Bishop Baraga's Pastoral Letter to the Indians

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Bishop Baraga's pastoral letter to the faithful of his vicariate-apostolic announcing his elevation to the episcopal dignity
by Frederic Baraga



FREDERIC BARAGA, BISHOP. My children, whom I love, I salute you well. Our Lord God made all things and he owns all things. As he wills, so all things happen. But especially does he take good care of prayer, his religion, on earth. He, our Lord, brought religion, when he came on earth, when he came to have mercy on us, and he first preached it, when he taught man. But when he wanted to leave the earth, he appointed twelve men, that is, his Apostles, to go about and preach everywhere on earth, and at the same time he told them to appoint everywhere men to preach in their place. And that is what they did, so there were always priests and bishops until this day, and until the end of the world there will always be such everywhere on earth. But he, Jesus, takes good care of religion ; for he said that he would take care of it always. He also appoints bishops; it is his will that there shall always be such in his church. And so he willed also me to be bishop, although I am unworthy, and he gave me all the Christian Indians here, and he wants me to take good care of them, to exhort them well to always practice their religion, to pray well, to behave well until death. And that is now what I shall do as long as I live.

But now I begin, now for the first time, as bishop I address you all together, my children, whom I love ! Listen to me, obey me, ye whom I love ! I want to tell you various good things now. Read well this my letter ; not only once are you to read it, read it often, and do all things as you are now exhorted (to do). But if one cannot read the letter, do you, who can read it, have compassion on him, read all of it to him, tell him all that is in my letter. My children, whom I love, keep always well your religion as long as you shall live on earth. You are happy in having taken the true religion. For man lives not only here on earth, he will live forever after his life on earth is at an end, his soul will live forever. But, our souls will be there forever well off if we are Christians, and if at the same time we live a good life. Therefore keep well your religion that you may be happy forever in heaven, after you have been poor on earth. Never mind another religion ; it is not the right one. Be thankful to God that you were given the true religion, and always keep it well. And pay no attention to Indian-religion (Indian paganism). It is very foolish, God our Lord hates it (Indian religion). A Christian acts very wrong and offends God much if he still minds or resumes what he renounced when he was baptized.

Keep well your religion, my children ; strive after eternal happiness in heaven; for the Lord wants you to be happy forever. All that God did in making heaven and earth and sending his Son on earth, he did all, that thereby his name might be sanctified and men thereby be happy. If man living on earth obeys God, he will receive from Him eternal happiness in heaven, but if he disobeys Him he will not see eternal happiness, but on the contrary, he will suffer, he will suffer greatly, and he will suffer greatly forever. But this is what you should do, my children, whom I love; always obey well Our Lord God, do as you are exhorted ; thereby you will sanctify the name of God and you will make happy your souls. Jesus said : "But one thing is necessary." But what is that? It is that we love and serve God well, and so make happy our souls. No occupation (work) on earth is so important as that, that we serve Our Lord God and so go one day to heaven. That is just for what we are on earth.

Remember, my children, what God has done to give us eternal life in heaven. Namely first, he wants us to live on earth; he gives us religion, the holy sacraments and his grace ; he has given even his Son, whom he loves, to die on the cross in order that we may be happy in heaven forever. Truly, God desires much that we be happy, he prizes highly our happiness. He sacrifices his Son to make our souls happy! My children, may you well understand this, so that you too may prize your happiness as God himself prizes it.

This also remember, my children. If you obtain everlasting happiness in heaven, you yourselves shall be happy, you yourselves have all you shall have gained. God will not be more happy, if you are in heaven, and he will not be less happy if you burn in hell. You alone will have what you have gained. May you well understand this.

Understand also this. If you live justly and so gain everlasting happiness in heaven, you have gained all; you are very happy. But if you are bad, and so do not gain everlasting happiness in heaven, you have lost all, you have ruined all, for nothing else will you be happy (i. e. nothing else will make you happy), you will be very miserable forever in hell. Real happiness is not anywhere here on earth, it is only in heaven. But if you do not gain the happiness that is in heaven, you will suffer forever. It is truly sad. Although a person knows that he is to be only a short time here on earth, he knows that real happiness is not on earth, it is only in heaven ; he really knows all that; but he does not mind it, and he lives so as if he had to live only here on earth and as if he would entirely cease to exist, when he died on earth. You, my children, do you not act so. Understand how it is; understand for what you are on earth. Only for this are you on earth, to gain eternal happiness in heaven. If you really gain it, you will be very happy, even if you are poor on earth. But if you do not gain it, you will be very miserable, even if you are honored on earth, rich, and well. If one is well off on earth but does not mind eternal life and does not strive after it, he will be there the more sad on that account ; for he will think : Truly I have been foolish whilst I lived on earth. I loved only what is on earth, only it I minded. But now I have lost it, but in place of it I have gained everlasting suffering! May you well understand this, my children, may you heed it!

Always truly serve God, whilst you are living a short time on earth ; act well as the Lord likes ; from your whole heart believe all that Jesus taught us when he came to be a short time on earth ; do not reject even one single word. Some things, that Jesus has taught us, are indeed hard (to be comprehended) ; we would be unable to comprehend them, if we were to employ our reason only; our reason is too weak. But let us use faith ; let us strongly believe here on earth all that Jesus said ; there in heaven we shall plainly see how all things are. If something is too difficult for you to understand, think immediately: I indeed do not understand this, I do not know how it is, but God, he knows it. Because he said it, therefore I believe. Afterwards in heaven I shall know all.

Keep well, my children, your faith as long as you live, that God may love you, for St. Paul says: No one will be loved by God, if he does not believe. And Jesus says : "He who will not believe, shall suffer forever in hell." But do not think that faith alone is sufficient for you to gain eternal life in heaven. Protestants believe that; but it is not so. It is written in God's book (holy Bible) : if one believes only, but does not do good at the same time, his faith is dead ; it is of no use. Endeavor with all your heart to keep well your faith, your religion, and at the same time do as your religion teaches you. We are told : "Let your faith be living." If we truly try to live so as our religion teaches us then our faith is living. And a living faith will give us everlasting life in heaven. I exhort you, my children, keep well your faith, your religion ; live according as you hear religious preaching ; and you will he very happy in the kingdom of God. And especially do I exhort you to pray every day, for Our Lord Jesus says: "Pray always, never give up." Always pray well every day, morning and evening, occasionally remember God during the day, do never forget him. If a person does not pray in the morning, he will not be very strong to fight the devil. For he, the devil, wants to give us a bad thought, that we first think evil and so also then do evil. If a person prays well, he will strongly resolve, he will really fight the devil, he will not take bad thoughts from him, and he will not be bad. But if he does not pray, he will not make strong resolutions, but soon fall into sin. Do not be slothful in praying, my children; always pray every day, and at the same time reflect on what you are saying when praying. Instruct well your children in religion. A Christian parent does very bad, if he is slothful in teaching religion to his children. Be not slothful ; you will suffer for it on judgment-day.

Pray well especially on Sundays; do not work then; and enter the church as often as people enter. Love very much the church, for it is God's house on earth. If a person usually enters well God's house on earth, he will enter God's house in heaven after he has ended his life on earth. My children, whom I love, respect God well and always, and glorify him from your whole heart. Never show greater respect to any person on earth than you show to God. Respect and glorify Our Lord God more than all people on earth. But it often happens that a person shows greater respect to people on earth than to God. Reflect that you may understand. If a person converses with a priest, he will not speak ill ; he will not speak immodestly ; he will not say anything bad ; for he respects the priest, who is listening to him. But if he converses with another, who is his comrade in impurity, he will talk various foolish, immodest things. Understand ! Does he not respect more highly the priest than God ? If he is heard by the priest, he does not talk bad, but if he is not heard by him, although he is heard of God, he talks all kinds of bad things. And so he really respects more a person on earth than God. Truly, he acts very wickedly, it is very bad. Hence you are told, my children, respect God more than all the people living on earth. What you would not say, what you would not do before the priest, never say it anywhere else, for Our Lord God is everywhere ; he is always looking at you, he is always listening to you.

If a Christian is told: As you respect the priest so should you also respect God, he should immediately think : too little would I respect God; is God not more to be prized than all priests and bishops? Truly, he is more to be prized, yet he is not respected as much as the priest is respected. A person would not talk bad before a priest, but before God he talks bad very much. It is really sad ! Do not act so, my children. Respect well and glorify very much Our Lord God. Always remember him ; he is everywhere ; he sees you always, he hears you always. Do not act wickedly, for the Lord sees you ; do not talk wickedly, for the Most-High hears you.

Always obey God well, my children. He is highly worthy; he has created all things and to him belong all things. Obey him well. Christians are told to obey even those who are living on earth, namely, children to obey their parents, and servants to obey their masters. Far more are we exhorted to obey God, for to him we all belong entirely.

God always speaks to us in our hearts ; he always tells us that we should hate and shun all that is bad, and on the contrary should do only what is good. If a Christian is inclined to do bad, immediately he is told by God in his heart: don't do that, it is bad, thus he will be told by Him. But if a Christian is inclined to do good, immediately he will be requested by God to do the good. It is thus that God always speaks to us in our hearts. Very happy is the Christian who always listens to God speaking to him.

Again, the Lord speaks to us in sermons. When a Christian listens to a sermon, he really listens to God. Although really the priest preaches, yet he preaches so as Our Lord Jesus preached. And Jesus says: "If one listens to him that preaches, he listens to me myself." My children, whom I love, obey well the priest's preaching; God you will obey. And as often as you confess, receive well all you are told then, do all well, God speaks to you then.

But especially, my children, love God. If a person loves God well, he will do everything right, he will not do anything bad purposely. We are very justly told that we should love Our Lord God, and Jesus teaches us how we should love him ; for he says : "The Lord, thy God, thou shalt love with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with all thy strength," thus says Jesus. Endeavor, my children, to love him so as Jesus teaches us.

With thy whole heart shalt thou love God, says Jesus. If a person loves God more than all that is on earth, and gives his whole heart to God, such a one loves God with all his heart. If one strongly resolves to avoid sin, and if he would rather wish to be killed than do evil purposely, such a one loves God with his whole soul. And if he always remembers God, just as if he saw him, and so at the same time thinks: I will not speak ill and I will not do evil, for the Lord hears and sees me, such a one loves God with his whole mind. If a Christian very strongly resolves to live well, if he always thinks : May I live well, and at the same time really avoids what is bad as much as he can, such a one loves God with all his strength. He indeed is happy who really loves God ! Well now, my children, always endeavor to love God well. But since you love him, hate on the other hand all sins. Especially reject and hate bad drinking ; truly, it is very bad. When a person is drunk, he talks and does various bad things. Hate also adultery and impurity. Fear God, for he always sees us.

My children, whom I love, hate all that is bad, as Our Lord God hates it, but accept, love everything that is good, as God likes; and you will be happy forever in the kingdom of God in heaven.


+ Frederic, Bishop (Great Black-gown).

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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