Father Henri Caffarel was born on the 30th July
1903 in Lyon. He was baptized on 2nd August 1903 and ordained in
Paris on 19th April 1930. He died in Troussures on the 18th September 1996,
in the diocese of Beauvais where he is buried.
"Come follow me!". These words of the Lord are inscribed on his tomb,
for, in March 1923, an event occurred which was to determine with certainty the
direction taken by his whole life : :"When I was 20,
Jesus Christ, in a flash became Somebody for me. Oh! It was nothing
spectacular. On that day in March, now far distant, I knew that I was loved and
that I loved, and that henceforth between Him and me it would be for life. The
die was cast ".
The young Henri Caffarel met "Somebody".
So everything he is going to found or organize will develop in the way
the Lord will show him. Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger refers to Father
Henri Caffarel as "a prophet of the 20th century". He was conscious
that he was doing "a work of renewal for the Church".
Henri Caffarel was touched by the Lord’s love. His
ministry will be at the service of love, “to be loved, to love".
The Lord’s love is for him a source of dynamism and of life. He is
immediately in complete harmony with couples desirious of developing
their love hand in hand with the Lord.
Whatever the work that he undertook, Father Caffarel had a single aim: to put
each person in front of the Lord, at the outset of every vocation.
Henri Caffarel concluded that: "The die was
cast." This indeed was a characteristic conclusion… "
There is nothing more to be said, one obeys, one does one’s work, one does not
become puffed up by what one has done, and when it is finished, one leaves….."
He is the personification of rigour, exactingness, precision as regards detail,
the will to go right to the end, a sound sizing up of events and people, and
the capacity to shed everything not in accord with the direction of his vision.
I. The Movements founded (1939-1949)
Father Henri Caffarel responded to the appeal of
couples who wanted to live to the full their sacrament of marriage. "The
demands of sanctity must be your concern. To respond to them, you have a
sacrament which is yours, the sacrament of marriage."
The number of Teams of Couples increases. They are
given a spiritual orientation, more and more lucid according as the couples
discover the grace of marriage.
The publications, "Letter to Young
Couples" (1942), "The Wedding Ring" (1945), left an
indelible mark on a great many couples and their influence reached well beyond
the Teams. Father Caffarel wanted his work to be understood by everyone so that
the grace of God’s love could be active in every individual. He wanted everyone
to understand the greatness of marriage. The challenge is still there today.
A crucial moment in Father Caffarel’s life was the
drafting and putting into effect in 1947, of "The Charter of the Teams
of Our Lady". The means set out in the Charter are demanding. "The
Endeavours," particularly "the sit-down", are
characteristic of the daily life of couples. "Having grasped the spirit
of the Teams, you will have no trouble in accepting their discipline",
says Father Caffarel. A couple living according to the Gospel, such is “the
way to holiness.”
During this same period, two new movements are founded :
the Movement for widows "Hope and Life" and "Our Lady’s
Fraternity of the Ressurection", a secular Institute for widows. As
always, it is not he who has the idea for these movements: people come to him,
they tell him of their desire for a holy life; he discerns what is required,
and he gives encouragement and continuing support.
II. The Maturing (1950-1973)
The Teams of Our Lady develop steadily. A proper
system of organization is put in place.Huge Gatherings are held: Lourdes in
1954, Rome in 1959, Lourdes in 1965… They are occasions for the
deepening of the grace and the greatness of marriage,
Father Caffarel stresses also the mutual enrichment
effected by the sacraments of Ordination and Marriage: two
« complementary » sacraments for responding to the vocation of love.
The Teams debate some important issues:
Are they a movement of initiation or of
perfection? The balance between these two aspects must be found.
Trials are experienced : at issue is the unity of the Movement and the liberty of the
laity, their originality and their individuality. In this domaine Father
Caffarel always showed himself to be in harmony with the Church, sometimes even
in a very exemplary and courageous manner. He directs the team members
towards their parish, their diocese, their apostolate in their profession
and in the world.
At the age of 70, of his own accord, he quits his service of the Teams, having
first ensured there was someone to succeed him.
III. The Deepening (1973-1996)
The influence of Father Caffarel’s fruitfulness is to
be found in people’s hearts, in the unique relationship of each person with
God. Countless are the persons who discovered the Lord in the House of Prayer
at Troussures. His enormous desire was to share with others the
revelation he had had at the age of twenty. His final years at Troussures
reveal the spring from which he poured out everything he had in him.