NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Friday, June 1, 2018

Saint of the Month - June 2018: Saint Marcellin Champagnat

St. Marcellin Champagnat
An Apostle of Christian Education ~ Feast: June 6th

If you read enough about the lives of the Saints you may notice a common trend with many of them - they're doers.  When they discern an urgent spiritual and/or temporal need, they don't just sit back and let things continue, as is - they take action, accordingly.  St. Marcellin Champagnat was one such Saint.

"All to Jesus through Mary, and all to Mary for Jesus.”

Born in Marhles, France in 1789, our Saint came into the world during the height of the infamous French Revolution.  His parents were reportedly devout and loyal Catholics who fearlessly sheltered priests and religious during this dark period of religious persecution, including an aunt who was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  A near-desperate plea made to him by a fugitive priest had such an impact on the young Marcellin that it changed the course of his life forever.  That priest's words to him were: "My son, you must become a priest.  That is what God wants of you."

Being that the revolution made such a detrimental social and economic impact in the lives of the common people, Marcellin was not afforded much education in his childhood.  When he entered the seminary at the age of 16, he had a difficult time learning and failed in his first year of studies.  He was readmitted and somehow managed to pass his courses and get himself ordained in July 1816.  Among his close companions in the seminary was none other than the future Cure of Ars - St. John Marie Vianney.

The newly ordained Fr. Marcellin was assigned to the rural mountain village of La Valla.  There, he was struck by the poverty and lack of education of the inhabitants.  Due to the personal challenges he faced in the seminary, he came to value good education, but it was a singular event that spurred him to take action - four months into his stay in La Valla, he was called to the bedside of a dying 16-year-old youth.  As he prepared the boy for death, it dawned on him that the young man knew nothing of basic Catholic teaching; undoubtedly, the after-effect of the revolution.  The thought of such a young soul almost dying without any knowledge of God, deeply saddened the young priest and he resolved to prevent a similar situation from ever happening again.

Fr. Marcellin ministers to a dying youth; a pivotal moment in his priestly ministry.

In the beginning of 1817, Fr. Marcellin along with two young parishioners began a work that eventually evolved into the Institute of the Little Brothers of Mary, also known as the Marist Brothers of the Schools, a teaching congregation under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin.  The trio, with the priest as its lead, first opened a school in their village and, as new aspirants arrived, their work branched out into neighboring towns and villages.  The rapid expansion of the Marist Brothers was a testimony to the success of their mission in meeting the educational and spiritual needs of the people.  Pope Pius IX approved the institute in 1863, after which Fr. Marcellin had the joy of professing vows along side his beloved Brothers.

Despite the positive reception the Marist Brothers received wherever they started a school, Fr. Marcellin's life was not without trials.  The jealously or distrust of some of his fellow priests were hurtful to him and, for a time, there was also discord within his own institute.  In his final years, cancer was a cross... but through everything he endured, the founder displayed admirable humility and faith; often turning to Our Lady's intercession as a source of comfort and aid.

When Fr. Marcellin died on June 6th, 1840 he was only 51-years-old.  As a testimony to his fruitful legacy, the Marist Brothers today number over 5000 members and minister in 80 countries.  This worthy priest was canonized in April 1999 by Pope John Paul II, who spoke of him as a "model for parents and teachers".  May St. Marcellin Champagnat pray for our personal needs and needs of the entire Church.

A Prayer to Mary composed by St. Marcellin Champagnat

O Mary, my Good Mother, I give into your sacred keeping 
and commend to your special care and protection my body, 
mind and spirit for this day and for every day of my life. 
To you I entrust my hopes and consolations, my difficulties 
and sorrows, my life and my death; that through your prayers 
and your merits all my actions may be directed and disposed 
according to your will and the will of your Son. Amen. 

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