February saint: Blessed Daniel Brottier
Even before her official canonization in 1925, Father Daniel Brottier credited the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux with what could rightly be called his miraculous survival during World War I. His devotion to her, coupled with his unswerving dedication to answering the call of the Holy Spirit, led this remarkable French priest to become an outstanding example of selfless service in the midst of very trying circumstances.
Daniel Brottier was born in northern France in 1876 and, even as a child, expressed an interest in entering religious life. At the age of 23 he fulfilled that desire and was ordained a priest in 1899. Although he taught in French secondary schools for three years, Father Brottier felt himself pulled, not toward a life in academia, but instead toward the life of a missionary.
Consequently, he entered the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in 1902 and was immediately sent to Senegal on the western coast of Africa. His stay there was brief, however. Ill health forced him to return to France in 1906 and, by 1911, it was obvious that he would be spending the remainder of his life in his native country. Although no longer physically present in Senegal, Father Brottier nonetheless labored over the course of seven years to raise funds for the construction of a cathedral in the capital city of Dakar. Happily, he would live to see its completion; it was consecrated in 1936, just days before his death.
In the meantime, however, Father Brottier was called to a different sort of service. When war broke out in Europe in 1914, he volunteered to serve as chaplain to the French 121st Infantry Regiment. For 52 months he cared for the wounded and the dying at the front and, despite being in constant danger, was remarkably never wounded himself. For his service to France he was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. Even after the war was over, Father Brottier continued to work for the good of France’s soldiers, founding the National Union of Servicemen to aid the French veterans of all wars.
In 1923, Father Brottier began another kind of missionary work, this time with the orphans of Paris. At the request of the cardinal archbishop of Paris, he assumed the administration of the Orphan Apprentices of Auteuil, which gave the homeless and often starving children both a refuge from the street and an education to improve their lives. He stayed in this position for the remaining 13 years of his life. Father Brottier once remarked that “there has to be a minimum of well-being and comfort if these young people are to grow up without bitterness. Otherwise, they will later on sow the seeds of revolt and anarchy in society.”
Father Brottier died in a hospital in Paris of natural causes in 1936; so beloved was he that some 15,000 people attended his funeral.
Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1984, Blessed Brottier’s feast is celebrated on Feb. 28.
Sources for this article include:
“Blessed Daniel Brottier.” CatholicSaints.Info. 28 February 2018.