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Congratulations, Champagnat!

20/05/2019: General House

Marcellin Champagnat, the ninth of ten children, was born in the hamlet of Le Rosey, France on May 20th, 1789. On this day, we share a text from Brother Manoel Soares, a missionary in Timor Leste.

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"Dear Champagnat, on this day when we celebrate your birthday, I would like to have the wisdom of a scribe or to know the language of the angels to write a song of praise to God for your existence. But I also want to write a beautiful poem of thanksgiving to you for having had the courage to surrender totally to the will of God, for being this great model of holiness for us, a father and friend for children and young people. Not knowing how to write either, I want my heart to rejoice for what you were at the dawn of the Marist Institute, what you are for the Church and for the world today, what you will always be for those who love you from the heart.

Even though you were not born holy, I firmly believe that God has chosen you, has called you from eternity to be a light, a beacon to shine through the dark nights of the post-revolution dark ages, to awaken minds and hearts asleep in ignorance reigning at that time to awaken the dawn of a new time of light brought by the knowledge of God and his message, transmitted through Christian education to give a face to children without definite faces.

Was the cupric light that your mother saw coming out of your chest and spreading all over the room, as she thought, a sign of God's predilection for you? Did not God wish to say in a luminous way that your destiny was to be light, and that He had already planted in your heart the first spark that would ignite your whole heart and transform your life into an inexhaustible torrent of love? You had to let yourself burn in your own flame so that you could enlighten thousands of others throughout the world.

God spoke your name, you heard him and you said, "Here I am, Lord," I will be a priest! Even though you did not know completely what you were saying, you signed with your yes a covenant of love, whose enchantment for the Beloved grew as you walked towards him. But you would only come to know him fully when your life was fully immolated, in total donation.

Even if you did not fully know what you were responding to, much less what the responsibility of your decision meant, you bravely embarked on your journey toward the one who called you. With your generous act this was the first step on the path that would lead you into the arms of the one who has always loved you. And you had no fear of starting a difficult journey, which would require of you great sacrifices, great renunciations, great acts of detachment and generosity, for you suspected that only through a life entirely given in love could you reach the end of the road, the real transfiguration.

Yes, it is true that you made your life an offering of love. But before you attained holiness, you walked through human territories, along the paths of the soul and heart where the greatnesses and weaknesses that make up human beings are hidden. You saw many dramas and tragedies at the scene of the existence of many Brothers. You learned to deal with human frailties and smallness, but you knew how to understand the kindness, tenderness, transparency and sincerity of the hearts of those who turned to you, for you understood that the power of love could transform all limitations into greatness of soul. You were always able to see the best of each of your Brothers. Your wisdom told you that before you were holy you had to be fully human, you had to identify the imperfections of your mind and heart and to fight relentlessly against them, making every day an opportunity to start again. And it was thus that from a young age you practiced patience with the slowest, kindness with the suffering, compassion for the weakest, respect for sinners, and you always received with mercy the wounded and humiliated souls within themselves because they felt their struggle to be better people.

For all that, for what you were and for what you are, my heart rejoices because of your luminous presence in the Church and in the world.My heart rejoices for your clear and deep life, for you motivate me to go your way, follow your steps, seek in your teachings the same door that you entered and that led you to the altar of immolation, where your life was offeredgenerously, day after day, to your Brothers.

When God knocked softly on your door, you heard it and you did not fear to answer.You said ‘yes’, you said ‘here I am’, you said I will leave everything and I will go where your hand leads me? You let God into your tent and there He made your home.As a reward He gave you wisdom to change history, gave you inner strength to transform lives and hearts, gave wings to reach the Infinite, gave you thanks to conquer the glory of the heavens.

Congratulations, Champagnat!

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Br. Manoel Soares  (East Timor)

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