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The Letters of Champagnat: Biographical and Topographical References

01/03/2010: Spain

The publishing house, Editorial Luis Vives of Zaragoza, has finished printing, in Spanish, the second part of the Letters of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, containing the biographical and topographical notes on the persons and places mentioned in the letters written by Champagnat. The volume is entitled “Crónicas maristas VI. Cartas del P. Champagnat – 2. Biografías y topónimos”. As Brother Paul Sester cogently observes in the Foreword: “Despite its title, this second volume of the Letters of Champagnat does not contain any letters, strictly speaking. It simply offers information useful for a better understanding of the texts contained in the first volume”.

The bulky volume of 520 pages, elegantly bound, adds to the collection of “Crónicas maristas”, published by the same workshop in 1985, and is number 6 in the series. Its publication culminates the process of delivering the writings of our holy Founder into the hands of readers of Spanish. The first volume of the collection published Marcellin’s letters, a precious instrument for submerging ourselves in his ideas and getting to know his feelings. The last volume published offers descriptions of the persons and places mentioned in the letters, as an indispensable complement for situating the context and facilitating understanding by giving presence and features to the persons and places involved.

At the beginning of the work is a presentation by Brother Antonio Aragón Martón, who translated the volume from French into Spanish, and a foreword by Brother Paul Sester, which situates the work within the collection. The bulk of the work is divided into four parts. The first describes the political and ecclesiastical life of France in the XIX century. The second is devoted to the biographies, in alphabetical order, of all the persons mentioned in Champagnat’s letters. The third describes the places included in the letters. The fourth part provides indexes of subjects, personal and place names, and illustrations to help readers work easily through its pages.

There are two authors. Br. Raymond Borne, tireless researcher for four years in diocesan, departmental, municipal and family archives in France and in the general house in Rome, has gathered a copious amount of information and data as the basis for the work. For his part, Br. Paul Sester, has arranged and given shape and life to all this information. His language makes for easy and accessible reading.

Brother Paul Sester makes a very sensible observation about the contents of this volume. “As will be seen, these references go well beyond the historical period of the Letters. There are two reasons for that. First, it was difficult not to describe, at least in broad outline, the entire lifespan of persons or works. Then the research which had to be done, especially on the life of the first brothers, produced a mass of information which threw new light on the history of the beginnings of our Institute. The enthusiasm this work aroused, and a sense that it was only just to give our pioneers the place they deserve in the memory of their successors, not merely as part of an anonymous group, but as individuals with distinctive personal traits, were what ultimately determined the scope of this volume.”

We warmly welcome this work, which will be very useful for coming to know Champagnat, and an inestimable resource for researchers.

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