Br Louis-Marie to the Brs of Oceania, Saint-Genis-Laval, 15 November 1862
CSG 3: 523-6
At the beginning of the Brothers’ third General Chapter in July 1860, Francois had asked to be discharged of the burden of the administration of the Institute, and proposed that Louis-Marie be named his Vicar with full powers until the next chapter. The capitulants agreed unanimously and for the following three years Louis-Marie acted with all the powers and responsibilities of the superior general. As such he was responsible for continuing the negotiations with the Holy See for the approbation of the congregation. During 1862 he made two visits to Rome on this business, in February and May, and was rewarded in January 1863 when Pius IX accorded the Institute of the Little Brothers of Mary his formal approbation.
This is his first circular to the missionaries, taking advantage of the impending departure of three Marists for Oceania (this group left London on 25 November). Besides making a personal report to the superiors, Poupinel spoke to the brothers gathered at Saint-Genis for the two retreats of August-September . This is certainly the visit Avit in the Annales mistakenly attributes to Pompallier. The annalist makes no mention of this circular either, including under the year 1862 summaries of and excerpts from a number of letters written by various missionary brothers between the years 1836 and 1850, including Marie-Nizier, Claude-Marie, Hyacinthe, Gennade, Emery, Pierre-Marie, Florentin and Paschase (AA 3. 22-28).
The main purpose of the letter is to encourage the brothers in the missions to correspond more regularly with the superiors . By incorporating the various establishments where they work into the province of the Hermitage and giving them an Assistant, Pascal, Louis-Marie is making quite clear that these brothers are full members of the Little Brothers of Mary, and he underlines this elsewhere in the letter [rf esp. 5]. Pascal (Jean-Marie Gaudin 1824-1867) had entered the Hermitage in 1841 after being confirmed in his vocation by the Cure of Ars. He was only 30 and director of the Hermitage when the 1854 general chapter elected him Assistant for the province of the North. In December 1860 he was assigned the Hermitage province. But while Louis-Marie has nothing but praise and encouragement for the brothers already in Oceania, he was not prepared to send out any more under the same conditions. “Since 1859,” comments Avit, “our superiors had not sent out any more to Oceania, not being satisfied with the use the Marist Fathers made of them and judging that the position of these Brothers was sometimes too difficult, as their letters attested. “ (AA 3. 22).
A copy of this letter is found in Francois’ hand in his letterbook (pp 339-40), but without his signature. It is thus probable that Francois had a hand in drafting the circular, as Louis-Marie had certainly had in the past with several circulars which appeared under Francois’ name.
Text of the Letter
- Very dear Brothers,
- I have been prevented from responding sooner to the different letters I have received from you during the year by having had to make two trips to Rome, almost one after the other, to gain the Holy See’s approbation for the Institute. I am sending a collective response today on the occasion of the Fathers’ departure.
- I can only rejoice and bless God with you, my very dear Brothers, for the good reports the excellent Fr Poupinel has brought us. We had him at our two retreats at Saint-Genis-Laval and he impressed all the Brothers with the edifying stories he had to tell. But we received special consolation from the news he gave us of each one of you. How happy the senior Brothers were to hear your cherished names! How joyful we all were to learn that our good Brothers in Oceania are well, happy, and doing all they can to second the missionaries in the work of converting those poor peoples. I was filled with consolation myself on seeing the bonds of charity and faith, which unite us together under Mary’s protection and in her little Society, grow tighter in this way, on hearing the Reverend Father describe to us how attached you remain to the Institute, how happy you are to receive news of us, and to hear that the good God continues to bless our work and make it prosper.
- I find these sentiments and dispositions in all your letters as well. They are expressed with such ardour and force that I feel real pain when I consider that too often you have had to wait a long time for our replies. So in order to encourage and facilitate this correspondence, which is a consolation for us both, I have decided to confide it to a Brother Assistant in the same way as the ordinary correspondence of the other Provinces of the Institute. Almost all of you departed from the House of the Hermitage where we still keep the precious remains of our Founder. It is to the Province of the Hermitage, therefore, that your various establishments will be attached, and it is dear Br Pascal who will be your Assistant. This Brother is an excellent one, full of zeal and dedication. I am assured he will be as prompt in replying to you as can be desired, and that you will find him very good in all the dealings you have with him. He will be happy to satisfy all your requests, and to reach an understanding with the Father responsible for the Missions about all the little commissions you may confide to him.
- I will continue myself to follow your correspondence in a very particular way because you are all individually known to me and dear to me. If I am transferring my ordinary responsibility to a Brother Assistant, it is only to avoid the delays and oversight which lengthy absences or the very involved administration of the affairs of the Institute might occasion.
- So I assure you all once more today, my very dear Brothers, of all our affection and of all our remembrance of you in prayer. We will always consider you as ours, even if you have given yourselves to far-away missions and have to devote and consecrate yourselves entirely to them. It is even by that dedication and those sacrifices that you will contribute more than all the others to the good of our common work. Oh! How many graces and blessings will be drawn down on the whole Institute of the Little Brothers of Mary by those among us whom God will associate with the life of the Apostles in the missions, and who will have sufficient constancy and generosity to spend their strength and their health in devoting themselves to this until they die. That was the great joy and hope of our venerated Father and Founder when he saw his first Brothers set out for that beautiful mission nearly 27 years ago, and none of us has any doubt that the good done since, and which you are carrying on, is one of the main causes of the prosperity and development of our work throughout the whole of France, and before long, throughout the British Isles and Belgium.
- Let us continue, then, my very dear Brothers, to respond to God’s designs for us in Oceania as well as in Europe with confidence and courage. May there be a holy rivalry between us as to who will procure the most glory for God, the most good for souls, and who will be the most humble, the most mortified, the most pious and the most zealous. That is what I ask with all the ardour of my soul, both for you all, and for all our Brothers of Europe.
- I am obliged to cut this short, because there is only half a day left for having these few thoughts copied for each of you. I will try at the first opportunity to send you a detailed account of the whole Institute and send each one the reply he expects.
- In the meantime, let us continue more united than ever in spirit and heart, in prayer and works. And accept the assurance of the tender affection with which I am, in Jesus and Mary, My very dear Brothers,
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,
- Br Louis-Marie.
- Your very humble and very obedient servant,
- I ask you to pass on my very humble respects to the Fathers who are with you, and to recommend me to their prayers and at the Holy Sacrifice.
- Frere Francois, Lettres Personnelles (2), presentees par F Paul Sester, Rome, 1996.
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