicariate, your minor seminary, and so on. I end my letter here, recommending myself to your good and fervent prayers …”

Remember: these letters were thought and written by young men of 20-22. Only a few years before, they were just “raw Indians” and of course “nothing could be made of them, ever”. Well, I think myself that, with a little bit of love and care, you could make quite a lot out of them, including first-class priests. Moreover, we had only a very small radius to pick from. This shows that young people of that high quality are relatively plentyful out there. (p 749)So I regard it as certain that, if we only tackled it in a common agreed effort, all over India, we would succeed. We would not only have some very good priests; we would have an excellent Indian clergy. If this has not been achieved in all those centuries, and if we continue to miss the mark in the future (as now appears unfortunately all too probable) then it will be our failure. And it can only be explained by some mysterious blind spot permitted by God in the eyesight of the missionaries (even though they are so admirable in other respects) or else by a lamentable and fundamental weakness in the whole present system of mission work, due to a mindless imitation of the Jesuit example [the Catechist System].

Ootacamund

I find this article in my 1847 diary, inspired by my first visit:

“What is Ootacamund? It is more-or-less a mixture of all the climates in the world. At certain times the sun beats down vertically, just as hotly as on the Plains. But that intense heat does not last long. For most of the time, the temperature is very mild. Almost every day there are some periods of cold (sometimes even freezing). There are days of wonderful clear skies. But quite often, thick clouds move down over the Mountain, drenching you with fog when you least expect it. No snow. But in December and January you will see white frost on all the hillsides. Storms are frequent; but no hailstone. At the coming of the monsoon, these storms are sometimes accompanied by torrential rain, gales, even tornadoes. When one of these catches some poor people on the road, they can even die of exposure. To reduce such tragedies (which happen nearly every year) the English have built a series of emergency shelters near the road, for travellers and herdsmen.

Over all, the temperature is delightful, and very healthy for Europeans; but horrible for the Indians of the Plains. Still, that does not prevent them from coming up there with the English, drawn by the higher wages. Some of them settle down here. Already there are grown men who were born here, are now married (p 750) and having children of their own. And this new Indian population feels perfectly at home. They are mostly pariahs and people of low castes. Apart from Indians and their English employers, you will find Frenchmen, Muslims, Arabs, Parsees, Jews, Armenians … Last of all you will find the original inhabitants of the Nilgiri Hills, a primitive half-wild people. They hardly ever come into the town except to sell their odd little bits of produce. Their language and customs are completely different from those of the other Indians. From time immemorial they have been masters in their own mountains, a little republic completely independent of the Kings on the Plains.

“Even supposing that the English rule in India were perfectly legitimate (by “right of conquest” of the Kings), I still fail to see what right they have to the Nilgiris. They never fought or “conquered” the local tribals. These seem to have just accepted them vaguely as guests. Even the English themselves do not seem to consider the Nilgiris to be absolutely under their usual system. All they have here so far is a de facto occupation of some places. But meanwhile, they are spending huge sums of money, developing the amenities of the area. They behave as complete owners of their “cantonments”. Little by little, their government [and tax] machinery is going to take in every single inhabitant of the Hills. So, in a few years from now, “British sovereignty” will be a fait accompli.

“The English have not built an actual city (or even town) for themselves. There is a “native bazaar” which has grown up, to sell them goods and services. It is now up to 18,000 or 20,000 inhabitant, Indian and cosmopolitan traders, etc. For the English themselves, there are well-separated houses, built on the best and most scenic spots on the mountains. These are called “bungalows” but are, in fact, charming country villas.

“Each bungalow stands in its own grounds, in a pretty garden or even in a private park. Each is linked by perfectly maintained side-roads, all reserved for promenading (strolling, riding or sight-seeing by carriage). The roads have fanned out into a wide network; but the most beautiful one goes around a huge artificial Lake, formed by damming up one of the valleys. This is not the least of Ooty’s attractions. (p 751) From morning to night (but especially in the evenings) you will see a continual parade of magnificent carriages, from light horse-traps to massive ox-drawn Mogul waggons belonging to some rich bazaar traders. Horse-riders and elegant “ladies” on side-saddle are even more numerous, prancing about on beautiful Arab steeds or tidy “pegu” ponies. Not for them the lazy palanquin of the Plains; those are for the elderly and the convalescent visitors. There is also a constant fashion parade here, of handsome suits and expensive dresses, as varied as the various nationalities.

“If you have the money, you can live as comfortably in Ooty as in London. But everything is very expensive. The wealthy English, arriving here for fun and games, immediately proceed to spray money about in all directions: sumptuous quarters, exotic furniture, elaborate food, big hunting parties, and what have you. Since, in general, their god is their belly, and this world is their only possible home, it makes some sense: they have gone all out to make the Nilgiris into an earthly paradise for themselves. Ooty has everything; many European products grow on the Hills; and tropical delicacies from the Plains cram the bazaar.

  • Early Church History of Ooty*

“In the midst of all this gay whirl of pleasure and luxury, what are we doing up here, we poor missionaries? Very little. As in many other places, Materialism has beaten us to it. We have had to stand sadly by, while our holy Religion is being thoroughly humiliated in this place. But at least we are here, now; and some little glimmer of light must eventually shine into the smug darkness, and draw a small number of His chosen to the Lord.

“While the English were engineering the mighty Road from the plains of Coimbatore up to the summits of the Nilgiris, they employed native troops as labourers. There were many Catholics among them, as the traveller today can read on the countless wooden crosses by the road-side, victims of Progress and of cholera etc. The Foreign Missions Society had nothing to do with this (p 752) region at the time. Once a year, a Malabari priest came up from the West Coast to visit the work camps, and bring the helps of Religion to those who asked for them. It was in this humble way that the Church of Jesus Christ made its way up this Mountain, in the wake of the “masters” who were lavishing gold for the material progress and transient splendour of this passing life.

“I have already mentioned how a little chapel was later built, in Joachin’s compound, and how it turned schismatic; and how we had to build another shack, which is still our Church”. At first our confreres (like the Cranganore priests) came up only once a year, in order to give the Sacraments to the few poor Catholics at Ooty, just as for one of the very least out-station communities on the Plains. Later, the numbers gradually increased, and Bishop Bonnand sent good Fr Triboulot here. He was assigned only a few communities on the Plain, so that he could spend at least several months at Ooty. At the present time, we would need at least one full-time missionary, and also some Brothers and Sisters, to counteract the Protestant schools and save young Indians from seduction especially the half-caste children. The present. “Church” is no longer big enough. Worse still, it is so abjectly miserable that our holy Religion is thoroughly disgraced by it, as I said.

The miserable poverty of our church is all the more painfully obvious because the English have now raised a superb Protestant temple for the Europeans, and another one for “the natives”, not quite so magnificent, but a veritable cathedral compared to ours. The main function of the “European” church (they say) is to be a suitable fashion venue for the “ladies” to display their finery every week. For this reason (they say again) it has now become the fashion, for Dissenters and all the other sects indiscriminately, to attend every Sunday, even though the Reverend Pastor is always an Anglican, under the Anglican Bishop of Madras. The Bishop has a magnificent bungalow at Ooty, and he often comes to stay in it. .

“There are no fine Hindu temples; the Indians have not yet had time. Anyway, their golden age of temple architecture has long passed; they cannot even maintain those built by their ancestors. They have merely brought up a few portable idols and built (p 753) a few small shrines for them. As for the mountain tribals, they do not have temples at all. “Our ancestors, when climbing the Hills, left all their gods below in the Plains”. They do have their own sacred places in the Hills; but nobody knows for sure what communal acts of idolatry they perform there.

“O my God, when are You going to give me the resources to be able to provide for the religious needs of this promising and important locality of my Vicariate? At least one full-time priest and one decent church! Our chapel is so lowly that English Catholics and Anglo-Indian officials are ashamed to come there. Up here, they keep quiet about their religion, rather than “let down the side” with all its proud luxury and its splendid Protestant churches. No doubt, they are inexcusable, and they will have quite an account to settle later on; obviously, they would also be ashamed to be seen near the stable at Bethlehem. But still our duty remains, to take their weakness into consideration as much as we can. So, here in Ooty, I have gone so far as even to wish, now and then, that I was a rich man, in order to counter the Protestant occupation. But You, Lord, know best; you know well what suits your servants.

“My only consolation here is, that Jesus Christ and his Apostles were all poor. Isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven specially promised to the poor? What great crowds of poor Indians we will see at the right hand of the Judge; how many rich English gentlemen on the other side! These have made their paradise on earth. And God is fair; so He does reward them for their fair play and other good natural qualities, by giving them plenty of riches and success in their wordly undertakings. So they will have nothing to complain against on the Day. They have the Gospels; and they surely must have read: “Amen, I tell you; you have received your reward already”. (p 754)

  • Vietnam Correspondence turns Sarcastic.*

  • Equal Education for Asian Clerics.*

I had some moments of leisure and was able to put the following few reflections down on paper, after receiving a thought provoking letter from Bishop Retord [of Vietnam].

“Obviously, the Bishop does not have a proper grasp of the full implications of Native Clergy. True, he is ordaining far more priests than all the rest of us put together; but it looks like he will still die without having established a real Clergy. Surely we could have had reason to hope that the long and vicious persecution in Annam would produce one great benefit at least: an Annamite Clergy. Now I am afraid we must give up that hope. For, to one of my letters, the Bishop has replied like this:

“In your letter you object to our “wrong policy”. Very well. But you seem to suppose that we have a fixed policy of educating our candidates only to the bare minimum level required for the country; and never to ordain them before the age of 35-40. You are mistaken. This is not exactly our policy. Our policy is to instruct them as well as we can, in everything that is good and useful to know, especially in what has to do with their actual vocation. And then to ordain them as soon as they are judged fit for it, and as soon as the needs of the Mission require. That’s our policy; and you can see that it is exactly the same as the universal practice of the Church in all places and times.”

If he had stopped there, I might have nothing but congratulations for his attitude. He would have been implicitly condemning (as I do) a very bad practice, unfortunately deep-rooted in the minds of missionaries, the practice of ordaining as late as possible and of educating only “secundum quid” [with big reservations.] But his wording, “this is not exactly our policy” and “as soon as the needs of the Mission require”, gives the game away. 126 These phrases grate a bit. They might, however, have passed unnoticed. But then he goes on to give a strong impression that (unconsciusly perhaps) he too is still caught up in the traditional wrong policy, at least in practice:

(p 755) “But given the circumstances, it does indeed so happen that our students receive only the degree of education needed for the country. The persecution does not allow us to have permanent seminary buildings anywhere, but only shacks and tents, to be packed away when the storm rages, and then put up again somewhere else when there is calm. Our poverty does not allow us to have enough textbooks for every student. The shortage of qualified professors does not allow us to teach everything. (All we usually have is a few poor Annamite teachers; for a missionary can hardly ever stay in the same place for very long). For these reasons (and many more which would be too tedious to relate) it so happens that we do not produce physicists nor mathematicians nor astronomers nor geologists nor mineralogists nor genealogists nor professional musicians. “

Let it pass. Only pausing to remark that this remarkable list as well as the whole facetious style of the passage, seems to convey an ironic and satirical message: “and even if we could teach them all those useless things, we would not want to”. Also to remark that several of the Annamite candidates, having lived and worked with our confreres as “disciples” or catechists up to the age of 35-40, should be well able for some knowledge of those sciences. And some of these would be very useful, later on, at least for men who were meant to be teachers and professors.

And why not properly prepare those who are going to be sent to Pinang College [Major Seminary], and educate them in accordance with capacity! Anyway, what is this famous College? I hear it is beginning to climb out of the old rut (a bit) recently. But up to now, was there any effort to really educate them? All they got there was a few narrow notions of “moral theology”, barely enough to hear confessions. For it would be “bad” to educate the “coloured” clergy too much; they might burst with pride! And isn’t it a remarkable feat to have avoided, for so long, sending any of the brightest students to Europe, to get a complete academic formation? Then they could return and become first-class professors, or become the future leaders of their own young Churches. And what is there now, to prevent all this happening, in Tongking and also in India? Nothing, except the narrow-minded attitudes (p 756) of the missionaries.” 127

About a year and a half ago (when Bishop Bonnand had a lot more confidence in Luquet and me than nowadays) he allowed himself to be “converted” on that point; he was even getting ready to send two or three of his seminarians to study in France. These students had always been a great encouragement and consolation to me; and I am certain they would be a credit to us over there. But the Bishop found that there was fierce opposition to this idea in the upper echelons of the Foreign Missions Society. [So he did not pursue it]. I expect he must have been congratulated by several high-up confreres for dropping this crazy notion (if indeed he ever actually put it explicitly to them).

The fact is, they couldn’t take a real Native Clergy (a numerous and well educated one). It would not matter how “proud” or “humble” that clergy turned out to be. It might not be proud at all. But it would certainly have some proper dignity and self-respect. So we would be forced to change our whole [paternalistic] system and approach to the Indians. And that would be far too much for our prejudices to take and (let’s face it) far too much for our latent pride. Bishop Retord continues:

“Our candidates know their Religion and its principal Proofs. They study a theology text-book in Annamite. They get a fair knowledge of Chinese writing. They know the main superstitions of the region and how to refute them. With this knowledge, they might not be very impressive against the heretics, atheists and philosophers of Europe. But they can argue very well here, and expound Religion, and preach impromptu without text, often a lot better than the best of the missionaries, with all their European erudition. “

I like it! It is a further proof of a truth which I see a bit more clearly every day I spend out here, and which I had worked out a priori ever before coming: that in any country in the world, even a middling native priest is going to be a lot better than a higher qualified missionary, when it comes to the ordinary ministry of the word, or pastoral work in general. But now comes the crunch, the famous policy

(p 757) “Given the light-headed carelessness of the people here, and given our need to have plenty of catechists to help us instruct the Christians and exhort the pagans, the fact follows: we do not consider it appropriate, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, to ordain them before the age of 35-40 years.”

That’s it! There it is! Note well: “We do not consider it appropriate. That means a general rule, a settled policy. If he had said, “it often happens that we do not ordain them”, I could have nothing to say against it. For I do not know the details of the country nor its special difficulties. I would merely have to suspect the sweeping generalization or accusation of “light-headed carelessness” about a people fairly well known for its courage and tenacity in the face of persecution. There are, I suppose, some “lightheaded” people over there, just as there were some “incompetent” people when that was the fashionable argument.

And what about his other reason for postponing ordination? Is it purely in order to have them longer as catechists? Or is it because, after ordination, they would not be as good and as useful as when they were catechists?

But now comes the real clincher, the discussion-stopper. Especially when you have spent many years in a country, following out its missionary routine [and the other fellow hasn’t]. Especially when you have run out of real reasons. Here it comes:

“I am convinced that, if only you had some practical experience of this country, you would think the same as us”.

Experience. The thing is very precious; the word, wrongly invoked, can do great harm. It should be used very sparingly. One individual can acquire a limited amount of experience in a place; and this can become a useful guide for matters of detail. But it is very often invoked, and disastrously invoked, on matters of principle. For these, whole centuries of experience are needed. The Universal Church has this age-old experience, to the full. And it is Rome, the living organism of that ancient memory that puts it into practice, by her wise universal laws. So we should be very wary of dodging those laws, even when authorized by frequent dispensations. We could end up by evading the law altogether.

(p 758)

[* Plenty of Priests but no Clergy yet. How?*]

“You say my Annamite priests are not a Clergy! Ordained before 40, they work for 20, 30, and 40 years […] exercising all the normal functions of the sacred ministry, hearing (for example) 2000 or 3000 confessions a year. If they are not a clergy, what are they? Or is it only young [academic] priests that can be called a clergy?”

[Eighty years old and still working as priests! This is news to me.] Up to this I had always heard it said that priests age very quickly on the missions, especially native priests. Rarely can they do anything more than say Mass, after sixty. Certainly, that is the case in India. (Here, the same custom prevailed up to very recently: priesthood was not conferred (on the few rare exceptional natives ever admitted to that honour) until the age of 30-40 years). Maybe they live a lot longer in Tongking! Anyway, let us leave the life-expectancy statistics for another day; and let us consider his main question about his priests (young or old does not matter). Are those priests a Clergy?

No, My Lord, I would have to say; most certainly not. They are only the living and already-prepared elements, the makings of a Clergy. But they are not a clergy; because they are not an organized moral body; they are just a lot of individual, scattered, isolated priests. They are useful stones for a building; but there is as yet no sign of a building to be seen. The more you boast of the high quality of the stones, the more I will deplore the fact that your building has not even been started. The stones are left lying around, to be eroded (or even broken) one by one. The missing wing of the Church Universal, to be known as the “Annamite Church”, is still awaited in vain, You have nothing but so-called dioceses “in partibus”, like Acantha, Bellina, Mettelopolis, and so forth.

And you, My Lord might have been the one to gather all those scattered elements and bind them together into an Annamite Catholic Hierarchy, into an organized living body, having canonical existence. You could even have set them on the road to independence and self-reliance. “On the road”, I say; because a Clergy can have some real existence of its own without yet being complete and perfect all at once, without being absolutely self-sufficient immediately. It will have to go through all the stages (p 759) and trials of childhood and growing up, before attaining the mature strength of manhood. But first those scattered members must necessarily have to be joined together, become an organized body; and a Pontiff must come, heaven-sent, to breathe the principle of life into that new body. That is the man who will be the real Apostle of the nation.

And let him not he stopped by the fact that certain members of his clergy will be less perfect than others. [Light and shade] is needed for the harmony of the whole picture. You need plenty of men in minor and major orders. You need good numbers of priests, young and old, learned and average (but all with the essential education of a priest). You need holy men yes; as far as can be expected from human weakness. [Then, maybe, you can begin to be a real Apostle and a real Bishop].

But when will the nonsense of fictitiously-titled bishops come to an end? This “temporary” anomaly has been going on now for centuries. A learned Englishman writes that this is a phenomenon which has never been heard of in the Church until relatively recent times, to see the Ordinary functions of the ministry, generation after generation, being entrusted to mere “extraordinary” ministers with merely delegated responsibility. If we were appointed only for a few years in charge of Tong-king or Coimbatore, then all right, let them call us “Bishop of Acantha” and “Bishop of Prusa” if they feel like it. But if we are appointed for life, to be permanent shepherds of these flocks, I then ask myself: would it not be simpler and more honest to call us what we are: Bishop of Tong-king and Bishop of Coimbatore! Might it not [for example] give us a more understanding and compassionate heart for our Christians?

But what I completely fail to see is this: why, after centuries of Christianity, these flocks do not even have their own normal secondary pastors? I mean parish priests. At least in the places where we finally took the plunge and ordained a few of them (merely to be our servants, in far too many cases) why could not a few of them be canonically appointed curés, parish priests, of their flocks? Why is the life of the new native clergy (if indeed the (p 760) term “clergy” can be rightly used of them at all) still so utterly dependent on our presence? Why has this clergy as yet no means of perpetuating itself, regenerating itself, if the wind of persecution (or any other squall) were suddently to blow us away? In a word: why after all those years, have they not got a single bishop from their own nation?

So, I repeat: these Annamite priests, thus unorganized and disjointed, are not a clergy. And this is only more deplorable when both of us admit that they can be. Nevertheless you remain stuck, making no progress towards this fundamental Objective, for no good reason. [For no reason at all, except that our own minds are immovably stuck there, by the sheer dead weight of our mental inertia], of our ancient prejudices. That this is a fair description of the prevailing attitude in Tong-king, I require no other proof than Bishop Retard’s next statement:

  • A Challenge Match*

“To be brief: you follow your system …”

It seems to me, he ought to have written “follow the general custom of the Universal Church”.

“Ordain your Indians at 24, like they do in France”. No! like they do in the whole Catholic world!

“We will continue here with our own policy”. There it is, out in the open: their policy!

“We will go on ordaining our Annamites at 35-40 years. Then, in ten years’ time, let us see: which of us will have ordained more native priests, will have more of them actually working, and will get more actual work done? You with your young Indian priests, in that peaceful country, or we with …”

Just a minute! This looks very like a confidence trick, a sophism, comparing two things of such different natures and different conditions! If we are to make an experiment or a competition, it must be in the same country and similar circumstances. With a few old nags, badly harnessed, someone can get a lot more out of rich (p 761) farmland than what a good strong team of oxen and the best of ploughing could ever hope to produce from a stony hillside.

“… or we with our old Annamite priests in this persecuted land, which so many of them have already irrigated with their blood.”

So! These priests, by the grace of God, are capable of such heroic virtue! And according to you (even with the same graces) they are not capable of the ordinary virtues of their priestly calling? Incredible. Or rather, it is quite certainly otherwise. If they are fit for the palm of martyrdom, a few of them must be well fit for the burden of the episcopacy. And many others must be fit to be parish priests or other officers in a normal diocesan clergy.

“From their fruits you will know them. Come on, then, dear confrere. I challenge you!”

Gladly I take up the challenge, Monseigneur. But the final score will not be known in ten years; not until this friendly match is finally over, in the eternal resting pavilions. For the contest ought to be judged as if on one and the same ground, not on two such unequal pitches and with peoples of such different character: one on the fertile soil of Annam, the other on the sandy shore of India. But when we have both of us left the field, God will be the only possible fair referee. Because He alone is able to evaluate every event and every hypothesis; not only what was [ … ] but also what would have been. He alone will be our glorious Eye-witness and our sovereign Judge.

And may He grant you this great merit (along with all the others won already by your magnificent labours) the merit of having laid down solid foundations (canonical, self-sustaining and lasting) for a REAL Annamite Clergy!

  • Cholera in the Local Villages*

At that very time, how well we could have done with a few of those zealous Vietnamese priests, to come and help us with our poor cholera victims! For the cruel epidemic was raging furiously once again. The general economic hardship, caused by the (p 762) enormous increase in food prices, must have aggravated it. And the weather was no help either. The nights were wonderfully clear; but as soon as the sun began to rise, thick mists rose up. Then came dense black clouds, hiding the sun all day. So the cholera was helped by the deleterious emanations not being dissipated by the sunlight. It made frightful inroads. The few missionaries could not be everywhere at the same time, to bring spiritual help to the dying. But night and day they were on their feet, sometimes going up to fifteen miles to give Extreme Unction. For when it comes to zeal and devotion to duty, not one of my dear confreres was ever found wanting.

Marianallur, a little weaving village near Karumattampatty, was one of the worst hit. For a long time now, the weavers’ caste had been suffering badly. High cost of living, and now unemployment, had thrown them into complete destitution. They were even forced to take on work incompatible with their caste, an absolute proof that they were desperate. I employed a number of them on the wall around our newly-annexed land. Many a morning I had to ask, “Where is So-and-so?” – “He died last night, of the Illness.” (They would never actually pronounce the dread word for Cholera).

The little village (no more than 500 souls) had up to 3, 4, 5 deaths per day. The first week, not a single one of those affected survived. But what is really astonishing is that the very next village, Somanur (mainly composed of “vellalar”) with only a “cally” hedge between, did not have a single fatality during all the crisis. Only two or three people were affected; and they all survived.

  • Strange Customs, Indian and Protestant*

Apart from the Indian ceremonies specifically forbidden by Rome, there are countless others being practised, more or less “legally”, at births, marriages and deaths, by the Christians. Some customs are the same everywhere; others vary according to caste or place. Some again are entirely special to one village or another. (p 763) I don’t know in what category to put this one: loud public rejoicing at the death of a well-known and respected old man of great age!

The case must be very rare. Fr Métral, though many years in the country, had never come across one. He was at this time in Palghat District. One day they came to inform him that a very venerable old man had just died. They requested permission to put on a comedy in his honour, and other public celebrations.

“What? Rejoice at the death of this good old man, whom we will all miss so much?”

“Yes, Father; that is the Custom. We must rejoice proper that such a good man has lived so long.”

Fr Métral tried his best to explain that this would not be quite Christian. Better to mourn around the body and, above all, to pray for his soul, instead of singing and dancing and play-acting as on a Feast Day. But he soon saw that any prohibitions of his would probably be largely ignored. So he prohibited nothing and permitted nothing, explicitly. The Christians took his fuzzy reply as sufficient permission. All that night, the village rang with merry songs of rejoicing, lively music, and pious comedies (from the ancient Jesuit repertory) to honour the passing of a great old man!

  • * * * * *

Here is another incident, just as funny (or peculiar) in its own way (but maybe not quite so funny when you come to think about it). A Protestant “topa” [or half-caste] had married a destitute pariah woman; but it did not last long. He soon drove her away and found himself another pariah woman. She went everywhere with him. One day he came to me, saying he wanted to marry this one; because the first one was continually nagging at him, and he wanted to be definitely finished with her. Quite seriously, he asked me for a special dispensation. “In our religion, you can get it too. But it’s too dear. It costs 20,000 rupees. It that fair? An Englishman can easily get it. But just because I am poor myself, I can’t get a bill of divorce when I so badly need it!” I had to disappoint him. If only he might learn from this, to think things (p 764) out for himself and be converted, in faith and in morals! But I did not hear from him again.

  • Good Liturgy Counters the Schism. But some Catechists…*

Happily, the cholera disappeared about the beginning of Lent; and some of my missionaries were able to be with me for Holy Week and Easter. When the word got round, the Christians flocked to Karumattampatty from all the Districts. The church was continually packed, from Holy Thursday morning until Easter Sunday evening. But I did not put on any of the outside plays and ceremonies so beloved by the Indians. First of all, I hadn’t got the necessary equipment. Secondly, I did not want to start this custom in a place not accustomed to it, because of the abuses which nearly always eventually follow. Not that I condemn those ceremonies. I believe that, if a Mission is in a position to organize them properly, there should be regular annual plays and external ceremonies, a lot more of them than in Europe. But even the best of things can be fouled up, when they are not organized and supervised properly. So you have to think twice before starting something you are not able to manage, thus opening up the way for numerous problems in the future.

Nevertheless, the people were happy; and I was extremely edified by their interest in all the ceremonies done in the church, following the rubrics of the missal. And our celebration became better every year, as we received more missionaries, especially when my seminarians got to know the chants, and we could sing the whole Office and Liturgy. Each year, the people came in crowds, and it became more and more edifying. This first year, their good attendance was a great relief to me, because it reassured me about the Schism. Murmuring and rumours had been rife.

That year also, I had the consolation of giving a great number of Holy Communions, and of preaching to the people in Tamil for the first time. The people went away very happy; and it seems that several who had been sympathisers of the West Coast (p 765) Malabari priests (now unhappily involved in the Schism) were almost entirely satisfied with us. But the danger was still there. Here is what Fr Pacreau wrote to me, shortly before Easter.

“Sinister rumours are going round the whole community, about the Schism. It seems that Joachin’s priest started them off, when he called at Palghat, Coimbatore etc. The schismatic Catechist from Dindigul came here with the priest, from I don’t know where. He is preaching Schism (they say) right, left and centre. I talked seriously to the ex-catechist, giving him fresh “buddhi“ [“advices”] about his behaviour, but very cautiously and diplomatically. The [Portuguese] Archbishop of Goa (they say again) is due to send several of his priests to Karumattampatty, Palghat, Nilgiris etc., with a Superior in charge. Also (they say) an order has gone out from the [English) Company to confiscate all the “maniams” (lands) of the pagan churches (sic). So our people are afraid for their own churches also, and the land around them …”

Happily, there was no foundation for this fear. But the worries about the two Cathechists (the schismatic one and the one who had been sacked for misconduct before my arrival) were more real. Even in his “sacked” condition, he still had more influence over his supporters than any of the missionaries had. A word from him could start an uprising against us. For, in the present stage of the Missions in India, catechists can acquire great power locally. And when they turn bad, it is nearly impossible to remove them without stirring whole communities up against you. It is also almost impossible to prevent the automatic succession of a catechist by his own son, regardless of his competence or incompetence for the job. When more of our missionaries come to realise the seriousness of these problems, they may become less infatuated with the Catechist system and a bit more open to the idea of a Native Clergy. True, many of these problems could be met by setting up good catechist training centres; but the resulting improvement would not be lasting. Today’s catechists are themselves the poor successors of the excellent catechists trained by the Jesuits in the past. And, similarly, those trained in the new Centres will automatically be succeeded by much inferior ones. For, given the static nature of Indian society, we will not be able to change the Custom: the son normally succeeds his father in his job, regardless.

(p 766)

[* A House in the City. First Pastoral Visitation (local).*]

  • The poor People’s Extravagant Joy.*

The threat of schism was yet another reason why we should quickly set up our own house, paid for by our own money; so that, if there was ever a crisis, the local Christians could have no possible claim on it. Moreover, it was obvious that Coimbatore was the place where the Bishop ought to reside, although it had no proper Catholic community. Coimbatore was the centre. There he could be in daily communication by post with all his missionaries; he could look after their requirements better; and so on. (There were many other reasons). A suitable house, with some land adjoining, came up for sale. We bought it, for 4000 rupees. 128

Henceforth this house was to be my official residence, though I had in fact to be away from it for long periods. Even before moving in at all, I had to go away on a journey to Verapoly. The Archbishop had just invited me there, for the consecration of Mgr Bacinelli (Quilon), [See Map, page 906]. This was an invitation I could not refuse, because Archbishop Martini had come to Karumattampatty for mine. But before that, I was determined to do a pastoral visitation, of Karumattampatty District at least.

“I would have much preferred to do the whole Provicariate there and then. It was almost obligatory on me anyway; and certainly it would have been very good and useful. But Fr Pacreau felt it would be essential to do the Visitation in style, or not at all; certainly, he felt obliged to object strenuously to having just one priest (himself) escorting me. I asked Bishop Bonnand for the loan of a neighbouring missionary for two or three months. In vain! So the general visitation had to be dropped. Nevertheless, immediately after Easter, I visited the communities around Karumattampatty, along with Fr B (only) and some of my “seminarians”, the more “serious” ones dressed up as altar-servers.

(p 767) During this restricted tour, the Lord granted me many consolations and encouragements; for the poor people did everything they possibly could in order to give their Bishop a proper reception. Even the pagans showed much respect; and nowhere did they indulge in the slightest insult. The village heads taxed themselves, and also taxed the least destitute of the people, in order to put on a good celebration. Indeed, I fear they went beyond their poor resources; for generally, they are in extreme need themselves at the moment, due to lack of rain for the farmers and of work for the weavers. And these two categories form the vast majority of our Christians here. I tried to lighten their burden by some well-timed alms. Nevertheless, they refused to dispense themselves from “santhippu”, the customary presents made to superiors who visit the people. Neither (unfortunately) would they cut down by one rupee on gunpowder or musicians. My ears were continually bombarded from morning to night.

Nearly all the houses in these villages are little mud huts thatched with rice straw. The finest are roofed with tiles and fronted by a little verandah. But it is not advisable to stand up in one, or you will knock your head on the rafters, unless you are well under 5 feet six. Even in the finest, the rooms are very small, without furniture or windows. There we used to spread our mats. And if we wanted to read or look at anything, even in the middle of the day, we would have to light the little lamp stuck in its special triangle in the wall.

The ordinary houses are for those who (though still “well off”) are not so mad for luxury as the above; and for those who just cannot afford such palaces. Those [average] cabins were merely roofed rectangles of 20 feet by ten, partitioned half-way up into two unequal rooms. The small one is for the women and the kitchen equipment, the other for the family and the “furniture”. The latter is neither plentiful nor overelaborate; nothing but a pile of earthen-ware pots; the richer the owner the more pots in the pile. In these the rice and other day-to-day provisions are stored. One of these pots will contain the husband’s “bank”. He alone knows which one. So he alone (never the wife) goes secretly to withdraw funds, for household expenses etc. A sort of (p 768) “rosary” of little pots hangs down from the rafters, to about chest high. These contain the ant-eatable provisions. like oil, butter, etc.

“In each village, the best house was always prepared in readiness for the Bishop. Usually the owners went elsewhere for the duration. But in a few “very wealthy” houses we were given just one or two of the pitch-dark apartments, while the owner (usually the village head) and his family retired into some corner of the house or verandah, or into the cow-room (which is an essential part of any “good” house). The house (or suite) had been meticulously cleaned and (most important) had been well coated with fresh cow-dung. Under the roof a fairly white cloth had been spread, to protect us from falling sprigs of straw which the “anipulais” [squirrels] and the lizards keep knocking down.

Sadly, there was no scarcity of empty houses for our “entourage”. Not a single one of the villages but had been deserted by several of its families, gone away to Mysore or Cochin area in search of work. Some villages had lost up to half their people. It was painful to see that the Christian weavers had suffered more (proportionately) than the pagans, from the lack of work. For the pagans, being more numerous had more possibilities of mutual help or a loan from their caste head. (He would usually have a bigger village and wider trading connections). In other Christian villages, the Cholera had made terrible inroads. So, over-all, the Christian population of the district had been significantly reduced.

“May God have pity on these poor people and their simple faith? For indeed there is real Faith among them. If only India had even a majority of Christians, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be one of the most encouraging countries in the whole Catholic Church. However, in order to see it like that, you have first of all to take off your special European spectacles and put on a pair that is better focussed for seeing the local colours clearly. During my stay in each of those villages, the poor people seemed to forget all their troubles in order to rejoice whole-heartedly in the presence of their “big guru”.

“The neighbouring villagers also came; so much so that we (p 769) often would have needed a church three times the size, in order to contain the crowds, especially at Mass times. For every little village must have its own little chapel, of a style and furnishing in harmony with the above-mentioned habitations. But nearly always, it will be the “finest” building in the village. Rarely is Mass said there. On Sundays the Christians walk to the central church often eight or ten miles. It is only when the priest comes on “visaerani” (or detailed sacramental visitation) that they have Mass in their own little chapel, for a few days. These little chapels, normally meant only for the caste(s) in the village itself, could hardly be re-designed to include visiting pariahs also, in order to cope with the Decrees of the Holy See.

So once again, in certain villages, I was faced with a horrible dilemma: either to cause complete chaos and contradict all my predecessors practice; or else go outside the chapel to give the Sacraments to visiting pariahs out there [which I did]. The Jesuits maintain that this segregation occurs only “by accident”; and that these chapels are not, properly speaking, “churches”; therefore they do not come under the wording and the penalties of Benedict XIV’s Bull. This kind of reasoning does not completely reassure my conscience, however. And as soon as I can, I must write in detail about it to the S.C. of Propaganda.“129

It. is certain that those poor people intend no malice [in excluding the pariahs etc.], and they have no idea whatsoever that their customs might be against Charity. It is just the same when it comes to the Goa Schism. Apart from a few ring-leaders who use it as a flag of secession and dissension, the ordinary Christians see it all as a mere quarrel between priests. And when they follow a schismatic Priest, I greatly doubt if any of them are guilty of any sin against due obedience to the Head of the Church. Anyway, in their sermons, the schismatics always take care to speak very highly of the Sovereign Pontiff. They put all the blame for the split on Propaganda, and on “the propagandists” as they call us. Poor country. Far more misfortunate in its priests (e.g. those who fail to rally it to the Chair of Peter) than in its people.

_ _ (p 770) “The biggest fault I could find in these poor Christians was ignorance. But it is impossible for most of them to come to Mass every Sunday, or to hear any preaching. The children, especially, cannot all come. Nor can they all attend catechism. Nearly all these villages are far too poor to have a school-teacher; and I have not yet found the means to provide this benefit for them myself. I am very sorry about this; all the more so because any parents who want their children to be literate are more or less forced to send them to the pagan schools. .

“O God, what an awful lot of things there are, to be done in this Vicariate! But I must also give You thanks for all the encouragements and consolations You have given me during this visitation. And I cannot conclude this account without again begging You to bless these poor people, so worthy (on some counts) of your Mercy and (on others) of your Compassion.

[* Madurai Jesuit Bishop (and boundary) Clarified. But. .. Invitation regretfully Declined; then Accepted.*]

I was getting things ready for my journey to Verapoly”, when I received some letters from Bishop Bonnand. He said the miserable drawn-out problems and disputes between himself and the Madurai Jesuits seemed to be coming to an end at long last. Rev Fr Canoz SJ was now definitively appointed Bishop. The Bulls of Appointment had been sent, unsealed, through Bishop Bonnand. “I read them and made copies. There were four parchments of instructions.130So hard to steer is their Company; so tough on the bridle! The implementation of the whole business is recommended [or entrusted] to me … Mgr Canoz is to be titular Bishop of Tamas, in Cyprus …”

Bishop Bonnand was delighted to see, also, that the boundary dispute had at last been settled, and in his favour.

(p 771)

And Bishop Luquet wrote, from Rome:

“ … Anyhow, an important step forward has been taken, about Madurai, thanks to the firm determination of four Congregations of Propaganda Cardinals and two Sovereign Pontiffs (Gregory XVI and Pius IX). For since November 1845 (when the move was started) up to January 1847 (when it seems that the resolutions taken then are finally going to be implemented) it has taken all those highest authorities all that time to push it through. Thanks to their persistence, the new Jesuit Bishop/Vicar Apostolic is going to be the Superior of the Mission, in name and in fact.

‘To establish this principle, two points in St Ignatius’s Rule had to be derogated [or dispensed] from: 1. Never to accept any ecclesiastical rank. 2. Even if dispensed from this, always to follow the advice of the General in all cases except where one’s own opinion is judged definitely preferable in conscience. Fr Canoz was sent dispensations from both of these Rules [or Vows]. 131 There are also some other important [secret] instructions. The Cardinals have let me know them (as well as all the above information). Bishop Bonnand will be able to inform you fully.”

I never heard any more about it. All I know, from my own observation (and it is well-nigh certain) is this: within a short time after his consecration, Bishop Canoz was no longer the real Superior of the Madurai Jesuit Mission. Of course, this tenacity of the Jesuits in sticking to their own Rules, on the missions or anywhere else, is one of their great sources of strength. And this is what makes their Missions so clearly superior to those of other religious Orders. The only trouble is that their solidarity and united spirit thereby become incompatible with a secular native clergy (even more incompatible than the other Orders).

Whenever the hour set by Divine Providence for a successful Native Clergy eventually arrives in a Mission, it will soon be seen that no religious Order whatever can continue to be left in charge of that Mission territory. The Bishop will need freedom of action,

(p 772) and must be able to work completely independent of the Order (outside their own houses) as is the case in Catholic countries. Of course a worthy Religious missionary could be appointed Bishop; but only on condition that he be completely freed from his Order, definitely outside it, as regards everything to do with the pastoral administration of the Mission.

And the regulars [the Order men] can continue to do great work among the pagan peoples, provided they are clearly subject to the Bishop (as in Europe) according to the prescriptions of Canon Law. Let them work according to the spirit of their Order, and be in constant union with their General. Let them form houses (or even Provinces) of their Order, as in Italy or France. Within these, let them live according to the full rigour of their Rule. In short, let them obey normal Canon Law, instead of hanging on to their special mission privileges and exceptions. The abuse of privilege is disastrous, on the missions just as everywhere else.

A few days later I received a letter from Mgr Canoz inviting me to his consecration. This invitation put me in a bad fix. To decline might be interpreted as personal ill-feeling against the Madurai Jesuits, because of our sometimes painful encounters in the past. But how could I come back from Verapoly and then start off immediately on another excursion? How could I afford it, anyway, in my present poverty-stricken condition? So I decided to reply that it was well-nigh impossible for me to come.

But I soon saw that this reply was producing exactly the (wrong) impression I had feared. So, upon a renewed insistence from Mgr Canoz and after several letters from Bishop Bonnand, I decided to accept, and to undertake that second journey, to Trichinopoly.132

I will now try to collect and recollect my souvenirs and memories of those two big excursions outside my Coimbatore Mission.

(p 773)

[* First Day: to the “new” Coimbatore Bungalow*]

From Karumattampatty I went to Coimbatore, to spend the night in our newly purchased bungalow. It had no furniture; and the only person there was the gardener, who was still harvesting the previous owner’s tobacco crop. Though outside the city, the house was very near it. And I hoped to build a church in the “garden” and, by the grace of God, maybe attract some few responsive souls. In the meantime, I planned an oratory in the main room of the bungalow, for myself and the missionaries, and for the few poor Catholics who happened to be then in Coimbatore: and also for the nearby village of Saveriarpalayam (3 miles distant). They could come in (at least some of them) on Sundays. Then I wrote:

“When will the day dawn when we have a good big Christian community here, O my God? In this great city, when will a decent temple arise, in your honour, worthy of your holy Religion? Until that day, we will just have to celebrate the sacred mysteries in this poor bungalow. But anyway, please bless this house, Lord. Let it become the centre of a real diocese where You will one day be known, loved and served by a numerous faithful, and by many local priests! Holy Michael Archangel, protector of Holy Church, come to our defense! The angels of darkness are still very powerful around here! And if ever I get to build a church in this place, it is to you, (p 774) Saint Michael, that I will dedicate it. And once again, I hope, you will wield your sword of victory. The glorious war-cry which is the meaning of your name 133 will ring out in this land. Once again you will topple the demons who dominate and infect the air of India. You will cast them down into the deep dark dungeons where they belong. And the Lord God Almighty will reign in this land; and the sweet gentle names of Jesus and Mary will be on the people’s lips, blessed and exalted for ever. Amen. So be it. Fiat!

  • Deforestation, another crying example of *

  • England looting India. *

[* The present Irish Famine (1847) is similar.*]

Next day, 15th May, I took the road [West] towards Palghat; but I branched off a little, to Kovilpalayam, where I wanted to meet Fr Barot134. The church and mission house here are (like Karumattampatty) a centre for a big surrounding area. Here is what I wrote there, that evening:

“The country I travelled today was new to me. Starting from Coimbatore, the land looked wonderfully fertile. For big dikes held in the waters from several [mountain] torrents and from a small local river, forming large lakes to irrigate vast rice-fields. But soon the verdant plains gave way to dry, rocky land with only stunted vegetation. Then, about 15 miles out from Coimbatore, we came to the immense forests of Palghat. Here we left the main road and went in, through woods and through many cultivated clearings, to Kovilpalayam. This village (like the surrounding ones) owes its existence to the woodman’s marauding axe.

(p 775) The clearing of the Forest might be a good thing, useful from every point of view, if it was done with intelligence and moderation. But it is heart-rending to see the reckless looting and devastation of the precious forest, allowed and positively promoted by a greedy [colonial] Government, with no precaution whatsoever for the future of these vast rich lands. This is where the people used to come for their building materials etc.; and already a severe shortage of good timber is making itself felt. The most valuable trees (like teak and cedar} are already almost wiped out, in usable size, except on the nearby Mountains. On the Plain the teak tree (one of the monarchs of the forest) can no longer be seen in all its glory; only a few stunted samples survive here and there. No effort whatever is being made to replace the felled giants. Such is the unhappy lot of a Country owned and governed by the Stranger; or rather, recklessly misgoverned and exploited, with no thought for the future (even) of the exploiters themselves; never mind the future welfare of the despised “natives”!

Of all the European nations which have grabbed foreign countries (why Providence allows it is something we do not quite know) there is no nation (apart from the Dutch) who have so thoroughy incurred the guilt of systematic looting and lèse-humanité [crimes against humanity] as have the present occupiers of India. No doubt the English have some remarkable qualities, notably an extreme cleverness in subjugating foreign peoples without letting their domination appear too tyrannical. But they are second to none of the previous looters of India by hook and by crook. Meanwhile (to deaden their own consciences and to confuse those of honest men) they loudly and sanctimoniously proclaim how they are bringing “civilization” to “savages” who are sometimes so ungrateful as to actually resist their self-serving “philanthropy”!

They started by filching priceless family jewellery. Very quietly but very effectively, the rich Indian women’s wrists, ankles, ears and noses were liberated from the costly rings and bracelets (etc.) handed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers for countless generations. When those heirlooms ,were all finished, and there was no more gold and diamonds to be gathered, the English imposed crushing taxes, fines and monopolies [of salt etc.]. (p 776)Now they have got to the forests. Hurriedly, they are looting these, to build ships to be sailed home to London etc., loaded with cotton, rice, vegetable oil (e.g. coconut) and other primary products. These necessities of life will soon be in short supply for the native population, who may well end up dying of hunger, after having first been thoroughly robbed of the unnecessary objects of luxury for which their nation was famous.

Providence, no doubt, may be using these indirect plagues from the English in order to punish the peoples of India for their sins. The avarice (or rather, the insatiable greed for wealth) of the English may at present be serving as the hammer to smite them with. But if so, the day will soon come when God’s hammer-blows will turn on the looters, before they know what is happening. The national crimes of England will then be punished in their turn, when their job on India has been done. Already, perhaps, the sovereign Ruler and Judge of all may be giving England a hint of the wrath to come.

“See how the riches of India, China, Australia and all her other vast sources of plunder are pouring into the limitless, voracious bank-vaults of England. Nevertheless she is already groaning under the weight of one financial crisis after another. The four winds and the seven seas are continually moving the world’s finest products into the Thames dock-yards; meanwhile the ordinary people of England cannot get enough to eat. Poverty more degrading than any leprosy gnaws their bodies. Five hundred Irish per day are dying of starvation, while England (though claiming to have “lawfully” brought them into one United Kingdom) is “unable” to give them a piece of bread. What is going on in Ireland (now, as I write these lines) is a solemn proof of England’s unfitness to govern there, or else of her heartless cruelty, in spite of all her display of wealth, her power, her civilization, in spite of the humane wisdom that seems to preside over her national institutions.

But enough of these unflattering reflections on a nation which I would much prefer to praise if I could. They were penned in the heat of the moment, in the indignation I felt at the sight of these latest depredations [of the forest] and the government’s (p 777) misuse of their authority (and of their God-given intelligence) in a country which they ought to be governing for the greater good of the native peoples if (as they claim) they have acquired some sort of legitimate authority over them.

  • Fr Barot no use.*

  • But it is the SYSTEM that is Wrong.*

[* Hopeless Area. Call in Keralan Priests?*]

“I found that the [Kovilpalayarn] community was in a very bad state of disorder. It has been going badly for a long time, mainly because of the tradition and character of the Christians themselves. Just one big palaver after another, unfortunately, things have been fouled up more than ever by some recent reckless mistakes of Fr Barot, who is in charge of the district at present. Anyway, the district is far too big for one man. So, in spite of all the zeal put into it in the past by many of our dear confreres, the people’s faith is shaky, and their morals outstandingly bad. The Christians care less and less about the authority of the priest.

“As soon as I was appointed to the episcopate, I wanted to start a local clergy in Coimbatore. But this could not happen for years (if ever). So I got the idea that I might call in some [Malayali] priests from the Malabar [West] Coast, where they are so plentiful (and even too many). I barely mentioned this idea; but my confreres gave it such a chilling reception that I felt I could not pursue it. There were three things against it: the prejudices of most of my confreres against native priests; the bad reputation of the West Coast ones; and the caste complications here, which they would come up against, right from the start. 135 It was this last reason that really stopped me. Sooner or later, I will have to explain

(p 778) all these [caste etc] problems to the Holy See. And, depending on its answer, we will see whether or not there is a basis for calling them in.

“Fr Métral (who strikes me as being a remarkably sound man and one who knows this country well) recently said to me: “About two years ago, I heard Your Lordship might be calling in priests from the West Coast. I thought then that it would be bad for the Vicariate. Now, having thought it over, I believe that we have nothing to lose. At least, we could not be worse off than in our present situation. The Palghat Christians couldn’t be in a worse condition, with those priests, than they are in now, without them.”

“Fr Métral, who had just spent several years in the area, is a first-class missionary; and he had succeeded another excellent confrere. Which goes to show that [no matter how good our men may be] it is impossible for us even to maintain Catholicism in these areas (never mind bring it up to a flourishing condition) as long as we continue with a pastoral system which is so abnormal as the present one. What would those Christians be like if they had been under imperfect missionaries, or merely imprudent ones, such as the present incumbent seems to be.

For many of Fr Barot’s latest moves could turn out disastrous. He seems to realise this a little himself, for he looks like a man expecting severe rebukes. I took good care not to indulge in any; for my personnel is much too scarce to risk alienating any of them. For the moment I must confine myself to seeing things with my own eyes, and evaluating them, in silence. Later (I hope) I will be able to do something about them, and get my co-workers to do something, in what I will then reckon to be the general direction towards salvation [and normality].

“I see, for example, that Fr Barot has gone to great lengths to try and [suddenly] get the people to show some contentment with his “rule”. Wasted efforts! They are hostile to him; and, being quite intractable and stubborn by nature, they showed themselves completely unimpressed by all the wonderful Noise of the music and the brilliance of the Fireworks (paid for, I suspect, by the missionary himself, which is completely against the custom in the country). (p 779)As I am only passing through, I refuse to deal with any of their palavers. Anyway, I am bringing Fr Barot with me to Verapoly. I hope to come back soon and do a proper visitation of the District.

The church here is detestably bad. The house would be all right if it wasn’t on the verge of falling down. The garden is nice, but too small.

In short, I am very disappointed with this mission. And it is the second in importance within my jurisdiction!

“I did not see much, either, of the city of Palghat. I made only a flying visit to the church and mission house, on the outskirts. The Christians had come together to meet me. And never did I meet such a deafening concentration of gun-shots, explosions and competing bands of miscellaneous drummers and trumpeters. This bedlam (I was quite used to it by now) did not disturb me in the least. But I was extremely disturbed by the discovery that the church here is nothing but a disgusting shack; and the mission house is nothing but one big unfurnished room, in very bad condition; for the white ants have got into the woodwork.

  • Nearing Kerala Climate. A Different Ecclesiastical Scene.*

  • My own last Outpost, under Interdict.*

We had now crossed over the dividing line between two climates. Here, the westerly monsoon was expected any day, bringing the big rains to the Malabar Coast and all the western flanks of the Ghats [mountains]. The little Walayar river, between Coimbatore and Palghat, seems to be the dividing line. To the east, right to the Coromandel Coast, the hottest and driest months were beginning. To the west, especially along the Malabar Coast, the wettest (if not the coolest) months were expected.

As we were entering the west monsoon area, we were given a good sample of a downpour. Soon, the showers would become deluges. But the real steady Rains were still a month away; and I hoped to be back home by then. Even now, however, the heavy (p 780) showers often delayed an early morning start, and thus exposed us to more of the midday heat later in the day. We could not leave our Palghat shack until 5 a.m. Then the morning got fine; and we could see and enjoy the immense new landscape of very fertile rice and coconut farms. The land here looked very different from Tamil country. Malayalam territory is much better watered, richer in forests, more intensively cultivated. Banana, jack-fruit, coconut, mango and endless varieties of fruit abound. The population, however, was not yet entirely Malayali; it was a mixture from both sides of the Ghats [Tamil and Keralan].

“About 9 a.m. I arrived at Melarcode, a Christian village of Syro-chaldaic Rite, a local settlement of “Malayaturs” from Cochin area. Although it was inside the map of the old Vicariate Apostolic of Pondicherry, our missionaries never visited this village. The Christians do not understand Tamil; and anyway they have their own customs and Rite. The Archbishop of Verapoly has always sent one of his “catanar” priests there, with the consent of Pondicherry. (I myself asked Archbishop Martini to continue with this arrangement until such time as another one was worked out).

“I was very glad of the opportunity to see the village in passing. And I was given a perfect welcome by the Christians and the Syriac priest who does “cure” for them. When we were still two miles away, loud explosions announced my approach, and a procession came out to meet me, led by a cross and bearing some extremely clean big white banners. At the entrance to the village the priest came to welcome me, leading a very impressively dressed Confraternity of men. The women stood to attention in front of their respective doors, kneeling on the verandah as I passed. All had white veils on their heads (but not covering their faces) the mothers holding their babies in their arms. Before each house a multi-beaked lamp was lighting. All this calm order and this impressive array was something new to me in India.

At the church door the priest offered me holy water and led me to a special kneeler in front of the sanctuary. On the altar, some magnificent dazzling-white candles were burning. The church itself was spotlessly clean, quite new, of good solid brickwork. (p 781) It was almost elegant. Without any doubt whatever, it was the finest church I had seen since Pondichery.

“But what was my astonishment when I heard that this poor “catanar” priest was himself the sole architect and part mason of this fine church! And that the villagers had paid for it all out of their own pockets! And this was a Black man, if you please! In his little parish of a few hundred souls, he had quietly achieved something that all our missionaries, with all their fanfare, had never been able to manage in any village or town, but only in a few big cities, and with overseas aid! I was in another world here. I already had my opinions [about what Indians can achieve in the Church if given half a chance]. But I was so glad to see this living proof of them! I was to see plenty more, too, in the next few days. And I also witnessed many proofs of how mistaken are the prejudices of the missionaries against the “coloured” clergy. (I had greatly suspected those European prejudices already, and had seen some of them disproved by my own experience before this. Now, more of them toppled).

Fr Barot and I dined with the priest, who had gone to some trouble and expense to welcome us all. But my Coimbatore followers, though Christians to a man, went off and cooked their own food, in new pots. For the priest and the Melarcode Christians do not observe caste rules.

From that village it was only a few miles to Vadakkanchery, on the edge of my official jurisdiction. I left at about 4 in the morning [ignored that village] and made straight for the public rest-house. For the local Catholics are a very troublesome lot, and had been placed under interdict some time before by Bishop Bonnand, because of grave disorders. As we drew near the village, however, I saw a few of them coming, with a few drums banging. I stopped the music and told them I would not go near their church until Bishop Bonnand’s conditions (now mine also) were all met. They were mortified; and this seems to have had some good effect. For, in the evening, a few of the head-men came, and wanted to negotiate some sort of a compromise deal. But I was not going to deal, just in passing, with such an important matter for the countryside. So I put them off until my proper pastoral visitation. (p 782) Next day I had to travel over one of the Ghats mountain passes, to Trichur, in the Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly.

[* St Thomas. Portuguese Policy: Caste-free; many Clergy.*]

We were now approaching the lands first made fertile by the preaching of Saint Thomas himself, one of Our Divine Lord’s Twelve Apostles. The Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly now includes his admirable Syrochaldaic Community. It goes back, in unbroken succession, to the glorious Apostle himself. In the distant past, they had had the misfortune of being drawn into the Nestorian heresy. But the zeal of the great Menezes136 brought the majority of them back under the Universal Church. Today they would be an extremely flourishing part of the Church, if only the missionaries had always properly understood the thinking of the Holy See and had put it into practice here. I hope to have more to say, later, about these very interesting Saint Thomas Christians, both the Syriac and the Latin communities; and I will try to explain the reasons why they are the best in India. Also the causes which have prevented them (and are still preventing them) from taking their proper place among the great Churches of the Catholic world, a place they are well able to fill, and a place to which they probably have some rights, also!137

Before this journey to Verapoly, I had only heard about these Kerala Churches. And the reports I heard were inaccurate and supremely unfair, from a few confreres who had merely passed through the country, without learning anything, and without forgetting anything of their European prejudices. Now, in this hurried journey, I was getting a first-hand view of these Christians, (p 783) their church and their priests.

_ _

This was enough to make me greatly mistrust everything I had previously heard against them. It gave me a great interest in them, and

a desire to know them better. I was enabled to do this (at least partially) in a second journey I made there (which I will describe later) and also by a providential opportunity I was given (in another place and other circumstances) to converse with some worthy church leaders from Kerala.

On this first journey, however, I just revelled in all the good and all the beautiful things I saw. I knew there was another side to the medal; but I was not so interested in looking for it just now. So, my diary for 18 May went like this:

“The day just ended, O my God, has been a day of consolation for my soul, a day of refreshment, of almost unalloyed happiness. Just as a traveller, having trudged his weary way through sandy burning plains, suddenly sees an oasis, and then enters a cool and shady wood, freshened and enlivened by a generous fountain, surrounded by fields of ripe, waving corn in a delightful fertile valley … How he revives! Even so was I, today. For five long years I had been wandering in the dismal desert of our Indian Missions. Here I breathed a new kind of air, and how good it tasted! I came on two Syriac communities; I met their priests; I saw their beautiful churches and their numerous Christian congregations. And I asked myself: is it because these people were more receptive to grace, and their country more responsive? Or is it, rather, because the method of evangelisation was better?

“Quite apart from Saint Thomas, who was given the grace of the apostolate directly by our Divine Saviour himself, there were many other factors favouring the progress of Christianity on this “Malabar” Coast: The Portuguese certainly deployed a lot of their overseas power for the extension of the reign of Jesus Christ. The Portuguese clergy was a lot less allergic than ours to the establishment of a native clergy. Above all, the customs and traditions handed down from the time of Saint Thomas just did not allow the missionaries on this Coast to try to do without native priests.

“Not that all those priests were good; far from it. The Portuguese were so lax about this, and put so little effort into the (p 784) training of the local priests in their colonies, that there were frequent and notorious scandals. And these scandals worked strongly on the imaginations of the other missionaries for the next three hundred years; they contributed in no small way to increase the “natural” hostility of the white clergy to the idea of a black clergy. Nevertheless, the people still gained from the Portuguese “mistake”. For at least they were not deprived of having priests of their own. And this is precisely what the obstinacy of the Jesuits and all those who imitated them [including ourselves] has done to our people, by absolutely refusing to have black priests. I said it before and I’ll say it again. It is far better for a people to have even a middling clergy of its own (even with a few bad priests thrown in) than to have no clergy at all.

“Thus [history] has always forced the missionaries in Kerala] to have plenty of local priests. If only they had also done all that lay in their power to make those priests as good as possible! But at least they were not allowed to impose systematic [and impossible] standards of perfection on candidates before ordaining them! Thus, for example, the Vicariate Apostolic of Verapoly is no bigger than Coimbatore, and only a quarter the size of Pondicherry or Madurai. Yet it will usually have 100 to 150 for ordination every year.138True, there are far more Christians here than in our places. But “isn’t it the priests that make Christians of ‘em?” as a Syriac priest pointed out today to Fr Barot.

“Another very positive factor here: about Caste. The tradition started by Saint Thomas, and the powerful support of the Portuguese (in the places within reach of their settlements) allowed the missionaries on this West Coast to be more strict. Every catechumen, before baptism, had to renounce Caste, which is so contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. I am not trying to say that a little bit of flexibility and understanding might not have been useful too. The Christians, indeed, are numerous here; but the pagans that were kept away by harshness and rigidity may be even more numerous. Anyway, the fact remains: the Christians here (p 785) are stronger than the caste-ridden Christians of the interior.

“Thus, for example, I came across many other remarkably fine churches on my route. And, in those I was able to visit the statues: furnishing and decoration were really beautiful. I could not believe my eyes. Yet the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly gives no financial help whatever to those churches. They have sufficient local income for their own maintenance, and that of their priests.

  • Into Kerala Proper. A timely Village Invitation.*

[* Public Drink! Carmelites’ useless Grandeur. Apartheid?*]

“By mid-day we had crossed over the Mountain pass. It was easy going: for the high road (fairly well maintained) was designed to take even bullock carts. We came down to a big village on the other Side. It had only very few Christians.

The public bungalow was revolting. The rafters etc. were infested with insects, as if tarred all over with a crawling coat of little beetles; and some of these were continually falling down on to your table, your soup, your hair. It was enough to drive you crazy.

We had Just decided to get out quick, when we heard an approaching chant, like palanquin-bearers. It was the “curé” (here called a vicar) from a nearby village. He was coming to invite me to his place… We had hurriedly finished our meal, feeling a bit like Pharaoh eating under the third plague of Egypt [the insects]. Very gladly I accepted the invitation.

So off we went, me in my palanquin, Fr Barot on his horse, and the “catanar” vicar in a kind of net [or hammock] called a [?] “maskil””, a vehicle peculiar to Malayalam [Kerala]. It consists of a kind of sagging stretcher, two feet by six, hung on a stout bamboo carried on the shoulders (somewhat like a palanquin) by two (or four) bearers. On top is a reed-mat “canopy” which the passenger can use as a parasol or umbrella or wind-shield, tilting it in the required direction by means of two cords. Before we got to the Village we saw another priest coming, on a similar contraption. He was a Trichur priest, specially sent to meet us.

At the entrance to the village the whole population welcomed us, cross raised aloft, banners waving. (p 786) And the mountainsides re-echoed magnificently with reiterated welcoming bangs. The church here was beautiful, compared to Coimbatore and all the interior of Pondicherry Vicariate (but not at all up to that of Trichur). There was no time to inspect it properly. I said a prayer and departed immediately, led by the Trichur priest.

“When I was getting into my palanquin, the people pressed me to at least take some coconut-water. (I had declined their offers of food). They brought some ready-to-drink coconuts. I took one. But I quietly asked the “vicar” whether it would not be considered indecent to drink it in the sight of the surrounding multitude. He smiled and shook his head. A few of the nearest Christians laughed, saying “My Lord! This isn’t Tamil country”. They meant, “No caste rules here”. So I enjoyed my drink in front of them all. Is this India?

“An hour and a half later, I was entering the outskirts of Trichur. No need to say, there wasn’t the slightest shortage of drums, bangs and trumpets. But what was new was a regular, orderly procession, of the Holy Rosary Confraternity. On they came, to meet me, dressed in white tunics, big candles in hand, behind an elegant banner, led by a silver processional cross, more beautiful than the average kind in France. They lined the route on both sides of my palanquin. Two of the men had sprinklers, for spraying holy water on the Christian houses on the route. Two others carried big silver platters piled with blossoms, to be spread before my feet ere I alighted from the palanquin. Several priests, in black soutane, came forward and kissed my ring respectfully, and then formed a guard of honour on both sides of the vehicle.

“We were a long, long time parading through the city, with a great crowd, of Christians and pagans. At last we turned a corner and I was absolutely thrilled by the sight of a magnificent cathedral! It was in a different class from our pretty town churches in France (my usual standard for comparison in India). The only standard for this cathedral was a French provincial city. At the church door the vicar (now in surplice) offered me holy water and introduced me to a Spanish Carmelite, Fr Cid, whom the Archbishop had sent from Verapoly to meet me. He personally (p 787) led me to the prie-Dieu [kneeler] in the sanctuary. There I prayed with all my heart, amidst the clergy of the church.

For, here, the term is actually called for: “the clergy of the church”. Not like our Missions, where a lone priest manages, with great effort, to get around to 20, 30, even 40 “churches” in the course of a year, leaving up to 39 in the wilderness, wide open to the wolves, deprived of all shepherds, while he tries to attend (temporarily) to one village. Here every village church has its own priest, its “vicar”. Not only that. Every decent-sized church will have 3, 4, 5 priests, according to its needs and its revenue! Not counting the deacons and lower clerics, who still exercise their ancient ministries here!

Afterwards, I visited the presbytery, and gaped at its size. There was a special Bishop’s Room, all perfectly prepared for me. This was the first priest’s house I saw with an actual European bed and furniture in it. Even at Pondicherry, the Bishop does not have such luxury. Fr Cid had a good supper ready for us. I would have liked to sit down with some of the venerable priests who had received us so well. But there was only himself, Fr Barot and me…! Anyway, thanks be to God for today. It did my heart good.

“O my God, when will we have priests everywhere, so that your holy Name may be glorified everywhere (or nearly everywhere) like here! Give me this grace, Lord, before my death: to impose hands on a few good Tamil Christians and consecrate them to Your service and the service of their brothers.

“I will note here that not only was no Indian priest invited to our supper, but none of them ever sat down in our presence, anywhere! This astounded me. I did not yet know the reason: they are not allowed! This is a thundering mistake, which you have to see to believe. The Carmelites imagine that the more haughty and contemptuous you are with them, the better they will respect you!

Poor Carmelites! Since that time you have had plenty of troubles. I certainly sympathize with those of your Fathers who did not do anything personally to deserve them. I pity your highly respected Order, which must be largely ignorant of the way you precede in these missions. But it was impossible that God would bless your policy there, in a Mission which, with just a bit of common sense, (p 788) you could have made the finest in the world! You could have raised it up, from being a mere chronic mission territory to be a flourishing independent Church. Instead, because of your very unimpressive efforts, it is still limping along as a Mission, and is still a prey to numerous scandals. These you could have, and you should have, forestalled.

  • A rich Church. Delightful voyage on the Creeks.*

  • A Storm providentially Missed.*

I was longing to celebrate the sacred mysteries in one of those magnificent churches. Although we had to leave very early next morning, I still had the consolation of saying Mass before we started out.

We had three or four miles to go, before embarking on one of those rivers [or creeks] which meander through much of Kerala, communication routes to many mainland cities and towns, and to the shore islands. Verapoly is on one of these. The Vicar Apostolic can do most of his pastoral visitation by water. Instead of horses or vehicles, the missionaries mostly have boats.

Before even coming to the river, however, I came across another fine big church, richer even than Trichur’s. It was at the village of Arunadukarai. The parish has about 2,000 Christians and is served by three priests and several lesser clerics. The church and its buildings are like Trichur, but even bigger and finer! For example, I saw a new chalice and monstrance, both of solid gold, bought only last year. The monstrance cost no less than 4,000 [pounds] and the chalice 2,000!

The Confraternities of the Holy Rosary and the Blessed Sacrament marched out to meet us. Their lighted torches had solid silver handles! Their processional cross (also silver) was hung with a beautiful cloth-of-gold banner! We stayed only for a brief prayer in the church, and a quick breakfast. This was served by the priests, with European neatness and tidiness. But the priests did not join us at table. Afterwards, along with the Confraternities and the people, (p 789) they escorted us as far as the river. There, to the sound of numerous gun-powder salutes, we boarded the elegant craft sent specially for us by the Archbishop.

At the stern flew a red pennant with the Arms of the Carmelite Order emblazoned on it. Twelve oarsmen chanted Malayali songs in honour of Saint Thomas and Saint Anthony. Soon we were well away from the river-bank and turning into one of the thousand windings of the intricate waterways. Then came a lagoon, then a net-work of creeks, then a single river again, then a stretch of rice-fields, then an archipelago of little islands covered with coconut palms, areca palms, mango trees. Little crops of coffee, cloves. nutmeg, pepper etc abounded, some of them twined on specially-made props, others climbing old palm trunks.

I will not try to describe the numerous churches we saw in the distance. We did not stop. We hoped to reach Verapoly that day (or at the latest, by noon on the next) in time for the feast -day of Bishop Fontanova (Mangalore) and Bishop-elect Bacinelli (Quilon) both of them named Bernardine.

The only stop we made was in the evening (Angelus time) to visit one of the churches, right on the river-bank. We declined a ceremonial reception; it would have delayed us too much. We made our brief salutation to Mary and re-embarked. Now our craft was more at ease, for the depth of the water increased towards the sea. We were no longer held up by shallows, or by floating vegetation catching on the oars.

By now it was night. Though we passed by the half-drowned ruins of Cranganore city, we saw nothing. Soon, though complete darkness had come down, we knew we were in sea water, by the shining phosphorescence stirred from the waves at every vigorous stroke.

“This fire-and-water display”, I wrote, “reminded me of my sea voyage (already years ago) when I used to sit alone on the poop, meditating on the endless sea, gazing at the luminous wake of the ship carrying me to the land of India, to work for the establishment of your holy Religion there, O my God. At long last we did see this land; and how we thrilled with joy and expectation! But, that time, the Sun came up from over [the sea and] the palmtrees on the [East] Coromandel Coast. Here, this morning, (p 790) we saw it rise over the Western Ghats, to shine on a happier land, more fertile and (above all) less empty of Christians. And when we bade it farewell in the evening, it went down over the western Ocean.”

About 10 p.m. we landed at Palipuram (or Paliporto). The “vicar” who had not been expecting us until the following day, was caught unprepared. But we quickly reassured him by dispensing him from any emergency meals; for the hospitality of the Vicar Apostolic had stocked the boat so well that we lacked for nothing on the voyage. Not only had we all the necessities of life, but many other things which we, in our own poor missions, would have called rare luxuries.

By candle-light we visited the church; briefly, because we had to start again before dawn. If it had been my first church in Kerala, I would have thought it spectacular. But, after Trichur and Arunadukarai, it looked unimpressive. It belonged to the Latin Rite. And (as Fr Helia, our guide, informed us) Syriac-rite churches are usually much finer and richer than Latin ones. And yet the missionaries favour the Latin rite at the expense of the Syriac. Very strange, And very disastrous, in my opinion.

At 11 p.m. a furious storm exploded. I was then busy writing down my impressions of the day’s journey. So I wound up the 19th May like this:

“The Angel of the Lord has held back this hurricane until now. A few hours earlier, it would have seriously tormented us, in some very tricky navigation on the creeks. But we got through them all in safety and in calm. Now the torrents of rain, the thunder and lightning, the dull roar of the sea, are making solemn powerful music in contrast to the silent shadows of surrounding Nature. This night You have given us, Lord. to show Your glory. Like all the other nights and days we are destined to spend in this world of exile. May all our nights and days and moments be dedicated to You, O my God. Be You always blessed and praised by us, night and day!”

(p 791)

  • Triumphalist Welcome to Verapoly. Latin Imposition.*

As soon as the storm eased, Fr Helia sent a canoe on ahead of us, to inform the Archbishop that we should arrive in the course of the morning. And in fact we left Paliporto about 5 a.m., in a beautiful peaceful dawn. But we were a bit worried about our followers. travelling in another boat, with less oarsmen. (Happily, they had no accident, though they had been greatly shaken by the storm).

By now the river stretched wide and continuous to the sea. On either side lay many islands, most of them dominated by coconut palms. Birds of prey (notably fishing birds), crocodiles and water-buffaloes; other animals frolicking on the beaches or raucously greeting us as we passed; they all kept us highly entertained, even amidst my own more serious reflections at the sight of all the lovely churches, half-visible through the trees as Fr Helia pointed them out. (For they had no steeples; or else these did not over-top the surrounding palm trees).

About a mile from Verapoly, our oarsmen doubled their speed, singing a faster song, higher and louder, even clapping their hands in rhythm, especially when they heard the beat of another team of twelve oarsmen propelling a similar craft towards us. It was Bishop-elect Bacinelli himself, coming to meet us. We hailed each other and waved; then we came alongside and met, thanking the Lord for his grace in bringing us safely together like this.

Shortly afterwards, we were landing, near the church. The Superior of the Seminary was there, with all his students. Other priests came to join him. We all proceeded towards the church to the ringing of bells and the roll of “cannon”. ‘

The “vicar” offered me holy water and led me to the Blessed Sacrament altar, to kneel at the prie-Dieu. Having adored our Divine Master present in the tabernacle, and thanked Him for the happy voyage He had given us, I prayed (quickly but none the less ardently, I think) for India: that He might deign to bless her other regions as he had blessed this one. Then I went and prostrated myself before the high altar and made the same prayer to Him who crowns his own gifts by crowning the merits of his Saints. (p 792) I invoked the Patron of the church to bring my poor prayers up to the Throne of our common God and Master.

After our short prayer we went to the Archbishop’s House, built in the style of a huge Carmelite Convent. At the foot of the stairway stood Archbishop Martini. He embraced me affectionately; and so also did his Coadjutor, Bishop Fontanova, newly appointed Pro-Vicar of Mangalore.

The rest of the day went by in the mutual and charming courtesies of hospitality and visiting. After lunch we saw the Seminary, the Church in detail, the Catechist Training Centre, the gardens. It was all magnificent in my eyes. (And really it was beautiful). Please God, the peace of the Lord will soon reign again there!

What a lot of miserable problems lay hidden behind those impressive surroundings! I knew hardly anything about them, on that first trip. And even in the second, I would hardly have noticed them, only for some special coincidences. So I will leave them for a later chapter. How hard to realise the true situation of a place in a mere passing visit! That is why Apostolic Visitations [by Rome-appointed legates etc.] are often so useless. That is another reason why they cannot initiate the most obvious-seeming remedy for the backward condition of so many Missions [i.e. native clergy].

The Verapoly church is by no means the finest in the Vicariate; but everything in it is in very good order. The Seminary is meant only for Latin-rite students. The Syriac students, much more numerous, have to make do with [much smaller buildings] and a few ancient priests139 for their ecclesiastical training. Some of the students are in so-called “convents” which, from what I hear, are very badly run. The training of the “Latin” students is also very far from satisfactory; the education they get is extremely poor. Here again we see the same policy or “principle”: that black priests must not be too well educated. (It is even said out loud).

(p 793) A lot of time is spent teaching them the Portuguese language, which is well-nigh useless to them. But it saves the Carmelites the trouble of learning Malayali. Only one of the Carmelites had a smattering of it. Then the students are taught a bit of Latin. Not too much; that would not be good. Just about enough to be able to translate the Second Nocturn of the Breviary into Portuguese!140Then they do some “theology” especially practical “cases” in Moral. Finish. Care is taken to make it nearly impossible for them to get books to study by themselves.

The Carmelite in charge of the Seminary seems to be one of the few who tried to combat this particular piece of stupidity; but he was no great shining light himself. However, his students respected him more than the rest; for at least he tried to let them learn something. Supervision of the students seemed to be very poor. Nevertheless, at least to an outsider, the seminarians seemed well-behaved. Anyway, they are easier to lead than the Tamils; no caste problem; no hang-ups about food, etc. Moreover, the Keralans are well known for their intelligence. So if they do not have a perfect clergy there, it is (to be blunt) plainly the fault of the missionaries.

  • Uncarmelite Fathers. Fish on the Vigil.*

The style of life led by these Carmelite Fathers was not at all what you might expect from reading their ancient Rule. I do not know the reasons given for their many exemptions, but they certainly make wide use of them. If I had seen them only during this Consecration which I came for, I would have had no reason to say that. They were celebrating a big occasion; they had guests; it was a special time. But I saw them again later, in normal times; and I could easily see that those missionaries on the Malabar Coast were Carmelites in name only. No doubt, some of them are worthy individuals; they are just going along with established custom there, (p 794) probably with some sighs of discontent. But if you want to sec Carmelites, look elsewhere. If only they were missionaries at least!

I noted none of this bad side at the time. And without the second look I would have no such comment to make. All I noted in my Diary was one item [in their favour, in away].

“I was glad of the opportunity to be here on a Fast Day [the vigil of Pentecost I. I was interested to see the Italian tradition in action, which must be the tradition of these good Fathers. The holy observance of fasting is unfortunately violated by the vast majority of Frenchmen; but on the other hand, those who do keep faithful to it seem to interpret the law in a somewhat rigoristic way. Many of our missionaries (especially those fresh from France) are too scrupulous to take even a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. The rigorist theology of the French priests over the last two centuries may well be one of the disastrous series of causes which have alienated the whole French people from observing the Laws of the Church, and even from confession and Communion.

“Whatever about all that (and it seems the younger clergy in France arc beginning to realize the mistake) this is how they do Fast Days in Verapoly: In the morning they have tea or coffee, dunking toast in it (two fingers thick). Between lunch and evening collation, they have tea or coffee again, but this time without bread. The “collation” is generous, a lot more so than at Pondicherry. They even have fish. “Only pisciculi”, I was told. (I had heard of these wonderful “little fishes” in Moral Theology; but I had never seen them on a table at a fast-day “collation”). For my part, they looked just like fish to me; and in my ignorance I would have just called them quite decent “pisces”. I am not blaming anybody, except (perhaps) the over-severe [French] interpretation of Church Laws.

If somebody wants to go beyond the Law in his own fasting, I admire him and praise him. But don’t let him demand, from all his fellow-Christians, anything more than what the Church intends to make obligatory. Otherwise he may see the people openly flout the Law; and it may be his fault, to his great spiritual loss. The good Fathers here do not seem to do any special (p 795) “Carmelite” penance; they just keep to the Law of the Church. Of the Latin Church. (For the Syriac Rite is stricter on fast days.. it does not allow any fish whatsoever).

Music (etc) far too Spanish

The Consecration of Mgr Bacinelli was performed in good order, and in some style. But, with the enormous resources of this Mission, it could easily have been done much better. The gathering of clergy (more than a hundred) was an impressive sight; but hardly any came from outside Verapoly. Only the seminarians and a few specially invited priests were in surplice, inside the sanctuary. Other priests and clerics (especially those of Syriac Rite) had to stay down in the church, amidst the crowd. I did not like that very much. The crowd itself was not really huge. The reason given was that this was the third or fourth consecration seen in Verapoly in a short time. Moreover the rains had now come, and far-away people would not want to travel. Later I learnt another reason: the unpopularity of the Carmelites in Kerala.

One thing was completely lacking in the imposing ceremony: good singing. The seminarians were very poorly trained. Moreover, the Seminary Director was a Spaniard; and he thought that nothing could possibly be any good except what is done in Spain. Nothing outside of his own Convent in Spain, I dare say. We ourselves have this parochial type, too. One of our missionaries, for example, can see nothing good outside France, outside his native diocese, outside his own village in fact. These are the only things or customs he will promote. Thus, the Spanish Director could not be content with a simple Mass in unison, in grave and majestic Plain Chant. It might not be the latest thing in Church Music; but at least it is always fitting and dignified, and easy to perform properly. Instead, he regaled us with a Spanish style composition which he thought was wonderful (maybe because it suited his peculiar pronunciation of Latin). Nothing escaped, down to the Antiphons of First Vespers and of the Pontifical;

(p 796) all were mercilessly metamorphosed into Spanish opera, to the great annoyance of my French ears. They much prefer Gregorian; even though Gregory was no Frenchman!

It all concluded with the actual Mass of Consecration. There was not even Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the evening.

Delayed by Rain and Carmelite Hospitality.

Confusion not noticed behind the impressive Facade.

I had planned to leave the very next day, Monday after Pentecost. I n the current state of my poor Vicariate, I could not very well afford to be absent for long. Moreover, I was determined to be at Karumattampatty for Saturday, to give Tonsure to two youngsters from our school, and so to lay the first foundations for my Seminary. They had already been called, and should be doing their Retreat during the week. But the pressing hospitality of the Rev Fathers and the Bishops, and especially the rain (which poured without interruption all that Monday) forced me to stay on for two days more. I wrote to that excellent man Fr Métral (who was their retreat Director) that the ceremony would have to be postponed until the Sunday after Trinity.

So I had some time on my hands and was able to get some slight idea of the Vicariate of Verapoly, probably the finest Vicariate Apostolic in the world; but the missionaries are obviously falling down in their job there. They do not like the Christians at all; and it is mutual. Never in my life did I hear so much negative talk about the poor Indians and about the native clergy. The only reason they have them at all is that they cannot do without them. These Indian priests certainly have their faults; but complaining too much about the missionaries is not one of them [for their complaints are quite justified]. The Carmelites view them, and treat them, and look down on them, from their own lofty grandeur. They do not take the trouble of starting the reforms which the Indians themselves desire. They have the name of “religious” but they live more like rich and powerful lords, a lot more comfortably [(*]p797[)*] than the mere “secular” missionaries and the native priests; they don’t even know the language, etc., etc.

None of this, however, did I hear from the Indian priests at that time, nor did I hear any of the other Indian voices which daily express those complaints. I did not see that, even among the Reverend Fathers themselves, there was no harmony, no consensus about the way they think and act. I did not see the utter confusion that reigned among them, and in their relations with their Order in Europe, and with Propaganda. All I saw (all I could see, so briefly) was the good side of things. The only bad thing that struck me (and almost scandalized me) was their sovereign contempt for the native clergy, especially the Syriac priests. These, at first sight, were obviously not devoid of many good qualities. They had their defects too; but these seemed to me more to be pitied than to be blamed.

The Carmelites also had it in for Luquet, because of a few remarks he had made about them, especially about their attitude to the Keralan clergy. All these signs did not impress me very favourably.

Nevertheless, the Bishops were so polite and obliging towards me that any disquieting impressions remained vague and almost unconscious in my mind, amidst this local Church which was so obviously superior to anything in Coimbatore or even Pondicherry.

Consequently, in my 1847 diary, all I can find is enthusiastic descriptions of Verapoly. Although it had now become one of the smallest Vicariates in India (because of the recent subdivisions) it still had over 200,000 Catholics, served by 388 Syriac priests (and 200 clerics) plus 48 Latin priests (and 38 major seminarians) with only 3 European missionaries (the Carmelite Vicar Apostolic and two others). Moreover, there were 30,000 Syriac Nestorian Christians, with a numerous clergy and a bishop of their own nation; a small group of Goa schismatics; and a few Protestants.

The new Bishop at Quilon (carved out from Verapoly) was starting off with 70,000 Catholics, 20,000 Goa schismatics, 7,000 Nestorians, few Protestants. He has only one European Carmelite, and twelve native priests. I do not know the number of Christians 8 (p 798) for Mangalore (also carved out from Verapoly).

But even in Verapoly itself, Catholicism is not so healthy. The only solidly-rooted Church is the venerable Saint Thomas community. And this is despised by the missionaries. Instead of supporting it, they are trying to undermine it, by setting up a rival Latin Church. And they leave the Saint Thomas Christians without a Catholic Bishop of their own Rite!

“O God! What a pitiable mess the administration of the Missions is in! And now, as I write these lines, what would happen if I came out and spoke openly about it all, to the Carmelites, or maybe to Propaganda? There would be instant complaints and accusations of “downright calumny”. And yet I am merely trying to sum up the facts impartially, merely trying to speak up for those unfortunate Christians and their promising Clergy. Let us hope there are better times ahead [and a fairer deal] coming for them. But I do not expect to see it in my life-time. I even have reason to fear that meanwhile, the Devil may actually succeed in sabotaging this precious portion of the Heritage of Jesus Christ.

There were four Bishops; and how I wished they could get down to discussing some of the grave problems concerning the Indian Missions! Unfortunately, it was just like at Karamattarnpatty. A lot of talk in the air; nothing useful. However, I did share with the Bishops some of my moral doubts about the pastoral policy [towards Caste etc.] on my side of the Ghats. They seemed surprised at some of the things I told them; but I did not get much enlightenment from them, or find out what they really thought about those problems. Anyway, they did not know enough about them, and I did not have enough time to explain them properly.

Bonnand, do not Sulk publicly

over Jesuits’ Insult!

Back Home into more Trouble: Fr Barot; Fr D.

During my short stay in Verapoly I received some letters from Bishop Bonnand in Pondicherry. He was not at all pleased with the way Mgr Canoz SJ was carrying on, just before his consecration. (p799) Mgr Canoz had invited him there to be an Assistant Bishop only: Archbishop Martini was going to do the consecration. Bishop Bonnand asked me: How can I carry out Propaganda’s instructions decently, as a mere Assistant Bishop?

Moreover, Mgr Canoz had published some confidential things in a Madras newspaper, documents which had been officially sent to Canoz only “through” Bonnand. Before they were officially forwarded, Canoz had already published them (without informing Bonnand) from a mere copy sent to him direct by the Jesuit General.141

No doubt it would have been more decent if Mgr Canoz had invited Bishop Bonnand to do the consecration. But the salvation of India did not depend on who did it. So I wrote to him that, merely because of a discourtesy, it would not be good to stay away from the Consecration, and so make public his protest against the Jesuits. Bishop Bonnand was too saintly for that, too ready to forget a merely personal insult against himself alone. He readily agreed with my advice. Soon after I got back to Karumattampatty, I learnt that, yes, he was going to Trichinopoly for the Day.

I left Verapoly about mid-week. Rev Fr Helia again accompanied us, as far as Paliporto. From there, along with Fr Barot, I continued my journey without stopping anywhere except to sleep or eat at public bungalows, as far as Vadakkanchery. There, Fr Barot was back in his District, so I finished my journey alone. Making my way through Palghat District, I could not avoid hearing more about some of the palavers that were confusing the Christians. But I decided to do nothing until I had consulted Fr Métral. I reckoned that they could easily be settled, given a bit of common sense. But that was just what was missing!

“Poor Fr Barot (I wrote then) has given me so many signs of being scattered and recklessly independent that I am really scared about his future performance in this Vicariate. It is all in the hands of God. In Him alone I put my trust.”

(p800) My worst fears were soon surpassed. Only a few short days later, I heard of some unbelievable blunders perpetrated by this young and hot-headed missionary. Fr Métral and myself felt it was indispensable to write quickly to the Christians, to try and appease them a bit, lest they be driven to do something really drastic against him. Fr Métral wrote it for me, being as diplomatic as possible in order not to enrage Fr. Barot. In this he failed, however Fr Barot got so outraged that he immediately left his District and came straight to see me “to justify himself”. He only succeeded in providing further proof of his rashness and foolishness. .

Just one example: Along with my letter to the.“maniacarens” [headmen] I had sent one to Fr Barot himself, to inform him fully, even enclosing a copy of theirs so that he could not be misled about anything in it. He received the packet of letters on Sunday, just before Mass. He got so worked up that he did not even read my letter properly. Or else he got so confused that he did not notice that the page he had in his hands was a mere copy of the head-men’ s[confidential] letter. He then decided to read the whole thing out to all the Christians in lieu of a homily! I don’t know what wonderful commentaries of his own he added, before, during and after! But, immediately after Mass, he got on his horse and rode all the way here, to inform me that he was leaving the Mission! I had the greatest difficulty in getting him to see reason and in stopping him from doing something irreversible. . .

Poor young man! He was not without many good qualities. But he had none of the kind required in a missionary. He was a living example of the careless scrutiny then being made in Paris about the suitability of young aspirants. For as soon as he arrived in India he proceeded to give some obvious proofs of his non-vocation. After causing a lot of pain and trouble, he ended up by almost losing his reason. Then only he was sent back to France.142 This is what should have been done years earlier; and it would have been done [by me] if our Rules about sending missionaries home had been a bit more sensible. But before his mental problem became certifiable he could not be sent away, unless a serious (p 801) crime (which he never committed) made him liable to complete expulsion from the Society! It was only after I left India that his insanity declared itself sufficiently blatantly, and he was expedited to France. There, I hope, he will recover completely. For, according to the latest news I heard, his health has begun to improve with rest and quietness. I also hope, for the good of the Society, that the Foreign Missions will finally get round to changing the Rules. For they do not give enough chance to prevent this type of disaster happening.

As soon as I arrived home from Verapoly, I again had more trouble from Fr Laugier. His conduct had been going from bad to worse. It was imperative that he leave the Vicariate immediately [as has already been explained].

“What numerous trials (I wrote) You are sending me, O my God! How many, even from this small number of missionaries who happened to be in the territory at the time of the sub-division! The only one that is any support to me at all is Fr Métral. More and more clearly I see that he is filled with your Spirit, full of your Love.

Meanwhile, Lord, I must thank You for the graces bestowed on me during my journey to Verapoly. You have sent your Angel with us, to bring us back safe and sound, home to my poor cottage here. It looks even smaller and more miserable now, after Kerala! Nevertheless, Lord, I will not ask You to increase my store, or even to send me the normal conveniences of life. If your Work can be accomplished just as well in this poverty, please keep me in it. Even make it worse, if that is more conducive to your Glory. I thank You also for my young scholars, especially the two I hope to tonsure in a few days’ time. They do show promise, and some hope for the future”.

[* Two clerics Tonsured already? Shocking! Arulappan.*]

On the 5th June, indeed, I had the consolation of giving Tonsure to two young Indians. The likes had never been seen before (p 802) in the province of Coimbatore. Any black priests they had set eyes on were always outsiders, from Kerala or Pondicherry. No native sons. The crowds that turned up were a sure sign of the people’s interest in this new thing, the Seminary. But none of my missionaries appeared, nor any of my confreres from the neighbouring Vicariates. I soon heard, from various sides, that they were “shocked” by my “haste”. As if Tonsure was the point of no return; as if it did not leave me plenty of years to get to know and to form these young clerics before binding them irrevocably in the sub-diaconate!

At the same time, a turning-point in their young lives had come [with the age of 14]. Although I was very pleased with their conduct, and they themselves gave every possible sign of excellent motivation, yet I could be morally certain that they would very soon be taken away and married off unless I did something to keep them with me. Also, for the Seminary to work, I had to show the People that it was for real; that I was simply, straightforwardly and honestly working to give them their own priests. I wrote all this to Propaganda; and they strongly supported my policy.143 This reduced the begrudgers a bit. But it did not silence them completely. They still had a last-ditch objection, to be perpetually trotted out whenever needed by the adversaries of Local Clergy and by my own personal Opposition, i.e. Propaganda had heard only my side of the story.

Amidst this almost universal chorus of disapproval, one man’s voice was missing: the worthy Fr Métral. I had appointed him henceforth to be in charge of those precious children and of the District of Karumattampatty. Out of these first two clerics, one did not persevere. The other went from strength to strength. At the time I was leaving the Vicariate he was 24, and an angel of holiness. He had nearly finished his Theology. His academic progress was not as striking as his piety. But he had a sufficient grasp of Latin; and his sound common-sense enabled him to see easily through the tangles of Moral Theology. I am certain that (p 803) (if they do not still manage to frustrate the Grace of God in him) he will make an excellent priest; and will do a lot more good than some learned missionary lacking in apostolic spirit.

I wanted to make him a sub-deacon before I left. And I most certainly would have done it if I could be sure of coming back. But that was sadly unlikely. And I could not know what policy my successor would have towards my beloved seminarians. So I did not want to expose Arulappan to the possibility that he might live to regret his commitment one day. That was the excellent young man’s name: Arulappan.

  • VOYAGE TO TRICHINOPOLY *

(June-July 1847)

A few days after the tonsure ceremony, I had to set again, this time for Trichinopoly. I was not looking forward to it. First of all, I was extremely short of money; quite definitely, I could not afford to go by palanquin. Secondly, I greatly feared that, on arrival, I would have to be continually on my guard. There would be none of the normal (but alas so rare) open-minded fraternity which should prevail between confreres of the same Society or even of the same “Catholic Mission” (no matter what group they belong to).

Naval Preparations

At first I had thought I could get out of this journey; but I had given permission to Fr Pacreau, an ardent supporter of the Jesuits, to go to the Consecration. He had been invited there be name. He was then stationed at codively, on the banks of the Bhavani River, which flows into the Cavery at the city of Bhavani. [Trichy is on the great Cavery River]. He had decided to go to Trichy by water, in a “parissal” (a kind of skin-covered basket) (p 804) more or less floating down the two rivers all the way. I now wrote to him that I would like to join him. So he should get two frigates constructed instead of just one. He replied that all would be ready on the day. He bought five buffalo hides, and some rattan cane for constructing the skeleton of our two arks. Under the protection of Mary and the Angels of the Bhavani, I intended to embark on the 19th June. Meanwhile I got a letter from Fr Pacreau, reporting progress:

“Your decision to go to Trichy by basket surprised me a bit, seeing that Your Lordship had said in your previous letter (about my own journey) that you did not quite approve of this kind of transport for me, because of the danger of shipwreck.

“But since Your Lordship is determined, now, to drop the palanquin (with its considerable expense) in favour of the parissal (with some slight apparent danger of over-drinking river water) I will do all in my power to help. I will try to make this voyage as safe and comfortable as humanly possible. At least it will be a lot cooler and more interesting than the main road.

“Since your letter arrived at noon yesterday, the whole crew (maniacarans, nattamacarans, catechist, cook, disciples etc.) have swung into action. They are buying eight buffalo hides for making two big parissals or frigates, big enough to carry the following at their ease: 1. Your Lordship, his pion and his disciple, plus two head-loads. 2. my disciple, my cook and myself, plus two more loads. Each parissal, complete, will cost 5 rupees to make. I have already paid for the labour. At Trichy we will sell our navy and, depending on our luck, we will gain or lose (but never more than 5 rupees each). I have made a bargain with three experienced captains (for 1 rupee each) to navigate us down as far as Bhavani. But since they are not qualified for inter-continental voyages, they would never agree to sail as far as Trichy! At Bhavani they have promised to find us some real veteran captains who know every rock and reef from there to the ocean (through Karaikal, Napur or Nagapattinam etc.) and a fortiori as far as our own particular destination!“144

Then, in a further letter:

“Our second frigate is now under construction in the shipyard. (p 805)She will be completed (like the Temple of Solomon) without a [single nail] or a single hammer-blow being heard. All the pieces are now to hand.

“The Christians are delighted to be welcoming Your Lordship. They are getting up a big Feast. A short instruction from you, at Mass, would be greatly appreciated and very useful. So I am not preparing any sermon for that day …

“Your Lordship would do well to bring along a suitable light chair, to be made fast to the inside of the parissal, so that you may have some place to sit during the 5-6 day’s voyage. Without that, any way you sit will soon become very painful. A good parasol is also essential…”

Day One. Dramatic Sunstroke.

On Saturday 19th June I duly left Karumattampatty at 4 in the morning, for codively. As soon as the sun came up, the heat became overwhelming. I was on a very bad horse; and anyway I had to go very slow because of the people with me on foot. To crown it all, a hot strong dry wind started blowing at about 8 a. m., and I could not keep my parasol held open over my head. Soon I had a raging headache, which was nothing more nor less than the start of sunstroke. About 10 a.m. we halted, under a big tamarind, to let the worst of the heat pass by. We resumed our march about 4 p.m. and were on the right bank of the Bhavani by 6.There the Codiveliars were waiting for us, a mile and a half out from their village. We crossed the river in parissals, amidst a flotilla of rockets, bangers and an infernal din of music, which did nothing for my blinding headache. My fatigue was nearing the outside limit. Eight or nine hours on horseback (after four years without practice) had brought me to the edge of collapse. Two or three times, I had been obliged to dismount and walk a bit, to get my knee joints in working order again; they were numb, and quite painful. The pain came back, keener than ever, when I remounted after the river crossing. I tried to ignore it and to put on a good public face; but suddenly I felt dizzy. I had to be helped along by some of the “maniacarans” around me. The feast suddenly changed into mourning. (p 806) Immediately, all the trumpets drums, fire-crackers and so forth went dead silent. I found myself sitting on a rock in the middle of the “road” with a big mournful circle around me, watching. I did not go quite unconscious, but it was a near thing. After a few minutes’ silence, I was able to take a few feeble steps. But I could not risk horseback again, for fear of the pain; I was sure it would strike again immediately. The Christians were rather humiliated by my lowly arrival on foot, especially since the numerous Brahmins of the village (unfortunately very hostile) would be bound to read bad omens into this mishap, and spread them gleefully around.

Fr Pacreau was waiting at the village entrance, and led me to the church. (A miserable shack. Happily, it was replaced a few years later by a decent building). Apart from this initial mishap, everything went all right, with this community. I was extremely pleased by my first impressions of them. Although most of them were almost destitute, they had made a noble effort to welcome me.

Fr Triboulot’s Grave

Next day was Sunday. I did not want to travel that day; and I spent it with those very likeable Christians. Yet they were the very same ones who, a few years earlier, had given so much trouble to the excellent Fr Triboulot. (He died there, of cholera). But nobody who knows India will be surprised at that. Even the best of Christians can suddenly rise up against the most respected missionary, once they think he is trying to undermine their caste customs. Nevertheless, they all recognized Fr Triboulot’s great holiness, and now they more or less venerated his relics. And I was glad, myself, to go and pay my respects, and publicly show my hallowed remembrance of him.

“Here (I wrote in my diary that Sunday) three years ago, Fr Triboulot ended his short missionary career. May God be praised in His impenetrable decrees. Fr Triboulot was my travelling companion; and he should now be my friendly support in my present troubles and sadnesses, (p 807) if only God in His eternal wisdom had not so quickly taken him away from our friendship and mutual trust! His lowly tomb, with its few lime-covered bricks, is right at the entrance to the mission house, next to another identical grave in which lie the mortal remains of a Malabar Coast priest.

“After Mass, I told the people about my close ties with this good priest, who gave his life for us, but in the well-founded hope that now he is living a far better life, with God. Nevertheless, even the just man had to fear the sovereign Justice of Him who knows our slightest imperfections. And it was our duty never to forget our departed friends, but always to help them with our prayers, in case they had not yet discharged all their debt to Supreme Justice.

“I then put on a black cope and went, with the whole community. straight to the grave, to do a Solemn Absolution over this priceless tomb, which contains a body that will surely rise in glory one day? As for his noble soul, it is most probably already in the intuitive Vision of the God it loved so well. There may our friend remember us always, as we remember him here.

  • The Ancient Dam … and the Devils’ Causeway.*

In the evening I went over to admire the wonderful Dam which is the main cause of the outstanding richness and fertility of this countryside. [It looks like a piece of modern engineering; but no]. The English are merely maintaining it. It was built by the ancient Kings of South India, to block the River Bhavani and thus create a big lake to irrigate an immense plain, by means of a network of canals and countless channels branching off into the rice fields. When the River is in flood (as it was then) the overflow makes a magnificent waterfall. The road over the dam (or causeway) is most impressively solid, because of its great width, and also because of its careful construction; it is made of huge, ponderous blocks of stone, held together by thick iron bars.

About a mile down river you see another ancient Dam; but it is still incomplete. Why, nobody knows for sure. Maybe the planners came to realise that the present site would be a better one. (p 808)

But this is the true reason given by the local people:

“This great Dam was started; but it turned out to be terribly difficult to continue. Nobody wanted the contract. Then a master Builder, in league with the local devils, took it on. He undertook to finish it all in one night. The contract was signed; and he proceeded to call up every devil from every point of the compass to come, bringing one big block. He was promptly obeyed. From all sides the “pissasus” came running, each with a massive block of stone on his head. The master Builder was there, directing operations as fast as he possibly could. But he could not keep up with the speed of the devils. They were all there, waiting impatiently, bent under the huge stones.

“Bring that one here! You! Put yours there!” And still they came, each impatient (naturally) to put down his load.

“Hey! Where’s my one to go?”. “And mine?” “And what about mine?” … The poor man lost his head, running here and there, pointing, blocking, shouting, getting more confused and angrier by the minute. The confusion became deafening.

“What about mine? What about mine?” cried one of the most over-burdened poor devils.

“Ah ‘ dump it on my head, you fool!” shouted the unthinking engineer. No sooner said than done. He was squashed! All the devils ran away, dropping their blocks everywhere and anywhere. And there they lie, in hopeless piles, to this very day. The Dam was only half-built; and the piles of stones are called, to this day, “pey anei”, the Devils’ Causeway.

Whizzing down the River

Meanwhile all was got ready for our peculiar journey next morning. Our two craft were well tested by the Christians, by plying them back and forth from our bank of the Bhavani to the other, all that Sunday. In the evening, they lifted them out and brought them to the mission, for fear. .. That they’d be stolen? No! for fear the dogs would come and eat them during the night. For the skins were still nice and fresh!

(p 809) It was just above the Pey Anei that we embarked. My own basket contained: my self, my disciple, two seminarians from Karumattampatty, a pilot, a paddler, and two travelling bags. Fr Pacrcau was in the second parissal, with the same number of personnel and luggage. In each frigate was installed a chair, lashed to the “hull” with ropes; and a short plank to rest your feet on, lest you put one of them through the skin (the only thing between you and a watery grave) and maybe let in enough liquid to sink or swallow the “boat”.

Finally, when all was ready, we were pushed out into the fastest part of the river; and away we went, drifting swiftly down, swerving left and right, spinning round completely (up to two or three times at once) skimming at times between frightful-looking rocks, our only hope of survival resting in the skill of the pilots and paddle-men. And yet all they had was a small paddle and a long pole, which they used with fantastic speed and cleverness, but not without some tremendous spasms of effort at certain dangerous points.

I don’t think I am the nervous type. But I will plainly admit that a cold shiver went up and down my spine more than once, as we rapidly approached a swirling current sweeping down between huge rocks that we had to avoid at all costs; one wrong stroke and we would be smashed to pieces. All that morning, it was just one narrow shave after another. Sometimes the rapids were so devilishly complicated that I could not even mentally follow the swift movements of the steersman as he worked his paddle to the left to the back to the right to the front of the round basket, always exactly as required. How could he continue to keep his head, in this endless series of rough and jagged waterfalls? One split second’s mistake would be enough to drown us all. At some places, indeed, it might merely become an unplanned swim. But at others the river was so wide, or so deep and swirling, that at least a few of us would most probably be drowned. Or maybe eaten; for there were plenty of crocodiles in the river too. But thanks be to God, we had no accident at all.

For a stretch, the river would become calm and steady for a change. That was resting-time for the crew (just letting her drift peacefully along) and recreation-time for us. Fr Pacreau, from his war-ship, (p 810) would skilfully shoot down a few aquatic birds; the river-bank was crowded with them: water-hens, ducks, herons of all kinds. We also saw a kind of otter. One was hit but we could not retrieve him.

I think I mentioned the huge bats, very common in India (and supposed to be very good to eat).145 Well we passed under a group of big trees that were just covered with them. Peacefully hanging upside-down, they were so numerous that you could scarcely make out the leaves above them. An almost random shot brought down several. It was the first time I saw one of them close-up. As big as a pigeon, the body is like an ordinary bat. But the head is exactly like a dog’s. It bites like a dog too. I poked one (mortally wounded but still trying to swim) with the end of my parasol. He bit it, hard. I could feel the jolting force of his grip.

At the sound of the gunshot the whole community had taken off, in spite of the heat and glare of the sun. It was like a huge cloud or flock of crows, such as you sometimes see in the South of France in the winter. There were eight or nine hundred at least.

And so we floated quickly down, all morning. In spite of the ferocious heat (which was difficult to ward off with a mere parasol) we continued on till noon, without noticing too much fatigue.

About midday we came to a quiet, shady place. Here we set up our field kitchen to boil some rice, and rested to regain our strength. But alas! Our rice was still only half cooked, and they had just finished singeing (instead of plucking) one of our big game-birds (nearly as big as a goose) when along comes a furious squall or whirlwind, covering the whole lot with dust and sand. We had to skip “the roast” and be satisfied with a hurried handful of half-cooked rice. Then came a brief shower, and the wind dropped a bit. We went “on board” again, though the endless stretches of rocks ahead looked menacing; and the swirling aftermath of the storm added to our fears. We had been planning to get to the city of Bhavani that evening (at the confluence of the Bhavani and the Cavery) but we had to give up that idea. Night overtook us (p 811) after only a few miles of painful navigation. Although it was clear moonlight our pilots refused to go any farther into some more narrows bristling with reefs.

Hospitality with friendly Idols

So now, what to do, all night, in this godforsaken place? Tie up our squadron to the reeds and sit motionless on our chairs until dawn? But we were near a village. (Afterwards we learnt its name: Kiliampatty). Fr Pacreau went off to see if there might not be some kind of a savady there to shelter us from the night-dew. No such thing. But the head-men he consulted said there was a small disused temple near the river; and perhaps it might not be too degrading for us to use it. (Maybe it was a pariah shrine. Or maybe we looked “nobler” in the half-dark? If only they had known!). Anyway, we gladly accepted the hospitality of the temples owners, four black pointed-looking stone gods. The most intimidating one was all of two feet high, the smallest only four inches. Their only ornamentation (or clothes) was a “pottu” mark, high up. Their home was just three bare mud walls the fourth side completely open to wind and weather. It was, indeed, half-shaded in front by a little “pandal”; but this was so dilapidated that it offered no shelter whatever from sun or rain; all its palm-branch covering was dried away to nothing. An old half-rotten thatch roof hung lop-sided on the temple itself.

Fr Pacreau and myself moved into this palace, and took up all its space. Our people slept outside, wrapped up from head to toe in their loin-cloths, now transformed into shrouds. Three or four of the smallest managed to crawl under our upside-down frigates. For each boatman had brought his craft up from the river, lest it be stolen [or eaten] during the night.

“Here we will take our rest (I wrote) here under God’s eye.

For He is here in this place just as surely as He is everywhere else, even though we are now about to lie down under some fairly hideous images of the Prince of Darkness. Ah! when will the eyes of the people be opened. 0 my God? When will the day of your

(p 812) Mercy dawn for them?

Devils or no devils, I slept sound in that temple, my head resting on the big black stone that was under them. At the first call of the cock. we were up and on the move. The sun was scarcely peeping above the horizon when we were already, threading our way down between the rocks in the river, not so fast-running or dangerous as yesterday, however. By about 8 a.m. we were out of danger. No more delightful spinning or pirouetting in the current like the day before. Now the river, full to the brim and very wide, flowed calmly on. Our only trouble now was the length and flat monotony of the stretch before us.

(p 812)

[*Bhavani: the Sacred Confluence. *]

Bridges. Temple.

About ten, we came in sight of the public bungalow on the edge of Bhavani city, inside the compound of a huge Temple (as I already described). It took quite a while to transport our navy and cargo into the place. Then we set out to look for new Pilots; but we could find no one ready to travel immediately. So we just had to wait around there until next morning. .

We made use of our enforced leisure that evening to go and see the two long bridges which the English have just built, one over the Cavery, the other over the Bhavani. Also the temple itself; its huge gate-tower [gopuram stood like a pyramid, facing the bungalow. We walked over the Cavery bridge; it had been opened for pedestrian traffic only a few days before. They were still working on the parapets before allowing vehicles through. The new bridge looked impressive, but was remarkably light and flimsy. “Not a Roman job”, we said. “[Won’t last]. Instead of 35 arches, ten or twelve would have been a better job, strongly supported and designed to give less opportunity to the rush of the waters”. Our doubts, alas, were not long being proved right. A few days later [we heard] the bridge collapsed, with hundreds of workers on it. Many perished.

(p 813) Later, at Triehinopoly, we were to see the ruins of another new Bridge, which had similarly collapsed. This one had about 50 arches! In general, the public works of the English in India are surprisingly slipshod and flimsy. They seem to say the English don’t expect to be here long to enjoy them. The future does not belong to them, so they are not interested in building well for it. They care more about exploiting than building up the nation.

The Bhavani Temple, on the contrary was built to last, very solid, and remarkable in other ways too. But it looked a ruin, all the same, because of its lack of maintenance. For today those beautiful Temples no longer have the pagan Kings to endow them. And private Indian fortunes are also diminishing daily. Meanwhile, the Temple revenues and landed properties are being steadily reduced (when not confiscated outright) by the English Company. If this was the only depredation perpetrated by English domination, we might not have too much to complain about. If it was religiously motivated (cleverly to undermine the seductive drawing power of paganism) the English Government might even deserve some praise, from God and man. But in actual fact it is nothing else but part of their system of gradual and steady looting; and it affects everything worth robbing in India, as well as the Temples. Its only aim is to try to satisfy insatiable English greed. Yet, who knows? Perhaps God is allowing the plague of the English in order to first knock down the idols from their pedestals, so that later they may fade away from the minds and hearts of a people that is, perhaps, culpable and is likely being punished for its obstinate attachment to those same idols.

The poor maintance and the crumbling walls allowed us inside the Temple enclosure itself. Having passed through the monumental gate-tower, you find yourself in a huge open square, all filled with smaller temples or shrines, like big family vaults inside a cemetry. These are little sanctuaries, closed, each containing the god for whom it was built. The god is often nothing more than standing stone. Uncut or roughly chiselled, to be regularly anointed with oil or covered with flowers or have lamps or incense burnt in its presence. Sometimes there are obscene sculptures, (p 814) but so badly carved that you would have to know about one beforehand, in order to recognize it. Thus, we were able to go into the sanctuary containing the “lingam”. I would not have guessed what it was meant to be, if Fr Pacreau had not told me.146

The sculptures on the gateway and on top of some of the shrines are much better made, more easily recognizable. They flaunt some not-very-decent postures by ancient heroes of Indian Mythology. There were also very beautifully carved building stones, and rather graceful little domes etc… Some surmounted by globes of gilt bronze.

In spite of its run-down condition, this Temple seems to be still served by considerable numbers of Brahmins. The whole countryside is crawling with them, anyway, especially the banks of the sacred Cavery. In the holiest (or best preserved) part, which we did not enter, we heard the sing-song drone of scholars, in a school for young Brahmins.

We also saw the grandiose Festival Carts and Equipment. These must attract vast crowds of devotees to the Holy Confluence every year. The waters of the Cavery are very purifying; and the Bhavani must have something special in it also. And the Temple is so perfectly placed that the two great stone stairways leading down into the two Rivers form an acute angle, exactly where the Rivers join. Since the Bhavani was in furious muddy flood at the time, you could actually distinguish the two different colours of water merging there, slowly.

Down the Cavery. An Island Picnic (Part I).

It was strong daylight when we got away from the bungalow; and to our great disappointment, the sun was quite high by the time we launched ourselves on the Cavery, for the last stretch down to Trichinopoly. It was still dangerous for the first few miles. (p 815)We had a repeat of our first thrilling day (21st). But soon the river widened and became less impetuous. About Erode, we were out of danger; and the new Pilots dismissed the extra helpers they had insisted on our employing for the first, dangerous part. From then on, all we had, to look at, was a wide, slow, magnificent (and boring) river.

No hunting or shooting either, for the banks were too far off; and the numerous birds seldom flew near enough. But one of them flew right over our heads, in a certain peculiar way; and the pilot categorically informed Fr Pacreau that he would certainly hit nothing else that day. Fr Pacreau went all out to disprove his superstition; but all in vain. He missed every time. And the pilot confidently attributed this to the powerful “tishti” of the said bird. Lucky for us that it did not pass over in another peculiar way of flight, predicting positive danger! The pilots would have left us sitting there, tied up motionless, all day. Or else their nervousness would have made them take wrong paddle-strokes and bring us right on to the rocks! Fortunately, just before the bird of ill-omen flew over we had already passed near a big rock, serving as headquarters for an enormous flock of blue pigeons. Two blasts of buckshot bagged us five. Otherwise we would have had a “fast day” today (which is no rare occurrence for missionaries in India).

To cook our rice and pigeons, we stopped off about 10 a.m. at a small island in the river. It was mainly a huge rock with a Temple on top. A long, high stairway led up the bare cliff, with countless stone steps, cut into the rock or built on to it. The first of these big steps served as our seat, and then as our dining table. One part was nicely shaded by the great rock itself, the other by a few trees. Everything was right for a rather good meal, well spiced by our hunger. But, just as on the day before yesterday, a whirlwind came and blew sand into the gravy! Fortunately, we were halfway through our first course when it struck. So we were well able to wait in patience for the rest, the rice and the “milaguneer” (pepper water). We took these at about ten in the evening, in the bungalow at Unjalur, built on the river-bank.

(p 816)

  • A Caste Riot narrowly Escaped*

The 24th was a long, painful, tiring day. And it concluded with an incident which could have turned quite nasty. Here is my running commentary, written before and after our one and only meal that day,

“It is already 5 p.m. and we have had nothing to eat all day, except for some “tair “[milk curd] and a few bananas, hurriedly bought (without leaving the parissals) at a river-side village. From sunrise until 3 p.m. we were constantly on the river. The voyage was very monotonous, and the wind very tiring on the paddlers. It also prevented us from keeping our parasols up. So we were very much tormented by the sun.

“At long last, about 3 p.m., we came to a village. Neither of us knew it; but we decided to stop there anyway, and spend the night. On the riverbank we saw a fine “savady “. We went there straight nobody in. But we soon learnt that it was reserved for the gods, the real gods of India. Not those harmless and peaceful gods who gave us hospitality so uncomplainingly two nights before, even though they had only hearts of stone! No; these were live gods, gods who walk and eat and drink, called Brahmins. We reckoned they would surely turn up, later in the evening, and make trouble. So we decided we must go and find ourselves another temporary domicile.

“One of the pagan pilots came and told us there was another savady quite near, not so well roofed but enough to shelter us from the scorching wind at any rate. And we could stay there in peace (they said) because it was for Tamilians [non-Brahmins, non-Pariahs]. We immediately went there, and brought our things. This palace was not very nice; the wind came in through several gaping holes. But we were glad to have it. Much less would have satisfied us then.

“We had just spread our mats, and our people had just properly settled down [for sleep] when along came Fr Gouyon, our dear confrere from Salem mission. He was doing “visseranai” [visitation] of a few pariahs who happened to be living at this village pushed well out to the far end of it. Great was our joy at this unexpected meeting. We no longer felt we needed to sleep a bit (p 817) while the supper was getting ready. We sat there talking and chatting, even though our stomachs were just as empty as before.

The local Brahmins must have seen Fr Gouyon passing. They knew him; he was the “pariahs’ guru”. They must have got very worked up when they saw him enter the savady. To crown all, along came the Christians, with a few drums. They stayed outside, of course; but they woke up the whole village.

Before a quarter of an hour had gone by, our servants came running, very scared. They heard in the village that the Brahmins were getting ready to throw us out, and throw our things in the river.

“But how can they drive us?” we said. “This place is not theirs. It is for Tamilians. And none of our servants is a pariah”.

“They maintain that this one is “under” the Brahmin savady”. (That could well be the case). Meanwhile we could hear wild shouts and yells erupting in the village. Fr Pacreau wanted to resist them; and Fr Gouyon’s blood was boiling for a fight. They wanted to go in there and see what was going on. But reason prevailed. It would be very foolish to take on the whole irritated village, in this area where there was no effective civil power at all. Indeed, we were at the mercy of the Brahmins. They could make things very bad for us.

“We thought we had better get out quick, before the storm hit us, and to make for the pariahs’ little church. (We would have gone there first anyway, if we had known about it, and especially if we knew that Fr Gouyon was there at the time). So we quickly packed our loads and left. We had to make our way through a very excited crowd, indignant at our audacity, as vile pariahs, to go into a place reserved for Brahmins! For the only Christians they knew there were pariahs. Therefore we, their priests, were automatically pariahs also. And our servants and disciples, everyone with us, inevitably participated in the same pollution! We were all guilty! Any other crime could be forgiven us; but not this one:

At first they were contented with shouts and threats, mostly directed at our followers; they pelted them with insults. As we were walking along, chatting with Fr Gouyon, we could hear one of the most furious Brahmins shouting: “It’s going to cost us 500 rupees (p 818) to get rid of your defilement!”” We said nothing, but just, smiled at him. For we knew he would only have to pay for a few ritual aspersions of cow urine, and a few “mandirams”.147[We got through unhurt].

“Now, at long last, we are quite safe, in this little church. We are doubly defended. First, the pagans will be hesitant to come and attack us in our own building. Second, they will be deterred by the awful defilement which they would inevitably contract by entering a house built entirely for pariahs!..

But when O when are we going to get something to eat? It is 5 p.m. already. And they say the fire is only just being lit, only now, in the “kitchen” dugout.”

In the meantime Fr Gouyon was called away, to a dying Christian about two miles distant. He had a good horse. So he went, gave Extreme Unction, and was back again before our modest lunch supper was ready. Then we all cheerfully set to; and we chatted afterwards, about lots of different things, until 9 or 10 p.m. Before sleeping, I finished the day’s diary, saying:

“So now everything has returned to normal again. If only the insults and humiliations we endured this evening was for the Cause of Christianity! But they were not; at least not directly anyway. It was not because we were Christians that we were illtreated, but only because we were supposed to be “pariahs”, being obviously “pariah gurus”. In another area, where the Christians were Tamilians, or even where the pagans knew that we generally tried to observe the caste taboos (at least grosso modo) we would never have been treated like this.

“I said we are now in a “church”. But it is just a horrible little barn. It is really a pity that, in a place where our holy Religion is humiliated enough already, we can’t even have churches which, if not exactly beautiful, would be at least decent. And I do not know if we can ever hope to have them, in these poor small remote communities. (p 819) In the meantime, anyway, the un-decency of the “churches further strengthens the pagans’ contempt for the Religion of Jesus Christ.

[* Welcome to Trichy (S.J. Headquarters).*]

25th: Nothing special to report. Still very windy. The river, now over a mile wide was often too shallow for us to go full speeds ahead. Hence we suffered greatly, both from the direct darts of the sun and the ricochet offs the water on to our faces. We both had sunstroke. But fortunately not too seriously. We just started a new change of skin.

In vain did our paddlers speedily paddle their little round paddles; we did not get to Trichy that day. We slept in a riverside bungalow.

On the 26th we set out early. About ten miles above Trichy the Cavery divides in two (See Map). These again subdivide, and thus form a huge intricate inland delta, which is none other than the great Kingdom of Tanjore. The north branch of the Cavery is called the Kollidam; the other branch keeps the name Cavery (although it is smaller). We saw the 55 arch bridges just thrown over the Kollidam by the English. About noon we came to the outskirts of Trichinopoly. There we saw the ruins of yet another English bridge, which had collapsed before it was even finished. There (without regret) we left our small navy, and proceeded towards the city, about two miles away. Due to some mix-up, we nearly missed the palanquin sent to meet us by Mgr Canoz. At last, however, it found us. About one o’clock, we had the pleasure of greeting the new bishop, and also Archbishop Martini (Verapoly) and Bishop Bonnand (who had arrived a few hours before us). The reception was not brilliant, but it was friendly and fraternal. In the evening, several Jesuit Fathers arrived in, from various areas. From Pondicherry, Fr Mehay was already present; and we had hopes that Fr Roger and Fr Legout would also be coming.

“May God bring some glory out of this exceptional religious (p 820) gathering (I wrote). May we come to understand each other better, and work with better accord for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ?”

Sight-seeing. Friendly Chats.

But nothing Constructive.

During the two days before the Consecration we had many conversations with the Bishops, the Jesuit Fathers, and our Pondicherry confreres. But we never got down to anything important, nor made any plans for future improvements. Archbishop Martini, who had never seen our caste-observing Christians, was amazed at their carry-on. He seemed to think we were half-pagans ourselves [to go along with such nonsense]. But he never got into any serious discussion about the problem. Bishop-elect Canoz was most amiable, but cagey. Bishop Bonnand discussed a whole lot of details with me, but never came down to fundamental principles. He shared a whole series of nagging worries and miserable harassments, mostly about Caste, coming from his own confreres as well as from the Christians.

I was glad to meet Rev Fr Cauneille [SJ] from the diocese of Carcassonne.148 Just like me; he had been a professor at the Minor Seminary there, for a few years. I did not know him (though he knew me to see, he said) but very soon we were like old acquaintances. He had only recently come to India. He had been to Carcassonne Seminary a few days before leaving France, just when the news of my promotion to the episcopate arrived there. What a joy it was to hear all the latest news, about people and places that will always be dear to me!

I went on several sight-seeing trips in the city with Fr Cauneille: along the river; up to the old Fort, still maintained by the English … At Trichy they have also built a “cantonment” for European and for Native troops. Civilian as well as military officers (p 821) are quite numerous in this very important city. Following their laudable custom, the English have built some fine bungalows for them, outside the “black” town. In that bungalow area, quite near the town, the Jesuits have established their own magnificent residence.

The Christian Community of Trichinopoly is one of the biggest and most distinguished in all India, because of its great numbers of good-caste Christians. Unfortunately, it is split by the Goa Schism. The great majority of the Christians have sided (eventually) with the Jesuits. But the minority has taken possession of the old Catholic church. There a black priest resides, under the “jurisdiction” of the Archbishop of Goa. This has forced the Jesuits to build a new church. Moreover, since the English have made their chief Military Cantonment here, Trichinopoly has become a much more important station than Madurai. So the Jesuits have made Trichy their headquarters too.

Impressive (and Dangerous) Power of the Jesuits.

*Contrast. Prayer. *

“With their huge resources and their traditional competence and cleverness, the Jesuits have made a wonderful job of their new site. It was at first nothing but a rocky wilderness of cactus and thistles. Now you can see a really beautiful church, with three naves, which would be outstanding anywhere, if only it had a bit more elevation. There is a Fathers’ House (or rather, palace) extremely big and commodious, two storeys; and a lake, and a most agreeable garden etc., all artistically planned and carefully maintained. All this they have achieved in the space of a few years. It makes you wonder: “What vast resources they must have behind them!” But when you see how well these are used, with what efficiency and relevance, all you can do is clap your hands and glorify God for them. You just have to recognize the obvious superiority of an Order which can so thoroughly overcome huge obstacles, insurmountable to all the others! (p 822)

And when you are forced to be out of line with them on certain key issues, you feel almost ashamed, to have to criticize the policy of such remarkable men, so devoted to the work of God, so pious; and so powerful as well! But where the Order happens to be mistaken (as it obviously is, on the question of Native Clergy) such power is dangerous.

In church politics as in all others, everything is always loaded in favour of the rich and powerful. They can easily out-argue the poor and the weak, in practice. True, God will not allow this preponderance to injure the Church in essentials, or make. It deviates in theory from True Principles. But in practical matters, political power can still greatly influence the march of time in local Churches; can change it for good or for ill, by favouring or by opposing the local application of those same True Principles on the ground.

How many times has the Holy See declared that we must all actively work for the establishment of Local Clergy! The Principle is clear. The Jesuits were unable to prevent the same Principle being proclaimed anew, recently; and they do not attempt to deny it themselves. But what is going to happen in practice? What if they stubbornly continue to maintain their traditional line, that it is “impossible” to apply it in India; that “the time has not yet come” for setting up a black clergy! In vain will we struggle against this Colossus, we who are deeply convinced [that it is possible, that the time has come].

“Lord, You have made me small and poor, so poor that I do not even see clearly how your Providence is going to manage to feed and clothe us for the coming year. We are so poor that our little mission houses and churches are like beggars’ hovels compared to this cathedral and this palace [I am writing in]. So poor in authority and influence that we see our own weak efforts further weakened by open opposition from our own confreres and coworkers, instead of this magnificent force of unity given to the Company of the Jesuits by the dynamism of their constitution and internal organization. With such an imbalance of forces, what other result [than defeat] can come from this long struggle…

(p 823) But what am I saying? Why do I write “struggle”? I do not want to fight them, but merely to act and speak in accordance with my own deep convictions. It is up to You, Lord, to do the rest. It is for You to give that same inner conviction [about Native Clergy] some public self-evidence, if indeed it is in conformity with your Eternal Truth and with the present needs of the poor [confused] Indian Missions. Up to You, Holy Spirit, who alone can illumine human minds and dispose the channels of your Grace to let it enter the hearts of those You wish to convert. Any poor instrument will do you, to achieve your chosen ends. Indeed you often pick the most useless one, so that your Power may shine out all the more. So let it be Lord; so be it! Turn my poverty to your glory. If I had riches and power myself, I would tell You to use them for the same purpose. And so I ask you, similarly, to steer the obvious riches and power of our Religious here. For assuredly they are men of piety, devotedness and intelligence.”

In this numerous and varied gathering of ecclesiastics, we had at least the consolation of seeing several black clerics. Bishop Bonnand brought a few with him from Pondicherry. And the Jesuits themselves had some Indian-born novices. For (as you know) they are not against having a few native Jesuits; it is even part of their policy. But a real Clergy, a numerous and especially a secular Clergy (which any clergy necessarily has to be, apart from the few individuals with a special vocation for the Jesuit Order) that is as far away from their minds and their plans as ever. As far away as when they let the magnificent Christian communities of Japan die out, for lack of this essential element in any Church.

Take Pondicherry Seminary, for example. Bishop Bonnand gave me excellent news about it. Fr Godelle, who took over when I left, was directing it as well as possible, in the midst of many problems. It now had thirty clerical students. Well, by equal efforts, there should now be fifty or sixty in Trichinopoly (or somewhere in Madurai Vicariate) given their far higher number of good-caste Christians. But, at the very most, all they have is two or three purely Indian Jesuit novices. [Not a single secular cleric].

(p 824)

*Consecration of Jesuit Bishop *

By the evening of the 28th June, all the invitees had arrived. It was certainly the biggest clerical gathering seen, this side of the Ghats, in living memory, or ever. (We were much less even at the Synod of Pondicherry).

The solemnity began with Sung Vespers, very impressive to see, but very badly chanted. The Jesuit Fathers were completely ignorant of Plain Chant, and had not yet trained lay singers for it.

The actual Consecration was magnificent, and would seem so anywhere in the world. Vicars Apostolic have no legal right to a throne or a crozier, or the other insignia of an Ordinary bishop. But they still use them in India anyway, by “custom”. (Or by misuse; there is a whole lot of things needing urgent clarification, in these Missions and in many others). It would be very good to give all perpetual Vicars Apostolic, legally, all the powers of an Ordinary (or nearly all). Better still, just simply make them Ordinaries in all the normal sense of the term. Meanwhile, let them have the crozier (etc.) legally. Nearly all the Vicars Apostolic I have seen use it. Some of them even go so far as to accord “‘40 days” or “100 days” Indulgences (according as they are called “Bishop” or “Archbishop”) and to have their name mentioned as “our Bishop” in the Canon of the Mass! All these things, I believe, are good (if they were legal). But they are, perhaps, not without some drawbacks when done whimsically and individually, without any lawful title whatever to do them.

Anyway, a magnificent Throne had been set up. Rich decorations, and a high Altar prepared with majesty and elegance, enhanced the already beautiful church. The people had come in crowds. And everything went off with wonderful orderliness and precision.

No need to say, the guests from outside was treated with perfect courtesy. Gaiety and good cheer reigned supreme, in this gathering of more than thirty priests, at this Residence where we lacked for nothing, where savoir-faire and abundance met.

If the Reverend Fathers were no use at Plain Chant, some of (p 825) them were very good at music. After dinner, several delightful new pieces were performed, specially composed for the Occasion, some sprightly, some edifying. A few of the latter were again played at Benediction, after Second Vespers. But drawing-room or chamber music, to my ears, is hardly fitting for the church. I would much have preferred a sacred Gregorian antiphon, a grave simple psalm-tone, rather than those high, over-refined, complicated voices (harmonious indeed, even reverent). But they were much too light-weight for the majestic Presence of the altar. Much better than the singing was the excellent Sermon preached, in Tamil, by Rev Father Castanier. Finally, as soon as darkness fell, the Christians put on a fantastic fireworks display for the new Bishop. Thus ended this great Day, which must certainly have contributed to glorifying the Lord in Trichinopoly.

Jesuits the Best; but no Order can…

English and Indian Regiments Impress.

Irish Soldiers Edify.

Srirangam Temple Amazes. Home to the Bush.

Bishop Bonnand left on the second day after, without our having had any serious discussion together. Archbishop Martini was taking this opportunity to stay a bit longer in Tamil country. I hoped he would seriously observe the religious situation there, and be able afterwards to make his own well-informed contribution to the common good of India. For the high honours he had received (first an Archbishop, later an Assistant to the Papal Throne) made me think he would have some good influence at Rome. Moreover, he seemed to me a man of sound judgement and other priceless qualities. I still think he has the qualities; but I was greatly disappointed about the rest. His Grace (as they call Archbishops in India, imitating England) did not in fact leave before a month, and went back by Pondicherry. As for myself, I had at least to spend four or five more days with my gracious hosts, [to honour their hospitality].

(p 826) Since I was soon to move to Coimbatore, and to travel often to Karumattampatty, I had to get myself some cheaper form of transport than palanquin. At Trichy I managed to find a battered old cab and a fairly elderly but still vigorous horse. All together, they cost me only 150 rupees. I decided to use them now, for my return journey to my dear Mission.

The four or five extra days at Trichy would not have seemed at all too long, if I had not had urgent matters waiting for me at Karumattampatty. The Rev Fathers did everything possible to make our stay a pleasant one; and you know how edifying their style of life is. How different is the Jesuits’life on the missions from that of other Religious! On the missions as everywhere else, they observe their Rule perfectly, and still manage to be perfect missionaries as well. Those others are not missionaries at all; or else they don’t give outsiders any idea of being Religious of their particular Order. Laziness, carelessness and total ignorance of the local languages are rampant. Lucky if these are their only faults! This goes for the majority, of course, and not for every individual. Everywhere, there can be a saint or two. But among those Religious, the saint has to resist, and move against, a surrounding disorderly current. Whereas, among the Jesuits, the imperfect individuals (and you’ll find them everywhere too) will be borne along with the orderly current of their confreres, to the great edification of the public.

What a pity this illustrious Company got itself locked into a missionary system which, however perfect it was in many ways, is essentially deficient in others, notably in some things that are fundamental, i.e. indispensable for the real founding of Churches! Can it be that no Religious Order (however good) was ever meant to be the sole ruler of any Church? This could well be the case. I am convinced of it myself, anyway. I may have repeated this too often before; but it could not be over-meditated: Religious should (and certainly could) be very useful, anywhere in the world. On the missions, especially, they can be of immense help. But only on these conditions: that they observe their Rule perfectly, even more so than in Europe; that they are not sent here to govern a Church, but only to help in its growth; that they do everything in (p 827) the spirit of their holy Founder, but do it almost exactly as if they were already living in a fully constituted Church or Diocese.

During this stay in Trichy after the Consecration, we were able to go and admire the magnificent display of the English troops, both European and Native. It is really astonishing to see how perfectly trained are their regiments of Native Sepoys. On their own, these troops might, indeed, lack some [“patriotic”] spirit and drive. But commanded by English officers and perfectly drilled in military manoeuvres, they only need a very small number of English soldiers to lead them, encourage them, and make them infinitely superior to any army in Asia.

But what really struck me a lot more was the religious bearing of the Irish soldiers, always very numerous in Indian regiments. The English Company not only gives them complete freedom to practice their religion; it even pays a chaplain in the Cantonment to look after their religious needs. Every Sunday you will see them marching to Mass, with their officer. He is usually a Protestant. He stands respectfully outside the door. Even if he goes in, there will rarely be anything to criticize in his behaviour. In the sermons to the soldiers, he may sometimes hear a bit of religious controversy; he makes no objection. But of course he would complain to higher authorities (and with some reason) if the chaplain imprudently went into political matters! [About India or Ireland].

I repeat: the piety of the Irish soldiers is most striking. In this respect they are away superior to our French soldiers, taken as a whole. Not only do they march to Mass when they are obliged to: it is not at all rare to see them going to the church in their free time. In almost every Cantonment you will see many who never miss their evening visit to the Blessed Sacrament. You will see them there saying their Rosary, or reading a pious book. Sometimes they will plan to come together there, and a Sergeant or somebody else will do the reading. Many make frequent Communion, even every Sunday!

One day we went out to visit the great Srirangam Temple, about a (p 828) mile away on the other bank of the Cavery. It is one of the biggest, richest, most beautiful and most renowned in all India. The principal divinity is housed inside a shrine which is enclosed by seven huge squares of defense battlements, concentric, one inside the other. Into each enclosure there are four gates, many of them surmounted in beautiful towered gateways. The three “outside” enclosures are inhabited by a numerous population, notably a great number of Brahmins. The Temple, in fact, is an important town in itself. It gives you a very good idea of what the ancient Temple in Jerusalem must have looked like. Here (as in the Holy City) a siege could be withstood, and the citadel could be defended for a long period, even if the enemy broke through the first and second defense walls (especially of course before the time of artillery).

We were too “profane” to be allowed into the “holy of holies”. Not even the highest English authorities would be let in there. Certainly if they really wanted, they would immediately arrogate that “right” for themselves. But they take very good care not to do so. For a basic principle of their government strategy is: never to vex the people without reason, i.e. without profit.

From the raised platform of a vast Hall (the inside limits that the Brahmins would allow us to reach) we could look down into the remaining, (sacred) enclosures. (This is quite far enough for the English police, and they are content with it). This great Hall is spectacular in its vast extent, and also because its platform [or terrace] is upheld by “a thousand pillars” (or almost) each one a column of cut stone, irregularly spaced, individually carved, all very impressive if only because of their great number and the huge space they support.

One of the principal Gateways [gopuram] is unfinished. It was still under construction when Events suddenly changed the whole face of India. If this gateway were completed, it would be something really colossal and imposing.149 Even unfinished, it is worthy of attention, because of the immense blocks of stone already (p 829) built in, some of them most admirably sculpted.

_ _

For the rest, the Temple seems to be more and more neglected. There are still some very important Feasts held there. Huge crowds of people still bring donations and offerings. The Brahmins are still numerous and rich. The Temple itself has very big revenues. Yet the whole place is in a state of dirt and disrepair. This seems to indicate that the cult of the Demon has lost much of its ancient power and splendour, since the Indian Kings are no longer there to sustain and enforce it. Each Brahmin siphons off as much as he can of the revenues for himself. And the English Company is systematically looting them, anyway, year by year, on one pretext or another.

A magnificent Elephant, the personal property of the principal god in the Temple, greeted us with many kindly and condescending gestures of politeness as we left. But we took special care to shake off the dust of the whole place from our feet, and to bring nothing away with us from this Monument where sits enthroned the Prince of Darkness. We went on to the church of the One True God, asking Him to please shorten the time of His wrath; and to grant that, one day soon, the Cross may stand upon the ruins of Srirangam, just as it does on the Colosseum.150

5th July: “Here we are, ready for the road again, after a stay of very gracious and fraternal hospitality. So goodbye to this palace, this noble church, this lovely garden. Back to our little bush chapel, our small cottage and narrow compound at Karumattampatty. May the Angels of the Lord bring us safely back there, and hush any inner complaints about it which are not according to God. For now and then I do happen to complain in my unconscious mind, about being so poor. But wasn’t the Lord Jesus poorer still? And He knows well that, if I had resources like (p 830) the Reverend Fathers (or even as much as I think I absolutely need for establishing my new Vicariate) the Reverend Fathers (or even as much as I think I absolutely need for establishing my new Vicariate) I would want to use them all, anyway for the advancement of His Kingdom. He knows my intentions; and the intentions of a man are the only thing He weighs in His scales. So may He be blessed in all things! Blessed for giving others the means to dignify our Holy Religion with buildings worthy of it. And blessed for refusing me that consolation at the moment. May He just give me the grace to turn it all to his Glory, the real genuine poverty which He is bestowing on me right now!”

We left Trichinopoly on the 6th July and arrived at Karumattampatty on the 11th, after a tough and monotonous journey, and also a most tiring one, because of the violent scorching wind. It blew all day and calmed down at night; so we were forced to travel only in the hours of darkness. The roads were by no means suited to my poor old cab, which very near smashed a wheel on a rock (more than once). God protected us, however, from such a calamity. May He be blessed for ever, because of the special protection He has always sent along with me on my journeys. Amen.

(p 833)

[*Moves towards Financial Independence annoy the Missionaries; but not the People! *]

Is it a good idea, or isn’t it, to make new converts contribute, according to their ability, for the work of their Mission? I myself have not the slightest doubt about it. It is very useful, even necessary.

It is true that a few missionaries in the past have diverted local revenues away from certain Missions in a way that discredited the whole apostolic ministry in the eyes of the people. Any individual or any congregation that gets rich like that on the missions or sends money to Europe (even money honestly acquired as a result of their work in the places confided to them to evangelize) is doing something that is at the very least a great mistake, if not a great sin. It is enough, by itself, to neutralize all their zeal.

But do not let us go to the opposite extreme! Let us not try to say that, in order to show that ‘tis the souls of the people we came here to win (and not their money) we should therefore be determined to accept nothing at all from them; we are going to do everything for them, free. That policy would be neither right, nor progressive, nor even feasible in the long run. That impossible policy, with its pretentious [and paternalistic] disinterest in money, can lead to a lot of confusion in the future. And a policy that is better thought-out will avoid those future dangers. I will (p 832) even go so far as to say “a policy more in keeping with the Gospel”. For “nobody ever paid money to stay in the Army; and nobody ever planted a vineyard and refused to eat the fruit of it. . . It is written in the Law of Moses: “you must not put a muzzle on the ox when it is treading out the corn” … Remember that the ministers serving in the Temple get their food from the Temple; and those serving at the altar can claim their own share from the altar itself. In the same sort of way the Lord directed that those who preach the Gospel should get their living from the Gospel. “151

It is true that the Apostle goes on to say: “However, I have not exercised any of these rights”: But he was an exception among the Gospel workers of his time.

Anyway, it would be quite unfair to burden our brothers in Europe with all the costs of the missions if our local converts are able to carry a few themselves.

It would not even be good for the converts, to give them everything free. People normally will set no value on something that costs them nothing. They must not be given the impression that the Catholic Religion is some foreign exotic institution to be imported and handed to them ready-made. They must make it their own by paying for it with some sacrifices.

Anyway, once we have reached a certain stage of progress (once the number of missionaries goes up and we really start building decent churches, founding schools and colleges, establishing works to develop Christian principles) it will in fact become impossible to keep it up, without local financial support; the charitable donations from Europe will just not be enough.

And yet it is imperative that all missionaries who aim to do some good in the country, who want to win some respect for their calling, should carefully avoid any avarice or greed, or rather any appearance of those vices, even. This [suspicion] is not so easy to avoid because, among the people, even the least hostile individuals can have some strange ideas about us. They find it very hard to believe that “all those priests” are not coming to their country (p 833) mainly because they couldn’t make a living in Europe. They come here (they admit) partly for souls, but also partly in order to “chop rice”. This notion is seldom

expressed openly to your face; but very few missionaries have not had it thrown at them now and again. They usually treat the idea “with the contempt it deserves” or by a counter-attack. But attacks rarely convert people; contempt never.

So, to avoid crippling our own work, the following guidelines are vital:

1. We must never set out to “do everything free” for the Christians. (The Foreign Missions Society had this policy in the beginning, even refusing to accept any Mass stipends). But we should, as far as possible, do everything free for the pagans.

2. Every missionary must still have enough to live on, independent of any support from the Christians; and they should know it. But we can and we should ask them for stipends and stole fees etc. We should also encourage them to make foundations and endowments and in general to make regular provision for church expenses. Not according to the whim or vanity of a few, but according to a well-ordered, well-understood system of regulations for everybody.

3. We must use all money coming from this for financing the solid establishment of the Church in their own Mission, never making any profit from it, either for ourselves or for our Society or Order.

4. For this reason (and for many others) it is extremely desirable to have very few European missionaries in any Mission territory; but these should then begin work as soon as possible for the establishment of a native clergy in it. Because native priests can live on the church revenues of their own people without inconvenience and without any apparent injustice; and they should do so. But who will have ears to hear all this; and who will listen?

All this policy is much more difficult to achieve in practice than might appear in theory. Because it has to be thought out and imagined and started in advance, long before the situation has sufficiently (p 834) matured for really and fully putting it into action. Because we have to prepare the infrastructure a long time before we start even reaching for the objective. In the meantime, [missionaries] will say, “There are no native priests here now … The Christians are very few”. Or: “they are very poor”. So “why bother our heads with all that [mean and petty] stuff now’?”.

And so the years go by … Circumstances gradually change …Then you will find yourself having to compromise about these vital principles, both with the Christians and with the missionaries. For both sides will want to keep to the easier status quo [no contributions from the people]. This in turn will force you to have no native clergy; or to have only a half-baked policy about them. Or else you will have to risk turning the missionaries against you [by insisting on local financial support J or else have to give up all idea of ever founding the Church in this place. And all because we have neglected (or mismanaged) the local financial sources which should by now be nourishing the [independent] local Church.

In the area of my Vicariate Apostolic the old-time West Coast priests had established certain customs for their own maintenance. Our own missionaries were a bit quick (I think) to condemn all these as being tinged with “simony”. They abolished a lot of them. But those few they kept up were still enough for a man to live on, at his ease, especially when there was only one missionary in a District. Indeed, if he was interested, he could even save enough to prepare for an independent retirement. Fortunately, avarice is a defect almost unknown in the Society of Foreign Missions. But the opposite mistake was made instead. Little by little, the individual generosity of succeeding missionaries, and the fact that they could easily live on their subsidies from Europe, caused them to drop almost all the good old customs whereby the Christians played their proper part in the maintenance of their churches and priests.

I saw from the start that I must establish some sensible regulations, quite modest in their scope but real enough to show the Christians that they still have some obligations in this matter. Even if they cannot maintain the missionaries completely (p 835) (for they are a lot more expensive to maintain than the Indian priests were) they are still obliged to contribute to church expenses according to their ability. And they must also start making long-term provision for the happy day when we will be able to give them priests of their own, so that these priests may not then be continually dependent on help from Europe. “Otherwise (I would say) there is no way we can have a real native clergy. We may just have a few helper priests, provided the Mission has enough money to maintain them; but their numbers will logically have to be limited, by the limited resources of the Mission. What is worse [Mission superiors] will soon start to begrudge the mounting expenses caused by a more numerous native clergy (individually less useful than an individual missionary) especially if some of them do not conduct themselves perfectly. Hence the progress of the native clergy will be neglected in the future, if we do not take care now. In order that a local clergy can surely continue and progress in the future, we must now create local resources for it, independent of the missionaries and usable for no other purpose.”

Before I left Karumattampatty to take up permanent residence at Coimbatore city, I tried to interest the Christians in a few of these ideas [about financial independence]. I even got them to commit themselves in writing to pay a certain contribution towards their own church expenses. It was quite a decent sum, considering the long-continuing hardship of the time. Remarkably, this naturally “unpopular” move did not in any way, turn the Christians against me. Right up to my departure (and indeed I can say, up to this very day, according to the news I hear from my well-beloved Mission) their affection for me continued only to grow. But the move did turn my missionaries against me, with the exception of the worthy Fr Métral.

(p 836)

At Home in Coimbatore.

The Wider Indian (etc) Scene. Depression. Why:

Although extremely poor compared to English living quarters, our little house in Coimbatore was comfortable and even pleasant to live in. At the beginning it had hardly any furniture. But little by little we got all that was necessary (and even a little bit over; how few are man’s real needs!). One of the rooms was transformed into a public chapel, and another (smaller) one into a private oratory. Around the bungalow we planted a few flowers; and the rest of the garden was kept under “crop” cultivation, to help pay our taxes. Always a lover of solitude and quiet, I could happily spend whole months without leaving the compound, cloistered by a thick “cally” hedge. For I was nearly always prevented by circumstances from getting directly involved in pastoral ministry as I would have preferred.

It was, in fact, only at the end of the year that circumstances gave me a chance to make a pastoral visitation of the Palghat district.

During the preceding months I was living almost in retreat, without any social contact [for example] with the English of the place. I visited them, but they did not return my visits. The only place I went to, now and then, was Karumattampatty. There I always enjoyed meeting my dear seminarians, and the edifying company of good Fr Métral.

The only serious occupation I was given at that time was correspondence. I was nearly always burdened with serious practical worries and mental depression. For I still could not entirely let go of my great hopes for India; yet most of the news reaching me now from various sources sorely contradicted them all. They seemed to say that the time of God’s effective Mercy for the people was not yet even in sight.

Great Hopes being Destroyed

Bishop Luquet had written to me some months before:

(p 837)

“My dear friend,

. .. You are absolutely right. We are on the road the Lord wishes us to be on, as long as we keep to the line we have been following up to now, as regards the great Cause of the missions. And all the op-positions stirred up against us are, I am sure, part of the Lord’s merciful designs for us, to purify us, while still calling on us to continue courageously to do His Work. For, in spite of all those oppositions. , we have never, up to now, lacked the highest and most complete approval of our stand … Gregory XVI has spoken out publicly and specifically for our principles, in such a way that nobody could possibly doubt that he supported them. And I can definitely assure you, now, that the present Holy Father is of exactly the same opinion about them.152I have already had several conversations with His Holiness about all the fundamental points of our policy. His identity of views is complete; and he is more and more gracious towards me. Just recently, I again spoke for a long time to the Holy Father about it all: and ‘he urged me to come again soon.

“I therefore believe that this would be a very good time to make an important move towards holding Provincial Councils in India … We must not miss such a favourable opportunity, or we may regret it later on. Since the truth is on our side we should, basically, have no fear of the changing times and circumstances.

“Nevertheless, intrigues can (and all too often do) retard the clear manifestation and implementation of the truth. That is what we really have to fear. Our principles cannot be attacked head on; but there is no scarcity of underhand intrigues against them; and there won’t be any let-up. We should be sure of that.”

Those “intrigues” (if that is the right word for them; I think it is a bit melodramatic myself) unfortunately Continued to have some ramifications, even in India itself. There was at least a powerful [and destructive] divergence of views, showing itself by continued open opposition to Bishop Luquet. It was now splitting our own Society. And it moved the Jesuits to try every possible means they could consider legitimate, to ensure that their own System prevailed, in practice if not in terminology. I have already mentioned (p 838) the “shock” and the criticisms provoked by my “inaugurating” my Seminary with the Tonsure of two young students. I now saw, with great sadness, that the division of minds was getting worse’ and worse.

Disunity

“The devil is trying to sow confusion and division in India (wrote Fr Tesson from Paris). Believe me, that’s what he is up to. He has always managed to neutralize any progress in those lands by stirring up divisions and antipathies between the different Orders and Societies, between the various jurisdictions. But what will it be like if Division gets into the same Society! I must confess, nothing could terrify me more. All the letters I receive from the three Vicariates [Pondicherry, Mysore, Coimbatore] show the same illness … which really scares me … I beg you, My Lord, to care for unity more, perhaps, than for any other thing.”

God knows, that was my own dearest wish, provided I did not have to sacrifice the truth for the sake of unity and peace. But a peace founded on erroneous ideas, could that be a true peace? Anyway, it was now that I really felt and thoroughly understood the lamentable deficiency in our Society, the lack of a single supreme Authority, able to [enforce or] bring back Unity into the various efforts of its members, almost always good and praiseworthy efforts in themselves, but sometimes pulling in exactly opposite directions …

Of what earthly use for unity is our special multi-headed “superior”, the “Society Bishops plus the Paris Council”? What use, is it, especially, when the Rule, by failing to clearly specify their meetings, renders their theoretical “unifying action” both physically unlikely and morally impossible! From now on, I stopped being surprised any more at the wide proliferation of the [corporate] disease. I could see it all around me [in India] and now it manifested itself from other Vicariates also.

Bishop Boucho, Vicar Apostolic of Malasia, wrote to me:

“In these far-flung countries, we must all come and put our heads together, if we want the affairs of the Society to go better. I believe our machinery is far too old; it has lost much of its potential.

(p 839)

The moving parts are all worn. It is up to us, then, to get together and restore the former efficiency.”

Later on, I got a [similar] letter from Bishop X… 153

Madras and Bombay

Bishop Fennelly, Vicar Apostolic of Madras, had by now completely obeyed he latest clarification from Propaganda [cutting off Vizhagapattinarn]; but he did not seem to like it. FrTissot, one of the worthy Savoy priests sent in there, kept me up to date about his troubles and problems [with the Bishop], who seemed to be completely stuck in all his pre-conceived Irish (and English) Ideas. Everything indicated that he was going to be a hindrance rather than a help to any future unity of policy in the ecclesiastical administration in India. His type of policy may suit the Europeans very well; but it looks like being the ruination of the local Christian communities. And the [French etc] missionaries, being much more concerned with the native Christians, will never consent to that policy. (Unless the Irish (or the English) manage to gain sole control of the Church in India).

Doubtless, the Irish Bishops are unaware that their policy is so ruinous, But how many others [among ourselves] fail to see it too, or to see the one remedy that can cure the wasting disease that IS steadily weakening our holy Religion in these beautiful Countries, potentially the finest in the world!

Soon afterwards, this unfortunate attitude of the Irish bishops surfaced again, in a most painful manner, about various public controversies. One of the worst was [what they printed] about the final collapse of the poor Carmelites in their magnificent Mission of Bombay. Certainly, they were inexcusable on several points. But their faults (not yet remedied even now) were still no sufficient reason for the public attacks made on them by Bishop Fennelly, notably in his own newspaper the Examiner.

(p 840)

Vizhagapattinam

To crown all, Fr Gailhot (a most zealous man, very able in his own way, but very unsuited to be in charge of a whole Mission) could not get on at all with the Annecy priests I from Savoy]. They had to complain him to Propaganda. They were [suddenly] given one of their own men as Superior, with episcopal character. At which point Fr Gailhot immediately cleared out of Vizhagapattinam and returned to Bangalore.

“This move of his really pains me (wrote Fr Tissot).154. And it publicizes this rather unedifying misunderstanding far too much … If Fr Gailhot had not gone off like that, I had been hoping to sort out everything peacefully … To tell you the truth. My Lord, I think there has been far too much haste [at Rome] about this very delicate and important affair. Nobody here knew what the Sacred Congregation was planning. If we had been consulted, we would not have agreed with it, even though the performance of M. le provicaire [Gailhot] had not always enjoyed our universal approval.”

Ceylon

On the island of Ceylon the Goa priests, lawfully [i.e. nonschismatically] in charge of their flourishing Christian communities, were deeply hurt to see half of the island taken away from them and confided to a white Bishop and his European missionaries; and another group of white missionaries coming in to Colombo. And they had intelligence enough to see what was going on: These new missionaries, coming in “to look after the Europeans” were not going to stop at that. They had a sincere desire (but also come sincere white prejudices) to reform abuses. And they would end up by entirely supplanting the Goa priests.

(p 841)

Why worry? This is why:

All those things were happening far away from Coimbatore, and should be of only mild interest to me. True enough, maybe. But in such a widespread state of confusion, what about my great hopes for the various churchmen of India? How could that entente cordiale [that warm mutual understanding] so desirable for the common good, ever come about among them? What hope, now, for those crucial [ inter- Vicariate Provincial] Councils, so urgently needed in order to consolidate and implement the Principles which the Holy See had proclaimed anew after the Synod of Pondicherry? How much more likely it was to see them all continue to be dodged or ignored, in practice!

*Luquet and the fight for an Indian Hierarchy *

(but not British)

So it was probably all in vain that Bishop Luquet still retained some hopes of pushing for a general Meeting [of the South Indian Vicariates I and of making some progress towards a normal Hierarchy. so desirable in any Church (once it is no longer just a transitory beginning or a mere exceptional case). In a letter written in March (but received a long time later) he said:

.. Keep yourself always in readiness to send on your views about hierarchical reorganization in India, in case you are consulted about it by the Holy Father. .. You have no idea how strong is the resistance of the Religious, especially the Jesuits, to the establishment of bishops, especially normal residential bishops, on the missions. The Orders are determined to remain in command and to direct, not to become helpers and to obey. From this fixed idea come all the other deficiencies in the apostolate. If we (Foreign Missions Society) really understood things a little (understood where our own best interests lie and the interests of the Cause we have been defending for the last 200 years) everybody would be strongly supporting me in this fight. Instead of that, I get hardly anything but vexations and harassments from them. But God be praised! That’s how His work always gets done.

.. At the moment [Rome] is trying to re-establish episcopal authority (p 842) in Jerusalem. Now it’s the Franciscans’ turn: they are fighting it with every bit of influence they can muster. .. ··

On 12th July, Luquet wrote me another letter, very remarkable, and perhaps just a hit too strong in some of the views expressed about the Jesuits. But it may contain some future clues to certain riddles or puzzles. So here are the passages which (I think) can best throw some light on the mission history of that period:

“You couldn’t believe what dogged perseverance is required, and what efficacious help from Our Lord, to combat the obstacles continually being put up, here, against the straight-forward implementation of the Policies which we maintain.as being the future salvation of the Church in the foreign Missions. As I said in my last letter, the Jesuits are the hard core of this stubborn opposition. And I fear it is far from drawing down the blessings of the Lord on their work … ··

He then went on to assure me that the other Orders were also involved (less or more) in the same underhand or oblique opposition: and continued:

“We have just had another proof of this in the dispute between Bishop Pompallier and his Marist missionaries in New Zealand.155 The Bishop, indeed, was following the only true and lawful principles: but he took them to extremes. In practice he was too inflexible in exercising his rights as a bishop. The dispute has just now been brought to Rome. And the rights of the Bishop received complete reaffirmation: which indeed they can always expect to receive, whenever the Holy See is not circumvented by outside intrigues. And (this must be of great encouragement to us) [we] made use of the situation in order to ask for the erection of several normal Dioceses156 instead of Vicariates Apostolic! The request was successful: they were erected in New Zealand as in Australia, Oregon, Canada the United States … This will disprove the false opinion (deliberately being spread around) that the Holy See is against the (p 843) erection of Dioceses on the missions.

“I must say, this gives me great hopes for India. Dioceses should have been there for the last 200 years. I hope you now see that I am in complete agreement with your principles in your letter to Fr Albrand. There you maintain (and I also am sure) that establishing Dioceses on the missions is in no way contrary to the Rule of our Society. In fact the Rule itself mentions “Bishops” along with “Vicars Apostolic with episcopal character”. Moreover I have documents to prove that, at least in Tong-king, our Founders did all they could to have a Diocese established.

‘” Anyway, be a bit careful with Fr Albrand when you are discussing questions of over-all policy. In fact I would avoid them entirely. He is still very close to Fr Jurines157 who is entirely opposed to [Dioceses etc]. It was he who blocked our I844 effort. Do not give certain people all your views on this kind of thing: because they will just secretly oppose them here, as being mine,158 (For they reckon we two are in agreement about everything). So you could merely be stirring up more problems for me without knowing it.

“But if you could prepare a Mémoire about the whole question of Dioceses in India, and send it to me for the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, you would be doing an immense service to the common Cause …

“About the British Vicars Apostolic also, I am in full agreement with you. I will say more: What has just been happening in Australia and New Zealand confirms my suspicion (if I needed confirmation) about the [imperialistic] tendency of those Bishops. Furthermore, Bishop Polding159 has now come to Rome as an agent of the British Government, to try and get Rome to agree to the “principle” that all Bishops in British colonies must be British. Of course India would be a prime objective in this effort of theirs. And, believe it or not, they are already on to China! Knowing the English as I know them (i.e. the same game everywhere) and considering the fact that they have not yet converted a single Australian aboriginal (as far as I know) you can easily imagine whether I am prepared (p 844) to support their pretensions in any way! …

“What you have written to His Holiness about giving the Indian Churches a normal Hierarchy is excellent, but a bit too veiled or under-stated. Do that Mémoire! You will see what great good will result from it!”

Later on, he went to Paris, and wrote from there on the 12th October 1847:

.. This Journey will also (I hope) help to strengthen my position with the Paris Seminary: they are showing a much more favourable attitude every day. That’s important, for getting our programme put into practice in the future…

“I am very far from forgetting our wider aim, the solid reorganization of the Church on the missions. It was for that purpose, certainly that I contributed all I could to the success of Bishop Blanchet [of Oregon]. And I did the same for Bishop Pompallier of Zew Zealand. He would have succeeded too, in spite of the persistent opposition of the Jesuits (for they could see the strategic implications of the case for their own position). Unfortunately, he did not grasp the crucial nature of the progress he was making. He failed to act at the decisive moment: and the whole thing has capsized, at least for the time being…

“Whatever happens, I am now asking you, most urgently, to set out all your views (in as much detail as possible) on the need to change most of the present Missions (in India and elsewhere) from Vicariates Apostolic into Dioceses. These are facts which one will need at a given time: and when the time comes, one is very sorry not to have them at hand.

“Do not be surprised at the attitude of Fr Albrand and most of the other Paris Directors, about Dioceses. Fr Albrand was placing all his trust in Fr [Jurines] who sabotaged our Plan two years ago; and it’s still the same way there.”160

For the rest, we will just have to wait until things sort themselves out. This is not the time to try and get those Gentlemen to revise their, opinion l about Dioceses etc]. Which is as disastrous as it is erroneous. I will just tell you, for your own information and encouragement, that Bishop Bonnand is still pushing his plan for establishing l Diocese. He has even sent me a Note to help in getting the plan implemented: and I will certainly make use of it.”

(p 845)

Urgent Invitation to take over-Pondicherry

“I must also inform you (as Fr Tesson has written to you already) that Bishop Bonnand (that worthy man) is still very keen on a certain transfer for which we now urgently want your consent. I mean the exchange of jurisdictions between Bishop Bonnand and yourself. This can suitably be implemented when the sub-division between Pondicherry and Coimbatore is being finally ratified.161 Of course I am expecting you will put up every possible objection to this transfer. But Fr Tesson is long ago convinced that it is the best possible move. In fact, nothing could be better, to ensure the success of all the new projects at Pondicherry (those already commenced and those merely planned). Nothing could be more conducive to the fulfilment of all our best hopes, for Pondicherry and for all India. Therefore, I beg of you, silence your humility and your objections, and devote your attention to this new task. We want you there: and it fits you, perfectly…”

I really cannot understand how Mgr Luquet could forget that there was a lot more to be silenced than my “humility”. There was the unanimous voice of all our confreres to be stifled! For they would all he sure to say (with some appearance of reason) that we were the ones who had forced (or morally obliged) Bishop Bonnand to ask for a transfer. In vain would the Bishop declare that it was his own idea from the start. They just would not believe it. Many would he psychologically incapable of swallowing it. But what really astonished me was to see that Fr Tesson himself was under the same delusion when he wrote, on the 8th October:

“No doubt your are aware that Bishop Bonnand is again insisting at Rome for a transfer. He still wants to swop with you: Pondicherry for Coimbatore. In case you have not been forewarned, keep quiet about this. I beg you. And if he succeeds in his request, let it go ahead. I implore you. The transfer could well be Providential. I said it to you two years ago, and I repeat it now: Let it be done to you,

Here is my on-the-spot reaction, in my diary: (p 846)

“Whatever Bishop Luquet, Fr Tesson (and maybe a few others) arc saying, I believe I must fight this transfer plan with all Illy strength.

“First of all, it would be most unfitting to remove Bishop Bonnand from his post at Pondicherry (so much more important than this place) when he is doing nothing but good in it. The good Bishop thinks that somebody else could do better in the present painful and difficult circumstances there. But that is extremely doubtful, to anyone who really knows the place, and knows the Pondicherry mission personnel. Beyond any shadow of doubt, the “somebody else” (even if he was a far better man than me) would find it extremely difficult to fill Bishop Bonnand’s shoes. The Bishop, by reason of his seniority and his rare practical wisdom, seems to me the only man capable of managing the missionaries there, many of them young and not very disciplined, bubbling over with high and reckless spirits. This consideration alone is sufficient reason for everybody to rally round and stop Bishop Bonnand from even thinking of leaving Pondicherry at this time.

As for his persistent choice of me to take over from him, would it not be inviting disaster, by disturbing the confreres even worse than did my appointment to Coimbatore! Won’t they be bound to say that it was myself who “drove out” this venerated Bishop, myself and “Luquet”! And the whole thing was “planned, right from the start”! That, in order to impose “our own” ideas, we had to have one of us there as Bishop and the other as Coadjutor! When I stop to consider their probable reaction, it is not out of “human respect”. I think that (by the grace of God) I am quite sufficiently unconcerned by what people may say about me, when it comes to carrying out my clear duty. But when public opinion (however false) happens to be in a position to wreck a whole project, you can and you must take it into serious consideration.

“O my God, here I am; do with me what You will. I belong entirely to You; grant me to keep nothing back for myself. But do not let those well-intentioned friends push me into a situation that is not meant for me, one that You yourself have not chosen providentially (p 847) for my weakness. There is one remote corner of your vineyard which You have given me to cultivate. Do not let me leave it by my own mistake, or take on another by the unwise counsels of my colleagues. If I am by any chance to leave Coimbatore before dying there, let it be your own fatherly Hand that leads me out, and let it be by a way that leaves me in no doubt whatsoever that yours is the only Voice I am obeying. Holy Angels, direct my steps and prepare my true home for” me!” “

Another Caste Crisis coming Up.

*Fr D and the Monkeys. Fr E and the Republican *

Dictatorship….

Sadly, another furious storm was now beginning at Pondicherry, caused by one of the main obstacles to the progress of Christianity in India: caste. To be more precise, I mean our uncertainty and indecision about Caste. Our incertitude about the morality of certain Customs universally tolerated in the former Jesuit Missions. And about whether those Customs shouldn’t now better be abolished (or ignored anyway), even where it was clear that some were at least morally tolerable? As a result of all these unanswered questions, there is now very little cohesion in the pastoral conduct of the missionaries towards the various Customs. Moral doubts are painfully racking our men’s consciences discouraging their efforts, preventing any progress. How useful it would be to put an end to all that maze of confusion by the Authority of the Holy See itself, whatever be Its final decision! But before going into all that, let me sum up the situation in Coimbatore at the end of the year [1847].

Fr [Laugier] had left me for good and transferred to Pondicherry (until a later time when his continuing misconduct obliged him to leave India and (alas) the priesthood as well!). May God have pity on him! Even before he reached his final hopeless state, he had become extremely reckless; and this led to a very nasty incident for him. One day, as he was marching through a pagan village, his rifle on his shoulder, he saw some Monkeys (p 848) playing near the Temple. He took his gun and started shooting at them. Immediately, the whole village was up in arms. They sur-rounded him, grabbed him, and threw him into a dungeon in the Temple, even though such an unauthorized imprisonment was a serious challenge to British law. But the English authorities, in fact, took good care not to do anything about it. They were not going to prosecute the Indians about an affair involving their religion or superstition, and about an imprisonment which a reckless missionary had brought upon himself by his own stupidity. When poor Laugier at last managed to send a note to the nearest Collector, the officer merely sent a few pions to get him out; and that was the end of that.

Fr Laugier was replaced by Fr [Pajean]. He came here accompanying Archbishop Martini (on his way back to Verapoly from Trichy and Pondicherry).

This Fr Pajean was a young missionary, very talented and even virtuous in many ways; but holy obedience was not one of them. In fact he was outstandingly stubborn and troublesome. A violent opponent of Caste and its customs [being a sincere RepubIican] he had already given plenty of headaches to Bishop Bonnand. And no doubt he was one of the immediate causes of the mighty [caste] storm now gathering momentum in Pondicherry. He was known by name to Indian public opinion as one of those who “wanted to paria-lize the Catholic Religion”. One day, in his room, he had given two small boys some water to drink, which was (somehow or other) legally “impure”!

At Coimbatore this particular kind of taboo was less important to avoid (though on others you had to be even more careful than in Pondicherry!). So Fr Pajean was much more at his ease here, at first. And as I did not yet know his other character peculiarities, I was delighted with him for quite a while, especially as he was extremely handy and competent at everything, and he had a wonderful way with the people. So much so that I would sometimes find myself thinking: “there goes your successor; and maybe your Coadjutor (or Provicar) before that”!

Alas! he was later to give me great trouble and cause plenty of embarrassing problems for me. I began to see the violent (p 849) energy of his spirit, his natural hostility to any kind of restraint, his sort of republican-extremist fanaticism. His impatience got worse and worse, degenerating into a kind of instant tyranny towards the Blacks. He thought it best (and I could not make him stop) to keep order with a whip in his hand, and to give his directions by kicks on the behind (the worst possible insult to an Indian). Without any doubt at all, he became one of the main causes for the profound disgust or disappointment I later came to feel for my subordinates. And this became one of the reasons for my determination to resign. (Not the effective or determining reason, but an indirect and contributory one).

Nevertheless, to be fair to him, the whole trouble was due to his mistaken ideas, and to the lack of formation and any proper preparation [in Paris] for the apostolic ministry, followed by the mental confusion dividing his confreres [in India] as regards missionary policy, and the doubts that harrowed many of their minds as regards Caste and its Customs. As for his priestly work, it was always above reproach. In a properly organized Mission, he would have done wonders. In Europe he would have been a distinguished churchman, with a great future before him. (Unless he got too involved in Republicanism, to which he had a strong, natural affinity, in the wild days after the 1848 Revolutions!).

Comparing notes with Martini Carmelites fail Native Clergy.

So I had the pleasure of meeting Archbishop Martini again, for a short while. He had been three months [in Tamil Nadu] in Missions very different from his own place. (For on the Malabar Coast [Kerala etc.] the Church does not allow the caste system at all). The Archbishop did not seem to be very impressed by what he had seen. He highly praised the individual zeal of the Jesuits and our own missionaries. But he came very near to a total condemnation of our tolerance [of Caste and Customs] as “authorizing superstition”. He had not such frequent or bitter criticisms as he previously had expressed (at home in Verapoly) about his black priests. For, in the meantime, he had witnessed the enormous (p 850) loss our Missions were suffering, from the lack of Indian priests, with the mongrel substitute of a catechist system.

He therefore gave me high marks for what I had managed to achieve at Pondicherry Seminary (still going well) and for what I was trying to achieve to my newborn Seminary at Karumattampatty. It seems that, on this subject [of diocesan seminaries etc] he had taken the liberty of giving some bits of advice to Bishop Canoz [SJ]. And he hoped that the Bishop would not remain inactive in this field. I believe myself that the Jesuit Bishop would, indeed, have broken out of the preconceived system of his Order. But, de facto, he soon lost his authority as a Bishop, and was stopped by the immovable opposition of his confreres. I wrote at the time:

“In Verapoly, all the activities of the Church are depending on the local clergy. The Carmelites are very few; but they have a great number of Indian priests and clerics. These are not all perfect; and the good Archbishop has no illusions about their shortcomings. But he takes care not to expect instant perfection, or demand it (and maybe such a thing will never be possible). He knows well that, among the hundreds of young levites he imposes hands on, every year, there is going to be a few bad priests. But that does not make him stop (or notably slow dow) promotions to Holy Orders. For he is also well aware that (in his own words) the Catholic Religion “would be totally impossible without them”. He just goes on gradually, trying to improve the standard of his clergy.

“The number of Carmelite missionaries there is very restricted (far too much so). And he sometimes finds himself silently complaining that his Vicariate is “misfortunate”. On hearing the news from our Missions or from Madurai, the repeated arrival of groups of new missionaries from Europe, he used to feel a holy envy. It was then that the bitter disappointments he had to endure (necessarily quite frequent, from such a numerous clergy) became even harder to take. But today, after he has seen things with his own two eyes over here, he is going back home a lot more contented. Not because of the bad problems he has seen in our places; but because he now realizes how much less of them there are in his.”

(p 851) [1855] If only he had profited from this “foreign” experience with the Madurai Jesuits and our best Pondicherry confreres, to learn some of our good things as well! How to direct the activity of his missionaries; how to conduct the proper education of his young clerics! When I wrote [in 1847] all I knew about the Archbishop was some very favourable second-hand reports (that he was “doing his very best” to improve the standards of his local clergy). I took him on face value and on my own assumption that Carmelites would, of course, have to be zealous and active missionaries. I did not know then that they were dragging their feet in Iazy apathy; and that in actual fact they were doing almost nothing for the clergy. And that, sadly, it is to a great extent the fault of the Carmelites that their clergy still leaves so much room for improvement. That particular clergy would be quite remarkable, and even quite distinguished, if they were really given the means to develop their many good qualities.

Three New Missionaries

Very soon after, I saw the arrival of the three young missionaries I was so long awaiting. Our Paris Fathers had given me very encouraging advance information about them. I will call them F, G, H.162 And indeed they seemed gifted with excellent qualities; and I am convinced that, in another Mission, they could have been very good and useful workers in the Lord’s vineyard. I mean a Mission where there was peace of mind, where there were no divisions about Caste and Customs and how to take them’ and where the authority of superiors was a bit respected. ‘

But as soon as they arrived in India they were taken over by the adversaries of Bishop Luquet (and nearly all of those were adversaries of myself as well). Then they were launched into that (p 852) independent free-lancing life which is the style of the Foreign Missions, after a very poor preparation for it at the Paris Seminary. (They were there, perhaps, a little too long for their own good; for they entered before they were ordained). So, although their conduct as priests was always irreproachable, their performance as missionaries was a mixture of good and bad: intemperate and sometimes self-contradictory zeal, often going completely against my own policies, making my ministry and my position most painful, even bitter and disgusting to me at times.

Fr F. [Bonjean] especially, (undeniably the most talented and the most zealous and enterprising), seems to have been thoroughly spoilt at the Paris Seminary, by far too much silly praise. One Director wrote to me, for example: “little [Bonjean] is a little saint”. And another: “I hope you will be happy with all three of them, but especially with Fr Bonjean. He is a proper little saint”. God forbid that I should try to take away anything from his saintliness. But I fear they endangered its foundations by making him far too much aware of it. Perhaps they ended up by giving him far too much self confidence. This is a terrible danger, especially when it is backed up by extensive talents and obvious ability (which he certainly had).

Anyway the three of them started off very well. Afterwards I think they only disimproved. (I am not stating this as a fact, but I fear so). They caused me a lot of troubles and trials which they could (and I think should) easily have avoided. But all that did not show until later, after they had come under the influence of some older confreres whose own judgment was not always fit to lead people right, including themselves. Anyway, I was very happy to have these three, and full of hopes in their future cooperation.

“It seems (I wrote at the time) that the three young missionaries I have just welcomed here are really gifted with very good qualities. A few conversations with Fr [Bonjean] leave me with the impression that he has a very clear grasp of apostolic virtues and a real desire to practice them. God grant that the peculiar air of India may not be bad for him, as it has been for so many others!”

(p 853)

Disquieting News about Luquet, Retord, Pius IX.

Protest, Prayer for the Beloved People.

Among the news I received from outside were letters from Bishop Retord, and from Bishop Verrolles on his return from Europe. These spoke of Bishop Luquet as being “finished” in our Society. I gathered that this dear intelligent confrere was now in an impossible position for getting anything whatsoever done in our poor congregation.

And the greatly respected Bishop Retord (above his head the crown of martyrdom so often hovers; and he is the confrere ordaining the most native priests) wrote about Native Clergy in a very discouraging way. For I could see that he is very far from understanding the full scope of this Work. And that he will die without ever founding an [autonomous] local Clergy in Tong-king.

“So that’s how it is now (I said). Those who can act do not understand. And those who understand cannot act. Oh, how hard it is to get anything good done on the missions, 0 my God! You allow the instruments of your Mercy [like Luquet] to be broken before achieving anything lasting, or to blunder unwittingly in their uncharted operations. And the result is always the same: these unfortunate Peoples still remain plunged in darkness, and will probably remain so for a long, long time to come. 0 my God, what have these Peoples done to you?163 For they are the ones who suffer the most from our faults and mistakes; our misfortunes are much more theirs. Ha! What have they done against You, 0 my God”… Yes, their crimes are manifest. You are well within your rights. But, 0 my God, is not your Mercy also without end? Ah, please do remember it, great God! And remember that the peoples of Europe were just like these; long-time adorers of idols; that they violently rejected the redemption offered them by Jesus Christ, who died for all. The sons of Sem, indeed, seem to have (p 854) outdone the iniquities of the sons of Japhet. Yet our ancestors were certainly guilty enough to be lost for ever; but You made your justice give way to your Mercy for them. For these Peoples also, Lord, I cry therefore for Mercy!”

Bishop Verrolles confirmed the sad news now coming out of Europe, about the dismal state of politics and the severe difficulties of the Holy See. He had just had an audience with the Holy Father, who had shared his worries about the Austrian presence in Ferrara [Italy]. Thus, the attention of Pius IX was being necessarily distracted away from the missions. Any question of “detail” there (however grave) must now take second place to so many problems [nearer home] demanding the full sollicitude of the Holy Father at any given moment. So I could well fear an end to any further support from the Holy Father himself or from Propaganda, and an end to the effective protection they had given [to our policy] up to now.

[*Fr Bertrand SJ on “the questions of Native Clergy …” *]

I hope Luquet will not reply in Kind.

Meanwhile, Bishop Luquet’s opponents were busy putting out a monumental work against him.164 Indirectly but powerfully, it set out to prove that the Jesuits have always been doing everything perfectly in Madurai; and that therefore it is absurd (and probably blasphemous) to try and do things any differently. This looks powerful because it draws public attention to great men who were, in fact, most worthy of respect and admiration. Yes indeed, 0 my God, they did all things well. But there is one big (p 855) exception: all the things condemned by Benedict XIV. And the reader should have been clearly informed about that rather important aspect of their history. (I do not know if this has perhaps been treated in other volumes which I have not read yet; but I doubt it).

“They did all things well.” But some things they did not do at all. They did not establish a Native Clergy. That is our main complaint about them. And, in complaining, we do not condemn any persons. We will even admit their good faith in tolerating some Customs that were condemnable, and that were actually condemned.

In spite of all this [controversy] you can still make a wonderful edition of completely edifying and admirable letters [of the period]. Especially if you think it is all right (as editors sometimes do) to polish them up a bit, and leave out any awkward passages and so forth.

Anyway, the Foreword makes it clear that ‘tis a “refutation” of all our policy and convictions. Its main aim is to exalt the Lay Catechists System at the expense of Native Clergy. I received the Foreword about this time, and it really depressed and disgusted me.

“I have just finished reading a Foreword which purports to be the fore-runner to a whole series of Letters about the Missions from the old-time Jesuits in Madurai. This advance brochure is dedicated to His Lordship the Bishop of Langres, no less. It seems to want to persuade him to withdraw his benevolent approval, addressed to Luquet when he was still a young priest and was dedicating his Lettres to the same Bishop of Langres, (His book about the Foreign Missions Society). This Foreword seems nothing else but an irritating and provocative attack on Luquet’s work and writings.

‘The pamphlet really saddened me. And, no doubt at all, it must keenly hurt Bishop Luquet. He wrote to me saying “it will not be very difficult to answer”. All very well. But this kind of attack and counter-attack, what else is it but war? Instead of a peaceful debate before the proper authority, to find out who is in the right, to receive mutual enlightenment, and joyfully to embrace (p 856) the truth when it appears, whatever side it comes from!

“So it has come to this? Is it to be open war, O my God? Are we now going to fight, not against the common enemies of Your holy Religion, but between ourselves, Your servants? Between ourselves, when all of us want only Your glory! O God of peace, don’t let it come to that, I beg You. If any opinion bearing on the future of India contains some grain of truth, must we now rush to deny it, merely because we are Jesuits, or because we are Foreign Missions? Let it not be, O my God!

As far as I myself am concerned, You know how it is. I deplore certain entrenched opinions and policies which to me seem disastrous. I am sad to see them so deep-rooted in the minds of the Jesuits. Because of these policies (I am convinced) these Religious (otherwise so zealous and so worthy of all respect) have done a lot of harm on the missions, alongside the great good they have achieved. I am happy to recognize their great achievements; but they are lacking in solidity! [Because they have no foundation; no native clergy].

“Does that mean I am “an enemy of the Jesuits”, as a few of those Reverend Fathers seem to think? God forbid! Does it even mean I am always ready to attack those particular opinions as being opinions of the Jesuits? No! Even if they were the opinions of our own Society, I would fight them just as hard, with the very same freedom of speech. (And in fact I have done so more than once). The one thing I aim to defend (even if I am likely to go down in the fight, O my God) is the Truth. The one thing I aim to combat is Error, wherever it may be found (or wherever I think it is) according to my limited intelligence and the limited understanding You deign to give me, O my God.

“Continue the grace You have (I think) bestowed on me so far, Lord, the grace of bearing no hatred or spite towards any of the pious Associations which your Spirit has inspired the various Saints to found, and which have so often been the Instruments of your Mercy and the glorious Defenders of your Church, O Jesus, your Church which has all my love, whose Beauty always captivates me. From her crown I would hate to see [a single religious Order missing] a single jewel lost, or even tarnished, not shining (p 857) with its own pristine brilliance.

“No indeed, I am no enemy of the Jesuits. I like them and I always will, as long as they remain the obedient sons of the Church and the valiant defenders of her rights. But does that mean that everything is perfect with them? Or that it is impossible to question anyone of their opinions or policies? Especially when you see the terrible consequences of their mission system, before your very eyes!: They have been following it in all good faith, no doubt; but its result is all too easy to see: they have not yet made a Church [an autonomous local Church] even in this place where their zeal has been so successfully making thousands of Christians for centuries!

“Those are my sentiments [about the Jesuits]. Does Bishop Luquet feel the same’? I think so. Perhaps he has let fly with a few regrettable expressions in the heat of the argument. (And who hasn’t”). But, basically, I believe that his own deep sentiments are the same. Will he be able to keep cool and balanced now? Alas, none of us can answer for himself, even until tomorrow. Only God knows the future. How much less can we answer for others in it? But it is greatly to be feared that this particular kind of attack may vex him, and make him go too far in his reply. Just now I wish he had the courage and the strength of mind not to answer at all, not to reply at all to this dismal “refutation” of his works. I have written to him, yesterday, not to follow it up with a similar provocative disputation. And I have hope that his own genuine piety will tell him what to do: how to avoid abandoning the truth; and also avoid creating a most sensational scandal.”

My first Commanding Officer, the old Curé.

We could do with a few real Parish Priests, out Here.

Other news I received about that time was of the ordinary sad kind which comes so often to afflict our friendships in this passing world, where men continually pass away with such frightening rapidity! It was the death of Fr de Lacger, the cure of Saint Michel’s at Castelnaudary. Under his command I had done my (p 858) first “active service” in the sacred ministry. His curates generally had a lot of difficulties trying to live in peace with him. A former Captain in the Dragoons, he had, perhaps, kept a little too much of the military style in his dealings with them. However, by exercising a bit of tact, I had always managed to stay on good terms with him. And certainly I gained a lot from our relationship. Because, along with his few noticeable eccentricities, he had many outstanding qualities as a Parish Priest.

It was very impressive, especially, to see him with the people. With his distinguished manners, his exquisite education, the unfailing “bon ton” of his social procedures, he was still able to make himself “all things to all men”, and literally to fill the vast church every Sunday, with crowds of people coming to hear his sermons in patois [local dialect]. Generally, they would go to Confession to nobody else but him. So the number of good tough peasants whom he brought back to Easter Duty every year must be counted in thousands.

If he had been a little bit easier on his priests, and on the devout ladies of the parish, he would have been a perfectly admirable cure. (He often attacked those ladies, sometimes unjustly, in order to combat the hideous disease of dévotisme [narrow religiosity]. To me he was never anything but good. And it is my own fault that I didn’t learn a lot more from him. May Saint Michel protect him. May his guardian Angel lead him up to the throne of mercies!

And when are we going to have real cures, genuine parish priests, here in India? Certainly, missionaries are no substitute. There is such a thing as “grace of state”; it is no empty phrase. We missionaries do not have all the graces of the ordinary pastoral ministry. I could see this more clearly every day; and I often shuddered at the implications. With us and with our neighbours the Jesuits, the ordinary pastoral ministry is about zero.

The same goes even in Christian communities with several resident priests. True, in those places every dying Catholic can at least receive Extreme Unction; but that’s about it. I have never heard of a missionary staying on with an invalid until the last breath. Very rarely will he come back to see one, after the Last (p 859) Sacraments, to help fight off the last attacks of the Enemy of our Salvation. Anyway the missionary’s presence would be an embarrassment in a house where he is such an alien by culture. 165

The care of the poor, the moral supervision of families, catechism classes, First Communions, and then the care of the sick and even the final burial of those bodies once inhabited by the Holy Spirit: the whole life-series is done in a non-human fashion, or else generally neglected altogether. And why? Because there are no proper shepherds for these flocks, shepherds that they will easily recognize by the sound of their voice and the colour of their face. As for the missionary, he is feared, over-respected; or else profoundly despised; never liked in an ordinary human way. The fact is, the calling of pastor is normally not the missionary’s one. He should in principle have to exercise it only by accident or by way of exception. Once it becomes the “ordinary” missionary occupation, then the situation in that country has become abnormal and dis-ordered.

And what happens next? We hand over to the catechists almost every Pastoral care which should be occupying the life of a cure [a normal parish priest]. And God knows how those catechists (even the good ones) do the job! The catechists are the only ones who visit the families, keep in touch with their Christian lives, teach catechism, instruct penitents before admitting them to Confession, give them a ticket to show there is no obstacle to receiving the Sacraments, find out marriage impediments, supervise weddings (to see that no pagan customs go on) visit the sick, comfort the dying, preside over funerals … (For the body is never brought to the church, probably out of fear of some legal “defilement” or other).

All this is very nice and convenient for the missionary. And some of those duties would be nearly impossible for him to do himself, anyway, considering the Customs of the country. But they would come very easy and natural to an Indian priest.

I often tried to stir up some interest in pastoral ministry, (p 860) among my missionaries. But it was all in vain. Even the best of them did not think much of all those “details”. They “didn’t have time”. It just “wasn’t possible”. It was very plausible to say all that, and very natural to want to follow the same line of work they were taught in the beginning. This line was originally due to lack of vocation for detailed pastoral ministry. But also due, in part, to the fact that, in the beginning, the missionary was forced [by the sheer size of his area] to lead a travelling life, from one community to the next, never able to stay and look after one single place for the full round of even one year.

Today, when missionaries have become more numerous, many of them are permanently in one station. These could carry out all the normal duties of a cure (except those that require cultural identity between shepherd and flock).166 But they have forgotten how to do them; or rather, they never learned. Instead they learnt the traditional [catechist] system. And they just go on with it, never stopping to think that this is no way for a true shepherd to do his job.

My First Anniversary. Small steps towards Autonomy.

There were quite a few consolations as I celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary, at Karumattarnpatty. It was also the first anniversary of my consecration.

“It was not as spectacular as usual (I wrote) and certainly nothing like last year. The continuing economic hardship, especially among my poor Christians, saw to that. Nevertheless, they came in from all the Districts of my Vicariate. And there was no noticeable shortage of rockets, Music or fire-works. Moreover, I am confident that the Feast was celebrated with more devotion and more order than in the old days, when there was just one missionary (p 861) in all of Coimbatore.

“My young seminarians have started Plain Chant; and they got through the Sung Mass not at all badly. The altar was beautifully decorated with long garlands of natural flowers, in rather graceful designs. And we “inaugurated” a new “trimming” as well, a fine set of candlesticks, bought with our saved-up widows’ mites, the new Sunday collections. I had started them some time before, in order to get everybody (the poorest as well as well as the richest) accustomed to the idea of contributing for the church expenses.

“Finally I distributed blessed loaves. I was hoping they would become a progressive substitute for the roasted grains sometimes distributed in the church, more or less as the pagans do in their celebrations (not without some probable overtones of superstition). The bread was a trial run. Maybe it could become “the custom” without clashing openly with Caste. (For Caste had no specific laws covering this new European thing called bread) And the sharing of bread on such big occasions could become a useful symbol of unity and fraternity between our Christians of different castes. May God in his goodness bless those feeble efforts at community.”

Fr Gailhot’s Midnight Ordeal with “Security”.

A short time after, I had the pleasure of a visit from Fr Gailhot. He had left Vizhagapattinam and returned to his former post at Bangalore. He was extremely tired and in great need of some recreation; so he asked permission to go away on a “little trip”. He duly set out, but without saying in what direction he was going. Bishop Charbonnaux having heard nothing for days was worried about him, and somewhat annoyed. He wrote to me, asking if I had heard anything. But all I knew was that some letters addressed to Gailhot had arrived in Ooty. Soon afterwards, I heard he was heading for Mangalore, Calicut etc., and that he was coming round to see me at Coimbatore, after passing by Palghat.

Well, at Palghat, a rather amusing incident happened to him (p 862)

He arrived, unannounced, after dark. He made for the church and knocked at the door of the mission house. No answer; the missionary was away. Some [night watchman] wrapped up in his cloth for the night, under the church porch, heard him. He told him the key was with the Catechist; but his house was very far. Patience not being one of Gailhot’s predominant virtues (though he had plenty of others) he got very worked up, and sent for the Catechist to come, immediately if not sooner. As soon as he saw him, he roared:

“Come on! Open up! And be quick about it!” “But who are you?”

“What? You don’t know me!” “Never saw you in my life.” “But I’m Father Gailhot.”

‘“I do not know the name.”

“You mean to say, you don’t know of Swamy Gailhot of Bangalore? Open that door quick; or else …”

“But… what if you are a schismatic priest from Goa?”

“Me? Me! Me a schismatic? Me that built the big church at Bangalore! Did you never hear tell of that beautiful church?”

“I did. But all that doesn’t tell me very much now; because I do not know you from Adam.”

“What!.. All right; take a good look at me. Am I black? The schismatic priests are black; and I’m white.”

Maybe the poor Catechist, an excellent old man, devoted to us, would have given in to that obvious line of reasoning … if he could see him properly. But it was now dark night. Anyway, he reckoned that, absolutely speaking, there were a few white schismatic priests at Goa as well; and one of them could just possibly be coming here. So he bravely resisted the imperious orders to “open up” and replied:

“Look. I have strict orders to let nobody in here without special permission from the Father. He is not here. I dare not infringe his command. But I will call some of the head Christians, and we will consider the matter. “

In the meantime Fr Gailhot absolutely flattened with fatigue had to wait under the eaves of the house, very poor shelter from the damp night air. Anyone who knows the impetuosity (p 863) of his temperament can easily imagine the look on his face at this stage…

At long last, the head Christians arrived. They held a long Council among themselves. The final decision was: they would not open the door of the house; but they would send two people off to inform the Father, who was then at Covilpalayam, more than three miles away, and explain the matter to him. Fr Gailhot got extremely eloquent, and used every possible kind of language on them (which he certainly knows how to employ) but all in vain. Nothing doing.

The two envoys duly set out; and there was nothing Gailhot could do, in the meantime, except roll himself up in his travelling blanket, on the ground. I don’t know if he slept or not. But about 3 o’clock in the morning, he heard some noise, and saw something coming towards him, a troop of people with torches and lanterns. He got up and shouted:

“Who goes there? Are you a Judas gang, coming at me with your lanterns and sticks?”

“And who are you, yourself?” asked Fr C, arriving in person.

“Swamy Gailhot”, he replied.

They immediately recognized each other; they hugged and shook hands; and the whole thing finished up with roars of laughter.

Pacreau misleading New Missionaries? Métral a Saint.

My three new missionaries were studying Tamil with great ardour, and with some success. Their piety and their excellent behaviour gave me great joy, high hopes. Meanwhile, however poor Fr [Pacreau] was getting more and more and more contrary. I did all I could to “manage along” with him, always on the lookout to try and give him the kind of work that he appeared to like (or at least not positively to dislike). But all in vain. He still imagined that everything I did was done precisely in order to inconvenience himself. And any thing I dared to decide without him was sure to be instantly condemned or bitterly criticized. All this (p 864) contributed in no small way to turning the new men against me.

He was due to start on a long journey, visitation of the most distant stations in Coimbatore; and he asked me for one of the young priests to accompany him. An excellent idea, except for Pacreau’s peculiar character! I had to be very fearful of him gaining too much bad influence over his companion during the trip. But to refuse him now would be to alienate him entirely. So I thought I could safely lend him Fr F [Bonjean], who seemed to be a really sound character. [He was certainly very virtuous]. But virtue is a quality not of the mind but of the heart, or the will. The good heart and good will of Fr Bonjean were never in doubt. But his mind often missed the mark, afterwards. Anyway, he was indeed badly affected by that prolonged contact with Fr Pacreau, aided by a whole lot of unfortunate special circumstances. I had no idea of this [impending] change of mind in him, as I read the letters he sent back to me from time to time, full of frank and gentle piety, full of apostolic spirit.

I now wanted to make a detailed visitation, of at least a part of my Vicariate. But I had to wait until the end of December. All the visitation I could do was to Karumattampatty. There, the Christian community and the seminary were making quite encouraging progress (no small consolation to me) under Fr Métral, that excellent man. His good example was working wonders. Not of any spectacular kind (more beneficial for the spectators than for the worker himself). No, a slow and quiet miracle of Christian virtue, known perfectly only to God but glimpsed also at times by the closest friends, when they were so fortunate as to see a little way into the inner sanctuary where the Saints like to keep their goodness well hidden.

Escaping Pneumonia by risking Drowning

On one of my frequent journeys between Karumattampatty and Coimbatore, I came very close to a watery end. It was in the rainy season. But in the Coimbatore area you can also have beautiful fine days at that time of year. Only, you have to be on the (p 865) look-out always for sudden storms, especially at evening time.

I left Karumattampatty about 3 p.m. Soon the storm signs began to threaten. But I reckoned I would easily get home before the rain became really heavy, at about nightfall. I was all alone in my light “cab” with my “cudiraicaran” [horse minder]. It would take only four hours anyway. But about half-way, I came to a sudden torrent where usually we were able to cross almost dry-shod. Now, a flash flood of mud-coloured water was sweeping by; it must have been more than six feet in depth. Obviously, the storm must already have burst, on to the slopes of the mountain-side nearest the plains of Coimbatore. All the little streams were instantly changed into huge rivers; and since they had no bridges, there was no way to cross them now. There were plenty of carts and plenty of travellers there before me, and I followed their example: sat down under a tree to wait for the flood water to roll by. For by now the weather had turned fine again, and we reckoned that, in an hour or so, the torrent would be fordable. In actual fact, the sun was setting by the time we were able to cross.

At that place there was a ramshackle “savady” and there the people took shelter for the night. Being less prudent, I decided to continue on my road, convinced that I would be home inside two hours. But the rain had softened the road, and the flood had swept pieces of it away entirely. Sometimes I had to drive aside into the fields to avoid some gaping trenches in the road, all the more dangerous because by now it was pitch dark. Soon I had to get out of the cab and feel my way forward in the darkness, sounding the depth with my bare feet. while the condireicaren led the horse behind me. Often, the mud came up to my knees. To crown it all, a steady drizzle came on. My thin muslin soutane became much more of a hindrance than a shelter. In fact I was a lot more miserable and worse off than my horse-minder in his loin-cloth.

We barely made one mile an hour. At last, with great difficulty, we came to another little savady, at about 3 miles from Coimbatore. By now the rain was pelting down again. I was shivering with cold and fatigue, and I figured that the most likely outcome of all this adventure was going to be at least a raging fever. A crowd of carts were all jammed together there. The drivers were jammed into the little building; but many of them could not (p 866) even get in. They were hiding under their carts. So, no room for us there. Anyway (I thought) what was the point of stopping out here all night, in my sodden clothes, exposed to the wind and the rain? But the carters (I couldn’t see them, though I exchanged a few remarks with them through my horse-minder) assured me that there was no way to go any further tonight. A big, wide, dangerous flood (we could hear the roar of it) had completely blocked the road forward. So, nothing for it but stay out here in the middle of the road all night, catching my death of cold? Wouldn’t it be a bit less dangerous to have a go at crossing the flood?

I tried hard to persuade one of the carters to come with me, armed with a long pole. “Go on ahead, testing the depth before each step. Keep going until it’s up to your waist. If it gets up higher, or becomes too fast to be safe, stop. We’ll retrace our steps”. I chose a place where the flood was very wide, and should therefore be less swift and deep. It took me a long time (and the promise of a big bonus) to persuade him even to consider it.

Another man at last agreed. He went first, testing the depth as I had explained; the cudiraicaran led the horse behind him; and I came last (on foot of course) hanging on to the car. We were nearly a quarter of an hour getting through the water; sometimes it came up to my knees, sometimes to my waist. The night was so dark, we could not even see each other at all at times. Indeed, if it was day-time, we probably would not have had the nerve to try it, with all the recently uprooted trees in the way as well! But anyway, we eventually got across. When we stepped on to the main Coimbatore road (excellent surface from there on) we just looked at each other. We were like people saved out of a shipwreck. The rain still poured down on us in torrents. But we couldn’t care less. Let it pour! Let it do it’s very best to make us wetter! (p 867)

An Indian Layman (Judge) fit to be a Bishop.

About a Tamil Bible. The People help to Start the Seminary.

Among the very few Catholics then at Coimbatore city was one excellent man who occupied the distinguished position of “sadaramin” (Assistant Judge) in the District. His name was Azhagiri [?] Pillai. He (and all his family) gave very good Christian example. Unfortunately he was about to be transferred. It was definitely a misfortune for us, and for the locality. Especially the Christians; for he used to protect them from the harassments of the pagans at times. But the pagans, too, were going to miss him; they knew that Justice was the deciding factor in all his decisions, a rare thing even among the Judges of this unfortunate country. Azhagiri Pillai had the reputation of being incorruptible. He never took bribes…

Apart from all the public votes of thanks and expressions of sorrow at his going, here is one strange incident to show how keen the pagans were, to keep him there as Judge. One rich Hindu came to see me. After a big “salaam” he went on: “Indeed the news is only too true. [Our good Judge] is going. Now, he is a man of your religion. You are the senior Christian guru in the area. So I have come to ask you to pray your God to leave him here with us. For this purpose I am bringing you 50 rupees, to address prayers to your God for this intention”. It goes without saying that I declined the rupees and promised the prayers. Unfortunately my prayers were not heard (at least in the obvious way).

During Azhagiri Pillai’s last few days with us, I made good use of his influence with the Christians, to get them to contribute (according to their means) for a new seminary building. In spite of the hard times, the leading Christians did give some money, as well as quantities of cereals etc. They also gave several days of voluntary work. Thus they helped me greatly with the building, which I started soon afterwards, and finished a year later. For my students, still very promising, had no home to call their own. And our recent purchase of the Coimbatore bungalow (as well as the maintenance of an increased personnel and countless other expenses) (p 868) had greatly reduced my purse. I could not start a seminary with the unaided funds from the Propagation de la Foi. Indeed the Propagation’s grants later enabled me to complete it. But it was the contributions of the local Christians that got it started.

“Thus (I wrote) I hope soon to lay the foundations of a Seminary here. It is badly needed. For the students (though not very numerous) are now crammed like sardines in a little hovel which also has to do as their class-room, refectory and dormitory. And it isn’t even rain-proof. May Saint Joseph (under whose patronage the seminary has been, ever since its conception) look after the new building. May he obtain God’s blessing on it, so that in it God may be glorified, and that out from it may come (in a few years’ time) many worthy ministers of the sanctuary!”

Azaghiri Pillai was an exceptional Indian. You could have a really interesting and sustained conversation with him. He often came to see me; and in him I could admire the great potential of the Indian people, seeing how education had made of him such a truly superior man. And why can’t we take such outstanding men, and make priests of them, and Bishops too! St Ambrose was still only a catechumen when he was acclaimed: “Come! Act no longer as a Magistrate but as our Bishop!” Are the real apostolic times gone for ever?

The Bible should be put into High (sublime and inaccessible) Tamil167

The Indian Judge, that far-seeing man, was very keen to see a Catholic translation of the Sacred Scriptures; for he constantly had to read them only in English translations. It must have been after a conversation with him about the long-projected (and long delayed) Tamil translation [decided at the Pondicherry Synod 1843] that I wrote the following in my diary:

(p 869) “The translation of the Bible into Tamil [is going ahead slowly. But I have to ask]: Is it necessary today, or even useful? Or will it turn out useless, or even dangerous? People give various answers to these questions. My own position is different from the majority answer, and maybe from them all. [Probably perversely different!]. Meanwhile, Fr Dupuis seems to be very actively engaged in the work, and should soon be publishing the first part. It will be in line with common expectations. May it also be in line with the real needs of the Indian people!

“My own position is this: the Tamil translation, today, is neither necessary nor useful, directly. And it can bring numerous dangers and disadvantages with it. But indirectly, given the proliferation of Protestant translations, it becomes a totally different question. And I believe that, in actual fact, it is now absolutely necessary to have a Catholic translation, (Or at the least, extremely useful).

“The Protestants are now showering the whole of India with their slanted translations; they are here, there and everywhere. To try and stop the Catholics from reading them would be totally unrealistic. In fact it would probably be a worse scandal than leaving them at it. I don’t think there is a single literate Catholic in India who has not at least dipped into the Protestant Bible. We forbid it; but the prohibition merely earns us the hostility and suspicion of several good Catholics; for they can not see the reasons for it. The more severe we get, the more they will suspect that there must be something in what the Protestants say about us: that “we are deliberately hiding the Bible from the people”. So the only satisfactory solution is to have a Catholic Bible to give them.

“Will the lawful reading of the Catholic translation make a big difference? Will it produce a great good, a great leap forward? I do not think so. But it will put an end to a great evil, the scandal caused by our prohibitions, our non-observed and non-understood censorship. But won’t the reading itself cause some harm at times? Yes, more than once. Not by its own nature but by the immaturity of the Indian Catholics, their possible inability to safely digest such “grown-up” food.

So, if the country was not so thoroughly infested by Protestant (p 870) translations already, I would definitely regard our translation into Tamil prose, now, as a piece of reckless imprudence!

“Why? The Tamil language does not naturally or gracefully submit to being put into mere prose. Fr Beschi, indeed, made his Vedavilakam famous. (And his innovatory work of genius was followed fairly successfully by a few others). But when all is said and done (apart from a few once-off inimitable poetic passages) they were all mere prose (in a language which normally uses verse) and were therefore inclined merely to crawl, where real Tamil literature always soars aloft.

“In this [linguistic] situation, our Scriptures are now in great danger of becoming a joke, of being laughed at and ridiculed, if only because of their obvious stylistic inferiority. Their barbaric sounding prose will naturally be compared with the sublime style and cadence of the pagan scriptures. The pagans will be shocked or amused by this “bush” translation, and will be even further distanced away from our holy Religion. .

“But, although we can foresee this evil result, we are not going to be guilty of it. It is not we who are doing it. It has been done already, thoroughly done, by the reckless translations of the Protestants. Our translation (even if it turns out to be just as flat and boring as theirs) will not add anything to the harm already done. And [as I said] it will cure another, worse, evil. So the total result will be: maybe a little progress for us (however small) and a happy escape from a big scandal.

“But (you may ask) couldn’t our translation be done in a way that would strongly counter the harm done by the heretical translations? Could it not be rendered almost perfectly safe, if there was an accompanying Commentary? And indeed, wouldn’t this commentary do a lot of good itself, anyway? I believe so. But if this is right, it does not seem to have occurred at all to the people who might be capable of taking on this difficult enterprise.

“Most probably, our translation is going to look extremely similar to the Protestant ones (which have only a few rare alterations in them, noticeable only to a theologian or a specialist, to favour their pet misinterpretations). Our translation, then, will mostly be just another prose atrocity, totally outside the Indian (p 871) genius for spiritual literature. What I would like to see, myself, is a version in true High Tamil! Yes, even if it meant changing the order in some chapters (or at least some verses) and even if certain words had to be rendered indirectly, by poetic paraphrase (provided the meaning was always strictly preserved).

“But (you may object) such a translation would be quite useless; for hardly any Tamil could readily understand it. How few, indeed, can instantly read the Vedam or even Thiruvalluvar! That is so. [But India is a very special case]. For India, the Bible should not be translated as something immediately readable, for private spiritual reading, edification or instruction. Anyway, I believe the average pagan (or even Christian) will get very little benefit of that kind from it. On this I know I am [out of line with most Catholics and] at the opposite pole from the Protestants. They imagine that the Bible, alone, will work conversions [in droves]. Whereas I think it will stop countless pagans from even re-thinking, and maybe from being converted! The less they actually read it, the more they will admire and revere, provided only that it be available to be read, or read out, by a guru or a sage.

“A beautifully cadenced passage from the Bible, in fitting harmony with the literary tradition of the people (even if unintelligible to them at first hearing, but having to be explained afterwards as is done for the pagan classics) would naturally captivate the hearts of the people, and fill their minds with wonder and admiration. The same meaning, rendered in “barbaric” language (and all serious language is barbaric here if the style is not high and sublime) will merely raise a laugh or a contemptuous smile, for the book and for its Author. Who in this case is none other than the Holy Spirit!

“As I say, the essential is not “to read the Bible” but to have it [in worthy Tamil) to be read out. A translation of that standard would quickly reduce the Protestant translations to rubble. For that is the only standard that will earn the genuine respect of the Indian people. (The Protestants themselves may yet be compelled to attempt such a version. It would immediately render all the previous ones obsolete, even though its eventual circulation might reach only one-thousandth of theirs). (p 872) “Finally, if we want the reading of the Bible to be really fuitful here, we should consider preparing two paraphrases as well [in Tamil]. l. The kind that has to go with any High Tamil literature; and this of course would be indispensable. 2. Another simpler paraphrase (or summary) with plenty of background information and colour; this would be a sort of “popular” version, more like a Bible History than a strict translation.

“All very well (you may say again) but who is going to do it? Who will be capable? That, l admit, is the big snag. The work would indeed be immense and difficult, to the utmost degree. But between “difficult” and “impossible” there is a difference, and a big one.

“To sum up: reading the Bible in a popular translation does some harm in India. The harm already exists, and the responsibility for it must fall squarely on those who first published the translations, in contempt of the wise laws of the Church. A new translation by us, in the same style, would be no better, or not much. But it would not worsen the harm already done. And it would save the Catholics from reading forbidden books, and save them also from swallowing the false accusation that “we are hiding the Bible from them”. But, if we raise our sights beyond those two limited aims, what we really need is a proper translation of the Bible into sublimely-styled High Tamil (the only kind that a classical Tamil author would even consider writing). This would be a real break-through. It would give the pagans a true, exalted, idea of our Religion, and would restore the honour and respect due to our Holy Scriptures, so badly down-graded today in this country. The execution of the project would be difficult but not impossible”.

Tonsure for Young Indian Students (12-14 years)!

About this time, I wrote the following article on the much earlier tonsuring of young Indian students who have expressed the desire to enter the clerical state. Some more years of experience (p 873) after that time have only confirmed my conviction on this point. And I was glad to see that Bishop Bonnand (the only bishop to start serious work for an Indian clergy) is now following the very same policy, so loudly and universally condemned as “reckless” when I began it. Here is what I wrote:

“Today, the work for Native Clergy is much more popular with our [MEP] confreres than it was five years ago. (If only the same could be said about the Vicariates of Madurai and Madras!), Nevertheless, there are still some deep-seated prejudices remaining in the minds of our missionaries. Up to 1844 they all sang the same tune as the Jesuits: “this work is impossible here; the time has not yet come”.

“What a struggle I had in Pondicherry, to get them to tonsure a few major seminarians before they had finished their Theology (or almost finished)! The “innovation” eventually went through. And certainly they have had no cause whatever to regret it, up to this day. But another [bolder] step forward is now needed, to bring us into line with the present reality in this country.

Later on, things may become different (I do not know). But at this particular time, in a country where the clerical way of life offers no visible advantage, where parents oppose it for their sons with every effort they can bring to bear, where they consider it a disaster and a shame not to have them all married off in time - in a country where marriages are arranged at a very tender age (we have all the .trouble in the world to get parents to wait until 12 years (for girls) and 14 (for boys) -in a country where the passions ripen early, to disturb the precocious imaginations of the youth, and to confuse and discourage their vocations- is it not sensible to come to their aid, by reinforcing their good-will with bonds which (without being irrevocable) will still be a powerful motivating force for fidelity and perseverance, without causing any real danger to their freedom? Certainly, it would be criminally stupid to impose priesthood (or even subdiaconate, as is done by the Abyssinnian heretics) on a boy in his early teens. But to give tonsure to children of 12-14 years -where is the big danger in that?

We must also bear in mind that, in a country where the priesthood does not yet function in a normal and generally-recognized (p 874) way, a young man’s priestly education has to be dragged out longer than elsewhere (with a few exceptions perhaps). Elsewhere, those who want to become priests have already got a fairly good general idea of what a priest is, even while they are quite young, from meeting priests and seeing them in action, in numerous pastoral situations. Where as a young Indian (who, more than likely, has never even spoken with a priest of his own nation) has [not a clue]. He is completely immune to the attraction of the priesthood. As long as he remains a lay student, he will naturally be concerned with making his way in the world, and with his impending marriage. (He may know it has already been more or-less negotiated, soon after he was born; and he will certainly have been hearing about it from his parents nearly every day of his life). He will live his young life under this great “obligation” (which automatically falls on every male child) to “fulfil his debt to his ancestors” by making them “live again” in his own children. With all this in his mind, how can he be expected to concentrate on his ecclesiastical studies, or to successfully cultivate the pure virtues of the Gospel counsels in his heart? But once a young lad has already been “initiated” as a cleric, and is wearing clerical dress, and frequently exercising the functions of his minor orders in the sanctuary, and seeing himself as already committed (though revocably) to the service of the Lord, he thereby feels immeasurably more strong, more courageous; and he already begins to acquire a much greater degree of the priestly spirit for his future work.

“That, anyway, is how I see it. And the limited practical experiences I have managed to gain, in Pondicherry and in Karumattampatty, have only confirmed me in that opinion. All these “innovations” are still worrying Fr Lehodey. Even after the letter of approval for them which I received from Rome, he still writes to me, and in a way that shows he still does not see the point.

Fr Lazare on Luquet’s Mémoire

And now it is high time to go back to Pondicherry, and take a look at the dismal palavers that are troubling the Christian community there. (p 875) For they could have very bad repercussions in Coimbatore as well…

But before doing that, let’s see what Fr Lazare thought of Luquet’s “Eclaircissements’‘. This excellent Indian priest had only just read it. He had great trouble obtaining a copy; for they were keeping it from the Indians.

He begins by greatly admiring Bishop Luquet, but regrets his going so much into “personalities”. Still, he partly excuses him for that, because “maybe he had to, in order to explain those things properly”. Then he goes on, in his own kind of French [about Luquet and Native Clergy]:

“Truth needed to be brought out clearly, once again. The more “they” try to bury it, the more it will shine forth. What single point can they contradict in that book? Maybe they can try it in Europe, by force of their numbers there. But they can’t succeed in India; the facts are here.

“It is a great pity that the foolish complaints made by certain Indians [the Nellitope members] were even mentioned in the book. Otherwise the whole work, if brought to the notice of the Indians, would earn Bishop Luquet their undying gratitude.”

He ends his letter by hoping that Bishop Luquet will one day come back again to India.

“Alas (I wrote on that occasion) I can’t hope so at all. Indeed, with all the ongoing hostility among his confreres, is it even something to be desired? I have to look on him now as a broken instrument, broken by the very people he wanted to help, by serving the sacred Cause of the missions, and by serving God, who is the End and Aim of all our efforts. They may not have known it then, but they have broken him, very thoroughly. In their intentions they were innocent; but he is still just as broken, anyway. Beyond recovery. No coming back, in my opinion.”

  • *

A dull Christmas in a poor Oustation

[]

The year 1847 was drawing to a close without me being able to do anything of much use for the good of my dear Vicariate. The last few days of the year found me at Covilpalayam. I went with (p 876) Fr Metral and the seminarians, to celebrate the Feast of Christ, as there, and then to do a pastoral visitation of Palghat District. Covilpalayam was our only possible “head-quarters” there.

“I already mentioned this poor place and its miserable church (I wrote). The only reason it is our “capital” is, that it has a priest’s house (not quite uninhabitable) and a little garden (rather nice); we have nothing remotely like these in the rest of the District. But things will have to change. The District will necessarily have to be divided. Two central Missions, one at the city of Palghat and the other at Athicode (where I am due in a few days’ time).

“Most of the Christians live far from [Covilpalayam] and it is hard for them to come to the church here, even on Sundays and big Feasts. Thus, even Christmas was no great show. We had prepared everything for a fine Midnight Mass; but unfortunately Fr Metra fell ill that evening; and Fr C was called out to a dying Christian abou.t 5 miles away. All this upset our little ceremony for this Holy Night. Piety, unaided by beauty, had to rekindle our faith and our love all alone.

“Alas, Lord, how cold my own heart seemed to stay, that night: Could It be that the heat of the climate has an inverse effect on the warmth of the charity? Don’t let it be so, O my God!”

(p 877)

The History again: di Nobili, de Tournon etc.

A t the risk of being repetitious, I have to go back to [the original cause of the Revolt]. In the Indian heartland, there was no progress whatsoever in conversions until the time of Roberto di Nobili [about 1610] and his followers. They hit on the stratagem of passing themselves off as Brahmins, adopting all their dress, their customs and way of life. These pioneering Jesuits (among whom Saint John de Britto must be numbered) were worthy of all respect, as well as being extremely learned. But they went too far. They went so far as to tolerate (in all good faith) certain Indian practices which were later explicitly condemned by the Holy See. (Or perhaps it was those who came after them that started the wrong tolerations. I am not quite sure). Anyway, when the Jesuits moved into Pondicherry, some very serious controversies broke out, between them and the Capuchins. The lawfulness of the Jesuits’ policy was strongly queried. And Cardinal de Tournon condemned several of their practices [of toleration] when he stopped over at Pondicherry on his way to China. The Cardinal’s condemnations were confirmed by the Holy See (with a few small modifications). But the Jesuits (doubtless still in good faith, but perhaps a bit over-confident) knowing the disaster that was bound to follow the publication of the Roman decrees (and hoping that a fuller knowledge of the customs condemned [at a distance] would persuade the Holy See to reverse its decisions) delayed (p 878) taking action on them. Finally, Benedict XIV put an end to all the shilly-shallying by issuing his famous Bull “Omnium Sollicitudinum”.

The disaster foreseen by the Jesuits promptly happened. A considerable number of Christians apostatised. And, ever since that day, there has been an end to all noticeable progress in the conversion of pagans.

Three Persistent Questions. And three Options.

Today, anybody who tried to excuse any of the “Malabar Rites” (ceremonies and customs) solemnly condemned by the Bull would have to be fairly reckless, to say the least. And yet there are still some crucial moral problems remaining about them. Three over-all questions still need to be resolved:

1. lnculturation?

While admitting that any custom prohibited as “intolerable” ought never to be tolerated, isn’t it still possible to modify such a custom? Change it in such a way that, while still suiting the genius of the people [and their culture] it would cease to be intrinsically superstitious? It could then be tolerated. Many missionaries are convinced that there is no other way to reach the Indians, a people so totally identified with their ancient ways of life. Myself, I did not think it at all impossible, eventually, to maintain the purity of faith and morals along with most of the Indian customs, once they had been thus modified and re-aligned.

But this would be a very tricky operation, and we should not go into it without the full knowledge and support of the Holy See. Later I will describe my own little effort to put forward my view at Rome, and how badly it was received there. So badly that, today, I am reluctantly obliged to classify this view as [reckless and] temerarious. Words of great abhorrence were applied to my view by [Monsignor Barnabo] the Secretary of Propaganda [about 1854]. If I had heard those same words from the mouth of the (p 879) sovereign Pontiff (or even from all the Sacred Congregation in session) I would certainly have to conclude that my view was false

2. Condemn even More Customs?

The second question is this: Among all the customs which have continued, generally, to be tolerated after the Bull of Benedict XIV, do you mean to say there are none which are not tainted with superstition, to this very day? On this question I have moral doubts; and they are extremely grave. True, the Holy See has said nothing explicit about those customs. But its silence cannot be taken as approval. Cardinal de Tournon stated this himself at the end of his Decree. And anyway, it follows from the nature of the case. Well, countless reasons indicate to several missionaries, today, that some of those tolerated customs or practices are extremely suspect. They seem just as superstitious as some of the customs which have been explicitly condemned. So much so that, if the Holy See knew about them, it would immediately have to forbid them as well. Certain individual missionaries are completely convinced that such-and-such a custom [or other] is already proven to be superstitious (in their own considered moral judgment) hence they cannot in conscience have anything to do with it. Most of them, however, concede that, since there IS still some slight doubt about the custom (if only because so many other missionaries appear to have no problem with it) we can still manage to go along with the traditional Church policy [of tolerating it] until such time as the Holy See clearly decrees otherwise.

This was also my own stance [as an ordinary missionary]. But I felt that Superiors were under a strict obligation to keep the Holy See fully and exactly informed about the actual situation on the ground (and about every dubious custom that is being followed, shared or tolerated by their missionaries) so that the Holy See, by its supreme authority, may be in a good position to restore order and coherent policy among all the missionaries. (p 880)

3. Abolish them All? – Certainly Not!

A third option is often considered: [ignore or abolish Indian customs entirely]. Because, even if we could, at the limit, tolerate many Indian customs, they still obviously fall far short of Gospel perfection. So would it not be much better to just ignore all those absurd taboos, and proceed more or less as if we were in Europe? Anyone who wants to be a Christian [can then take It or leave it] can Iive his own life as he understands it best, provided We do not authorize any custom that might possibly even be suspected of paganism or superstition.

Yes, it might have been better to proceed like that at the start. And indeed that was (in general) the policy of the [Portuguese] missionaries, even in India [before di Nobili], before the Jesuits started their extra-ordinary experiment in Madurai. And that is still the policy on the whole Malabar [West] coast.

But we have to recognize one thing: if the Jesuit policy could be safely limited to what is really permissible, that policy is the truly apostolic one. By condemning that policy, we run the risk of falling into the opposite error [or heresy], i.e.that it is necessary,for Christianity, to change the whole socio-political system of a people This extreme [colonial-minded] view is unfortunately all too common nowadays; and it is dangerous. Isn’t this narrow attitude one of the main causes preventing the conversion of whole peoples all over the world?

As far as the Indian missions are concerned, it is almost certain that, such a policy, introduced today, would be disastrous. It would guarantee that, within a few years, there would not be a single non-pariah Catholic left in Tamil country. If the Policy was suddenly adopted here, the whole population would be alienated. There would be mass apostasy. And all human hope of ever converting [this part of] India would be finished.

But perhaps the policy could be introduced very carefully, little by little? The end result would be the same. There might not be ally sensational apostasies; but the Christian communities would become progressively weaker; and the pagans would become more and more hostile to Christianity. (Unless, by force of prolonged European political domination, the peoples of India (p 881) are going to change their [culture] completely?) .

Unfortuntely, in practice, this third option [over-riding the customs] is going to prevail, especially if European domination continues in India. Because it is just what comes natural to Europeans. Because the missionaries, also, will be forced to toe the [political and cultural] line. And already this third option is the only one being followed in the [Vicariate of] Calcutta, and in all the Northern and Western Vicariates.

But unless the, Holy See itself declares that this is the only policy to follow (I Will always resist it]. I consider it a disaster to see missionaries taking this line (which comes all too natural to them). For our Missions (and for those of the North and West as well) I much prefer the toleration of Indian customs. I am in complete agreement with the Jesuits on that. Always provided that we respectfully draw the line at the limits traced by the Holy See, and that aIways act in harmony with It, keeping It fully and constantly informed about all our own practices, and never acting [differently] without Its approval. True, all this would require easy and free access to the Holy See, or rather to the Agency set up by the Holy See for the missions. At the moment, unfortunately, that Agency (the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda) is not at all adequate, for this requirement.

Seminarians should Lead the Way. A missed Roman victory.

The three main Questions about Customs, and the different Options which they suggest, have had a tremendous number of important ramifications, with many [sub-divisions, splits and] shade of missionary opinion. My own opinion, for example. I did not think we should try to make the ordinary faithful give up any particular. [dubious] practice (tolerated up to now) unless the Holy See Itself made a clear ruling on the matter. But I did believe that Indian priests (and all those supposed to be aiming at Christian perfection) could and should give it up. And we (without using any hint of force or violence) should try our best to get our (p 882) seminarians to leave it. For this purpose, young clerical Students needed to be well and prudently guided on such points. And in fact I achieved some very encouraging results with them, personally. Unfortunately, even about the seminarians, not everybody was in agreement. And on the wider questions [about the ordinary Christians] the fragmentation of missionary opinions was complete. [And these were not mere theoretical opinions]. They were of a nature to be put immediately into [divergent and contradictory] action. What an immense service it would be, for India, if all those divisions had been dealt with [at an earlier time, when it was quite feasible to do so]. For, before the return of the Jesuits to Madurai, 168 the situation could have been clarified, much more easily, once and for all. At that time, everything was calm and peaceful among ourselves. Our own missionaries were relatively few. Our Christians were less suspicious; they did not think we were out to “paralyses” them all. We could then have explained the whole situation exactly to the Holy See, .and we could have demanded an absolutely inflexible and watertight ruling for the future.

Will the opportunity ever return? For one brief moment, I thought I had found it again, myself. I seized the opportunity; I took it all the way to Rome. But there it vanished for ever.169

Fr Leroux’s Daring Coup

All those contradictory opinions, plus a few special individual pieces of imprudence, contributed to the explosions which (p 883) rocked the Pondicherry Christian community during the whole of 1847 and 1848, and which came very near to having equally disastrous repercussions in Coimbatore.

I have already described the problems I encountered when I was in charge of the Pondicherry Seminary and when I tried to modify one particular Indian hang-up: their objection, not only to having us eat together with them, but even to having us present in the refectory at all, during meal times. That time, I had to retreat; but I did not give up the fight. I believe I would have succeeded eventually (just as I succeeded in Karumattampatty where the students, ever since the new seminary was completed, have always been eating in the same dining room as the Fathers).

But in Pondicherry, you had to go softly; and after I left, Fr Leroux went at it much too fast. His intentions were very good; but he did not always take enough care to keep in line with his Superiors. This is an unfortunate wide-spread tendency in our poor Society, inherent in its Constitution (as I said before). Vicars Apostolic have no real authority; they are merely “primi inter pares” [first among equals, if even that]. A very serious defect in our organization, but one which the Vicars Apostolic could so easily cure, if only they finally had the gumption to come together about it!

The tone of the following letter from Fr Leroux will be quite enough, all by itself, to prove most of what I have just been saying:

“Wait till I tell Your Lordship what is now being achieved, here in our dear Seminary! You will scarcely be able to believe it. But it’s true; I assure you … I am actually eating in the same refectory as our dear students! And not like Fr Roger (seated on the floor and eating with his fingers) but sitting up at a table, using an actual knife and fork! (And so forth). All our boys are delighted. Not a murmur, not a sour face among them. But the most surprising thing of all: the Pondicherry Christians are not making the slightest row about it!170

“A few of them did grumble about it, at first. But they soon shut up, when they saw who they were dealing with, and that they (p 884)

were not going to get any change out of me So, in one single day, without consulting anybody (for I knew it was going to work just as I had figured out; and then I would have their approval, however reluctantly at first) I have made a great step forward which would have taken you, My Lord (and plenty of others) at least ten years to achieve! For that is what you all reckoned it should take. Ages ago, I had proposed this simple move to the Bishop and Council. But I saw that they were taking no great notice of my arguments, and were going to hum and haw about it for a long time to come. So, under the auspices of good Saint Joseph, I swung into action. I had already lined up my artillery; and I decided on a frontal attack [on the dug-in Caste position].

“Everything seemed just right for my coup d’état. Twas Fr Superior’s feast-day; a Jubilee Feast; Fr Lazare was in Pondicherry. Above all, my tonsured and minor-orders clerics were in the best possible form and morale. (And so also were some of the other students). “You can count on us”, a few of them told me. “Just give the lead; we will follow. We don’t care a hang about what the Christians may say or do about it”. Seeing all the circumstances so favourable, how could I in conscience hesitate to do it, to accomplish this great service for the future of Native Clergy!

“The Council had a meeting that Sunday. I don’t know what [wooly] decision they came up with. Since I had received no counter-order from them, I continued to take my meals with my dear students (a very frugal fare indeed, but made tasty by the joy of being there, like a true father in the midst of his dear children’). They all think I am imposing a big privation on myself, leaving the Bishop’s table and going to eat seminarians’ food. This widespread belief (and I made no comment on its truth, one way or the other) went no small way in winning me the sympathy of the Christians and the school-boys. “How can Fr Leroux survive without his wine and his bread?”, they wondered. And this detail contributed in no small degree to silence even the hard-liners. They couldn’t think of anything really damaging to say about me, unless they came right out and labelled me “a pariah”. Which they did not have the nerve to do.

“Of course, in the midst of all the struggle, I had a few insults and humiliations to endure. I did my best to quietly offer them up to God … Meanwhile; it all seems to have passed off all right. For, today, I received a friendly invitation from the Bishop, to come to dinner tomorrow. “Your presence will be even more welcome because two of our confreres from the College Royal will also be (p 885) here”. So, with all this good news, My Lord, you can well under, stand that my oft-repeated response today is “Alleluia! Praise the Lord! May the name of the Lord be blessed, now and for ever Amen”. .

Leroux was Reckless and Disobedient

From that letter it can easily be seen how Fr Leroux’s enthusiasm and good intentions ran away with his common sense and even with his proper obedience to his Vicar Apostolic. No doubt, he did not formally disobey him; but he obviously acted against the known wishes of the Bishop. A subsequent letter [2 April 1847] confirms this assessment. I will cite it here, since it also throws a great deal of light on the [caste etc] situation of the Indian Christians:

“As for the [refectory etc] palaver, we all reckon it is now over.171 The Christians did complain a lot about it, among themselves. But nobody protested openly, with the authorities. With God s help, I was able to keep well clear of any “caste” trap they might lay for me personally. They spied on me continually (my every move, my daily behaviour with the students) but even the strictest observers could find nothing to nail on me. Unless, of course, I was to be considered a pariah. But they could not successfully square that idea with “the benefactor of our children”. The good Christians had nothing to say. The others tried; but our teachers and students defended me. Indeed this new situation (having to find arguments and reasons to justify and defend my action) was very educational for them. They began to see for themselves how ridiculous and how anti-Christian many of their traditional customs really are.

“One very good and promising thing has come out of all this. They are now beginning to make a broad distinction between priests and. other Christians [when it comes to observing caste customs]. “Priests are ministers of God; therefore they can neither defile, nor be defiled, by breaking caste laws”. With such a principle, (p 886) you could go very far indeed.172 Later on, with the grace of God, it will go like this: “All Christians are adopted children of God and brothers of Jesus Christ. Therefore they should all behave towards each other as true brothers”.

“At one point in the dispute, I thought we were on the verge of a “kalaham” [revolt]. Thanks be to God, it all subsided. It was a mere nervous rumour. .. Sit nomen Domini bencdictum!

“Since things are now going ahead so smoothly, I am determined, with the help of God, not to stop at this [half-way stage]. The road forward is too good. I am going to do my best to see to it that all the priests on the Seminary staff can eat with the seminarians. There should be no [culinary] difficulty about this; for it will be easy, here, to provide a good healthy diet for any missionary (wine being the only thing missing).

Arulnathan is writing to you in a few days’ time. Indeed it is to him and to Packianathan that we mainly owe this great new reform. Without their courage and conviction I do not think I would have dared so much. God in his goodness will reward them.”

I will quote one other letter from Fr Leroux, 10th September 1847.

“Great news! It is too important (and will be too priceless in your eyes) to delay it for even a single day.

“In spite of some strong opposition, Fr Godelle and Fr Géret have at last obtained permission to have their meals in the Seminary Refectory, to be here with our dear seminarians!

“Divine Providence is increasing the number of candidates according as we draw closer to true Gospel principles. Fourteen new candidates have come in, and we are expecting a few more also. You can easily imagine my satisfaction about that. God alone knows how much I suffered over the Refectory palaver.

“I will keep the account of our journey [to Trichy etc.] until another letter. A [historic] tour if ever there was one! Our two wonderful seminarians ate at table with us, every place we went. With Archbishop Martini, with Bishop Canoz, with the Jesuit Fathers at Nagapattinam, with all the confreres we met on our travels! Everybody was delighted with them. At Karaikal we met Fr Lazare; he came from Tranquebar to dine with us, at Fr Méhay’s house.

(p 887) “These are real victories. They have given the death-blow to the “Refectory Opposition”…

All very well and good. It had to come, some time or other. But a bit of common prudence would not have gone amiss. Why go ‘public immediately with this reform? It should have gone on quietly, Inside the Seminary, for a long time. Then [when the time was ripe] it could have appeared in public, quite casually, “accidentally on purpose”. Fr Leroux was going at it much too fast. In spite of all his confidence, I was not without some fears when I commented in my diary:

“Fr Leroux used Archbishop Martini’s visit to Pondicherry In order to let his Seminary reform be seen outside. The Archbishop had only just left the city. Fr Leroux and the two seminarians were to accompany him on the first 2 or 3 days of the trip. Leroux immediately took the opportunity; he requested the Archbishop to invite the two young Indians to join them at lunch! HIS Grace, having no clue about the seriousness of this move or about the fierce tenacity with which the Christians in our Vicariates hang on to their caste customs, saw no problem. Neither did the two seminarians. But the probable effect of this revolutionary innovation on the Pondicherry Christians should have been foreseen, and feared.

“On the pretext of “a vacation” Fr Leroux then proceeded on to Trichinopoly, Karaikal and many other places, where he repeated the same rebel act. Surely this was much too reckless totally lacking in “savvy”. God grant that it may pass off safely! Certainly, 0 my God, this dear confrere of mine is seeking nothing but your glory. Please give him the spirit of wisdom, as You have already given him the spirit of courage and zeal. Fr Lazare [the Indian priest] co-operated in this public infringement of caste law. I cannot but praise and admire his personal courage. But once again: was this .the time, or the place? Was this the way to do it? No doubt, the tune must come (and it cannot be put off very much longer) when Indian priests must stop hesitating to sit at table with us. But we should try to reach that stage without going out of our way to shock Indian sensibilities.

(p 888) “Still, maybe this new reform (so good in itself, so vital for the lasting establishment of a Native Clergy) is now going to succeed, much sooner than I would have thought possible. I always thought it must become possible at some suitable time. God grant it may be now!”

Leroux’s SECOND outrage. A terrifying QUESTION.

But now along came Fr Leroux with another shattering innovation, to alienate the Christians and thoroughly convince them that “his artillery” was really lined up to smash down a gap through all their most cherished customs.

When there used to be no tonsured clerics in the Seminary (and even afterwards, when there were only a few) the serving at the altar was always done by the “lay” seminarians (who were thus taking over the normal job of the Acolytes). They were dressed in Indian “angi” and had turbans (talappa) on their heads. (All the time; they never took them off). This is the general custom of the all Pondicherry Christians, at Mass etc. They never take off their turbans, even before the Blessed Sacrament exposed!

Fr Leroux now decreed that those servers must be bareheaded in the church. And this change soon became completely public, at a solemn Procession through the city.

“Sure, it was an obnoxious custom (I wrote then). But the Christians have plenty of others that are even nearer to paganism and even more contrary to the essentials of Christianity. Was this the one that had to be tackled, at this very sensitive moment? The Christians were already more than sufficiently annoyed, at having had some of their sons “defiled” by eating with Europeans. Won’t they now go overboard entirely and start a “kalaham” [revolt] against this latest outrage?

“That is what Fr Godelle is afraid of, anyway. (He has just written to me). He doesn’t seem at all confident about the way this one is going to turn out. He is very worried about the likely consequences of these two sudden innovations, one after the other.

(p 889) Nevertheless, as Fr Leroux insinuates, if the Christians are prepared to go into schism over a little thing like this (as some people now fear) does it not strongly suggest that Caste (which we have allowed them to keep) is really incompatible with the Gospel? A vast and terrifying question. It is well fitted to concentrate our minds!173

War of Nerves

Meanwhile (I heard from various sources) the trouble came to a head; it was beginning to become really venimous. Here is my summary, made at the time:

“It seems things are very bad in Pondicherry. Fr Leroux is universally blamed for starting it all. Fr Lehodey and Fr Godelle write that everyone is extremely worried. The Christians are now protesting openly, not only against the two recent innovations but about all their ancient grievances against the missionaries. They accuse them of trying to abolish Caste altogether. And, following their usual deplorable procedure whenever they have any palaver to settle with the priests, they are now threatening to leave en masse and never to set foot in the church again.

“The Seminary itself, unfortunately, has also been badly shaken. Several students have left, and others are wavering. One of the older Indian priests is making very bad statements in support of Caste. He is one of the rare old kind; his reputation would be “ruined for ever” if he were once to sit at our table. Fortunately [he is very rare]. We have only two like him; and they are quite old too.

“The Christians, jolted and knocked where it hurts the most (i.e. in their caste honour) are busy spreading false rumours around, and some highly exaggerated stories [about further anticaste atrocities]. For example Fr Lehodey writes to ask me:

(p 890) “Has anything happened over there which might remotely serve as a foundation for their latest rumor, i.e. that Bishop Charbonnaux has ordained a pariah(!) and that Bishop Marion Bresillac has given Tonsure to a Vannar (washerman caste)?”174 Which is a pure fabrication.

“It is true that one of the two boys I had tonsured, Arulappan, belongs to a caste which Pondicherry Seminar would not dare to admit yet into the tonsured “clergy”. But he IS far above Vannar status. I could never tonsure one of them; not even here, where the people are much less paranoid about caste than at Pondicherry.

“Bishop Bonnand is very pained and worried by the revolt. All the more so because there are such deep-seated contradictions between the various views of his missionaries about [the right approach to] Caste. Some are all set for immediate reform; others want no change whatsoever. To the revolt, some would make huge concessions; others would concede nothing. Some just sit back and laugh at the whole palaver; they say it will soon peter out by itself. Others more fearful think it is going to be a terrible tragedy. “The poor people! The poor country!”.

My two heroic Seminarians. General Strike.

A few days later, I had to write: “Things are going from bad to worse at Pondicherry. Everybody now seems to agree m condemning Fr Leroux; they say he was extremely reckless. In the midst of all the bad news, it was a great consolation to receive letters from Arulnathan and Packianathan [December 1847] which show their outstanding qualities as clerics, by the standards of any country. I thank the Lord that they were already officially enrolled as clerics before this present row started. (I had great trouble getting them admitted so much earlier than the long-standing usual age). For if they were still only lay seminarians, they would (p 891) not be able to stand up now to all the terrible pressures being exerted on them [by the families and the Christians]. For it is these two young men (along with Fr Leroux himself) who are the main targets of the people’s accusations. Even their own parent’s are savagely condemning them.

“They are in an extraordinary, painful situation. Indeed it would be hard to imagine a worse one, for any Indian. Truly, it is a type of martyrdom. And there is no end to it in sight, neither by a horrible apostasy nor by a glorious death. Which makes it even harder to bear (and probably more meritorious). Already some excellent seminarians (not yet tonsured but almost certain to be made clerics in a normal time of peace) have defected.

“At least, anyway, this crisis has finally convinced Bishop Bonnand to recognize (more openly and more effectively) one of the main principles in my [seminary] policy. He has given Tonsure to several quite young seminarians, much earlier than was planned, in order to give them the moral support they need, lest they succumb, like their class-mates, to the terrible pressures they are under. It’s an ill wind that blows no good. Amen!

“So, maybe this present storm was needed, at Pondicherry Seminary, to separate the chaff from the good grain (or to strengthen the hardy trees, those who always put down deeper roots, the more they are shaken by the wind)? God alone knows. But anyway we have to fear, and to pray. Because this kind of shock is not the kind we can afford to apply to a whole population. Too many people will be damaged, uprooted, maybe lost for ever. It could be called “strong medicine”, this crisis; but how can we be sure it is not mere [poison, to the people]? And when it is all over, will we have made any progress from it? Or been driven back? Who can say whether it is a good wind or a bad one? Anyway, if this hurricane is indeed the result of one man’s recklessness, if Fr Leroux (whatever be his good intentions) acted on his own, without the consent (and even against the wishes) of his Bishop, it was definitely a bad wind (an evil) in its start. His own good faith will no doubt excuse him before God. Nevertheless his action was objectively a complete disorder.”(p 892)

The Members’ List of Grievances. Seminary Closed.

The above reflections were inspired by several letters, including the following from Bishop Bonnand (17th November 1847):

“I hope Your Lordship has received my letter of the 3rd, in which I told you something of the public [sense of] outrage against Pondicherry Seminary. Things are going from bad to worse in the city and in the neighbouring communities of Manjakuppam, Koliyanoor etc. In the city, anonymous letters (pathirihai) are being passed around, in which all their grievances against us are included, all our “angaram” (uncouth insults). For example: our priests cat with the students. The pariah gardener draws the water for the seminarians’ baths. In fact he is there for the sole purpose of pariahlysing the students (!). Pariah food is brought in specially from the town, and distributed to the Seminarians. (A complete lie!). The history of the “talapa” affair (Fr Leroux making the servers remove their turbans at the altar and at the St Michael procession) has been re-written in such a way as to make the worst possible impression on the Indians. The new birettas are described as a diabolical trick invented for the pariahlysation of all the clerics! By our arrogant “angaram” we dare to wear leather shoes in the church, instead of going barefoot as we should (according to the clear order given to Moses by God for holy places) etc., etc. It goes on and on.

“Already many of the Christians have stopped coming to church. The women were prevented from coming to Mass last Sunday.

“A big funeral, at Digua Modeliar’s house, was interrupted with “alangolam”.175 To prevent the priests from entering the compound (which would “certainly be defiled” by the presence of “those pariah padri”) they brought out the corpse; and the priests had to meet the cortege in the middle of the street, surrounded by a gaping crowd of Christians and pagans! Everybody sees this as a big insult on the priests.

“Last week Tiagu [?] Mudaliar assembled all the Sudra Christians.176 at Maniakuppam, to persuade them to go into schism en bloc. (p 893) He held out the “wonderful” example of Sindurayar at Madras, and of all the Texeira clique, etc.

.. As for the Seminary, it has not been going at all well. But things seem to have calmed down a bit there, anyway. For they were very shaky indeed.

“As soon as I was told about the start of the turban palaver, I knew this was going to be a bad one. I sent a note to the Seminary, telling them to quietly prepare 4 or 5 of the students for Tonsure, so as not to lose them and in order to steady the general morale there. Only 3 could be got ready, among them young Abraham.

“The students who left are Nallathambi and Eorumai (he is a rascal, anyway). Saverimuthu was thrown out. When I went there, we promptly “drove” big Gnanadicasamy. But eight days ago a very good candidate, from Karaikal also left. Good Arokiasamy has not come hack. Another good chap, Papu from Aarani, was so confused [by the whole palaver] that he said he wanted to leave too. Many of the tonsured clerics were badly shaken by the outcry in the city; they would now prefer that the professors should not eat at the Seminary. Gnanapragassam (from Karaikal) went to see one of his relatives; he was driven away as a “defiled” person, unfit to enter a decent house.

“Ah, my Lord! What a tale of crosses of painful events! If only Fr Leroux had been prepared to go at it prudently, not piling innovation upon innovation, but taking them one by one and well spaced! We could have got to everything in the end, without a “kuzhappam” (a revolt). Fr Jean I the old Indian priest] used to say, at the Synod and after, that he didn’t mind eating with European priests. Now he says, “the native clergy can be one with the European clergy, except at meals!”.

A few days later, Bishop Bonnand informed me that he had now decided to withdraw Fr Leroux from the Seminary, as soon as circumstances permitted. And soon after, I got a letter from Fr Godelle. I summarized it in my diary:

“The Pondicherry Christians have now gone almost to the ultimate extreme. Nobody goes to Mass. Even worse disasters are expected.

“The Bishop has dismissed Fr Leroux. He has sent the seminarians away on “indefinite vacation” and closed the whole Indian College. The clerics continue to be steadfast and are behaving well under fire. Except one; he had defrocked himself (a

(p 894)

long time ago) and has now become a very bad type. May God in his goodness come to the aid of the woeful Pondicherry commun-ity!

*Bishop Bonnand Praises the Seminarians. Jesuit Poaching. *

Soon I had all this from the Bishop himself [8 January 1848].

“We closed the Seminary-College on the 27th December. Fr Leroux left on the 5th January for Vadugerpatti, taking six students with him: four from Vadugerpatti, one from Attipakarn , and one who is a son of your former catechist. We have kept all the tonsured and minor orders clerics, and also Mariapragassam the cantor, and Papu. These two still want to receive Tonsure, in spite of wind and gale. The rest have been sent home. Some were weeping; they did not want to go.

“We have consequently given leave of absence to all teachers, except Tanily. Frs Godclle , Mousset and Geret are still at the semi-nary.

“The majority of the Sudra Christians are still in “kattu” (con-spiracy) and refuse to come to church. Karaikal is up to now in total rebellion. Nellitope, Ulgaret and Ariankupam have not budged an inch. Indeed, “the things we had to undergo in Asia were more of a burden than we could carry, so that we despaired of coming through alive”.177

“But through it all, there is one thing I have to thank God for: the steadfastness of all our clerics … “

And why, in the midst of all his troubles, did the Jesuits have to come and worry the venerable Bishop with an extra trouble of their own making!

“Fr Saint-Cyr [SJ] came here to Pondicherry “on his way to Madras”! And Fr Strikland (English) met up with him here, “from Trichinopoly” .178 They had to travel onwards together. (At least (p 895) that was their story.) But now, he is retracing his steps, through Kolanur, Yslakuritsi and (probably) Kumbokanam! What a com-plicated series of manoeuvres!

“They say Fr Saint-Cyr was operating secretly here, to get some candidates for their College. Fr Strikland is going to Madras for that purpose also. They come here as our guests and they work to undermine us! But what matter? I have a lot bigger things to worry about besides the Jesuits. Pray for me..179

I could not afford to be indifferent to all the chaos in Pondicherry. It could have a disastrous effect on Coimbatore. Anyway, I still belonged to Pondicherry Vicariate, for I was still only Bishop Bonnand’s “pro-Vicar”. Moreover, the troubles led to a worse split among all the missionaries. One side blamed the whole thing on Caste, and on the [wrong] missionary policy of tolerating it. The other side thought it was all due to a lack of understanding and sympathy for caste customs. And both sides blamed “Luquet” for stirring up the whole issue in the first place. Which, in my view, was totally unfair.

The one thing that stood out from all the confusion was the admirable behaviour of the seminarians. Did it not prove, once again, that by giving them a decent education, we could indeed raise them well above their inherited caste prejudices, and make excellent priests of them, well able to publicly maintain the right attitude to Tamil customs, just as steadily as any missionary! Their courage under fire was well recognized by Bishop Bonnand himself ““There is one thing I have to thank God for: the steadfastness of all our clerics”. 180

(p 896)

*Personal Letters from the brave Seminarians and Fr Lazare *

One of them, Arulnathan, wrote to me [17th December 1847]:

“ … You are quite right: the Lord has sent us this time of stress and trouble in order to test us. But at the same time our kind Father took us under His special care, and fortified us with his grace. And, glory and honour be to Him, not one of us failed the test!”

(He then went on to describe the dismal condition of the Pon-dicherry and Karaikal communities).

“What useless Christians. My Lord! What ignorance of their Faith! Or rather, what strong and mindless prejudices, what fierce tenacity in hanging on to caste customs! Certainly, it’s enough to drive an uninformed person to despair. ..

“Good Gnanapragassam (Teteravu) has the worst battle to fight. His family are trying every possible trick to make him leave the Seminary. But the excellent lad is not shaken. He is unshake-able about it, and I hope he will always be.”

Saverimuthu wrote:

“It is really heart-breaking. At Karaikal a few of us still go to Mass; but the church feels awful empty. May God in his goodness give the pastors great wisdom and leadership, and make the flock attentive to their words.”

And Gnanapragassam himself:

“My mind was chaotic, with thoughts running here and there, like: why was I born into this misfortunate Caste business? .. Why was I plunged into this sea of prejudices myself? I was buried up to the neck in them; and tis to you, My Lord, and to my present Superiors, that I owe my liberation …

“A few days ago, I went to my father-in-law’s house. I met my father; he had come from Karaikal to see me. “If you are going to eat with those European priests, you will not be allowed to eat with us Velaju”. [Velallar?]

“Then, when I arrived at Karaikal [mission] he wrote me a let-ter, jointly with my two brothers: Leave the seminary; come and live at home. [Otherwise, do not come here again]. I ought to reply: “When I am a priest, you can invite me or not, as you like. Provided you listen to me on the things of the spirit”. But just now, that would be too haughty from me. Anyway, God in his goodness pro-tected me in all those trials.”

And the serious-minded Packianathan wrote to me [on 3rd March 1848] about the closing of the Seminary-College and the sad condition (p 897) of his few classmates who stayed behind at Pondicherry. He went on:

“Deprived, now, of all the usual stimulants which encourage students, the seniors (even those who had the courage to stay on) seem to be very bored with their studies. Whenever the little com-munity goes out (on a walk or something) they always get insulted, to their face. Those seminarians who left with a bad spirit. 14181 are now wickedly calumniating the brothers who remained faithful. ..

“Seeing all the rebellion that is going on, our missionaries seem to me [much too easy on them, much too] resigned to giving them as much leeway as they possibly can (without going directly against Religion or against the explicit rulings of the Holy See). Would they not do better to take a more courageous line, i.e. we want no Chris-tians at all except those who are ready to be out-and-out Christians, even under persecution if it comes to that! But what am I saying? Would I myself be a Christian now, if the first Missionaries had taken that line with my pagan ancestors?..

“Whatever about all that, My Lord, I am not in the least bit shaken from my vocation by all the nonsense going on around here.”

Finally, the Indian priest Fr Lazare wrote to me [before that, on 5th January 1848]:

“ … Those bad eggs did not forget me either. They did me the honour of attacking me (like they did to Simassamy, Arulnathan and Gnanapragassam from Kolanur). And so I was calumniated with our Divine Master. Oh how happy we feel to have merited to share, in some small way, the opprobriums heaped on our good Master, in a country where we Indians usually have so little oppor-tunity to endure such graces of persecution!

“If the Christians of Pondicherry and Karaikal (who should be relatively well instructed in their Religion) can stray away like this, for such petty reasons, what can we expect from the Christians in the interior? .. “

But let me quote from one more letter [written to me for New Year 1848]. This is from a quite junior seminarian. It clearly shows that (given the proper education) the young Indians have got what it takes to become virtuous priests, in spite of Caste and [*(p 898) *]all its prejudices. Education will set them free.

[But first of all, we need a common, concerted policy to-wards Caste, perfectly regulated by the Holy See]. We need to be united, agreeing to practise Caste customs, to tolerate them, or to forbid them, in a uniform way, according to the Supreme Author-ity. Then we can easily educate our seminarians in the ways of prudence, wisdom and truth.

Papu was this young lad’s name. At the time of writing, he was not yet very strong in French:

“I am very happy [in my vocation]. I also had to endure many temptations, but now I am steady again. Not my strength but strength of God. How? When I went home on holidays, my parents did not want me to return to the Seminary … But in the end I did come back, with their permission.

“But now I want to tell you about the miseries of Pondicherry. Some bad Christians in Pondicherry have blasphemed against Re-ligion, against the priests, and the seminarians. Even, they did not come to the Holy Mass on the Birthday of Our Lord. But many good Christians came to Mass. Karaikal is the same way as Pon-dicherry. That is all the news, My Lord.

“Here is a New Year. How many more people are going to be traitors to God, this year? Please pray for the bad Christians.

“Now there is no College, no class. I mean our Superior has stopped it all, to cool down this sedition.

“That is all, My Lord. You know that this thing is a big big temptation. But if we have the grace of God, nothing can shake us. And if we do not have His help, nobody can stand firm. Pray always for me to the good God.

“My Lord, I talk to you as to my father. Even, you know that I love you more than my parents … “

[*The Rebels’ 4 Demands. Mind-blowing Implications. *]

*Bishop Bonnand wants to Swop. Men want Luquet. Or me. *

Meanwhile, the revolt kept on, getting even worse. The evil seemed to be reaching a new peak. And the worst of all, as usual, was the split of opinions among the missionaries and the resulting discouragement of them all, both those who wanted to go easier [*(p 899) *]on Caste and those who wanted an end to compromise. Even the excellent Bishop Bonnand himself was not immune from the gen-eral discouragement. He wrote to me [25 February 1848] in lan-guage which showed his extreme weariness, saying that he had just requested Paris and Rome to relieve him of the burden, for it now seemed to him unbearable. He also informed me that the re-bels were now making all preparations to solemnly invite the Goa Schism into Pondicherry. And the French Government was refus-ing any help whatever, to keep them out.

“Meanwhile (wrote Fr Godelle on 1st January) the “kuzhap-pam” has gone beyond all bounds. The Christians absolutely refuse to go to Mass. The whole community is in chaos.”

Pondicherry community (along with Nellitope and Ulgaret) made the following demands:

1. A separate church for the pariahs, well apart from the present ones, which will henceforth be exclusively for caste people. Or at the very least, a separating wall, 5 or 6 feet higher, in the church.

2. Two distinct ciboria with separate Communions for the Sudras and for the pariahs.

3. Communion to be given with an instrument, and not with the priest’s bare [defiling] hand.

4. Two distinct classes of priests, never communicating so-cially, one lot for the Sudras, the other for the pariahs.

Now, when you get right down to it, these [outrageous] con-ditions are nothing more than the logical consequences of Caste. Not to have all these, and still hold on to Caste, is a kind of self-contradiction. That is where you are at, with the Caste System! And yet, can we seriously envisage forcing our Indians to aban-don it? What a mind-blowing dilemma!

“So there we are (went on Fr Godelle). Totally stuck; up to the axle in mud. One crowd shouts “Hup! Push forward!”. The other pulls back and cries “Whoa! Go back!”. And where, now, can we find a single clear head, a strong steady hand, to steer us out of this shameful mess? Maybe in Italy, at Rome? …

“Fr Leroux would like to go there and try to bring him back, that clear head … Many of the other missionaries, now cured of their unfounded suspicions, are actually looking forward to an [*(p 900) *]emergency meeting, to call back Bishop Luquet as being our one and only hope in this disastrous situation … The meeting is agreed in principle, but the date is not yet fixed.”

And a few days later, he wrote again:

“They say that Your Lordship may be coming here, to replace Bishop Bonnand at Pondicherry, and that the Bishop is going to Coimbatore …”

Fr Godelle admits that this would be a great relief to him, person-ally, and to many other confreres as well. News has arrived that Bishop Luquet has been given a special diplomatic mission to Switzerland by Pius IX. This makes his return here even more un-likely. So now they are thinking of me!

“Unfortunately, this “bright idea” also suits Bishop Bon-nand very nicely. But they are all just fooling themselves. Neither Luquet nor myself would be any better than the venerable Bon-nand at sorting out the mess. The trouble is not about one person or another person. It is about a tenable or an untenable position with regard to the whole question of Indian caste and customs.

“This particular revolt will come to an end, like all the others, out of sheer war-weariness. And it will start up all over again, sooner or later, who knows when? Unfortunately, the only certain thing about it is: that it will weaken the faith of the com-munity that bit further.

*Frankly, he put his Foot in it *

At this point in the crisis, I must admit, I wrote, to Bishop Bonnand and to other confreres in Pondicherry, some letters which I now thoroughly regret. Fr Leroux wanted to go to Rome, bringing a request from many confreres to Propaganda: to have Bishop Luquet put in charge. Also: to get down to the fundamen-tal issues on which (in my opinion anyway) the whole future of Christianity in India must depend. But obviously Leroux was not the man to send. So I quickly had to repent of any encouragement I gave him.

“It was with keen interest (I wrote to him) that I read your [*(p 901) *]proposed letter to Fr Langlois [in Paris]. Although I cannot agree with all your formulation, I have to congratulate you on your zeal and courage in fighting for a most fundamental principle which ur-gently requires to be put into action, right now …

“As for your project of going to Rome, I was going to write you, a day or two back, that I considered it excessive. Today, I have nothing to say … “

I went on to deplore the “weakness” of Bishop Bonnand and the “bad advice” he was receiving from two confreres. Excellent men; but one of them had “very narrow ideas”, and the other “had no courage”. Even if those statements were true (which is very doubtful) there was certainly no call to write them down at the time, especially to Fr Leroux.

And there was no call, either, to write the way I did to Bishop Bonnand [in February 1848]. My intentions were pure, I know. But at such a long distance I could so easily misjudge the [desper-ate] situation he was in! It is true that Bishop Bonnand himself had requested: “Please let me know how you see all this”. But a Bishop of his standing deserved a lot more consideration and re-spect than I showed towards him in that letter of mine. And at a time of such swift crisis and revolt, you have to be extra careful not to slap down all your (necessarily) confused and unsorted ideas so quickly. Anyway, the venerable Bishop was, in fact, deeply hurt by my frankness, in spite of the P.S. which I added at the end:

“P.S. My Lord, the above letter has been lying here, unposted, for two whole days. I can tell you, I was in fever of perplexity. whether to post it, or whether to keep my mouth shut. Obviously, I have now decided to post it, hoping that Your Lordship would not see anything else in it but a sign of my concern for your terrible situ-ation. If I am right, then no matter how painfully my ideas may strike Your Lordship, they can still be of some use to you; and so I will be glad I sent them after all. If I am wrong, please ignore them. I will not be in the least disappointed, provided you just write me a brief note to let me know you are not angry at me.”

[*(p 902) *]

*Belatedly, he tries to Pull it Out *

I was wrong. I’d have done much better to keep quiet. This became very obvious as soon as I began to read Bishop Bonnand’s reply. He complained about my letter, but in such a Christian way that it made me feel very humble; more and more, I consider him to be a Saint. Nevertheless, I was still disappointed that [he failed to grasp the nettle] and would not make use of the crisis to get to the root of the trouble. He could have set up a serious Enquiry into Caste (etc), and taken the findings to Rome. After that, we might at least begin to know where we stand, and what should be our common moral stance towards Indian [customs]. We would see which things (if any) in the practice of the missionaries need to be changed. Then, under the guidance of the Holy See, we could at last adopt a new, coherent and stable policy. But my dis-appointment took nothing away from my admiration for the out-standing goodness of the Bishop. I immediately wrote again:

“As I said, I was afraid my last letter might earn me your anger. Certain expressions in it went much too far, beyond my present thinking indeed. But how impressive and consoling was your reply!

“Another sin of mine I now regret: when Fr Leroux sent me his [proposed] letter to Fr Langlois,182 I replied [and commented] too hastily. I also thoughtlessly included some expressions which Fr Leroux could take wrongly. I am writing to him, now, to correct those, and to retract a few other statements of mine.”

And indeed, I wrote to Fr Leroux the same day [7 March 1848].

“ … The Pondicherry affair is turning very dangerous (and it will sooner or later, no doubt, affect Coimbatore). So one has to be very careful indeed about what one says, and even more about what one puts in writing. I am therefore very sorry now, about the gen-eral tone of my last letter; it was much too fiery.

“Furthermore, when I congratulated you on your courage in fighting for the principle at stake [a normal native clergy without caste hang-ups] I did not intend to congratulate you for all the moves you have felt obliged to make. Certainly, you acted for the best. But there were many actions of yours that I could not approve[* (p 903) *](as indeed I already told you, more than once).

“As for your project of going to Rome … I persist in consider-ing it excessive [and disproportionate] at the very least.

.. And I hereby disavow my post-script. [That man’s smart re-mark about Bishop Luquet which I quoted there] should not be quoted seriously … It was quite probably a thoughtless joke of his, and therefore it proves nothing. If all our own passing wise-cracks were to be taken down and cited in evidence against us, who could be acquitted?

“Probably you can already spot those flaws in my letter, even before I point them out myself. I hope you have not mentioned my imprudent remarks to anybody else. If, however, you have made use of them, I now ask you to please let the people concerned know of this retraction.”

A few days later, I was writing to him again:

“You must now have received my last letter, explaining why I am merely returning the letter you asked me to forward to Bishop Luquet… You asked for my advice … Please let me off that one. The goings-on there in Pondicherry are so extraordinary, so pain-ful, so complex and so sensitive that I will be very glad to keep out of them, as far as I possibly can”.

*Advice to Pondicherry Seminarians *

[By about April 1848] Pondicherry had cooled down a bit, although peace was still a long way off. The most important of the seminarians, especially the clerics (who had all stood firm) were able to resume their classes. Fr Leroux was no longer on the staff. And the prevailing opinion [among the missionaries] was: to bend a little with the times, modifying the common life of staff with stu-dents a little [especially at meals]. I will not comment on the much bigger concessions they thought they “had to” make to the Chris-tians. Such concessions are doubly disastrous when extorted by revolt. And anyway, they still did not satisfy the people. And they disgusted and discouraged the missionaries opposed in principle to the Caste System.

As has been seen, many of the clerics (they had all been my own students there) wrote letters to me. I felt it was now time to reply to them, as follows:

(p 904)

“My very dear friends,

On several occasions I have received letters from you. As al-ways, it was a great pleasure to read them … Today I am replying to you all together, because I have not enough time to reply individu-ally. Anyway, each one of you knows already that he is especially dear to me.

“I gave fervent thanks to God according as I heard (from vari-ous sources) what great strength and courage He was giving you, in the midst of the howling gale worked up against you by the devil. The storm is not yet entirely blown over; but I hope in His good-ness, that He will sustain you to the end. He will make you ever stronger. All the bad things that happen to you will serve only to make you more perfect ministers of the altar.

“I admit, your present situation must often seem puzzling and troublesome to you. The devil is very clever; he could profit from your present perplexity in order to confuse your minds and judg-ment, and from that confusion get down into your heart. But his tricks will not succeed with you, I trust.

Here is my advice about all that: Your perplexity basically stems from the fact that the missionaries themselves are not united [about caste etc.] They all want the good of Religion; but they can-not all agree on the right road to it. Hence all those different moves which sometimes look so contradictory to you. You may get varying opinions, perhaps even instructions, which to you seem diametri-cally opposite. Well, don’t let that confuse you too much. It is some-thing the Lord has permitted to happen. It was from those winds (from opposite directions) that this terrible hurricane was gathered and formed in the first place. It was still part of His plan, His provi-dence. And it will all eventually turn into good. (Unless the unfor-tunate Indians continue to pile up crime upon crime; then the Mercy of God might have to give way to His Justice).

“Keep calm. Listen to what people say. Observe what they do. Reserve your judgment. Continue to obey your Superiors, i.e. first and foremost Bishop Bonnand (if he deigns to tell you his wishes directly). Then the Superior of the Seminary, whoever he may be at the time, and whatever he tells you to do. A time will come when you will be asked for your opinion on the best thing to be done.

“May all the passing events be calmly registered in your minds, but only for the purpose of informing your judgment for that future time. Always, for the present, restrain your judging. Be unassaila-ble in your obedience. If you do that, I defy the devil to hurt you.

“Meanwhile, work without ceasing, to shake off the “old man” (p 905) which is nothing else but your own corrupt nature. Put on the New Man who is Christ Jesus. Soak yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel. Live on prayer and on faith. Get yourselves well practised in sac-rifice. And then the sacrifice of your honour-before-men, your reputation, your life itself, will cost you nothing. No more than the already-made sacrifices of all the empty pleasures of life, the riches of this ~world, the crudest of earthly desires.

“Yes, my dear friends, let this prayer be a true one from your lips: “O my Jesus, I am all yours. You are all that I desire!”.

“I hope, my dear friends, that you will write to me soon again. I hope you will reassure me that you are ready to suffer anything rather than desert the holy Cause of God. Even more: I hope that you will be able to rejoice in suffering something for Him.”

(p 906) (picture)

[*(p 907) *][I will now go back to the Vicariate of Coimbatore and to the beginning of the year 1848]. For me it started in Palghat District which I then visited in detail. After spending Christmas at Kovil-palayam, I went to Athikode, an important Christian centre not far from a cluster of villages that usually came in to Mass there without too much difficulty. But the Christians are generally a bad lot, wild, undisciplined, almost unteachable, extremely attached to their customs. Ready to call in a schismatic priest after the slightest palaver. They gave me a “correct” welcome; but the mutual suspicion was very obvious at all times.

“I am doing a lot of confirmations here (I wrote in my diary) but I do not think that any great progress will come out of this particular visitation. Let us just hope that it may be at least a small start towards some future improvement.”

The “church” was a sort of small barn, built on the land of a petty local lord. For in the Kingdom of Cochin it is nearly impossi-ble to acquire land outright. This pagan lord, however, could not demolish the church [for example] as long as we paid our proper “tribute” which consisted (I believe) of a few big bunches of bananas a year. There was no priest’s house. The head Christian, a rich man (for that country) had a house with several apartments (the only such house in the place) and he gave me a few of these to stay in. The house was about half a mile from the “church”.

There was talk of building a proper church. But where? [*(p 908) *]About that, there was a big dispute among the Christians. Some wanted it at the same place. Others wanted the centre to be changed to a small village 2 or 3 miles away, more central to the other villages. To try to settle this matter, I made several journeys and held several long meetings as well. The Christians would be able to help with the new building. (Though they were not rich, they were better off than in most other areas). But none of them was prepared to contribute anything for the “wrong” place. I was not able to get them to agree about the right one.

“All things considered (I wrote) it will have to be at Athikode again. Another place might be slightly more conve-nient; but it would not be worth the trouble and dissension it would cause.”

From Athikode I went on to Sittur; and there I met a more likeable community. The church is new, but tis no great credit to us. The work of one of those “slap-up” missionary builders, as short of good taste as he was of finance. No priest’s house yet. We had a sort of wooden crate instead. But all those snags were more than compensated by the good spirit of the people. The situation is good too. If we had a local clergy, this could be a nice little parish for one of them.

Then I went on to Vandali, at the foot of the Ghats Moun-tains. The Christians here were even worse than at Athikode. The same caste, they are, if possible, even more stupid, stubborn dopes than the others. I stayed at the public bungalow, for they have no church. They go to Vadakkanchery instead, a nearby town where the catechist, a real bad egg, is a long-time rebel against the missionaries. He is now a famous devil-chaser.

Vadakkanchery church has become a mecca for all the “pos-sessed” sufferers in the region. Childless women, especially from Kerala, flock there to be exorcized. The devil shows his presence by savage howling and pig-grunting, once the “exorcist” starts into his prayers. The catechist then takes a cat-o-nine-tails whip and lays into the patient until such time as the devil, after long altercations, finally agrees to get out. It is easy to imagine the ensuing (p 909) chaos, especially on big feast-days, when the “possessed” come there in droves.

The catechist is a notorious rascal. His face looks almost mystical, but he never goes near the sacraments. A few years back, Bishop Bonnand, having failed many times to bring him to his senses, had to place “his” church under interdict. The Christ-ians (he has almost complete control over them) just ignored the interdict. But the Keralans no longer came there in such huge numbers, especially from the villages where the interdict was pub-lished, by order of the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly.

I now tried to bring the catechist and his followers back from their aberrations; but all in vain. I had to omit their village from my [official] visitation.

From Vandali I went on to Blankety-blank.183 There are very few Christians there. They are of a high caste but of a very low and really wicked spirit. Their head-man has turned Protestant and has built a small temple184 next to our church. He came to see me; but I could get nowhere with him. And not very far with the others either, they are so full of caste pride and so well-practised in trickery of all kinds. No lack of intelligence here, but a spirit and a heart that is totally rotten.

Near by is the Keralan Syriac-rite village of Melarkode, served by a Malayali priest sent (at our request) by the Archbishop of Verapoly. I have already described that village [and its fine church]. I now stopped there, and gave Confirmation to several unweaned babies, according to their ancient custom. I spent a very enjoyable day with their “Catanar” priest, a very good man. It is true that, at Verapoly, the Melarkode Christians are reckoned not to be of much use. But they are by far the best in this whole area. So to us they seem (by contrast) to be little saints!

Finally I went to Palghat. It is a big town or city; but our community (p 910) there is very small indeed. The church was outside the city walls, in an almost inaccesible little yard. A small and ugly building, its brick facade almost visibly tottering. I asked myself if we could in conscience celebrate the Sacred Mysteries in this dump, and moreover put the lives of the congregation at risk! However, the collapse of the wall did not appear to be really imminent. And by omitting Mass there, I would have scandalized all the Christ-ians and disappointed many pagans who seem to have great trust in Saint Sebastian, the Patron of this “church”.

“What do you mean?” said the old catechist, a very decent man. “Saint Sebastian has been holding up that wall for years. Do you think he’d let it fall down now, on this special Occasion!”.

The most wonderful thing of all, however, was to see pariahs, topas [half-castes] and Sudras all mixed up indiscrimi-tately inside a church. The topas, of Cochin origin, have always had a big influence in this community. They are “mestri”, highly skilled carpenters, with a well-deserved and widespread reputa-tion. It must have been these who, over the years, had gradually worn down the arrogance of the Tamil caste Christians (who were few and relatively poor). It was to them, certainly, that lowed the very magnificent reception I was given in that place.

  • A Politically thoughtful Letter Home *

As for the scenery etc., and the other impressions of the journey, they can be found in a letter I wrote to my father, from Palghat itself [24 January 1848]:

“The district I am now visiting is the Western end of my juris-diction, at the foot of the great Mountain Range which divides [Southern] India into two parts, very dissimilar in size (and in most other respects). Here the Tamil and the Malabar [Malayali, or Keralan] peoples meet. Our Christians here, however, are almost all Tamil (apart from one small Malayali community looked after by a Syriac-rite priest)…

“I will not describe the geography or the physical features of this region to you, or its rich and varied products. None of that [*(p 911) *]would be new to you. The only possible interest might be to have a friendly eye-witness’s account of what you already know. For, today, who can be ignorant of India, so frequently described by travellers, and so thoroughly ravaged by successive waves of foreign exploiters? One after the other they come, ruthlessly ex-tracting her riches. Indeed they may end by making a desert out of one of the finest countries in the world, and reducing its peoples to the worst degree of poverty and misery. Yet if they only had a de-cent Government, they could be (if not the wealthiest) at least the best-off people on earth!

“But enough of those reflections, so painful to a true friend of these peoples! Those in a position to do something about our com-plaints would just ignore our protests and statements, or call them “mad”; because they are so much out of line with their own [short—term] interests. Their long-term interests, however [would be on my side] like the interests of Religion and of Humanity. But, to see these clearly, a much higher and wider perspective would be re-quired. And men so busy with real material gain can have no time for that.

“So now, what will I give you next, to fill up those “four pages” that you are so dead set on? Two small incidents from my pastoral visitation: 1. a night parade through the forest and the rice paddies; 2. my pontifical high entry into Palghat (or as some maps call it, Palacatachery).

*Night “procession” from the Forest *

“The village of Athikode is the proud possessor of a small church roofed with palm-branches (like almost all the basilicas in my pro-vicariate). But this church is “the finest in the land”. It is the Central Church for eight or ten little villages within a few miles’ radius. I had the honour of seeing them all for myself.

One afternoon, accompanied by two priests and a fair crowd of Christians, I set out for [the farthest] one of them. On foot, of course; for we had to negotiate some very narrow paths through the bushes. And especially, we had to make our way along a series of small dykes [or little walls] retaining the water in the rice-fields. To protect our heads from the sun, we had parasols; fine hefty ones, made out of a single palm-branch stretched on rattan twigs at the [*(p 912) *]top of a long wooden handle. So I went on, from town to town, in the midst of Christian acclamations, while the pagans stood at their doorways, watching the circus (me etc.) going by.

“At last we came to the edge of a great teak forest. Here our Christians are gradually cutting down and clearing some small areas for farming. (Not that they will get rich quick from this very hard work). Night came down before we reached the last village. (I was determined to visit it, though it was far inside the forest). At last we came to it. .. But now we had to make our way back to base. We had five long miles to go, mostly of rough paths and dykes. And at night, we had the additional problem of snakes and other harmful ani-mals. [But anyway, we had to set out, into the dark].

“Then, suddenly, the night was lit up by a blaze of flames and torches of all kinds. The Christians in the other villages had realized that we were going to be late in returning. Shouts and signals passed the word from village to village. The women took sticks from the fire, or lit bunches of dried plants etc., while the men lit torches or came out to meet us with resinous fire-brands (which they swung around to keep them bright) and with bundles of dry bamboo shoots (giving out a lively flame) and with little iron “baskets” filled with burning coconut shells or rags. These are sprinkled with oil and held aloft on a pole, giving out a big flame, with no scarcity of thick, black smoke! There they all were, around us in the night, jumping like deer, shouting like lunatics, happy and proud as lords on this great big occasion. And in this exuberant style they escorted us all the way back to the bungalow. Rarely did I enjoy such an entertain-ing stroll in the night.

*Extravagant Welcome to Palghat *

“At Palghat, however, my arrival was more serious, more pon-tifical. True, all we have there is a little tottering church and a small group of followers. Nevertheless, being citizens of no mean city, they were all determined to do the thing in style. Some of them are high-caste and (although poor) are very correct and highly respect-able. Others are of no caste, being descendants of unions (more or less legitimate) between Portuguese men and Indian women. Though coloured different, they have resounding Portuguese names, and they wear European dress. The rest are pariahs, but they are city pariahs, and they know a thing or two! They were determined (p 913) to be second to no “lord and master” when it came to making Noise, cutting a dash, and generally showing off. There were also some Catholics among the Indian troops (Sepoys) stationed by the English at Palghat; and these always have some money [to spare for an important show like this].

“I think I already explained how much the Indians love the ex-citing sound of gunpowder, rockets and drums. Be it ever so hum-ble, there is no Temple (and no Church either) that hasn’t got its own “artillery” (its gunpowder boxes and rockets) to take the place of your bells and carillons in Europe. These are used on every big Feast and every big Occasion. Gunshots and “volleys” arc also very highly appreciated.

“In any place, the shape and make of the guns will indicate exactly how far this place has come in “civilization”. The bush people will merely have a long iron tube mounted on a crude wooden holder. Its huge firing-pan etc. will be decorated with little red beads (or dots) inlaid in paste. Our half-wild forest dwellers have a long way to go, to catch up with the modern “precision” weapons (which of course arc always being further improved, e.g. by using gun-cotton). They still have to get to the percussion-cap stage, or even the flintlock. In short, they are still using a wick or lighted fuse to make their bangs. But their fuse is very clever. Each “fusilier” wears a roll of them on his wrist, like a bracelet. The little string of wick is made of special tree-bark, and it burns so slowly and so steadily that a small length of it can keep going for a whole day!

“But our citizens of Palghat were not so backward; they had flints! [I arrived there in the night]. While [my palanquin] was still two miles out from the city, the compulsory Music struck up, and the guns began to fire. Then the Music (which I have often men-tioned to you before, because it is always everywhere) was joined by a terrifying squadron of Drums, beating away at random, but stopping every now and then to make a new more concerted as-sault, fit to shatter the windows of the palanquin. Rockets blasted, torches flared. Bengal fires shone like constellations. And a stately Elephant, beautifully caparizoned [with colourful decorations] majestically approached, his huge silver bell swinging and clanking to his portly gait. He made his solemn bow, and placed himself at my disposal, as is the custom of all elephants in the presence of a great personage. (Many must have several elephants for their sol-emn processions).

So the Elephant led off, to the roll of drums and the banging of [*(p 914) *]bangers and the ragged volleys of gunfire and the whistle of rockets and the hurrahs of the crowd and the howling of the “kombu” and the squeak of the clarinets. And the bright half-moon in the cloud-less sky was suddenly challenged by myriads of fireworks.

“About 8 p.m. we reached our very modest church. The Chris-tians had wanted me to put on my mitre and hold my crozier, going through the city. I refused, not wanting to over-do things, in a pagan city under a protestant government. It was only at the “church” that I brought out the episcopal regalia. We entered, to the strains of the “Benedictus” chanted by my seminarians. Then I gave the pontifical blessing, asking God that India may one day be Catholic!

[*A wild Dream: if the English Government was part of *]

[*Christendom. But the Reality is: more of greedy Colonialism. *]

“And how splendid our Religion, in its visible aspect, would be, if the majority of Indians were Catholic! But when will that day come? To judge by appearances, there isn’t even the first faint glim-mer of its dawn. We must not imagine that our processions, our Feasts and Solemnities, can make much impression on the pagans. Their own are much more spectacular, more to their liking. For as their own numbers are much greater and wealthier, their feasts can be that much bigger and more splendid. And (what is more) in per-fect harmony with their [culture]. And they cannot even glimpse the greatest beauty of our liturgy, the inner spirit behind it. They watched our Christian procession going by; they were curious. But it was no more to them than the Muslim celebration they saw the night before. For they were confidently aware that their own Tem-ple Feasts are far and away more wonderful.

“And we must not fool ourselves, either, that the English Gov-ernment is going to be any help to Christianity. They leave us alone, it is true. That is their great merit. But it’s the only one they have. In fact their government is quietly doing us great harm all the time, by its protestant (or rather, infidel) attitude to everything.

No, the present European governments have no understand-ing of their glorious responsibility to the peoples of the other worlds. No need to go back to the days of Pepin or Charlemagne [to show how useless modern rulers are]. To the 16th century Spanish [*(p 915) *]and Portuguese is quite far enough. At least they had the Faith. Their first spontaneous, enthusiastic effort was: to spread It ab-road. Though they did not have the wisdom to maintain that prior-ity. They soon got themselves caught up in the deadly net of mate-rial greed. But the English heretics were born in it, being children of darkness. They do, indeed, have a peculiar kind of wisdom, a kind of human astuteness which, as Our Saviour declares, is the usual quality or portion of “the children of this world”. They are clever administrators, rich and powerful. Yet they are quite incapa-ble of ever transmitting Life; for they have not got it themselves. But if England were Catholic (even if only half as much as Spain and Portugal were) the English Government (with its outstanding talent for managing foreign peoples) would soon make India a Christian country.

“Vain hope! [It’s a long way back (or forward) to Char-lemagne]. Before his kind of unifying political vision can return, we will first have to go through a long night of darkness and disillusion, through many repeated utopian “Revolutions” each to be followed by the brutal oppression and humiliation of the delirious “re-volutionaries” [and of all the people] … Alas! If God does not some-how cut short the coming days of His wrath, whole generations will have to go down that road, before the splintered world sees another Charlemagne. Before there is a Government that is both Catholic and wise, strong enough to overcome all the others, and wise enough to extend true civilisation [like a new Christendom] to the peoples long suffering under barbarism.

“A [truly Christian world] Power, it seems to me, would be far less interested in continuing indefinitely to rule, by its sole author-ity, over various foreign peoples. For their [culture] can never be harmoniously subjected to European culture. No; such a Christian power would be much more concerned with teaching those peoples to govern themselves, under its general direction (and even, for a time, under its strong arm). For, by so directing them, it would have the honour and glory of creating new Nations, and of bringing them to the Gospel and to true civilization. A glory far more real than that of spreading material technology or organizing a vast financial empire.

“But (it may be objected) this is utopian. The first thing any European power must ensure, from its colonies, is its own Profit. And the only way to do that is to occupy them effectively and domi-nate them thoroughly; otherwise it will lose immense dividends.” In my view, such thinking is very false. It is a deplorable consequence (p 916) of a merely human political system. And it will always bear the mark of Cain on its forehead. To its everlasting shame, the only method of “governing” that it can envisage is: to loot the nations, or to exterminate them [if they are not worth looting].

“And even the material “benefits” of such a colonial policy on the Metropolis are very dubious indeed. Already we see Spain, Por-tugal and Holland reduced to second or third rate powers, simply because they have become intoxicated [and poisoned by massive in-jections of] gold from their overseas possessions. France has lost most of hers; and so shall England, sooner or later. And, please God, she will go down lower than Portugal, if she persists in pro-tecting so much spite and hatred of the Holy Catholic Church under her wide and powerful Flag!

“On the other hand, a truly humane policy (or better still, a truly charitable one) would want to direct the foreign peoples with-out oppressing them. Thus a great Christian nation would become a Teacher to her young nations. She would first (by force where necessary) impose the eternal and universal principles of Justice and good Order. Then, without any violence (but with all the au-thority given by superior power and race) she would bring in Chris-tian principles everywhere she could. Such a policy seems, to me, far more wise and (I dare to state) far more profitable [in the long run]. On this level (as on all others) the words of our Divine Saviour would prove true: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His jus-tice, and all those other things will be given to you as well”.

Of course, there would be far fewer sudden private fortunes made. (Usually they are as scandalous as they are rapid). But the Metropolis would save a lot. [Instead of a huge occupying army] it would have only a few well-fortified trading posts to maintain. These would be enough to ensure its continued power and influ-ence, and to cover its commerce. They would maintain its perma-nent and advantageous links with all the neighbouring peoples.

Also, of course, there would not be the usual torrents of gold, silver and jewels pouring into the Mother country. But these very torrents have often resulted in flooding and drowning the home country, by sheer excess. Then, when the torrent dries up (as it has to, eventually) the “victors” are left in a drought, in a financial de-sert, far below the standard of living they thought they had won for themselves forever.

“Maybe I am being naive; but the only thing I can see against “my” policy is, that it is too easy, too straight-forward, too true. Our [*(p 917) *]modern colonial policies are all based, ultimately, on some type of so – called Economic Philosophy or other. This “science” continu-ally addles its brain, trying to invent something that has been there all the time (for those who do not close their eyes to the Light, or pedantically deny the sunlight of Revelation). Because Revelation, in its universal law of Charity, already contains within itself the fun-damental principles of International Law. These principles, if hon-estly followed, would lead a strong nation to true greatness, to high honour, and even to much earthly good fortune as well. Especially, it would ensure peace, harmony and well-being between the vari-ous peoples. And what greater glory could any Christian govern-ment have, than thus to be true sons of God and loyal servants of his Christ!

“But alas! as long as this old globe keeps spinning on its axis, we will always have those stupid “wise men” to keep on fooling us, with their “new” theories, into hoping that at last [colonialism] is going to change essentially for the better. One form of tyranny over foreign peoples will just give way to a new “improved” version. But there will be no hope of any solid improvement for the people, for their fundamental well-being, for their true civilization, for the Christian Religion. No, not from any modern “government”. No illusions about that! If it is part of the eternal Plan that India should ever be a Christian nation [it is not from any “government” that this can be expected to come]. It will only be from On High. Let us pray therefore to the Lord, that He may finally have pity on these people, and on us.”

*Request for Reinforcements *

Around about the same time [6 January 1848] I wrote to Fr Dubois [in the Paris Seminary]:

“ … In the forests covering the plains near the Eastern slopes of that part of the Ghats, we have quite a few Christian Communities; but generally they are very bad. Nevertheless, there is some poten-tial there, in that half-wild population living in the woods and clear-ing them. They are more ignorant than wicked. I think they could be very good Christians if they were properly cared for.

“The Malayalam priests (who were in charge of these com-munities before they came under Pondicherry) did not [know how [*(p 918) *]to manage them]. They could not treat them like their own “Naza-rani” Christians, given the big difference in [the observance of] caste, and given their very different customs. So there was fairly complete confusion reigning in these communities when the first Pondicherry missionaries arrived among them. These, in spite of all their zeal, could get nowhere with them. They could remedy hardly anything. Anyway, it is quite impossible for one or two missionaries to seriously look after more than 5000 Christians spread out over a district more than 40 miles across. So, most of the old disorders are still going strong today. With the help of the Lord I am hoping that this present visitation will do some good. But, to follow it up, and to maintain progress afterwards, we are going to require more men; missionaries at first, and then local clergy.

“I beg you, pray the Lord to send us some labourers into His vineyard, lest the briars and the bushes finish it altogether. I am counting on your influence with the Council, to get us the minimum reinforcements of new missionaries that are indispensable for Coimbatore this year. Not in order to meet all the needs [of the Pro-vicariate]. We will never have enough European missionaries for that. No; but in order to enable us to lay solid foundations for the future, for the day when we will have sufficient native priests. It is these that will eventually ensure the establishment of our holy Re-ligion in this country.”

*Some Vicariate History, for the Directors *

The following letter to the Paris Council, which I wrote at Sittur [during that visitation] will give an idea of the then state of my Vicariate. It also touches on some points of general mission planning.

“As you know, the communities comprising my Pro-Vicariate have only recently come under the care of our Society’s mis-sionaries. Before that they were looked after by Syriac-rite mis-sionaries; and a lot of confusion had crept in to their [sacramental] administration. Although the numerous Saint Thomas Community had several very zealous, virtuous, well-educated priests, the ones they sent here were very few. And they found themselves in a very awkward position as regards caste.

(p 919)

“Our Christians on this side of the Mountains looked down on the kind of [caste-free] families that those priests come from. It was only by a continual effort that they managed to respect their priest-hood, by forgetting their origin. Of course they have a similar diffi-culty trying to respect us missionaries. But they don’t know about our families. They think they are probably all “noble”. And we don’t bother to tell them otherwise. (This kind of [devious snob-bery] is just another miserable consequence of the caste system).

The [West –side] priests had nothing to live on, apart from what they could get from the Christians; and this obliged them to be very severe about their stole fees and the other little compulsory con-tributions. Moreover, they had no Bishop behind them, merely a vague “gubernator” who could give them neither the authority nor the help and support of a Bishop. Nor could he do anything for the communities left out, without a pastor. (Of course we can’t either, as mere Vicars (or Pro-Vicars) Apostolic).

“Those Catanar priests (as they are called hereabouts) had all the disadvantages of foreign missionaries, and none of their advan-tages. Moreover, they were not volunteer missionaries but compul-sory ones. For the grace of wanting to be a missionary is something rare and special, in any country. So it would be a very dangerous assumption, to expect all Indian priests automatically to have it.

“All this background helps to explain the eccentricity of the Church set-up in this region, almost entirely under the local control of lay-men (village heads, catechists etc.) compared to the fine, well ordered neighbouring Church of Saint Thomas. It also explains why so many Christians in this area wanted to be under the “Pon-dicherry missionaries”.

But this desire was far from being universal here. [As you know] there is a special Indian talent for cliques and sub-divisions; and this guarantees that even the smallest village will never remain united, for even the space of one year, about any proposal. So, in our communities, there were always at least two parties [for, and against. the Pondicherry missionaries]. And (this may surprise you) it was the better Christians who were against. Anyway, the other party prevailed. I believe God permitted this to happen; and I be-lieve it will eventually be for the good of Religion, provided we are faithful, and do what Providence has the right to expect from us.

“So the Pondicherry missionaries came in. They did a lot of good, as you might expect from their zeal and their virtues. But we [*(p 920) *]should not exaggerate their success. (Indeed we should be the last people to try that). Nor should we try to ignore the bad effects of our presence here. It was the starting-signal for a kind of civil war between the different “parties” of Catholics, to the great detriment of faith and morals.

“The Malayalam priests dug in. They refused to submit to the Vicars Apostolic, even after the Papal Brief “Multa praeclarc“185. However, the majority of the Catholics told them to go. But they still make a few sorties in here, now and then, among their hottest supporters, to the great scandal of all.

“Our missionaries brought more fairness in judging disputes, more dignity in pastoral administration. But, over all, the Catholics were not better served. Because, in fact, only one man was sent here originally, to cover what is now the whole Pro-Vicariate of Coimbatore! In vain did he redouble his efforts, travelling night and day, risking his health and even his life. No way could he meet the spiritual needs of 20,000 Catholics, not even their traditional con-fessions once a year. Later on, there were two men. But that ridicul-ous number was not increased at all until a few years ago.

"In, order to win over the Catholics, our missionaries felt they must make an important concession: renounce most of the stole fees and most of the "thalaikattu" (the individual yearly contribution demanded by the Malayalam priests). The missionaries' generosity may seem very impressive; but it is going to be very dis-astrous for the future, when we are able to give these Catholics priests of their own. (And until that day comes, they can never be adequately looked after). The local priests will have- no viatique or “quarterly allocation” for maintenance (etc.) from the Society of Foreign missions. They will have to live on the contributions from the Christians, who have by now lost the good habit of contributing (according to their means) for the support of their pastors and for church expenses.

“That was the situation when the new Pro-Vicariate of Coim-batore was formed. The only difference was that Bishop Bonnand (p 921) had just sent two extra missionaries here. So I had four at the time of my consecration. Everything else was exactly as I have indicated above.

*The Present Situation *

“The presence of a Bishop here was a blow to the West Coast priests’ supporters: but it did not finish them. They have now, un-fortunately, turned into the Goa Schism party. All we would need here, even now, to capsize our whole position and authority, is a serious revolt [over some palaver or other]. We have no legal own-ership of the churches etc. So the Christians, if they wanted, could literally take them away from us and give them to the Goa schisma-tics. And the English Government does not even recognize our existence. They would reckon the Catholics are perfectly free to call in any priests they like. So if there was a fight or a court case about it, we would lose.

“That is one of the reasons why I decided I must buy a house at Coimbatore city as soon as possible. That house is now our own. So if the worst came to the worst, the whole Mission set-up would not be wiped out. [We could fight back]. Some of our communities would stay loyal to us. Others would come back again later, after rebelling. For we would have one unassailable centre left: and from there we could go and talk sense to the rebels.

“These fears [and contingency plans] were not without founda-tion. Immediately after my consecration, the schismatics made an all-out effort to take over. In January [1847] sinister moves were reported. A schismatic priest was actually sent to the Nilgiris. He is still there: and he is promising his supporters that, very soon now, the “gubernator” [priest-in-charge] is coming in person. He will sta-tion priests in Karumattampatty, Coimbatore, Palghat and other centres. None of this has happened yet, thank God. And I think that, now, an invasion of our churches by schismatic priests would be a lot more difficult for them to bring off. All the same, we must be prudent. And I think it would be extremely desire able to build a very decent church next to our house at Coimbatore.

(p 922)

[*Development Plan (20 years) for this Vicariate: *]

*Local priests for the Christians, Missionaries for the pagans. *

"By now I have got a pretty exact idea of how things are, in my Pro- Vicariate. I have visited all the main areas, except Darapuram. I can see that, in order to take some kind of proper pastoral care of the Christians, it is essential to have at least one missionary in each of the following Districts: Coimbatore, Karumattampatty, Ootacamund, Palghat, Kodiveli, Darapuram and Athikode. One man will be needed in the Seminary, and two later on. With that [minimum] number of missionaries [I would stop). To bring in any more, in my opinion, could be [a backward step], dangerous and probably unsustainable. So we can never have enough missionaries for all the spiritual needs of the Christians.

[Anyway, to have a policy towards complete pastoral care by importing sufficient missionaries would be wrong in itself]. They would all have to be [made stationary] and reduced to the level of European-type parish priests. That would be taking them out of their true vocation. Moreover, a missionary left on his own in a small village, grossly under-employed, far from his natural com-panions (and Indians can never be real company for him) would soon be bored out of his mind. The last state would be worse than the first.

“Therefore pastoral care of the Christians can never be made perfect, with missionaries alone. To be more precise: it can never even attempt to be perfect, never tend towards the proper standard of detailed care that would be naturally feasible in this [culture]. No. not until we have native priests for it. In each District we will then confide one village after another to local priests, under the over-all direction of the District missionary.

“All this can be achieved within 20 years, barring major acci-dents, if the Lord favours our Plan. The Christians will then be properly served by native priests in each community, under the gen-eral supervision of the missionary in charge of the whole District. He will then be free to do his own proper work [his mission to the pagans]. Then, at last, the pastoral ministry will be normal, done by normal pastors in [cultural harmony] with their flocks.

“Furthermore, a few of the Indian priests will soon begin to show leadership qualities. A man like that will be put in charge of a District. [Then another man]. Thus a new hierarchy of command will begin to grow up. And we missionaries, being thus released from most of the Pastoral care of the Christians, will at last be able [*(p 923) *]to concentrate our care on the pagans. And in the work of evangeli-zation we will be aided by a few of the Indian priests also, those who show a definite vocation to a more apostolic way of life.

“This plan looks very clear and simple, but its implementation will not be without some difficulties. The ground will have to be prepared for it, long in advance. It will need to be put into practice, step by careful step, without serious contradictions or harmful jolts. A lot of special thought must go into the training of the seminarians and the directing of the Christians. So that when the time comes, and the first priests are actually ordained, things can fall naturally into place, i.e. the new priests will be given all the respect and all the rights that are due to them (and will not be looking for other benefits that do not belong). And the people will be prepared to welcome them as their pastors, to maintain them according to their means, and not prefer to have one of us as parish priest.

“Now, to get to that stage, we need a certain type of missio-nary: patient and humble, devoted to true apostolic living; sensible and far-sighted enough to prefer slow, steady progress (unspectacu-lar but without hidden future dangers) to brilliant innovations which are often short-lived and sometimes disastrous.

*Seminary Training towards the Plan *

“As regards the seminarians, many of the education problems will. I hope, be overcome by certain changes (on which I have con-sulted the Sacred Congregation). If I can put these into action with-out too much opposition [from my confreres, we can succeed]. The main ideas are: Admit the boys very early into the clerical state. Segregate them completely from the lay students. Give them a care-fully thought-out rule of life, initiating them into things ecclesiasti-cal [and liturgical] by prolonged practice as much as (and more than) by book-knowledge. Here [in Coimbatore area] the Liturgy cannot be seen (and heard etc.) in all its Catholic splendour; so the priestly spirit cannot be absorbed by seminarians “through all the senses” as in some parts of Europe. [So we have to make a long, special effort. to overcome this lack].

“The Sacred Congregation graciously replied to all these Ideas, saying: “maxime probanda”. [Highly approved. or: They most cer-tainly should be tried out]. So we have begun already to work in [*(p 924) *]that direction. The only thing is, we have to go slowly, because of lack of funds.

“Indeed it is quite impossible, yet, to have a big number of stu-dents here. I have no building able to decently accommodate even the few I have. At the moment, I have ten; and there is only one small room for them. There they sleep, eat and attend class. But I have managed to collect some money [locally] and I hope, very soon, to lay the foundations of a proper Seminary. The Christians are contributing for it, in an orderly way. It will be at Karumattam-patty.

*Educating the People to Support their own Priests. *

*Viatique a Problem. *

[So much for the future priests]. “But the problem of the longterm education of the people (to welcome and maintain their own priests) is going to be even more difficult. Many of the difficul-ties are created by ourselves. Let us face it. Why fool ourselves about that (or indeed anything else)?

“It is clearly most important to get the people accustomed to providing the basic necessities for their church, and for the mainte-nance of their priests. Otherwise we will not be able to have enough pastors for them, enough to guarantee that every Catholic is going to have the [sacramental etc] gifts of God made abundantly availa-ble to him. Good customs like this, moreover, cannot be estab-lished in a day [or in a year, either. So we must make a beginning right now]. What we need to do, here, is to re-establish, gradually, the old customs which we so imprudently dropped. Also we must he on the look-out to establish new customs [of financial self-re-liance] whenever an opportunity naturally arises.

“Our Society’s financial organization makes this approach very difficult, and in many ways even dangerous. The main problem is our “viatique” [our maintenance money supplied every three months by the Society]. This allows our missionaries to be fairly nonchalant about petty local contributions. They easily dispense themselves from the trouble (or maybe the humiliation) of demand-ing them. Sometimes they can even think they are being very “virtu-ous” in ignoring such sordid details. Hence the people are being trained into a habit of [passivity] never giving us anything. Later on, they will tell us: “Send us white priests; they give us things. No black [*(p 925) *]priests, please; we would have to give them everything”. In fact, the people are already beginning to talk this way.

“Another kind of danger exists especially as regards certain “rich” stations. The missionary in such a community quickly gets used to being always well-off (with many [spiritual etc.] side-effects which I need not spell out for you). At the moment, there is a great disparity in the standard of living, between our various confreres. Some have only a bare minimum; others are quite comfortably off. These will find it very hard, later on, to hand over to a local priest, and go some place where they have “only” their viatique to live on.

*Realistic though Different Standards of Living. *

*A concrete Proposal. *

“Finally, even with nothing but the viatique, a missionary can still have a higher standard of living than most Indians. This can cause the native priests to ask: “He is a priest, the same as we are. Why can’t he live the same way as us?”. In actual fact, however, it is not realistic to expect European missionaries to live so simply. Apart from heroic virtue (which cannot be [legislated or] made uni-versal) our [complicated] upbringing and habits have made it im-possible.

“Foreseeing the possible bad effects of financial inequality, I try to prepare the minds of our seminarians to cope with it. For example, I tell them:186“The mind of the Church about the clergy’s standard of living is this: in any particular society, they should be in a fair, or middle, situation: neither too poor nor too rich. Not so poor as to have to beg (at least in normal times). Not so rich as to outshine the [reasonably] well-off people in the particular country. Our own missionaries, when here in India, have a standard of living that is far below the middle level of Europe, of their own country. Now you, as Indian priests, should live at the middle level of your particular country, India. That is not poverty for you; it is only the virtue of due moderation …”

“No; you will not be receiving the same viatique as the missionaries … (p 926) Yes, I know that the few Indian priests in Pondicherry are being given it. But if we do that, it means we will never have a real [financially independent) Native Clergy in this Vicariate. So, no viatique. One thing only I can assure you. By one method or another, the Bishop will see to it that you will not be short of food or clothing”.

This kind of reasoning seems to go down quite well with our clerics, while in the Seminary. But what about afterwards? It would be very foolish to expect them to accept it then, unless we ourselves make some drastic changes in the way we provide for the unchange-able necessities of human nature. In this particular context, our via-tique seems to me the wrong way to go about it. We cannot remove it from our Rule. But could we not ask our missionaries to use it only for the common good? (Either transfer your viatique to the common [Vicariate] funds. Or pay in what you get from the local community, and live on your viatique). By this, and by various other measures, we could ensure some equality among the mis-sionaries. A man would not become suddenly richer or poorer ac-cording to the station he was sent to. And he would be continually reminded of his obligation in conscience to neglect no method of getting the people to contribute, according to their ability, for the running of the Church.

“This is a very big change to make. It will be as difficult as it is sensitive. It would be up to you, Gentlemen, to make general regu-lations about it. Not for one Vicar Apostolic vis-a-vis his own mis-sionaries. They could easily think he was being biased. Here in Coimbatore, the revenue from the Christian communities is now so small that it is not worth talking about. (Or so it might seem). But isn’t this the easiest time to start a new declared policy about money? Later on, when the revenues are more noticeable, it will be much more painful to change the system. But once the right princi-ple has been established, it can be a powerful aid to our develop-ment. So, I pray you, please let me know your mind on this idea as soon as possible.

*No Evangelization Yet *

“For the pagans, this year, we were able to do nothing. For the Christians, we were too few to do even one-tenth of what we should [*(p 927) *]be doing. No school yet. No church worthy of the name. Etc.

“If we could only have eleven or twelve men, at least two or three of us could make a first vague attempt at evangelization. A vague attempt I say. Because, since the days of the old-time Jesuits (who converted all the main Christian communities we now have here) there has been no real evangelization. It is only by fluke that any pagans are converted. We have no idea how to go about serious sustained action for the idolatrous population. The work has still to he started from scratch, in this area.”

[*Hitting Retord in Defense of Luquet; not very Popular. *]

[After the Palghat visitation] I came back to Karumattam-patty, until I could move finally to Coimbatore. A lot of heart-breaking troubles awaited me there. The split among the mis-sionaries was getting wider and more complete, about Caste, about the Pondicherry revolt, about Bishop Luquet. I believed I had to stand by him. And this made me a lot of new adversaries. Most of our Bangalore men were on the anti-Luquet side. Then God permitted illness to strike two of my missionaries (whom I had sent to the Kollegal [the Bangalore side of the Vicariate, Fr Pacreau and Fr Bonjean]. And they had to go to Bangalore for treatment. They stayed there a long time, and picked up a lot of strong prejudices, which were to be disastrous for me later on.

Opposition to Bishop Luquet [among our confreres] was not confined to India. Bishop Verrolles thought fit to write against him and his ideas to all the various Vicariates of the Society. Some [Bishops etc.] were doing their best to block Luquet’s appoint-ment as Procurator-General for our Missions at Rome. I received several hurtful letters letters myself, including one from Bishop Retord. (Although he is the Bishop who has the biggest number of native priests, I could see that his ideas about native clergy were very inadequate). I replied, maybe a bit too strongly, to him [on 25th January 1848]:

“Since my friendship for you is frank and sincere, I will not hesitate now to tell you the truth: several passages in your last two letters made very painful reading indeed. They reveal several [very (p 928) wrong] ideas: No doubt you have formed them only after a lot of prudent consideration. But they are still [disastrous]. How the Lord could have allowed one of His saints to form them, I do not know. May be it’s a sort of judgment from Him [indirectly] on the unfortunate peoples of Asia!

“How I wish you could be freed from those fixed ideas, My Lord! I am as worried about them as if I was in Tong-king myself. For charity knows no greographical boundaries.

“I will also share with you how I felt about the comments which you had the audacity to write, concerning Bishop Luquet. I could only pity you [for your ignorance etc.]. And I expect, am not the only one you wrote them to, either. It looks to me like a sign of God’s anger on our Society, that so many of our men (even the most venerated) could be so blind! They go so far in their blindness as to smash the chosen instrument evidently sent by God for the liberation of the Mission the Joyful progress of the workers. But instead, they have driven him away!

“I pray that this frank expression of my deepest sentiments may be accepted by Your Lordship in the same spirit of charity which has made me write it.”

A short time after [in February 1848] I moved to Coimbatore, and henceforth made it my personal residence. There I was awaiting the return of my two convalescents from Bangalore, and the arrival of the excellent Fr de Gelis, who had got as far as Pondicherry.187

(p 929)

[*A lover of Peace and Quiet. So Why was I sent to India? *]

*Fr de Gelis. Coimbatore Bungalow. *

I have always had two strong inclinations in me; and they seem fairly contradictory: towards missionary life; and towards a quiet, peaceful life at home in my study.

To be on my own for most of the day, with a few good books. To put down a few ideas on paper. To look them over, a few days later. Find them totally or partially defective. [Correct them or] tear the whole thing up. That’s the kind of life that comes most natural to me.

It would go hard on me, however, if there was going to be no practical use for my “literary” work. So I would need a few [re-treats] to preach now and then, a moderate amount of [related] pastoral ministry, and maybe the smooth, calm supervision of some good Work or other, to balance all the study. Such would be the “ideal” job for me in this world.

But long journeys, palavers, debates! I have always had a horror of them. I remember when I was very young, before locomotives and railways were invented. After lunch I used to stroll peacefully along the tow-path of the Canal [du Midi] near Castelnaudary, my home town. Often I would eventually find my-self at the canal lock of St Roch, just when the Mail barge was tying up. The passengers came ashore there, for their dinner. Sometimes I used to gaze in wonder at this rushing, bustling crowd of people. (I wouldn’t call them “a crowd” today!). “How (p 930) lucky I am (I would think to myself) that I don’t have to rush around the world like those poor globe-trotters!”.

“Around the world” was, for me, the world between Carcas-sonne in the East and Toulouse in the West. Those were the ulti-mate longitudinal extremities of my world. That world was quite big enough for me. Indeed it felt far too big, on those rare excep-tional occasions when I had to journey to one of the extremities. Up to the age of 26, I had never adventured beyond them!

As for noise, arguments and “local politics”, I kept com-pletely out of them. There were some of them (naturally) at the Minor seminary, Carcassonne, where I was a “professor” for some time. At St Michel’s Castelnaudary, when I was a curate, there was no scarcity of petty quarrels and conflicts, between the various parishes in the town. They were sure to come up again whenever there was a procession, or any big occasion. But up to the time I left for the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary, I had never taken the slightest part in any of them. I thoroughly disliked all that sort of thing.

So [as I thought] the ideally happy job for me in this world would be some quiet parish ministry in a fair-sized town (but not a city) in [the South of] France.

[But what did You do with me, 0 Lord?]. You went and made me a foreign missionary (for tis You, I hope, that did it). And, out of all the possible countries, You sent me off to a place where I was faced with the most controversial issues on offer in any Mission! You alone know how much I suffered over the con-troversies, and how much I still suffer! Is that my special cross, chosen for me specially by You? Give me the grace, then, to carry it bravely. And for the future [after 1855] give me a continuing inclination (or rather love) for the foreign missions, if that is still your Will for me. That is the only motivation strong enough (with your grace) to enable me to conquer my natural phobia against travel, hectic movement or conflict.

I spent five or six months without interruption [in 1848] at our modest “new” house in Coimbatore. And I would have been very happy and contented there, if only I could spend my time [*(p 931) *]without hearing talk of “Luquet” of the “Pondicherry crisis” or the “caste and customs issue”. Or rather about the growing divi-sions which all those questions were causing among our mis-sionaries in India.

I had good company there, Fr de Gelis, a young missionary just out from France, a man of gentle piety, of perfect manners, of great talent and committment, and every good quality that goes to make an outstanding missionary. Unfortunately, these same qualities were too well hidden from the Indians, under a cold and seemingly unsympathetic exterior. And, later on, he was to find himself extremely handicapped by the caste system, or rather by the moral obligation [and inability] to form his own conscience clearly on how to deal with it. So the outstanding contribution which could have been expected from his many personal virtues never came to full fruition.

[In 1848] however, he was ardently concentrating on Tamil. For the rest, he was content just to observe this new strange land into which he found himself transplanted. Unlike so many of his class-mates, he did not know all the answers in advance. He was not ready to make instant judgments on arrival. I sincerely liked him.

Our new bungalow had several rooms, clean and airy, well protected from the sun by a wide verandah. One of them was now our chapel. And there, living under the same roof as our divine Saviour, I could have spent many a joyful day. No need to go out-side our compound for recreation. It was all surrounded by a high “cally” hedge, irrigated from a wide deep well, adorned with roses and jasmine, beautifully shaded by fruit-bearing banana—trees. [With its secluded peace and quiet, it was amply big enough for me].

[*Bishop Bonnand promoting me. I object. (Luquet involved). *]

[My troubles re-started when] the Paris Directors sent out a circular to consult the various Missions, about Bishop Luquet. [*(p 932) *]Should we create the post of Procurator-General for the Society at Rome, and appoint him to it? Luquet had too many opponents for that move to have any chance of success. In India, most of the missionaries were against him: almost all in Coimbatore, almost all in Bangalore, and several in Pondicherry. Moreover, by the complexity of the issues (but also by his own imprudence at times) Luquet was turning Bishop Bonnand more and more against him. Especially by the outstanding part he played at Rome in pushing Bishop Bonnand’s requested “swop”. (He to Coimbatore, me to Pondicherry). I had heard of this move only by vague [local] rumour, and then [from Paris] but under strict secrecy. I never mentioned it to Luquet.

Suddenly, all my confreres knew about it. And some of them were so imprudent as to write immediately to congratulate me! It seems that Luquet himself had written about it to one of them after sending Bishop Bonnand the necessary official forms for the requested transfer. I still did not know about all the details when I had to write to Bishop Bonnand [on 2nd May 1848]:188

“ … And now I turn to another matter, which I find very embar-rassing to have to discuss with you. I am receiving letters from all sides, and they seem to pre-suppose that Your Lordship is coming here [to Coimbatore] and that I myself am going to be sent to Pon-dicherry! Is this just a crazy rumour, or is there some foundation to it? If there is, then it must be either one thing or the other: Either an underhand plot against Your Lordship. Or else Your Lordship is actually behind this move. And if you are, how come you never consulted me about it? [It is all very surprising].

“A few months ago, it is true, I received a letter from a Paris Director, giving me the first hint of this idea; but that hint was given to me in strict confidence, and only as a far-away possibility. So I felt bound to say nothing to you about it at the time. I merely re-plied to the director concerned, to tell him what I thought of his scheme, i.e. it would be very bad. Not only for me personally, but also for the common good. From that day almost to this, I heard nothing more about it. And now they are writing to me as if it was likely to be done quite soon!

[*(p 933) *]

“I beg you, My Lord, tell me what is going on. If Your Lordship is not the prime mover of this transfer, tell me straight. I assure you, I will write back to them in no uncertain terms. They will soon stop hoping they can count on me to cooperate in any move that would be displeasing to you!

“I may indeed have disagreed with Your Lordship [on some points of policy etc.]. Whenever I did, I told you frankly. But I have never wished to do anything that might hurt you; and I never could. And never would I consent to support a plot against you. (I don’t mean “support”; that is unthinkable). I would never for a moment tolerate such a scheme.

“But if you yourself are the author of the scheme, how is it that you did not forewarn me? At least enough to enable me to parry the blow, and to defend myself. I could have good reasons for not going along with your plans; and these reasons might be of a nature to cancel all of yours.

"I know well that you have some rights over me. I am only your most humble pro- Vicar. So in any other circumstances, any normal situation of peace and calm, when it was a mere question of less or more work in a place, I should understand. I should make no objec-tion. It would be very understandable: you come here, to a more moderate job; and you send me to Pondicherry, where there is so much more work to be done.

“But the way things are now, this [re-arrangement of work load] cannot be your principal motive. Obviously, you are aiming at something bigger; a greater progress (or a lesser damage) in the over-all situation. Now I ask you, my Lord: how could I be the one to achieve that? How could I, still so young and inexperienced, do better than Your Lordship in all the complications of Pondicherry? Especially when several of my confreres there are still under the false but insulting impression that I myself did something or other to get appointed Bishop! …

“If all this was explained to the Sacred Congregation, it would obviously stop them from granting Your Lordship’s too-humble re-quest… I therefore implore you, My Lord, to have courage and suf-fer on to the end, as you have done up to now. Leave me the lowest place. Only keep your friendship for me.”

From His Lordship’s replies [19 and 24 May 1848] it would seem that it was Bishop Luquet who had first leaked out this transfer proposal.

“Inde irae”, [Hence a lot of people got very angry about it].

[*(p 934) *]

“It is true [wrote Bishop Bonnand] that I had requested the Sacred Congregation to put you at Pondicherry and myself at Coim-batore when it comes to seperating off the new Vicariates officially. But nobody here knew anything about it.”

And (in another letter): “I have already written to the Sacred Congregation to transfer you to Pondicherry and me to Coimba-tore; so I cannot very well write now to contradict myself. But I have no right to stop you from writing to them, any way you want. You know that I have long been wishing to settle down at Coimba-tore. The recent events here have only confirmed that wish of mine.”

A few days later, the Bishop received Rome’s authorization to transfer to Coimbatore; but in that case he would still have to re-main [over-all] Vicar Apostolic of the three divisions. He in-formed me as follows:

“At the beginning of last August I wrote to the Sacred Congre-gation. This letter of mine must have arrived at the same time as a previous letter asking them to go ahead and officially separate the three Vicariates…

“As I told you, I was requesting a transfer to Coimbatore … Fr Langlois [at Paris] did not approve my plan, and reproached me for it. He refused to say anything whatever [to Rome] in support of the idea…

“Meanwhile, I wrote to Bishop Luquet [there]. I told him of the request I had made, and I asked him to back it up.

“Now, from the Sacred Congregation’s latest letter (copy en-closed) I gather [the following]:189 Luquet found out that my request had arrived at Propaganda. [He did nothing about it, because he reckoned it was hopeless]. But later, he saw that the three Vic-ariates were not being officially separated. He then pushed the transfer. And he was successful, even though the Sacred Congrega-tion had not been intending to grant my request. What he obtained was this: authorization to transfer to Coimbatore, but still retaining all the rights and obligations given to me by the 1845 letters [dividing (p 935) my then Vicariate].

“I am very glad to have their permission; but I am very an-noyed that they have left me in the status quo as regards the over-all responsibility, etc.

“Before I do anything about this new arrangement [the trans-fer] I will wait to see your response to it. I would like all this to be treated very quietly. But as the thing affects you as much as myself, I have no right to ask you to keep it completely secret. “

I replied with the following short letter:

“My Lord,

I was busy trying to figure out, in the presence of God, what way could I write to Rome in order to block my being appointed to Pondicherry. And how to do it without hurting you. Just then your letter arrived, along with the copy of Propaganda’s. The pen drop-ped from my hand with the shock…

.. Anyway, I will write nothing to them without seeing you first. Their letter must be kept secret at least until then. That is all I can be sure of now, in my affliction.

“I still hope that “after considering everything again, before God” as the Sacred Congregation itself urges you to do, you will be just as convinced as myself about this authorization, i.e. that you should not even let on that you ever received it.

“I hope there is no need for me to show you that I had nothing to do with any of Bishop Luquet’s moves in Rome. The last time I wrote to him was 10th December.

“If, in spite of all my convictions to the contrary, you decide to proceed with this transfer, all I can do is obey. But I beg you, do not do anything about it until we see each other. .. “

To this Bishop Bonnand replied:

“As regards my transfer to Coimbatore, permitted by the Sac-red Congregation, I agree to wait, and not to act on it until we have met and discussed it all. But when can that be done, and where?…”

*Please come and Prepare a second Synod, and a Retreat *

*for the Pondicherry missionaries. *

*A qualified Yes to this Request. A hard No to the Transfer. *

For some time before, Bishop Bonnand had also been strongly inviting me to come to Pondicherry, as he was getting (p 936) ready to hold a second Synod. He was hoping it might bring some sort of unity to his divided men, calm down the discontented, and reach agreement on some common measures to restore order to the Christian communities still in revolt.

I advised that [we should meet somewhere] before that period, especially because of the bad news from Europe: the Feb-ruary Revolutions; and the [resulting] announcement of big cuts in the subsidies from the Propagation de la Foi. (The Bishop was beginning to doubt whether he could now afford to hold the Meet-ing, which he had already promised his missionaries). But he defi-nitely decided not to arrange an interview before I went for the Synod. So I waited.

Meanwhile, we exchanged a few more letters. I could see that Bishop Bonnand still persisted in wanting to leave Pon-dicherry for Coimbatore. Yet he was also annoyed with Bishop Luquet for “pushing the affair too much”! This [strange] attitude of his made me even more convinced that my own position would be untenable at Pondicherry. If several confreres could still be-lieve that I had “schemed with Luquet” in order to be made Bishop, would they not say the same, even more easily, about this transfer! That “Luquet worked it” for me, rather than for Bishop Bonnand! So I took a firm decision not to accept the transfer. Cer-tainly not at this time. I informed Bishop Bonnand of this decision [on 22 July 1848. I decided I had to take a very stubborn and “legal” line with him]:

“By the Papal Bulls and by Propaganda’s letter to me addres-sed on 3rd October 1845, I consider myself obliged to administer the Mission territory of Coimbatore. In both documents “the Pro-vince of Coimbatore” is clearly specified. There is no mention of Pondicherry. Coimbatore is what) [finally] accepted, not any other place.

“They can dismiss me; but they cannot put me in charge of any place else without my consent. So, if Your Lordship wants to make use of the Sacred Congregation’s last letter, I will certainly do no-thing to oppose it, insofar as it releases me from Coimbatore. As far as that is concerned, I will cheerfully hand over all its administ-ration to Your Lordship. But I will take over no other place.

“Without an explicit and formal command from the Holy See, I will stick forever to that line. And there will be no fear of such an [*(p 937) *]order ever coming. For I will show the Sacred Congregation how deadly its consequences could turn out. Because [I will tell them] it would re-awaken certain very bad feelings in Pondicherry. And also about what several missionaries there felt free to think out and to publish about me when I was first made Bishop. Etc. Moreover, even Your Lordship himself thinks the permission-to-transfer must be merely “the result of persistent pushing by Bishop Luquet” and not the real thinking of the Sacred Congregation themselves …”

[This tough letter put an end to the “transfer” idea]. Bishop Bon-nand said no more about it for a long, long time to come.

More than two months before, [24 May 1848] Bishop Bon-nand had written to inform me about his Second Synod:

“You know, My Lord, that I have more or less promised to hold a Synod next January. I wanted to postpone it until a much later date; but I know that several missionaries made a fierce outcry against any delay, in spite of all the good reasons for it: the untimel-iness of the January date; the dangerous political situation; the bad dispositions of our Christians here. […]190

“But now I have another problem; and I hope you will take it into serious consideration, and be willing to help me out. Here it is:

The agenda for the Synod has to be worked out, and carefully pre-pared … It would also be very good to have a Retreat for the mis-sionaries.

“Now, for all this, I need a man191 who is free from narrow views, a man who can size up the present and the future, a man who under-stands the planning of the missions and is able to point the way for-ward towards the true progress of the Church in India …

“I am hereby requesting you to be so kind as to help me in all those ways. I would like you to come here several months before the Synod. Then the two of us, having co-opted a few others who, we think, should be the most helpful, would carefully prepare ev-erything in advance, By doing this you will, perhaps, be working [*(p 938) *]more for yourself than for me [for your own dearest objectives more than just for mine]. I therefore appeal to Your Lordship, and 1 hope you will respond generously to my request.”

Our Christian communities were still very unsettled, [mine] by the Goa Schism, [his] by the caste palavers. So I felt it would be difficult to expect much solid progress from convoking a Synod at this time. I wrote to His Lordship, saying I was at his service in everything. But I feared I would not be able to render him all the great services he was expecting from me. Moreover I feared that a long stay by me in Pondicherry would not go down at all well with certain people; they might think I was merely executing the first “clever manoeuvres” towards a permanent transfer. (For they were already talking). So I asked him to consider all those factors, before God. If the Synod was still going ahead, I added,

“one of the most sensitive and urgent issues that will have to be tackled is Caste: the right relation of our Holy Religion with the caste system, and vice versa. At the moment, the situation is only disastrous in its utter confusion. Each Vicariate in India has its own different policy. Not only that; each single missionary has his own! Obviously, this is the road to ruin. With everybody pulling in oppo-site directions, what progress can be achieved? Nothing but a new chaos every day,[in one place or other].

“On this fundamental issue [of Caste], myself no longer know what to think, after all the recent happenings (the Seminary, the Pondicherry revolt, the utter disunity shown by our confreres). And I think we are totally incapable, right now, of coming to any rational decision whatsoever.

“No matter what our own personal decision may be, one thing is sure: we will have a powerful opposition party against it. No mat-ter what strong conclusion the Synod itself may arrive at, there will still be several missionaries (at one end or the other) who will not be convinced by it. They will hold that there are higher authorities than this Synod. And if the Synod finally decides not to decide any-thing, this will just be a further confirmation (at least for the time being) of the pre-existing disastrous chaos.

“This is perhaps the main reason why I fear the convoking of a Synod at this particular time. And why I prefer not to take part in one, if it is still going to take place.

“It isn’t that I do not want to tackle the caste issue. My whole soul yearns to have it solved, once and for all. But I do not think we have the means to do it, yet.

(p 939)

“I see only one way out of all this hopeless complexity, only one way that can lead us on to a solid and reliable road forward. That is, to make a Report to the Sacred Congregation of Prop-aganda. [This Report should be of a very special kind. It should not merely describe the whole caste situation]. It should clearly explain the various options, the various ways out of the situation. The ad-vantages, the dangers, and the likely consequences of each option should also be spelled out. After that, we should ask Propaganda to choose. To trace out the future policy, the line of conduct we must follow. And to impose it on everybody.

“Even if you agreed, My Lord, that this is the right procedure to adopt [the Synod should still not be in January]. There is not enough time to assemble all the material for the Report. And With-out it: what can we achieve? What else but to get further and further lost, inside this vast and inextricable Maze of caste!

“If [after all this] you still want me there, please let me know as soon as possible.”

Bishop Bonnand replied [on 11 June 1848]:

“I am very grateful for your good response to my appeal. I will let you know soon how I am going to arrange things…

“It was with very special interest that I read what you have to say about the main question of the January Synod. I had already been pondering that Question, and’ am still thinking very seriously about it, these last days. I see ever more clearly that, without a par-ticular assistance from On High, I can never expect to bring these things to a good conclusion. I hope that the God of all goodness will help me, and give me the necessary grace to achieve something use-ful.

“I am going to write to Rome, in the way that you outline. I will try my very best to describe the [caste etc.] situation clearly. And I will press the Sacred Congregation for a prompt reply. Please pray the Lord to direct me and enlighten me…

“The moves made about our transfers are no reason for keeping you away from the Synod]. On the contrary, they are a strong reason for coming, and for taking an outstanding part in all its delib-erations (as I am insistently inviting you to do). Your presence will let them all see (at least all those who want to see and understand) that we two are together in all this. That in the present very grave situation, far from working against each other, we are completely in concert. They will see that I myself have spontaneously invited [*(p 940) *]you here, and that I am happy and grateful for your presence. And we will show them all that, regardless of our own personal prefer-ences, we are prepared to put everything aside when it comes to working for the progress of Religion in our Vicariates … “

  • Our Missionaries, as well as Rome, must be in on the Decision. *

I was very happy with this letter of his. [Especially that he was going to write to Rome about the disunity over Caste etc.] But a mere letter to the Sacred Congregation seemed quite in-adequate. Something much more solemn and sensational would be required, to make them sit up and take notice, and bring them to lay down a uniform line of conduct [which must be followed]. I wrote about this to Bishop Bonnand, as follows:

“I was very glad to see that Your Lordship has taken what I said (about a Report to Rome) into consideration. But I also think that too much haste must be avoided. This move must be well founded and prepared, in order to succeed, and to ensure a truly lasting result. However detailed and impartial it may try to be, a mere letter will not be enough [to obtain a useful decision from Rome]. And even if it does perchance get one, that decision will still not take us very far. Not unless it is made plain, for everybody to see, that the Sacred Congregation has indeed been fully and fairly informed, by [the method of] our expose. Otherwise they will say (or think) that you (or I) wrote to Rome giving our own per-sonal slant to everything, according to the dominant thought of our own mind or heart. And how many will feel obliged to conform to that? Especially in this time [of crisis and division]!

“Anyway, the thing is much too grave to expect Rome to act on a mere [personal] expose, or to give us the kind of rock-solid de-cision that is needed here. Either they won’t reply at all, or they will give us some kind of evasive answer that will get us nowhere…

“Having long reflected on our disastrous situation, I believe that what we have to do is this: We must work out the two (or three) main options. Each Option will be an honest statement of the posi-tion held [by a considerable number of our missionaries]. It will be followed by a series of questions which will reflect the essential [*(p 941) *]“philosophy” of the group. Then the probable results (both good and bad) of taking that option will be spelled out.

“This document will then be submitted to the missionaries. (Either to them all, or only to the senior men; I am not quite sure which way would be best). Each man will have to take an oath that he is going to sincerely state his own real conviction about this [and not anybody else’s].

“After this consultation, the various replies will have to be weighed rather than counted192 at Rome. So, along with the actual replies, we should send the other relevant information: a table indi-cating the age of each man, his standing, his various posts, past and present. All this should be accompanied by a [synthesis or] Report on our present situation, and the absolute necessity of getting our-selves out of it.

“The only fear I have about this procedure is the possible reac-tion of the Indian people. If it became known that we were inves-tigating such explosive issues, it could make them even more rebel-lious. Perhaps there is some way to avoid that danger. But we must think well about it, and not rush into it.”

This fear, in fact, finally prevailed over Bishop Bonnand’s desire to follow [my] advice. It might indeed have prevented many mis-erable troubles later on. It might, with the grace of God, have saved India. For it could really have got to the root of the Caste Problem, and obtained a solemn and binding Decision about fu-ture policy from the Holy See itself.

“I am infinitely grateful to you [Bishop Bonnand replied, 30 June 1848] for the content of your last two letters … I am in strong agreement with you on the careful [and detailed] procedure which you propose, for settling the matter. But the enquiries and investi-gations necessary for gathering the required information [could not be kept confidential]. Something would be sure to leak out to the Christians, and start another revolution. So these investigations seem to me quite impossible at this time, because of the volatility and the suspicions of the people. And the missionaries themselves are not calm and cool enough to give good, clear replies.”

[* (p 942)*]

*Luquet’s Swiss assignment, pretty Hopeless *

The news from Europe at this time was equally bad: the 1848 revolution; a huge drop in the contributions from the Propagation de la Foi; Bishop Luquet’s very poor success in Switzerland. As soon as I had heard of his acceptance of that diplomatic mission, I had written in my diary [30 March 1848]:

“It is now confirmed that Bishop Luquet has been sent to Switzerland by Pius IX as “Charge d’Affaires Extraordinaire”. Certainly it’s a big honour for our holy and zealous friend. But isn’t there also some cause for fear? Indeed my own fears for him made me wish the first report was false. Unfortunately, it is now confirmed beyond a doubt.

“I fail to see how Bishop Luquet was talked into such a job. Everything we hear about the “new politics” in Europe (espe-cially Switzerland) makes it more than likely, makes it well-nigh certain, that no Papal Envoy to that country can possibly succeed outright. Or maybe Luquet is counting on a first-class miracle?

“Do I mean that it is pointless for Pius IX to send in a “charge d’affaires extraordinaire”?193 Certainly, I do not. The Holy See is too sollicitious [for the good of Religion] to be able to omit any possible chance of doing good, even where It sees that full success is quite impossible. At the very least, it may prevent worse harm.

“But this kind of situation needed a man already well tried and tested in diplomatic affairs. About such a man (whatever the end result) people would say (and rightly say): “If he achieved no-thing, twas because nothing could be done there”. Or: “If he man-aged to prevent only one of the many evils there, twas because all the others were unavoidable anyway”. They would still praise him for what little he was able to do, and they would be grateful for what he tried to achieve.

[* (p 943)*]

“And what are they going, to say about this “new man” who was sent in? “He bungled it, the idiot! He let that bad move hap-pen, the bungler!” Or: “Was that all he achieved there? Not worth the trouble of sending him!”.

So his career is finished before it even started. Something like that, without any doubt, is what awaits Bishop Luquet in Switzerland.

“But what does the judgment of men matter?”, he would reply to me. “Let’s do whatever good is depending on us, and let them talk”. But, O my God, prudence is not the same thing as mere human respect. The “judgment of men” does indeed mat-ter, especially where it is a foregone conclusion. It matters a great deal for the over-all good objectives you have in mind.

“Bishop Luquet is far too eager in grasping any opportunity that comes up for doing some good, without first carefully exa-mining the whole milieu, to see if offers some hope of success. How hard it is, indeed, to rightly evaluate your own [limitations and] strengths, especially when they are going to have to be used in combination with unfamiliar forces! To know yourself, that is already a perfection. But sometimes there comes a new situation, a specific task where you sense that you are not quite the man to take it on. Not because you lack the competence, but only lack a certain necessary flair (some je ne sais quoi) required for it. To be able to say, then, “I am not yet up to this level of good work”, that is a sublime perfection.

“I have no doubt that Bishop Luquet is well qualified to ren-der great services to the Church. But he can (for certain reasons) be lacking in prudence and good timing, as he has shown in some of his dealings with Indian affairs. Let us forget whose fault it may or may not have been at the time, and let us just look at the pre-sent resulting situation and the prevailing states-of-mind in these Missions. We will have to see that, de facto, Bishop Luquet has rendered himself quite incapable, henceforward, of rendering any notable service to India. He wanted to render many. And he could have succeeded, too, if only he knew how to use his strengths wisely, how effectively and gradually to communicate [*(p 944) *]the great Truths which filled his heart and mind. [He succeeded too quickly]. But will not his ill-timed victories now turn into de-feats? [Will they not be counter-productive?].

“And I greatly fear that the same kind of thing will now happen to him in Switzerland. I fear he is now exposing himself to being broken, again; and that thus he will be made completely useless, in the future, for any of the great contributions he is so well able to make. So his mission to Switzerland fills me with sadness and foreboding””.

*Now I have to be Prudent with Bishop Bonnand as well. *

And it was not too long before my fears came true. [He failed badly in Switzerland]. And his opponents must have taken cour-age from this failure. They raked up past controversies, and exaggerated his mistakes. [Maybe that was understandable]. But now a certain Bishop, whom I used to consider a loyal supporter of Luquet’s ideas, writes me some very deplorable remarks about him. And grimly I deplored them in my diary:

“That the Trichinopoly [French] Jesuits should be very ill—disposed towards Bishop Luquet, I can understand. Otherwise, they would have to forget their own corporate interests and seek only the Truth, for the ultimate progress of the missions, where-ver it was to be found. Certainly, they do want the triumph of Truth and the conversion of India. But do they want it enough to ignore their above-mentioned vested interests? Or does their es-prit de corps, instead, blind them to the truth? Isn’t that esprit the principal strength of their famous Order? And its exaggeration their principal weakness! For nothing under the sun can always be perfect. Only where the Sun of Goodness Himself shines, can we expect absolute perfection. So I suppose it is only natural that the Jesuits should dislike Bishop Luquet.

“But that Bishop [Bonnand] whose views and policy seemed so different from the Jesuits’, should now rise up against him, that [*(p 945) *]indeed is a surprise. I do not understand it. And I would not even believe it, if I didn’t have the absolute proof before my eyes. They say it was his recent contacts with the Jesuits that have given him those bitter notions, to be thrown at Luquet. I must say, I ex-pected better from him. I would not have thought that he could be so easily influenced. I thought he was stronger than that. I also thought he was frank and honest. We had often discussed Luquet’s ideas; and he never spoke badly of him to me.194 (Of course he knew we were friends). But if he had some “theologi-cal” reasons against Luquet’s opinions or policy, he never gave me the slightest hint of them. Maybe that was “prudence”. I must admit, I was so naive as to take it for simple frank agreement. And now I find I have to be “prudent” with him in future!

“O Lord! what a life! Having to be so cagey, when all we want is to be able to do some good!”

Ah yes, indeed! I have to admit now that we have often been lacking in that all-important “prudence”, myself and Luquet! I saw that lack in him; but I was probably worse than him myself at times.

“My dear friend”, I wrote to him about this time, “you are full of zeal; but you are very imprudent”.

In his letters he seemed to be [totally surprised that] Bishop Bonnand was now changing his whole attitude about the transfer [to Coimbatore]. We have already seen how sensitive that affair was. In actual fact, I believe Bishop Bonnand was never quite single-minded about it.

[Luquet was the one who let the cat out of the bag, the news of the attempted transfer]. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this in-discretion of his re-awakened Bishop Bonnand’s latent dislike. Then came the Swiss affair. Anyway, the Bishop now wrote me a very hurtful letter [about it and about Luquet etc.]. It even made me doubtful about the invitation to Pondicherry

“I will say just one word [I wrote back to Bishop Bonnand on (p 946) 10 August 1848] about the sadness caused to me by your last letter. When I promised Your Lordship to go to Pondicherry, I asked you to let bygones be bygones, and to forget all about past differences, which God alone can truly evaluate. Otherwise, I said, I would not be able to face it. And how can I be expected to face it today, after Your Lordship’s very hurtful remarks about Bishop Luquet?

“History will relate his great achievements and his honest in-tentions. (May God only grant him perseverance in His Love!). Also, no doubt, history will point out his mistakes and faults, unav-oidable results of our poor human nature. But his courage in recog-nizing them (and in trying to correct them when recognized) will show the basic purity of his intentions. It will also plead for our in-dulgence upon those defects which he himself failed to see (if in-deed they were real defects).

“Allow me therefore to stand up for him now, as I would stand up for Your Lordship if anybody dared to run you down like that in my presence. If anybody said, for example, that your hostility to Bishop Luquet stems from some other source than what you see to be your duty! About Your Lordship, as about Luquet, I would then say: “he may have blundered; but he did not go against his conscience”.

[I put this in] because we got some letters from Europe which ac-tually stated that Luquet had “betrayed his own conscience”! In Switzerland (they said) he had not only failed dismally; he had committed great sins! They went so far as to say he had “fawned on” M. de Lamartine, and that he supported the same ideas, about “separation of Church and State”. And, believe it or not, he did all this “out of political ambition”!

O my God, can ambition creep so suddenly in to the hearts of your humble servants? And is Bishop Luquet not one of the humblest? We have to wait; we have not the smallest solid detail to go on.

His letter to the Berne Council looks very regrettable, at first reading. That he made some blunder there, would not at all sur-prise me. But a real betrayal? That I could not believe unless it was proved twice over.

Whatever about all that, my own forebodings have certainly come true. Whatever happens now, he is finished in the eyes of the world. A great potential for good has now been destroyed, for [*(p 947) *]all outside usefulness. Ah, how deep are the secrets of Provi-dence! Let us adore them. “

*His Father writes about the Revolution *

Every mail-boat, now, from Europe, was bringing very grave news. And overshadowing everything was the [1848] French revolution. On 15th April, at Coimbatore , I read that Louis-Philippe had been driven out, the Republic proclaimed, and all social principles thrown into the melting-pot once again, with the thrilling (but misleading) shouts of “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality”!

In the beginning, however, serious observers were not too worried. We received several commentaries on the events, from various sources. But I will quote only my father here. Son of a Royal Musketeer, brother of three emigres (one of whom was caught with weapons in his possession, and summarily executed by firing squad, for fighting in defense of his King and Country) my father himself had been an [aristocratic refugee] up to the re-turn of the Bourbons. [Nevertheless] he wrote to me on 28th March 1848:

“My dear Melchior,

By the time this letter arrives, you will already have seen the sudden and unexpected move from Monarchy to Re-public. Many people were terrified at first, by that word “Repub-lic”. They thought they were back again to ’93 [and the Reign of Terror]. But the transition has been very peaceful, almost everywhere. Religion is being respected (which is a huge difference from all the previous upheavals) so there seems to be no big fear of a return to that disastrous epoch.

“There is no necessary comparison between anything in the past and the present situation of our beloved France (or indeed of all Europe, which is watching events here very closely). The whole social and political system of France is going to be knocked down and reconstructed on new foundations…

“The starting-point is going to be those three famous words: liberty, equality, fraternity. These words proclaim the dignity of man; and it is Christianity that taught them to us in the first place. [*(p 948) *]Before its coming, we had no proper idea of them. But will they be understood now as in the Gospel? Or will they be pushed beyond the limits of sanity (which makes them a guide to stability) into a mad utopia of disorder and ruin? God alone knows.

“Everybody had been expecting some gradual changes, and even desiring them. They could have non-violently transformed (or at least improved) our utterly dishonest and corrupt Government. But now, three short days of revolution have toppled it completely; and the whole future of Society has become very problematic. We now have a “provisional government”.

“The next step is to be a Constituent Assembly, and the big news at the moment is the Elections for it. Everyone over 21 is an elector, and everyone over 25 is electable. May it be a fair and just reflection of the general will! The procedure is not at all simple, and so the implementation is not going to be very easy either. Of course, no matter what system had been chosen, trickery could find a way m. But If we had two stages (the first being the local community) more people could actually go and vote; and this would be a fairer and more complete expression of the people’s choice. For they would not have so far to travel. What we have in fact is one direct vote only, by canton. Anyway, let us do the best we can with it. Please God, a good new social order can come out of it!

“Most of the clergy have decided to take part, and to make use of their rights as citizens (which had so long been refused them). Most of our Bishops are urging them to vote etc. Some Bishops and clerics are even standing for election as deputies. The Christian at-titude is clearly to be seen in the country. It animates most of the masses. It is seen particularly in the respect shown to the ministers of religion. So I maintain that the representatives of Religion should now come out boldly. The voice of sound morality should make itself heard loud and clear. They should go right into the great Assembly, and enlighten it. For it is there that all the loyalties and passions, all the truths and utopias, are apparently going to fight it out.

“All this massive upheaval was accomplished in three short days, my dear friend, just as in 1830. Most people were rather glad. Political corruption had become so blatant, so demoralizing for all classes, so disgusting! It just could not go on much longer without a total collapse.

“Almost all [government] careers are abolished. The army is (p 949) the least affected. And the clergy not at all. Industry and commerce are going through an extremely bad time. Fortunes lost, ban-kruptcies every day, etc. Numerous frauds, taking advantage (as usual) of the crisis. We ourselves have just become victims of one; we will not be paid for our wheat. It's a big problem; for money has become so scarce! Speculation on the necessities of life has pushed up the prices of everything. And the government (because of the previous waste) has had to increase taxes 45 %!

“I have no need to tell you to trust in Him who directs all things, if not always as we would like, certainly always for the best. Your confidence in Him cannot fail you. But I will ask you not to worry yourself too much about us. Everything has gone very peace-fully up to now. And there is no indication that it is going to change…”

*A Hero of Faith and Fatherland *

Then, on the 25th July, he wrote again:

“I thought that by now I would be able to tell you what sort of a Government we are going to have. Of course it has to be a Repub-lic. After the sudden and unforeseen toppling of the last one, it couldn’t very well be anything else. But the exact kind cannot be known until the Constitution has been finalized. It is still being studied. Anyway, I don’t mind what kind, provided it is moderate and sensible, guaranteeing all material, and especially all moral, rights. Then our dear Country will have some hope of being happy and prosperous again, and may look forward to some more cen-turies of Glory.

“By the time you receive this letter you will have read of some of the crazy attempts made, to drag us back to the state of savages. Attempts to bring back the mad days of the First Republic, con-demned by history (and always to be condemned. in spite of some recent attempts to rehabilitate the ring-leaders). You will already know of the last battle fought by the defenders of Order, in Paris, and how costly it was for the true friends of France. Never in any battle have so many brave Generals fallen, noble martyrs of their own unflinching devotion to Duty.

“Archbishop Affre of Paris [went out to the rebel barricades on 25th June]. Ignoring the cautious advice of his friends, and [*(p 950) *]forgetting all the danger to himself, he calmly waved back the generous crowd who wanted to shield him with their bodies. With a green palm branch in his hand, he moved forward (alone except for two disciples) and spoke words of peace [to the rebels]. They lis-tened. He almost reached victory, there at the gates of death. But hell was watching. A cowardly hanger-on, hiding well above the line of fire, took aim. His miserable heart hardened by spite and hatred, like the coward that he was, he fired on the Archbishop. The great prelate fell. Firing recommenced. But horror at the atro-cious murder now weakened the rebels’ defences. Some of them left the barricade and ran out to help the glorious martyr, who had thus given his life to save them all from their own madness. He saw their tears; he heard their sobs of repentance. In the middle of the furious, raging battle, a little area of quiet descended. No howls or battle-cries here; he had only to raise his hand in blessing and it all ceased. As they bore him back to his palace, people on the way turned to express their homage, their love and respect. And when the Lord called his noble soul home to Him (to crown him with the double palm, a hero of the Faith and a hero of the Fatherland) the mob gathered round his coffin, on their knees, asking him to please bless them from Heaven as he had already blessed some of them here below …

“This heroic episode in our civil “discussions” must have some good results for France. And already, the papers say, it has had some effect abroad, rallying the good and deterring the bad. For, as you know, Italy and Germany are now no quieter than we are. There is no country in Europe, maybe not in the whole world, that does not feel the repercussions of our political earthquake. Yes in-deed, France is like the giant Atlas, bearing the world on his shoul-ders. When he stirs, the whole world totters.

“There is no need, either, to tell you about the death of Chateaubriand …”

[*Which kind of Republic now? *]

And on 28th September, he told me:

“….. There is such disarray that anything can be expected, good as well as bad (in my way of seeing it). For my philosophy is one of Hope; and it shows me the first faint tints of dawn through the storm, a rainbow forming behind the dark clouds.

(p 951)

“Just a glimpse at the present situation in Europe: Com-munism and Socialism are threatening the whole social order. Shouting “liberty, fraternity, equality”, they are preparing new chains for humanity, a harsher slavery, the horrors of a new up-to-date barbarism. But good men are resisting them. And Christianity (which first taught us true liberty, real fraternity, inner equality) still has enough influence on the masses to halt the invasion of those deadly mindless catchwords. But their instigators have two very useful and clever ways for misleading the masses: First, the seduc-tive mirage of well-being and pleasures (the more unattainable, the more attractive). Second, the terror and confusion caused by the horrible disorder which they are trying to stir up everywhere.

“The friends of Good Order are now forced to repent of their greed. Long misled by material prosperity (neglecting moral prog-ress) they now see their whole precious society under attack at its very foundations (family, property etc.). And they are returning from their error, and trying to find their way back to the Divine Law, the only solid basis for any just social order. But most of those politicians (especially those most popular with the masses) have often, in the past, shouted their own share of “liberty” etc. (For they did not see the deadly danger of those slogans). So now they cannot suddenly be too severe on those old acquaintances (or friends). Therefore they are only fighting them rather flabbily.

“But (compared to 1793 and 1830) there is no attack on Relig-ion. The extremists have no really dangerous supporters except in the big cities. Even there, it is only in the faubourgs [the slums] that they can enforce their riots. The real people of the city are not with them. If only the politicians had a bit more of courage and pat-riotism, a bit less of selfishness and cunning, they would soon break entirely with the extremists. (And it must be done some time). They would shake off the dust and filth that is clung on their own feet, from walking so long with those criminals. Then would France re-gain her glorious pedestal and enter into new centuries of glory and prosperity!

“We still have no Constitution. They are working on it. They are busy trying to frame new Fundamental Laws and somehow to harmonize them with our ancient [Christian] precepts, which have the authority of the centuries behind them. A ticklish operation indeed. The trouble is, they are far too proud and pedantic to be sim-ple and straightforward about it. For example, the Articles already voted are all implicitly contained in the Divine Law (which can never safely be put aside). But the wording is always carefully different; (p 952) and they pretend that these are all “new” inventions.

“But we are still in the midst of a great struggle, between two possible Republics: the extremist, communist, socialist one; and the sane and honest republic. The good Republic has infinitely more supporters. But the supporters of the crazy one are infinitely more daring, more enterprising and ruthless. Hence the danger of the times, and their uncertainty.

“None of the countries around us is in peace, except little Bel-gium and astute England (always clever at fishing in troubled wat-ers). Cholera is at our gates. It is already raging in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg. In Italy, after the recent events, peace is far from stable.

‘There is no money or trade to keep the factories going. War and plague are threatening the country. People’s lives are dis-turbed, their imaginations sunk in gloom. So there is not much gai-ety around. Even at our village festivals, the people don’t dance very convincingly.

“May God place a steadying hand on it all, and give us back something of our ancient way of life, improved by what is best in modern experience! (For God wants progress). The picture I have painted for you is not very entrancing. But I can only send you what we have. It would be very dark indeed, but for the few rosy gleams of hope to be seen through it here and there. In this massive politi-cal foul-up, our whole existence is being jolted and knocked about. But anyway, we are surviving. The health is good. God be praised! … “

[*More Royalist than his Father (but Ultramontane). *]

My own reactions at the time I find consigned to my diary for 8 May 1848:

“Political upheavals in Europe are bound to have some re-percussions here. But France is such small fry in India! (It’s hard for a Frenchman to write that; but it’s the truth. And maybe it ought to be better realized in France itself!). So, unless England is pulled into the revolutionary whirlpool, we will hardly feel any-thing of it here. The only big repercussion here would be if the work of the Propagation de la Foi was seriously disturbed [by the Revolution].

(p 953)

“But what about Italy? It’s a powder-keg that needs only a spark to explode it. And what might they not do to the Head of the Church then? That could have much worse effects on our Mis-sions than any new revolution or disaster in France. Anyway, all that is in the hands of God, known to Him alone. All we know is, He will not abandon His Church.

“So we just have to be prudent now, in case the Propagation de la Foi finds itself unable to help us, for a while. Let us pray that it may not collapse entirely; materially speaking, it’s our only sup-port.

“The new French Revolution [Government] is also going to have to take over the [Vietnam] affair.195Anyway, the Louis-Philippe government has been pretty useless to the missionaries there, being hardly Christian at all. Maybe the Republic will take a stronger line, and protect Christianity, or at least care a bit about the honour of its own Flag. A missionary is a French citizen; therefore he should deserve its protection, at least as much as a French tourist there for his pleasure, or a merchant there for his trading, or a scientist there for his research. So why can we not hope that the Republic may at last do something for our perse-cuted confreres in Tong-king and Cochin-China, at least a bit more than the Louis-Philippe government would have done?

“But don’t let us expect too much from this new Republic. True, it seems to be more favourable than hostile to Religion, so far. Nevertheless, I do not think that good people can long be sin-cere republicans, in France. Of course many may be carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment. It is so thrilling to see all that L’IBERTY, FRATERNITY, EQUALITY splashed on the flags and on the public buildings etc! And the guillotine, that great “equalizer”, has not yet been set up again, to cure their over-en-thusiasm and their illusions.

“So now, for the time being, there is an innumerable crowd (p 954) of “republicans” among the good sand fairly good Christians (as well as most of the wicked; they must nearly all be Republicans). There are even priest “republicans”, and even missionaries if you don’t mind! Many of our confreres are showing signs of it, some of them rather peculiar. For example, Bishop Charbonnaux men-tioned it in a recent letter: “The other day, Fr [de Kerizouet] signed himself: “Comrade Antoni, ci-devant [former aristocrat] de Kerizouet”, Here, some of them would like to call me “Com-rade Bishop”. What is the latest tendency in your place?”.

“Well here, alas, as well as in Mysore, there is certainly some republicanism inside the heads of our young confreres. And it isn’t all a joke either… But it won’t last, this Republic. Either it will soon collapse, or it will proceed to become intolerable. No, France is not made for that kind of government. But after this Re-public, what next?

Let us not risk any prophesying. There are too many false prophets around, as it is. Only, I can see (painfully) that the legitimist [Royalist] party (the only one I like, simply because they are in the right) has no chance of success. The party leaders are politically stupid, that’s all. Not that they are in any way worse than the others. But God seems to deprive them of the practical understanding of people and politics. It’s like a punishment on them for always trying to evade His Justice. They have not even admitted their past faults, which were the real source of the [first] Revolution, and the ruination of the Bourbons. Their cause is just, in principle; but does anyone of their supporters show the slightest sign [in practice] of being interested in any consideration above the level of mere politics? They have, indeed, more good Christians than any other party (Philippist, Republican, Bonapartist etc.). But how pure is their Catholicism? Will God let Gallicanism creep back on to the throne of France, or a new King who still seems obliged to support it? I think not.

“After the terrible catastrophe of [the First Revolution] the sons of Saint Louis were given another chance, a time to come to their senses, to self-recognition and humility before the universal Church of Christ. They had the honour of being the “eldest sons” of the Church. Not in order to lord it over her, but in order to give the Christian world an example of perfect filial obedience, and to [*(p 955) *]give their Mother the support of their strong right arms. Louis XVIII, and even Charles X that good Christian himself, did not even open their eyes to see that duty. Someone might truly have said, “The real cause (perhaps the only cause) which shook the foundations of France was Gallicanism”. But the royal entourage (and worse still, many of the Bishops) would just have smiled in pity at such naivety. And God has abandoned them to their own blindness.

“Among friends, we still liked to say “Henri V, our King” .196And I heard a lot of praise for his good qualities. But I never heard a word, from himself or from any of the party leaders (and I knew several of them) to suggest that [they had got the mes-sage]. Nothing about an “amende honorable” [an honest repara-tion] for the past, or about a sincere resolution for the future: a return to the pure and simple Faith about Peter. “You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my Church … Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep”.

“And now we see that God does not even give him children, the lawful head of our ancient dynasty. That, to me, is the most terrible sign of all. It tells us plainly that God wants nothing to do with them any more. Because if they regained power, they would probably bring back the “Gallican liberties” and the Assemblies of 1682.197

“But, to get back to the Missions: why can’t we hope now that the new Republic will be more active in maintaining the honour [*(p 956) *]of France overseas? And this honour alone (not to mention her obvious Christian duties, if France still makes herself out to be a Christian country) should be enough to make the Govern-ment do something. Alas, I do not expect very much from a Re-publican government. However, it can’t be much worse than the Louis-Philippe one, at least on overseas policy. (Unless of course it reverts to the blood-thirsty excesses of its revolutionary ances-tor!). Anyway, I repeat, this government will not last. If it re-mains pacifist and weak, it will fall by itself. If it turns cruel, terri-ble, anti-religious, it will go down in a whirlwind. After that, I don’t know what. But surely something preferable to the de-moralizing religious indifference of the Orleans dynasty!”

The New Seminary. Saverimuthu.

Some time before [the Revolution etc.] I had started a big newbuilding for the Seminary at Karumattampatty. The Christ-ians had generously promised to contribute a considerable sum of money towards it. Then, with all possible pomp and ceremony, I laid the foundation stone of their new Seminary. It was a day of great feasting and rejoicing.

Already I had about ten students, and good hopes for having more of them soon, in spite of their parents’ reluctance to hand them over to me. Nearly every one of them would love to have priests from their own nation. But when it came to it, none of them wanted his own son to be a priest. To have a child that won’t marry is even worse, for an Indian, than to have no child at all.

I met only one exception, the father of Saverimuthu, one of my best clerics. This good Christian man, from Murugam-palayam, is a widower. And this is his only child. The father is, moreover, quite well-off, and well up in his caste. So he could eas-ily have arranged a very good marriage for his son. In spite of all this, his one ambition is to dedicate him to the Lord. And his hap-piest day, if he lives that long, will be the day he sees his son a priest.

This dear lad agrees entirely with his father. He was only 12 (p 957) or 13 years old when his father came, to offer him to me. How-ever, not long after he entered the Seminary, he was subjected to a violent temptation, and was on the point of quitting. But grace conquered all. And ever since, he has persevered steadfastly in his vocation. When I left Coimbatore, he was already lector (or acolyte). And now, as I write these lines [1855] I hear he has been promoted to the diaconate. May the Lord bless him and give him all His gifts. And to the Seminary as well! It cost me so much trou-ble at its birth, and very near died on me.

*No coolie for young Arulappan *

[First of all] there was Fr Pacreau.198 He saw everything through Jesuit lenses; so, naturally, he was strongly opposed, in practice, to any native clergy. Apart from Fr Metral, he was the only senior man I had. The rest were very young, and hot-headed. Before they came to India they were full of Bishop Luquet s ideas. But soon (with one or two exceptions perhaps) they changed round completely, to being some of his most virulent op-ponents. So I could not put any of those in my Seminary. Excel-lent Fr Metral was put in charge; for he was the only one I could completely trust.

Meanwhile, some very serious trouble started up in Athikode District, over the Goa Schism. I had to send Fr Metral there immediately. And I myself had to go on pastoral visitation to Ootacamund. I left the seminarians with Fr D [Pajean]. (Fr C [Bonjean?] was also there, trying to get over a bad fever). Young Fr D was beginning to give me serious worries. And Fr C, in spite of his own outstanding qualities, was beginning to be badly influ-enced by him.

“Poor C gave me great hopes at first (I noted). But now he is being influenced worse by Fr Pajean. The latter seems deter-mined to make me thoroughly regret accepting him into this Vicariate[* (p 958) *]from Pondicherry, where he had already made a name for himself. Alas! … “

Now it happened that I needed a young cleric [Arulappan] with me on the Journey to Ootacamund. He had been told to come and join me at Coimbatore. This simple matter became the cause (or rather the occasion) of a nasty confrontation in the Seminary. And how? Here it is, in my diary:

“Another hot-headed blunder from C! Arulappan was told to bring along some dalmatics, and other things that I needed for a solemn liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, at Ootacamund. It went without saying that he would need a “coolie” with him, both to carry the load (which was rather heavy) and also to keep to the custom (which forbids a cleric travelling on the main road alone). Fr C could see no point in all that. The Tamil teacher explained to him that it was “not proper” to send off this young cleric all alone, and loaded like a coolie.

“Those clerics will have to learn some humility”, replied C. “I’ve done the same myself, often, when I was in the seminary, in France.”

The teacher, an excellent man, well known for his common sense, practical wisdom, and devotedness to the missionaries took the risk of arguing with him.

“Here in India, a cleric never travels alone. And a coolie costs only six pence a day”.

No effect. The young lad had to set out alone, on foot, with the big load on his head, all the 16 miles to Coimbatore.

This particular student was, by nature, one of the most timid, gentle and obedient in the Seminary. He didn’t know what to make of those instructions. The teacher, though of noble caste (for whom it was an unheard-of degradation to carry a load) of-fered to accompany him himself.

“Doesn’t matter”, said Fr C. So off they went together, car-rying the load (the student for a while, the teacher for a while). It was late afternoon when I saw them arriving at Coimbatore, com-pletely flattened with fatigue. For, although the long walk in the sun was no problem to them, the load-carrying was terrible; for they weren’t used to it.

“But where|s the coolie?”, was my first greeting to them. [*(p 959) *]They smiled ruefully. Then the teacher explained what had hap-pened. “This new swamy does not understand our customs yet. He did not mean to insult us. Perhaps that is the custom in Europe?..”

“In the prevailing “caste” crisis, all we need here is one or two stupid actions of this level [to start a revolt or a schism]. Spite-ful people would jump at the chance to spread such a story around, saying: “You see? The only reason they want semina-rians is in order to insult Caste through them; and thereby to humiliate all you Christians as well!”.

So, that very evening, I asked Arulappan to write quickly to his classmates, to tell them how it was all due to a pure misun-derstanding. From this (I hope) they will see that it was done with-out my orders. The teacher, moreover, will describe my instinc-tive reaction, on his return. So (I hope) the blunder will go no farther. “

*Two very Dogmatic young Men *

Obviously, when I was writing that item, I was worrying about the likely reaction of the Indians. Little did I think that the bad reaction was going to come, instead, from my own two con-freres at Karurmattampatty! I set out, quite unconcerned now, for Ootacamund. I had told the teacher to explain the mistake, if necessary, to the Christians. I asked him to excuse the young mis-sionary, because of the short time he was in India.

But almost as soon as we arrived [at Ootacamund] along comes a letter, very abusive, for Arulappan from his classmates, about the “disrespect” he had shown towards Fr C in his letter to them. The poor boy came to me, with tears in his eyes.

“How come?”, he said. “For the first time in my life, to be disrespectful to a Swamy! Certainly, that was not my intention at all!”.

“And what did you write?”. He gave me a summary.

“Bah! Fr C cannot be annoyed with that!”

[*(p 960) *]

“But look at what they wrote back to me.”

He gave me the students| letter. I must say, I was utterly surprised and pained by it. Both the content and the style were a studied insult [to me]. I prefer to think that Fr C was not quite aware of how really bad it was.

“Poor C! (I wrote in my diary). Being still so new in the coun-try, he does not notice that the students, whom he forced to write and sign that letter, think exactly the opposite. For it is obviously all dictated by him. The only thing he has “achieved” now is, to convince the poor students that it was not by mistake, it was on purpose, that he humiliated them all, by degrading their classmate. Of course he also lets them see exactly how much re-gard he has for me and for my opinion. In short, he is scandalizing them all, showing them (what they did not know before) that mis-sionaries, even those still so new in the country, can easily ignore and despise the recommendations of their Superiors. Just one or two more actions like this, and our Seminary is finished.”

I calmed down poor Arulappan and assured him that we would easily settle all that, when we got back. And I really be-lieved myself! But when we arrived back at Karumattampatty, those two Fathers proceeded to go out of their way to show me extreme coolness and bitter resentment. Fr C demanded that poor Arulappan must be made an instant example of, severely punished. In vain I tried to show them that none of it was his fault. They ignored all my reasonings. “They are just a lot of pretexts for letting us down in front of the Blacks!”. It would probably come to a public and scandalous confrontation if I insisted, and demanded that Arulappan should not be punished. So I let him in for it, sadly certain that he was innocent.

Obviously they had planned all this between themselves, in order to get at me. This was it. But now, at supper time, I spoke nothing to them about it, merely trying to keep a calm face, in spite of the pain I was feeling. At last I, asked them a few ques-tions; but they replied only in monosyllables. Finally they had to let fly; with a fusillade of reproaches and unbelievable recrimina-tions. I somehow managed to keep my cool and, during all of “recreation” [*(p 961) *]I replied hardly at all to their outrageous remarks. But next day I took action. I wrote in my diary:

“Yesterday I instructed Fr Metral to come back; and today I wrote again, telling him how urgently he is needed at Karumat-tampatty. [For the Seminary is in danger].

“Good God! Do we have to put up with this sort of thing? Young confreres, just out from France, behaving like this? In one hour they endanger a project that has taken us so much time and trouble to set up! How can such things be allowed to happen, in our Society [and nothing to be done about it]! A few young mem-bers can now do whatever they take it into their heads to decide, however reckless it may be. Who will tackle the root of this deadly disease?

“Leave Fr C here with Fr Pajean? I wouldn’t give the Semi-nary two months to live! Yesterday, those two poor misguided confreres behaved very improperly towards me. May God in his goodness forgive them, as I wholeheartedly do. And Fr C espe-cially! He had such a good attitude when he arrived. But now, what sort of [subversive] notions is he getting, from his confrere? A man who ought to be immediately sent off home to France for the good of the missions!199 May God save Fr C from following that example!

“But if I used my authority now [and dismissed Fr D] what would be the result? Most of my missionaries here, and a big number in Pondicherry, and probably several Directors in Paris, would rise up to condemn me. They would call it “tyranny”. And the last state would be worse than the first. With working condi-tions like that [your hands are tied]. It is very difficult to get any good done. And almost impossible to put a stop to several blatant evils.

“What stubborn heads, those two! And yet they have many good qualities. If we had a decent Constitution to work with, I would be able to use and develop these, and to prevent the worst consequences of their faults. But in the present position [of a (p 962) Vicar Apostolic] it’s quite impossible. Punish them? You can’t even mention such a thing. The only punishment we can apply is capital punishment [repatriation]. Nothing at all in between, to correct faults or encourage virtue. Nothing can be done with an offender until he falls down into the last extremity [into actual crime or certifiable madness]. This is an incalculable disaster [in our Constitution].

*Be Careful. We could easily get Rid of you. *

The next item in my diary is extremely sensitive; and perhaps I ought not include such a painful incident here at all. The publica-tion of this, one of my most [shameful] private sorrows of that time, does not come easy. But it will not be without some [pointed] usefulness and relevance for someone who is trying to study the Missions, and to understand the whole combination of causes why they are not making more progress. [So here goes]:

“The day before yesterday, Fr D warned me: “Remember Bishop Courvesy!200 His missionaries forced him to get out. The same could easily happen to you”. Well! I never heard the last word about that Malacca affair. All I know is this: if my own mis-sionaries force me out, then (provided God preserves me from fu-ture faults) I will have nothing to blame myself for, except that I was, if anything, too good to them.

“As far as I possibly could, I have tried to please them, al-ways looking ahead to see what work would best suit each man. When I had to give someone a talking-to, I did it as kindly and gently as I knew how. If he came back at me with unworthy re-torts, I usually kept quiet. Afterwards, even if his continuing con-duct showed complete contempt for my advice, I said nothing. And I did nothing, as long as I could hope that his behaviour was not going to lead to harm for the Mission. Obviously, where I [*(p 963) *]foresaw such harm, I acted. But with all possible respect and con-sideration.

“A few times, indeed, my words may have been a bit severe. But I truly believe twas rare. More often than not, my conscience told me I ought to have been a lot more severe. (Yes, if I had enough authority to enforce it). I just hope that God will not blame me for being too soft on them. If I had the normal authority of a Bishop, I would certainly be blaming myself for over-kind-ness at times. But in the position I was faced with, that seemed the only thing to do. Twas necessary.

“In every case, I managed to avoid all bad feelings of per-sonal resentment against the man who (without clearly intending it, no doubt) was treating me so cruelly. That’s my conscience on it all. As for the future, that will be as God wills. If it pleases Him to humble me like that, to have me forced out, to leave a Mission that is very dear to me, well that is what I want also. I sincerely welcome whatever it pleases Him to ordain for me. All I beg Him is, never to let me (for fear of any humiliation whatever) go against my conscience out of weakness. To Him alone be honour and glory. Amen.”

[*And now, Three of them Attack! *]

And only a few days later, I had to write this item:

“Among the harsh accusations which those two Fathers had the nerve to throw at me the other day, there was one which really took me completely by surprise: “Why did you send Fr [Pacreau] away into exile?”. I was under the impression that Fr Pacreau un-derstood all I had been doing, to help him. I even thought he was rather grateful for it. So now I wrote to him, asking him to please give the other two the facts about [his appointment to Ootacamund].

“What a shock, then, to read his reply. I saw, to my utter amazement, that he was now taking the same line as they took, about it (although with a more sly turn of phrase) and that he actu-ally supported their [accusations and their] unfortunate attitude!

(p 964)

“Really, it’s unbelievable. It’s like a nightmare! On every oc-casion, in every decision, I have been trying to do whatever would best suit this confrere. I knew, from his past history in Pon-dicherry, that he needed to be handled with care. In sending him to Ootacamund (instead of keeping him near by) I was thinking of the climate, so that he could make a complete recovery from the fevers he got in the Kollegal, a few months ago. Then I got a letter from him, clearly saying he would like to stay up there. Fr Metral and I discussed his request, and the whole situation. It would be somewhat inconvenient to grant his wish. Nevertheless, I decided to confirm his appointment. Normally, I would not have agreed. For Ootacamund needs a missionary who knows English (or is at least able to learn it quickly). And Pacreau will never suc-ceed, at his age. He himself saw the need; for in his letter he prom-ised to get down seriously to English. I knew he was only fooling himself about that; but I said nothing to discourage him.

“And now, believe it or not, the whole affair is being given an exact-opposite interpretation [by those three. I “banished” him up there!] I just cannot figure out how they manage to get it so wrong. But obviously there is a blind spot somewhere. They really believe it! If they knew the whole truth, they would cer-tainly be sorry for being so unfair to me.

*Athikode Besieged. Metral reports from Western Front. *

The pain and loneliness caused by lack of support from so many of my few missionaries was only part of it. Worse still, perhaps, was the danger caused to us all by their reckless actions. [And more than danger]. In actual fact, the bull-headed be-haviour of Fr C [Barot?] caused a disaster. It gave the Goa Schism a wonderful opportunity to move into his District. As early as the 20th May (writing in my diary) I saw it coming:

“It looks like a big storm is coming up, in Athicode District. Fr [Barot’s] carry-on may soon turn out to be very expensive. He listens to no advice. He must decide everything for himself, with [*(p 965) *]his own head. And what a head! … If the schismatics manage to take hold in that District, the whole Pro-vicariate will be in danger. It would take only another small spark to blow it apart.

“Holy Angels, watch over these poor fragile churches! Vir-gin Mary, most of them are dedicated to you!”

The Athikode situation kept on getting worse. I heard that some of the Christians, completely annoyed by Fr Barot, were getting ready to call in the schismatic priest from Ootacamund. (He was still there, at Joaquin’s compound). I immediately sent Fr Bruyere to help Barot. Later I had to transfer Barot to another District. (Once there, he started off his career with another typi-cal blunder). Fr Bruyere courageously struggled against the Goa priest’s encroachments. (He had actually arrived in the District, in response to his supporters’ invitation). Fr Bruyere had some excellent qualities. He was not as infected as the other two with the [republican fashions] of the times. But he did not yet speak Tamil very well. And he was too young to inspire the necessary fear and respect. I decided I must send good Fr Metral to his aid (although his presence at the Seminary was clearly necessary, as was shown by the kind of thing that happened during his ab-sence). So he set out for Athikode, about the end of June. Things were really bad in the District when he wrote to me from there on 3rd July:

“Yesterday, before Mass, I was delighted to receive your kind and fatherly letter, and also my feast-day greetings from the boys (the seminarians). This was very nice too, because of their gratitude for my past help and their good wishes for the future.

“To get an idea of what was going on here yesterday, you have to imagine all the heresies and schisms of the past, rolled into one, plus all the ill-feelings, treacheries and even furies that they stirred up. But to get down to detail: Most of the people came en masse to St Anthony’s church (which-we still hold). So the schismatics’ party was obviously greatly reduced, especially since last Thursday, the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul.

“So what did those crazy-heads do then? They decided to bring their schismatic priest over to St Anthony’s, where we were! They reckoned that if they could only get hold of the principal church in the “pangu” [locality] they would soon win back all the people they (p 966) had lost. And they weren’t far wrong, as far as the mentality of the backward people here goes. Their ideas about religion are so super-ficial, they think all the truth and authority must reside in an actual building, whichever church is the biggest or most ancient. (And in-deed it is this kind of “reasoning” that is now keeping thousands of Christians in the Schism, at Madurai and other places). So you can easily see how crucial it is for us to retain physical possession of St Anthony’s!

“And then, what did the scoundrels do? They went round and gathered up as big a number of hangers-on as they could persuade or mislead. And they managed to get a fairly considerable mob to-gether, right in front of St Anthony’s, holding a “meeting” and creating a tumultuous uproar. Yagapu and especially Siluvaimuthu (who had at first seemed to be completely on our side) now loudly condemned us. Someone proposed that the Father should be al-lowed to address the meeting. But Siluvaimuthu (the local maniaca-ran or village head) replied, with inexplicable fury: “No way! That Father has no right to come here”. (Meaning me). I don’t know what has got into him. Unless it’s because he received Communion from the schismatic priest, and is now under his “spell”? (They say his malign influence is very hard to resist, if someone goes near him!).

“After a ferocious amount of noise, angry shouts, passionate outbursts of rage, after long “theological” disputes (tharkkam) about the Pope, the bishops etc., they finally issued an ultimatum: We must hand over the compound to them; or at least let them have a place in St Anthony’s for their own dear priest. Truly, they seem spell-bound by him. For he shows them a wide and comfortable road to heaven!

“To all that, I stoutly replied:201 “I am here in my own house, at St Anthony’s. For the last eight years, this has been my home. I am here as the lawful envoy of my Bishop; and he is the lawful envoy of the Sovereign Pontiff. Moreover, I also have authorization from the civil authorities to be here, ever since I first came to this “pangu”. As for your priest, I do not know him, and I do not recog-nize him. Because he has no authorization. So I advise you to go easy. Take care. Or you will get yourselves into very serious trou-ble”. This sort of reply was more than they had bargained for. They [*(p 967) *]adjourned the “meeting”. And soon they left, without too much noise.

“That is the situation at present. But they won’t let it remain like that. Just now, as I was writing this, I was told that the schisma-tic priest has come to Yapagu’s in the village nearest our church. Probably in order to plan their next move against it? I don’t know. Anyway, if they mean to use physical force, do not be afraid, we have no intention of resisting them head-on. We are priests and missionaries after all, not armed soldiers. It is very important to hang on to this post as long as we possibly can. But without risking an undignified physical expulsion.

“How I wish I could be within range, to consult you! If I had a good horse, and the distance was not so far, I’d be off to Coimba-tore right now.

“The most urgent thing for Your Lordship at the moment is, to write immediately to the Archbishop at Verapoly. Tell him to warn his priests and the “tarraguen” (as a village head is called on the Malabar Coast) at Arunadukarai. They must not [let their people] go to Vadakkanchery church or Feast. Not until further notice from Your Lordship himself.

“Why? Because if [this mob here] do not succeed [at St An-thony’s] what will they try next? They will bring their schismatic priest [to Vadakkancherry] … That will be enough to draw a huge crowd there. A big triumph for the schismatics!

“Another thing: We have no official permission to live perma-nently in Cochin territory. At most we are supposed to stay only a few days here, in transit. If our schismatics got to know that, they would have us out very quick. Fortunately, they don’t know. But they may not be long in finding out. So it is vitally important, in your letter to the Archbishop, to ask him about this. What is the best pro-cedure for getting a residence permit?

“That is all I can tell you at the moment, My Lord, about the pitiable state of this mission. I will be anxiously awaiting any further instructions you may have for me…”

[*Round 2: Young Fr Bruyere vs the Young Schismatic *]

The schismatic priest that our two confreres had to contend with was an old and battered specimen. His party now reckoned (p 968) they would stand a better chance with a younger or more impres-sive player. So they went off to the Cochin area to recruit one. I had heard about this move when young Fr Bruyere wrote to me:

“I have just had a most fantastic session. With whom? I give you three guesses … Yes, the new Portuguese-schismatic priest. Just at nightfall he called here to see me. He said he was sent by the Archbishop of Goa. I met him at the [closed] door of the church. I asked him who he was and where he was coming from. Then I told him I didn’t recognize him and that I had nothing to discuss with him.

“He then spoke for a long time [outside] surrounded now by his faithful followers, notably Siluvaimuthu and Yagapu. This is just a summary of his speech:202“I was under the impression that my confrere was staying in this church. But I see I was mistaken. So I will go to where he is and stay the night with him. [I’ll be back]. I do not want to resort to violence. After all, we are brothers. And a bat-tle over this church would only be destructive of charity. I will come another time, to discuss this matter openly, in the daylight. I will not take possession now, in spite of the impatient urging of my Christians, who hold the keys of this church. They wanted to open the door right away, and drive you out. I had great trouble restrain-ing them”.

But if he allowed them to invade the church at night-time, and especially if they did me any violence, he knew he would be in seri-ous trouble. So he took good care to keep them back. In the end he went off somewhere else, probably to Siluvaimuthu’s place.

“Tomorrow, the messenger bringing you this letter will take one also to Fr Metral [at Palghat] to inform him of this latest in-truder.

“The schismatics are now in a bad fix, having two priests on their hands [and no proper church for them]. So the two head-men kept very quiet.” [They seemed to be thinking deeply].

Next day, Fr Metra! wrote to me from Palghat:

“I’m going back to Athikode. Yesterday Fr Bruyere informed me of the “visit” by a new schismatic priest, a young man … But what have they been up to, since? Won’t they soon make a second attempt on the church? For they must by now be extremely an-noyed, to have nothing but a mere “seba coodam” (a little prayer [*(p 969) *]house) for their two priests, while we have the church and the priest’s “quarters”. Tomorrow, at the latest, we must be ready for another big attack, a supreme effort to dislodge us. Again, we will have no weapons. But it is important to hold that post to the bitter end…

“Yagapu and Siluvaimuthu have again appealed [by letter] to all the “maniacaran” [village heads, to come out and support them]. I don’t know what reply they will give. But a few of them, after con-sulting others, have just come to see me here. They assure me that they will ignore any letter that doesn’t have my signature on it. But all the same, I must go around and visit them soon, to strengthen and affirm them. That is what I propose to do between now and Monday, if there is no bad crisis at Athicode. Unless Your Lordship has other orders for me.”

The fight got even worse. Soon the old priest retired com-pletely from the field, leaving the battle to his confrere. “He is younger (I wrote then) and stronger and more daring, and better able to keep up the fight. For a fight it is, between priests and priests. And both sides calling themselves Catholics!

“What a scandal for those poor people, O my God! Truly, that was all they needed. To make sure that every known type of scandal, without exception, would make a complete rendez-vous in this unfortunate country! What are they at, Lord, your chosen people?”

I had written to Frs Metral and Bruyere: try to get the new priest to see reason. Try every argument, every possible motive. Use every appeal that might touch a priestly heart. (But have they a priestly heart, those Goa priests?). If necessary, you can go as far as this: you can offer him, from me, official admission into this jurisdiction. You can give him faculties so that he can lawfully (or at least validly) exercise the sacred ministry here.

From my own previous encounter with the old priest, and his contemptuous reply to similar offers, I foresaw that this would be a waste of effort. They don’t want any faculties from us; they “don’t need them”. And they add insult to their refusal. But I had to try. If they still refused, the scandal would come down on them, and on their heads.

(p 970)

Thazildar closes Church. Case goes to Divan. Metral also.

By the 13th August, as indicated in my diary, the miserable affair was still escalating:

“We have just now decided that Fr Metral must go to Cochin, to see the King’s Divan [Minister] and try to get him to maintain us in possession of Athikode church. At the moment, the church has been closed, by order of the local police. The ras-cally schismatic had managed to increase his party. Nearly all the village heads came round to his side. So he came to St Anthony’s again, in force, to try and take it over. Fr Bruyere stood firm. But some scandalous fights broke out, between the rival Catholics. So the Thazildar [local administrative officer] had to intervene. He sent for the keys, closed the church, and decreed that nobody is to hold services there until the Divan has decided the case. Mean-while Fr Bruyere is still hanging on, in the little dug-out or “priest’s house” next to the church. It is a very desperate situa-tion.

“What next? According to precedents in similar cases, it is very unlikely that Fr Metral will have any success at Cochin. Ap-parently, it can go one of two ways. Either they will rule that the church must remain closed until such time as the two sides make peace. Or (worse, but more likely) they will decide in favour of the “majority” of the Christians. And, since most of the village heads are for him, the schismatic will win the case.

“Then, if the Schism manages to establish itself solidly at Athikode, the centre of that numerous Catholic community, there is no limit to the harm they can do in the future. Their priest will settle down there (he will easily get his livelihood) and will continue to gain more and more territory, by his intrigues and by the support which he will find ready-made in many individuals.

“So, all we can do now is, try our best to stop this disaster, and leave the outcome to God.

“May God go with Fr Metral. May his guardian angel accom-pany my dear confrere right up to the tribunal of the pagan judge! What a scandal! What a humiliation for Christianity! Woe to those who brought it on us!”

(p 971)

And a few days later:

“Fr Bruyere got some news from Fr Metral , and he has pas-sed it on to me. As for himself, he is still “imprisoned” in his little dug-out. He dare not leave, for it would instantly be captured. Meanwhile, the schismatic priest is at the house of Siluvaimuthu (one of the most influential chiefs in the area) the very house I stayed in myself, during my pastoral visitation.

“It does not look as if Fr Metral can succeed. The schismatics seem to know the result in advance. Anyway, their audacity and their nonsensical propaganda have greatly increased. Fr Bruyere reckons that the whole District will then go over to Schism. Al-ready, our own chief supporters have begun to waver. They are now sitting on the fence. And then, for sure, they will follow whichever side wins this case.

“The wretched schismatic priests are busy “proving” to the people that the Pope is on their side! They do not fear to publish forged “indulgences” and to proclaim a special “Jubilee” granted to them by the Pope himself! They explain that the Pope naturally detests the Pondicherry [MEP] missionaries, because they are French. And the French have always been killers [and kidnap-pers] of Popes. Such are their “proofs”. But they work just as well as if they were true, in this region of sublime and total ignorance about the issues.

[*Metral (or rather, God) saves the hopeless Situation. *]

However, Fr Metral [contrary to all known precedents and all our expectations] had a very favourable audience with the Divan. On 24th August I wrote:

“Fr Metral tells me he now has some hopes, although they have left everything rather vague [as regards the decision about St Anthony’s]. Don’t let us count too much on them. Anyway, the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly certainly did everything he could to help us.”

Obviously I was still uncertain, still anxiously awaiting the worst. Then Fr Metral wrote to me on 30th August:

(p 972)

“I arrived back at Sittur yesterday morning. I immediately went to the Thazildar, to present the Divan’s [sealed] reply. The Thazildar’s reaction to this was fantastic. It seemed unbelievable, far too good to be true! As you know, we had requested only one thing (and we hardly dared to hope for even that). That was, to re-open St Anthony’s church to us.

“Well, the Thazildar went far and away beyond that. He issued strict and immediate orders to the schismatic priest to get out from the whole territory of the King of Cochin! If he tried to delay, he would be immediately arrested and brought before the Divan him-self!

“On seeing the Divan’s written orders (“katalai”) the Thazil-dar quickly stopped his humming and hawing, He immediately sent off a “sevakan” (military policeman) to convey the ultimatum to the schismatic, who had already camped in front of the church, expect-ing authorization to move in there very soon. The messenger went off there this morning, with some of my people. I don’t know yet how the operation went. But you can easily imagine what a shock, what a turn-about, what attempted objections there will be! They thought they had successfully grabbed the whole “pangu”. And at Goa the priest had just acquired the pompous title of “Vicari” (or Chief Pastor) of the whole District and Mission of Palghat! [But now he must clear out]. For it would be very difficult for him to think of ignoring a direct order from the Divan himself.

“Clearly, it is God who has done all this. And now we must hope that He will continue the good action He has begun, And that now it will all turn to His greater glory…

“Now that [this priest] has been thrown out of the Kingdom of Cochin (even if he goes quietly) we may still not be quite finished with him]. He could easily go and poke his way into another church, in English Company territory. Especially Vadakkanchery, where the Christians are not so sound. And certainly, we would not get such a good decision from an English “Katshery” (local court) as we did from the Divan of Cochin! So we must get in there before him, and hold those churches, until he finally takes himself off out of all this area…

“Ah, My Lord! How I long to meet you! I’d have a thousand things to tell you about!

“Fr Bruyere is still at Athikode. I thought it best to stay clear of the place myself for a few days. The sight of me might be too much for them, and make them really mad. And it is certain that (p 973) they won’t take me back into their favour very quickly. Only I’m worried about Fr Bruyere. They may insult him badly, in their anger. But he knows his “gaudebant apostoli quoniam ..””203

And a few days later:

“At last the two of us can breathe easy now, at Athikode, in old St Anthony’s church. God be blessed, a thousand times thanked! For surely it was He who did it all.

“The schismatic had no come-back. He just had to get out, and be quick about it. The Divan’s decree was swift and ruthless, He was barely given time to engage a few coolies and pack his loads. Nobody dared to give him lodging near by, for fear of getting in-volved. The “policemen” were there, breathing down the back of his neck, with orders to drag him before the Divan if he made the slightest delay. Nothing short of that peremptory “karpinai” (de-cree) from the supreme authority in the Kingdom of Cochin could have shifted him. Without that decree, we were finished; the “pangu’ was lost.

“O how nice and quiet we were left today, here in St An-thony’s! No need to say, not a single schismatic put his nose inside the church today. They all stayed indoors, stunned and shamed by their sudden defeat…

“I received your letter in time, just before Mass. And I an-nounced that henceforth, no schismatic maniacaran or catechist will have a word to say in the church, until further notice from Your Lordship.

“You have probably heard that the schismatic priest has now headed for the Nilgiris. Just when he was setting out for his own country, there came two urgent messages from Joaquin, inviting him to go [to Ootacamund] and take the place of the old one, who has disappeared entirely from view.”

Thus, this terrible storm unexpectedly blew over.

[*Why he Won: he’s a Saint. Letter to Collector. *]

“The Divan of Cochin (I mused in my diary) has ruled in our [*(p 974) *]favour, going far beyond our wildest dreams. And if he did, it is due (I have no doubt at all) to the saintliness of Fr Metral, and the special protection this brought us, from Heaven.

“When he took on the mission of going to Cochin to beg the Divan, my dear confrere set out hoping against hope. And he car-ried out that hopeless mission with all the simple faith of a true apostle. For he had nothing else to pin any hope on, none of the special human talents (like eloquence or powerful bearing) which might give him some chance of succeeding in a court. He can hardly get two consecutive sentences out without stammering. No touch of style or prestige to him, such as Europeans (even some missionaries) in India like to put on. He probably did not even have a second soutane with him, for the journey; and the one he had on would have plenty of patches, and maybe a few holes in it as well. No stockings either (unless they made him put on a pair at Verapoly). Nothing but his old floppy “turkish” slippers. It was in this wonderful outfit, I’m sure, that he presented himself at the court of the Divan of Cochin, the despotic Minister in whose hands are all the powers of the King (at least in all internal affairs, which the English Resident leaves to him).

[Not a particularly striking ambassador]. But then, he’s a Saint. His goodness shows on his face. And the Divan, pagan and all as he is, will have recognized it. He will have said to himself (consciously or unconsciously) this man cannot be an unjust ag-gressor. The Divan might have reacted quite differently to an eloquent and smoothly diplomatic missionary, decently or eleg-antly dressed “as a European should be”, trying to use his racial “superiority” in order to get what he wanted (as we are too easily tempted to do at times). Holy humility! How winning you are, in all places!

Fr Metra] had often urged me to approach the Coimbatore Collector, to get that priest out of the Nilgiris as well. But the En-glish Company officials have not the same authority, for that sort of thing, as the King of Cochin. Even if the Collector wanted to help us (which he did not) he could do hardly anything about it, especially since Joaquin’s church at Ootacamund is on his own private property.

(p 975)

All the same, I wrote to him, asking his protection in case that priest tried to cause confusion in any other Catholic church within the Company’s territory. His reply was cold and official. We could hope for no help from him unless the priest actually broke into a church which was our own private property. What use was that to us?204

[*Losses: Young Fr Vanthier. Fr Dubois.l0,000F Bequest. *]

During that period also, I had the grief of losing one of the newest missionaries, just arrived from France, [Fr Vanthier]. He still retained all the good qualities and high ideals which our young missionaries always bring out with them. At first I kept him with me most of the time. But then he had to go off on his first campaign, alone. He was stationed at Darapuram. There he caught a violent fever. He was taken to Karur. The Christians there wrote to me to tell me his condition was critical. I was ar-ranging for one of the confreres to go to his aid when I received a second message. He had got himself transported to the Jesuit Fathers at Trichinopoly (which was much nearer than Coimba-tore). I was glad to hear that, for I was sure the charity of the Rev Fathers would leave nothing undone for his recovery. But alas! Only two days later, their Procurator Fr Wilmet sent me the sad news. The Lord had called him, this well-beloved confrere.

“He barely had time enough here (says my diary) to win the special crown that God reserves for his apostolic workers. Since he arrived, he always acted in such a way as to give me great hopes that he would turn out a very good missionary.

“Alas! In such a complex country, in such a confusing period, where even the best wills are in great danger of losing courage, and where the best minds can so easily go astray, maybe the Lord has done him a big favour in calling him home so soon! (p 976) He won’t have the merit (so hard to acquire) of persevering long and perfectly. But he will have a speedier and surer crown. And a very beautiful one too, as I hope from his present attitude of good will. May his soul rest in peace!”

From France I heard the news of the death of Bishop de Gualy of Carcassonne. [Since leaving home] I had very little per-sonal dealings or correspondence with him. But it was he who gave me all my Orders, including priesthood. So he was spiritually related to me in a special way. He has a right to a memory and a prayer. And if he’s now in Heaven, I have a new advocate there.

Venerable Fr Dubois, a Paris Director, also flew away from this world to a better one. For I’m sure he went straight in. He contributed a lot to the work of the missions. He led a full life for them. He served them from his youth to his last 84th year. And even in dying he was our benefactor. He happened to be quite rich; and he left a great part of it to various Missions.

“When a Bishop was first appointed to Coimbatore (I wrote) he changed his Will to include us. We get much less than Pon-dicherry etc., but it’s still a considerable sum. May God reward him for his good action! If human gratitude can bring any slight accidental enhancement to the joy of the saints, he will be feeling ours, I hope, at this very moment.”

We received, in fact, more than 10,000 francs. 205Mysore, the same. Pondicherry 30,000. And, as far as I know, 30,000 each to two Missions in China.

Two Confreres Poisoned at Bangalore

We almost lost two more confreres, in Mysore Vicariate. The power of poisonous plants in India is well known. So you (p 977) must completely avoid any unfamiliar plant, [fruit or berry etc.]. And sometimes you even have to be on the look-out against delib-erate poisoners. For example (I am told) there is a certain mango -like "fruit"; and a thumb-sized piece, well mixed into a curry, is enough to give you a slow, incurable fever, to bring you slowly but safely to your grave. (This one is supposed to be very popular with Malayali wives who have bad or awkward husbands).

This time, it was not a “mango” but a peculiar grain.206 A ser-vant of the two Fathers made use of it in a stew, to poison them. A very small dose will only cause intoxication. A big dose, and you go insane, and even die. This wretch, it seems, was not actu-ally trying to kill our confreres. Only to rob them. He used the smaller dose, which should make them “drunk”, and then uncon-scious, a few hours after eating. But he got it wrong. He put in too much. The effect was surprisingly instantaneous, quite terrible in-deed. People were still up, and they ran to tell Fr Gailhot, in the same city (Bangalore). He came as soon as he could get an En-glish doctor who, with great difficulty, managed to deal with the poison. One of the Fathers was not out of danger for quite a long time after.

*Viatique etc. Meeting sabotaged by a few Rebel *

*Missionaries. But I can’t Dismiss a single One. *

One of the most foolish things in the Foreign Mission Soci-ety’s constitution is our viatique. It is one sure way to keep up the spirit of private property and to hinder community life and action. A few Vicariates have succeeded (lucky for them!) in abolishing this problem locally. They agreed on a special Rule waiving this, method of receiving support. But none of those Vicariates was in India.

Now, with a real danger caused to our finances by the effect (p 978) of the French upheavals on the work of the Propagation de la Foi, I saw a good chance to get my missionaries to waive part of their “personal expenses”. [I said it was] for reasons of economy. But I didn’t get very far. I was not trying at that time to abolish the via-tique, but only to reduce it, thus leaving a little more money for the common fund. I sent out a circular about this. The replies all consented; but most of them also let me see that this would be a big inconvenience to them.

“Alas (says I to myself in my diary) the virtue of renunciation is not so perfect in us. Not that our men, generally, are too fond of money. (That fault is very rare). No, that is not our trouble. But everybody wants to have “his own” money, for his own local projects, for doing good individually. Each one acts in his own way, and all without a unified plan. This individualist attitude splinters our resources, which are already slender enough, God knows. This prevents a lot of progress. And it is all due, in my opinion, to this fatal flaw in our Constitutions. And I very much fear that, on such a delicate matter, there will be no quick and easy cure.

On this question (and a few other points) I called a general meeting of my missionaries. Anyway, I wanted to see them all be-fore leaving for Pondicherry. At first I had hoped we could all make a Retreat together. But the Athicode palaver, the general unrest among the Catholics, and especially the very bad attitude of a few of the confreres, made it quite impossible. Even the meeting itself was very far from encouraging. Broken-hearted, I wrote in my diary:

“An example should be made of them! Of a few troublesome missionaries who are preparing very bad days ahead, for this Mis-sion. (Certainly not entirely out of malice; more out of flightiness, stubbornness and complete imprudence). They should just be im-mediately dismissed and sent packing, back to Europe. Those few are contaminating the new-comers; and these the next. Where will that get us to?

“But although the remedy is obvious, it is just not feasible. If [*(p 979) *]I expelled them, nobody would support me, except (maybe) Fr Metral. Everybody would say I was being outrageously severe. And the evil would then be even worse than it is. Please God, I am exaggerating! But the future looks very bleak indeed to me [with those two around]. The countless seeds of progress here are being stifled. If any more manage to sprout, they will quickly fade and wither. The few that survive will be squashed before they are strong enough to stand on their own. India will be as far away from Christianity as ever.

“Mary, beg your Son not to let so many good, promising things perish like this!”

*Moral Doubts on Policy begin to get Serious. *

*Bishop Bonnand fails to answer Leroux’s. *

So I was going to Pondicherry fairly sad. And there wasn’t much hope there, either. Certainly, a lot of good could be envis-aged and planned there, for our Missions and for all India. But what hope was there of actually doing it, in the present cir-cumstances?

The Pondicherry Catholic community had not completely calmed down, even yet. And, during the revolts etc., the mis-sionaries had become even more thoroughly split and divided than before, over the right attitude to Caste and Customs.

Fr Leroux, having left the Seminary (after the events we have seen) was now at Attipakam , on pastoral work. This work drew his attention (alerted by his recent experience) to some very awkward moral questions. How were we obeying Cardinal de Tournon’s Decree (later confirmed by the Holy See) and espe-cially Benedict XIV’s Constitution Omnium Sollicitudinum? He came to the conclusion that we were seriously out of line. We were actually tolerating some of the condemned customs! And (apart from those explicitly condemned) we were also tolerating several other customs which meant actual participating in paganism and superstition! (I will go into all that later).

But now, with his Breton tenacity (and probably without [*(p 980) *]much respect or common prudence) he was bombarding the Bishop with one moral doubt after another. To which Bishop Bonnand was replying with arguments that looked very flimsy to me. I must say, my own conscience was not at all at ease with them.

“What are we at? (I used to ask myself). If our teaching is dubious, our Gospel not pure, how can we expect our work here to be blessed by God?

“When I first came to India, I was only a few months on di-rect pastoral work. A lot of the things [I was expected to do] sur-prised me then, no doubt. But I saw I was too new in the country to be able to give a sound judgment on them. I had to hope that time would eventually show me that we were all right, that there is nothing unlawful in our traditional missionary practice here, nothing to cause us serious scruples about our Oath. Soon I was taken out of pastoral work, into the Seminary. (And from there I went to Coimbatore). In the Seminary, I did not exercise the pas-toral ministry directly. Nevertheless, my frequent discussions with other missionaries (and the various experiences I had myself, with caste customs) gave me some doubts about them at that time too. But these doubts, I believed, were not my business. I should leave them to the conscience of my Superiors [and get on with my work]. (I knew they had a very timorous conscience). But now [I am a Superior myself]. I not only have to exercise sacred func-tions; I have to direct others. I have to take on a great part of the responsibility for what they do [and what they tolerate]. So am I not obliged in conscience to investigate those doubts myself, to go deeply into the reasons behind them? Many others also have them, the same doubts, especially the young confreres. Do the young always have to be wrong? I know that many of the senior men also doubted, when they were young and sharp; but now their minds have probably become [not wiser] but just blunted (blase) by routine?

“Alas! The more thoroughly I go into those questions, and examine them, the more serious become my doubts, unfortu-nately! A few of my co-workers seem absolutely convinced, al-ready, that we are now on a wrong road, an unlawful path. They [*(p 981) *]even protest against it openly and, in my view, imprudently. For with such a dangerous issue, you necessarily have to go softly. You have no right to endanger the weak faith of our neophytes, our Christians, by harsh actions or loud condemnations which may not, after all, be absolutely necessary or well-founded. God forbid that we should ever knowingly do anything which is forbid-den by the sacred law of the Gospel or by the authority of the Holy See! If indeed our toleration has become too wide-reaching, we must be prepared to narrow it down. But, before we change any-thing, before we condemn [by implication] the policy and practice of so many great missionary predecessors, before we openly at-tack issues which are capable of blowing all our communities apart, we must be sure of this: that we have exhausted all the other resources which our own prudence can possibly suggest to us.

“We are very determined not to neglect, or try to ignore, those doubts. We will submit them to the Holy See later on, if we have to. We will obey Its decisions (while going as softly as we can [with the people). We will pray God not to ever let us commit any formal sin, if or when we find out [that we have been wrong all the time and] that our pastoral practice (contrary to our intention) is indeed morally flawed.

“Sure, we came here in order to save others. But not by risk-ing our own salvation!

“We will give everything for you, dear people of India, all our strength, all our efforts, our very life if needed; everything that is depending on our free will and decision. But not our im-mortal soul. Please, let us keep that. Our soul is all ours; it’s the only one we have. Or rather, it is all Yours, Lord. Yours alone, for time and for eternity.

“I just hope that the meeting of all the Pondicherry mis-sionaries will give us an opportunity to clarify our minds about all those doubts!”

(p 982)

*Irish and Carmelites cause Trouble too. Ceylon. *

[*If only I was Let do my Own Work! *]

Anyway, we ourselves had no monopoly of miserable trou-bles, that year. At Calcutta and Madras, the Irish Vicars Apos-tolic showed no sympathy or understanding for the problems of their fellow Bishops [about caste etc.]. In their newspapers they dealt most insensitively with these very explosive and complex is-sues. Anyway, they showed no sign whatever of being worried about the possible reaction of “the natives” to what they printed. They seemed to concentrate all their pastoral sollicitude on the Catholic soldiers and other Europeans in their stations.

At Bombay, Verapoly and Mangalore, the Carmelites were busy squabbling among themselves. (At Bombay they would soon be ruined by it, finished).

In the island of Ceylon, the recent introduction of European missionaries was changing the face of the Church (in a few ways for good, in many ways for bad). I had just received a letter from a missionary at Kandy, a Fr Reinaud. I could see that it wasn’t all a rose garden. Reinaud seemed a man of ability but probably (like so many other talented men) had more zeal than sense. He prop-oses that we should try to come together and work for the over-all progress of Religion in India. Alas! To agree about the general objectives; nothing easier! And nothing finer. In theory! But in practice? Happy the man who is allowed [to dig his own little gar-den in peace], to keep to his own little circle [his district, his semi-nary, his vicariate] and never have to get dragged by cir-cumstances into the workings of other places!

I just was not given that much luck, O my God! In return, please give me some merit from the crucifixion that my soul, and my heart, had to go through, as a result!

(p 983)

[*Enjoyable Journey (much needed). Yarns at Salem. *]

On October 8, I took the road for Pondicherry. Excellent Fr de Gelis was with me. We went by our “cab” [or pony-trap]. I was driving myself. Our people followed with our luggage etc., in a bullock-cart. I had made this trip several times before; so I will not bother describing the various places we passed through.

On the 16th we were at Salem. “Nothing much to report so far” (I wrote). This journey is really more like a holiday. A mo-ment of relaxation between the afflictions which have been be-sieging me for some time now, at home, and the probable afflic-tions awaiting me at Pondicherry. Going very easy (only one or two bungalows a day) I am finding it a delightful trip, especially with the gentle and pleasant company of Fr de Gelis. And it is especially good to be back here again. Salem was my first mission in India. Now it is the “pangu” of Fr Gouyon, an excellent missio-nary, ardent and active; a superlative talker as well! He is as fluent in Tamil as he is in French. Yet he can only barely read the charac-ters; for he hates all books! Apart from his breviary, he never opens one. (With a supreme effort he may force himself to read a bit of theology now and then). So how could he stand a Tamil book?

“But God has gifted him with a fantastic memory. If he hears [*(p 984) *]a thing once, he has it for life. So he is really remarkable at the spoken language here. He talks just like his builders or his coolies. But don’t ask him to compose or speak anything in proper grammar! Certainly, it wouldn’t do, if all our missionaries were like him. But there are certain “characters” who can get away with something which the rest of us should not even try to imitate!

“It had been a long, long time since any confrere called at his mission. So what stories he had saved up for us! A whole sackful of yarns. And he had to empty it all out before letting us retire for the night. But I’m sure he has found a few more good ones for tomorrow morning!

“I have been over to visit the little church which I pitied so much on my first journey here. Not to visit the Blessed Sacrament (which cannot be kept there) but to salute the Angel of Salem. The chapel has not improved with age. In fact it’s on the verge of total collapse. Fr Gouyon intends to knock it down and build another.

“I received a letter here from Bishop Bonnand. He promises me a most magnificent Reception at Pondicherry. That is not what I need. Just a warm and sincere welcome from them; no-thing else. I will reply and give my reasons for cutting down on the ceremony. “

*Fr Bardouil, a Village Guru. *

I branched off the direct route a bit, to visit Fr Bardouil’s mission at Eraiyur, and for Sunday Mass. I had written to this dear confrere, one of the very best in the Society. He gave us a joyful and a festive welcome. His community is only barely Catholic. They are all for the Goa priests. But Fr Bardouil is mak-ing some progress with them, by his extreme kindness, his pati-ence and his eminently apostolic and ascetic spirit.

“He is (I wrote) one of those who firmly believe that the only way to win the Indians is to live like the Indians. He allows himself no compromise at all, none of the easier ways adopted by most of [*(p 985) *]our confreres. Certainly, that is worthy of all praise, provided it doesn’t go as far as following customs that are against the spirit of the Gospel. His house is nothing but a small square of mud walls roofed with straw. But [legally] it is very pure and noble, always freshly “polished” with cow-dung. No actual windows, just a little hole opening on to the verandah. When the wind blows too strong, it can be “closed” by means of a piece of matting. A mat also clues for a bed. If the ground gets too damp, you put a plank under it, supported on four one-foot “legs”. This, in fact, is the “dining table”. If you want to sit down to eat, there are deer-skins there on the floor. (Be sure to cross your legs correctly, and keep your back straight and upright). That is the complete list of all his furniture, this venerable white-bearded priest, whose inner joy is visible on his smiling face.

“He hardly ever eats meat; never wears socks, shoes or even slippers: goes about always on his “padakurudu” (sort of wooden platform-shoes, held on only by a wooden knob caught between two toes).

"This dear old confrere, totally absorbed in [his villages and] the care of his Christians, knows absolutely nothing about events in the outside world, nor about the moral questions which are now cracking up his confreres. In his pastoral practices, he doesn't have to think, about morality. All he knows is, "my predecessors always did like that; and they must have examined the matter well in the beginning". He is just 100% ancien regime. If he is wrong, he is certainly wrong in good faith. If he's right, he is doubly lucky, to be so free from all those nagging doubts as well. While other people waste their time trying to find out the truth about those matters, he just "knows" it, and gets on with it, getting the very most out of his [sheltered] position.

“I am not saying this in order to blame those other confreres who can not believe so easily that we are in the right, in the truth. With fearless intellectual honesty, but without fanaticism or exaggeration, they are trying to show the unlawfulness of some of our present tolerations. If those confreres happen to be right, then good Fr Bardouil must logically be wrong. (And a lot of others with him). He is fooling himself. He is sinning daily. (Not [*(p 986) *]formally of course; materially). “And that (say the reformers) is precisely why he (along with so many other zealous missionaries, austere and devoted men, outstanding for their apostolic virtues) manages to achieve so little real progress”. An idea which is cer-tainly worth investigating. [Indeed it must be seriously examined]. How can we dodge it or dispense ourselves from it, we Bishops’! We are personally responsible for the morality [or immorality I of the day-to-day pastoral practice by our mis-sionaries. They base their [compromises] on our authorization. Or on our silence. [Our tacit consent ].

“Fr Bardouil made sure that our visit was going to be of some spiritual benefit to his poor Christians. He had prepared their minds well for it, days in advance. After Evening Prayer (at which he usually presides himself) he was having the Life of St Sebastian read out to them: “… The holy martyr’s father was from Nar-bonne … “[South of France].“Stop!”, says Fr Bardouil. “My dear brethren, the Bishop we are expecting here tomorrow is also from Narbonne, or thereabouts. So you see, we must give him a proper welcome!”. And they all agreed: “Meithan!” (Too right!). This was a very good introduction for them. They asked him loads of questions. “Father, is this Bishop very very old? … Does he wear red? … Has he a long white beard?… “. To all these he replied mysteriously, with all the due gravity of a real guru: “Ah, but he is from Narbonne, like St Sebastian”.

Thanks to “Narbonne” the poor villagers welcomed me with a mixture of awe and enthusiasm. They came a long distance out to meet me. And their visible piety at my Mass would have con-vinced me that their village must be absolutely perfect, if only I hadn’t learnt from other sources that there is plenty of room for improvement there. But the improvement will come about; be-cause Fr Bardouil loves them so.

The children’s wonderful knowledge of Catechism was one sign of it. Catechizing is one of the most difficult tasks in this coun-try. Many of our most able missionaries have come to the conclu-sion that it’s impossible to teach it sufficiently well. Fr Bardouils method seems to have beaten that barrier. Seems. I’d have [*(p 987) *]needed to stay somewhat longer, to be quite sure. That his method gives real knowledge. And that it is applicable to other places and circumstances. Anyway, we got a wonderful welcome here, and great edification too.

*Solemn Public Welcome into Pondicherry *

I reached Ulgaret (3 miles from Pondicherry) earlier than Bishop Bonnand was expecting me. But there he was, to meet me. We hugged and embraced with sincere affection. For I have always liked him very much. And I think he likes me too, even though he has often caused me a lot of trouble and pain. But with-out intending it. (And I’ve done the same to him, I’m afraid).

O God! When will we reach our home with You, the land of perfect peace, where we can always love and never have to con-tradict or fight each other!

The Ulgaret community was not yet completely pacified. Bishop Bonnand had been hoping that, at least for the occasion of my passing through, they might at least unite sufficiently to or-ganize a public reception. But no; they failed to agree.

Pondicherry was able to agree; and that is why Bishop Bon-nand was so insistent that I myself must agree also, and cheerfully accept their big and highly solemn Welcome. For this was going to be the very first external effort at any visible kind of Catholic unity, since the Revolt. Up to now, there had been no proces-sions, no “ther”, no fireworks, no celebration whatsoever, in the open air. But now the Catholics had managed to agree, all of them, to come out and meet me “in style”. The Bishop [and others] were hoping that this would be a sort of break-through, an opportunity for everyone to look forward towards a united fu-ture , without either side having to “lose face” about the past. In that situation, of course, I had to agree. And to postpone my ac-tual arrival into Pondicherry until the late evening.

The Reception was very big indeed, very fine; in fact it was quite excessive. I have to say “excessive” because they couldn’t (p 988) have done more, even if I was the new resident Bishop of Pon-dicherry coming in to his city for the very first time! Nothing was missing (except the official presence of the French colonial au-thorities: hut they unofficially “lent” us their garrison [and their band] for the parade). From the Indian side, all stops were pulled out: drums, Music, fireworks, “artillery”, pandals, the lot. Every possible “amenity” was brought out. just as for the solemn Pro-cession of Ariankupam etc.

At the city gate, under an elegant “pandal”, there was a majestic Kneeler for me to pray on. There the crowd was all wait-ing for me, and all the missionaries and priests (except for one [old] Indian priest). And all the (now numerous) Seminarians; it was, a great joy to see some of them dressed as Clerics, and even a few as Sub-deacons!

At this point I had to leave my “ordinary” palanquin behind, and get on hoard a “solemn high” open palanquin. Then we all went forward, in slow and solemn procession, towards the church, to the strains of harmonious hymns and canticles. The im-pressive ceremony concluded with Benediction of the Most Bles-sed Sacrament.

When it was all over, I found myself in the arms of my con-freres. In the joyfulness of this reunion, we forgot all about our different views. For our hearts never were divided.

*Work begins. New Hopes for real Progress. *

After a few days, we got down to business. Bishop Bonnand wanted me to: 1. prepare a Retreat for the missionaries, before the Synod, which he had by now definitely decided to convoke; 2. go into conference with him on several questions demanding our immediate attention, e.g.: the state of the Catholic commun-ity [after the Revolt]; the ever-increasing n umber of missionaries; the considerable Native Clergy we would soon have to place. (Vo-cations were increasing daily. The Seminary was flourishing, hav-ing successfully weathered all the recent storms).

I had come here to work; so I did not flinch from this awesome [*(p 989) *]task. But what, realistically, could I dare to hope, from it all? Well, maybe the following, as I figured things out in my diary for 30th October:

“The spirit of the missionaries around Bishop Bonnand (especially the leaders) is excellent. With men like that, you can do business. But they still retain quite a lot of the old prejudices, against Bishop Luquet, against me, against what they call “our” ideas. But I believe those prejudices arc mainly due to lack of clear understanding. If so, it will be very useful, now, to go thoroughly (and charitably) into those key issues affecting the whole future of the missions. For, if they do not understand us rightly, it is not because they lack intelligence; it is only because they have never seriously applied their intelligence to those mat-ters. Or merely because they have inadvertently got stuck in some unexamined assumptions (or pre-conceived ideas) which are out of line with the truth (as I see it).

“It would be unrealistic to expect some kind of missionary cure-all to come out from this preparatory Council, or even from the subsequent Synod itself. But it cannot really be a waste of time, to sit down and discuss those crucial missionary issues with a man like Fr Dupuis (our most distinguished mind in India as ] think) or Fr Godelle (an outstanding man) or Fr Fages (still young: but his good sense and right thinking give such great prom-ise for the future of Pondicherry) or Fr Lehodey (a man of angelic nature. second to none in zeal and fervent piety; though perhaps harder to change, because his vision is more limited. as it seems to me, anyway).

"I hope therefore that a few serious and sustained conversa-tions with these confreres will be enough to clear away quite a few doubts and to establish some good solid guidelines. For already several right objectives have been solidly established, here in Pondicherry, which were almost automatically being condemned as "utopian- day-dreams" in 1842 when I first arrived. The Seminary, for example. It was in a deplorable state at that time. If someone had said that [in six years] it ought to be brought up to the level it has actually reached today, he would instantly have been shouted down as an impractical (or even crazy) idealist. Re- [*(p 990) *]member what a hard struggle Fr Leroux had then, to try and obtain the first slight progress towards proper education, both for the Seminary and for the College in this city! Well, what would they shout today if anyone proposed that we should now take the Seminary back down to the 1842 level?

“And so I have good reason to hope that, little by little, they will also accept all the other policy changes required by a practical plan towards a Native Clergy. The Seminary battle has been almost won. But the Clergy battle remains. To train and ordain priests is not enough. Plans have to be made, now, to direct them afterwards, to place them, to guarantee a fair position for them in their difficult co-existence with missionaries. To maintain them decently without over-burdening the Vicariate’s finances, without hurting the feelings of the Indians or shocking the pride of the Europeans. On all those vital points there are numerous wrong conceptions around, serious enough to jeopardize the whole success of the Work, if they continue like that. May true realism about all this Work make itself clear. [That is my hope from the present discussions]. If we can ensure the success of the Work for Local Clergy, and bring it forward towards some modest degree of perfection, then our time and efforts here will certainly not have been in vain.”

*Commission and Council. *

*Bishop Bonnand’s Convocation Letter. *

For a more thorough discussion of the questions he had in mind, Bishop Bonnand had formed a special Commission, with me as Chairman. The Commission then had to report to the Bishop in Council. This Council (always chaired by the Bishop) included: myself and Frs Dupuis, Lehodey, Godelle, Pouplin, Legout (Goust). Sometimes Fr Fages attended. When Bishop Charbonnaux and Fr Jarrige arrived, they took part in both the Commission and the Council.

Our first task was to decide on the Agenda for the Synod. Many of us did not want the Meeting to take the form of a Synod (p 991) at all. (Personally, I expected too little from it for that). But Bishop Bonnand insisted. And he sent out a circular calling it a Synod. He also told them it would be preceded by a general Retreat. Although Bishop Bonnand’s letters are by no means models of style or eloquence, they always show his fatherly care and his complete devotion to the cause of the missions. So I would like to include it all. But it is far too long.207 I will quote only a few passages.

After explaining that the events in Europe and the subsequent reduction in his grant from the Propagation de la Foi had almost forced him to postpone the Synod even further, he went on:

“Thanks be to God, the worst obstacles have now been overcome. As from today I can look forward to seeing you all united around me once again, and to share heart-to-heart with you.

“Even from here, dear Fathers, dear confreres, I can see that you are all very keen to get as much good as possible out of this new Meeting of all our missionaries. You want everything to go smoothly. You want it to cover everything adequately (if not from every possible point of view), everything that concerns us all, concerns us individually, concerns our whole life. I know in advance that you will welcome enthusiastically anything designed to achieve that end. And I thank God for your cooperation, in advance.

“But, dear Fathers and confreres, no matter how ardent your enthusiasm, it cannot equal mine. More than anyone, I myself want to obtain great and happy results from this new Synodal Assembly. So, as soon as I conceived the hope of holding it, I maturely examined, before God, what I would need to do in order to fulfil conscientiously and systematically my own obligations, as Bishop and as [Society] Superior in the Vicariate. I examined what will be needed for our greater good, for the good of the Mission, and for our better [job] satisfaction. It appeared to me that, in order to proceed logically, we must distinguish three things to be done on this great occasion. Because the results we hope for must concern us I° as priests, 2°as pastors, (or carrying out the functions of those who, in a Diocese, carry out the duties of pastors of souls) and 3° as members of the Society.

(p 992) 1° as priests, we need to think of our own spiritual health, and therefore to renew our strength in a good Retreat.

2°as pastors, we have to deal with some important matters concerning the exercise of the sacred ministry in this Vicariate. We will do this in the Synod.

3° as members of the Society, we have some Society matters to decide, in a Council.

So: we need a Retreat as priests, a Synod as missionaries, and a Council as Society members. And it is in that order, and from those three view-points, that things will be arranged and treated.”

He then takes those three points in great detail, and continues:

“In conclusion, dear Fathers and confreres, rest assured that all I have just been telling you will in no way alter my attitude and conduct towards you, always fraternal and (if I could only obey my heart at all times) always generous and fatherly. You must know in advance that my most ardent desire is for your sanctification. In these family reunions I want to give you everything I can possibly give. I will neglect no opportunity for doing so.

“The Retreat, dear Fathers and confreres, will begin on Monday evening 15th January and will end on the 22nd with a Closing Mass. I invite you all to attend, and I will be very happy to see you. There are, however, a few important stations which cannot be left without a missionary for the whole duration of the Retreat and the Synod. Missionaries in such stations should write to me, so that I may make necessary arrangements for them …”

*Draft Schemas for the Synod *

For several days we were busy working out Proposed Decrees for the Synod. 208

“1. Redouble your zeal for the Work of Native Clergy. How each missionary can take part in it, one way or another. Especially, how to discover boys who seem to be called by Providence. How to encourage (p 993) and protect their vocations until they are ready to he directed to the Seminary…

2. Spread good books, now that more and more good Tamil works are being printed. Counteract the Protestant propaganda. Strengthen the Catholics in sound doctrine and in piety…

3. Baptism: the 1844 Synod decided that we should still re-baptize children baptized by catechists. The Sacred Congregation considers this practice improper. A draft Decree to harmonize their demands with local prudence.

4. To make Baptismal Water (rather than ordinary blessed water) be more commonly used in solemn baptisms.

5. To ensure more accuracy in Baptism Registers.

6. Against the widespread custom of loud talking [both ways] in the confessional, and of having other penitents and people waiting too near.

7. Greater care in marriage dispensations (for lawfulness and even for validity).

8. More accurate Marriage Registers.

9. More regular and more useful visits between priests.

10. An annual Retreat for all your Catechists.

11. Greater concern for the poor by missionaries. But prudence and discernment before issuing “permission-to-beg” certificates. These help the real poor to survive; but they sometimes encourage laziness (where the begger could earn his living instead). The traditional practice of getting the “authorized” beggars to do something tangible for the District should not be lost. (E.g. carrying written messages around to the village churches and head-men, teaching children Catechism by rote, giving baptism in danger of death w