§1. BIOGRAPHICAL DATA
Fr. Jean-François Régis Gervaix was born on the 2nd of December 1873, in Santriac (Haute Loire), in the Diocese of Puy, France.
He took up his studies in the Societé des Missions Étrangères (Foreign Missions Society) Seminary on Rue du Bac, Paris, receiving his priestly orders on the 24th of September 1898; the only priest ordained by Mgr. Condot, Bp. of Lempire.
On the 16th of November 1898 he left Marseilles for Guangzhou, arriving in Hong Kong, on the 19th of December, and in Guangzhou, on the 21st.
Whilst in Guangzhou, he studied Chinese and on the 23rd of March 1899 he went to work at the Tsong-fa [Cong Hua]** Mission. He was later to work in Fat-Kong [Gangfa] where he was attacked by bandits.
On the 23rd of December 1900 he was appointed to Tsang-Shing [Xin Feng]. On the 23th of July 1904 he went to Lola Fong and on the 10th of December 1904, Mgr. Jean-Marie Mérel, the Apostolic Vicar of Guangzhou, left for Shiu-hing [Ai].
In February, 1907, Fr. Gervaix began working, in Guangzhou, at the College of the Sacred Heart and, one year later, in January 1908 Mgr. Mérel appointed him Secretary of the Bishopric. However, Fr. Gervaix resigned from this post the following year because of what he considered "lack of respect" shown towards him by the Bishop. In October 1909, Mgr. Mérel allocated him a District, but the following month he was suspended by the Bishop for insubordination and was given a divinis. However, this suspension was lifted later that same month and Mgr. Mérel told Fr. Gervaix that he could celebrate in the Western Division which was, in fact, the area to which he had been allocated. On the 29th of November, Mgr. Mérel summoned Fr. Gervaix, suggesting that he should remain in the Episcopal Residence although the Bishop had intended sending him to the Language School to replace Fr. Gourdial.
However, on the 10th of April, 1910, he actually appointed him to this School, where he received a salary, which was to revert to the Episcopal coffers.
It is recorded that on the 2nd of January 1911, there was an unpleasant incident at table, whereby the Father General Chomes, backed up by Mgr. Mérel, endeavoured to make him drink sour wine. Fr. Gervaix said, in front of all the missionaries:
"If thou art not content, keep thee in thy place".
The following day he went to Shao Guan where he spent 1100 piastres on lodgings.
In his previous posts he had spent 700 piastres in Xin Feng, 600 in Ai and 1100 in Shao Guan, totalling 2400 piastres, despite the fact that he had not received anything from the Mission.
On the 18th of April 1913, a new injunction was issued by Mgr. Mérel, ordering him to leave Shao Guan for Chenghai within the space of one month. He complied with this order.
In 1914, the new Apostolic Vicariate of Suraton became independanty from that of Guangzhou. On the 17th of July 1914, Mgr. Adolphe Rayssac was appointed the first Apostolic Vicar of Suraton, being consecrated in Hong Kong, on the lst of May 1915, by Mgr. Dominique Pazzoni, Apostolic Vicar of Hong Kong (1905 -1924).
A very close friend of Fr. Gervaix, he published an Article entitled: Dieu aidant! Un nouveau Vicariat Apostolique en Chine, in "Missions Catholiques", 50 (2) 1915, pp.63-65.
In 1916, Fr. Gervaix went to join his friend, Fr. Rayssac, exchanging the Vicariate of Guangzhou for the Suraton Mission, in Teng-Hai* and Tchao-Tcheu*.
In this same year of 1916, Fr. Gervaix gave up being affiliated with the Paris Societé des Missions Étrangères, and came to Macao.
The Ecclesiastical Periodical in Guangzhou was called "Hirondelle" ("Swallow") and, as Fr. Gervaix's had a literary bent, he was given the job of running this small Magazine or Gazette.
As Fr. Gervaix was not one for compromises and spared no-one in the Periodical's Articles, the Paper became known among the missionaries as the "Fr. Gervaix's Gazette".
In 1902, a missionary wrote a letter to a friend asking the latter's opinion of Fr. Gervaix's Journal. The answer came quick as a flash; "Hirondelle? autres disent "Hari-elle! je me deplais ces esprits grincheux." (""Swallow? There are some who call it Haridelle (a mean and skinny stallion); these narrow-minded spirits are not at all to my liking.").
Apart from his duties as a missionary, Fr. Gervaix was also a writer and was to continue this activity after he left Guangzhou. In Macao, he wrote for the "Boletim Eclesiástico da Diocese de Macau" ("Ecclesiastic Bulletin of the Diocese of Macao"). Mgr. Mérel paid him the following tribute in his 1910-1911 Report:
"As well as concerning himself with Western Christianity, Fr. Gervaix also contributed, sending scripts to two hemispheres, to make our missionary vocation loved and bringing news to the benefactors of our works in those countries where their hearts shall forever lie."
In addition to being a writer, Fr. Gervaix was also a poet and had poems published in books, Papers and Magazines, including the "Boletim Eclesiástico da Diocese de Macau".
The editor of his small work Grisailles, A. Monestier, wrote the following by way of a Preface:
"As the true poet which he is, Eudore de Colomban [the literary pseudonym of Fr. Gervaix] was unaware of the range of his own talents [...]
Carried away by the divine torment of the infinite nature of being, the bird within him, whose soul overfloweth, soars on high and breaks through earthly clouds to take its song to the heady heights where the eternal lucidity of Idealism shines forth.
Melancholy, sweet as the lamenting friend of an unhealed wound, it undoubtedly acts as a mute chaperon for his roving song.
But Faith elevates this radiant trail above the fanfares of love and life, dispelling the mists."
On the 16th of July 1916, the same year that he arrived in Macao, Fr. Gervaix published the following verses in "O Progresso" ("The Progress"), in honour of Camilo Pessanha:
"Je ne sais que ton nom, j'ignore ton visage,
Qu'on dit celui d'un sage,
D'un poete, sacré par le choix merité
De la posterité...
Car ton nom passera lumineaux d'âge en âge,
Comme un feu qui surnage
A l 'horizon qui fuit sur l'abîme agité
§4. AT A TIME OF CRISIS
On the 13th of July 1904, Fr. Gervaix wrote to Bp. Mérel:
Aprés avoir, devant Dieu et ma Conscience, réfléchi sur les graves devoirs qui incombent à tout missionaire je me sens dépourvu des qualités suffisantes pour remplir avec fruit mon sacré ministère.
J'ai le regret de déposer entre vos mains autorisés ma démission de missionaire apostolique de Kouang-tong [...]
R'Y Gervaix" [Signed]***
He continued his missionary work, however, until 1916, but his vocation leant more towards writing than being a missionary.
Macao was to be where he fully realised his ambitions. But this is to be told at a later stage.
§5. HIS LIFE AS A MISSIONARY
It is Fr. Gervaix himself who describes his life as a missionary in Lettres à ma cousine.
On the 16th of November 1898, he set forth from Marseilles, spending thirty sea-sick, bedridden days at sea.
What can be said about a voyage which has so often been described by tourists? Nothing, as that is all he saw. What torture! They told him: "Get up! You are just imagining!", to which he responded: " Holy Mother of God! Imagining!"
On the 19th of December 1898, he arrived in Hong Kong and from the docks went straight to the Societé des Missions Étrangères Residence, "to the temple of our forefathers", situated at 34 Caine Road, an old House which had borne witness to all those who had been there in the past, missionaries from Guangzhou and from other parts.
He embarked on board the Po Wan and the journey took him eight hours; the following day he arrived in Guangzhou.
He was introduced to his compatriot Bp. Chausse, [whom he describes as]:
"Above average height and wearing Chinese attire, the Apostolic Prefect initially gives me the impression of being a real Chinaman by his nasal accent and his slightly slanted eyes, shining with malice and common sense. His slightly slow gait in no way belies his sixty years of age.
A man of old-time simplicity and a cloistral austerity, he unites a most zealous soul to a discerning spirit.
It is a chivalrous type of faith [...]
This afternoon they are to dress me in the false pigtail of a true Chinaman; put on padded slippers, call me Ip Ka Shang and I shall sleep on high, dreaming about the stars."
On the 29th of March 1899, the Bishop ordered him to preach the Gospel in five Districts: Cong Hua, Tsing-yung*, Fo Gang*, Tseong-ning [Guangning] and Yong-yung*; he was to be accompanied by a "sorceress" (a convert from Cong Hua) who knew the way.
The next day he settled down in the village of Chan-kong*, twelve leagues from Guangzhou. He was greeted by the converts and the children who asked him about the Country of the "Great Law".
It should be noted that in Chinese, France is spelled Fat-kuok [Faguo], meaning "Country of the Law".
"Oh, the wonderful times I had when I was 25! Oh, the clear waters of these heights! Praise be to God!"
• 10th of October 1899 -- Letter from Fo Gang*, thirty leagues from Guangzhou. Saying that he was very ill, indeed at "death's door", and he quoted Lamartine:
"Qu'est-ce donc que des jours pour valoir qu 'on les pleure? Un soleil, un soleil, une heure et puis une heure. Celle qui vient ressemble à celle qui s'enfuit; Voilà le jour, puis vient la nuit."
He convalesced in Hong Kong at the Betania House, which still belongs to the Societé des Missions Étrangères group today.
• 25th of December 1989 -- Letter from Hong Kong. Compared his illness to that of Lazarus.
• 17th of May 1900 -- Letter from Fat-kong*. Saying that to show he was fully recovered, he had walked one-hundred-and-forty kilometres from Guangzhou to Fat-kong* through mountainous country in two days, resting for one night in Guangning. At the end of the afternoon he had to carry his servant!!!
"Oh, the strength one has at the age of twenty-five!"
The following month, on the festival of his patron St. Regis, he rejoiced at having baptised some peasants.
• 29th of August 1900 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Telling of how he had been attacked by pirates when journeying from Gang-fa to the District of Guangning on the 23rd of the same month. At 7am he was surrounded by eight masked bandits who dealt him a blow across the shoulder-blades with a sword; they tied his hands behind his back with iron wire, struck him in the shins and threatened to hurl him down into the river along with his companions. They contented themselves with taking away his passport and leaving him naked. He covered himself in rags and it was in this state that he re-entered Fat-kong*. In Guangzhou, Bp. Chausse jested, the French Consul Hardouin sent a wire and Mr. Beau, the Minister [sic] [for France] in Beijing notified the Government. Of this incident Fr. Gervaix wrote:
"The funniest thing about the story is that I failed becoming a martyr and lost a perfect occasion to cease being a burden to the world."
He complained to the Minister for France, in Beijing, requiring compensation from the Chinese Government.
• 5th of August 1901 -- the French Consul, in Guangzhou, answered Bp. Mérel:
"The Minister for France, in Beijing, hereby informs you that the request made by Fr. Gervaix cannot be included in the type of compensation paid by the Chinese Government. The principles and rules adopted by the Diplomatic Corps do not permit him (the Minister) to follow up your request owing to the benign nature of the wounds inflicted."
Fr. Gervaix went to the Societé des Missions Étrangères, in Betania House, to recover.
• 13th of October 1900 -- Letter from Hong Kong:
"Mgr. Chausse died yesterday afternoon at the Betania House, in Hong Kong, at the age of sixty-two, drained by his emotions, as I am too, for he was both a guide and a father to me [...].
The old Bp. of Tenedos, standing before his colleague's mortal remains, sprinkled Holy water and made the sign of the Cross in the air above the deceased with his Pontifical hand.
We all marched by, missionaries, laymen and Christians alike and then the tomb of his Holy Father and much lamented Bp. of Capso, Augustin Chausse, Apostolic Prefect of Guangdong [°1838, elec. Bishop 1886-†1900) was sealed forever."
It should be noted that the Bp. of Tenedos was Mgr. Fenouil, born in 1821, Apostolic Vicar of Yun-nam [Yunnan] between 1881 and 1907.
• 28th of October 1900 -- Letter from Guangzhou. About the Boxers, who had taken so many victims in the North [of China], in July of that year. However, in Guangzhou, calm reigned thanks to the peacemaking spirit of Viceroy Tak-shou* and the eight European gunboats stationed on the Pearl River to protect the Europeans. A counsel of Officers also met on the 27th of the month with the intention of launching a bombardment against Guangzhou, but the Viceroy remained on good terms, which limited the danger. Afterwards, he gave orders to cease the persecution of the Christians.
Chausse's death lead to the appointment of an interim Fr. Superior, in Guangzhou, who transferred Fr. Gervaix from Fo Gang*, where he had been wounded, to Xin Feng, a neighbouring district.
• 19th of May 1901 -- Letter from Xin Feng. Says that, by way of his friend Fr. Laurent, he had been awarded compensation to repair the losses he had suffered the previous year when attacked by bandits.
• 20th of July 1901 -- Letter from [n. n.]:
"I learned of your appointment from the new Bishop of Mirinópolis, Jean-Marie Mérel. It is said that he is a valiant man and much taller than all of his colleagues."
• 2nd of September 1901 -- Letter from Cong Hua:
"I still preserve the border-country Christianity of Tsé-ku-shan [Zhegu Shan] (Partridge Mountain) [...] The workers from that town are from the "Akka", ie: immigrants from Kiang-sé* who are characteristically more simple and more robust than their hosts, the Guangzhouese (pun-ti [dangdi] or "race of the land")."
• 6th of October 1901 -- Letter from Guangzhou:
"Today the consecration of the Bishop of Mirinópolis took place. [...]
As is befitting of a representative of an egalitarian and puritanical democracy, the Consul of the United States is the only one who is not draped in decorations and stripes.
Our French Consul, Mr. Hardouin, is dazzling with his Greek elegance and his sword: one would think him to be an academic.
The Portuguese Consul is kind, the English one dreamy. The Viceroy of Guangzhou is absent, but in his place, which is the seat of honour, we have the Tartar Marshal, a fat, frowning man who observes the Catholic ceremonies after the manner of a bourgeois attending the Variétés.
The other lower-ranking Mandarins are spellbound by the acolytes who are carrying Holy water vases, crosses, sashes and mitres and this makes them visibly joyous. [...]
Mgr. de Vintimillos is the consecrator; a small, portly, serious old man and who pontificates like Aaron; he is accompanied by two colleagues of unequal size, Mgr. de Picalasso and Mgr. de Clazobarra. [...]
The new Prelate still hadn't escaped the clutches of his consecrator and a burst of firecrackers resounded which, I swear, would have muffled the ringing tones of the organs of St. Peter's and its tenors.
The Prelate began to talk, visibly moved. From very beginning it is clear that he is not in control of his speech, so overcome is he by emotion and the sight before him that he loses his train of thought.
Fr. Fourguet, manuscript in hand, was inspired and whispered to him from behind the altar, which was certainly most opportune under these circumstances. [...]
A banquet was then held, where hearty toasts were proposed by Mgr. de Vintimillos and by the French Consul.
The latter had great poise and elegance. He was applauded. However, the Chinese outside took this applause to be a sign, and suddenly a further burst of firecrackers interrupted the Consul, finally reducing him to silence."
• 24th of November 1901 -- Letter from Long-mun [Longmen] ("Door of the Dragon"):
"It is the third time that I have traversed Longmen country. Longmen is a vast subprefecture bordered on the North-East by the Xin Feng* subprefecture. Over here, subprefecture can be taken as meaning a territory of average size within a small French departement [Country]. This journey to Longmen proved useful as it allowed me to complete the geographical notes to be given to our Consul Hardouin who had requested them, and some ethnographic details about this relatively unexplored region. [Then, he spoke of the possibility of attacks from bandits and added that...] although these re-encounters were inevitable, they brightened up the journey and the countryside a bit! These parts would certainly be dull, if only inhabited by bailiffs, doctors and lawyers! And to make the horizon more pleasant, should there not be a mixture of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms?"
• 6th of January 1902 -- Letter from Yeung-kong:*
"Yeung-kong* is a large city holding sixty-thousand souls, a river port situated some kilometres from the Mok-yeung* river-mouth. Its trade is considerable owing to its coastal position between Macau, Hong Kong and Kuang-tchau-wan.* It exports mainly wickerwork and poultry."
• 8th of May 1902 -- Letter from Xin Feng:
"Upon seeing a Chinese wedding procession passing by, I have been able to write a detailed description."
• 12th of August 1902 -- Letter from Xin Feng:
"Suicide is not nothing but honourable. The first Emperor of the Tartar Dynasty committed suicide as did the last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
Many suicides are the result of the position of inferiority which women find themselves in. When the male offspring get married, the women continue to live under the same roof as their parents and sometimes there are as many as ten or fifteen women in the same family. Quarrels are frequent and can be about serious or trivial matters, leading to deep insults and anger. After one of these "bellyfulls of anger", as the Chinese call them, a woman, blind with rage, commits suicide.
There was once a rich heathen whose sister, a widow with two children, held a banquet at her home. Relations came offering three-hundred, others five-hundred and some one-hundred sapecas. These gifts would be returned when they themselves held a banquet. The widow had bought a fat pig and had given half of the price as a deposit. However, a buyer turned up offering a higher price and made-off with the pig. The widow, having nothing to offer her guests, poisoned herself with opium. The Mandarin arrived to verify the suicide and then fined the guilty party, who had to pay ten times over.
A bride who commits suicide when her groom dies before their wedding is worthy of praise. The same can be said of defeated soldiers.
In the Sino-Japanese war of 1894 Admiral Ting and various Officers committed suicide after the destruction of the Chinese fleet. Traditionally, the Imperial Court rewards those Mandarins who have acted well and punishes those who have acted badly. For those of the highest ranks the beheading sentence can be substituted by suicide.
The Imperial Delegate arrives, reads the Death Sentence and gives the choice between beheading or suicide. A Mandarin chooses the latter, poisoning himself.
As regards the people, they commit suicide for two reasons: either because they are ruined or to avenge an enemy. For example two shopkeepers are in competition with each other: the losing party takes opium and dies in front of his rival's shop."
• 22nd of February 1903 -- Letter from Xin Feng:
"The commonest class is that of the readers or tellers of the buena-dicha. They begin by asking the people who come to consult them about their lives in great detail. Only afterwards do they make oracular revelations, answering all questions.
Their specialisations are: astrology, phrenology, hieromancy or making prophecies from Sacred and Classical books.
The astrologer always has his calendar at hand to give horoscopes. He is consulted about marriages, adoptions, choosing professions and longevity.
The soothsayers always promise wealth, honour and success in business and studies; they foretell the cause of illnesses and deaths.
The phrenologist has a large chart upon which is painted a head divided into small compartments, each of which contains a character. The phrenologist compares the person's head with the model and foretells whether they will have success in examinations, business and their public and personal life. The best phrenologists are the blind. They shake an antique box and tell the person everything which he wishes to know. They invite the client to place his hand in a mysterious box to take out a straw, a nail, a button, etc.; and continuing their search, they make an object turn around between their fingers; following all this pretence, they proceed to let their predictions be known.
The palmists, by comparing the two hands and by holding an animated conversation about the social circumstances of the client thus obtaining a complete rundown of the person's situation, can afterwards tell them if they are to be successful or not.
The learned soothsayers sect can be divided into two classes: the first is based only on the Classics [texts] and explains the way in which the Chinese have lived and thought since time immemorial until present times; the second leaves the texts aside and puts everything down to material causes.
On the whole the soothsayers are miserable devils who aim to live without working or begging.
It is basically nothing but charlatanism."
• 21st of April of 1904 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Describes a dinner at the Episcopal Residence offered to the Admiral and to his Chief of Staff. Also present were the French Consul and numerous dignitaries.
Amongst the Naval Officers the conversation turned to the Naval Ministry. At a certain juncture of the evening, someone said that this Ministry had promoted a mediocre Officer because the latter was "an Archbishop's son!".
This comment dropped like a bombshell. There was stifled laughter and everybody felt like fleeing the room forthwith and getting some fresh air.
News of the incident spread throughout Guangzhou, Beijing and even as far as France. Fr. Gervaix fittingly ends the letter in this way:
"Long live celibacy for Archbishops."
• 4th of May of 1904 -- Letter from Tsengning [Guangning]. Accompanied by another priest, he was to visit the local Mandarin, who was sixty years old and very pleasant.
• 8th of April 1905. Letter from Peitam [Beitan]. Bp. Mérel is coming to confirm the Christians. Afterwards, Fr. Gervaix invited the Bishop to go and visit A-mei,* the old man of the mountain who lived alone on a mountain like a Tebaida monk. Fr. Gervaix remarked that he had never encountered faith such as that which he found in that fifty-six years old man.
On the 20th of December 1905, the Bishop had transferred Fr. Gervaix to Ai ["Shiu-hing or Chau-King"] the former capital of Guangdong and the residence of the Viceroy of the two Guangs -- Guandong and Guangxi. This residence sheltered Fr. Ruggieri, S. J., the first Catholic missionary who arrived there, in 1582. In 1583, Fr. Matteo Ricci founded the first Catholic Mission there.
• 16th of January 1906; -- Letter from Ai [Chau-King]. Just like in medieval times this City is strewn with towers and forts. Whilst walking through the streets he believed he had seen Ricci wearing a bonze long robe:
"Oh! How sweet it is to walk in the footsteps of so great an Apostle!"
• 19th of October of 1906 -- Letter from Ai. Describes his forty-six-day missionary visit to the Christian communities of Sai-ning,* Tung-on,* Senhing [Xinxing], Yung-tsang,* Lo-ting [Luoding] and Ko-Yu [Gaoyao].
On this visit to Po-pin,* where religious Faith was kept owing to the new Chinese catechists, Fr. Gervaix made the following reflections which are still valid today:
"Christianity is doomed to disappear shortly in China unless the feminine element plays a more influential role [...].
What our Mission in Guangzhou is lacking is a Catechist College to instruct the devout women; and this was the concern of its first Bp. Guillemin, in 1858, when he instituted this Mission, but woe, how this job was difficult in those days.
Afterwards efforts were made but, either owing to difficulties in recruitment or economic reasons nothing, or almost nothing, came of it.
They still settle for sending an old woman to the heart of the provinces to teach prayers to the women working in the fields.
The day will come, and this day is not far away, when the Protestants shall toll the bells of Predicant Dioceses and we, the Catholics, shall be content to wait for our only salvation from on high."
• 8th of September, 1906 -- Annual Report to the Bishop. Regarding the District of Ai [sic], lying West of the River Si Kiang [Xijiang], the early statistics were:
Baptism of heathen
Baptism of Christain children
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[His Report thus concluded:] You will understand that I shall not insist on staying here, as the Portuguese priests who shall replace me will be here on a permanent basis, whereas I am only passing through."
•7th of November 1906 -- Letter from Ai:
"I climbed Pak-ling [Beiling] mountain, which is around one-thousand metres in height; near it, the Seven Stars, seven peaks of white marble that stand erect like the fleshy polypi of the plain."
I will now describe the Seven Stars with their caves, pagodas, stalactite grottos, labyrinths, zig-zagging footpaths and the inscriptions engraved in the rocks.
These Seven Stars of Ai form one of the most Dantesque and at the same time one of the most charming panoramas."
On the 9th of January he went to visit Japan like a tourist who, being transient, fickle and unstable, wishes to see everything and ends up seeing nothing; a swallow flying through exotic cities; a bee buzzing around flowers' calyxes [...].
According to Fr. Gervaix, save Greece and Rome, there was no other Nation with the daring, heroic virtues and the spirit of conquest as that of the Japanese. Describes Japanese customs and praises the beauties of nature.
• 19th of January 1907 -- Letter from Oraka [Japan]. He departs from Ai which had become incorporated in the Diocese of Macao in a swap with Hainan, which in turn, became integrated in [the Diocese of] Guangzhou.
• 19th of February 1907 -- Letter from Guangzhou. He bids adieu to mountains and horse-riding, having been appointed teacher of English, French and other subjects at the College of the Sacred Heart, in Guangzhou. This College had been founded, in 1904, by Mgr. Jean-Marie Mérel, of the Societé des Missions Étrangères.
In addition to his duties as French teacher, the Bishop appointed him propagandiste (canvasser) for the Guangzhou Mission, in France and abroad, to obtain funds for the Mission. He also asked him to visit pagodas and theatres [in Guangzhou] and write their descriptions for the magazine "Missions Catholiques", as well as collate information on [Chinese] Archaeology and History, legends and superstitions.
Now he was "as happy as a sandboy" in his role as journalist and writer.
• 8th of May 1907-- Letter from Guangzhou. In addition to being a journalist he becames appointed Secretary to the Bishop. Now he is in charge of editing the Bishop's correspondence. He began by addressing an appeal on behalf of Guangzhou to the King of Belgium, whom it was believed to be both rich and generous. [...]
• 21st of August 1907 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Having taken part in an Official Chinese dinner, he spoke of the poultry which he ate, taking his time over the famous "swallows' nests" [...], giving details of their history and origins.
• 16th of October 1907 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Once again speaks of the thirty-six course Chinese dinners, saying that the European must adapt to Oriental customs:
"Laughing without needing to; lying as a duty; appearing to be what you are not [...] and eating incessantly and without hunger[...!]"
• 2nd of December 1907 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Gives details of his visit to the theatre to see the famous Chinese comedy The Miser, which he describes at some length.
• 1st of January 1908 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Recalls that ten years had now gone by since he had left his beloved country, sans espoir de retour! He felt great nostalgia:
"The Societé des Missions Étrangères priests go to the Missions, sentencing themselves to lifelong exile. Hence, Mgr. Fenouil, Bishop of Yuan-man, left France in 1847, almost sixty years ago, never to return; Mgr. Jarrige has been in a Mission for seventy years. Man gets used to new suns, new climates and new people, subjecting the heart to a relative anaesthesia."
• 12th of June 1908 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Further news of his work as the Bishop's Secretary, in Guangzhou. Being the Bishop's Secretary, he had to act as a guide for visitors which was to his liking. From morning to early evening he walked through Guangzhou's great 'Babylon' showing those "things which had escaped them." Just the previous day he had accompanied Mons. Troglopoulassos, Apostolic Vicar of a remote Mission:
"First of all, to the Temple of Five-hundred Genii, where Marco Polo is to be found bearded and wearing a round hat and a serious countenance [...] then, on to the eighth century Mosque, which we enter barefoot, then the Five-Storey Pagoda, from where the whole City can be seen and the headquarters of the Allies' Chief of Staff when they took Guangzhou, in 1857."
• 19th of November 1908 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Expresses his hopes that the Chinese shake off the shackles of the Tartars. The death of the old Empress Tseu-hi [Cixi] and of the impotent Kuong-Su [Guangxu] hasten this possibility; the delicate child Suen-tong's [Xuantong] ascent to the throne under the regency of his father is a fragile bond, linking the past to the present.
• 25th of July 1909-- Letter from Guangzhou. Describes the [Chinese] marriage cerimonies of the City. The text unfolds throughout many pages.
There then follows a series of Letters concerning the 1911 Revolution which brought down the Manchu Monarchy [and elected a Republic], thus replacing the Tartar Emperor by a President.
Let us briefly summarise the content of [a selection of] these Letters:
• 27th of August 1910 -- Letter from Guangzhou. The City is under fire; the Viceroy's palace reduced to ashes; the gunfire blends in with cannonfire. The Kuomintang gets ready to lay all to waste; those soldiers loyal to the Viceroy suffered heavy casualties.
The Western Gate is closed and Gervaix is unable to administer his College lessons.
• 26th of April 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. The revolution goes on; the sailors of Admiral Ly-Tsuen [Lizhun], loyal to the Monarchy, had entered the Tartar part of the City to protect the Guard.
The Kuomitang are well-supplied with bombs and ammunition; all neighbouring areas of the Pichon School are covered in ruins and blood; there are 500 to 600 bodies in front of the Yamen or Palace of the Great Treasurer.
One-hundred rebels were decapitated during the day, though they sold their lives dearly.
• 29th of April 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. Soldiers guard the streets and search passers-by; bodies and blood are strewn everywhere; traces of bullets of all calibres; counted forty-six bodies in front of the Viceroy's palace, all rebels. Loyal militiamen patrol the City. The Viceroy's palace did not undergo much damage from the fire and not more than two-hundred people lost their lives. The Viceroy Tchang-Meing-Ki [Zhang Ming-Qi] is made of strong stuff.
The Kuomintang took over the Cities of Sam-soi [Sanshuei] and Waichan [Huizhou] and here they killed a General.
• 31st of May 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. The daring coup of the 27th of April by the Kuomintang and their repression by the Viceroy send shockwaves through the population.
The coup was only repressed by way of the aid provided to the Viceroy by General Lizhun, who lent him his house in the wake of a fire at the palace.
General Lung,* a friend of the Viceroy, just arrived from Guangxi with reinforcements and it seems as though he will take Lizhun's place as the Viceroy's favourite.
The Viceroy appointed another friend of his, Kong-Ha* as head of his troops, taking the same post as Lizhun who sees in him yet another rival.
• 21st of June 1911 -- Letter from Guanzhou. Big demonstration by the people demanding that gambling be banned. Left the Temple of The Five-hundred Genii. At 9am, crossed the Rue Maréchal Tartare and returned to its departure point. There are more than one-hundred-thousand participants. The Viceroy proclaims the banning of gambling upon death penalty or ten years of hard labour in the galleys.
• 25th of October 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. The new Marshal of Guangzhou, Fong-shan,* arrived at the docks at 3pm. He headed for the Yamen with his escort when, after taking only a few steps on the Tchongtsin* Road, a dynamite exploded, blowing him to pieces. All that remained of him were his boots and a few bloody rags which were taken to Yamen. Twenty-five to forty Manchu Officers, soldiers and passersby were also killed or injured; some neighbouring houses were burnt down.
• 26th of October 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. The population is behind the revolutionaries and a Provisional Government is expected, which will include Liang-ting-fang* and Kuang-fu-hing*.
• 29th of October 1911 -- Letter from Guangzhou. On the previous day the rebels secured a great victory against the Imperial forces, in the North. A giant demonstration is organised in Guangzhou in favour of a Republic, but the Viceroy Zhang Ming-Qi sends his troops, the procession breaking up and the people return home disappointed."
• 31th of October 1911. Letter from Guang-zhou. An Imperial Edict proclaims the appointment of Tseung-lok* as the new Tartar Marshal of Guangzhou. General Long-tsi-Kuang* has the positions in the North of the City put under guard.
Talks are held between the Guangzhouese Authorities with the rebels' delegates, in Hong Kong. The Republic is finally declared, in Guangzhou, on the 9th of November 1911."
COLOMBAN. Eudore de, MOURA. Jacinto J. N., ed., Resumo da História de Macau, Macau, Tipografia do Orfanato da Imprensa Nacional, 1927, p.vII
§6. SCHEEMING SPIRITS
Fr. De Bellaing from the Paris Societé des Missions Étrangères, a missionary in Indochine, spent a few days with Fr. Louis-Julian-Baptiste Michel Pénicaud, in Hoi-hao [Haikou], Hainan, the latter also being from the Societé des Missions Étrangères, later to be Bp. of Pakhoi (elec. 1928).
In his turn, Pénicaud spent a few days with Mgr. Mérel, in Guangzhou. At table he made 'no bones' about speaking ill of De Bellaing, doing so in front of the Prelate and his colleagues. Fr. Gervaix, who heard the conversation, immediately went to gossip about Pénicaud to De Bellaing, relating the whole story.
• 20th of May 1910 -- Letter from Guagzhou:
"As a remembrance of you [De Bellaing], I could have done without the incident which occurred at the episcopal table in Guangzhou, where Father Pénicaud, from Haikou, was present, having stopped-off here for three days. This brave Father, who was a friend because of his piety, made a point of saying the following: "Ah, I saw Father Bellaing who spent eleven days with me!... He told me some fine things about Guangzhou!... Some really quite surprising things!... (a surprised reaction from the Bishop and his fellow priests). Oh, moreover, Father De Bellaing is mad (at this point the narrator put his finger to his forehead), he is a madman, unbalanced, etc....; he went out into the back-end-of-beyond, to a district which had not been designated by his Bishop!... (surprise). And he adds immediately:
-- But he made a good impression on us here last year!...
-- Of course, replies Mgr. Mérel, of course!...
And the pious Father Pénicaud took up one of his favourite themes:
-- The things he said about Guangzhou and the missionaries,... and so on.
After dinner, the Monseigneur, puzzled, took Father Pénicaud aside, into the aisle, and said:
-- I know that you said that Father De Bellaing seemed very serious and intelligent.
It is not known how the conversation ended, but the only thing I know is that Father Pénicaud repeated to His Excellency everything you told him before.
I would be most interested in knowing these things if your memory is trustworthy and I would request you, dear Father, that you send me this information without fear. Far from considering you a madman, I have always been of the opinion that you are not only a serious and fine priest but also a kind and skilled man, such are the attributes of a Frenchman from a good family.
I remember telling you at the time when you passed through Guangzhou of various misunderstandings I had, which today have been cleared up, but which the stupid conversation of my dullwitted and bad Brother were in danger of brutally reawakening."
On the 29th of May 1910, upon-receiving Fr. Gervaix's letter, De Bellaing wrote a long letter to the Mgr. Mérel showing his respects and clearing up these misunderstandings.
As can be seen, Frs. Pénicaud and Gervaix were two real 'schemers'.
§7. FR. GERVAIX VERSUS MGR. MÉREL
On the 31st of December 1912, Mons. Mérel ordered that Fr. Gervaix be given the account of his revenue and expenditure. This showed two debts, one for the amount of $816.11 and the other for $73.65.
• 28th of February 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mons. Mérel:
"I would like to thank Your Excellency for having desired to deduct the overdue payments of my residence in the episcopal house from my 'supposed' debt, as you had done with Father Clauzet.
However, this fair-minded decision does no more than underline even further your intention to brand me a debtor.
Before God and men, I can testify that this debt does not exist. I paid it five years ago at my own expense; moreover, I paid over and above what I owed. I am willing to prove this at any time. Consequently, the deduction which you are making every year of $50 [piastres] is a screaming injustice. I cannot accept the present bills and I would ask Your Excellency to file them in the Mission's archives."
• 23rd of March 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"Your Excellency do not understand how I managed to take on a debt and spend such a sum of money -- eight-hundred piastres.
I shall tell you. In Yang-shing* I carried out building work worth six-hundred piastres and also 600 piastres in Ai and, finally, one-thousand piastres in Sai-shan.*
You claim that I kept the money sent by the Manchus.
I regret to inform you that I still have not received the said sum; consequently, I could not have kept it.
Secondly, I wrote to the Manchus, but not to all of them.
Am I not entitled to receive amounts which I request of benefactors?
Am I entitled, by the same token, conceded to Fathers Nicouleau, Lévèque, Douspis, Drucis, Roy and other missionaries who write in the same paper ["Les Missions Catholiques"] and who obtain resources which you have obviously allowed?
You say that I took on a debt last year of thirty-four piastres-worth of books, in Shanghai, for the pupils. This is merely a misunderstanding on the part of the Attorney-General. So, there is no cause for concern.
You say that I show a lack of respect to my colleagues at table. I do not believe this is so; but seeing as you wish to interpret my words in this way, I promise that, as from today, I shall not utter one more word at your table unless you pose me a question.
You say that "I want to be an angel at the altar." God surely wishes me to be so; but up to now I have failed to be a Saint, as whosoever plays the angel also plays the beast.
You assure me that you will overlook my debt without positing valid reasons for doing so. I once again entreat Your Excellency not to deduct fifty piastres from my subsidy as I need this to live and carry out works, as it is not the money of St. Infancy which aids me; I haven't received a penny from them for eight years."
• 27th of March 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"I would like to express my surprise at Your Excellency having censured me harshly at table, in public and in front of Brothers foreigners to our Mission, and to inflict me reproaches such as that vaunted at table last Wednesday:
-- Oh! the Mission has not spent a penny on the lepers [sic].
This was said in such a way and with an anger against my writings in the "Missions Catholiques". I could not answer and had to contain my rage.
Actually, the Mission did not spend a penny on the lepers' welfare. This is the truth. I shan't insist.
In future, Monseigneur, I would be grateful if you would refrain from the following:
1. Do not insult me without due cause and in public;
2. Do not deduct fifty piastres from my subsidy under the pretext that I have debts when I have paid the said debts ten times over;
3. Do not be offended that I don't kiss your ring. If I omit this act, it is because I do not possess the virtue of St. Francis Xavier. I cannot kiss your ring in the light of the case of the lepers;
4. I believe myself to be sufficiently enough of a priest to consider you as my legitimate Superior to whom I owe respect and obedience, but also man enough to be liable to irritation and nerves on those unfortunate occasions where I am the object of your stinging words ie: of your punishments;
5. Do not pay attention to the accusations made by Sorin, Frayssinet, Levéque and Thomas, as everyone sees me in a bad light in Guangzhou and they have not ceased to speak ill of me.
I would like to save my soul, believe me, and I would ask you not to make my task more difficult by sowing a thousand-and-one germs of worries in my spirit.
I have faith in the future; would you be so kind as to explain to me all life's hardships? [...]
I am a priest and would like to remain one, come what may."
• 18th of April 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel. Rejecting the accusation which Mérel made against him for lacking delicacy.
• 2nd of May 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel. Saying that 'his' Bishop had been transferred from Shao Guan to Chenghai:
"[...] as if to exacerbate his dictatorial manner Your Excellency wrote a sentence which constituted the most terrible of injustices for his subordinate and the most degrading of crimes."
• 13th of July 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"In your letter of yesterday, the 12th of the month, you addressed some gratuitous insults which the charity of Our Lord advises me to leave unanswered. Moreover, it does not suit me in the serious situation to which my organism has been reduced to worsen its state by way of nervous over-excitement which the faculty of medicine forbids me."
On the 16th of June 1913, Fr. Robert informed the Bishop that Fr. Gervaix had written to Rome, accusing the Prelate's administration of:
"Irregularity as regards the amounts which were sent to him and that they did not reach their addressees."
This piece of information irritated the Prelate.
• 18th of June 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"I do not know my Canonic Law sufficiently well to specify in detail priests' prerogatives in disciplinary matters, but I do know perfectly well everything regarding my personal reputation and I am extremely concerned to defend it.
Hence, today I shall hereby inform you of an event whose exceptional seriousness may prejudice who was accused of the said incident nine years ago (1904).
I refer to a written accusation divulged against your servant by an unknown party.
Here are the facts, their circumstances and dates [...].
In July 1904, I went down to Guangzhou to deal with certain business and on 13th of that same month you drily gave me an order "to leave tomorrow for the East", no further explanation being proferred.
Surprised at the rapidness of such a decision, I endeavoured to discover the motives behind it, but in vain; and finally, despondent, I appealed to your
kindness; and by way of a letter, written in pencil, from Lao-long,* you surprised me with an administrative measure which kept me in the district of Xin Feng.
One year later, to be precise on the 7th of December 1905, I came down once again from Xin Feng to Guangzhou to deal with certain affairs, concerning the witholding of one-hundred piastres for the St. Infancy.
I was particularly annoyed that this money had been withheld as it prejudiced my evangelisation work. So as not to get involved in tiresome explanations to my Superior regarding this matter, I decided to spend the afternoon at a Brother's house so as to appease the ardour of my resentment.
Imagine my amazement when at daybreak on the following day, I received the following greeting which I reproduce here, word-for-word:
-- Just as well that you came; I was about to suspend you a divinis!
In fact, one hour later you handed me a piece of paper which I read to Father Étienne and whereby I was suspended a divinis for insubordination, without knowing the reasons behind this punishment.
On the afternoon of the previous day, the 7th of December -- a lamentable detail to cite -- Father Fourguet had told Father Fouquet at the College of the Sacred Heart:
-- Father Gervaix is to be suspended tomorrow.
These words were even heard by a layman, Mr. Marceau, who repeated them to me, as well as by pupils at the school.
For two days I suffered my grief in silence until the time that this same Father Fourguet came to take me to Your Excellency's presence.
However, the reversal of my punishment was to take me in one fell-swoop from my post in Xin Feng to a new appointment in Ai, for where I departed on the 19th of December. Before leaving I found out vaguely, from Father Kammerer, that if I had been transferred, in 1904 and also in 1903, it was owing to the fact that I had had serious difficulties in the District of Xin Feng and that he, Father Kammerer, could shed some light on this matter if I went to Pak-Hoi.*
With my heart in great distress, fearing some dreadful slander, I went to Ai and the matter was forgotten.
But it was then, in October 1909, when new difficulties arose with my Superior, in the wake of my resignation as Secretary, that Your Excellency wrote me the following surprising lines:
-- Owing to the accusations made by the Christians of Xin Feng, in 1904, that you were too hard on them, Cardinal Gotti has requested me to write a Report on your conduct in Xin Feng. Owing to my affection for you I did not answer the Cardinal's letter.
Upon receiving this communication I reproached Your Excellency for not having written the Report and for leaving me in the dark about this accusation and letting my reputation be dragged through the mud.
Father Fourguet, with whom I talked about this matter, made the following comment:
-- Did the Monsignor speak to you about this? If not, he wronged.
The matter went no further, allowing the innocent, harmless victim to suffer a great injustice.
It was only yesterday, on the 17th of June that this same victim learned of the following facts for the first time, which makes me most angry.
In a recent letter to Father Kammerer I asked him to answer the following four queries:
1. Who informed you [Father Kammerer] of the accusations made against me in 1904 by the Christians of Xin Feng?
2. Why did they forbid you to tell me this, seeing as I was the only party concerned?
3. What was the accusation [against me] made by the Christians of Xin Feng?
4. Did you ever make public the author and tenor of the said accusation?
Upon receiving this letter my Brother gave me the following steadfast answer, which I textually quote:
1. It was Father Fourguet who informed me of an accusation which was not made by the Christians of Xin Feng, but by a Brother, against you. [In an added note to this letter, Gervaix said that he knows who the accuser was].
2. They wrote to me confidentially; I suppose to avoid conflict between Brothers.
3. As far as I recall, they accused you of having had your Christians arrested.
4. I never informed you neither of the content nor of the author the accusation. The proof of this is that you have believed until this very day that the said accusation had been made by your former Christians [...] It was useless to tell you that Father Fourguet made me intervene for your own good.
C. Kammerer [Signed]
Pak-Hoi; 12th of June 1913"
From the above it can be concluded:
1. That I was accused to Rome by a Brother and not by my Christians, contrary to your statements.
2. That I was never notified of this accusation;
3. That this accusation concerns the fact that I had my Christians arrested [...];
4. That this accusation was first communicated by you to one of your mere missionaries, Father Fourguet.
5. That this same Father Fourguet, instead of informing the main party concerned and the sole party accused, wrote to a third party, Father Kammerer, of whom I could not suspect any indiscretion, but who really had no right to receive such confidences, which were so harmful to the dignity of my priestly office and of my honour as a citizen.
On the other hand, one understands from Your Excellency's letter dated October 1909, that:
1. You blamed the Christians of Xin Feng for an accusation made against one of your missionaries.
2. You failed to write the Report requested by Rome regarding my conduct in Xin Feng.
3. Owing to your affection for me you failed to write a Report which, contrary to what you think, would perhaps have been a way of re-establishing my honour. A further result of this is that owing to this accusation made to Rome, instead of paying me Your Excellency took advantage of the occasion to sentence me, without hearing me:
1. To leave the District of Xin Feng.
2. To punish me for insubordination when I refused to leave the said District for no plausible reason and so as to suspend me a divinis.
I would therefore ask you:
1. To appoint a committee of priests to clear up the object of my accusation, in 1904.
2. To establish my part, on the basis of clear evidence, in the criminal sentences when I supposedly made my Christians suffer.
3. To declare your right to inform other people and not the accused, of the motives behind the accusation made to Rome.
4. To declare your request to withdraw a Report requested by the Propaganda [Fide] regarding my conduct.
5. To declare your right to transfer me from a District and to suspend me a divinis for reasons of which I am unaware.
6. To send conclusions to the Propaganda [Fide], whatever they may be, regarding the sentence given by this committee of priests designated by you and which supposedly freely discussed all the aforementioned matters."
• 20th of June 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"The Imitation of Christ which you suggest is a fine idea, yet I find that of the Gospel a better one. There it says that when there is a legal dispute, it has to be dealt with by 'you' and the Church. On this occasion the 'you' is 'me', the accused party in 1904, me, accused by the infamous Christians, me accused by a Brother!
And you are surprised that I am disgusted by this slanderous insult without proving that you condemned me without giving me a hearing, and in addition, suspending me a divinis without due cause; furthermore, my Superior transfers me for the tenth time in ten years from a post which I did not choose, whatever it may be.
Your letter dated yesterday, the 19th of June, contains two serious inaccuracies:
1. I requested a committee of priests to judge me, not "a tribunal of four priests." How could you so distort the terms of my letter?
2. I continue to deny that Cardinal Gotti was notified on the 25th of November 1905, as it was in 1904 that Father Kammerer received a notification from Father Fourguet regarding this accusation. I would ask you to correct your dates.
In addition, I should inform you that it was ten days before you transferred me to Chenghai that I denounced you to Rome of embezzlement. Consequently, I did not do so out of disrespect.
You said that you "have not approved the conduct of the authors which accused me to Rome, authors who are unknown to you."
How were you then able to inform Cardinal Gotti of the veracity of the complaints which had been submitted to him?
And to prescribe, as you told me, the appropriate remedy? This is all rather strange and in particular contradicts the most basic notions of human wisdom and Christian charity.
It thus remains, Monsignor, to reach an agreement about the following:
1. That, in 1904, some Christians, according to you, a Brother according to Father Fourguet, made an accusation, of embezzlement against me, to Rome.
2. That I, the accused party, was completely unaware of this until the 17th of June 1913.
3. That I was the mute victim of a deaf Inquisition, ten times more malicious than in the Middle Ages, as the sole party concerned was harmed without having been heard.
4. That despite your refusal to sentence me before a group of Brothers who were chosen by you, the appearance of new evidence (Father Kammerer's letter) entitles me to appeal to human justice, expecting such from God and from you."
• 21st of July 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"It has been three months since you withdrew my powers three times, which surprised, moved and pleased the Christians of Shao Guan.
My reputation suffered and also my health. I would once again request Your Excellency to believe me that this matter does not amuse me and my nerves are shattered. I cannot accept the total moral burden of my Christianity in view of the fragility of my spirit.
Some days ago you wrote to me saying that "my dear soul was most sick" and this letter was sent to Rome [...].
Be warned hereby that the powers which you extended on the 21st of July, three days after having withdrawn them from me, do not assure me of being free of irritability."
• 22nd of August 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"I repeat once again that the accusation you have brought against me is false and that I shall bring the matter forthwith to the competent court."
• 27th of December 1913 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel. About how to convert stubborn priests, whom he called "apostates". He suggested that they all sign the following petition:
"1. We request that you trust in all priests without exception.
2. That they no longer be annoyed, mistrusted and transferred without due and serious cause.
3. That they be paid their meagre subsidy in full as well as the supplement granted by Mgr. Chausse.
4. That compensation for the St. Infacy's also be granted to all in proportion to their acknowledged requirements.
5. That all be entitled to receive those amounts which have been requested of their benefactors.
6. Or, that the rule, whereby fifty piastres is withdrawn from those whose works are in debt, be abolished.
7. That when large-scale ventures which may have considerable influence on the aims of the Mission, approval of the missionaries should be requested or, at least, the latter notified of the same.
8. That it should be possible for Mgr. Mérel to choose from amongst his seventy fellow priests, experienced and competent men who carry out the services on which the efficient functioning of a Mission depends.
9. That this be generally subject to regulations, always legislated in accordance with the spirit, frequently in accordance with the letter of the Regulations governing the Societé des Missions Étrangères, approved by Rome, by the Bishops and by the Heads of the same Mission.
N. B. This letter is by no means a provocation. It is written in good faith. The majority of missionaries would have signed it."
• 7th of April 1914 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"Seeing that Your Excellency do not wish me to run cinema films in the City which you had allowed to be shown many times in the College and in the churchyard of your Cathedral (the majority of your missionaries had requested me to provide them with this service both in retirement and at any time), I promise you that I have had enough and in particular I told your "detectives" that I shall never again twist the truth to please you [...].
If the others are allowed to go to the cinema, I shall not go, even if it be to please these curious Brothers who so enjoy comedy."
The Bishop transferred him from Guangzhou to a new post but he refused to go.
The Bishop ordered him to receive hospital treatment either in Hong Kong or in Chenghai, but he refused this too and wrote three letters to Cardinal Ledockowski, in Rome, citing his motives:
"Your Eminence, in my previous letters dated the 19th and 26th of March, I requested a break before going to my new post, in the hope that rest in a calm environment, far from the vexations of a hospital, would speedily put me right for my ministry.
By way of a letter sent from here, dated of the 6th of April, Mgr. Mérel threatens me with suspension a divinis if, persisting in my refusal to obey your instructions, I refuse to proceed to a Hong Kong hospital (letter dated of the 6th of August 1914).
Two years ago this same Prelate had stated publicly before his missionaries that he could not force his missionaries to go to hospital if they did not wish to go [...].
Hence, Eminence, I shall be brutally torn away from the altar which has been the source of happiness of my youth; on the morning of the 13th of April, the day before the great day of the Resur rection; I, this poor ragged being who is now requesting the fresh air of the countryside where I live alone and rest, shall be far from the puerile discussions of men, recovering my nerves shattered from fifteen years of trials and persecutions of all kinds; I shall be shut up in a hospital so as to obey your command, when I have already protested that I shall submit entirely to Your Emminence's orders; I shall be confined to a hospital bed, as in the times of tyranny when one was obliged to drink hemlock, despite my repugnance and against all my needs for air, movement and isolation.
"Or to the Chenghai hospital", he [Mgr. Mère] wrote, without awaiting your reply", requested since the 15th of March which, whatever it may be, shall free me of all responsibility of occupying a post which my opinion and the general opinion of all my Brothers assures me cannot fail to jeopardise my health.
Once more, Eminence, I ask you to take away from me a cup which overfloweth; I am willing to accept it without flinching, without a whisper; but I dare to ask that if you examine the circumstances which arose six months after my suspension, changing your point of view which had led you to take the decision of the 3rd of February last, you shall see that there are two options: either stick by your decision or change it, granting me an extension, should you see fit to do so, which shall make my apostolic task much easier.
However, I would now like to protest against the idea of disobedience which my Bishop accuses me of and also against the disciplinary punishments which were inflicted upon me even before your answer to my last appeal on the 19th of March 1914."
• 1st of May 1914 -- circular from Mgr. Mérel to all missionaries, ordering them to say the Pro vitanda mortalitate prayer in the Mass so as to end the plague which had claimed many lives.
• 7th of May 1914 -- Letter from Fr. Gervaix to Mgr. Mérel:
"I already have to bear sufficient psychological pain without your now adding irony to your persecutions which are unworthy of the Saint which I took you for.
As I cannot celebrate the Mass which you so unjustly withdrew from me, I enclose the Circular which orders me to add the Pro vitanda mortalitate to the ordinary prayers of the Mass. I enclose this letter and another addressed to the Christians who are no longer my flock.
Please do not cause me more concerns which harm me and make me believe that you are not my Father but an implacable enforcer.
Yours in great distress of Our Lord
[Signed] Régis Gervaix"
In 1914 Fr. Gervaix published an appeal in a Guangzhouese Paper to obtain funds for the foundation of a French School.
• 26th of May 1914 -- Letter from Mgr. Mérel to Fr. Melbon, one of the Heads of the Societé des Missions Étrangères:
"I have been informed that Father Gervaix has made an appeal in a Gouloir Paper to the French people for the foundation of a School in Guangzhou and that he has spread this appeal by way of adverts in Paris.
I must make it clear forthwith that this appeal and this work has nothing to do with the Guangzhou Mission. Could you please inform the Reverend Superior of the Seminary [of the Societé des Missions Étrangères, in Paris].
[And he adds as a P. S:] Father Baldit can give you all the required information about Father Gervaix [...]."
• 19th of June 1914 -- Letter from Mgr. Mérel to Fr. Gervaix:
"Despite your promises, you have still failed to set forth for either Hong Kong or Chenghai. Your delay is proof of an incorrigible obstinance in refusing to obey the institutions of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda [Fide]. Orders, admonitions and kindness hold no sway over your spirit or over your heart.
You thus leave me no option but to use the only method left to me to bring you to order and obey your superiors, ie: by withdrawing your right to celebrate the Holy Mass and to administer the sacraments to the faithful.
Hence, I hereby declare you suspended from a celebratione Missa et a Sacramentis Fidelibus ministrandis as of the date on which you receive this letter until you set foot in Hong Kong to enter the Betania Sanatorium and from there on to Chenghai, your District."
Fr. Gervaix was in Say Shan, **** Guangzhou.
In 1914 Fr. Gervaix published things which displeased A. R. Conty, the Minister Plenipotentiary for France, in Chian. ****
• 4th of February 1914 -- Letter from the Consul of France to Mgr. Mérel:
"I am honoured to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated today. As you are no doubt aware, the missionary in question is Father R. Gervaix. I have had to inform him owing to the instructions I received by wire of the displeasure and worry caused to the Minister for France, in Beijing, by some of his press publications.
Father R. Gervaix sent some explanations about the matter which I sent forthwith to Mr. Conty as had been requested.
I am most annoyed at the upsetting nature of this incident for you."
The result of all this was that Fr. Gervaix left the Guangzhou Mission and the Societé des Missions Étrangères and went to work in the Diocese of Macao.
For him there was only one great Bishop in Guangzhou, the very first, Zéphyrin de Guillemin whose Life Story he wrote.
§8. IN MACAO
He received a hearty welcome, in Macao, from Bp. Dom João Paulino d'Azevedo e Castro and afterwards from Dom José da Costa Nunes, for whom he always had great admiration and who appointed him a Member of the Padroado Português do Extremo Oriente (Portuguese Priests' Association in the Far East), on the 28th of June 1919.
He was appointed French teacher, by this same Bishop, at the S. José Seminary and I was his student, in 1924-25. He spoke bad Portuguese, which proved an advantage for his pupils as he would always speak French and that way we learnt more.
His moodiness never deserted him and when he took a dislike to a pupil the latter would fail at the end of the year.
"-- Mr. Sousa shall fail; Mr. Pires shall fail,"**** -- he would say; and that is how things would turn out: both Sousa and Pires, my schoolmates, failed at the end of the year.
As he devoted all of his time to History he would never set exercises nor correct them. He would dictate off the top of his head about some local event. At the end, one of us would go to the blackboard and write down what he had said; if there were any mistakes he would correct them and the others would write down what he had said from the blackboard.
He also gave Greek lessons to the theologians.
During the Winter months he would never have a bath and we had to put up with his odour.
He lived for History and every month some work of his would appear in the "Boletim Eclesiástico da Diocese de Macau"; there is hardly a copy which does not contain an Article or poem of his, as he was also a great poet. He signed under the pseudonym of Eudore de Colomban.
During his time of office [in Macau] (1916-1925) he was the only Historian dealing with Macao.
In May 1923, when Governor Rodrigo Rodrigues (1922-1924) opened a competition to approve a History book to be used for School teaching, the only competitor was Fr. Gervaix.
Captain Jacinto de Moura reports:
"The competition lasted only for three months, this time not being sufficient for the perfect coordination and revision of works of this nature. One sole competitor entered the competition: that son of noble and heroic France who disguised himself under the pseudonym of Eudore de Colomban."
Despite his poor knowledge of the Language of Camões, during his years in Macao, Colomban dedicated himself with the fervour of a soul impassioned by the great feats of the Lusitanians, to the thankless and exhaustive task of Historic investigation of this Overseas Province, where the ravages of time, consuming and changing everything, have made many parchments of the treasure of its Archives, which are curious and imperceptible.
However, Rodrigo Rodrigues was dismissed from his post and Fr. Gervaix left, for Beijing, in 1925, to take the post of French Literature teacher at the Government University.
His work would not have been published here if it had not been for the assistance of Captain Jacinto Moura, as the latter confesses:
"A Portuguese and Colomban's friend, I could not sit back and accept the loss of his small work which, if not perfect, represented, beyond its intrinsic value, a fine example of an appreciation of subjects which should concern the Portuguese more than it concerned him.
I thus continually requested him to publish his work.
Colomban eventually gave in, though certain conditions were imposed upon me: I was to enhance it and put my name to it without making the slightest reference to his name.
If the first task was almost impossible, the second was completely unacceptable.
Colomban, won over by friendship, finally consented to his name being put in its rightful place, it falling to me to remodel and enhance his work as well as all costs and royalties [...].
In this way and only by way of the favours and advice of some friends, to whom he was most grateful, did the present book emerge."
It was published in 1927, entitled: Resumo da História de Macau.
The following year he published the Histoire Abregée de Macau, in Beijing, in 2 volumes.
§10. IN BEIJING
Fr. Gervaix was a great patriot and loved his native France like few others.
For this reason, when the Apostolic Delegate, in Beijing, Mgr. Celso Constantini, abolished the French Protectorate over the Missions of China, Fr. Gervaix went to France's defense and launched a fierce attack on the Papal Delegate in the press. He had a mastery with the pen and when he blended this with his mischievous genius, woe to whosoever fell foul of his pen! He would crush him.
The only remedy for this troublesome voice was to remove it from Beijing.
Constantini appealed to the Congregation of the Propaganda [Fide], whose Fr. General was Cardinal Van Rossun. Constantini requested Bp. Dom José da Costa Nunes to receive him again in the Diocese of Macao, but the latter refused.
He was then expelled from China. The Bp. of Guangzhou, Mgr. Antoine Pierre Jean Fourguet (1923-1948) offered him assistance but Fr. Gervaix gave him the following answer on the 18th of January 1932 [?]:
"God willing, I shall encounter sufficient laymen's souls on my travels to manage to stay in China and die here."
However, he did not manage to do so and in that same year he was to return to Paris. There, he once again entered the Societé des Missions Étrangères, in Paris, being appointed the Archivist of that Institution. It was in Paris that he was to die, in November 1940, at the age of sixty seven. *****
Translated from the Portuguese by: Ruy Pinheiro
Revised by: Maria José d'Abreu
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF FR. GERVAIX
Gervaix, Jean-François-Régis, né 3 déc. 1873, à Lantriac (Hte Loire); parti 16 nov. 1898 pour le Kuoang-Toung; quitte la Société; pseud. Eudore de Colomban.
-- Lettre sur Macau. (Miss. Cath, XXXVII, 24 nov. 1905, pp. 555/556.)
-- Lettre. Les Ouailles de la mission de Pai-tam. (Ibid., XXXVIII, 6 juillet 1906, pp. 315/316.)
-- Lettre. (Ibid., 17 août, 1906, pp. 385/387.)
-- Lettre. (Ibid., XXXIX, 25 janv. 1907, p.40.)
Noces d'argent de Mr. Auguste Joseph Lanoue, parti pour Chine en 1881.
-- Lettre. Canton [Guangzhou], 19 mars 1907. Ordinations sacerdotales et Baptême de cloche à Canton. (Ibid., 3 mai 1907, pp. 205/206)
-- Lettre de Canton. (Ibid., 5 juillet 1907, p.316.)
-- Troubles et Massacres en Chine. Lettre Communiquée par Mgr. Mérel, préfet apostolique du Kouang-toung. (Ibid., 25oct. 1907, p.505.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 29 sept. 1907. (Ibid., 8 nov. 1907, p.531).
-- Lettre de Canton. (Ibid., 29 janvier 1909, p.54; fig.)
-- Impressions et Souvenirs d'un Missionaire Chinois. Lettres de M. Régis Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris. -- Canton, 20 déc. et 21 déc. 1908. (Miss. Cath., 18 juin 1909, pp. 297/299; 25 juin, pp. 309/311; 2 juillet, pp. 321/323, fig.; 9 juillet pp. 330/334, fig.; 16 juillet, pp. 346/347; 23 juillet, pp. 357/359, fig.; 30 juillet, pp. 369/371, fig.)
-- Idem. Par M. Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire au Kouang-toung. (Ibid., 8 sept. 1911, pp. 429/431; 15 sept., pp. 439/442, fig.; 22 sept. pp. 451/ 453, fig).
-- L'œuvre de la presse en Chine par M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid. 5 nov. 1909, pp. 529/530; fig.)
Canton, 17 mai 1909.
-- A propos de Madame Nénuphar. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris. (Ibid., 4 fév. 1910, pp. 49/52; fig.)
Canton, 24 déc. 1909.
-- Parmi les Pies par M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, Missionaire au Kouang-toung (Chine). (Ibid., 24 juin 1910, pp. 294/297, fig.; 1er juillet, pp. 306/309. fig.; 8 juillet, pp. 320/322, fig; 15 juillet 1910, pp. 331/333, fig.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 4 fév. 1911. (Ibid., 24 mars 1911, pp. 135/136; portr.)
-- Mes Heures et mes Jours. -- Par M. Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 31 mars 1911, pp. 145/148; fig. et portr.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 1er mai 1911. (Ibid., 2 juin 1911, p.256.)
-- Journées Rouges. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 16 juin 1911, pp. 277/279; fig.)
-- Le Dimanche en Chine. -- Lettre de M. Gervaix, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 27 oct.1911, pp. 505/507; fig.)
-- La Révolution en Chine. -- Lettre de M. Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. Canton, le 9 novembre 1911. (Ibid., 8 déc. 1911, p.577.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 21 oct. 1911. (Ibid., 24 nov. 1911, p.557.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 26 oct. (Ibid., 1er déc.1911, pp. 568/ 569.)
-- Profonde détresse d'un Missionaire [Stéphane Cellard] au Kouang-toung. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 15 déc.1911, pp. 590/591; portr.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 30 nov. 1911. (Ibid., 29 déc. 1911, p.616.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 1er janvier 1912. (Ibid., 26 janvier 1912, p.39.)
-- La Révolution en Chine. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix des Missions Etrangères de Paris. Canton, 2 fév. (Ibid., 8 mars. 1912, pp. 109/110.)
-- La Chine nouvelle. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire au Kouang-toung. (Ibid., 23 février 1912, pp. 85/87; portr.)
-- Esquisses jaunes. -- Voyage autour de l'horizon cantonnais. Par M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 22 mars 1912, pp. 139/142, fig.; 29 mars, pp. 150/153, fig.; 5 avril, pp. 161/165, fig.; [19 avril, p.188]; 26 avril, pp. 198/201, fig.; 3 mai, pp. 210/213, fig.; 10 mai, pp. 223/226, fig.; 17 mai, pp. 236/237, fig.; 24 mai, pp. 248/250; 31 mai, pp. 262/264; 21 juin, pp. 293/294, fig.; 28 juin, pp. 308/310, fig.; 12 juillet, pp. 330/331, fig.; 19 juillet, pp. 343/345, fig.; 26 juillet, pp. 338/359; 2 août, pp. 371/372; 16 août, pp. 391/392, fig.; 23 août, pp. 401/405, fig.)
-- Une Réception à l'Evêché de Canton (Chine). -- Lettre de M. Gervaix, Canton, 30 mai 1912. (Ibid., 5 juillet 1912, pp. 316/317; portrait de Sun-Yat-sen, et fig.)
-- Pour les Mandchoux, s. v. p. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. Canton, le 21 août. (Ibid., 27 Sept. 1912, pp. 457/458; fig.)
-- Lettre. -- Canton, 24 déc. 1912. (Ibid., 7 février 1913, p.66.)
-- Un an après. Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris. (Ibid., 24 janvier 1913, pp. 37/39; fig.) Canton.
-- Futur prêtre. Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris. (Ibid., 14 mars 1913, pp. 122/123; 2 portraits d'A-yao.)
-- Lettre. (Ibid., 25 avril 1913, pp. 195/196; portr.)
-- A la lorgnette. Par M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton (Chine). (Ibid., 27 juin 1913, pp. 304/306, fig.; 4 juillet, pp. 317/318, fig., 11 juillet, pp. 334/336; 18 juillet, pp. 340/342, fig; 25 juillet, pp. 353/356, fig.; 1 août, pp. 365/366; 8 août, pp. 376/379, fig.; 15 août, pp. 394/396; 22 août, pp. 402/ 404, fig.; 29 août, pp. 414/417; 5 sept., pp. 428/429; 12 sept.; pp. 438/440, fig.; 19 sept, pp. 452/453, portr.; 26 sept., pp. 461/464, fig.)
-- Lettre de Canton. (Ibid., 27 juin 1913, pp. 303/304; portrait de M. Druais, Supérieur du Séminaire de Canton.)
-- Graves nouvelles de Canton. -- Lettre de M. Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris. Canton, 2 août 1913. (Ibid., 29 août 1913, p.413.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 7 août 1913. (Ibid., 5 sept. 1913, p.423.)
-- Lettre de Canton, 17 oct. 1913 (Ibid., 14 nov. 1913, p.546.)
-- Mes devanciers. -- Lettre de M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères de Paris, missionaire à Canton. (Ibid., 7 nov. 1913, pp. 529/531.)
-- Lettre. Centenaire de la naissance de Mgr. Guillemin (16 mars 1914). (Ibid., 3 avril 1914, pp. 157/159; portrait de Mgr. Adolphe Rayssac, vicaire apostolique de Tchaotcheou.)
-- Lettre de Hong-Kong. (Ibid.; 11 juin 1915, p.279.)
-- Lettre. -- Mes deux introducteurs. (Ibid., 13 août 1915, pp. 390/393; ill. et portr.)
-- Choses vues par M. Régis Gervaix, des Missions Etrangères, missionaire au Swatow (province de Kouang-Toung). (Ibid., 1916, pp.8/11, 21/24, 30/33, 41/45, 54/56, 66/67; ill.)
-- Lettre de Teng-hai, 22 déc. 1915. (Ibid., 1916, pp. 87/90.)
--Lettre [sur Tchao-Tcheou]. (Ibid., pp. 134/136.)
Ai [Shiu-hing; Chao-King] 爱
Ai-long [Lao-long] 爱龙
Beiling [Pak-ling] 北岭
Beitan [Peitam] 北潭
Changning [Tseng-ning] 长宁
Chenghai [Tsing-hoi] 澄海
Cixi [Tseu-hi] 慈禧
Cong Hua [Tsong-fa] 从化
dangdi [pun-ti] 当地
Faguo [Fat-Kuok] 法国
Fo Gang [Fat-Kong] 佛冈
Gaoyao [Ko-yu] 高要
Guangdong [Kouang-tong] 广东
Guangning [Tseong-hing: Tséongning] 广宁
Guangxu [Kuong-Su] 光绪
Haikou [Hoi-hao] 海口
Hainan [Hianan] 海南
Huizhou [Waichan] 惠州
Lizhun [Ly-tsuen] 李淮
Longmen [Long-mun] 龙门
Luoding [Lo-ting] 罗定
Po Wan[PoWan] 坡弯
Sanshui [Sam-soi] 三水
Shao Guan [Sai-Kuan] 诏关
Ting Deng [Ting Deng] 登
Xijiang [Si Kiang] 西江
Xin Feng [Tsang-Shing] 新丰
Xinxing [Sen-hing] 新兴
Xuantong [Suen-tong] 宣统
Zhang Ming-Qi [Tchang-Meing-Ki] 张鸣崎
Zhegu Shan [Tsé-ku-shan] 鷓鴣
*Historian and researcher on the Portuguese Expansion and the Christian Church, in the Orient. Author of numerous articles and publications on related topics. Member of the Portuguese Academy of History, the International Association of Historians of Asia, and other Institutions.
**Transliterations of Chinese entities, names, geographical locations and sites were transcribed from the original text as spelled. Whenever possible, matching pinyin transliterations appear in straight parenthesis [ ] following the original transliterations when they first appear, thereinafter always in pinyin. When it was impossible to ascertain an exact entity, name, geographical location or site, these were left in their original transliterations (and marked with an asterix *) no corresponding characters being provided in the Chinese Glossary, alphabetically listed according to the pinyin transliterations.
After reflecting before God and my Conscience on the weighty duties which are incumbent upon any missionary, I feel that I lack sufficient qualities to perform my Sacred Ministry fruitfully.
I am sorry to have to present you with my resignation as the Apostolic Missionary of Guangdong [...]
R'Y Gervaix" [Signed].
**** The author's original text phonetically expresses the French pronounciation of Fr. Gervaix's Portuguese, ie: raposá for raposa, Sousá for Sousa and Pirés for Pires.
"-- Messieur Sousá apanhará uma raposá; Messieur Pirés apanhará uma raposá, [...].
Messieur might be the author's interpretation of Monsieur. raposa (fox) is, in Port. the idiom for a "fail".
***** The original Manuscript ends with a "Bibliography of Father Gervaix", subdivided into two listings: "Books" and "Letters".
The "Book" listing can be found in this volume's Comprehensive Bibliography, p. 194.
The "Letters" listing is a transcript of: CORDIER, Henri, Biblioteca Sinica, Suplement vol. 1, pp. 3702-3703, GERVAIX, Jean-François-Régis, fac-simil~$oe of which are provided.
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