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Letters of Marcellin - 080

 

Br. Marcellin Champagnat
02/01/1837


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The preceding 29th December, Bro. Louis-Marie had written to Fr. Champagnat:

I find myself in the most distressing confusion I think I could ever experience. Fr. Douillet wants me to sign the lease with which you are acquainted, simply for forms sake, with a counter-declaration which will make it null and void. It has to be done this evening, because it must be presented to the council of the district education committee. We are relying on the parish priest, who is a member of this council, to get us a favorable decision; if he is not there, we will have good reason to worry. However, the parish priest (who has just been named vicar general) is leaving tomorrow; not definitively, it is true, but only for a few days: a week, maybe two. That leaves me the only one here to sign. The parish priest wants me to do so without your authorization; Fr. Douillet is pestering me; the mayor and the public in general, who have no idea how things stand between us and Fr. Douillet, are astonished at our delaying, since they see this lease as nothing but an empty formality....

In point of fact, we do not know precisely what difficulty the academy was making for Fr. Douillet, to the point that it threatened the existence of his project, but could be ended by a simple lease, even a fictitious one. Fr. Douillet had already asked Fr. Mazelier on 26th November, to get him out of a mess, by making an official declaration that he would adopt the formers house, to make it a preparatory novitiate for his own congregation.

When that fell through, Fr. Douillet came up with the solution of a lease with Fr. Champagnat, but only a fictitious one with a counter-declaration, because if it were genuine, it would certainly help the brothers but not Fr. Douillet, who would in a sense be leaving himself at the brothers mercy. This is why, seeing that Fr. Douillet had been trapped into signing a lease in order to save his project, the brothers wondered if this were not the moment to lay down some conditions which would oblige him to yield on the issues on which he had been refusing to budge for so long. These were: the removal of Marthe, his housekeeper, and of the young cook he had imposed on them, whom he claimed he was preparing for the novitiate; in a word, to give them the autonomy they needed to run the school according to their rules and customs.

We do not know how the affair turned out, nor if the lease was finally signed. According to a letter from Fr. Douillet to Fr. Mazelier, the threats hanging over him diminished. Nobody is bothering me right now, and I have even been assured indirectly that I will be left in peace. In fact, this precise matter never came up again.

My very dear brother,

We are still waiting for the novice in question. It is important that he prove to us, by his prompt obedience, that he is called; any further delay, and he will be rejected for good.

I give you permission to sign the lease which Fr. Douillet has asked you for, with the counter-declaration. I am asking Fr. Douillet that our brothers be free at La Côte-Saint-André as elsewhere, to follow our rules and customs. We cannot permit other ways of doing things without seriously hurting our Institute.

Our missionaries embarked on 23rd December. I have received a very beautiful letter from Bro. Marie-Nizier. I will share it with you a little later.

Please extend my very sincere New Years wishes to Fr. Douillet. I will always be pleased to see him come to our house.

As for you, dear brother, and those who are with you, I can tell you, and my heart does not contradict my words: Carissimi, diligamus invicem, etc.... St. John, the beloved disciple, repeated this in all his letters, and I can certainly say it to you at the beginning of this year. I hold you all very tenderly in my heart.

Tell Bro. Raphaël that I received his last letter, and that Jesus and Mary will help him overcome the problems he may encounter in his work.

May Jesus and Mary be with you!

I have the honor to be your devoted and affectionate Father in Jesus and Mary,

Champagnat
S.M.B.

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