HOLY LIVES by KILIAN DE LACY
Science and religion are often seen as being at odds. However, science should, in theory, open the mind and heart to the wonders of God and his creation.
Louis Brisson was born in Plancy, France, on June 23, 1817, the only child of Toussaint and
Savine Brisson. He was educated by a local priest who had a large library.
Louis read everything and displayed a special interest in the sciences. That interest
later evolved into a talent for invention.
Among his works was an astronomic clock, one so accurate it was later studied by NASA
Ordained a priest in 1840, Fr Brisson was assigned to teach religion and sciences at the boarding school of the Visitation Monastery in Troyes, later becoming chaplain
to the sisters. In this role, he encountered a formidable religious superior, Mother Mary
de Sales Chappuis, who was to influence his life in a major way. Many times she told him that
the Lord wanted him to found a society of priests who would bring to life the Spiritual Directory of Saint Francis de Sales and promote Salesian spirituality.
When Fr Brisson refused, Mother Mary remained persistent in her demands. It took a vision
of Christ to make him change his mind.
In 1859, he opened a home for girls working in textile factories. To obtain the help he needed to run such homes, he invited St Leonie Aviat to begin a new congregation, the Oblate
Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales.
Four years later, he founded a corresponding male congregation of oblates, taking his professed vows in 1876. He instructed both communities:
“Hold the child in high esteem and, instead of frustrating, lend a hand to the work grace accomplishes in these young souls.”
Difficulties with the local bishop over authority in the congregation led Fr Brisson to
put governance of the oblates under the pope by accepting a foreign mission for them.
Personally and professionally, the priest suffered the persecutions of the French Revolution,
which forced the expulsion of religious orders and the dissolution of their property. Still, his faith was unwavering. “If everything seems lost,” he said, “and everyone has already surrendered his hope, the Lord will show his might and his influence. Then it will become
clear to all that the decision lies only in his hands and we are capable of nothing.”
Following the closure of the French religious houses, the oblates transferred their general
house to Rome. Too old to travel, Fr Brisson went to his family home in Plancy, where he died on February 2, 1908, with Mother Leonie Aviat and oblate priests at his bedside.