Virtues of Brother François


Brother François’ Thought

Let us admire the kind ways of God’s divine Providence:
what we consider as misfortunes and disgrace
often become abundant sources of grace and blessings.
If God seems to afflict us with one hand,
He caresses us with the other;
He surrounds us with his mercy and with his very paternal protection
When we confidently throw ourselves into his arms
and we give ourselves to Him completely and forever.

His advice facilitated agreement and charity in the communities…

Brother François’ Prayer

O God, grant me your grace 
that I may become a superior according to your heart,
faithful to all my duties,
having only those in mind
looking at you only, seeking you only,
hoping in you and fearful lest I offend you.

Please, give me zealous collaborators,
send good workers to your vineyard.
Grant me the discernment to choose them properly
piety to train them well,
wisdom in assigning them to various tasks,
vigilance and kindness to govern them.

Bless them, preserve them, sanctify them, 
make them men according to your heart
filled with your spirit
and always assiduous with their ministry.
(Fr. François: 60 ans d’histoire mariste, p. 79)

Prudence in Brother François’ Life

The preceding pages showed us Brother François’ faith, hope and charity. Let us continue to admire him in his virtues of prudence, justice, strength and temperance. You might find the framework a bit too classical; yet the discoveries will be beautiful.

The reading of the testimonies that praise Brother François’ Christian prudence reveals a virtue all in nuances, a conjunction of human and spiritual forces and qualities, much richer than we could first have imagined.

This virtue, according to the witnesses issues forth from God’s intimacy, from one’s opening to the Spirit’s wisdom. «His prudence was all supernatural and rooted up in prayer. Brother François never undertook anything without having seriously reflected and without having prayed abundantly and having requested us to pray. He recommended his project to god, examined it carefully, he cared to consult. He was careful to avoid rushing up to a quick decision, to avoid passion that blinds a person. He never showed any stubbornness or vanity. He did not speak before having requested God’s enlightenment.»

Prudence requires one to bear listening to others. It also wants us to be opened to any advice that might clarify a situation, a problem or ease the taking of a decision. «Brother François appeared thoughtful and calm. He knew how to consult the wise people.» 
«He liked to consult Father Colin, the bishops and his councillors. He did not neglect any human means, but once this was done, he put his trust in God and appealed to supernatural and divine means.»

Prudence and wisdom hold hands. Because he was prudent, people came to ask for Brother François’ advice, «He was endowed with a great wisdom and a supernatural prudence; people from all around cam to consult him. Our boarding schools’ directors came to the Hermitage to commit their difficulties to Brother François’ judgement. I often heard brothers pride themselves for the wise advice they had received from him. In the various establishments, brothers loved to receive his advice that allowed charity to unite them. Brothers left his office encouraged. When consulted, he did not reply immediately; if the matter was serious, he paused, prayed and reflected. He sometimes needed to consult someone else, afterwards, he usually gave a very correct solution. I never heard that Brother François had lacked prudence. On the contrary, I know that he often held back and slowed down certain imprudent and daring brothers.»

There is an agreement between prudence and sincerity. «He was sincerity itself, he never dissembled. His frankness sheltered him from dishonesty.»

Prudence becomes a life attitude. Some witnesses attributed Brother François’ success to his prudence, «Brother François’ prudence was put in evidence by his success in difficult endeavours; examples: the joining to our Institute of the Viviers and the Saint Paul Brothers and the government of the Institute.»
(Source: Positio super virtutibus : Information, p. 60-64)


Brother François’ Thought

How blind and how very foolish it is
to spend one’s life weaving with great seriousness and application
spider webs
that death will sweep away in a half second!

Brother François’ Prayer

Sacred Heart of Jesus,
grant me the gift to always love you
and in a progressive way.
Receive, O Sacred Heart
all my freedom, my memory, my will,
my actions and my life.
Accept my sufferings and my pains,
I give myself to you forever.
All the moments of my life are yours,
all my actions are yours,
kindly grant me your grace to fulfil my duties
with the sole purpose to please and serve you.
(Carnet de notes) Summ. P. 555)

His Justice

As a Christian virtue, justice has nothing to do with court matters. Here, we mean the habit that gives God the worship and the gratitude that befits him. This virtue recognises and glorifies God’s works. At the same time, justice is a deep respect of the others, of their rights, their authority and their work.

The following testimonies imply our understanding of Brother François’ justice:
«I remember that Brother François was tireless in all his duties towards God. All his affection was for God. Besides, he gave the saints the appropriate veneration. He kept talking of the extraordinary blessings granted his dear Congregation by God. Consequently, he trained the Brothers to thank God daily for all the favours received from Him. He often returned to the thanksgiving theme in his instructions. ‘Brothers, good deeds are done, let us thank God. Oh! Let us not cease thanking Him!’ In his notebook he often mentioned thanksgiving to God and Mary. I do believe that Brother François gave everyone his due, according to his sound conscience that was however, a little bit fearful. To God he offered his worship and his affection; to the saints he offered their due veneration according to the liturgical rules from which he never strayed.»

This sense of justice influenced his collaborators. «This worthy superior made the brothers respect authority and the rights of others. I heard him speak of the thanksgiving we owed Pope Pius IX who had welcomed him so well in Rome where he had gone for our rules’ approval. During his whole life, Brother François was full of courtesy for the priests and the bishops.

Respect and gratitude as facets of justice naturally accompany affection. «He never criticised his successors. A father cannot show as much attachment and affection for his family as this good superior did for his congregation. 
A lady who had worked for Brother François reported, «I remember that Brother François was very fair. Thus, wanting me to do some needle work for him, he first made the salary arrangements with my parents. He was always very honest as regarded the payments.» Another lady reported a similar experience, «My husband was a cloth supplier to the Hermitage. Brother François was always very honest, even courteous and obliging. During our trading he did not haggle; he wanted us to have our legitimate benefit.» Others affirmed, «The servant of God was very grateful for favours received. I specially remember his thankfulness for Mrs. De la Grandville’s help. He was very careful to make us respect the neighbour’s property. There were novenas for the benefactors. When one of these died, he asked us to recite the office for the dead. He often prayed for his parents whom he dearly loved.

Christian justice is a life style where the sense of God, the respect of God and people and gratitude cause one to behave in a just way, offering to God, the saints and men a sort of priority and promotion.
(Source: Positio super virtutibus: Informatio, pp. 64-68)

Theologians and Historians

Before a cause is examined by the diocese where the servant of God died theologians and historians must examine the writings of the servant of God.

The bishop who must open the investigation in his diocese and the person in charge of the cause must choose two theologians. The public writings of the servant of God are submitted to these two theologians for their reading. Then the private writings are presented : letters, articles, conferences and notes.
The theologians have a double role:
1. They must assess whether these writings are consonant with faith;
2. They have to ‘paint’ the spiritual portrait of the servant of God as the writings describe him. This portrait may be extremely useful and rich.

The public and private writings are also entrusted to three historians for a double purpose:
1. They must guarantee the authenticity of these documents;
2. Above all they must describe the human personality that is reflected in the writings.

The theologians’ and historians’ work will be added up to the whole dossier of the cause. Their opinions will facilitate the diocesan court process where friends who lived with the servant of God will be called to testify


Brother François’ Thought

One must act out of love and not out of fear.
Fear is like frost that hardens, shrinks, numbs and destroys.
Love is like heat that expands, softens, rejoices, animates.
(Fr. François: 60 ans d’histoire mariste, p. 201)

Often think of Jesus,
Think of Mary as well,
She is Jesus’ mother and ours;
she was at the foot of the cross,
she suffered with Jesus
and that was the moment we became her children
When Jesus gave her to us as our mother.
She is our good and tender mother,
Our Lady of sorrows,
Our Lady of Pity,
Our Lady of Compassion.
We are her affliction’s sons,
we are Jesus’ suffering members,
her divine son
Who suffers in us and valorises our trials.
Hence, we endear ourselves 
with her maternal heart.
She loves and assists us,
just like a mother full of tenderness and,
if she does not relieve us immediately from our difficulties
it is because she very well knows how advantageous they are to us.
(Fr. François: 60 ans d’histoire mariste, p. 342)

Temperance is the expression of self-control which is one of the Spirit’s gifts. This self-control expresses itself above all on the body by frugality and by moderation that curbs natural cupidity.

«The servant of God had a great reputation of temperance and of mortification as regarded food. He did not know what a good meal was because he cared little for the quality of the food. He poured just enough wine to colour the water he drank. He said that the Gier’s water was the best wine! For some time, I sat near his table in the dining room. He ate the same food as the novices, except for the glass of water he regularly drank at the end of each meal. He jokingly exclaimed that this was his coffee! He never wanted anything special even when he was sick. One day, when visiting a house, more food was served to him than the rule allowed. Courteously, he sent this surplus back to the kitchen. Another day, an omelette dressed with some Gier’s trout was brought to his table. He had the delicious dish sent to the sick saying there wasn’t enough for everybody.»

Temperance goes further than frugality. «He knew how to discipline his body by mortification, he controlled his senses perfectly, his eyes particularly. Everywhere, his bearing was modest. His language was always calm.» Many witnesses reported that he flagellated himself and that he wore a rough metal belt. Yet, they added, «He forbade us to make extraordinary penance without permission.» One of his nephews revealed that the wearing of the hair-shirt was a family habit. Brother François’ aunt wore one before her marriage.
(Source: Positio super virtutibus : Informatio, pp. 68-73


Brother François’ Thought

When it is time for recreation we have to recreate ourselves indeed;
I wish to emphasise this with you,
This is more important than we sometimes imagine it.
And, it was not without reason 
that sufficient recreation was inserted among the ways of perfection. 
Then, always endeavour that the recreation times
Are always pleasant moments for your brothers.

Do not work as slaves for your pupils!
You do need your recreations.
It is better that your pupils learn less
To love you more
than to hear them complain
that the brothers treat them harshly 
and make them work hard.
(Fr. François: 60 ans d’histoire mariste, p. 222)

The blood from Mary’s heart 
enlivens Jesus’ heart.
Jesus’ heart, 
through its grace
sanctifies Mary’s heart.
(Fr. François: 60 ans d’histoire mariste, p. 341)

His Strength

Strength helps one to live his Christian life with energy. It is a sign of our love for God and neighbour to practise integrity, constancy and patience. Besides, this strength is made of serenity, self-control, obedience to God’s will while the one who possesses this virtue keeps a human kindness that allows him to live in communion with those who suffer.

«I once saw the chaplain ask him during recreation time whether he was not tired. Brother François replied, ‘Oh, one never gets tired to work for God.’ I know that when Brother François retired from duty, he promised that he would still do all he could for his Institute. He kept following the rule in spite of his infirmities. That’s another proof of his energy. When his physical strength declined, his moral courage led him to continue doing some work. 
Where his mental strength showed most was his constant energy to practise the rule and to lead the brothers to imitate him on that score. Never did I see him discouraged; always energetic he knew how to cheer up the others. What is amazing is that with his weak health he managed to get through so much work! Although suffering and sick, we never heard him complain and he seldom took any medicine. He patiently endured his sufferings and resigned himself to God’s will.»

The Hermitage’s Chaplain testified, «He was so patient during his sickness; he never proffered any complaint. He said, ‘I suffer what God wants.’ He apologised for the work he gave others, ‘I am giving you a lot of trouble.’»
A novice wrote, «I still see this kind old man, calm and happy, always smiling, with his soft but persuasive language. Indeed everyone could see that his conscience was at ease although he was suffering a lot. A part of his body was paralysed and he was still wearing his horrible belt! But all this did not alter his soul’s serenity. Between us, the novices, we used to say, ‘Brother François is a saint.’
Although he was in great pains, he never complained but he felt a great compassion for those who suffered; it was as if he had felt the others’ sufferings. 
Another brother saw him this way, «The servant of God never lacked Christian strength nor patience in his various trials, diseases, difficulties and tribulations. By his exterior composure, he gave us all the impression of being in perfect possession of himself. Full of stamina but always dignified. I think Brother François was always energetic, for example, when Father Champagnat passed away everybody felt discouraged whereas Brother François felt revitalised by the Founder’s exemplary life.»

Brother François had to make efforts to acquire this strength. «Brother François restrained himself to be calm. His nervous temperament made him prone to become excited, to make some harsh reprimands when he witnessed any breach of the rules. But he soon controlled himself. He managed to remain unmoved when confronted with annoyances in spite of his sensitive nature. He reprimanded when he had to but softly without ever pouncing on people.»
(Source: Positio super virtutibus: Information, pp. 74-78)