Meil, Father Lucien
1919, August 8
Date of Birth: 1870, December 7
October 1, 1919
Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:
On August 8th of this year we lost one of our fine confreres, director at the seminary in San Francisco (California).
We are speaking of Father Lucien François Meil, born at Pertuis (Vaucluse) on December 7, 1870. He was known in the Society for his modesty of character and the humility of his services. It must also be said that his being stationed on the shores of the Pacific made his relationships with us rare; and, consequently, made quite difficult the display of his qualities and his virtues which have assured him great merit before God and have enhanced his very dear remembrance in our hearts.
To tell you about him I shall make use of the letter which Father Ayrinhac, his Superior, wrote us in announcing his death.
Father Meil was born in the Diocese of Avignon. His family was of modest means, but Christian. As a boy, he received a religious education which he owed partly to his parents but even more to the religious zeal of a good lady who sensed a vocation in him and generously devoted herself to making it lead to priesthood. It was she who took the initiative of sending him to the minor seminary, who obtained the consent of his father and mother, who influenced him to bravely stick it out.
But the cost was heavy, and the benefactress did not have sufficient means to go on with it. It was the aspirant himself who had the right inspiration at the right time about overcoming his difficulty. In his young boy’s hand, he wrote to Archbishop Hesley of Avignon, expressed his lively desire to be a priest, acknowledged his lack of means, promising that if his request were heeded he would every month say a Mass for the bishop who took him in. The letter, kept by the Archbishop, was given back to him after his ordination. He saved it all his life and often reread it to find in it, with the recalling of his promise, inspiration for deeper devotion.
He was therefore sent to the minor seminary when it reopened in 1883. There he was a conscientious student as the foregoing account might have served to predict. The letters of his parents and of his benefactress, letters which he saved, throw light on his beginnings. They encouraged him about his conduct and laid down the law about application to studies. But his teachers thought highly of him and showed it by giving him the highest offices in the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin.
His entering the major seminary dates as a flowering of his spirit and mind. An interview with Father Icard had made a deep impression on him about the rationale of a highly supernatural life. Longer and more decisive was the influence of his Superior, Father Lafuye, of whom he kept a very vivid memory.
In 1893 his military service took place. After a year he returned to the seminary, received subdiaconate on May 19, 1894, diaconate on October 7th, priesthood at Christmastime. Once a priest, in line with his initial promise and with some commitments incurred at his ordinations, he belonged to his Archbishop. The latter sent him to his minor seminary as a prefect, and that assignment lasted three years. In 1898 he was an assistant at Apt. His services were well thought of there, he won acceptance, he found there the inspiration for a special devotion to St. Anne – a devotion which henceforth filled his life. Even in California he found occasion to evidence it by frequent pilgrimages to a church dedicated to her in San Francisco. He prayed to her and solicited her prayers. He thought of writing a little book of piety to spread this devotion.
Already his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the better life through more sacrifice, more self-abnegation, more regularity, more intimate union with Our Lord. He asked to enter St. Sulpice. His Archbishop put his desire to the test by sending him for a year to the minor seminary as teacher of the fifth [=second high]. The test resulted in making even more firm his desire. The Archbishop gave him leave. It was a very happy Father Meil who came to Solitude (1900-1901).
When the novitiate was over, he accepted in good spirit his appointment to the seminary at Menlo Park (California). This appointment lasted for eighteen years – up to 1919 – eighteen years of hard, demanding, monotonous living. But he loved the life and knew how to fill it and make it very edifying and meritorious.
In the minor seminary he taught French, Latin, Greek, Chant, Ceremonies. In all his teaching assignments he was always devotedly dependable and thoroughly conscientious.
As director and confrere, he won the esteem, the affection, and the confidence of everyone by his piety, his charity, his equanimity, his attractive mildness, and his friendly manner.
He had a deeply religious mind whence came a special zeal for all that concerned the spiritual formation of the students – worship, chant, ceremonies. It was wonderful each year to see him employing his vigor and his artistic taste for the erection of the Corpus Christi repository. Religion, which bound him to the service of Our Lord in the Eucharist, was seen to have a teaching aspect of filial and confiding tenderness toward the Blessed Virgin. Not only did he live that devotion, but he recommended it, preached it, spread the practice of it, sought out its displays. He did not relax until the day when he had installed on the recreation field a little rustic shrine around which the students might gather every day to recite prayers, and, in May, to sing hymns.
Along with that religious mind Father Meil had a mind delicate to the point of scrupulosity.
Delicate in obedience. Even in his delirium during his last illness, he was heard to repeat, “I want to be obedient.”
Delicate in charity. He was always afraid of not doing enough for others, confreres and seminarians. He reproached himself over the uncertainties eating away at him, even when they were only interior. To be of better service he tried to prevent all that was dull, unpleasant, and tiring in the functioning of the community.
Delicate in zeal. At one time he had some idea of going to the missions. There remained in him a very great concern for everything connected with their temporal and spiritual well-being. He prayed for their needs and collected funds for them. He drew from his savings to do more for them. He was their benefactor in every way possible to him. His Will provided that the little that would remain after his death was to go to them. He did not wait to die in order to sacrifice through charity what must have been very hard for him. He gave his ordination chalice for the use of some poor churches.
Delicate in his remembrances. Every month to the end of his life he reserved some Mass intentions for those whom he regarded as benefactors and supporters of his vocation in his family, at the Chancery, and at the seminary. In saying that, we summarize a whole life as we call attention to his services and his merits. But it is in God’s plan that the best servants of God be tested. Father Meil had his test – in his ideal of perfection which he regretted not attaining to the degree that he hoped for; in his family ties out of which came sorrows, many involvements, many distresses; in his patriotic feelings which were violently jolted, disquieted to the point of anguish during five years of war. He was tested in a special way in his delicacy of mind in that he wanted to be and to do everything for God while blaming himself, like the saints, for clinging too much to earthly things.
His last illness was brief but sorrowful. He suffered in body and mind. The doctors diagnosed meningitis. In truth, there were fever, trembling, spells of delirium. But even this delirium was full of faith and piety. The patient spoke of God, of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, of his devotions, his hopes, his desire for Heaven. He had some lucid intervals in which he was vividly aware of his illness and gave evidence of admirable resignation. “I am suffering martyrdom,” he said, “but I accept it all.” He expired on August 8th after being unconscious for about twelve hours. I recommend Father Meil to your prayers, and I renew to you the expression of my very devoted sentiments in Our Lord.
Superior of St. Sulpice