ADVICES TO MISSIONNARIES by Saint Francis Xavier de Laval-Montmorency, First Bishop of Québec
May they persuade themselves that being sent to work on the conversion of infidels, they have the most important employment to be found in the Church; which should oblige them, to become worthy instruments of God, to improve themselves in all the virtues suitable for an apostolic missionary, often meditating, like did Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint and the ideal of missionaries, on the words of the Gospel: "What gain is it for a man to have won the whole universe if he suffers detriment to his soul?"
They should strive to avoid two extremes that are to be feared in those who apply themselves to the conversion of souls: to hope too much or to despair too much. Those who hope too much are often the first to despair of everything after seeing the great difficulties that are found in the endeavor of the conversion of infidels, which is rather the work of God than the industry of men. May they remember that the seed of the word of God bears its fruits in patience. Those who do not have this patience are in danger, after throwing a great deal of fire at the beginning, to lose courage at the end and to quit the enterprise.
The talents that make the good missionaries are:
- To be filled with the spirit of God. This spirit must animate our words and our hearts, the mouth speaking from the abundance of the heart.
- To have a great prudence for the choice and the order of things to be done, either to enlighten the understanding, or to bend the will; all that does not aim to that end are lost words.
- To have a great application so as not to lose the moments of the salvation of souls and to make up for the negligence which steals into catechumens; because, as the devil on his part roams like a roaring lion, seeking whom to devour, so do we have to be vigilant against his attempts with care, kindness and love.
- To have nothing in our lives and in our morals that may seem to give the lie to what we say or that could indispose the minds and the hearts of those that we want to gain for God.
- One must win affection through one's kindness, patience and charity and to win over the spirits and the hearts to gain them for God; often a word of bitterness, an impatient gesture, an irksome look will destroy in a moment what had taken a long time to accomplish.
- The spirit of God requires a peaceful, meditative heart and not an anxious or inattentive heart. One must have a joyous and modest face, avoid mocking and inordinate laughter and generally all that is contrary to a holy and joyful modesty. May yours be recognized by all men.
The parts of the text in Latin have been translated. Complete reference:
Instruction pour nos bien-aimés en Notre-Seigneur Claude Trouvé et François de Salagnac, prêtres, allant en mission aux Iroquois situés en la côte du nord du lac Ontario, ¨ 1668
dans Quebecen. Beatificationis et Canonizationis Ven. Servi Dei Francisci de Montmorency-Laval episcopi Quebecensis (+1708) Altera nova positio super virtutibus ex officio critice disposita (Sacra Rituum Congregatio, Sectio historica, 93), Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1956, pp. 214-216.
This translation has been made possible by the gracious help of Father Georges Marceau from "Société des prêtres du Séminaire de Québec" (SME), a community of diocesan priests founded by Blessed François de Laval in 1663.
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