On the Memorial of Fr. Chaminade

Tomb of Fr. Chaminade in Bordeaux, France (sketch by Bro. Brian Zampier, SM)

Today, January 22nd we celebrate the anniversary of the death of our Blessed Founder, William Joseph Chaminade. We also begin the special Chaminade Year in which we commemorate 250 years of his birth (April 8th). We were joined by members of the Woodlawn Marianist community for Mass and breakfast this morning.

What follows is the homily delivered by Fr. William Behringer, S.M.:

With Rome beginning the last stage of the process leading to Fr. Chaminade’s canonization looking at the miracle attributed to him, it is appropriate, I think, for us to reflect a bit on the example of holiness the Founder has left us.  The decree of heroicity of his virtues stated, “This man of God travelling with firm step the path of perfection adorned his soul with brilliant virtues.”  It is good for us to reflect on what that example says to us.

The basis of his sanctity as the Gospel of today’s mass pointed out is love.  That is the basis of all holiness and has to be because holiness is union with God and God is love.  So the basis of Fr. Chaminade’s holiness as also ours is love.  Introducing his letter of 1839, the founder wrote,”The spirit of all our works is charity.”  This means that we in our turn must allow love to take over our lives and all that we do.  Our vocation as Marianists – indeed as Christians – calls us to become great lovers.

Secondly, Fr. Chaminade was deeply committed to God and God’s will.  Nothing could sway him from that.  Even when some of his closest followers tried to change his mind, he refused to abandon the plan God had revealed to him.  This belonging to God will demand on our part a separation from anything opposed to God and God’s will.  One of the 3 ends of the Society as proposed by the Founder was to protect the members from the “contagion of the world.”  Adele de Trenquelleon expressed this same idea when she wrote, “All for God, all by God, nothing for the world.”  This aspect of Fr. Chaminade’s holiness calls us to a deep evangelical radicality.

Now for Fr. Chaminade, this understanding of evil does not call us simply to be cautious about ourselves.  If that were the case, we could just lock ourselves in a room and have no contact.  But the Founder calls us rather to a battle against evil.  He calls for New Wars!  We are called to join Mary in her fight against evil which, of course, is that of her Son.  So our vocation and the path of our holiness is an apostolic one.  The example of our Marianist martyrs clearly shows us that we are in a battle.

Fr. Chaminade’s sanctity was also strongly rooted in the Pascal Mystery.  He suffered deeply in his life  – the French Revolution, exile, the opposition of his fellow Marianists at the end of his life etc.  One of the Cardinals told Fr. Vasey that Fr. Caillet made our founder a saint! But he never lost faith.  He always believed in the triumph of Mary.  He are familiar of that scene in the garden with Fr. Chaminade  pressing his hand down on the foot of Mary crushing the head of the serpent.

Now the Pascal Mystery is essentially related to Baptism and we know the importance Fr. Chaminade put on baptism as the root and foundation of our religious commitment.  So our sanctity too must be rooted in our baptism and in the dying and rising of Christ.

Finally, Fr. Chaminade insists that our holiness must be communal.  We are not simply to be individually holy although we are to be that also.  But the community must be holy.  We are to give the witness of a nation of saints!  And we certainly recognize the need of our world for that very witness.

And so Fr. Chaminade’s example calls us to a challenging but a wonderful vocation.  Let us pray that we may be faithful.

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