October 21st. is the feast day of Blessed Nicolas Barre. Some of you will know him as the saint who looks after the Sanctuary keys! Many of you ask to know more so here is a brief summary of my hero!
Nicolas was born in France on October 21st. 1621. He was ordained priest in 1642. Soon he became known for his holiness and for his spiritual direction. While the well off sought him out because of his brilliance as a preacher and confessor, Nicolas preferred to be among the ordinary people. While stationed in Amiens and Rouen he became very concerned about those who were illiterate and who had to beg to survive. In 1662, he started training volunteers so that they could teach the children. Soon these ‘little free schools’ became very popular.
In 1666 he suggested to some of the women volunteers that they might like to live in community and to start by having dinner together occasionally! That was the beginning of our Institute! Nicolas insisted that these women should not be cloistered as was the norm for religious at the time but should live and work among the people – especially the most needy – and, when necessary, to reach out and find the poor in their own homes. He would not allow them to accept money from rich patrons who might then impose their own agenda and said that they should work for no reward, depending on the Providence of God for all their needs.
Nicolas Barré’s health, never too robust, meant that he was confined to the infirmary in his Minim community towards the end of his life. He continued to see people who came to visit him and to deal with the concerns of the Institute. With regard to the question of its future, he put all in God’s hands and prepared for death. This came on 31st May 1686.
Here is a link to the Sanctuary Bulletin