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Brutés Papers

Part of the process of canonization involves combing through thousands of writing, articles, letters, etc. etc. of the candidate. Servant of God, Simon Gabriel Brute, is no exception. Since 2005 a process has been going on that has included the collection of Brutés writings, their translation, and study. Any shred of evidence, pro and con has to be looked at in order to advance forward to the next step, the title of “Venerable”.

Tracking down these papers can be difficult, however, past mistakes can make if even more difficult. What follows in an article from the Catholic Historical Review from 1918.

Notes and Comment
Reviewed work(s):Source: The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Jan., 1918), pp. 487-499

A singular fatality seems to have been attached to the manuscript remains of Bishop Brute, the first Bishop of Vincennes. Born in Nemur, France, in 1779, he was a youth during the Reign of Terror and witnessed many of the atrocities of that period. After graduating in medicine and practising a few months, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice, Paris, and was ordained in 1808. He came to the United States in 1810. In 1814 he was President of St. Mary’s Seminary and from 1818 until his consecration as the first Bishop of Vincennes was President of Mt. St. Mary’s, Emmitsburg. He was consecrated October 28, 1834, in the Cathedral at St. Louis. While journeying from Vincennes to Balti more in 1837, he contracted a severe cold which developed into tuberculosis, from which he died June 26, 1839.

It was the custom of Brute to keep a Note Book into which he daily entered matters of occurrence, often illustrating them with sketches of memorable scenes. This he maintained until near his death. His Note Books, as well as his voluminous correspondence with Bishops England, Rosati, Flaget and Purcell, with Judge Gaston and other persons of prominence in ecclesiastical and civil life in the United States and Europe, as well as his Reports of his work in the new and undeveloped Diocese to the Leopoldian Association of Vienna, would have furnished the material for an extended biography of one of the most re markable men who have graced the hierarchy in the United States, and would have added most interesting chapters to the history of the Church in this country. Bishop Brute seems to have realized the value of his literary remains. It is said that he spent the last months of his life in arranging his papers for his literary executor, when failing strength made him unable to perform the active duties of pastor and bishop.

These papers he left to his successor, Bishop Hailandiere, who was in Europe at the time of the death of Brute. On the return of Bishop Hailan diere the business of a See, now growing rapidly with the incoming Irish and German immigration, hindered any attention the successor might have desired to give to the papers of Brute. Difficulties of administration induced Bishop Hailandiere to resign his See in 1847 and he returned to France. While wait ing in New York to sail, Bishop Hailandiere prevailed upon Bishop Hughes of New York to prepare a Life of Brute. The Bishop of New York had known Brute intimately while a student at Mt. St. Mary’s. In furtherance of his plan for the work, Hailandiere had given orders to the priest in charge of VTincennes, to forward to New York the Brute MS., and this was done. But the work of the New York Diocese was also pressing and the Life was not writ ten. It being reported to Vincennes, after the death of Archbishop Hughes, that the MSS. were being scattered and in danger of loss, the authorities there, in 1864, requested the return of the papers. In the meantime Bishop Bayley, who at one time had been Secretary of Bishop Hughes, had prepared a small volume, Memoirs of Bishop Brute, which was published by O’Shea in 1865. He had contemplated writing a Life of Brute, but press of occupations did not permit him to carry out his design, and he contented himself with publishing as “Memoirs.” the notes and reminiscences of the French Revolution, the dia ries of Brute and his accounts of his labors in the new Diocese, from his inter esting Letters to the Leopoldine Association. The facts of his life and character are made up mainly from a Discourse of Dr. McCaffrey delivered after Brutés death, and from notes in Brutés handwriting.

Some of Mss. of the Brute was returned to Vincennes after the appearance of Bayley’s Memoris of Brute. The latter book, though a mere scrap book hastily compiled, was a fortunate publication, for it saved from destruction some of the most valuable writings of Brute. In 1870 a nephew of Brute, the Rev. Paul Jansions, O.S.B., came from France to prepare a Life of his distin guished uncle. He had already published a small pamphlet containing a sketch of the great Bishop, and with such manuscripts as were then available from the ing to write the Life of Brute. While engaged in arranging his papers he was taken sick with typhoid fever, and died at Vincennes, September 7, 1870. All his papers, the gathering of several years, were boxed up and sent to the Benedictine Monastery of St. Meinrad, Ind., where they reposed undisturbed until consumed by the fire which destroyed the Abbey in 1887.

A young priest of the Diocese of Vincennes, Rev. Edmund J. Schmitt, who had unusual talent for historical research, began to gather material for a Life of Brute, but he was obliged to go South for his health and died May 5, 1901. He left his manuscripts to Bishop Maes of Covington, but the latter was unable to undertake the work, and some months before his death sent the papers to the Bishop of Indianapolis. They are now in the possession of Notre Dame University. The writer of this does not know what Fr. Schmitt was able to collect. There must be extant many letters of Brute scattered about the country, for he was a faithful correspondent in the days when familiar corre spondence was still an art. But the materials which Brute had himself arranged for an Autobiography or a Life are gone, except such as were fortunately printed in the Memoirs of Brute by Bayley, and this book is now out of print. What with diaries, Note Books and Sketches which he daily made, no man seems to have better prepared for his biography than Brute. But with fine irony fate seems to have decreed otherwise, and the Life of one of the greatest men of the Church in the United States is, nearly eighty years after his death, still unwritten. But it is a tribute to his greatness, that so long a time after his death, the want of a Life of Brute is still felt.


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