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Dialogues avec nos aînés

 

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Brother André de Lalande

08/11/2012: Lebanon

Interview of Everyone calls him Brother André. Everyone, that is the thousands of youth who have passed through the school of the Marist Brothers at Jounieh, then at Jbeil and who have had him as teacher of history, literature, philosophy, and as supervisor or counsellor...

How do you see your life after having lived so long?
The whole creation comes from God and the elements composing it have been thought up, accepted by God. I see my life in the way God looks on me… It was He who wanted me to live this life. I have lived it, I am happy with it…

What age were you when you were called to this vocation?
I was ten. One of our Brothers had been director of the school in the village of Achkout. After serving in the war of 14-18, rather than return to settle in his country, he wanted to recruit teaching  vocations in France… There were twelve of us in the family…

You have been in Lebanon since the age of ten?
No, our house of formation was in Italy, near Turin, at Bairo (now they send them to Spain). I went there up to the age of fourteen during my novitiate, and at the age of fifteen I was here. I have always been happy with the amazement and pleasure I found among the Lebanese, happy to see their eyes light up as I made progress. I feel that even now.

But you did not have time yourself to be trained to teach?
When I arrived, no, but I had to wait, after the war, to return to Lyon, from 1946 to 1952, to acquire degrees in literature, history and biblical criticism.

You are not teaching now. Does that cost you something?
I always help the teachers and the students.

Is it hard to be in retirement?
No, I am approached by people who need me. I am happy that they are aware of what I can bring them and I am happy to do it.

Where do you find your resources?
I have always been a fervent reader of anything to do with the religions. I spent two years in  Jerusalem with the Dominicans, with people interested in the Bible, notably with Brother Benoît, director of the École Biblique in Jerusalem…

Have you ever had any doubts?
Never. I have had at a given moment not doubts, but anxieties…

Have you had any failures?
If I have had them, I have not lived them as such but as the means for living otherwise…

Even so, have you not had moments of discouragement?
No, no, I have had what I may call objections to which I had no response, in the books or elsewhere.

Is that to quite simply have faith?
A blind person could have faith. No, I am not blind. But I have been brought up in a religious atmosphere…

Is it good fortune to have faith?
It is a good fortune which comes from God who has been good to me.

You are not afraid of death?
Absolutely not. It is the door which is going to open to the beyond.

The Abbé Pierre wrote in his book Le testament: «They ask me if I am afraid of dying, while I have spent all my life waiting to see Christ.»
For myself, I do not live in the expectation of seeing him, but I know that at the end I am going to see Him. I have no worry.

Have you ever felt the lack of a feminine presence?
I have found on my way some fantastic friendships. The young girls I find there, I embrace like sisters, no problem.

Don’t you feel your age?
No, I don’t feel it. It is a grace of God. I am 94. It is incredible. I regard that as a sort of kindness from God. I thank Him for it.

What makes you want to get up in the mornings?
I jump out at 4 h in the morning and begin to sweep the yards. I want to devour the day... yalla, on my feet. I am very happy in myself. That does not mean that I do not rest at the end of the day. At 10. 30 I go to bed.

And when you look at yourself in the mirror?
That makes me laugh.

What last advice would you give to one of your students?
Live. Live is a verb. Nothing else: live!

What does that mean, live?
Act, respond, undertake… Live is all the active verbs.

What is it that would be sacred?
What is sacred are the attributes of God to which people do not pay attention. To completely fulfill the purpose of our existence. Everything that is beautiful, true, is in itself sacred. The sacred is the maximum of beauty, friendship. God is all powerful, He is intelligence, beauty, love. There is a gift for grasping the depth of a gesture which is allied to the sacred, that woman who put two little coins to give alms...

 

In fact, the conversation did not stop there. To discuss with Brother André is to drink at an everflowing spring. To be in his presence is a learning at every moment and about everything…  At his side, under the watch of a benevolent God, life is a long river, generous, prodigal, cheerful… At every meeting, Brother André makes me want to believe that eternity must be something like this long tranquil river.

Gisèle Kayata Eid - « Kibarauna : Dialogues avec nos aînés »
Tamyras – Paris & Lebanon 2012, pp. 325-334

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