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Saint Mary Magdalene
1816: Marcellin Champagnat was ordained a priest in Lyons

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Letters of Marcellin - 317

 

Br. Marcellin Champagnat
01/02/1840


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Some brothers, trained at the novitiate of N-D de lHermitage for manual work, had been sent to Belley to work for the fathers. They were then assimilated into the coadjutor brothers, or Frères Joseph, so much so that it is always difficult to distinguish clearly the Marist Brothers from the Joseph Brothers.
On 3rd February 1832, Father Colin suggested to Father Champagnat that there be in Belley:

only one group of brothers, that this group be composed of two types of brothers: Marist Brothers and Joseph Brothers. Those received as Joseph Brothers can never become Marist Brothers, except for very grave reasons; but the Marist Brothers can become Joseph Brothers. The work to which they are assigned is what will distinguish them. (OM, I, doc. 345.2, p. 784)

If that looks simple enough in theory, in practice it was not, for it involved individuals animated by very specific ideals. It also involved the habit, which was not the same for the Marist Brothers as for the Joseph Brothers. On 8th April 1832, Father
Colin wrote to Father Champagnat:

It would not be proper that the brothers assigned to manual work in the secondary schools and other houses of the Society wear the habit you have given to the Marist Brothers. Their habit will be much more simple and more in keeping with their work. (OM, I, doc, 246, p. 543).

On 7th January 1835, he wrote again:

It also seems to me that it would be good if the brothers assigned to manual work did not wear the rabat, and that instead of the cross on their breast they had the rosary hanging from their cincture. (OM, I, doc. 330.4, p. 744).

These arrangements did not at all please the brothers who came from the Hermitage, Bro. Timothée among them. The latter, Father Jeantin tells us,

was tormented by the idea of returning to the brothers of Fr. Champagnat. What upset him the most, was that people were saying at that time that the brothers of the Society...would be called the Josephite Brothers. He did not want that name, but that of Marist. At the time when this thought was tormenting him most, he contracted an illness which, too long neglected, finally became incurable; it was a sarcoma.... The brother made a novena to St. Joseph and promised him, if he cured him, to remain in the Society and to agree to bear that name. He was suddenly cured. (OM, III, doc. 819, pp. 322-23)

The following letter must be read in that context. Brother François, who gives it to us in one of his notebooks, among reflections on a wide variety of topics, introduces it with these words: Here is the letter which Fr. Champagnat wrote from N-D de lHermitage on 1st February 1840 to Bro. Timothée and the other brothers who were working for the Marist Fathers in Belley.

My very dear Brothers,

I am profiting by the journey of Father Superior General (Fr. Colin) to Belley to write you and assure you that your dedication to the service of the fathers will be a joy for the whole society. You should not balk at a simple change of habit, which changes nothing about your status. You will not be considered any less members of the Little Brothers of Mary of the Hermitage. Everything which can help to bind the two branches together is perfectly in line with our own views and those of Providence. Tell Fr. Superior you abandon yourself into his hands, as the brothers in Lyons have done, and as the true children of Mary will always do.

I continue to recommend myself to your good prayers, and I am, in Jesus and Mary, your most devoted father and servant,

Champagnat

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