« НазадПродовжити »
four or five principal christians, and one of the Catechists to decide their differences. And they always abide by the decision, which is given.
The concourse of christians on these days is very great, many come a great way to assist at the celebration of our sacred mysteries. I have seen an old man of sixty, who never missed. He was neither stopped by the burning heats nor heavy rains, though his dwelling was above five leagues from the church.
In the other churches, where the Missionary cannot be present, they have the same prayers and the same instructions. The Catechist, or the oldest convert presides in these assemblies, and when the Missionary visits his churches, he has the consolation to find that the fervour of the faithful has not diminished in his absence.
But it is chiefly when we celebrate our principal festivals, that the piety of these fervent Neophytes appears most. However distant they may be from the church where the Missionary is, they leave the care of their houses to their neighbours, and set off to be there at the appointed time. They never return till they have finished their small stock of provisions, and some will remain eight days or more. The poor on these occasions find resource in the liberalities of the rich, and there are places where all who want may receive meat.
Besides the baptisms, which take place in the course of the year, we always have more solemn ones on these days. At Dour, I generally baptized two hundred and fifty or three hundred catechumens. In the Morava, the number has reached five hundred, and sometimes exceeded. I have spent at it all the day and a great part of the night, during which a number of torches were lighted. How soon you forget the fatigues of your mission on these happy occasions! and what pleasure you feel when your arm is so fatigued with performing the annointings and other ceremonies, that you have no longer strength to lift it up, but are obliged to get others to support it! How sweet it is to sink under such labour, and to retire loaded with the spoils of so many souls whom you have saved from hell. O, I assure you, my dear father, that to spend only one single festival day like these, is more than sufficient reward for all the pains and sufferings I have undergone for so many years
I have been here. We are not less rewarded for our labours when we witness the virtue and fervour of our converts. When we have shewn them the folly of Paganism and the truths of Christianity, they are easily persuaded and become immoveable in the faith. It seldom happens that they have any doubts, and a confessor must be very cautious in questioning them upon that subject. For there are some who would be strangely scandalized, to think that any one converted, or brought up in the Christian religion, could doubt of any truth, which it proposes. If it ever happens in the time of persecution, that any of them seem to waver in the faith, it is only the effect of the fear, which they have of torments-their infidelity is only exterior, though not less criminal on that account.
It is to this lively faith I attribute a standing miracle, which always exists here in the facility with which Christians drive away devils. Many idolaters are tormented by the wicked spirit, from which they cannot get liberated without calling in the assistance of Christians. This I have seen continually in Morava, and at Dour there are constantly some catechumens, who come to be instructed in the mysteries of our faith in order to be delivered from the power of the demons, who torment them.
I have no doubt but this power, which the christians have over devils, is part of their reward for their faith. They believe with simplicity, and God does not fail to communicate himself to the simple, while he rejects those proud spirits, who would subject their faith to their weak reason.
From this humble and obedient faith arises in the hearts of the converts an entire confidence in God. It is in their last sickness particularly and on their death bed, that they give proofs of the confident hopes they have in the mercies of the Lord. I can here declare with all the confidence possible, that of a prodigious number of Indians, whose confessions I have heared in the moment of death, I have never yet found one, who did not willingly accept of death in the hopes of going to heaven. We are not obliged here as in Eạrope, to have recourse to so many indirect means of giving them to un. derstand that they must die. They look upon death as the end of their exile, and the beginning of a happy life. Their conformity to the will of God is equally great in the other afflictions which befal them. They constantly say to one another,
* Here I have omitted some reflections on this snbject, as foreign to the purpose for which I have translated this letter. If any one is curious he may find the subject treated here in the original, and at much greater length in other letters of the collections. If any one is sceptical, let him try to answer the facts and observations there brought forward. (Note of the translator.)
we suffer in this life ; but this transitory pain will procure eternal happiness in the next.” They have also this maxim of Job deeply engraven on their minds; “God has given, and God has taken away, let his holy name be blessed.”
What the Indians feel most is the loss of their children. They cherish them with a tenderness which has no example elsewhere. They never think they have too many; and if they happen to lose one, they are inconsolable. But the hope, which Christians have that they are gone to heaven calms their sorrok. I was once consoling a good woman, who had lost her son, when she said, “ Let the idolaters weep over their children, they have reason to do so. They cannot expect to see them happy in the next world; but as for me, I hope to see my son in glory, where he will be eternally happy. Have I any reason to grieve for that?" I could repeat to you many more examples of the same kind, but I should exceed my bounds. A single one will enable you to judge of the rest. One summer, when for want of rain the country was threatened with famine, a convert came to confession to me, after which he addressed me thus, “ Every body, my dear Father, appears afraid of the famine this year. The only money I have in the world, is five fanons, which is nothing for the support of my family. I depend nevertheless entirely upon the fatherly care of my God. He bas promised that he will never forsake those, that put their confidence in him. I have heard you say in your sermon, that God will multiply a hundred fold, what you give to the poor for his love. I have brought you therefore all I have take it and give it to the poor, that God may take care of my family. “ Having said this he threw down his five fanons at my feet; and in a moment disappeared and mixed with the crowd, so that I never found him out again. I fear such an example will not find many imitators in Europe.
There does not require much reasoning to inspire our Neophytes with the love of God. As soon as you have explained to them the perfections of that Sovereign Being, they form naturally of themselves two sentiments, the one of indignation against themselves, for having offered incense to devils, or to men of abominable lives; the other, of love towards so perfect and beneficent a God. I have seen one of these new Christians, who, being inconsolable for haviug carried, while a Pagan, one of their infamous idols upon his breast, took a razor in private and cut away all the skin off his breast, which the idol had touched. I have known many others, whose fervour carried them to excesses, which I was forced to restrain. “ What,” they said to me, can á man, who has adored Idols, ever do too much to repair his misfortune in adoring too late a God who has loved him so much.” Those who are born of Christian parents, and have been baptized in their infancy, have always present to their minds the singular favour which God has done them in distinguishing them from the rest of their countrymen, and preserving them from the superstitions of paganism.
Hence springs that tender piety with which they celelebrate the mysteries of our Saviour's life. Above all, they are greatly affeeted when they hear the sufferings of his death recited. The church then resounds with sobs and sighs. They never fail every night, after the examination of their con. science to repeat a moving prayer, which contains an abridgement of the passion, and almost always shed tears over it.
The love of God, when it exists really in the heart, necessarily produces the love of your neighbour. So there is nothing to be compared with that fraternal charity and union which exists among our converts, though the customs of this country are very destructive of union. For every one is obliged, under grievous penalties, to observe the particular laws of his Caste.
Now one of these laws is, that a person of a superior Caste, shall have no communication with an inferior one. Yet religion has been able to reform these laws; the christians pay little regard to them; they consider themselves as children of the same Father, destined for the same inheritance, and on all occasions give the most affecting proofs of attachment. Their custom is, when they meet, to salute one another, and to say, “ Praise be to God." This is the sign by which they know one another. When a christian is on a journey, and passes through a village where there are any of the faithful, they each contend for the pleasure of taking him into their houses and providing for him. He may enter into any house as if it were his
A Neophyte once told me, that being about forty leagues from Trichirapali, he fell sick in a village where he knew nobody. He knew there was a christian family there, so he sent to let them know in what a state he was. Immediately, these good christians came to find him, took him home with them, and treated him with that care which he would not have found in his own family. When he was recovered, they gave him enough to carry
him his road, and accompanied him some way out of the village. I have known poor widows, who had nothing but what they got by spinning, give what little they had to the christians that were in want.
Their charity is still more active when there is opportunity of relieving the spiritual wants of their countrymen. They have wonderful zeal for the conversion of idolaters. They spare no pains-nothing daunts them. At the time of a famine, which lasted two whole years, our christians went on the high roads, where they found many Indians ready to die for want of food. They brought them rice, and accompanied their charities with so much kindness, that they gained many to Jesus Christ. One widow alone baptized twenty-five adults, and nearly three hundred children.
This same zeal makes them assist one another in their sicknesses, and prepare each other for death.
They take a pleasure in teaching the catechism and prayers to those who wish to embrace the faith; and procuring charities for those christians, who, living a great distance from the church, have