Pere Jacques, Carmelite Priest and Surivor of Nazi Concentration Camp

Père Jacques de Jésus – Lucien Bunel

Père Jacques de Jésus (1900-1945) Père Jacques de Jésus was a Carmelite friar and headmaster of the Petit Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus.

Angered at Nazi policies, Père Jacques made the boys’ school in Avon, France, a refuge for young men seeking to avoid conscription for forced labor in Germany and for Jews. In January 1943, he enrolled three Jewish boys – Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser – as students under false names. He also hid a fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, as a worker at the school; sheltered Schlosser’s father with a local villager; and placed the noted Jewish botanist, Lucien Weil, on the school’s faculty.

Informed of the Carmelite friar’s activities, the Gestapo seized Père Jacques and the three Jewish students on January 15, 1944. Weil, his mother, and sister were arrested at their home that same day. On February 3, 1944, German authorities deported the boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz, where they perished. Père Jacques was imprisoned in several Nazi camps before being liberated by American troops at Mauthausen in early May 1945. Suffering from tuberculosis and weighing only 75 pounds, he died several weeks later.

In 1985 the Israeli Holocaust remembrance center, Yad Vashem, posthumously honored Père Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations.” Two years later, French filmmaker Louis Malle paid tribute to his former headmaster in the film, “Au revoir les enfants.”

4Pavilly11juillet1925

With his parents – Pavilly, Juli 11, 1925

Père Jacques de Jésus (1900-1945)  was a Carmelite friar and headmaster of the Petit Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus.

Lucien-Louis Bunel was born in 1900, one of seven children in a hard-working family in Normandy. His father’s deep piety, strong sense of social justice, and commitment to work greatly influenced him.

In 1925 Lucien was ordained a priest for the diocese of Rouen where, despite his youth, he became a noted preacher and beloved teacher. His early priestly life was a study in contrasts, combining intense dedication to prayer and solitude with a leaning toward social activism. He was happiest ministering to poor, working-class families but had great success as a teacher of privileged students. His keen intelligence, sense of humor, and kindness to students won praise, but his advanced teaching methods and unique approaches to classroom discipline and grading were not always appreciated. The superior of the school where he taught once exclaimed: “One Father Bunel at St. Joseph’s is fine; two Father Bunels would be too much.”

Père Jacques had considered becoming a Trappist before his ordination as a diocesan priest. When the Carmelite nuns at Le Havre introduced him to Carmel and its spiritual riches, Père Lucien found what he was looking for. At age 30 he entered Carmel at Lille. Shortly before his solemn profession, his religious superiors proposed that he found a boys’ preparatory school. The school, the Petit Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, opened in Avon in 1934 and flourished. Père Jacques left the school in 1939 when France required his military service. France surrendered to Germany in June 1940, but Père Jacques had no use for the Vichy government’s pact with Nazi Germany and became part of organized French Resistance.

Père Jacques often placed Jewish children with Catholic families for protection. In January 1943, he went further and enrolled three Jewish teenagers, Hans-Helmut Michel, Maurice Schlosser, and Jacques-France Halpern, in the school. The Nazis tortured a school alumnus to learn of their whereabouts. The three were taken to Auschwitz where they were gassed, and Père Jacques began eighteen months in various Nazi camps where the depth of his self-giving charity came to the fore.

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Lille, September 15, 1932 – First profession of vows

He spent three weeks in Neue-Breme in Germany, a disciplinary camp of unspeakable brutality. Of the 51 prisoners who arrived with Père Jacques, only seven survived the three weeks. The atmosphere aimed at dehumanization. Père Jacques, in an effort to keep things clean for the dying, asked to work in the infirmary. The commandant, believing the germ-ridden filth there would kill Père Jacques, granted the permission.

Père Jacques was moved to Mauthausen on April 22, 1944. A Parisian architect-survivor felt sure Père Jacques saw the crucified Christ among them – such was his spiritual strength in ministering to prisoners, sharing his rations, hearing confession, and bringing comfort and a sense of peace.

On May 18 he was sent to Gusen I, a subsidiary of Mauthausen and a hard labor camp. There Père Jacques found ways of raising the morale of the desperately dejected French prisoners. When all the priests at Gusen were moved to Dachau – reputedly less severe than Mauthausen – Père Jacques veiled his priestly identity and was the only priest at Gusen for its 20,000 prisoners. He even learned enough Polish to minister to the Polish prisoners, who called him “Père Zak.” Though he grew progressively weaker, he remained one of the leaders of the French Resistance in the camp, respected as a human being and a holy man of God.

By April 1945 word was spreading that the Third Reich’s days were numbered. The haunting question became: who would be alive to see liberation? The camp’s directors had two ominous plans. One was to seal the prisoners alive and out of sight behind a concrete wall they had been constructing; the other was to march the men back to Mauthausen to be gassed. When American soldiers arrived on May 5, the camp surrendered. Chaos followed. Père Jacques, by now a very sick man, together with a Communist friend managed to restore order and organize relief efforts.

On May 20 he was moved to a hospital near the Carmelite Friars in Linz, where he died on June 2. He was 45 years old.

Père Jacques has been honored by both Catholics and Jews as a martyr of charity, and the cause for his canonization was opened in 1990.

– Sister Mary Salucci, OCD

PRAYER FOR BEATIFICATION OF PERE JACQUES

Father of Infinite Goodness,  You gave Père Jacques de Jésus from childhood on the desire to love You and to love all people with an undivided heart.  You lavished him with talent for the education of young people, You chose him to become a priest, You called him to enter the Order of Carmel.  Among the inhuman horrors of the concentration camps
You made him a fervent witness of faith and love, until the perfect offering of his life.  Grant us the graces which we ask of You by his intercession and, if it is Your will,  glorify him in Your Church, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Reports of favors received can be sent to:

Vice-Postulation de la cause du Père Jacques
1, rue Père Jacques – 77215 AVON Cedex

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Some of his quotes:

“We are at Carmel only for this:  to love!”

“We cannot see Christ and remain as we are. We cannot exchange a look with Christ and not be overcome with a total conversion.”

Only One Law:  When asked why he had disobeyed the laws against sheltering Jews, “I know of only one law, that of the gospels and of love.”

Silence:  “We cannot hear the voice of God, who speaks without words, except in silence.”

Our Life As Prayer:  “Our life must be a constant, silent prayer that rises unceasingly to God. That is what constitutes our duty in life.”

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Two MUST get books on Pere Jacques.  I have read them both, especially the second with is a rereat he gave the Carmelite nuns of Pontoise, France and they are marvelous!  The first book is is biography.  He was such a wonderful and holy Carmelite priest:

“PERE JACQUES, RESPLENDENT IN VICTORY”

pere j resplendent victory bk

Available at Amazon at:  http://www.amazon.com/Pere-Jacques-Resplendent-Francis-Murphy/dp/0935216642/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361584936&sr=8-1&keywords=pere+jacques+resplendent+in+victory

Summary:  By Francis J. Murphy (professor of history at Boston College) Exciting new biography and anthology of French Discalced Carmelite friar-priest, educator, son of the working class, prisoner at Mauthausen-who died as a result of his efforts to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis, and who has been honored by the State of Israel and proposed for canonization. Includes index and 13 pages of photos.
Film director Louis Malle’s 1987 tribute to his former headmaster in the celebrated autobiographical film, Au revoir les enfants, helped spark a renewed interest in Lucien-Louis Bunel (1900-1945), better known by his religious name of Pere Jacques. Yet the film told only a small part of the story. Pere Jacques is remembered today for his extraordinary ability to bridge the differences of class, ideology, nationality, and religion that often divide the human family. Proud son of devout working-class parents, with a life-long commitment to social justice, he became director of an elite preparatory school for sons of the most prominent families of France. He was a member of the Discalced Carmelites, a religious order dedicated to prayer and solitude, yet spent himself tirelessly in the service of others. A fervent Catholic priest, he was admired and trusted by non-believers and communist fellow-prisoners in the concentration camp of Mauthausen. He was a Christian who died as a result of his efforts to harbor Jewish youth during World War II. Both the State of Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have honored him as a rescuer, one of the ‘Righteous among the Nations.’
This exciting new biography by Francis J. Murphy, professor of history at Boston College, retraces the entire career of Pere Jacques from its humble beginnings to its heroic conclusion, carefully situating him within the religious and social context of his times. Also included are previously unpublished excerpts from his writings, 13 pages of photos, and an extensive bibliography. Pere Jacques: Resplendent in Victory offers an informative and compelling introduction to a truly great man, whose cause for canonization was opened in 1990.

“LISTEN TO THE SILENCE: A RETREAT WITH PERE JACQUES”

loisten to silence

Available at Amazon at:  http://www.amazon.com/Listen-To-The-Silence-Retreat/dp/0935216340/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1361584936&sr=8-2&keywords=pere+jacques+resplendent+in+victory

SUMMARY:  The Carmelite nuns at Pontoise invited Pere Jacques to give conferences and to preach as retreat master. They received from him The Carmelite nuns at Pontoise invited Pere Jacques to give conferences and to preach as retreat master. They received from him a seven-day retreat in the late summer of 1943. This book contains the talks he gave to the nuns: they are inspiring, but also warm-hearted reflections, on questions of key interest to his audience. Among the topics were love for Christ, for His Blessed Mother, the nuns Carmelite contemplative prayer life, and their religious observance, but all received deft treatment from this confrere who eventually became famous for his compassionate assistance to the persecuted in World War II.
As a diocesan priest Pere Jacques Bunel was frequently in demand as a preacher in his home diocese of Rouen (Normandy).
Along with his duties as educator in a prep school in Le Havre he spoke at important public occasions. He was chosen to give the sermon that marked the five hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Joan of Arc in the Cathedral of Rouen, the city where she was burned at the stake.

Afterwards, when he became a Discalced Carmelite friar (the cover photo shows him on the day he professed his vows), he continued to exercise a preaching ministry.

We owe the full texts of those talks (to the Carmelite Nuns of Pontoise), as well as helpful notes and an introduction, to Rev. Dr. Francis J. Murphy. Father Murphy, a diocesan priest who has become a good friend of the Carmelites through his interest in Pere Jacques, collaborating with them as he collaborates with his historian colleagues, teaches at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. This collection of talks extends the knowledge Father Murphy has provided to the public in the biography volume he named and published at ICS Publications with the title: Pere Jacques, Resplendent in Victory.a seven-day retreat in the late summer of 1943. This book contains the talks he gave to the nuns: they are inspiring, but also warm-hearted reflections, on questions of key interest to his audience. Among the topics were love for Christ, for His Blessed Mother, the nuns Carmelite contemplative prayer life, and their religious observance, but all received deft treatment from this confrere who eventually became famous for his compassionate assistance to the persecuted in World War II.

As a diocesan priest Pere Jacques Bunel was frequently in demand as a preacher in his home diocese of Rouen (Normandy).

Along with his duties as educator in a prep school in Le Havre he spoke at important public occasions. He was chosen to give the sermon that marked the five hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Joan of Arc in the Cathedral of Rouen, the city where she was burned at the stake.

Afterwards, when he became a Discalced Carmelite friar (the cover photo shows him on the day he professed his vows), he continued to exercise a preaching ministry.

We owe the full texts of those talks (to the Carmelite Nuns of Pontoise), as well as helpful notes and an introduction, to Rev. Dr. Francis J. Murphy. Father Murphy, a diocesan priest who has become a good friend of the Carmelites through his interest in Pere Jacques, collaborating with them as he collaborates with his historian colleagues, teaches at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. This collection of talks extends the knowledge Father Murphy has provided to the public in the biography volume he named and published at ICS Publications with the title: Pere Jacques, Resplendent in Victory.

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