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Catholic Heroes… Blessed Daniel Brottier

February 21, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

The Eighth Station of the Cross tells us that on His way to Calvary, our Lord counseled the women of Jerusalem. Without self-pity, He set aside His pain and suffering to think only of saving souls.
Many saints have suffered great pains and dark nights, but they did not use these sufferings as excuses to avoid doing God’s work. Blessed Daniel Brottier suffered from severe headaches for most of his life, yet he accomplished many great deeds to honor God’s Kingdom.
John-Baptiste Brottier, and his wife, Herminie (née Bouthe), lived in a commune in La Ferté-Saint-Cyr, about 125 miles south of Paris. On September 7, 1876 they welcomed their newborn son Daniel. His father supported Daniel, his older brother, and mother by working as the coachman for the Marquis Durfort.
Even as a youngster, Daniel had great aspirations. When his mother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he quickly responded, “I won’t be either a general or a pastry chef — I will be the Pope!” When his mother cautioned him that he couldn’t become Pope unless he first was ordained a priest, he eagerly exclaimed, “Well, then, I’ll become a priest.”
Academically, Daniel was first in his class. A rambunctious and stubborn youth, he was also intelligent, prudent, and charitable.
His first near mystical experience happened when he was eleven years old on the day of his First Holy Communion, April 11, 1887. Years later, he reflected, “Heaven is a day of First Communion that never ends!”
At twelve years old, he entered the minor seminary in Blois, 25 miles southwest of La Ferté-Saint-Cyr. This he saw as his first step in realizing his dream of becoming a religious missionary. Because he was told to get an education first, he stayed in school.
His cheerful energy stood out among his confreres as did his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary — a hallmark of the Holy Spirit Fathers. He continued his studies, weathering the storms of violent headaches, and he received first orders on December 8, 1892 at the major seminary.
Nearly seven years later, on October 22, 1899, he was ordained a priest. His objective to be a missionary was delayed when he was sent to teach in the Pontlevoy high school, about 15 miles south of Blois.
Success followed him to Blois as he obeyed the missive of his bishop: “You are a born educator.” His zeal, good humor, and enthusiasm served to bring many youth closer to God and His Blessed Mother Mary. Although he engaged all his skills and talents in the role of educator, he still longed to be a missionary. He spoke of this lingering desire with his spiritual director who finally advised him to apply to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. This he did in 1901.
Having heard of this wonderful congregation, he expressed his love for his Heavenly Father when he wrote to them: “I am longing to offer my life, my blood, to spread the Good News….This wish to be a martyr is indeed ambitious, but without it, it seems to me, that there can be no true missionary.”
As expected in the lives of saints, he faced several obstacles, the biggest of which was the opposition of his bishop because Fr. Brottier was an influential and effective teacher. His family also opposed Daniel going to overseas missions.
To their arguments, he responded, “If happiness here below were the goal toward which we should direct all our efforts, my plan would be crazy. But the sacrifices that we make now reap a harvest of glory and happiness in Heaven, and that is what we must consider before all else.”
Daniel began his novitiate on September 1902, and after making his vows in November 1903, he received his assignment. Rather than a missionary posting, he was disappointed to learn he would be the assistant in Senegal at St. Louis Parish.
Fr. Brottier’s charismatic personality quickly endeared him to the people of Senegal, where he inspired a variety of apostolic endeavors: spiritual formation of the youth, a confraternity of Mary for younger children, a youth group which Muslims could join, adult conferences on apologetics, and more.
In 1911 he had a debilitating accident that exacerbated his headaches and seriously injured his knee, thus requiring many months of recuperation. Hence he returned to France under his doctor’s orders.
Fr. Brottier was so disappointed he went to the Trappist monastery in Lerins to decide his future as a Trappist. This period of discernment only confirmed his vocation to the Holy Spirit Congregation.
He continued to work for the missions in Africa when he received a request from Bishop Hyacinthe-Joseph Jalabert of Dakar, urgently seeking his assistance in raising money for an African Memorial — the cathedral of Dakar.
A few years after his return to France, World War I began, in 1914. Although Fr. Brottier could not be drafted, he served as a chaplain in the war effort. He became a model chaplain, always on the front lines assisting the wounded and dying, not caring whether they were German or French.
He earned several medals for his service. Once he convinced officers the futility of a planned attack, thus saving many lives. He boosted soldiers’ morale and fearlessly served despite the bitter cold and crippling conditions. Ultimately he won six military awards, in addition to the Military Cross and Legion of Honor.
At the end of WWI, Bishop Jalabert believed that St. Therese of Lisieux had protected Fr. Brottier. The bishop had placed both of their pictures in a double frame with the words, “Protect Fr. Brottier. I need him.” Hence Fr. Brottier vowed to build a chapel in her honor.
When Fr. Brottier had a particularly dark spiritual warfare, he attributed his survival from it to the Little Flower, averring that she had helped him through a dark night of purification.
His headaches intensified, but he did not allow them to curtail his work — he resumed fund raising for the Dakar cathedral and assumed the leadership of the Orphan Apprentices of Auteuil. This organization prepared children for First Communion and then trained them in the trades.
In 1923, trusting completely in St. Therese, despite having absolutely no money, he began his plan of fulfilling his promise to build her a chapel. The chapel in Auteuil was consecrated by Jean Cardinal Verdier on October 5, 1930.
As the years passed, Fr. Brottier agonized over the orphans he could not help, crying over their plight. As he labored more industriously, he soon increased the original 175 apprentices to 1,425. He began the “home in the country” program, placing many orphans with families outside the cities.
To support this effort, he founded several publications and prayer programs. His faith was so strong that he never hesitated to give all of his being to the Lord.
In 1933, Fr. Brottier suffered a serious heart attack. He lived two more years, making more plans for projects to help God’s children.
The orphans, who loved him so much, planned a party on February 2, 1936 to celebrate the completion of the Dakar cathedral. And then Fr. Brottier died on February 28, 1936.
His feast is celebrated on the anniversary of his death.

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