July 15, 2005

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Father Simon Bruté’s love for being a pastor in the United States shines through

Although a large part of Father Simon Bruté’s assigned ministry as a Sulpician priest was teaching at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and College in Emmitsburg, Md., the future bishop of Vincennes was very much a pastor for the people of Emmitsburg.

Simon Bruté was a scholar-priest who was also sought after for the ministration of the sacraments. Some of Father Bruté’s notes chart a day in his priestly life. They are not written in prose intended for publication, but it is important to transcribe some of these notes in order to appreciate his pastoral heart.

Father Bruté would rise at 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. The day began with prayer and meditation before the tabernacle. Sometimes he would be present for the Mass of another priest. By 8 a.m., after breakfast, he would return to the chapel on the Mount to take from there on foot through the woods the Blessed Sacrament to an elderly sick person. He would pray the rosary on the way. He administered the sacrament to the sick person and, on one occasion, prepared her husband for his first Communion.

By 9:30 a.m., he was praying Psalms and singing hymns on his way to the parish church in Emmitsburg. From there, he took the sacrament to a gentleman who had been away from the Church for years. He heard his ­confession and visited with him about his faith. By 10:45 a.m., he was back at the parish church to baptize a child. He visited with the mother, “who had great difficulties.” After that, he visited a couple of other homebound people.

At noon when he returned to the Mount, he found an elderly German woman waiting to see him. She had not received the sacraments for 10 years because she was ill and lame; she asked for his pastoral ministry and was invited to stay for a meal.

By 1:30 p.m., Father Bruté was back at the church in Emmitsburg to get the Blessed Sacrament, which he then carried to others who were sick. He administered the anointing of the sick to a dying person. He explained the sacraments to those present, several of whom were Protestants.

At 4 p.m., he went to hear the confession of another sick person. On the way back to the Mount, he prayed the Office (Liturgy of the Hours) while on foot. On his return, he prepared instructions to be given for the sacrament of confirmation.

“And now,’ he wrote, “am writing down these notes; but a thousand details, thoughts and acts not told; how wonderful the day of a priest!” On the margins, he had charted the mileage he had walked—almost 30 miles. There are other notes of his moving pastoral concern and care for black slaves in the area.

“What have I done for the house? Reviewed the second Latin class; had a conversation before God with one of the young men; Latin lesson; reviewed the third French class; Latin lesson to Guy Elder; had a conversation with another young man who came to consult me … .”

In another set of notes about a day’s pastoral activity, one can read: “I remember to have spoken to 62 persons, more probably, in regard to matters connected with religion and their duty; made a short exhortation at Mass, it being St. Ignatius’ day.”

There are other notes of Father Bruté’s continued reading and study. “Saturday night, 14th, I received from Baltimore a number of the Edinburg Review, and Stuart’s Against the Eternal Generation of Jesus Christ. Sunday, 15th. Already read through Stuart’s book, and wrote a long letter of remarks upon it to Elder. Attended to the duties of the day at Emmitsburg. In the evening, read part on the road, part at home, most of the Edinburg. Monday. This day I finished the Edinburg, made a dozen long notes on the article on O’Meara’s Journal and two on the article upon Duprat’s works, with some search amongst my books in regard to points in these memoranda.”

He also notes that he finished a map of the ecclesiastical states for the geography class and taught the theology class and then a philosophy class. And then he went on a sick call “and the usual happy round of a priest, prayer, meditation, Mass, breviary, beads, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, etc.” At the end of a set of notes, he wrote, “God, God, God, all the day long!”

It was not God’s plan that Father Bruté should be a missionary in India, but he was a zealous missionary in the New World. He loved to provide the sacraments for his people. Even as he took care of his young seminarians, he had a special regard for the poor and the elderly. His pastoral heart must have spoken volumes to the seminarians.

Next week: Father Simon Brute’s connection to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.


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