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Hidden apostles
27/10/2011 France

In 1967, the “juniorate” of the Oblates in Pontmain became the “Le Bocage Family Holiday House.” Thanks to the Brothers.

One could never sufficiently emphasize the place the Brothers had at Le Bocage. They are no longer there to speak about it. Furthermore, they were not very much inclined to “speak.” They “were.” They “did.”

The Brothers were not employees of Le Bocage. For their very important labor, there was a modest sum paid by Le Bocage to the community. This allowed Le Bocage to have competitive rates. Families that did not have the means to go to the sea, especially large families, were thus able to take lovely vacations. Vacations with fewer tans, but about which they still speak. Vacations of three weeks or even a month. They could do this thanks to the Brothers (and thanks to the “happy vacations” of their Family Allowance Fund). So these families came to Pontmain; and often, they came back, so inviting was the atmosphere.

Brother LE RAY maintained the grounds. He said not a word unless vacationers went to speak with him; then he could express his sense of humor. Then one could detect at times a well hidden, deep spirituality.

Brother  LEBOUCHER, our cook, got up very early. Before going to oraison, he had to stoke the ovens with charcoal and boil the milk, milk from his cows. How did his heart, sick as it was, withstand for all those years the regime he imposed on it? For him, that was unimportant; he was offering his life.

Brother GOURMELEN, the handyman (known as “Tintin” by everyone) was from a very humble background. So he was right at home with most of the vacationers. He would talk football with them and with them, he would very willingly go to drink his Ricard at the sports bar. Among the Oblates at that time, it was the fashion to be a worker with the workers, worker priest or sometimes worker Brother, engaged in the world of work. One spoke seldom of the presence of workers on vacation. But that did happen.

In the evenings, José DUVAL could make everyone laugh. In the carpentry shop, everyone could see the professionalism of Brother COURONNE: he was not, however, a carpenter, but a cabinet maker. And everyone in Pontmain admired the garden of Brother RIPOCHE, another great professional. Each day, he weighed his produce and looked in the newspaper for the prices at the big Rungis market; thus, le Bocage was able to pay off its debts to the community.

I failed to mention a few others, even more in the background, such as Brother HAMELIN, our electrician.

If very soon after my arrival in Pontmain, I became “Brother André,” it is surely by osmosis. José lovingly treated me as a fake Brother. But Le Bocage could not have existed without the real Brothers. (Brother André GRIMONPONT)