In this month’s Novena we will pause, with the help of the work done by Br. Enzo Biemmi (Br. Gabriel Taborin. The challenge of a lay religious in the 19th century), on the consideration of Brother Gabriel’s vocation as a vocation that was built, and that did so according to the reality of the Church and of the society of his time, as an instrument of the Holy Spirit to respond to those challenges. May he help us to engender in the Sa-Fa Family new vocations that are built on the challenges of the diversity of churches and societies of our time.

Day 16: Gabriel Taborin’s itinerary begins in 1799, at the end of the (French) Revolution, in a small village in the Upper Bugey, south of the Jura: Belleydoux. In the atmosphere of reconstruction that characterises this remote village in the Ain, Gabriel interprets in his own way the role inherited from the Ancient Regime, that of “clerc” of the parish, at the same time teacher, catechist and sacristan. Aimed at the priesthood, he turned away from it after reading the lives of holy monks, and began to live a certain lay and active religious life which earned him the title of “Brother” from the inhabitants of his village.

Prayer for every day:

God our Father, who has raised up in the Church Venerable Brother Gabriel Taborin
to promote Christian education, catechesis and liturgical animation,
grant that, sharing his charism,
may we know how to carry out our mission today for the good of the family and of society
with the strength of your Spirit.
And, if it is your will, grant that he may be enrolled in the number of saints, granting us through his intercession the grace we need….
(mention the names of the persons for whom you wish to pray)
We ask this insistently through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Day 17: The “novitiate” of Belleydoux, within the pastoral strategy of the Church of the Restoration, makes Gabriel’s conditions favourable, almost idyllic. The constant change of priests, in a region considered by the clergy as “the Siberia of the Diocese”, and the weak personality of the priests, allow him to put his conditions to work and to exercise them in a very active way, thus securing for himself a place as a protagonist in the parish.

Day 18: However, the pressure of mentalities is exerted on Gabriel in two directions. His brothers and other young people, who did not have the same feelings as him, considered him ridiculous because of his manifestations of piety and because he seemed to attribute to himself the power of the ministry of the priesthood, proof that the Revolution had not passed without effect in Belleydoux. His mother, his parish priest and those who appreciated him, guided him towards the priesthood in harmony with the needs of a diocese that was mobilised by the restoration of a clergy decimated by the Revolution.

Day 19: Leaving first the presbyteral school in 1816 and then his village in 1824, with the passing intention of joining the Brothers of the Christian Schools, Gabriel distanced himself from the mentality of his environment which wanted to attract him to what was already known and experienced.

Day 20: Once the umbilical cord was cut, Gabriel’s experience extended from 1824 to 1842 in ever-widening concentric circles: from the parish level to the diocesan level, and from the diocesan level to the universal Church. By distancing himself from what already existed, and by trial and error, which gave him the bitter taste of failure, he sought to give a face to the “Brother” he had experienced and dreamed of in Belleydoux.

Day 21: Gabriel joined this movement, in continuity and evolution, with regard to the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He was part of the group of new Congregations of Brothers who adapted De La Salle’s intuition to the needs of the small parishes in the countryside of 19th century France.

Day 22: Strengthened by his experience in Belleydoux, he is not content to have his Brothers as teachers; he wants them to be animators in the parishes, protagonists in primary education, catechesis and liturgy.

Day 23: At the heart of this response to the needs of the times, (…) the novelty (…) depends on the profound conception of the “Brother” and the new logic it implies within the Church and society.

Day 24: Gabriel’s life as a Brother allows him, at the same time, to be simply Christian, to take on Baptism, sharing in some way the functions monopolised by the clergy, and to take on the profound demand for secularity of a culture which wants to distance itself from a sacral vision of life and to come of age, denouncing, with its nostalgia for God and its concern for evangelisation, a project of society built without any reference to God.