André Coindre: Writings and Documents 1
“Letter VII, from Father André Coindre”
[Received May 15, 1823.]
My very dear Brother Director,
If you can get 120 francs for the stocking machine,46 sell it. I don’t know what Chavanne can manage to earn with his loom to reduce the costs of his room and board. So if he is skillful with the shuttle and if the buyer is willing to reimburse the house for the one-third reduction requested for his room and board, then I think you can safely accept. Otherwise, I don’t see that we can go along with it. Teach the theory to him if you can. As for the frock coat, since you were only two in the house actually wearing it, and there has been a sufficient trial period, I don’t see any problem in your granting permission to wear it, but that is all up to you. However, be sure to ask the advice of those who are wearing it. It is possible that after you have made your public vows, something may be added to the habit. I am waiting for word from the bishop of Le Puy47 about that.
You tell me that you are not without anguish as you see that things are going badly. My dear friend, badly is hardly the word when there is such a depth of good at the heart of your work. It is true that things are not perfect. But the Lord alone is perfect, and even his works, however glorious, lie always on the edge of the abyss. God made the world in six days to teach us that it takes time to achieve anything worthwhile, and that things never go as well in their infancy as when they attain full maturity. How many spring blossoms produce no fruit at all! The sower must content himself with the harvest which God sends him, even if it is not as good as the one he had hoped for, and even if it means that he has to content himself with the barest essentials.
“But the brothers do not attend to their duties satisfactorily.” – Certainly they must be challenged repeatedly in this regard; but our desire for the better must not blind us to the good. They yearn to belong to God, and that is already a good thing. So many people in the world do not possess this desire.
“They are neglectful in observing the rule." – But they practice what is essential; their morals are pure, their faith is vibrant, their selflessness total. These things are rarer than you think. As for the rest, it is up to you to engender it, to cause it to be loved as much by your own zealous practice as by holy and salutary counsels.
“But the brothers do not accomplish their duties obediently.” – Just do what Saint Paul counseled Timothy: correct, convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience and instruction. Man is like a poor old clock that must be rewound each day, but oh so gently.
“But I do not think that I am the right man to be director of this providence.” – My dear friend, notwithstanding your limitations, if I knew of anyone more suited to the job than you, I would have called you to Monistrol to give you a lighter burden. But since Providence has not, as yet, sent us that uncommon individual, allow me to tell you that though you cannot be said to soar with the eagles, it would very difficult indeed for me to find anyone to replace you. Men with all of the qualities needed to run such a big institution are hard to find. If Providence sends me a few good workers for our machines so that you can in some measure be relieved from the burden of temporalities then, thanks to their obedience, you will instill even greater activity, and the work will go as well as possible. How could I possibly be displeased with you for your love of the rule, your religious spirit, your accountability, your frugality. You have your faults, but who hasn’t?
“But good is not being done.” – There is more good being done than you imagine. Little by little the brothers are bettering themselves, increasing in numbers, forming them- selves. The house in Lyon is a support for the brothers in Monistrol as those in Monistrol will be one for those in Lyon. Meanwhile the membership of the congregation is in- creasing and, very soon, before God, thanks to your singular perseverance and commit- ment, you will have earned your heavenly reward for having set in place the cornerstone of our foundation and for having been one of its principal bonds. You have been and continue to be an example to many, just as your discouragement would have an equally fatal effect on the vocations of those whom you have already formed to a certain degree.
What wonderful services are being provided us by Brothers Augustin, Bernard, Barthelemy, Claude, etc! And what services to the Church will be offered by those whom we send you to form in the spirit of religion. Do not limit your sights to the narrow confines of our house in Lyon where the snowball will soon become a mountain. Don’t forget the young men whom you are training and who in the world will forget neither the lessons you have taught them, nor your own virtue, though right now they might not seem to be all that you would like them to be. They are retaining more than you think. Should they ever become fathers, ah! how much better will they be able to bring up their children! Good is constantly being done thanks to your ministry, in spite of what you might say.
“Perhaps I think myself more blameworthy than I really am.” – My very dear friend, are you not doing your best? If you thought you could still do better, wouldn’t you do so? How can anyone be blameworthy if he is doing the best he can as best he knows how? Alas! Without doubt, there will always be some uncertainty to keep you on the alert, to keep you from complacency or indifference, but this concern must not discourage you or leave you faint-hearted. When a person is doing all that he can, he is doing all that he must.
So as things stand, there is no urgent reason, at least for the moment, for you to be relieved of your burden. What is urgent is that you do what the good Lord is asking of you, that is to carry on with the work he led you to begin. It was neither pride, nor self-interest, nor gratification which motivated you in the first place, nor is it these things which require your perseverance. Rather, it is the desire to be useful to your neighbor, to the Church, to atone for your sins. Alas! what else is necessary? If you possess before God only this desire, without being able to offer Him any success, you would be a great saint.
How many are there in the contemplative life who have longed to be able to save souls! God rewarded them for it. On the other hand there are those in the active life who have aspired to taste the sweetness of the contemplative life, when perhaps what they really wanted was to satisfy their natural inclination for peace and quiet which has no merit in the eyes of God. Here below, man will always have struggles. If these are not from without, then certainly they will come from within. Struggles outside ourselves often serve to distract us, preventing us from realizing what we would have suffered if we had been left alone to fight the temptations of solitude. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Woe to the man who is alone!” to teach us that even in solitude there are great dangers.
Moreover, my dear and beloved brother, imagine the King of France learning with pleasure news of his armies fighting in Spain.48 Would he not prefer to see them there, in spite of their exhaustion, rather than to see them idly singing his praises at his court? Well then, our God needs soldiers who can endure the weariness of the day to day even more than he needs contemplatives who only honor him with their lips! Sword in hand, zeal for his glory, a desire to save, to teach, to edify one's neighbor, this is what our God loves above all. “Those who teach others will shine as stars for all eternity,” says the prophet.
You are suffering: well then! all the better! You are walking in the footsteps of the apostles who had to undergo much adversity, of the martyrs who shed their blood, and of Jesus Christ who entered into his glory amid denials, humiliations, and pain. Your brothers do not treat you any more harshly than the apostles did our Lord. You are less persecuted by the world than he was persecuted by the scribes and the Pharisees. Your pupils are far more amenable than were the Jews. Despite all his miracles, he had but twelve apostles, and even one of them betrayed him. Besides, very soon there will be more than twelve brothers who have walked in your footsteps and who will form a part of your crown.
Yes, you are where the Good Lord wishes you to be. You can start having doubts as to whether he wants you there only when you are the last brother remaining in the congregation and all the others will have lost both the spirit of God and their vocation. But so long as there are many, so long as new members keep joining, you must believe that your vocation bears the seal of divine Providence. That is where you belong, not merely because of the promise you made to me. For a soul as loyal as yours, such a word of honor remains sacred forever.
It is possible to overcome the rest without perishing. I shall only demand from you things that are fair and within your grasp. Always open your heart to me, and God willing, I shall be able to counsel you. When the burden has become so heavy that your shoulders can no longer bear it either physically or emotionally, I shall not allow you to be crushed. We shall both one day enjoy some consolation for our sacrifices and some respite as well. All glory be to Jesus! All glory to his cross!
Our good brother Antoine has his pains, I see! Let him rest in the Lord as much as he needs. Yes, he has his pains, and you have yours. Who deserves them more? I haven’t the least idea; but may the loving and holy will of God be done above all!
Make Brother Frégier give in. But as much as you can in your dealings with everyone, show force without bitterness or inflexibility and goodness without weakness. Trust and a bit of fear, these are the two reins with which to drive your cart. Let us never ask of the men what is beyond them. Let us draw out all of the good within them as much as possible and be content with that.
Train Mr. Delon49 to teach handwriting; we shall send him to Yssingeaux50 for All Saints Day if he is able to manage that assignment.
The Honorable Brother Borgia,
director of the brothers of Pieux-Secours,
3 Montée de la Butte, Lyon.
46 In the accounting with Mr. Dufour cited in note 35, the stocking machine was valued at 296 francs and the thread-making machine at 190 francs, 10 centimes.
47 His Grace Louis-Joseph-Maurice de Bonald (1787-1870), son of Count de Bonald, writer and légitimiste philosopher, ardent defender of the monarchy and of the Church. A member of the Chapel Imperial from his earliest years of priesthood, the Reverend de Bonald accompanied Cardinal Fesch during many missions. Appointed bishop of Le Puy in 1823, he initially supported Father Coindre inhis foundations: sisters, brothers, the school at Monistrol. He took another stance regarding the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus because of matters of diocesan administration. Appointed archbishop of Lyon at the end of 1839, he was made cardinal in 1841 and, in this latter appointment, he maintained his interest in the congregation, more particularly in Pieux-Secours.
48 The congress of Verona in 1822 authorized France to lend support to the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, a distant relative of Louis XVIII, embroiled in a conflict with the liberals. This “Spanish expeditionary force” led by the Duc d’Angoulême in 1823 ended with the taking of the fortress of Trocadero, near Cadix, on August 31, 1823.
49 Brother Eugène.
50 An establishment due to be opened at All Saints Day in 1823; in fact, the congregation was never to have a house in this town.
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André Coindre: Writings and Documents 3
“Prospectus for the Pieux-Secours”
by Father André Coindre
Charitable Institution for Young Boys
[Prospectus of 1818]
There exists in this city a recently established charitable institution which ought to be of interest to all friends of religion and good order. Its goal is to foster a love of virtue and work among young boys who find themselves without shelter or means. It consists of two separate workshops where the children are grouped according to the pattern of behavior they demonstrate. The first is termed the emulation workshop and the other is the probationers' workshop.
The emulation workshop is intended for poor children from good backgrounds, whose character and morality are carefully attested. These are more often than not young orphans kept out of harm's way in their early years, but who, lacking in appropriate supervision or pecuniary means, are unable to find an establishment willing to admit them. They are exposed to being led astray either through idleness or to the example of bad teachers. Any child who is of previously questionable conduct is rejected unless a lengthy trial period has provided convincing evidence that there has been a significant improvement in his behavior.
The probationers' workshop is intended for children who have in the past given their parents serious cause for concern due to their intransigence or the gravity of their offense. Some of them, free-spirited and independent are reluctant to give themselves over to any sedentary occupations; they often wander on the docks and public squares, a prey to all the evils of vagrancy and to the wiles of unsavory characters. Others have recently been victims of the behaviors from which it is our aim to shelter them. They are young prisoners who, having been incarcerated for a more or less lengthy period, find that no one will give them work. However, they are deserving of the special concern and of individual attention which has for some time been exercised on their behalf in an effort to set them on the path of goodness. Guilty at an age when boys tend to be reckless rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, hope for their transformation must never be lost. They must be surrounded with every possible help in order to form them to good habits; they must be isolated, even while in prison, from exposure to the criminal contagion of the inmates. A farsighted prison administration has conceived a plan and has now implemented it; young prisoners have been isolated from the influence of perverse men. They are being formed within specially provided barracks in the two prisons of Roanne and Saint-Joseph. Placed under the supervision of a staff member who encourages them to diligence and teaches them the fundamentals of our religion, they have for the most part shown appreciable signs of contrition and improved behavior. Since the inception of this program, several of the boys considered sufficiently reliable and possessing sufficient instruction have been admitted to first holy communion, and others are also receiving instruction for the reception of this sacrament considered so vital to our Christian faith. Nevertheless, all these noble efforts would soon come to nothing if provisions are not made for them to extend beyond the prison walls. Like causes produce like results. And experience shows that such children soon return to prison if they are left a prey to people and circumstances like those responsible for their original downfall. What therefore is to be done? They are rejected wherever they go. Honest employers are unwilling to hire them. All the religious establishments refuse to admit them, despite the fact that substantial sums have been offered to cover the cost of apprenticeships. Are they therefore to be left to return to their former ways? Are all the noble expectations for them to perish, due to an inability to provide suitable accommodations for them? No, such a thing would be out of keeping with Christian charity. A safe haven must be found for them provided with workshops where they can be taught an honest trade. They need a sound grounding in the knowledge and practice of their religion and thus become both good Christians and good laborers so as to one day be upright heads of families and loyal subjects.
An establishment of this kind exists, and it is located in the parish of Saint-Bruno at No.3 Chemin des Remparts. Its premises are large, airy and walled in. Its two workshops are already furnished with equipment for several trades, with well-trained instructors able to form their students well. Boys already admitted into this establishment have conducted themselves most satisfactorily. They are all engaged in the manufacture of velvet or silk fabrics, either plain or patterned, using the “Jacquard” method. They receive room and board, are clothed and have their laundry done on site. They are given lessons in reading, handwriting and arithmetic, and all costs are met by the establishment. As for religion, it holds there a preeminent position. It is, after all, the primary goal of this charitable work. It is nurtured within the minds and hearts of the pupils with the utmost zeal and concern.
It goes without saying, however, that a fledgling establishment such as this is far from being self-sufficient. It has already been the beneficiary of a substantial outlay of funds. But more money will be required to meet the costs of taking on more pupils and to increase the number of machines for the trades, as well as for the purchase of beds and other necessary equipment. It may even become necessary to take on master tailors and master cobblers to teach such trades to children who show aptitudes for such trades. Those responsible for initiating this new venture hope to find collaborators who will assist them in developing this work, which has already taxed them beyond the limits of their resources. They have concluded that an annual appeal for pledges might be a good way to achieve this end. And they are therefore launching this appeal and are proposing it to the kind generosity of all the people of this city. The suggested amount for the pledge has been set at the modest sum of twenty-five francs, which can either be paid in one sum or in three installments.
The pledge-holders shall be listed among the patrons of the institution. They shall receive information on the progress of both the institution and its pupils. They shall have the right to submit the names of candidates for any available places. They will benefit, during their life and after their death, from the prayers which the pupils raise every day to heaven for their benefactors. They shall have the reassuring consolation of having made an enormous contribution to the material and spiritual well-being of these children, who might otherwise forever languish in misery and be a prey to depravity. They shall have the glory of propagating sound doctrines, of encouraging religious fervor and probity among the largest segment of the working class, whose industry has been from time immemorial one of the principal sources of the prosperity of this city. Finally, they shall be contributing at one and the same time to the glory of God, to the salvation of neighbor, to the interests of this city, and to that of the nation.
In Lyon pledges may be made at the following premises:
Mr. Jaricot, merchant, Place de la Comédie,
Mr. Mathon, merchant, Place de L'Herberie,
Mr. Bonnet, merchant, Place Louis-Le-Grand,
Guyot brothers, booksellers, Grande Rue Merciére, n° 39, at the Trois Vertus Theologales
In Lyon, v. CUTTY PRESS, N° 8 Place Louis-Le-Grand, facing the Rhone.