CONGREGATION FOR THE CAUSES OF SAINTS
on the heroism of the VIRTUES
of the Servant of God
BROTHER GABRIEL TABORIN
(1799 – 1964)
Founder of the Brothers of the
HOLY FAMILY of Belley
“It is recognized in the Servant of God Gabriel Taborin, Founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family of Belley, the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity in a heroic degree with regard to God and neighbour as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude and others derived from them.”
“From the very beginning of the Church, there were men and women who set out to follow Christ greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practising the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved” (Vatican Council II. Decree on the up-to-date renewal of religious life: Perfectae Caritatis, 1).
One of these men is the Servant of God Gabriel Taborin, who, with generosity and perseverance, imitated Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels and that, driven by a very large charity, founded, for the salvation of souls and through innumerable trials and tribulations, a lay community of consecrated life called “Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family”, for the apostolate among youth and to serve the clergy.
The Servant of God was born in Belleydoux, in the diocese of Belley, on 1st November 1799. He was son of Claude Joseph Taborin and Mary Josephine Poncet-Montange. He received on that same day, the sacrament of Baptism in the parish of his hometown and at age 11 he made his First Communion. In 1813, he received in Oyonnax the sacrament of Confirmation from Cardinal Joseph Fesch.
After studies done in Plagne and Chatillon de Michaille, he returned to his hometown, where he helped the parish priest as sacristan, cantor, catechist and teacher. In 1820, while participating in a popular mission in Saint Claude, he decided to consecrate to God retaining his quality of lay person.
He left his family in 1824 and went to Saint Claude. There, with some young people founded “The Brothers of Saint Joseph” and began his ministry running a school and serving in the cathedral of this city.
Abandoned soon by his companions, for several years and in various locations, he was itinerant catechist until, in 1827, when he could find Mgr. Alexander Raymond Devie, Bishop of Belley, who understood his desire for perfection and apostolic ideal; he promised to help, which he made generously. In Belmont, Br. Gabriel could open in 1829 a boarding school for youth and in 1835, he finally managed to found the “Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family”, which he directed until his death, with prudence and great dedication, as Superior General. On 3rd November 1838, he made his final vows at the same time that eleven novices made their first religious profession. He had the joy of seeing his community develop and its apostolic works and of getting the approval of the Holy See. Consumed by much fatigue, his life was extinguished in Belley on 24th November 1864.
The time when Brother Gabriel lived was marked by the political, social changes, and persecutions against the Church, which did not uproot the Christian faith of the French people, especially in the countryside.
He had inherited his parents’ Christian faith and human qualities such as love for work and perseverance.
Eventually, he met the evils that the Revolution had brought, he saw what it had to be done and he made himself available to the parish and the diocese in order that faith and institution might be transformed in spiritual heritage of all, especially the most needy, those of the smallest villages in the countryside.
He participated so of the Christian Renaissance in France to which other celebrities were also devoted; finally, with the support and backing of his bishop, he made real the foundation of the Institute that today continues its work.
His life and his works are explained in the light of his spiritual qualities and his gifts at a human level; but, penetrating his inside, we can discover the key to his action and how the virtues are the expression of his soul.
Faith, supernatural gift, was in him bright and strong and showed him the why of the life; faith never left him. The offers of human security and the plans of a quiet life did not get away from his ideal, which he felt as God’s will.
He often said: “It has happened to me sometimes having made only cobwebs, but I always had in view the glory of God and the salvation of souls”.
Towards the end of his life, he expressed so talking about his work, which he used to consider a work cherished by God: “I have had so much courage and so much certainty that God wants our Institute, that if everyone leaves me, I would restart as if nothing had happened”.
He knew to preserve and enhance the gift of faith he had received in Baptism, feeding with prayer and pondering generously the teachings of his parish priest. He was so docile to the counsels received as generous to benefit others with them.
His way to situate himself in the Church as assistant led him to appreciate the less obvious: the teaching to the little ones, the forgotten peasants; to dictate the catechism, to have predilection for the ceremonies of worship, especially the singing, activities that excited him so much, that he preferred them rather than the highest human dignities.
In his youth, he practiced humility without talking about it, but later, in his adulthood, when he began to draw a spiritual guide for his Brothers, he called humility the particular virtue of the Institute he had founded.
This was one of his favourite virtues in which he made progress in the school of the Holy Family, which he liked to contemplate under the humble roof of Nazareth, so he called it “the hidden life in Nazareth” that of the august Patrons elected for his Institute.
Another virtue that singularly characterised him, an almost natural virtue, was Fortitude.
This virtue, united to a great faith, allowed him to overcome all kinds of difficulties.
It was necessary a courage, little common, to remain faithful to his ideal: to be apostle in the less well-off backgrounds, to found, being a lay person and without the required preparation, an Institute of consecrated life, to form religious and educators.
When he left the family home to carry our his ideal, he had but only six francs in his pocket; and soon after he gathered five young men in his environment, which soon left him alone until Providence made him find the Bishop of Belley, who promised him support and backing, and became his spiritual director: moderating his enthusiasm, advising him in the action, training his soul so to be transformed into the guide of his disciples.
Trust in God appeared alongside his courage; as a spiritual wise, trust has been the virtue that supported him in the difficulties, misunderstandings and poverty of means. Thanks to this trust, he raised a hymn to Providence that never failed him, “Since God created the world, could he forget those who consecrate themselves to Him?”
But these virtues, although free gifts of God, did not develop without the cooperation of the Servant of God, who was persistent, using particularly the prayer.
Being a child, he had learnt to pray, participating in the liturgy of his parish, in the catechism, in the spiritual debates or discussions of the diocese. At age 16, he enrolled in the Confraternity of Mary Help of Christians; he liked to highlight Saturday by singing the Litany of the Virgin Mary. With great joy, he expected the month of May to come in order to celebrate with renewed enthusiasm the praises of Mary.
Traits of his spirituality are Marian, but also he had a great love for Jesus in the Eucharist, who suggested the second goal of his apostolate. This is confirmed by Brother Amadeus, his successor, when he writes: “It is his love for Jesus-Host that we owe the foundation of our Institute”. For Brother Gabriel, there was nothing sufficiently beautiful, lovely and decorative when it was about the altar.
Choosing Jesus, Mary and Joseph as patrons of his Institute, he synthesized his spirituality of love towards the hidden God, wanting to imitate in it the Divine Master, hidden and veiled in Nazareth, but mysteriously present in the Eucharist.
He also manifested his love for God, loving his Brothers, for whom he founded the Institute: The dialogue with God led him to be an apostle among men and particularly among young people. But it is especially as Founder and Superior, that he manifested all his greatness of soul, particularly sensitive to the good of his religious men. No measuring fatigue and travels, he visited the Brothers in their residences. When it came to free a Brother of regret, a problem of conscience or a danger for his soul, nothing cost him.
He was happy to reunite them each year in the novitiate house for the spiritual exercises. Of his epistolary relations, we have, apart from his numerous letters, a collection of his Circulars in which his heart and mind were devoted to clarifying, correcting, encouraging the good and forgiving.
In them, he shared his love for his Brothers since they formed a united family, not only by the apostolic interests, but also by the spirit and heart.
This apostolic zeal, his dedication to others, was rewarded in part, by the friendship with the Holy Priest of Ars, St John Mary Vianney, who, in a first meeting called him “friend of God”; later, they exchanged aids and services with the humility that characterized these two souls, born to be understood one another.
By his attitude so fervent in the imitation of Christ and in the service to the Church and the souls, the Servant of God enjoys a fame of holiness even in life. This fame continued after his death, but the Cause of Canonization was, for external reasons, introduced rather late, with the celebration of the Ordinary Informational Process (1956 – 1959) near the bishop’s house of Belley. On 13th June 1966, was proclaimed the decree on the writings: “The Positio super virtutibus”, prepared under the direction of the Historical-Hagiographic Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was under consideration by historian consultants in the session of October 15, 1985. On 16th March 1990, it appeared the decree on legal validity of the ordinary informational process. The theological consultants, during the “Peculiar Congress” of 11 December of the same year, chaired by the Promoter of Faith, Mgr. Antonio Petti, answered positively to the question that had been raised to them. The Fathers, Cardinals and Bishops, in the “Ordinary Congregation” of May 10, 1991, where the Speaker of the Cause was his Exc. Mgr. Angelo Palmas, Titular Archbishop of Vibiana, acknowledged that the Servant of God Gabriel Taborin practiced in heroic degree the theological and cardinal virtues and other virtues derived from them.
The undersigned Cardinal Prefect made a very accurate account of all this to the Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II and, according to the voters of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, ordered to be published the Decree on the heroism of the virtues of the Servant of God.
After that, today, in the presence of the undersigned Cardinal, the Speaker of the Cause and myself, Bishop Secretary of the Congregation, and other people convened as usual, the Holy Father solemnly declared: “It is recognized in the Servant of God Gabriel Taborin, Founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family of Belley, the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity in a heroic degree with regard to God and neighbour as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude and others derived from them”.
I order this decree of public right, to be kept in the “Acts of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints”.
Ordeno que este decreto de derecho público, sea conservado en las “Actas de la Congregación de las Causas de los Santos”.
Given in Rome, on 14th May, 1991.
ANGELUS FELICI, Prefect.
EDUARDUS NOWAK, Archbishop Titular Lunen, Secretary.