IV Chapter – 1862, Saint-Genis-Laval

04/1862 | 07/1963 – 40 Brothers participants

This Chapter1 took place during the pontificate of Pius IX2 , who approved the Constitutions, for a trial period, on 9 January 1863. The chapter was convoked to study and discuss the corrections which the Holy See required for the approval. It was, therefore, a special General Chapter demanded by Rome.
One difficulty faced was to harmonize the requirements of the Statutes approved by the French government, which had officially recognized the Institute in France, and the requirements of the Holy See to approve the new Constitutions.

There were in the end two sessions: the first in Easter week of 1862 for the study and discussion of the Constitutions, and the second in July 1863 for the reelection of Superiors (Régime).

First Session: Easter Week 1862.

“Br. François and Br. Louis-Marie in 1858 presented the Constitutions of the Institute for the approval of the Holy See. The Congregation of Bishops and Regulars had commended the examination of these constitutions to Mons. Chaillot, one of the secretaries,who made important changes and had them approved by the Congregation with the modifications introduced3. As proof that these Constitutions would be freely accepted by the members of the Congregation, it ordered elections for a General Chapter, which would have one of its delegates as president, and for this purpose, it designated Rev. Fr. Favre, Superior General of the Marist Fathers to preside”.4

“On 1 April a note was sent to the Brothers for the election of the members of the General Chapter which was to be held. The Brothers with Stability were the only ones elegible. There were 22 in the provinces of Saint-Genis and the Hermitage, 19 in the two provinces of the Midi (Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux and Labégude), 5 in the Nord and two in the Ouest. Voting provided 16 delegates from the Province of the Centre, 13 from the South, 3 from the North and 1 from the West.5

“The delegates were elected in the following order: For the Province of the Centre Brothers Avit, Louis Bernardin, Euthyme, Abrosime, Cariton, Callinique, Ignace, Epaphras, Grégoire, Placide, Marie-Jubin, Aquilas, Marie-Lin, Nicet, Jean-Philomène, Bonaventure.
Replacements: Brothers Marie and Citinus.

For the Midi: Brothers Malachie, Jean-Maríe, Ladislas, Claude, Onésiphore, Bernardin, Ambroise, Abel, Augustus, Victor, Louis-Regis, Priscillien and Juvénal.
Replacements: Brothers Benoît-Marie and Felicité.

For the Nord: Brothers Aidant, Andronic, Eubert.
Replacement: Brother François-Michel.

For the Ouest: Brother Césaire.
Replacement: Brother Flavius”6.

Members by right and those elected came to 40 capitulants.

The first period of sittings of the Chapter took place at Saint- Genis- Laval during Easter Week. The meetings were held in the west hall, above the large room which is now the library, writes Br. Avit.7

The first session of the Chapter met in April 1862. The Sacred Congregation imposed its delegate to preside at the Chapter. Fr. Favre accepted the presidency, as he explained it, to avoid a less friendly person being appointed. “The Presidency was triple, that is to say that Rev. Fr. Favre had on the dais Brother Louis-Marie on his right and Brother François on his left. Father exercised a presidency in form: he confined himself to listening to the conferences and debates which were held without making any intervention”8.

“In this first session (1862), the Chapter included in the Constitutions for their approval the indications given by the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and Regular. Some of these changes were:
– Regular holding of a General Chapter every 12 years.
– Election of a Reverend Superior General at least 40 years old.
– Nomination of Brother Assistants for 10 years.
– Recourse to the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars to depose the Superior General, create new provinces, found Novitiate Houses, increase the number of Brother Assistants, etc.”9.

“The decree of praise contained the request that the Archbishop of Lyon, together with the Superior General of the Marist Fathers, prepare a draft of the Constitutions taking account of the observations made by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars (SCER) on the 20 fundamental articles and other documents in the dossier10. The draft Constitutions would be submitted later to a General Chapter of the Institute.
The Chapter met in 1862 and approved the text we have denominated C186211.
The text approved did not incorporate the majority of the observations proposed by the Sacred Congregation. The principal differences were:
– Superior General for life (C1862) instead of being elected for 12 years (SCER);
– Assistant Generals elected for 10 years (C1862) instead of for 4 years (SCER);
– General Chapters every 10 years (C1862) instead of every 12 years (SCER);
– organization in Provinces governed by Assistant Generals who reside with the Superior General (C1862) instead of Vicar Provincials residing in their own Province (SCER);
– noviciate of two years, one of them being spent in a school (C1862) instead of the whole time spent at the novitiate (SCER);
– making of the temporary vow of obedience at the end of the novitiate to the Superior General and his representatives (C1862) instead of to the Holy See, the Superior General and his representatives (SCER)12.”13.

“At the conclusion of the first session, the Reverend Brother and Brother Euthyme took the results to Rome. The former stayed there on two occasions, the first for two months and the second for six.14

Second Session: July 1863

In his circular dated 29 June 1863,15 after having indicated the practices and thanksgiving prayers for the approval of the Constitutions ad experimentum by Pius IX, on 9 January, Br. Louis-Marie wrote: Our intention is to hold in July the second session of the General Chapter elected in 1862. To complete the work for which it was convoked. There follows the list of the Brother capitulants, who were the same ones as in 1862, and the Reverend Brother adds: The seventh chapter meeting (the first six were held in 1839-1852-1853-1854-1860-1862) holds a very special interest for us. It has been called in the first place, we are told, to complete the great task we have had in our hands for many years now, and then to put into practice what has been decided.

After exhorting the Brothers to pray that God will bless the work of the General Chapter, and assigning as a probable date the 19th of July for the opening of the second session, Reverend Br. Louis-Marie writes: I have something to tell you: Nothing is more consoling nor more reassuring for all the Brothers than the excellent spirit which has always animated our general assemblies. For those who have followed them at close quarters, this is the most obvious proof that God guides our work, and that He assists with special care those to whom He entrusts the responsibility of maintaining it in its primitive spirit in fervor and in regularity.16

In this period of sittings, held in the same room as in 1862, they examined the measures taken before the Tribunal of Rome. There was a reading of the brief of approbation of the Institute. It was explained that the Constitutions had been approved on a trial basis for a period of five years, which could be renewed if necessary.17

Following an order coming from Rome, they proceeded anew to the election of the superiors, who would form the first Régime set up with the approval of the Holy See.18

In this period, Brother Chrysogone presented his resignation, despite the fact that he had directed the Province of St. Paul for hardly two years. Br. Eubert was elected to replace him, and the same Br. Eubert succeeded Br. Epaphras as Procurator General.

It was also decided that the feast of Saints Peter and Paul should be solemnly celebrated in all provincial houses on 29 June. The same day, the foundations of the main chapel of the Mother house were excavated.19

The Chapter voted that the memorial of St. Joseph be inserted in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin.20


1 The account we give in continuing is taken from the work of Br. Jules-Victorin, Bulletin de l’Institut, T. 23, (1958-1959) p. 69-72, except for some minor changes.

2 Píus IX (1846-1878) The pontifícate of Píus IX was not only the longest in the history of the Church, 32 years from 1846 to 1878, but also the most memorable: memorable not for the political incidents which resulted in the loss of the temporal power, but for the religious works which it saw come to birth and grow.
The personality of Pius IX was an attractive one. His charity, piety, zeal earned him the title of dear, of “saint. As soon as he was made Pope, he decided that every Thursday his palace would be open to anyone with a petition or a question or advice to give him. Before him, the Popes kept themselves remote from the people. Without losing any of his dignity, Pius IX , with great self dedication, knew how to combine the pontifical majesty with great simplicity. From this rare combination of qualities came a new kind of devotion, called the cult of the papacy. The Pope’s palace became one of the most popular places of pilgrimage: people came from all parts to bear witness to their faith, their love, their limitless affection. AA. VV. Enciclopedia del Papato Paoline Catania 1964, V. II. p. 887

3 Brother Luis di Gusto, in his Historia del Instituto has the following comment: “These were difficult times for Br. Louis-Marie, especially because of the actions of Mons. Chaillot, well-known for his combative character. He had at the same time to reconcile the requirements of the Sacred Congregation with the position of the Superiors.
He consulted Mons. Parisis, Archbishop of Arrás, a great friend of the Brothers, who had actively intervened in the process of legal authorization with the Minister de Crouseilhes, and it appeared that no changes could be made to the essential parts of the statutes approved by the French government. At this time there were 400 communal schools in France, and they risked ruining all the hard work this struggle had cost them.
As a result of these negotiations, the decree of approbation came out on 9 January 1863. With it we were given the name of Marist Brothers of the Schools (Fratres Maristae a Scholis] FMS. The Constitutions ad experimentum, (by way of trial) were approved for a period of 5 years.
It is noteworthy that the decree of approbation did not appear in the Circulars of the Superior General until 1869, that is to say, more than 5 years later. One might think that with this approbation, the matter would have ended, but in reality that is not what the second part of the decree says: Moreover, he (the Holy Father) has confirmed by way of experiment, for 5 years, the Constitutions containing the written contents in this example. And what was this example? Parallel to the Constitutions in 72 articles which Br. Louis-Marie had prepared and which had been approved by the General Chapter, appeared the other example in 69 articles prepared by Mons. Chaillot; and it was this example that had been confirmed in the decree of approbation.
The Constitutions thus approved changed some points approved by the General Chapter and could cause problems with the French government, placing at risk the benefits they had obtained in France, such as exemption from military service.
Caution had to be exercised in publishing these points.
For different reasons, the times of trial were successive and followed on after exchange and consultation . Rome did not insist on certain points, and for their part the Superiors took a step towards decentralization, whether from the force of circumstances, or to accept the request from the Sacred Congregation”. Di Gusto Historia del Instituto de los Hermanos Maristas, Rosario 2004, p. 89-91

4 Fr. AVIT, Annales, cahier 6, p. 564.

5 Ibid., p. 563 et Circulares, T. 3, pp. 107-109.

6 H. Jules-Victorin Bulletin de l’Institut T. 23, (1958-1959) p. 69-70

7 Since 1958, this room has been the « Saint-Antoine » dormitory of the Community of Saint-Genis-Laval.

8 Fr. AVIT, Annales, cahier 6, pp. 564-565.

9 Circulares, T. 3, pp. 493-494.

10 To see all the observations, cf. AFM 350.100-13; a substantial part of the same was published in Bizzarri, 795-797.

11 Cf. FMS, Constitutions présentées au Saint Siege pour approbation, en Brambila, 146-159.

12 Cf. FMS, Chronologie de l’Institut, 162-163; A. Lanfrey, Une Congrégation enseignante: Les Frères Maristes de 1850 a 1904, Rome 1997, 86-95.

13 Anaya, Tenemos vino nuevo, ¿necesitamos odres nuevos? Trabajo policopiado. Roma, 2009

14 Fr. AVIT, Annales, cahier 6, p. 565

15 Circulares, T. 3, p. 159-175.

16 Ibid., pp. 168-170.

17 Fr. AVIT, Annales, cahier 6, p. 579.

18 Circulares, T. 13, p. 463

19 Fr. AVIT, Annales, cahier 6, pp. 579-580.

20 Circulares, III, p. 499.