By BRO. CLAIR STANISLAUS On the first Sunday after Easter, April 4, Brother Benildus, of the Institute of the Christian Schools, will be declared Beatus.
The event has a special significance, because this is the first time a schoolmaster, a teacher, with no other claim or help to heroic virtue than the exercise of his profession and the keeping of the rules
At first sight it seems incredible that the long list of saints,, which contains men and' women of every state and profession, from Kings and Queens to beggars, should not offer a single example of a teacher in our modern sense.
Blessed Brother Solomon, who preceded Brother Benildus in the honours of beatification, attained his title by martyrdom during the French Revolution: Again, St. John Baptist de La Salle, the Founder of the religious congregation to which both Brother Solomon and Brother Benildus belong, a great pioneer of modern education, was snot a teacher by profession, although he taught the poor, and even wrote a manual of practical pedagogy. He was a nobleman, a priest and canon of Rheims, who established an Institute for the Christian Education of the poor.
ORDINARY SCHOOLMASTER Bro. Benildus, on the other hand, was a plain and ordinary schoolmaster, whose whole life was spent in the class-room. For 21 years he was the headmaster of. a humble country primary school, and he achieved his crown by sanctifying the strenuous labours of his long years in the heart-breaking monotony of the daily grind of a schoolmaster.
The career of Bro. Benildus, like the life of every ordinary teacher, was uneventful. There is nothing in it to thrill the imagination or even to attract attention. He was born in a small town of central France, called Thuret, on June 14, 1805.
It was the year of Trafalgar. Napoleon's plans for the invasion of England were defeated, but. for the next ten years, the people of France lived amidst wars and the rumours of wars. So passed the boyhood of Pierre Romancon, in his country home, with his parents and in the company of his elder brother and three sisters.
At fourteen, he was sent to the school of the De La Salle Brothers in the neighbouring town of Riom. Two years later, he entered the novitiate of the Brothers recently established at Clermont-Ferrand, where he received the habit and the name Brother Benildus.
His religious training completed, he was sent to teach at Aurillac, and subsequently at Moulins and Limoges. When he had thus acquired experience. he was appointed headmaster of a small school at Biltom. Finally, in September, 1841 he was sent to open a new establishment at Saugues, and there he spent the remaining 21 years of his life.
BOYS AND ADULTS
Thus, in a few words, the whole career of Bro. Benildus may be described. His life at Saugues was that of a country schoolmaster. With his small community of two or three Brothers, he strove to impart a Christian Education to the rustics of this isolated district, and he taught not only small boys, but also, for a time, young men of twenty. and twenty-five, desirous of acquiring the rudiments of knowledge.
On his first arrival, the inhabitants of Saugues were somewhat disappointed owing to his smallness of stature and unprepossessing appearance. They thought he would never be able to manage the uncouth youngsters confided to his care. But they were mistaken. They soon found that they had acquired a real personality and a first-rate headmaster.
From respect, their attitude gradually changed to veneration, when they perceived that a saint had come to live in their midst. From his little school there blossomed forth some 150 religious and priestly vocations, and a whole generation of good Christian fathers of families.
Bro. Benildus did not write an autobiography, revealing the wonderful work of God in his soul, nor did be perform miracles amidst ecstasies and visions. In him, sanctity was revealed by a constant and perfect application to daily duties, and the scrupulous obser
vance of his religious " Rule " in every detail.
Bro. Benildus died on August 13, 1862. Everyone hastened to obtain a last glimpse of the man of God, and people fought for a relic. His funeral was a triumph. In spite of the pouring rain, it was attended by thousands, and the oc-asion was marked by a miraculous cpre. His grave became a place of pilgrimage To satisfy the piety of the faithful, his remains were transferred, in 1884. to a monumental tomb. and so great was the number of " favours" attributed to his intercession, that twelve years later, the first steps were taken with a view to his canonisation. In 1903 his Cause was introduced in Rome, and in 1928, Pope Pius XI published the decree confirming the heroicity of virtues of the. Servant of God.
15,000 BROTHERS, 1,400
The Institute of the Christian School Brothers counts 15,000 members and 1,400 religious colleges and schools are established throughout the world.
Representatives of the Order from.all over the world will be present at the beatification. About forty pilgrims, including twenty pupils of the Brothers, from Great Britain and Ireland set out this week, while other pilgrims from France, Spain, the Far East. Australia and from North, South and Central America are already en route or actually. in Rome.
The English contingent was to have been something like one hundred and fifty strong. but the Government's restrictions on travel and spending upset the plans of practically all the Brothers' schools concerned.
This is the first beatification this year and will probably be the last, Vatican officials said that no other beatification ceremonies are likely to be held until the Holy Year: