Letters of Marcellin – 330

Marcellin Champagnat


Following up on the letter of the previous 11th February, the cardinal had written to Fr. Champagnat on the 21st:

Father Superior,

I have received your letter of the 11th of this month, in which you ask me to approach the government in favor of your Institute in order to obtain its legal existence. I ask nothing better than to be useful to a congregation, whose members I am delighted to have admitted to my diocese, and I offer my most sincere wishes that your projects here may succeed. But to work more effectively with His Excellency the Minister of Public Instruction, I need a brief note about what I have to ask him. Please be so good, Father Superior, as to send me that document. Please accept the assurance of my esteem and consideration.
┼ Ch. Card. de Latour dAuvergne, Bp. of Arras

But meantime, Fr. Champagnat must have learned from the prefect about the Ministers answer to his letter, the most important part of which we have quoted in the introduction to L. 312. The minister himself had written at the head of that letter:

Answer that this question has been seriously studied in the Royal Council and that it was noted that since no new teaching congregations have been recognized for over ten years, there would be difficulties, whose dimensions can be readily appreciated, if this request were approved. 27th January.

But on 28th February 1840, he answers the prefect that:

This matter, which has already been examined by the Royal Council of Public Instruction, will be submitted to it once again for consideration. The services rendered by the Little Brothers of Mary will not be forgotten, nor will the arguments with which your predecessor had seconded their request.

Then he changes his mind and has the paragraph rewritten as follows:

This matter has already been examined by the Royal Council of Public Instruction, and it was noted that it involves a general question whose prior solution is indispensable. When the right moment comes, I will not forget the arguments which your predecessor emphasized on that occasion.

As we can see, the minister is looking for a way out, and we can understand how disconcerted Fr. Champagnat must be, not knowing which way to turn. That is why he needs more detailed information, which Archbishop de Bonald can give him. In his reply of 16th July 1840 to Mr. Ardaillon, who had presented a new petition in favor of the matter, the Minister was more explicit:

The matter of these teachers raises questions of principle which flow from the existing laws on reli gious associations and public instruction. I am going to arrange for them to be studied again. In view of your interest in the matter, you may count on my giving it my undivided personal attention.

Regardless, Fr. Champagnat was no longer there to welcome Archbishop de Bonald on 2nd July 1840. As for the cardinal archbishop of Arras, he had evidently not waited to receive the promised document before he intervened, since on 20th September 1840, Bro. François wrote him:

My Lord, we have learned with the deepest gratitude of the steps you have kindly taken on our behalf with the government. We have never felt the need for our authorization so urgently. Last year it cost us more than ten thousand francs to save our subjects who were called to military service. This is an enormous expense, given our meager resources. But next year, twenty more will be affected by the law on recruiting for the group of 1840. In such extreme straits, how deep would be our gratitude toward the powerful and generous individuals who would use their influence to hasten the conclusion of our business in Paris....
(AFM, RCLA, 1, p. 211)

My Lord,

His Excellency the Minister of Public Instruction, in reply to a letter which the prefect of the Loire had written in January about our approbation, remarked that it was linked to a general question which had not yet been settled, and whose prior solution is indispensable. Archbishop De Bonald, during his stay in

Paris, received a similar response when he spoke about our business. His Grandeur was also required to check for himself the condition of our houses and then draw up an official report about them.

In this state of affairs, since we do not know what this general question is, we cannot yet send Your Grandeur the memorandum you were good enough to ask of us in your esteemed letter of 21st February. Before drawing it up we will wait for the opinion of our worthy Archbishop De Bonald, who probably will not return to the diocese until after Easter. Perhaps we will be obliged to adopt, pro forma, the statutes of an already-recognized congregation, while maintaining our own name and our independence.

My Lord, I sincerely thank Your Eminence for the esteemed protection you have been kind enough to promise us. I regard it as a sure sign of coming success. Archbishop De Bonald, whom we informed about it, thinks the same way, and promised us to act in harmony with Your Eminence to bring about the conclusion of this affair which is so important for our work. As soon as we can, we will quickly send you the documents you are awaiting from us.

My Lord, please accept the very deep respect and the profound gratitude with which I am, 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. 179-180, nº 225


Letters of Marcellin - 327...


Letters of Marcellin - 331...