Letters of Marcellin – 045

Marcellin Champagnat

1834-09-08

We have two texts of this letter in our archives. The first (A) is a rough draft in the notebook labelled Champagnat N 1. The second (B) is a good copy written on the first two pages of a folded sheet of stationery. The latter is dated but unsigned. It was certainly not sent, perhaps because it contains a number of repetitions. Father Champagnat probably wrote a corrected third draft to be sent. The text given by Bro. Avit includes the changes found in text B, but it is highly unlikely that the use of the imperfect subjunctive there came from the pen of the Founder.

Since writing the preceding letter, he had just learned that the Vicar General had been in Saint-Chamond. He had also just received a letter from Fr. Colin (cf. OM, I, doc. 322, pp. 722-723) saying he was very much in favor of transferring the Fathers from Valbenoîte to La Grange-Payre. In his eagerness to see his project, now approved by his superior, carried to completion, he feels compelled to insist on it, by explaining his point of view more thoroughly.

A

Father Vicar General,

I would have very much liked to see you when you were in St-Chamond, to hear your answer to my letter. I repeat here all the offers I had to honor to make in favor of my confrères. If they come to La Grange-Payre, I will let them have all the income from that property, which comes to 1500 francs, not counting the use of the building, on which I will have the initial repairs made.

I see clearly that the work of the priests will sink right to the bottom in Valbenoîte. My God, what are you asking of me.

There is nothing I am not prepared to sacrifice to save the work of Mary from shipwreck. I assure you that I still believe, even more than ever, that God wants this work, but in another context
than the one it is now in.

Self-interest and the desire to become rich will destroy every-
thing.

Those to whom Jesus Christ freely gives his Body and Blood every day are afraid that he will not give them what he gives to the lowest animals. My God, do not permit such men ever to enter the Society of Mary. Father Vicar General, I have no intention of judging any of my confrères, who always edified me when I was fortunate enough to have them with me. I only want to criticize those who talk this way about them.

Gather us all in a house which is dependent only on our worthy archbishop and on the local superior. Do not involve us in any way in a secular ministry. Do not divide us any longer as was done in the past. To be able to accept a subject, we had to argue at sword-point, and even then we could have him only on condition that one of us go serve as curate.

If Fathers Pompallier, SĂ©on, Foret and Bourdin, or someone from Belley in place of the latter, be brought together, living under the same rule, having no other ministry in the meantime than retreats or brief missions in the countryside, you will see that things will get off to a fresh start.

We will not lack anything, neither personnel nor material resources. Quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum. All our brothers say the same thing. They would all be ready to let the fathers of the Society take over the Hermitage if necessary. They will sign all the cessions which I am offering myself in order to put the priests of the Society in a better position. May Gods will be done in all of this.

B

J.M.J.

Notre-Dame de lHermitage, 8th September 1834

Father Vicar General,

I would have very much liked to see you when you were in
St-Chamond, in order to have an answer to my letter. I repeat here all the offers I had the honor to make to you on behalf of my confrères if they come to La Grange-Payre. I will cede all the income from that property, which is fifteen hundred francs, and the use of the building, on which I will have the initial repairs made.

I see beyond doubt that the work of the priests in Valbenoîte is going to sink right to the bottom, because they are in an equivocal position. There is no sacrifice which I am not ready to make for my confrères success. Self-interest and possessiveness will ruin everything. God forbid that I should judge my confrères. Their disinterestedness and devotedness, during the time I had the honor of having them with me, edified me too much for that. I only want to criticize those who talk that way about them.

To think that those to whom Jesus Christ gives his Body and his Blood so generously every day would fear that he would refuse them what he gives with scrupulous care to the lowest animals. My God, never let such men ever enter the Society of Mary. I have no intention here of judging any of my confrères; they all edified me too much for that, when I had the honor of having them with me. I only want to criticize those who talk that way about them. Do not ask His Lordships Council for anything (I mean any salary for us); ask only that our priests be all united in one retreat house, independent of any secular ministry, doing work appropriate to their position, under the direction of the elder Fr. Colin, if His Lordship is willing to give him to us.

Soon, Fr. Vicar General, soon you will see our numbers increase; dispersion destroyed everything, but unification will solve everything; the result will be for the glory of God.

I promise you once again that I will never let my confrères lack anything, even if I had to sell my last shirt; I say this with tears in my eyes.

You know better than I that a fish cannot live long out of water. Only seclusion and meditation on the great truths can maintain religious spirit.

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 autographe AFM, 132.1, pp. 41.43 et une lettre autographe, AFM, 113.5 éditée dans OM, I, doc. 323, pp. 724-728 et dans AAA, pp. 146-147

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