The Union of the Great Order of Prémontré
Pope Pius IX had been very open with the experiences of religious communities. He had authorised and encouraged Father Boulbon in his endeavour. The next pope, Leo XIII, wanted to bring clarity in the buzzing activity of the religious communities that had been created since the French Revolution. He encouraged and sometimes required that the various branches of the reconstructed prerevolutionary religious orders be unified.
However, Father Boulbon had made founded his community according to "Common Observance", in a way that made it autonomous from the Order of Prémontré. The Premonstratensians of Frigolet lived according to the statutes of the Middle Ages. They called themselves the "Congregation of the Early Observance of Prémontr". They were quite attached to this status, but Rome was less enthusiastic.
Following consultations with the Frigolet community and with the general chapter of the Order, Leo XIII signed the decree of union on September 17th, 1898. For the relatively young community at Frigolet, this event was a shock, to which was added the premature death of Father Abbot Denis Bonnefoy. The friars of Frigolet called Godefroid Madelaine, prior of the Norbertine Mondaye Abbey in Normandy, to become their new Father Abbot.
In 1901, this new pastor sent several friars to do missionary work in Madagascar, a project that continued until 1934. With this gesture that was both religious and humanitarian, the abbot tried to save his community from the rising storm. Alas, in vain. On July 1st, 1903, a new law went into effect in France concerning religious congregations, the effect of which was immediate: 54 religious communities were immediately and forcibly closed, the friars and nuns were expulsed from their monasteries, the congregations were expropriated of their monasteries, domains and belongings.
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