Moutiers

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

Montiers-Saint-Jean

The village of Moutiers-Saint-Jean is the site of a former monastery (or moutiers). A local saint, John of Rhéaume (or Réôome) began a monastic life nearby. After his death about the year 540, his followers moved his body to Moutiers, a more suitable location. One of the monks of this ancient abbey, Aurelian, wrote the first treatise applying the rules of Greek and Latin composers to the music of the Church. This happened about the year 850. Another date of great importance was the year 1020, when the liturgical feast of the Blessed Trinity was inaugurated here. This monastery was partly destroyed at the time of the Revolution, and historic pieces of it, particularly from the chapel, were sold at public auction. Some of them reached museums in the United States. What remains has been turned over for housing. the elegant abbey garden, a Renaissance design, can still be seen outside the walls of the monastic enclosure.

Claude Charles de Chandenier (d. 1710), formerly abbot of l'Aumône, in the commune of La Colombe, became in 1655 the abbot of Moutiers-Saint-Jean. His life from 1650 to 1660 is frequently and easily confused with that of his brother Louis, the (titular) abbot of Tournus. Their mutual love and affection was such that they did not wish to be separated, although each one was offered a bishopric. Both of them name Vincent, for whom they had a great respect, as their vicar general. He thus had responsibilities toward the abbeys that the brothers governed, here at Moutiers and at Tournus, which would have let him name pastors for the parishes dependent on Moutiers. Unfortunately, no documents to this effect survive. Vincent held these offices from October 1650 to June 1652. Claude died 18 May 1710, and Collet, Vincent's second biographers, quotes the text of his long epitaph (Vol. I, p. 584-588). In the chapel of the former hospital is found a rare early portrait of Saint Vincent. The work of Simon Francois, it portrays Vincent in choir dress and was probably made for Claude de Cahndenier. It may likewise have been painted for him by one of the monks of the monastery. Claude de Changenier is buried in this chapel.

It is believed that, on missionary journeys, Vincent might have visited the abbey. Even so, this would have been before Claude de Chandenier became its titular abbot. Perhaps becuase of his visit, a Confraternity of Charity existed here beginning 4 June 1656. Daughters of Charity apparently worked for the Charity beginning in 1660. On 4 March 1681, the bishop of Langres authorized the opening of a hospital (now a retirement home), with the help of the Mesdames Vermot. The Daughters of Charity took up this work around 1717. During the Revolution, they remained, someties attending Mass celebrated secretly in the attic. When the Sisters withdrew from this house in the 1980's, they also left behind the famous portrait. In the former hospital, the pharmacy, with its antique containers for medicines, contains a porcelain pitcher and basin said to have belonged to Vincent.

When Saint Catherine Labouré (1806-1876) was a child, she used to attend Mass in the hospital chapel. The young Catherine did not see the portrait of Vincent, since the Sisters kept it in their common room. There is, however, on the facade of the chapel a circular relief o him that she would have seen. In addition, a small statue of the Blessed Virgin May is still to be seen. This statue, similar to the painting in Catherine's parish church, before which she probably prayed as a child, was kept in the hospital chapel. Both the painting of Mary and the statue are based on a design by the popular sculptor Edme Bouchardon, the model that the archbishop of Paris chose for the Miraculous Medal.

In the parish church a series of modern windows depicts events in the lives of local saints. These windows show Saint Benedict, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, and Catherine Labouré. She attended Sunday Mass here and made her first Communion in this church. The town has fewer than 300 inhabitants.

A short distance away, up road D103, is Fain-lès-Moutiers. This was Catherine's home village. The Daughers of Cahrity have acquired her birthplace and some of the property and now welcome retreatants and other guests.

The Labouré family home can be visited. The main room today was originally two rooms: the girls' room on one side and the other containing the kitchen and eating area, the center of the home. At one side also is the original area where cheese was prepared; this has been left nearly as it was when the house was last purchased. After the death of Catherine's mother and the departure of her older sister to enter the Daughters of Charity, Catherine took over the management of the family estate and was also a surrogate mother to her siblings. She was only twelve years old. Her parents' bedroom preserves pictures and items of furniture either from the family itself (the original cradle, a wardrobe) or from the period. The boys lived upstairs. In the farmyard is the dovecote, Catherine's responsibility. The family raised the doves to sell in the market for their eggs and meat.

Across the road from the house is the parish church. At various times the Laboure family cared for it. The infant Catherine was baptized here. A well-known and evocative painting of the Blessed Virgin (as the Immaculate Conception) is to be seen in the body of the church, where it has hung since before Catherine was born. It closely resembles the design on the Miraculous Medal. A side chapel was the special responsibility of her family. Stained glass windows in this chapel depcit her and Saint Vincent de Paul. During his brief term as vicar of the abbot of Moutiers, Vincent was responsible for nameing the pastor here. Records are lacking to show whether he ever named anyone.

Catherine often walked along the road leading from Fain to Moutiers-Saint-Jean to attend daily Mass since in her days no resident priest lived in the village. Fain today has about 150 inhabitants.