The Congregation of the Blessed - Sacrament fathers. The official
Latin name is: Societas Sanctissimi Sacramenti
France, in the country where the congregation was founded, we
are called: Pères du Saint Sacrement, but
in several Roman countries (in Italy, and in Spanish and Portuguese
speaking countries) the name is: Sacramentini. Also in
Holland we adopted recently this name: Sacramentijnen.
In Germany however the name is: Eucharistiner.
The congregation was founded in 1856. It belongs to the many
of religious associations, which - according to the ecclesiastical
law of the Latin Church - are indicated as CONGREGATIO. Only
the old Monastic associations (Benedictines, Cistercians, Cartesians),
the associations that follow the Rule of St. Augustine (Dominicans,
Premonstranters), the Franciscans (3 branches), the Carmelites,
and the Jesuit-fathers may use the name ORDO (order). After
the Council of Trident newly founded associations were not allowed
to call themselves "order".
The name of the congregation indicates its aim: to promote the
cult of the Eucharist.
the time when the Congregation was founded, this CULT was not
gravitated towards the celebration of the Eucharist, but towards
the veneration of the Consecrated Bread, exposed on the altar
after the celebration. This form of veneration, called ADORATION,
existed since the time of the Counter-Reformation (the Catholic
antipode of the Protestant Reformation). It was inspired by
two main ideas: a) to protest against the denial of the Lords
real presence in the Eucharist, b) to put an act of reparation
for the growing hostility, infidelity and indifference towards
faith and church. As we will see later, after the Vatican Council
II the vision of the mission was changed, and also the spirituality;
but the original inspiration of the Founder was not changed.
The spirituality in its historical context
The idea of reparation got a new impulse after the French Revolution.
The congregation was founded just in this period. The Revolution
(1792-1815) resulted in the beheading of the king and the queen,
just in Paris, on the Place de la Concorde, before the Garden
of the Kings Palace (Louver). Many churches and abbeys were
destroyed or confiscated, the priests should take the oath on
a new, anti-religious constitution: who refused was also beheaded,
and many priests flied to England or begun an underground life
and ministry. This reign of terror came to an end when Napoleon
restored peace and order.
many things were changed by the revolution. New forms of religious
life arose. In those new forms we can distinguish three streams:
one stream proceeded from the social needs (the industrial
revolution was coming, schools for poor children, houses for
orphaning, hospitals for sick people were organized by new congregations
of brothers and sisters); a second stream was the immediate
consequence of the colonial expansion of European
countries at that time (missionaries were send to the new discovered
or conquered countries in Asia, Africa and America); but a third
stream was inspired by the need of a deeper foundation for a
foundation of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament links
up with this third stream but has also some features of the
first and the second streams. The start and the approbation
of the congregation by the archbishop of Paris were conditioned
by the promise that the new congregation would promote the first
communion among the poor children in the 'banlieues' of Paris.
And the fact that the congregation, how small it was, had been
spread all over the world, was due to the phenomenon of the
international eucharistic congresses since the end of the 19th
century, that were organized throughout the world, especially
in the countries where the church was still young and grew.
A French priest, Pierre Julien Eymard founded the Congregation.
He was born in La Mure (French Alps, under Grenoble) at 4 February
1811, so in the last years of the empire of Napoleon I. The
Congress of Vienna brought the restoration of the monarchy.
most important periods and events of his life are:
His youth with a strong desire to became a priest 1811-1829.
A first trial, at the fathers Oblates of Mary in Marseille,
failing by lack of health, 1829;
The second trial, at the Diocesan Seminary of Grenoble, after
his fatherís death; from 1831 till 1834, succeeded with his
ordination in 1834;
His life as diocesan priest: at first as chaplain in Chatte
(1834-1837) and later as parish priest in Monteynard (1837-1839);
still desiring to enter in a religious congregation;
His life as member of the new founded congregation of the Marists
is that Lyon, the second city of France, was the center of a
stark renewal of religious life, especially among lay-people.
Already during his novitiate Eymard was appointed as assistant
to the general. He fulfilled several functions (spiritual leader
at the seminary, vice-provincial, director of the third order
of Mary) and in time he got a strong devotion to the Eucharist.
life as Marist has been the longest time of his priesthood (17
years), but only from 1851, the year in which he got a special
religious experience in La Fourvière (a sanctuary near
to Lyon); he was confronted with the plans of the foundation
of a new
congregation (for priests) devoted to the Eucharist, plans invented
and imposed upon him by the others. He never completely agreed
with the spirituality of those others. Concentration on the
idea of reparation was too narrow and one-sided for him. But
even the idea of a Eucharistic cult, as a royal service of adoration,
has been, -as we shall see later - not his final personal spirituality.
At last, in 1856, he was convinced that he should be the founder
of a new congregation, and he started his work in Paris. At
that moment he was 45 years old.
The last 12 years of his life had been filled with many activities
of the most important task, he had to fulfill, was to write
the Rule of Life (Constitutions) for his Congregation. In 1864
they were ready and provisionally approved. Than he had to found
at least two other communities (houses) in order to be recognized
by Rome. Those houses were in Marseille and Angers. Later on
he founded a house in Brussels. This house had been very important
for the expansion of the congregation to Holland, at the beginning
of the 20th century
himself even thought about a foundation in Jerusalem, where
is the room of our Lords Last Supper. It was his dream to buy
this place. This plan had become the occasion to the most important
spiritual experience in his life and to the turning point in
his spirituality. While the negotiations about the acquisition
of a house in Jerusalem were blocked, he decided to go to Rome
and to stay there until the question would be solved. Every
time the gathering of the Cardinals was postponed (because of
sickness of an important cardinal or because of other urgent
questions); and so he decided on 18 January 1865, on the feast
of St. Paulís Conversion, to begin a retreat for himself and
to remain in retreat till the final decision. This retreat (2
months and a half) has become his 'conversion'. This conversion
can be summarized in these words: The room of the Lords Supper,
the Cenacle, is not important; the only important cenacle is
the cenacle of my own heart, and the heart of every Christian
faithful. In that heart Jesus should live and celebrate His
Last supper, as often as possible. The only way to that is the
Communion. Not only as a liturgical act, but also and before
all as a spiritual act: a mutual love: the Lord gives Himself
to us, we give ourselves to Him.
that time on he became more and more convinced in the ill influence
of the Jansenism, that put too strong conditions for the communion
and considered the communion more as a reward for a good Christian
life, in stead of a viaticum, a remedy for a better Christian
this 'conversion' Eymard has made some trials for a revision
of the constitutions according to this new insight. But he did
not succeed. There were too many deceptions in his life and
his health was getting worse. He died on 1 August 1868 in his
native-town La Mure.
development after the founder's death
The time between the death of our founder (1868) and the years
around the new century (from 1898) is - in a certain sense -
a time of silence:
In his congregation a deep crises dominated the whole life,
which made impossible any sound spreading.
In the church of France the anticlerical laws of August Combes
and Jules Ferry blocked the life and activities of religious
congregations, thus many priests and religious immigrated to
other countries. And so, 100 years ago, in 1902 a house of the
congregation was opened in Holland, in the village Baarle-Nassau,
on the frontier between Belgium and Holland. This year 2002
will be a first centenary jubilee for our congregation in Holland.
Not only the church of France, but the whole western church
tried to maintain her power and to overcome the crises by the
convocation of the First Vatican Council in 1870 and the proclamation
of the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope. Perhaps it has
been more an act of desperation than of wisdom.
After the Pope of the "Infallibility" (Pius IX) during the last
decade of the 19th century a new Pope (Leo XIII) followed a
new strategy: He developed the social doctrine of the church
and showed the world that the church has a social message. This
message pretended to be a proper Christian ideology between
communism and liberalism.
In the beginning of the 20th century a third Pope, (Pius X)
put the accent the renewal of the church just there where our
Founder had put it too. the return to a deeper spirituality.
Therefore he followed two lines and combined two streams:
At first he issued two decrees: one about the first communion
of children, that should be put in a younger age (from 12 years
to 7 or 8); the other about the communion of the adults, that
was promoted in that sense that people should participate at
the communion frequently, even - if possible - every day.
Secondly, and in connection with the first initiative, the Pope
stimulated the participation of people at the whole liturgy.
He supported the liturgical movement that was grown up in France
since the time of the "Reveil": popular missals were printed
and edited from which lay-people could follow the texts of the
liturgy, for the whole liturgical year; he promoted the restoration
of the old plain chant (Gregorian) and later the participation
at this chant by the whole community was furthered, and the
excesses in the composition and performance of masses for choirs
Later Popes continued the line of this liturgical and spiritual
Pius XII issued an encyclical about the Church, as the Mystic
Body of Christ (Mystici Corporis); he issued also an encyclical
about the Liturgy (Mediator Dei); and he restored the Liturgy
of the Easter-vigil. (Not in the morning of White Saturday but
in the Easter night itself)
John XXIII got convinced that the time was ripe for a total
revision of the life of the church; that partial adaptations
were not sufficient but that all the different new visions about
the nature and mission of the church, about the nature and structure
of the liturgy, and about the life and the mission of the religious
institutes (especially the Congregations) should be combined
in one ecumenical Council: Vatican II.
for the Eucharist he got convinced that it was not sufficient
to bring reparation TO the Eucharist (outside of the celebration),
but to make reparation OF the celebration itself. This restoration
included 2 things: a) return to the shape the Eucharist had
in the early times of the church (and follow the inspiration
of the eastern church), b) bring the liturgy nearer to the people
of today (liturgy in vernacular language)
In the liturgical renewal one lack was left: the Eucharistic
Cult besides the celebration of the Mass (The liturgy of the
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament). In order to integrate
this cult in the whole of the new liturgy, Pope Paul VI wrote
his encyclical Mysterium Fidei. This encyclical has been very
important for the form and the spirituality of our congregation.
First of all it abolished the separation and the conflict between
the cult of adoration and the celebration of the Eucharist
Secondly it was the source for a new Eucharistic spirituality,
in which the celebration was the start point and the center
of our life of prayer
Thirdly it gave a chance to integrate new visions about the
Eucharist in our rule of life, especially the emphasis on the
idea that we celebrate the Passover of our Lord, this is not
only his suffering and death (like in the middle ages) but also
his resurrection, and that the Lords presence is the presence
of the RISEN Lord.
According to the decisions of the II Vatican Council our congregation
had to rewrite our Constitutions. They would be called Rule
of Life. In 1971 a general chapter made a project of a new Rule
and decided that it would be a Rule AD EXPERIMENTUM for 10 years.
In 1981 a new general chapter made a draft for the definitive
text. The Holy See approves this text finally in 1984 (after
many discussions and supplying changes). The mainlines were
right, only the juridical details must be elaborated in a different
that year (1984) our congregation tries to bring in practice
the consequences of the new Rule of Life: both in our own religious
life and in our apostolic activities. We try to live according
to the headlines of a new Eucharistic spirituality.
congregation in Holland
As we saw above, the first community and house in Holland were
founded in 1902, in the small village Baarle-Nassau. It was
only a jumping board for another foundation on a better, more
central place. In 1907 a patch of ground was offered to our
fathers by a rich man, who was owner of a great Villa, called
Brakkenstein (now "Chalet Brakkenstein"). Immediately the fathers
began with building a monastery and in 1908 the community of
Baarle-Nassau moved to this new house. In 1912, they started
the construction of a great church, which was consecrated in
immediately after the foundation in Baarle-Nassau, the fathers
had started the edition of three reviews: one for faithful lay-people
(God-met-ons), one for priests (SSma Eucharistia) and one for
children. By those periodicals the congregation got a good name
in catholic Holland and from everywhere in the country young
men presented themselves to enter the small seminary of the
1924 a new construction was necessary in order to receive our
new turning point in the history of the congregation was the
year 1930. In that year
general administration of the congregation decided to divide
the congregation in provinces. And so every European country
where the congregation had one or more houses and a sufficient
number of religious became a province. Holland too.
consequence was that this Dutch province should provide not
only its own small seminary (for the candidates between 12 and
18 years) but also its own great seminary, where young men,
after their time of novitiate (2 years) could make their study
of philosophy (2 years) and theology (4 years).
that aim the fathers in Holland bought a house in Baarlo in
the space in Nijmegen again became to small for the growing
number of seminarists, the fathers started the construction
of a new seminary in Stevensbeek (40 km from here). It was almost
ready when, in 1940, World War II broke out.
the war two of those three houses were required and occupied
by the German armies.
the war the study of philosophy and theology were replaced in
quarter Brakkenstein grew bigger and bigger and the church of
1914 became too small. In 1965 the provincial council decided
to enlarge the church and - at the same time - to adapt it to
the consequences of the liturgical renewal of the Vatican Council
secularization after that time did its work.
see now the result:
houses of Baarlo and Stevensbeek are lift up.
house of Brakkenstein has still 19 fathers and brothers, most
of them are old and some others are cared in Berchmanianum.It
is an nursing home for aged and ill religious, directed by the
young community exists in Amsterdam. And a group of 4 men started
a new community in Kerkrade, near to Maastricht, this year.
- Fathers of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.
Photos - Marina V. Vorobjova.