Letters of Marcellin – 109

Marcellin Champagnat

1837-05-16

Volume IV of Origines Maristes, pp. 280-282, gives enough details about Fr. Fontbonne for us to understand the context in which this letter was written. Without saying much about eventually sending brothers to the United States, Fr. Champagnat spends much more time giving news of the whole Society, to a man whom he still considers as one of its members and whom he wants to confirm as such.

J.M.J.

My very dear Father Fontbonne,

I was really pleased to receive the letter you were good enough to write me. Since your departure, I have always very much wanted to hear from you, and I was extremely interested in whatever I learned from others.

Our Society is growing more and more; we are now 176 brothers and a good number of novices, all of whom seem very devoted. We are always repairing or building, and still we are cramped for space.
We have made neither peace nor truce with the rocks of the Hermitage, we turn the soil, plant grapevines, and try to make the whole property productive.

Our new chapel was blessed by Bishop Pompallier before his departure for Polynesia. He also confirmed those of our brothers who had not received the sacrament. You cannot imagine what emulation the mission of Polynesia has aroused among the people. Everyone envies the good fortune of those who were chosen to be the first of our association to go to those islands. Our brothers said goodbye to them in hopes of going to join them soon.

I think you will enjoy reading the letter which one of our brothers wrote us from Le Havre:

How happy I feel, Father, to have been chosen (unworthy as I am) to be one of the first Brothers of Mary to bring the light of the gospel to savage peoples. May God be blessed! He gave me my vocation and he helps me to follow it. I am very happy to be going, and I can sincerely say I would not give up my place in exchange for a throne. I am not afraid at all, since Mary, our good Mother, will be my guide in all my actions and my refuge in all my troubles. Father, I would like to be able to wish you a happy New Year in person, and all my brothers too, but circumstances wont allow me to satisfy that desire. Please accept my good wishes….

This letter was sent to us several days before they left Le Havre. They had had to wait several months for favorable weather for setting sail. The day they did so, they escaped, almost miraculously, a violent storm which sank several other ships but of which they were totally unaware. A little while ago, we learned that they had landed in the Canary Islands to recaulk the ship, and that they were all in good health.

The work of the priests is constantly growing. We have acquired a very large house in Lyons for our novitiate. At our meeting to elect a Superior General for the Society of Mary, after several days of retreat, the 22 priests of the society made their perpetual vows and Fr. Colin was confirmed in the position of Superior General of the Society of Mary. So here we are religious in the full sense of the term. Please God, we will show the results of it.

We have the consolation of seeing our establishments improving. Right now there are 33 of them. Several are scheduled for the coming year, and we cannot protect ourselves from the repeated requests we get from all over to send brothers. We would gladly send some to America to cooperate in the zeal of the good missionaries, if it were possible. We hope that Divine Providence will smooth out the difficulties for us and offer us the means to come to you, when the times and moments the Father has set in his sovereign power have arrived.

All the members of our Society who have been fortunate enough to know you send you their greetings and friendship. Father Superior and the parish priest of Izieux told me to be sure to tell you in this letter how touched they were by your asking to be remembered to them. Fr. Rouchon told me that he had not received your first letter. I gave him the one you sent me, which made him very happy; it gave him material for a talk in which he recommended to his parishioners not to forget you in their prayers. Your memory is still cherished by the older brothers at the Hermitage; they were very eager and very pleased to get news about you.

We still consider you a missionary priest of the Society of Mary. We regretted that you could not be with us for the happy events which followed our authorization by the Court of Rome.

In the unity of the same Spirit, we all recommend ourselves to your prayers, desiring to participate fully in the merit of your work for the glory of God and the honor of our common Mother. May the Society of Mary perfectly fulfill Gods plans for it and deserve to be associated with those evangelical workers of whom it is written: Euntes ibant et flebant, mittentes semina sua; venientes autem venient cum exultatione portantes manipulos suos.

Please accept the assurance of my sincere attachment and the affection with which I have the honor to be, my very dear confrère, your most devoted,

Champagnat
Sup. M.B.

N.D. de lHermitage, 16th May 1837

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, RCLA 1, pp. 40-42, nº 34, éditée dans CSG 1, pp. 222-225, et dans AAA pp. 218-219

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