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Servant of God Simon Brute Died on 26 June 1839

On June 26, 1839, Servant of God, Simon Gabriel Brut de Remur breathed his last. After suffering the effects of Tuberculosis, the “Saintly Bishop” (as he was always referred to), died at about 1:30 A.M. The bishop had written a letter on June 18th, knowing that he was going to die soon. This letter was addressed to all the people of his diocese, Catholic or not. He told them that “…in life, or in death, I humbly rejoice before my God.”.

Brut had labored for five short years as bishop. He had seen many of his priests die before their time and now he himself was about to go. It is interesting to note that he truly loved the Church in Indiana. He was born in France and spent almost 20 years in Maryland ministering to Elizabeth Ann Seton as well as to the colleges of St. Mary’s, both at Baltimore and Emmitsburg, his beloved mountain. Yet, he took to this new place as though it had always been his home. Not only that, he pursued his vocation with a great deal of joy and energy.

Writing in the Catholic journal, “The Catholic World”, an article entitled “Indiana’s debt to the Catholic Faith” (1916), Louis P. Harl wrote:

The same brilliancy which had marked Bishop Brut’s scholarly pursuits showed itself when as an executive he took charge of his new diocese. He was consecrated in the Cathedral of St. Louis, October 28, 1834, by the venerable Bishop Flaget, and took possession of his see on November 8th. He found his diocese, which included the now great States of Indiana and Illinois, without schools, with only about a dozen churches and missions, and with but three priests to administer to the wants of the thousands of Catholic settlers. With but four hundred dollars in actual money. Bishop Brute set himself to his herculean task. His labors could scarcely be exaggerated. So great were his zeal and organizing ability that at the time of his death in 1839, or only four years and a half after his consecration, there were in the diocese twenty four priests, twenty three churches, two religious communities, two free schoolsthe first of the Statea seminary, a college for boys, and an academy for girls.

Brut had a great deal of influence on the Church in America and not just in Indiana. Having been a theologian sought out by many bishops, especially the Bishop of Baltimore, Brut’s thoughts and words were highly prized. He had an opinion and always a learned opinion, on just about everything having to do with the American Church.

In his last days he was ministered to by Father John (or Jean) Vabret, a member of the French, “Society of Eudists” who were asked to run St. Gabriel Seminary at Vincennes. Ironically, there is very little known about Vabret. The Eudists eventually left the diocese and Vabret’s fate is unknown.

After his death, Elihu Stout, editor of the Vincennes newspaper, the Western Sun, wrote:

The news of his death produced a general and almost unanimous expression of grief amongst our citizens: and well have we cause to lament this even, for to many, very many he was dear; to the one as a friend, to the other as a comforter, to the third as a teacher or literary companion, and to all as a pattern of goodness, morality and pure piety. His character was truly amiable and his manners so conciliating, that whenever he could not make friends, he was sure not to make enemies and we can safely affirm, that he died without the latter.

Perhaps the best tribute to Brut came from a man who arrived in the United States at the same time as Brute, but was not ordained until much later, ironically by Brute. Anthony Deydier, founder of the Church of the Assumption at Evansville preached at a Mass that was celebrated in 1844 at the Diocesan Synod. In his sermon he said:

“Is it not true that when he was with us, we did not feel our weariness? Is it not true that nothing was hard to us; that we scarcely knew we were poor, though really devoid of every necessity of life? …These are men whose labors we have to continue to perpetuate–the models we have for our imitation in life and in death!”

In my mind, Brut is a saint, even if not “officially”. Then again, so is Deydier, Petit, Lalumiere, DeSeille, and all the rest. It is sad, in this day and age, that more people do not know of these heroes.

Brut was buried on June 28, 1839 in the crypt of the (Old) Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes.


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