University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Brother Aidan's Extracts

LAWRENCE, BROTHER (John Menage -- died April 4, 1873)

Born at Busse, France, March 22, 1816; entered postulate July 7, (1846 -- impossible - could have been 1840) received habit August 22, 1840; professed August 25, 1841; died at Notre Dame, April 4, 1873.

(Sorin to Moreau, 1842) "Brother Lawrence was going twelve miles to get some planks and had to cross a river on a flat boat. One of the horses became frightened and upset the boat. All were thrown into the river, but happily made shore.

"Religious life is going fine; better order, understanding and silence gives to the little community an air and character of a religious institution; Chapter and other spiritual exercises pass in a consoling manner.

"Have reached Feb. 12 with a real American winter. Thank God our frame houses are not too cold . . . For ten days now, one is cold even seated at the fire. Sometimes it is hard to stay at table. At noon, even with a fine sun, the water freezes in our glasses as soon as it is poured."

"If Providence furnished funds, somehow or other, we hope to build a brick house next year. We are preparing for it already; the people of the Congregation like us and every family is ready to help us as much as possible to prepare the wood and all other material we want for what they call a seminary or a college. When this building is finished I will send you a drawing of it.

"More Brothers would be welcome; a good shoemaker and another like Brother Sebastian. The Brothers and I are very happy here and want to spend our lives here. We can't write often as postage costs too much from here to New York.

-- Sorin -- Moreau, (1842)

"Up to now we have been able to live without spending very much because we brought all necessary things from France. Thanks to our benefactors there whose benefactionshas permitted us to live so far. Everything expensive here except bread and meat, which cost about the same as at Le Mans. But in a place like this where they must buy everything, food is not a sixth of their expenses, hence they can buy only the necessary things. Labor is very expensive . Confidence is limitless"

-- Sorin to Moreau,Feb. 22, 1842

"Brother Lawrence wins admiration of Congregation by his work."

-- St. Peter's Congregation, June 6.

"Brother Lawrence 30, professed and a good religious but an enemy of everybody by reason of his excessive zeal and want of tact. Would do very well at St. Mary's with Granger." Sorin's Memo. (1846)

"Brother Lawrence will go to the court house as the representative of the Institution in the lawsuit concerning the height at which the water of the lake is to be kept. We will continue to collect as many notes as he can."

-- Minor Chapter,Sept. 25, 1848

"Brother Lawrence will replace Brother Vincent as assistant and monitor of Father Superior and in the charge of under-steward."Oct. 13,

"Bought from Ed. Donahoe yoke of oxen $75. Paid by note due in six months."

-- Waste Book, p.99 (1852)

"Brother Lawrence traded a horse with Ed. Bunbury for a yoke of oxen and cash $20. Brother Lawrence bought from William Abel a yoke of oxen and paid by note of $55 due in six months, or wagon if he goes to California." (1852)

"Another of those zealous missionaries was Brother Lawrence, who for 30 years, was destined to be the efficient head of the farm establishment and business affairs at Notre Dame. He was a most excellent business man, as well as a faithful religious. His death in 1873 was regretted by the public at large, and was mourned by Father Sorin in one of the most touching circular letters ever issued by him to the Community."

-- Howard, History of St. Joseph's County, p. 613

"On the evening of the 5th of April, as the old College clock struck nine, the soul of one of the pioneers of this region of the country -- one of the little colony of devoted men that laid the foundations of Notre Dame, deserted its earthly tenement, and all we have of Brother Lawrence was consigned to mother earth on the afternoon of Palm Sunday.

"We rarely mention in the Scholastic the virtues of the inmates, even when they have fulfilled their alloted (sic) share of labor upon earth and have gone to receive the reward they aspired to; for during the days of their probation they lived a hidden life -- and we, who know that nothing would have grieved them so much in life as to have their good deeds paraded before the world, respect their wishes even after they have departed from the scene of their labors, to remain unknown except to God and to the few who, on account of their intimate relations, they could not entirely conceal their virtues.

"But in the death of Brother Lawrence we feel that would be doing violence to the feelings, not so much of his associates in the religious life as to the host of friends outside whom he attached to himself during an intercourse of 32 years, if we were to pass it over in silence, or with a mere announcement without any comment . . . .

"Brother Lawrence was born in France in the year, 1816; he entered the Congregation in his 24th year, and came with Very Rev. Sorin to this country in 1841 (1844). From the time of his arrival to the hour of his death he was constant in the fulfillment of his duties, and few men can have said of them by their intimate associate what Father Sorin his superior, for 33 years, testified of him in a circular letter to the Congregation of Holy Cross:

" 'Although more than any other man of my years, I have seen Religious of undoubted fidelity, of great zeal and admirable devotedness, I remember none whom I would place above our dear departed one in these qualities.

" ' Bro. Lawrence held almost without interruption for the third part of the century the responsible position of steward or business agent of the Community at Notre Dame, and during that time he had many staunch friends among the farmers of the county and among business and professional men of South Bend and Chicago. Here again we quote the words of one who knew him best to render him justice: "Brother Lawrence" writes Father Sorin in the letter alluded to, "carries with him the deep and unfeigned sentiments of esteem and respect not only of his entire Community, but also, I believe of all with whom he came into contact, either as a Religious or a business agent of the Institution."

"We would fain give here our own sentiments concerning Brother Lawrence, whom we knew and respected even when we were a boy, and with whom our intercourse has always been pleasant, even cordial . . . We prefer to close by again quoting the words of one whose testimony is of the greatest value.

"Very Rev. Father Sorin terminates his letter with these words: 'As for myself personally, I lose a friend who never refused me a sacrifice; who for 32 long years held himself always ready, without a moments exception, for any call of obedience. Never can I forget his devotedness' ." Scholastic, Editorial,April 12,1873

"This excellent and devoted Brother was one of the first band who came to America in 1844. No one in the Community worked harder and more faithfully than himself. Self-sacrificing, ever ready to comply with the wishes of his superior, he recoiled before no hardships. He spent himself for the Community. He died after a few weeks of sickness, April 4, 1873, aged (sic) 57."

-- Granger's Memo(1873)

"One of the original six Brothers who came with Father Sorin. He had for many years been superintendent of farm and general outside financier and business manager for Notre Dame. Was 57 years of age. He had a wide acquaintance and was possessor of a very sociable personality. Many distant friends at funeral, April 6, 1873."

-- St. Joseph Valley Register, p. 2,c.1April 10, 1873

"Brother Lawrence one of the pioneers of the community was buried this morning. He was a familiar figure on the campus. He was especially in evidence during these past months, making two of three trips a day inspecting the new buildings -- and thanking God meanwhile for the blessings he had bestowed on the University. He used to drop into the Sorin Chapel now and then during the morning, to make a visit or an hour of adoration, and watch the boys at their devotions.

"You are in debt to him because every day he said the beads at least once that you would be good boys. He was intensely interested in the development of daily Communion at Notre Dame, and much of the growth of the devotion is probably, in God's eyes, laid at the feet of this good man of prayer. Pay off a bit of that debt by your prayers for the repose of his soul now. And say a prayer now and then for some more of the venerable members of the Community who pray for you just as Brother Lawrence did."

-- Religious Bulletin, Jan. 18

See: Sorin Circular Letter, No. 32

‹— Brother Aidan's Extracts —›