Brother Isidore – Man of God’s Will

“Very Reverend, Father Provincial, I have just made the acquaintance of an excellent young man (26 years old) who wants to join you as a Lay-brother. He will come to see you at Eastertime or on some other day convenient to you…” – Father Bouckaert, C.SS.R. (the word “excellent” was underlined twice)

Ere
21 April 1907
Jesus and Mary be praised forever and ever

Dear Parents, Brother, and Sister,

Filial and fraternal joy fills my heart as I write to give the news. you have surely been waiting for. Brother Isidore of Saint Joseph, C.P. The official processes for his beatification began just a year ago. We were so closely bound to one another at home in true Christian family affection that it must have been very painful for you to sacrifice me to God. Yet you did so in a Christian spirit of abandonment to the Will of God.

It is true, Father and Mother, that you can no longer receive any temporal aid from me, but the Reverend Father Master of Novices exhorted us to pray for you ardently morning and night and to remember you in our Communions. I will certainly not fail to do so. He told me also that you will surely be blest for giving me to God. That is why I think you will profit from my absence.

My good Father, I must express my thanks for all you have done for me. I could never repay you, but you can hope for your recompense hereafter from God, the source of every good. Besides, you still have a son worthy of you who will doubly compensate for the loss I have caused you.

My dear Mother, when I left you, I should have thanked you, but I did not have the strength. Now I wish to fulfill that duty. To be sure, I must thank you for what you have done for me from a temporal point of view, but above all for what you have done to make me a man worthy of being called by God to the religious life, a son to do you credit. You were, it is true, a strict mother, but I thank God for having had such a mother. My Mother, it cost me a great deal to be separated from you and I am sure that you have suffered it all too. But be comforted : it was not to gain money or any vain earthly goods. It was to accomplish the Will of God to Which you have always submitted yourself…

My good Brother, we used to help one another in everything. Be the support and comfort of our parents. It will cheer them up for the sacrifice they have made of me. My sister Stephania, I want to speak especially to you. The haste and confusion of my departure made me forget to say even a word to you. You who are my godchild, you can do much to bring comfort to our parents by ever trying to become prudent, obedient, obliging and patient. I hope you will do this for me so as to be a comfort to my Father, my Mother and my Brother.

Dear Parents, Brother and Sister, I am really happy and contented here. I have never yet been weary of it and that is why I believe I am called to this state…

Ere
20 May 1907
Jesus and Mary be praised forever and ever

Dearest Parents, Brother and Sister, I am writing you again filled with joy for it has already been a month since we parted. I must tell you that my affection for you has not decreased, but increased, even doubled from day to day, compared to what it was when I lived with you. In the beginning it was hard enough for me to be torn away from your love and warm atmosphere, but thanks to the affection one finds here among the religious that feeling has already passed.

How could anyone not be happy here when he knows that he is fit for the life and has received Our Lord’s Grace for it. Besides, here one can praise, adore, and thank God night and day. This, as you know is my desire…”

“Here we are all equal, from the Superior to the lowest. All at the same table, all united in one and the same prayer, all enjoying the same repose, the same relaxation, all equal in work, intellectual for some, manual for others, Here mutual service is rendered according to the ability and desire of each. Here is cultivated true love of the neighbor for the love of God.”

Saint Paul of the Cross had already said: “After God we owe our maintenance to our Brothers. They collect the alms, they prepare the meals, they watch over the goods of the Monastery. They care for us when we are sick as well as when we are in good health. Certainly they must be humble. But I do not want to see any difference between the Fathers and Brothers, save the particular respect that the Brothers must show the Fathers as Priests. Whether we are well or sick we are all brothers and I would be greatly disturbed if I should see a brother less well cared for during his illness. Whoever does not love the Brothers does not possess the spirit of the Congregation.”

As a Postulant he learned to serve Mass, and to say the Community prayers.

“Ah those Latin prayers ! I have to repeat them a thousand times to remember them. I only know three of them: The Pater, Ave Maria, and ‘We fly to thy patronage, Holy Mother of God.’ I don’t know a word of French yet, and I don’t believe I ever will.”

On 8 September 1907, he was vested. The Novitiate Register says of him: “From the first days that Isidore De Loor was with us all the religious were full of praise for the edifying conduct of this Brother whose humility, charity and accommodation excited the admiration of all.”

As a Novice he learned how to make mental prayer. “Everyday, the Novices receive instruction for making progress in the spiritual life. For here we pray without using a book of prayers. Simply, from the depth of our heart we praise the greatness of God, we think of what we are ourselves; we ask all the graces we need; we offer ourselves to God, etc. In the main it is not easy. Sometimes everything gets confused in my mind. Really, one day it goes fine, another day very badly. But I do not give up for that and I try again with renewed courage. We do the same before and after Communion. We have also an hour of meditation daily when we turn our thoughts to the Passion of Our Lord after which we examine ourselves from the point of view of our works, prayers, thoughts and desires. We see where we can do better, then make a good resolution and try to practice it. Thus it is that one makes really great progress in the path of virtue.”

Father Sebastian, C.P. (later his Superior and Provincial) his Novice Master’s estimate: Novitiate life is very difficult for a young man of the age and quality of Brother Isidore. Everything in the Monastery is new to him, coming as he does from a family of humble farmers. Indeed, in the Novitiate, the little trifles to observe are legion.

Brother Isidore was bound to adapt himself perfectly to his new manner of life, and after a short time he could be cited as an example in choir, the refectory, or at work. He conformed himself with the greatest care to the least prescriptions of his Rule, to the least directions or recommendations of his Superiors.

Considering his age the difficulty was still more. His companions in the Novitiate were for the most part all young men aspiring to the priesthood, but in spite of that he easily accustomed himself to his new environment. He knew how to humble himself with the little ones. He easily adapted himself, either in recreation or elsewhere to the character, the conversation, and even the impetuous temperament of youth. Br. Isidore knows how to win general sympathy. He was a friend of every one, welcome with everyone. He diffused around him the perfume of his virtue and preached by his good example. He, a simple lay-brother had a profound influence over the novices and trained them by his example in the ways of discipline and duty. His piety, his virtue, and his conversation were not put on nor affected. Virtue was natural and attractive in him. He knew how to laugh good-naturedly, took part in the general merriment when someone told a joke; and willingly took the opportunity of telling some funny incident to amuse his companions.

Brother was highly endowed by nature. He was a prudent young man, intelligent too. He assimilated without effort the teaching on morality and the spiritual life. He practiced to perfection the method of prayer which he was taught; to such a degree that the other novices could be inspired by him when in chapter he developed the theme of his meditations in preparation or thanksgiving for Holy Communion. It was edifying to hear the fitting sentiments which the simple lay-brother expressed when he talked with God.

The same intelligence and tact were revealed in his work and in his everyday life. He worked with order and foresight and organized everything for the greatest good of the community.

His sound judgment permitted him to discover the defects of his brothers in religion. (Human nature remains, even under the habit of a monk.) He asked their aid and advice in certain delicate circumstances where his clearsightedness caught a glimpse, it is true, of human side of things, but his conscience rebelled.

The following point merits attention. One must not believe that Brother Isidore was one of those soft natures that turn at every wind or that seem to have virtue inborn. No, Br. Isidore became a virtuous religious by his consciousness of duty and his spirit of sacrifice, by his correction and his perfect mastery over himself. Virtue, sacrifice cost him and one could sometimes read in his face the interior struggle he was enduring to extinguish his pride and self-love.

One time especially I tried Brother Isidore. I passed by the kitchen while he was working there. After some friendly words I departed and returned some moments later — why, I don’t know. I saw him talking with the brother who was learning to cook and with whom he was permitted to speak. He smiled a little. As I did not often have the occasion to humble him I seized this one by the hair and ordered the Brother to accuse himself publicly in the refectory. There in the presence of all the religious I humbled him. I treated him as a hypocrite. He could do wonderfully at being a little saint before his Superiors but behind their back he amused himself and failed at his duties. That very morning I had clear proof that he abused his Superiors and that we could not have confidence in him. It was a cruel and rough correction. ‘To be a hypocrite,’ ‘to abuse his Superiors,’ ‘not to merit their confidence:’ that is crushing for a loyal and sincere religious. Big tears rolled down his cheeks, but no justification nor complaint came to his lips and he perfectly fulfilled the penance imposed on him. He cried a lot that day. It was the tribute nature claimed; but he had the will to conquer himself.”

September 1908
Ere
J.C.P.
Jesus and Mary be praised forever and ever

Dearest Parents, Brother and Sister,

God be praised, I have the happiness of writing you that Sunday a week from now September 13, I will make my profession, consecrating myself to God, and binding myself body and soul to the Congregation by the vows I pronounce. They will detach me from my own personality and from all I possess in this world, even you, my dearest Parents, Brother, and Sister, who are, after God, the most precious things on earth.

Thanks to the assurance of my spiritual director, my personal conviction, and thanks also to the happiness and peace which I find in this life, I am going to take the great step which will decide my whole life.

I do this only to accomplish the will of God entirely and to assure the salvation of my soul; to aid my neighbor by my prayers and to contribute to your spiritual and temporal welfare, my Parents, Brother, and Sister as also that of all my relations.

In order to prepare for this important act and to accomplish it in the best dispositions we are going on retreat in a few days to raise our hearts to God by the exercises and prayer. We will ask Him for the strength to fulfill the duties of this state during our life with a sincere zeal. For this purpose I ask you also to say some Ave Marias daily until that great day and if possible all of you go to confession and communion once. My Father and Mother, you will probably come to be here at my profession, so we can thank Our Lord together for the great benefit He has accorded us, and we can rejoice together once more on that glorious day.

Dear Parents do not come here with any sign of sorrow ; come with a joyful heart to consummate the sacrifice you have made to God so willingly and without holding back, because it is His Holy Will. So we will win great merit for heaven.

As for me everything is going fine. I am so well accustomed to life here, it is as though I have always lived here. For some two months now I have been gardener. It doesn’t make any difference to me what kind of work I do but one can always have some preference: this work and this planting in the garden suits me fine.

Also, dear Parents, Brother and Sister, if any trouble disturbs us or if we have something to suffer, let us look at the suffering of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the sorrows of Mary when we make the Way of the Cross. Then we will realize all that they have done for us, only for our good. It we want to follow in their footsteps we must also suffer to be able to take part in their glory.

Would you please write whether you will come or not, and about how many people ; and if my Aunt Josephine will accompany you as she has said.

I greet all of you in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your Son,
Isidore

Brother Isidore of Saint Joseph was professed September 15, 1908. His father and mother were present.

As a professed Brother sometimes he was cook, sometimes he was gardener, sometimes he was porter. Sometimes he was all three.

“I always do my best. We brothers really have a great obligation to take the best possible care of the things confided to us. Now that I have made the sacrifice of leaving you I must give everything rather than half.

When I rise at night for Matins my first prayer is: ‘My Lord and My God, I offer you everything: my joy, my sorrow, my happiness and my pains in holy union with the life, the sufferings and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’

In doing all my work for the glory of God, I help in the conversion of sinners and arousing devotion to the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Sorrows of Mary. For while the Fathers go to preach someone must pray and work to keep up the community. You understand well enough the importance of our work and our efforts and I desire nothing so much as to try with all my strength to attain that end. I wish to offer in holocaust the hardest sacrifices and even my life, if that be necessary.”

1909

“I am beginning to understand a little French and I even try, very prudently to say something in that language. I have been porter for three days and you should have seen how the people looked strangely at me when I spoke French. When I had no time to reflect on my words I got all jumbled up and mixed in French and Flemish as it came to mind.”

In December, 1910 he was suddenly moved from Ere.

“Friday evening I received news unexpectedly that I was to leave definitely for our house of Wesembeek Sunday morning. You can understand what went through my mind. I lost my appetite over it and couldn’t sleep a wink all night. Certainly Our Lord noticed that at this point I was beginning to become attached to our farm of Ere. I sometimes thought myself indispensable here. I had everything so well in hand for planting and sowing after winter, and now all of a sudden it it finished! But as soon as the thought came to me that God willed it through the will of my Superiors, it became so great and so good that I could not hide my joy at being able to leave for our monastery of Wesembeek.”

Wesembeek
1911
J.C.P.

Dear Parents, Brother and Sister, With God’s help I am setting to work to give you some news of myself and some satisfaction, for it is not true at all that absence makes affection decline. On the contrary the longer the time the more love increases.

This is all very well but it must not go too far since we do not live for what lasts only a moment. We must love God above everything else and do His Holy Will before everything else. That is why as Mother writes : It is by remaining submissive to the Will of God that we go the furthest. For how many desires are there that a man cannot cherish because they are not possible to realize nor permitted. What would one not wish in the way of health and wealth, but by that one does not possess them. There is one thing which we must force ourselves to realize with all our being: the salvation of our soul. Besides aren’t we conscious of the fact that everything here on earth is vanity? And when God sends us His trials and His, crosses it makes no difference whether we are young and healthy or old and ill; we cannot escape. That is why we should submit ourselves with resignation and abandonment to the Will of God and say: Divine Providence has so disposed things.

I have learned also that Father was not well. I hope the bad moment has already passed. What he has can pass quickly but it can also become very serious. It is a cross for Father. I hope he will not stop carrying it patiently. It is true also that you, Father and Mother are walking little by little to your old age and then one can count upon all sorts of evils and miseries. It is up to you now Frans and Stephania to comfort and support them; it is your greatest duty. For my part I will pray for your well-being in the measure that it be profitable for you.

I must now write you what happened to me these last weeks. At first I thought I would say nothing to you so as not to frighten you. But I do not think that would be right for you are not children. You would not do well to be disturbed over it. If God wills things this way I submit myself to Him without complaint and so must you.

You remember how I used to have boils and abcesses from time to time. Well, I had some of them again. For some time I felt a pain in my right eye. It would last for two or three days and then suddenly go away for some weeks. Well, the last time I wrote it started again. I thought it would soon be over but no; at the end of four days it had grown so bad that we ^vent to see an eye-doctor in Brussels. After a careful examination he asked me if I could still see out of that eye. I wasn’t too sure since I had it covered over. I did not even care to try. The doctor told me: ‘You will never see again out of that eye. The globe that lets the light in is completely clouded.’ After covering the good eye I had to admit: ‘I can see nothing.’ There was a hemorrhage in the middle of the eye. ‘Well,’ the Doctor continued, ‘your eye is lost. You can come here to the Institute to be treated and I will take care of you. We will see if there is any hope of saving the eye. If nothing can be done I will perform a slight operation to save the organ though you will not be able to use it any longer for sight. If that does not succeed we will have to take out the eye.’

We left there. Father Superior said to me: ‘First, let’s go to another doctor and see if this is really true.’ He took me to a renowned occulist. After a long examination he declared very briefly: ‘There is a hemorrhage in the eye. It is lost. It must be operated on and removed.’ This time we knew enough. Father Superior took me that same day to the Institute of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy to be treated there by the first Doctor. At the Institute I had a room all to myself where I was exceptionally well cared for with food and drink by the good Sisters. I felt like a prince in that sumptuous room. Then for three days the doctor tried everything to find out if I could still see from my bad eye. The room was entirely darkened. I could leave it only in the morning to go to Holy Communion and Holy Mass. At the end of three days the Doctor told me : ‘All hope of making the eye still useable is gone. Now I will perform a slight operation to save the organ without your suffering any more from it.’ That lasted about ten minutes. After it was over the pain lessened for three days. But after that it grew worse again. They used all kinds of balms and pungent liquids but nothing happened. Nine days later the doctor said he had to take out the eye and could wait no longer lest the other eye be endangered. He told me he would operate the next morning about eleven o’clock. That morning I went to confession and Communion. I offered the eye to God in reparation for my sins and for your well-being, spiritual and temporal ; and also for many other intentions. I submitted docily to the Will of God. Why should I be sad? At eleven I was taken to the operating room where I prepared myself alone. I got up on the operating table and had no fear in facing the ordeal.

There were two doctors and one sister. They began by putting me to sleep. After five minutes I was unconscious and I do not know what they did then. When I awoke threequarters of an hour later the sisters were busy carrying me in a bed on a little cart. They told me everything had gone along fine. All that afternoon I was very ill at ease. It was the matter they had used to put me to sleep which remained in my body. I had no painl in the eye; nothing but a strange! sensation. Besides it had a good dressing.

The next day, Sunday, I received Holy Communion in bed. A little later the sisters told me: ‘If you feel able you can go to Mass.’ I went. My legs were still a little weak and my head spun a little, but all things considered, I got along all right. The next day the bandages were removed and the sister washed the wound carefully.! Then she said: ‘Take a little look in the mirror.’ I looked. Where the eye had been was a hole in my head. I remained there a week longer; then I returned to the monastery. There I rested some days and now for four days I have been cook again and everything is practically healed. Next Thursday we will go to Brussels to make arrangements for a new glass eye, and so everything will be finishedJ

To tell you the truth I do not see as well as before, but I can always see well enough to do all my work; The doctor told me later that iti was not a hemorrhage as he had thought, but in the course of the operation he discovered an abcess or a boil which had ruined the globe of the eye through which the light passed. As soon as he saw this he felt reassured for the other eye. Otherwise since the eyes are joined together, the blood might have been able to enter the other one.

I have told you everything that happened since it might interest you as well as myself.

And now let us pray for one anther so that we can make the offering of all our sufferings and our pains for the greater glory of God.

With all my heart I send you my kind remembrances.

Your son and devoted brother in Our Lord.
Brother Isidore.

His real trouble was of course, cancer. As the doctor had predicted to his Superior it broke out again five years later in the intestines. He quietly, cheerfully bore with the steadily increasing pain until one night between Wednesday and Thursday his Superior said: “Brother Isidore, now I give you permission to go to Heaven.” Full of joy he raised his hands and said quietly “To Heaven! Yes, to Heaven!” About one o’clock he asked for the Religious to come in. He was seated in an arm-chair to ease the pain a little. He begged pardon for all the trouble he had caused the Religious and promised to pray for them in Heaven. “Take courage Br. Isidore, we are going to heaven,” his Superior told him. “O Yes,” he replied, raising up a little, to Heaven.”

Fifteen minutes before he died all his sufferings ceased. Then quietly, submissively, as he had lived, with scarcely anyone noticing it, he died. It was 6 October 1916. Thirty-four years later, 6 October 1950 the formal inquiry into his life and virtues was begun.

- translation from the booklet “Le Servitur de Dieu Frere Isidore de Saint Joseph” by Father Ange, C.P.; from The Passionist, 1951