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International Marist Mission Assembly in Mendes

03/09/2007: Brazil

From 1903 the Marist House at Mendes, located in the midst of an extensive property, has served as a place of Marist formation. It housed juniors, postulants, novices and scholastics for decades. For a few years it also welcomed retired brothers. In these last decades it has hosted retreats, recollections and encounters. This place has something that from the first moment captivated Brother Adorátor, according to an account in his book “Twenty Years in Brazil,” in which he tells of his memories of the first twenty years of Marist foundation in this country. This work is full of anecdotes related in an elegant and attractive literary style. Today, that this house welcomes an event of great importance for the Marist future in the world can result in stimulating the memory of what the first years in Mendes were like, traced in the spirit of La Valla and the Hermitage.

“All of the brothers who lived the first year of Mendes will never forget it. That first year left us with many memories and we like to recall them. We lacked many things which, in the ordinary conditions of life, seem indispensable. But we didn’t suffer because of their lack, if so, very little. In Mendes, in the months of June, July and August, there are cold days and the nights more so. The thermometer indicates temperatures below zero. For Brazilians, it’s an intense cold. In the city of Río the minimum is 14° C (57° F). To withstand that temperature, the women wore furs and the men capes. These explanations help to understand the need that we had of blankets. Let’s remember that the brothers had hardly more than a doubled towel to protect themselves from the cold and a lumpy mattress of dry grass on a bed frame of iron cross pieces.

The beginners found all of this very difficult. It was necessary to spend almost a month like this. On the 10th of July I was able to distribute to the brothers thirty blankets. For all of them it was a time of great delight; this is the reason that I remember that date. As to the question of food, we made do with what was strictly necessary: rice, beans, a bit of meat and an orange. Bread was very expensive: one franc per kilo. We saved all that we could. For drinking we can say that during hardships we used to drink clear water: many times it was cloudy due to the animals or the rain. In the poverty of our diet we did not lose our sense of humor.

When we read in the life of some saints that they didn’t drink wine and in hardship only fresh water, we could not help laughing. For us that did not seem to be a great example of mortification. During recreation, reflections about our spiritual progress certainly weren’t lacking. How many laughs echo from the Hacienda! Coffee was our luxury. We were well provided for with the basics. The administrator picked up corn, rice and coffee. There were beautiful herds of pigs, sheep and hens. When buying the country property for forty “cuentas” (money of the time), we added forty “cuentas” more to get also all that could be had, including the vegetables and the vegetable garden.

Well or poorly settled in, we began to work; manual work, intellectual work, we attacked everything. We set ourselves to confronting Portuguese and the gigantic vegetation that had invaded the property. There were no fruit trees, nor cultivated land nor grasslands. Part of the house was transformed into a barn, stable and depository of everything because it was necessary to keep everything in good shape.”


Brother Adorátor – Vinte anos de Brasil – p. 207 – 207

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