The Church historian Roger Aubert estimates that every year of the nineteenth century saw a new religious community dedicated somewhere in the world to the Blessed Mother. Today marks the death of William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), a French priest who founded the Marianists in 1817. Ordained just before the French Revolution, Chaminade refused to take a loyalty oath to the revolutionary regime, and was forced into hiding. For several years he ministered to the faithful incognito, until he was discovered and expelled from France. When he returned, he saw the damage that the revolution had done to the religious landscape: children growing up without any religious formation in an increasingly secularized culture. The Society of Mary was dedicated to the work of re-Christianizing France. The Marianist family grew to include priests, brothers, sisters, and a lay branch. Education has been their most successful apostolate. In 1849, the Marianists came to America, where they established several high schools and two universities, the University of Dayton and Chaminade University in Honolulu. Father Chaminade was beatified in September 2000 . What he had to say about the Marian devotion that drove his life is worth quoting: “A true Christian cannot live any life but the life of Our Savior Jesus. When we try to imitate Him the divine plan is carried out in our lives. The Blessed Virgin is our Model. She is a very exact copy of her Son Jesus. When we are devoted to Mary we will imitate Jesus.”
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