The Spiritual Letters of Venerable Francis Libermann
Fr. Francis Libermann (1802-1852) the convert Jew from Saverne, France, was an unlikely choice to guide others in the way of Christian living. As a failed seminarian and epileptic living off the charity of others, he sought only the consolation of God's love. His brokenness lived with gentle serenity inspired those who knew him at the Seminary of St. Sulpice, Paris. Many would seek him out for spiritual advice, consolation and encouragement.
They found in him an attentive ear, a warm heart, and sure guidance in helping them discern God's plan unfolding in their lives. The attention he could give and the advice he offered flowed from his own conversion experience at the time of his baptism in 1826 and the ensuing long struggle with epilepsy that barred his path to the priesthood.
Libermann persevered with great gentleness and serenity along the path he felt sure God had marked out for him. Fifteen years later, in 1841, he was not only ordained but his desire to establish a missionary congregation was approved. He re-dedicated himself to the mission God had for him: to bring the Good News of God's Love to the most abandoned of his time, the redeemed slaves of the French colonies. Seven years later, in 1848, the congregation he founded joined with the already legally established Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Libermann became its 11th Superior General. He died four years later, in Paris, on February 2, 1852.
Following his death, many petitioned the Church to beatify this saintly man. The Archdiocese of Paris opened an investigation in 1867 and gathered information on the life and teaching of Fr. Libermann. This search included the gathering of his letters. Subsequently, a decree issued in 1886 by the Congregation for Saints in Rome approved of his writings. In 1910, Pope St. Pius X declared the heroism of his life and named him ‘Venerable'.
Fortunately, we have today a rich resource of Venerable Libermann's spiritual doctrine offered not in abstract form but through letters addressed to particular persons in particular situations.
Venerable Francis Libermann's ministry of accompaniment of others continues today through the many letters he wrote to a wide circle of correspondents. With those, who first received these letters, we too can benefit from his wisdom, holiness, and guidance.