July 22 – BROTHER MATHURIN
In the long list of the Brothers of the Institute, originally called as the Brothers of the Holy Spirit, was Br. Mathurin the first? Those who doubt he was do not invoke the chronology (there it is clear: he was the first to follow Montfort) and only say that he did not pronounce his vows. But there are active commitments and faithful practices which amply compensate for juridical shortcomings. Br. Mathurin was at the service of Montfort and then of the Montfortian missionaries all his life since the meeting at Poitiers.
Born in a peasant family of Bouille-Saint-Paul, north of Poitou, on 7 November 1687, Mathurin Rangeard came to Poitiers in 1705 to become a Capuchin. Entering the church of the Penitents’ house to pray, he was spotted there by Montfort who, coming out of his confessional, invited him to join him in his missionary work. The young man never left Montfort thereafter, helping hiii1 to organise the processions, to sing the canticles and to teach the children. He was his trusted companion. Solicited by the parish priest of Breal in 1708 for a mission in the diocese of Saint-Malo, Montfort wrote to him: “I have promised to go to three places on these three days and I cannot miss it. However I shall send Mathurin to you on Tuesday to say the rosary publicly, to sing the canticles and to carry sixty small crosses of St Michael on my behalf to our soldiers”.
In his testament Montfort wrote: “Mr Mulot will give (…) ten crowns to Mathurin if he wants to go away and not make the vows of poverty and obedience”. After the death of the missionary, there is no proof at all that he gave classes at Saint Laurent as at times stated. Perhaps he went home for a while. In any case, when Fr. Mulot and Fr. Vatel started again to preach ssions in 1718, they called him.
In 1722, the members of the little . community of Fathers and Brothers pronounced their vows, excepted Br. Mathurin. “Scruples drove him to a point of non utterance. Fr. Mulot was too judicious to accept, still less to demand, the vows of a man who had refused seven years earlier to do it with Montfort himself’. (Chronicles of Sr. Florence). This same year 1722, at the Jaunay-Clan mission, coadjutor-bishop de Faudras, of Poitiers, conferred him the tonsure.
He accompanied the Fathers in their missions. In a memoir of the missions by P. Racquet started in 1740, the name of “Brother Mathurin catechist” figures 126 times. “Learning to do catechism well was his special field. For that he had received from the Holy Spirit a very special gift… It would be difficult to list the conversions he brought about through his pious exhortations while teaching” (Chronicles of Sr. Florence). At age 72, he was still in the field. He died at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre at age 73, in 1760, a year after Sr. Marie Louise and Br. Joseau.