Excerpts from writings of Br. Henri Vergès

At the request of Brother Basilio Rueda, the then Superior General of the Marist Brothers, Henri wrote his autobiography dated 1st Sunday of Advent 1978. Here is its conclusion:

May God and the Virgin Mary be praised for my call, to have given me this grace of fidelity. Thank you to my brothers who helped me by their own fidelity to better answer God’s call. Thank you to my parents, my family, so many friends – specially the priests and religious among them who guided me on this way of Love. A Love Story that carries on: May our faithful God keep us faithful. FIAT! MAGNIFICAT!”

Ten years later, Henri accepted to narrate his spiritual journey “in the Islam house”. He ends his description in this way:

“In short, it was my Marist commitment that allowed me, in spite of my limits to insert myself harmoniously into this Muslim milieu, and my life in this milieu in turn became more Marist and more Christian. May God be praised!” (Algiers, Christmas 1989)

Henri’s reflections on the occasion of the centenary of the Marist Brothers’ arrival in Algeria:
“This year, a new stage: Bab-el-Oued, la Casbah….discreetly lost in the heart of the multitude, here we are with you, Mary, with the poor, with the youth, a humble presence that wants to be constantly available, to be your Son’s radiation… Already VISITATION meetings. Magnificat.

The library: these thousand young ones we welcome, these ten thousand people that surround us. A multitude still impregnated with faith but that fears its future. The distraught youth of the Third World – Help us, our Mother to light up hope in these young hearts.

The RIBAT, the Peace centre, that group that welcomes us, eager for a more spiritual approach of Islam and the Muslims, in their daily living. You journey with us, Mary, sometimes in the joy of the marvels that happen, a prophetic sign, in the spirit of the Assisi fraternity to which your Son’s Church opens itself.”

A few notes that explain Henri’s spiritual journey in his last stage :
“I must care for God’s gift that makes me discern what God wants at any moment: to be simply true, in Love, in his Presence. With Mary’s help to strengthen myself with the Eucharist.” (Tibhirine, 17 Dec. 1983)

“Three apostolic criteria for the Institute,
our turning to the poor
marial education
the Church’s calls.” (3 April 1984)

“Fix your heart on God with Mary.”

“Lord Jesus, I surrender myself to You to be surrendered in You and with You, completely to the Father in the Holy Spirit’s love. That my will may be the Father’s will for me and that his will be done day by day, up till the end.” (Varennes-sur-Allier, July 1985)

1986 : intensive year of Arabic inculturation – Clarisses-Algiers, 22 March 1986
“I want to allow Christ’s peace to invade my being more and more intimately.
Patience, kindness towards myself, patience, kindness towards all, specially the young ones that God entrusts to me. Virgin Mary, make me a channel of peace to the world.”

“A particular effort, this year, for a more special attention to the most destitute pupils of mine. From the start, to know each one by his name. To better adapt my teaching to the distressed ones as I wrote to Father Champagnat.” (N.D. de l’Hermitage, July 1987)
Lent 1988
“With God’s grace, accompanied by the Virgin Mary:

o Calm, peace in the presence of the Lord (specially at prayer time)
o Kind rapport with the pupils
o Fast: specially no dessert at night;
o A daily decrease of my ‘equipment’.”

“My presence in such a place, in such a time is necessary only inasmuch God wants it for me and my brothers. Like Jesus, I must be totally available to the Father’s will. I wish to be the little flower that blossoms where God planted it on men’s earth and irrigates it with the Spirit’s living water. In everything, to always be YES through and in Jesus’ YES, like the Virgin Mary.” (Written at Sour-El-Ghozlane, between 1986 and 1988)

“I want to be the Gospel’s transparency. To be a seed buried in the ground through which the Gospel’s leaven will raise up. To let myself be transformed a little more every day by the living Word of the Gospel: not to allow its edge to become blunt by routine, distraction or comfort. That the Word of the Gospel may spring up a new man in me. To become more and more the word of the Gospel.” (idem)

“The word I live is truer than the word I say. To aspire to radiate from my being at its best.”

“Patience, calm and tranquil perseverance. Like the sower that entrusts the soil with his seeds and allows God time to do His work: essential attitude for an educator – considering that I don’t know the developmental rhythm of each of these young ones. God simply sent me to sow in fields chosen by himself. I will then sow in peace and rely on God for the growth. I must not fear the presence of the cross.” (Idem)

“The prayer week (with Jean-Marie) was an opportunity for my personal conversion. My deductions: if the heart desires God, that means that the prayer has been good. To have this desire at the bottom of my heart and to try to increase this desire. Christ must radiate through us. The fifth gospel that everyone can read is our life.”
(Meeting No 12 du Ribat, 31 October 1984)

At Sour-El-Ghozlane, Henri questions himself:
“Why here?
– Because God sent me here
– Because God has a mysterious plan for the Muslin people, a temple of his presence where he invites me to enter, there is a reciprocal opening to favour a dialogue between believers. Our journeying towards God cannot help but to converge…
– Because my Marist vocation is particularly adapted to this buried presence, to this humble service, to the anchoring of the foundations on which the future will rest in this young country – we who are at the service of youth – with Mary, also present at Islam’s heart.”