When is was in Second Class in Primary School at St. Peter Chanel's Convent, Berala in what was then called Sydney's West, at age 7 yrs, I recall a young very fine looking Josephite Nun , Sister Christina speaking with glowing admiration of Pere Lacordaire.

 In future years I began to find out more and more about him, including reading  biographies. The latest, via Kindle, is written by "Anonymous"( and No, not a Monk , not even a Catholic , seemingly in the late 1800s or early 1900s). I hope to write in some detail about Pere Lacordaire, a holy,devout, faithful, dynamic , profound Preacher and Educator who suffered much from guilt by early association in public matters with the later apostate Pere Lammenais.

But last night I read somethings from Pere Lacordaire's  biography that I am eager to share with as many people as possible, and especially someone in Africa, because they are so apt for our present days. Here we go:

"The religious education of youth had long lain very close to Lacordaire's heart; the recollections of his own school and college days were such as to make him feel the deep value of that sentiment of "moral paternity and disinterested love of souls, which is too often absent at the very time when it is most needed. He remembered how his own childish Faith had died out within his soul, as a light sinks within a lamp that finds no hand to feed and trim it. How many of youth's noblest instincts die thus a natural death, unmarked and easy, and no man know etch of their grave; how many of its generous impulses and ardent inspirations perish, which a word, perhaps even a look, from some friend beloved and referenced, might have quickened into enduring life.

                                                Pere Lacordaire

In youth, it is true, there are strong checks against the development of man's higher nature - it is the season of fierce and sudden assaults, of ardent insidious solicitations - but we should ever remember that powerful as are the antagonists which Divine grace has at this time to encounter in the heart of youth, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", it finds also a strong counterbalancing force, in the ardor of the soul's undimmed eye, the energies of its yet unbroken wing, and meets with auxiliaries that will be looked for in vain at a later period. The days of man's youth are, in spiritual as in natural things, "the days of his glory" and the days of his strength, rich in energy, in hope, in warm attraction to all that is morally exalted". 

Convent from which Pere Lacordaire worked from 1849 to 1852
 When I paid a visit to the Chapel in 1986 the  wall to the left of the door was daubed 
in French with "Death to the Fathers" a grim reminder of the twisted spirit of 1792, still alive in Paris.

"Youth", says Lacordaire,"is life's beautiful moment. Childhood wants depth, it has not yet attained to either sensibility or knowledge. In mature life we know too much, and we please less readily; the heart less fondly wooed grows more circumspect, and neither gives nor receives as freely as it used to do. But in opening life what fullness is there, what outgoing, we love so quickly and are so quickly beloved."

...."He seems to have been imbued with the sense of the reciprocal relationship between mind and mind, and has stated in express words that no man, as regards intelligence, is sufficient to be his own beginning, or able to dispense with a spiritual ancestry." Without the spark of this transmitted fire, the light of intelligence is scarcely able to kindle, or at best it can give forth but a feeble and intermittent flash. God was the first teacher of humanity, and it will always till the end of time need masters to carry on and add to its tradition of knowledge, and lift the individual soul to the heights the race has already attained." "Every true genius" he adds "has been a disciple before being a Creator".

               The great Preacher and Teacher and Faithful Priest Commemorated

 And passing from the region of intellectual to that of the spiritual life,
" Lacordaire knew," says Pere Chocarne ( early biographer)" perhaps better than anyone, how much the word of the Priest, the convincing, persuasive, penetrating word, is needed for the establishment of faith in the soul. Not in vain has it been written that "Faith cometh by hearing" In his own case, at the Lyceum of Dijon, this word had been wanting, or had given but an uncertain sound, speaking nothing to the heart; while the imagination was fed and kindled by the bright records of Pagan antiquity.

Lacordaire, so largely endowed with evangelical eloquence, felt as regarded it, not only the gifts but the calling of an apostle. speech was with him a sacred and sublime ministry, and he brought its full powers to bear upon the young minds with which he had now to deal, both in preaching, in spiritual direction, and in easy and intimate conversation on general subjects, to which he seems to have attached great importance, as a means of quickening intelligence and bringing out all that is best within the mind . We are told that Lacordaire's was naturally silent, and, in this case, few among his many self-denials could have been more onerous than the conversations to which he lent himself for an hour or longer every evening with the elder pupils of Soreze; for the schoolboy, as Pere Chocarne says truly, does not know how to talk- his stock of original thought is slender- he knows nothing of the world or of life, and vibrates, in general, between two well-worn and not very interesting subjects, his sports and his studies. yet Lacordaire's seems to have been able to people this mental blank with rich interests; his aim was not to take the talk himself, but to put the youthful world around him at their ease, and to draw out their latent powers, knowing well that " of all the recreations that have ever been invented by man, there is none at once so full of pleasure and of profit, as simple, animated and natural conversation." He did his best to banish stiffness and restraint, encouraging lively discussion on whatever subjects arose most readily, sometimes proposing a word to define, a classic phrase to render: sometimes reading aloud or reciting, both of which he did admirably.

Pere Chocarne's observations about schoolboys were no doubt true in the late 1800, but far less so in to-day's electronic age.

Lacordaire's observations are timeless and deeply perceptive , they are of importance to any young man and certainly to any educator of young men, especially to those educators of to -day, so taken up with Programs and Policies and Administrative burdens. Lacordaire goes to the heart of education : leading out, calling forth the whole man latent in every child.

How wonderful " the"ardor of the soul's undimmed eye, the energies of its yet unbroken wing", and what joy they brought!

I hope to say much more about Lacordaire in the future. See! What an influence a young Nun in 1947 still has on this 2012 Blogger!!


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