Bruté, Bishop Simon William Gabriel
1839, June 26
Date of Birth: 1779, April 12
Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur was born in Rennes on April 12, 1779, and was baptized the next day in St. Germain, his parish church. At the age of seven, on June 27, 1786, he lost his father, a parliamentary lawyer and steward of the Crown properties in Brittany. He was carefully raised by his mother, a woman of rare worth, who omitted nothing to ensure that there pass into the minds of her children the lively faith and tender piety with which she herself was animated. Faithful to her teaching, young Gabriel felt himself more strongly attached to religion in the measure that revolutionary persecution made the practice of religion more hazardous. When the prisons of Rennes were choked with victims and when blood was pouring down from the scaffolds, he pledged himself, with his mother’s consent, to a ministry of charity in which he risked his life, a ministry which his piety and prudence led him to deem worth the risk involved. Scarcely fourteen years old, he went into the prisons disguised as a baker’s boy; he brought to the prisoners, along with the bread which nourishes the body, that which gives life to the soul. By that time, he had with great success finished his classical studies. He was soon obliged to interrupt his studies to take up the humble work of typesetter in the print-shop which his mother, ruined by the Revolution, had had to open to support her family.
Toward the end of 1795 he began his medical studies under the tutelage of a well-known Rennes surgeon named Duval. Two years later, he went to finish up in Paris, and in 1803 he obtained his physician’s degree. Out of 1100 students who that year followed the courses of the faculty, only 120 were promoted to the degree; among those, Father Bruté, after a splendid examination, received the first prize, the Corvisart Prize. Forthwith, the government named Father Bruté doctor of one of the best hospitals in Paris; but he declined the appointment, and in the same year, 1803, he entered the Seminary of St. Sulpice.
He received tonsure on December 22, 1804; minor orders on December 21, 1805; subdiaconate on May 31, 1806; diaconate on May 23, 1807; and priesthood on June l0, 1808, at the hands of Bishop André of Quimper. Admitted into the Society, he was slated to go to the Seminary of Nantes, but the Bishop of Rennes objected because he wished to make use of Father Bruté’s talents in his own seminary. Father Bruté submitted, but he did not give up his frequent contacts with Father Emery, to whose writings he made important contributions.
When he had taught Theology for two years in his home diocese, Father Bruté obtained permission from his bishop to follow his vocation; and with the blessing of Father Emery he went to America. He left with Father Flaget, who had just been named Bishop of Bardstown. Having arrived at Baltimore on August 9, 1810, he was assigned to the college to teach Philosophy. Two years later, in September 1812, he was sent to Emmitsburg to share Father Du Bois’ labors. In the spring of 1815, he made a trip to Europe as much for personal business as for that of the Society. On his return, he spent three years (1815-1818) as president of the college in Baltimore. During this time, he was engaged, among other things, as a controversialist in particular defense of the college, which was under bigoted attack, and in general defense of the Church in several recently established Catholic Journals.
In 1818, Father Bruté returned to the college at Emmitsburg, and again functioned as assistant to Father Du Bois. He taught literature to the boys and Theology to the seminarians who were acting as teachers there. He rendered great service to the just beginning Sisters of Charity. Mrs. Seton, their foundress, made, under his direction, great progress in the spiritual and religious life.
When in 1824 the Society definitively separated the Emmitsburg college from itself, Father Bruté stayed with Father Du Bois, thus indicating that he was thenceforth connected to the Society only by bonds of charity. He did everything he could to prevent the separation; and when it occurred, he did not break off courteous relations with his old confreres. The college of Emmitsburg owes him in great part its success and its reputation; for two years later, at the beginning of 1826, Father Du Bois was called to the see of New York. Father Bruté remained at Emmitsburg from then until 1834 except for the time he took for a voyage to Europe in 1833 to take care of his mother’s will; she had died, at the age of ninety-one, as piously as she had lived.
It was hardly a month after his return to America when he was named Bishop of Vicennes in May 1834. He was consecrated by Bishop Flaget of Bardstown on October 28th, the feast of St. Simon, his patron. As a bishop he was still very active as an apologist for the Church; he wrote for a number of Catholic journals, but mostly for the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati: his articles there were signed “Vincennes.”
Around August 1835, Bishop Bruté came to France to seek personnel and funds for his poor diocese. After going through Brittany, he came to Paris and set up his headquarters in the Seminary of St. Sulpice. There he gave much edification by his simplicity and mortification; he attracted several valuable recruits – among others, the Abbé Maurice de St. Palais, who was later to succeed him as Bishop of Vincennes. After France, he visited Rome and Austria, where he went to thank the Leopoldine Association, a generous benefactor to his new diocese. Finally, he returned to New York at the end of June, 1836 with nineteen missionaries, nearly all priests.
On his return to his diocese he busied himself with apostolic work which finally brought him to his death on June 26, 1839.
Translated and condensed from Bibliothèque Sulpicienne, Volume III, pp. 240-246.