Abelly: Book 2/Chapter 01/Section 07/Part 10

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The Conversion of Several Heretics and Apostates Brought About by the Priests of the Congregation of the Mission Whom Monsieur Vincent Sent to Barbary

An admirable example of the wisdom and goodness of God was his using the captivity of several heretics who had fallen into the hands of the Moslems, to bring about their deliverance from the slavery into which the devil had led them by their adherence to error. He used the iron and chains that oppressed their bodies to free them from the chains that bound their souls. In losing their personal freedom they recovered the true freedom of the children of God. This happened many times on the missions of Barbary where there were slaves infected with the heresies of Calvin and Luther. When they saw the miserable state to which they had fallen and had been instructed by the missionaries, at length, with the help of God's grace, they recognized the truth, abjured their errors, and rejoined the sheepfold of Jesus Christ.

We do not know exactly how many heretics were converted in the missions of Barbary, but it is certain that the number was considerable. One priest wrote to Monsieur Vincent of eighteen who returned. We can well imagine the other priests being no less successful, and possibly even more so.

Among all the converts, a young Englishman is particularly noteworthy. He was only eleven years old when captured by the pirates off the coast of England, and was brought to Barbary to be sold into slavery. Monsieur Guerin wrote of this young man in a letter to Monsieur Vincent, in June of 1646:

Two Englishmen have converted to our holy faith, and they have been an example to all the Catholics. There was a third, only eleven years old, a more beautiful child you could not find. He was as fervent as you could wish, and very devoted to the Blessed Virgin. He invoked her continually for the grace of dying rather than renouncing or offending Jesus Christ. This, unfortunately, is the aim of his owner, who keeps him solely for this purpose, and uses every inducement to achieve his goal. If we could somehow receive two hundred piastres we could buy his freedom. There is good reason to hope that he would one day, with the grace of God, become a second Bede, such is his spirit and virtue.

There is nothing of the child in this young man. He made his profession of the Catholic faith on Holy Thursday, received communion the same day, and now receives the sacraments often. He has already been beaten twice to try to force him to deny Jesus Christ. The last time he told his owner during a beating that he could cut off his head if he wanted, but he was a Christian and would never be anything else. Several times he spoke to me about his resolve to die rather than renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. His entire conduct is admirable in one of his tender age. I can truly say that he is a temple of the Holy Spirit. [1]

Besides the conversion of heretics, many apostates were brought back to the fold by the priests of the Mission, aided by the grace of God. One of the priests wrote to Monsieur Vincent:

There is a large harvest here in this country. This is aided by the presence of the plague, for besides the conversion of some Moslems we prefer to keep quiet about, others at the approach of death have opened their eyes to recognize and embrace the truths of our holy religion. There were three apostates who received the sacraments, and went to heaven. There was one recently who had received absolution for his apostasy. Yet at his last hour he was surrounded by his Moslem friends who urged on him his usual blasphemies. He would not give in, but rather, with his eyes fixed on heaven, and a crucifix in his hands, died while giving signs of true repentance.

His wife, a former professed religious, had also denied the Christian faith. She too had repented, and had been absolved from her double apostasy, showing as good dispositions as could be hoped for. She is now living in a secluded place. She never goes out, and daily makes the two hours of meditation which we imposed as a penance. We also ordered some bodily mortification besides those required by her rule. She was, however, already practicing some by her own initiative, so moved by regret at her sins that she would have wanted to suffer martyrdom as an expiation, were it not for the two young children in her care. We baptized these, and she in turn is raising them in keeping with her duty as a true Christian mother.

Another apostate who lives close by, died, ending his days as a true penitent. Every day I prepare some Moslems for baptism. They are well instructed in our religion, often coming to see me at night and in secret. There is one among them who holds considerable rank in the country. [2]

In regard to both the Moslems and the apostates, the priests of the Mission were most prudent and circumspect in matters of conversion, lest there would be adverse effects on the good they sought to do among the infidels. Because of this, they spoke little of these events in their letters to France, and often used ambiguous language, for fear that these letters would be intercepted. Only God know what they accomplished in their ministry to these unfortunate souls.

In a letter from one of his priests to Monsieur Vincent, wishing to speak of the conversion of two apostates, he used this circumlocution, "Our Lord has given us the grace of recovering two precious jewels that had been lost. They were most costly, and of a beauty beyond compare. I am most happy at the outcome." [3]


  1. CED II:597-98.
  2. CED V:397-98.
  3. CED III:449.

This page:
Abelly Book Two, Chapter One: Section Seven, Part Ten
The Conversion of Several Heretics and Apostates Brought About by the Priests of the Congregation of the Mission Whom Monsieur Vincent Sent to Barbary

Index of this section:
Abelly Book Two, Chapter One: Section Seven Index:
The More Remarkable Events in the Missions of the Barbary States

Index of this chapter:
Abelly: Book Two/Chapter One/Index: The Missions of Monsieur Vincent

Index of:
Abelly: Book Two