1887 Pastoral Letter on the Religious Education of Young Children in Bourges, France

1887 Pastoral Letter on the Religious Education of Young Children in Bourges, France

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On offer is a printed pastoral letter about the education of young children, written by the Archbishop of the Diocese of Bourges, Jean-Joseph Marchal. The letter is titled  l’Education des Petits Enfants et Mandement Pour le Saint Temps de Careme de l'An de Grace 1887 (The Education of Small Children and the Mandata for the holy season of Lent in the Year of Grace 1887). 

Pastoral letters are open letters written to clergy and often to all members of the church (as this one was) in a particular jurisdiction. Such letters were frequently sent out at particular times of the year, coinciding with ecclesiastical seasons, such as Lent or Christmas. In this particular case, it was sent out as part of the preparations for Lent.

As the title suggest, this Letter concerned the education of children. Two excerpts from the letter follow:

L'enfant meme quand il a ete regenere par la baptisme ne se developee pas et ne devient points un homme parfait, un chretien parfait par un accroissement spontane par la vertu d'unee force inherente a sa nature et agissant selon des regles invariables et toujours sures.

[Translation: The child even when he has been regenerated by baptism does not develop and does not become a perfect man, a perfect Christian by a spontaneous increase by virtue of a force inherent in his nature and acting according to rules that are unvarying and always certain]

Cedependant, il faut bien de reconnaitre dans le grande nombre de familles, il est impossible, ou du moins il est dificile pour les parents de donner completement et par eux-memes a leur enfants l'ensignement religieux qui leur est du des qu'ils ont l'usage de la raison…

[Translation: However, it is necessary to recognize in the large number of families, it is impossible, or at least it is difficult for the parents to give completely and by themselves to their children the religious teaching which is due to them as soon as they have the use of reason…]

The author, Archbishop of the Diocese of Bourges, Jean-Joseph Marchal, was ordained a priest in 1845 and taught as a professor at a major seminary. Leaving his teaching position, became a parish priest. In 1864 he was appointed

Bishop of Belley, France. In 1880, he was appointed Archbishop of Bourges in the southwest of France. He remained there as Archbishop until his death in 1892. Interestingly, his brother was also a Bishop and served as his assistant in Bourges.

For a historian or an educator, this document offers an excellent window into the attitudes toward children and their education in a fairly conservative region of France during the Belle Epoque period of the late 19th century.

This printed document measures 10.5 inches by 8.5 inches and contains 28 pages. The sewn binding is in excellent condition as are the pages. There are no stains or wear marks.

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