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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
In the spring of 1857, Father de Gruet, a missionary, embarked for America with many emigrants. Here is an excerpt from the report of his voyage:
“I had the great consolation of saying Holy Mass every day in my cabin. My young companions frequently approached the Holy Table, and many of the emigrants had the same happiness. You would have been edified to see our little altar properly decorated and surmounted by a very beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded by a garland of flowers that several Dutch ladies had taken from their hats. On Sundays, I said mass in the large hall, where more than a hundred people could be seated comfortably; several Protestants had asked to be allowed to attend. Hymns were sung in French, Latin, Dutch and German. It was certainly a rare sight on the ocean, which is much more accustomed to hearing blasphemies than the praises of God.
“On May 2, in the vicinity of the banks of Newfoundland, the sea was covered with a thick fog. It continued for four days, so that the captain could not make any observations. Nothing could be seen within a few feet of the ship. (The area is famous for its reefs and many tragic shipwrecks.) We were in continual danger of colliding with some sailboats following the same course. Therefore, as a precaution, the great whistle of the engine was blown day and night, with its loudest and most piercing sounds, in order to give the alarm to the vessels which might have been in our path.
“However, as we were rapidly approaching land and the fog became more and more intense, it seemed that we must proceed more or less adventurously; and as observations of the meridian had become impossible, we were not without some anxiety. We therefore had recourse to Heaven, and together we said the rosary, the litanies of our good Mother and special prayers to obtain, through the intercession of the souls in purgatory, a serene heaven. Our wishes seemed to be granted. A few hours later, the fog had disappeared, revealing one of the most beautiful evenings that one can behold on the sea: the full moon was reflected on the waves, shining, in all its splendor, at the top of the starry firmament and without the least little cloud. The next day, the sun rose majestically. We could see a great number of ships sailing towards all the points of the compass. Finally, all eyes being directed towards the west, we saw in the distance, above the horizon, a trail of fog rising. The officers apply the spyglass and announce that it is the longed-for coasts of America. Songs, exclamations of joy came from all hearts at once. All the emigrants were grouped together on the deck; all greeted the New World, their promised land, which contains all their hopes and their whole future. As the objects and coasts presented themselves more distinctly to the view, my young companions could not satisfy their eyes, in view of this land to the salvation of which they had come to devote their lives, and on which they will, I hope, be instruments of salvation for thousands of abandoned souls. Before the end of that beautiful day, on the 7th of the month of Mary, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, we were anchored near Staten Island, in the port of New York.”