March 26, 2017
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DR#: 20 The Pedagogy of Trust (I)


In coming to better know the charism in action, it is important to see this idea of a pedagogy of trust as an essential manifestation of the charism throughout our history, and not just today.  This continuity in the charism was affirmed by the Chapter of 2000, as explained in the General Council document, Lord, when did we see you?:

The Chapter recognized that a spirituality of compassion and a pedagogy based on trust formed part of the fundamental intuitions of our founder.  These intuitions have always been present among us though we may not always have been aware of them.  They express the educational values lived out by the vast majority of our brothers in their apostolic mission.  It was the Chapter’s intuition that they are at the heart of our heritage. (p.27)

Thus it is important to see how this concept of trust became manifest in the early history of the Institute, in the people and their ministry, in their dealings with each other and those they served, in the daily reality of their lives.  It is about all our relationships.  It is about the nature of leadership, about the nature of teaching.  It informs all we do with our colleagues, students and parents.  It is essentially an assumption about the other which we hold onto at all times.  Once again the General Council summarized this pedagogy as:

The Brothers and their collaborators make use of a pedagogy of trust in their dealings with the young, particularly with those experiencing educational, behavioral or other difficulties.  This pedagogy of trust is expressed mainly through the acceptance of the young, through fundamental respect for them as they are, and through faith in their capacity for change or growth. (ibid, p 27)

This pedagogy is not something that has been defined and then implemented.  It is a description of the real fabric of the communities in which we serve.  It is a premise from which all else flows, a premise that applies far more broadly than simply to the students in our care.

  • A Pedagogy of Trust, by René Sanctorum S.C.
       - Part II: Our Founders Trusted.  pp. 7-14.
       - Part III: Trust as a basic pedagogical attitude – Acts  pp. 21-25
Options for Additional Readings
  • Trust in Youth:  

Prospectus of the Pieux-Secours of 1818, by Father André Coindre
Annuaire #91 (1996-1997), article by Brother Jean-Pierre Ribaut, S.C.

  • Trust in the Brothers:  

Letter of May, 1823,  by Father André Coindre
Letter of January, 1822,  by Father André Coindre
Letter of December 26, 1856, by Brother Polycarp, S.C.

  • Rule of Life, 1867, Brother Adrian, S.C. (especially Rules # 235, 247, 257, 264, 267, 288, 327, and 419) 
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Father Coindre did not simply advocate trust, he lived it – for the young, for the brothers, for the sisters, in the form of administration he developed.  How do you see that trust evident in your relationships? In your leadership? In how you interact with those with whom you minister?
  2. We all have stories of how trust has the power to transform another.  This reading has many examples.  What has been your experience?  Who has taught you trust by their actions?
  3. Trust is still a fragile thing – it is broken, it is tested.  But we are challenged to trust again.  How has this fragility been part of your experience?  How do we move beyond it to trust again?

Loving God,
our founders made us heirs to all their lived experience;
to an understanding of your constant and abiding love,
to a belief in the value and growth of each person,
to a trust in the ability of each person to contribute to the whole,
to our own ability to hope.

May we, as we follow their example, echo your love
in our actions,
in the ways we nurture and challenge each other,
in the ways we trust and hope even in the face of our failure and that of others.

May we at all times understand our call to trust,
to wait for the other to grow,
to support the other as they seek,
to be present when that is all they need.

Just like you, Lord, 
may I learn to forgive,
and trust again.



A Pedagogy of Trust
by Brother René Sanctorum, S.C.
Readings, pp. 7-14, 21-25


1. André Coindre

a) The best text that we have on the trust that André showed for the young seems to be the Prospectus of the Pieux-Secours of 1818. In Annuaire no. 91 (1996-1997), Brother Jean-Pierre Ribaut wrote an excellent article on it. Assistant of the Parish of St. Bruno of the Chartreux in Lyon since the end of 1815, and devoted to preaching, to retreats and missions - all of which added up to a huge task - André Coindre still finds time to visit the prisons of Lyon. He gets involved in a remarkable project that a large number of dedicated persons had begun several years before to provide the prisoners with greater dignity. In particular, a priority was given to the conditions of the children and the young, mixed until then with the adults, often older delinquents or hardened criminals. [This horrible promiscuity still exists in many countries of the world, even in the so-called democratic countries, like France.]

André Coindre describes the situation of these young prisoners who, after having been locked up for a more or less lengthy time, can find no place to stay. However they are worthy of the special attention and the special care given to them for some time now to help them in their work.  “Guilty at an age when boys tend to be foolhardy rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, they must be considered able to change.”   They should be afforded every possible help in order to form them to good habits, and they must be isolated, even while in prison, from exposure to the criminal contagion of the inmates.

“A farsighted prison administration has conceived a bold plan and implemented it, so that young prisoners have been isolated from the mass of corrupt men. They are being trained in specially provided barracks within the two prisons of Roanne and St. Joseph. Placed under the supervision of a number of staff who encourages them to diligence and teaches them the fundamentals of our religion, they have for the most part shown appreciable signs of repentance and of an improvement in their behavior. Since the inception of this program, several boys, considered sufficiently prepared, have been admitted to first Holy Communion, and others are also being prepared for this sacrament so vital to our Christian faith. Nevertheless all these noble efforts would soon come to nothing, if there were no provisions for them extending beyond the prison walls. Like causes produce, predictably, similar results. And experience shows that such children soon return to prison if they remain under the influence of the very people and of the very situations which were responsible for their original downfall. What therefore is to be done? They are rejected everywhere. Reputable public institutions are unwilling to take them in. Despite the fact that substantial sums have been offered to cover the costs of apprenticeship, even the charitable institutions have closed their doors to these boys. Are they therefore to be left to return to their former ways? Are all noble expectations for them to perish due to a lack of suitable provision for them? No, that would be unchristian. A way must be found to give them the safe harbor of a Christian refuge and workshop. There they could learn an honest trade, become well grounded in their religious duties, learn to be good Christians and conscientious workers, and one day become upright heads of families and loyal subjects.”  The workshop of charity of which Father Coindre speaks is the Pieux-Secours, the first work of the Institute or, more exactly, the first work of André Coindre, which will become the first work of the Institute. 

The reason for founding such an imposing work is, from every point of view, the trust that Father Coindre had in these young people: "Guilty at an age when boys tend to be foolhardy rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, they must be considered able to change." The Founder is sure that they can be educated, but it is necessary to pay the price! You have noticed that the "reputable" (that is to say, held in high esteem) public institutions are unwilling to take them in, and even the charitable institutions. Probably the young people leaving prison are considered unredeemable by the superiors of these houses. The only thing to do is to exclude them: these institutions have closed their doors to them. And André Coindre stands alone in rejecting this sentencing to death: "Christian charity demands that they be taken in and be given the safe harbor of a Christian refuge and workshop (a providence)."

He is sure “to be able to do something with these boys,” as we commonly say. The proof is that he speaks to the present and to the future: this is certain, not just possible: "They will learn to be good Christians, good workers, and one day become upright heads of families and loyal subjects." He has no doubt that these results can be attained. What extraordinary trust in these young people! I regret that we have no information about what became of those who went to the Pieux-Secours. We would undoubtedly have some wonderful stories.

b) It is not astonishing to find the same confidence placed in the Brothers. Father Coindre's seventh letter in May of 1823 to Brother Borgia, the Director General of the Brothers, gives us a very clear example. Just reading several passages will be enough: "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." (p. 81 ff) —"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 encourage 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 obey in the things which concern their work." — "Just do what St. 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 be 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. May Providence send me a few good laborers to work our machines so that you can be somewhat relieved from the burden of temporalities, and then, thanks to their obedience, you can increase the work load, and the undertaking will go as well as possible. I am quite satisfied with 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 number, forming themselves. 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 increasing and, very soon, before God, thanks to your singular perseverance and commitment, 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 be formed in the spirit of religion. Do not limit your sights to the narrow confines of our house in Lyon. Yes, the snowball now beginning 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. {...}" Already in the excellent letter no. 3 of January 1822, André Coindre had expressed full confidence in the Director General: "My dear Brother Borgia, be courageous in the midst of your trials. I am asking of you no more than I would of myself." He also expresses his faith in the little group of Brothers, reduced however after the scission of Valbenoîte: "I have the utmost confidence that with zeal and enthusiasm and with the help of God, they will ultimately succeed... I have the utmost confidence that if our Brothers are holy and hard-working, their foundation will never perish." (pp 58, 60)

André Coindre knows and expresses to Brother Borgia that he is good and he is doing good. He deliberately takes the attitude of someone who is nonjudgmental, all the more reason of someone who does not condemn (as Brother Borgia has the tendency to do), but the attitude of a kind master for whom the little faults of others do not prevent his seeing their wonderful qualities. Certain persons and certain Brothers tend to see those things that are not going well instead of admiring the good that is being done, the generous acts and engaging attitudes; they stress the dark side of things, the shortcomings. Nothing is more opposite to a pedagogy of trust.

André Coindre always stressed the best in Brother Borgia, in the other Brothers, in the young. He shows us the way.

c) A very particular aspect of our foundation is the way in which Father André was present to his Brothers. Continually busy with preaching missions he confides to Brother Borgia the task of directing the Pieux-Secours and subsequently, everything concerning the young Institute. Whereas other founders are generally closer to their first followers, as was Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, Marcellin Champagnat, Gabriel Taborin, and many others; it is not like that with us. Father Coindre dares to leave the Brothers to themselves most of the time. Certainly, he remains their superior, he reserves to himself the founding of new establishments and usually the assignments; certainly, he asks Brother Borgia to always keep him informed of what is going on in the communities in order to be able to encourage, to advise, to correct, but he gives Borgia lots of room to act in all areas: formation of the Brothers, animation, direction, inquiries about new foundations, reassignment of the Brothers when necessary, etc., and all that from the very beginning of the Institute. That supposes that he had confidence in his Director General!

With the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, his trust is even stronger. Recall how the founder recognized Claudine as a potential founder so much so that he told her straight out at a public meeting, even before any preliminary consultation: "You must without hesitation and without delay form a community. {...} God has prepared the way: he entrusts Claudine Thévenet with the care of this undertaking." And to Claudine's objections. he answers: "God has chosen you! respond faithfully to the call of God." The events which followed show to what extent André Coindre had judged rightly! His trust in Claudine would never fail. They were to have an abundant correspondence. more voluminous than that with Brother Borgia (none of which has been preserved). but it was she who would be founder; it is she who would guide the young congregation with complete freedom. And this trust of Father André would affirm the superior who would never doubt her vocation nor her undertaking during her whole lifetime. André Coindre will be satisfied with his role of supervisor and councilor. His pedagogy of trust, once more, will have paid off.

2. Brother Polycarp

a)    I have not found in the Rules composed by Brother Polycarp (1846), any important expression of trust, neither in regard to the Brothers nor in regard to the students. On the contrary, there is the impression of a certain suspicion: it is necessary to keep one's guard up, much is forbidden. There are many obstacles, and it is easy to get lost in the details of an unheard of meticulousness (in regard to the daily schedule, for example...). I believe that such was common to the times and in all the religious rules. From the outset of the 19th century. which witnessed so much novelty, daring ventures, and unheard of happenings, it was thought that the time had come to codify, to channel and unfortunately to make uniform. In all this, Brother Polycarp must resemble other superiors general and other legislators.

b)    It seems to me that it is in his letters that we find his true personality and the expression of his attitude in his relations with the Brothers. There we see a positive outlook on each and everyone. Imitating Father André, he is always encouraging: "Never get discouraged, even when your efforts seem to produce few results." (To Brother David, Dec. 26, 1856) "Come on now, my dear Brother, do not be discouraged any longer. Well aware of your feelings of weakness, distrust yourself fully; but may your trust in God be limitless." "Be then always full of courage; have confidence: we are quite strong when we are under divine protection.”  “Don't ever let yourself be demoralized, even when you make some mistakes...,” etc..

The high opinion he had of the Brothers is again shown when he was preparing new statutes and was doing a draft of the Rules. He invites "everyone willingly to bring his little bit of light and experience so as to have the Rules as soon as possible." Plainly, each Brother is capable of bringing his part to the common concern.

I am equally struck by the trust he has in the team of Brothers sent to America: Brothers Alphonse, superior, 33 years old, two other teachers who are 31 and 24, a prefect, 26, and a tailor, 34! Brother Adrian will continue this good tradition when he founded Arthabaska in 1872 by sending a superior 29 years old, Brother Cyrinus, one 25, Brother Theodule, and two others, both 18 years old.

It is clear that our first superiors had no fear placing confidence in the young: they believed in them. And what happened later proves that this attitude produced much fruit.

3. The Rules of 1867 of Brother Adrian

Remaining about the same until Vatican Council II, the Rules of Brother Adrian contain a complete pedagogy which must have seemed very remarkable at the time, even if it seems quite ordinary today, having become commonplace: it has become standard practice, we might say, even if, from many points of view, it can still make us think and invite us to change.

Certainly, we do not see much confidence in the child, in the sense of what we said in no. 2 of the introduction: "I am leaving you alone, be good: I trust you!" No! on the contrary, the child must be closely supervised, always and everywhere, because "by definition," he tends to do wrong or at least is likely to do wrong: "{..,} The Brothers owe it to their children {...} to watch over them in order to keep them from evil and to preserve their innocence {...}." R264 And again: "The Brothers, when accompanied by their pupils (on walks), shall strictly watch over them, requiring them to remain in sight, and never permitting them to stray away, to go aside in bands of two or more, to hide themselves, to quarrel, to throw stones, or to spoil anything whatever {...}. R327 "The Brothers should exercise continual vigilance over themselves and over their pupils in order to prevent faults {...}; for that, they shall be very alert {...} never to lose sight of the pupils." (R267)

However, it is not a question of "training" a student, like one would do an animal, but to "form" him, as is stated in regard to the teaching of catechism: "Every school day, the Brothers shall devote a half hour to catechism. Not satisfied just to have the students learn it by heart, they will try to explain things methodically, to make class interesting, and above all to seek the Christian formation of the children by the teaching of religion." R.257 We do this precisely because we believe that they are capable of formation and of making progress.

That is why there is first of all a considerable insistence in the Rule on the respect due to the child. The word returns often, the notion even more often. Even "in punishing the children, they must treat them with kindness, esteem and respect, avoiding all injurious expressions..." (...) (The Brother Director) carefully watches that, even during recreation, there be no familiarity between the teachers and the students..." R419; in particular, "they will not use ‘tu’ (the familiar form of you in French) with their pupils" and "will avoid using nicknames or mortifying expressions when speaking to them or correcting them, and in like manner, they should not unreasonably humiliate or mortify them, or hurt their feelings." R235

To esteem someone is to think well of his worth and of his capacities. It is thus to have confidence in the person, judged capable of maturing as a person... and also in his spiritual life. I especially underscore two ways of acting which show this respect: "The Brothers will receive the parents of the students with fairness (= honorably, politely, and respectfully) and affability, and whatever be the conduct of the children, they must not reprimand or threaten the parents in an improper manner nor say anything that might humiliate them, but let them understand that, with care and acting in concert, the children, not withstanding their faults, may be corrected and properly trained." R288; and above all: "A very useful means to manage the pupils, to gain their affection, and to correct them, is to speak to them at all times in a reasonable manner, to treat them with esteem and respect, and to observe carefully towards them the rules of politeness." R 247 I particularly stress the expression: speak to them in a reasonable manner, which means to explain to the children and to the young people what we expect of them, and thus make them aware of their responsibility. Far from describing the teacher as a boss who subjects the pupils to arbitrary laws, the Rule calls the Brothers to give to the students the "rules of the game." It is as it were to make a kind of contract containing the exact demands placed on both sides: the students and the teachers. It is a good way to express the trust that we have in those who are given the responsibility of educating!

Of course we cannot treat here everything in the Rules of Brother Adrian that concerns the Brothers' pedagogy. It is true that they are not without deficiencies, awkwardness, even errors, some due to circumstances of a system of education still being developed, others to the mentality of the times stained by Jansenism, authoritarianism, and a concept of the human person intended to reproduce the exact model as tradition presented it. It remains that the Rules, even if it was necessary to rewrite them, are based on unquestionable confidence in the child as educable. The many demands placed on him are the proof that we believe them capable. We therefore consider these texts, which we can very well call "founders," as a precious heritage, our "patrimony," to use the language of Canon Law, which we must preserve with care and further develop.

III.  Trust as a Basic Pedagogical Attitude Today

1.  The Principle of Educableness

a)   "Every person can become more human and more spiritual:" this is a principle that is not easy to admit in practice (we clearly saw this with the Pharisees), even if we normally admit it in theory. Perhaps for some among us, and, in any case, for many of our contemporaries, as also for past generations - right up to the teachers in our schools - the alcoholics, the delinquents or habitual offenders, the violent youths of our ghettos, students who are continually failing, are unredeemable. Why then waste our time with them! Let's look after those who can make the grade. This attitude makes me think of the way rescue teams work at times of disaster. In general, the victims are placed in three categories: those mortally wounded, who will soon die so it is thought, are left alone for lack of time to care for them; those slightly injured who can wait; and the' seriously wounded, who are given immediate care. This strategy, unfortunately necessary given the situation, should not be applied to the field of education. It's not a question of cutting one's losses by saying, too bad! In our mission as educator, there is only one command: help everyone, save everyone, raise them all up.

b)   Such an attitude cannot be maintained except if it is based on firm principles: "Become what you are" exclaims St. Augustine. Everyone can grow. The educational psychologist Rogers affirms: "Every organism has the inherent tendency to develop its potential and to develop it in a way which favors its preservation and enrichment." And Jean Vanier assures us with proof to back this up that this law applies even to the mentally handicapped, if we believe in them, if we love them and if we help them. Marguerite Yourcenar, French novelist at the end of the 20th century, doesn't say enough about it when she states: “There are very few to whom we cannot teach something." (Mémoires d'Hadrien, Pocket Edition, p. 64) And not only can every person develop, but he or she can bring something useful, even indispensable to others. St. Augustine, again, said: "It would be quite difficult to find a person incapable of bringing something to another person."

c)   Education consists therefore in making known to another his or her potential and helping to develop it. Everyone is full of extraordinary promises. In how many cases, alas! will these promises remain sterile for lack of true educators. Thus we will trust the child and the young person in order that he or she might in return learn to have confidence in himself or herself. It is possible to have confidence in oneself only if someone has confidence in us. Oh! how important is the way we look on them! If we consider them capable, they can then believe themselves capable. In The Hidden Kingdom (DDB 87, p. 40), Eloi Leclerc repeats that, in order to believe in his humanity, the human being searches for "a look that speaks to him with consideration (respect)." And Jean Guitton clarified this: "Each of us acts, realizes, even exists in proportion to what the one who loves us thinks us capable of." If we look at the young with contempt or condescension, they will look down upon themselves and will not gain confidence in themselves. You perhaps know about the event in the life of Father Duval, the Jesuit guitarist during the years 1965 to 1975.  He had many troubles in elementary school.  Reaching the little exam, the Certificate of Elementary Studies, which marks the end of elementary education, he failed.  When he returned to school, his teacher told him: “This doesn’t surprise me at all; you will never amount to anything!”  And Father Duval revealed just how much this provocative word had affected him and had stayed with him during his whole life, and how much it had contributed to preserving in him doubts about his ability, the fear of failing and even distress, that he had, at a certain moment, even taken to drinking alcohol as an escape.  On the contrary, Simone Weil, the great spiritual philosopher, recalled that “to educate someone is first of all to help that person raise his opinion of himself.”  Naturally we think of Jesus before Zacchaeus, Mary Magdelene or the adulterous woman.

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As often observed in the Church or in religious groups, practice in fact comes before theory. We can even say that theory is based on practice. Here we find ourselves in a sort of dialectic movement where thought leads to acts and these, in their turn, bring us to reflection which allows us to analyze, evaluate, eventually correct and promote them. If it is vain to be satisfied with theory, it is indispensable that practice be constantly reconsidered through reflection in order to avoid letting things deteriorate. But naturally pedagogy of trust takes place on the very ground of life. 

To complete our scan of the horizon, I would like to relate several experiences to you. They are only situations found here and there. Surely you know many others and perhaps even more meaningful ones. I pick these out of my own little sack, but I invite you to make your inventory. I do not doubt that from this rereading you will finish full of admiration for our brothers and convinced that the Institute has not lost its tradition of trust towards the young, even if, in certain places, perhaps, it has been momentarily forgotten.

The pedagogy of trust naturally takes place in the world of education. There was a French Brother working in a middle school (students 11-15 years old) in an establishment now directed by a layman and for which we are no longer responsible. He dedicated all his patience and his strength to a section for the slower students, a small group of children, almost always victims of terrible family conditions and who have experienced failure after failure through the years. He developed a personalized pedagogy with modest but clearly targeted objectives, and succeeded in his work of reintegrating the children into regular classes. Now, seeing this, the parents of the children revolted: these programs for children in difficulty, they said, are shameful to the school; moreover, they demand more means. They must be canceled. The director allowed himself to be influenced by the parents and gave in to their demands. Then our Brother, the most peaceable man you could ever find, nevertheless went to war against the decision. He was motivated by his faith in those young people, as capable as the others of succeeding, but by other means. Meetings, petitions, talks with the school principal. The struggle was really hot. The Brother lost his battle the first year, but the following year, the class of slower students was restored.

Brother Joseph Gibelin, the director of an important technical senior high school in France (1300 students, close to 600 boarders), died accidentally at the age of 57. Many students wrote the following kind of messages in the book of condolences: “I was turned out everywhere, no one seemed to want me; but Brother Gibelin, he gave me a chance!” “Get up and walk! You can do it!” Jesus would have said.

A student who was not doing too well in his studies tried to enroll in a large catholic school in Lyon. When the director saw his poor grades, he said: "We're not Catholic Charities here! Go try St. Louis!" St. Louis is one of our schools in Lyon. There, in fact, the lay director makes it his duty to welcome all the slower students and tries to have them succeed to the best of their ability. And it's working!

Here's another story in which I was personally involved. One year, I was in charge of a sophomore class (15-16 year-olds) in a senior high school administered by religious sisters but directed by a lay person. Among the 25 or 26 students I had, there was an older one who was very restless. He was 20 years old! Very intelligent, cultivated enough, mature in some ways, he showed himself through his behavior to be emotionally disturbed. He was forever talking out loudly in class with no concern about what was going on and often spoke off the subject. If I acknowledged him for giving a correct answer, he would jump up in triumph and claim his victory. I found him very difficult to bear with. But as the year wore on, his successes helping, the more he settled down and ultimately he finished the year doing quite well. He decided then to leave school to study tourism. Only at the evaluation session at the end of the school year did the director inform us that Tony – let's give him that name – had come with his mother at the beginning of that year to ask to be admitted into school. Tony had been away from school for several years and had just recently been released from prison – it wasn't his first stretch there – for drug trafficking and armed robbery! And after making certain that Tony clearly understood the school regulations, the director admitted him. He gave him his chance; he put his trust in him. I warmly congratulated the director even while I asked myself if the teachers (me the first) would have accepted Tony if they had known his story before hand; at least, they would have been very reticent, which might have been enough to make the whole venture fail.

In Quebec, many brothers dedicate themselves to school "dropouts" in a very professional way. I do not know enough about their programs to describe them here. But I am certain that they are based on a pedagogy of trust: "Get up and walk! You can do it!"

I add this witness, taken from Le Lien (Newsletter of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in Canada, Dec. 15, 2000): "Since seven or eight years, the school proposes to the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders to preside, after having been prepared, at the catechism classes of reconciliation and Eucharist for the children of our parish. I notice that during the last two years this commitment has been made by more and more young people. {...}

Why is this so, you may ask? How is it that they are interested in speaking about Jesus Christ and the sacraments to the younger children while they themselves do not practice their religion regularly? {...} How can they witness to the faith and teach children to form a relationship with God if, exteriorly, nothing is seen? 

The answer for me, other than that it is a mystery, is: Trust them. .Working beside them, for them and with them, I observe that they are more alert to spiritual things than we might think. I would even say that, if for the large majority of parents the Christian traditional values and the reception of the sacraments no longer has much meaning, it is not exactly the same for the young. {...} 

When I reviewed this activity with those boys and girls who had accepted the challenge of awakening the faith in the little ones, I was often astonished by the depth of their discoveries. Here are some examples of their comments: "I appreciated that they had confidence in me.  I discovered that I was capable of guiding the little ones; that I was fond of the children; that I have the talents for teaching; that, through this experience, I was able to deepen my faith which I had neglected."

{...} This is not a miracle formula. It is simply being present to the children in order to propose some ways of commitment which will permit them to discover more intensively the message of Christ {...}. But it is also and above all, trusting them while remaining close to them in order to accompany them, to encourage them and to support them in their "mysterious" search for God. Isn't that what Father Coindre lived with the young and towards his close coworkers?" (F. Dominique Savard)

- What beautiful pages we might also write about our Brothers who devote a part, perhaps more, of their apostolic activity to working with prisoners! as did Father Coindre when he first began his work. In Africa, there would be many names to mention. We think also of Brother Sauveur of Madagascar, who died a short time ago, who worked with the prisoners at Ambatolampy.

Brother Regis Grange, missionary to the Ivory Coast, killed in November of 2000, is also a wonderful witness in this area. Required to stay in France for six years because of a heart attack, after about 20 years in Africa, he volunteered to give courses to young prisoners in Lyon. His work was to prepare them for the official exams. Here are some meaningful comments by the director of the Association responsible for the prisoners' courses describing Regis' way of being and acting: "At St. Paul and St. Joseph (two prisons in Lyon), his reputation as a 'good teacher, capable of getting the students to succeed in their studies' was quickly established among the prisoners who really wanted to work and continue their studies, and for everyone, I believe, based on the comments I have heard, he was 'sympathetic' towards all, 'tremendously sympathetic,' 'someone with whom we could talk about everything!' 'he understood us.'... Although quite firm and strict, but always kind, he knew how to get his students interested, was concerned about helping them to get hold of themselves or to discover themselves, and to dream about their future. He wanted to know their preferences in order to adapt his lessons to each one {...}. In principle, we do not have minors. But in prison, the levels of schooling and of knowledge, the circumstances and causes of imprisonment, and the ages are very different. In the prisoners, we can run into hate and despair, very deficient psychological states, and prisoners whose place is not in prison! Regis Grange accepted them all with patience and understanding {...}. With him, every relationship was simple and straightforward (genuine). By his uprightness full of goodness, I think that he really succeeded in bringing a little light, inspiration and hope into a milieu which has particular need of it..."

He loved to talk about a young man that he had especially helped. This unfortunate youngster, condemned for murdering someone as he left a dance, — he was drunk — scribbled poetry to pass the time in his cell. When Regis discovered this, he encouraged the young man to continue and almost convinced him to enter a national poetry competition. In fact, these poems, which Regis had me read, seemed quite ordinary, and the possibility of preparing for the competition was put aside. But the young man continued to compose. Then on the day of the court hearing, when the state prosecutor related how totally insensible he was and how he showed no regret for his crime, the lawyer, to whom the young man's poems had been given, protested. It was true that his client did not manifest his feelings in words, because spontaneous oral expression was difficult for him, but, in writing, in his poems, he was able to express his regret and even to apologize to the parents and friends of the one he had killed. This information merited the young prisoner the smallest sentence possible, considering the nature of the crime he had committed. An unexpected conclusion to a pedagogy of trust!

Brother Jean Déléage, a lifelong companion of Brother Regis (they were together for more than twenty-five years, mostly in Africa), writes from Gagnoa (Ivory Coast) telling us about one of his projects: "I have devised a program which I like very much: every morning, I visit the prison for minors where I have organized a small school for beginners, those at the 4th and the 6th grade levels, up to the freshman year. The teachers are adult prisoners, one an excellent young teacher who is a high school graduate and who zealously takes care of those preparing for the BEPC (an exam for 15 year old students)." To help the prisoners is already a lot, but to put trust and dignity in them to the point that some of them can teach others is just wonderful!

When visiting Quebec, I was filled with wonder at the many initiatives being taken by our Brothers in the name of confidence in people. I observed that a brother was trying to rehabilitate some delinquents (and was often succeeding) in training them in automobile bodywork. These young men are capable of succeeding in something and to get somewhere with the help of suitable programs, and this is acknowledged publicly.

How can I not mention — pardon me for not observing anonymity — the Brothers of Arthabaska who arranged for prisoners, who were unable to defend themselves or to be reinserted into society, to leave prison and to come live with them, in their house and share their table. I saw one of them totally illiterate, so I was told, very much at home with the Brothers; I even saw him push the wheelchair of a handicapped brother to help him get around the house. What rehabilitation! "You are even capable of giving free service!"

Certain names like The Beatitudes, "l'Arrimage" (The Rigging), and so many others, give echo to the witnesses of a pedagogy of trust towards even those we generally believe the least "redeemable."

I should also tell you more about the Brothers who reach out to the street children and the abandoned. All of these are in my mind faithful sons of André Coindre, absolutely convinced with him that it is necessary "never to give up hope of their changing!" Brothers, you continue the list! Pardon me for not having cited all those commitments in which you are witnessing to the compassion of Christ towards the most miserable, by saying by your words and your acts: "Get up and walk!" Because those young people are also the sons of Abraham!


It is through the contemplation of the open side of Jesus on the Cross that we let ourselves be filled by an active compassion aroused in us by the Spirit. This compassion is concretely expressed in our apostolic activity by a pedagogy of trust which makes another person' get up, in his dignity as son. This done, we allow ourselves to be more and more configured to "him whom we have pierced," following in that our Father André Coindre and all those who have gone before us in the Institute.

And this identification with Christ becomes our own assurance for the future: we are ready to appear standing before the throne of the Lamb. It is also our joy today. What greater happiness than to see a young person get up and walk on his own! And even if we do not always see it, because the mission of educator is exercised over a long period of time, it is the profession of the sower; even if we do not always see it, we know it in faith. It is here that our spiritual paternity is realized. Nothing that we will have done to raise up someone (in every sense of the word), nothing will be lost.

Brother René Sanctorum LY141200
Trans. Brother Marcel Rivière LY140301

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