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MEMOIRS OF A GOOD FRENCH PRIEST.
IT must not be always that men's evil manners are writ in brass, their good deeds in water. The one grand, true, and pure wife of Henry VIII., with her strong sense of justice, commended the chronicler of the virtues of her once-potent but then fallen enemy. The history of conquerors, which most attracts the world's admiring gaze, is but too often a record of crime; but, fiat justitia, with their crimes let their redeeming qualities, if any there be, stand forth, so that the good and the evil may flow down the stream of time in history, as they move in life, together.
We have recently read a work which contains in a few pages a large record of virtue and vice, of good and evil: the actors, however, were different parties—as far apart in their spheres as the spirits on the right and the left hand on the day of doom.
The Memoirs of the Rt. Rev. Simon Gabriel Bruté, with his sketches of scenes connected with the French Revolution, and extracts from his journal by Bishop (now Archbishop) Bayley, is one of a class of works which is deeply interesting in its nature and striking in its contrasts. The glory and shame of France are strangely brought together. The culmination of the neverending contest between the church . of Christ, on the one hand, and the world and the gates of hell, on the other, appeared to be reached in the French Revolution. Heaven-born piety and hell-born iniquity, each in its most potential form, seemed to meet in a death-grapple. Astonished
and awe-stricken nations looked on as spectators of the combat, as if upon that field hung the fate of Christianity, of revelation, of, in short, the subordination of the creature to the Creator. The struggle indeed was appalling; and the modern followers of that fool who said in his heart, There is no God, often threw up their fool's-caps, bonnets-d'âne, or bonnets-rouges in token of victory. But the end was not yet, as it is not yet. In that struggle, as in all others for eighteen hundred years, the divine prophecy was vindicated, and the oracles of Satan for a time were silenced, at least until the father of sin could rehabilitate them in other forms. The American Catholic whose memory serves him for a couple of score of years, may remember to have seen at Mount S. Mary's College, or in Baltimore, a French priest, whose very physiognomy would strongly rivet attention. We remember once, in early college days, passing from Georgetown College, where we were acquiring the humanities, to Mount S. Mary's on a holiday excursion. We had fresh in mind as the very ideal of a venerable priest good old Father Jerome Dzierozynski, priest, philosopher, scholar, saint, the pastor of the college, and a model for his younger brethren aspiring to Christian perfection. We found his counterpart in the French priest, Father Bruté, at the mountain. His very presence was inspiring. The man of God was plainly discernible in his calm, placid face, which spoke, without words, of holiness, of wisdom, of learning, of the subjection of self and the man of the flesh, of the
age, to the spiritual man, the pilgrim to eternity. Our personal recollections of this eminent man, however, go not beyond appearances and firstsight impressions. We are indebted to Archbishop Bayley's fascinating work for a knowledge of his eventful career. Born and bred in France in a model Catholic family, he witnessed in his boyhood the practical workings of the French Revolution. He had not the honor to undergo exile or martyrdom, but he knew intimately many of the victims of that reign of Satanas; and his young eyes were made to ache with the lurid coruscations of the philosophy of Antichrist, which swept over France as fire sweeps over a prairie.
Losing his father early in life, his education was conducted by a wise and prudent mother, such as is called in Holy Writ "a valiant woman." He was sent to the best schools of the day in his native city of Rennes, and he was fortunate in having for his teachers priests eminent for piety and learning, several of whom gave up their lives for the faith. For a short time he worked as a practical printer. "In 1793-4," he writes of himself, "during the height of 'The Terror,' my mother made me work in the printing-office to save me from being enrolled in a regiment of children named 'The Hope of the Country'; and a hopeful set they were." A regiment of boys was formed, who acted as so many young demons. "My mother was much pressed to allow me to join them, and was terribly alarmed on this account. I remained in the printing-office nearly a year, and became a pretty good compositor." To the honor of the craft, we may add that his widowed mother had a printing establishment under her own direction, probably derived from her first husband, Francis Vatar, printer to the king and parliament at
Rennes, who prided himself on his hereditary art, his ancestors having been printers for many generations.
After this interruption to his studies, he resumed them, and in due time began the study of medicine. His fondness for the profession, his talents, his industry, gave sure indications of eminent success. In 1799, at twenty years of age, he entered the Medical School at Paris. "At the time this occurred," he says, "I was entirely wrapt up in my medical studies, and preparing for the prize." This indeed he obtained. He graduated with the highest honors. There were at that time eleven hundred students attending the course; out of these, one hundred and twenty were chosen by concursus as the best; and among this number M. Bruté received the first prize after another examination. An official appointment immediately followed this youthful triumph. But his thoughts were now turned to another field of labor, and to that vocation alone more worthy than medicine of his high endowments. He determined to study for the church. dy for the church. "He was not led to abandon a profession to which he had devoted so many years of assiduous study, and which opened its most brilliant prospects before him," as Dr. McCaffrey remarks, "from any feelings of disgust. He always honored it as one of the noblest to which a highly gifted and philanthropic man can devote himself. Delightful as his conversation was to all, and to men of science in particular, it was peculiarly so to the student or to the practitioner or professor of medicine. He turned. from it only because he had higher and more important objects in view. His eleven hundred classmates in medicine told him that it was easy to find physicians for the body, but the Revolution had made it more
difficult to find physicians for the souls of men. The guillotine and prisons and privations of exile had spared but a comparatively small number of the former clergy, and of these many were occupied in foreign missions. Dreadful as had been the ravages of infidelity and impiety, and the almost entire privation of all spiritual succor, an immense number of the French people still remained faithful to their religion, and a new supply of Levites, to fill the places of those who had perished, was called for on every side."
The medical student who had gone through the Parisian curriculum with a pure heart and a sinless soul proved thereby his title to join the choicest body of Levites. He not only had gone through the course with virginal purity, but he had already made a fight for the faith amidst its most potent enemies. If he resembled Aloysius at Rennes, he showed the spirit of Bayard at Paris. "Not satisfied with professing and openly practising his religion, he entered into a combination with several of his fellow-students, particularly those from his own province, boldly to oppose the false principles to which they were obliged to listen. They chose such subjects for their theses before the class as to enable them to avow their belief in revelation, and to defend its truth. One of the beneficial effects which followed from this course, was that the attention of the government was called to it. Bonaparte, then First Consul, was laboring to restore Christianity in France, as the necessary means of reorganizing society; and the infidel professors were made to confine their teaching to its proper limits."
It would be well if infidel or atheistical professors at the present day could be restrained to their respec
tive courses of instruction. Some of them seem to think it incumbent on them to proclaim, ex cathedrâ, their irreligious or atheistical convictions. Such men are entirely unfit for their occupations, no matter what talents or learning they may possess, and they ought to be silenced by authority. This may be considered illiberal by some, but let them make a little change in the order, and suppose a Catholic professor of anatomy to give a daily discourse to his pupils on the infallibility of the Pope before mixed classes of Catholics and Protestants, Jews and infidels: would such teachings, we ask, be greeted with liberal approbation? We think not. Then the infidel professor cannot expect a Christian public to consent to his teachings, beyond his proper course. This is a practical question of the day, and all honest men should demand in the teaching of medicine, or of any science or sciences, that the teachers should confine themselves to demonstrative and demonstrable facts. It is the last degree of folly or of impudence to attempt to prove anything of the relations of the soul to the body by the aid of scalpel or microscope. Professors in the Parisian schools still claim the right to teach covert or overt atheism, and they deem interference nothing less than persecution. They are philosophers, and claim free thought. But their opponents say properly (and this matter has been before the French Senate) that it is not the thought of the professors which is the matter in dispute, but their officious teachings. If they are free to think what they please, says an eminent medical writer, M. Garnier, they are not therefore free to profess or to teach all that they think. Animism, spiritism, materialism, are equally intractable to
science. In these matters science can prove nothing; the rights of science, then, are neither compromised nor sacrificed by keeping it within the limits defined by its very
All parents and guardians of youth, whatever their faith, or want of it, should protest against professors of medicine making use of their chairs to inculcate upon their pupils that the soul is subordinate to the body, the immortal to the mortal part of man. These are matters which are not now, never were, and never will be under the dominion of human wisdom or learning.
We will now follow Dr. Bruté rapidly in his career as physician in the higher order, that is, for the souls of men. He made his studies in divinity with the intense earnestness of his nature. "Theology was a science for which his mind was admirably fitted. He loved his religion, and it evidently became his delight thoroughly to explore the very foundations of it." He was ordained priest in 1808, and was for a short time professor of theology in his native city. In 1810, he came to the United States, and began that active career in Baltimore and at Mount S. Mary's College which made him so favorably known to the clergy and people of this country. "If Mount S. Mary's, in addition to all the other benefits it has bestowed upon Catholicity in this country, has been in a remarkable degree the nursery of an intelligent, active, zealous priesthood, exactly such as was needed to supply the wants of the church in this country, every one at all acquainted with the history of that institution will allow that the true ecclesiastical spirit was stamped upon it by Bishop Bruté. His humility, piety, and learning made him a model of the Christian priest; and the impres
sion of his virtues made upon both ecclesiastical and lay students surpassed all oral instruction. Catholic religion alone can produce such men, and hence their example confirms the faith and elevates the character of all who come in contact with them. The name of Bishop Bruté has been, and ever will be, associated with that of Bishop Dubois as common benefactors to the infant church in this country."
The church in America has obligations to a considerable body of French priests, driven from their own country for the most part by the ruthless madmen who for a season ruled fair France, which obligations
never be repaid and have scarcely been recognized. Even American Catholics often speak of Lafayette and his followers as the only Frenchmen entitled to our gratitude, forgetting entirely the valiant soldiers of the cross from the same country who Christianized our savages in the wilderness, or who astonished our Protestant civilization with their learning, their talents, and their virtues. Speaking of Bishop Cheverus, first Catholic Bishop of Boston," which of us," says Dr. W. E. Channing, the most eminent Protestant minister of his time in that city-"which of us would like to have our lives compared with his ?" This candid and generous admission might have applied to others as well as to the almost peerless Cheverus, but none could have deserved it more. How truly is the blood of the martyrs the seed of the church!-including in the martyrs all who suffer in person or property for Christ. The French Revolution sent to our shores as fine a body of priests as the world ever saw-learned, pious, accomplished, refined, and highly cultured in every sense, they left an ineffaceable impression upon their successors in the
priesthood in this country. In the order of God's providence, persecution, in fact, has given the greatest impetus to Catholicity in America. The perpetual persecution of the Irish on account of their religion, the recent or actual persecutions by Garibaldi, Victor Emanuel, and Bismarck, all give laborers to this vineyard, where they are so much needed, and where they are doing a world of good a century in advance of an adequate supply of native priests.
In 1834, Dr. Bruté was consecrated as Bishop of Vincennes; in 1839, worn out with much and faithful service, his pure spirit took its departure. In his poor diocese, he had everything to construct, and everybody to instruct, even some Indian tribes, who received him with great joy as a "chief of the black robes," a priest of "the true prayer." He had no sinecure dignity. "At home he was at once the bishop, the pastor of the congregation, the professor of theology for his seminary, and a teacher for one of his academies." These give a small idea of his labors. When the king of terrors (to most men) came, he found the bishop at his post, on duty, like the faithful Roman sentinel at the gates of Pompeii. But there were no terrors for him. "On the morning of the day before his death, he remarked to the clergyman who attended him with unwearied solicitude and affection: 'My dear child, I have the whole day yet to stay with you; to-morrow with God! To another pious friend he used these simple but expressive words: I am going home!" And when his pure soul was disengaging itself, as it were, from the body, having received all the last rites of the church, he directed the prayers for the departing to be said, which he answered devoutly and fervently to
the last; and then he entered upon that eternal life which he had always been contemplating, and for which his whole career had been one long preparation.
We would wish, if space permitted, to give selections from some of the good bishop's "Brief Notes" of his recollections connected with the persecutions in France in 1793 and the following years, for they show in their simple details the striking contrasts between the lives and deaths of the children of Christ and the children of Antichrist, among the French people of that day. Never before in the history of the church, or in the history of humanity, did virtue and vice, face to face, reach loftier heights or deeper depths.
The aim of the French rulers was to extinguish Christianity. The "age of reason" had arrived, and its advanced fautors determined that the world should recognize it. But the priests stood in the way, and, by some strange mischance, all the honest and meritorious people of the land made common cause with the priests. To bring these people to a just appreciation of reason, the churches were plundered and dismantled, and turned into temples of reason or barracks and stables, and, if possible, viler uses. To take God's house from him was to deprive him of a dwelling-place in France, and the example of France would be followed everywhere, so that God should be banished from the earth of his own creation. But the priests-the unreasonable, intractable priests-instead of adopting the new lights, would adhere to the doctrines and traditions of past ages. When the churches were closed, they would worship God by stealth, with their followers, in private houses, in the fields, in the woods, offering their pure and unbloody sacrifice on every