Today, February 28th, the universal Church honors Blessed Daniel Brottier, a devoted priest and decorated chaplain.
Daniel was born in France on September 7, 1876, the second son of the coachman for the Marquis Durfort, Jean-Baptiste Brottier, and his wife, Herminie. Daniel desired to become a priest during his childhood. His mother related the story that when she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, that he replied: “I won’t be either a general or a pastry chef – I will be the Pope!” Herminie reminded her son that he would first have to be ordained a priest to ever become a pope. Daniel replied: “Well, then I’ll become a priest.”
He received his First Holy Communion when he was ten, enrolling a year later in the minor seminary at Blois. On October 22, 1899, he was ordained a priest, never faltering from his childhood representations and vocation call. After his ordination, he taught at a secondary school in Pontlevoy, France.
Daniel did not find his niche as a teacher, as he was determined to serve as a missionary somewhere in the world. With that desire as a goal, in 1902 he joined the Congregation of the Holy Spirit at Orly. Upon completing his novitiate in the order in 1903, the congregation sent him to serve as a vicar in a mission parish in Saint-Louis, Senegal. However, Father Daniel remained disappointed at this assignment, as he wanted to serve in the rough country in Senegal.
In any event, Father Daniel enthusiastically worked hard at his position, instructing secondary school students, finding a center for child welfare and publishing a parish bulletin, “The Echo of St. Louis.” Daniel suffered from the effects of the climate in Senegal, and went back to France in 1906 to recover from his health issues. Unfortunately, in spite of his missionary zeal, in 1911 he returned to France permanently because of his ongoing health problems.
The Apostolic Vicar of Senegal, Bishop Hyacinthe Jalabert, requested that Father Daniel conduct a fund-raising effort to build a cathedral in Dakar, Senegal. Even though Father Daniel resided in France, he conducted this campaign for seven years during two distinct periods of time, 1911-1914 and 1919-1923. The five year difference in time was a result of the First World War. Nevertheless, the “African Memorial Cathedral” was consecrated on February 2, 1936, just 26 days away from Father Daniel’s death.
With regard to the five-year interval period, Father Daniel volunteered to serve as a chaplain for France’s 121st Infantry Regiment during the First World War. He served the soldiers with great love and courage, having been cited six times for bravery, and having been awarded the Croix de guerre and the Legion d’honneur. Father Daniel indicated that it was through the intercession of St. Therese of the Little Flower that he was able to help the soldiers as he did, wherein he built a chapel for her at Auteuil when she was canonized a saint, which was the first church ever dedicated to the Little Flower. After the war, Father Daniel founded the “National Union of Servicemen”, an organization for French veterans of various wars.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Louis-Ernest Dubois, requested that the Congregation of the Holy Spirit manage an orphanage in Paris, the “Orphan Apprentices of Auteuil.” Of course, Father Daniel with his excellent and creative leadership skills, became completely involved in this project, and worked for 13 years from 1923 on forward, with the help of his associate chaplain, Yves Pichon, to expand the orphanage, working very hard for the care, best interests and welfare of the orphans that he served. Father Daniel once again dedicated his efforts to the intercession of the Little Flower, and also, to serve the most poor and unfortunate.
Indeed and in fact, in 1933, Father Daniel started a program placing children in the households of Catholic individuals associated with the Orphan Apprentices. His work gave much fruit, as he constructed workshops, a printing house, a cinema, even publishing magazines. To show how effective Father Daniel was in his work, when he started with the orphanage, there were 140 orphans; when he died, there were more than 1400 orphans served.
Father Daniel was a remarkable fund-raiser, mastering the use of the camera, where he even taught film making to the children. To show his love for the Little Flower and so that people would learn about her, he produced a film on the life of St. Therese.
Dear Father Daniel died on February 28, 1936, in the hospital of St. Joseph in Paris. Approximately 15,000 people attended his funeral Mass. He was buried in the Chapel of St. Therese in Auteuil on April 5, 1936, which is the chapel that he built. On January 13, 1983, Pope John Paul II declared Father Daniel, “venerable,” and he was beautified on November 25, 1984. Noteworthy was the fact that in 1962, his body was incorrupt as on the day of his burial; and, many miracles were attributed to his intercession.
I am so happy to meet Brother Daniel Brottier today. He is such a dedicated hard worker, full of innovation and creativity. He was a great leader, notwithstanding the fact that during his four years in the front during World War I, he ministered to the suffering and dying soldiers, risking his life constantly, to care for them. I also am drawn to him because of his love for St. Therese of the Little Flower, who taught the “Little Way,” which means to do all things with great love. There is no doubt in my mind that Blessed Daniel followed this maxim completely, and look at the improvements and successes that took place as a result of his efforts. Clearly, the beautiful Little Flower was helping him in his vocation. Let us remember the example of this great “mover and shaker” of God, asking for his intercession and guidance.
Blessed Daniel Brottier, pray for us!
With Love and Respect,
Sources: Franciscan Media; Catholic Encyclopedia