January 10 – CARDINAL TISSERANT
It is at the end of a circular of Rev. Br. Benoit-Marie, dated 10 January 1937, that the Brothers discover for the first time the name of Cardinal Tisserant. Born at Nancy in 1884, he was, after his ordination in 1907, sent to Paris for Semitic studies and in the years that followed he took university titles in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramean, Syriac and Ethiopian. During the First World War, he was solicited to be interpreter for the French army in the Near East. Returning to Rome he was attached to the Vatican Library of which he later took supreme charge through a decision of his friend Pius XI. Made Cardinal in 1936, he was ordained Bishop the following year and was entrusted with the diocese of Ostia, Porto and Santa Rufina. The one of Ostia being Christianity’s most ancient after Rome, he became the dean of the Sacred College. He was a very special type of dean for his character was the least appropriate to a pontifical court of the period when everything had a subdued tone and was hush-hush.
Named as Cardinal Protector of St Gabriel in 1937, he thought no doubt that he was receiving a funet_ion with no responsibilities attached- like the forty or so other Congregations of which also he was protector. But soon he found himself caught up in the controversies regarding our origin. He put as much ardour in the defence of the thesis on our filiation as he did for his other activities. The fruits of his enormous works of erudition were, besides the numerous articles in French in various reviews, compiled into two volumes in Italian: Studio sull’ origine dei Fratelli di San Gabriele (110 pages,
1942) and Luigi Maria Grignion de Montfort, le Scuole di Carita e le origini dei Fratelli di San Gabriele (508 pages, 1943).
The official results did ot crown his efforts. But the Cardinal helped us to deepen our Montfortian sense – and certainly he rejoiced over it. He cultivated great affection for St Gabriel. He visited many of our communities in Italy, in France, in Canada and in India. He took great interest in every General Chapter of ours and never refused a single invitation to our General House. He offered to the Institute three educational Institutions: a school in Mossoul (Iraq), another at La Storta (Rome) and an orphanage, which we could not accept due to shortage in petsonnel. These belonged to his dioceses, where he exercised great pastoral zeal: he visited each parish and had 42 churches and the cathedral at La Storta built. His will ended thus: “I have received much; but I have given all to my dioceses and to the poor who came to solicit my help”.
This untiring man, full of good humour and freshness, endowed with extraordinary intelligence, died at the age of 87 years and was interred in the Cathedral of La Storta.