Our visit to New Caledonia has been, as it was last year, a great pleasure, but looking back on it from the perspective of a few weeks later, we can see that it has been much more: we have had the great privilege of living for nine days the life led by our holy founder in the years when he was establishing his order. As he travelled through the South of France which was darkened by the Albigensian heresy, he fulfilled his mother’s vision of him, before his birth, as a dog with a torch in its mouth setting the world on fire. As our Father’s daughters and “athletes of Christ”, we have been able to travel far and wide (though not barefoot as he often did) over the France of the South Pacific to help to enkindle more brightly the light of the faith, now dimmed by Modernism.
The Albigensian heresy, denying the goodness of the material creation, refused to admit that it could be used in any way for the glory of God. And so St Dominic made every effort to not only say, but sing the Mass daily, to deny this heresy in praising God through the material elements of music and ceremonial. The Modernist heresy, though it denies instead the evil of fallen nature, comes effectively to the same conclusion as the Albigenses, stripping the churches of the physical beauty of sights, sounds, and even smells that should lift up our hearts to glorify God. In the fight for this heresy, we have had the honour of singing the Mass four times during our visit, twice on Sunday and twice on the Feast of the Ascension, in tones which are heard in New Caledonia still more rarely, alas, than in Albigensian Provence.
Tradition tells us that grace builds on nature, and the liturgical life is no exception to this rule; it must be built on the natural life of the family and the land. The Albigensians in St Dominic’s time were overturning even natural order in their heresy, and in our times, we see that modernism also destroys the natural order within families and parishes. In many places families no longer cook their own meals and eat them together; people no longer make music for themselves or amuse themselves outdoors; all this is vanishing due to modern ideas of technology and ‘convenience’. What really made an impression on all of us were the aspects of family life that are still faithfully maintained among the New Caledonians: spending time at the table as a family, preparing and even growing food at home, and enjoying the beauties of God’s creation together, sea and mountains, rivers and beaches, and we were happy to see these aspects of life blessed by the Rogation processions during our time with them.
All of this came together for the Feast of the Ascension, which marked the 30th anniversary of the Society’s mission in New Caledonia. People came from every corner of the island (and the world, as we formed a contingent of five different nationalities, not to mention the 3 priests as well) to show their gratitude for the preservation of the faith and the grace of the Sacraments. Firstly, we gave glory to God through the Solemn High Mass and one child made the baptismal promises of fidelity to Him in gratitude and homage for her creation and redemption. We then showed our joy in a natural and also Christian way by a feast in which the atmosphere was truly familial and animated with the sounds of conversation and of song.
This also links with the main objective of our trip, which was the immersion of our pupils in the French language and culture. Like our holy father we were able to gather, during our adventures, other young girls to help us in our main aim and at the same time, hopefully, to receive some formation through this contact with religious life. In the evenings they sometimes joined us in the singing of Compline, the night prayer of the Church, at the end of which we make a procession in honour of Our Lady. This procession, in which we sing first the Salve Regina to hail our Queen and then an antiphon in honour of Saint Dominic, is like a summary of the journey of our lives and also of this trip—we walk (or drive) for the glory of God, under the protection of Our Lady and in the footsteps of Saint Dominic, until we come back to God, the First Truth and our Last End. This is the end to which you also must travel, so we exhort you to have confidence in God and an unflinching courage in the cause of truth. We were grateful for the kindness of the people of the island during our visit there. We have returned to ours with renewed vigour and strength to fight in the same cause. May we all end up together under Our Lady’s mantle as her faithful children.