Letters of Marcellin – 044

Marcellin Champagnat

1834-08

Father Champagnat, who was constantly preoccupied about the establishment of the Society of Marist Fathers in the diocese of Lyons, believed that the house in Valbenoite was not suitable for their residence. Then an opportunity presented itself. In her will, written on 15th May 1833, Mademoiselle Marie Fournas (cf. L. 27 and biographical sketch), who died on 3rd June 1833, had bequeathed to Fr. Champagnat her property, known as La Grange-Payre. He quickly suggested it as a residence for the Fathers, but his plan never materialized (cf. Life, pp. 199.200).

A letter from Fr. Colin, dated 4th September 1834 (cf. AM, 1, doc. 322) helps us to date this one approximately in August.

Father Vicar General,

Since the glory of God is my only aim in writing this letter, I will adore his plans, whatever the outcome. The situation my confrères are in Valbenoîte is anything but comfortable. The functions of parish priest and curate there are unsuitable for the society, especially given the position the priests are in.

The administration of the parish takes up all their time and could take up even more. The best subjects lose their vocation there; those who feel some attraction for religious life do not dare come forward, for fear of being assigned there as curate.

Those who are there want to get out, saying that they cannot work at their own formation, nor prepare any sermons; in a word, they cannot do anything which would be helpful for a missionary.

I am not talking about recollection, which is almost always lost amid the arguments one is obliged to have with this one or that one, and very often with ones co-workers. What a sad situation they get themselves into by buying the parish priests stipends and stole fees: a new source of quarrels with either Fr. Rouchon or with the parishioners. Can he help blaming the way they are collected, or their supposed rigidity in doing so? The parish will soon be on their backs.

How many things might be said about this arrangement! The contract is no further advanced than it was the first day. Some people even think that Fr. Rouchon is taking steps to break it. On the other hand, the clergy of St-Etienne were warned from the beginning against this ministry. Finally, my confrères told me that they had not received a single gift since they have been in Valbenoîte.

Father Vicar General, I am touched by the sad state which I think the condition of the priests in the diocese has reached, so I come to offer His Lordship the Archbishop, for the greater glory of God and the honor of Mary, the property of La Grange-
Payre, which is a delightful location, both because of the extent of its buildings, and the immense amount of adjoining property. There is no sacrifice which I am not ready to make for this work, which I will see in another light when it is is under the direction of a holy priest whom His Lordship is very willing to give us, and with whom I will get along perfectly. I promise to do much more, relying always on Providence, which has never let us down. I dare say I have resources, or better yet, Mary has great ones for those who count on her.

And that, Father Vicar General, is what I thought I ought to let you know, so as not to miss an opportunity to further a project to which I have dedicated myself for such a long time. Having brought you up to date on all these circumstances, I will adore the plans of God no matter what happens, and have no reason to blame myself.

Supposing that my proposition is accepted, Fr. Séon could be left at Valbenoîte, to take care of the home for young people with Fr. Rouchon. That, it seems to me, would settle everything. The project of the priests would no longer be sacrificed. Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam. Non nobis, Domine, non nobis gloriam.

Edition: Translation from: Lettres de Marcellin J. B. Champagnat (1789-1840) Fondateur de l?Institut des Frères Maristes, présentés par Frère Paul Sester,1985.

fonte: Daprès la minute, AFM, 132.1, pp. 38-40; éditée dans OM, I, doc. 321, pp. 719-721

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