Bresillac 1175th anniversary of the Founder's episcopal ordination

All his life, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac was sure of one thing: he wanted to be a missionary, and he was ready to give everything to fulfill this vocation. He wanted to "go" to enlighten the abandoned of the faith with the light of the Gospel, to implant the Church with a well-trained local clergy who could take over, and to continue elsewhere. He never imagined he would one day become a bishop. At the age of 32, while he was fully involved in the education of future clerics in Pondicherry, one of the objectives of the mission that was close to his heart, he was named titular bishop of Pruse and provicar apostolic of Coimbatore by Pope Gregory XVI on Tuesday, May 6, 1845.

A few days later, on June 30, 1845, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac was informed of his appointment and on September 26, 1845, he wrote to Rome to renounce the episcopate.

In view of Rome's urging, he finally accepted the episcopal office, as he said, ‘for the glory of God and the salvation of Christianity’, which was entrusted to him. In his diary, he wrote: "Yes, Lord, I humble myself in your presence, before whom angels are not without some imperfections. I humble myself and fear the day of your rigorous justice, and yet I hope in your infinite mercy. For it seems to me that the episcopate, like everything else in my apostolic career, I accepted above all, albeit with many natural imperfections, for your greater glory and for the greater good of our dear missions.”


He was consecrated on Sunday, October 4, 1846, more than a year after his appointment. Before leaving Pondicherry for his new mission, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac, as he was in the habit of doing before each moment or stage of his life, decided to make a spiritual retreat that he called a "preparatory retreat" in view of his consecration: "I withdrew for that purpose to the village of Ariancoupam, near the charming and pious church of Arokia-Mada, where I tried, O my God, to put myself in communication through prayer with your Spirit.” This time of retreat was for him a privileged moment that allowed him not only to prepare himself for his new office and his new mission but above all to renew his consecration to the work of God. At the end of his retreat, he wrote in his diary:

"Here I am, Lord, as at the moment of receiving the imposition of hands and the consecration of pontiffs. I have offered myself to you; will you deign to accept it, O God? As far as the feeble prediction of men can announce something in advance, the time of this august ceremony is fixed for the 4th of October; deign to pour your blessing in advance, O God, on this solemn and forever dreadful act. I would have liked more calm and inner peace during this retreat which has just ended. More than one regret has crossed my mind, my resolutions for the salvation of the poor people entrusted to me, for the well-being and the advancement of our missions in India, and in particular for that of Coimbatore, which I am marrying at this moment to remain faithful to it forever. Yes, Lord, even though I bear the title of a foreign Church and have only a delegated jurisdiction over the mission, I will consider myself, in all that concerns my personal obligations, as the true pastor of this people without a pastor”[2].

As he did at the end of his retreat before leaving for his mission in India, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac is making certain resolutions for his new mission and his office as bishop. These resolutions are in fact an extension of what he had already set as objectives when he became a foreign missionary of Paris -MEP (Missions Étrangers de Paris). These resolutions, which are the program of his whole life as a priest, missionary, bishop, and disciple of Christ, translate the will and desire of Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac to become more of a missionary saint always at work and his love for the Church of Christ.[3]

He resolved: 

"To consecrate more especially and more effectively than I have done up to now all my time, all my faculties, all my being to the glory of God, to the propagation of the Gospel, to the extension and exaltation of the Holy Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church in whose bosom I want to live, act and die. To desire nothing, to say nothing, to write nothing, that does not have as its more or less immediate goal this unique end of all my actions and all my thoughts.

To walk as quickly as possible and as directly as possible towards the goal which the Holy Church has proposed to herself by sending foreign bishops as missionaries to these countries. If simple missionaries, when they make themselves worthy of their vocation, deserve the title of apostolic, the bishops must conduct themselves in such a way as to share one day in the halo of the Apostles. "Non enim misit me Christus baptizare, sed evangelizare."[4]

He often pictured the Holy Father, who is the direct successor of the Apostles, as addressing to him these words of St. Paul to Bishop Titus, his disciple: "Hujus rei gratia reliqui te Cretae, ut ea quae desunt corrigas, et constituas per civitates presbyteros, sicut et ego disposui tibi."[5]

He pursued this work with invincible constancy, without becoming weary or discouraged, or being put down by obstacles, whatever they may be, hoping against hope in the mercy of God on these peoples.

“In my dealings with the Indians as well as with the missionaries, to always use gentleness in preference to forcing, without weakness, however, and without losing the energy that the Lord has put into my character, to support everything that is of Christian and Catholic principle, according to my convictions acquired in the presence of God, and in the meditation of the Gospel. Moreover, I will always distrust my own strength and light, submitting with full confidence in God the success of my undertakings to Divine Providence, under the direction of the Holy See and, in case of doubt, according to its decisions, leaving nothing unknown to Rome of what is happening in India, and always ready to submit my judgment to the judgment of the pontiff, the infallible vicar of Jesus on earth.

Finally, I will often address to God the prayer that has been my strength and consolation up to now, that my undertakings will succeed and that my opinions will triumph if they are really true, and for the greater glory of our good Master. On the contrary, to make them fail if they are not in conformity with the views of his eternal wisdom. "Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam"[6].

After God, I will put all my trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, my mother, and patroness, confirming myself, in order to merit her protection, in the practice of reciting her little office once a week and, after her, to the holy angels, and especially to the archangel Saint Michael, to my guardian angel and to those to whom God has entrusted the care of these lands. I will invoke especially the saints who have sanctified themselves in the missions, especially the Apostle Saint Thomas and Saint Francis Xavier. May heaven bless these resolutions, until I can elaborate them further. Amen.”

Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac had asked his bishop, Mgr de Drusipare of Pondicherry, to preside at the celebration of his consecration. After his retirement, he left Pondicherry with his bishop and principal consecrator, Bishop de Drusipare, on September 19, 1846, for Carumattampatty, which was the principal Christianity of the province of Coimbatore.

The provisions of the Church require that there be at least three bishops for the celebration of the episcopal ordination. Since there were not enough bishops at that time in the missions, the Holy See had given the faculty to proceed with the consecration of bishops without assistant bishops. As for Melchior de Marion Brésillac, he wanted to be ordained a bishop according to the law, as far as possible. He said: "It still seems to me that it is appropriate to use this privilege only very soberly. Privileges are sometimes very useful, but often the abuse that is made of them is very close to the legitimate use, to the great prejudice of ecclesiastical discipline, so admirable in its beauty and so fruitful in the fruits of salvation, when its character is not undermined”[7]. For him, it was an honor and a privilege to have so many bishops for his consecration and as he said, it was also a means of evangelization in this region that had been entrusted to him. To assist Bishop de Drusipare, he invited Archbishop de Chyrra, Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, and Bishop de Jassen, Provicar Apostolic of Mysore, to act as assistant bishops[8]. "It will be seen that my consecration took place according to all the rules of the holy Church, to the great satisfaction of all the guests and not, without doubt, without some edification for a people who held, not without some reason, to the priests of Goa, unfortunately then inclining towards a ruinous schism, which this poor people is hardly capable of understanding”[9].

In spite of the simplicity and poverty of Christianity, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac was very happy that the celebration of his consecration was a light in the darkness for his people. "In a desert, under the roof of a miserable church which hardly deserves this name, with no other dwelling for the prelates than a small house with three small rooms of twelve feet in square and, for the priests, only "cottai", that is to say, lines formed of stakes and covered with palm leaves, with no other layer than the earth sprinkled with sand, on which a mat and a cushion will be placed in the evening. There will soon take place one of the most beautiful ceremonies that have been seen in India, for it is perhaps unheard of that a bishop's consecration has been performed by three other bishops in India. I wanted to give this example, O God, so that in this unfortunate country we may come closer and closer to the general rules of your holy Church, which I believe it is so disastrous to neglect under the futile pretext of a few difficulties. O God, may this ceremony be a happy omen that you will make the least of your servants an instrument of your merciful grace! May this meeting of bishops be only the prelude to the synodal meetings which we hope to see in the near future, and which seem to me to be indispensable in order to make fruitful the breath of life which your pontiff has directed over the Church of India, and which recent events are already attenuating, while all our industry is needed to preserve its fruitful warmth. May everything be for your greater glory, O God, and for the greater good of the Indians in whose service I wish to live and die.”[10]

On Sunday, October 4, the feast of the Holy Rosary, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac was ordained bishop. He was happy to be associated more closely, in spite of his modesty, with the charge of the Church in the succession of the holy apostles whom he loved to imitate. "The ceremony of the consecration took place with great pomp and in the midst of public rejoicing, which was a sure guarantee of the affection that the Christians of this mission have never ceased to bear me. Thus, O my God," I wrote on the evening of the same day, "in spite of my unworthiness, my misery, and my sins, here I am a pontiff for eternity! O Mary, pray for me, come to my aid, to help me carry the heavy burden which has just been imposed on me. Everything went well, the people seem happy... May God grant that the great ceremony of this day brings them to the love of God and binds them more and more to the holy Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church!”[11]

He was also happy with the participation of the Christians who came in great numbers and with their generosity despite their poverty. "In spite of the public misery caused by the high cost of food, the Christians had come from all parts of the provicariat. They would have been even more numerous, no doubt if they had been well off; but in the end, there were some from all the Christian communities, and I was able to make the acquaintance of a large part of my flock at once. After the ceremony, they all came to see me and offer me the "santipou". "Santipou" means visit and also present, because one does not make an official visit without bringing something to the one who receives you. [...] These poor people had made a great effort to make their presents more beautiful. It was masses of fruit, rice, sugar, many betel leaves, coconuts, and some pieces of cloth. This was offered with the greatest solemnity, to the sound of boxes and drums, in baskets decorated with garlands of flowers.”[12] On the evening of the day of his consecration he wrote: "Thus was consummated on October 4, 1846, the act of my consecration, with the title of bishop of Pruse in partibus and provicar apostolic of Coimbatore, while waiting for this province to be canonically erected as an apostolic vicariate.”[13]

May his dedication, the gift of his life, and his missionary zeal continue to inspire all of us Brésillacians, and may he always intercede for us.

                                                                                                                          Mahougnon Bernardin KINNOUMÈ


[1] Marion Brésillac, Souvenirs de douze ans de mission, Médiaspaul, Paris, 1987, p. 575.

[2] Ibid., p. 577.

[3] Ibid., pp. 577-579.

[4] After all, Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. 1 Co 1:17

[5] The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to organize everything that still had to be done and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you. Tt 1:5

[6] Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give the glory, for your faithful love and your constancy! Ps 115:1

[7] Marion Brésillac, Souvenirs de douze ans de mission, Médiaspaul, Paris, 1987, p. 576.

[8] Cf. Marion Brésillac, Souvenirs de douze ans de mission, Médiaspaul, Paris, 1987, p. 576.

[9] Marion Brésillac, Souvenirs de douze ans de mission, Médiaspaul, Paris, 1987, p. 576.

[10] Ibid., p. 583.

[11] Ibid., pp. 600-601.

[12] Ibid., p. 601.

[13] Ibidem.