Letters of Marcellin – 319

Marcellin Champagnat


After the nomination of Archbishop de Bonald to the see of Lyons, Bishop De la Tour dAuvergne was created a cardinal in the consistory of 23rd December 1839. The Founder profits by the occasion to congratulate him, thank him for all he has done on behalf of the brothers who are in his diocese (in St-Pol-sur-
Ternoise) and especially to ask him to intervene with the government in favor of the authorization of the Institute. But his influence with the government and the fact that the foundation of the only Marist school in his diocese was closely linked to the whole business of the authorization, indicate that the Founder did not choose his defenders blindly. The sequel (L. 330) will show us the new cardinals good will.

My Lord,

The Superior of the Little Brothers of Mary, established at N-D de lHermitage near St-Chamond (Loire), dares to throw himself at the feet of Your Eminence to beg you to accept the homage of his profound respect and his very humble congratulations for the new dignity which the Sovereign Pontiff has just conferred on your merits and virtues. We rejoiced heartily, with all of France and all of Christianity, to see such a holy prelate and such a zealous and charitable pontiff become one of the chief pastors of the universal Church. May God be a thousand times blessed for it, and may he grant that the days of Your Eminence may be as long and happy as they will be beneficial to religion and filled with works of zeal and holiness.

My Lord, emboldened by the most fatherly benevolence with which Your Eminence has deigned to honor our brothers in St-Pol, and as filled as they with the liveliest gratitude for the noble encouragement they owe to your truly very pastoral goodness, I also dare to beg you to be good enough to extend the salutary influence of your high and powerful protection to the entire society of the Brothers of Mary. How fortunate we would consider ourselves, My Lord, if at this moment when we are seeking to have our approbation sanctioned by a royal ordinance, Your Eminence would deign to second our requests. We have no doubt that a simple recommendation on your part would be of the greatest assistance to us in the presence of His Majesty.

My Lord, our work is totally on behalf of the poor children of the rural areas and small cities. With the least possible expense, we strive to provide them with the Christian and religious instruction which the Brothers of the Christian Schools provide with such success for the poor children of the large cities. God and the Blessed Virgin have blessed us in a very special way until this very day. In a few years, despite the deficiency of our resources, the society has brought together about three hundred brothers. Fifty establishments have been set up and continue to prosper in the nine departments of the Rhône, the Loire, the Isère, the Ardèche, the Haute-Loire, Saône-et-Loire, the Drôme, and the Pas-de-Calais, besides the mission of Eastern Oceania to which eleven of our brothers have gone during these last three years. Two new novitiates have just been set up, one in Vauban (Saône-et-Loire), through the benevolence of His Lordship of Autun; the other in Lorgues (Var), through the generosity of a rich and pious landowner; and when Your Eminence thinks it appropriate, we will do all we can to establish a third in the attractive diocese of Arras, in order to maintain and spread the extremely important work of Christian instruction there, according to your pious and paternal intentions.

However, My Lord, our congregation has still not been definitively recognized by the government. Our statutes have been approved three times by the Royal Council of Public Instruction. It was at the official request of that ministry, presented by Mr. Dele-
becque, who is largely responsible for our affairs, that we opened the establishment in St-Pol. A draft ordinance was even prepared, but since, by limiting us to teaching only in towns of 1200 souls or less, it would have taken away from us a large number of our establishments, we had it withdrawn. So we are obliged now to request a new one. We have written on this topic to Archbishop de Bonald of Lyons, who is presently in Paris, and we have also interested a good number of deputies in our favor, especially Mr. Ardaillon, Mr. Durozier, Mr. Lanyer, Mr. Lachèze, Mr. Fulchiron, Mr. Girod de lAin, Mr. Baude who is currently a state councillor, and Mr. Sauzet, the president of the Chamber.

My Lord, with total confidence in your pastoral goodness and your apostolic zeal which encompasses the whole Church, we dare to address a similar request to Your Eminence. We have absolutely no doubt that having been honored with the highest favors by both Church and State, you will very effectively hasten the conclu-
sion of this affair, all in the interests of the glory of God and the good of souls.

And it is with sentiments of deep gratitude that I beg you to accept the profound respect with which, etc….



Sometime early in 1838, the city of St-Etienne had informed Fr. Champagnat that it intended to entrust an institution for deaf-mutes to the Marist Brothers (cf. L. 177). The Founder must have replied that he was in favor, since that type of apostolate fell within the scope of the brothers vocation (cf. L. 323). During his stay in the capital, he went to ask the Paris Institute for Deaf-Mutes if it would accept two of his brothers free of charge for training as teachers in that type of school. He never got a reply, but that did not upset him, since the request from the city of St-Etienne had been only an informal inquiry; besides, he could not see at that moment what brothers he might send.

Toward the end of 1838 (cf. L. 320) he received a letter from Paris (cf. L. 235), which he immediately thought was the answer to his request, but it turned out to be another request, asking if he still intended to send two of his brothers to the Insti-
tute. His answer was no doubt affirmative, and he quickly wrote to Baron Rendu, president of the Administrative Council of the Royal Institute for Deaf-Mutes, to ask him to intervene in favor of the free admission of his brothers. We do not know if the baron answered; subsequent events would lead us to think he did not. But in any case, nearly a year later the city of St-Etienne sent a formal request to have brothers to head that citys Institute for Deaf-Mutes. The Founder must have told them that he first had to have the brothers trained. He hurriedly wrote that same day to Baron De GĂ©rando and the Count De Bastard, both members of the Administrative Council of the Paris Institute for Deaf-Mutes, to make the same request he had made the year before to Baron Rendu: to speak in favor of the admission of two brothers to the Institute free of charge. The favor was granted (cf. L. 334).

If we are to believe Bro. Avit (AA, 249), the city of St-Etienne, most likely being in a hurry to open its Institute, turned instead to the Brothers of the Christian Schools. When he learned that, the Founder did not follow up on his plan to send two brothers to the Paris Institute for Deaf-Mutes. Our annalist is confused when he says this happened in 1838, but in any case he mentions it again in 1840 (AA, p. 311), which is evidently the correct year. On this subject, cf. LL. 196, 235, 320, 321, and 334.

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. 172-173, nº 216


Letters of Marcellin - 316...


Letters of Marcellin - 320...