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2 January 1817

01/01/2018: General House

On January 2nd, 1817, Marcellin Champagnat founded in La Valla, France, the lay religious Institute, or religious Institute of Brothers, under the name of Little Brothers of Mary. He saw it as forming a branch of the Society of Mary.

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Our beginnings were shaped by the caring relationship between a young country priest and a group of young people, living in a time of great social turmoil. The priest was Marcellin Champagnat; the young people were Jean-Marie Granjon, Jean-Baptiste Audras, Jean-Claude Audras, Antoine Couturier, Barthélemy Badard, Gabriel Rivat, and Jean- Baptiste Furet. They became our founding community at La Valla.

Simple and uneducated men, they lived with great simplicity and unity. Their day was spent in learning how to write, read and teach, and in manual work that sustained them economically. They lived in the midst of the people and shared their lot.

Ever more deeply they discovered the presence of God in their midst, and learnt to rely upon Providence. Together they developed a thirst for Jesus and for following him in Mary’s way. They developed a love of Mary as a sure way of centring their hearts on Jesus. They competed with each other to help someone in need.

Like Mary setting out in haste to the hill country, each week they went out into the surrounding hamlets to make Jesus known and loved. They cared for poor children and welcomed them into their home.

The group’s way of living the Gospel was a reflection of the character, values, and spirituality of its leader, Marcellin Champagnat. His spirituality was deeply influenced by his own personality. His first disciples remembered with affection the Marcellin they knew: open, frank, resolute, courageous, enthusiastic, constant and equable.His whole life gave witness of a person with a practical disposition, a man of action, and of humility. This enabled him to draw together from various sources a simple and down-to-earth spirituality.

Key among the formative influences that shaped his spirituality was Marcellin’s personal experience of being loved intensely by Jesus and called by Mary. An incident early in 1823 (“Memorare in the Snow”) was understood by Marcellin and his Brothers as highly significant. Marcellin and Stanislaus were lost in a snow storm. With his companion unconscious at his feet, Marcellin believed that if Mary does not come to our aid, we are lost. Placing his life in God´s hands, he prayed the Memorare. His prayer to Mary was miraculously answered. Marcellin and his first Brothers saw in this incident a deeper reality: God‘s choice of them to share in the same mission that was entrusted to Mary.

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Water from the Rock, 2-7

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