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The Birth of Simon Gabriel Brute

March 20th marks the anniversary of the birth of the Right Rev. Simon Guillaume Gabriel Brute de Remur, known to us as Servant of God Simon Brute, the First Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana.

He was born in Rennes, France, March 20, 1779. Brute lived through the French Revolution and all that it meant to the Church. Michael Pasquier, in his book, “Fathers on the Frontier — French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870” wrote:

“As I gather up my scattered remembrances,” Simon Guillaume Gabriel Brute de Remur wrote in 1818 from Maryland, “the whole comes back to me very vividly, and I may be said to feel as I did then.” Brute, member of the Order of St. Sulpice and future bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana was referring to his memories and feelings associated with the French Revolution, an event that began in 1789 when he was a ten-year-old boy growing up in Rennes. Almost thirty years later, Brute recalled the “profane and systematic attempts to root out the Christian Religion from the hearts of the people and make them infidels.” The persecution of the French clergy played an important part in Brutés account of the French Revolution, as well as his attempt to lionize those priests who died or went into exile because of their refusal to abide by the articles contained in the 1790 Civil Constitution of the Clergy. …And he remembered “how sad, how desolate everything seemed without that living presence” of a priest able to administer the sacraments and celebrate mass on a regular basis. In sum, Brute thanked God for an end to the days when insult and derision of the Clergy and the ancient faith of the French nation” threatened to destroy the very fabric of Western civilization. 1

Brute saw the Eucharist as central to his priesthood and to the Catholic faith. He wrote:

There comes a kind of resolution to go after the manner of the Apostles in the greatest possible simplicity. For each moment the Lord has in view means of grace for me and for all””the altar, the sacraments, prayer, instruction. 2

Of course, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the successor to the Diocese of Vincennes began the Cause for the eventual canonization of Bishop Brute, in 2005. With the appointment of Archbishop Charles Thompson, originally a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, (Bardstown), it seems sure that the Cause will continue. I know there are more than a few who could really care less if Bishop Brute were canonized, (and even more who don’t even know who he was, let alone see him elevated to sainthood). I have made mention of those facts in previous posts and pointed to other “Servants of God” causes where there seems to be more of a “movement” if you will. However, I know for a fact that the people who are going through the laborious task of getting the cause of Brute beyond the initial stages are working very very hard. Patience is called for, especially when they are dealing with writings scattered far and wide which require, for the most part, translation to English as well as study. As a contrast, take the example of the Venerable Solanus Casey, an American Franciscan who died in 1957. Work on his cause began in the late 1960’s and it was almost 30 years before he was declared “Venerable”. The point being that his life and writings are all contemporary, making them easily accessible. There are people who are still alive who knew him. Bishop Brute, on the other hand, died 186 years ago and the evidence for his life and his holiness is scattered far and wide.

However, I am not here to make a particular argument in favor of Brutés holiness, but to point to his overall life as being a life of holiness which can be held up as a model. This is why there is a “private” prayer to the right of this post asking God to guide us in this endeavor. Regardless of how far Bishop Brutés ’cause’ goes, his life can be seen as an example, just as many women and men who have served the Church in Indiana, have been an example of holiness.

As we celebrate his birth today we hearken back to the installation of Cardinal Joseph Tobin as Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012. He quoted from Bishop Brutés first pastoral letter: 3

unworthy as I am of so great an honor, and of myself unequal of the charge, my only trust is in God; and, therefore, earnestly calling for your prayers, that I may obtain His Divine assistance, I come to be your chief pastor.

Bishop Brute, in his first Pastoral, continued…

With you we shall honor the Saints who reign triumphantly in heaven, call for their protection and that of the Angels to whom, says the Divine Word, our Lord”hath given charge over us, to keep us in all our ways.” …Beloved brethren,”we are the children of the Saints,” as we pass on earth to go and to meet them in heaven.

[This post was originally published on this day in 2018]

  1. Pasquier, Michael. 2010. Fathers on the frontier French missionaries and the Roman Catholic priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. []
  2. Brute to Bishop Chabrat. Coadjutor of the Diocese of Bardstown, August 1, 1834 — From Godecker, Mary Salesia. 1931. Simon Brute de Rémur, first bishop of Vincennes. St. Meinrad, Ind: St. Meinrad historical essays. p.211 []
  3. Blanchard, Charles. 1898. History of the Catholic church in Indiana. Logansport, Ind: A.W. Bowen & Co. []

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