Saint Marcellin Champagnat

Founder of the Institute of the Marist Brothers Lluís Serra Llansana


Marcellin Champagnat, a French Marist priest, is the founder of the Marist Brothers of the Schools or Little Brothers of Mary. The attractiveness of his personality does not arise on first meeting with him, but through a continuous, simple contact: as Mary of Nazareth made her presence felt in an unassuming manner. Marcellin possesses a deep interior richness; and his energy, joy, marial spirituality and trust in God are contagious. Children and young people are his friends; they relate to him with a special affection. The Brothers whom Marcellin loved dearly are the heirs of his spirit. His faith journey ultimately led him to give first place to love in which holiness is found.

Marcellin Champagnat, a French Marist priest, is the founder of the Marist Brothers of the Schools or Little Brothers of Mary. The attractiveness of his personality does not arise on first meeting with him, but through a continuous, simple contact: as Mary of Nazareth made her presence felt in an unassuming manner. Marcellin possesses a deep interior richness; and his energy, joy, marial spirituality and trust in God are contagious. Children and young people are his friends; they relate to him with a special affection. The Brothers whom Marcellin loved dearly are the heirs of his spirit. His faith journey ultimately led him to give first place to love in which holiness is found. The Beginning of the StoryRosey is a hamlet of Marlhes, a township in a mountainous region of France. Although the area is pleasant, it does not provide much opportunity for human advancement. Conditions do not lend themselves to easy human relations or to cultural expression. Life is hard. The historical calendar points to the French Revolution and the year 1789. On May 20, Marie Therese Chirat, wife of Jean Baptiste Champagnat, gives birth to their ninth child. The next day, Ascension Thursday, the child is brought to the baptismal font and given the name Marcellin Joseph Benedict.The dawn of a new era is appearing. The Ancien Régime is collapsing in a thousand pieces. Jean Baptiste, Marcellins father, is a man of open disposition, receptive, sympathetic and ready to take initiative. He has his finger on the pulse of history as he stands in its front line. For a man of his times, Jean Baptiste is well educated. His strong points are an elegant script, leadership ability and a facility for public speaking. He assumes various political roles and responsibilities (for example, Justice of the Peace). In the elections for choosing delegates, he is the top vote-getter. Mr. Champagnat is obliged to work to his best ability in varied roles of public service. Rather than serving ideals of a revolutionary nature as expressed in the extreme-left Jacobin party, he gives first consideration to the concrete realities of his native region, serving the interests of his townspeople.While political events unfold, Marcellin lives a close relationship with his mother. Mrs. Champagnat is involved with the silk and lace trades, and she expands the family income by farm work and milling. Marcellins mother, Marie Therese, exercises a moderating and calming influence upon her husband?s activities. A few years older than her husband, her forceful character and her competence in managing home and children make it easier for her to fulfil her obligations. She raises her children carefully, putting the emphasis on piety, social relations and a spirit of thrift. Louise Champagnat, Marcellins aunt, is a Sister of Saint Joseph. She was expelled from her convent in the Revolution. The influence she leaves upon Champagnat by her prayer, teaching and good example is so marked that he will frequently remember her with pleasure and gratitude. When he is seven years old, Marcellin asks, Aunt Louise, what is the Revolution? Is it a person or some kind of wild animal? In the environment of the time, one could not but feel the pulse of history. Marcellins upbringing unfolds at the intersecting point where the new ideas introduced by his father meet the deep, traditional religiosity represented in his mother and aunt. At the heart of the family, problems are experienced in all their intensity, and find their resolution through a spirit of moderation, one that is more at the service of people than of ideology. There prevails a spirit of community, a closely-knit bond among the brothers and sisters.A Wound That Brings LightGod often uses the shadowy pages of our personal history, the wounds that life imposes upon us, in order to make a light-bearing spring rise to the surface. Marcellin lives through an educational experience that was very deficient. Two negative experiences will make a vigorous impression upon him.His aunt teaches him basic reading skills, but with disappointing results. His parents decide to send him to Bartholomé Moine, the teacher in Marlhes. On the first day of class, Marcellin exhibits excessive timidity, and the teacher calls him to his side to read. As Marcellin comes forward, another student jumps in front of him. The teacher gives a sharp slap to the pushy lad and sends him to the back of the room. Marcellin feels revolted, thinking: Ill never return to a school that has such a teacher. If he mistreats a student with no questions asked, I can see what is in store for me. For some petty reason, hell do the same thing to me. I dont want to go to school with him, and still less to take any punishments he may hand out. Marcellins first day of school is also his last.After this early lack of educational success, Marcellin learns how to live at the school conducted by his father, following him everywhere and working at all the jobs needed to run the farm. Marcellin performs all the chores with enthusiasm, revealing a very active character, a love of work, a spirit of initiative, a practical intelligence and physical strength. Marcellin exhibits a good moral character as well. Knowing that goodness is more important than learning, the neighborhood mothers point him out as a model for their sons. In the meantime, at the side of mother and aunt, he makes progress in the spirit of prayer and in upright behaviour. At eleven years of age, he makes his First Communion and receives Confirmation.There is another incident that happens, this one during a catechism class, that makes a deep impression upon Marcellin. The priest who is giving the lesson, tired of a students fidgety behaviour, corrects the boy and pins a nickname on him. The lad quiets down, but his classmates do not forget what the priest has said. When class lets out, they shout out the nickname in chorus. The boys angry response serves only to increase the nastiness of his classmates. He becomes sad, morose, uncommunicative. Many years later, Marcellin will comment, Here you have an example of a real failure in knowing how to educate young people. Because of his bad disposition, the boy was made the center of attention. He is tormented by what has happened, and then perhaps becomes a problem for his family and neighbours. And it all happened because of a teachers fit of impatience that should have easily been controlled.The founding of the Marist Brothers will be Father Champagnats faith response to the educational deficiencies he experienced, and to the deplorable state of education in France. All religious communities are suppressed in l792. There is no system of state schools. Young people can see only ignorance and confusion on the road that lies ahead of them. A few years later the nineteenth century will begin. It will be the century of education, and Marcellin will make a significant contribution to it.Marcellins Vocation: I Will Succeed Because God Wills It.It is evident that priestly vocations are lacking. A great need exists to promote vocations and to found seminaries. A priest, who has taken the responsibility of recruiting seminary students, is directed by the Marlhes pastor to the Champagnat family. Jean Baptist does not conceal his surprise on learning the nature of the visit. My sons have never indicated any interest in going to the seminary. In contrast to his brothers who turn down the priests invitation, Marcellin appears hesitant. The visiting priest questions him carefully and is struck by the young mans frankness, his plain manner, his open and candid character. Young man, you ought to study for the priesthood. It is Gods will. Marcellin makes the decision to go to the seminary, a choice that will never be rescinded.His life now takes a new direction. Marcellins plans that were associated with commerce and business lose their prominence. The decision to go to the seminary entails different sorts of requirements, such as learning Latin rather than knowing how to read and write French. (Marcellins maternal tongue and everyday language is Franco-Provençal, a branch of the Occitan language). Seeing the difficulties that lie ahead, Marcellins parents try to dissuade their son. It is all for naught. His goal is clear: to be a priest. When Marcellin is fifteen years old, his father passes away without warning. Despite his fathers death, Marcellin recommits himself to his studies. At his age, making up for all the lost years is a huge undertaking. He moves to the school run by his brother-in-law, Benoit Arnaud. Despite the efforts of both teacher and student, progress remains unremarkable. The teacher advises the student to discontinue classes and conveys the same advice to Marcellins mother. Despite all the difficulties, Marcellin grows in his love for his vocation. Often he prays to St. Francis Regis, and with his mother goes on pilgrimage to the marial sanctuary at La Louvesc. Marcellins decision remains irrevocable. I wish to go to the seminary. I will be happy and successful in this undertaking because God has called me to it.His Road to the PriesthoodMarcellin enters the Verrières minor seminary. At the start he gets caught up in the Happy Gang, and his behaviour is not without fault. The seminary director invites Marcellin to return home and give up any thought of continuing. Marcellin goes through some stressful moments. With the assistance of his mother who remains close to him, he gets over this difficult stage of his life with the assistance of his mother who remains close to him. She will pass away when Marcellin is twenty years of age; and then he will refocus his energies and direct them to attaining his lifes dream.Besides overcoming this difficult season caused by poor results in class and irresponsible behaviour, Marcellin struggles strenuously to deepen his knowledge and his spirit of prayer. His behaviour is ranked as average in his Year Six. It improves to the extent of his being given a mark of very good. He is named assistant proctor of the dormitory, and this assignment helps develop his sense of responsibility; it also offers him the chance to snatch from sleep a few hours that he can dedicate to studies.Marcellin grows noticeably in his religious spirit and in apostolic outreach towards his companions, two of whom will leave their mark on history: Jean Claude Colin, founder and Superior General of the Society of Mary, and John Vianney, the sainted Curé of Ars. Marcellin cheers up those who are downhearted. His retreat resolutions, concluding with a self-composed prayer, are the oldest documents coming from his pen. He commits himself to developing a more intense, a deeper spiritual life. In addition, Marcellin makes a promise to Christ, to instruct those who do not know your divine precepts, and to teach the catechism to all, making no distinction between rich and poor. Such is the plan he carries out by gathering the young people of his hamlet during vacation time.When he reaches the age of twenty-four, Marcellin goes to the Lyons major seminary directed by the Sulpicians. The seminary coat of arms bears the marial adage that will later be adopted by the Society of Mary in a general way and the Marist Brothers in a particular manner. The three years of theology preceding ordination will constitute a time that is especially favourable to religious fervour and personal maturing, to apostolic ideals and to plans for founding new religious communities. Marcellin comes to his ordination with three attainments worthy of note: first, religious and human maturity; secondly, a satisfactory level of education (considering his practically inexistent early schooling that caused him so many problems and tested his commitment); and thirdly, the friendship of a group of companions who were deeply touched by the love of Mary and were aflame with the shared dream of founding a religious order.A new seminarian named Jean Claude Courveille has entered the picture. He claims to have been miraculously cured in 1809, and to have heard in the Le Puy cathedral an interior voice encouraging him to found the Society of Mary. Around him he gathers a group of seminarians who share the same hope; Marcellin is one of their number, having been recruited personally by Courveille. A kind of clandestine secrecy regarding its goal enhances the enthusiasm of the group when it meets. Their plan incorporates the following: priests (and later lay Brothers too), Sisters, and a Third Order. Marcellin, however, has developed other dreams, interests and special concerns. He desires to found a community dedicated to teaching. The urgent educational needs of that moment in history, and his own memory of what it took to get an education, strengthen Marcellins intuition: We need teaching Brothers. His words, however, find no echo in the group. Finally, his fellow seminarians grant him permission to put his plan into action: Since you have the idea, take charge of it yourself. One of the Vicar-Generals, Claude Marie Bochard, is nurturing the idea of founding a religious congregation of his own; he will perceive in Marcellins plan a threat to his own.Along with many fellow seminarians who are part of the Marist plan, Marcellin is ordained on July 22, 18l6. Twelve of them go up to the marial shrine of Fourvières to place themselves under Marys protection. After Mass, Jean Claude Courveille reads an act of consecration which, even if private in nature, may be considered the first official act of the Society of Mary. The events of the day permit one to consider it the Societys foundation date. Shortly afterwards, as a result of their pastoral assignments, the Marist group is dispersed to the vast stretches of the Lyons Archdiocese. With Eyes OpenMarcellin is ahead of his times in using the threefold approach: see; judge; act. Some years later, in a letter to Queen Marie Amélie, he will recall the time when he was assistant pastor at La Valla. Ordained in 1816, I was assigned to a town in the St. Chamond Region (Loire). As I carried out my ministry, the things I saw with my own eyes regarding the education of children and adolescents reminded me of the hardships that I had experienced in my own boyhood because of the shortage of good educators. So I decided to put into action the plan I had in mind: to form a community of teaching Brothers for impoverished districts of the country side. Because of their poverty, such areas are normally prevented from having the Brothers of the Christian Schools. To the members of this new community I gave the name of Mary, convinced that the name itself would draw a large number of aspirants. The communitys rapid development, despite its lack of material resources, bore out my expectations and surpassed my hopes . [. . .] In granting legal authorization, the government would facilitate our development in singular fashion, and Christian faith and civil society would both benefit greatly.When Champagnat first reached LaValla and saw the church bell tower, he fell to his knees and entrusted his priestly ministry to Christ and to Mary (whom he called our Good Mother). La Valla is set in a charming part of the Pilat mountain range. The parish was not in a good state of affairs. In order to get it moving in the right direction, Br. Champagnat works out a rule of life for himself, giving priority to his prayer life, the daily study of theology and pastoral zeal. Above all, I will try to practice gentleness, and I will treat everyone with great kindness so as to draw souls more easily to God.Change is possible only by taking into account parish realities. Br. Champagnat does not delay in making changes. The children have been largely neglected, and their condition incites him to assist them with catechesis, teaching and formative experiences. Of likeable character, Marcellin prefers awards and prizes to punishments, which, in fact, he does not use. He reaches out to the adults by his homilies and the sacrament of Reconciliation. Nonetheless, it is the sick and the poor who receive his special attention. One young man named Jean Marie Granjon becomes a friend of Marcellin and accompanies him on some of his sick calls. He will be the first Little Brother of Mary. For Marcellin, the choice of the words little has a deep religious connotation, signifying both simplicity and humility.An incident that occurs on October 28, 1816 serves as the spark that ignites Marcellins eagerness to found a religious community. In the neighbourhood called Les Palais, he goes to visit Jean Baptiste Montagne, a seventeen year old boy who is ill and in danger of death. The fact that the boy lacks any purpose in life makes a deep impression on Marcellin who realizes that the young man does not know even the basic elements of faith. A few hours later, the young man dies. It is impossible for Marcellin not to act. That very day he explains to Jean Marie Granjon his plan and the work he could carry out. There is an urgent need to make the plan a reality. Marcellins ideas about the need for teaching Brothers is assuming a dramatic character. Five days later, Champagnat is approached by a young man, Jean Baptiste Audras. The young man reveals his vocational restlessness to Marcellin who in turn proposes that Jean Baptiste Audras join Jean Marie Granjon in community.Founder of the Marist BrothersMarcellin has now seen enough. In his heart echo the words of Mary, Do whatever he tells you. He moves decisively into action. He is twenty-seven years old, and not even seven months have transpired since his ordination. On January 2, 1817, the twenty-three year old Jean Marie Granjon and Jean Baptists Audras, fourteen and a half years of age, move into the small house that Fr. Champagnat has rented for them in LaValla. Their day is comprised of prayer, work and study; their manual work is making nails, an activity that helps to pay expenses. Marcellin teaches them reading and writing, and he looks after their formation as religious educators. Other young men join the undertaking, among them Gabriel Rivat who, as Brother François, will later become the Brothers first Superior General.After he has prepared the Brothers sufficiently, Fr. Champagnat founds a school at Marlhes. Brother Louis is its principal; and despite his youthful years and inexperience, the results that follow in a brief period of time are evident to anyone willing to see them. The basic educational skills of a good teacher are evident. Behind them, however, there begins to appear the type of educational program promoted by Marcellin: sharing in the students lives; loving them; and leading them to Jesus with the motherly assistance of Mary. Slowly but steadily other schools come into existence. The number of aspirants is not equal to the numerous requests for new schools.Every person who advances along the path of human and spiritual growth customarily goes through a dark night. It helps to purify the persons motives and to deepen the persons roots in the essentials of faith, of life. A negative campaign is orchestrated against Marcellin and his schools. Some churchmen look askance at the Founders projects, his commitment to developing them, and his constant involvement with manual tasks. Marcellin has a meeting with the top archdiocesan vicar, informing him about the state of his Brothers community. Fr. Champagnat seeks the vicars advice about the undertaking, explaining that he is willing to stop the entire project and, if necessary, accept a change of assignment if the vicar believes that such be the will of God. This attitude on Marcellins part puts a complete stop to his superiors hesitations about the project.Even in the darkness of night, there are rays of light. On his way back from visiting a sick Brother, while Marcellin is lost in a powerful snowstorm, his faith in Mary as Good Mother enables him to find a safe haven away from the storm. In a period of crisis, when a lack of aspirants threatens the very existence of the Brothers evolving community, a trust-filled recourse to the Virgin Mary results in the unhoped-for arrival of eight new aspirants. Changes in the archdiocesan offices bring a breath of fresh air to Marcellins endeavours, as a new vicar replaces Father Bochard. Father Champagnat is authorized to purchase a building. With Father Courveilles financial assistance he buys a piece of rocky land along the banks of a stream called the Gier.A House Built on RockThe construction of the building on the Gier-site takes place in very harsh circumstances that are lightened by the Brothers religious spirit and fraternal relations, traits that make it possible to complete the work in less than half a year. The local residents are in constant amazement when they reflect on the enormous difficulties that such a rock-bound site presents. Walking near the construction site, they are delighted to hear the Brothers singing. The local residents observe the young priest who rolls up the sleeves of his cassock and lifts the heaviest stones. Our Lady of the Hermitage (Notre Dame de lHermitage) is a house built on rock.The year 1825 is weighed down with grave problems both legal and financial, further complicated by the Founders illness and the machinations of Father Cour-veille who has come to live with him at the Hermitage. In spite of all the difficulties, Marcellin relies upon Mary, his Ordinary Resource.Government approval for the Brothers is a problem that is never resolved in Father Champagnats lifetime. He seeks a final, determinative solution to the matter, but never finds one. The search for such approval brings in its train frustrations, trips to Paris, official interviews, bureaucratic procedures. All the while, however, Marcellin continues to shoulder the weight of caring for the Brothers.All the while, Father Courveille continues to regard himself as the Brothers superior; and he is ambitious to be recognized as such. His schemes, his hypocritical policies meet resistance on the part of the Brothers. Courveille wins agreement that there be an election to determine who should be the Brothers superior. The Brothers elect Marcellin who has lived in deep faith and humility while his ordination companion has meddled in the community. Marcellin even allows for a second round of voting, after trying to persuade the community that his priest-collaborators present at the Hermitage are much more qualified than he. Yet, now a second time, Marcellin wins a near unanimity of votes.Although he shows no exterior signs of it, it seems clear that Marcellin suffers greatly as a result of the events described above. Father Courveille – respected by Marcellin who considers him superior of the entire Marist undertaking – does not accept the election results. He unleashes a counter-attack by means of letters, rumours and insinuations. The stressful situation and the weakness caused by frequent trips visiting schools and communities and attending the dying – activities done in precarious health and very bad weather – bring Marcellins health to a critical pass. His condition is so bad that in a few days all hope of saving his life is given up. The Brothers schools and communities are in danger of collapsing. Discouragement is rife. The manner in which Father Courveille directs the Hermitage community – using harsh, drastic measures – is in contrast to Marcellins manner – frank and kindly – to which the Brothers have grown accustomed. The waters of a river turn calmly in their pools. So too, following their melancholy way, do the conflicts that surround Father Courveille. He leaves the Hermitage abruptly and goes off to the Trappist monastery of Aiguebelle.An Educational Style Based on a Demanding LoveIt was Marcellins wish that the Brothers be of one category only, and that there be no class distinctions among them. Such a desire for fraternity is a prophetic sign, a token of progress. The direction of Marcellin Champagnats life and the stance he assumes before important historical events allow one to suggest that his undertakings are born in tune with the modern temper. In getting his work started, Father Champagnat seeks the necessary authorization from church authorities and state authorities. Doing so makes clear his desire to form good Christians and good citizens. Among the founders of religious communities, there are many who came from conservative families. Marcellin, on the other hand, experiences from his boy-hood years the innovative impulses of the French Revolution. Some founders act in counter-direction to civil authorities; Champagnat seeks to collaborate with them. A parliamentarian pays his respect to such an attitude: Father Champagnat never undertakes anything without first seeking the sanction of the civil authorities. By acting in such a way, Marcellin avoids conflicts. He always keeps out of party politics, staying in the broad path of Church guidelines. Among the Brothers, Marcellin creates the kinds of attitudes found in good teachers. The primary pedagogical quality recommended in other teaching orders is strictness. In its place, Marcellin proposes simplicity and kindliness, frankness and openness. He equally emphasizes family spirit, goodwill, sensitivity towards students and the spirit of work. At the summit of his recommendations, he places the following sort of ideal: an in-depth religious education oriented towards confidence in God and made easier through devotion to Mary manifested more in deed than word. Such an approach shapes a unique educative program. It is not a matter of revolutionary changes in pedagogical methods (as important as such methods surely are). It is rather a question of finding a way of bringing warmth to the students lives, of laying down a path of personal formation, of giving direction to young people and guiding them towards maturity. Taken together, these profound educational attitudes might be termed an educational style. Consequently, there should be no great surprise if the perspective is always greater than what can be accomplished in fact. Devotedness also manages to make up for deficiencies existing at the academic level.Father Champagnat often repeats the words, Every time I see young people I long to catechise them. To make them realize how much Jesus Christ loves them. He points out the need to develop faith through culture. If it were a matter of teaching only academic subjects to children, it would not be necessary to have Brothers; for such work, any teacher would suffice. If we claim to be giving the students religious instruction, we would be limiting ourselves to be catechists only, and we could gather the children for an hour a day to learn their catechism lessons. Our goal, however, is higher. We wish to give the students a real formation. That is, to create in them a sense of responsibility, to see that they carry out their commitments, to instil in them a spirit and a way of feeling, to develop religious attitudes, to help them acquire the qualities that characterize a good Christian life. We cannot attain such objectives unless we are educators, unless we live with young people, unless the young people are in our company for a long time. There you have it: a plan for a well-integrated education from the Christian point of view.Marcellins educational style has its source in his spirituality. His love for Jesus and Mary is the inspiration of his educational method. His motto is All to Jesus through Mary; all to Mary for Jesus. He firmly distances himself from the mentality of his era, for example, in the matter of corporal punishment that was much used at the time. His instructional and pedagogical contribution can be summed us as follows: a religious vision of life and of the student not based on theoretical approaches but on a practical ability to grapple with different situations as they arise, exercising a pedagogy of presence (as the best preventative); with a preference for the poor and the neglected.A Forward-looking UndertakingOther religious congregations made it a requirement that any community being set up had to have at least three members who are to receive a precise salary for their apostolic work. Marcellin permitted his Brothers to set up communities with only two members in order to meet more pressing needs. He went so far as to permit a Brother to be assigned by himself to a school, while insisting that the Brother return periodically to join a Brothers community nearby. Here is the perceptive explanation that Father Champagnat gives to this kind of dilemma: So many rural villages find it impossible to pay the costs of having more than two Brothers. Is it right to hesitate between either leaving such villages without a school or providing one run by just two Brothers, solely because the village can offer no guarantee of paying for three? Would it be of service to the Catholic faith and to the community at large to refuse to act because of such issues? Champagnats apostolic zeal knows no bounds. He does not accept the idea that a villages lack of economic resources should stand in the way of educating children. As a result, he does his utmost to keep costs down, insisting on a modest boarding fee for the students who can afford to pay it, asking the Brothers to cultivate their own garden, and gathering them at the Hermitage during school holidays.Marcellin Champagnat lives out an apostolic mysticism. His psalm of choice is, If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders. In Marcellins life, his actions, issuing from a deep apostolic spirituality, are more eloquent than his words. In fact, he does not express himself very much in the written word: some hundred or so letters and not much more. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and by concrete needs, he prepares a few young men to carry out a plan for the Christian education of children within the framework of a religious community of non-ordained character. When there is an explosion of interest in this plan and many aspirants seek admission to the community, Champagnat recognizes that he should provide some kind of Rule for them. Action goes before word. The regulations that he sets up are based on experience. The Marist Brothers will be heirs to Marcellins marial spirituality, his pedagogical style, his simplicity of manner and his apostolic dynamism placed at the service of children and young people, especially the least favoured. Marcellin, a Heart That Knows No BoundsEven though it is Marcellin himself who sends Brothers to Oceania, he is supremely jealous of them. He realizes that he will never be able to express his own deep desire to accompany them to the far-off mission. What awaits him is a trip to Paris where he hopes to obtain government approval for the Institute. His spiritual life has attained a significant level: I am as united with God here among my activities in Paris as I would be in the woods back at the Hermitage. He experiences very serious difficulties in regard to the government approval: and he expresses the experience as follows in a letter: As much as ever I retain a great confidence in Jesus and Mary. I have no doubt that we will attain our goal; I just dont know when . . . . Do no forget to tell all the Brothers how much I love them, how very distressing it is for me to be so far away . . . .The time has come for a changing of the guard. Father Champagnats health does not give cause for great hope. He moves ahead with the election that will determine who will be his successor and assume the role of Superior General. The Brothers elect Brother François; the year is l839. The life of the Institute hums along as many aspirants knock at the door seeking admission. Marcellin still finds the time and the strength to preach a student retreat. The prayerfulness and goodness which issue from his countenance, marked though it is by weakness and pain, win the hearts of all. They remark, This priest is a holy man. God is with him. By notarial deed Marcellin regulates all his temporal concerns and inheritance rights. He dictates his Last Will and Testament, a document which bespeaks a deep religious spirit and a finely-tuned sensitivity to people, as may be shown by the following excerpts. May it be said of the Little Brothers of Mary as of the first Christians, See how they love one another . . . . This is the most ardent desire of my heart in this, the last moment of my life. Yes, my very dear Brothers, listen to the last words of your father which are those of our beloved Saviour, Love one another. May a tender and filial devotion to our Good Mother animate you at all times and in every circumstance. Do all that you can to make her loved everywhere.Jesus, Mary and Joseph are at the center of his heart and of his prayer. On June 6, 1840 – it is the Vigil of Pentecost – a little before dawn, Marcellin passes away. He is fifty-one years of age. He leaves behind him a very great accomplishment; yet his dream is still more ambitious: All the dioceses of the world enter into our view. Today, almost five thousand Marist Brothers and numerous lay persons associated with them bring Marcellins charisma to seventy-five countries.On May 29, l955 when Pope Pius XII conducts the beatification ceremony for Father Champagnat, his portrait is raised against the Bernini backdrop behind the main altar of Saint Peters Basilica. On April 18, l999 Marcellin is canonized by Pope John Paul II. The same Pope blesses a statue of Saint Marcellin Champagnat on September 20, 2001 during the Jubilee Year. Thereby Saint Marcellin joins the group of sainted men and women who, as founders of religious orders, have had statues placed at St. Peters in their honour.Faith and Love Made Permanent in Marble: The Character of Saint Marcellin in the Statue by DerediaThe statue of Marcellin portrays his strength and determination. Upon his shoulders he bears the burden of universal childhood with tenderness and sensitivity. His essential human traits are given a Christian dimension though the symbol of the crucifix that he holds in his left hand. Children, especially those who are poor and neglected, are waiting upon the kind of educational setting that will assure them of being secure and loved. To create such a setting was Marcellins goal, and it radiates from the statue that brings to mind the image of the Good Shepherd. The positioning of feet and hands expresses an affective interplay, the good soil that receives both the word of God and the formative experiences of education. The child on the shoulders leans upon the head of Marcellin, a position from which to look out upon life. At the same time, the childs foot reposes secure on Marcellins right hand. In its turn the child-figure at the sculptures base leans against Champagnats foot to express a personal relation. The open book in the childs hand recalls the educational opportunity in which the child will find delight; and the countenance bespeaks a special way of viewing life.The message: Marcellins humility and simplicity. The statue is not overburdened with elements; rather, the essentials stand out. The work allows one to discern the most elevated mysteries of Christian faith: the unity of love expressed in a trinity of persons. Everything else is non-essential. The sculpture could not have been otherwise; it had altogether to depict the subjects reality, each of its parts had to be in harmony with the whole. On the subjects clothing, the light had to fall soft and white so as not to falsify that oneness with the universe of which dreamt both Michelangelo and Marcellin.________________________________________Bibliografía / BibliographyM. CHAMPAGNAT, Cartas, Luis Vives, Zaragoza 1996; J.B. FURET, Vida de José B. Marcelino Champagnat. Luis Vives, Zaragoza 1990; Br. SILVESTRE, CRÓNICAS MARISTAS IV, Memorias, Luis Vives, Zaragoza 1990; S. SAMMON, San Marcelino Champagnat. Vida y misión, Instituto de Brothers Maristas, Rome 1999; R, MASSON, Marcelino Champagnat, las paradojas de Dios, Luis Vives, Zaragoza 2000; ESCORIHUELA, MORAL, SERRA, El educador marista. Luis Vives, Zaragoza 1983; G. MICHEL, Champagnat, Ed. Salesiana, Asunción 1994; V. DEL POZO, Yo y la revolución, Ed. Barath, Madrid 1985; F. ANDRES, Padre de Brothers, Luis Vives, Zaragoza, 1990; Marist Institute, Misión Educativa Marista. Un proyecto para hoy, Edelvives, Madrid 1999; P. ZIND-A. CARAZO, Tras las huellas de Marcelino Champagnat, Provincia Marista, Chile 1999; M. A. DORADO, El pensamiento educativo de la Institución marista, Ed. Nau llibres, Valencia 1984.

Edition: Jiménez Deredia en la basílica de San Pedro del Vaticano


Marcellin Champagnat...


The Memoirs of Little Brother Sylvestre...