Journey two

Colin returned to France in February 1834. It would be eight years before he was to make another visit to Rome and during that time significant developments took place in the Marist project. The reasons for his second visit were rather different, then, from those of the 1833 visit. Let us recall some of the principal historical developments that occurred during this time:

  • The Society was canonically approved in 1836.
  • Colin was elected Superior General and soon afterwards moved the Society’s administration from Belley to Lyons.
  • The Society had grown considerably by 1842.
  • Colin was effectively Superior General of a group of approximately 100 priests, 400 brothers, and 100 sisters, spread through-out a dozen dioceses.

By 1842, 41 priests and brothers had already departed for the missions of Oceania. One of the first to set out, Father Bret, had died at sea before ever reaching his mission destination. News of Father Chanel’s death had reached France and people were already talking of a martyr in Oceania.

  • Signs of tension with Bishop Pompallier were beginning to emerge.
  • Father Marcellin Champagnat, Founder of the Marist Brothers, died in 1841.
  • The Society of Mary held its first General Chapter in April 1842 just before Colin left for Rome.

This gives an image of a Society bursting with life, moving, as it were, from its foundation phase to a stage of consolidation.

Jean Coste describes these as the “years of calm” during which Colin, now aged 52, was working to consolidate the Society.

And so, Colin who came to Rome with Father Victor Poupinel in the summer of 1842 was in a very different situation from the man who had come in 1833.

Then he was simply a priest from France with a rather expansive idea for a religious enterprise. Now he was the Superior General of a new and flourishing religious congregation.

He would have preferred to be known simply as “Fr Colin” or as “a Marist Father” (OM 218:2) and didn’t care for the rather plush quarters he had been given on the boat to Rome. (QS 347:14) It was more enjoyable, he said, to have slept on ropes on the open deck, as he had done with Fathers Chanel and Bourdin in 1833. But there was no turning the clock back.

Stan Hosie SM writes of Colin’s second voyage:

Within hours of his arrival in Rome, a footman delivered an invitation to dinner with Cardinal Castracane…. Roothan, the Jesuit General, went out of his way to show courtesy, finding in Colin one of the few men who seemed to understand the educational conflicts between the Church and the university in France. The two Generals became good friends while Colin was in Rome, and made a pact that their societies would cooperate in the service of faith – “like big and little brothers” Colin said.

Discreetly worded messages reached Colin, that Gregory XVI would welcome a chance to discuss the Pacific with him..(Hosie p.l61)

Oceania was very much on Colin’s mind as he made his second journey.

He was very conscious of the fact that one of his companions on the first journey to Rome had died as a martyr on the island of Futuna.

When Colin arrived in Rome he became aware of a letter circulating among the Cardinals describing the heroic life of Peter Chanel.┬áIt was openly said that he was a saint. But this was not the only aspect of the Oceania mission on Colin’s agenda.

Certain problems were beginning to emerge in the Pacific mission and this was one of the issues he needed to resolve in Rome.