February 5 – MEN OF PRAYER
MEN OF PRAYER
Br. Jerome joined the novitiate at Mees when he was 24. He taught at Lorgues Novitiate and died there at the age of 31; he died as he had lived, in a saintly way. The reason why his words touched the novices’ hearts (as Br. Eugene-Marie, Superior General, remembered all his life) was because he spent long periods in prayer in the chapel. A few years later and at the same novitiate, a 30-year-old Brother. Br. Athanase, died; he had been granted permission to kneel before the tabernacle every night from midnight to 2 a.m. Our history is punctuated with men who followed the· advice which Br. Simeon, himself a man of prayer, gave in his circular of 1 January 1854, entirely devoted to meditation; or perhaps they took literally the words of Fr. Plus SJ, which Br. Benoit-Marie quoted in a circular: “The most essential prerequisite for any fruitful activity is motionless prayer.” The following were such men.
Br. Theodore! worked at the boarding school at Saint-Laurent for 20 years (1852-1873); whenever he was off duty he would go about saying the rosary with his hands . under his cape, praying to Mary for his students. Br. Raymond was head of the school at Bretignolles from 1847 to 1871; he would occasionally travel to Saint-Laurent with a lay person to visit a boy at the boarding school; throughout the journey, which took half a day, he would recite the rosary with his companion. In the following century, Br. Jean-Stanislas, who taught mathematics at Saint-Laurent Juniorate for 40 years, imitated Br. Tbeodoret: in order to say 15 decades of the rosary several times a day, he would use the shortest periods of free time, while supervising the dormitory, in the playground, even while watching football games from the sidelines. In Belgium, Br. Gendulf used to spend the evening recreation, which everyone could spend as he liked, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. In Senegal, Br. Rene Merceron, novice master, would go down to the chapel long before anyone else and kneel and pray with his face to the ground. When the Brothers who had known him in Senegal were asked to send in first-hand accounts for his obituary all of them mentioned this attitude during his prayers which had left its mark on them and edified them. In India Br. Maurille began his day at 3 a.m. with several hours’ prayer in the chapel, and Br. Stephen ended his life as an itinerant guru (See 8 June).
The Charismatic Renewal of the late 20th century provided many Brothers with a chance to rediscover prayer. What follows is Br. Athanase Chabot’s story of how a prayer group came into existence on 15 April at the Brothers’ school at Loroux Bottereau: «Simon (a Brother), Gustave, Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Solange were already
at prayer when we arrived at La Hilliere; during the whole day, at work in class, in the market gardens or elsewhere, they had been making their interior preparation… Father Grabie SJ introduced the prayer, then all tried to open themselves to the Holy Spirit and devote themselves to praising the Lord… Each of us was probably strengthened in his vocation to radiate joy and proclaim the Good News wherever the Lord sent us, with Mary, who gave us Jesus. This is indeed the point of our meeting: not to feel the glow of deep friendship among ourselves, but to become like the early Christians “faithful to
the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers”.»