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From Fr. Roulland to Thérèse - September 25-26, 1896.

From P. Roulland to Thérèse.

September 25-26, 1896

Sister,

At last I have walked on the soil of China, I reached my new coun­try of adoption. Our good mother will give you some details of my voyage which, I may add, went very well: today's ships are real palaces compared to the sailing-vessels that brought our Society's first missionaries to the Orient. We suffered mostly from the heat. I am now at the Procurature of the Society's headquarters, awaiting impatiently the happy moment when they will tell me to leave for Su-Tchuen: the Blue River current is too rapid at present and to sail upstream would be courting shipwreck. I shall not speak to you as yet about this very interesting province. However, I did see four Christians from my mission and was charmed by them. When they learned I was their priest, they genuflected before me one after the other, and I was somewhat embarrassed during this ceremony so novel to me. The Father Procurator, who was with me, told me after­ward: "On your mission, Chinese society is much more refined than it is here, and your Christians will have a respect and attachment for you that is unknown here." We are at Shanghai, an important port about two hours from the ocean, situated on a large river that is bigger than the Seine and called the Wampoo. There are two separate sections in this city: the section inhabited by Europeans and the Chinese section. The greater number of Europeans is English, consequently, Protestant: so we see ministers out walking somewhat solemnly with their wives and children. These ministers, as well as those of the whole Celestial Empire, place many obstacles to the mis­sionary's activity, thanks to their pecuniary resources. The Chinese can move about in the streets, making their living this way: the sidewalks are covered with them, and the middle of the streets is congested with rickshaws, little wagons carrying one person and drawn by Chinese yellow-tanned in complexion. Another means of locomotion is the sedan chair: a large wheel is in the center, and on the right and left a kind of chair for sitting. Other Chinese, with the aid of bamboo poles, carry enormous loads. They run for an hour, transporting a load for six or seven French sous. Still imbued with European ways, I was pitying their lot, but a priest quickly reprimanded me: "You must treat them haughtily and never smile at them, otherwise they will laugh at you and you will lose all authori­ty." I made the resolution to cast no judgment on a people with customs so different from our own and to learn only the facts. And I did not have to go far to learn them. The Chinese section of the city is close to the Procurature; we went for a walk there. We pass­ed through the gateway of the fortifications. The largest streets are hardly two meters in width: on the right and left are shops, always shops. I wondered where all these merchants found buyers, but I shall know this later on. In the shops I saw fabrics, pipes, objects of superstition, fish that had a very disagreeable odor, etc. The Chinese looked at us curiously as we passed by; in their eyes we are devils from the West. We entered a pagoda, a sort of temple where the devil is worshipped under every form. It was disturbing to see these Chinese prostrate before these hideous forms ranged around a large room with walls blackened by the smoke from candles. I had my parasol and would have gladly taken the pleasure of striking all these devils, but I would have paid dearly for this pleasure. At last, we reached the Catholic church; it was formerly a pagoda and to­day, in place of the old Buddha, a statue of the Immaculate Virgin, extends her arms to us. The priest in charge of the parish also ad­ministers a school. What must be very difficult is that in these cities with such narrow streets there is no air. Regarding this, the priest who was taking us around said, laughing, "It is a blessing there are not too many draughts, poisonous microbes cannot get around."

Let us leave the city and assist at Benediction in the countryside.

We approached a neighboring church, going along a highway, a small path one half meter in width, winding through fields sown with rice, cotton, and peas. Now we were able to breathe deeply. Chinese were working in the fields, for the weather was threatening and the rice and cotton were ready for harvesting. The greater number of these workers were Christians and had the priest's permission to work on Sunday. In the fields we saw tombs here and there. On the outskirts of the cities these tombs are close to each other. These are burial mounds ten times larger than the graves in France, or little houses one meter in height. Here, the coffin is simply placed on two trestles and covered with a roughly woven matting, or the coffin is simply placed on the ground. There is never any bad odor coming from the bodies because the boxes are very thick, well closed, and the bodies are covered in quicklime. We reached the priest's residence, a Jesuit from Caen, P. Pierre. He had a fever and begged us to give Benediction. We went to the church. The Christian women were there in large numbers on one side, the men not occupied in the fields were on the other side, and all were reciting the Rosary in the Chinese tongue in a chanting tone. After Benediction, they all recited an Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart. We returned, somewhat tired but happy and loving China and the Chinese even more. Another interesting outing was the one to Zi-Ka-Wei, nine kilometers from Shanghai. It is this village, you recall, Sister, which you pointed out to me when we were speaking about the Carmelite nuns at Shanghai.' It is a village, partly Catholic. The Jesuits have magnifi­cent buildings there: a scholasticate, an orphanage for boys, one for girls; among the latter we saw poor little things, thin, fading away; soon they will go to heaven. The Carmel is very close to the or­phanage, but I was so tired I did not go there. A Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Chouzy from Kouang-si, a prisoner of the Chinese, wrote recently to our Procurator: "We have been successful in our under­taking; this is thanks to the prayers of the Carmelites at Zi-Ka-Wei; thank them for us and tell them to pray still for our poor mission."

I can really see that the daughters of St. Teresa will share in heaven in the reward of the missionaries. Like the latter, they do not splash around in the pagan filth (an expression of a holy missionary), but by means of a life filled with sacrifices, spent among the most beautiful flowers of spirituality, they do violence to the Heart of our God by their holy prayers. Around October 15, feast of St. Teresa of Avila, I will put on Chinese clothes: my head will be shaved, with the exception of a circle on the top; to this hair will be attached a braid of false hair taken from I do not know where; I shall be given a long pipe, and I shall be Chinese. I shall leave for Su-Tchuen, confident in the future because it is God's, because in heaven a Mother will watch over me, because in Carmel a Sister will pray for me: we shall convert souls, we shall baptize little Chinese babies, and when you fly away to our common homeland, you will meet these little angels who will owe their eternal happiness to you. I shall reach my Bishop around December 25; I will write you around the end of January, and my letter will reach you at the end of March.

You have sent me a box of large hosts; the box is in my room, ready to embark once more. The hosts were used for celebrating Holy Mass on board, and we were all happy to use a host prepared by a Carmelite. During the crossing, I said Holy Mass several times, but I was so hot in those narrow cabins that my preparation and thanksgiving left so much to be desired that I had to renounce the joy of saying Mass. During this same crossing, I also read the obituary circular of the venerated Mother Geneviève; I read also some of the poems at the end of the booklet. 1 beg you, Sister, place often at the feet of Jesus, in your brother's name, some of the sentiments that have set your soul on fire. On this condition, I will continue to say each morning: "My God, enkindle my Sister with Your love.'’ On December 25, you will send me your intentions, and I can guess what they are: You will thank the Lord for that day of graces among all days, and probably for the day when God called you to Carmel. I am sending you the principal dates of my life." I recommend to your prayers a young girl who wants to consecrate herself to Jesus and who is meeting with grave difficulties. My parents continue resigned, and my father's conversion is a serious conversion: Deo gratias. A Dieu, Sister, in apostolic union. I bless you.

A. Roulland, miss. ap.

Su-Tchuen

 

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