The Institute founded by Br. Gabriel Taborin is among the so-called “apostolic life” or “active life” Institutes, from its lay condition.
Despite his interest in the monastic and contemplative life, expressed above all in the foundation of Tamié, and the missionary thrust, manifested in the sending of Brothers to the United States of America, the congregation of Br. Gabriel does not correspond to the contemplative life nor to the “societies of apostolic life” creative for the mission ad gentes. The activities of Br. Gabriel and of the Brothers correspond to “lay ministries” exercised by religious, which have their foundation in baptism and confirmation with a new mandate received in the religious profession. For Br. Gabriel, the lay identity of the Institute was, however, compatible with the presence of some priests.
“From our earliest youth we understood how useful and what great services could provide a religious Society of Brothers that had at the same time the objective of instructing the youth, the service of the churches and singing the praises of God” (Historical Outline. First draft).
Brother Gabriel presented and explained many times the mission of the Institute to the Brothers as well as to the ecclesial and State authorities, and sometimes he tried in his correspondence with some people about how the Brothers exercised their mission and the problems that it raised.
We all know, both yesterday and today, the distance between the statement of the texts and the reality that is lived in the concreteness of life. Even so, the reading of these texts can help us to capture the originality of the charism in the aspect of the mission and to glimpse to a large extent the problems experienced by Br. Gabriel and the first Brothers in their desire to respond to the call of God and to place oneself at the service of the Church and of society in a context that is not easy.
Br. Teodoro Berzal
- The best starting point for referring to the mission of the Institute and to the activities of the Brothers of the Holy Family is the very experience of the Founder in his adolescent and youth years in Belleydoux. To this end, there is nothing better than to turn to those who knew him during those years and who, shortly after his death, gave their testimonies, gathered by Br. Nicolas Tardy, who was working in Belleydoux at that time. As Brother Gabriel says in his autobiography in all simplicity: “Those same functions I should continue one day and show them to others, more as the fruit of my long experience than my intellectual capacity, which has always been mediocre.”
Memories of Francis Perrin, called Pirron, who was a servant in the Taborin family (He was 18 years older than the Founder)
Reverend Brother Gabriel Taborin was born in Belleydoux to parents who were well-to-do and very virtuous. His father was Claude Joseph and his mother Mary Josephine. He was the youngest of four siblings. In his childhood, little Gabriel was quite lively. We had to see how he was shaken in the cradle, (says old Perrin), and when I held him in my arms, it was sometimes difficult to control his turbulence because he tried to hit me with his hands as soon as he was a little upset. But, he added at once, when he was a little older and came to the use of reason, all his behaviour was edifying to his companions and he was very kind to them and to everyone; he had a lot of ardour for everything concerning religion; he guided his companions to prayer and piety.
From the age of about eight years old, little Gabriel would take the cows to graze. He was already seen building small altars with stones and inviting the other shepherds to pray with him. At the age of ten, he began to receive lessons at the priest’s house (there was no teacher in the municipality at that time). He was more interested in the study than in the field work.
The other children, the other shepherds, had a certain respect for him and submitted to him. And they had to obey him, for he did not make jokes, especially if it was an activity of a religious nature. Sometimes in the games he organized a procession, with the flag in the head (which was usually a handkerchief tied to a stick) and a cross in a rudimentary way. We had to see how little Gabriel moved so that everything worked properly. Some were much older than him and yet he demanded that they submit. Sometimes the servant also had to participate in the procession, like the others, although he was eighteen years older than little Gabriel.
He had prepared in his room a kind of altar before which he simulated the ceremonies of the Mass and gathered the children of the village. He summoned them ringing a bell in the streets of the village. But the merciless young men ridiculed Gabriel’s enthusiasm. On one occasion he organized a small chapel in a small house that his father had a quarter of an hour’s walk from the village (in Bellevoîte). There, little Gabriel would gather the little shepherds of the surroundings, ringing a small bell placed on the façade of the little house, inside which there was a small oratory.
For sixteen years young Gabriel displayed an ardent enthusiasm. He said the Mass (i. e., he represented the ceremonies), preached, even confessed (i. e., he taught how to confess, since he did not ask to be told about sins). All this had to be done with the utmost seriousness, and severely rebuked anyone who came to disturb or interrupt the order. One day when little Gabriel was preaching, stuck in a small barrel that was suspended in the air by a rope, it broke, and the preacher came down from his chair faster than he had come up. This accident did not prevent him from continuing his sermons; but since then he began to use a high chair on which he stood to preach.
When he was about eighteen, he opened a school in Belleydoux. His students feared and respected him.
One day, to celebrate a party with his classmates, Gabriel, growing up, had taken some goat’s heads that his mother had prepared for him (his parents had an inn). After the meal and prayers, they made fire and Gabriel took a clog in which he placed some ash and embers, and then religiously incensed his companions.
- Brother Gabriel, in narrating the beginnings of the foundation of the Institute in the first version of his autobiography, tells us what the purpose of this foundation was and what the activities of the first Brothers in Saint-Claude were, always taking as a point of reference those which he himself had carried out during his youth in Belleydoux.
HISTORICAL OUTLOOK (First draft)
From our most tender youth we understood how useful and what great services could be rendered by a religious Society of Brothers which at the same time had the objective of instructing youth, serving the churches and singing the praises of God.
We searched for it in vain, we could not find one in France. We decided, then, to seek someone whom God would inspire in the formation of such a work. We would gladly have been associated with him, because we felt a very particular attraction for it, since we ourselves had performed these holy functions in Belleydoux, our home parish. But the search was futile. Determined to leave the world, we surrendered confidently in the hands of Providence and set out to seek a religious house. It was not easy to find it. The revolutionary storm had struck with its destructive hammer and few had been able to rise from the ruin at that time.
We do not know how we were led to Monsignor de Chamon, Bishop of Saint-Claude; but when this worthy prelate saw us, he wanted us to remain with him. We then expressed to him our intention to enter religious life and the desire we had to meet someone who could form an Association, as we have described it above.
Then the worthy Bishop said to us with an inspired tone: “You yourself will be the one who forms this work, God calls you to it; you will begin it here.” (This was in 1824). What was our astonishment at that moment!
We apologized for our incapacity, our little experience, saying that it was impossible for us to be involved in such a work of such magnitude; that we were not in a position to form others to religious life; that we had great esteem for it, but that we did not know enough of its obligations to fulfil them and make others comply with them. “Begin this work. It is God who has inspired it and He will give it everything you think is missing”, answered this worthy and venerated Bishop, whose memory we will always hold in great esteem…
Encouraged by these words and full of trust in God, we set about our work, tremblingly confessing it; for we thought of the responsibility that we were going to have before God and before men. Moreover, it was too reckless for us to undertake such a task, to begin without resources and to think that we could never live up to our mission.
But we made this reasoning to ourselves: through a bishop worthy and full of faith, God seems to manifest his will. On the other hand, it is either his work or yours: if it is yours, it will necessarily be a dead-born work, but if it is God’s, you have nothing to fear. He is rich and will help you in all your needs; He is the light and will enlighten you sufficiently for yourself and to help you guide those you will associate with your work.
In the meantime, all agreements were taken. The parish priest of Les Bouchoux, Fr. Chavin, according to Bishop de Chamon, welcomed us into his house with five other young people. There he prepared us with an eight-day retreat for our taking of the habit, which took place one Sunday in his church. This ceremony attracted to Les Bouchoux a multitude of pious faithful and priests from all the neighbouring parishes. It was one of the most beautiful days of our lives. Its memory always brings us happiness and holy affection.
Wearing the religious habit, we returned to Saint-Claude, with five Brothers who were to be our collaborators. We were immediately entrusted with the primary schools of the city and the cathedral service. But great trials were awaiting us in these beginnings: the parents of four of the Brothers discouraged them and, fearing that they would lack the bread, they left us alone with one Brother; it was not enough to take care of the work that we had entrusted to us.
- We do not know when the first rule of life was written by Br. Gabriel. The truth is that in 1838 he says, when presenting the Guide, that “The rules contained in this book have been, for more than twenty years, the object of our most serious reflections.” There is evidence of a wording made with the help of Canon Desrumeaux in Saint Claude under the title “Constitutions of the Order of St. Joseph…” It describes the principal aspects of the religious life of the Brothers, their formation and organization and, from the beginning, presents the mission of the new congregation. In other articles various aspects of the Brothers’ activities are developed.
CHAPTER 1: AIM OF THE CONGREGATION
For a long time now parish priests have been complaining about many of their school teachers’ behaviour; they are generally unknown characters who arrive from other dioceses that, rather than helping the priests in their difficult functions provide but examples of insubordination, and often of corruption to young people, all too sensitive to such experiences. The only thing these veterans of the Sanctuary want for their parish is to have someone with no ties and who seeks nothing but God’s glory, to help them carry their load. It is to satisfy this common need that the little Congregation of the Brothers of Saint Joseph will be founded, under the auspices of a beloved and venerated prelate, who rejoices in helping a cleric whom he cherishes.
To instruct the children, to help them become good Christians, to take charge of the sacristy and of the possessions of the church, prepare the catechism, organise family conferences, perform the ceremonies, such are the aims of the society.
CHAPTER 30: RELATIONSHIP OF THE BROTHERS WITH THE PARISH AND THE PARISH
Relationship with the parish priest
The Brothers sent to the parishes to relieve the priests in their difficult tasks will try, through delicacy, kindness and honesty, to deserve their esteem and affection. They will fulfil all their desires, provided that they are directed to good and not contrary to the Constitutions. They will have the greatest respect for them and they will consider them as a father whom Providence has chosen to lead them in the way of salvation.
If the parish priests experience any displeasure from their faithful, the Brothers will support them totally; hiding their faults, they will highlight their qualities and show the esteem that they have for them by condemning in this way the reproaches, even well-founded ones, of the libertines and the pagans.
Relationship with the parishes
The Brothers should consider that if God has chosen them out of thousands to send them to work in his vineyard, they are not only due to children but also to the elderly. They should also preach to them more than words, with good example. Honesty, gentleness and friendliness conquer people and, once you have dominion over them, it is easy to direct them to God, their true centre.
As far as the school environment is concerned, the Brothers will take care to inform parents about the conduct of their children; they will bear witness to them with complete confidence and show them the method of correcting them with charity. When they meet a person, the Brothers will be attentive to greet him/her and, in passing, to say a word of comfort or edification. In this way they will try to make virtue kind and thus remove the unfortunate prejudice that good must be austere. They will be very careful not to shock the weak in conversations and will always avoid talking to young people.
- The “Constitutions of the Brothers of the Holy Family” of 1836 present a more elaborate vision of the mission of the Institute. In it we find the characteristic expression of Brother Gabriel “all kinds of good works” and together with it a gradual enumeration of the Brothers’ activities. Some appear as permanent, others will be exercised under certain conditions and circumstances. It should be noted the call to the availability of the Brothers to adapt themselves to different activities according to what “the Superiors may dispose.”
CONSTITUTIONS AND REGULATIONS OF THE BROTHERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY
The Society of the Holy Family will have as its aim the performance of all sorts of good deeds.
Its main goal will be to support the priests in the countryside as parish teachers, assistants in the cult, catechists, cantors and sacristans.
They must, as needed and at the request of the authority expand their services to hospitals to care for the sick as well as to those incarcerated in prisons.
As soon as the Society is able to have the funding to do so, it will establish a provision where abandoned children and poor orphans may be received free of charge from the age of seven, where they will be looked after till they reach twenty years of age, or even for life should they wish to remain. Such children will be first instructed in piety, taught to read, to write and arithmetic. They will be taught various trades to help first the society and then themselves, were they to quit the home or settle in the world where they would be expected to live good Christian lives remembering the wise principles which would have been imprinted in their hearts from a young age.
The Brothers will dedicate themselves to the fulfilment of all those deeds tending to promote the glory of God, the salvation of souls and service to our neighbours, according to the Superior’s will; this means that the Superior will decide what each Brother is best suited to do, or most capable of doing, in order to devote himself especially to doing it. Everyone will try his best through devoting himself to learning and to the learning of other manual trades, so as to become well trained by the end of his novitiate, that they might undertake any of the functions foreseen were they called to do so by the Superiors.
All associates must be sincerely ready to sacrifice their freedom, their talents, their health, and even their lives, in order to make themselves useful to others in all sorts of ways, so as to conquer them all for Jesus Christ and to save their own souls. They must be equally ready to go out and beg for their Brothers were it necessary
The Brothers of the teaching, chosen to direct the schools, will be the remedy for a great evil, provided they are good teachers. People, especially those in the countryside, consider that the best quality of a good teacher is to have a powerful and sonorous voice, but the Brothers will often remember that, although they need to know how to sing (especially if they are in charge of singing in the church), there are other qualities that are much more necessary for them. They must be in their task as teachers, virtuous and irreproachable men, educated, prudent and capable of forming the spirit of the child and teaching him what religion and the education of the world demand.
Those who have deserved to be placed in charge of a parish or communal school due to their abilities. These will be given class every day in the school. They may also give catechesis in the church when the priest so desires and may also replace him or the vicar in this function. The children will recite every day in class the part of the catechism they will have to say the next day in church.
The Brothers who exercise the functions of assistant in the cult, cantors and sacristans will be deeply convinced that in the sacred place they must have great respect for the majesty of God. Being obligated to serve the parish priest or his vicars in the functions of their ministry, they carry out their duties without negligence, not as an obligation but with modesty and delicacy.
- We do not know what is the part of Br. Gabriel in the drafting of the Statutes of the Guide (1839), since the correctors of the diocesan curia of Belley also intervened. In any case, he accepted the published version and in it a presentation of the mission of the Institute and the activities of the Brothers.
STATUTES OF THE GUIDE
- The small Christian-oriented Association of Brothers known as Of the Holy Family aims at doing all sorts of good deeds; but its main purpose is to back up the Priests in the countryside and in the villages, serving as teachers at the parish schools, as catechists, assistants in the cult, cantors and sacristans.
The Brothers of the Holy Family provide primary education, teaching above all to read, write, calculate, the legal system of measures and weights and the first notions of Geography and History, and of Agriculture. They especially teach the catechism and train their pupils in the practice of Christian virtues, good manners, piety, and take lessons in Gregorian chant.
- The Brothers may carry out their functions in any country, abiding by the local civil and ecclesial laws of the Diocese and the State where they reside.
They are spread within the parishes one by one; but in that case it is desirable that they lodge at the rectory, or that the school is close to one or two other ones where the Brothers will visit each other once a week; if the parish requires several Brothers, then they will lodge in a private house which will serve this sole purpose: The Brothers thus placed carry out their functions in exchange for a fixed pay, made by the parish, the factory or private supporters; or else they live on the monthly earning produced by their school, of the small supplement granted them and the occasional contribution from the church if they are in charge.
III. The Brothers will only be placed in those parishes being able to offer them an appropriate house, both for their school and for their dwelling, conveniently furnished and including the household necessities according to the number of the Brothers required.
Art. 30. CLASSES AND DUTIES. In the school you will be one or several. In the first case, you will have only one class for which you will be fully responsible. If there are several of you, the Superiors will entrust a certain number of students to you, and if not, the Brother Bursar with whom you are with will do so, who will have immediate authority over the school. You will be so submissive to him that you will do nothing without his consent, not even passing a student to the higher section or class.
Art. 52. DUTIES OF THE BROTHERS AS CATECHISTS. The task of catechists is one of the most honourable and can effectively contribute to your own salvation and that of your neighbour if you give yourself to it in a spirit of faith. But in order to be good catechists, you must be sufficiently trained in the truths of religion and strive to progress each day by reading the diocesan catechism, that of Collot and, if you can also that of Bourges, that of Couturier, that of Constance, that of the peoples, etc., Chambéry’s family formation projects, the explanation of the catechism of Geneva, the one in use in the churches of France and other good books. Do not be afraid to go over them several times and read some more. It would be a presumption to think that you are already formed after leaving the Novitiate and that you have nothing to learn. There is always something to learn about salvation. It is a lifelong study. Above all, beware of new and unique opinions, and heed the truths of faith promulgated by the General Councils, recognized as such by the Pope and accepted by the Church.
Art. 54. OBLIGATIONS OF THE BROTHERS AS ASSISTANTS OF THE CULT, CANTORS AND SACRISTANS. You shall not perform any of your functions in the church without covering yourselves with a cassock or a surplice, which is more comfortable. As sacristans you must keep the church, altars, sacristy, sacred vessels and ornaments clean, all of which are entrusted to your care. You will work in these tasks with a religious spirit since the one who is in charge of them is close to the altar; you will do it in silence out of respect for the majesty of God and for the presence of Jesus Christ in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist, with dexterity, which is a clear sign of vocation for our Institute and, finally, with pleasure, so that everything is placed in order and that nothing is left out of place in the sacristy.
6.Although less systematically than in the Rule of Life of the Brothers, Br. Gabriel often writes in his correspondence on the mission of the Institute and on the activities of the Brothers, sometimes to present it to persons who do not know it, sometimes to clarify or interpret some of its aspects. Let us look at the presumption made to two priests who do not know the Institute in the following letters.
To the Father Director of the Confraternity of Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris. 12-10-1840
I have read with pleasure your pious Handbook of the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which honours the zeal that animates you for the glory of God, the salvation of souls, especially of sinners. The miracles of conversion that the Mother of God performs through your pious association have moved me and awakened an ardent desire to belong to it with all the current and future members of my small community of the Holy Family, now composed of 50 members. The Bishop of Belley is our first Superior, in this episcopal city and under his support our Novitiate functions; our Institute has as its purpose all kinds of good works, but, above all, it works in its own sanctification and that of its neighbour through the Christian teaching of youth, as primary teachers and helping the parish priests of the countryside and cities as catechists, cantors and sacristans. We also aim to provide shelter for orphaned children from poor families. I think it will please Mary, Mother of God, our Patroness, that our community be a member of your pious association and share in its spiritual goods.
In the hope that you will grant me this favour, I beg you, Father Director, please accept from now on my sincere thanks and the assurance of my deep respect and veneration, yours, Fr. Director, your humble and attentive servant.
To Fr. Montbrun, diocesan missionary of Valence. 24-09-1842
I reply to your kind letter, from which I have not yet been able to inform our holy Bishop who is currently in Bourg for the spiritual retreat of the priests. On his return, I will do my welcome duty.
As for the young man, your protégé, I will receive him with great pleasure in view of the good reports you give me regarding his conduct; but we will not be able to receive him for free in our Society, therefore, he will have to bring, when he comes, all he can in money and linen, and what he cannot bring in conscience now, he will do later, if something inherited from his parents.
We demand 700 francs for board and admission, with a linen estimated at 300 francs. Young people, when they profess in our Society, are left in charge of it, and the Brothers do not have to worry about the material, which is a great advantage. Send us without delay the young Ferdinand Michel; as our retreat will begin shortly, these holy exercises could be very useful to begin his novitiate.
I sincerely thank you, Rev. Father, for your zeal to procure candidates for us; we are in great need of them, for we have more than 800 requests from Brothers to whom we cannot currently supply. Divine Providence, which has called you to work for the salvation of souls in the missions, obliges you, more than other ecclesiastics, to look for young people who like religious life and for the roles of educators, catechists, cantors, sacristans and Brothers in the service of the seminaries, functions which can all be entrusted to the members of our Society.
We will be very grateful for the candidates you can send us. Please accept the expression of my respectful sentiment with which I am yours as the kind servant.
7. The appeal addressed to Gregory XVI for the approval of the Institute naturally contains a detailed and well thought-out description of its mission and the activities to which its members dedicate themselves. Two highlights can be emphasized in relation to the life of the Church in those circumstances: The Brothers “will accompany the missionaries” (it was the great moment of missionary impulse) and “to curb the evil that our unfortunate brothers want to do” by referring to the activity of the Protestants in the outskirts of Geneva.
To His Holiness Pope Gregory XVI. 15-05-1841
Religious Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family
Belley (Ain), Border with Savoy
I, Brother Gabriel Taborin, Superior of the Brothers of the Holy Family, humbly kneeling at the feet of His Holiness, with deep feelings of faith and looking for the greater glory of God, the salvation of souls and the spiritual good of the neighbour, within the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, to which I have the happiness to belong and in which I would like to live and die, I present humbly to His Holiness that Divine Providence inspired me, many years ago, the idea of working in the foundation of an Institute, called of the Brothers of the Holy Family.
Its purpose is to do all kinds of good works, but in a special way, the sanctification of its own members. Its primary aim is to help parish priests in the countryside and in the cities, working as teachers, catechists, cantors and sacristans.
There are also Brothers engaged in manual works in the seminaries and other institutions of public utility. The Brothers devoted to fulfilling the tasks I have just mentioned can do good and settle anywhere, carrying out always the State’s civil laws and the Church’s laws of the diocese where they are. They may even help to spread the faith in the mission countries, accompanying the missionaries and helping them, according to their possibilities.
The mentioned Institute runs orphanages for poor children; it educates them Christianly, it teaches them a trade so that they may someday earn an honest living in the world, unless they want to become Brothers of the Holy Family.
The first houses of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family have been founded in the diocese of Belley, by Bishop Alexander Raymond Devie. I owe my own training for religious life to the zeal and deep piety of this most worthy and venerable Bishop; in the same way, our Institute, of which he is also the first Superior, is pleased of living under his staff and rightly considers him as its protector.
The Congregation of the Holy Family has already spread in several dioceses, where the Bishops have desired to accept it kindly and favourably, especially the bishops of Savoy and Piedmont, who do not have a Congregation like this and they ask me to found houses in their dioceses. We have already established there some that are flourishing and have known how to conquer the benevolence and protection of the Bishops. The Sardinian States Government has promised to approve our Institute as soon as we get the one from the Holy See.
Holy Father, I come to prostrate myself humbly at your feet to ask you to review the Regulations and Rules of our Society, of which I have the honour to offer a copy to His Holiness. They have already been approved by the Bishop of Belley and I request earnestly that you give us the apostolic authorization and approval.
Protestantism progresses greatly in France; the apostles of Calvin multiply and try to drag to his sect the sheep of His Holiness. We would like very much, Holy Father, that the Lord uses our Congregation to stop the evil that our unfortunate brothers are planning to realize and we would be happy in the Lord if we could strengthen their faith and save, with our examples and exhortations, all those who are in danger of being lost. I dare assure you, Holy Father, that, relying more on the help from heaven than in my own strength, we will try to do everything we can, the Brothers entrusted to me and myself, to train in piety and knowledge the young people from the poor classes from their early years, helping them to develop good habits that make them honest citizens for the civil society and saints for heaven.
8. The parish priest were by far the ones who asked the most for the foundation of communities to Br. Gabriel, so there are many letters in which he has to clarify the mission of the Brothers in the parishes and resolve some particular problems. Let us look at two cases.
To Fr. Dupuy, Parish Priest of Vizille (Isère). 01-08-1844
Dear Father: I appreciate in all its scope all that you say to me concerning the inconveniences that there would be if a Brother were to regularly share the table of an Archpriest or a canton priest, who is often forced to have other priests; I do not appreciate any less what you say to me concerning work, which I appreciate and which I highly recommend to our Brothers, so that they do not fall into unemployment, the ordinary source of all vices. When I place them, I think they will consciously gain from the regular work, the modest salary that is given to them, so that they will not be in charge of anyone. As you know, the Brothers in the seminaries do not lack work, especially those in charge of the various workshops. Those who exercise the functions of teachers, cantors and sacristans in the parishes have a rather arduous task; the Brothers sacristans placed in a parish where ordinarily there is only one Mass a day, I understand that they do not have anything to worry about all day, nor is their salary sufficient for their existence; that is why we only place them in the cathedrals or in the large parishes where they are busy all day long.
It is not our intention to send Brothers in isolation to the parishes, where they have to work in the parish house to earn their living. If I turned away from the Rule to please you, it was in consideration of your great merits and at the request of Bishop Depéry. The Brother who I wanted to place with you could have, after the service of the church, taken care of the gardening, sawed firewood, manipulated the bread, made rosaries, sold religious objects, outside of the specific works assigned to us and of which he would have informed us on vacation as the other Brothers do. I cannot hide from you, dear Father, in spite of my good willingness to please you, my fear that the Brother I have promised you will not give you satisfaction for his work and that he will be discouraged by this. In order not to be forced to withdraw him later from your parish, I ask you to address someone else and not to consider my promise unfulfilled.
Accept with my sorrow the assurance of my deepest respect with which I am yours, dear Father, your humble and obedient servant.
To Fr. Boquillot, Parish Priest of Authume (Jura). 11-09-1848
Dear Father: I have just learned of your letter to Fr. Guillemin, Vicar General of Belley, in which you expressed your desire to have two Brothers for your parish, serving as primary school teachers, catechists, cantors and sacristans.
I am putting you through, dear Father, which I will gladly grant you, one of them will be a graduate; they will go to your parish in mid-October to exercise the functions mentioned above. I hope they will do good under your paternal direction and respond to your laudable wish, that of the Mayor and the inhabitants of your municipality. With this hope I promise them to you in preference to other municipalities that have been asking me for them for a long time.
I think that the means of existence specified in your letter will be sufficient for two Brothers, but they must be guaranteed, secured by written agreement and for a certain number of years; you must also provide the Brothers with furnishings and clothing, as far as possible in accordance with the written prospectus which I am sending you today by post. If the municipality could not fulfil the conditions, I could not, in spite of my good will, send you the two Brothers whom you wish, and I will certainly have them for another municipality. Be that as it may, I insistently beg you, dear Father, let me answer precisely, so that I can use it as a rule…
The Brothers cannot perform the functions of secretary. The particular lessons that the Marquis of Authume wants for his children will be given with pleasure by a Brother, if time permits it and if nothing contrary to the Rules prevents it. We will discuss the matter with the Marquis when I accompany the Brothers to Authume, if the municipality is in a position to receive them. I want everything to be arranged for common satisfaction. I await your reply, that I ask you to be as soon as possible, and accept the expression of my affection, with which I am your humble and attentive servant.
- In the presentation of the various institutions in Ars, Br. Gabriel in his book mentions his Congregation so that pilgrims may have first-hand information. To this can be added the boarding school founded by the Brothers on the advice of the Holy Priest.
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL OF THE PILGRIMS TO ARS
The Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family, established in the diocese of Belley by Bishop Devie, has its Novitiate, its Mother House and its Superior General in Belley. Pope Gregory XVI, praising the zeal and dedication of the Brothers of the Holy Family in the places where they carry out their activities, approved, by a decree and a pontifical brief letter dated August 18 and 28, 1841, this Congregation for being very useful, and also enriched it with many indulgences. The illustrious Supreme Pontiff Pius IX, who gloriously occupies the chair of St. Peter, recommends and encourages it to be called to produce great good in youth and childhood, so dear to our Saviour. The Brothers of the Holy Family are consecrated to God by religious vows, they are to be determined to all kinds of good works for the love of God and men, although their main purpose is to work in primary education and in the Christian and social education of young people in cities and rural areas. They also serve as catechists, cantors and sacristans and assist priests in the ceremonies of divine worship; they also direct boarding schools, shelters and detention centres. God was pleased to bless in a sensitive way this Institute, whose members are already present in a large number of dioceses where their services are appreciated. They perform their functions individually or in groups, as required. Their teaching has a paternal character and is fully grounded in the doctrines of our holy religion. They teach their students what is prescribed by primary school laws. The authorities and persons who have contributed to give such teaching to the youth will have much merit before God and his name will not cease to be blessed by the good people.
PROSPECTUS – No. 14
BOARDING SCHOOL OF THE BROTHERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY
AT ARS (Ain) near Villefranche (Rhône)
This Establishment was founded by the venerable Priest of Ars in 1849.
Providing young people with the benefit of an education based on the alliance between teaching and religion has been the goal of its venerable founder. The religious called by him to direct this Establishment strive to achieve it, and the successes obtained justify the efforts and care they give to their students.
The Brothers prevent the faults of their students by assiduous vigilance; they correct them especially by means of their wise advice and counsel. The student, for whom these means were ineffective will be dismissed, but with all appropriate precautions to safeguard his reputation and the honour of his family.
Students are taught according to their age and ability. No means of achieving rapid progress are neglected. Constant emulation is encouraged with essays, competitions, exams, rewards and prizes at the end of the school year.
Teaching includes the study of religion, reading, writing, French grammar, spelling, grammatical analysis and logical analysis, arithmetic, the metric system, notions of geometry and surveying, a course in history and geography, literature, French composition, epistolary style, bookkeeping, (drawing, washing, elevation of planes, elementary physics concepts with applications for life, vocal music and Gregorian music)
The gradual development of the studies is divided into four courses…
- Here is a description of the Brothers’ activities in the time of Br. Gabriel as proposed in the thesis of Br. Enzo Biemmi.
The Challenge of a Lay Religious Brother…
The Brother’s functions are as teacher, “clerc”, cantor, sacristan and catechist. These functions, in principle and of preference, are exercised by each Brother, but in parishes where there are several, they are divided among them.
Let us go into a Brother’s class. Above the entrance door, written in large letters, you can read: “Parish (or Municipal) school run by the Brothers of the Holy Family.” In the classroom, everything is objects as gestures remind us of the characteristics of a sacred place. To the right of the door is a stoup of holy water. On entering, the students discover themselves, take holy water and make the sign of the cross, thus greeting the image of Christ: they greet the teacher with a bow of head and go to their bench in silence.
In front of it, behind the platform and the teacher’s desk, the image of Christ dominates the wall in the background, to the right of the Virgin Mary and to the left of St. Joseph. St. Nicholas and the Guardian Angel, facing each other, are placed on the opposite walls in the middle of the class.
The teacher’s chair, on a platform, has a support rail and two benches on each side for the monitors. In front of the platform there is a reclining table that serves as a desk. The class begins with the morning prayer which is in the catechism, followed by that which is in use in the Institute. The children kneel, fold their arms and look at the image of Christ. Before and after each lesson, teacher and disciples are gathered together with a brief invocation. When the clock strikes the time, everything stops. It is a spiritual meeting established between the Brothers of different parishes and their students: they all pray the Hail Mary and the invocation to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In the afternoon an hour of catechism is planned every day. The class ends with afternoon prayer, Angelus, Sub tuum and some songs. The rest of the time is devoted to reading, writing and numeracy, and learning, for the most advanced, notions of history, geography and surveying. The readings are always on religious themes, synthesis of sacred history or the life of saints. The suggested method is the one found in the “Conduite des Écoles Chrétiennes” by De La Salle, that is, the simultaneous method, although in reality it is a mixed method that already integrates certain dynamics of the common method.
The atmosphere in the classroom is one of silence and recollection. The Brother speaks as little as possible, as do the students. Everything is regulated by the code of signs and gestures that save “a multitude of useless words that create a state of dissipation during class work, disperse the attention of children, damage the health that you must take care of in order to be able to do good for as long as possible and not become a burden for the community at a young age.” Two allies accompany the Brother in this enterprise where nothing is left to chance: the bell and the wooden sign. A small bell announces the frequent moments of prayer and the wooden sign, in use in the Congregations of Brothers, commands the exercise of reading, writing and arithmetic. One, two, three touches… and the whole class, as a well-trained group, acts as one person. Rewards and punishments are a sign of each one’s progress and failures.
In fact, it is a great rite that takes place every day in class and the children do not have to notice much change in their frequent passage from church to class and from class to church. Here and there, the silence, the recollection, the prayers and the known and repeated gestures remind that we are working, in two different ways, on the same work of salvation of the soul and for the glory of God.
The Challenge of a Lay Religious Brother…
The second important activity of the Brother is that of “clerc”, cantor and sacristan. The Brother fulfils these functions, which bring him closer to the holy altar, in a spirit of religion, in silence, with skill and cleanliness.
Every time he passes by the altar, and it is often, he makes a deep genuflection, saying a prayer to God. Nothing is omitted for the church to be clean, the ornaments well folded and arranged, the bells in good condition, the wax remains of the candles carefully collected in a box destined for it. The knowledge of plain chant (Gregorian) is one of the indispensable characteristics of the good Brother of the Holy Family. The Brother sings the solemn Masses of the week, not with ostentation, “but with humility and devotion.” He practices this important exercise in free time. In his role as “clerc”, the Brother is helped by some children of his class, particularly willing and judicious: the acolytes and especially the altar servers, whom he prepares with care for this exercise. These can replace him during the week when the Brother is busy in class. In all these functions of the church, the Brother is clothed with a cassock or a surplice.
The third function, that of catechist, is the most honourable one. The Brother prepares himself every day by reading and studying the catechisms recommended, because “there are always things to learn in the theme of salvation; it is a lifelong study.” Before beginning the study of catechism, he asks for the lights of the Holy Spirit and above all the virtues of humility and charity. It is necessary to differentiate the catechism given in class every day from that given in the Church on Sunday afternoons. The session of the catechism is always conducted in the same way and according to established custom, which has not changed since the time of Belleydoux. The work in which the Brother is to be distinguished is in the careful preparation of the First Communion. The children are carefully prepared by a retreat lasting several days. Nothing is omitted for everything to be done with solemnity and pomp; this day must be engraved in the memory of children and adults as a “precious and lasting memory.”
All the functions exercised by the Brother, all his actions, words and gestures, are marked, as we have seen, by a sacred, almost priestly character. There is an amazing unity in the life of the Brother and in his different functions. They cannot be separated from each other without losing sight of their common characteristic. The Brother is the man who, in the simple environment of a small parish, dedicates his life to the Christian formation of young people and adults, through a convergent strategy in which the principal means are parish school, catechism and liturgy.
We find in this image of the Brother presented by the Guide of 1838 an astonishing conformity to the type of Brother performed by Gabriel in his parish of Belleydoux first and in his first experiences in the diocese of Saint Claude and Belley. On the other hand, it is necessary to marvel at the insistence with which Gabriel returns to the clerical habit that the Brothers must always wear: as he reminded to Bishop Devie; the Brothers are “destined to serve in the church as Clercs” and are “like priests, consecrated totally to God by vows.” They are totally consecrated to God in functions that are, in their own way, “priestly” functions. Even school instruction, which in the eyes of contemporary readers would appear to be the most profane function of functions, is, in the nineteenth century, an eminently religious activity. The three means available to the Brother to form his students in class are prayer, good example and religious instruction, which “passes before all other knowledge.” We are in a school concept different from the contemporary one.
12. Among the procedures repeatedly set in motion by Br. Gabriel to obtain the approval of the Institute in France appears in this letter, which contains a broad description of the Institute’s activity.
To Mr. Vincent De Lormay, President of the General Council of the Department of Ain. 22-08-1852
The religious and charitable Association called Brothers of the Holy Family of Belley (Ain), eagerly desiring its legal recognition, believes in the duty to address with great confidence the General Council of this Department to urge it to want, in its session of 1852, to give favourable progress to the Brothers of the Holy Family, expressing the desire to see their Association authorized by the State as “Establishment of public utility for primary education.” The Brothers of the Holy Family confidently ask this favour of the General Council for the services they render and for those which are called to render, consequently, among the poor and working classes; they support the purposes of the Government, which will always find in them zealous and sacrificed helpers to help moralize the youth of cities and rural areas.
These are, Mister President, some of the reasons that can be considered in favour of the Brothers of the Holy Family, and thus obtain from the General Council the favourable approval that I am able to ask for, counting on your powerful and kind intercession.
The Association of the Brothers of the Holy Family aims at all kinds of good works, but its main aim is primary education. The Brothers are distributed in localities at very low cost, alone or in groups, according to their needs, in the places where they are called, and they exercise the modest functions of teachers, cantors and sacristans in accordance with the law. Called in the shelters, workshops and prisons founded for public benefit, whether by the departments or by charitable associations, the Brothers of the Holy Family give wise and paternal direction to poor, orphaned or abandoned children.
For more than thirty years I have founded this Association in this department with the help and protection of Bishop Devie of Belley, with glorious memory. For more than thirty years its headquarters have been permanently established in Belley, where it has an establishment in one of the healthiest and most pleasant places; it can now accommodate more than two hundred people, and when it is finished, it will be able to accommodate around five hundred, which represents a material good for this city…
The Sovereign Pontiff, considering it of interest for its purpose, approved it for all Christianity, in his capacity as Head of the Universal Church. Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, has also legally authorized it in his States by testimonial letters dated May 31, 1842. This Sovereign also granted it exemption from military service for all the young people of his States who are members of this Association. Such is the understanding we have today, Mr. President, of all the good that can be done by pious and exemplary teachers, who come to me from various parts of France with countless requests to have our Brothers…
In addition to their Mother House, they have nine schools in the department of Ain; they also have establishments for the same purpose in the departments of Isère, Hautes-Alpes, Saone-et-Loire, Côte d’Or and Doubs; they run in the cities of Vienne, Beaune and Autun shelters for poor children, where they teach various trades and also teach classes in agriculture and horticulture; they drive them away from vice to the extent of their possibilities and lead them down the path of virtue to make them good Christians and devoted citizens for the motherland.
The Brothers of the Holy Family are currently making arrangements with the Government to obtain its legal recognition… Wanting to bear witness to their lively interest in the Brothers of the Holy Family and to do justice to their sacrifice and zeal and to the good they do, His Excellencies the Bishops of Belley, Grenoble, Gap, Autun, Dijon and the Cardinal Archbishop of Besançon addressed an urgent request to the Minister of Public Instruction at the beginning of this year to obtain legal recognition of our Brothers throughout France. I dare to wait, Mr. President, that the General Council of the Department of Ain will not be less benevolent and will vote in favour of it. Our Brothers will be deeply grateful to you; this will be for them a source of encouragement and a service offered for the country…
I am, with the deepest respect, Mr. President, your humble and ever attentive servant.
- As for many other points, if you want to know the thought of Brother Gabriel in its full development, you must go to the New Guide. This is what we are going to do in several stages: 1st the mission of the Institute and 2nd the activities of the Brothers.
§ I. Concerning place of origin of the Association, the goal that is proposed, the teaching of the Brothers and conditions for their appointments.
ARTICLE I. The pious Association of the Brothers of the Holy Family formed in France, in the diocese of Belley in 1827, by Brother Gabriel Taborin and by the honourable and most Reverend Bishop of Belley, Bishop Devie, and approved by a Decree and by a Brief of the most great Pontiff Gregory XVI, on 18 and 28 August, in the year 1841, has its headquarters and its Superior General in Belley, and can be extended, with the divine protection, into diverse dioceses.
ARTICLE II. The Brothers of the Holy Family propose for themselves above everything the glory of God and their own sanctification. They can be dedicated, under holy obedience, to all types of good works for the love of God and of neighbour, but its specific and main end is, in the first place, to exercise in the cities and in the country, the modest functions of teacher in the Christian schools, of cantor and of sacristan, and, in second place, to be dedicated to the direction of boarding schools for primary education and to that of houses of shelter, workshops and jails.
ARTICLE III. There are two classes of Brothers in the Association: the teaching Brothers and the lay Brothers. The teaching Brothers are those who have given proof that they have the necessary capacity to direct the schools, to give catechesis and to give Christian education in a suitable manner to the young. The lay Brothers are those who are more especially dedicated to manual works; also they are able, like the teaching Brothers, to exercise the functions of cantors and sacristans in the churches of the places in which they are placed.
ARTICLE IV. The teaching Brothers give their students Christian doctrine, reading, writing, grammar, mathematics, history, geography, cosmography, drawing, bookkeeping, Gregorian chant, music and generally what concerns the instruction and the education of youth. Their teaching will be based completely on the doctrines of our religion and should have a real fatherly character. So that there be a perfect uniformity in all the schools of the Institute, the Brothers cannot use in them any other than the books that are owned by their Institute, or any other teaching method than the one that has been established, without prior permission of the Superior General.
ARTICLE V. The teaching Brothers and the lay Brothers do not exercise their function except after having been previously authorized by the Superior General or by his delegate, who grants for it a letter of obedience with the seal of the Institute, in which it is declared that the Brother who is sent is a member of the Society of the Holy Family and that he is worthy to be dedicated to teaching or to the other jobs entrusted to him.
ARTICLE VI. The Brothers are not sent to the places where they are requested, unless they can be assured that they will be taken care of, providing them a lodging, furniture and convenient equipment, with a modest allocation of some 600 francs per Brother: according to the agreements made with the competent authorities and according to the rules of the Association for this end.
ARTICLE VII. The Brothers will not be placed alone except when there is no danger for them, and when they can be near to other Brothers of the Institute who they can see frequently and be mutually edified. A Brother cannot thus be placed unless he has arrived at a determined maturity of age, and the priest of the parish gives his consent so that he can be lodged and eat in the parish house. When a Brother is placed alone, he depends on the Brother Director of the nearest establishment.
ARTICLE VIII. In order to facilitate the foundation of the schools, the Institute admits school fees; but this fee is not usually received directly by the Brothers, nor what could come from the service of the Church if they are entrusted with it. These remunerations are received by a private treasurer or by the collector of the Municipality, who reports it to the corresponding person.
- New Guide: The activities of the Brothers.
634.- The public functions which the Brothers in the Association are most particularly called to fulfil, according to Article II of the Statutes, are those of TEACHER, CATECHIST, CANTOR AND SACRISTAN. All these functions are holy and honourable.
643.- The most important duty of the Brothers is to provide the children an education. To educate a child is, generally speaking, to help develop, fortify and perfect the organs in his body and the faculties of his soul; it is above all to shape his heart, his will, his conscience and his judgment.
644.- In terms of physical education, the Brothers will demand that the pupils are clean, both in terms of their bodies and of their clothes. They will provide a variety of moderate physical exercises; recreation when appropriate.
645.- Regarding intellectual education, the Brothers will develop their pupils’ love of studying, they will maintain their interest through appealing lessons, develop their judgment through the observation of facts. In what concerns imagination, source of the sweetest joys but also of the most disastrous deviations, the Brothers must be aware of the importance of regulating and moderating this faculty in children, on which often a happy existence depends.
646.- The Brothers will above all embrace the religious and moral education of their children, getting them used to regular religious practice, inspiring in them the love of virtue, and deeply engraving in their souls the feeling of their duties towards God, towards their relatives, towards others, and towards themselves. They will work to correct their vices and their faults, to withhold in them the desire to dominate, to assist the poor, to prevent jealousy of the latter against the rich as well as pride of the rich against the poor; they will inspire in them all the virtue of charity, which strengthens all virtues, and to establish amongst them all charitable, humane and polite relationships.
647.- In order to achieve this religious and moral education the Brothers will not just recommend the observance of the duties prescribed by Religion, nor just have the pupils accomplish them, but they must show the pupils that they themselves fulfil their religious obligations. It is thus necessary for them never to be seen failing to accomplish even just one of their obligations, and never to appear anywhere in the company of anyone not recommendable to someone of their rank and to the dignity of their functions.
648.- The Brothers must constantly and solicitously look after everything that concerns the spirit and the body, the mores and the health of the children. And above all they must teach them through their own example to practice virtue. They will thus be careful never to let any passion appear in their demeanour. They will never have a hard word for them, or any exaggeration, nor ever despise them; they will not be too familiar towards them, nor call them injurious names such as dummy, stupid, impious, libertine, or anything else arising from anger. They will be kind and patient, and will always mix calm and kindness to firmness and severity. They will never correct when upset, being careful not to show anger under any circumstance, remembering that it is through patience that difficulties can be overcome. They will be careful not to appear capricious, irritable, despising, and haughty. They will demonstrate equal affection to all and avoid becoming too friendly towards them.
- The most efficient means to train the pupil’s hearts to Christian piety are, prayer, religious education and, as has already been said, good example. The Brothers will hence make sure they do pray for their pupils and get them used to pray frequently themselves. They will also devote themselves first to teach them first about their Religion, as the knowledge that precedes all others. But above all they must lead such a virtuous life that their pupils may say of them: “Our teacher is a holy religious”.
- New Guide: The activities of the Brothers.
858.- The sacristans will help parish priests and other priests in the administration of the sacraments and in other liturgical ceremonies that require their presence. They will do so with the respect, modesty and gravity that suits sacred acts and never out of routine. Priests are the Lord’s anointed ones and his representatives; therefore, the Brothers will always show them great respect and will help them in ceremonies as if they were Jesus Christ, trying to forget that the Priest is a man like others to see in him only the minister of God three times holy. They will also have great respect for Fathers vicar generals, canons, pastors, curates and other priests of the parish and will rush to serve them when they present themselves to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
859.- In rural parishes, when the parish priest cannot, for whatever reason, give the catechism or preside over prayer in the church during Lent or on Sundays and feasts, the Brothers, only in those cases, can replace him if he asks for it. They will do all this without neglecting the vigilance of the students in the sacred place, if in addition to the church service they are in charge of the school.
860.- The Brothers sacristans must be very punctual and must not be kept waiting in the church when their functions require them to do so. They will remain silent in the sacristy and, especially in the church, will speak quietly when they have to answer questions. They are forbidden to have any kind of conversation with lay people, especially women.
861.- When the Brothers sacristans are absent from the sacristy, they will always keep it closed. In the afternoon, before closing the church, they will be careful to take a walk around the choir, the confessionals and the various corners of the church so as not to leave anyone inside.
862.- As it is normal for the parishioners who frequent the church to know the sacristans, they must show before them an irreproachable behaviour, but above all a great piety, modesty and great gravity in the sacred place. When they are seen on the street, they should manifest holiness in their bearing and wisdom in their words, which will always be brief and courteous.
863.- When there are several sacristans in the same church, the greatest charity must reign among them. They should edify and help each other and rival one another in care and attention in all matters pertaining to the service of the church. They should consider it an honour to be able to help at a Mass every day, if the schedule permits.
864.- The Brothers sacristans will approach the sacraments with the frequency indicated by the Rule. They will do the other exercises of piety with great fervour and fidelity in the moments indicated by the schedule.
If at the time when they are doing an exercise of piety it happens that their presence is required in the church or sacristy or that they must accompany the Priest to administer the sacraments to a sick person, they will do that exercise at another time, taking care not to forget it.
865.- They will not have familiarity with the altar servers or with the other children chosen to help at Mass. They will be respected for their modesty.
866.- The Brothers sacristans will recall that the Rule prescribes for various circumstances some prayers which must be done punctually and with much piety. Such are they: when hearing the bells ringing for the offices or when doing it themselves; when entering the church or passing before it; when putting on the surplice; when passing before the altar where the Most Holy Sacrament is; when passing before an altar dedicated to a saint; when touching the sacred vessels and ornaments; before helping at Mass; when assisting the Priest in the administration of the sacraments; when bringing the Holy Viaticum to the sick; when hearing the pealing of the deceased or when doing it themselves; before beginning the cleansing or adornment of the church; before leaving the place where the Most Holy Sacrament is. These brief prayers, which are found in the fourth part of the Guide, will help them remember God’s presence, give greater merit to their activities, and attract the Lord’s blessings on their tasks.
868.- In this chapter we have not been able to include all the details concerning the qualities that the sacristans should have; all the care that they should have in the cleanliness of the church and other objects entrusted to them, as well as what they should do on weekdays, Sundays and feasts. All this can be found in the book of customs of the church where they exercise their functions.
- New Guide: The activities of the Brothers.
874.- Singing is associated with all religious feasts because it contributes to enhance its brightness, to raise the soul to God and to detach it from the things of the earth. It is also an excellent means that leads us to love virtue, calm passions, soften customs and even civilize peoples, as evidenced by the experience of missionaries in the Indies, where they used it for their work of sanctification and civilization. If you want, for example, to calm anger, singing will produce a wonderful result. If a young man is drawn into lust or violence, the sacred song will immediately stop him…
875.- Therefore, all the Brothers and Novices of the Association, to whom nature has not completely deprived them of their capacity for singing, will impose themselves the duty of learning to sing. To this end, lessons will be given regularly in all the Novitiate and Retreat Houses of the Association, thus imitating the care that the Church has always taken to create everywhere schools for divine chant and sacred music. In youth, it is when you can learn singing, and especially music, because the buccal organs have greater flexibility and can be better adapted to the demands of art.
880.- The Brothers must always be ready to teach singing and to unite themselves, together with their students, to the ministers of the Church, to sing the praises of the Lord. They will seek to attract to the Church, according to parish priest, a large group of children to teach them religious songs, whose harmonious waves join the spirals of the smoke of incense, to rise to heaven together with faith, adoration, the yearnings of hope, the impulses of charity, supplication and thanksgiving.
They will remember that singing must be interpreted correctly and that the Rule obliges them to learn it perfectly and to teach it as much as possible in the parishes where they work. In the school they will infuse love into the sacred song of their students, teaching them that it is written: “Blessed are the people who know how to sing the praises of the Lord”; they will attain spiritual and even material blessings.
881.- Singing at school attracts children. It has such an appeal for them that they are able to devote the time of meals and games to it. Counting on this hobby that pays tribute to childhood, one can expect that one day this pleasure, which lifts the soul, will replace in the people other pleasures, which embrace and degrade. The songs they have learned at school will be repeated frequently in their lives and will help them to rejoice in their work in the countryside, to entertain themselves in the evenings, to dispel their weariness, to calm their pains and to make them avoid laziness and disorder. They will be like an excellent balm in the worker’s workshop.
882.- Since the purpose of singing in divine offices is the celebration of God’s praises, it must be carried out in an edifying manner. In order to do this, each cantor must take on a natural tone, unaffected, and not forcing the voice to dominate the choir or attract attention, something that would be frowned upon in a religious. All cantors should harmonize their voices in such a way that they seem to form only one voice; all cantors should keep the rhythm and not be ahead of others; they should pronounce the syllables clearly and at the same time, giving each note its own time, breathing at the same time, not singing the easiest parts in a hurry or that they already know by heart and taking into account the tones, halftones, accents and indications of duration. They will avoid marking the rhythm with the foot, arm or head when they sing Gregorian, which would produce hilarity; and finally, they should not neglect any detail to sing with pleasure and intelligence, so that those who hear them can understand well and thus raise in them pious feelings.
883.- Like the other cantors, the Brothers should know in advance what they have to sing. Each one must carefully prepare what he has to sing in public; he must grasp the meaning of words well, foresee the duration of the syllables, the different deflections that must be given to the voice and the tone that he must take, so as not to expose himself to mistakes and thus interrupt the divine office. These precautions are necessary and even indispensable for those who are less skilful at singing.
884.- Since the feasts are distinguished by ceremonies and also by singing, the Brothers will remember that they must sing more or less slowly according to the solemnity. In accordance with this rule, in simple feasts the size of the notes should be rather light, slow on Sundays and double feasts, slower on second-class solemn feasts and very slow on first-class feasts, without the slowness becoming heavy or the lightness making the singing lose its tone of prayer.
- New Guide: The activities of the Brothers.
896.- There are two types of catechists in the Association: school catechists and parish catechists. The first are those who teach Christian doctrine to the children of the school, who direct and give catechesis in their own school at the time indicated in the regulations. The latter are those who, having a deep knowledge of religion, can lead parish catechesis in churches or chapels and not only to children, but also to older people of both sexes.
898.- The Brothers catechists will consider their role more important than any human dignity and will regard it as truly apostolic. In fact, to give catechesis is to teach the science of salvation, the science of religion, the science of the saints. It is teaching the same as Jesus Christ came to teach on the earth. The divine Saviour is the model of all catechists and we can say that the way He has proclaimed the Gospel is more like that of a catechesis than that of a sermon. For though the role of the catechist is not as brilliant as that of the preacher, it is no less elevated, since both teach the same mysteries and the same truths.
899.- The Brothers should therefore teach catechism with great interest to children, youth and all people when they receive this holy mission. The good they do will be extended from family to family and perpetuated from generation to generation. What Brother of the Holy Family, after reading these considerations, would not wish to have the title of catechist and dedicate himself to this sublime mission with which he can do so much good, deserve great spiritual favours and an infinite reward in the afterlife?
900.- In his mission as a catechist, the first thing a Brother must do is to learn to give catechesis, since it is a grave error to think that it is an easy thing and that it requires little study and little preparation to teach catechism in a profitable way to children or adults. On the contrary, teaching catechesis is a rare talent and few have it. To deserve the name of catechist it is necessary:
1st To possess the art of attracting the attention of children and other audiences, captivating them and making them listen with pleasure.
2nd To know the Christian doctrine perfectly and to be imbued with it through a prolonged and daily study.
3rd To have acquired, through reflection and experience, the ability to put oneself within reach of listeners, by speaking to them clearly and accurately.
4th To know how to present the sacred truths in an interesting way, and especially so that they may reach the heart in such a way that holy desires and pious feelings are born in it; in a word, one must have the gift of teaching, of pleasing and of motivating.
901.- The second thing necessary to give catechesis well is to prepare it well. There are two kinds of preparation: the immediate preparation and the remote preparation. Remote preparation is the profound study of religion, its dogmas, its morals, its worship and its history. This study has no limits. It must be every day and last a lifetime, because religion is by its very nature the most extensive of all sciences and because the more you know it, the greater your ability to teach it and make it loved.
The immediate preparation consists:
1st In learning by heart, as far as possible, the chapter of the catechism to be explained.
2nd In preparing concrete questions that serve to develop the questions and answers of the catechism.
3rd In organizing the explanation, that is, the topic to be dealt with, reducing it to two or three fundamental points to which the specific questions will refer.
4th In choosing the facts of the story and the appropriate examples to clarify or confirm the explanations.
5th In preparing the practical exercises for after the explanation.
6th In entrusting the success of catechesis to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Guardian Angels of the listeners.
- The parts of the parish catechesis are the following: prayer, initial song, repetition of the preceding lesson made by a child or by the catechist himself, lesson of the day and indication of the following lesson, song based on the truths of religion, explanation and development of the text of the catechism, recapitulation, exhortation, example taken from history, activities, concluding song, prayer.
- New Guide: The activities of the Brothers.
1208.- The Brother nurse will provide the sick with the most regular care under the direction of the local Superior and the doctor. He will supply them with the most punctual prescriptions and will follow the doctor’s orders not only with regard to medicines, but also with regard to the diet of the sick and convalescing.
1209.- If it is a contagious disease, he must take special precautions and take great care not to mix the utensils that are at the service of the sick with those of others.
1210.- The Brother nurse will do his best to encourage the sick and exhort them to resignation.
1211.- He will take great care in caring for the sick; he will never treat them harshly and will show the slightest impatience before them. He will not let himself be overwhelmed by any sick person’s bad mood.
1182.- The Brother porter should be an example of virtue before the people because of his modesty, prudence and discretion. He will avoid long conversations and even the slightest familiarity with outsiders. He will be correct with everyone, but he will refrain from useless words. He will behave in such a way that no stranger will see or hear him without improving him behaviour.
1183.- He shall see that the door of the house is always closed. He will not wait for them to call several times, but will immediately stop what he is doing to go and open.
1215.- The Brothers in charge of the crops in the garden or in the field must carry out their work at the appropriate times and places with dedication, intelligence and self-denial. Instead of considering theirs a humiliating work, they will remember that the Patriarchs, whose life lasted for centuries, were happy in the cultivation of the fields. The earth is the mother that feeds kings and peoples and there is nothing dishonourable about cultivating it. Moreover, this is the occupation of most people and, among many others, of the holy religious of the Trappe.
1216.- The Brothers in charge of the healthy and peaceful works of agriculture will find in them a good subject for meditation. For example, when they dig, they may think that man comes from the earth and will return to it; that if the earth produces fruits, man must also produce fruits of virtue and holiness. When weeds are uprooted, they can remember that man has bad passions which, like weeds, must be uprooted so that they do not choke the good seed of virtues.
1217.- They shall follow exactly what is indicated to them in their work and shall proceed in such a way that nothing is spoiled by their fault or by not having done the work in due time. They will consider themselves fortunate to be able to offer the Community, as the fruit of their labour, abundant harvests, but they will attribute them more than their effort to the blessings of God, remembering that it is not the one who plants nor the one who waters who makes it grow, but God. The good religious knows how to see in plants and even in the smallest flower the sovereign Creator and Guardian of all things.
1218.- The Brothers who are especially responsible for the cattle of the Community will take great care of it and will carry out their work with great care. They will not mistreat animals, remembering that God created them to serve man and not to be mistreated.
1219.- As for the Brothers who are entrusted with sewing, carpentry, bakery or other manual works which the Rule does not name, they must faithfully and responsibly take care of their jobs, that is, carry them out to the best of their ability, do not waste time and let nothing be spoilt by their fault.
1220.- They may not give anything away (gift) or work for others without the permission of the Superior. Neither should they let anyone enter the workshops unless they have permission to do so.
1221.- All the Brothers we have discussed in this chapter must work, each one in his own job, with fear of God and with the intention of pleasing and sanctifying Him. They will not complain about their work; on the contrary, they will love it because it is useful and because it preserves them from idleness, which is the mother of all vices.
- In the annual Circulars, Br. Gabriel often deals with aspects related to the activities of the mission and gives instructions for living them in the concrete aspects of the life of the Brothers.
CIRCULAR No. 9 (15-08-1853)
The purpose that we have set ourselves in embracing religious life has been, above all, to work in our sanctification. But we have not become religious, dear Brothers, for ourselves. We have entered into a Corporation that is dedicated to all kinds of good works, especially in the service of public education. We have become religious for the children of the people, whom we seek to educate in Christian schools. We have consecrated ourselves to God to assist the priest, catechizing and assisting him in the ceremonies of divine worship, such as catechists, cantors and sacristans. This is our mission among men.
We can therefore be considered as true friends of parents, because we offer them the important service of educating their children. We can be considered friends of the children, since in addition to educating them in the human sciences, we lead them on the path of virtue, the only way to make them happy.
The priest is superior to us because of his knowledge, his priestly character and his sublime ministry. But we are united to him and we have the honour of being his collaborators, educating young people with a teaching of a paternal character and based on the doctrine of our holy religion, without which man walks through life in a hesitant way and soon falls into the abyss. The priest must find in us respectful and selfless friends. Such is the spirit of our Rule.
We should also be considered friends of the various States where Providence calls us, since we instil in young people the respect, obedience and adherence that are due to them. We are, finally, friends of the whole society, because we form for it men who should honour it for their good conduct, instead of dishonouring it, as happens unfortunately very often in our days with those who have not received good principles in their youth.
By our profession, dear Brothers, we have become true soldiers of the State and of Jesus Christ. Of the State, because every day we present to God its interests and we work to form honest men, without causing it any expense, not even in case of illness, sickness or old age, since our Institute provides for all our needs. As soldiers of Jesus Christ, we have as chiefs the legitimate pastors of the Church, to whom we are inviolably subject. Like them, we continually wage war on vices and passions, which are the most dangerous enemies of the Church and society. We render unquestionable services, thus demonstrating that religious are not useless men. We know that the military are very useful to the homeland: we have seen convincing evidence of them in recent years, especially in France. Their strong arms annihilate the State’s enemies, maintain order and peace, uphold the rule of law and property. But the soldier often fights slavishly or with the hope of reaching some degree or obtaining a pension or decoration. In our case, as soldiers of the divine Saviour, and above all, as religious, our holy profession is opposed, dear Brothers, to our seeking or claiming honours; our only ambition is to excel in virtue, especially in humility, charity, obedience and zeal for goodness, and our only goal is heaven. The pension we desire is the freedom to work for the glory of God, our salvation, the good of our neighbour and the possibility of continuing to eat in peace the daily bread that the Lord wants to give us. Our decoration is the blessed cross that was placed on our chest the day we consecrated ourselves to God in the holy religious state. This cross is also the weapon with which we defend ourselves, for with it Christ conquered the world…
The soldier is exposed to danger in combat, where he can even lose his life; so let us remember, dear Brothers, that life is a permanent struggle in which we can lose the life of grace. And let us not forget that not only do we have to fight for the interests of religion and the homeland and to form young people, to bring them to good habits and to uproot them from vice, but above all we have to fight against the maxims of the world and against our own passions; for, as St. Paul says: “What good would it be for us to have preached to others and worked for them if we lost ourselves?” Would we not expose ourselves to work in vain and lose the merit of our sorrows, sacrifices and good works?
20. Brother Gabriel paid special attention to the Brothers’ teaching activity, given the number of Brothers and the complexity of the schools’ organization, taking into account the educational system in municipal and private schools. In the Circulars, Br. Gabriel insists on the importance of preparation and ongoing formation as well as on the motivation of teachers. The distinction and complementarity between teaching and education is an important point.
CIRCULAR No. 12 (30-07-1856)
Dear Brothers, profane sciences illustrate the spirit, but they do not know how to regulate the heart. Do not study to be wise, but only to acquire the knowledge necessary for your profession as youth educators. Take special interest in knowing the science of the saints, which you can find in Sacred Scripture and in the spiritual books recommended by our Rule; this study is essential. Remember that it is always helpful to read the lives of the saints, because it is impossible to read them without the desire to imitate them. Moreover, by telling us what the saints did, his life teaches us what we should do. Read above all, dear Brothers, the book of your conscience; the knowledge offered by books is useless if we are not great experts in it.
One of the main aims of our Institute is the education of young people in schools. Let us cultivate intelligently and carefully this beautiful plot, which they have entrusted to us in the field of the Father of the family, because it is of great interest for the future of the Church and of society.
Instruction and education are often confused. Therefore, we are obliged to ask you to explain to the children the difference between them; in this way, you predispose them to the correct and useful lessons that you can give them about education. By itself, instruction alone is not enough to form an honest man, a citizen, a true Christian. To all this we must add education, that is to say, we must teach them to channel their conscience and customs, and at the same time provide them with light and strength, to help them powerfully to fulfil their duties to God, to themselves and to their fellow men.
God the Creator, who commanded the light to come out of darkness, send you all, dear Brothers, some rays of his light to enlighten you in your teaching and everywhere, and thus walk safely on the path of virtue. We also have the sweet hope that you will not walk alone, for one day you will know with holy joy that your lessons and your examples have led many children along the same path who would have been lost without your care. This thought comforts us and alleviates the sorrows inherent in our charge.
Do not forget, dear Brothers, to pray every day for the needs of the Church. Pray also for us and for the prosperity and needs of our beloved Congregation. Your charity cannot be limited to this, you must also pray for France and for Savoy, where, thank God, our Association extends its branch with success. Pray for the rulers who govern these countries, who are so dear to us, pray for the students who have entrusted you and, finally, pray to draw the blessings of the Lord upon all the faithful.
Do not worry about the future and keep yourselves above the earthly and the sensible; yearn only for eternal things, for which your life must be a continuous preparation, through the fulfilment of all your duties. If you remain in the pious dispositions that we have just suggested to you, it will be an excellent preparation for the retreat for you, dear Brothers.
Classes will end at the end of August in your schools. The Brothers teachers shall take every precaution not to finish them before or after these dates; they may not disregard this provision except in the event that they are obliged to do so by the competent authorities of public education.
- Here are two letters from Br. Gabriel that deal with the activities of the Institute in two different situations. The first is to seek political support in the Senate of Turin and to this end he addresses a relevant figure who had favoured the establishment of the Brothers in several villages of Savoy. The second letter is interesting because it shows the broad vision that Br. Gabriel had of the mission of his Institute within the Church.
To Mr. Baron Despine, Doctor-Director of the Thermal Waters, Aix-les-Bains. 10-06-1848
I inform you, according to your wishes about our Society, that this request is in keeping with the tireless zeal that you show, Mr. Baron, not only to relieve the suffering humanity, but to work in order to procure the children of the people the benefits of Education through the religious who are called to this mission, by vocation given to the service of God, to their king, and to the homeland, with fidelity. It is also comforting to see your worthy and venerated brother share your feelings and work as you do in all that concerns the Christian and social education of the youth of your beloved Savoy, so worthy of interest. For this reason, the excellent village of your province have managed to pay a fair tribute to the merits of your brother by electing him as his representative in the Chamber of Deputies.
According to the references given to me by the Brothers Inspectors of our Society, we have establishments in 30 municipalities of the Duchy, where about 70 Brothers are consecrated, with the most religious dedication, to instruct and form in virtue about 5,000 children.
I must add that many other municipalities in the Duchy prefer to have Brothers of the Holy Family, bearing in mind: First, that our establishments are recognized as the best and are founded on the doctrine of the holy religion. Secondly, that the Brothers can, at the same time as they teach, act as cantors and sacristans in the parishes, which pleases priests and the people and is less costly for them. Third, they can go alone or several, depending on the needs; which is more comfortable and economic for the municipalities. Fourth, that they offer more guarantees for the advancement of children, because when they devote themselves to primary education, they devote all their time to youth, since they do not take care of other ministries or the care of a family as married teachers do. Fifth, that the Brothers comply with all laws concerning primary education and use the best methods.
I hope that these reports will satisfy you and serve Mr. Deputy, your brother, for the defence of his right cause. Surely, all the friends of the Religion will be, like us, very happy and grateful to his praiseworthy and holy enterprise, whatever the success, for which I make my vows and implore the blessings of heaven.
Accept the homage of my respect and the assurance of my friendship, with which I am and will always be, Mr. Baron, your humble and attentive servant.
Dear Fr. Parish priest:
I hope with all my heart that I will be able to obtain the necessary resources to have the Brothers whom you have longed for a long time, who you deserve them well and who could not be placed under a better direction than yours, dear Fr. Parish priest; but in spite of the pleasure you would have in sending our Brothers, I would not mind you give preference to the good Brothers of the Christian Schools, because they are older and have more experience than ours. As long as good is done, it is what we must always desire. Otherwise, the field of the Family Father is large enough to give work to all the workers who call upon him to work in it. If you call the Brothers of the Doctrine, I would rejoice sincerely in the Lord.
I am so overwhelmed by the number of requests of Brothers that it absorbs all my moments. What makes most people prefer us over other Congregations is that our Brothers can be distributed one by one and serve as cantors and sacristans while working as teachers. On the other hand, it may be that we are better adapted to the needs of the parish priests, who find greater availability in our Brothers than in the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who retain great independence.
- Brother Gabriel wrote several times the Statutes (summary of the juridical situation of the Congregation) with a view to obtaining ecclesial or civil approval of the Institute. In the first articles of the Statutes there is always a definition of the nature and mission of the Institute, as well as its activities. A careful reading of the statutes makes it possible to distinguish a difference in the emphasis of ecclesial or social activities according to the addressee.
1) STATUTES OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE BROTHERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY, JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH. 15-08-1847
The Sovereign Pontiff Gregory XVI authorized the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family, by a Decree of the eighteenth of August of 1841 and by a Brief dated the twenty-eighth of the same month and year.
- The specific purpose of this Institute is the sanctification of its members. The Brothers dedicate themselves to all kinds of good works in order to obtain the glory of God, the help and edification of their neighbours in establishments of public utility, such as shelters, workshops, prisons and seminaries, places where the Institute places the Brothers at the request of the competent authorities. They also take in orphaned boys born to poor parents.
The main objective of these Brothers is to support the Parish Priests of the cities and especially rural areas as primary school teachers, catechists, cantors and sacristans.
- The Brothers of the Holy Family, if they are sent by their Superior and with the authorization of the local bishop, can exercise their functions in any country. When they go to the post assigned to them, the Brothers only wear the clothes and habits they need. They must undertake to provide them with: 1st adequate accommodation for their housing and school; 2nd furniture and clothing for those who have only use; 3rd maintenance, food, heating, electricity and laundry services are provided by the municipalities or the heads of the establishments that have hired them. On the other hand, they must be paid a minimum of two hundred francs, which is sent annually to the Novitiate House on which the Brothers depend. A part of this sum is used for clothing and small objects that Superiors allow them to have…
2) Statutes addressed to the Government of the Sardinian States. 10-11-1842
ARTICLE I. The Association of the Brothers of the Holy Family aims at all kinds of good works. Its main objective is to form Brothers who will exercise in all countries, especially in France and Savoy, the functions of primary school Teachers, Catechists, Cantors and Sacristans.
The secondary objective of the Brothers of the Holy Family is to take care of agricultural work, dedicate themselves to the temporary service of establishments of public utility, such as seminaries, nursing homes and prisons. They also have in their Novitiate Houses a shelter for orphaned boys, born to poor parents. In the exercise of these functions, the Brothers conform to these Statutes and to the civil and ecclesiastical laws of the State in which they live.
ARTICLE. II. The Brothers, dedicated to the above-mentioned functions, are sent one by one or several, according to need. The expenses for their maintenance and lodging will be entirely at the expense of the Municipalities or Establishments that request them; they are regulated by the Superior General of the Association, or by his Delegate, who deals in this regard with the competent Authorities, or with the particular Founders who ask for Brothers. The Brothers go to the localities assigned to them by the Superior General, or his Delegate, and return as soon as they are called by him…
23. Here are two letters addressed to two relevant characters: Charles de Montalembert (1810-1870) and Bishop Parisis (1795-1866). The former was a member of the legislative assembly and a supporter of the constitutional monarchy from liberal and Catholic positions; he was a great defender of freedom of the press, association and education. The second was bishop of Langres and Arras. In addition to his pastoral activity as bishop, he was a member of the national assembly (parliament). We can see the importance that Br. Gabriel gave to be able to create the conditions for exercising the mission of the Institute in full legality.
To Mr. Count of Montalembert. 03-06-1851
Mr. Count: Last year I took the liberty of speaking to you about the good that the Brothers of the Holy Family can do among the children of the poor and working class, and I told you that the Government will find in them some helpers who are sacrificed and zealous to help moralize the youth. I begged you, Count, to use your influence with the government to grant our Society its legal existence. I had the honour of receiving a reply, asking me to communicate the date of my request to Mr. Minister and I would support him.
The Bishop of Langres was kind enough to write to me and tell me that the time seems ripe for me to make my request. I hastened to Paris to see if it could be presented at this session of the Superior Council and obtain the legal existence of our Society established more than 20 years ago. Last week I deposited the case file with the Ministry of Public Instruction. A word from you, Mr. Count, to Mr. Minister, so that I can proceed with my request as soon as possible, will be of great use to us. Please, Mr. Count, do us this favour, it will be for religion. Our Society will pray to the Lord for your long life, and will be eternally grateful to you, and will not tire of blessing your name so revered by every Catholic.
The advantage offered by our Brothers over those of other Corporations is that, in addition to teaching, they are catechists, cantors and sacristans, and they can go one by one to the rural municipalities, which cannot be done by Brothers of other Corporations or by married lay teachers. When the Brothers are alone in their places, they live and eat in the parish house, which is a guarantee for their conduct and harmony between the parish priest and the teacher, thing which is very important. They are already working in eight dioceses, which value their services, and at present we have about 200 requests from the municipalities. I hope, Mr. Count, that these considerations will arouse your interest in the work, commendable for its end and for the approval that two Sovereigns, our Holy Father Pope Gregory XVI and King Charles Albert, have already granted it.
With deep respect I remain, Mr. Count, your humble and attentive servant.
To Mgr. Parisis, Bishop of Langres. 30-03-1851
Monsignor: I take the liberty of expressing to Your Excellency that, knowing the good that can be done in the parishes by godly and God-fearing teachers, I have founded 20 years ago, in this diocese, with the help and protection of our venerated Bishop, Mgr. Devie, an Association called Brothers of the Holy Family; a work that two Sovereigns, Gregory XVI and King Charles Albert have declared useful. The Sovereign Pope Pius IX has also shown it great interest.
I will add, Monsignor, that our Brothers are required because they can help alone, as cantors and sacristans, to the parish priests, while exercising the functions of primary school teachers under their direction. Every day I receive new requests, especially after the enactment of the new law on public education which favours religious Congregations recognized by the Government. The good that the Brothers can do is much; I have convincing proof of that.
After these considerations, and wishing to strengthen our Association of Brothers and to be able to enjoy the privileges that this law grants to religious Corporations, I humbly implore Your Excellency to take us under your protection and bring your influence to bear before the Minister and the Superior Council of the Legislative Assembly, to recognize our Congregation as a Charitable Association of Brothers of the Holy Family. You would do us a great favour and we would be infinitely grateful. Without this authorization we can do nothing in France, but to vegetate and have complications with our schools…
- In these paragraphs of one of the Circulars addressed to the Brothers, we can observe the importance Br. Gabriel gave to the relationship between formation and mission, as well as the need for ongoing formation in the various aspects that comprise the activities proper to the Institute.
CIRCULAR No. 15 (24-06-1859)
Need for study to be able to teach
Called by vocation to teaching, you must have, dear Brothers, if you want to fulfil a mission so beautiful, so meritorious and so useful for the youth, a preparation that is not inferior to that of lay teachers. The time dedicated to study during the Novitiate is not always sufficient, at least for some, to acquire all the necessary knowledge of a teacher. And even if you own them all, we recommend that you perfect them.
We ask in a very special way our young Brothers, who are the hope of our Institute, to dedicate themselves to study. Even more so for those who do not yet have a training diploma. They must try to obtain it as soon as possible, because in the Sardinian States, such a diploma is currently required, even for those who teach for small children. If our young Brothers were indifferent to this call, they would be worthy of censure. We know that they have the capacity to give the lessons we have entrusted to them, but the primary school authorities are not satisfied with this. Not long ago, no more than fifty Brothers of our Institute passed the examination and, except for one, they all obtained the qualification diploma. We are sure that with good will, together with a constant and serious work, our young Brothers who are not yet qualified will soon give us the satisfaction of seeing them achieve the same success.
The chant, the ceremonies of divine worship and the decoration of sacred places
Dear Brothers, the teaching of youth is not the only purpose of our Institute. We have to help priests in the ceremonies of divine worship. To those of you who have been entrusted with such an honour, you must fulfil your task with much zeal, piety and mastery; above all you must do so with a deep faith, that fills you with great respect for our Lord Jesus Christ, for the house of God, for the holy things that are found in it, for whatever is destined for adornment and religious ceremonies. Read often in our Rules, in the diocesan ceremonial and in the book of usages and customs of the parish where you work, what is related to the activities of the cantor and sacristan, so that everything may lead to greater glory of God and a good example of the faithful. The Church’s intention is that the secondary functions of worship be performed by persons who are experienced and commendable for their zeal and virtues. To them are addressed the words of the prophet: “Keep yourselves pure those who are in contact with the vessels of the Lord”…
Dear Brothers, we would like to remind you that from our earliest childhood, God gave us the grace to appreciate very much the divine chant and the ceremonies of the Church. Sacred music often produced the same effect as that of St. Augustine: When he heard it in the cathedral of Milan, he burst into tears and his soul rose to God. Dear Brothers, I recommend that you perfect yourselves every day more and more in singing. Teach it to young people so that they can sing the praises of God from the lectern, build up the faithful and attract them to attend divine offices in the parishes where you work.
We always enjoyed the liturgical ceremonies well done. As soon as we were able to participate in some way in them, we did so wholeheartedly and we can affirm with all simplicity that it seems that the Lord wanted to reward our interest, granting us the grace of founding a Congregation, whose members pay a double homage to the Lord in his holy temple. In it they are to sing piously, attend the ceremonies of worship, decorate the altars and assist the Lord’s ministers in their important tasks. All this pleased the Supreme Pontiff so much that he approved our Congregation with great joy.
In this way God has rewarded us, dear Brothers, by arranging for our Congregation to have a few beautiful churches. In them the sacred mysteries are celebrated daily; Divinity is incarnated there, It remains there day and night to receive the simple homage of our worship. We are happy to be able to celebrate in them with all possible solemnity the ceremonies of divine worship, which impress, touch hearts and increase the love of religion. Seeing these ceremonies, one forgets the things of this world and exclaims: God is truly here, let us adore Him!
- This Circular underlines the importance of the testimony of life to exercise the mission.
CIRCULAR No. 18 (06-08-1861)
Surrender to the mission and difficulties in carrying it out
We have often told you that your vocation is a form of apostolate and that you must show zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. That zeal should animate everyone, dear Brothers, so that, moved by this divine fire, you may desire and strive to communicate it to the youth entrusted to your care; zeal cannot remain idle; it is like fire, which is never at rest. Make every effort, therefore, in the measure of your attributions, to seek the means to be useful to souls and try to infuse that same zeal into your Brothers.
As the most effective means of obtaining much fruit in souls is to lead a holy and irreproachable life, you will try, dear Brothers, to set a good example for your neighbour, and especially for your students and Brothers. You will lead them to goodness and virtue more by your deeds than by your words, in imitation of Jesus Christ, of whom St. Luke says that he first began to do and then to teach.
You must also have a great desire to advance in the perfection of your state and to see your Brothers progress in it. You will carefully avoid setting a bad example for fear of being responsible for it before God or causing the loss of their vocation and that of the good novices who come to associate themselves with your work. Experience teaches that there is nothing worse than a bad example to lose a vocation.
Obedience must regulate your zeal and lead you to always be ready to change your house at the first command, to go to teach or to give yourselves to other works of charity that your Superiors judge fitly to entrust you. You will imitate our Lord Jesus Christ who, while he was on earth, taught in the villages and towns as well as in the cities, going to where the glory of his Father called him…
Our Rule, our teachings and the vows you have made require you, dear Brothers, to try to fulfil seriously all your duties and to take all the means to fulfil them faithfully. When we suggest these means to you, we fulfil our duty and you do so when you obey. This obedience will be your glory and your salvation in the religious state. A tree planted in fertile soil must bear fruit. The religious state is, in a mystical sense, a fertile ground where God has planted us and where we must produce good fruits with our works. Unfortunately, however, pride and disobedience often spoil the tree and no fruit can be expected from it. To do one’s own will is in the religious the source of all his sins; without it, there would be no hell for the religious.
Do not forget, dear Brothers, that every kind of person has his eyes fixed on you, and also those who have the mission of watching over you. If, what God does not want, your conduct is worthy of murmuring, you will not escape a ruthless criticism of which the religious is never spared. But this should concern you less than the consideration that God looks upon you and watches over you unceasingly, for you must be infinitely more fearful of God’s gaze than of men.
To do good in your vocation, dear Brothers, we sometimes experience incredible difficulties. People will see evil where on our side there is nothing but charity; they will murmur about us and we will be slandered in order to harm us; we will be persecuted with unfounded pretexts. But before these thorns that may wound and even make us weep, let us remember that Christ shed his blood for his executioners as for other men and that by his cross this divine Saviour defeated the world. And he wants his works and his true servants to be marked by that sacred sign. On the other hand, disciples are not greater than the Master. Let us behave ourselves well, dear Brothers, and let us not be discouraged by these trials, for God takes care of the good religious in adversity and says with St. Paul, “My grace is enough for you.” Let us strengthen ourselves, then, with these pious considerations that faith suggests to us and let us give ourselves to God without hesitation or doubt, both in prosperity and adversity: this will be a sign of our predestination.
26. In this letter, addressed to the Prefect of the Congregation of Religious, Br. Gabriel makes clear an important point for the mission of the Institute. The presence of priests in the Institute depends on their activity as chaplains, especially in houses of formation, and not on the Brothers’ activities in mission, which correspond to their status as lay religious.
To His Eminence the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, Rome, Italy. 24-04-1854
Divine Providence placed Your Eminence as a bright light to take charge of matters concerning Bishops and Regulars. I feel an urgent need, Your Eminence, to call upon your goodness and I do so with both respect and confidence to humbly present to you what follows:
The pious Association, called by the Brothers of the Holy Family and authorized by numerous Bishops, has the noble privilege of being approved by Decree and Brief of Pope Gregory XVI, on the dates of August 18 and 28, 1841. It has as its goal all kinds of good works, but its main and specific purpose is to form Brothers who are distributed in the dioceses to exercise the modest functions of teachers of youth, cantors and sacristans, and thus to be pious and zealous helpers for priests in the ceremonies of worship and to help them to instruct and moralize the youth.
This Association accepts priests in its bosom, but only those who are absolutely necessary for chaplains in the novitiates and boarding houses, in the houses of arts and crafts, and in the retreat houses of the Association. These priests, Your Eminence, are very useful to us, formed in the Rule and spirit of their holy state to which they are united by the simple vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and stability; they preach by example and give the Brothers and novices an impulse and direction according to the religious life, which is not achieved with secular priests, as the experience shows.
The priests of the Association practice the common Rule of the Brothers of the Holy Family; they are under the orders of the local Ordinary, who grants or denies the power to exercise the ministry. Because of their rank as priests, they receive respect and attention from the Brothers and Superiors. The Brothers priests are free to take care of everything that corresponds to their duties as priests and chaplains, as prescribed by the Rule.
The Association can always find in its bosom, in an advantageous way, the chaplains that it needs, choosing the most pious and worthy among the professed Brothers who have done their studies and courses in theology and who demonstrate capacity to receive the sacred orders, by examination before the bishop or his delegates.
But I feel obliged to inform Your Eminence that, although some of our Brothers have or would have the capacity to receive the Orders and are equipped with an “exeat” from the Bishop of their native diocese and that on their part they have no canonical irregularities which prevent their ordination, some Bishops have difficulty in ordaining them, some of them, because they want to oblige us to accept secular priests whom we would have to pay for them, which would be very costly for the Congregation and unprofitable for regularity and spiritual direction; others, even those who are best disposed towards the Congregation, demand a condition that it is not required at present in France for lay students, they want some clerical or patrimonial goods that our Brothers who aspire to the priesthood cannot have because they were poor in the world and all their wealth is now religious poverty and that makes them partakers forever of the spiritual and material goods of the Association.
27. Brother Gabriel’s missionary spirit manifested itself above all by sending the Brothers to the United States. In his first letter to the bishop of Saint-Paul (Minnesota) he clearly stated his motivations and intentions. In reality, the Brothers’ activities were not going to change much; they would be teachers and catechists, but the cultural and ecclesial context would be completely different.
To His Excellency Monsignor Cretin, Bishop of Saint-Paul, United States of America. 27-02-1854
Monsignor: Desiring to respond to your petition, our illustrious, venerated and dear Bishop, Mgr. Chalandon, has sent me his request to have some Brothers of our Congregation of the Holy Family, whose reins have been entrusted to me by Providence.
I think, Monsignor, of the good that can be done in your vast diocese and in the United States. And how necessary it is to send Your Excellency workers who share your sweats, which are like pearls that will embellish your crown in heaven. To open to souls at the price of sacrifice and even in danger of life, the way to heaven is, Monsignor, the task that your zeal and great charity have inspired you. How joyful it would be if any of our Brothers were to work under your wise direction in the field of the Father of Family who has given you in luck and bring the good odour of Christ beyond the seas. If my age and the indissoluble bonds that bind me at the headquarters of our Society were not an obstacle, I would be the first to respond to your pastoral call, so flattering to the Congregation that God blesses. I would like the title of catechist in the land of missions more than all the others. Of course, Monsignor, I am eager to send you a colony of catechists and teachers, convinced that with the help of divine grace, and assisted by your counsels they will do much good. I promise you, Monsignor, that there will be three if I have the joy of finding them with vocation and qualities for the apostolate that you desire.
But I put a restriction on my promise. Your Excellency will not be surprised, because until now, having had many requests in France and the Sardinian States, I have not been concerned about overseas missions. I would add that vocations to this have not been made manifest among the Brothers until now, no doubt because no thought has been given to it. I look forward to next September at the annual retreat or address them a circular letter to let them know your request and to see those who like and are attracted to foreign missions. If I find some, I will make a selection and prepare them as soon as possible. I am already delighted to entrust them to your Vicar General when he comes to Belley in April, although I think it will be difficult to have one ready for those dates.
I have to warn you, Monsignor, that our Congregation is poor in every sense and that it has debts, therefore, it will be impossible for us, in spite of our good will, to give money and objects to the three Brothers whom I hope to be able to send to you, at this difficult time in which we find ourselves, and the scarcity of this year has aggravated things; this is the reason why the Brothers can only wear the habit, some shirts, scarves, socks, the holy Gospels, the Psalter, the Rules, the Imitation of Christ, the Catechism and the life of the Saints. On the other hand, this is how the Brothers of the Holy Family go to the places assigned to them by obedience. Those who ask for them must provide them, as prescribed by the Rules, of travel money, clothing, housing and an annual living wage. For those who work in France and Savoy the salary is 600 frs. for each one. The three religious that I will send you, Monsignor, will always be united to the Institute and will follow the Rule. Your Excellency will use them, according to need, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls; but Your Excellency will have to sustain them in material terms, and will pay all expenses to go to Saint-Paul or those who could do if they had to come back for some reason.
We have, Monsignor, thousands of parishes that call our Brothers persuaded of the good they do, and commit themselves to fulfilling all the conditions. By granting them to Your Excellency, I deprive these parishes that have long been asking for them. On the other hand, it will be a great sacrifice for me to expose myself to no longer seeing these Brothers of the Holy Family down here who are so dear to me. However, Monsignor, these considerations do not stop me, because I wish in some way to cooperate for the good that Your Excellency and his worthy missionaries do with so much zeal and self-denial. In addition, I also have to set aside my quota for the holy work of the Propagation of the Faith, sending Brothers to make know, love and serve God to the unbelievers and win them over to Christ and incorporate them into the holy religion, out of which there is no salvation.
With deep respect I am, Monsignor, of Your Excellency, the most humble and obedient servant.
28. Brother Gabriel’s project for Tamié was quite extensive: splitting of the Novitiate House in Belley, a retreat house for Brothers and other persons from outside the Institute, priests or lay people, a boarding school… In this letter Br. Gabriel rather reveals his personal motivations that can surprise a man who has always been dedicated to an intense activity, if the monastic and contemplative talent that had accompanied him since his youth is unknown.
To Rev. Fr. Benedict, Abbot of the Trappe of La Grâce-Dieu (Doubs). 08-10-1856
Very Rev. Father Abbot:
Since I had the pleasure of spending a few moments at your Abbey of Grace of God, I keep a pleasant memory of your Reverence and your monastery. Since then I have always kept you in mind before God and sought the way to be more united with you. This precious moment does not seem very distant to me; let me tell you something about it, I would do it in person, but my great and constant occupations have not allowed it.
Although unworthy, God has granted me the grace to be his instrument for founding a religious association, called the Holy Family; its purpose is to provide the towns and villages with Brothers who do good, exercising the functions of teachers, catechists, cantors and sacristans. It has been more than 30 years that I have been dedicated to the work; it has had a happy result, due only to God, for I have only been a weak instrument. The Sovereign Pontiff approved the Institute and enriched it with many indulgences. The Brothers are already in 17 dioceses, not counting those sent to foreign missions. Now I feel the need to live a retired life, prepare for the years of eternity and account to God for my actions. I was named Superior for lifetime and they do not accept my resignation; however, I have thought about becoming a Trappist and being, dear Father, one of your sons. But faced with the insurmountable obstacles to carry out my project, I have decided to open a retreat house where I hope to finish my career, far from the noise of the world, with the Brothers who do not like public life or who wish to spend it in solitude and live their life between prayer, meditation and physical or intellectual work. Providence seems to favour my project and see how:
For about 20 years, I wanted to acquire the old Royal Abbey of Tamié, which belonged to your Order in the past, founded by St. Peter, Archbishop of Tarentaise, whose relics they owned. Father, you had the goodness to give me a little part that I keep as a precious gift. Finally last spring I was able to acquire the magnificent old monastery of such a great history. It is now almost all repaired and we have acquired a part of the old property of the convent, so that we can have a horse and a dozen cows; we can also buy at a reasonable price the other lands that depended on the convent, as Providence sends resources to us. We will have among other things the pond and the mills, when we want, for 4,000 francs.
The convent and farm bought are worth more than 100,000 francs, but everything has come out for 32,000 francs. By yielding it for this price they wanted to give us a gift, in consideration of the good that will result for the region, by returning the building to prayer.
I come now, Rev. Father, to make an appeal to your zeal and to your eminent charity and incomparable goodness, asking you for one or two of your holy religious priests, either to be chaplains in their former convent of Tamié, or to impress on our Brothers that eminently religious character of your monastery, or to make the establishment a kind of mitigated Trappe, because only in this way, the subjects and resources will arrive; it is the sentiment of several bishops and eminent men of the clergy who praise this pious and useful institution. The Father or Fathers, you have the goodness to send me, necessary for a work of this nature, would gradually arrange things so that the establishment becomes a Trappe, like the one you lead with such zeal and success. Then it will be easier for me to become a Trappist with some of our Brothers who feel this vocation. In this way the thing would pass unnoticed and without noise before the world and in the Association of the Holy Family. By the very fact we would be affiliated to you, you could name an Abbot and everything would belong to you according to the arrangement we would make together.
- Brother Gabriel considered that visits to the communities to see on the ground how the life of the Brothers was like was a very important part of his role as Superior. Among the aspects of the Brothers’ life were the activities they were engaged in parishes and schools. The annual Circular was a good means of reporting on these visits, setting out some orientations and motivations, and at the same time giving timely warnings to all.
CIRCULAR No. 21 (02-07-1864)
Our visits to the houses and the surveillance of the students
This year, dear Brothers, we had the satisfaction of visiting a certain number of houses. In general, we can say that we have found things as we wished to find them. We have been especially grateful to God for this, especially when we have seen that all the Brothers are in good health and working with great interest; also when we have seen the affectionate welcome extended to us by both the Brothers and their very worthy Parish Priests. From what we have observed during this visit, dear Brothers, we must give you some important warnings about teaching and students. Since it is impossible for us to do everything in this letter, we confine ourselves to the following:
Watch your students, as religious teachers who are you, in order to uproot from them the evil, as soon as it appears; in order to remove the dangers as soon as they begin to constitute a threat; in order to help them to practice virtue and avoid the defects proper to their age; watch over prayer, punctual attendance at school and catechesis, to the offices, to the sacraments; watch out for correct behaviour in the church; watch out for bad company, dangerous conversations, rude manners, scandalous actions, books and pamphlets that may pervert their customs or make them lose faith; always watch out, if possible, for a thousand tricks to keep an eye on the students. The police have their agents and informants, why cannot you also have, in addition to the class watchmen, who must be prudent and pious, discreet people who keep watch over the students and inform you about their behaviour? Undoubtedly, it is up to the parents, first of all, this vigilance; but we already know that, unfortunately, most fathers and mothers adore their children and hardly admit their faults when they are warned. Finally, it is convenient for your students to learn from their own experience that you always see them, whether you are present or absent; it is not convenient for them to know where the reports communicated by other people come from. Students who do not feel watched are usually neither formal nor virtuous; consequently, you may have more than one problem in your classes, dear Brothers, if you do not exercise a vigilance on your students that, in our opinion, we must recommend to you for the greater glory of God and the good of the students in your schools.
We have also had the satisfaction of visiting some of our Brothers who carry out the beautiful and worthy task of working in parishes and singing schools, both in Paris and in other large cities. We have been very pleased with the wonderful reports on them given to us by the Parish Priests and other ecclesiastics of the places where these good and exemplary Brothers work. Despite the hardships they experience in their occupations, which are often painful, they are very happy. They also admire them when they see that they consecrate their youth and life to the care of the altars with faith. This causes us to receive many requests from Brothers sacristans. “Blessed, O Lord”, says the prophet, “are they that dwell in thy house; they shall praise thee for all eternity”. And he adds: “Lord, I have loved the beauty of your house; let not my soul be lost with the wicked”.
- “Let it be your work and not mine”, is the key expression for understanding the apostolic activity of Br. Gabriel and his Institute. The activities of the mission are first and foremost the fruit of the grace and dynamism of the Holy Spirit who leads the disciples of Jesus to take on the plan entrusted to him by the Father and which is realized through time. Brother Gabriel often used this expression contained in the so-called “Prayer for the Institute” and he also includes it in his Spiritual Testament.
SPIRITUAL TESTAMENT OF BR. GABRIEL TABORIN, Superior General y Founder of the pious Association of the Brothers of the Holy Family, and his last advice to the Community.
I testify, with overwhelming feelings of gratitude towards God’s generosity, that I was blessed with the joy of being born to Christian parents, who taught me Christian values. I thank them with all my heart, and I pray God to reward them in Heaven, where, I rejoice and console myself thinking they must be, and where I hope to meet them, as well as our good Brothers of the Holy Family who have preceded me in death and in God’s judgment.
I declare that, from a very young age, I felt particularly inclined to religious life; I longed but for the time to come when I would be able to consecrate myself to God responding to his calling. On becoming a religious I was certain to be the last in the Community, considering my worthlessness, my very limited talent and knowledge; little did I imagine that Providence, whom I have always trusted, and who has visibly assisted me, was to choose such a weak instrument to found a religious Congregation that the Sovereign Pontiff deigned approve, and to lead it, with the help of God, to the point where it stands today. The glory, I say, is to be attributed solely to Him, all Benevolent God, and I thank him very humbly for having chosen to entrust me with such a mission. It is true that He had granted me a strong helper in the illustrious and venerable Bishop of Belley, Bishop Devie whom we shall never forget, our very much respected father in God, and whose advice, full of wisdom, was always like an oracle to me.
I also declare that from a very young age and up to this day the Lord has deigned to grant me countless favours. Unfortunately, I probably have not always responded as well as it is expected; I humbly accept this before Him, and I ask him to forgive me, and pray that He might attribute this rather to my weakness than to any malice. If I am granted to live a little longer after I finish this writing, I beg him to preserve in me the blessings which he has never ceased to bestow on me, both the spiritual ones and the temporal ones; I promise him from the bottom of my heart to try and improve: this is my greatest and my most sincere determination.
I thank all those whose Father and Superior in religion I have become, for the patience and indulgence they have demonstrated in view of my failings, and for having me for so long as their head. I ask them, and all those who have known me and with whom I have lived, to please excuse the faults they must have noticed in me.
I believe to have always the righteous and most pure intentions in all that I have committed myself to do as well as in my behaviour; but had there been anything faulty therein in God’s eyes, I pray that he forgives me.
Lord almighty, God of Israel, listen once again to my prayer I address to you, which I wish to keep on saying forever on behalf of my dear Congregation that you have entrusted me with and which I now give back to you again. Make it be your work and not mine; protect it, look after it always and everywhere; do not leave them in the hands of any potential enemies; do always provide for their needs and make it always work for your glory under your protecting hand. Be favourable, Oh my Lord, to all the Brothers and the Novices of this dear Society; bestow your gifts most abundantly over each and all of them; make their faith, their hope and their charity grow; inspire in them the greatest dread of sin and true repentance on those they have committed, and of which I might have been the cause whether through example or lack of vigilance; make them be horrified of vices, love their vocation, that they might be faithful to it, that they might sanctify themselves in it and work to sanctify others; make them all happy and joyful in this life and in the next: such is my very ardent prayer to you, oh my God, I, the poorest of all religious, the least worthy of all Superiors; listen to it, Lord, from the height of the throne of your divine majesty, and bless those for whom I humbly pray to you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So be it.
Belley, at our Mother House, August 25, 1864
Brother Gabriel, Superior General of the Brothers of the Holy Family
 Art. 37, p. 39.
 The description of the furnishings and, above all, the development of the class for children, divided into four sections (cf. Art. 31, p. 33), shows how the mutual method, fought by the Church, has in reality been integrated by the Brothers and put into service of the simultaneous method.
 Guide 1838, Art. 38, p. 40.
 These are the diocesan catechism, that of Collot, Bourges, Couturier, Constance, the peoples and countryside, Chambery’s family instruction projects, the explanation of the catechism of Geneva used by the Church of France and other good books (Art. 52, p. 49).
 Art. 52, p. 49.
 Art. 53, p. 51.
 Letter to Bishop Devie, 01/11/1835, Lettres, vol. I, p. 17.
 Art. 51, pp. 48-49.