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Bishop Brutés Pastoral Letter – August 1835

In the summer of 1835, barely a year after his consecration as the First Bishop of Vincennes, Servant of God, Simon Gabriel Brute prepared to go to Europe and seek the help of anyone — in his quest to serve the new Diocese. Brute was looking for money, prayers, supplies and manpower.

At this point in time the only priest who belonged to the Vincennes Diocese was Simon Petit Lalumieré. There were others serving the diocese, which included the entire State of Indiana and eastern half of Illinois. St. Cyr at Chicago, Ferneding in the vicinity of Dearborn County, but they were “on loan”

Brute left Vincennes and made stops in Cincinnati and New York. He departed for France on the ship, “Rhone“, on August 8, 1835. It is hard to imagine, in these days of instant communication, that it would take Bishop Brute a year to do what he went to Europe to do. His efforts were rewarded with a large number of “volunteers” to the Catholics of Indiana and eastern Illinois. Names like Shawe, Petit, St. Palais and others.

With that, here is his Pastoral Letter, dated August 10, 1835:

Vincennes, August 10, 1835.

Simon Gabriel, by the grace of God and the appointment
of the Apostolic See, Bishop of Vincennes —
To his beloved brethren in Indiana and Illinois-grace and
peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Truly Beloved Brethren: – May charity and innocence abound with all. May prosperity and security dwell in our borders. May the happiness and contentment, the common zeal for the public good, and the universal, mutual, good feeling which I have witnessed and shared with gladness of heart since I came to devote the remainder of my days to your service, forever be fostered by all. Paul and his brethren in the apostleship said humbly, but most confidently, when they were visiting or writing to the nations, that they were sent not by men, but by the Lord; and they called them whom they thus addressed, their ‘children,’ or ‘brethren,’ “according to the common faith” and the “acknowledging of the truth,” for the “only sake of piety,” and of “the hope of everlasting life,” with that unfeigned charity which was in those early days the sign of their blessed unity in the bond of peace. Their mission, authority, and true purpose were thus made known, and duly understood. Our authority, in the succession of time, is but one with theirs. And thus, with sensible men, it needs no further apology. The spiritual kingdom of Christ, preparing on earth for its consummation in heaven, “is not of this world.” It leaves all sublunary concerns to go their transitory rounds, as the providence of God and man’s liberty may direct them.

‘Made of one,’ all mankind dwell upon the whole face of the earth their appointed time; and the ‘limits of their habitation’ are before God ‘for good or evil,’ constituting a temporal order, with an obligation on all, that they act only for good. This duty should be the most acknowledged in a country where the choicest blessings of the Almighty are bestowed without measure, calling for the most loving cooperation of all in the promotion of the common welfare. A glance around us discovers the utmost activity prevailing; men acquitting, in the most prosperous manner, the primitive mandate, , fill the earth.” And is it not enough to inspire your Pastors, as yourselves, with an insatiable desire to see the people of this vast republic, to see our Indiana and Illinois more and more blessed in their independence and industry. What other mind should be in each one of us, but that of contributing to the general and individual happiness, and pleasing God, by pleasing all our brethren in all lawful things. Such has been, unquestionably, throughout the entire Union, the course of the Catholic clergy and people, no matter from what state or kingdom; at what near or remote period, they emigrated from the eastern wor ld. Hence, from the east to the far west, from the north to the south, of our immense and most beloved country, has been conciliated for us that general favor which the envy, or unreasonable fears and delusions of a few, cannot prevent from preserving and increasing among all our fellow citizens; each enjoying in peace the fruit and shade of his own vine and fig-tree, well contented, patriotic, and friendly, under the protection of our free constitution, which equally and impartially extends its blessings to all. Thus secure in our temporal state, we should only think of promoting “the hope of everlasting life,” “leading quiet and peaceable lives,” as the apostle warns, and our faith directs us.

To cherish in you that spirit and procure that the institutions of our holy religion may extend and display the more among you their usefulness, is our duty. Certainly such zeal cannot be more objectionable in us, than in the ministers of other societies, which being far more numerous, should be less susceptible of admitting pretenses against the exercise of a common right; nay more, bound, in a true republican spirit, to protect the pastors and flocks of our own and every other denomination, in its enjoyment.

Must not, beloved brethren, every heart impressed with the excellence and divine authority of the Christian religion, desire to see it extend its blessings to all mankind? It was given for all men and all nations; and in Jesus Christ, there is neither Greek nor Scythian; Roman, barbarian, or stranger; all are the domestics and citizens of the same city. Its spiritual rights and rules belong alike to all, and are to be offered and administered unto them in a manner perfectly independent of the interference of numan policy, the civil arrangement of nations, or their differences of languages, institutions, and customs, whatsoever. Convinced that truths, of such plain and obvious bearing, are evident to the minds of all our fellow citizens, we shall ever act confidently, as the line of our duty (responsible as it is in the sight of God) may direct us, for the best interests of our flock; certain of the divine approbation, and not distrustful of the esteem to which we should be thus entitled on the part of upright and reasonable men.

Since it hath pleased the Bishops of the United States to solicit, and our Holy Father to grant the erection of the new See of Vincennes, many have been the favors bestowed upon us by Divine Providence, for which we return all thanks, and invite you to join in the same. These were, however, but humble beginnings, we trust, compared with what we may further anticipate as the blessing of our already numerous, and still increasing Catholic population. In the survey of our wants in the newly erected diocese, it has been easy to perceive how inadequate are our present means to the actual demand; and how many earnest calls from congregations and individuals famishing for the Bread of Life, must be left unanswered, until additional help shall have been obtained, or sufficient time afforded for the development of our own resources. An appeal to the charity of our brethren for this purpose has become necessary, and we have resolved to make it; but to a spirit of zeal and liberality we would first encouarge you. For, beloved brethren, you are convinced that in these new countries, settling as they are on all sides with pledges of the most magnificent prosperity, there can be no more worthy use made of what our Lord grants with so much goodness, than to devote a proper portion of it to secure to yourselves and to your posterity, the blessings of religion.

But although we may trust that zeal will be daily awakening the more in our diocese, as it has happened in those created before it; we are for the present greatly in need to see the Catholic spirit of our sister churches, whether in this country, or in those of the old world, exerted in our behalf, as it has been constantly the case, from the beginning of Christianity, that the more ancient churches should assist the younger, as truly being, in faith and charity, one body in the Lord. Founded in unity by Him to whom the whole earth and the fullness thereof belong, the Catholic Church, is, from her very name, the church of all nations. Remembrance of this one fact is alone sufficient to take away the very idea of foreign interference, in whatever is granted by our brethren at home, or across seas or mountains, as a simple consequence of our being all but one body. On that point, the practice of the apostles, their calls to the faithful, their voyages, their collections of money and means, their missions, and frequent transfer of men ceased not to show how earnestly their Catholic feelings kept alive in their bosoms, the “solicitude for all the churches,” and their desire to make them not only pray for, but “help” one another, as far as their abilities allowed, in their various temporal as well as spiritual necessities.

Perhaps, dear brethren, our anxiety not to permit our travels and efforts in behalf of the diocese so recently trusted to us, and as yet, as it were, wholly to be created, to give occasion to any mistake, or misrepresentation, makes us insist too much on these observations; but we are eager to spare the weakness of the weak, and disarm the malignity of the malignant. Painful must it be to Catholics, that their plain, consoling, and elevating sentiments should be misunderstood, and those views of mutual assistance through the different parts of the kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world, simple and amiable as they are, should excite most unreasonable or wicked surmises of foreign conspiracies. The expression of such dishonorable and unchristian surmises, so long unknown in this land of all good feeling, has of late become so frequent and mischievous, that it has become necessary to obviate their bad effects by giving them, as they deserve, on every occasion, a true and unqualified refutation.

When the apostles began that spiritual ministry to all nations, which obtains its glorious continuance amongst us, whether we went in person to the nations, issued orders to them, or received from abroad a reference to their authority, they moved, spoke, wrote, and acted not as strangers and foreigners, but as embracing the whole ear th in the same truth, jurisdiction, and grace. So does, to this day, the Church, in the one, same, spiritual commonwealth of Christendom. That commonwealth, in her eyes, has no civil divisions, no civil magistracies, or legislation; these things are of another world, not her own. Christ, “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever,” sends and empowers His messengers for the work of the same independent ministry, to-day, as yesterday, and destined to be thus the same until the consummation of the world. The Christian world has no strangers; all are citizens and domestics, not of local households, or of changing faiths, but of that immense, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that now, as in the beginning, has but “one heart and one soul,” of mutual affection, and of common creed.

We thus, as we hope, beloved brethren, express not our own feelings alone, but those of all sensible Americans. It may happen that some, or even many disorderly minds, may be misled to dissent from positions so simple or call in question facts so incontestable as those we have represented to you. Nay, it may so happen, that some editors of papers, miscalled religious; and with them a few of the political line, should mistake their duty for the promotion of the peace, order, and real prosperity of this country, as well as for the good of religion; and for reasons best known to themselves, spread with broadcast, the seeds of discord among brethren. We have not to mind their judgment. From the very close of our revolution, to this day, the true judges of what may affect the interest of our country, have in all instances given their practical and most honorable verdict in our favor. Our congress and the legislatures of all our states; our presidents, from Washington, to his present successor; our mayors and magistracy, particularly in our largest cities, far from sharing in the pretended fears of foreign influence, and unfriendly feelings on the part of the Catholic hierarchy and people cease not to bestow on them and their institutions, with the utmost impartiality, all the favors that could be lawfully claimed. They ceased not, besides, to offer to the prelates and clergy all the marks of respect and confidence that could encourage those who knew them not, to cordial intercourse with men whom evil or weak-minded persons misrepresented and reviled; but who are uniformly esteemed, and even beloved, as useful citizens, and most faithful and devoted friends by those by whom they are known.

To conclude, then, beloved brethren; when we leave you for a while, to travel for your best services, and only in compliance with our most pressing sense of love and duty, we entertain no fear for your welfare and peace as Catholics. The public spirit, the laws of our states, and the constitution of our country are, under Providence, sufficient pledges for your security. Only pray that all the good it is our intention to procure, be accomplished; pray for your Bishop, who will in all his journeying, by sea or land, hold you in the same remembrance, before God, of earnest prayer.

Before leaving Vincennes, we appointed the very Rev. Mr. Lalumiere to reside there principally, and be our Vicar General besides our authority being sufficiently delegated to him for the ordinary cases of application, the holy co-operation of the bishops of the neighboring dioceses will ever be ready for the spiritual wants that may require it. Wherefore, beloved brethren, whether absent or present in body, with you I shall ever be in mind and in heart, exhorting you, and saying to you with the Apostle, “for the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true; whatsoever things are just; whatsoever things are holy; whatsoever things are amiable; whatsoever things are of good repute; if there be any virtue; If there be any praise of discipline, think on these things; these things do ye, and the God of peace will be with ye.”

Given this 10th day of August, in the year of our Lord MDCCCXXXV, and first of our Episcopacy.
+ SIMON GABRIEL,
Bishop of Vincennes ((Godecker, Mary Salesia, and Joseph Chartrand. 1931. Simon Brute de Rémur, First Bishop of Vincennes. St. Meinrad, Ind: St. Meinrad Historical Essays. pp.255-260 — As it appeared in the Catholic Telegraph IV (1835) p.373-375))

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