We are on earth to earn heaven and all else really does not matter if we achieve this aim. Brother Donald Savoie, Brother of the Sacred Heart
On November 1st 2019, All Saints Day, I unexpectedly received a letter from saint. It came via a cousin on the Meunier side of my grandfather Roland Savoie’s family. The letter was from my grandfather’s older brother , Brother Donald (George) Savoie who passed away back in 1961 at the young age of 48.
It all stated that morning, November 1st; my Meunier family cousin Nancy Conlon reached out to me on the death of her grandmother:
“I believe I met you at Charlie Meunier ‘s funereal. I misplaced your contact info. I am interested in working on my ancestry tree. Is there anyway I can link what you’ve found to my tree. Mary Lou (Bing’s wife) my grandmother passed away recently and my mother was telling me about Brother Donald Savoie writing a letter to her after Bernie her oldest child died. Which started some research on the family.”
by 11:47 PM that night I had the scan of that letter in my inbox. The experience to be honest, was perhaps a bit unsettling. Why? Because on all Saints Day, I received a letter from a long dead uncle, a member of a religious order, who many consider a saint, a letter that was written as a missive of hope on the one thing we must all face: our death and the deaths of those we love. Oh and by the way, the Savoie family had a reunion the next day November 2nd and I was able to share the letter personally with my great-uncle’s nephews and nieces.
It is too much of a coincidence. I believe that my great-uncle Brother Donald wanted this letter to be read by his family and others for their spiritual benefit. The fact that it came to light on All Saints Day was intentional in order to remind us that we are part of a family known as the Communion of Saints and that our family members in Heaven still care about us and look after us.
Brother Donald in his letter makes direct and clear points:
- Jesus grieves with us when we loose a love one
- Heaven is our ultimate goal and nothing else will matter if we don’t attain it
- God’s will is paramount and the ultimate good of heaven is God’s will for us
- Sometimes an early death is a mercy in the sense that God will take us home to heaven early when staying longer on earth would only put us at risk us of failing to attain heaven later in life
- God heals all wounds and in Heaven we will be reunited with our family members who have gone before us
THE LETTER FROM BROTHER DONALD
Sacred Heart Academy 918 Broad Street Central Falls (Rhode Island)
June 11, 1959
I had heard from Jeanette, and now from your mother, of the accident which caused such sadness in your family. As I did not at the time (neither have I yet) your address, I prayed for the repose of his soul but without writing a letter.
Our Lord was once saddened at the sight of a widow who had lost her only son. Our Lord cried, says the Gospel, at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He understands our sadness and he is sad with us. But He gives us the reasons to hope, to be consoled. The lives of pure and good ones, He promised us, are only changed to better ones, they are not lost forever but saved forever when death strikes them. They now see Him face to face, without any danger of evil things or of sufferings.
We are on earth to earn heaven and all else really does not matter if we achieve this aim. Our Lord alone judges when we have earned heaven, which we can do very early. At times, as at the moments you are passing through, we may forget that “only important thing”, which, if successful, makes all else a success. There is a saying which reads: “He has lived a long career in a few short years”. Sometimes, in His mercy, God calls us before we had time to lose Him, or He calls us before certain sufferings and trials, where we would fail Him, have happened to us.
Some years ago, up in Canada, I knew a 15-year old boy very well. He was a fine chap, only a bit hasty at times. The Lord called him to religious life. Soon, the parents insisted that the boy abandon his vocation. Against God’s will, and the boy’s, they almost forced him to quit, promising him all kinds of favors if he left. The parents substituted their will for God’s will, without realizing what they were doing. A week later, Johnnie was riding on his new bike when a truck hit him and killed him instantly. After quite some time, the parents realized that God’s will is always done. God, as is His right, takes what is His and what we try at times to refuse Him. But He graciously accepts and rewards what we offer Him, He rewards our acceptance of His will as He wants it. And He knows better than we do what is for our good, since He loves us.
Your mother speaks about your sadness at your son’s not receiving the Last Rites. A Saint, John Bosco, gives an answer to this. One day, as he was visiting the boys at play in his orphanage, he met a youngster to whom he asked this question: “What would you do, if you were to die in an hour?” The boy thought over the question a few seconds and said: “I would continue to play.” And why would he change occupation since he was prepared to die well at any time. The Lord takes when He pleases, and how He pleases.
A poor beggar women who sees her son be taken for a wonderful vacation trip by a good rich person is sad to see her son leave but happy to know that he will enjoy himself. That is, God willing, what happened to your son. He is happy, he has no more worries and would like to see us happy and no longer grieving since he is happier where he is.
I am not writing you a sermon, that is not my intention. But since religion teaches us all the above things, it is time when in suffering to remember these things. What the Lord takes, He is entitled to and He will take good care of. What we give Him, or accept from Him, he rewards in us and in those we have lost temporally. What He takes he can return in one way or in another. And he does not fail to do that. Your son has gone to his true Home, the true Home of us all. It is there that he awaits you. The reunion is temporarily put off but be sure that it will come.
Hoping that it will then be a general reunion of us all, I remain
Sincerely yours in the Sacred Heart,
Bro. Donald, S.C.
POSTSCRIPT and notes:
My Uncle Dave Savoie (the boy almost center in the photo above) remembers how Brother Donald would give his undivided attention to his nephews and nieces. He would listen to what they would have to say and respect what they wanted to say. Brother Donald was never patronizing and always loving.
My Aunt Jean Savoie, sitting on the far right above, told me that an outbreak of Typhoid Fever broke out in the monastery when Brother Donald was young. His mother Isala Meunier journeyed up from Woonsocket Rhode Island to Quebec to treat him and other members of the monastery during the outbreak.
Lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my great -uncle is an 8th great grandson of Henri Membertou. I cannot help feeling when reading Brother Donald’s letter that I am also hearing a distant echo of Henri Membertou, who passed on his faith by oral tradition to his children who in turn passed it on to their children and onward until that wisdom came to rest within the heart of Brother Donald.