Marre, Father Victor

1900, May 5

Date of Birth:  1847, April 15

July 26, 1900

Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:

No Memorial Card is Available

It was after apparently being worn down to almost skin and bones for the better part of four months that Father Marre gave his soul to God on last May 5th at the seminary of Toulouse. God willed, it seems, to accomplish the sanctification of our dear confrere to give him the opportunity and the grace to crown his work by undergoing, with a great spirit of faith and admirable resignation, the drawn-out agonies of so slow a death, a trial all the harder in that it accomplished in the sufferer the utter destruction of what was left of a quite strong, quite active, and quite outgoing nature.

Father Victor Henri Marc Marre was born on April 15, 1847, at Cadour, near Ville-franche-de Rouergue.  This parish remains to the present day one of the best in the region and, from a religious point of view, counts itself among the best still extant in France.  Since thirty years ago priests coming from Cadour found themselves numerous enough to bind together, in the parish of their origin, for the encouragement of the recruitment and cultivating of priestly vocations.  They work at these purposes by the union of their prayers and by financial support.  Father Marre was one of the most zealous promoters of this association, and never absented himself, for as long as he could be there, from attendance at the annual meetings.

His own vocation developed in an environment full of faith.  After some time at the parish school, he was sent to the minor seminary of St. Pierre, near Rodez, and spent five years there.  All those who knew him there have retained a pleasant memory of him.  His nature, open and frank, might have had its lighter moments, but of the type of which St. Francis de Sales has said: “Happy feelings are not the worst.”  Joyful student that he was, he never ceased giving proof of irreproachable virtue, of sincere piety, of serious application to work.  Moreover, his vocation never seemed troublesome either to him or anyone else; and when the time came for him to enter the seminary for Philosophy, his was the attitude of a young man resolved to give himself entirely to his duty. 

During his years at the major seminary, by various signs he found his way (which did not seem to be that of parochial ministry), dreaming sometimes of missionary work in the diocese, sometimes of teaching.  Providence willed that a little after his diaconate he encountered in Paris Father Icard, and with him came to a decision to come to St. Sulpice to do his last year of seminary work.  As a matter of fact, he entered there in December, 1872, and was ordained priest at Rodez the following Trinity (Saturday), but with the intention of returning in October to begin his novitiate at the Solitude; for in the course of the year he had spent in Paris, the attraction of our work roused and strengthened itself in him in such a way as to settle his previous uncertainty. 

On leaving the Solitude, Father Marre was sent to Sommervieu as Professor of Philosophy, and he stayed there four years, from 1874 to 1878.  He went from there to the seminary of Le Fuy, where for ten years he taught in turn Dogma, Moral, Canon Law, Holy Scripture, Preaching.  In the spirit of zeal and detachment he offered himself for work in our American establishments – in whose interests Father Icard was appealing to the generosity of the confreres. 

The offer of Father Marre was accepted, and at the beginning of the 1888 school year he was appointed as Professor of Moral Theology at the Grand Seminary of Montreal.  The following year he was asked to go to Notre Dame parish to fill there, to whatever extent was possible, the gap which Father Giban’s sickness was already making and which was soon going to be total by reason of his death.  (Father Giban was an excellent worker who exercised there for years a very laborious and very fruitful ministry.) 

The opening of the New York seminary in 1896 was the occasion of a new change for Father Marre.  He went there to fill for two years the Chair of Moral Theology; but his health, already affected, began there a rapid decline.  When he came back to France for the vacation period of 1898, it was decided to keep him here before a serious illness might occur to make his staying here an absolute necessity.  He spent the following winter recuperating at Hyères, and he would have returned there last winter if the death of Father Césaire Sire had not created, on the verge of its reopening, an unexpected gap in the personnel of Toulouse.  When that happened, I offered to Father Marre the major seminary’s treasurership; I knew that he would be assisted in it to whatever extent was necessary.  He accepted with his habitual generosity, docility, and readiness; but at the end of a weeks a serious relapse afflicted him, and we should have needed no more than that to see death on the way. 

In all the positions he held, Father Marre did well through the sympathetic qualities of his character and heart.  Moreover, endowed with solid principles of piety, reliability, attachment to duty, and the Sulpician spirit, he passed them on by the grace of the good will he inspired.  Naturally frank, open, expansive, he dispelled the clouds around him, caused friendliness to prevail, inspired in young men and priests a love of our houses – all by a certain way, happy and all-encompassing, of dealing with everyone.  If he was very much given to mixing with others, no one would dare to say that he rushed this propensity to excess; for he always knew how to turn it to good use.

In the parish ministry which he exercised in Montreal (though he regretted the loss of seminary life) the influence he exercised was particularly happy in two important tasks which had been entrusted to him.  The first was the directorship of the Men’s Club, a highly commendable association going back to the beginnings of the colony, which has now extended its branches into a good many other parishes than that of Notre Dame.  Some innovations that Father Marre insisted a little too much on introducing were debatable; but it nevertheless remains true that the club flourished under his leadership and sincerely regretted his leaving.  He was kind, easygoing and generous to the Christians of good will who belonged to it; he instructed them in their duties, zealously busied himself in recruiting new members, put life and interest into the meetings of the organization by means of parties, of ceremonial gatherings, of outstanding lectures.  If any problems surfaced, he was adept at solving them by way of mediation and diplomacy. 

In the other organization he was connected with, the National French Union, a kind of mutual aid society for French people lately come to Montreal, Father Marre by his commitment attained for himself the amplest influence that a priest could have in it without special rank.  He often succeeded in reconciling to God poor fellow countrymen with whom it put him in contact.  He extended himself to the limit, especially when any of them who had rejected his overtures fell sick, and when he saw them in danger of dying without the sacraments.  God blessed his priestly charity.  The French colony, made up of the most varied types so far as religion is concerned, took on, from Father Marre’s time, a respectful and conciliatory attitude in regard to Church matters.  It showed the attachment which it preserves for the memory of our confrere by the sorrow it exhibited at the news of his death and by its attendance at the service held at Notre Dame for the repose of his soul. 

It was again in character that Father Marre was able to teach and preach interestingly and fruitfully without being in any way gifted for these two ministries which require very definite skills.  If the eagerness which possessed him kept him from deeply understanding questions and from having a full awareness of the real difficulties in them, so much the less was he burdened with real difficulties.  He forged ahead with enthusiasm and practical good sense, imparting a kind of glory even to ordinary things by the security and the life he was holding up as within range.

So it was that in pastoral retreats (of which he preached a good many in Canada), he achieved some real success with very unsophisticated people.  So it was that, apart from his first and all his last years in the classroom, he was a popular teacher, liked and praised by his students, a matter which indicates that he was a benefit to them.  At Montreal he was particularly valuable in giving an empathic shakeup to the whole method of classical training, to whose worth he had been introduced in France.  To all the philosophical objections which had held back the adoption of this method, Father Marre replied with the most final of solutions: Salvitur ambulando (It won’t hurt to try it).

Even at New York – in spite of the special difficulties arising from a change of country and language, arising from weakened health and a return to teaching after an already lengthy absence from the classroom – there is no doubt that Father Marre had done very well in getting himself accepted by the young men, in wining them over not only to himself but to the new type of training he represented.

The supernatural value of that influence stemmed from the great spirit of faith which always burned in Father Marre and from his sincere attachment to the spirit of St. Sulpice.  To conclude, let us allow him to portray himself in these intimate qualities by a note written in his hand and bearing the date of Good Friday, April 12, 1895:

“I pray Jesus Christ, Sovereign Priest, by the merits of Mary Immaculate and St. Joseph, to have mercy on my soul and to receive it into Abraham’s bosom in very spite of the reasons which render it unworthy of that.  I thank the Divine Redeemer and His holy Mother for causing me to be born of Christian and pious parents, of having so providentially led me to the family of Father Olier, in the midst of which I humbly ask the signal favor of living and dying.  To me it is sweet to acknowledge my gratitude to my revered confreres for their example, their advice and their affection; to beg their pardon for my example and my conduct. 

“May Mary Immaculate, under whose eyes I write these lines, deign to keep me from every grave offense toward the sovereignty of her Divine Son, to enhance my filial love toward my mother the Society, to receive my last breath, and to present me to the Sovereign Judge.”

Let us not, however, while remembering our dear deceased ones, forget to offer for them for a long time our prayers and our good works.

A. Captier

Superior of St. Sulpice