Letters of Marcellin – 305

Marcellin Champagnat


On 18th October 1837 (L. 143) Bishop Devie had requested the establishment of a novitiate in St-Didier; but first the buildings had to be renovated to accommodate the novices. Besides, the project included accepting boarders, something in which the brothers were more interested than in a novitiate. None the less, an honest effort was made, but it left Fr. Champagnat convinced, for the reasons he sets forth here, that the arrangement was not ideal for that sort of institution. So a novitiate was begun; but it was quickly seen that it would be incompatible with the school, especially with the boarding school, which was already planned for and in which we were more interested. It was therefore abandoned, which offended His Lorship. Then His Grandeur abandoned us and supported the Brothers of the Cross and those of the Holy Family, who were getting started in his diocese (Annales de St-Didier, AFM, 214.74, p. 20).

My Lord,

I very much regret my inability, at the time of the retreat, to find an opportunity to present you my respects and to share with you in person my observations about the novitiate in St-Didier.

In conformity with the wish Your Grandeur expressed, whether through Father Superior, or in my various contacts with you, I increased the personnel of St-Didier so that the Brother Director could devote himself more fully to the care of the novices. He wrote me that he had received several and I was very pleased to hear it, but I very much fear that the novitiate will not be able to get solidly established amid the routine of the classes and the boarding school. We have learned from experience that these different works cannot be combined in the same house. In the beginning, we started off at the Hermitage by accepting some outside students and some boarders. We found ourselves obliged to give it up, since they caused the loss of a good number of novices and did evident harm to everyone. We were even obliged to separate the postulants totally from the brothers. This was the only way we could put order into our house and preserve our subjects.

A outstanding priest from the diocese of Grenoble, having begun an establishment in La Côte-St-André on exactly the same basis as the one in St-Didier, also wanted to add a novitiate to it. We gave in at his insistence, but he was the first to recognize from experience that it could not work, and he wrote us that he would limit himself to preparing subjects for the society, on condition that we give some to the diocese in proportion to those we receive from it.

My Lord, it is not that we refused to begin the novitiate which Your Grandeur wants, but after much reflection and careful study, we do not believe it will succeed on the basis on which this establishment now stands. However, we will try it if Your Grandeur is still of a mind to do so, but it would be a pity if we were afterwards obliged to watch this work collapse or at least fade away.

Would it not be better to put the establishment of St-Didier provisionally on a footing similar to the one we have in La Côte-St-André, until we can find a suitable location reserved exclusively for the novitiate, something like the one His Lordship the Bishop of Autun gave us in Vauban? I would be afraid I would literally be endangering the vocation of our postulants by removing them from the Hermitage to send them to St-Didier. Besides, we would have to buy or transfer furnishings, which would be very expensive, something our present resources will not permit, since our expenses have almost doubled this year.

I beg you, My Lord, to please examine my reasons carefully. I submit them entirely to Your Grandeurs disposition. The Society of Mary is too obligated to you for us not to be ready to undertake everything and to risk everything to show you with what respect, what gratitude and what devotedness I have the honor to be, etc….


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. 157-158, nº 201, éditée dans CSG 1, p. 296, et dans AAA pp. 296-297


Letters of Marcellin - 303...


Letters of Marcellin - 306...