Father Nicolas Buttet is a Swiss priest and religious who left a life of practising law and politics to pursue the life of a hermit and then to found the Eucharistein Fraternity. His community, inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, is devoted to simplicity and total reliance on God.
He was born in Valais in Switzerland in 1961 and was brought up with an allergy towards Catholicism and especially the Pope. At 23 he was the youngest deputy in the Valais cantonal parliament. A year or so later he received a nasty shock when his girlfriend told him that she thought she was pregnant. It turned out not to be the case; but he realised that he was living very superficially. He went to confession and his conversion followed. He took a private vow of celibacy but continued his work as a lawyer. In 1986, he was surprised by the invitation from the Vatican to go and work for the Church. He went to Rome in 1989 and worked there until 1991 when he became a hermit in his native Switzerland. Gradually, a group of young people collected round him. When they asked him to found a religious community, he refused because he did not want to leave his hermitage; but the local bishop insisted. He bacame the founder of the Eucharistein Fraternity. He later also founded an anthropological institute with the object of humanising the tendency to globalisation. For those who speak French, there are a few videos which will allow you to listen to him.
God's ways are not man's ways, and, without wishing to, he has become one of the many links between Catholicism and Anglicanism, because he is the spiritual director of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. Thanks to Father Nicolas, the Archbishop has come to share his Franciscan spirituality, joined to the rigorous self-examination that is characteristic of the spirituality of St Ignatius Loyola.
This has meant that there never has been an Archbishop of Canterbury so in tune with a pope since the Reformation as Justin Welby and Pope Francis. It is not a superficial likeness, but is found at the very root of the soul of each of them, in the most intimate relation of each of them with God. And this is reflected in the various parallel ways their pastoral strategies are developing. For instance, there is a difference between the moral outlook in Europe and America and that of Africa. Both insist that each side has its say, and both hope, I think, that there will be an agreement to differ in pastoral practice, once general principles agreed by all have been drawn up. Of course, the basic problem is fundamentally different in Catholicism and Anglicanism. The latter has to discover and express its true identity, what binds it together; while Catholicism has to get used to diversity within an identity that is very clear.
It could be said, that Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby come for different ends of the Christian spectrum. Pope Francis, without any doubt, is a Catholic who is a "son of the Church" and accepts all that the Catholic Church teaches ex animo. Archbishop Welby's background is a classically Evangelical one, a wing of the Church of England that does not normally consider itself very close to Catholicism. Indeed, in South America where I live, Evangelicals try to convert Catholics in order to make them Christians. Justin Welby has no doubt that he is a Protestant who prays in tongues, whose religion is a Bible religion; but, thanks to P.Nicolas, he adores Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, goes to confession, and has been on pilgrimage to the Anglican shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Both Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby break the mould that the past wishes to impose on them.
Thus, Pope Francis seeks out a relationship with all others who have this relationship with Christ, even the most extreme Protestants: extreme Protestants are better than the wishy-washy middle ground where faith is reduced to mere opinion, and Christian life is reduced to "live and let live". In seeking out and recognising what is authentic Christianity, the Pope knows he has an ally in Archbishop Justin Welby.
One of the things that binds the two together is the Charismatic Renewal. The Anglican Church used to say that it is a bridge church between Catholicism and Protestantism. I believe they were mistaken. The only bridge between Christians is the Holy Spirit, and we should leave it to him, without trying to take over his function, but we must be ready to to open ourselves to what he is doing and to accept this. Without any doubt, especially in Hispanic America, the Charismatic Renewal is playing a major role in the renewal of the Church. For that reason, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby use the same language and the same priorities.
One way to be an obstacle to the work of the Holy Spirit is to judge others. Once we begin to judge others, we become unable to discover what God is doing in their lives. The more we judge, the less we can discover. When Catholics judge Anglicans or Anglicans judge Catholics, or when both dismiss Orthodoxy or Orthodoxy rejects both, we are disobeying the teaching of Christ on judging others; and, at the same time, we become blind to what God is doing in the other and diminish our grasp on our own Christianity: sin does that. We leave the company of the Good Shepherd who has left the company of the sheep to look for those who are lost or merely bewildered. We stay back in the fold, safe and sound, but ignorant of the wonders that Christ is doing outside.
We know that, in the life of Grace, God is acting, and that there is much about Grace before which we can only bow down and adore in ignorance. We are less able to interpret the mind of God than a gnat is capable of interpreting the mind of man. However, there is much that we can discover, if we only keep our minds reverently open and expectant. With God, there are so many options open to him, and the one we least expect may well be the one he chooses. Once we close our minds in judgement, it means we have stopped looking. Who would have thought that a French Swiss hermit who may not even speak English - I don't know - could play any role at all in the reconciliation between Catholicism and Anglicanism.
In my next post, entitled "Some Thoughts on Anglicanism", we shall go a little deeper into the role Anglicanism is playing and will play in the future in the work of evangelisation. Personally, I do not believe that, short of a miracle, that Anglicanism and Catholicism shall unite; but miracles happen,; and, even if it never happens on this side of the grave, we may well become more and more united in prayer and activity.
The Hour of the Eucharist
Interview With Speaker at International Congress
By Gisèle Plantec
QUEBEC CITY, 17 JUNE 2008 (ZENIT)
It is the hour of the Eucharist, but three things are needed for Catholics to go deeper in the Eucharistic mystery, said the founder of a fraternity dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament.
Father Nicolas Buttet is the founder of the Eucharistein Fraternity, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi in its devotion to evangelical simplicity and total reliance on God. The community’s life is centered on Christ in the Eucharist, celebrated in the sacrifice of the Mass and worshipped in the Blessed Sacrament.
The priest spoke today at the International Eucharistic Congress, under way in Quebec through Sunday.
He also spoke with ZENIT about what the congress means for Canada, and what is needed for Catholics to grow in their love for Christ present in the Eucharist.
Q: The Church in Canada expects much from this Eucharistic Congress. Do you believe it can renew the Church? Specifically, what can change?
Father Buttet: When I arrived at the Montreal airport, a young employee assigned to baggage control asked me about my clothes — I wear a brown tunic and a cross — saying in his nice Canadian accent: "What is that?" I answered him: "It's a religious habit; I am a religious and a priest." He replied: "Ah, but do people like that still exist?" A good discussion ensued, curious as he was about something of which he seemed to be totally ignorant.
Six months ago, I was in Montreal for a three-day session with business executives. The topic was discernment and there were two speakers: a philosopher and "the monk." Having arrived at the session, a man came up to me and said enthusiastically: "You are a monk?" I answered: "Yes, of a sort." "A Buddhist monk?" he replied with a curiosity which was not feigned. I answered him: "No, Catholic!" "Catholic, like the Pope?" he retorted with a rather disquieted and suspicious air. "Yes!" I replied enthusiastically. And I heard before me an "Oh no!" gushing forth from the innermost depths of disappointment. The session unfolded very well afterward and we were able to discuss frankly this first rather cold contact.
These two examples evidence onerous consequences, of what it is appropriate to call here the "peaceful revolution" of the 60s, a slow tsunami, but a tsunami nevertheless that was ecclesial, religious and cultural.
The World Youth Day of Toronto already shook this torpor that weighs on Canadian society, and particularly on this French-speaking part, which this year celebrates the 400th anniversary of Quebec, called initially "Mary's city."
It was the first visible ecclesial event since the Church was relegated outside the public domain. The Eucharistic Congress is a determinant stage on the path to proposing the faith. It is so because of the visibility of the event, the extent of the organization, and the audacity of certain initiatives of Cardinal [Marc] Ouellet and his team.
I am thinking especially of the spiritual effect, of the mobilisation of so many people of good will, of so many parishes, of those perpetual adorations set up in different places, of the prayer engaged in for several months already for this Congress. God hears a Church that prays. God multiplies his works in hearts that are open to his grace.
Q: Can you give us a taste of what you will say at the Congress?
Father Buttet: Cardinal Ouellet asked me to bring, above all, a personal testimony on the Eucharist. Therefore, I will speak of my encounter with Jesus-Host, but also of the overwhelming way that my experiences in the world led me to bring Jesus to so many persons.
I remember a Mass in China, celebrated at the back of a stable, behind the cows so that the police would not come to look for us.
But I have also asked several young people that we receive in our community, young people from the street, from the drug milieu, or those who have experienced depression, to write in a few words their relationship with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament and what the Mass and adoration offer them. I will share this.
My conclusion will be very clear: It's the hour of the Eucharist! It's the "kairos," because its the hour of Christ and in the Eucharist we have Jesus and the whole mystery of salvation.
John Paul II said that there was no risk of exaggeration in the worship rendered to this mystery because it is Jesus himself that this worship addresses. I think we can engage in a "profound revolution," that of hearts and of society.
Benedict XVI took as a sign and a mission the fact that he ascended the Chair of Peter at the height of the Eucharistic Year. It was for him the occasion to engage in the development of Eucharistic worship, the centre of his Petrine ministry. And we know how he went about it. It was he who asked the bishops to introduce in their dioceses at least a place of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He showed them by example, instituting five [such places] in Rome.
The Eucharist is a school of liberty and a school of charity. But, above all, it is the source of the supernatural life of the baptised, without which one remains human, indeed "too human," Nietzsche would have said.
Q: Catholics, including practising Catholics, are at times not keen on entering the mystery of the Eucharist. They go to communion without conviction, out of habit. And yet the Eucharist is vital in a Catholic's faith. How can one help believers to understand the profound significance of the Eucharist?
Father Buttet: Quebec's Blessed Dina Belanger, beatified in 1993 by John Paul II, wrote one day in her diary: "If souls but understood what treasure they possess in the divine Eucharist, it would be necessary to protect the tabernacles by impregnable ramparts because, in the delirium of a holy and devouring hunger, they would themselves go to be nourished by the Bread of Angels. The churches would be brimming with adorers consumed by love for the divine prisoner, both during the day and the night."
But one is not there! It's true that the mystery is so great, the distance so enormous between that which our senses perceive — some bread — and that which our faith believes — Jesus — that it isn't easy to enter into the mystery.
I think there are three things to develop: a Eucharistic catechesis which includes words and examples. "Let us enter the school of saints, great interpreters of authentic Eucharistic piety," John Paul II said at the end of his encyclical on the Eucharist.
Second, light must focus on the consecration at Mass and the tabernacle in churches. I am always astounded by the little devotion there is during the Eucharistic celebration at the moment of consecration. It is a moment that is hurried over. One can believe with words, but with the gestures one poses in these moments one is not fooled.
One day I was with friends. The parents had a three-year-old girl. They had her baptised and then, by tradition and out of duty, went to Mass with her every Sunday. The girl's aunt is a committed Catholic. It was time to go to Mass and the mother asked her little girl: "With whom would you like to go to Mass, with mommy or auntie?" And the girl answered without hesitation: "with auntie!"
"Why?" her mother asked. "Because she believes!" replied the little girl with even less hesitation.
I think there are gestures, attitudes which are a catechesis in themselves.
I was in China. Zachary, an old catechist, who risked his life to proclaim Jesus and who had reached 100 years of age had kept, in a hidden place in his home, a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament. Happily, he had me discover his treasure behind a hidden door. Hardly had we entered the area when Zachary fell to his knees, prostrated himself with his forehead on the ground and began some prayers. I understood that it was Jesus who was there! There was no hesitation possible.
The third thing is Eucharistic adoration and Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass. This mystery is so great that the liturgy alone will never allow us to go sufficiently deeply. Only a prolonged exposition to the mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament enables us to enter progressively into the Eucharistic wonder.
I am thinking of the testimony of 21-year-old Maxime: "For me, the Eucharist is the centre of my life. Jesus-Eucharist has pulled me out of the hell of drugs. Thanks to the Eucharist, my life has been transformed and I am now happy to live to serve Christ. The Eucharist is my strength to love, to follow and serve Christ through joys and sorrows. God loves us infinitely and he will never abandon us."
Interview With Speaker at International Congress
By Gisèle Plantec
QUEBEC, 18 JUNE 2008 (ZENIT)
The founder of a fraternity dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament says he discovered the same, unique Jesus present in the Eucharist and in the weakness and poverty of the world's poor and handicapped.
Father Nicolas Buttet is the founder of the Eucharistein Fraternity, and was invited to speak Tuesday at the International Eucharistic Congress, under way in Quebec through Sunday.
He also spoke with ZENIT about his own discovery of the importance of the Eucharist and the inspirations behind the fraternity he founded.
Part 1 of this interview was published Tuesday.
Q: Can you tell us how you discovered the importance of the Eucharist?
Father Buttet: Some 20 years ago, I was working as a lawyer and engaged in many political activities as deputy in a cantonal parliament in Switzerland and as secretary of a national parliamentary group. I was moreover also confronted both with important social questions as well as personal problems, of a family and social nature.
In the context of my work in a law office, I was deeply upset by a young man who had raped and burned seven children. This contact between that painful reality and my faith wrung a cry from my heart: "If there is no love, the world will not be able to go on!"
I then decided to experience that love close up by spending my Christmas holidays at the Cottolengo in Turin, an institution that receives people suffering from serious physical and mental handicaps.
I remember my arrival in the house: I had left the Swiss parliament and was landing, ignorant and poor, in the world — new for me — of our handicapped brothers and sisters. I was immediately plunged into the reality of the place because, soon after my arrival, together with a religious brother, we spent two hours washing 18 patients who were filthy from head to toe. After the first reaction to the odours and colours, I was gripped that night by that word of Christ who took flesh and what flesh! "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 25).
After having finished washing these handicapped brothers, around midnight, I went down to the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed day and night. For me, it was the shock, the certainty of his real, corporal Presence. I discovered at the same time the presence of Jesus, above on the beds in the persons of my invalid brothers and that shining Presence of Jesus on the altar in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus was certainly there under the appearance of a brother and under the appearances of bread. The same and unique Jesus.
That certainty has never left me since that date, even if it is now, unhappily, and I say it with a contrite heart, faltering and scattered with so many inconsistencies as regards the exercise of love. I console myself quoting St. Claude La Colombiere who said: "to say that I am still not there after more than 10,000 communions!"
Q: Tell us a bit about the Eucharistein Fraternity? What is its principal charism?
Father Buttet: Our little community is of Franciscan inspiration in its poor lifestyle and closeness to nature: We build and repair houses ourselves, we develop agriculture and forestry. We are certainly rooted in the Eucharistic life. It's the heart of our life and our vocation. We have daily adoration in our houses from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m two to three nights a week. We have also launched, with laymen and the permission of the bishop, perpetual adoration in Fribourg, Switzerland: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The inspiration of our Eucharistic life comes from St. Peter Julien Eymard, a great prophet of the Eucharist of the 19th century. It was he who said: "I have often reflected on the remedies to that universal indifference that takes hold of so many Catholics in a frightful way, and I find only one: the Eucharist, the love of the Eucharistic Jesus. The loss of faith comes from the loss of love."
On another occasion, he said: "Now, one must get to work, save souls through the divine Eucharist and wake up France and Europe, engulfed in a sleep of indifference because they do not know Jesus, the gift of God, the Eucharistic Emmanuel. It's the torch of love that must be carried to lukewarm souls, who believe themselves to be pious and are not so because they have not established their centre and their life on the Eucharistic Jesus."
We also receive young people in difficulties. We are inspired in this by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in that relationship between the Sacrament of the altar and the sacrament of a brother. It is there that we experience, almost clinically, if I dare say so, the force and strength of reconstruction and grace of Jesus in his sacrament of love. In a word, we have special missions, parishes, politicians and businessmen, and the spiritual animation of the Philanthropos institute. And, of course, our inspirer in this mission of being all to all is St. Francis de Sales.
This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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