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of the Little Brothers of Mary
by ONE OF HIS FIRST DISCIPLES (Brother John-Baptist Furet)
All to the greater glory of God
and in honour of the
august Mary, Mother of Our Lord
Jesus Christ.
2 Piazzale Champagnat - Roma ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Apart from some peculiarities in the use of capitals, the present text is
a reproduction of the first Life of 1856. The notes are drawn from the
research of the last thirty years into Marist origins. They aim at bringing
precision to the work of Brother John-Baptist, clarifying it, and changing
it when necessary. When the notes refer to Marist publications the
reference only is given. (See the list of abbreviations. In the English
edition, the French abbreviations have been maintained.) When the notes
come from other works the essential points are given. The notes come
especially from the work of Brothers Alexander Balko, Anibal Canon, Gabriel
Michel, Paul Sester, and Pierre Zind. They were put together by Brother
Roland Bourassa, and checked by Father John Coste S.M.
The notes of the Introduction are those of Brother John-Baptist.
Brother Ludovic Burke did the English translation.
Many thanks are due to all who made this re-edition possible.
ABBREVIATIONS AA Summary of Annals, Brother Avit, F.M.S. 1789-1840.
AAL Archives of the Archdiocese of Lyons.
ADL Archives of the Department of the Loire.
AFD Achievement from the Depths, Br. Stephen Farrell, F.M.S.1986.
AFM Archives of the Marist Brothers, Rome.
ALS Counsels, Teachings, Sayings (of Marcellin Champagnat), 1927.
AN National Archives of Paris.
APM Archives of the Marist Fathers, Rome.
BI Bulletin of the Institute of the Marist Brothers.
BQF Our Models in Religion, 1924.
CM Marist Chronicles (The Founder), Br. Anibal, Luis Vives,
Zaragoza, 1979.
CSG Circular Letters of Superior Generals.
FMS Review of the Marist Brothers, Rome.
LPC 1 Letters of Father Champagnat, Vol. 1. Br. Paul Sester, F.M.S.
LPC 2 Letters of Father Champagnat, Vol. 2, Index, Brs. Raymond and
Sester, 1987.
MC Marcellin Champagnat, Bishop Laveille, Ed. Téqui, Paris, 1921.
MEM Memoirs - personal souvenirs, Br. Sylvester, F.M.S.
NCF The New Congregations of Teaching Brothers in France, 1800-1830,
Pierre Zind, F.M.S., Lyons, 1969.
OM Marist Origins, Vols. 1,2,3,4., J. Coste, S.M. and G. Lessard,
S.M. Rome. 1960-1967.
OME Marist Origins, Extracts on the Marist Brothers.
PPC Practice of Christian Perfection, Alphonsus Rodriguez Ed. de
Cosson, Paris, 1837.
RLF Marcellin Champagnat and the legal recognition of the Marist
Brothers, Vol. 1 - to 1840, Br. Gabriel Michel, F.M.S., 1986.
SA St Augustine, Complete Works, Ed. Louis Vives, Paris, 1878.
SAL St Alphonsus Liguori, Ascetical Works, Ed. Paul Mellier, Paris,
SFS St Francis de Sales, Complete Works, Ed. Nierat, 1898.
SMC In the footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat, Vols. 1 and 2, Br.
Pierre Zind, F.M.S., (Articles from "Marist Presence", 1970-
VPC Life of Father Champagnat, Ed. 1931. PREFACE To write the life of a saint, to reveal his struggles, his triumphs, his
virtues, and all that he has done for God and neighbour, is to proclaim the
glory of Jesus Christ, the divine Redeemer of the world the model and
author of all sanctity. Indeed, all the saints who enlighten us, and who by
their example dissipate the darkness of sin and ignorance, draw their light
from the life of Jesus; the y are filled with ardour by meditation on his
virtues; in much the same way, a single torch is used to light a number of
lamps, providing them all with light and heat. (Saint Macarius: His
There is no saint who cannot say with Saint Paul: "I live, now not I, but
Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2,20). Re lives in their intellect through
faith, by which they begin to share eternal life; he lives in their memory
by the recollection of his greatness, his goodness and his benefits, the
very thought of which overwhelms them with joy; he lives in their heart by
his love; he lives in their virtuous acts and in all the spiritual
faculties of their soul; he it is gives them a savour for eternal truths;
he makes them attentive to divine inspirations; it is he who draws them by
the fragrance of his virtues. Hence, everything by way of grace and gift in
the saints, has its source in Jesus and redounds to his glory.
According to St John Chrysostom: "The saints are like the stars of the
sky combining their splendour to proclaim the glory of Jesus. Everything
within them breathes his spirit; their every word sounds the praises of his
perfections; their actions record the victories of his grace; all their
sufferings are sacrifices paying ho mage to his greatness; in a word, their
life is a replica of his and excels in his virtues." (NOUET. The Life of
Jesus in the Saints).
To write the life of a saint, is to stigmatize vice, to encourage piety
and virtue. The life of a saint is seen by Saint Gregory as an instruction
on the virtues and how to acquire them; it is a clear mirror, showing us
our faults and imperfections with such truth and with such consequent
disgust, that the very sight is enough to persuade us to correct them. The
life of a saint, vividly presents to us evangelical perfection and all the
steps available to us in the quest for it; it is the Gospel in action, and
St Francis of Sales asserts that there is no more difference between the
written Gospel and the life of a saint, than between a musical score and
its performance.
As we read the lives of the saints, we are gently but firmly moved to
follow their example; it is as if each of them invites us to follow the
same path; as if each virtue that the y reflect says to us in pointing to
them, what chastity said to St Augustine at the beginning of his
conversion: Why shouldn't you be able to do what these others have done?
Was it by their own strength that they overcame the difficulties met on the
way to heaven? No, it was by the grace of Jesus Christ that they conquered
sin and practised virtue. The same grace is at your disposal, he was told,
and using it you are capable of doing all that they did.
It is true that the example of all the saints may be very useful in
leading us to perfection. However, St Peter Damian reminds us of the need
for the same prudence in the choice of saints, as governs our choice of the
virtues most necessary or most appropriate for us. We should choose those
saints whose life best fits our profession and our circumstances. Each
Institute and each profession, in St Jerome's view, have their leading
figures whose example serves as a model to which the others ought to
conform. He would want bishops and priests to form themselves on the
pattern of the apostles and apostolic men so that they match them not only
in honour but in merit. We, who make profession of a solitary life, he
suggested, can model ourselves on a Paul, an Anthony, a Julian, an Hilarion
or a Macarius. Following the wise advice of that great Doctor, the Brothers
should take as master in the spiritual life and model in the practice of
virtue, their pious Founder: nothing can be more useful or profitable to
them, than his example.
To raise the saints to the peak of holiness, God sometimes leads them by
extraordinary ways, causing us to admire rather than imitate them; at other
times, they are led along the common, beaten path but they follow it in an
heroic and very perfect fashion which provides us with an object both of
admiration and of imitation. By that path, God sanctified our venerated
Father; as a result, his life is, in every respect, a model which we can,
and ought to, imitate. In the mirror of that life we shall see our faults
and the virtues God asks of us; that life is a Rule in action, teaching us
on every page what we must do in order to be pious and fervent Religious,
zealous for the glory of God; in order to be filled with love for Jesus
Christ; in order to be Religious truly devoted to Mary and genuine
imitators of the humility, simplicity and modesty of that noble Virgin and
of her hidden life. Each of us, while studying and meditating on the
virtues depicted for us in that life, should say to himself: "There, is
the model which I ought to copy, which I must labour to reproduce; I shall
be a perfect Religious, a true Little Brother of Mary, only if I bear a
resemblance to that prototype of the perfection of my state."
After the death of Saint Benedict, his most important disciples were
raised to ecstasy during prayer. God showed them a broad path, stretching
towards the East from the Saint's cell up to heaven. The path was studded
with torches which spread a soft, clear light. St Maurice, watching the
spectacle with the other Brothers, was intent