Models of Marist Holiness


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Models of Marist Holiness
This book brings together our different causes; as well as certain cases where the Brothers concerned are truly considered as models, even if their cause has not been opened.
Our Models of Marist Holiness first looks at our confessors: Marcellin Champagnat, Brother François, Brother Alfano and Brother Basilio.
Much more numerous are the martyrs. Brother Lycarion, a Swiss aged 39, killed on 27 July 1909 in Barcelona, opens the series. Then follow Brothers Bernardo, Laurentino and his confrères (46), beatified on 28 October 2007; the group of Br. Crisanto (68) occupies quite a large space, and that of Br. Eusebio (59) closes the series of the Spanish martyrs.
A hundred pages are reserved for our martyrs of Oceania, Africa, and China. The latter find their case enhanced by the recovery of the acts of the Peking tribunal relating to Christians killed by the Boxers in 1900. Brother Henri Vergès and our martyrs of the Great Lakes of Africa are our contemporaries, pioneers of Mission ad Gentes.
The series of causes are not of equal value. The confessors offer a wealth of material, while certain groups of martyrs receive cursory treatment: the martyrs of Oceania, Br. Eusebio’s group… This is so that the dossier does not become too long.
The advantage of having this work in electronic format allows it to be continued and added to with further data.

The office of the Postulator, in order to avoid the work of printing and mailing, is going to present other books on the web site:

1-The saints, a book of general reflections on sanctity and the many misunderstandings about it common among us.

2-The group of martyrs with Br. Crisanto, (68), an account of the Brothers killed in the communities in many places in Spain: Catalonia, Toledo, Madrid, Malaga, Valencia, Badajoz…

3-The martyrs de China of 1900, under the Boxers: extremely sympathetic martyrs, most of them peasants from around Peking.

The aim of this work is to provide an overall vision of our models of sanctity, an instrument particularly useful for young people in formation. From acquaintance it is possible to pass on to personal and community prayer. It will be a great thing if this work helps to keep alive in our hearts love and prayer for these Brothers, models of Marist life.
The various translators: Brothers Fabricio Galiana, Desmond Crowe, George Fontana, Edward Clisby, Virgilio Balestro and Aloisio Kuhn, merit a special thank you.

Br. Giovanni Maria Bigotto, Postulator.

January 2010.


Presentation 2

Index 3
Marcellin Champagnat 5
Br. François, Gabriel Rivat 20
Br. Alfano: Joseph Carlo Vaser 31
Br. Basilio Rueda Guzmán 41
In Remembrance of Br. Lycarion 61
Bernardo Fàbrega Julià 66
The Night of the Martyrs: Brs. Laurentino, Virgilio and 44 Brothers 76

Positio of Br. Crisanto 149

The Martyrs of Les Avellances 150
The Martyrs of the fronton 157
The Brothers of the Community of Toledo 164
Our Martyr Brothers of the Community of Valencia 172
Our Martyr Brothers of the Community of Vich 177
Br. José de Arimatea 184
Br. Aureliano 187
Br. Guzmán and his Confreres in Malaga 190
Our Martyrs in Madrid 196

The Four Martyrs at Chinchón 204

Three Violets –The Martyrs of Torrelaguna 208
Our Brothers of Villalba de la Sierra 213
Victims of our Communities of Cabezón and Carrejo 218
A Tomb: 60 Martyrs (Barruelo de Santullàn) 223
A Martyr outside the series: Br. Benedicto Andrès 226

Brs. Valente José and Eloy José 229

To die together, Master and Disciple: Br. Millán 233
The death of a humble man: Br. Luis Firmín 237
A Draper, a Gardiner and a Mason, witnesses to Christ 240
Br. Pablo Daniel 244
The Cause of Br. Eusebio and 58 other Confreres 248
Our Brothers in Oceania 262
Our Martyrs in China 269
Br. Henri Vergès 338
Our Brothers in Africa 346



On Discovering Marcellin1

ere is the life of a man without bounds: Marcellin Champagnat. This is for you the occasion to approach him and discover

his mind,

his heart,

his mission,

his work.

It is an invitation to welcome his message with a new enthusiasm. You will discover God’s steps in the life of a man of flesh and blood like you and me, who has left a trace because he has abandoned himself into the hands of a God of love. He knew how to be open to the needs of his time, he knew how to reply to the plan that God had for his life.

He risked himself without fear. He knew how to find the rock for his building: The constant search for the will of God.
This life is a complete treasure which we are called to share as a gift and a grace of God. A life which questions: how to remain indifferent faced with a world in which all seems completed! Marcellin’s life is for each of us an adventure because it is a summons to revivify.

It is an ideal When you have discovered it, it will seduce you and fill your heart with enthusiasm and hope. Marcellin is a man who sends forth strength and energy. He gives ambition to those who imitate him … you will see!

His heart and his deeds attract. They call out to create bonds of friendship

I invite you to meet

A friend

Because he is happy to find himself in the midst of children and adolescents. He is with them in all simplicity. Marcellin is an educator through (having) a loving presence: always among children and with the children in his heart: “To educate one must love and spent much time with children and youth.”

An apostle.

Because to make Jesus Christ known and loved had been his life’s passion: “I cannot see a child without telling him how much God loves him. He took a lot of trouble to lead children and youth to Jesus through Mary. Such had been his precise response to the great religious ignorance of the youth of his time. Hence all those schools which he founded to educate in a Christian way the children of villages and towns.

A father and a founder

Because he created the Congregation of the Little Brothers of Mary, simple and poor men. He put them in the arms of his Good Mother: “She has done everything for you.”
He was close to the Brothers and loved them with all his heart: “You know that I only live for you. That there is no real good that I do not ask God for you and that I am not disposed to get you at the price of the greatest sacrifices.”

A saint

Because he had experienced God in his life and God had been able to act in history through him. Marcellin’s generosity and availability had been his response to the Invitation of the Lord.

The experience of feeling himself motivated by the Holy Spirit and seized with the love of Jesus and Mary in his own life, as well as responding to the needs of his time, makes Marcellin a saint for today. The Church which has recognised and confirmed his holiness proposes Marcellin as a model for this third millennium:

Marcellin Champagnat

A man of boundless generosity Marcellin Champagnat

An ideal evangelist for life in our times,

Marcellin Champagnat

A saint for today

The Great Moments of his life

1789, 29th. May, birth in the hamlet of Le Rosey, Marhles-France

At baptism he received the names of Joseph, Benedict, Marcellin.

1805: Marcellin enters the minor seminary at Verrières. He is sixteen years old. A priest who was looking for young men for the seminary had said to him: “You must become a priest, God wants it!” This “God wants it” would be young Marcellin’s strength in all his difficulties.

1816, July, he was ordained priest in Lyons – France, and on 12th. August he arrived at La Valla as curate

On 28th. October he was called to the bedside of young Montagne: an adolescent who knew almost nothing about God and who died a little later.. Marcellin read in this event the sign that that God was giving him to found the Brothers.

1817, 2nd. January, he founded the Congregation at La Valla

1824, he built the Hermitage.

1825: in May the community moved to the Hermitage.

1826: End of December 1825 and January 1826, Marcellin was very seriously ill. A year of great trials: Courveille and Terraillon, two priests, left the Hermitage; Jean-Marie Granjon, the first Brother forsook his vocation; Marcellin had to face up to illness and debt and the discouragement of the Brothers. He found great support in Br. Stanislas whose devotion saved the Founder and the young Congregation.

1836, 1838: Negotiation with Paris for legal authorisation of the Congregation.

1839: The Founder’s final illness.

1840: 6th. June, in the early morning, died at the Hermitage. Preceding his death he had had his Spiritual Testament read: a jewel of affection and wisdom. He left behind a Congregation of nearly 300 Brothers, 50 schools and 7000 pupils and a great apostolic ambition: “All the dioceses of the world are in our sights.”

1889-1891; Ordinary Process in Lyons.

1920: Decree of the heroïcity of virtues by Pope Benedict XV.

1955: 29th. May, beatification by Pius XII.

1999: 18th. April, canonisation by Pope Jean-Paul II.

Some moments with Marcellin
1- He loved his Brothers as his own children

The direction of the community of Brothers occupied much of Father Champagnat’s time; it took up his recreation and all the periods not given to priestly duties. Yet, he was well aware that more was needed, since the Brothers were mere beginners in the religious life and in the art of teaching, and had constant need of his correction and advice. He saw that there would be certain shortcomings in their formation, as long as he was not at their head. Swayed by these reasons, and even more by his love for the Brothers, he decided to take up residence with them. He raised the matter with the parish priest, who made every effort to dissuade him. “How will you get on”, he queried, “with those young people of yours? They may be good and pious but they are uncouth and poor. Not one of them would be capable of attending to you or of preparing your meals.” No matter how valid they were, these reasons did not change Father Champagnat’s thinking in the slightest. He didn’t need to be told that community life would entail poverty, privations and all the sacrifices inherent in religious life; but these were the very spur to his desire to be with the Brothers. He could see that the best way of attaching them to their vocation, of bringing them to a love of poverty, of regular life and of all the virtues of their holy state, was to put himself a their head, to throw in his lot with theirs, to become one with them and to lead them by example, being the firt to put into practice what he preached. Besides, he loved his Brothers as his own children. With the heart of a father, he felt that he should be amongst them, living with them and like them…

(Life of J.B.M. Champagnat, Bicentenary Edition, Rome 1989, pp. 73-74)

2.- Memory of a disciple

One of his very first disciples, Br. Lawrence (Jean-Claude Audras), the third Brother in the Institute, speaks to us of Marcellin Champagnat with much humanity:

“Our good Father says Mass for us every morning early. He was the declared enemy of idleness. He always rose at an early hour. After Mass he never wasted time. He loved manual work very much; he did not spare himself; he always did what was difficult or dangerous. It was he who built our house at La Valla, we others did a lot, but has we had not learned to build, he had to show us each step, often our work had to be re-done. When there were large stones to carry, it was always he who carried them. It took two of us to load it on his back. He never got annoyed with us at our clumsiness in work; it is true that we had good will, but we were fairly awkward.

In the evening, it often happened that he was absolutely dishevelled, covered in sweat and dust but he was never happier than when he had a lot to do and a lot to suffer. I have several times seen him working in rain and snow; we others stopped work, but he continued and often and often bare-headed despite the harsh weather…

We were very poor in the beginning; we had bread the colour of earth, but we never lacked what was necessary. Our good Superior, like the most tender of Fathers, took great care of us. I still remember the care he took of me when I was sick in La Valla. He came to see me every day and never failed to bring me something to comfort me. With words of consolation he encouraged me to suffer patiently and for the love of God…

When he spoke to us of the goodness of God and his love for us, he did so persuasively that he passed on to us the divine fire with which he was filled in such a way that that the pains and work and all the miseries of life were incapable to deflecting us.

He had such a great devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin which he inspired in everyone and of whom he spoke in all his speeches. He always had something to say in praise of this good Mother. He wanted the Sacraments to be approached on all her feasts and that we honour one facet in particular. He would say to us often: “If the Society does some good, if the number of subjects grows, it is to the Blessed Virgin that we owe it all. It is to this good Mother that we owe all the progress that the Society has made since its beginning: without her we could not succeed.”

(Origines Maristes, Extracts concerning the Marist Brothers, pp. 454-45)

3-We will eat it together
Bro. Jean Pierre Martinol, director of Boulieu, Ardèche, visited La Valla one day in 1824. When he was leaving very early the next morning, Fr. Champagnat told him: “Since the brother who cooks isn’t up yet, take this roll; it’s blessed bread I was given last Sunday as celebrant at High Mass. You can eat it as you go, for breakfast.”

“No, Father”, the brother replied, “I will take it to my brothers and we will eat it together with great pleasure, because everything that comes to us from you or from our motherhouse in La Valla is sweet and pleasant and does us a great deal of good. I am very glad to be able to make my brothers happy this way; I am sure that I will make them jump for joy and that we will talk about nothing but you and our brothers in La Valla all during dinner.”

Being touched by these sentiments, Father exclaimed, “My dear brother, you make me weep for joy when you talk like that; those are truly the sentiments of family spirit which should animate all the Brothers of Mary. If we carefully preserve those sentiments and that spirit, we will enjoy the happiness of religious life to the full”.

(Opinions, Conferences, Sayings and Instructions, bu Bro. L Voegtle, pp. 272.)

4-Humour et kindness

One day during spiritual reading, being allowed to make some noise in order to attach a picture in my desk (bureau), the Master of Novices, doubtless a little distracted by some outside thoughtlessness, gave me 1200 lines to learn off by heart.

Believing this penance to be too unjust, I ventured to go and find the venerated Father to get me relieved of it.. Having arrived at his room, I related to him in tears and in the greatest detail, why I had come looking for him. After having listened to me carefully, he drew out a sheet of paper from his desk, he dripped Spanish wax onto it and put his seal into it: he then wrote a line on the paper, gave it to me and recommended to me to be quieter. What did this line say?. Here is the text: “Payment of twelve hundred lines.” I thanked him as best I could and took it to the Novice Master. The good Brother, seeing the venerated Father’s signature, received this payment with much respect and that was the end of it.

We understand that this fairness, which was quite natural to our venerated Founder, guaranteed him from all partiality and gained him the hearts, affections and confidence of all the Brothers and of all those who had anything to do with him. (Memoires of Br. Sylvester, p.303-304)

5-Spiritual Testament

Also, dear Brothers, I beg of you

with all the love of my heart

and by all the love you bear me,

keep ever alive among you

the charity of Christ.

Love one another

as Jesus Christ has loved you.

Be of one heart and one mind.

Have the world say

of the Little Brothers of Mary,

what they said of the first Christians:

“See how they love one antother!”

That is the desire of my heart

and my burning wish,

at this last moment of my life.

Yes, my dearest Brothers,

hear these last words of your Father,

which are those of our Blessed Saviour:

“Love one another!”

1- Looking at our Founder :
1-Choose life : Message of the 20th General chapter

We look at Marcellin as our father, and learn from him the values that he held dear. We see in him:

  • a heart in love with God: a man of God, passionate for Jesus and Mary, a man of prayer, a pilgrim in faith.

  • the heart of a father and a mother: a father who cared for his Brothers as if they were his children, a man of strength yet full of gentleness, a man who knew how to bring joy and laughter to others.

  • the heart of an apostle: a pastor who would listen to and welcome others, an apostle burning to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, a friend of children and youngsters, an educator who was both firm and compassionate, a man of creativity and daring.
  • a heart without bounds: a man whose vision extended beyond his own era, embracing the whole world and preparing missionaries; a man who lived out his ideal so intensely that many others wished to be like him and to live like him. (Choos life, n°15)

2- The Superior General looking at our Founder

Clearly, intimacy with Jesus was the destination of Marcellin Champagnat’s journey of faith. Christ was central to the spirituality of the founder…Marcellin’s spirituality was also eminently transparent. Simplicity was the quality that characterized the man. The founder was direct, enthusiastic, confident. His humility was also evident: no one would ever describe him as a person of pretense. (Cric. A Revolution of the Heart, p. 25).

A ma of passion and practicality

What heritage did Marcellin Chmpagnat pass along to his brothers? Surely not a library of theological and religious reflections. Rather, his legacy consisted of a generous heart, a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a common sense and practical approach to life. Simply put, the founder was a man of passion and of action.

The Hermitage, built by the future saint and his early brothers, tells us something about the passionate character of the man. The building, constructed by using roughly fashioned stones, prejects theses qualities: strength, determination, endurance. Its settings amidst gardens, meadows, clear streams, and the region’s seasonal changes suggests still other aspects of the founder’s personality: a love of life, compassion, and understanding. A fire burned bright in Marcellin’s spirit. His welcome was always warm: he was a man of heart and affection.

Undoubtedly, it was his passion that made the founder such a charismatic person, not only to the young people whom he attracted with such ease, but also to all whose lives he touched. (A Heart that knows no bounds, p. 93, Fr. Seán Sammon, S.G., St Pauls, 1999.)

3-Brother Basilio looking at Marcellin

Who was Champagnat? A man who knew how to listen dynamically and effectively to the calls around him and in the world.

In Father Champagnat’s afflicted heart the voice of religious ignorance resonates with its series of blockages: personal and social inhibitions and frustrations which they involve.

He hears the clamour of deficient pedagogy, namely the unfortunate ways to approach children and teens, with their subsequent injuries and educational setbacks.

Marcellin heard the cry of rural marginalization. He recognised the needs and gave himself body and soul to meet them.

Marcellin knew how to focus the response. He was an echo heard by those who would be his disciples, his companions in the Society of Mary and in civil society. Great spiritual artist, he knew how to plumb the heart and, with his experienced ear, sense the murmur of God in the hearts of the young to convert them into collaborators in his inflaming adventure.

Finally, he knew how to form his disciples, and what disciples! If we consider the raw material he used, we have to admit that the results could not have been better. From these almost illiterate young peasants, he formed intuitive educators, in a few years and almost without means, educators who drew respect in the villages. (Quemar la vida pp.210-211)

  1. The Regard of a Br.

  • Marcellin, you were planted in the soil of the Gospel. We have seen blossom in you the interior change which transforms the human being into the image of Christ.

  • Marcellin, we have seen grow in you faith in Christ which raises the sight to seeing in the faces of the children the very image of God

  • Marcellin, we have seen develop in you prayer which leads to daily closeness with God and our neighbour.

  • Marcellin, we have seen grow in you the clarity which focuses minds and hearts in the single truth of a charism.

  • Marcellin, we have seen you develop within you the service which made you available to the young, the poor, the small

  • Marcellin, passion for the Gospel seized you, it made you calmer, right up to the gift of yourself for spreading the knowledge of God.

  • Marcellin through you we have seen grows life no matter how small the gap in the rock

5-The Regard of the Church

(One of the prefaces for the Feast of St. Marcellin).

It is truly right to give you thanks

It is beautiful to sing your glory,

God great and full of love,

Through Christ your Son, our Lord.

You, Father

In your eternal love,

have raised up in your Church saint Marcellin,

as a friend, as a brother and as a father of youth,

to lead them on the path to Life.
He, Marcellin,

with a prophetic regard for a new age

prepared them to confront life

with an honest wisdom and a committed faith.

Animated by your Spirit

he has given birth to a great family

so that it might continue among people

his mission as educator and father.

And we, the brothers, the young and the friends of Marcellin

gathered together in this joyous assembly

let us raise to you, Father,

a hymn of praise and adoration

and together with the angels and saint in heaven

we proclaim your glory

and we sing of the immense holiness that is in You

The Regard of the Church

(One of the prefaces for the Feast of St. Marcellin).

It is truly right to give you thanks

It is beautiful to sing your glory,

God great and full of love,

Through Christ your Son, our Lord.
You, Father

In your eternal love,

have raised up in your Church saint Marcellin,

as a friend, as a brother and as a father of youth,

to lead them on the path to Life.
He, Marcellin,

with a prophetic regard for a new age

prepared them to confront life

with an honest wisdom and a committed faith.

Animated by your Spirit

he has given birth to a great family

so that it might continue among people

his mission as educator and father.

And we, the brothers, the young and the friends of Marcellin

gathered together in this joyous assembly

let us raise to you, Father,

a hymn of praise and adoration

and together with the angels and saint in heaven

we proclaim your glory

and we sing of the immense holiness that is in You

6-My Credo2
We have often used the expression I BELIEVE to mean that we have a conviction so firm that it allows us to face life with zest and determination…The reality of life shows us that without a hoped-for heavenly bliss, the enthusiasm, innovation and expectant faith that urges us to “choose life” would be in short supply. I would like to conclude this Circular by sharing my own “credo” with you:

  • I believe that the Holy Spirit ignited In Marcellin a passionate love for Jesus-Christ and a burning zeal to spread his Kingdom. I believe that this is what gave rise to our religious family, because “each time I see a child, feel a great desire to tell him how much God loves him”. And I believe that this will always be the measure that we use to gauge our raison d’etre.

  • I believe that Marcellin learned his love for the will of God in the school of Mary and that he desired to do good quietly, in simple, humble ways.

  • I believe that today, as much as ever, Mary and the Spirit are sustaining our lives as Marists, accompanying us on our pilgrimage, in our faithfulness, and in our times of doubt and uncertainty. I believe that They are inspiring movements and actions in us that are recreating the most authentic aspects of the charism that Marcellin has confided to us.

  • I believe that as we travel on together, we are continuing to be blessed with the gift of brothers and martyrs who, inspired by the Holy Spirit and compliant in His care, point out to us new horizons of evangelical commitment. They are the prophets that we will always need.
  • I believe that all of us brothers in Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania are all for one and one for all, a gift from the Lord. We are all called to partake of the spiritual inheritance of Saint Marcellin in a world of cultural diversity, but with “a single heart and the same spirit”, In a communion of prayer and fraternal life.

  • I believe that are far greater riches in our Institute than we can imagine, and that, thanks to many generous lives (sometimes hidden from view), we can look forward with joy and peace to a new dawn.

  • I believe n a community’s power to evangelize when it testifies to fraternity and is open to the wider church community. Such a community of Brothers is like the yeast in the dough, which silently goes about its work.

  • I believe that the young and the poor are essential in our lives. Champagnat founded us to stand by their side, and to be the presence of Jesus in their company. If, in our actions, we don’t grow in our love for them, then we will no longer be “salt that adds flavor” and “light that shines.”

  • I believe that Marcellin is filling up the lives of a great number of Brothers and lay people with purpose and meaning. His canonization has deepened our consciousness of him as a model of evangelical life for the universal Church. I believe that there are strong reason for hoping that new forms of “being Marist” will take shape and come into view.

7- The Credo of the brothers and friends of Marcellin.

We believe, Lord,

that Marcellin embodies for us

the vocation to which you call us each day.

Help us to walk in his steps.

We believe that Marcellin, attracted by the Spirit,

Was filled by the love that Jesus and Mary,

Had for him and for others.

Help us walk in his steps.

We believe that Marcellin

Was deeply touched by the religious and cultural

Deficiency of country youth.

For us, today, these are the least favoured young

In our educational system

Help us walk in his steps.

We believe that for Marcellin

The best form of education was love,

And such love demands that we be present

To the child and conscious of the world of the child.

Help us walk in his steps.

We believe that Marcellin wants

Mary to be our inspiration, our Good Mother;

That he would wish us to be simple, poor and hard-working,

Witnesses of fraternal love.

Help us walk in his steps.

We believe that Marcellin

Was ready to change and adapt,

While he remained firm to the call

And the vision of the beginnings.

Help us to march in his steps.

Marcellin, help us to do in our times,

What you did in yours,

Living the charism which you have given us

And knowing how to adapt ourselves

In following the appeals we receive. Amen.

(Circular: To advance calmly but without delay, Br. Benito, S.G.

8th November 1997)

(Source: Belgium 1999, canonisation)
St. Marcellin Champagnat,

In you the Spirit of God has worked marvels.

We bless you!

Today again you invite us

To “follow Christ like Mary,

In a life of love for the Father

And for men.”
We bless you!

Man of faith,

You relied on God, as on a Rock

Teach us confidence

Which gives us courage and peace.
Servant of Mary,

You have taken or in everything as a mother and a model,

Teach us to imitate her humility,

Her simplicity and her availability.
Brother among brothers

Worker towards fraternal communion,

Teach us the spirit of family

Which offers the sign of joy and unity
A heart without limits,

Open to all, especially the least favoured

Teach us that disinterested service which encourages.

St. Marcellin Champagnat

Pray for us,

For those whom we love,

in particular for the young,

so that each one discovers

the love of God

and can respond to its appeal.

Today is a new dawn
As we witness the dawn of a new millennium, as we welcome the canonization of Marcellin as an invitation to follow him along his way to holiness and a challenge to implant his charism anew in the world of today, as we anticipate a time filled with the light and warmth of new beginnings, we express our joy in prayer:
Saint Marcellin, nurtured in the loving warmth of a Chrstian family,

from your youth you wanted to respond generously to the call of God in your life.

You started a community of brothers known for its family spirit,

and founded the Marist Institute to educate young people,

especially those most neglected and abandoned.

You longed to proclaim the Gospel to people everywhere,

saying that all the dioceses in the world figured in your plans.

Intercede for us with the Lord,

so that with the help of Mary, our Good Mother,

we may discern His loving will in our lives,

enjoy His blessings for ourselves and our families

in our everyday cares and work,

and have a share in your mission to the poor and the needy.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



The special year of Br. François, 6th June 2003-6th June 2004 has just concluded. It has produced a great awakening of interest in the one who was our first Superior-General and the “living portrait” of the Founder. Never have so many novenas seeking his intercession been made. At the same time there have been produced pamphlets, articles, pictures, posters, books… There was a renaissance for Br. François in the hearts of the Brothers which we can hope will become a life habit.

This year of grace has revealed several aspects of Br. François which make him all the more appealing:
1 – The great love which he had for the Brothers and the Institute, with a special concern for consolidating vocations. We read in his letters very sincere accents of affection, and, probably, after him, the Institute no longer experienced such a strong perseverance within the Brothers.
2 – A maternal attitude towards the sick and the poor: an able infirmarian, passionate for medical knowledge, he approached the sick full of the presence of God. He also visited the poor and the sick beyond the Hermitage, bringing with him medicines he had prepared. During the course of these visits people claimed that Br. François had as it were God with him, also at his funeral services they said: “It is a saint who has died.”
3 – Br. François especially has revealed to us the sheer joy of loving God, of giving oneself to Him generously, of making Jesus the centre of our lives; in his company we rediscover the beauties and joys of the mystical life. It is no small thing for a world which is becoming more and more a spiritual desert, which bombards us on every side and dries up in us God’s food and drink. François taught the path of living sources. The 20th General Chapter returned to his school when it invited all those who live the charism and spirituality of Marcellin Champagnat to “centre passionately our lives and our communities on Jesus Christ (as on) Mary.(Doc. Of Ch. No.18).

Life of Brother François

Gabriel Rivat, (Frère François) was born on 22 January 1808

at Maisonnettes, a hamlet near La Valla-en-Giers (France).

In his family the rosary was recited daily. When Gabriel was five, his mother consecrated him

to the Virgin Mary during a pilgrimage to Valfleury.

Marcellin Champagnat was sent to La Valla Parish in 1816. Gabriel was eight years old but he was one the first children to attend the curate’s early morning catechism lessons. At ten he made his first communion that marked him for life. Three weeks later, he asked to join the young community that Marcellin Champagnat had just founded on 2 January 1817. He was very young but his fidelity was without flaw. He professed his perpetual vows at 18 in 1826; he was so radiant with joy that Marcellin told him, «I am jealous of your happiness!»

He started his teaching career as early as 12 : During the morning hours he was in charge of the kitchen for the community and the day boarders; in the afternoon he gave remedial lessons in reading, catechism and prayers.

Very soon he was assigned as a school director. But Marcellin having noticed his qualities,

called him to be his second-in-command man, his secretary and house infirmarian.

In this last task he showed real aptitudes: He took care of the sick with plants that he collected

or cultivated; he knew how to advise the sick ones. He prayed with them and he often obtained unexpected cures.

In 1839, Marcellin’s forces were declining. He asked the Brothers to elect somebody to succeed him; Brother François was elected.

When Marcellin died, on 6 June 1840, François took the decision to be «the living image of the Founder.» And he asked the Brothers to witness to Marcellin in their lives.

He remained the superior general of the Marist Brothers for twenty years. From Marcellin, he had inherited a congregation of 280 Brothers. To Brother Louis Marie, his successor he passed it on with more than 2000 Brothers…

From 1860, he lived at the Hermitage, the Marist sanctuary that Marcellin had built. The superior of this house he was a model of prayer and interior life to all. After he had received communion one could observe the smile that enlightened his face and revealed his joy of having received the Lord.

He died on his knees as he was reciting the angelus on 22 January 1881.

The whole neighbourhood were saying, «The saint is dead.»

1-Let us listen to a few words from Brother François.

1-He wrote to a school director,

«Brother Acaire’s disease leads me to ask you to supply your collaborators with all that is necessary to help them to bear with the teaching’s fatigue. The preservation of health is the greatest saving you could make.»
2-To preserve a brother’s vocation he wrote to a superior,

«To break a brother we have only to send him away and it is good riddance! But then, we don’t show the patience, the courage, the zeal and the true charity that we should.Courage never loses hope when the object is to train a brother.

Charity consists in loving him in spite of his defects, to pray for him, to direct and encourage him and to do our utmost to make him persevere.
3-In on of his notebooks he wrote,

«One of the greatest defects that can afflict the superior of a large community is to care too much for details. A superior must govern by choosing, training and by directing those who work with him…

One governs marvellously if he can stimulate the men he was entrusted with to make them work well according to their talents. To want to control everything, means we mistrust our brothers, it is real meanness! Those who govern by the details are always determined by the present, depriving themselves of the future’s view. The superiors who work, who are always in a hurry, who run a lot of business are those who govern the least. The true superior is the one who, seeming to do nothing makes the others do everything,he is the one who thinks, who invents, who plumbs the future,who studies the past, who compares, who solves and decides. In a word a true superior must only do the things that nobody can manage without him.»

4-Let us go to Mary with all trust, for there is nothing she can’t obtain from the Spirit of her divine Son who is so much hers that she can command Him, that she can obtain anything from Him that she uses his power like a thing that is hers and applies it to whatever she wants,because Jesus loves Mary so much with a love that is the principle of this great power.

5-All Christians are like artists who have to produce a portrait of Jesus Christ. Their eyes must be attentively focused upon the divine original. In that way they can express in themselves those features of his virtues. Try it yourself: You will soon realize that contemplating Christ’s mysteries and his way of life, like a brush in the hand of a fine artist, will make of you a perfect copy of this divine Saviour. (Bro. Pierre Zind, Brother François’ Spiritual Counsels, p. 23.)

6-Prudence tells him3

1. I must not say anything with a feeling of antipathy in my heart. It seems such a feeling is communicated.

2 I must enunciate, express myself briefly, with such affection and courtesy that the other person may understand me and answer calmly and with ease. I want to take into account the natural timidity of those who come to me.

3. Before suggesting, granting or refusing something, I will consult my colleagues so that they may help me to discern and please people.

4. Never will I use false pretexts, finesse or artifice.

5-I will let the person I reprimand see that he did not lose my concern.

6-I will proceed slowly, pray much, seek the collaboration of my colleagues to direct the Institute solidly.

7-Let me be a turtle when I try to advise but a deer when it is time to act.

8-I must see everything, pretend not to see much and rarely punish.

9-When I reprimand a Brother severely or give him a heavy penance, I must tell myself, “This brother will amend himself, he corrects himself, he is already better.”

10 Whenever anyone reports on somebody else, I must not forget to listen to the accused person as well. My listening must be peaceful.

What François bequeaths to us:

1. Upon his resignation in 1860, François leaves behind:

1. A Congregation legally recognized (1851)

2. Five novitiates

3. The first scholasticate, 1848, at Grange Payre

4. A new Common Rules, 1852

5. The School Guide, 1853

6. The Constitutions and the Rules of Government, 1854

7. A fourth vow, Stability, 1855

  1. The first biography of the Founder, the one by Br. Jean

Baptiste Furet, 1856

9. A new Generalate, Saint-Genis-Laval, 1853-1858

10. 2086 Brothers, 379 schools, 50,000 students

11. The Congregation is present throughout France, in Belgium, England, Scotland; nineteen Brothers work in Oceania.

12. The first endeavors are undertaken in Rome, 1858, for the

Congregation to become one of pontifical right.

François created stable structures for the Congregation. In regard to Br. François, Br. Pierre Zind has drawn up a comparative chart vis a vis the Brothers of Ploermel, to de-monstrate Br. François’ activity in regard to the growth of the Marist Brothers:

- 1840: 280 Marist Brothers

- 1840: 395 Brothers of Ploermel

- 1860, the year when Br. François resigned: 2086 Marist Brothers

- 1860, the year when Jean Marie de La Mennais, the Founder of

the Ploermel Brothers, died: 935 Brothers of Ploermel

Prayer of Brother François
Sacred Heart of Jesus,

grant me the gift to always love you

and in an increasing way.

Receive, O Sacred Heart

all my freedom, my memory, my will,

my actions and my life.

Accept my sufferings and my pains,

I give myself to you forever.


all the moments of my life are yours,

all my actions are yours,

kindly grant me your grace to fulfil my duties

with the sole purpose of pleasing and serving you4.

Those who have lived with Brother François
1- I heard good old Brother Renovatus who had known Brother François at the Hermitage say, “Brother François won’t be beatified soon, he is too humble, and he will never steal Father Champagnat’s turn!” The good brother said this with a seriousness that struck me and that made me feel the deep impression he had retained of Brother François’ humility.5
2-Brother Stratonique

He wanted to see all the new postulants who had arrived during his absence. It was not without fear that I also entered the superior general’s room. “What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Have you become used to this place? Do you sleep well?” Those were the questions he asked me with a touching kindness. As I was leaving him, he stopped me to ask, “Do you make the four o’clock, my child?” When he saw that I hadn’t understood his question, he changed his words and asked with a smile, “Do you go for a little snack at four?” After my affirmative answer, he added, “Feed yourself well, young man. You need to grow up – you are tiny. That is a defect that you will easily deal with, no doubt.”

That first interview with the superior general had been charming. I returned to my friends feeling very happy. A genuine happiness carried me back to my friends.


The whole community of the Hermitage could notice the transfigured face of Brother François after he received communion. I was able to observe him without changing position. He had a smile that differed from the ordinary human smile. It is difficult to describe the expression on his features at that moment: a phenomenon that resembled something supernatural and seemed to happen so naturally.

We discussed this transformation among ourselves sometimes during recreation.

3-Brother Juventin’s Testimony6

Brother François welcomed me at the novitiate on 15 September 1853. All along, I have been convinced of the man’s holiness. I have taken the habit of invoking him when I go to visit our benefactors.

I believe in the good judgement and holiness of Brother François. I let him know how we had lived an unhappy year 1854-1855 at Quincié. Here is how he reacted, “If ever you find yourself in a similar situation and that you are left alone for whole days in the establishment, come to the motherhouse. And if there is no other way to obtain money, grab an axe, smash the director’s safe, take the money and come this way!”
The second reason for my admiration. In 1860, I happened to be the temporary infirmarian at the Hermitage. Brother Zéphirin was operated on for his tonsils but the incision was too deep and the poor brother bled for four hours. I then left the sick brother to a confrère and ran to Brother François who rushed back. He immediately used wet cotton wool soaked with a little sulphuric acid and applied it on the left external side of the throat. The haemorrhage stopped immediately and the unconscious brother Zéphirin came to.

4-Brother Gatien’s testimony7

In 1857, I was working at Isieux School.

The kitchen was so below standard that it was decided to move it to the first floor. Unfortunately, that new place was separated from the mayor’s office by a simple partition only. That new arrangement was disturbing both the mayor and the brothers. Thus, the mayor ordered us to move away as soon as possible. When Brother Director tried to discuss the matter, the mayor gave a fortnight’s notice. If nothing changed he would throw our furniture through the window himself!

The mayor came back the same night to try and settle with the house superior. Brother Bajule told him that he had done nothing and that he would not change anything without his superior’s authorisation. “That being so, I will go myself to the Hermitage and convince him” the mayor retorted.

He went, but the kindness and the firmness of Brother François got the better of the mayor who not only decided to allow the brothers to remain in their new kitchen but to take over the mayor’s hall.

That Brother François was so kind and reasonable that one could not refuse him anything” the mayor was then pleased to repeat.

5-He knew how to hope

«No accident or failure could ever weigh him down, he remained serene. His trust in God was boundless. He reminded us that nothing ever occurs without the permission of our Father who loves us, who will see that we are treated with justice if we entrust ourselves in Him.»

«He did not get discouraged. On the contrary, the more difficulties afflicted him, the more he had confidence. All brothers noticed this, ‘He speaks to God’, it was said.»

«Father Champagnat’s death made him suffer more than all the others Brothers.Yet, he cheered up the brothers who were disheartened, telling them, ‘We must not lose hope. Put your trust in God who promised life to those who rely on Him. Brother François always had recourse to God in the numerous difficulties he encountered, even in the most hopeless cases. In all his illnesses he always kept his serenity because of his trust in God.»
6-«The servant of God was ordinarily composed, but whenever he saw a confrère struggling against an obstinate sadness, he would brighten the gloomy brother up with an entertaining song! He withdrew only once he had succeeded in drawing out a smile from the other and having proffered a word of encouragement.»8

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