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Chapter 18

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Charles Nerinckx

by
Camillus Maes

published by
Robert Clarke & Co.
Cincinnati, 1880

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 20

p307 Chapter XIX

1816.

A letter from Bishop Flaget: the Loretto institution a success. — Father Nerinckx' appeal to his Belgian countrymen for men and money. — Its wonderful effects.

Father Nerinckx now set to work collecting alms, ornaments, holy vessels, etc., for the missions. We will have occasion to enter into a more detailed account of this very successful appeal to the generosity of his countrymen. Our readers will allow us to complete the translation of the Flemish pamphlet addressed by Father Nerinckx to his Belgian friends, in August, 1816. It has perhaps not the interest which a closer narration of facts might possess; but, were it only for its important results, the omission of this rather lengthy appeal of the missionary for co-laborers in the vineyard of the Lord, would be unwarranted. Many Fathers of the Society of Jesus, now venerable for their age and their labors on the mission, have assured us that they owed their vocation to the reading of the following pages, and this forcible plea in favor of the American mission was the instrument in the p308 hands of Providence to bring them to the shores of the New World.

"At my return home," continues Father Nerinckx, "I found a letter of the Right Reverend Bishop of Kentucky, a few extracts of which I here copy:

'Your letter of November 29, 1815, was handed to me the 2d day of March (1816), and I read it again and again with renewed pleasure. I communicated it to your pious daughters, who were highly delighted with it, and I read it in all your parishes, where it elicited the same feelings of joy. Everywhere I had public prayers to thank God for your happy arrival, and to ask Him to grant you a speedy and safe return. All the reverend gentlemen thank you for your kind remembrance, and desire me to be the interpreter of their good wishes for your welfare. Your good daughters of Loretto continue pious and full of fervor; they are, at the same time, my joy and my confusion. . . . Sister Agnes made her vows on St. Joseph's day, and three boarders have been admitted to their first communion. Those ceremonies have made a very salutary impression. Three young novices came the next day to beg of me be allowed to make their vows on the day of Annunciation. There are at least twenty-five boarders, all of excellent disposition; three or four of them are very anxious to receive the habit. Applications for admission are received from every direction, and I am afraid that, after Easter, we shall have more p309subjects than the house can accommodate or support. I bought old Stephen and Dinah; they cost me one hundred and thirty gourdes, and they render valuable services to the house; henceforth, the sisters are dispensed from cutting wood and carrying it to the yard. . . . A Methodist preacher living on the neighboring hill, where we are going to build a second convent, has forced me into a public discussion. The concourse of catholic and protestant neighbors was great. The good God, in his mercy, has allowed that miserable deceiver to be loaded with shame and contempt even by those of his own sect.'

The letter contains some minor details which I omit.

"They expect me back soon, and, if it depends on me alone, I will soon be in Kentucky. I gather the little provisions as fast as I can, and if I do not obtain all that we expected or are in need of, I trust, however, that my journey will not have been undertaken in vain. My mission ad limina apostolorum was a duty, and that is fulfilled. The institution is approved of; instructions are obtained; difficulties are answered; spiritual favors, relics, etc., are received; some necessary books and ornaments are in my possession; Rome is somewhat consoled; and the curiosity of friends and countrymen is somewhat satisfied, or perhaps more excited than ever.

"Catholic Belgium has the enviable reputation, in Rome itself, of being, for the last thirty p310years, the vanguard of the church against all the heretical and philosophical innovations of these times. St. Francis Xavier expressed a decided wish of having Belgians for his East India missions, and obtained some of decided merit. I am obliged to be satisfied with the want of them. I learned with pleasure that during my absence in Rome, three of our neighborhood (environs of Ninove) left to join the Jesuits in Georgetown, and that the Bishop of New Orleans succeeded in obtaining some in Italy and France but how little will he notice these few drops in our vast ocean! I have done what I could to induce some priests to accompany me, and my conscience is at rest. May God dispose all things according to his holy will!

"Allow me, however, to present a few observations to some of my acquaintances and friends, who, full of faith, yet betrayed some alarm when they became aware of my desire of taking along some Belgian priests to work in our deserted missions of America. Their conduct, I allow, proceeds from a great attachment to Religion and from a laudable desire to save souls at home; but if I am not mistaken, their charity, which should extend to all, is rather too limited. They object that those laborers are also needed in Belgium; indeed they are, and very much so! I remember the happy times when Belgium had ten evangelical laborers to the one of to‑day; and men, at that, who were animated with zeal; adorned with the most solid piety, doctrine, and p311learning; men of influence, commanding respect, giving public edification, thirsting early and late, as did the Apostles, for the salvation of souls; and they were helped most generously by noble auxiliary armies of religious, led and encouraged by heroic Bishops, who went through all the trials of persecution, and were surrounded by counsellors able to fill with honor important episcopal Sees. Then did countless religious institutions flourish, whence morality, virtue, and piety flowed, as through so many channels, out to the multitude. In those happy times, no one found that the number of priests was too great except those whose heart was corrupted, to whom the yoke of religion, that is of God himself, had become a burden, and who had not courage enough to fight the world, after the example of the Author of our faith; or who, slaves to their passions, pride, and avarice, were already in a fair way to despise alike God, his religion, and his ministers. Hence I do not wonder at those objections of to‑day, which, if they were true in those times, must surely be true now, and will likely always exist.

"But tell me candidly: Is there a christian in our land, who, if he sincerely tried, could not approach the Holy Sacraments every month? Is there one, who, owing to the want of priests, is obliged to leave this world without the rites of the church? Where is the child to be found, who has to sigh without baptism in the slavery of the devil, even for three days? Where is the p312pastor or priest who, when he rises in the morning, can not travel from one end of his parish to the other before the evening of the same day? Who is there in any portion of our Netherlands who can not, if he wishes it, see his pastor and talk to him twice in the day? Is that the case in America? Ah! would to God it were so! Alas! Not to speak of other regions of that vast continent, in my mission, a man coming on a sick call from my congregation of the Sacred Hearts,a has to travel every day between forty and fifty miles on horseback for four days, ere he can reach my cabin at St. Charles; and if I am at home (for, many a time, other calls and occupations keep me away), we have to ride another four days to see if the sick person has succeeded in struggling against death for a whole week. The distances to St. James', St. Rumoldus', St. Teresa's, etc., are from three to four, five, and six days' travel back and forth. To pay one single visit to each one of my congregations, and remain three or four days in each station, which is only a short stop considering the circumstances and the needs of the people, I have to spend six weeks on the road without taking a day's rest, devoting the whole time to travel, hearing confessions, instruction, and administration of the sacraments. I merely mention how I am situated, because I know what labors devolve upon myself; my brother priests are not better off. . . .

"I just now met my brother, who is in the p313holy ministry in London, after having been separated from him by persecution and exile for nineteen years. He is asked to try and find some priests who have commiseration enough to go and help our abandoned brethren of the Cape of Good Hope and Grenada, one of the Antilles Islands. The jurisdiction over these missions devolves upon the Bishop of London, and the English government pays for the missionary's travelling expenses. In that region, twenty thousand catholics are without a single priest, and with heavy hearts call for help, and entreat some one to go and take care of them."

Father Nerinckx here relates the Pittsburg incident, which we mentioned in the previous chapter, and continues:

"What think you, my dear friends? Considering the position of your fellow-men and of him who comes in the name of them all to entreat of you one priest out of a hundred, that he may prevent, by coming to their help, these dying sheep, among whom are so many pleading and starving lambs, from losing, for all eternity, their 'precious soul in the throat of a devouring wolf,' is it in accordance with christian charity to prevent that one from coming? Nay, is it consistent with charity to try to limit the number of those who are willing to come? Is true and sincere charity, like that of Him who has made all souls His at the price of His blood and loved them all alike — Americans and Indians, p314as well as Belgians — is true and sincere charity without means when it says: 'I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee?' Is that, I ask it once more, is that being animated with the true christian spirit for the increase of the kingdom of God and the salvation of souls? Is it to be tolerated, to envy or to deny to thousands a mouthful of bread in the far distant missions, for fear of suffering want when we are more than satiated at home? That many in the Netherlands despise the spiritual food to‑day, is a sad truth. Were these our friends compelled to come and share in America the abandonment of our catholics for only three years, do you think that, at the time of a contagious disease, they would not dare to ask a priest of the Netherlands to come to their help for fear of depriving their own country of spiritual assistance? Oh no! . . . If such had been the case at the time of SS. Amandus, Willebrordus, Rumoldus, Livinus, etc., what would Belgium be to‑day?

"There is, in my way of thinking, a reason to fear the loss of the gift of faith, when we neglect to procure it to others, or to work to give them the same advantages we enjoy. Cuilibet Deus mandavit de proximo suo, 'God has given every one charge of his neighbor,' is not an expression without meaning. When I attended the Concursus, we had to prove that this duty could bind us under pain of mortal sin; and I would like to know if it could bind more strictly p315than in the present case? It is unnecessary to write a volume of divine sayings, counsels, commands, and examples, which leave us without an excuse for neglecting to go to the rescue of these the most abandoned of all our brethren. To refuse them that help, seems to me to call for divine vengeance; such a refusal is stamped with the seal of the blackest ingratitude toward Christ who came to save us all, and of the most barbarous cruelty toward these catholics, who, without our help, run the risk of their eternal salvation. And, were it gone so far — from which I pray a merciful God will preserve us — that the Netherlanders had offended the so justly incensed Lord so much, that the loss of faith is unavoidable, will half a dozen more or less laborers avert the impending storm? Would it not, perhaps, be good policy to let a few go elsewhere, there to form a small seminary for the coming need? He who compares the present times with the past, will easily perceive that our holy religion is threatened more than ever; more weight may make the balance swing the other way. If, and I hope it from God's mercy, you keep your faith without any merits of your own, will you feel aggrieved because you helped to promote the cause of religion and to keep it up in far distant countries? And, if you lose the faith, will it be of any benefit to you, that with you, and perhaps through you, our abandoned regions shared with you this most unhappy lot? When I meet with persons in p316want, I always feel more kindly toward those who generously share with others the alms they received. In our case, such a course would, in my humble opinion, be most agreeable to God: a goodly part left to our friends of the Netherlands, and a mite for our American brethren.

"If I appear to dwell on this matter longer than I ought to, his Lordship, the Bishop of London, who told my brother that he entertained a preference for Netherlanders for his mission, will partly be my justification. This is surely flattering to our national character. Yet it serves not my purpose, and my friends are too easily alarmed at the prospect of seeing our clergy emigrate in a body to the American missions; for, up to this day, August 7, 1816, I did not succeed in prevailing upon a single priest to devote himself to the work. To be sure, some seem to pity our position and to deplore the sufferings of the people under our care; but pity does not help us any.

"The usual objections are: Old age, lack of vocation, want of talents, ignorance of the language, the wants at home, want of money for the journey, their present position, etc., etc. Old age, together with bodily infirmities, is surely an obstacle to go through much fatigue, although I have many a time seen an iron will and real fervor an efficient help to overcome the infirmities of old age. For instance, years ago, I met, in our Concursus at Mechlin, many an old man who would most willingly have put his weak p317shoulders under the heavy burden of a tolerably difficult and extensive parish. The Archbishop of Mechlin at eighty-two, and the Archbishop of Paris at ninety-two years of age, were not afraid of undertaking the direction of these dioceses with the fervor of youth! Vocation, so necessary and essential in the ministry of the ecclesiastical state, should indeed not be wanting to such an undertaking; hence, it is very necessary to examine it. Neglect of this precaution is perhaps the cause of the universal ruin wherewith the world is threatened. I myself will deplore, in a strange land for the rest of my days, my too great boldness in that respect. But would my friends allow me to ask, whether they know many candidates who, before accepting a position, be it clerical or civil, in this country, made the reservation: 'Si sim vocatus,' I will accept if I am called to it? Is that practically the sine qua non of those who are ready to fill places becoming vacant? I am afraid, and not without reason, that by far too little time is consecrated to a conscientious examination of that matter. I can hardly understand how so many hundreds, nay, thousands, to whom the ite, docete omnes gentes, go and teach all nations, has been so forcibly — and surely not without a purpose — addressed by a lawful authority, pretend to fulfil its obligations within the narrow limits of the Netherlands. Those who examined, knew, or fulfilled their calling less well, could do worse than try to remedy this defect with me, by fitting p318themselves as thoroughly as time and talents will permit, to solace, with the Samaritan, our sorely wounded brethren in those regions where priest or levite can not or will not come. Our labors, our voluntary privations, our sweat, mixed with a tear over our former deficiencies, may serve as wine and oil for their cure; we may so secure our true vocation, and mark up for or rectify a doubtful calling.

"As far as want of talents is concerned, it is a sure remedy against vain glory, allows truth to shine in a stronger light, and vindicates the power and wisdom of Him in whose name the missionary works. Great talents were not the main supply of the twelve first founders of catholicity; even now-a‑days, they do not work miracles in the apostolical calling; a true vocation, zeal, humility, and the thorough practice of the virtues of our state, are no less fit instruments in the hands of the promoter of the Gospel. Are talents a real necessity?? If so, it becomes my duty to resign immediately my charge, which I accepted without talents; for, willing or not, I am forced to acknowledge that I have none, and, what is more, I ask for none if it is the will of God that I remain without any.

"Allow me to notice one more objection, upon which many seem to lay great stress. They apprehend that, in those American regions, our holy religion is in danger of meeting, some day or other, and perhaps very soon, the same difficulties and persecutions, under the pressure of p319which it has been sighing at home. I can not foresee what God, in the secret of his judgments, will allow. I know, however, that the church militant has to follow up her victories unto the utmost boundaries of the earth; and that wherever she is attacked, she enters upon the task without fear for the future, under the shadow of the cross of Him who is with her and protects her. Or do those friends claim for our holy religion a peace that should never be interfered with? What, then, would become of the many promises which her Founder left her by his last will as so many legacies and codicils? Moreover, granting that our holy church will soon be persecuted in America, would our numerous catholics be less in want of priests; or would the priest be less bound to stand by them under such difficult circumstances? But, they retort, were such a thing to happen, it would be impossible to work! . . . The answer is obvious. For hundreds of years, the enemies of the early church left no means untried to interfere with the priests' work: modern heresies and apostasies have improved upon these vexations of olden times; we ourselves have seen preferment given to those who were most successful in thwarting the priests' ministry. Did God abandon his church in the midst of all those inimical schemes? No! Veritas Domini manet in aeternum, 'the truth of the Lord remaineth forever!' That there are and always will be difficulties to contend with in the missions, I know by experience; p320in fact, they are so many and great, that I persist hopefully in doing all I can to bring others, who can cope with them better than I can myself, to join me. But, to speak of the present state of affairs in America, I do know this much, that our holy religion is nowhere less interfered with than there. We write to Rome and receive rescripts from the Eternal City without any body daring to touch or look at the papers, of whatever description they may be. We have public processions and celebrations; we wear religious regalia and ornament streets; we give the sacraments or refuse them; we perform burials or refuse that sacred rite; we admit converts to the church or reject public sinners; we forgive or impose public penances of all kinds; we build convents, erect schools, buy and sell lands, etc., etc., without any body interfering or pretending a right to interfere but our Bishop. We write, we speak, we preach, what and where we please. In vain would the enemies of the church enter complaint against us in civil courts; the law is deaf in religious matters. We are free from spies and informers, who are neither paid nor encouraged to do their dirty work as they are at home Who can wish for greater liberty? But how long will it last? Perhaps as long as we will, and here end our duties. This government will and must experience the general vicissitudes of all others; the rise and fall of kingdoms, like that of families, cities, and countries, p321will go on until the end of time; but our rule of action must be in keeping with the times we live in, and for that alone we stand responsible. God wants neither our advice nor our help to adjust the future.

"It is hardly necessary to answer further objections; the poorest of intellects can overthrow them all. I only wish I met with as much good will and determination as ability!

"Poor me! I have then to leave again Europe, or at least the Netherlands, without a single companion; and, for a little while longer, work to the best of my poor abilities in a small corner of the vineyard of the Lord! I have to carry to my and your brothers of these regions, the cruel tidings that they are left to die of spiritual starvation; that thousands of their kin are doomed to be of the innumerable crowd upon which an eternal and unquenching fire will prey and exhaust its rage! And if these poor people ask me, whether there was no one among my countrymen, so famous for piety and zeal, who could or would extend a helping hand to preserve them from that direful evil, what shall I answer? Alas! acknowledge that no one would, is hard and shameful; assert that no one could, is neither true nor credible. But what if the Master of the Vineyard asks me and urges me: 'Why are you alone? Why no one with you? Why have I only such a good for nothing servant as you are? Where are they whom I have enriched with adequate talents, whom I have p322prepared for the noble and difficult work of this the abandoned part of my vineyard by lengthy instructions, unusual trials, and experience? Did they forget the covenant which they renewed so often, of consecrating themselves entirely to me as I belong entirely to them? Do they pretend to love me only with the lips when I nourish, console, and satiate them; to refuse me even one drop of sweat, when they sacrifice so lavishly my life-blood and make me die a thousand deaths? Or do they not know the abandonment that oppresses me, afflicted as I am by the sight of thousands who are ruthlessly taken away from me to be buried in a sea of misery, and to load me for all eternity with injuries and blasphemies?' Again, what can I answer to the Lord? Oh! that I were a Francis Xavier! I would fill our limitless wilderness with howls and shrieks, I would sprinkle the earth with bloody tears, I would unceasingly strike my breast, and in my anguish make known to God himself my complaints, expecting, drowned in sorrow, some consolation from on high! . . .

"But I forget myself. I only intended to write a short letter as a long farewell. I beg your pardon, dear friends; it costs me much to dismiss this matter, when I picture to my mind that awful day when those miserable people will stand in throngs to the left with the scum of the damned, perhaps, in their despair, accusing between their sobs and gnashing of teeth those anointed of the Lord, who now refuse p323their help without sufficient reason, and laying at their door their everlasting misery and privation of eternal happiness! Ah! would to God that my but too just complaints had some effect upon half a dozen of commiserating hearts!

"I had conceived the idea of an undertaking which would have fostered missionary zeal in our land, viz.: the establishment of a missionary institute which would have a house here and one in America. But I see no chance of success. I intend to lay before you its objects, location, and means of support, in fact the whole plan, so soon as circumstances favor the project. The society would be composed of young men from the different seminaries, and other priests volunteering, to the number, say, of ten or twenty, who would undertake missionary work for a period of eight or twelve years, alternately on the home and foreign missions. This plan might prove acceptable to such as would be willing to exercise this most difficult ministry not for a lifetime, but for a limited period.

"Obliged to forego for a time these most pleasing hopes, I will now turn my energies to smaller means of good, which, however insignificant, may perhaps prove useful. If, however, some few, touched by the grace of God, desired to devote themselves to the foreign missions, after I am gone; persons will be found in different Belgian cities, in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Mechlin, Bruges, Thienen, Dendermonde, Ninove, p324and especially in Louvain, who will give them full directions, and tell them how and where to address themselves in America, to make known their intention. Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are the most important seaports to which communications may be forwarded. We of Kentucky have few commercial relations with Boston, more with Philadelphia, but especially with Baltimore. The latter port would prove the best landing for persons and luggage, as all necessary information and further directions may be had from the Archbishop or at the Seminary. Traveling and freight expenses are heavy. The three gentlemen who left Antwerp last May, had to pay fifty crowns for the trip in the captain's cabin, which is twice as expensive as it used to be. Amsterdam affords more and better opportunities to go to Baltimore, and I think that from that port a person could reach Kentucky at an outlay of a thousand of our guilders, no untoward circumstances increasing the expenses. Of course, he who comes must have good testimonial letters from his Bishop. But passports are unnecessary in America, where you meet with far less trouble on your travels than here. I did not meet with as much incivility, during my eleven years' stay in America, as I had to endure in the public conveyances of these Netherlands on two short journeys from one city to another. In America, people respect one another and behave like gentlemen; loose conversations p325and blasphemies are only indulged in by blackguards and the low-bred, as they are called.1 Never could I have believed that public morality could have been lowered to such a degree of corruption in our Netherlands.

"The distance from Antwerp or Amsterdam to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is about three thousand five hundred miles; the bay, from its mouth to Baltimore, measures one hundred and sixty miles; another journey of seven hundred miles, by Pittsburg, brings you to Kentucky, where we reside. Now-a‑days good inns and relays are to be found all along the road. In favorable weather, Kentucky may be reached in less than three months; but it takes sometimes four, five, and six months. Spring is the most favorable time of the year. As a remedy against sea-sickness, and most conducive to health, I advise a cathartic before going to sea; have also a small supply of wine, lemons, etc. Lemons and vinegar tea I find best against that very annoying but seldom dangerous disease — sea-sickness. Also take a supply of fish for abstinence days, and make a special contract with the captain to have it prepared for you; butter is also seldom to be had on board. Life on the ship is hard, tiresome, and disagreeable. I generally keep on deck, whenever practicable, and have some books to pass the time more pleasantly. I would also advise you to have a good supply of linen; frequent change of raiment p326will protect you against that plague of ships, vermin, which powders and salves will more effectually keep away from you.

"Those who can not help us with their person or substance are earnestly requested to give us at least the help of their prayers, good works, and sacrifices; this was, in former times, the way religious, who also offered themselves for the work, acted. The great Francis Xavier refers the fruit of his labors to the prayers, etc., of others; and, if it is not out of place to speak of myself, I am not afraid to assert that I obtained most signal benefits from the Rosary Society of little children. It is made up of children who are not over seven years of age, and have, in consequence, because of their baptismal innocence, retained the right to be heard. I enrolled in it more than five hundred children, who daily prostrate themselves before the throne of God to implore his mercy. Of the aim and manner of that devotion, I intend to treat elsewhere. . . . Let some pious souls here in the Netherlands club together in a similar manner, or, if they desire to unite themselves with us and practice this devotion as it is done in our regions, suffice it to know that the main object of our devotion is Jesus dying and His sorrowing Mother at the foot of the cross. Our new little convent of Loretto is so partial to that devotion, that, although the sisters and scholars keep silence the whole day with the exception of half an hourb after dinner, they all assemble p327in spirit at the foot of the cross every half-hour of the day until bed-time, and to the aspiration of the leader, 'O Suffering Jesus!' all the others answer, 'O Sorrowful Mary!' The devotions to the Suffering Jesus, to His Sacred Heart, to Mary his Blessed Mother, are the choicest of our religion. Our faith began with the preaching of Jesus, and Him crucified; and it is likely that neglect of piety toward the sufferings of our Lord, is in no small degree the cause that, in our days, 'with desolation is all land made desolate.' Ah! if every priest and minister of the Gospel with his parishioners, masters, and mistresses with their pupils, fathers and mothers with their household, only seriously meditated half an hour in the week on the sufferings which the Son of God so willingly underwent for our sake, how deep would not that dying Redeemer be imprinted in the hearts of all these good christians! Could it then be possible that our great God, how much soever displeased, would reject any of us, if the image of Him, in whom he takes all his delight, were stamped on the soul of the afflicted sinner who loudly prays for perseverance in virtue and for deliverance from evil? I recommend, then, this devotion to all my relations, for the preservation of the Holy Roman Catholic Religion in their families. And let me also add the further advice, which I myself always tried to practice, to cling steadfastly to the Head of the church — the Pope of Rome; to accept his decisions as the words of him whose p328place he fills, notwithstanding all the subterfuges which cunning or ill-will may invent. There never sprung up an error or heresy of which the Pope was the head; never will there be true faith where the Pope is not at the head. A prayer for the Pope should be among our daily practices.

"Rendering now heartfelt thanks to all my relations, to all my esteemed friends and acquaintances, for their kind reception, for favors and benefits received, either through personal affection or because of my mission, I bid them an affectionate farewell, leaving them my wishes for the choicest blessings of heaven upon them all, and for their perfect prosperity in time and eternity. With the help of God's grace, I will carry with me across the Atlantic ocean and through the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio, the remembrance of your virtues and kind deeds down to Kentucky, there to be set down as examples worthy of imitation for all future times and generations. Long rest and greater prosperity to my native land! A long farewell! Dear friends, I embrace you all in the Sacred Heart of Jesus! . . . Farewell! Until we meet in the valley of Josaphat! Farewell!

"Charles Nerinckx,

"Miss. Apost.

"P. S. The date of my departure for America being very uncertain, it depending on many p329at present doubtful circumstances, I request the men or women who foster in their hearts the desire of devoting themselves, either for a time or for their whole life, to the noble undertaking, to think seriously on the matter, to recommend it earnestly to God, and to come to a speedy conclusion. Supposing, a thing most probable, that I do not leave before winter, they should keep themselves in readiness to leave early in the spring. Those who desire to confer with me on the subject, and to receive reliable information, can apply at the residence of any of my relations, among whom I constantly reside, or write to my home in Ninove, whence I will answer their letters.

"My reverend brother, who has care of souls in Somerstown, London, and who, by request of his Bishop, spent a few days in the Netherlands to obtain laborers for the abandoned missions of the Cape of Good Hope and the island of Grenada, has gone back to his people without obtaining the desired help. He requests me to post those whom a desire to devote themselves to the noble undertaking would urge to go, in the manner of reaching their destination. It is unnecessary to repeat that the twenty thousand catholics of Grenada, deprived of a priest for the last fifteen months, have signified to the Bishop of London their desire of having one; that the government is ready to pay all travelling expenses; that the mission is possessed of a church p330and able to support a priest; that the predominant language is French; etc., etc.

"I am just now informed that, besides these two missions, a third one stands in need of help, the Isle of France, having a population of thirty thousand souls and but one priest. Oh! my dear friends, let us not look with indifference on the lamentable position of these our brethren; consider the numerous progeny that is going to share in their abandonment. If no one hastens to their help, the sectarians, anti-catholics, etc., will soon go to pervert this portion of Christ's fold! If I can be of any use, I am ready to give all necessary information."

We deem comments unnecessary. As a result of this moving appeal, two priests and eight young men, four of whom were ready to be ordained, signified their willingness to accompany Father Nerinckx to America.

Our missionary spent the winter in collecting money, vestments, paintings, and other articles necessary for or useful to the missions. During his stay he also put in order and had printed in French, the "Rules and Statutes of the Little Society of the Friends of Mary at the foot of the Cross," which had been adopted by the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, when taking that society under its especial protection, in April, 1816. Father Nerinckx gave these copies for circulation among the pious sodalities of p331women in Belgium, with an eye to gain some postulants for the incipient society, as also to excite the zeal of those who had pecuniary means to dispose of in favor of good works like the one he commended to their charity.


The Author's Note:

1 O tempora, O mores!


Thayer's Notes:

a Sic: Presumably the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary both; see for example p412.

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b Elsewhere (p258) Father Nerinckx calls it an "hour".


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Page updated: 7 Sep 09