Letters of Marcellin – 055

Marcellin Champagnat

1835-03-29

We have no idea why Fr. Colin would have asked Fr. Champagnat about the requirements for admission to his congregation. We have no letter in which such a request was made, so he must have made it verbally. Did Fr. Colin want the information for himself? We have no justification for saying so; normally, one would think he knew the conditions already, at least in their broad outlines. Had someone asked him for them? If so, why did that person not write directly to Fr. Champagnat? We can only make conjectures. But in any case, this letter shows Fr. Colins interest in the Little Brothers of Mary.

As for the business of caring for sacristies, that undoubtedly came from Bishop Devie through Fr. Colin. Had the bishop expressly asked for the Brothers of Mary, or was he thinking of the Joseph Brothers? We have no way of telling, since there is no documentation available. This request also must have been made verbally. All we know is the final decision, which Fr.
Colin communicated to Fr. Champagnat in his letter of 23rd April 1835 (OM, I, doc. 336, p. 758).

29th March 1835

Father Superior,

Young men who wish to enter the congregation must give good reason to hope that during their novitiate they will acquire the virtues required for the religious state, as well as the talents needed for the type of work for which each one is destined.

The novitiate lasts two years, and part of it is spent in an establishment of the society, gaining practical experience either of teaching or of cooking, and thus giving proof of a real vocation. We require everyone, on entering, to pay at least one-fourth of his room and board, plus twenty-five francs for books, paper, etc., which are supplied by the society. We give them the habit only when they have paid for their novitiate and acquired the required wardrobe. If someone leaves, we keep, out of what he gave us, only a pro rata amount for the time he spent in the novitiate. Those who enter are not allowed to keep either a watch or money. Their clothing is given to the brother tailor, who every Saturday gives each one what he needs, and on Monday takes back the things which were used on Sunday. Everything is kept under lock and key.

The wardrobe and the first habit are estimated to cost 400 francs. Therefore, those who bring no clothing pay 600 francs. If someone cannot pay anything, but we feel sure of his vocation, we make him promise that if he ever leaves the society of his own volition, or if he is sent away because of misconduct, he will repay the society out of his future earnings. Each one must also bring a copy of his baptismal certificate and his birth certificate.

Before admission to the novitiate, the candidate must answer the following questions:
1º What are his place of origin, his family name and Christian names, those of his father and mother, their occupation, their age, and their place of residence?
2º Was he born within wedlock?
3º What is his parents occupation or position? Do they earn their own living, or are they so much in need that they need their son in order to survive?
4º At what age did the young man make his first communion? Was it postponed after he had been approved to make it?
5º Has he always lived with his parents? If not, at what age did he leave home? Why? Has he worked for someone else? How long did he work for this person? What kind of work did he do for him?
6º Is their any disrepute attached to his family, either because of their occupation or because of some crime?
7º How many brothers and sisters does he have? Are they comfortably well-off?
8º Did he himself earn the money he is contributing toward his novitiate expenses? Or is one of his relatives or some stranger paying for him? Why, if he has exercised some profession, or if he worked for someone else, why, I say, has he not earned anything? What has he done with his savings?

One should have great consideration for someone who pays out of what he has put aside, or if, having nothing, he has taken care of a poor father or mother.

9º How well off are his parents?
10º What did he do for a living after leaving his parents?
11º Does he have a sound constitution? a good temperament? Is he robust?
12º Is he good-humored?
13º Is he physically healthy? Does he suffer from scrofula?
chest problems? bad breath?
14º Does his family have a history of lung problems?
15º Does he have good eyesight? Does he have a good reputation?
16º Is he educated? What grounds does he have to claim exemption from military service?
17º Has he continued to frequent the sacraments since making his first communion?
18º Who advised him to enter religious life? How long has he been thinking about it? Has he talked it over with God and with his confessor? Finally, what makes him want to leave the world?
19º Does he perhaps think he will have to work less in religious life than in the world? That he will have an easier life? That he will have nothing else to do but pray, go to Mass, etc., etc.?
20º Has he already belonged to some other community? In that case, he could be admitted only for very serious reasons.
21º If the young postulant has not reached his majority, he must have the consent of his parents.
22º Has he ever had to beg? Are his parents still begging?
23º If the postulant asks for advice about which institute he should enter, he must be given the name of another which is more deserving of his confidence than our own. However, if he still shows a preference for the Society of Mary, especially because of our patroness, he must be welcomed, and shown how well-placed his confidence is, since he places it in the Mother of God.
24º If the novice does not pay anything, he must be asked to write out an I.O.U., or to sign in the register a promise to pay if he leaves the society; his parents should also sign it if possible.

I still think that that business of the sacristy for our brothers will create many problems for us. Do what you can to get out of it. We will do what we can to give you someone at All Saints, whom you can count on for your novitiate if you have a sufficient number of novices.

Brother Anthelme seems to be doing better and better, thank God. I am still awaiting your order to send you Brother Joseph-Eugène.

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: D?après l?expédition autographe, AFM 113.6

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