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Formation at Saint Paul Trois Châteaux – Experience of solidarity

 

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Gabriel Rosset, a lay marist avant la lettre

04/06/2009: France

The experience of solidarity done during formation at Saint Paul Trois Châteaux had a deep impact in me. Not so much for the few hours that I was with some of the homeless people of Lyon’s city. I had already been a lot of times, not just hours, but days with homeless people. This time the impact on me came from the discovery of an exceptional character: Gabriel ROSSET, layman, founder of the shelter “Our Lady of the homeless” in Lyon, on December 24th, 1950.

While reading Gabriel ROSSETs biography I said immediately to myself: here there is a lay marist avant la lettre. He was born on November 28th, 1904 at Champier (Isère) and he passed away on December 30th, 1974 in Lyon. At that time we would not speak on lay Marist, however he has everything to be one. This scholar, teacher of Letters in the lay public School had both pedagogical and human qualities really extraordinary. Just this would leave him well placed in the Marist world. But we found in him many other qualities requested to those who want to be Marist both in soul and in heart. I find at least four.

1. He was a man of great devotion to Mary: when many of his friends underlined the lay statute of the work they were about to undertake at Christmas 1950 he insisted and, in fact, he imposed that their work was to be put under Marys protection. Therefore the name: Our Lady of the homeless. This would not impede that the Home was to be open to people of all confessions. In the Foyer all people are welcomed. Was not in this way Fr. Champagnat acted when he was founding his Congregation? On the other hand, one trapist monk knowing Gabriel ROSSET wrote: “His devotion to Mary was very simple and filial”: isn’t this devotion to Mary one of the features of Marist spirituality?

2. He was man of prayer, of faith and of great love to the Eucharist: it was in prayer that he found the necessary energy for his apostolate with the poor. For more than 20 years he went every week to the trapist monastery of Dombes. In one of those visits he wrote: “I try to meet myself in prayer and mainly in the Eucharistic prayer: it is here I do find the strength to give myself to others and to live this self offering day by day, making acts of patience, of courage and of love (page 127). Doesn’t this fully express Marist spirituality?

3. He was a mystic and a man of action with great love for the poor: a mystic following the tradition of great spiritual people like Agustine and Pascal; a man of action because in prayer he understood, once and for all, that God’s Word asks Christians to welcome and succour the most unhappy and abandoned brothers, the suffering members of Our Lord Jesus Christ” as he used to say. Didn’t Marcellin Champagnat act in this way? On the other hand, doesnt our book of spirituality ask us to be mystics in action and to be close to the poor?

4. He was a man of great humility with a welcoming heart. Somebody wrote of him: From the very beginning he has been a faithful Servant of the Home and there he would spend the whole time when his academic scheduled allowed”. In fact, SERVANT was the only title he ever accepted. And his service and the Home he founded was inspired by Christs Word. We find in Mt 25: I naked and you dressed me.... . Isn’t humility the touchstone of Marist spirituality? And doesn’t our book of spirituality call all Marists to welcome the Montagne of today?

It is possible that a more attentive reading of the book I was homeless and you welcomed me, Nouvelle Cité, Montrouge, 2004, collecting the texts of Gabriel ROSSET could present us more similarities between the spirituality of this man of God, extraordinarily human, and Marist spirituality that is simple, practical and real. But the four elements we have underlined show us strongly that Gabriel ROSSET was really a lay Marist avant la lettre.

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Br.Teófilo Minga
Member of the group of Saint Paul Trois Châteaux

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