10 April 2011

For missionaries, chess is risky

I have recently been reading through the first volume (of three) of the letters of Father P. Francis Solano Hilchenbach, O.F.M. (1859-1898), a German friar who served in the Sacred Heart Provice whose motherhouse is in St. Louis, Missouri.

Throughout his short life he wrote many letters that were translated by Father August Reyling, O.F.M.  His letters make a fascinating read and are filled with tales both humorous and informative.

Consider this story about a friar who worked with the Indians (whom Father Hilchenbach, in 1883, had not yet seen; I don't know yet if he ever did see an Indian):
He had lived all alone in his hut, suffering privations which are almost unbelievable and yet are true.  For his recreation he now and then played chess with himself.  The Indians are nosy as children, and they became even more inquisitive when they heard loud talking inside his hut (perhaps he was praying his Breviary alout), although they knew that he was all alone with his house-cat.  So they once spied on him, and when they saw him sitting at his chess-board with all those curious figures, they were firmly convinced that the Black-robe (better, the Brown-robe) was a sorcerer.  Naturally, they did not want to have any more dealings with him, and so the Father hand to leave (To Reverend Joseph Lappe, Drolshagen, Germany, from St. Louis, December 23, 1883).

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