LETTERS OF FATHER KARL MORSCHHEUSER
First published in English as
THE MORSCHHEUSER PAPERS
by Father Bernard Fisher S.V.D.
This is a translation and adaptation of the German work "Missionar in Neue Guinea, P. Karl Morschheuser SVD" by Father Fritz Bornemann S.V.D. 1938. Printed and published by the Mission Press of St. Gabriel, Moedling near Vienna.
This present work is printed by the Stella Press at Divine Word Mission, Alexishafen, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea.
This book is an adaptation of the MISSIONARY IN NEW GUINEA, written by Fr. Fritz Bornemann S.V.D. in German in 1938 when "Kanaka" was a proud name and Papua a foreign country.
Father Morschheuser had been in the mission only two years -when he was killed by the people of the Simbu Valley in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. Malaria had been felling missionaries regularly, but the casual slaughtering of the young and gifted priest in circumstances that resembled martyrdom sent a shock wave through the whole mission.
Technical martyr or not, his death has certainly been the seed hundred thousand Christians.
The book, of course, would never have been possible had not young Karl been so prolific and accomplished a letter writer, and had not the character thus revealed been so admirable.
Fr. Karl's true worth is seen not so much in his heroic death as in his eager acceptance of seminary training and his two years as a fledgling missionary priest. He is totally imitable. That is why I wrote this book.
The title of this book was suggested by Father Paul McVinney S.V.D.
Father Bernard Fisher S.V.D.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 The Adolescent
2 The Vocation
3 The Major Seminarian
4 The Mission Appointment
5 Over the Sea to the Mission
6 New Guinea At Last
7 Ulingan Mission
8 Parishioners of His Own
9 With the Children
11 His Own Culture
12 Leaving Ulingan
13 Call to the Highlands
14 Call to Heaven
15 Fr. Morschheuser Today
Karl Morschheuser was born on the 18th January 1904 at, Muenster, Westfalia, Germany. The father was mayor of the city. Young Karl was an active, athletic boy much as his father had been. He deeply loved his mother and wrote her affectionate letters, but he could reveal his soul and his aspirations much more easily to his father.
He was mischievous but thoroughly honest. This is an article he wrote about his boyhood.
"Franz, Heine, do you have your catapults?" I asked my two school friends. "Yes." "Come, we will tease the switchman a little."
This man sat in his iron hut and smoked. It was already dark. We could easily approach the road embankment to shoot pebbles against the little house.
At the second shot he rushed out sputtering. In his right hand he had a club, in his left a lantern. His pipe sprayed sparks. We retreated rapidly behind the rabbit hutch in the station garden.
The old man came below the embankment and ran into the garden too but did not see us. He stood about fifteen paces away yelling insults. Heine muttered: "I'll break his lantern." We did not want it to happen but the glass was already shattered into two pieces. Startled, the man let the rest of it fall.
But he saw us and rushed at us furiously. We ran over the embankment and down the other side and were safe for the evening.
When I arrived at school the next day, alas, the switchman was standing with the teacher. Should I detour? No. I allowed myself to notice no thing and went calmly to the classroom.
After the prayer the teacher took the "Yellow Joseph", the stick, out of the desk, whipped it to and, fro, stroked his mustache and growled:
"Who annoyed the switchman yesterday?" We three stood up. "Come here." Franz was the first. The teacher ordered: "Bend away from me. " I counted one, two, three, four, five. That was not too bad. After a minute everything was finished. We also had to pay for the lantern.
We eighth graders in front made a great excursion. After the tournament, we sat by classes on the grass just as in the first wonderful multiplication of the loaves. Then each of us received a great slice of black and white bread with butter, a large piece of cheese and a cup of tea.
There was a lottery. In the sack race I won second prize, a boiled egg.
What he had learned in history and in German and what had been projected on the screen for him on winter evenings, he wanted to delve deeper into during the holidays.
The twelfth grade boy went up to Wartburg to the dungeon and the Knights' Hall where the Contest of the Troubadours had taken place. In the house of Bach, he sat in the rooms where the Fugues first sounded under the master's hands. He went to the house of Fritz Reuter who had inserted that dear Low German into the literature.
Then he went over Erfurt to Weimar to the houses of Schiller and Goethe. He stood in the room where Faust was created, read many original letters in the archives of the two men, remaining as long as he wished. Quedlinburg, Wernigerode, Goslar; the Imperial Palace and the Emperor's Cathedral! Ending in Hildesheim to see the Bernward Cathedral and the rich houses of the burghers!
During the next holidays he went to the Theatre for Festival Performances in Bayreuth to see Parsifal. On the way home he listened to the Meistersingers at Nuernberg in the workshop of Hans Sachs. After the holidays he spoke to almost no one about these trips.
Like many-boys he felt an attraction to the priesthood, but simultaneously also to many other things. He entered St. Michael's Mission House in Steyl, Holland, to test himself.
Steyl, spring 1919
The first year brought us many changes, especially since so many students returned home from the war and even more Brothers. The soldiers returning from the front were always received in the refectory with music. From their stories which they flourished before us, we learned of their experiences in the war.
Soldiers of every troop were here, infantry, artillery, cavalry, fliers, marines. Even a lieutenant with the Iron Cross first and second class. Officers came. It was wonderful. Otherwise we have silence from Saturday devotions till coffee Sunday morning.
Last evening at suppertime a student who had been an ai r commander returned. It had not often happened that the silence on Saturday was broken.
9th May was a special day for us. Two missionaries came who had been driven out of China because they were German. They arrived in the afternoon and at even thirty they entered the refectory. We singers hastily practiced a song, a pupil gave a speech. The musicians played piano and violins. This was how we welcomed the missionaries. At the end, one of them, dressed in his Chinese garb, spoke to us and told us the next day would be a holiday. Father Rector could hardly oppose this.
The deported Togo missionaries came back from the English concentration camp. Soon missionaries from all over the world arrived as the Superior General had to be elected. Some months later for the first time since the war, German missionaries returned to Japan, China and the South Seas.
I am very content. Only the studies are hard and that not always. I believe I can manage them, though. We must do a great deal of studying as in ten days the semester ends and the examinations begin. I hope to survive them.
The examination is before us. We shall be tested. A number of Fathers sit around us and the one who knows nothing makes a thorough fool of himself. Pray now for me that I do not fail. The prayer of a mother is very effective.
Steyl, Autumn 1923
It has been two years now that I have been living in a sort of crisis; the question has been occupying me whether I should become a priest or not.
Before the age of 16 I did not think so deeply. As I began to reflect, thought of this too. Till today a conclusive answer to this question eludes me. I am still in this crisis.
This year, however, decision will come. Chaplain Meyer told me once: "The decision comes over night. One morning when you awake, it will be completely evident to you whether you wish to become a priest or to marry. Till then wait in peace. Do not worry. Do not act rashly..."
It is not yet clear to me but I hope and pray always that the decision will be to become a priest.
The indications should be more for than against, as my Father Prefect said once. If it is not to be, one
cannot alter it.
Then I know too that you understand me, don't you? I will not take this momentous question lightly.
Now begins the retreat before entering high school. It will last till Thursday morning. Perhaps in these days of contemplation in which one also receives special graces will come clarity.
Dear papa, don't you worry about this. If this is not to be my vocation, it is much better to seek my fortune in another one. I leave you the decision whether to show this letter to Mother or not. I am agreeable.
Your son Karl,
After the retreat
After these peaceful days of reflection, I am totally at peace. Before something was raging in me. You already know: the crisis.
If I were obliged to answer the decisive question now, I should say: "Yes, I will be a priest." In three days of retreat I have renewed my enthusiasm for my vocation and now it appears to me to be the most beautiful of vocations. I nave especially asked for a heart large enough to accept all men without except ion. I requested love too since later I must extend love if my ideal is to become real. I hope to achieve reality.
I hope not to acquire other interests. But who already knows that? We will wait calmly and not worry about the outcome.
I wish you so many joys and the festive humours that I have here. They bring with them the individuality of our feast when we rise at midnight of Christmas to bring the Christ Child in procession from the great hall to the church. We go through the monastery corridors which are dimly lit by coloured torches.
Believe only that we cannot withstand it. Then the inner man is warm and sings with all his soul: "Oh you dear Jesus Child." Yes, Christmas in the monastery is very beautiful.
I have already received one gift from the Christ Child through Mother and Father, Father Weiss' THE PHILOSOPHY OF PERFECTION. I am very pleased with the book. It will be especially practical for me in the coming year when I enter the novitiate and busy myself with God exclusively, when I, through asceticism and the inner development of the personality, cultivate the efficacious means to achieve priestly virtue. Keep it to yourself when I write such things and understand me; I look forward with joy to next year.
Something else there is to write to you about, the goal of the contemplative order. One's first goal must be one's own sanctification. These men and women are very serious about striving for perfection and thereby drawing themselves back to God.
Secondly I the order has the task of praying for others that the spiritual efforts of pastors be effective and that all sinners be converted. These grounds justify het existence. But that is only incidental.
For the rest, do not think me pious when I write such things to you. Anything else rather than that! But the striving for piety, for an honest personality, the striving is there, but it does not exclude sins and failings.
Understand me anew when I write this. Faith is there and good will. As Goethe says at the end of Faust: "The one who tries hard to strive can be redeemed." And where the will is found, grace from above will be too. These are my thoughts. Do not think of them as dogmas. Draw your own conclusions.
The Religious Habit
St. Augustin-Bonn, Autumn 1925
The friendly reception made us all feel good. On Tuesday morning we received the habit. It is still a little strange. The long gown dangles so around the legs. We will be led very slowly into the life of the novitiate.
Right on the second day I was, with others, detailed to the kitchen to wash up, and what was worse, I didn't even get the plates, no, knives and forks for me! I got exactly the right treatment.
Today, Thursday, our free day, from two to four I must join the potato digging. This corporal work, however, has title to only the smallest part of our time. Most of it is given to spiritual lectures, one every day, etc. Therefore more work for the spirit!
It will take a while for me to "cast off the old man." He is the one who writes this letter. Washing up is still a little torment to him. Write soon.
Father Prefect said one time: "The more engrossing the holidays, the greater the hang over. And my holidays were very satisfying. Dear Mother catered to my every desire and appetite.
My first letters to you were intentionally kept slightly superficial. I wanted to wait until we here were on the right track, till our course had been accurately determined.
We were introduced into the novitiate style of living very slowly. I did not want to write whining, discontented letters to you.
For actually - and I can tell it to you calmly now - in the first days I was not in the best of humours. Especially during the retreat when we had few outside distractions. I often found myself at the fence overlooking the Siegburg - Bonn road where the train rolls. I would have liked to run there, get in and away. Only away, where to would not matter. Just away from here!
For three weeks it seemed precluded that I be happy here. My state of mind was so miserable; my revulsion was so rapid. Eleven weeks of the most pleasant holidays, then so precipitately into the monastery! One of the two men in me struggled so violently and out-shouted the better who was inaudible to me.
Now I know that I can be happy here. During those first days I was not of sound mind. I had been ripped from the indolence of the holidays and thrust into the hard work of meeting myself.
I have a remedy that helps me, my sense of obligation. Where were obligations during my holidays? Some I owe as a Christian and some I owe to you. They were not onerous. You have never made things hard for me, nor I for myself. This was the origin of my misery during the first days here.
Now I have recovered my equilibrium again and am entirely content. Sometimes disquiet envelopes me for a moment. They I click my heels and think of my duty. If I were not in the monastery I would still not be able to go to Handorf to paddle every morning and afternoon. Therefore! My chief goal for the coming year is shaping my character.
Here in the silence of the novitiate during hours of grace I realize the necessity as well as the beauty of my goal. I must develop my own character since later I must lead others.
I have the enduring and firm resolve to become a priest. I can give no thoughts to things that would divert me from that goal. If this resolve is no longer mine, if this goal comes to seem worthless, then it is time to leave.
In St. Augustin's there was an enlargement of the house and especially the construction of a new, bigger church. Preparatory works were already in progress. We had copious opportunities to share in this every afternoon from 2: 30 till 5: 30 when the weather allowed.
At the moment the work is interrupted because of the high snow. We all wanted the snow to go away because we enjoyed outside work.
First we felled a section of the little wood behind the house where the new construction was to rise.
Swimming, rowing and felling trees are, in my opinion, the healthiest sports. In tip carts we transported the good top soil of the former forest to the park. Trundling these carts along is the best part of the whole work, especially when they are empty.
The topography near the house has little rises and declevities. These gave us much amusement when we raced madly back with the empty carts, just like little children with their toy wagons.
Now, dear Mother and also Father, you must not believe these outside pleasures make me so content with my present lot. They could not satisfy me for too long. If I enjoyed corporal work more, I would go gladly to Schulzen's factory or Uncle Jacob's shop.
What makes me so happy and content here is the being occupied with the better part of a man, the soul, to care for it and, as one's nature directs, bring it to God. One can do this with a tip cart but it works better in silence.
You ask whether the underground work is finished. Not yet though we are diligent. We students are allowed to work some hours on the new building and we do it enthusiastically. I believe one's own underground work offers more difficulties than it would with a mere dwelling. Progress seems slow. I appear always to be digging and chopping. But of one thing I am very sure; I work hare and earnestly to become something really good.
When our new building is finally ready, I shall still be working hard on the building of myself. Your prayers can assist me in this and precisely for this intention: that I become a whole priest or none at all.
Silence rules nearly everything in the novitiate. Considering everything, we usually have no more than two hours a day to give to each other, of which a half hour is spent using a foreign language.
We arise at a quarter to five (!) in the morning. By 2:30 in the afternoon we have not spoken a word to anyone. Silence rules the meals too.
The reason is evident. We must reflect on ourselves and our chief goal and then make progress. Unnecessary words interrupt the concentration. In the stillness the soul receives truly spiritual insights. I
will try very hard as I find keeping silent no torment. So it will be for all, I suppose.
Seeking the Holy Grail
A year ago today I saw "Parsival" at Beyreuth. In a few hours I watched the grappling and strivings of a youth for the kingship of the Ho1y Grail, the priesthood.
The theatre can portray things in one evening; the reality takes years. Therefore I cannot say that in the past years I have reached this or that. Whatever good I have won must still grow with me, must change with me till it becomes part of my irremovable personality. Things glued on falloff again.
You see that my inner growth has not kept pace with the construction of our new building. I have to lay a deep foundation, dig and chop away, file off edges and corners. But I must gradually learn to make practical use of this faith for my life, to live by faith.
To articulate livable goals for my life is not so hard, but to implement them costs confrontation and exertion. And any inspiration is futile unless I live it.
However, that will be the construction on the foundation, living out principles in deeds. So I must work longer, longer than an evening at the theatre.
Today I must think more often of 7th August 1925 and compare it with that of 1926.
Now I sit here in a work jacket and strong denim trousers that were given us for the construction work. I write these lines at may desk.
At this time last year I got ready to go to the hall for the festival performance in Bayreuth. I was there by four o'clock. This year from four to six I shall be helping to tamp cement blocks. After that I prepare for Sunday, externally by bathing and keeping silence, interiorly by composing my soul. Then I can realize that I already find myself in the kingdoms of the Grail, in the peace of religious life. I do request the help of your parental prayers.
In all this Christmas feast will come and pass in stillness. I rejoice in that the important thing is the festal disposition in the heart. And to prepare the heart the novitiate is thoroughly qualified.
Here I learn to attribute to all things and calculate the value they deserve. Christmas, therefore, will not be a time of rejoicing or of resting, but a time to welcome the Lord into my heart. I must fix the worth of the feast for my heart. Otherwise all the jubilation will be in the valueless and an unheeding running along with the usual.
I remark how gradually a tiny light is beginning to shine in me. Perhaps I shall soon be able to discover the consequences of the word that Christ spoke to holy. Peter: "When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you pleased. But when you are old, another will control and lead you."
Till now my life has proceeded essentially comfortably and joyfully, because I chose what pleased me. In the long term this can and will not per sist. Therefore I will prepare myself lest I receive disappointments.
Do not misunderstand me. Do not believe that my life is suddenly devoid of joy. I wish to say only this: "My life will not always conform to my wishes. And since the course of every life includes pain and conclusively since the whole world with its splendour and magnificence does not manufacture happiness, why should I not consciously pursue my way to God?"
Really, I am very content. Is God giving me such contentment now to strengthen my loyalty in harder times to come? One of our Fathers said one time: "The hard and bitter times come later." I will prepare for them.
I do not know now what hard things await me. But iron 1s tempered in the fire and gold purified. So I must expect hard times. But now I enjoy my freedom from worries.
I Enjoy Commitment
Would you like to know more exactly what it is about? I have taken the holy vows for the first time, vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. This first time for one year! In a few years I hope to take them forever.
Do you wish to understand more exactly what they mean? By the vow of poverty I renounce the earnings from wealth and property. By chastity, I renounce marriage. By obedience I place myself entirely under the orders of my superiors.
When they tell me some future day: "Go to China!" I shall go to China. Or: "Go to New Guinea!" I shall go thither. Or "Remain in Europe and instruct the youngsters." then I shall do that.
The important thing about the vows is that I obey, not men but God. I must place my strength and my capabilities under the orders of God.
What all peoples must do: know, love and serve God and thereby gain heaven, I have now committed myself to do in a special way. I cherish the commitment, my position and my calling.
So for me 8th September was the day on which we took, our vows, naturally a feast day of the first rank. A turning point in our lives! It should be at least that. A life exclusively for God! You must pray for this that I be entirely faithful to this calling and not portray a pitiable figure that wavers between alternatives.
I am now a member of the Society of the Divine Word and write joyfully behind my name the letters S.V.D. for Societas Verbi Divini, the Society of the Divine Word. With the taking of the vows, I wish to suspend, so to speak, living for myself and put myself entirely in the service of God. I must see that ever more I grow into this concept and "never withdraw anything from this commitment.
May I give you a small tour of my past two years? On 8th September 1925 I hung my civilian suit in the closet and have never put it on since. I now wear the long black cassock.
With that 8th September I began what is called the novitiate, somewhat freely expressed as "renovation of the old man, reform, conversion." It is a final time of testing my fitness for religious life.
In the first year of novitiate there were no studies. We were being led into the spiritual life. Holy Scripture, the "Following of Christ" of Thomas a Kempis, an Introduction to Christian Perfection and descriptions of lives were our chief lectures. It was a thoroughly worry-free and restful year.
In the second year of the novitiate we resumed studying, philosophy, the History of Philosophy, English, chemistry, Hebrew, Speech, lectures on the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, and later also biology. Work enough! With prayer and recreation the day could hold no more.
I've truly been well off since I came to St. Augustin's. What have I done that God should give me such joy in my religious and missionary vocation? Nothing! And my vocation is not painful to me. Whatever it demands brings me contentment. My happiness will only increase if I fulfill completely the duties of my station.
You enquire about plans for the holidays. Dear parents, I believe everything about the holidays will be simple and I hope, pleasant. I have made no further plans. I think that will all be decided soon.
Much will be different from before because I'll appear in a cassock. For instance, I can no longer cycle to Handorf in a sport shirt and lie in and out of the Werse. Our youngster must paddle alone. This has been my lot since Autumn 1925. I do not find it so grievous a sacrifice.
Possibly, dear Mother, you may enjoy my spending the coming holidays more at home.
St. Augustin's - Bonn, Spring 1928
So many questions about the studies accumulate in the course of every week by mid semester that on free Thursdays and Sundays one reviews with a confrere or tries to solve them alone. Besides the philosophy in general we have to do something about the man on the postage stamp of this letter, Immanuel Kant. Had Kant on the stamp been a councillor writing one letter with deliberation and import, I could appreciate it. Not, however, when the letter writer champions such ideas.
With a confrere 1 discuss on free days the questions that have seemed hazy to me during the week. Today we spoke of Kant, to understand him; what he means on the whole is often not easy.
Gradually now we are getting our breath back. The written tests which have never terrified me, are already finished. I am satisfied with them as long as the professors are too. One sits here two hours writing what one knows. What one does not know one does not write.
In the oral examinations I have philosophy, English and chemistry behind me. There are three others to come.
You wished to know something about the end of the semester. Everything has worked out well. The average result is satisfactory. No subject is less than satisfactory. Well above it.
The rank of notes is given in numbers. 12 is superior, 10 is laudable (those two I missed. They would make me hoarse.) 8 is good (I got that in Hebrew), 6 is satisfactory (I got 7 in English and History of Philosophy, therefore between satisfactory and good.) The other subjects are all 6 or satisfactory.
THE MAJOR SEMINARIAN
St. Gabriel's, Moedling, Autumn 1928
Now the first short letter from St. Gabriel's. Gradually I am better able to find my way around this large house. I have already lost my way several times.
I was completely happy when I first came to St. Gabriel's but the following days ruined that. I have experienced a bit of homesickness. However, with a few intellectual exercises I've been able to repress this feeling.
Beautiful though this place is, at the beginning much was strange. By now I know and trust things more, the faces, the neighbourhood and the life. I have a partiality toward strolls in the park. The paths wind about, here wider, here narrower, here boulevards, here thick bush sunny and shady, something to please everyone, at least, when it does not rain. Here and there one gets a beautiful view of the Vienna Woods.
In the middle of this cultivated park stands the mission house with its beautiful church, a great Romanesque chapel. And the capital thing is: often every day I go in and out of this church as though it were my own. Here I will spend a considerable part of the next four years. Here significant moments of my life will take place, the vows and the holy ordinations, up till the great day of my ordination to the priesthood. Pray for this intention: that all this will come to pass in my regard, pray for my studies, for my health and my definite admission to the holy state.
The Resurrection Procession through the park was splendid. In addition to the inhabitants of our institution, many neighbours took part. The entrance into the church was most magnificent. Twilight fell. From the street you could get a glimpse through the widely opened main doors as into the temple of the Holy Grail. The arch grew hazy in the dusk. On the high, towering pillars and on the vaulting arches were a number of tiny lights. We singers had to hasten to the organ loft. Then down from the dome came the fortissimo of the organ with trumpets and trombones, boys' and men's voices. They expressed what was in us all: We Praise You, a God!
I have enclosed a photo of the ordination of priests for this year. Such a celebration is magnificent. Like almost nothing else it inspires anew the vocation of us who are not so far along. On such days I always surprised myself wishing that I were taking part. But I must learn to wait and form myself and above all allow the Holy Spirit to form me.
St. Gabriel, Summer 1929
A semester of hard work and greater effort, but also of good success lies behind me. I have never before fel t such strain and fatigue as after this semester. People say this past school year is the most demanding in the whole course of theological studies. God be thanked that it is behind us! Nonetheless, I did fairly well and have been able to keep up with it.
I study on Sundays and free Thursdays. You may shake your head at such zeal for wisdom. Later when the final school desk is behind us, we'll shake ours too.
As a theatrical producer, or more properly, scene-shifter, I had my hands full at Christmas. Kleist's RUGGED STONE and Calderon's LIFE IS A DREAM demand a great deal of work. This is the more so when the heroes of the Iliad, Agamemnon and Achilles, stride so nobly onto the stage as the Greek and the hexameter authentically portray in the things that are said. And when the whole hall of the gods, Zeus and the Olympians, are brought onto the boards!
I paint the future for myself only in broad strokes and then can say with fair certainty: I have little time to write letters during holidays. There will be nothing more trifling played than Julius Caesar.
On the second day of the holidays we presented an opera THE CZAR AND THE CARPENTER. It needed a little work for our circumstances. I tell you it came off beautifully. I sang in the choir with the sailors. From the theatre hair dresser I purposely borrowed a dark wig as my own hair is so light.
Today we stage shifters advance for the last time and surrender our duties to younger hands. Once more today we shall use all our tricks to change the scenes, produce thunder and Bengal lightning. We shall celebrate the end of our time of labour with a pleasant gathering.
On the Steps of the Altar
We received the tonsure on 20 October from an assistant bishop from Vienna. It was a fairly festive proceeding. We have now accepted the rights and duties of a cleric.
On the previous day we preserved silence; we wanted as much as possible to bring our lives into the atmosphere of the ceremonies. Then what happened to us would be no empty rite, but would have deep meaning. And I believe that he who lives and behaves in the significance of this proceeding will certainly become a good spiritual man, as he ought to.
The ceremony comprised two things. The first was the cutting of the hair. This signifies renunciation, inner, fundamental dissociation from worldly conceits. Hair is the symbol of superfluous things.
Then comes the second part of the ceremony, the clothing with the surplice, chosen for the special service of God. The second unconditionally requires the first, otherwise it easily becomes a puppet or caricature. By all means will I take it seriously.
Meanwhile the assistant bishop from Vienna came again and gave us the first two lower orders. I was assigned to sing the epistle at the High Mass. The chief thing is: we are with this becoming ever more closely involved with the Church. We are receiving the admonition to be always diligent in improving the conduct of our lives.
The World of the Monastic Cell
One thing I must tell you: we are promoted. Mostly, one can hardly discern a forward step, one could not be sure we are growing. But a few days ago our class received a definite sign that we are approaching the goal: we were issued rooms. We have taken possession of our first room. I admit there are two or three of us to a room. But next year we shall each have our own rooms. An especial consequence of the room is that one is more aware of himself. One has more rest and can work uninterruptedly.
You are right, it is extremely satisfying to have one's own room. Mine is very pleasant. I myself have begun to make it cheerful, comfortable and practical. The room appeals to me most during the evening study time from five to seven o'clock and the half hour before retiring, eight thirty to nine o'clock.
I had to extend the electric wiring of my lamp. Now I can put it on my desk, on the table and on the book case. I made a lampshade of green paper to keep the glare out of my eyes.
Rummaging around in the' garret I found a picture of the Mother of God. This is now above my table. A cross is over the desk, the cross I had taken to Steyl in 1918. It has kept up with me ever since. I framed a picture of St. Charles Borromeo. Over my bed hangs a picture of St. Wendelin. Thus I have adorned my home.
This is my world. Not as though I were satisfied with these four walls, nor as though I never wanted to leave these nine square meters. That would be a childish and narrow existence. But because the great world and even the supernatural world meet in my small room. The books and the studying inform me of the natural, the spiritual and the supernatural worlds. That is the purpose of my room. Not to close me off from others but to teach and form me for others.
When in a year and a half we leave St. Gabriel's, I will give up my room with joy to begin the peripathetic life of a missionary - if I get the appointment.
You are entirely right, dear father, when you write that St. Gabriel's is well equipped. To take advantage of this opportunity, indolence would be irresponsible. There are two kinds of study with which we occupy ourselves, obligatory and optional.
Naturally, the prescribed studies are the more important and must be so pursued. Especially theology! This is the study of our faith. Then follows the study of morals, then the rational foundations of our faith, further introduction to the books of Sacred Scripture, exegesis, Church History, eloquence and lastly a speciality which no longer belongs to theology, the study of peoples.
All these things are spread over the week. So we have for the whole week and indeed for every day occupation enough. Textbooks to instruct us in all the subjects are given us by the house.
When one has gone through all these thick volumes, he can ask himself how they all fit in his head. But when one reflects that others could do it and that we are given years of instruction, the sight of the array of volumes loses its terror.
Finally, the contents are very interesting and so important for our vocation that we grapple with them with joy and love.
Besides the prescribed subjects we can occupy our free time with optional subjects. These are not necessary but advisable.
To the purpose we have three libraries of instructive books, the large, common house library, a smaller reference library and a mission library. Everyone may follow his own preferences.
There is a quantity of periodicals to keep us abreast of current questions. One who cares for souls must know about these things. Now you see that indolence is given short shrift in our place of studies.
The semester has ended, to the satisfaction of both myself and the teachers. I received a "good" in my final examination in morals. But this is for your ears only.
At St. Gabriel's recreation is obligatory. At designated times of the day and the week must we be in the fresh air, either walking or playing.
For example, Thursday mornings must we be outside the seminary walls or playing till nine - thirty. That is fine. We must play. I hardly need to be ordered, I so enjoy doing it.
Especially this is our sport here, punch ball, rounders or swimming. Therefore the goal of exercise is above all movement and fresh air, to give a healthy stretching to the bones.
Corporal work is infrequent for us here, only a little garden work.
Do you go much to the Werse? Paddling is the only thing we don't have here. It would be beautiful if we had it. So now you know that I am very happy and content day after day when I rise and when I go to bed.
I have been able to use the skates again. The splendour of winter especially of the forest winter is just becoming apparent to me. Last Thursday I was again in the recreation house. I got there Wednesday evening. Thursday morning I spent the meditation walking in the snowy wood.
After breakfast, sport is the snow! Not for the sake of sport, but of recuperation. Tobogganing and ski ing were sublime. I went skiing and am now better than our youngest in one category.
People here call skis "jumping boards", a beautiful phrase. The first time the boards were buckled under my shoes and I made the first steps, it did not seem too hard. I climbed a hill and rushed down without falling. Observers supposed I had skied before. "No, not at all."
If I had been wise, I would have stopped after the first glorious descent. But as I stayed on the skis, I gave the on-lookers frequent examples of how one falls down, and each time elicited merry bursts of laughter.
We had excellent tobogganing. Very fast! But it was not so bad. And then the long way back all on foot! On one slide I had my right foot out of position when the toboggan tipped. The other rider and I shot over and over into the snow. The toboggan survived unhurt. But I spent the first day of the new year in bed. My sprained right foot had to be cooled with aluminium acetate. When will the child of the plains learn to use a toboggan if his only experience in going down hill has been on wooden shoes?
Now, however, I am again on two legs. When next the snow falls, I will use the toboggan again.
Winter in the Vienna Woods! This is something to see. We trudge industriously out through the snow. Tomorrow we shall spend the whole day out of doors. A day's hiking will thoroughly ventilate our brain boxes for the coming semester.
This time I was awarded a special Holy Eve and Christmas morning, wonderfully beautiful. As it was already dark Christmas Eve, Father Prefect, three classmates and I walked through the snow in the Vienna Woods to the rest house. Two to three hours from here!
The Brother who lives alone there should not be so lonesome at Christmas. As we hiked through the woods we sang Christmas songs. Christmas trees gleamed behind the windows in the villages. Above a starry sky, truly an expression of Christmas!
This summer I will use the free Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays every week. Wednesday evenings I will walk from Kaltenlautgeben to our rest house to spend the evening outside and the night inside. The next day again into the woods and be back at St. Gabriel's in the afternoon! There are wonderful places in the woods that are within our reach.
Our class will soon spend a full fortnight in the holiday house. I tell you, it is magnificent. My hiking boots are well studded with nails. From one of the last group of newly ordained priests I have inherited a strong walking stick. On our hikes the sun will again burn us and bleach our hair.
I am full of joy today as I write you these lines. You may remember that the feast of the Nativity of Mary, 8th September, has for several years played a major role in my 1ife. On this day in 1925 I received the habit of the Society. In 1927 I pronounced the holy vows for one year for the first time. 1928, 1929, 1930 I repeated them for one year at a time.
This morning our class again knelt before the altar and then I said: "and so I vow to you, 0 holy, triune God, forever, poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of the Divine Word."
We took perpetual vows today. I am so happy that this step has been taken. For my whole life pledged simply, totally and specially to God, withdrawing from, giving away, power and possessions, the joys of family life and a distinguished position in the world.
Dear parents, your prayers and sacrifices helped bring me to this joyous day. Thank God! There is no going back now. Join me in thanking the dear God and pray to him that I live up to the demands of my vocation and that they never name me with the monk in the old tale: "Brother, your cowl is askew."
In eleven days we shall be ordained to the subdiaconate, the first of the higher orders. From then on we pray the breviary, the Church's prayer of the hours, every day.
Near the Sanctuary
These lines I write to you on one of the greatest feast days of my life. Tomorrow morning we shall be ordained deacons. God has given me an extremely rich present a week before Christmas. With the duty God assigns us, He also gives us copious help through His grace. That is valid for every condition of life, for marriage and for the spiritual state.
As a deacon I now have new duties. The deacon is to a certain degree the guardian of Christ in the holy sacraments. He may bear the All Holy One in his hands, he may distribute Holy Communion on special occasions. I shall most cherish giving Holy Communion to my parents and brothers for the first time at the First Mass at home.
Also the deacon can give solemn baptism and preach. In the solemn High Mass he stands close to the side of the priest, sings the Gospel and the Ite Missa Est at the end of Mass.
This Christmas must I too adorn the service of God. Whether it will truly be beautiful I dare not aver. I am to function as a deacon for the first time at the midnight Mass on Christmas. It is a beautiful Christmas happiness for me.
However, I will take pains to sing the beautiful Christmas Gospel with vigour. At the end it says: "Glory to God in the highest and peace to people on earth". That is what I wish you for Christmas.
For our class, this Christmas is the last we shall have here in St. Gabriel's. Where shall I celebrate Christmas next year?
The Blessing by the Parents
Tomorrow week you will be here in St. Gabriel's. You write: "Good bye till the 4th May. That is not exactly correct. You arrive on 4th May, but we do not see each other tili the fifth, the day of ordination.
We are preparing for, priestly ordination by an eight day retreat. Now, Thursday, we begin and end with ordination. If you come to the house on the fourth, you will not see me. In silence we get ready for the great experience. So we approach the fourth of May.
We are all together under one roof and have not seen each other or spoken. May this small sacrifice bring a yet richer stream of God's blessing!
On the morning of the feast, a seminarian will lead you to the lower church. Here each set of parents has its own place where they await their children. It does not take long till the candidates for ordination appear in procession. They enter the crypt (lower church) garbed as deacons.
Each one goes to his own parents to receive from them a blessing before the priestly ordination.
This meeting happens in complete silence. I kneel down before you. Then first Father lays his hands on my head and preferably with the right thumb traces a cross on my breast and silently prays a wish for me as his heart will dictate, or he may use the formula: "May the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you!" Then Mother does the same.
The actual words are not important. I know your hearts will not lack words of blessing in this moment.
The deacons retire then from the crypt and go to meet the bishop. Meanwhile the seminarian conducts you out of the crypt to the sanctuary of the church. The candidates for ordination precede the bishop through the nave to the sanctuary. Then begins the rite of ordination to the priesthood.
The First Blessing the Son
After the ceremony, the seminarian leads you back to the crypt. Then come the new priests in their priestly garments to extend to the parents their first priestly blessing.
THE MISSION APPOINTMENT
The Generalate Reflects
Mission House St. Gabriel, Moedling bei Wien 18. 2.1932
Right now in Rome at the Generalate of our Society deliberations are going on over each of us: who should be sent to China, who to Japan, who to the Philippines, who to America, who to the Dutch East Indies, who to India, who to New Guinea, who should remain in Europe? You can imagine that the excitement is high. In March we will receive our appointments.
In past years we expressed our own preferences and as far as possible these will be considered. Do you know what I have volunteered for? Keep your fingers crossed that it happen! For New Guinea, the Kanakas and the Papuans I will be very grateful to you if you will say a prayer for me that this request be fulfilled. In the second and third places, I put the Philippines and Western India. But my first and greatest love is for the people of New Guinea.
Dear parents, when this overseas appointment comes, I look forward to enjoying your happy encouragement. God loves a cheerful giver.
The Appointment is Here
One of the most beautiful sentences you have written me is in the last letter: "Your wishes regarding New Guinea are also our wishes and we hope they will be fulfilled." That sentence gave me much pleasure. However, already in 1918 when you permitted me to enter Steyl, you really gave me to understand that one day you would allow me to go to the most distant mission.
Dear parents, you already know what I wish to confide to you in this letter. And if my wishes in this matter are yours, certainly my joy is also your own.
Yesterday at five in the afternoon, our Provincial came into the study hall with the news that the thick letter had come from Rome with the appointments. We all were to come to him in alphabetical order. Finally, finally!
Perhaps first there was a little paralysis in the limbs. But then the excitement grew. There were no more thoughts of silence in the study hall. However, I went first to chapel and made the good intention for whatever would happen to me and for whatever God would ask me to agree with from here on, New Guinea, China, India or even Europe itself. I was as stimulated as most of the rest.
At six o'clock I was standing before the door of the Provincial. Now only a wooden wall and five minutes separated me from my future. The man before me emerged with an appointment for India. Then I went in.
Father Provincial began: "Frater Morschheuser, whom I remember well from Steyl (he had been rector there in my time), you are fortunate. You are going to New Guinea." I said: "God be thanked!"
I had to control mysel f in the room of my superior. I could not reveal how I was possessed by joy. He congratulated me and I went out.
Outside the door I would have liked to leap for joy - at least two meters. But as the doctor, because of the operation, had forbidden greater sporting achievements, I again brought myself under control. Though, ' just to show my joy somehow, I went up the stairs two at a time. I went then to church and made a short act of thanksgiving.
There was again a great stir in the study hall and refectory. Seven of us were missionaries to New Guinea.
You asked what kind of climate New Guinea has. Tropical! It is a land of palms and bananas. The average temperature on the coast - and we are mostly on the coast - is about 26 degrees Celsius and seldom climbs above 35 degrees.
You know there is no summer too warm for me, neither on the River Werse nor on the heath nor here in the Vienna Woods. I feel very good in the hot summer time.
With this letter I enclose a little map of the world. New Guinea is at 140 degrees of longitude close under the equator, the island north of Australia. It has 780,000 square kilometers, so it is larger than Germany.
Our mission occupies the section which in 1885 to 1889 became the German protectorate of "Emperor William's Land". It is 180,000 square kilometers large. After the war, the League of Nations delivered it to Australia. In 1896 our Society took the whole region as a mission. More than 60 fathers and Brothers work there.
I am so happy that you have a real understanding for true joy. I am convinced that you rejoice in your heart that one of your children has been called to preach the Word of God to the pagans.
In my thoughts I am already roaming about in the jungles of New Guinea and find it hard to concentrate on my studies. In April we shall have to pass examinations covering eight months' material in the chief subjects of theology, dogma, Scripture and social studies. Keep all your fingers crossed!
In the Empty Study Hall
My New Guinea case is packed and waiting before the door of my room. The hand bag with things for my vacation at home, partly packed, is on the bed. Dear father, you know how my room was arranged. The bookshelves above and below the desk are all empty. It looks bleak. I am almost ready for the departure.
For the morning, the friends, patrons and benefactors of the house have been invited to. a departure celebration. The leave-taking prayer is scheduled for three 0' clock. In earlier years on such occasions our church was crammed full, as at ordinations.
Four new missionaries at the four corners of the choir open the prayer service with the singing of the beginning verses of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. An Indian, that is, a missionary for India, sings the beginning of the first Gospel, the second a Kanaka, namely myself, the third a South American and the fourth a Chinese. That is a beautiful representation of the words of the Saviour: "Go out into the whole world and preach the Good News to every creatures."
In the evening is a celebration in the hall for the new missionaries and the mission friends. The farewell meal in the evening for the departing is with the Reverend Fathers, the venerable Brothers and the oldest seminarians of the house. Then comes the last night in St. Gabriel's, obviously with little sleep.
And next morning, the departure!
The Last Time at Home (his father wrote: )
When Karl shared his appointment with us, it was clear to us that his preparations had to be entirely in order; what he wanted he received. His relatives and friends knew of his wish to accept no gifts save money for the mission.
The celebration of his First Mass at home on the saints' day of Peter and Paul was a feast with the joy shared by relatives, friends and neighbours. The days of vacation Karl spent in Muenster and Osnabrueck; then came excursions to the Werse River, to Handorf and so forth. His tropicalized camera was used mightily and. everything that could be photographed was. The camera was thoroughly ready. The last Sunday we spent with friends in the "New Tavern."
For the community departure ceremony we all went to Steyl. The heart of it was the presentation of the mission cross. There were 90 fathers and Brothers taking part. Emotion clutched us all when the ninety sang together: "Let us go forward in peace!" And we and the community answered: "In the Name of Christ. Amen." And unforgettable remains the "Hail the Star of the Sea" before the Marian altar.
Here at the departure ceremony was the first time that anyone said that we might see each other again only in heaven. Leaving mother and brothers was moving but all remained calm.
After some weeks I myself went to the ship in Rotterdam. In the afternoon we enjoyed a very pleasant few hours. In the evening at nine o'clock the ship left. Gestures and waving back and forth! It was the last time I saw Karl.
He kept communication with home through letters and the newspaper DER MITTAG which he found very interesting. He was actively concerned with all that happened at home.
In the summer of 1934 we sent him a set of grammaphone records. He wrote of them: "For the patriotic hymn I am very grateful. We are constantly reading in the newspaper: "The celebration closed with the Horst Wessel Song." At least now we know what that is..."
Now our Karl is no more. He lies buried high in the Bismarck Mountains in former German earth.
But we know that he is still with us.
Joseph Morschheuser, mayor
OVER THE SEA
North German Lloyd, aboard the steamer KOBLENZ
The last day on the continent has passed very agreeably. Father is sitting in the smoking room consuming his second last cigar before me. We have just returned from a saunter about Rotterdam and allow ourselves a gourmet glass of beer with slices of cheese and ham.
I think often of you. You know, dear Mother, that we are separated by vast geographical distances. But in spirit and in mutual thinking and in prayer we are never apart and continue to love each other as mother and child.
Dear Mother, I must once again thank you with all my heart for all your love and goodness and care of me. Your work has helped me through all the beautiful days of my past life and enabled me to face a beautiful future. No decoration could give me greater pride than the mission cross.
With all my love, Karl
Farewell, Dear Homeland
At eight o'clock the anchor was lifted and with the strains of "Now, Farewell, My Dear Homeland" the ship withdrew farther from the land.
A parting aboard ship is much more difficult and impressive to the memory than a parting at a train station. In the first place, at a given signal the assembled visitors and guests must leave the ship. Then one by one hatch covers and doors are locked, gang planks are lifted, cables and hawsers are gradually loosened. Very slowly, at first hardly noticeably, the ship stands off from the land.
Father left when the signal was given. We found ourselves a good place on the stern of the ship. In the beginning I talked with Father. But soon the widening distance made this impossible. Father accompanied the ship to the end of the quay and waved until I could no longer see him.
The first evening we felt good. It took the pilot two hours to lead the ship to the open sea. Then he left us and the KOBLENZ went alone under full steam. It was dark. The moon rose and the stars shone. We stood on the deck and rejoiced that such a journey had been allotted to us.
Our clock said 22 hours 20 minutes. I considered it was time for bed. However, just then I heard that tonight the clock would be set back 80 minutes. Now that was a gain of time. And sleeping? No! I was not going to bed yet. I went back to the railing.
At four o'clock next morning I stuck my nose out the porthole. As far as I could make out, nothing but sea! But what a splendid morning! In ten minutes I was ready and went to the deck for the rising of the sun. And in this morning atmosphere I prayed the great morning prayer from the breviary.
When one sees all around him nothing but sky and sea, sea and sky, a man can stare into this unvarying scene and take his joy in it.
In Barcelona we had a one day stopover. We went sight seeing.
Then Genoa! A good while before we touched the dock, there came a boat steering toward us. It threw us a beautiful bit of cargo, the mail bag. It was very clear to me that there was something in the bag for me. In Steyl or St. Gabriel's I had never watched the distribution with more excitement. After a little while in a quiet place, I opened the envelope.
We toured the town. The departure had been scheduled for eleven o'clock. These were the last hours on the European continent. At the ship's bar we had a last farewell drink to the health of our home.
It was 12: 30 before everything was ready for the departure. With music playing we left the harbour. Here our feelings were somewhat different from the ones we had in Rotterdam and Barcelona. Here began the real journey. In Genoa we had not really been far from home.
Here in the vicinity of Crete, St. Paul lived through a storm during his missionary journeys. He wrote of it in one of his letters and did not forebear to remark: "The storm beset us dreadfully."
Here on board it seemed much the same. "We" naturally have our sea legs a little more surely than the passengers who boarded the ship only at Genoa. I'm conscious of it a little but at least at meals I am myself.
For the rest I am very vigorous. Things suit me almost too well on the ship. One very quickly becomes accustomed to a comfortable life. I wish I were- in harness. The next thing will be that in the jungle I will demand that all my meals be a la carte.
Such a trip is a great thing. We accept all the good and beautiful things proffered us so simply and easily. The wealth of occurrences does not sink in. This happens with all experiences. The great thing is perhaps greater in the expectation than in the reality.
The stopover in Colombo was uncommonly good for me. Among these brown men I felt very much at home and thought constantly of my Kanakas with whom I shall enjoy even closer relationships. I yearn for the jungle.
The port I yearn for most right now is Hongkong. There we get mail from home.
In Manila where we were scheduled to stop almost a day, we were told to our regret: "The KOBLENZ leaves at eleven-thirty." Sop we had time only to get a car and visit the establishment of our Fathers in Manila, to take the one cool drink they gave us, to tour the city a bit and be back by eleven o'clock.
We went on to Hongkong. This evening we will bid goodbye to our "Chinese" confreres who travel to the Chinese mission. Then we seven Kanakas are alone. On the freighter BREMERHAFEN on which we are the only passengers, we shall travel 14 days to reach the land we have yearned for.
He Wrote This Detailed Report of the Further Journey
Experiences are all so external; what the eyes saw, what the ears heard, what the tongue tasted. But is that not the superficial side of experience? Does not the essential experience 1ie deeper? In the soul? About this I do not wish to give any account in this report. It may fall into others' hands. Such experiences of an interior kind do exist.
Now and then there are moments in which a renunciation of the pleasures of this world is hard to arrive at. Then they present themselves to me as suddenly abundant. You know, for instance, my love for music. There is good music aboard, brass and string orchestras. Every afternoon at four there is a brass band concert. A couple of times a week at nine in the evenings, there is string music.
Oh, these evenings and nights on deck in mid ocean! When I lie in the deck chair, gaze out at the star spangled sky and listen to a fantasie based on Richard Wagner's Lohengrin...!
I have already considered whether I ought to give up these concerts. On the other hand I think, God wishes to give me these joys that He has provided on this journey only this once, and after this, He wants to give me another opportunity to make a heroic sacrifice. I intend to bring Him with a joyful heart everything that I am and do as a priest, religious and missionary.
When I failed in my efforts to obtain many of the things I sought when much was lost to me, one thing God has already given me, the des i re to become ever better, the striving ever to rise after a fall. To seek God with all my heart will always remain my motto.
I know that only in this is my happiness. For me there is one worthwhile discovery: that true contentment is not tied to external goods.
Therefore, above all things, we must keep our gaze clearly on dealing honestly with ourselves before our own intelligence and before the Lord God even when no one else knows of it.
NEW GUINEA AT LAST
My loved ones, I disembarked in Alexishafen today, exactly two months after I set out. These are my first greetings from here.
I am very happy and shall approach my work with courage. Help in this by your prayers!
Can you imagine something about Alexishafen? Do not fancy you will see anything usual like towns or harbours. Alexishafen is nothing but a Catholic mission station. It is situated on the north coast of New Guinea in a small, almost circular bay with a small opening on the Pacific Ocean. The land all about is jungle or plantations.
In the plantation stands the mission station: church, residence for Fathers and Brothers, convent, school, hospital, the great work shops. Our house has a splendid site. With a view of the Pacific Ocean! I am sitting on the balcony and writing these lines in a warmth measuring thirty degrees Celsius at nine o'clock in the morning.
Around us in the jungle are the villages of the indigenees. There it is most interesting and beautiful. I wish the day were here on which I shall pack my belongings and plunge deep into the bush to my Kanakas.
In the coming days our bishop – we live with the bishop in one house and eat with him at one table - therefore the bishop will soon assign us our places in the mission. I do not know yet whether I shall go to the mountains, the coast or to an island.
I enjoy a little adventure in my experiences. I hope to go deep into the bush and be very lonely with only a single confrere and my people. I do not apply for any special place but rather await my appointment quietly. That is the best.
I will, however, give all my energies to the work. The chief thing for us now is the study of Pidgin English, the colloquial speech of most, or at least, of many tribes.
It is a totally new world, but I feel very well here. Things please me very much. When I read morning Mass at a side altar, the little black boys and girls squat very close to the altar and stick out their black legs against the podium. A black youth serves my Hass. To don and doff the priestly vestments, a pair of black hands is very helpful. I find that tremendously pleasant. The only whites here are the confreres and the Sisters.
Coconut plantations, jungle and sea comprise the geographical neighbourhood. I can always have coconuts, bananas and lemons here, in addition to other fruits whose names I do not yet know and the taste of which is still strange to me. There are many other things I must become accustomed to but I think this will not be difficult because pleasure and love brought me here. Do not worry about me, but rejoice with me that things here come about so beautifully for me.
Regarding the forms of sport which have hitherto pursued, riding has been added here. By the second ride I was venturing to gallop and remarked that galloping is much more comfortable than trotting. The old timers here are waiting for me to fall from the horse. I do not know whether I shall have to suffer that.
The Jungle Priest
Our bishop has assigned me my first place. Jungle' priest! Ulingan is the name of the station. Ulingan on the Pacific Ocean. Agree with it!
Tomorrow our motor ship, the STELLA MARIS, will take me about twelve hours along the coast .to Ulingan. Then will begin my real mission life. I am very happy.
I shall join a priest who has been there with a Brother for seven years. The work is too much for one man as in the interior new work is always to be found. I know the Brother from Driburg; I used to harvest potatoes with him.
Here I am installed in a real mission life just the way I planned and hoped it would be. For the present we live very simply; the Brother is in the school, we two priests in a poor little house. It is like a "week end cottage", two rooms separated by a veranda which serves as a dining room.
You ought to see my room; unfinished beams and boards as though someone had partitioned off a corner in a barn. My books, some of which are very finely bound, look very peculiar there.
However, our house is only temporary. We should get a fine one of two stories. For two years the father's residence had been elsewhere, an hour away, on a nearby coast.
On Christmas Eve a spring flood came and washed away father's house and a section of the local village. My pastor saved himself by running away. Now he is well housed in these bare planks. I have an excellent bed and sleep very well.
The Assistant’s Realm
From the mountain we can look out over almost the whole of the Ulingan area. To the left, mountain and valley; to the right, mountain and valley; to the north, the broad sea! in Germany one is accustomed, looking out from such a height, to see a village and a church in every valley. Here one sees neither houses of God nor even villages. Generally, however, one can conjecture that there is a village where the coconut palms are thickest and on the mountain tops, not in the valleys. Here usually five to ten families comprise a village.
Two missionaries share this whole area, the pastor and I. There is enough work to do. I alone care for 23 villages. One half of this is on the coast, the other half in the mountains. Some are fairly close, a half hour away; others are hours apart. It takes me two days to ride a horse from one end of the coast to the last village on the other end. It takes me nearly three days to reach the last village in the mountains.
Only here in Ulingan have we a better house of planks. In the other villages we live in huts of bark and bamboo and grass.
Others do not envy me my realm because of the great distances. Certainly in my mountains I have small villages and long roads. Moire lies five hours to the south east of Ulingan, Kowaki, three hours more. From there another six hours to Humahuma! From Moire in another direction, two hours will bring me to Asimbin, three more to Ahon, and still two and a half more to Inapum. In another direction from Ahon, three hours to Aregrek!
Up mountains, down mountains in the tropical climate. Quite taxing! But in spite of everything, it is splendid. I wander joyfully from village to village. When I have dragged myself up the mountains through the thick, dim jungle and then arrived on a prominence, I often am rewarded with majestic views of the land about and of the Pacific Ocean far far away.
I cannot use my horse in these trackless forests. I leave it back in Moire or Ahon. Till then I can ride. But beyond, I must go on foot. When I return from the mountain villages, I mount my horse with great joy and ride home to Ulingan.
So it goes in the mountain hamlets. Besides these seven mountain places, there is also a wealth of coastal villages in my district. To visit these is naturally more convenient. In one coastal journey of eight hours length, I find sixteen villages with five stations.
And am I not a rich man? In many places in the Ulingan district I have houses of my own. This once I will list the villages for you. Along the coast are these: Medebur, Korak, Pururat, Simbine and Busiv. In the bush are: Mutnak, Asumbin, Moire and Kowaki.
In each I have my house which, however, is composed only of a roof. Under that is a framework with a floor of strong bark a meter off the ground. Upon this, after my arrival, my bed will be erected. This means a canvas will be slung between two rafters which are merely poles; a mosquito net is hung above it and the four poster bed is ready. In reality, however, it is more a ground-sheet than a bed. We must either carry our bed kit from village to village or pack it on a horse.
From these villages whose names I have written, I must make further expeditions. Indeed then I often sleep like an indigenee on plaited bamboo. It is all right, though. I make nothing of it. So I have a good number of chaplaincies.
I take to the road with joy. Nature here is simply splendid. The people are good and obliging. So I feel fine in this wilderness. The dear Lord has taken satisfying care of this neighbourhood and sent plenty of wild birds to my hunter, doves, kokomos, cockatoos and bush fowl.
The reality here, as I had formerly imagined, is jungle, terrible roads, many rivers " trackless mountains, hidden villages, genuine heathen. But this is just what I like; I am very happy here.
A Babble of Tongues
How does the learning of the language go? On the coast I can do everything with Pidgin; it is the business language here. A terrible English, I tell you, but a man can get fluent in it.
In the mountains I must learn the language of the people. I manage one local dialect; I have started on a second. School children are my teachers. Can you pronounce these: iawaserikinik, via wandolalowam?
In my district six different dialects are spoken. Therefore I am glad that on the coast at least I can use Pidgin.
Here Everyone Smokes
The people here - you know them from the pictures - strangely, all smoke, all beginning with the little school children to the old, children, girls, women, grandmothers.
In a mountain village I once observed an old widow. She was in mourning and had smeared her brown face with black colouring, forehead, nose and chin; only the cheeks were unpainted. She had teased out her hair and smeared it with clay and kneaded little strings of it till they dangled all around her head.
But this lady could smoke. She was weaving an armband for herself and did not notice that I was observing her. I was charmed. Her cigar, the leaves simply rolled together, lay before her. From time to time she reached for the cigar, drew a breath deep into her lungs, wove away on her handicraft, spoke whole sentences to by-standers and finally breathed out the smoke through her nostrils into the light of day.
So everyone smokes here. Now it is easy to roll the tobacco in pieces of newsprint. It takes an indigenee quite some time to use up a half sheet of newspaper. When I have read the papers you send me, I lay them by for smoke paper.
In the future things will go like this: I spend a fortnight along the coast, another fortnight in Ulingan, and a third in the mountains. Then I start over. My wandering life has already begun.
The Neat Young Priest
The heat does not bother me. You know how much I like light weight clothes. After morning. Mass I take off the light, white cassock and go the rest of the day in shirt and trousers. Only when I go to church do I don a white "soutanelle", a garment that goes down to the knees, just like the ones German religious wear outside the church, only white and 1ight in weight. For rides in the jungle an outfit in khaki trousers and a short jacket!
A nice reverend sir! On my rounds I wear little that is distinctively priestly. Shoes. shirt and trousers redolent of sweat and horse! The green jacket is tied to the rucksack. Around the chin is a rank growth of wild jungle. On the head a tropical helmet! In the hands is a stout walking stick which doubles as a riding stock and snake killer.
Knee boots would be too heavy for my journeys. They would protect me against leeches in the mountains. But they are too heavy. Soon I will get simple strips of linen to wind tightly about the legs. This will be good. Whether it will look good is a question we ask only in the second place. Leather leggings are no protection against leeches. I have a pair here. But the little beasts still find a route to the skin.
I have sometimes wished I could' travel as easily as a local man. He is ready to set out in five minutes. We, however, must take along fresh clothing, sometimes with extra under clothing, blankets for sleeping, camera, books, medicine and food for the journey. Sometimes, my carriers take three full rucksacks for me. With great endurance and willingness! For six hours under the hot sun!
Food on Trek
Dear Mother, you want to know, how it is with my cooking. That is a long story.
First the drink! The best is the milk of the coconut. When I’ve been si t ting in the saddle for hours in the hot sun and come to a village where they offer me a green coconut from the tree, that restores me in an excellent way. Fresh from the nut I about two or three quarters of a litre! Certainly a cold Dortmunder would please me more. Coconut milk is never ice cold.
Then the food! On the coast we live on tinned food from Alexishafen, our main station I from milk and butter from our cows, from eggs and fresh fish. The fish is especially excellent. We live two minutes from the coast. Quite clearly we hear the explosion when the hunter shoots the fish. Soon after, the hunter comes and brings the fish to our kitchen, ten to fifty cm. long. No market or fishing business could provide you with fresher fish.
On trek, things are different. On real bush journeys with the usual group, the hunter has the contracted duty of looking for meat for the cook every day. This time he shoots a dove, the next, a kokomo, then a cockatoo, whatever comes his way.
When fortune smiles I he gets a wild pig to be shared with the whole village we are in. The hunter gives the meat to the cook "that after this will bubble in the pot the rich gravy of these doves."
Romantic? But true! On more ordinary journeys we bring along provisions in our rucksacks from Ulingan. But the circumstances of the dining room can be unusual, for example, this evening where I am on trek.....
A miserable candle is the sole illumination. It stands on a little bamboo table. Besides the candle, the table holds a confused array of breviary, a tin of condensed milk, a full tea pot next to my rolled up white cassock, clock, rosary and tin of butter, bread and a pot containing a cooked dove.
The candle casts ghastly shadows about the bleak room. When I. nod, it silhouettes a large, disorderly head on the white mosquito net, wild hair, disheveled beard. An indigenee? No, the Reverend Father sits on his bedstead and has his evening meal.
Between his knees he clasps an enameled bowl and spoons soup out of it. He fumbles for a slice of bread and bites into it.
When he has finished using the spoon, he stands up, dips a cup in the tea pot and pours a little condensed milk into it. He reaches into the pot of meat and fishes out the wing of a dove, sits again on the frame of the bed and chews.
The beard on the white mosquito net goes back and forth. Good appetite, Reverend Father! Yes, he has that.
Again and again he dips his cup in the pot of tea and quaffs the hot drink. The trek through the jungle has dried him out. The tea pot is empty.
In Aregrek something amusing happened. There is no lamp there and I had forgot ten to pack a candle in my rucksack. I have been busy in the school till six o'clock and then prepared the evening meal.
Darkness fell quickly. There was a full moon and indeed immediately. But once the moon is full it appears every night more and more tardily until it wastes the whole night. The moon was not yet there. Gloom held sway and I had a notion to eat my supper.
I had a tin of excellent syrup. The molasses of the sugar beet is a noble sweet. I was glad I had brought it along.
Then a great loaf of bread had become mouldy. So I possessed only a small piece of white bread, not enough for my hunger. I took rice from the bag of my carrier, had him cook it, and mixed rice and treacle. That was for the beginning.
I had some hard boiled eggs. I took out one and cut it in half with my knife. This was all on my bed frame in "Egyptian darkness."
I felt around for the egg yolk with my spoon but could not find it, only a hole in the white. Can the hen have laid a yolkless egg? Or when the egg was divided, the did the yolk' roll out, down through the cracks in the floor to the ground beneath the house? The puzzle remains unsolved.
So I sat there. At my feet on the floor is the hot tea pot. At my left on the bed is a piece of buttered bread on a newspaper. Back and forth gropes the left hand seeking the bread.
In the darkness hearing is sharpened. I hear very well the activity of my chewing muscles. As I was finally finished with everything and bid the day: "Good night.", the moon beamed in a friendly way and said: "Pardon me, please, for coming late today."
For all that, dining room and table are things of lesser importance. The food itself is good, has a wealth of variety and is plentiful. I shall not die here of malnutrition or "hunger typhus".
A good table is necessary, however. The heat and above all the quinine consume not only our blood. On top of all that is the ceaseless wandering and riding. Our bishop said not without reason: "Begin slowly. Do not overwork!" Zeal for souls must be reasonable too.
Yes, it is very very warm here. And that not only in June, July and August. Last December and January it was just as hot as it is now. In this heat the missionary must travel t by horse and by foot, up hill and down.
But do not envy me my everlasting summer. Our eternal summer here is murderous enough and would probably bring us to an early grave if we did not use an artificial expedient to prevent it. The, expedient itself, however, is poisonous and must be taken with care and at the right time.
You have certainly heard of quinine. A poison, a destroyer of the blood but in the tropics, essential. One must swallow a gram of it every fifth day.
No place on earth is totally like paradise. Everywhere under the sun there is something to suffer, therefore also here in the land of the birds of paradise. However, do not suppose that things are in bad shape with me. On the contrary, I am fine and my confreres say I look good.
The first onset of fever on the journey! I felt a higher body heat than usual even before Mass. But what was the trouble as I stood in the sacristy after Mass? A sort of sleepiness in the limbs! It fel t as though someone had put a fillet of iron around my head.
The fever overtook me very suddenly. I retired forthwith to my bed to rest. My head pounded as I lay there for an hour. My cook brought some breakfast. With no appetite I ate bread and one fried egg. The other I presented to the cook. I could face no more.
That afternoon I was due in another village for confessions and the next morning, Monday, for Mass. The village, Moaka, is on the way to Ulingan. I decided to get into motion immediately. If I improved, I could remain in Moaka that evening. If not, I could continue on to Ulingan.
At eleven I rode forth. My cook came after me. It seemed to me to be an extraordinarily hot day. I thought I had never been hotter. I did not perspire, unfortunately. A band of iron constricted my skull and darkened my eyes.
Along the way I thought of remaining in Moaka to allow the people a chance for confession and communion. But when I actually reached there, it seemed better to ride on directly to Ulingan. I could be cured better there. Our house there is not so breezy as a bush house. I rode straight on and came to Ulingan in the afternoon with a temperature of more than 39 degrees.
As fast as the fever had beset me, so fast did it recede. In Ulingan I got aspirin and hot tea. The fever fell about evening; therefore I took some quinine. By bed time I had taken four tablets and the fever left me before the next morning.
These short attacks of fever I have now experienced three times. This was, however, the first one on trek. I definitely do not wish another one when I am something like two days out of Ulingan. Otherwise I feel in good bodily health except, of course, on the days when we take quinine.
Are we in danger here? Danger from men? We take precautions when we go into areas where hostile tribes live. The people know all these things and 'warn us. Such tribes attack not only whites but every stranger.
Danger from animals? Yes, from snakes! We were sitting at peace at supper. Suddenly we became aware of a long drawn out susurrus in the thatch of our hut. Not like the rustling of a rat or mouse in the straw but an extended sound.
My pastor said: "That is a snake and shone his pocket flash up in the corner. We could see it clearly, a slender snake a metre long.
The pastor quickly called the people who were squatting outside near the door. Many, especially the children, ran away in fear. They have great respect for snakes.
A courageous worker took his bow and an arrow that had a cluster of points. He shot this at the snake which was held fast by several points. He shot another arrow of the same kind. Two men climbed up the wall to the rafters. They found something there besides the snake, a lizard. This was harmless so they grasped it and threw it to the ground. Then each of the two men pulled one of the arrows impaling the snake out of the thatch. The second man grasped the snake just behind the head, pulled it off the arrow points and threw it to the ground. There stood my pastor who struck the snake dead with a club.
The snake had manifestly gone hunting in the thatch and it as well as its prey had climbed to the roof of our house.
However, I ask you one thing: do not worry about me if I write of the jungle and snakes. Till now no missionary has died of snake bite. The traffic of a great city causes more accidents than the jungle does. And you must beware of vipers even in Handorf.
Now something about my first jungle journey. First I must introduce you to my little horse. She is called "Kaselok", a girl's name. She is no cowboy's mount of the kind you read about. But she is a powerful beast that carries me these days up the mountains slippery from rain, and down again.
We rode four hours along the coast to the southeast on jungle paths and came so close to the sea that the water lapped the hooves of the horses.
Two larger streams we had to cross. We unsaddled the horses and let them swim; a local man took us in a canoe. There were numerous smaller streams. In some the water was up to the horses' bellies and higher. We had to lift our feet backwards or even for wards and rest them on the saddle. Other streams were no trouble. At noon we rested near a river, took a swim and rode on.
Now we turned away to the south into the interior, through the jungle and up the mountains. A fatiguing trip for the horses!
Many local people seek out places for themselves in the mountains. These places are very beautiful but fairly difficult to reach. We headed for Moire, the goal for the first day. Back and forth through the mountains, "through the forest, through the meadows" as the Freischuetz terms it.
Kaselok jumped over logs lying across the path; she soared over the small streams and never worried whether I got wet shoes and trousers.
For a while we used a stream bed as a road. Great, slippery stones made the going difficult. Suddenly we came to a large tree that had fallen across the stream. I took a moment to decide and bowed my head deeply lest I bump it. At this moment Kaselok gave another of her jumps for which I was not ready. Bang! I found myself sitting on a large stone near the horse. Kaselok stood there peacefully and made no comments.
The road up to Moire is steep. We got there about four o'clock. A beautiful village with a splendid view of the mountains and the sea!
As we climbed it began to rain. This was unpleasant and frustrated our plans. We went straight to our hotel, a bark hut with a grass roof.
The people had built the house for the Father, a little better than their own. We installed ourselves there for the night.' In the evening we ate a dove and drank tea. My pastor heard confessions. I soon retired. The first major ride had exhausted me.
From Moire we went to Kowaki up hill, down hill on the slippery road. The horses skidded and slipped. After half an hour we spied Kowaki up on an eminence. But between us and it lay a broad valley with a thick woods.
We directed the horses down through the high grass. Then came the rain forest. Thick primitive forest! We squeezed between tree trunks often with our legs in the saddle. Certainly ten times down and up to cross streams. Kaselok took the stream banks with a "hop, hop".
Some times we followed the dry stream bed. Then again into the thick forest! Among fallen trees and sometimes retracing our steps! A knowledgeable local man led us and hacked the obstacles away, branches of trees, bushes, vines that occupied the road like snakes.
Kowaki lies high on a distant mountain. It is one of the villages given into my care. I am already looking forward to the next trip there.
After an hour we remounted to go back to Moire. The sun was not shining. Just as we were leaving the rain began.
We set out anyway as here you may have to wait a long time for the rain to stop. In shirt and trousers on horseback! In the beginning the thick forest protected us somewhat. How ever, the rain grew ever stronger. Between Kowaki and Moire I paid my dues to it.
The downpour drummed on my tropical helmet, it clattered on my clothes. In wet bushes, in grass belly high on my horse, the shoes got their share of moisture.
It was a thunderstorm. It rumbled just over our heads. When the road was too steep we had to dismount and lead the horses. Then remount - on the wet saddles!
No part of us was dry. That was a splendid rain forest ride with all possible surprises.
We startled the forest birds. Kokomos moved about with strong wing beats. Cockatoos flew about with hideous cries.
With all this, thunder and the patter of rain, we were in shirts and trousers, wet to the skin in this tropical splendour.
This went on for over an hour. Nonetheless we were all right. By dark we were again in Moire in our hotel.
We made a strenuous trip to Kukuba. By foot as the way is impossible for a horse! First was an almost perpendicular descent. The mountains are overgrown as is usual in the tropics. We could stand on tree roots and hold onto the trees with our hands.
Then for a time through the rain forest on little paths one after another. Then two hours along a creek bed with little water in it.
Sometimes we did have to go through water, fairly often indeed. I had rolled up my trousers above the knees and walked in wet shoes and stockings. In the beginning it was uncomfortable with my shoes squeaking; afterwards it became a pleasure.
Then up the mountains to a village, Kukuba, which T have never before visited. Only one indigenee was to be seen. The others were in the bush or in hiding.
It would have been hard to recognize us as missionaries. The true bush people are afraid of whites. They think the whites are coming to force the local people to work. We must first project our peaceful image.
A SUB-PARISH OF HIS OWN
The time of introducing me to the indigenous is nearly over. Tomorrow calls me farther to the south east and then on to the south where till now no one from the mission has been stationed. The indigenees there wish to become Catholics and request a priest.
This will mean we have been practically everywhere. The pastor is definitely sharing his care of the souls of Ulingan with me. To the north west I take over thirteen villages, to the south east, eleven. Then I shall ride alone on the mission trail along the way of the apostles.
Thus it will be for the next year at least, half the time on the road. I have begun a life of moving about or, better, travelling by horse. "The life of a rider is a joyous life" can be my song; It is not exactly joyous, but wonderful.
I have finally lived through the mi series of a beginner. I have experienced the feeling of loneliness. I saw the indigenees as strange. I asked myself whether I could be at ease among these people and win their confidence.
Such questions are natural for one who makes a beginning, but unjustified. He is in no position to answer them. He must wait. Today, however, I have come to know that one can be comfortable among the Kanakas and also that we can earn their trust.
I sometimes fret asking myself: "Will you be able to maintain what your pastor has accomplished in his six years? And will you be able to add to it?" When I track down the source of these questions, I find they are born first of my laziness with which I have always had to deal and then of my ineffectual trust in the grace and help of God. Therefore I need zeal and confidence in God.
At St. Gabriel's we often sang:
"How well off I am, o Friend of Souls, when I rest in your love!
I know no griefs. What can harass me?
You are my trust, my salvation, my happiness.
In your presence I forget my sufferings.”
The First Instructions to Christians
From Ulingan one can view a long,
high ridge of mountains in the distance. Beyond it lies Humahuma. Do you wish to see what kind of people live there? It will all be walking. We cannot use horses.
Humahuma! I found a tiny village, only six houses. Here I sit in one of them. By the light of a hurricane lantern I pray my breviary: "May your light, 0 God, shine on those who live in the shadow of death."
As I begin to write a few lines, drops of rain come through the roof onto the paper. I had a little makeshift table set up. I have just eaten off it. Now I am writing on it and early tomorrow morning I'll say Mass on it. Many things happen to our Saviour.
It was nine o'clock this morning that we left. It didn't look too much like rain. Through very thick primeval forest, up the mountain, down the mountain! No horse could go there.
After two hours we were right in the bed of a large stream when it began to rain. It began to pour. The stream rushed furiously. No protect ion from trees! Up to the knees in water!
I did not lose my good temper. I could not keep the rain off and once I was soaked, it was all the same to me.
The wet helmet was heavy on my head. My clothes hung on my body like wet sacks. Thank God that the rucksack. at least, was water tight.
It rained so for about two hours. We had finally gotten out of the stream and into the woods. Traversing small streams! Water simply flowed through the woods from above and along the ground.
We often lost our footing. We had to keep our balance along a log. I did well till the middle where the log was crooked. My slippery boot soles skidded. First I sat astride the tree and then fell under it to the left. However, I took no harm and set out again laughing.
This night I sleep on woven bamboos. For a pillow I have my clothes. Just now the rain is coming again. It drums on the grass roof. I am writing these lines by "the light of my lantern, holding the copy book on my knees as the rain is fall ing on my table. I hope it will not rain during Mass tomorrow morning. Good night! It is seven thirty. It has been pitch dark since six thirty.
In the morning I lined up all the people of Humahuma, men and women and children, and took their names. There are a total of only 40 - 45 people here. But I will come the same way the next time for the sake of these 45.
Then I look around, at least for a day, to see what other villages are in this neighbourhood. I hope to find more than I did in Humahuma.
Then I spoke to them about God: "Why are we on earth?" That was my first catechesis, my first sermon, to true pagans.
Now I have my first task: to lead people from the pale dawn of heathenism into the light of the true faith.
Now I have many to care for. So I place these little ones for whom I am so concerned upon your hearts. When you pray for me I pray also for my pagans, the small and the great. This includes many old men and women too.
In the afternoon the people of Jauru, the next village, appeared. I had sent for them. First a census! Not everyone had come. The village has possibly 25 to 30 souls. I gave everyone a piece of newspaper and a box of matches. The women got small beads and the men a spoonful of red paint powder. The married women got paring knives to use on their taros.
After this I sat for a while among them. They seldom see white people. They stroked my hair and felt my hands. The garments of the men are extremely scanty. The coastal men are better clothed.
At Home in Ulingan
Today is Sunday. And I am home in. Ulingan. The principal work is done. At the first opportunity in the morning we had confessions, then instructions. I handle the explanation of the catechism, the catechesis.
Then is Holy Mass. After that there are always some people who come to me. They want this and that. They have something to ask before they go home again.
The part time teachers come for a little tobacco, newspaper and matches. I always keep some tobacco in my room, not sliced up for pipes or cigarettes but a bundle of dry leaves. It smells very good.
Slowly the people drift away. By eleven they are always gone. Then the peace of heaven is upon Ulingan. The best time and impulse to write letters!
Tomorrow, Monday, I'll go on foot into the mountains to Mutnak. As yet there is no Christian there. Monday evening I'll give a lesson for everyone large and small. I'll teach them the sign of the cross and speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday morning another instruction for everyone! I chose the' mornings and evenings as, during the day, the people want to work in their gardens which are often far from the village.
I must bring along a box of matches for the oldest man of Ranin. When I was there last time he gave me half a "hand” of bananas. I promised him matches. Now I always carry more packets of matches with me as well as a small stack of newspapers. The demand for them is great. .
I am back in Ulingan. Today was another work day, completely unexceptional, just the duties a country parson must run through: Holy Mass, teach in school, pray the breviary, work in the garden, look for eggs in the hen house, prepare catechism lessons, the ordinary instructions in the Faith and the short homilies for the bush chapels.
The last two weeks I certainly had had enough to do. Our local school teacher has been sick, so I have had to give the children lessons in religion, reading, writing, arithmetic and singing. Last Thursday at midnight, the teacher died. So we are temporarily without a teacher. I enjoy teaching and the fight that the gods are said to wage fruitlessly will I still wage, because here it is not fruitless.
I hope to see this young generation grow up into adulthood. If their powers of observation and the developing of their spirit keeps pace with their physical maturing, these youngsters will become fine young adults.
The Seaside Pastor
Monday I rode the three hours to Simbine. Our pack horse loaded down with heavy rucksacks preceded us. I came after it equipped for a fortnight's work.
I had some bad luck while packing. In a tin box I carried all the eggs our Ulingan hens had laid during the past few days. During the packing, the box fell to the ground and all the eggs broke.
My shotgun is being repaired in Alexishafen. So I have lived on tinned meat till today. In the neighbouring main station there are Mission Sisters. There the table and many other things are better than ours.
My rectory here is close to the sea, only ten metres away. This bubbles and surges and thunders day and night. I can see fairly far out to sea. Sailors say one can see twenty kilometers out to the horizon.
Twice since October I have seen a large ship in the distance. They looked tiny. Maybe it was the BREMERHAFEN that brought me here. I cannot be sure. I have no shipping schedule
Then I thought that perhaps the ship had brought- mail to Alexishafen. I waited patiently for a motor launch to bring the mail to Ulingan. However, as I am on an outstation, I must wait till I get home again.
It is the dusk of a splendid tropical night. When it grew dark for you today, we see the same small crescent of the moon arching over our heaven. The same Father watches over us. May God protect and bless us all!
Again I sit in my little wooden hut on the shore of the Pacific Ocean with the moon gloriously full and write these lines by the light of my lamp.
Simbine is one of our largest villages. When Father comes, about 150 indigenees assemble to worship God. There is only one Simbine. The little house of the priest stands under swaying coconut palms hard on the shore. Day and night the roar of the sea crashes onto my ears.
But what will I do here for 14 days? I am preparing the children for their First Holy Communion. Eight boys and eleven girls!
I'll have First Communion here in Simbine on Sunday. It will be a real celebration as far as mission circumstances allow. The Father has to worry about the Communion suit and the Communion dress.
How? The youngsters who are to receive their First Holy Communion had to bring me a quantity of taros today, enough to feed me and my two helpers for a fortnight. For these taros the young people will be given a new white loincloth on the day of the First Communion. For the day the girls will be lent a white dress that they must return after the celebration. The Father concerns himself with all these things. I will deck the primitive little church with palm branches and many small flags.
I give these lively black youngsters instructions every day but only about Communion and confession. Reading, writing and arithmetic are suspended for the days. It is fairly hard work to impress anything on the children. Today they have grasped one thing: in the Holy Mass the priest changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Certainly I must do what I can, but finally I must be content if the children approach the table of the Lord with a reverent awe and realize that Holy Communion is no ordinary food. The greater understanding of the sacrament must be the concern of the instructors in the course of time and especially of the Saviour Himself when He comes in Holy Communion into the hearts of the children.
Last Monday I finally rode home by the light of sunset and of a full moon. For a while I was so near the sea that the waves washed the feet of the horse. Here I had again, as often in this country a faint but very beautiful illumination to help me see. In a tree I saw a number of fireflies, 50 or 60. They all seemed to have a common agreement: rhythmically as though by a regulated impulse they simultaneously turned their little lights on and then off, on and off. I stopped my horse for a time and gazed at the tiny spectacle that the friendly Creator had wrought for me.
Anointing the Sick in the Primitive Forest
Today had a special finale. A man came and said that in Malala, three quarters of an hour from here, lay an old man dying. I had baptized him on All Saints Day. Dusk had already fallen as I set out. So I took a lantern along. Here night begins at 6:30.
The dying man had plenty of company from the neighbouring villages. I squatted among the people close to the sick man. His abdomen had fallen in and his breathing was shallow. The people knew that he could die at any minute. But I believed he could last another full day. After I had done everything possible, I left.
I followed the youth who carried the lantern before me through the night. Such a trip through the darkness, through the primeval forest, near the sea, belongs to the romantic side of mission life.
The moon comes late today, not till nine or ten o'clock. No star is visible; it is threatening to rain. People with glowing torches meet us. These are visitors for the sick man.
I reached the first village still dry. From the dark houses swelled the voices of men, women and children "God bless you, Father."
I left the village; it began to rain. Strongly! Nonetheless we went on. We came through a second village, the last till Simbine. Through the roar of the sea and the patter of the rain, a voice reached my ear: "Father, may I lend you my rain shield?" and a strong men proffered his umbrella.
When the people acquire a little money they often buy umbrellas in Madang. I was astonished at the consideration shown by this man.
The umbrella protected me the rest of the way. Then the shape of the little house emerged in the gleam of the lantern. I made tea.
There was thunder and lightning over my roof of leaves. The Pacific Ocean has a loud voice and wave upon wave crashed onto the shore. This music of nature is my evening concert.
Illusions of Ghosts
Two months ago I came out of the bush village back to Simbine. I was not yet in the village when I heard a larger group of people singing. A youth who met me said immediately: "Someone has died." He could tell from the funereal melody.
I entered the village and saw a file of men in the village square and recognized them. They were all from Busiv. The Simbines hardly appeared; they sat in their huts and observed and listened. At first I looked on too.
The activity of the Busiv people was unusual. Of the approximately 20 men, five carried a horizontal bamboo pole five to six meters long. They swung it to the rhythm of a melody. On the point of the pole was a tuft of cassowary feathers and some small sea shells which rattled as they were moved.
So the men made their way across the village square singing and wailing in a dragging rhythm. Most of them were Catholic, all except the one who was the leader and the chief cantor of the group. He is named Taragumi and known to be ill disposed to the mission. His age is probably 25 to 30.
I let the people gyrate in peace. They now screamed and increased the tempo of their wailing and set out for another village.
I asked some Simbine people what it all meant. "They accompany the soul of the dead man, the oldest of their village,"
"Where is the soul?" "In the bamboo pole."
"Haha, " I thought, "You must take your part in this," and followed the procession hastily,
They were just going across the school yard near my house, I accosted them. "Hey, you people from Busiv, wait a minute," They paused,
"What is that thing you are carrying?" Naively they replied: "We accompany the soul of our dead man, the oldest in the village."
"Where is it?" "Here in this bamboo."
"Children of men," I inveighed, "are you Catholic?" In their defense I must say they have not been so very long and all the missionaries complain of the slumping back into infidelity. "What has the priest told you? Where do the souls of the dead go? If the oldest villager was a bad man, his soul goes to hell. If he was good, he goes to heaven or first for a time to purgatory. But what you are doing is nonsense."
Having said this I took a bush knife from the hand of one of the men and sliced the bamboo into three parts. In terror the carriers let them fall. The procession had found no glorious end.
With this procession through the villages, the people wanted to find the person who had caused the death of the eldest villager. When a local person dies, they think it is always the fault of another and they try to identify him with the aid of magic. In the opinion of the people, no one dies a natural death.
The Busiv people are good natured but somewhat lazy. They do not resent my hasty and difficult intervention.
WITH THE CHILDREN
To Ahon, right at the beginning is a steep, high mountain at an angle of forty to fifty degrees! It had rained the whole preceding night. I often slipped and occasionally fell. My legs have much to endure these days, badly scratched, bruised, bleeding from leeches. My shoes have been dry only one day in nine lately. When I proceed I put the wet leather shoes back on. When I stop, I put on canvas shoes.
I had brought none to Inapum as the road had seemed uncomplicated. At the top of the mountain we followed a cliff for an. hour. All this time we had to put our feet down obliquely and use every root and stone lest we slide down the slope and be left hanging onto bushes. However, the fatigue was occasionally tempered by a splendid view of the mountain.
After two and a half hours we reached Inapum. It is a very tiny village but majestically sited. I think I have never before seen a village more beautifully situated.
But it is windy. High and windy! I entered the house of our part time teacher.
In the house I, immediately took off my clothes and wrung them out. So they were at least only damp. I put them on again, took the blanket from a carrier around my shoulders and lay down on the ground with my tropical helmet under my neck as a pillow.
Meanwhile as I had requested, the villagers gathered. I rested for forty-five minutes in my wet clothes till the people were all present. I could not stand erect, the hut was too low. So I squatted on the floor. The people did the same in a half circle around me.
So I explained "to them the "Our Father". He is the father also of these people the world is not interested in knowing. These villages in the mountains are truly lonely little places.
And yesterday we became fond of each other, the villagers and I. I sat with them and used the Pidgin Bible to tell them about the prodigal son, not as a lesson but as an idle conversation. The people, some of them anyway, followed me into my hut. I made their mouths water; the next thing would be that their children would learn to read, and to write and to sing. The last thing they asked of me was to send them a teacher and come again myself. They also decided to build me a house in the near future. I only must send them nails. I was quite ready to comply. I shall soon have another rectory.
Amid happy cries, I departed from Anon the next morning and took a wonderful 150 minute ride through the forest to Asumbin in glorious weather. In Asumbin I am very comfortable; a neat little house, a camp bed, a place to rest and good people, The little school children play around my house almost the whole day. A wee one, not yet of school age, called William, openly likes me. He with his dirty nose is usually around me prattling constantly in the village dialect of which I understand nothing. Of all the villages, the children here are the most confiding. Possibly it comes from this that there is a higher ratio of children here. In the village there is a whole troop of them to ring me round. There is also a good feeling among the grown-ups.
Very early the next morning I was awakened. A child, a pre-schooler who had long been sick, was near death. At about two in the morning, as I crept into the parents' house, the child was still alive. He soon breathed his last before my eyes, completing his life's course a little sadly as his soul sighed its way out of the body.
As a priest I could not help the child only to give it the children's rite of burial. He had been baptized and, incapable of sinning, had immediately gone to heaven.
After the Sunday Mass, I buried the boy amid the loud wailing of the women. The parents had unceasingly sung songs of sadness from two in the morning till the funeral.
Everyone helped with the burying. The parents' grief was genuine. That of the rest was customary. The corpse was simply bound in bark.
They first intended to bury it in the house of the parents. When they told me, I protested immediately and energetically and prevented the unhealthy practice this time. I was concerned about hygiene but also that the child be laid to rest in the consecrated ground of a cemetery.
The eldest man of the village laid the child in the grave. The father climbed down into the grave and fondled the face of the child repeatedly. The parents are still of the traditional faith. Their blessed child will, I hope, soon bring them to baptism.
Christmas in the Tropics
Christmas! The crib in the church and the Christmas hymns tell me that today is Christmas. Otherwise it might as well be Easter or Pentecost. At the end of our year we have tropical days.
The preparations for the feast of Christmas cost us much work. The people of all the villages that are in our district both that of the pastor and mine are accustomed to gather at Ulingan for Christmas. They came too! Besides being assistant priest I was also choir director and sacristan. I have taught the hymns and the singing for High Mass.
The children cannot read; you cannot put books into their hands. So they must memorize. A great number of times must one lead the children in the Pidgin version of "Rejoice, Rejoice" which someone had translated from the German. To drill this till it is learned by heart is here usually the job of a local teacher of religion, whom we call a catechist, who helps us instruct in religion, especially when the missionary is away on trek.
So I must drill the melodies, and that every time with vigor because the children cannot sing consistently themselves. However, they enjoy singing.
Outside school hours we must decorate the church, set up the crib and so forth. The dusky hands are a good help but Father must be there to supervise everything. We could hardly recognize our small bush church, it was so full of bits of cloth, banners, torches and bush greenery.
Meanwhile the inhabitants of all the local villages of our district had arrived. The night began with a clear view of the stars. No one went to bed. All around our house and the church and school lay the people in groups by villages. There were many fires with people squatting around them. The smoke of their fires drifted into my room.
These are genuine rain forest people. They usually seem wild, but are good natured. Men, women and children lay around the fires.
A hullabaloo all around! The men called out and cried, the women voiced soprano laughter. The children chased each other.
Now and then a man somewhere raises a fearful shriek which is joined by all the men at the fires and everywhere. Perhaps this is their way of showing solidarity. In such a din there is no point in trying to sleep.
At eleven-thirty my post is in the sacristy to layout everything the Mass servers will need. I had practiced with them Saturday morning. So midnight arrived.
The people filled the church. Our church is not really small. But it was full to bursting and only half of our people were inside. The people from the nearby villages came this morning for High Mass.
The pastor had the midnight Hass. During it I was in charge of the ushers and the organ. I went up and down the central aisle, hymnbook in hand and sang the first lines of the songs so the people could pick up the correct tones.
So Christmas was a strain to me. At dawn I celebrated the three Holy Masses permitted on this day. In the course of the forenoon two villages gathered before our house to hold a "singsing', a dancing feast. The people of Busiv, men and women together, and the school girls from Simbine. It was truly beautiful.
The life of a missionary is a happy one. Everything is happening as I used to dream and hope. I am thoroughly delighted to be here. Therefore keep me and my work in your prayers. I do not forget you. Every day I think of you.
I must tell you of a discovery I made here in the rain forest. On a bush trip I heard a snatch of bird song I one I have often noticed, but this time it was clear that there was a little melody of four notes. It began about on B natural, up to C, down a whole note to B flat and down a half tone to A. This is a variation on Bach's theme on his own name, B flat, A, C, H (B natural). It is here H (B natural) C, B (flat), A. Isn't that interesting?
Here I hear only the eternally unchanging melody of local singsings. They have the first, third and fifth positions of the scale with the octave used in two or three variations. For hours on end they can chant this with attentive enthusiasm, beating a muffled rhythm meanwhile on a hollow tree trunk and dancing. These are my concerts here.
To give up tobacco and beer is not hard for me. It is not the same, however, with good music. To give it up is no trifling sacrifice.
"Who is alone has it good
Because there is nobody to bother him.
If he loves music, he can play his flute
To kill the time comfortably."
"If he loves music, he can blow his flute." This is not enough for me. I have my own flute solos. For the moment, suiting the time, in striding order, military marches as I go around the rain forest. In my room, chamber music, thematic music, especially any Wagnerian melodies.
To kill time in comfort I would enjoy a gramophone. Choral records for the school and concert music for entertainment! Consult your purse. "If not, then not" as Chaplain Meyer used to say.
I continue with my flute. But I have no polyphony. Unfortunately, I cannot play polyphonic music. Solos, only solos, are eventually monotonous. (Hence the name "eintoenig" or "single melodied") varieties of musical tones please me more.
Recently I took a two day ride to Bogia, the neighbouring station. There I listened to music again, a grammaphone. This was the first music since November of last year. And in the church I listened to a harmonium. It touched my heart wonderfully. We have no harmonium in Ulingan.
The people in Bogia have good and bad records for their grammaphone. I played them all. I played the Dessauer March six times in a row, really, six times without a pause. If you ever send me records, the Dessauer march must be one of them.
Still Music But Later
The grammaphone! In this time as I was in the mountains the Christ Child came to Ulingan and gave me rich gifts. I returned home on 15 December to find mail and an actual gramophone. Where could I put all the joy?
I haven't used it yet. I'm waiting till Christmas. There are things never yet heard here, waltz melodies, German folk songs, clear toned music. You have given me a great pleasure with the grammaphone. I thank you heartily. My pastor likes to whistle as I do. On these days we whistle melodies that we have heard on these new records. “Raise the Colours High" (he loves that song very much), "The Secret" by Loens, a splendid melody, and then the Flower Song.
It is most beautiful when we sit together in the evening and enjoy the melodies from the records. Mr. Edison will certainly receive his reward that his invention has provided such joy to lonesome missionaries in the South Seas.
To celebrate the name's day of our Mother, let me now put the record "Serenade" on the grammaphone. Listen! It is playing. And soon comes the Flower Song.
Dear Mother, please imagine that I am handing to you a bouquet of flowers. Now comes the Flower Song - 6/8 time! A waltzing tempo! To conclude the morning celebration of this Name's Day, I would be happy to add the "Holy God We Praise Thy Name."
This evening I shall present a greater concert for the Name's Day: Wagner's Overture to the 'Flying Dutchman'; Brahms' Hungarian Dance; Schubert's The Wanderer. You see only names of consequence. As the last dance, "Badenweiler March". Perhaps it will be suitable to the evening to have a small glass of wine. Then "to your health", dear Mother.
And Dear Father
"Today is my father's Name's Day." I announced to my pastor at the evening meal - it was kokomo stew rich with pepper, salt and onions. "Oho, " he said, "we must celebrate that."
I told him then that I had written you on the feast of St. Agnes to celebrate the 19 March similarly and give my father a concert.
"We can drink a little to that.” said my pastor.
"I shall be completely and totally in favour of that." I replied to him. So we celebrated Joseph today.
First the Flower Song to give a festive tone. Then, to satisfy my Dutch pastor, the Overture to the Flying Dutchman. On 21 January I had pledged Paul Knuepfer as soloist. Today Henry Schlusmus tarried here and evoked home sickness with the majestic finale: "I greet Germany from the bottom of my heart" This selection 1 always prefer to listen to. The special reason is the splendour of his voice, not that I am homesick.
We ended going from the Rhine to the Danube. Then I closed the grammaphone; it must stay in the cupboard till Easter Sunday.
Now come the days of Holy Week on which it is reasonable and wholesome to renounce music a little.
When I listen to Brahms, I see as in a picture, the heavier, constrained music, or the gypsy music of the Hungarian Dances. I keep pictures of Brahms, Strauss, Wagner and Beethoven in a book and was moved by your letter today to look at them again
HIS OWN CULTURE
I have spent a quiet Sunday. All day I have felt lonely. How can I deal with the people on a permanent basis? They enjoy it hugely when I mangle their language. Some of them sit under the grass roofs for hours on end weaving an arm band. Others lie around the fire and sing the same tune the whole time. The children play football with lemons. Do you know the land where the lemon blooms?
I have held loneliness at bay a little with reading. My books are my good friends, especially Lortz's CHURCH HISTORY and Karl Adams' THE NATURE OF CATHOLICISM. I'm glad I never gave this latter one away. I also reach eagerly for the COMPENDIUM OF ASCETIC AND MYSTICAL THEOLOGY of Tanquerey. As I read the subtitle of the new book, my interest was awakened: Synthesis of the Religious Life and Aspirations for the Mystical Body of Christ. "Building up the Religious Life": I have sought this for years. I wanted a manual like those the other disciplines have. All these books about unity with Christ, with the Sacred Heart and the priesthood nourish in me a strong desire for the unity, the inner friendship with Christ.
The reality is that even now I am very far from the ideal. "To be everything that I should be..." When my vocation demands sacrifices, almost unnoticing I am easily drawn away from the more difficult ones. I used to be more attracted to them. I am going to have problems with this, trying to remain sound of soul and body.
I worry about myself. My poverty of thought has already become my concern. The contents are insipid. The presentation is dull. In an astonishingly short time I bore my listeners. I have a final request: could you find me an old copy of Scheeben's SPLENDOURS OF DIVINE GRACE?
The noble artist monk Verkade can drift up to perfection through peaceful contemplation. We usually have to struggle against commotion, perspiration and fatigue. For our leisure hours reading is a pleasure. I have already read the book once. But since it is the kind of book one can profitably reread, I will gladly make for it when I want to rise to a different world.
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my day of ordination. I know you are thinking back upon it. The mood of those hours I must often bring back for today. Like the clock we run away so fast. We must take care not to remain motionless.
Tomorrow on the seven hour ride I shall have plenty of time to review the experiences of the past year. When I return from the jungle, it will not be long till Easter.
Dear Paul, how the time races! You will be in the eleventh grade when you read this letter.
We thought the eleventh and twelfth grades were wonderful. You will soon belong to the adult world of semesters and knowledge. But do not forget that the simplicity of the child and the innocence of baptism need guarding.
So you are learning Greek. From the Reverend Father Viator? I would appreciate hearing in your next letter something about that and anything else about the mission house. Some weeks ago I met a classmate. We usually share news from our letters about the mission houses and enjoy hearing something new about the rooms and corridors of the mission house in which we have had so many experiences.
"Mathematics was my favourite subject,
though I was always weak in it.”
It was my clubfoot. I did as well with it as Goethe with his art lessons. To inform you, however, that in the lonely, primitive jungle I busy myself with mathematics, I have ripped two sheets out of my journal for you. In one I tried to construct a triangle using "c" and the angle of the hypotenuse. I couldn't, so I had to smuggle in an "a". Do you see?
In the other I went back to find out why all triangles with 2 r as a base and 'a known periphery have to be right triangles. Right, isn't it?
You see, these lines are a confession. It keeps happening to me. I see problems but not their solutions. As my thoughts awoke in Steyl - somewhat late - I found myself facing problems. I yearned for clarity, for a clear grasp of things, but did not achieve it.
I can still write you something interesting about mathematics. Yesterday my pastor, the Brother and I wanted to measure the area of a piece of ground that interested us. My confreres measured the larger bit in squares and the rest in right triangles. A clever thought suddenly occurred to me, to find the area of a triangle, multiply the base by the height and divide by two. It took me till ten o'clock last night to prove my thesis. It is a pleasure that even in old age (!) these half forgotten melodies come back suddenly.
Otherwise I do not have the time to pursue these fancies. Sometimes I solve a chess problem and read a few verses of Faust, the ones I understand the best or I reach for one of Reuter's six books, or for Droste.
I have not yet returned to Alexishafen. It looks as thought something will be done about that next week. You see how cautiously I phrase things; "It appears that is what will happen." Our boat, the MICHAEL, has gone to the Ramu and should come back Tuesday. I f nothing interferes with my plans, I shall go along, greet the new comers, have my teeth seen to, get a new tropical helmet, new canvas shoes and anything else that I s good and available, and take the first opportunity to return here and resume my work.
Home and Country
My thoughts often go back to you and I frequently speculate what you are doing at this or that time of day. We are about nine hours ahead of you here. Today, for instance, I am sitting down at five o'clock writing these lines. Nine hours back you have eight o'clock in the morning. You are back from church and sitting at the coffee table.
My first opportunity to post this will be when the mail steamer comes. Perhaps no sooner than a fortnight hence! Regarding the post we have to exercise a little patience here. That is the case now. We shall consider it a sacrifice arising from our separation.
You would never believe how I rejoice when something comes from home. In Simbine where the mail reached me, J couldn't sit still any more. I took my pack, saddled my horse and rode home. I let the beast find her own pace while I sat on her back and read
letters. My way ran under palms and leafy trees with banana groves nearby. On my left hand the sea rumbled close to the road. But I sat on my horse and read and was home as long as the letter lasted.
That was a wonderful Sunday evening after the work was done. There was a splendid night sky of stars over the Pacific Ocean. The music of the roaring sea accompanied my mind as the letters took it home. In these moments, distances vanish.
Your last letter was very instructive. I read it with the eye of a theologian and this one, the theologian, had much to say to me. How many human destin1es can be concealed in the compass of a letter! In your letter I can follow how the world I came from is evolving, as children become adults. In one's own case and in the daily round of events one does not notice this as one does not see grass grow. But after longer separations one often does see developments start.
Your letters are always a portrait of time in miniature. What plays itself out in our circle of acquaintances is a picture of the great world. Those whom I knew as children have grown long legs and stride vigorously into life and the ancient ones climb into the grave. This reflection has given me a good Easter meditation: to remember that our life is only a transition and a preparation for the resurrection into a world beyond this one.
I will not preach you a sermon on this now. But looking backward is very useful for me and broadens and clarifies my field of vision. The little accounts in your letters support me. They are like a little newspaper written just for me.
On 23 September I got your July letter. Not in Ulingan! I was en route. Therefore Brother sent me the mail by means of a runner. It is a joy wholly peculiar to this place when one in such primitive surroundings, such as a jungle station suddenly sees letters lying on the table written by a dear hand. It is not so easy for me to refrain from plunging immediately into reading them.
As I sat in the confessional with my back against the bamboos of the church, I suddenly heard a voice whispering through the wall: "Father, I put your paper on the table." The hours of practicing self control even to the opening of letters kept me sitting in the confessional.
But afterwards I got back to my house with my joyful curiosity aflame and found your letter. Your lines have carried me over a lonely evening. Yes, indeed, it was a beautiful evening.
Every year your love has been articulated in the same question: "What do you want for Christmas?" The question gives me more joy than any present could since the question is as full of love. Therefore at Christmas I thank you for the most beautiful gift you could give me, your love.
Tonight as I write these lines all your gifts march before my mind, the gift of life, the gift of native land and of home, the gift of education, the gift of religion, the gift of your good example, the gift of your patience and tenderness, the gift of righteousness and necessary strictness.
I must acknowledge that I have never so explicitly considered all these manifestations of your love till this evening. It occurs to me very late, but early enough, to thank you with all my heart for these many and great gifts that grew out of your great love.
Rejoice with me that I am allowed to be a missionary in this land. When we renew the sacrifice of our separation with joyful hearts, God will richly recompense us. At Christmas the Christ Child must reinforce the bond between us that we meet in Him. Love knows no boundaries and thoughts of love will bring us as close together as though we sat together under a Christmas tree.
The last lines of this letter are devoted to you. It will be about the 21 January when you receive this letter. Therefore, heartiest best wishes for your Name's Day. The thought in our hearts knows no confining seas or divisions of the world. Now we are in each other's thoughts. And especially on 21 January! I made pancakes again today. This time I was entirely successful. First rate! With bits of bacon in them. Dear Mother, you would laugh your head off to see me whirling the frying pan at the open, smoking fire, eyes twisting away and weeping.
Whatever is happening to you in Muenster, in Westphalia, in Germany and in the whole world? I know precious little in the South Seas. So I live here very satisfied and love the home land and country.
With much taste you have sent me a view of the Church of St. Ludger which has especially pleased me. The church, town and church yard are associated with so many of my memories. You know how we and the verger climbed the tower.
I especially enjoy every post card of our beautiful Muenster. Are the Lamberti and the chief market still illuminated every Wednesday and Sunday? It pleased me, especially when the music played “Congratulate Yourself, Homeland. I am Looking...", the pilgrim chorus from Tannhauser.
Not with sadness do I think back on the times in Muenster but with a comfortable feeling of "How beautiful it was!" But life is not made of these. They are rather a bonus which we can happily sacrifice to get something we want more.
I have received a splendid book about Germany, its variety and richness, and the German people. It is truly so as the publisher claims of a German who 1ives surrounded by strange people: "When the call 'Germany' comes to me, all my attention is devoted to assimilating all the richness of my motherland, my fatherland." Thus the love of people of my own kind suffuses me.
In the future I wi11 often take up this book and let its words and pictures carry me about in the German homeland, and the more, since the pictures are arranged to carry one special idea. I shall meditate on that idea: "One Germany." When one ponders this, one is struck by the splendid final picture, the Christmas Mass in the Cologne cathedral. May one cathedral unite all Germans, one God, one faith!
LAST DAYS AT ULINGAN
At the end of May we were together in the mountain district of my pastor. 200 people were baptized. The people made a gigantic celebration of the event. Guests came from neighbouring villages. They butchered twenty pigs for the feast.
In two weeks we shall have confirmation. Our bishop will come. Beforehand we shall visit all the villages for last instructions. All Catholics will be invited to Ulingan. About 1500 will be confirmed. Two days have been allotted to this.
Yesterday I returned from my coastal villages. Tomorrow I ride into the mountains. However, I shall be back by Sunday.
Also external preparations must be made for the reception of the bishop. The whole route from the sea shore to the church will be decorated with banners and palm branches. Three triumphal arches will be erected.
The New Call
Again in the bush! When I sit among the people in a mountain village and lie down to rest in the evenings in their huts, I know that the people see how happy they make me. However. I have given deep thought today to my duty tq God. I must reflect more on myself.
Now I am enjoying the ride home. I can hear the roar of the ocean on the coast again. The water will spill over Kaselok's hoofs. I may be home by four o'clock. I will then prepare these lines to you so they can be sent at the next opportunity.
Yesterday the STELLA MARIS called in. She brought a letter from my bishop. The essential message was: "After mature deliberation I am recalling you from Ulingan and appointing you to the inland mission, probably to the Bismarck Mountains. I shall be able to speak more precisely when you have arrived here. Please come here on the next boat."
So on 20 July I shall stow my belongings on the STELLA and go to Alexishafen to hear more. There I shall communicate all the details to you. I shall then give all my emotions expression. Now only: my feelings-barometer stands at "sunny and bright"!
CALL TO THE HIGHLANDS
I ended my last letter with the remark: my barometer stands at sunny and bright. This has not yet changed.
I had to take a quick leave of my first field of priestly work. I felt some grief at departing from the dear scamps, the school children.
Over all, though, I am glad about the new appointment since it ful fills a wish I have long held in my heart: to be a travelling missionary, a pioneer. Not a single Christian there! But the best thing is to let the superiors make decisions and acquiesce and control myself, thereby preserving a peaceful disposition.
Where Do the Pioneers Work?
(This is from the pen of Fr. Alfons Schaefer, the original missionary of that area and the superior.)
Right at the end of the world behind the Bismarck Mountains! There are no government stations there to protect your life. There are no white neighbours to call upon in times of danger. The missionary lives alone among untamed stone age people. As a solitary disseminator of the Faith, he is truly on the most forward “front”. Here behind the Bismarck Mountains the Catholic Mission began the first preparatory work in May 1934.
The Wahgi Valley lies between the rough Bismarcks to the north and the range of mountains just as jagged to the south. These latter are the border between German New Guinea (the Territory of New Guinea) and English New Guinea (Papua). The Bismarck Mountain Range, 4000 meters high, throws its cold winds across the Wahgi Valley and the 4000 meters high nine pins of the border range throw them back. All these mountains were discovered (by Europeans) only during the past few years.
The high plain of the Wahgi Valley runs from east to west about 130 km. long and 50 wide, all about 1500 meters above sea level.
The Hagen Range with the 3800 meters Mount Hagen blocks the western edge of the Wahgi Valley like a giant. It is almost impenetrable.
The entry for those who came from Alexishafen is the Simbu River which rises in the Bismarcks, flows south and empties into the Wahgi.
The people here live on. sweet potatoes, corn, sugar cane, beans and bananas. The supply is inexhaustible. Near every hut is a well cultivated garden with a good drainage system. With this goes a well organized pig husbandry in the hands of the women. Market day on the mission station sees a procession of indigenees making their way over the rolling land.
They come through the cane grass very early in the dewy morning, often 600 people! They arrange themselves in rows. Each of these stone age people makes lit tie pi les of each kind of vegetables that he brought to barter, ten sweet potatoes, six or seven pieces of sugar cane, a bundle of green leaves, a "hand" of bananas. For each mound the indigenee receives sea shells which have a high value.
We can envisage the day that the Wahgi Valley with its tens of thousands of inhabitants will be the heart of our mission work in New Guinea. Now we look forward to a long pioneer era.
We first missionaries, however, dream of mission stations in every place, of churches which will send out their messages of hope and of peace in every direction, of schools resounding with the happy activities of little curly heads.
The Caravan Sets Out
We had agreed to leave Alexishafen on Monday, eight days hence, for the heart of New Guinea. Who are we? The three of us? First the leader of the Inland Mission (Fr. A. Schaefer) who had begun the work a year previously with one other priest (Fr. Ross) who founded a station far to the west among the Hagen Mountains. Then there is the blood brother (Fr. Cornelis van Baar) of my former pastor. And I!
First, it usually takes ten days to trek to the interior. Then we shall separate.
While the third one (Fr. van Baar) is erecting his tent on the bank of the Mondia River (the source of the Simbu River and in what became the Denglagu parish) Father Superior and I will wander two or three days farther on before we pitch any tents.
Practically, we must spend a longer time in one tent before we find a place for a new station. This, to be clear, is our task, to found new stations. Therefore we must first find places, buy them and then build, all this deep in the interior near the border of English New Guinea.
Our things are packed. Approximately seventy indigenees accompany us to carry everything we have prepared: flour, salt, tins of food, axes, hatchets, saws, tents, camp beds, everything needed for Holy Mass, clothes, trade articles for buying pigs and for salaries, six nanny goats, one billy goat and eighteen chickens.
It will be an interesting life, half missionary, half farmer, half gypsy. Or, if you prefer to say, all missionary, then also farmer and, because there is no other way, a little gypsy. The important thing is this: we wish to announce the Good News to the very poor people behind the mountains. Whether they will be really friendly to us, we must wait to see.
The Trip Itself
With a motor launch we travelled from Alexishafen south to Bogadjim, a coastal village. From there six days walking should bring us to Bundi. From Bundi Father Superior and I will trek four more days to Koruguru. From Koruguru I am to explore the neighbourhood farther to the south and determine what kind of people live there and how many.
I am immensely exhilarated at this, the greatest expedition of my life. In Koruguru I shall be with Father Superior for a time at first to learn something of the language. We are well equipped to face "pestilence, famine and war."
Yesterday we went to Madang to receive the second injection from the doctor there. That is a precautionary measure incumbent upon everyone who wishes to go into the interior.
With the Koruguru People
To shorten things we call the whole area south of the Ramu River "Bismarck Mountains" although we were already behind the Bismarcks. We used five days reaching the Ramu and in the afternoon of the fifth day we were at the foot of the mountains.
Then began the climbing to 3000 meters past Mount Herbert which reaches 4000 meters. We used four days to cross the Bismarcks and on 11 September reached Koruguru.
The Koruguru are a tribe in the Wahgi Valley between the Bismarck Mountain Range and another chain of mountains which has not yet been named. This is all newly discovered area. The valley is fenced in to the north and south by mountains 4000 meters high. This is a splendid land of mountains.
Koruguru, the place, is itself at an altitude of about 2000 meters. On beautiful days it is comfortably warm, in bad weather very disagreeable and cold so that we cannot use the airy, white, tropical garments we brought from the coast.
It is a pleasure to walk about here in the delightful climate.
But the people are wild. One can say that there are wars in progress some place in the valley every day. Then they carry away the dead and wounded.
More Background by Fr. Schaefer
A youth of the Waura clan stole and slaughtered a dog belonging to a man of the Koruguru clan. The owner could not allow the matter to stop there. He became furious, proclaimed war and his loyal tribal brothers appeared. With shields and spears, with bows and arrows and axes they ran against the Waura.
Soon some houses were burning. Here sprang some with the great spears pointing arrogantly in every direction, there others crept cautiously through the bush, arrows on the tight bow strings. One wounded man held his slashed belly together with his hands. A woman who had recklessly thrust herself into the fight hobbled away on her war club, two arrows in her leg.
As my voice died away amid the sounds of war, I fired a couple of shots. Now they looked up a 1ittle and saw Mops, my dog, who was running off his tether. And when Mops was loose, people swung into the branches of trees immediately or ran if they could. Mops interrupted the war just by his unrestrained presence.
I negotiated and paid for the dog since I wanted the shedding of blood and extended warring between two different groups prevented. Peace descended. Some pretended that they really wanted to go home.
Then appeared a new company of Wauras who, as long as they had come to the battlefield, did not want to take their weapons home unused. And there above, on the hill of Yagl where grayish white smoke from a burning house rose from a clump of casuarina trees, advanced a chief of the Wauras, a Goliath, adorned with feathers and carrying a long spear and a great shield. His rumbling bass voice recounted all the outrages that the Koruguru had committed. It was still as death. All the warriors present listened and as he ended, war cries from each side were his answer.
Young Koruguru fellows closed in an arc on the Wauras. War had broken out again. The principal force of the Korugurus rushed down to the hill below. Zack, peng, zack, peng thudded the arrows and spears upon the great red and black shields or boomed the axe blows.
And the roaring! Names were to be heard, then calls for vigilance, then local oaths, then insults! From both sides pealed the sins and lists of reasons for the guilt of the other party above and below. And between, zack, peng. Now they ran forward, now back again, both lines of shields facing each other.
It went back and forth for half an hour. Suddenly a vibrating cry, a roar from hundreds of throats. A group withdrew from the tumult.
There was still a little skirmishing. The Korugurus retreated. Bame was carried away on a shield. He had taken an arrow between the ribs. His brother carried him to a nearby house not far from the battleground.
The Wauras stood, weapons at rest, in battle array, waiting to see what would happen.
A Koroguru came between the battle lines and said: "Bame is wounded. Do not burn any houses or steal anything. We have to deal with Bame first. Tomorrow we will again compete with you."
The Wauras listened and remained quiet. Bame sat on the ground. Two men held him tightly. Saliva and blood came from his mouth.
The arrow was in his back. How deep? It could not simply be jerked out.
He was operated on. The physician, a Koruguru man, sat near him, his lips murmuring magic phrases. He estimated where the point of the arrow should be and cut upon the breast with a sharp stone to get at it. He was making a hole between the ribs.
The stone was not sharp enough; he had to use a bamboo knife. The hole was larger and went deeper. He went right to the lung. The long smooth young leaf of an ornamental shrub served as a probe. The slender point went four to five centimeters into the new wound. It sufficed. The arrow could be extracted. Without difficulty it came out. The brother measured ten centimeters the arrow .had penetrated the lung. Would the man die?
Bame was carried into his hut and laid down, head and breast low, the surgical incision facing down. He soon slept. During the crude operation he had not groaned once.
Other wounded sat about. Wena had a broken off arrow point in his scalp. Then Dilu, a giant! A spear had torn obliquely through the sole of his foot. Others limped around. The other sound warriors had left after the blood letting.
Fr. Morschheuser continues
They are concerned about our weapons. But our lives are very uncertain here without rifle and revolver. Shooting people dead has certainly influenced others so that the people understand firearms and will not harm us when we are armed.
Our task is before us: to build stations and learn the language. I am not to remain here in Koruguru.
Establishing a Post
I am sitting here in Merane, three hours from Koruguru where Father Superior lives. Till Christmas our main job is to establish how many people live around here and which languages they speak.
Here there are, in contradistinction to the coast, certainly language groups with twenty thousand speakers. That will surely make the mission work much easier.
Till Christmas, then, we must be walking west, east and south. Not to the north as we came from there!
I have employed twelve local youths who have pledged themselves for three years service. Twelve young men are not too many.
In the meantime when we are not on the road, I do further building at this station, Merane (near present day Kundiawa). We have made a table and desk and a better bed. And an altar for the Holy Mass! And a school! From Wednesday till yesterday we worked at the construction of a kitchen.
Thursday was baking day. Three good, thoroughly baked loaves! Enough till Tuesday. Friday we butchered a middle sized hog. Also enough for me and my twelve workers till Tuesday!
Do you care to know what we have cooked in the new kitchen? The menu offers not too much variety: pork and sweet potatoes. That has been our daily fare for six weeks, that is, for the midday meal.
The land is a paradise for pigs, not wild but domestic ones. The people here have great numbers of them. So I always have pork in stock for my helpers and myself.
The meat keeps for a week in these cooler mountains. When the larder is bare, I buy another pig. From time to time when my store of grease is depleted, I buy a large, fat pig to get new dripping and lard. What did I know about suet and tails? Today I must boil them out myself.
Yesterday was butchering day. As I am stronger than my helpers I killed the pig myself to give him a quick death. I smote him with a cudgel right on the head; he rolled his eyes and turned up his toes.
Two days ago we baked. I baked my first bread six weeks ago on the trip here. It tasted like cake!
Do you know how I bake here? First I prepare a leaven with dry yeast, knead it into the bread dough, let it rise for a while, put it into a well greased bread pan, fasten the lid and put the pan on glowing coals! Fine bread, I tell you. It bakes through very well if you do not use too much dough.
You see, with such nourishment a man lives well: bread, pork and sweet potatoes.
In the morning I have bread, butter, roast pork or marmalade. I find this good.
As noon a stew of pork, potatoes and cabbage, as well as cucumber salad and fried bananas.
In the evenings there is bread and butter, roast pork and optional sweet potatoes.
I thrive on this diet. My strength is good. I can do physical work and hike as though I were home.
The pleasant mountain climate helps. I am comfortably warm during the days, sometimes painfully cold at night so that I put on a knitted jacket in the early morning and a cape for meditation.
Here in Merane I farm too. Friday I planted a very large piece of the ground we have bought. I have acquired 250 young banana plants with more sugar cane and many more sweet potato vines.
Who can plant this in a short time? My lads undertook to put in the bananas and sugar cane. I summoned local women for the potatoes and in a trice had 50 working.
In a morning and afternoon, a large section of land was cleared and planted with bananas, sugar and sweet potatoes.
Tomorrow the women will return. They are avid for the tiny sea shells that I give as salary. We brought a good quantity in from the coast because they are used as decorations here, above all for the head and breast, and are, as well, a means of exchange. We buy sweet potatoes, pigs, etc. with them.
Fifty women? That is not all. On another day there were 150 women and over 50 men, so that on that day a good piece of land was cultivated. I'm going there now to clean up a large, flat, grassy area so that I can put European potatoes there.
This garden work is beautiful. School, instruction, preaching and the administration of the sacraments are temporarily discontinued. Sundays I get my 12 young men to Holy Mass. The people here have no idea what we want. First we must learn their language.
Last week the gold miners, the Leahy brothers, were both here as guests. They were with the first whites here in the interior. They are good people and well intentioned towards us.
Farther Into Unknown Areas
Father Superior and I made a little expedition along the Wahgi. The third day of this expedition was the most amusing. We pitched our tent not far from the river. We strung a rope around the ten meter square of land to fence out the people. When they stepped over our boundary, snapping dogs sprang at them. This is a reversal of Hagenbeck's People Exposition. There the whites stand outside the fence and gape at the coloured; here both of us whites were inside the enclosure while outside stand hundreds and more hundreds of black people who look and marvel at us.
In this well populated district one quickly gathers more than a hundred locals around him. Today when we bought food at Koruguru, we counted 900 people.
Therefore we pitched our tent and bought sweet potatoes, sugar cane, greens and two pigs from the people. We had twenty carriers and as many more Korugurus had accompanied us.
Towards evening some youngsters came in with mail. You would not believe what an event it is in such circumstances when mail arrives.
By the light of a hurricane lantern we sat on our bed frames and read and read until we had headaches.
We set guards for the whole night and put the loaded revolver ready to hand and then slept peacefully till morning, then combed the scalps which were still on our skulls.
We decided to take a longer tour to the east to the Mairifutia River. Again in unknown country amid unknown people! We wished to make some contact with the people.
After this trip to the Mairifutia River we wished to go towards English New Guinea. It is not far from here.
The mountains are high, about 4000 meters. I am in good shape and prefer being in the mountains to living on the coast.
These lines must suffice for now. How we shall fare in our wandering and tent living will appear in the sketches I sometimes make. I recommend myself and those who accompany me to your intercession. I need your prayers. I have good grounds to recommend myself to my Guardian Angel to let nothing befall me on this trip.
With out Brother builder I have wandered two days southwest on the far side of the Wahgi River to Minj. I was to construct there a further station in another language area.
Not for me but for another priest who will arrive from the coast in the coming weeks! We put up a four room dwelling for him plus a big kitchen and a house for his helpers.
Then we laid out an airstrip nearby. Our own airplane will be in Alexishafen in a few weeks.
Yesterday we came back. We shall not remain here long, though. Today we await a priest from the Simbu Valley and on Monday the whole society moves out.
Our superior goes with the Brother westward towards the Hagen Range to find and buy ground for schools and immediately to build them. The other two of us go one day east to Kogo, one day from Merane, to build my station at last.
All these experiences seem to make the time race by furiously. When I have finished Kogo it will be about Christmas time. We will probably celebrate the Christmas feast in Denglagu, two days to the north of here.
We seven missionaries will then be together on a station that is central for all of us. That is certainly
Denglagu. The father there 1ives at peace with his people. One needs only to show the indignees that we have no fear and that against us they will get the worst of it.
The station lies at an a1titude of 2300 meters. It is very cold there. On the highest mountain peak there is snow sometimes, a lively reminder of our German Christmas. If the records for the grammaphone come, I shall again hear music for the first time here at Christmas.
You see, I am already considering Christmas. This letter may reach you for the feast. I send you heartfelt good wishes for the feast of Christmas and for the New Year.
You will certainly think of me a little in the coming feast days. It keeps me zealous and helps me in the work I have been appointed to. What we do here cannot remain human work or it will fail like the work of men. God must render this work fruitful and bless it to bring the people here eternal profit. At Mass on the feast day pray for us missionaries here in the wilderness. We do not forget you at home.
That was the last letter Father ever wrote. He was killed a few days later.
CALL TO HEAVEN
The warriors of this stone age people were proud and able men. They regarded the whites as uninvited invaders who wandered as they pleased protected by their guns. They had watched Fr. Schaefer shoot tethered pigs and put bullets through the warriors' shields which were stacked in front of a tree while Father "threw his rock" right through them and into the tree. Father hoped they would conclude that the shields were no protection against rifles. When the inevitable attacks came anyway, the missionaries shot into the air to scare the people.
But when this was done, no one got hurt or stopped. It was just a threat like the barking of a dog, and as harmless. But could a bullet stop a warrior who was rushing about shooting his arrows? They decided to find out by attacking the next white men they saw. It was Father Morschheuser and, a month later, Brother Eugene, both totally innocent men.
The missionaries had decided to come together to celebrate Christmas in this land where almost no Christians lived, only a few missionaries.
Father Karl and another priest walked through the Simbu gorge and came to the place where, they thought, the people had burned down a house the priest had built. They were supposed to rebuild the hut but had not done so. To punish them, the other priest shot three pigs and the party walked on. The warriors chased them shooting arrows. One bowman got ahead of the priests and sprang out of ambush to put an arrow into Father Morschheuser's neck, severing the large blood vessel. Father died in a very few minutes.
It is hard to blame the people, but they did get the idea they could slaughter anyone they wished. And they did get Brother Eugene a month later. But then the government party came through and shot enough people to convince them that rifles can kill running men too. So a kind of peace came back to the land.
The two missionaries were buried, Father right there in the Simbu Valley. Years later, the other priest came back, gathered the people, bought pigs and vegetables and had a feast of reconciliation. So now the peace of Christ has come to the land.
FATHER MORSCHHEUSER TODAY
Later missionaries asked the people whether they thought Father Morschheuser's body should be brought to the Catholic cemetery, but they said: "No. Father is resting peacefully in our ground now and he has forgiven us for killing him. He is in heaven praying for us and we do not want to lose him. Let him stay among us!"
Father was such a promising missionary. Had he lived, he would have instructed and worked for thousands of Simbu people for forty more years. But God thinks his prayers in heaven are just as effective in bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people of the mountains of Papua New Guinea.
And surely he is praying that priestly and religious vocations will be offered to the young people of this land so they can lead their own people to God.