Results of the first journey

The full story of the “Summarium” and the results of Colin’s request about the Rule belong to another study. What follows is a brief outline of the facts.

  • The “Summarium” was given to Cardinal Odescalchi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars on 9th December 1833.
  • Four days later Colin had an interview with the Cardinal, and was advised that the scheme was too vast.
  • Odescalchi deputed Cardinal Castracane to take charge of the dossier.
  • Castracane received Colin well, but found it difficult to take the vast enterprise seriously — and he told Colin so, in the scenario we know so well.
  • After some discussion and reflection on the interview, Colin decided to ask only that the priests of Lyons and Belley be allowed to elect a Superior, and that Indulgences be granted to the various branches of the Society.
  • Castracane’s report to the Curia was scathing. He said that so many religious organizations were rising in France that they would end by injuring one another. What advantage to the Church would there be, he said, in approving this “new thing of the Marian Brothers” which had the same goal as the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and no other difference except in name?
  • As for cloistered Marian sisters, there were already so many congregations of women in France that it was hard even to count them.
  • He went on to say that a four-branched society as presented was “unheard of”, and in fact was “a monster”.
  • Colin’s idea of a universal Third Order of laity was “alien” and “outlandish” because it set aside the authority of the Bishop in order to give power to the “man who holds the key post in the whole Marian Society”.
  • The report stated: “It is a propos at this point to consider the suspicion that will be aroused in Kings by a confraternity of this kind, ruled by a single head.” (OM 304)
  • Out of pity, however, Castracane recommended that two of Colin’s requests be granted: (a) permission to elect a Superior, and (b) permission for indulgences but only for the priests.
  • The minutes of the meeting record that “by unanimous vote they judged the proposed plan of the Marian Society did not fall into the category of an Institute of the Church, and could not be approved under any aspect.” The Congregation gave approval for the two points requested, and decided that letters should be written to the bishops of Lyons and Belley informing them of the decision.

At this point, events become complicated but, simply put, the letters, though drafted, were not sent.

When something was eventually sent, it was not Indulgences for the priests’ branch, but three Briefs of Indulgences for the Third Order, even though the letters to the Bishops had not been sent at all. This apparent “confusion” has signs of human intervention, and during the course of our first pilgrimage through Rome we may be able to track down this person.

It was now late January, and Colin’s stay in Rome was coming to an end.

Before he left, he wrote two letters which are significant for us. One was to Cardinal Odescalchi, requesting a papal audience for Jeanne-Marie Chavoin. He wrote:

Already, in the course of last summer, she made known her wish to His Lordship, the Bishop of Belley, and he will place no obstacle if His Holiness deigns to accord her this favour. She is not yet bound to the cloister. I venture to have recourse to Your eminence to obtain this favour. From childhood grace has gone before Sister; in 1817, on the advice of her directors, she left her family and, together with a companion, began the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary, now already numerous. The Lord has given her light on a number of occasions concerning the Society and the virtues of Mary. She wishes to open her heart to the common Father of Christians.  (OM 302)

The second letter, written to Fr Convers on 30th January 1834, captures something of Colin’s mood during this stay in Rome and provides a convenient place to end this account of his first visit.

At last I can almost glimpse the moment when I shall be able to return to France. I hope to be able to leave Rome between the 20th and the 30th February. I shall probably go by sea; two weeks or even less will be enough to get to Belley.

Next week I hope to have the Congregations’ reply to our business.

I asked for the reply to be sent to the Bishop of Belley. I foresee it will be quite simple, limited to some advice on the plan of the Society, which in general they find too vast. It is the great extent of the plan which causes most difficulty. Had we only presented the body of priests with a complete rule, we should now have been a good part of the way towards approbation. But then I should not have attained my principal aim, which was to present the plan of the Society as a whole so as to obtain advice, and to know whether we should build on that plan.

Our little manuscript has passed through all the stages of a most serious scrutiny. On that score I could wish for nothing more and I have already got advice which will be of the utmost usefulness for the rest of my life. This journey has been one of the greatest graces God has given me since I began working at the Society. Henceforth it will contribute to my tranquillity, and enable me to move more surely in my endeavours to forward the word. (OM 303)

Fr Colin departed from Rome during the first week of February 1834, and arrived in Belley on the 21st February 1834.

Having placed ourselves in the context of Fr Colin’s first voyage to Rome, we are perhaps better able to set out and visit the places where Colin stayed or carried on business while he was in Rome; and the places where he visited as a pilgrim during this voyage.