Braye, Father Paul
1926, September 29
Date of Birth: 1851, March 10
No Memorial Card is Available
October 25, 1926
Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:
From Father Labelle, Provincial Superior of Montreal, I am in receipt of the following notes:
Marie Joseph Paul Braye was born at Eperney (Chasions sur Marne) on March 10, 1851, of deeply religious parents. His father was a government employee. His first studies were at Versailles. He studied Theology at the major seminary in Paris where he was ordained priest by His Eminence, Cardinal Guibert, on December 18, 1875. He was then sent to the Solitude (1876), then to Autun as Professor of Theology (1877-1884). In 1885 he was at Boston (United States); then he came to Montreal (Canada) on September 10, 1885.
1. The Sulpician – His reliability was perfect. Stopping everything at the first sound of the bell, Father Braye was always the first to arrive at community exercises. He never missed Morning Prayer with the community. When he had a late Mass to say, a marriage to perform, or an office to sing, he got up at the accustomed hour and made his morning prayer with the confreres. Often called to the parlor after a meal, he went there only after spending some time in the recreation room.
His character was mild, likeable, obliging. He lived forty years at the seminary of Notre Dame under four superiors and four different pastors, and his pleasantness was never upset. All his confreres paid him the compliment of always being on good terms with him as with the best of brothers.
2. The man of ministry – From the time of his arrival at Montreal, Father Braye was appointed to giving guidance to women. He brought to them such a mixture of goodness and shyness that few priests have done better than he in a ministry so delicate. Successor of Father Martineau in caring for “The Ladies of the Holy Family” and “The Young Ladies of the Holy Name of Mary,” two big tasks that the illustrious orator had undertaken with verve and eloquence, Father Braye quickly organized these two clubs in a more orderly and stronger fashion. He often attended their meetings, selected able advisers and staunch promoters, jollied them along, and soon won all their hearts. Father Braye was very much the director they needed. He had an understanding of the cares and sacrifices of a mother in her home. Moreover, all his instructions to the Ladies of the Holy Family were filled with practical details on getting along with their husbands and bringing up their children in the faith.
However, that was not enough for his zeal. Dismayed at the danger which loneliness and low wages inflicted on young women in the big city, Father Braye founded, on February 2, 1905, the “Home of the Holy Name of Mary.” It was a courageous undertaking for he had then in his till only two hundred dollars put together from Mass stipends. But with the cooperation of four club members – joined by six others the next year – the first “Home for Young Women” was opened in Montreal. After twenty-one years it is still paying for itself without income from concerts and raffles. Today it gives shelter and refuge to about a hundred working girls, all affiliated with the Club of the Young Women of the Holy Name of Mary.
By that it can be seen how with quite modest means Father Braye’s ministry to women has improved in depth and in breadth over that of his predecessor.
Very faithful to his confessional, which he went to every day at four in the afternoon, our confrere gave guidance to a great number of penitents who were attracted to him by his personal sanctity and his supernatural love for souls.
As a preacher, Father Braye was not eloquent. But he had well in hand the material gathered together in prayer and reflection. Usually he selected one or two ideas of general interest, and he threw on them some light with the help of aptly chosen historical facts which held the attention of his hearers. When the instruction was over, they always knew very clearly what the instruction had been about.
Two attacks of phlebitis, almost one after the other, prepared Father Braye for his last long illness. When he went into the Hotel Dieu on November 23, 1923, he was already an invalid. He could no longer stand on his legs. He was given permission to say Mass seated, for this he was deeply grateful to the Holy Father. And up to September 17th, three days before his death, he celebrated the Holy Mysteries with the fervor of a young priest. December 18, 1925, was the golden anniversary of his priestly ordination. His former club members had told him of their desire to assist at his Mass to receive grace. “No, no!” he told them; “Leave me alone with my God and pray for me.”
His solitude, to be blunt, always crowded with God and the Holy Angels, was dear to him beyond all else. Nothing invaded it save spiritual and materially necessary matters. And during the twenty-three months that his seclusion lasted, one witnessed that sight, the interesting sight of an old, sick priest who still attracted souls when usually age and sickness caused them to stay away. Father Braye was a very special priest, loved for his goodness. His many penitents, especially priests, but also laymen and club members, could not bring themselves to give up an adviser so wise and a father so devout. Some wanted to tap his wealth of experience; others wanted to be led along the path of perfection by a familiar hand and heart.
Among Father Braye’s deathbed sayings which we have collected, there are two or three which deserve to be quoted. Someone said to him: “In the great state of weakness in which you find yourself, the faculties must also be weakened. Is it then more difficult to unite yourself with the good God, to keep yourself aware of His presence?” He replied: “It is very easy, not through the mind but through the heart. Deus charitas est. God is love.” “I have worked as if I were going to live always, and I have lived as if I were always going to die.” “God is my Master and He will be my Judge; but He is also my Father, and it is into His arms that I cast myself: in manus tuas, commendo spiritum meum [into Thy hands I commend my spirit].”
Father Braye gave his soul to God on September 29th, the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. On October 1st, his funeral was held in the Church of Notre Dame and presided over by Bishop Deschamps of Thennensis, Auxiliary of Montreal, in the midst of a great gathering of priests, religious, seminarians, and faithful. The body was later brought to the Sulpician cemetery in the crypt of the Grand Seminary where it rests amid the mortal remains of his confreres.
I recommend Father Braye to your prayers and I renew to you the expression of my very devoted sentiments in Our Lord.
Superior of St. Sulpice