Georges Bellanger was born in Bourbourg (North), France, on May 24, 1861, feast of N.-D. Helper. He had seven brothers and sisters, including Hélène, from the Carmel of Saint-Omer, who died in Ciney (Belgium) in 1917, and Arthur, who died as a young priest at the St-Joseph orphanage in Calais. After his studies, interrupted by a fatal coxalgia from which the Blessed Virgin miraculously cured him, he was successively professor at the Minor Seminary of Arras, director of the Maison des Saints-Anges, military chaplain. He then entered the Congregation of the Brothers of Saint Vincent de Paul, founded by Ven. Jean-Léon Le Prevost in the middle of the 19th century. He made his profession on July 2, 1898 at La Salette du Haut-Vaugirard. Religious, he exercised in turn the functions of military chaplain, missionary, master of novices. One of his biographers nicknamed him the Saint of the Ave Maria, because together with a deep love for the Blessed Sacrament, the rosary was the mainspring of his interior life, his means of apostolate par excellence with soldiers and crowds, his method of leading as master of novices. He began by “biting” the rosary, he said, and – then went on until “it was in the blood”, like him. He died quietly on August 16, 1902, at the age of 41. The beatification process for Father Bellanger is currently underway. Several miracles are attributed to his intercession.
Already at the time of his clerical formation, the pious abbot wrote: “My three or four rosaries well said each day, my four Angeluses; the Ave Maria before all actions, even the most insignificant in appearance, when I get up, when I go to bed, when I fall asleep, when I enter the house, when going up the stairs, when going down, in all free moments. » « My three or four rosaries well said, every day! His pen must be wrong, we say to ourselves, he probably means three or four rosaries, which would already be estimable! Think again, he wrote well. And in certain circumstances, for example on the occasion of a great feast of the Blessed Virgin, it even increases to six or seven rosaries. This is not an automatic debit of Ave Maria; he expressly writes “three or four well-spoken rosaries”.
At the age of twenty-five, Father Bellanger discovered the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, by Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort. Reading this little book changes his life. He consecrated himself to the Virgin according to the Montfortian formula: do everything with Mary, in Her, through Her and for Her. To Jesus through Mary. Many years later, he can realize his dream and go on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, in Vendée. He returned full of enthusiasm: “How well he (Montfort) understood the people! Its rosary, its marvelous hymns full of doctrine, its popular demonstrations, its Calvaries, its sermons so strong and so simple, that is what the people need. If only we knew how to make the Rosary interesting! The influence of Father Bellanger through the Ave Maria was exercised from the first years of his priesthood. One day, the superior of the minor seminary on which the Maison des Saints-Anges depended, was crossing a courtyard of the establishment with a priest of his friends. And pointing to the Abbé Bellanger: “Look at this little cripple, he said, I wouldn’t give him for his weight in gold. He confesses half of my seminarians, and you would never suspect the good he does to his penitents. So I send him as many as possible. When a pupil speaks to him I am perfectly at ease, and do not have to concern myself with him either for the conduct or for the direction. If the house is going so well, it is to him in large part that I attribute it. It was because he lived only in union with God, love of the Blessed Virgin and sacrifices. Every week he spent part of the night from Thursday to Friday in front of the Blessed Sacrament with some soldiers of goodwill. He recited the entire rosary every day, and said numerous masses for the intentions of the Blessed Virgin. And if we want to know where this ascendancy of a young director over the children came from, we have only to refer to the reflection of one of the pupils: “Mom, every time I meet Mr. Bellanger , I look to see if he has his rosary in his hand. So far I have never seen him without it!” He said: “Ask that I become more and more of a specialist and that my specialty be the Holy Rosary and the Ave Maria.” And again: “My rosary is my thermometer from the spiritual point of view, and I see that the devil is doing everything to prevent me from reciting this prayer to which is attached, I feel, my eternal salvation. “I only know one thing, the rosary. Let the devotion to the Holy Rosary invade us; let us therefore have a good meal of the Rosary every day. My last rosary before going to sleep is my evening mass.”
One of Father Bellanger’s most important ministries was with the soldiers. Reading the life of this holy priest, one is struck with astonishment at the extraordinary results he obtained with his men in the garrison of Arras, results which amazed him himself. Initially an untitled chaplain, it was in 1890 that Bishop Dennel officially appointed him military chaplain and responsible for the military works of the diocese. Father Bellanger writes on his business cards and his little notes: “volunteer chaplain of the soldiers”. He insists on specifying it. Because unlike many priests who refused this ministry or left it after a few months, claiming that there was nothing to do there, Father Bellanger was very happy to devote himself body and soul to the soldiers. From the beginning of his apostolate with them, at the approach of Christmas 1886, he declared to his soldiers: “You could have many priests who are much more learned, much more holy than me. But that you can have a priest who loves you more, let me tell you that I don’t think so… I am and I want to be more and more for you like an older brother… and something more because I am a priest: I love you as a priest, that is to say as the one in whom the good God has placed something of His love for you.” The real love of the people entrusted to us is an important factor in the apostolate.
“More than any other, the soldier needs the priest,” said M. Bellanger. But it is good that he has a priest, always the same, a special priest, who knows all his miseries, all his sorrows… never. How many times a visit that made me groan inwardly over the waste of my time, ended with a good confession. The soldier still needs a priest who knows how to go in search of him wherever he can meet him: in churches, in hospital wards, even on the roundabout corner of a street… “Near the priest taking care of the soldiers, a work is needed, a house is needed where those whom he will group together little by little can take refuge during the hours of freedom, the most dangerous hours of all. That the work be modest, hidden, not that we have to fear the military authorities, generally very favorable to priests who take care of soldiers, but rather the bad comrades who, entering like wolves in the sheepfold, would put the timid lambs quickly flee. “Besides, good Providence has in its power a thousand means of bringing to the priest the soldiers on whom it has designs of mercy, without it being necessary to resort to means of publicity; we saw it well
As in all divine work, the secret of success in the military work of Arras is found in the priority that Father Bellanger gave to supernatural means. “To do good in a work,” he said, “you have to plunge those who are part of it up to their necks in the supernatural. Essentially: prayer, confession, communion, preaching. Supernaturally, who is the very first inhabitant of my family, of my parish, of my society, of the universe?… Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Master of the house, living and active person to whom one must turn at all times of the day…” “The supernatural doesn’t keep the soldiers away, says the chaplain. I would even say that it is the only thing that attracts them. Indeed, what real interest does the priest or the religious present if he is not the bearer of transcendence and of the divine? Mr. Bellanger first had at heart to communicate to souls his boundless love and confidence in the Virgin Mary. The prayer honored is the rosary, the rosary, the Ave Maria: “To save the soldier, he said, I no longer believe in anything but the Blessed Virgin and Her rosary.” “The soldier faithful to meditate on the love of his God in the rosary which he can say everywhere and always, faithful to pray to his Heavenly Mother, will always be an apostle; and the soldier must be an apostle to persevere. The soldier faithful to the sacrament of the Blessed Virgin, that is to say to the rosary, will be faithful to the sacraments of Our Lord.” “And the Blessed Virgin, this good Mother to whom we owe everything, how they love Her! writes Father Bellanger again. Almost all have their beads. They recite it everywhere. There has even been formed among them a little league which consists in reciting Hail Marys in the thousand spare moments of the day for the conversion of soldiers. In the evening they indicate on a small card the number of Ave Maria recited, and at the end of the month the card is placed at the feet of Notre-Dame des Armées. The good that this little league, which also includes our elders, has already done is considerable. » « In our country, writes the Father, we have almost every evening these brave soldiers who go to say the rosary on their knees. I overheard one saying it with his arms outstretched. »
One day when he had recommended to his soldiers the conversion and the baptism of one of their comrades, they answered him in chorus: “Monsieur Chaplain, it is well worth spending the night saying rosaries… “Since I have loved the rosary, declares one of his soldiers, my best hours are my hours on duty. It’s the complete opposite of before. My gun in one hand, my rosary in the other, I find the hours too short. Another said to him: “Monsieur l’abbé, I wanted to know how many rosaries it was possible to recite during my night watch hours. Guess how many… Well! I have recited twenty-four of them and I am not sorry for my night.” “There are traits upon traits similar in my life as a chaplain,” said the Father. And yet, the environment was far from being Christian. During a Conference at the Congress of St-Brieuc (1898), speaking of the graces that rained down on his work, the Father said: “The environment on which the Holy Rosary acts among us is as pagan as possible. Young people without baptism and without first communion are numerous, almost all of those who are baptized have abandoned all religious duty. Well ! the victories of the Blessed Virgin are so numerous that they would scare me if I did not know that a few thousand Ave Marias are sown every day for my pagans and eighty to a hundred thousand Ave Marias every month.” Elites emerge among these men who have had the privilege of meeting on their way a pastor with a heart of fire. “Our first soldiers were very devout to the rosary,” Abbé Bellanger later recalled. Among them were two good children from Orne and Mayenne (soldiers Groiseau and Joseph Piel), they prayed the Rosary all the time. I called them, apart from me, my “two saints of the Ave Maria”. It was one of them who one day gave this watchword that I have repeated thousands of times since: “Let us sow Hail Marys, we will reap soldiers. They never tired of praying, of sacrificing themselves, of giving themselves for their Heavenly Mother. Having only one passion: to glorify the Blessed Virgin and give her the souls of their comrades; their life was a series of heroic deeds. “While on Sundays I went morning and evening to hunt soldiers in the various churches of the city, my two saints offered without interruption the all-powerful prayer of the rosary and caused the most beautiful game of the good God, I mean His best children. For entire nights, they met to say the rosaries, either at the foot of some tabernacle, or in the military stores of which they were the guardians. The role of guards forced them to take their meals in private, they took the opportunity to fast on bread and water every Friday. They never let a day go by without taking Holy Communion, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at noon, sometimes in the evening. Always looking for comrades to bring to the priest and to the Good Lord, their life was one long act of charity. They were in our Nazareth the great helpers of the Virgin Mary. Happy the works which have saints in their foundations! Our two saints had a lot to do with the signal grace that was to be given to the work: the entry of the God of the Eucharist into the house. »
If Father Bellanger insists so much on devotion to the Virgin Mary and the recitation of the Ave Maria, it is because he understood that there is the fast track leading to Jesus. He wants to win souls to Christ, particularly to Jesus-Eucharist, and lead them to frequent the sacraments. And he knows from experience that the infallible means is to bring souls closer to Mary, the Treasurer of all graces. For Mr. Bellanger, a work is first and foremost a chapel and the tabernacle is its heart. He wants Our Lord to have the first place and, to this end, he obtains for his Center the privilege of keeping the Blessed Sacrament. “It would be deeply edifying,” he said to the soldiers, “to see you all go to the chapel when you enter this house, to kneel there just for a moment and say a word of adoration and love to the good Lord. I would be sorry to have your first handshake.” “The more the soldier usually lives down to earth,” he says, “the more it is necessary to immerse him in the supernatural. First of all, he comes to the foot of the Blessed Sacrament as the man on guard who says nothing, who does nothing, but whose attire is correct. Little by little his heart warmed under the beneficent rays of the Eucharistic Sun and he ended up believing with a practical faith in the real presence of Our Lord. The radiance of Jesus-Host soon made itself felt.
“Every Wednesday, writes the Father by way of example, the Lord is adored solemnly for an hour and, on that day, the ranks are three or four times closer than in ordinary times. It is truly the God of the Eucharist who attracts them.” “About a year after the founding of the military work, notes the chaplain, we had begun to solemnly recite the Holy Rosary every Thursday evening before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, but soon there was added the adoration and the rosary of a whole night, every week. From fifty to sixty soldiers came in groups of fifteen to twenty, to say the Holy Rosary in turn. Years later, that fervor had only increased. On February 11, 1893, the Father confided to a former soldier: “We currently have in the work a group of young people who truly love God, our little intimate association which is made up of forty brave men from the two regiments. Every week from ten to thirty of them stand guard at the feet of Our Lord throughout the night from Sunday to Monday and we end with Communion. So that our forty associates spend an average of two nights of adoration close to Our Lord each month. As for confession, the chaplain will be able to say: “For the past year, I have counted a little more than five hundred soldiers having approached the sacraments in military work, I have confessed almost all of them, I can affirm that there have been more than three hundred and fifty returns, and many years, including thirty first communions…”
Holy Communion became more and more frequent among many of them. “Daily Communion, with a very small exception,” writes Father Bellanger, “every eight-day Communion for a few, every fortnight or every month for a relatively considerable number, and of these Communions every hour of the morning, I should almost say at all hours of the day, this is what I have been witnessing for more than two years. “During the month of March alone, Saint Joseph showed himself in an admirable way to be a good foster father to the soldiers. We had the good fortune to give the true Bread of Life a hundred times to all these starving poor, even though it was the eve of Easter Communion.” Another great supernatural means remains preaching. To protect his young people against the dangers with which they are threatened in the barracks, Mr. Bellanger wants to enlighten and strengthen their faith. He wants to form apostles and good Christian citizens. His preaching is appreciated, his word is simple, easy. He doesn’t improvise. He carefully prepares his sermons, he writes them. Often he settles down in front of the tabernacle, thinking of those he wants to reach and whom he commends to Our Lord and to the Blessed Virgin. Not only does he preach on Sundays and feast days, but he knows how to organize retreats for Christmas, for Easter, for recruits and for those leaving. “I have been overwhelmed for some time, he wrote to Father Anizan, so I deprive myself of the happiness of writing to you, or rather the good Lord deprives me of it. I will start a whole series of retreats next Wednesday. Ask that I make my divine Mother loved… I am not afraid of fatigue, but will I do the work of the good God? I would like to achieve that it is no longer me who preaches and acts, but the Blessed Virgin.” Often the chaplain will go to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre in Paris with one group or another of his soldiers, for a pilgrimage retreat of a day or two, with day and night adoration, with confessions and masses, pilgrimage to the Notre-Dame des Victoires sanctuary and a little rest.
At the rue des Écoles, the first residence of the military work, the chaplain had installed a statue of Our Lady of the Armies. When he inaugurated the new residence on rue des Bouchers-de-Cité in 1890, Mr. Bellanger replaced the statue with the image of Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil. This image pleases him very much. “The image of Notre-Dame du Bon Conseill accompanied me everywhere, he would say in November 1897. She was honored and invoked everywhere; she heard all the confidences of poor souls and how often I felt her influence! The Blessed Virgin herself could not have done better. » In January 1898 he wrote: « Note that N.-D. of Good Counsel is above all the Virgin of conversions. Its title indicates it: any conversion indeed is a work which begins, continues and ends under the influence of the divine councils obtained by the faithful spouse of the Spirit of Counsel, and distributed by Her to the lost soul. She wants to bring back to God. The year that has just passed has been a year of conversions like no other: baptisms, sixteen first communions, countless returns to God, are the best proof that N.-D. of Good Counsel is above all the Virgin of conversions… How many souls will say this eternally in heaven! “Let us note again that the image of N.-D. of Good Counsel preaches by itself. It has often happened that after a single interview with this divine Counselor, sinful souls have come to throw themselves at the feet of the priest, affirming that only the Mother of God, without any human influence, had determined them to take this step on which depended perhaps their eternal salvation.
“Your image spoke to me, said one day, after the exercise of the month of Mary, a young corporal who had just made acquaintance with the Work, so I ask you to prepare me for baptism and first communion .” “The soldiers who meet every day at the feet of N.-D. of the Good Council rightly call it “the miraculous image of their Heavenly Mother”. Later, the parish preacher was like the chaplain to the soldiers. “As for me,” he said, “I think only of the Blessed Virgin and my rosary. The thought of saving the poor, the soldiers and rekindling the devotion of priests for the Holy Rosary is a real obsession with me. I always come back to my books of the Holy Rosary. After the Holy Office (his breviary), I say only the rosary. I would like to understand it perfectly, in order to preach it everywhere. I would like to become more and more the Dominican of the people. This admirable prayer was for him an inexhaustible mine. Some who knew Father Bellanger only superficially sometimes accused him, like Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, of honoring Mary at the expense of what is due to God. But like Montfort to the Jansenists, he knew how to answer them. It is that, according to the beautiful words of Bishop Pie, “the Christian religion is not only the religion of the Son of God, but the religion of the Son of God, son of Mary”. And when he honored the Virgin, he never saw the Mother of God except with Her divine Son in Her arms. Mary was for him, as for Montfort, the fast way that leads to God. Moreover, in his eyes, one of the main ways of honoring God was to honor His Mother. This is why he performed almost all his acts of devotion to the Blessed Virgin in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Often when reciting the rosary before the open tabernacle or the exposed Holy Host, he would say: “Let us rejoice the Heart of Our Lord by greeting His Mother 150 times, by repeating His name which is so dear to Him. »
Illness forced the military chaplain to leave his field of apostolate for a while, or so Father Bellanger believed. The doctor, for his part, had understood that military work “killed” his chaplain. How could he reasonably take over the same ministry? During this time, in the Community, one wonders who will replace the master of novices, the then dying Father Jardin. The Superior, Father Alfred Leclerc is also thinking and looking for who could take on this responsibility. And now, on his dying bed, the master of novices suggests his replacement: “I will go away happy, he said, if you give M. Bellanger to the novitiate. Without waiting for the post to become vacant, the Superior General hastened to sound the ground.
On receiving the letter from his Superior, Mr. Bellanger felt a certain dismay. The saints are not insensitive beings… and moreover, the disease had greatly diminished his strength. On March 28, 1900, he wrote simply to Father Leclerc: “Your letter made me feel sorry, I didn’t think I had to answer it yesterday, my poor head and my poor heart were so sick. I preferred to sow Hail Marys and wait for the night and especially the Holy Sacrifice to bring counsel. I will not speak to you, Father, of the sacrifice that will be imposed on me: a priest, especially a religious, has no right to dwell on these sorts of considerations. But our poor soldiers who in turn lose all the priests; but all the works of Masses, of prayers, founded for the army in our diocese, which are exposed to suffer, perhaps to perish! No doubt another will do as well as I, but when I think of the number of years it takes to gain confidence, I am afraid that for several years our soldiers, so neglected, will have even less supernatural help than by the past. “And then, Father, think of the responsibility that will weigh on me! I don’t know well, I’m afraid I don’t have the spirit of the congregation and I should give it to others. I have been such a poor religious until today and I should become religious! Moreover, the master of novices must be so careful, so gentle, so humble and I know from daily experience that I am quite the man of the first movement. I don’t know anything about the habits of the novitiate, I stayed there for five or six months, but almost always occupied in external ministries. “Without doubt, very dear and venerated Father, your affection and your trust attach me even more, if possible, to you and to the Congregation, but I ask you in the name of this same affection not to impose on me the responsibility of train religious and priests. You would soon regret having put me in the place of the holy Monsieur Jardin. The disease sent to me by the Good Lord made me seriously reconsider myself and I encountered selfishness on every page of my past life. I asked the Blessed Virgin to restore my health so that I could try to fix everything. If it were possible, in a few weeks, I would ask you to enter the novitiate as a novice, in order to start my life over again and to really do it. A preparation for death… To God, very dear and revered Father. Bless me, pray for me more than ever, and when you have spoken, I will obey you like a father. On April 6, the same General returned to the subject in a letter to another colleague, Father Alexandre Nunesvais: “I have fixed my choice on Mr. Bellanger, the military chaplain of Arras. But the difficulties are great: the Bishop of Arras, who holds him in high esteem, made it a condition of his entry that he would remain in the diocese. His chest was badly affected and although he is better, I do not believe that he can resume his active ministry. I hope that this consideration will decide the consent of the bishop. It would be a great favor for our congregation. Our brother makes the impression of a saint. If he had a moment of weakness and fright in the face of the new charge placed on him between seeing, Father Bellanger pulled himself together very quickly and declared himself quite ready to obey; which, moreover, was always his profound disposition. In April, he wrote: “The Blessed Virgin made me rediscover the most complete calm. I await your last word in peace, and when you have said it, if it thwarts all my past affections, I will count on the Blessed Virgin and on you and will go ahead… I thought I was allowed to make all my objections to you, but if I were to remain in Arras against your will, I would be wondering every moment if I am still doing the will of God, consequently if I can count on His grace… to be for nothing in the decision that is going to be taken, in order to be able to tell the good Lord every time that I find myself in trouble or embarrassment, that the good God must get me out of it and come to my aid… J I answered in a way above all to clear my conscience, and now I am ready for whatever the good Lord will ask of me. The first act of Father Bellanger on entering the novitiate somewhat surprised his new children: postulants and novices. “In approaching my ministry among you,” he said, “I will begin by resigning myself from the functions which my superiors have just entrusted to me. Rest assured, I do not claim to commit any act of insubordination; on the contrary, I only put things and people back in their proper place. » Then turning to the image of Mary which reigns in the room of the novitiate, the Father Master explains: « At the beginning of her foundations, Saint Thérèse used to put in place of the prioress a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Well, I, your poor titular master, declare that I place my resignation in the hands of our Heavenly Mother. It is She who will be mistress of the novices and who will make us saints. At the next Annunciation, March 25, 1901, the entire novitiate spent the night before the most Blessed Sacrament exposed. At midnight the master of the novitiate intoned the Angelus, then sang the Gospel of the Incarnation; and finally officially renewed the consecration of the entire novitiate to the Virgin Mary, in the following terms: “Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, I, superior of the novitiate, humbly prostrate myself at Your feet to offer You solemn homage to this house entrusted to my care and consecrate it to You. Deign to choose it as Your favorite dwelling place. I give You the keys; henceforth she will recognize no other sovereign but You. »
A few weeks later, he wrote to his Superior General: “I think the novitiate is very beautiful and I think I can add: very good. In any case, it contains elite souls that you know better than I do. Good will has not left much to be desired since my arrival, and neither has charity, especially towards me. All these good little Brothers are filled with delicacy for their master of novices, apparently healthier than ever, yet still lacking a little of his old strength… Only, it is not enough for the one on whom the responsibility of the novitiate rests to eat and drink well, first of all he must be a saint. He wants to become one here where everything will help him. Ask the Blessed Virgin that he does not too often deserve Our Lord’s reproach to Saint Peter: “The spirit is quick but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26.41). For the formation of novices, Father Bellanger had set himself this program: “Give to my brothers, the novices, the love of the Blessed Virgin and of Her Congregation.” He particularly insists on the rights of God. The various social revolutions have attempted to assert the autonomy of reason in the face of religion. The Father-master wants to give God the place that is due to Him in the world and in the life of each soul in particular. He works to uproot selfishness in the hearts of his young people, to replace it with the search for the good pleasure of God and the good of souls in any action to be taken. “Had I only solidly inculcated in my novices the notion of the glory of God and of His sovereign domain, I would believe that I had not wasted my time”, reports Father François Delame to the Informative Process with a view to canonization. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament quickly becomes a major point of formation. The chapel is never empty, except during class time. We get into the habit of turning our first and last thought of the day towards the Tabernacle. We spare a few moments for a little visit to the God of the Eucharist at the end of the work, etc. We ask permission to spend time in the chapel during the day and even during the evening or at night. As the Blessed Virgin is the official Mistress of formation, it is normal to hear Her “assistant” insisting on Marian devotion, in particular through consecration to the Blessed Mother and through the prayer of the rosary.
Like its founder, Ven. Father Jean-Léon Le Prevost, the master of novices wants to form fully given religious. He said to one of them: “You are very wrong to bury yourself in religious life if you only want to live as a semi-religious. Be all of one piece! To this end, each morning a prayer will be recited to conjure the Blessed Virgin to kindly remove from the novitiate all those who would not later be good and true religious. He does not fail, either, to insist on fraternal charity: “Let your eye be good! You cannot know the intentions of your comrades, of your brothers! One cannot live in community if charity does not reign there. The Master only wants men of prayer, humility and work. He wants to make them saints, mortified men, capable of renunciation and sacrifice. He wrote to Father Anizan: “In the novitiate there are excellent elements of holiness. But how afraid I am of stopping the graces of God by my coldness and my difficulties! Doesn’t matter!… If only a few saints could come out of this year’s novitiate, and if every year the Blessed Virgin granted us the same favour, how many workers, how many soldiers would convert afterwards!» “How I feel the need to make the novitiate a nursery of saints for the works of the future! I am going to strive to penetrate more deeply into the supernatural spirit of our holy Founder to inspire him around me. The formator insists on supernatural means in apostolic works and above all on prayer, because it is God who converts and sanctifies souls. “Let us only open half an hour later to our young people, if necessary, so as not to neglect our exercises. The holy Master of Novices spent himself without counting the cost, desiring to be “worn out to the wire” as he said, in order to win souls for God. The chest pain that he thought he had stopped in 1899 had regained ground thanks to the multiple fatigues and penances he imposed on himself. In April 1902, the walk became more difficult, the cough drier and the chest heaving. His superiors tried a new and last effort to raise him still further by sending him to his family to give him the air of his native country. It was against his will, but he submitted in obedience and blessed his children kneeling around him and in tears one last time. The day after his arrival at his father’s house he suffered from a haemorrhage. The efforts of science to preserve a precious life had no other result than to test and elevate this soul already so pure and so abandoned. All spiritual consolation was refused him: celebration of the mass, recitation of the rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament; and God Himself weaned him from all interior sweetness.
On July 26, consumption became galloping. On August 16, he received the last sacraments and renewed his vows, happy to say to everyone: “I die religious, child of my Congregation”. After a few moments of contemplation, he addresses his family: Are you all there?… I accept whatever the good Lord wills, and I sacrifice my life so that you all go to heaven. You know that I have always loved the Blessed Virgin very much, well, I recommend that you do the same and say your rosary every day of your life…” Then clutching his rosary: “I am going to appear before the good Lord : only one thing reassures me, these are my Ave Marias. At this point, that’s the only truth. Later, addressing his sister who had promised him many masses on her death: “Thank you, he said, but above all give them all to the Blessed Virgin. To all the people who will speak to you about me, ask for a rosary to honor the Blessed Virgin and for her to reign in the world. Promise me that from my last breath until my funeral the rosary will be recited constantly around my body. And when I’m in the cemetery, have these simple words engraved on my little wooden cross: Ave Maria. But, after all, don’t do anything without talking to my superiors lest there be pretension.” Around 7 o’clock in the evening, he stammered again these few words: “I don’t know very soon where I am… Fiat, Marie, my Mother. These were his last words. Mary’s servant expired softly, the day after the Assumption, a Saturday, to the sound of the evening Angelus. He was forty-one years old. In the cemetery of Moulle can be read on a modest cross these two simple words: Ave Maria. They were the motto of the person signing: Georges Bellanger, priest slave of Mary.