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April 18 - 20 years of the
Canonization of Marcellin Champagnat


 


 



 


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Saint Opportuna, Virgin and Abbess

Marist Calendar - April

Marist Bulletin - Number 231

 

Brother Basilio Rueda Guzmán and Brother François
18/01/2006

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François and Basilio, two Superior Generals on the pathway to canonisation: François, direct inheritor of Marcellin, and Basilio, he who, in the years that followed the II Vatican Council, had to tackle a great work or renovation of the religious life, the style of life that is ours today.
In 2006, we enter the 125th anniversary of the death of Brother François and the 10th anniversary of the death of Brother Basilio. Basilio died on the 21st January 1996 and François on the 22nd January 1881. It is good to celebrate them both together; they lived the same Marist ideal and are for us models of fraternity.

1. Their work
Many testimonies tell us how Brother Basilio was a great worker. Night, for him, was made for work; sometimes it would be four oclock in the morning and believing it useless to go to bed for one hour, he would go to the chapel and there, in adoration, wait for the community. Sister Maria de la Eucharistia, Provincial of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Ecuador accommodated the team for the Better World Movement of which Basilio was in charge; in a letter she wrote to him in Rome, she implored him to ensure that the light of his lamp not be confused with that of the dawn. Basilio, himself, recognised that he was burning the candle at both ends and that the price would be a shorter life. He would leave no letter without a response, or a brother in his problems: he would do all he possibly could to meet him and comfort him. He preached hundreds of retreats on prayer and wrote circulars, long or short but always profound and able to nourish the apostolic and spiritual life of the brothers. He was always ready for service and love. He would say Love gives, it does not ask for anything! He also gave himself without counting the cost. (Time of silence)
Brother François was Superior General for 20 years, He received from Marcellin a Congregation of 280 brothers and 48 schools; he placed in the hands of Brother Louis Marie a Congregation of 2086 brothers and 379 schools. With these numbers, we must consider the new houses of formation that had to be opened, the formators to be prepared, the young brothers to follow, a dense correspondence and formalities for the foundation of each new school and with what prudence he would have to advance. Under Brother François our Congregation covered all of France and overlapped into Belgium and England with the missions in Oceania continuing. He submitted his resignation in 1860 because he had exhausted all his strength in this astonishing growth of the Congregation. He would often end his letters with words of affection such as, You know well brothers that I have always loved you tenderly! He also burned the candle at both ends.

2. The Founder: love and imitation
Inheritors of Marcellin, François and Basilio understood that they had to know his heart and spirit and to bring this to life in their lives in order to live his charism, his mission and the family that he had founded.
When the painter Ravery brought the portrait of Marcellin to the Hermitage, Brother François made the decision to be the living portrait of the Founder. The decree of heroicity of virtues says: Brother François sought with all his energy to be the living image of Father Champagnat, by the love of Jesus in the Eucharist, the imitation of the Blessed Virgin, thanksgiving for blessings received… Merciful, good, loving towards all especially the young, the poor, the sick, he knew how to encourage and comfort them… In the soul of François showed that of Marcellin.
Let us read the first circular of Brother Basilio, from the 2nd January 1968, the part that has as its title The Calls of the Founder. We discover here the depth to which Marcellin had entered the mind and heart of Brother Basilio. Looking at Marcellin as a formator he wrote: It is probable that few things define Champagnat better than his capacity and his style as formator of men in religious life. This was his passion, his vehement desire to gather spiritual sons capable of assuring his work and to lead it to a good end. In reading his life or the biographies of his first brothers one does not know what to admire the most: the strength and plenitude of human values that he forged in them, or the intense spiritual life, the docility to the divine will, the hunger for intimacy with God and the generosity of responses that he knew how to inspire in them… And this text is quoted in the book Basilio another Champagnat.
Basilio and François invite us to this intimacy with Marcellin who is love, understanding of Marist graces and it is he who forges our identity and our spirituality. Communion with Marcellin places them in the life-giving breath of the Spirit.

3. Mary in their life
Two persons directed François strongly towards the Mother of Jesus: his mother who consecrated him often to Mary and Father Champagnat who made the Good Mother a central element of our identity. Brother François often expressed his love to the Mother of the Lord and did so sometimes in very inspired terms: Go to Mary in all confidence, for there is nothing that she cannot do with the spirit of her Divine Son who is so much hers that she has him at her disposal, that she uses his power as something that is hers and she applies it to what she wants, as Jesus loves Mary and it is love that is the source of this power. He confided in us: The day of the Immaculate Conception, I have resolved to aim at perfection in each of my actions.
Basilio, we know, wrote the circular A New Space for Mary. This circular opened a current of joy in the Congregation after the troubled time that followed the Council. But Brother Basilio urged the Congregation to contemplate Mary as the woman of faith, the blessed for having believed. He put Mary of the Gospels into the hearts of the brothers. It was the most beautiful gift that he could give to Marcellins disciples and we can imagine that it was Mary of the Gospels who lived in the heart and the prayer of Brother Basilio.

4. Jesus in the life of Brother François and of Brother Basilio
In the message of the XX General Chapter one of the passages that we feel is the most just and the post pressing is that which asks us to centre passionately our lives and our communities on Jesus Christ, as Mary did.
Brother François and Brother Basilio have preceded us on this journey.
In the life of Brother François the centrality of Jesus emerged often:

He who has known Jesus Christ…cannot pay attention to what accommodates him or what bothers him… he can only think about his attachment to Jesus Christ.
It is especially in communion that, united intimately to Jesus, we become one body and one spirit with him, that we live his life…
At the time that may be considered as the turning point of his life, the Spiritual exercises of 1951 when preparing for final profession, Brother Basilio wrote a long and insistent prayer to Jesus:
Yes, Jesus, I want, I desire to love you more and more. I want to love you without measure, with all my strength, with an intense love, generous, true, with a passionate love.
I want my life to be a cry of love towards you who is my all. May each beat of my heart, may each breath, may every action and exercise of my bodily or spiritual faculties say to you, Lord, I love you and I want to live for you.
I want to speak to you constantly of love.
I want to love you, Lord, because you are infinitely lovable, because you are immensely worthy of love.
I want to love you in gratitude for the love that you have had for me…
Make me understand this love fully so that I can love you more and more.

5. Gabriel Rivat: Brother François - The key events of his life
· 1808 - March 12 - birth at the hamlet of Maisonettes in the commune of La Valla, France. At his baptism he is given the name, Gabriel.
· 1813 - At the Valfleury sanctuary, his mother consecrates him to the Blessed Virgin.
· 1818, May 6 - enters the Congregation at ten years of age
· 1819, September 8 - commits himself to the Congregation by the promise of obedience, taking the name François out of love for his mother, Françoise Boiron.
· 1826 - make his perpetual vows.
· 1839, August 12 - elected Director General and thereby replaces Marcellin.
· 1852 - becomes Superior General.
· 1852-1854 - General Chapter: Common Rules, School Guide, Constitutions, Rules of Government.
· 1858 - François and his General Administration move to Saint-Genis-Laval.
· 1860 - resigns from office and retires at the Hermitage
· 1876 - suffers a stroke and is paralyzed on his right side.
· 1881, January 22 - dies at the Hermitage
· 1912-1932 - First steps on behalf of Br. François cause of canonization are begun at Lyon.
· 1968, July 4 - Pope Paul VI issues the Decree regarding the Heroicity of the Virtues and the accompanying title of Venerable.

6. Br. Basilio - Biographical Profile
· 1924 - 16 October: Brother Basilio is born in Acatlán de Juarez, Mexico. Hes the fourth child in the family. At his baptism he receives the names José Basilio. Hes only four years old when he loses his mother.
· 1942 - In the month of July he enters the Marist Brothers juniorate in Tlalpán. He makes his first vows on 8 December 1944 and his perpetual profession on 1 January 1950.
· 1947 - He starts his apostolic career. He immediately gets into groups of Catholic action. He animates catechesis in working-class neighbourhoods. He plays an important role in organising the Christian Cursillos. At the same time he continues his studies in Philosophy and on 17 December 1961 he defends his Masters thesis in Philosophy on the theme Being and Value.
· 1961-65 - He becomes a member of Father Ricardo Lombardis team in the Better World movement. In Ecuador he will be the director general. He gave retreats and conferences that were very appreciated by assorted audiences: workers, politicians, churchmen and consecrated persons.
· 1966-67 - Hes appointed the Director of the second novitiate in Spain, first in Sigüenza, then at the Escorial. He revolutionises the courses by introducing modern ideas, exacting a higher literary standard, a greater focus on the Gospels, opening up to the appeals of the Council and to the problems of a changing world. The Second Novices are very fond of him. His success in all areas earns him a nomination as a delegate to the 1967 General Chapter.
· 1966 - On 24 September, hes elected as the new Superior General for a first term of 9 years. He immediately starts visiting his Brothers throughout the world. He entrusts his Vicar General, Brother Quentin Duffy with the care of the Institute and he personally assumes the pastoral care: visiting communities, spending a lot of time meeting and listening to the Brothers or writing to them. The time that followed the Council is a difficult one: the world, the Church, even the consecrated life are rapidly changing, in the midst of an anti-establishment youth and a generation of worried adults. Basilio will be a great God-given for our Congregation which, thanks to him, adjusts to the various changes recently introduced by the Vatican Council. By nature, hes open to all healthy novelty and often hes ahead of it. During that period he writes outstanding Circulars: A Chapter for Todays World, Calls from the Church and our Founder, A Conversation on Prayer, Community Life. The latter proved to be a masterpiece read and studied by many other religious congregations. Brother Basilio had only started work on another Circular, New Room for Mary.
· 1976 - Against his expectation, Brother Basilio was reelected as the Superior General by a large majority. As he had already done, he will plunge himself body and soul into visits, animations of retreats, spiritual directions. The Congregation gets used to a Superior General who works every night until 2 or 3 in the morning. The circular The Project for Community Life appears. The Superior wanted his communities to live more according to the Gospel and to respond to the needs of the people of today. His circular on Obedience is a treasure of information on religious life. New Room for Mary offers many exegetical perspectives ahead of the time. The Circular on Prayer will become one of the most appreciated ones. Finally, the one on Fidelity will be his swan song: the great Magnificat for the entire Marist Congregation to read and sing.
· 1985 - After the General Chapter he enjoys a sabbatical year and has the fortune of visiting the Holy Land. He had been the Superior General for eighteen years, during a very difficult era of the Church. He covered thousands of kilometres, wrote almost 2,500 pages of Circulars and more than 50,000 letters, welcomed thousands of Brothers and personally accompanied hundreds of them. At his reelection in 1976 a Vatican higher-up telephoned the Mother House: You have just saved your Congregation! Back in Mexico, he will become the Master of Novices for the Province of Central Mexico.
· 1990 - He teaches an 18-month course for future Masters of Novices, in Oasi, near Lake Albano (Italy).
· 1991-96 - He once again takes up his role as Master of Novices for the two Mexican Provinces. In the midst of these young men hes a father, a formator, a brother and a real friend. He creates wide spaces for freedom, joy, family, and intimacy with God, all in simplicity.
· 1996 - On January 21 he enters his final Easter by returning to the Father. His burial Mass is celebrated on 23 January 1996: its an apotheosis of thanksgiving and love. His remains rest in the house of La Quinta Soledad, Provincial House of Mexico Central.

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