Father M.-D. Philippe
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 HISTORY - 1 -  

How did the Community of Saint John come into being ?

It all began at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, where several French students were studying with a Dominican Father, Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, a professor of philosophy. Some of these students, wanting to totally consecrate their lives to Christ, had asked Fr. Philippe to be their spiritual director.

During the summer of 1975, five of these students decided to meet regularly together with a priest from the diocese of Versailles (France). He was one of Fr. Philippe's former students and had been authorized by his bishop to return to Fribourg to undertake studies toward a doctorate in theology. We then began to live a communal life with a rather extraordinary schedule for students: rising at 5:30 a.m., one hour of silent prayer in community, morning prayer, then Mass.... It was a good start to the day!


St. Nicolas Cathedral,
Fribourg

Did Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe reside with you ?

No, he continued living with his Dominican confreres. He was very busy with his teaching responsibilities and he only came to see us once a week for spiritual direction. He was also a bit hesitant to become associated with the "brothers". He did not consider himself to be mandated by the Church to take responsibility for a nascent religious community. His official duty was limited to teaching philosophy, which explains the care he had taken thus far in sending the young people who came to him back to their bishops or various religious congregations


"Père Girard", at Fribourg, the brother's first home

Then why did he change his mind ?

The intervention of Marthe Robin was decisive. Fr. Philippe had known her since 1946 and had often preached retreats at Chateauneuf-de-Galaure. He presented his dilemma to her: some of his students wanted to form a little community and were seeking his help. Marthe replied quite simply that he couldn't refuse their request; he couldn't abandon them. Fr. Philippe accepted us, but there was no question as yet of founding a new religious community. Fr. Philippe initiated inquiries as to what religious order could accept us so that we might find a place in the Church. Thus began a year-long search. Fortunately, everything had been entrusted to God's Providence....
To make this desire for surrender concrete, we consecrated ourselves to Mary on December 8, 1975 at the end of a retreat preached by Fr. Philippe at the abbey of Lérins. This is the date of our birth, you might say.

The date and the place are important...

Yes, because the following year, the brothers were quite impressed to discover that Paul VI's apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, which corresponds so well to what they wanted to live (to the extent that they drew a short rule of life from it), had been published in Rome on December 8, 1975.

"Every evangelizer is expected to have a reverence for truth.... The preacher of the Gospel will therefore be a person who even at the price of personal renunciation and suffering always seeks the truth that he must transmit to others"

(Evangelii Nuntiandi)