Born October 21, 1621
Died May 31, 1686
Nicolas Barré was born in Amiens, France on 21 October 1621 and died in Paris on 31 May 1686.
As a child he went to a school run by the Jesuits where he was recognized as a brilliant student. At the age of 19, he entered the Minim Order of St Francis of Paola, attracted by the spirituality, asceticism and apostolate centered on the conversion of hearts. While still a deacon he was asked to teach philosophy, and after his ordination he became teacher of theology while at the same time continuing his work of preaching and director of the famous library in the convent at Place Royale in Paris. Having fallen ill, he was sent for a while to the convent in Amiens and later to Rouen where he carried out his apostolate especially among members of the Third Order of Minims. It was in Rouen that he first met the young women who were to become his associates in the popular missions as teachers in the “Little Charitable Schools” for poor children. The idea of such a project had been maturing in his mind over a period of fifteen years of prayer and constant reflection on “the signs of the times.”
In his view the root cause of all the evils of the society of his day was the lack of education and training for young people. He was the initiator of a movement which was to provide education for ordinary people. The little charitable schools multiplied in the parishes where, first the women and later the men teachers were called by parish priests or bishops. Soon afterwards the “trade schools” developed which helped the young people earn some income. Gradually, he felt drawn by the Holy Spirit to propose to both the women and the men teachers, separately, to form a community without vows or cloister for the purpose of educating the ordinary people. Called first by Canon Roland to Rheims, then to Lisieux and later to several other towns in France, “the Charitable Teachers” became the inspiration for several foundations fired by the same apostolic spirit. Nicolas Barré was consulted several times by the young John Baptist de la Salle and thus played a decisive role in the foundation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Blessed Nicolas Barré, spiritual master, was both apostle and mystic and has left a magnificent expression of this in his Spiritual Canticle, a mystical poem of abandonment to God. His life was impregnated with the message and charism of Francis of Paola: humility, charity, evangelical penance which bore fruit in the field of education and formation of youth, and promoting the growth of each person in their journey of faith. His work is still carried on today by the Institute which he founded: The Infant Jesus Sisters in two international branches Paris and Rouen, now federated, and by lay women and men who continue to be inspired by his spirit. MA