Skip to content

Praise for Bishop Brute – the “Priestly” priest in 1967

I ran across this article, written by Msgr. John Davis, for “The Advocate”, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Newark (which ceased publication in October 2020). The article was written for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith column of the archdiocese.

The Church, in 1967, was finding its way after the changes that took place after the Second Vatican Council. In addition, there was a great deal of turmoil in the country because of the war in Vietnam and the opposition to it, as well as the sorry state of race relations.

Msgr. Davis’ was attempting, I believe to put the life of Brute out into the turmoil to show that this saintly man, although dead for 128 years at that time, was still a model for priests as well as for the Church as a whole.

The Catholic Advocate, Newark, New Jersey – Volume 16, Number 38, 14 September 1967

Society for the Propagation of the Faith

The Priestly Bishop

In these days drained of idealism, it is good to hear of a great priest. Now that so many of our cities have become scenes of hatred and violence, it is good to hear of holy cities. The great priest of whom we write is Simon Gabriel Brute. The city, unique in the history of our country, is Vincennes, Ind.

Just 133 years ago Simon Brute came to Vincennes as its first Bishop. The diocese comprised the entire state of Indiana, a vast portion of the Northwest Territory. Brute was a learned and holy man.

In fact, John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, said: – Bishop Brute is the most learned man of his day in America.” The new Bishop had a burning love for God and fellbwmen. He would never have been elected Bishop by the vote of his peers or his people He could not even ride a horse because of a physical disability. Yet when necessity demanded, he rode horseback over thousands of miles. He also had many personal mannerisms which were very distracting such as constantly keeping his fingers in motion when conversing and using his hands to make a point.

He spoke English but with an entirely French pronunciation and that from a large toothless mouth. Yet God had great things for this French missionary to do. As Bishop Flaget. the first Bishop of the West, said of him: “He is a divine paradox. Mon Dieu!

When he celebrates Holy Mass when he speaks of Jesus Christ. I am beside myself. I anticipate miracle after miracle that will be wrought by this venerable apostle.” Brute had been a medical doctor, graduating first out of 1.100 students at the University of Paris. But he always wanted to be priest and a missionary.

He thought first of India and China, but God directed him to America. He came to nearly-pricstless Mount Saint Mary s in Baltimore where he became professor and spiritual director for 20 years. Like a true missionary he formed there a native clergy He has been called the father of the American bishopric. One of his students. Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati, preached at the consecration and installation of his former mentor.

When Brute first arrived in Vincennes, there was not one priest in Indiana whom be could call his own. Dying less than five years he had built 30 churches. 30 missions, recruited 25 priests, built a seminary with 20 students enrolled, two colleges and two free schools.

He would have been pleased to know that the community he installed in St. Mary of the Woods College now numbers 1,500 Sisters. His episcopal See would also become the home of the best-known Catholic University in the country, Notre Dame.

Bishop Brute was far from being a brick and mortar priest. He was a priest who brought the Church to Indiana and the world. This was no detached scholar speculating idly about the nature of the priesthood.

This priest knew why he had been ordained and why he had been consecrated a Bishop. He would never have been ashamed of the adjective “priestly” before the noun “priest” He was too immersed in the sacrifice of the Savior to forego the description “priestly,” which means “sacrificing.”

If our young men would take Simon Brute as an ideal, they need never wonder whether they might serve mankind better in some humanitarian movement than in religion This missionary shows the priestly vocation as being of greater value than the profession of sociologist, psychologist, teacher, social worker and crusader of racial and social justice.

Bishop Brute’s priesthood was full of hardships This may be why he influenced so many young men to the priesthood in a country new to him.

Youth responds to something onerous because youth has a generous spirit. As Cardinal Newman said so well: “Good is never done except at the expense of those who do it: truth is never enforced except at the sacrifice of its propounders ”

Brute spared no expense of his person; hence, his good lives forever. He spared no personal sacrifice; hence, he propounded truths that have formed the faith of the great state of Indiana Her sons and daughters extend that good and that truth to the ends of the earth.

Simon Gabriel Brute hat his modern counterparts in the missionaries who continue to prove that God’s hand faUs on chosen meo. We do not necessarily need great numbers of chosen men provided the ones that we have are like Brute.

By Msgr. John F. Davis

Then, as they say… But wait! There’s more! This clipping from the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper, date May 1960 (click to enlarge) which looked back 50 years prior to 1910 – All but one of these individuals have been canonized…


Categories: Postings.

Comment Feed

No Responses (yet)

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.