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4 December

Saint John Damascene and John Calabria
1889, opening of the first Marist school in Colombia

Marist Calendar - December

1920 - 2008



Brother Jean Gabriel Michel

21/11/2008: France

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Mt 24:44). These words of Jesus come spontaneously to mind as we think of the sudden departure of our Brother Gabriel, who died on Monday 17th November. Gabriel was born on 6th April 1920 in Chazelles sur Lyon, from a family of farmers. He lived a happy youth with his brother and his sister, attending the Marist School of the area. At 12 years of age, fascinated by the example of his teachers, he felt he was called to the life of a religious teacher, and in September 1932 he left for the high school of La Valla. On 14th February, 1936, before turning 16, he was part of a group of young people travelling to Santa Maria, close to Turin in Italy, where the Province of N.D. de l’Hermitage had established the Novitiate, since it could not be held in France any longer. After having passed the six months postulancy and the year of novitiate, he returned to the scholasticate of l’Hermitage to prepare for the compulsory education and bachelor’s degree that he achieved, completing his classes, in Tence from 1939 to 1941.

The scholasticate and novitiate of l’Hermitage welcomed him later as a young professor full of dynamism and liveliness, before he left again for the “youth workshops” from July 1942 to March the following year. France was under German occupation at the time. Those nine months were a time of test for him. Later he remained for 6 years at the scholasticate of l’Hermitage, as professor this time, holding his classes for the young brothers and studying at the Catholic University of Lyon to attain a licence in Classic Literature that he passed in 1950. We should note his important role in the teaching team, which he contributed to with his bright personality, as an enthusiastic trainer, a great worker, and a “wonderful companion”. He worked hard to provide a rich documentation to the young brothers and to further supply the library of N.D. de l’Hermitage. He offered his musical talents and his beautiful voice to serve the liturgy and the musical education of the students of the scholasticate and later of the high school as well. Many are those who are happy and proud to remember the input he gave them with his outstanding personality.

After fifteen years spent at the scholasticate and high school of l’Hermitage, in 1956 he was appointed the Director of the Major College of N.D. de Valbenoite. At 36, therefore, the age when a man is capable of giving his full, he succeeded an elderly brother in directing the college. He did not revolutionise the government. His temperament did not lead him to modify what was already working well. A number of procedures has to be implemented to attain certain contracts with the State; the arrival of the inspectors of the National Education was a source of uneasiness for him, but it was an opportunity to improve and develop what he had already promoted himself with prudence and determination. His government was a beautiful period for the institute: he had a profound impact on pedagogical animation, as well as religious animation, both from a cultural and cult perspective. He gave particular importance to the month of Mary, notwithstanding the objections that were raised against this.

In 1965 he returned to his preferred element, the house of formation and the high school of l’Hermitage. Two years later he was the delegate to the General Chapter of 1967. Very quickly, thanks to his French nationality and literary formation, he was asked to draft the report of his Committee. He was also the main compiler of a draft of the Constitutions, which is rather more a work of literature than a code that requires obedience. The Chapter fathers appointed him Secretary General of the Institute for the period 1967-1976.

One could say that he was the right man in the place most suitable to him. A free and family-like relationship, intimate and strong, full of admiration, esteem and love, stemmed and flourished between him and Brother Basilio Rueda, the Superior General, who often praised his competence, his fidelity in his work and his profoundly religious spirit.

Later, Brother Basilio would not hesitate to trust him for the solution of delicate issues. He also gave him freedom to advance on the path he had begun: investigating our origins, starting from the documents kept in the municipal, diocesan and departmental archives. As Secretary General, in charge of the archives, he photocopied an incredible amount of documents. He therefore had a mass of papers with him that allowed him to complete his research. For the general public he published what he called a biographical novel “Born in ‘89”, in three volumes, and more recently the biography of Brother Francois, or “60 years of Marist life”. More privately, for use within the congregation, he left us his research on the “Legal recognition of the Institute”, a work on “The dark years of Marcellin Champagnat or the Revolution at Marlhes”, plus an agenda on “Champagnat day by day” and many articles on several magazines. At the end of his mandate as Secretary General he also published “The Chronology of the Institute from its origins to 1976”. He had a deep desire to make Saint Marcellin known, through his biography, of course, but also through the historical context he belonged to.

He was actually at the time one of the members of the team of the Champagnat Centre of l’Hermitage, that required of him, in particular, to guide pilgrims and show them the places where the Founder lived and dwelt. The visitors enjoyed listening to him in their language, in English, Italian, even Spanish, a language he had learnt late in his life for the needs of the cause. Along the itinerary by bus, leading the groups from one place to the other, he was tireless in sharing with them anecdotes and reflections, and all the members could enjoy his knowledge on the Founder and on the geographical, social, political and religious context that he lived in.

When age forced him to spare himself, he devoted himself to translation. It became his main activity during the four remaining years of his life in the house of Saint Genis Laval. And up to the very last day he carried out his intellectual activity, always as a service to others, believing that he could continue in such a way to increase as much as possible the talents that God had given to him, for his love and his glory. He therefore certainly has heard the words “Come and share your master’s happiness”.

Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel


Recordando al hermano Gabriel Michel

H. Aureliano Brambila
Cepam de Loma Bonita

La noticia del fallecimiento del H. Gabriel Michel, aunque no me extrañó, pues lo sabía delilcado de salud, sí me impactó, pues mi estima por él es muy grande.

Entré en contacto con el H. Gabriel Michel desde 1965, en el Hermitage. Su personalidad tan marista me impresionó desde ese entonces. Luego, cuando estuve de estudiante en Roma durante 4 años, lo traté en su calidad de Consejero y Secretario general. Por los años 1982-1984 lo tuve de compañero en la Comunidad de Acogida del Hermitage. Allí, ya mucho más de cerca aquilaté sus enorme valía. Cuando leí la Circular de Séan sobre la vida comunitaria, una de las primeras figuras que me vinieron a la mente bajo el apelativo de “Compañeros maravillosos”, pues fue Gabriel.

Me comunicó gusto por el Patrimonio Espiritual Marista y me hizo ver el valor de la Ruta Champagnat, que el ilustraba en vivo con infinidad de valiosos detalles. Y luego, por todas sus conferencias, animaciones litúrgicas.

Sus numerosas publicaciones me han sido muy utiles. Libros como: "Champagnat, en su contexto histórico, religioso y espiritualidad”; "Champagnat: bâtisseur et éducateur"; "Champagnat: vicaire et fondateur"; "M.Champagnat et la reconnaissance légale des frères maristes" (2 volumes); "Né en 89"; “Frère François”.

Artículos de Revista: “Marcelino y su camino de obediencia”; “Les années obscures de Marcellin Champagnat, I”; “Les années obscures de Marcellin Champagnat, II”; “Les années obscures de Marcellin Champagnat, III”; “Le Père Champagnat et le mois de Marie”; “Un pacifique repaire de canailles”; “1822 et les 8 postulants”.

Publicación de Documentos: “Chronologie de l’Institut”; “Abrégée des annales de Frère Avit”; “Mémoires de Frère Sylvestre”, “Champagnat le jour au jour”.

Lo tengo tan identificado con lo marista que para mí pensar en el Hermitage es pensar en Gabriel Michel.  ¡Que en gloria esté, junto a Jesús, María y Marcelino, de quien habló tan bien y con tanto cariño!

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