2020-05-20 FRANCE

Celebration of the birth of Marcellin Champagnat

On May 20, 1789 – the year the French Revolution began – Marcellin Joseph Benito Champagnat was born. The place is a modest house built with stones, in the village of Rosey, which is now the property of the commune of Marlhes, 900 metres above sea level, located in the rural canton of Saint-Genest Malifaux. The largest urban centre is 23 km away, in Saint-Etienne, on the south-eastern border of the Department of Loire. At that time, approximately 2,700 inhabitants lived in Marlhes. This was a region that was cold and not very fertile , and when Champagnat was born, there was a high rate of infant mortality (30% of annual deaths) and also a very high rate of youth mortality.

About 60% of the population were farmers. It is in this typical rural context that we find the family of Jean-Baptiste Champagnat, the father of Marcellin, a small merchant and farmer, who came to hold public office during the Revolution. His mother, Marie-Thérèse Chirat, was a housewife and took care of the couple’s nine children. After Marcellin, the tenth child was born.

Years later, Father Marcellin Champagnat would recall his childhood in the request for recognition of the Institute sent to King Louis-Philippe. The letter reads as follows:

Born in the canton of St. Genêt Malifaux, department of the Loire, it was only with infinite difficulty that I was able to read due to a lack of qualified teachers: from that moment I felt the urgent need for an institution which could, with less expense, do in the rural areas what the Brothers of the Christian Schools do in the cities” (Letters, No. 34)

Virtual Pilgrimage

To celebrate the birth of the founder by making a pilgrimage to Rosey and Marlhes is a call to meet our origins. As we contemplate this land, its buildings and its meanings, we are invited to glimpse new dreams for the present day, just as Marcellin Champagnat did in his time.

Today and in the coming months, the Network of Marist Memory Centres invites the Marist family worldwide to make a pilgrimage to the places of the Institute’s foundation. One might ask: how can this be, if the pandemic has made travel impossible? In reality, we will travel together through the Virtual Pilgrimage project, connecting our minds and hearts through the experience of a 360° virtual tour. The pilgrimage can be conducted using smart phones, tablets, virtual reality glasses or computers. In all the tours, the pilgrim will find historical information in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, as well as environmental sounds (the murmur of the Gier, the birds, the bells…) and beautiful musical paths.

To celebrate Marcellin’s birth, the first virtual pilgrimage will be to the village of ROSEY and the church of MARLHES.

Follow the instructions:

1) To participate using smart phones and tablets: point the camera at the QR code that appears. Accept to open the link presented.

2) With the computer: click on the links below. Depending on the type of web browser, you will need to enable “play / allow sound automatically”.

These services are offered by the Marist Memorial of Curitiba.


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