28 October: memory of the Fr. Champagnat’s encounter with the Young Montagne

The encounter with the young Montagne was an event that profoundly marked Father Champagnat’s life, and clearly brought about the birth of the Marist Institute. Traditionally, on October 28th the memory of this meeting is celebrated. It is a reminder of the importance and urgency of our mission, as relevant today as it was in Father Champagnat’s time.

Inspired by our Founder, who walked for several hours from La Valla to this place, we feel the same call to get going and meet the new Montagnes of today, wherever they may be.

“What burned in Father Champagnat’s heart as he made his way back to La Valla after encountering the young Montagne? What energy pulsed through him, leading him to found the Institute just a few months later? We might ask, are we not called to travel this same road again, allowing ourselves to be deeply challenged by the situation of the young Montagne of today?” (Br. Emili Turú).

Marcellin Champagnat meets the Young Montagne (Furet)

“Something happened in a clearly providential manner, to dispel Father Champagnat’s misgivings and make him decide to go about setting up the Society of Brothers without further delay. He was summoned to a hamlet, one day, in order to hear a sick boy’s confession. As usual, he set out at once. Before proceeding with the confession, he put a few questions to make sure that he was sufficiently instructed to receive the sacraments. To his great surprise, the child knew nothing about the principal mysteries and, in fact, did not even know whether God existed. Greatly upset at finding a twelve-year-old in such ignorance and fearing that he would die in such a state, he sat down beside him to teach him the mysteries and truths necessary for salvation. It took him two hours for the instruction and confession. It was extremely difficult to impart, even the most fundamental truths, to a child who was so sick that he scarcely grasped what was being said.

Having heard his confession and helped him make several acts of love of God and of contrition as preparation for death, the priest left him, to minister to a sick person in an adjoining house. As he went out, he asked after the sick youth, to be told by his tearful parents that he had died a moment after the priest’s departure. Then he felt an upsurge of joy at having been there so opportunely, but it was mingled with a shudder of dread at the danger run by the poor boy, whom he had perhaps just snatched from the gates of hell.

He went home overwhelmed by those feelings and saying over and over to himself: “How many children are in the same predicament every day, exposed to the same dangers because they have no-one to teach them the truths of faith!” Then he became obsessed, with overwhelming intensity, by the thought of founding a Society of Brothers to obviate such disasters through the Christian education of children. The result was that he went off to see John-Mary Granjon and tell him everything that he planned to do. He explained to him all the good that his projected Institute was capable of achieving and asked him if he would like to be part of it and dedicate himself to the education of children.” (Life of blessed Marcellin Joseph Benedict Champagnat – Br. Jean-Baptiste Furet – 1856).


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