by Joseph Simler, SM
This text, the first biography of Father Chaminade, remains the most comprehensive account of his remarkable life, following him from his earliest days at the seminary in Mussidan, through the dangers of the French Revolution, the years of patient exile in Saragossa, the early years of re-Christianizing France, the foundation and growing pains of two religious orders, and the trials of the final years of his life, to his death. It was written by Father Joseph Simler, fourth Superior General of the Society of Mary, whose soul was deeply penetrated by the authentic spirit of the Founder. Often called the “Second Founder,” Father Simler was endowed with a unique understanding of Father Chaminade’s vision and charism. As Father Simler himself wrote in the Foreword: “We have chosen as our guiding principle to present the facts such as they are, and not to yield to any subliminal wishful thinking, to treat these facts with simplicity and frankness, and not to be guided by some preconceived notion. Our primary concern is for the truth.”
It is essentially through the heart that men are won over; it was for this reason that Father Chaminade attracted many people. His concern for people was not a superficial feeling easily aroused and just as quickly stilled, but rather that of true affection conveyed by dedication and sacrifice. His love for young people and for his religious kept him constantly attentive to their spiritual and temporal interests. He lavished on them his truly paternal concern, looking after their health and worrying over their indisposition. He wrote to one of them who had neglected to mention a temporary illness, “I beg you in the future not to spare me so much. I cannot have peace if I fear you are keeping silent about things affecting your health.”
The conclusions of his letters are full of the most heartfelt tokens of affection. “I stretch out my arms toward you,” he wrote, as if to embrace you and press you tenderly to my paternal heart.” Or again, “This letter will be more fortunate than I, for it will fall into your hands while I am separated from you by about fifty miles. I embrace you in spirit, since I cannot do so in person.” He was most attentive to all who came to him, cultivating “the goodness and kindliness” called by St. Francis de Sales the “delicate flowers of goodness, virtues that shun display but are truly excellent.
Périgueux; the Chaminade family; Blaise Chaminade; Périgord; attachment of the Chaminade family to their religion; the children; the religious vocation of Jean Baptiste and Blaise; William, the fourteenth child; William’s early education and the influence of his mother; first schooling at Périgueux; at Confirmation William takes the name of Joseph, henceforth his preferred Christian name.
The Student (1771-1785)
Mussidan; Congregation of St. Charles; Mussidan collège; J.B. Chaminade at Mussidan; Joseph and his brother Louis, students at the collège; Joseph’s first Communion; devotion to the Blessed Sacrament; the practice of mental prayer; devotion to Mary; accident and miraculous cure; pilgrimage to Verdelais; two brothers become priests; Joseph’s private vows; affiliation to the Congregation of St. Charles; Fr. Noël Lacroix; Louis and Joseph in Paris; ordination; return to Mussidan.
The First Ventures (1785-1792)
Joseph Chaminade, treasurer of the collège; rule of the community of St. Charles; reputation of the Chaminade brothers; the seer, Suzette Labrousse; Joseph, deputy to the assembly of ecclesiastic electors of Périgord clergy; good example of the Congregation of St. Charles; Louis and Joseph at Mussidan; Joseph in Bordeaux; relations with Fr. Langoiran: the property of Saint Laurent and residence there with father and mother; massacre of Fr. Langoiran; new oath stressing equality; Blaise Chaminade in exile, his mortified life, his death; Louis Chaminade exiled to Spain.
Sacred Ministry during the Reign of Terror (1793-1794)
Bordeaux: relative calm at the beginning of the Terror; guillotine set up permanently; measures of Saint Laurent against persecutors; name of Fr. Chaminade on list of emigrants; exercise of sacred ministry in the town; stratagems and anecdotes; Fr. Chaminade and lists of emigrants; encouragements to priests concerning oath required by the Convention.
Rehabilitation of the Juring Priests (1795)
Civil Constitution discredited; juring priests and reconciliation; Fr. Chaminade appointed penitentiary; Rome sets rules; firmness of the penitentiary; circumstances and reasons for the fall of juring priests; retractions; publicity; ceremonies involved; juring priests, diocese of Bazas; Fr. Culture, vicar general of the last Bishop of Bazas; new persecution; Fr. Chaminade resumes secret ministry.
Preludes to His Later Apostolate (1795-1797)
Fr. Chaminade’s preference for youth; first disciples; Louis Lafargue, Denys Joffre, Guillaume Bouet; retreat of 1796; Mlle de Lamourous, Mlles Fatin and Bédouret; Association of the Sacred Heart and Ursulines of the Sacred Heart; 18 fructidor; Fr. Chaminade condemned to exile; death of parents.
The Exile (1797-1800)
Chaminade leaves for Spain, meets his brother Louis at Bayonne; de la Tour du Pin, Archbishop of Auch; from Bayonne to Saragossa; Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar; city of Saragossa; Archbishop of Auch and emigrant priests; threats of expulsion by Spanish government; Chaminade brothers’ trust in God.
Occupations of the Priests in Exile (1797-1800)
Emigrant priests in Spain; Joseph’s attention to prayer and study; visits to monasteries; Trappists of Sainte Susanne; Fr. Bouet joins Trappists at Sainte Susanne; Our Lady of the Pillar; spiritual progress of Father Chaminade; at Mary’s feet; end of exile.
Administration of the Diocese of Bazas (1800-1802)
Fr. Chaminade’s name struck from list of emigrants; return to Bordeaux, condition of Bordeaux; first projects, a conversion; named administrator of the Bazas diocese; administration; See of Bazas is suppressed; Chaminade is named Missionary Apostolic.
Mlle de Lamourous and Fr. Chaminade; dedication to repentant girls; Fr. Chaminade, superior of the Miséricorde; early trials; ceremony of reconciliation; extreme poverty; the work consolidated; docility of Mlle de Lamourous; similarities between the Miséricorde and other foundations of Fr. Chaminade; Miséricorde transferred; foundation of similar houses.
Beginnings of the Sodality (1801-1802)
Projects for youth of France; pious associations in Bordeaux before the Revolution; Fr. Chaminade founds Sodality of the Immaculate Conception (2 February 1810); organization; similarity to Oratory of St. Philip Neri; Sodality of young women (1802); first anniversary; d’Aviau, Archbishop of Bordeaux, Fr. Chaminade, honorary canon.
Growth of the Sodality (1802-1803)
Fr. Chaminade extends apostolate to men; David Monier; Married Men’s Association (Christmas 1802); sodalists; Women’s Retreat Association; spirit of the Sodality; union without confusion; spirit of the apostolate; the Immaculate Virgin; attitude toward the government; brief of Cardinal Caprara.
The Madeleine (1804)
Growth of Sodality after the jubilee of 1804; chapel of the Madeleine, its history; the Madeleine, an auxiliary chapel; the Sodality; services at the Madeleine; Sunday evening meetings; annual retreat; director of Sodality; formation of sodalists; charitable and apostolic activities.
The Sodality and Religious Renewal in Bordeaux (1804-1809)
Influence of the Sodality in Bordeaux; opinion of Cardinal Donnet; Sodality provides candidates to sisterhoods; postulants; first Christian school for boys; Brothers of the Christian Schools in Bordeaux; Fr. Chaminade, their ecclesiastical superior; novitiate for Brothers at Saint Laurent; Fr. Chaminade and priestly vocations; the Sodality and the seminary; minor seminary of Bazas.
Suppression of the Sodality (1809-1814)
Sodality in crisis, 1805; success, 1806-09; trials: death of Louis Chaminade; Sodality and imperial power; bull of excommunication; Hyacinthe Lafon and Alexis de Noailles; their arrest; Sodality dissolved; last years of the Empire; Fr. Chaminade arrested; fall of the Empire.
The Restoration of the Sodality (1814-1830)
Duke of Angoulême in Bordeaux; Sodality reconstituted; the One Hundred Days; Fr. Chaminade, royalist; the Sodality’s success; its transformation; parish Sodalities; Madeleine recognized as auxiliary chapel; affiliation to the Prima Primaria; twenty-fifth anniversary.
New Works, Offshoots of the Sodality (1815-1830)
Sodality of Chartons: Fr. Rigagnon; Amis chrétiens: Fr. Dasvin; Bons Livres initiative: Fr. Barault; prison apostolate; Petis Auvergnats: Fr. Dupuch; annual retreats.
Affiliated Sodalities (1815-1830)
Mlle Adèle de Trenquelléon; pious groups; contact with Father Chaminade; association affiliated to Bordeaux’s; privileges from Pius VII; Bishop Jacoupy and the Sodality in Agen; men’s Sodality at Agen; Sodalities established in Bordeaux, Agen, Auch, Tarbes; affiliated Sodalities in seminaries of Bazas, Auch, Aire; negotiation with Paris.
Toward the Foundation of Religious Institutes (1814-1816)
Fr. Chaminade and cooperative young men: Arnozan, Loustau, Faye; cooperative women; Fr. Chaminade’s need for unfettered helpers; mission to form religious; practice of evangelical counsels in Sodalities; Fr. Chaminade’s State, without common life.
The Institute of the Daughters of Mary (1816)
The State in the Sodality of young women, 1814; vocation of Adèle de Trenquelléon; her correspondence with Fr. Chaminade; Fr. Chaminade’s choice of Agen for foundation; ideas on the institute of the Daughters of Mary; first Constitutions; Mlle de Trenquelléon and companions in community, 25 May 1816; perpetual vows and the cloister; Adèle de Trenquelléon named superior.
Growth of the Daughters of Mary (1816-1820)
Problem of perpetual vows and cloister; revision of Constitutions; first apostolic works at Agen; taking the veil, Christmas 1816; Daughters of Mary and the Orphelines de Saint-Joseph; profession; trials of the community; transfer from Convent of the Refuge to that of the Augustinians; attempted merger with the Holy Family of Villefranche; foundation of Tonneins; secular Third Order.
The Society of Mary (1817)
Attempts at religious life in young men’s Sodality: the fifteen; J.B. Lalanne; his resolve to devote himself to works of Fr. Chaminade and joy of the latter; cleric Collineau, M. Brougnon Perrière, M. Louis Daguzan, M. Dominique Clouzet; 2 October 1817; J.B. Bidon, Antoine Cantau; community life at Rue de Ségue; M. Lapause and M. David; Fr. Chaminade and the community; Institute of Mary.