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8. Marcellin Champagnat
Marcellin Champagnat was a man on fire! This is why he was the first of the Marist aspirants to take action to realize the Marist dream.
In his youth Marcellin Champagnat had a difficult time with schooling. The French
Revolution promoted education for all children, but this meant staffing myriad schools, and there weren’t enough qualified and dedicated teachers. Many rural villages had only one teacher for a one-room schoolhouse, and often the teacher was incompetent, mean, even a drunkard. That was Champagnat’s experience—on his first day in school, the teacher struck one of the other children. This shocked Marcellin and he refused to return to school. Thus his formal education was minimal, and when he responded to a call to the priesthood, he had great difficulties with the studies.
Another incident during his youth further convinced him of the evil effects of poor
pedagogy. While preparing for his first Communion, Marcellin witnessed how the priest, exasperated by an unruly pupil in the class, called him a belittling name that his fellow pupils picked up and used to bully him; this ill treatment seriously scarred this child.
These experiences were seared into Marcellin’s memory, and convinced him of the need
for well-trained, dedicated teachers who would love and respect the children and prepare them for the challenges of life in this world as well as set them on the path of faith toward eternal life. The foundation of a community of brothers whom he could train to educate children, especially in rural areas where good teachers were scarce, became the dominant passion in Champagnat’s life.
Thus when he was invited to be part of the Marist project, Champagnat eagerly accepted,
but insisted that besides branches of the Society for priests, sisters, and lay people, there needed to be a branch for teaching brothers as well. The Marist group agreed, and charged Champagnat to spearhead that part of the project. And when assigned as a newly ordained priest to the rural parish in the town of La Valla, he wasted no time. By January 2, 1817, less than six months after the signing of the Fourvière Pledge, Champagnat had recruited two young men and had purchased a house for them, and thus began the foundation of the “Little Brothers of Mary” who evolved into the Marist Teaching Brothers of today, the largest and most widespread of the Marist religious congregations.
As the numbers of recruits grew, Champagant saw the need for a larger building to serve as a training center and mission base. With the help of Courveille, he purchased a plot of land, rolled up his sleeves, and helped the hired stonemasons build a five story building that
Prayer for Vocations to the Society of Mary (Marists)
Lord Jesus You gave the Church St Peter Chanel as an example to Marists and the people of Oceania of gentleness, compassion and love in action. Welcome many young men and women into the Marist Family, to work as Priests, Brothers and Sisters. Help us too, to share our charism with lay people throughout the world and to work in partnership with them in Mission for the good of your Church and our world. This prayer we make to the Father in your name and through the Holy Spirit. Amen Mary Mother of the Church and our mother, choose more young people to follow Jesus your Son in religious life and priesthood and to bear your name as members of your Society.
(Please pray this prayer often.)
he called Notre Dame de l’Hermitage, Our Lady of the Hermitage, and that the brothers refer to today as the Hermitage.
Champagnat went through many dark and difficult moments in his efforts to build the
congregation of the Marist Brothers on solid foundations and thus to launch a mission that today brings education and hope to young people in more than fifty countries around the world.
Marcellin Champagnat died in 1840 at the age of fifty-one. He was canonized in 1999.
The feast of St. Marcellin Champagnat is celebrated on June 6, the date of his death. To Be Continued….
Champagnat working on The Hermitage
Notre Dame de l’Hermitage,