August 17 – BRO. EUGENE-MARIE
The choice of the Capitulants on 17 August 1862 fell on Br. Eugene-Marie as the third Superior General. At first it might have looked surprising: he only was 38 and a half years old, he came from the farthest region, in the extreme south of France (he was born at Mondragon) and was little known in the west of France, his health was worrying to such a point that he remained in bed during almost the whole Chapter. But his qualities made him shine out. He was an excellent religious, with bright intelligence and full of ideas. He ran a village school (Angles-sur-1’Anglin), founded at Mees a novitiate and a boarding-house, formed novices for thirteen years (at Saint-Laurent-sur Sevre and at Mees), maintained many contacts with civil and religious authorities, administered and developed a District (that of Mees): his predecessors were far from having so much experience.
Despite his poor health which compelled him to take annual treatments in the warm places of Auvergne and to go to sun-bathed Mediterranen coastal country in winter, he would be re-elected four times over – unique case in our history. The great aspects of his government were:
-priority given to secular formation by pressing the Brothers for studies and diplomas, and to religious formation with an obsession to quality before number;
– adoption of a pedagogy proper to the Institute;
– replacement of a Rule mainly juridically-centred by a more ambitious one to which he devoted many years of impressive work;
– determination to go beyond the west and to multiply and finance novitiates in the four comers of France. He would spend a lot of timeand energy especially to found houses in Auvergne, and he would be the creator of the Province of Centre.
His biblical culture was prodigious and surpassed that of many specialists. By his Christocentrism and life of faith that were the central aspects of his whole teaching and his many circulars, he ignored the rather sentimental devotions of his century. The motto he chose, “You called me, here I am”, he lived it to the best: he bore with the trials of his sickness, the rejection of his Rule, the opposition of some Brothers, the anti congregational laws of the 1880s, with exceptional courage. Discouragement was for him a sin against the Spirit. For him, intelligence could never destroy the quality of the heart: three hundred letters to one friend! And his goodness found its most refined expression in the understanding of human weakness and in compassion.
Certainly one cannot make a mistake, seeing in Br. Eugene-Marie, this “third man”, after the Brothers Augustin and Simeon, “come from elsewhere” – far from the cradle of the Institute and from its small original group -, the greatest Superior of the 19th century.
Bibliography: Louis Bauvineau, F. Eugene-Marie, in the collection Documents et Recherches, Centre International Montfortian Centre, 1997, 448 p