First published:Summer 2006
Brother Déodat joined the congregation in December 1913. Still extremely reserved, he was not fully inducted into the order but took temporary vows, a situation that remained unchanged for most of his stay on Guernsey. Employed as a sacristan, he was assigned to the refectory. This new role suited him very well, but he was already thinking of a different occupation. He was convinced that ‘children learn mostly through their eyes’, so at his own request he was granted a space soon after his arrival in which to build a miniature replica of the Basilica and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. From then on, he devoted all his spare time to completing his task.
Determined to construct a beautiful yet functional church, he rebuilt it three times. The first chapel was erected in March 1914, but because it measured only nine feet by four foot six, it aroused mockery, and Brother Déodat destroyed it straight away. This did not discourage him, however, and he immediately returned to his task. The grotto was completed a few months later.
Although his work was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, he was exempted from military service and he quickly rebuilt the chapel, making it eighteen inches wider. This second building remained until September 1923, but another event led to its untimely demolition: the Bishop of Portsmouth, who was visiting the community, was unable to get through the door. Brother Déodat was so upset at being denied the saying of Mass inside the shrine that he pulled the chapel down again.
By the time he had completed most of the work on the current Little Chapel, he was sixty years old. The tiny new church held ten people. Echoing the lines of a majestic cathedral, an impressive spire rose above the entrance. The main aisle was flanked with four niches, and the church had a crypt on two levels. In that same year, Brother Déodat at last made his perpetual vows in the privacy of his own sanctuary, in front of just three witnesses.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #55