Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01/Section 02/Part 08

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

Various Other Places in France

Abelly book two.jpg

From the time when Monsieur Vincent had first sent his priests to work outside the diocese of Paris to most distant parts of the kingdom, a noted abbot wrote a letter of congratulations in 1627, on what he had observed.

I have just returned from a long trip into four of the provinces where the good odor of your holy institution which works for the instruction and salvation of souls of the countryside has been noted. In truth, I believe that in the Church of God none is more edifying and praiseworthy among those who have received the character and the order of Jesus Christ than your priests. We must pray God to bestow his spirit of perseverance upon a work so advantageous to the good of souls, to which so few of those consecrated to the service of God give enough attention. <refCED I:35-36.</ref>

Monsieur Vincent sent two priests to the diocese of Montauban around 1630 to strengthen Catholics in their faith. Living among heretics, they ran the constant danger of falling into their errors. After two years of constant effort he recalled them. Although they had been sent mainly to work with the Catholics, God allowed them to convert twenty-four heretics while there.

Several years later the late Bishop de Murviel of Montauban wrote to Monsieur Vincent about several sorcerers who had appeared in his diocese, and his difficulties in eradicating their influence. [1]

The priests of the Mission are most necessary in this diocese, for the places they formerly worked show no signs of either sorcerers or sorceresses. This shows what good the catechetical instructions and general confessions have brought about. They put the people in such a good state the devils can make no headway by their charms and spells, as they can with those sunk in ignorance and sin. [2]

In 1634 Monsieur Vincent sent other missionaries to work in the diocese of Bordeaux. They wrote to tell him people came from far away to the mission with such devotion that many passed entire weeks living where the mission was being given, awaiting their turn to make their confession. Some fell to their knees and openly confessed their sins to receive absolution. Others said they would rather die than return home without making their general confession. [3]

In 1638 several priests of the Mission were sent to work in the diocese of Lucon. Three years later one of them wrote to Monsieur Vincent about the mission they had given:

It is hard to imagine how much our labors have been rewarded by the consolation sent by God to encourage us. These souls of Poitou, who seem hard as rocks, have caught the fire of devotion so ardently that it seems it will not be easily extinguished. [4]

Another priest wrote in 1642 from the mission at Essarts, stating that seven heretics had been converted, and that wonderful changes had been brought about among the nobility and the officers of the law. [5]

Still another priest wrote from the mission of Saint Gilles on the coast. He reported that dissensions and quarrels had been settled, hearts reconciled, difficult lawsuits ended, appropriate restitutions made when necessary, the poor aided, and the sick poor consoled and helped by the Confraternity of Charity. Catholics were strengthened in practicing the true religion. [6]

The late Bishop de Nivel of Lucon wrote to Monsieur Vincent in 1642 about the mission which the priests of his Company had presented in his diocese.

If it shall please God to preserve the institute of the priests of the Mission in the Church for many years, we can expect much fruit from it. The diocese of Lucon in which, by your appointment, your priests have worked for the last three or four years, has received such blessing that I am infinitely grateful to Cardinal Richelieu for arranging to have them come, and to yourself for having sent them. Their superior, especially, has worked hard and earnestly. He has the gifts needed in his position, especially his zeal, to everyone's admiration. His only fault is that he perhaps works too hard, if it be possible to be excessive in working to gain souls to God. [7]

Other priests of the Mission went to the region of Angouleme in 1640. A noble woman there had wished to have them give a mission in the village of Saint Amand which belonged to her. She received the following letter from one of her officials:

I imagine I could not begin my letter on a matter more agreeable to you than by telling you the happy success of the mission you arranged in your territory of Saint Amand. It was so blessed that not only your dependents but thirty or forty neighboring parishes shared in its marvelous fruits. The Minims and the Capuchins were no less zealous, and their example attracted a large part of the leading people of Angouleme. I assure you, Madame, that according to common report, the missionaries have never labored so successfully for the glory of God. They have converted five or six of the leading Huguenots of Montignac, and the Duc de la Rochefoucauld is so pleased he will ask Monsieur Vincent to arrange a mission next spring at Verteuil and at Marsillac. The lords, N. and N., who attended this mission were so touched that one decided to give up his paramour and the other has married the woman who was living with him.

Monsieur Vincent sent other missionaries to the diocese in 1643, but we know no details of their work. Nevertheless it seemed so useful to Bishop du Perron of Angouleme that he wrote in January of the following year as follows: [8]

Although I have already thanked you for sending your missionaries into this diocese, I felt I could not send off this letter to our little Conference without expressing, however feebly, my appreciation of the great fruit this diocese has received from your charitable hands. [9] My happiness will ever be incomplete, Monsieur, until that day when we shall have a permanent mission in this diocese, which needs it so much more than other places. When I learn that you can do us this favor, I shall do all in my power to find the means of making this establishment. I believe this will contribute much to the glory of God and will aid the Church in its mission for the salvation of souls. I know it is the sole motive you have in view in all your efforts. [10]

This letter was followed two weeks later by another, written to Monsieur Vincent by a priest from Angouleme.

I am just about to leave by horseback for Blansac, with the money you sent me for the needs of your missionaries who have been working there. Once again, please let me repeat my humble prayers in favor of this poor and desolate diocese. It begs you to send permanent workers to tend to its extreme spiritual needs. These can be remedied only if persons of an impartial charity and zeal such as your priests of Saint Lazare come to take charge. I know well, Monsieur, that the providence of God can use a thousand other means to help us, should it please him. Yet it seems clear enough that he has chosen you among these thousands to help the poor dioceses of this kingdom, but especially those that seem to be the most abandoned of all. [11]

The late Archbishop de Montchal of Toulouse wrote to Monsieur Vincent in 1640:

I cannot allow these two priests you sent to us to leave without thanking you, as I do with all my heart, for the great service they have rendered to God in my diocese. I cannot adequately express the pains they have taken, nor the fruits they have reaped for which I am especially grateful since they work in my stead. One of them learned the language of the region to the admiration of those who speak it, and has shown himself untiring in his labors. When they have recovered a bit I wish you would send them back, for I am thinking of establishing the ordination retreats, and I will need their help. All will work out for the glory of God if you will help us. [12]

In 1648 the superior of the mission at Richelieu wrote to Monsieur Vincent to tell him three missionaries had given a pair of missions in Bas-Poitou. Among the graces God had given through their ministry, not the least was the conversion of twelve heretics. [13]

It is proper to note an important consideration in the conversion of heretics, such as those we just mentioned, and in the great number of others effected from the time of the first missions of Monsieur Vincent until the present. Their conversion was not brought about in arguing with them, nor was it accomplished by helping them, finding them jobs, or by other temporal favors. By God's special favor, the instruction and good example of the missionaries made them see Christian verities in their true light and attracted them to the Catholic religion. The appeal was the stronger the more removed it was from any mere human consideration.

About this time, the same missionaries gave their services to the parish of Sache in the diocese of Tours. They wrote to tell Monsieur Vincent that, although only six hundred people lived in the parish, twelve hundred participated in the general communion. They told him the mission had produced many reconciliations, restitutions, true conversions, and other similar fruits. The pastor, his vicar, and five other priests had made their general confession. One of the richest men of the parish, a miser, was so touched by this that he told the preacher that in future he would distribute bread three times a week to any of the poor who would present themselves at his door. [14]

After this mission another was given in the village of Villaine, in the same diocese. The same blessings seemed to be upon it also, in the number and devotion of the people, in the conversions of sinners, and in the reconciliations of enemies, thirteen or fourteen of which were significant. The general communion was made in an atmosphere of much feeling. At the procession of almost two thousand people, the eighty-eight-year-old pastor wept for joy at the sight of such graces given to those under his care. He had never seen such devotion in his church as he saw on that occasion.

There was yet another mission in 1650 in this same diocese of Tours, in the parish of Cheilly. Besides the graces God ordinarily bestowed on the people, four or five notable reconciliations took place. One occurred between the pastor and one of the villagers who had insulted him. Another took place between the churchwardens who managed the goods of the parish the previous five years, and the one now in charge. This settlement was advantageous to the church, which was very poorly furnished. The third was between several officers of justice, who for five or six years had lived in great enmity. The fourth was between two noblemen over something or other. The fifth was between a landowner and his tenant over some accounts, much to the disadvantage of the worker.

We omit mention of a great many other situations which occurred in various parts of the kingdom. If reported, they would be repetitious and besides would require several volumes to recount. The few we have given may serve as a sketch of how it pleased God to bestow his blessings on the work of Monsieur Vincent throughout the kingdom. I use the words "great blessings" advisedly, measuring them by what they cost Jesus Christ. He in turn taught us the way we should value the conversion of sinners and all that contributes to it. He said in his Gospel "that there will be great joy among the angels of heaven upon one sinner being converted, and doing penance upon earth." [15] We can well believe these wise and enlightened spirits rejoice at what is truly worthwhile.

References

  1. Anne de Murviel, bishop of Montauban. Richelieu had captured this city from the Huguenots and reestablished Catholicism. Murviel, who had been chased from his see, was also reestablished there. The following year he asked for missionaries to evangelize his diocese.
  2. CED II:429.
  3. CED I:289-90.
  4. CED II:168.
  5. CED II:266.
  6. CED IV:108.
  7. CED II:244.
  8. Jacques du Perron, the nephew of the cardinal of the same name.
  9. This was a conference of ecclesiastics, founded on the model of the Paris conference.
  10. CED II:441-42.
  11. CED II:443-44.
  12. CED II:88-89.
  13. CED III:302.
  14. CED III:269.
  15. Based on Luke 15:10.


This page:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Two/Part Eight: Various Other Places in France

Index of this section:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Section Two/Index: The Most Notable Fruits of the Missions Given in Various Parts of France

Index of this chapter:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Index: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of:
Abelly: Book Two