Frederic de Coninck Letters
Marie Camin has doubts in a convent prison; 2 letters of encouragement;
Marie Oursel defends what she believes; the dungeons of Aumale;
Frederic's remorse over giving some bad advice
3 January 1686 - Letter to Frederic c/o of his cousin, John de la Chambre in London, from younger brother, Jean de Coninck, in Rotterdam.
3 January 1686
Monsieur my dear brother,
It's been about 3 weeks since I wrote you in response to your letter from Greenway Court of 18/28 November 1685. Since then I've received only very bad news from France. I don't doubt, knowing only how your poor mistress is in a prison armed with her admirable constancy, that God willing, by His loving kindness and also having regard for her perseverance, He will pull her out of this miserable situation. She alone persists. [Apparently all the other ladies had abjured, according to Jean de Coninck.]
Our miserable brother [Francois], not content simply to have abandoned the truth, is malicious enough to covet the confiscation of our goods. However, I don't think he'll succeed because Mr. Oursel is on my side. But since I believe that he's still after yours as well as that of Mr. Camin, we've informed Mr. Oursel to have no further dealings with him and to strongly oppose his schemes. I believe this is what Mr. Oursel will do.
I don't know when we will go toward you because of the Papacy which is established over there, and the French vessels crossing the seas which summarily board all vessels to see if there are any French refugees inside. For you this isn't a pleasant prospect. It grieves me as well since we also looked forward to coming over.
As we enter a new year I wish you all sorts of prosperity. Pray God that He blesses you to be abundantly productive in all your plans to the depths of your desires. My wife greets you and wishes you the same, and also my uncle and aunt Crommelin [Daniel Crommelin and Anne Testart], and their household. I am, monsieur my brother, your very obedient servant, Jean de Conincq
7 January 1686 - Letter #104 to Frederic at Greenway Court, Kent, from Mother at Le Havre.
January 7 1686
My very dear son
It's been a long time since I've written you. I received your last letter that you wrote to Mr. Oursel which I sent him since he was then at Rouen. He ordered a letter of receipt from you in the amount of 1500# and he wrote the way in which you must handle the rest otherwise the remainder runs the risk of being lost. One always gets only half following the king's proclamation. I don't know if you gave instructions to your brother to do what he did. I would have been very surprised if I had known about it. You have some of his things. It isn't necessary to say a word about it in the times we are in. I am always the same, and always will be, and no one can doubt that.
I'm about to burst with affliction and the good Lord doesn't draw me close to Him. Perhaps He's leaving us to live under oppression in order to see His deliverance for returning to Him our acts of grace. Come, Lord Jesus, come to our relief. Our courage fails, and we don't know what to do. You are troubled knowing my situation but, alas, it is pitiful since it was necessary to undergo. Pray for us.
At Rouen all have converted, and those who wanted to hold out to the end have submitted. Indeed, it's a pitful situation. This is no longer Rouen. All is lost. Nobody endured the rigours; everyone deserted and abandoned everything. I'm quite unhappy not being able to get news from Mayon. I'm told they were transported to Neufchatel, between Amiens and Abbeville. God give them endurance.
I would like to know how you are doing. In God's name manage your money well and don't spend a cent wastefully. You will refill my sorrow if you are not conducting yourself well or are spending your wealth poorly so that you're no further ahead. I pray, dear Lord, to guide my family by your Holy Spirit. I pray continually that our good heavenly Father doesn't abandon you.
I find that since you cannot undertake anything, be frugal and wait a little longer for the good Lord to return her. Tell me how I can write you without inconveniencing your cousin. We greet you all affectionately and pray God to bless you and make you to prosper in your plans, and may He give you a happy new year. Goodbye. I greet your uncle and aunt.
13 February 1686 - Frederic received Letter #105 at the home of Daniel Crommelin at Greenway Court, Kent, from Mother. Replied 20 February.
4 February 1686
My very dear son
This morning I received yours of January 27. It bothered me a lot not getting news from you. Don't think that I will ever forget you. As the scriptures say, a mother will never forget the fruit of her womb. [Isa 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.] That's impossible, at least for a true mother, for she would rather cut herself in pieces to satisfy her children than cause more suffering and bitterness to fall upon her heart.
In short, my dear, I admit my weakness. I'm not amongst the first but amongst the latter ones, and if there had been a place to live, I would have done it [fled to England or Holland]. Although the dragoons haven't entered this city, they aren't far away. Harfleur, Montivillier and Boulebecq are strongholds and of great concern to the new Catholics who have to go to the Mass against their will. Although they are mistreated, they are more firm than ever. Up to now we have been quiet here. We are threatened enough.
We've had Jesuits who preached about nothing else but to convert us. They were mocked by some who returned [to catholicism] but others will come for this cleansing. Then a meeting was held and we were made to go for instruction but, praise God, while they taught us confidently, the outcome wasn't what they expected because our great God, full of compassion who wishes to lose none of his children, strengthened us more and more. Manon stood out so much that all the people of spirit made their case such that one backed up the other, and the truth of scripture was apparent in that God spoke through the mouth of babes. [ Ps 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.] She has a good memory and she knows firmly what she believes. ['Manon' (Mary Oursel) was then 17 years old.]
My dear one, if there were any way to escape, I would have done it, and I would have gladly abandoned everything, but my interests to you are the root which stopped me. If it had been only me, and those with me, who suffered, then nothing would have stopped me. I also hoped I had found a way to serve others to obtain bread because it's much better to be carried into the house of God than to have a house of plenty while being hungry for the heavenly bread of life.
My child, if I had left everything behind, I wouldn't have been able to satisfy the last instalment to you of 1500#. God will give us the grace to finish this as soon as we are able, but this isn't possible at the present time. However, if I find the opportunity, I will do as my sister [Elisabeth Testart, wife of Jacob Crommelin] did which ended happily. [Miraculously she fled to England with several children aboard the Huguenot vessel "La Rochelle" while her husband Jacob, a banker in Paris, abjured and stayed in France. Bulletin of the Prot. Fr. 1858, P.490]. But one must be steadfast, something which I'm not, much to my misfortune. I thank you very much for the offer which you made me, but it's necessary to await with patience the deliverance of the Eternel. He will have pity for our sighs.
We have several of the King's frigates that cruise right up to Calais. There are also some at Dunkirk that do the same thing. They are for escapers, nevertheless it always goes on by sea and on the ground, but people are being seized there.
As for your brother [Francois], I have trouble believing that his intentions were bad. It's that he knew that the investigators would inform themselves about those who had left because half of the property of those they denounce is for them while the other half is for the hospital. They were fearful and had no time to be able to respond, but he had to write afterwards to notify them. Since then I haven't heard anything about whether he arrived at a convent where he wanted to go. I don't know what he's doing now. This unfortunate one has enough problems.
No doubt you will have learned that the vessel "The Renard (Sly Fox)" which he [Mr. Oursel] had quarter-filled with grain was lost entirely at a hiring place on the Thames. He had plenty of grief because the grain decomposed. [Perhaps 'grane' is some kind of fish rather than grain.] The cost was to his account on a vessel that never returned him anything. He put a stop to its furnishings and merchandise which are all for sale, and that's the miserable financial situation he's facing right now. So if you write him, don't be aggressive. Half of what he did was motivated by charity. If you find it appropriate, and if you have some occasion, don't say anything more to him because he has to keep what he has. Show him some kindness soon.
Touching our dear Mayon [Marie Camin], you are perhaps persuaded that I like her more than ever. Since I was worried about her, I wrote her a note irrespective of the risk, not really believing that she was still at the same place [Dieppe]. She replied saying that she was also worried about me. She wrote on the 28th of last month saying she is well and that she has the happiness to be in love as she also told you. May God strengthen her and give her good courage to obtain the Crown of Great Price. May the good Lord deliver her and remove from you any impatience over her. This is necessary for the situation to unfold as it should.
I won't say anything about your grandmother. She's still at the same place [St. Quentin] which the person standing next to you [Daniel Crommelin] knows well. Cautan Tacquelet is always with her. O God, come to our deliverance. It seems this is a period in which I'm in captivity.
I'm pleased you gave me another address than the one before because it seems that he [Jean de la Chambre] isn't a good friend of his uncle [Daniel Crommelin]. Don't let on, however, because one must be prudent. I'd like to know what you are doing and if your aunt [du Chemin] handed over to you your affairs [Frederic's inheritance now that he had attained the age of 25]. I don't think there's anything she can do or hold anymore. Don't give your estate to anybody lightly but only to secure individuals who can pay interest, and take plenty of caution.
I would really like to know if there would be a market for the sale of cloth from St. Quentin in your country. In having it pass through Holland there's a lot of duty to pay on remnants and entire pieces. Please find out what you can and let me know. This is for a friend.
Adieu. I embrace you with all my love as does our friend who can't help reading your letters without shedding tears. My daughters do the same. Give my love to my brother and my sisters and cousins. I greet them all. May God bless and keep you all...
20 February 1686 - Letter #105A from Mary Oursel (Frederic's half-sister, age 17) at Le Havre, to Mayon (Mary Camin), her future sister-in-law, in prison at Dieppe.
20 Fevrier 1686
You do me too many honors, my dear girl, to remember me. This can only be a result of your loving kindness after having been separated from those who abandoned so lightly the truth of the Gospel for which you suffer. I don't pretend to excuse myself because, although I would like to do that, my conscience returns to witness against me for I know there isn't any consideration in the world so big that should prevent us from struggling for Jesus Christ. This is the spirit of the Gospel - to be persecuted. "Those who would come after me," says Jesus Christ, "must deny oneself, bear his cross, and follow me." [ Mt 16:24 ¶ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.] It is necessary to abandon all to follow Him: father, mother, wife, children, worldly possessions. "Whosoever will want to live according to piety in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution." says St. Paul. [ 2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.]
We have, my dear girl, an excellent model of perseverance in you through whom God chose to manifest His power and His virtue. One can say that He left us a treasure in earthly vessels since those who seemed to be the pillars of the great House of God were the first to turn their backs in the day of battle while, on the contrary, those who you'd think would be the first to turn their backs, are those who still remain steadfast.
You didn't turn away because you always appeared to be on the side of truth which is to say too pious and too Christian to follow those flighty ladies who love this present world. God who has begun in you this good work will complete it even unto the day of Christ and in that day you will return to Him the Crown of Justice which He promised to all those who will persevere in His name. [Php 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ]
The prisons of Aumalle are frightening and I'm worried they might send you there. Six prisoners from this city were taken there, and there are as many again who are waiting to be taken also. May God give to all the grace to bear up under such hard trials because this is one of the most horrible dungeons. Evidently there are 80 or 100 steps to descend.
My poor Frederic [Marie Oursel's half-brother] is mortified with pity. He dies a thousand times each day he's alive, and I who share in his grief, we don't stop praying for you every day that it may please God to lift you victorious out of your captivity so that we can all be together in the midst of liberty to invoke the holy name of God. I don't see any indication that this will happen anytime soon but, as for me, I would rather see it happen today than tomorrow. The confidence I have that God never abandons his own undergirds my decisions. When I had to become a chambermaid to earn my living, I considered myself happy since I could at least do that with a clear conscience. It's better to be servile to men than to God.
Touching the discussion I had with the abbe, Mr. Pilon, it's necessary to believe that I have many friends who take the trouble to clarify things so well to my advantage. If you would do me the grace to tell me who they are, I would be honoured to thank them, for I'm certainly obliged to these people for extending my reputation so far and to give me praises that I don't deserve. It's true that I found myself for some time with monsieur, the Intendant of the Navy, or his assistant, attending 4 times per week the training sessions for new Catholics given by his abbe. Of about 2 hours that we were there, the abbe spoke for 1 1/2 hours without wanting to be interrupted. I begged monsieur the assistant to give us a chance to speak whenever he said something that we found difficult because it would be impossible to remember everything. This he granted me, and we took advantage of it in the following days.
But as for me, I don't deserve to be counted amongst the clever because I don't say anything that the most ignorant of our Religion wouldn't have been able to say. If at times I was left alone to support the conference, one must attribute the cause to the honesty of the company who simply deferred to me. I would have trouble telling you all that was said because my memory isn't too good, but in essence, on the issue of Transubstantiation, he used tricky reasoning. "You ask," he said to us, "that you be given the Word of God. Well, I've given it to you." Then He asked us if Jesus Christ was a liar. I said that if we committed such a blasphemy, we would pass condemnation upon ourselves and there was no punishment so cruel that we didn't deserve it. "Jesus Christ," he said to us, "didn't He drink from a chalice at the Lord's Supper when He distributed it to his disciples?" I replied that if He had eaten bread, then undoubtedly He would have drank from a chalice. "You say therefore that He drank, but St. Luke tells us that when He passed the Paschal cup He said, this is no more the fruit of the vine. Nevertheless He shared it with His disciples while you say that it was wine that was in there, and not blood. Therefore Jesus must have been a liar!"
I told him that God, who left us his Word to guide our faith, allowed the sacred scriptures, for clearer understanding, to be expressed in different ways and that some scriptures having been given prominence before others requires us to seek clarification of the Word of God by the Word of God itself, namely St. Matthew by St. Luke. He said to me that He made allusion to the Paschal cup since in St. Luke chapter 3 he said that John the Baptist was put in prison by Herod and afterwards said, "Now this John is the one who baptized Jesus Christ." This was as literal as when St. Matthew said, "Now I tell you that I no longer will drink of the fruit of the vine."
When I saw his subtlety, I said to him that it was shameful that a man of his age and character asks instruction from his pupils, and that it wasn't up to me to teach him his cathechism which he must know. I told him that he had to prove it before one believed it in the same way that Jesus Christ shared with His disciples. As for us, we may deduce this from that, but since it's necessary to hear it said another way, he would have to show us. He looked a bit dejected and searched like a hunted bird for a way out, so he said that Jesus Christ said "This is my body," which must be believed. This ended his pitiful explanation.
He destroyed the meaning entirely by not wanting the disciples to become the judge of what they saw, touched, and tasted. "Well, why," he says, "did He want the Word of God connected to their senses?" I told him that one's interpretation of the meaning was admissible provided that it conformed to the Word of God. Furthermore, Jesus Christ didn't condemn trusting the senses because after the Resurrection, when He appeared in the midst of His disciples, He said, "See me, touch me, put your fingers in my wounds, for a spirit has no flesh or bone as you see that I have."
The fact that the apostles were so far from believing in Transubstantiation was dealt with at the Council held at Jerusalem regarding the gentle new converts who were about to be circumcised. The apostles sent them Paul and Barnabas, commanding them to say to them that it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, things strangled, and blood. He replied that this meant 'blood sausage' which they intended to abstain from [not the blood in the chalice at a Mass], but if they deliberately intended to eat blood this was an even stronger reason to believe [in Transubstantiation]!
I never saw reasoning of the sort that came from these men. While going out, I said we must conclude that the victor today is, except for his explanations, a very good Catholic. On hearing that, monsieur the Intendant said to me that I was quite the little theologian and that he would like to give me the hat of a Cardinal. I replied that if I were to become a Cardinal, then someday I would also hope to become 'Popesse Marie'.
And that, my dear lady, is what happened a little while ago. I'm ashamed to tell you about such little things over which so much noise is made, and perhaps you'd rather I hadn't taken the trouble to mention them, but please believe me there's nothing I wouldn't do for you, and if my very blood could pull you out of captivity I would give it up with pleasure. Please be persuaded to believe that of all those who are without vanity, I esteem you the highest.
25 February 1686
Monsieur Guillaume du Hamel
I had hoped following the promise that you made me last November that you would have repaid the balance of my account last month, but apparently because of business you forgot what you promised me. This letter is only a reminder and to pray that this matter doesn't drag out indefinitely. It wouldn't be worth the cost of posting ongoing letters which is why I hope to receive a reply saying that you'll put an end to it. This is what I'll be waiting for.
I spoke to a bookseller for your book who wants to give only 20 (money) each delivered here. He will take six copies to start and if he has some good trade he will order more. See what you you would like done. In recognition of the copy you gave me, I pray you keep two ecus of what you owe me. Please remit the balance of 284 to me at this city.
I asked you before that should there be a chance to have me take up business with Mr. Petersen, you would be kind enough to notify me. I would repeat the same request, and if by your means I'm able to leave the affair with him, I would be most grateful and would recognize with thanks the trouble you have taken. Although I usually reside in the country, that doesn't prevent me from rendering you service. So far you haven't used me as a person who is entirely...
13 March 1686 - Received Letter #106 from Mother at Le Havre to Frederic at the home of Daniel Crommelin at Greenway Court. Replied 20 March.
1 March 1686
My very dear son,
I have yours of February 20 with a bill and freight for the big pieces of cloth from St. Quentin but for which there's no demand because of the cloth that's coming from Germany. So there won't be any further trade.
Yesterday I received a letter from our dear Mayon written on the 25th. She's still at the same place. I was so worried that she might have been taken to that horrid place, Aumalle. Of all the places in the world, I hope she isn't taken there soon. It seems things are relaxing a bit. The company [of dragroons] are about to vacate for the countryside where there are greater quantities. May our good God help us. There's no need to mention how much I love this virtuous girl. I have as much affection for her as it's possible to have. She informed me that you told her about the arrival of madam Gontier with her daughters. [Sara Guiselin, wife of Jean Gontier, and her older daughter had been arrested with Marie Camin in a first attempt at escape aboard the royal yacht at Dieppe. (Legendre, p.80)].
This made her hopeful it might happen to her, but how can she leave if she didn't do as they did [abjure] which is undoubtedly to pretend [to abjure] as the others did, because in truth, I don't see any other way. And then if the opportunity arises, I promised her that Manon [Mary Oursel] will keep her company. O Lord, that she might be happy again and me also, but this cannot be yet. Our dear Mayon told me that the girl Gontier had left with the help of Mr. de Gilbaut to whom my husband quickly wrote with a big request to make use of all these friends. I don't know what port she left from. It doesn't really matter because at least she's safe. As soon as we get a reply I'll be sure to let Mayon know. I wrote her yesterday.
Four days ago poor Andre Lenud came back from the prisons of Aumalle quite defeated. [Among the new converts at Le Havre (1689), we find: "Rue de le Sirene, House Pignault, Andre Lenud, his wife and granddaughter."] He was put in a vile prison infested with villainous vermin. He was forced to submit, not being able to live anymore. It makes me shudder. This is a place for sorcerers and those who have made a pact with the devil but only Christians are put in there. One must be quiet and not say anything about this openly so nobody admits that this is why we all submitted as a group.
I sometimes go to the sermon at the Mass. I still haven't seen anybody from our dwelling place there, nor will I ever by the grace of God, at least not without being dragged there. If God gave me the grace to flee, what could I do to earn a living where you are? Please give me a word of advice in a letter sent under cover without being signed. I will perhaps be able to go and see your grandmother soon. She's now back home at her own place. [Rachel Tacquelet at Paris] It was necessary for her to do as the others did [abjured]. She is not well. I told our dear Mayon that I can be at Rouen in 15 days.
Goodbye, my dear one. Console yourself. God will soon come to your relief. Kiss your uncle, aunts and cousins for me. May God keep you...[After receiving this letter, Frederic evidently wrote a couple of letters to Mayon advising her to 'pretend' to abjure so that she would be set free from her convent prison...]
15 March 1686
Mister Jean Camin [in Rotterdam]
I would have replied to your letter of January 31 sooner if I didn't have to wait till now for a summary of the account of receipts which I asked you for before. While waiting for it I copied the total into the forms. I repeat again the same request and implore you to pay attention to it. A quarter hour of your time will accomplish the matter. This is what I believe you will reconcile in response to this letter. I see that by the accounting that you sent me, he remits in sols the f29:2 that I have credited to the interet of which we are in question. What I find unusual in this affair is that you say that what you did was for
amusement with your cousin. I can't understand why you say that since, on the contrary, she had quite the displeasure and sorrow. You're quite well aware of how you turned this matter around so that it isn't at all advantageous. It seems to me that when one keeps the money of someone against his wishes, it's more than reasonable to allot him the interest, especially when one can get it on the other side. Everyone would agree to what I say to you, and I pray you therefore to give it some consideration. However, to show you, monsieur, that I indeed wish to act well with you, since you've been in charge of this matter, go ahead and do what pleases you.
The death of Mr. Lelarge gives me some concern about the papers that he had. But since he had yours also, I hope that you had the courtesy to have mine withdrawn at the same time as yours and had them put in a safe place. Please give me your advice on how I should conduct myself in this matter and if there were some way to draw satisfaction or benefit before more nasty times arrive. Please, above all, ensure that Mr. Durand doesn't put his hands on papers that concern me. He's a dangerous man. I don't know who is more honest, him or his son. Both of them have played tricks on me which are detrimental or of bad faith, to say the least.
My brother Jean will be able to tell you the news which causes me mortal sorrow, and I'm in despair with good reason. If you could do anything regarding that, I beg you to render me that service. Kindly also tell my brother Jean not to send me my pictures until I ask for them. Papism advances here as much as it can which doesn't please too many people. We embrace you all and am...
24 April 1686 - Letter # 106A from Jacques Rondeau at Hollingborne, England [near Greenway Court, Kent], to Mary Camin in prison at Dieppe. [Jacques Rondeau could have been a cousin of Frederic, or a fellow Christian refugee who had settled in Hollingborne. He may even have been a Huguenot pastor.]
This antique map shows the approximate location of Daniel Crommelin's house
at Greenway Court (#2) near Leeds Castle, Kent (#1). Hollingborne is where Jacques Rondeau
lived, and where Frederic de Coninck and Marie Camin were later married.
Wednesday 14/24 April 1686
Mademoiselle [confined in a convent in Dieppe]
I have been admiring your virtue and steadfastness for a long time. I write as one guilty of having delayed in giving you some of the praise that you deserve which is what I'm obliged to do after Mr. de Coninck showed me in various places of your letters so much faithfulness for him, along with so much zeal for God and His glory. In them I find a life so saintly and reasonable attached to a faith so clear and constant. Never has religion been better confessed than by your letters to your Lover, and I can say without offending you that it would be to wish that he had a little less affection for you because your absence is causing him so much suffering and sorrow. It is in the fatal excess of this state of mind that he has written you several times some unpleasant thoughts contrary to his true feelings such as the ones I suppose he addressed to you in his last letter.
Rest assured that no sooner had he returned to himself than he began blaming himself with a thousand regrets to see himself adding new afflictions to the multitude of griefs that you already bear. After all, he admitted to himself, you are right in preferring over him a God who is infinitely perfect and infinitely gracious, whose infinite love benefits all the Lovers of the world and who raises us up so that we aren't worthy of Him when we love something more than Him, such as a father or a spouse. I dare even say that of all the beautiful qualities you possess, and by which you have won the heart of Mr. de Coninck, one must admire most of all your perseverance in our religion under total persecution as it is now. Allow me to add that this virtue in you shines forth most eloquently.
The Lord Jesus Christ fed the multitudes with bread on a mountain in the company of His closest companions and those whom He loved the most. He remained in the Church when it flourished, then He left His liberty and a thousand sorts of blessings to its pastors so they could oversee a very soft duty and a light burden which even the most feeble can take up and carry easily. But to follow Jesus Christ when everyone abandons Him, and to go with Him when He obliges us to leave our goods and our liberty behind for His sake, and to confess His name to the heavens, even that of the Sovereign Sacrificer, then we voluntarily separate ourselves from the people who are dearest to us in order to accompany Jesus Christ in an ordeal, and we remain in his Church even when it becomes desolate. This is when, instead of prophets and ministers, one is more apt to hear only the voice of the false apostles - a time when one must take up His cross and His thorns rather than merely His bread. It is a duty so difficult and so overwhelming, especially at a time as delicate as ours, that one has trouble finding in France twelve disciples who persevere for every several thousands of these agitated sheep who have emerged cowardly in the faith by allowing themselves to be transported unto another Gospel.
Fortunately, mademoiselle, you yourself are counted amongst the small number of those genuine faithful who chose the more noble portion since you are resolved to confess our Jesus not only before ordinary men, but before Magistrates, Intendants, and even before Jesuits and apostate ministers. One day you will receive the praise of God if an ungrateful world refuses to give it to you now. But why strain your modesty? Let's render to this great God the honor and glory that is due Him for your constancy and steadfastness. It is in Him that you, in the weakness of your being, found a heroic courage, and in place of a reed in the desert He made visible through you an unshakeable pillar of the temple of the new Jerusalem. It is He who has put His words in your mouth and who gave you the force and the patience that was necessary to confound His enemies. It is He who strengthened you by the truth of his Spirit and caused you to remain firm in the middle of an infinite number of compromised people. By all appearances this same God has done much for you by initialing the work of his grave in you so that neither love, nor ruin, nor liberty, nor servitude, nor life, nor even death is an influence. Not even love or comfort will shake your faithfulness which is due Him.
By your letters, and I trust, by a feeling of Christian humility in yourself, you feared your endurance was waning under the violence of temptation after which your love gradually reassured itself, consoled itself, strengthened itself, and returned to God. This reminds me of a number of Psalms that begin with laments and by extreme dejection, and then end with songs of triumph and acts of praise. Similarly the boldness which St. Peter displayed before the death of his divine Master was principally the result of his earlier denial. The fear and trembling of your heart speaks to me loudly of your firmness and constancy in the confession of His truth.
Neverthless, if it should happen that after resisting for so long you finally succumb to the fury of our opponents and that you have the misfortune to give a word or deed to the Antichrist in a momentary attempt to extricate yourself from the miserable prison that contains you, so that you might look elsewhere for the liberty of the children of God where you can glorify Him in your body as well as in your spirit, then neither Mr. de Coninck nor I would fault you for your weakness or say that your suffering was in vain. We believe that God who forgives so many hideous sins would deliver you from this sin of infirmity and therefore that you will appear before Him absolutely innocent. He will not leave you bereft of faith, and having collected in His vessels your tears like those of a repentent person, this would atone for your indiscretion.
But mademoiselle, I'm persuaded that you are too close to God for Him to abandon you there, and He will have you returned without the slightest appearance of being a criminal. He knows well how to end your servitude happily and have you united with your lover. The One who breaks bronze doors and iron bars will get you easily out of the feeble enclosures of a convent if it pleases Him, even if you were shackled by chains as Saint Peter was in former times, and who was also better guarded. He has more than twelve legions of angels, the least of whom can deliver you. I don't mean to say that I expect He will work visible miracles in your situation because amongst his prophets He assumes the nature of a God who hides Himself. He appears to make use of ordinary servants to do His work, and perhaps He even uses your friends or your own address to accomplish it, but that being said, I still can't help believing that you'll persevere and that your steadfastness will be honoured since you have left your freedom and your lover for God.
He will restore your liberty and your lover after he's talked so long about your sufferings. I will someday, and it may even be soon, be witness to your happiness. At least he is very constant, and this is also one of the most ardent wishes of one who is, and who always will be with every esteem imaginable...
Mademoiselle, your very humble and very obedient servant,
For Mademoiselle Camin