A general History of the Society of Mary: The Society of Mary in the Congregational Movement of the Nineteenth Century (Foundation, Mission, and Institutional Configuration) 1817-1875 Volume I by Antonio Gascón Aranda, sm

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A General History of the Society of Mary: The Society of Mary in the Congregational Movement of the Nineteenth Century (Foundation, Mission, and Institutional Configuration) 1817-1875

Volume I

Antonio Gascón Aranda, SM

Translation by Benjamin Dougherty

Dayton, Ohio



The North American Center for Marianist Studies, located in Dayton, Ohio, provides programs, publications, and resources on Marianist history and charism to the comprehensive Marianist Family—religious men and women and laypeople engaged in Marianist ministries or belonging to Marianist lay communities. We believe our service to the world today is informed by the richness of our heritage. So that we may better understand, appreciate, and share the Marianist spirit, NACMS strives to bring this heritage into dialogue with contemporary church and culture. For more about NACMS, visit www.nacms.org.

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Translated from the Spanish: Historia General de la Compañía de María (Marianistas): La compañía de María en el movimiento congregacional del siglo XIX (Fundación, misión y configuración institucional) (1817-1875) (Madrid: Publicaciones Marianistas, 2007), vol. 1.

Translator’s Note
Translation is a selective art. Rarely can a sentence in one language be rendered in another without losing some of the original meaning. Translating almost always involves a careful selection of which aspects of a phrase or sentence will be carried over at the expense of other aspects. A translator’s duty is always first to the reader, and second to the text. I have attempted to remain as faithful as possible to the original Spanish. When I have chosen to deviate from it, I did so solely for the purpose of making an idea more easily understood by the modern English reader.

Some words or phrases simply have no corresponding word or phrase in English. In those cases, the words are left in their original language. Two common examples are collège and lycée, which are French words for two different kinds of schools. There are no schools in the United States that are equivalent to the collège or the lycée. Two other words that were left untranslated were bourgeois and bourgeoisie. The idea that the bourgeoisie and bourgeois culture played a key role in the development of the Society of Mary throughout the nineteenth century is a repeated theme throughout the text. It is used so frequently and in such varied ways that depending on circumstances, the word could be translated in any of more than a dozen ways.

—Benjamin Dougherty

The Society of Mary (Marianists) was founded in Bordeaux, France, on October 2, 1817, by a Catholic priest, Father William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850). Chaminade and a group of sodalists from the Marian Sodality of Bordeaux founded a new religious institute dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with the objective of sustaining the faith and multiplying Christians, for the purpose of combating the religious indifference of the modern era.

Since the first moment of its birth, the Society of Mary directed its missionary charism toward the evangelization of the youth by the means of teaching. Although the task of teaching did not completely realize the evangelizing intention of the Founder, nevertheless, it was the work with which the Marianist brothers were familiar, and they dedicated themselves to this ministry, almost exclusively, from the time of the foundation of the new religious institute until the years following the Second Vatican Council. For this reason, a study of the teaching laws and of the pedagogy occupies an important place in the present history of the Society of Mary. Though, since the first moments of the foundation, the new religious agreed they also would preach in churches and at retreats and establish and direct secular associations, or Marian Sodalities.

The Society of Mary found itself among the new religious institutes (or congregations) of France arising after the Revolution of 1789. In this sense, the Society of Mary belongs to the great bloom of religious institutes arising in the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century; a bloom which was a true work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. By consequence, the Society of Mary was born in the bosom of the evangelical experience of consecration and mission of the nineteenth century Church, and much of its charismatic identity (in the form of its life and mission) was a response to the characteristics of the so-called congregational movement. The congregational movement was a new form of religious life characterized by the union of brothers with simple vows under the direct obedience of the superior general. This new form of religious life propagated itself in the new liberal society, in perfect cultural synthesis with the values of the bourgeoisie, the dominant social class in modernity. It is significant that through their ministry of teaching the youth, Marianist religious work to better the community by integrating the masses of peasants and proletariats in the new political, economic, cultural, and working institutions of modern society. In this method, the transmission of the Catholic faith happens in union of action with the social and cultural development of the people to which the Marianist religious direct their teaching efforts.

With their simple vows and their clearly apostolic orientation, working closely with the laity (schools, hospitals, orphanages, networks of Catholic publishers, etc.), the modern religious congregations created a new form of consecrated life that is strongly missionary, active, and effective in its social and evangelical works. The peasants, skilled workers, and urban working classes came to know the social utility of religion, Catholicism, and the consecrated life, in the midst of the bourgeois mentality, through social, educational, and welfare work. The new congregations also responded to the Catholicism of the workers and encouraged them to cultivate a deep interior life, which responds as much to the foundational spiritual experience as to the missionary task of continuing development.

This volume treats the foundation of the Society of Mary in its first 50 years of history. Therefore, we will study the nature or spiritual identity of this new religious congregation of the Catholic Church and the process of institutionalization of its forms of life and apostolate, governance, administration, economy, initial formation, forms of piety, etc. That is to say, all that forms the social-religious body, with its spiritual values and institutional environment, in an intimate unity of life and mission. This volume begins in the time of the Generalate of its Founder, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1818-45), and his two successors, Father George Caillet (1845-68) and Father John Chevaux (1868-75). In its canonical and civil development, these were the years of the approbation of the Society of Mary by the bishop of Bordeaux, Bishop d’Aviau, in 1818, as a diocesan congregation; later came the actual declaration of November 16, 1825, that awarded it legal recognition in the view of the French state as a pious association dedicated to primary education; finally, Pope Pius IX gave it canonical approbation by an oral decree of May 12, 1865. Still to come was the approbation of the Constitutions by Pope Leo XIII, in 1891, during the Generalate of Father Joseph Simler (1876-1905).

The Society of Mary was born and grew during the Restoration (1814-30), a politically and culturally favorable time. One can see Bertier de Sauvigny repairing French life during the Restoration; those were the years in which the modern transformation of France occured, thanks to the work of Fresnel and d’Ampère, de Lamarck and de Cuvier, de Burnouf and de Champollion, de Benjamin Constant and de Bonald, de Lamennais and de Chateaubriand, de Saint-Simon and de Augusto Comte, de Victor Hugo and de Lamartine, de Delacroix and de Berlioz. These years were characterized by a new moral sensibility, new intellectual interests, a new scientific vision and historical reality, faith in material and moral progress, the practice of the parlimentary system and political participation, and the perfection of the preindustrial economy and the incipient passage to the mechanization of production. Thus, French society developed a favorable atmosphere for the intellectual life, the sciences, letters, and arts; but even more, for the religious-spiritual values. In this context, the young Society of Mary received the right to teach from the governors of the Restoration of Napoleon III. The Society was helped by the desire for education and the economic development of French society. In short, this confluence of favorable factors contributed to the expansion of the nascent Society of Mary.

Regarding its geographic expansion, in its first 50 years of history, the Society of Mary extended itself to the Southeast (Garonne Basin), Northeast (Alsace and Franche-Compté) and North (Paris); and it quickly passed to Switzerland (1839), the United States (1849), Mainz (the Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt, Germany, in 1852), and Austria (1857). In the European countries the Marianist school responded to the confrontation of the Catholics against the liberals in power, by claiming the right of the hierarchy and fathers to educate their sons according to Catholic principles, against the teaching monopoly of the state. It was not the same in the United States where each state ensures that there is full liberty to teach. In that country, the distinctive nationalities of Catholic immigrants created a network of parochial schools with the purpose of passing on the faith and Catholic culture of each individual nationality. The teaching system and pedagogy of the Marianists adapted to the laws and necessities of each country. But the liberation of French education, by the Falloux law of 1850, permitted the Society of Mary to fully develop its quality pedagogy in the direction of full collèges of elementary and secondary education. Among those, the one which stands out is the prestigious Collège Stanislas of Paris.

Historical science concerns itself with the life of human groups and institutions; life expressed in its multitude of values, behaviors, and works. Thus, a historical analysis explores the internal and external conditions of human action. But the history of the Church, of its members and institutions, tries, even more, to describe the action of the risen Jesus Christ in the works of his disciples. With the intention of revealing this divine presence, I have tried to keep myself from analyzing the religious motivations of the origin, configuration, and action of the Society of Mary and its religious. I am convinced the true history of the Society of Mary is laden with traces of the Holy Spirit who acts in the conscience and the deeds of each Marianist religious. The vivid holiness that has been handed down to us is the best gift which the religious of the Society of Mary have to share with the Church and society.

The general history of the Society of Mary, the first volume of which appears now, was begun because of a mandate from the General Chapter of 1991, which bore the title of Mission and Culture, and “took as the perspective for its work the Marianist community in mission in today’s culture.” The capitulates reflected on the method of being and of doing because “our work is actually to evangelize in today’s culture” (presentation of the Chapter to the religious by Superior General Father Quentin Hakenewerth). An objective given by the capitulates to the Assistant General for Religious Life was “to promote appreciation of the Marianist charism,” because we are convinced that it is not possible to evangelize in a culture without possessing an identity or “Marianist culture.” An instrument for discovering our identity or culture is the study of our history. Thus the Chapter established the following objective: “To organize the materials for a history of the Society of Mary and to generate a plan by the preparation of this history.” The task was entrusted to the hands of the Assistant for Religious Life, Father José María Arnáiz, assisted by a team of Marianists who gathered at the General Administration in Rome, November 23-24, 1992. (See Revista Marianista Internacional, no. 14.3, June 1993.) At this meeting, it was decided that each Marianist province, country, or regional unit would arrange its own archives and write its own history. With these finished histories a final editor would write the general history to be presented at the General Chapter of 2001. Father Bernard Vial was named chairman of this team collaborating with the Assistant General for Religious Life. The minutes of the successive meetings of this working team were published in SM 3 Offices, n. 37 (Jan. 30, 1993) and n. 60 (Dec. 1, 1995). Unfortunately, neither were the provincial archives prepared by starting the investigation immediately, nor were the designated persons free to take this work as their sole occupation. Nevertheless, some national histories turned up (from the United States, Japan, Austria-Germany-Hungary, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, and Italy); other places already had monographs of their history (Switzerland, Peru, Puerto Rico, French-speaking Africa, and Eastern Africa, etc.). With these texts and the background documents in the General Archives of the Society of Mary in Rome, it was possible to undertake the writing of a general history of the Society.

In December 1993, Father Antonio Gascón was asked to write the history of the Society in Spain (published in 2002). At the meeting of the Commission for the History of the Society of Mary, held in Madrid in May 2000, Father Gascón was asked to write the entire history of the Society. The present first volume is the product of that request.

Many people helped me move this work forward; I owe them all my deepest gratitude. In the first place, those who had confidence in me: Father José María Arnáiz, Superior General Father David Fleming and his Council (Brother José María Alvira, Brother Javier Anso, and Father George Cerniglia); I am also grateful for the assistance of the archivist general of the Society of Mary, Brother Ambrogio Albano and the late Brother Dario Tucci, with the assistance of Mrs. Michèle Potet and Anna Maria Ghiselinni; Brother Michael McAward, SM, helped me with the reproduction of illustrations. I am intellectually indebted to all Marianists whose studies and monographs cited in the bibliography have allowed me to better know the history of the Society of Mary. Finally, there are so many other people, religious and lay, who with their words of the soul, counsel, and instruction have made my work easier; the complete list of people to whom I am grateful is too long to put here. I thank them all for their inestimable material and their intellectual and moral assistance in composing this work which I hope will be beneficial to the Society of Mary and the Marianist Family.


Life and Mission of Father William Joseph Chaminade
Father William Joseph Chaminade received his formation during the final years of the ancien régime, in a Church which had inherited a missionary thrust from the Council of Trent. Also, the years he was a seminarian and a young priest witnessed the rise of modern thought characterized by a spirit of erudition, rationalism, and empiricism that, in its cultural form, unleashed the immense social phenomenon of religious indifference and, in its political expression, led to the Revolution of 1789.

A student and later a professor and business manager of Saint Charles Seminary in Mussidan, Father Chaminade, along with the clergy of Saint Charles, refused to swear the oath demanded by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy; Chaminade, then, had to leave Mussidan for Bordeaux. He arrived there just before the Reign of Terror, during which he exercised his priestly ministry in secret. Exiled from France, he took refuge in Saragossa (1797), where a colony of French priests drew up a pastoral plan for the reconstruction of the French Church after they returned from exile. Subsequently, Chaminade developed his pastoral activity during the decade of the Napoleonic Empire, the Restoration, and the years of the liberal-bourgeois revolutions of the first half of the nineteenth century.

In this historical context his pastoral plan to devote himself to the mission of re-Christianizing France was conceived—France having been devastated by the Revolution and the religious indifference of the modern philosophers. From his priestly ministry, his great apostolic works were born: the Marian Sodality of Bordeaux (1800); encouraging Marie Thérèse de Lamourous to undertake the foundation of the Miséricorde (1801); and the founding of his religious congregations: one for women, in collaboration with Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, the Daughters of Mary (1816), and the other for men, the Society of Mary (1817).

1. Vocation and Mission

a) Saint Charles Seminary in Mussidan
William Joseph Chaminade, the fourteenth and last child of the marriage of Blaise Chaminade and Catherine Béthon, was born in Périgueux, France, on April 8, 1761. His father belonged to the honorable body of “bourgeois of the city” and was a merchant in fabrics.1 The family was very religious; four of the Chaminade brothers became priests: the second of the sons, Jean Baptiste (1745-90), entered the Jesuit novitiate of Bordeaux in 1759, but when the Society of Jesus was suppressed in France in 1763, the young Jean Baptiste Chaminade went to the diocesan seminary of Périgueux. He was ordained a priest and earned the title of doctor of theology; in September 1771 he joined the clergy of the seminary of Saint Charles Borromeo in Mussidan, a village about 35 km (21.75 miles) away from Périgueux, where he became an administrator and superior. The fourth child, Blaise (1747-1822), in 1762 joined the Franciscan Recollects. Then came Louis (1758-1822), the twelth child of the Chaminade family.2 The little boy William Chaminade, with his brother Louis, began his education in the Petite Mission, which was run by the diocesan priests of Périgueux. Louis, three years older than William, went to the seminary of Mussidan, where his older brother Jean Baptiste was a professor, to continue his study of Latin. In 1771, William was confirmed and took the name Joseph, which he favored in his signature from that point on. The example of piety that William Joseph found in his brother Louis made him want to continue his own studies at the seminary in Mussidan, and at the age of ten and a half, at the end of the summer vacation of 1771, William Joseph entered the collège of Saint Charles.

Saint Charles was managed by a society of apostolic life constituted by teaching priests who lived under the Règles de la Congrégation des Prêtres et Ecclésiastiques sous le Titre de Saint-Charles (Rule of the Congregation of Priests and Ecclesiastics with the name of Saint Charles). On account of the Catholic reform by the Council of Trent, these priestly societies had spread throughout France under the influence of the Oratory of Saint Phillip Neri. Called congregations of priests living a common life, they were formed of clergy united by bonds of charity who, without making a public profession of vows, committed themselves to live the evangelical counsels in the form of simple and private vows, which the superior knew about but did not receive. Animated by a marked apostolic spirit, these priests dedicated themselves to ministering to peasants (doing missions and catechesis) and to the teaching of youths; for this reason, they were appreciated greatly by the bishops. Because they did not want to submit to the stiff structure of religious life, which would impede their pastoral devotion, they gave themselves either statutes or constitutions, but not a monastic rule; because of this, they remained secular priests. All of the French foundations of this time were characterized by a missionary spirituality. These spiritual and canonical characteristics are key to understanding the disposition of William Joseph Chaminade as a missionary apostolic and the lay association and religious institutes he founded after the French Revolution.

The seminary in Mussidan had been founded by a diocesan priest of the nobility, Pierre du Barailh, in association with the priests Pierre de Chassarel de Roger and Jean Maurant. On September 1, 1744, they signed the act of foundation. A seminary was founded that, as was the custom at the time, accepted secular students as well. The new priestly company, referring to the reformer bishop, Saint Charles Borremeo, wanted to place their missionary work within the context of reform that arose from the Council of Trent, by means of preaching the Gospel and the Christian education of youth, in imitation of the Jesuits who, through the apostolate of education, brought back to Catholicism extensive zones of Europe that had been affected by the Reformation. The major difference between this school and those the Jesuits established in the second half of the eighteenth century was that this school was not established to protect the youth from Protestantism as much as from deism and the religious indifference propagated by the Enlightenment. Thus, the priests who taught at Saint Charles had the title of missionaries and were animated by an evangelizing spirit.3
Jean Baptiste Chaminade took charge of instructing young William Joseph in the practices of the spiritual life. Having a professor with a tenacious, stable, and responsive character and with good practical sense, solid Christian virtues, and well-qualified intellect, William Joseph Chaminade advanced quickly in his studies and in preparation for the clerical state. In the school year of 1771-72, being 11 years old, he received his First Communion and began to prepare to receive the tonsure and cassock. A young clergyman, 14 years old, he was received as an associate member, or postulant, in the Congregation of Saint Charles, sharing the life of the professors. In November of 1776 he finished his Latin studies and, at the age of 15, was put in charge of the lower classes of the seminary. At the same time, he began a trial period for entering into the Congregation of Saint Charles, which culminated in his profession of private vows, to which William Joseph Chaminade adhered his whole life as his unique and final consecration to God. At the same time, from 1776 to 1780, he helped his brother Jean Baptiste with the administration of the collège.

In the school year of 1780-81, he left Mussidan and traveled to Bordeaux with his brother Louis, with the goal of finishing his priestly studies. The two Chaminade brothers stayed in Bordeaux to study philosophy. They attended classes given in the collège of Guyenne, and they participated in the formative meetings and prayers of the Confraternity of University Priests, which was a group of theology students gathered by Father Noël Lacroix in his parish church of Saint Colombe for the purpose of maintaining in them the spiritual fervor threatened by the new thinking of the skeptics and libertines. Father Jean Simon Langoiran, professor of theology at Guyenne and the vicar-general of the diocese, advised the Chaminade brothers to continue their studies in Paris. Ordained a subdeacon by June 26, 1782, William Joseph and his brother Louis resided in Paris at the Seminary of Laon, which was run by the Sulpicians, in the building of the collège of Laon. At the time, he was recorded at the Musée de Paris as a professor of mathematics. In 1783 William Joseph returned to Mussidan. He probably received ordination on May 14, 1785, and after 1788 he held the title of doctor of theology, which according to the custom of that time, was granted for fulfilling the two conditions of being a seminary professor and having passed his university studies. This practice should not imply a contradiction of the intellectual qualifications of Chaminade, because it is said, “The doctors of the seminary of Mussidan could hold their own among the hundreds of doctors of theology in the Diocese of Périgueux, who for the most part owed their titles to the universities of Bordeaux or Poitiers.”4

Near the collège could be found the shrine of Notre Dame du Roc and a hospital, where the youngest of the Chaminade brothers was chaplain. Since returning to Mussidan, along with his brothers, Jean Baptiste, director of the establishment, and Louis, prefect of studies, William Joseph was the business manager. The management of the three Chaminade brothers elevated the collège to its greatest splendor, until the property was confiscated and the school was closed by the revolutionary authorities in 1791.5 At the collège, as professor and priest, William Joseph probably taught math, physics, and philosophy and gave spiritual direction to students, helping them discern priestly vocations and preparing them to receive sacraments.

b) French Revolution

William Joseph Chaminade was 27 years old when Louis XVI and his counselors convoked the Estates General in April 1789 to find a solution to the bankruptcy of the national treasury. This announcement awoke in all of France a desire for reforms that would put an end to the outrageous fiscal inequalities between the nobility and the Third Estate; the clergy was left to struggle with the different conditions of life which existed between the low and high clergy. The first step of constituting this great assembly of the kingdom was to elect the delegates and regional representatives of each estate and to edit the Cahiers de Doléances (Notebooks of Grievances), in which were collected the petitions, which were to be brought to the attention of the king and the Estates General.

These meetings of the three estates for the city of Périgueux and the village of Mussidan were held between December of 1788 and January of 1789. Fathers Henri Moze and William Joseph Chaminade participated as clergymen representing the collège of Saint Charles. The representatives of the three estates of the region of Perigord met on March 16 in the cathedral of Saint-Front in Périgueux. Among the 240 representatives of the clergy there were three priests from Saint Charles: Henri Moze, and the two Chaminade brothers, Louis and William Joseph. The Chaminade brothers acquired their position as delegates from two elderly pastors who could not participate.6

The Estates General opened in Paris on May 5, 1789, for the purpose of reforming the system of taxation and eliminating tax concessions so the nobility and high clergy had to contribute to support the country. As these matters had to be voted on, there was a need to decide how the vote would be taken. The Third Estate wanted to give each representative a vote, as opposed to the usual system of each estate receiving a vote. The decision giving each representative a vote having been made, the Third Estate abandoned the room and withdrew to the tennis court where it declared itself the National Assembly. Members of the lower clergy united with some bishops headed by the bishop of Autun, Monseigneur Talleyrand; on June 27, they swore not to disband until France had a constitution. With this decision, on July 9, the Estates General was transformed into a Constitutional Assembly, whose legislation would unleash a political revolution.

From this point forward, events happened quickly: after the bloody day of July 14, when the Parisian mob attacked the Bastille, a chill of panic shook the country. On August 4 feudal rights were suppressed, putting an end to the class-based society of the ancien régime, and feudal manors and castles in the countryside were destroyed in a fiery wave; on August 26 the Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed; on December 20, promoted by Talleyrand, the decision was made to nationalize and sell the goods of the clergy to alleviate the pressing economic problem, a change from how the state maintained the clergy and the expenses of worship; a decree of February 13, 1790, definitively suppressed religious orders, considering religious vows contrary to human nature, retaining only those orders dedicated to teaching and hospitals. All in all, the most burdensome law for the French Church came on July 12 of that year, when the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was approved.
The new code the revolutionaries of the new state wanted to give to the Church in France completely changed the situation that this powerful institution had previously enjoyed in French society. In effect, the Catholic Church was a fundamental institution in the France of the ancien régime. During the monarchy of Louis XVI, France was the major Catholic country, which meant it had a greater theological impact on other European nations—particularly when one considers the flourishing religious orders, whose numbers fluctuated between 50,000 and 60,000 men and women. But, just as in society, the clergy comprised a diverse group: the bishops born to noble families; set against them, the lower clergy cultivated democratic ideas; these clergy, at the same time, were to be found in diverse canonical and economic positions: a third of their members (some 18,000 priests out of 50,000 members of the secular clergy) received benefits without bearing a pastoral ministry. The bishoprics and monasteries possessed incalculable wealth and privileges granted by the political powers; the Church was imbedded in the state to such an extent that the state interfered with the Church’s internal organization. This jurisdictionalism was justified by the Gallican tradition, which defended its prerogatives before the Holy See appealing to the “ancient liberties” of the Church in France.

Using this ecclesial and canonical thesis of Gallicanism for their own purposes, the members of the Constitutional Assembly intended a radical reform of the French Church to adapt it to the new constitution of the nation, so that the Church would continue being Gallican. But the parliamentarians, believing it was only a matter of disciplinary measures, in reality, caused serious dogmatic problems: bishops and parish priests ought to be elected by the population of the respective diocese or parish, including Protestants; in the case of the bishops, a papal bull would not be necessary, rather the king would designate him and the archbishop would confirm him. Consequently, all ecclesiastics who were charged with the care of souls and parliamentarians became functionaries of the state and, therefore, had to swear allegiance to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy if they wanted to keep their pastoral positions and continue to receive their salaries. Secondly, the Assembly drew up a new ecclesial map, associating a diocese with each civil department; this administrative measure amounted to the suppression of a fifth of the dioceses. But this created the enormous difficulty of how to depose a bishop without a canonical fault of heresy, schism, or immorality. On July 12, 1790, the Constitutional Assembly approved the new law that regulated relations between the Church and the state. The protest of the bishops meant nothing; the Revolution had been designed by a minority which imposed itself upon the country from the moment it gained power.

Pope Pius VI sent the king a brief in which he asked him not to allow civil authority to intervene in the inner workings of the Church. Louis XVI signed the Civil Constitution of the Clergy on July 22, and it was promulgated on August 24. In spite of the protests of Pius VI and the French bishops, on November 27 it was mandated that all bishops, archbishops, priests, and all parliamentary ecclesiastics, to continue serving as functionaries, swear an oath of allegiance to the constitution decreed by the National Assembly and signed by the king, under penalty of being deposed. In conclusion, in only 20 months, the French Church went from being a powerful institution under the ancien régime to being constrained to choose between a schism or a precarious existence, under suspicion, and about to suffer a violent persecution.

In the midst of the doubts and uncertainties of the clergy concerning the swearing of the oath, on February 22, 179,Talleyrand consecrated the new constitutional bishops. Thus the constitutional Church was born parallel to the Church in obedience to Rome. Immediately, Pius VI in a brief, Quod aliquantum (March 11, 1791), declared those consecrations to be illicit, sacrilegious, and invalid, and those consecrated suspended a divinis. A schism in the French Church had occurred. On July 12 freedom of worship was proclaimed, and on September 13, 1791, King Louis XVI signed the new French Constitution. The Civil Constitution divided the clergy between those in favor of and those against swearing the constitutional oath; the lack of religious unity broke down national unity. The revolutionaries sought to restore unity by means of coercion, persecuting the refractory priests. The successive laws promulgated by the Assembly, the Convention, and the Directory treated the nonjuring priests as traitors against the country, condemned to prison, deportation, and soon the guillotine. But these measures, far from reconstituting unity, enlarged the internal schism; for which reason, in 1794, the separation of Church and state was sanctioned. Religious belief would no longer be the link of national unity, nor would the Church be a powerful institution protected by the state.

For William Joseph Chaminade, these were difficult years spent trying to save the seminary. On January 24, 1790, Jean Baptiste Chaminade died. He had been director and spiritual guide of the seminary since 1780. On January 9, 1791, the city council called the professors of Saint Charles Seminary to swear the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy; instead they refused to take the oath, and they explained publicly their motives. This illegal act was the undoing of the seminary and school, although the city council tolerated it, because they had no one who could replace the teaching priests. But in June, the first replacements began to arrive. The efforts of the director, Moze, and the business manager, Chaminade, to save the school were fruitless.

c) Heroic Exercise of His Priestly Ministry

In November 1791 Chaminade left Mussidan and went to Bordeaux where the vicar general of the diocese, Father Langoiran, advised him to buy a small farm with a house on the outskirts of the city. Father Chaminade bought the property of Saint Laurent, of which he officially took possession on January 5, 1792; he lived there with his elderly parents. In this populous harbor city he hoped to find better means of supporting himself and a place where he could exercise his priestly ministry. This was the situation in which Father Chaminade found himself when the military conflicts with Austria and Prussia stirred up patriotic spirit and the persecution of nonjuring priests began, which gave rise to religious persecution in general; on July 15, Father Langoiran was murdered by a mob; then, Chaminade had to hide. On August 18, the Directory of the Department of the Gironde decided that no refractory priests should be allowed in the city, and another national law (of August 26) expelled all refractory priests from the country. The brothers Blaise and Louis Chaminade abandoned France; for reasons unknown to us, the more youthful Chaminade brother decided to remain hidden in Bordeaux to exercise his priestly ministry secretly.

France was full of political agitation; the Jacobin radicals had taken power. On September 20, 1792, the Legislative Assembly was dissolved, and the Convention was installed, which dismissed the king. On September 25, the Republic was proclaimed, and January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined. The schism divided the French Church. To put an end to religious disorder, then, authorities of the Convention intended to destroy the refractory Church by force with persecutorial laws; the bishops and priests of the refractory Church were prohibited to worship publicly, and they were persecuted. There were massive deportations and death penalties. It no longer sought only to eliminate the Roman Church, but to de-Christianize the country, pure and simple, and to raise up in its place a new establishment, with the worship of the goddess Reason, for example. Father William Joseph Chaminade went into hiding at the beginning of 1793. From this date to his exile, four years later, he exercised his priestly ministry heroically in collaboration with Father Joseph Boyer, vicar general of the diocese, who organized the pastoral efforts of the refractory Church in secrecy. In the Règles pour l’Exercice de Saint Ministère (Rules for the Exercise of the Priestly Ministry), Boyer gave orders so priests could have safe hideouts and hidden oratories in the homes of faithful families, where they were less likely to attract suspicion. The priests were supported by the action of the laity in their carrying communion and messages, and in imparting Baptism.

In October 1783, the commissioners of the Jacobin Convention arrived and established the revolutionary Terror in Bordeaux, where the Girondists dominated. They began 10 months of persecution as the guillotine was installed in the plaza Gambetta.7 Of the 302 people guillotined, 98 were murdered because of their religion. To this period belong the most laudatory stories of the young priest Chaminade evading the persecution of the revolutionary guards; but on July 17, 1794, William Joseph Chaminade managed to include his name on the list of priests who had left the country—thus, avoiding being pursued further.

The fall of Robespierre, after the coup d’état of July 27, 1794, brought a period of relative calm. The constitutional priests were allowed to recover some of the churches in Bordeaux, and the refractory priests were allowed to open oratories. The vicar general, Boyer, immediately organized these oratories, and Chaminade opened one at 14 Rue Sainte-Eulalie. In this oratory, he exercised the normal ministry of saying Mass and administering the sacraments; he also began to meet with the youth; perhaps, it was here that he first encountered Marie Thérèse Charlotte de Lamourous, one of his best collaborators. At the same time, Father Boyer named him penitentiary of the diocese, with the delicate mission of reconciling the constitutional priests to the Catholic Church. He also was named penitentiary of the Diocese of Bazas by its vicar general. In this mission, he reconciled more than 50 priests.

By the law of October 25, 1795, the laws against priests subject to deportation or imprisonment went into effect again, and Chaminade was an outlaw again. France now had a new Constitution, beginning from year II, and a new government; the Directory had succeeded the Convention. The only difference in its treatment of the Church was—instead of being guillotined—priests were deported, and Chaminade had to act secretly again. The fear of the drift toward the right and the return of the monarchy, which had been instilled by the Jacobins, who were supported by the Army, worked in favor of the coup d’état of 18 fructidor (September 4, 1797). Priests were required to take an oath of hatred of the monarchy and fidelity to the Republic; by the decree of September 19 all of the emigrants who had returned to France had to leave the country within 15 days, under pain of execution. Chaminade, who had not been able to have his name removed from the list of emigrées, had to go into exile.

d) Birth of a Missionary Project

On September 11, 1797, William Joseph Chaminade received his passport to enter Spain. On September 27, he crossed the border at Hendaye and arrived in Saragossa on October 11, the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar. This public expression of the faith caused him great emotion in contrast to the situation of secrecy in which the Church of France lived. His three year stay in Saragossa resulted in the decision to reorient his whole life to a program dedicated to the re-Christianization of France.8 During his exile in Saragossa, Chaminade experienced a spiritual and apostolic evolution during the many hours he spent in prayer in the holy chapel before the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar and from the multiple debates and reflections he shared with the refugee priests and bishops of France also in Saragossa.

Directed by the archbishop of Auch, Monseigneur Louis Apollinaire de la Tour du Pin Montauban, Chaminade was put in contact with Father Thomas Casteran, who was responsible for the refugee priests in Saragossa. Casteran, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Auch and the Diocese of Tarbes, maintained communication among the priests and bishops exiled in the city; he had good relations with the Spanish prelates and was able to give economic assistance to the neediest priests. Spanish law obliged the French clergy to live in religious communities under the care of a superior; Chaminade lived with his brother Louis and some priests who had been students at Mussidan; they were prohibited to preach, but they were allowed to say Mass and hear one another’s Confessions. The exiled priests in Saragossa met periodically to reflect and generate pastoral plans to reorganize the Church upon their return to France—the Church whose plans and institutions had been devastated by the revolutionary storm. These meetings had been promoted by Monseigneur de Gain Montagnac, a refugee in Monserrat, and they were coordinated in Saragossa by his vicar, Thomas Casteran. In Monserrat, the Bishops de La Tour du Pin, de Gain Montagnac, and the titular of Lavaur agreed to entrust to Father Saussol the editing of Traité de la Conduite à Tenir après la Persécution (Treatise on a Plan of Action After the Persecution), published in Florence in two volumes in 1800, and of which Father Chaminade had a copy. The thoughts and lines of pastoral action outlined in this work had been brought up in the meetings of the French priests in Saragossa, in which Chaminade participated. These conferences and debates treated matters of the greatest interest to those who wanted to overcome the schism in the French Church, such as the reconciliation of schismatic priests, the way to resolve the problems stirred up by revolutionary worship, the goods of the clergy, and the validity of the sacraments given in secret without witnesses or documents (particularly Marriage). But it also concerned itself with how to organize the new pastoral strategies to again evangelize French society. The documents of these conferences on mission maintain that, given the scarce number of priests, the reevangelization of society should be confided to “educated laypersons.”

In this manner, the spirit of the primitive Church in a state of mission was created among the exiled clergy. They thought of themselves as missionaries, exercising their ministry in unfaithful or heretical countries, and found their models in the priests formed by the reforming thrust of the Council of Trent: Vincent de Paul, Francis de Sales, and Germán de Auxerre. This mystery of mission and the new evangelizing strategies constituted the keys of the immediate missionary activity Chaminade began upon his return to France. In the Marianist tradition, it is here, in Saragossa, where we consider Father William Joseph Chaminade to have received the inspiration for the foundation of all his apostolic works. But more importantly, all the previous experiences of priestly formation and mission in the evangelization of youth through teaching at Mussidan, the shock of the pastoral experience he received during his secret ministry in Bordeaux, the many encounters and reflections and debates with other refugee priests in Saragossa, and the abundant time spent in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar formed his mind in these years, resulting in an intense spiritual and apostolic development. In this way, during his exile in Saragossa, Chaminade outlined a pastoral project or missionary method for re-Christianizing France upon his return from exile, under the Marian spirituality of the Immaculate Conception. This pastoral outline was like a charismatic-apostolic spiritual seed, from which his successive foundations (the lay Sodality and the two religious institutes) were unfolding flowers.9

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