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Marist Bulletin - Number 317


Marcellin Champagnat, a saint for our times - Interview with Br. Jacques Larouche

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What follows is a résumé of an interview with the author of a recently published book on St Marcellin Champgnat by one of his disciples, Brother Jacques Larouche, at one time Provincial of Quebec, Canada.

Br Jacques, when did the idea of writing a book about Champagnat come to you?
After more than 28 years of apostolic activities in my province and seven as Provincial of the then Quebec Province, it was time for me to take a breathing spell and reassess my spiritual life. Most of my apostolic life had been spent at the service of others or concerned with administrative duties. I felt the need to “update” myself to use a term more in keeping with modern technology.

How did you go about this “Updating”?
Fortunately I have been blessed with good health and pressed by the desire to discover or deepen my spiritual life I went into a desert experience to discover the will of God in my life at that time. By chance I met with the Director of the « Centre Ephata” in Chicoutimi, Father Simon Dufour, secular priest, who suggested that I register with them for a Diploma in spiritual anthropology. The courses given by that centre are supervised by the University of Sherbrooke and are especially adapted for persons of a certain age, retired or about to do so.

Were you not afraid to go back to school at your age?
Not at all, for I soon discovered that what the Centre was offering me was an answer to my expectations, that is: a spiritual anthropology within a pedagogical framework and spiritual exercises based on a theological approach centred on the integration of the whole life. In the Centre I realized the possibility of developing my “heart” feelings for the service of others. Let me quote Pascal here: “It is the heart that recognizes God and not the mind. That is the basis of faith, God speaking to the heart and not the mind”. I was not necessarily interested in the Diploma, but rather I wanted to discover the divine in my inner self and put Him at the centre of the service of others. With this in mind, I was not afraid to go back to school.

Why did you choose to study Fr Marcellin Champagnat in particular?
Being a son of Champagnat, I have always been fascinated by the depth and simplicity of Father Champagnat’s spirituality. By declaring him a saint, Pope John Paul II was telling the Marist to make him known throughout the whole Church. I looked at three aspects of Fr Champagnat’s heart felt spirituality, namely: to discover and deepen his spirituality and also to find out how this spirituality has been transmitted to us especially through his first disciples. That’s the road I took to deepen my knowledge of Fr. Champagnat’s heart felt spirituality.

How long did you spend on this project?
To discover Fr Champagnat’s through his spirituality of the heart has been my primary occupation for the last three years. “Ora et Labora” have been my guiding principles throughout these years and I thought it was the surest way of entering into the spiritual legacy of the founder of the Marist Brothers. I do hope that the time spent in prayer and contemplation of the life of the founder and his first disciples and the subsequent publication will be a source of inspiration leading to a desire to follow more closely into the steps of Fr Champagnat for individuals, communities, brothers and lay partners who are attracted by the heart felt spirituality of Fr. Champagnat.

One of the fruits of this “Ora et Labora” has been the publication of a Book entitled: “Un saint pour notre temps: Marcellin Champagnat, maître spirituel”. What does it contain?
The book contains five chapters that can be read and prayed over independently. The first three chapters highlight the prayerful spirituality of Fr. Champagnat as evidenced in the life of a number of the early Marist Brothers. Chapter four presents a way of meditating and or contemplating using the Constitutions and Statutes of the Marist Brothers from the beginning until now. The final chapter describes the therapeutic effects that prayer can have in one’s life.

Who are your likely readers?
“Un saint pour notre temps: Marcellin Champagnat, maître spirituel”, is an easy source of guidance and encouragement for any individuals interested in deepening their prayer life while walking in the footsteps of Champagnat.

What next on the drawing board?
I look forward to share my experience and knowledge of Fr. Champagnat, a Saint for us now, with people of good faith who like me have been fascinated by the simple heart felt spirituality of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, a modern spiritual master.

The book:
Un saint pour notre temps - Marcellin Champagnat, Maître spirituel
Jacques Larouche, fms – Canada (Les Productions St-Claire)

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