The motto or leitmotiv of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family: “IN ORATIONE, LABORE et CHARITATE * PAX” is not from the times of the Founder, Brother Gabriel Taborin. Our Founder proposed and explained (cf. New Guide, nos. 22-29) other two mottos to the Brothers: “God, Rule and Superior” and “State of grace, humility and prayer”.
The first testimony found about our motto is in no. 12 of the official magazine of the Institute ‘L’Entretien Familial’ (1930), p. 69. It is an article that has as a title: “A Nazareth, on priait, on travaillait et l’on s’aimait” (that we can translate as “In Nazareth, they prayed, they worked and they love each other”), having in mind the prevalent aspect of reciprocity that carries the French expression ‘l’on s’aimait’. This article collects a strong spiritual experience lived in the Mother House of Belley, when Bro. Amadeus Depernex, successor of Bro. Gabriel, collected from the lips of a preacher what have been for the Brothers the “expression of their ideal”. Each one of the three parts of the motto was the object of an article in the following numbers of the magazine, necessary for grasping its true meaning. That experience should have been done before 1882, since in the Rule drawn up by Bro. Amadeus and proposed for the approval of the General Chapter of this same year, it already appears in the art. 125 this same expression when proposing the Holy Family as model of each Community of the Brothers. This article was also included later in the writing of the Rule of 1929 and of 1936, approved by the Holy See. Bro. Amadeus wrote also on 29th February, 1896, a Circular to the Brothers with a contemplative meditation and with many scriptural references about the expressions used in the motto.
Its inclusion in the official picture
Another important historical moment is the association of the motto with the official picture of the Institute in 1935. We find also lot of documentation in the magazine of the Institute, in no. 22 (December, 1935). An article that presents and explains the official picture of the Institute, which reads: “The Commission established to write the Directory was stating that our official picture of the Holy Family should represent in the best way possible the motto: In Nazareth, they prayed, they worked and they love”. It was lacking, however, the way to find an artistic production or religious image that represented somehow this desire. The article continues explaining amply how the picture, which represents the Holy Family working, but in presence of God Trinity and in attitude of reciprocal attention, explains artistically the same that the motto expresses.
Actually, there was a process of transformation of the motto, passing from the verbal expression “In Nazareth, they prayed, they worked, they loved”, truly more dynamic, to the noun expression of the original Latin “In Oratione, Labore et Charitate” (In prayer, work and love) and to suppress the explicit reference to “Nazareth”. It was then, according to the testimony of the Brothers who lived in Villa Brea, that was added the word PAX (Peace), preceded by a star or asterisk, after the suggestion of Fr. Navone, SJ, chaplain of the Community. This transformation was somehow a little bit incomplete in the form, but diminished the dynamism of the original inspiration.
Another landmark in the history of our motto is its inclusion in the Coat of Arms of the Institute, in the lower blazon, realised by the desire of the General Chapter of 1947.
As it is well known, the motto of the Institute represents a very important reference in the formulation of the spirituality of the Institute. Therefore, its inclusion and interpretation in the art. 12 of our Constitutions (“As in the mystery of Nazareth, the Word incarnate brought about perfect family union, thus the Divine Word will open the Brothers to the fullness of peace through love, prayer and work, in order to build up their community day after day”) and the fact that is the key reference of the Chapter III of the Constitutions, as well as the Chapter II of the Plan of Life of the Nazarene Fraternities, where they have recovered the original version: “In Nazareth, they prayed, they worked and they loved each other”.
Brother Teodoro Berzal.